Tag Archives: Las Vegas Boulevard

31st December 2022

Pine was the first to arrive and, as a result, was landed with the task of setting up the “Feature Game”, the gorgeous, dexterity car-racing game, PitchCar.  Black, Purple and Lemon arrived soon after to give him a hand, while Pink got drinks and Blue carried on messing about in the kitchen.  Once an annual event, there has been a bit of a hiatus in the New Year PitchCar game over the last couple of years, and it turned out the lack of practice meant everyone had forgotten how to set up the bridge from the first extension.  Blue was summoned from the kitchen to explain, and then the track-builders continued their construction work.

PitchCar Track 31/12/22 (1)
– Image by boardGOATS

Aside from the bridge and a few chicanes, the track was kept to a simple figure-of-eight, eschewing the multi-level tracks, jumps, potholes, crossroads and loop of the more recent extensions.  Before long, the track was complete, and then Lime arrived.  Starting order was decided by arrival time, so the first to flick-off was Pine. The game is very simple:  starting with the car at the front of the pack, players take it in turns to flick (not push) their puck along the track.  Cars can jump as long as they don’t cut corners, land on the track “rubber-side down”, and don’t knock anyone else off the track in the process.

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

There were the usual ooos, ahhhhs, howls of delight, and cheers, as there were near misses, total misses, bumps and amazing somersaults. First to cross the line was Lime after some amazingly spectacular long distance flicks, followed by Pink and then Lemon taking a podium spot on her debut.  Before we started, Pine had commented that he wondered how his skills would have deteriorated over the three years since we’d last played, so he was initially surprised to find that he’d improved.  That feeling didn’t last however, as he eventually followed everyone else over the line.

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

Supper wasn’t quite ready, so Pink suggested a shortened course running the length of the table, replacing one of the straights with a second finishing line and ignoring the return under the bridge.  This time, pole was decided as the reverse order that players crossed the line in the first race, so Pine went first.  Unfortunately, he repeatedly rolled his car going over the bridge and it took some dozen or more attempts to cross it.  With the shortened course, he didn’t have time to make his way back up the field (indeed the race was over before he crossed the bridge), though he did improve his final position slightly compared to the first race.

PitchCar Track 31/12/22 (2)
– Image by boardGOATS

With the short course, it was always likely to come down to who got a good start and made it over the bridge first.  Black got a storming start and led the field down the track before running out of gas as he approached the chequered flag.  That was OK though, as Lemon rear-ended him at speed and shot him across the line.  Lemon followed him onto the podium with Pink taking bronze.  With that, supper was pretty much ready, so it was all hands to the deck to dismantle the track in time for the arrival of home-made pie with veg.

– Image by boardGOATS

There was much chatter over supper, then, while everyone else pondered what game to play, Lime gave Pink a hand with the washing-up.  Eventually, Pine went upstairs and returned with Las Vegas and a panda, and with only snacks remaining on the table, he began setting up while Blue and Black explained the game to Lemon.  This is an old favourite that we’ve not played for a long time.  It truth, it is a simple enough game, albeit one that is quite clever.  The idea is that each player bets in the six numbered casinos using their dice.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, each player rolls all their dice and must choose a number and place all the dice with that face value in the casino of that number.  The player with the most dice in that casino at the end of the round wins the money.  There are a couple of catches, however.  Firstly, all the dice of the chosen number must be placed, even if this is not to the player’s advantage.  Secondly, and this is why the first catch is so critical, if two players tie, neither gets any money and the winner is the next inline (who is not involved in a tie).

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Finally, at the start of each round, money cards are dealt at random to each casino giving them a set value; the winner only takes one of these with the others going to the players in the lower placings.  This means that some casinos might have several small denomination cards up for grabs, while others might have only one high value card to fight over.  The combination of these features make this a great little game.  We also tend to add some components from the Boulevard expansion.  There are lots of modules, but we usually only use “The Bigun”, the extra high value money cards, The Slot Machine, and extra dice for additional players.

Las Vegas: The Slot Machine
– Image by boardGOATS

“The Biggun” replaces one die for each player with a bigger one that is worth two smaller dice.  The Slot Machine is a bit different though.  Like the casinos, players can add dice on several turns, however, unlike the casinos, each number can only be added to the Slot Machine once.  Then, although the winner is still the player with the most dice, ties are broken by the number of pips on all the dice placed.  The game is played over three rounds and the wealthiest player at the end of the game is the winner.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Black went first and started the dice rolling fest.  Everyone took some money in the first round, but the beginnings of the rivalries began, between Purple and Pine, between Pine and Lime and between Lime and Purple.  The second round was filled with high-value cards which entrenched the rivalries and ensured a few new ones were started with Pink, Black and Blue encouraging everyone else’s misbehaviour leaving Lime coming out of the second round without any winnings.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

After a brief sojourn to view the midnight fireworks in the village and to toast absent friends and the New Year, we started the final round.  This was very cut-throat:  Blue and Pine got into a very silly battle for the Four casino which Blue was winning with seven dice until the final roll by Pine which gave a tie knocking them both out leaving $100,000 to Lime with his lone die.  If Pine had won, that would have given him victory, but as it was, it was close between Black and Pink, with Pink taking victory by $10,000 with his total of $340,000.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time it was 1am, and although everyone was tired, people lingered, first to talk about the robustness of Ikea furniture and then the status of the Jockey.  With Monday being the last day for the current Managers/Chefs it is unclear what the situation will be in ten days time when we are next due to meet.  We talked over other options, but all that really did was highlight how lucky we have been with The Jockey.  And with that, everyone drifted home leaving Blue and Pink to find their beds.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Parties are great fun.

26th July 2022

Blue and Pink were first to arrive and were just finishing their supper when Ivory joined them soon followed by Pine.  Ivory and Pink were keen to play Ark Nova which is longer than our usual fare and therefore needed a quick and early start.  So, when Black and Purple arrived, they grabbed Black and headed over to the other side of the room.  Everyone else conformed to more typical hesitant behaviour and were a lot slower to get going.  This wasn’t helped by Blue who was explaining how Pink had managed to find the “Only Panda Themed Village in Cornwall” and when Lemon and Orange queried it, she felt the need to find the photos to prove it.

The Lanivet Inn
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, the group split into two with Purple, Blue, Pine and Teal playing the “Feature Game“, the Spiel des Jahres nominee, SCOUT.  Although this has a nominal and very tenuous “circus theme”, it really is well hidden and “pasted on” to what is otherwise a relatively traditional, though clever little Rummy-esque card game with a Bohnanza-type twist—players cannot change the order of the cards in their hand.  The idea is that players have a hand of cards and on their turn takes an action:  they play a run or a meld (set of cards of the same value à la Rummy), or take a card from the active set (the previously played set).  The first of these actions is called “Show” and players can only Show the set they want to play beats the previously played set (called the Active Set).  A set wins if it has more cards or the same number, but a higher value, and a meld always beats a run.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

When Showing, the cards played must be consecutive in the player’s hand, so a player can, for example, take a four, five and six from the beginning, middle or end of their hand.  It must beat the current Active Set, and it then becomes the new Active Set with the old one turned face down and added to its owner’s scoring pile.  In this way, the quality of the the Active Set is ever increasing—this mechanism makes SCOUT a ladder-climbing game, of which Tichu and Haggis are probably the best known.  The problem is that of course it will become progressively difficult to play cards (especially with the consecutive constraint), so players can also use the Scout action and take a card from the Active Set, for which it’s owner gets a Scout token as a reward.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

When Scouting, players can only take a card from the end of the Active Set, ensuring that runs retain their integrity and just become shorter and maybe of lower value.  A card that has been Scouted goes into the player’s hand, anywhere they like, so they can use this to connect two cards in a run, or enhance an already existing meld for example.  The really clever part of the game is that the cards have two values, and which value they take depends on which way up the cards are.  This is clever because it adds just enough flexibility to make the game work, while not making things trivial.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of the game, players are dealt a hand of cards and choose which way up the hand goes—not the individual cards, the whole hand.  From this point on, the hand stays the same way up, but when cards are added to a player’s hand (and only then), the added card can be rotated.  The game ends when either, one player runs out of cards, or when it gets to a player’s turn and they were the last person to Show.  In addition to Scout and Show, once during the game, players can also “Scout & Show” which is often used to bring about or prevent the game coming to an end.  Players then add up the number of scoring cards and tokens and subtract the number of cards in the their hand and the player with the most is the winner.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is one of those games that is a bit odd to understand at first, so Purple (who started), began tentatively, but it wasn’t long before people were Scouting and Showing happily.  There was a bit of confusion when it came to Teal’s turn and he Scouted one of his own cards—a rules check didn’t answer the question of whether he should get a token (we called them Cadbury’s Chocolate Bars because of their colour) or not, so we decided not.  It was only later that we realised that of course players could not Scout from their own set, as a round of Scouting triggers the end of the game.  Pine was the clear winner with fourteen points, more than twice Blue in second, and in spite of forgetting he could Scout & Show which would have given him victory earlier.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

The game can be played in campaign mode where players get scoring tokens and add up the total after several rounds, however, we tend to prefer to play games like this as single, short, one-off games.  And this time, everyone wanted to “do a Lime” and give it a second go now they understood what they were doing.  It was about this time that Pine checked his phone for the first time and reported that the England versus Sweden semi-final in the Women’s European football championships was goalless, but that “Sweden were playing well”.  There was a general slightly pessimistic noise around the table and Teal began the second round.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

A cheer from the bar prompted Pine to check his phone again and everyone relaxed a little when he reported that England had scored their first goal.  This second game of SCOUT was much closer than the first with scores of eleven, twelve, thirteen and fourteen, with Blue the victor, just ahead of Teal.  It had been a lot of fun and everyone really appreciated the cleverness of such a simple little game and found it had really grown on them from the two rounds they’d played.  There were other games people fancied playing, however, so the group moved on to Trek 12: Himalaya, a Roll and Write game we first enjoyed playing a few months ago and was given a “Recommendation” by the Spiel des Jahres Award committee.

Trek 12: Himalaya
– Image by boardGOATS

Trek 12 is similar to On Tour which we played several times online, but is a little more complex.  In On Tour, two d10 dice are rolled and players combine them to make a two digit number, so a five and a four can be combined to make a forty-five and a fifty-four, one of which is then written in a location on the map.  Locations are connected by “roads” and players are aiming to make the longest continuous route of numbers that only increase.  Trek 12 does something similar in that two dice are rolled and the numbers combined to give one, but as the sum, difference, or product, alternatively players may choose one single die (either the larger or the smaller).

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

The catch is that each of these operations can only be used just four times each during the game.  The resultant number is then written on the map, but the theme is trekking so chains of ascending or descending numbers represent ropes while groups of the same number represent camps.  Another difference is that in On Tour player can write their numbers anywhere on their map, whereas in Trek 12 numbers have to be added next each other.  This means that it is advisable to start in the centre and work out, advice that Pink eschewed at his cost last time we played.  Scoring is more complex as well, since players score for the highest value in each rope/camp plus one for each other number in the rope/camp with bonuses for the longest rope/largest camp and negative points for any isolated numbers.

Trek 12: Himalaya
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the group  used the Kagkot map, rather than the Dunai map used last time.  Teal, Purple and Pine all started at much the same place putting a five in the middle, but from there things quickly diverged despite the plague of fives that were rolled.  Blue decided to do something different and started with a zero in the middle.  Everyone got themselves into a bit of a tangle, but Purple struggled the most.  Part of the reason might have been distraction caused by the updates on the football as, during the second half of the match, there was a second goal, then a third.  Everyone was still digesting the third which was described as “Outrageous” when a fourth went in just eight minutes later to leave the final score four-nil to England.

Trek 12: Himalaya
– Image by boardGOATS

Teal gambled on getting the high dice rolls he wanted, and jammily got them.  However, the game was won by Blue who put together lots and lots of very short ropes and small camps to give her high base scores, with one long rope to give a decent bonus and a final total just above the target set for the map in campaign mode.  While all this was going on, Lilac and Green were introducing Orange and Lemon to Carcassonne, an older, now classic Euro game that won the Spiel des Jahres award over twenty years ago.  The game is perhaps one of the best known tile-laying games and was the inspiration for the term “Meeple“.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, players draw a tile and add it to the central map.  The tiles feature some combination of Roads, Cloisters, City and Fields.  Once the tile has been placed, the player can then add a single Meeple from their supply to the tile placing it on one of the features so it becomes a Thief, Monk, Knight or Farmer (respectively).  Finally, any features that are completed are scored and the players gets their Meeples back.  In this context, completed means Roads that end with a junction at both ends, Cloisters that are completely surrounded by other tiles, and Cities without gaps where the wall is closed).  Fields or Farms are only scored at the end of the game.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

In this way, players score one point for each tile in a completed Road, nine points for a completed Cloister and two points for each tile in a completed city (plus two for any Pennants).  Although players can’t add a Meeple to a feature that is already occupied, it is possible to end up with shared features.  This happens when two separately owned Roads (say) are joined together.  In this situation, the player with the most Meeples scores the points, or, if there is a tie, both players get the points.  And this is really the crux of the game—players can play nicely or nastily, working together to build big Cities, or muscling in and stealing them from other players just before they score, or even playing tiles to make Features difficult to complete.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, Farms and any still incomplete Features are scored (though they only give only one point for each tile and Pennant in a city and one point for each tile in a Cloister array).  A Farm is a continuous Field, i.e. a green space that a Meeple could “walk” around that might be bordered by Roads, City walls, River or the edge of the map.  Each Farm then scores three points for each City that it “feeds”, i.e. that borders the Farm.  Since Farms can be very high scoring, early Farmers in the right place can be very valuable as they mean other players have to work hard to join fields together if they want to share the points.  On the other hand, an early farmer can be cut off and left scoring very few points.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Additionally, since they are not recovered during the game, Farmers placed early are not scoring points during the game, so part of the skill of the game is timing when to place Farmers to maximise their value.  Scores are kept on a track, and the player with the most points at the end is the winner.  This time, although there were a number of expansions available, with Lemon and Orange were new to the game, the group only added the River expansion, which consists of a small number of tiles played at the start and helps to prevent the formation of one massive Field.  Lilac explained the rules: although it is mostly a simple game, the Farmers always cause a little confusion, in particular where the edges of the Fields were and how you might end up with more than one Farmer in a field.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Lilac placed the second river tile and with little other option available to her placed the first Farmer.  For the next few turns of placing River tiles, the question of when another player could place a farmer was often repeated, until Orange was able to get one with a road and bridge tile.  The River started running along the length of the table, expecting the board to develop more in the that direction than to the edges of the table. Unfortunately, fairly early on the river shifted sideways and the whole board developed across the table rather than along, so they had to shift the tiles a couple of times to make room (this was not meant to be the Discworld!).

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Lilac took an early commanding lead on the score board, with Orange next to start scoring. It seemed to take ages before Lemon got her first points and even longer for Green to get going.  However, Lilac’s lead soon disappeared as Green, Lemon and Orange shared the points for one enormous city—they thought they would never complete it, but with three people after one particular tile, it was almost inevitable really.  Lilac meanwhile was after the single bend road tile to complete a roundabout with her Meeple on it.  Everyone else got that tile, everyone except Lilac of course.  It looked like it would never happen, but in the dying moments of the game, she finally got the tile she needed. It was only worth four points, but it gave her a spare Meeple.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

With the Farmers now understood, with his last tile, Orange was able to complete a City and then place a Meeple on the field part of that tile to be sole farmer for one complete city. It was only three points, but more than the couple he could have scored by using the tile to complete a Road. Having spotted this useful use of a final Meeple, Lemon and then Lilac both did the same.  In the mêlée of farmers, Orange came out on top, managing to knock out Lilac’s and Green’s farmers, and Lemon scored a few too.  The end result was a victory for Orange, a close second for Lemon, with the veterans of Green and Lilac well behind.  Perhaps they did not play quite as aggressively as they could have done, but mostly they just didn’t get the right tiles and were simply out-played.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, Black, Pink and Ivory were playing Ark Nova, but as it was showing no sign of finishing soon, with both Carcassonne and Trek 12 finished, the two groups had a decision to make:  play two games (maybe with a quick game of Musical Chairs first) or play one large game.  Las Vegas was suggested as a possible large game (it plays eight with the Boulevard Expansion), and Living Forest (winner of the Kennerspiel des Jahres this year) was an option if breaking into two groups.  Time marched on, and nobody in the group is very good at decision making and before long it was too late to play Living Forest and Las Vegas can take a while to play.  So in the end, the group decided to introduce Orange and Lemon to an old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Although 6 Nimmt! didn’t win the Spiel des Jahres Award, we certainly think it should have done; it did get a recommendation from the Jury though and of course it won the Golden GOAT in 2020 (a very difficult year for everyone).  Teal had to play taxi for his family, so headed off leaving seven to play.  The game is very simple:  players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and play it face down in front of them.  Once everyone has chosen a card, the cards are revealed and played in order from lowest to highest.  The cards are added to one of the four rows on the table—they are added to the row that ends with the highest number that is lower than the card itself.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

If the card added would have been the sixth card, instead the player takes the cards in the row and their card becomes the start of the new row.  If the card is lower than all the cards at the end of the rows, instead the player chooses a row and their card replaces that row.  At the end of the game, players sum the total of Bull’s heads or “Nimmts” shown on the cards in their scoring pile and the player with the least is the winner.  There are a hundred and four cards in the deck, and we play a variant where the game is played over two rounds, each with half the cards.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The delicious thing about 6 Nimmt! is that everyone feels that they are in control, until the moment when they aren’t.  Some people argue that it is a random game, but as the same players (like Burgundy) often seem to do well, it can’t be.  That said, and it is especially true for those that often do well (like Burgundy), when it goes wrong it can go catastrophically and spectacularly wrong.  As a result the suspense is murder and the game is loads of fun yet never seems to outstay its welcome.  Orange quickly got to grips with it and clearly quickly appreciated the jeopardy.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time we played without the “Professional Variant” that had become so popular online, partly because it would not be fair on the people new to it, but mostly because everyone was tired and nobody was up to the mathematical gymnastics it required.  This time the first round was unusual, because everyone had similar scores.  Usually, at least one player manages to keep a clean or cleanish sheet and at least one player picks up lots of pretty coloured cards, but the range of scores at half way were between seven and thirteen.  That meant it was all to play for in the second half.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The second half was a little more varied with Green only collecting four Nimmts and Blue and Lilac collecting sixteen, but the net effect largely offset the differences in the first round.  Blue top-scored with twenty-seven, Pine was just behind with twenty-six and Lilac after him with twenty-three (she really is going to have to try harder if she is going to compete with the really high scorers).  The winner though was Purple with fifteen, one Nimmt less than the runner up, Green, in what had been a tight game, but a lot of fun, as always.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Ark Nova was still on-going, so Orange, Lemon and Lilac killed a few minutes with a quick round of Dobble.  This Snap-a-Like game is simple, but a lot of fun.  This time, players started with a single card and called a match with the central pile and grabbed a card.  Despite playing in English which is not his first language, Orange is remarkably good at this game, taking twenty-two cards, beating Lemon into second place.  From there, that side of the room just deteriorated into random chatter about random pub-type things (including the Voice of Jack and the demise of Frosts at Millets) as people ran out of steam and waited for Ark Nova to finish.

Dobble
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time, Black, Pink and Ivory were rapidly running out of time as last orders had been called some time ago.  Ark Nova is a much longer game than we usually play with an advertised playing time of upwards of two hours and reputedly considerably more with inexperienced players and setup time included.  It is all about planning and designing a modern, scientifically managed zoo—when this was first mentioned at the start of the evening, Pine looked all interested in the theme, but was quickly put off when Ivory added it was “a bit like Terraforming Mars with animals”.  That said, although it is quite complex, functionally it is not difficult to play on a turn by turn basis, though there is quite a lot to manage and keep a track of.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, players take one of six possible actions:  activating one of the five action cards (Cards, Build, Animals, Association and Sponsor) with a strength equal to the number above the card, or move a card back to the first space and take a cross token instead.  When activating a card players perform the action based on its power level.  The power level is dictated by its position in the row, with the level one power to the left and the level five to the right.  Once a card has been played, it is moved the first space in the player’s five card row (i.e.to the lowest power position on the left) moving the other cards to the right to replace the card removed, effectively incrementing their power by one.  During the game, players can upgrade and turn over the action cards to a more powerful second side using various bonuses.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

The Cards action is the simplest action, which lets players draw cards from the deck (the number depending on strength) then advance the marker two spaces along the break track which defines when the round ends.  The Build action allows players to pay to construct one building on their zoo map.  Players can build basic enclosures with a size of one to five, but they can also build a petting zoo for animal storage or pavilions and kiosks (which give players appeal and money respectively based on adjacent filled enclosures).  With the upgraded build action, players can build multiple different buildings and have access to the large bird aviary and reptile house which allow the storage of multiple animals.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

There’s no point of having enclosures without animals, and that’s where the animals action comes in:  it allows players to add animals into enclosures in their zoo. Some animals have a special requirement and need a symbol in their tableau and/or the upgraded animal card. Adding an animal to an enclosure has a cost, and then the player turns over the empty enclosure of at least the size needed or places the listed cubes into a special enclosure (an aviary or a reptile house).  The player then adds the animal card to their tableau and resolves the abilities on it and receives ticket sales along with possibly conservation points and reputation.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

The association action allows players to take one task on the association board with different tasks available based on their power level.  This allows people to gain reputation points, acquire a partner zoo they don’t already own, gain a partner university, or support a conservation.  Finally the sponsor action allows players to play exactly one sponsor from their hand which offer ongoing abilities.  They can allow players to place unique tiles in their zoo and offer end game conservation point opportunities. Some Sponsor cards have conditions on their play similar to the animal cards.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

Players take it in turns to take actions, resetting every time a break occurs, until the end game has been triggered.  There are two tracks, Appeal (Tickets) and Conservation that follow the same course, but in opposite directions.  The game end is triggered when one player’s pair of scoring markers cross, after which, everyone gets one more turn and then the end-game cards are scored.  The player with the largest overlap between their Conservation and Appeal values is the winner.  A player’s tokens can meet and pass at any point, but Conservation points are much harder to get than Appeal, so to compensate, each step on the early part of the Conservation track is equivalent to two Tickets on the Appeal track, while each Conservation step is worth three Tickets.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink started hard and fast with a simple animal strategy concentrating on upgrading his action cards to get the more powerful actions and getting extra workers.  In contrast, Ivory and Black started a little slower and focused on getting larger (Size five) pens, like the reptile house and the aviary.  These are more difficult to get, but are also more valuable.  Ivory then added a Stork and a Condor, while Black collected a Horse and engaged the services of a European Hobbit-like Expert.  The game was about half-way through when the other table heard a howl of delight from all three of them:  The Panda card had come out.  From this point forward, Pink’s primary aim was to get the Panda and find it a nice, cosy, bamboo-filled space in his zoo where he could love it and hug it at leisure.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Pink got a lot of Tickets early, his Conservation was very low which made him look like he wasn’t a threat.  Maybe Ivory and Black took their eye off him because of this, as they seemed surprised when Pink suddenly got ten Conservation points very quickly using the Association action which triggered the end of the game quite abruptly.  In a similar way to the recent game of Viticulture where Teal did the same thing, this meant everyone else had to make the best of things.  It was probably for the best, however, as by this time it was a real race against the clock.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end game scoring, Ivory also managed to get his Appeal and Conservation pieces to cross over, but Black was less fortunate finishing with a negative score.  It was close between Pink and Ivory, but Ivory scored more in the end-game scoring and took victory by a single point.  Even though it finished in a bit of a rush, they had all really enjoyed the game; Black commented that rather than being like Terraforming Mars, to him it felt more like Wingspan, which was probably just as well as he’s not very fond of Terraforming Mars.   As they rushed to pack the game away, Pink gave his Panda one last hug before putting him back in the box and going home.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Pink Likes Pandas.

30th March 2021 (Online)

The pandemic is hardly something to celebrate, but it has had such a huge impact on the group and life in general over the last year, that we couldn’t let the first anniversary of moving games night online pass without marking the occasion.  That and the close proximity of Easter meant the Easter Bunny had made some early deliveries.  Before we were able to open them though, there was another attack of The Gremlins…

Easter 2021 Biscuits
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the unfortunate victims were Lime and Little Lime.  When they first arrived things seemed to be working, but then there were briefly two Limes and although we got rid of one, it seemed to take their sound with it.  There was much hilarity when Lime asked questions and obviously got no answer despite lots of us shouting at him…  In the end, we resorted to communicating with scribbled notes, but even turning it off and on again failed to work and he ended up joining us using his work computer.  Then the boxes of eggs, cake, and festive iced meeple biscuits were opened and we started the “Feature Game“, Las Vegas.

IT Gremlins
– Image by boardGOATS

Las Vegas is a dice chucking, betting, and push your luck game that we love and used to play a lot before we were forced to move game nights online.  It was the first game we played online a year ago and although other games work better with the current restrictions, we thought it was appropriate to play it again to mark a year of remote gaming.  Like a lot of the best games, the game itself is very simple: players start with a handful of dice and take it in turns to roll them and place some of them on one of the six casinos.  The player with the most dice in a casino wins the money at the end of the round.  The player with the most money after three rounds (“House Ruled” from four) is the winner.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

So, each casino has a number, one to six, and on their turn, players can only place dice with that number on the corresponding casino.  They must place all the dice they have of that number and can only place dice in one casino on each turn.  Players thus take it in turns to roll their ever diminishing number of dice and place them on the casinos until they have nothing left to roll.  As usual, we played with the Big Dice from the Boulevard Expansion—these have double weight and count the same as two smaller dice giving people an additional decision to make.

Las Vegas: The Slot Machine
– Image by boardGOATS

We also used the Slot Machine, which is like a seventh casino, but works a little differently.  Instead of having a number, each die number can be placed just once in the round (though with more than one dice if appropriate).  The winner of the pot is the one with the most dice, with the total number of pips and then the highest numbered dice as tie-breakers.  Like the casinos, the pot is dealt out from a pile of money cards until it holds more than the minimum threshold—the winner then takes the highest value card, the runner up taking the second and so on.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part of the game, the really, really clever part, the bit that makes it fun, is that  at the end of the round, all ties are removed (except for those on the Slots of course).  This gives players a reason to stay involved, even after they have run out of their own dice.  It leads to players egging each-other on and trying to persuade other players what to do with their dice, even when the most sensible move is obvious to everyone.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

In order to reduce down-time between turns, the couples played in Teams, this led to inevitable debates and more barracking.  Blue and Pink ended up in conflict over Blue’s tendency to put her money on the Slots and while there was some debate between Green and Lilac, while Black also disagreed with Purple occasionally from his position under the patio.  It was good fun though, slower and more difficult to play than some of the “Roll and Write” games we’ve played more of recently, but it made a nice change.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

There was lots of chatter and lots of hilarity, especially when Team Pinky-Blue rolled four fours and used them to take out Team Greeny-Lilac.  Then, with Ivory threatening to get involved in the same casino, instead he rolled three threes with his last dice and could do nothing useful with them.  It was a game for mulitples—in the next round Pine rolled five fives and Team Greeny-Lilac rolled six twos.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

There was lots of smutty responses to Green’s comment, “I have a big one…” along the lines of, “So you keep saying…”.  And from there, every time someone rolled a one with their large dice, the comment got another airing, though fortunately it didn’t happen too often.  It almost didn’t matter who won; Team Greeny-Lilac made a march in the final round picking up $160,000, but it was only enough to push Team Purpley-Black into fourth place, just $10,000 ahead of Ivory.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy took second place with $340,000, but it was Team Pinky-Blue who, despite their bickering managed to steal first place with $370,000.  It had been fun, but everyone was in agreement in the hope that next time we play Las Vegas, it will be face to face.  With that, Ivory and Lime took their leave and everyone else moved onto Board Game Arena for a game of another old favourite, No Thanks!.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

No Thanks! is a really simple game too and one we played quite a lot prior to last year, and has recently had a bit of a resurgence thanks to the new implementation on Board Game Arena.  This is the new version which plays seven (rather than the original five), but works in exactly the same way:  the active player has a simple choice, they can take the revealed card or pay a chip to pass the problem on to the next person who then has to make the same decision.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Taking the card doesn’t solve the problem though as the next card is revealed and the active player has to make the decision all over again.  At the end of the game, the player with the lowest total wins, however, there are two catches.  Firstly, if a player has consecutive cards, they only count the lowest number, and secondly, some of the cards are removed from the deck before the start of the game.  And it is the interplay of these two rules that make the game work as they change the dynamic, so that some players want high value cards that everyone else rejects.

No Thanks! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

This time Black, Blue and Green all managed to pick up over forty points thanks to all of them taking cards each other wanted.  Purple came off worse though, getting landed with all the cards between thirty-one and thirty-five, except thirty-three…  Pine and Burgundy both finished with five chips and two scoring cards, but Burgundy just edged it, finishing with seventeen points to Pine’s twenty-one.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

There really was only one way to finish the evening, and that was with the 2020 winner of the Golden Goat Award, 6 Nimmt!.  This is so simple and we have played the spots off it this year.  The idea is that everyone simultaneously chooses a card from their hand and these are added in turn to the four rows.  Adding the sixth card to a row causes the owner to pick up the other five, giving them points or “nimmts”.  In the Board Game Arena implementation, everyone starts with sixty-six points and the game ends when one player reaches zero and the winner is the player with the most points remaining.

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

This time the game was unusually close amongst almost everyone except Black who brought the game to a sudden and slightly unexpected end when he reached exactly zero.  More than half of the group were still battling away in the forties when the game came to an end, with Green at the top of the tree with forty-nine.  Much to his chagrin, however, Blue was some way ahead of him and finished with fifty-eight.  And with that, we decided we’d had enough of the first anniversary of playing games online, and it was time for bed.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  A year is a long time when you can only play games online.

23rd June 2020 (Online)

Maybe it was the really hot weather, or perhaps it was the prospect of playing something we all know and love, but people seemed in a slightly brighter mood this week.  Pine commented that every time Purple moved her head he could see the swastika on the box for Escape from Colditz behind her and he was finding it disconcerting.  After she had shuffled her seat, Purple commented that it was hers and Black’s fifteenth wedding anniversary, leading to a chorus of “Happy Anniversary” from everyone.

The Horse and Jockey
– Image by boardGOATS

From there the conversation inevitably moved on to the news that pubs will reopen on 4th July, and specifically the fantastic news that the Horse and Jockey will be one of them.  Clearly there is a long way to go before we can return to playing games there, but it has to be good news for our friends whose livelihoods depend on the place.  There was a lot of concern at the suggestion that people will have to leave their personal details in pubs and what other purposes these may be put to; this was followed by the suggestion that there might be an awful lot of visits to the pub by “Dominic Cummings”…  With that, it was 8pm and everyone had arrived, so we started with an explanation of the differences between Las Vegas Royale and our old favourite, Las Vegas.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

The underlying game is much the same, in that people roll dice and choose which of six, numbered casinos to place them on.  As usual, the active player must place all the dice of one number on the casino of that number and when all dice have been placed, any ties are removed and the winnings are awarded to the owners of the remaining dice, with the largest money card going to the player with the most dice.  In the new Royale version, the casinos are arranged in a circle which is quite nice, but more importantly for us, there is no Slot Machine.  This is a shame, but in the event, we didn’t really miss it.  The new game is played with the “Biggun” from the Boulevard expansion, as standard, which suits us as we always include it when we play.

Las Vegas: The Slot Machine
– Image by boardGOATS

Aside from the new artwork and layout, there is a subtle change to the setup for Las Vegas Royal.  In the original, the money cards, each with a value of $10,000 to $100,000 are distributed so that each casino has a minimum fund (dependant on the number of players).  This means some will have many winners and others only a single jackpot.  In the new version, each casino has just two cards, each with a value between $30,000 and $100,000.  We thought this might have a large impact on game play, and although it changed things, it wasn’t worse, just different.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

The biggest differences though, were the inclusion of “jetons” and the additional effects associated with some of the casinos.  The jetons are tokens that players can use to pass during the game, when their dice roll is unhelpful.  The additional actions are added to three of the casinos and usually take effect when a player places dice in that casino.  We chose to start with “Lucky Punch” on Miracle Casino (Casino 1), “Prime Time” on Kings Casino (Casino 2) and “High Five” on Marina Casino (Casino 3).

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

It is possible to add extra actions to all six casinos, but for our first play, we decided to stick to the rules and add them to three only.  One area which were we weren’t able to follow the rules in, however, was the player count:  the new version, specifies two to five players and there were ten of us.  This change is likely because the new features lengthen the game, so additionally, the number of rounds is reduced from four to three.  We usually play just three rounds, so we played with two teams of two and decided to make a decision as to how many rounds we would play at the end of the first round.  Blue and Pink had set the game up in advance and, like our first remote game back in March, Las Vegas, everyone else followed using Microsoft Teams.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime started, followed by Burgundy, who rolled five threes and placed them on the Marina Casino activating the “High Five”.  This has a token worth “$100,000” on it to be claimed when someone places their fifth die on that casino, and Burgundy duly claimed it.  Purple went for the Miracle Casino (1) and the “Lucky Punch” action at the first opportunity.  With this action, the active player takes one, two or three tokens into their hand and the next player (in this case Team Greeny-Lilac) have to guess how many tokens they have in their hand.  An incorrect guess would give Purple two jetons, $30,000 or $40,000 depending on how many tokens she was holding.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

So, Purple turned on her camera and held out her paw in such a way that nobody could see it until Black pointed out that the camera was over the other screen.  Maybe that was just enough information for Team Greeny-Lilac or maybe they were just lucky, but they successfully guessed Purple had two dice in her hand and, as a result, she won nothing.  Burgundy was the next to have a go at the “Lucky Punch”, and it was Purple’s turn to guess.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple guessed three and Burgundy’s simple reply of “Bugger” told the whole story—this was especially funny since he didn’t have a camera and we were all trusting him to be honest!  The “Lucky Punch” proved really popular: Pine was next to have a go and Pink (playing as a team with Blue) had to guess.  Although Pine was holding out his hand, Pink couldn’t see the screen from where he was sitting so just guessed three and Pine’s response was just as clear as Burgundy’s.  With three out of three failures, people began to wonder whether if we were all psychic.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy was the first to be successful at the “Lucky Punch”, adding $30,000 to his $100,000 from the “High Five”.  That wasn’t the opening of the flood-gates though and Ivory’s attempt was blocked by Black and then Black’s was blocked by Lime.  Purple was eventually successful, taking $30,000 and Ivory also managed to sneak a couple of jetons,  though Pine’s attempt at palming a tree-eeple and a duck-eeple (from Christmas crackers at previous unChristmas Dinners) were spotted by Team Bluey-Pink.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Team Bluey-Pink were the first to use a jeton, followed soon after by Lime.  Egged on by everyone else and much to Ivory’s disgust, Black engaged in a battle for Cleopatra Casino (5), eventually leaving Pine to take the $80,000 with just one die.  Lime won the Kings Casino, but his “Prime Time” bonus meant he could roll two dice and place them if he wished, though unfortunately they had no impact.  The clear winner of the round was Burgundy, however, largely thanks to his $130,000 of bonuses.  Time was marching on, so the group decided that there would only be one more round.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

Normally, all the additional actions are swapped, however, there were a lot to choose from and swapping them all would have been a significant task.  The group decided to swap out “High Five” though, and after rejecting “Bad Luck” as “very evil”, the group opted for “Block It!”.  This action enables players to mess with others by placing cubes on casinos where they would be scored in the usual way, but act as an inanimate player.  Pine went first in the second round but was immediately obstructed by Team Bluey-Pink who were the first to try the “Block It!” action.  First, they moved three neutral dice into the Kings Casino (2) pushing Pine into second place.  On their next turn they start moved more neutral dice onto the Sunset Casino, and with Team Greeny-Lilac’s help, made Ivory’s life more difficult and effectively scuppered Burgundy’s plans.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine eventually won $40,000 on the “Lucky Punch”, but Black was not so lucky when Lime correctly called him holding two tokens.  Team Greeny-Lilac took $30,000, Black took $40,000, and then Purple did too.  It looked like people had worked out how to escape the jinx until Team Greeny-Lilac tried again and Pine guessed correctly.  The odds were certainly moving towards the expected two out of three though, especially as Purple and Pine picked up $30,000 each towards the end of the game and Team Bluey-Pink picked up a couple of extra jetons.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

Those extra jetons that Blue and Pink had acquired nearly proved very useful when Green and Lilac placed their fifth dice on the Marina Casino (3) leading to a tie for first place.  Unfortunately for both, despite several re-rolls, the tie remained and both pairs missed out on both first and second place ($80,000 and $90,000).  Green got his just desserts when he ended up in another tie for Miracle Casino (1), this time with the unfortunate Pine who got caught in the cross-fire.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

In the final tally, the winner was Burgundy, largely thanks to that $100,000 bonus for the “High Five” at the start.  Team Greeny-Lilac weren’t far behind though and neither were Pine and Purple who tied for third place.  Though it could all have been so different, had Burgundy not picked up that obvious windfall so early, everyone else might not have worked so hard to spoil things in the second round and he may well have picked up more money by other means.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

As usual, we had a great time with this fantastic game.  The changes to the payout distribution were neither good nor bad, just different.  The group had mixed feelings about the new additional actions, though on balance, they were positive.  We had a load of fun with the “Lucky Punch” and online it was even more fun somehow.  In our game “Prime Time” had little effect and didn’t really influence players, but was very quick to implement and may have more impact at lower player counts.  “Block It!” affected the game more, and certainly influenced the game in the second round.  “High Five” was the huge game-changer though, certainly in this game.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

The rules are not completely clear on how this should be used, saying, “When you place your fifth die … in this casino, take the token”.  It is not entirely clear whether the $100,000 is available to everyone who places five dice in the casino, or if the first person is the only one who can claim it.  Before the game, we had decided to go with the latter and Burgundy’s freaky first roll of five threes effectively ended the competition for the Marina Casino (3) in the first turn.  Had the values for the payouts been different and if Burgundy hadn’t rolled all five in one go, this might have played very differently.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

On reflection, however, there is another way to play this which might have worked better increasing competition, and may have be the designer’s intention too.  If each subsequent player to reach five dice were to take the token from the current holder it would increase competition and add a nasty edge to the game.  This could also make it a target for using the jetons which otherwise got a bit of mixed reception.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

At the end of the game everyone seemed to have too many jetons left and decided to spend them adding a lot of time to the game, mostly for little reward.  Several suggestions about how to improve it were made, including forcing players to exchange them for cash at the end of the round, and/or topping people up to a maximum of two at the start of a new rounds, or maybe giving players one or even none at the start of each round thus making any gained from the “Lucky Fist” that bit more precious.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

The combination of the extra actions, the large number of players and the effect of playing online meant the game had taken a long time, so Lime, Ivory, Green and Lilac took their leave.  Although it was late in the UK, it wasn’t in California where Mulberry joined us from her balcony at 38 °C in the mid-afternoon for a game of our old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

6 Nimmt! is such a simple game which keeps everyone involved throughout and the Board Game Arena implementation is so good, that it is often a fall-back for when nobody can be bothered to think.  Players simply choose one card simultaneously, then, starting with the lowest value card, they add them to one of the four rows.  If the card is the sixth card to be added, the player takes the five cards and the new card becomes the new first card in the row.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

As always, people complained about the cards they had, though Blue felt she was particularly hard done by this time with one, two and three in consecutive hands and almost nothing above fifty for most of the game.  Given that, she didn’t do too badly in the end.  There was no beating Pine though.  After the game, Pine left and everyone else made it their business to investigate how many games Pine had played on Board Game Arena. There were over a thousand, of which nearly a hundred had been 6 Nimmt!, winning around 30% of games against all comers!  And with that, it was time for bed.

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

Learning Outcome:  If voting Donald for US President, many people would prefer the Duck!

31st March 2020 (Online)

It is at times like this that we need social contact more than ever, and board games are a great medium for that, a fact recognised by both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the British government.  With everyone confined to barracks for the foreseeable, we felt it was important to give online meetings a go.  There are several online gaming alternatives, but they all either cost or are horribly slow thanks to the fact that everyone else is trying to do the same.  For this reason, we decided to try to play a real game using the medium of Microsoft Teams with a camera pointed at the board and everyone else giving instructions.

Setting up for online gaming
– Image by boardGOATS

Our game of choice, and therefore our “Feature Game” for the day, was Las  Vegas. This was because everyone knows it (minimising explanations), lots of people can play (this was intended to be a social event, so that meant lots of people could be involved); it has no hidden information (a necessity for this sort of thing).  Blue and Pink began setting up at about 6pm, after the long walk home from work. They used two laptops: one was perched on some place mats and a pile of sturdy game boxes (specifically Tapestry, In the Hall of the Mountain King and Teotihuacan) with the reverse camera pointing at the table and the game, the second laptop was then used to see what everyone else could see.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Black and Purple (in Abingdon), were the first guinea pigs and struggled to get the link to work. Eventually, with some discussion over the phone and the inevitable microphones and speakers on/off issues, they were successful. While Pink popped out to fetch fish and chips from Darren Pryde and his itinerant chip van (which were truly excellent), Mullberry (in Wantage) became the next guinea pig and signed in with little difficulty.  After Blue sent out the link to everyone else at 7.30pm, there was a steady precession of gamers joining the party.  There were a few things we learnt from this first experience:

  • As the sun set, the natural light from the window faded and the camera really struggled—lighting really is critical.
  • MS Teams worked OK with people joining through a link via a web browser, but it is important that the “game camera” has an active microphone. If it does not, Teams decides it is not active and it disappears for anyone viewing on a browser.
  • MS Teams thinks that feeds where the image changes a lot are the most active and therefore the most important focuses on these.  This is a particular problem for those using a browser rather than the application; turning off cameras when inactive can help.
  • During setup, it helps to have something really obvious for people to focus on.
  • Maybe it’s the stress of the current climate, but there are an alarming number of soft toys in close proximity of people’s web cameras, most of which seemed to be pandas.

By about ten minutes to eight, most people had “arrived” and everyone was chatting about their new normal and sharing what they were drinking and stories of shopping—for a moment, it was almost like we were at The Jockey. A couple of minutes before the scheduled start, Green, the last to join, signed in.  As Blue began dealing out the cards, Green’s opening comment was that it didn’t feel like a games night because we hadn’t spent half an hour chatting! That produced much hilarity, and more chit-chat, before we eventually started.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Las Vegas is a very simple game, which is, of course, why we picked it.  Players have a handful of dice and take it in turns to roll them and then place all the dice of one number on the casino of their choice. When nobody has any dice left, the player with the most dice in each cassino wins the jackpot.  There are a couple of clever twists that make this a really great game though. Firstly, the prize fund for each casino is dealt out in money cards.  Some cards are as high as $100,000, while others are only $10,000—the winner takes the largest denomination for that casino, the jackpot, leaving the player in second place to take the second largest, and so on.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Secondly, and perhaps most cleverly, all ties, cancel each other out.  This is absolutely key to the game: the vagaries of dice mean that a well-positioned player could roll one die and end up with nothing, and much hilarity follows. We also add the Slot Machine from the Boulevard expansion, which works in a slightly different way with dice of each number being added a maximum of once.  We also use the “Biggun” from the expansion, so each player has on large die that counts as two.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Mulberry began. One of the reasons we picked this game was that we thought most people might have dice of their own at home and could roll them themselves. Mulberry was the only one who didn’t, so being a true Millennial to the core, she opted for an electronic solution using an online dice roller.  Otherwise, it was very satisfying to hear the rattle of dice as people took their turns.  Although chatting was quite difficult over the network, that didn’t prevent a lot of smutty comments and requests for him to stop bragging when Green announced that he had “got a big one”.  Even more entertaining was when the conversation moved onto Iceland’s entry for Eurovision and links were shared through the chat feature which resulted in Pink pressing play by mistake and drowning out everything else.

– From Eurovision Song Contest on youtube.com

It was not an ideal way to play any game and with our group Las Vegas is not quick at the best of times, but the combination of people reading out their dice roll so that Blue and Pink could display them, dodgy internet connections, people sounding like Miss Othmar (the teacher from the Peanuts cartoons), and trying to keep eight people on-message, definitely slowed things down. At the moment though, these things are unavoidable and we managed. It was nearly 9pm before the first round finished and people were happy enough with the result to play a second, if not our usual third.

– From Corgi Adventures on youtube.com

Black made hay with his singleton on Casino Three, when Mulberry’s and Lime’s piles of dice cancelled each other out. Green just pipped Blue to take $100,000 on the Slot Machine, leaving her with just $20,000 for the round, and poor Lime with nothing at all.  Purple, Black, Pink, Green and Pine all had good totals in the range of $100,000-$150,000, so it was all to play for going into the second round.

Las Vegas: The Slot Machine
– Image by boardGOATS

This time it was Casino Two that was a knife-fight in a phone box.  Pink, Blue and Pine all had four dice in the mix with Green in second place (and therefore winning the jackpot) with two.  The final roll of the game was Green’s “Biggun”, so when he rolled a two, nobody could believe his misfortune.  Just before he placed it though, he realised he had another option—the oft-forgotten Slot Machine. At which point Pink realised the jackpot could have been his if he had done the same on his previous turn.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Nobody really cared about the scores, but Mulberry, Lime and Blue all did better in the second round, though it was too little, too late. The winner was Green with total winnings of $280,000 with Purple in second with $230,000 and Pink and Black just behind.  The real loser of the evening was Covid though: it wasn’t a great game, but for a couple of hours, we’d all had a bit of fun chucking dice about, forgetting reality for a while.  And with that, Green, Lime, and Pine (signing in from Stoke of all places), left the meeting.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Those remaining, decided to give yukata.de a go, and after a bit of discussion, decided to opt for Port Royal. It took a while to get going with Blue and Black trying to remember how to play and explain it to Mulberry. The game itself is simple enough though, and yukata.de, though old-school, keeps everyone honest.

Yucata.de
– Image by boardGOATS from yucata.de

Port Royal is a fairly simple, push-your-luck game.  On their turn the active player turns over cards until they either find one they want (and can afford) or go bust. There are four different types of card: Characters, Ships, Expedition and Taxes.  Ships are free and give money, Characters give victory points and special powers, while Expeditions give opportunities to trade Characters for more points, and Taxes give people behind in the game a little windfall.  Once the active player has taken their card, everyone else gets the chance to take/buy a card in turn order, paying the active player for the privilege.

Port Royal
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink started well, but Blue eventually got her act together and initially made inroads into his lead before taking it from him. When there was a succession of people going bust, her Jester gave Blue lots of cash enabling her to cement her position at the front.  It wasn’t long before her advantage was eroded though, first by Black, adding a Jester to his Admirals, and then by Purple, claiming an expedition.

Port Royal on yucata.de
– Image by boardGOATS from yucata.de

It was all very tight towards the end, but Purple was the first to our chosen end of twelve points, with a score of thirteen points. Unfortunately, due to a rules misunderstanding, everyone was expecting one final round, but sadly, it was not to be.  Purple was the last player in the round, and once everyone had taken cards from her leavings, Yukata decided that was it, Game Over. In truth, it probably wouldn’t have made much difference, and Purple deserved her victory though the other platings might have been different if there had been another round.

Port Royal on yucata.de
– Image by boardGOATS from yucata.de

It had been a slow and trying game, though not quite as bad as attempts to play synchronously at the end of last week when the website had repeatedly failed to record moves.  Mulberry was looking very tired and it was getting very late, so she signed off, leaving Blue, Pink, Black and Purple to start what will probably be a long, asynchronous game of Snowdonia. That’s another story though, especially as it could take a fortnight or longer to play!

Yucata.de
– Image from yucata.de

Learning Outcome: Playing remotely is not as good as playing round a table together, but it is definitely better than nothing at the moment.

1st October 2019

It was a bitty start with lots of chit-chat and eating, including Blue’s fantastic pizza with mushrooms growing out of it. A little bit of singing to celebrate the fact it was the eve of our seventh birthday was immediately followed by special meeple cakes. Eventually, when everyone had finally finished sucking the icing off their wooden meeples, we finally settled down to the now traditional birthday “Feature Game”, Crappy Birthday.

Pizza
– Image by boardGOATS

Crappy Birthday is a very silly party game that most of the group would normally turn their noses up at, but love to play once a year. The idea is that each person has a hand of cards featuring silly things and chooses one to give to the active player as a birthday present. The Birthday Boy/Girl then chooses the best and worst gifts which score the giver a point. Players take it in turns to receive gifts and after everyone has had one go, the player with the most points is the winner. It is very simple, but the best part is really when the recipient has to sit and sort through all their gifts and justify their choices. It seems a really silly game, and indeed it is, but it encourages people to get to know each other a little better and in a different way too.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

This year, we discovered that Black would like a trip to the North Pole, Pine fancied two weeks in a swamp and Purple fancied a course on Mime Art.  In contrast, Burgundy was not keen on getting his earlobes stretched, Blue wasn’t keen on a GPS (with or without an annoying voice) and Lime eschewed some “garden manikins”.  Perhaps the most surprising thing we discovered was just how great Ivory would be as a day-time quiz host.  Amongst the fun, the scores were largely incidental, but everyone picked up just one or two points except for Purple who scored three points and Black who just pipped her to the post, with four points.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Since Blue and Ivory had both brought Roll for the Galaxy, it was clear that they were keen to give it a go and when Green said he’d play it, the only real question was which copy would get played. Since it can be quite a long game, Blue and Ivory got going quickly and left the others to sort themselves out. Although Ivory was keen to give the new Rivalry expansion a go, as it has been a while since we last played (and Green wasn’t totally familiar with it either), the trio decided to leave that for another day.  Although a lot of the group seem to get in a bit of a mess with Roll for the Galaxy, it is not actually a complicated game. It is a “pool building” game, similar to deck builders like Dominion or bag builders like Orléans or Altiplano, except with dice.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that at the start of the round, everyone simultaneously rolls all their dice in their cup and, depending on what faces are shown, secretly allocate the dice to the five possible phases of the game: Explore, Develop, Settle, Produce & Ship. One of the dice can be used to select which phase that player wants to “nominate”, i.e. guarantee will happen. Any die can be used for this, it does not have to match the chosen phase. Once everyone has assigned all their dice and chosen their phase to nominate, all dice are revealed and the active phases are revealed. The clever part is the element of double think that players have to use: a player can only nominate a single phase, so if they want to Produce and Ship they have to rely on someone else to nominate the other one. Guess right and both phases will happen, guess wrong and they will only get one of them, and if that relies on something else happening, they may find they end up doing neither.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, while there are a lot of other moving parts, fundamentally, a successful player must piggy-back on other players because it will give them more actions.  Dice that are used then go into the players’ Citizenries, and unused dice go back into the players’ cups. Dice are extracted from the Citizenries and returned to the cups on payment of $1 per die, once all the actions have been carried out. Thus, the player with the most appropriate dice can turn the handle on their engine most efficiently. The aim of the game is to finish with the most points, which are obtained from settling and developing worlds and shipping goods to give points.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

So, the first action is Explore, which is taking world tiles from a bag. These are double-sided with a development on one side and a production or settlement world on the other. They go into either the Development or Settlement piles so that dice are placed on top of these during the Develop and Settle phases: when the cost has been matched by the number of dice, the world is added to the player’s tableau and they can use whatever special power it provides. Some of the worlds are production worlds which typically provide more, exciting dice to add to the system.  In addition to extra, coloured dice, Production worlds also house dice played during the Produce phase. These can then be consumed for victory points or traded for cash, enabling more dice to be transferred from the player’s citizenry to their cup.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends at the end of the round when either, a player Settles/Develops their twelfth world or when the stock of victory point chips run out. The winner is the player with the highest score from their combined victory points and worlds. There are a couple of other minor rules (for example players can pay one die to effectively change the face of one other die), but essentially, that is all there is to it.  Players start with a double tile comprising a complimentary pair of settlement and development worlds and a start world, together with a couple of tiles to add to their Development/Settlement piles.  For the first game it is recommended that players choose the Development and World with the lowest cost to add to their piles, because that is easier to play.  For later games, however, players can choose, which gave Blue a really tough decision.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end she decided to go for it, and chose to start with the “Galactic Federation”, “6+” development world in her building pile.  This would give her an extra one third of her development points at the end of the game, but more importantly two of the dice used for every development would bypass her citizenry, going straight into her cup.  Green started with no fewer than three of the red, “Military” dice, which coupled with his “Space Piracy” starting development, gave him really a good source of finance. He looked very unimpressed with this combination, but Ivory and Blue felt it was a really nice combination of starting tiles. Ivory’s start tiles were also nice, but didn’t have quite the same degree of complimentarity, but he did get a nice  purple, “Consumption” die.  The starting tiles are only the beginning though; the game is all about building an engine made up of dice, Production Worlds, and Developments and then using it efficiently.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

In the case of Blue, her starting tiles led her towards a Development strategy, so she spent a lot of the early part of the game Exploring to try to find nice Development tiles to enhance that approach.  Green and Ivory had a more conventional, “build the finances and the dice pool then Produce and Consume” strategy.  The problem with this was they both frequently wanted the same phases, but ended up with either both of them choosing to, say, Produce, or both choosing Ship, when what they both really wanted was to maximise their dice by Producing and then Shipping.  Blue, on the other hand, could mostly be fairly sure that neither Ivory or Green were going to what she wanted, so was able to focus on her own plan, and just piggy-back the actions of the others.  Although the game has a reputation of being slow (with our group at least), this time, the game got going quite quickly and it wasn’t long before Ivory started his Production engine, Shipping his produce for victory points.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

Green soon followed, while Blue kept building her Developments and occasionally taking advantage of the “Produce/Consume” strategies of the others to provide enough finance to move her dice out of her Citizenry.  Blue felt her game was really boring since all she did was Develop, but in the end, it was probably the fact that Blue was doing something different that was key.  Blue triggered the end of the game placing her twelfth Development/World tile, which gave her the most points from building, slightly more than Green.  Ivory Consumed the most victory points, with Green not far behind, and Blue not really troubling the scorer in that department.  It therefore all came down to bonuses from the “6+” Developments, which is where Blue made up for other deficiencies taking fifteen points giving her a total of fifty-seven points, five more than Green who was just a couple ahead of Ivory.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

It had been a lot of fun, and next time we’ll have to give one of the modules form the Rivalry expansion a try.  On the next table, their game was coming to an end too.  Having been abandoned to sort themselves out, someone mentioned Ticket to Ride, and with everyone having a good idea how to play, that turned out to be most popular. The game is very simple and everyone has played it, in most cases, quite a lot, so we often play with expansion maps.  This time, the Team Asia/Legendary Asia expansion was an option, but as we usually play with the Europe version of the game, the group decided to play with original USA map with the addition of the USA 1910 additional route cards.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

The basics of the game is that players start with a handful of train pieces and place them on the board to connect cities, paying with cards.  Thus, on their turn a player can take two coloured train cards from the market (either the face up cards or blind from the deck) or play sets of cards of a single colour that matches both the number and colour of one of the tracks on the board.  Players score points for the number of trains they place, but also for tickets.  Players choose from a handful of these at the start of the game and can take more tickets on their turn instead of placing trains or taking train cards.  These are risky though, because although they are a source of points, any tickets that are not completed at the end of the game give negative points.

Ticket to Ride (USA)
– Image by boardGOATS

The original version of Ticket to Ride (with the USA map) is much less forgiving than the Europe edition that we more usually play.  This is partly thanks to the layout of the tracks, but also due to the absence of Stations which can help alleviate some of the stress associated with failure to complete tickets.  With five, it was always going to be a really hard game and likely to end up with a bit of a train-wreck for someone, and so it turned out.  The eastern states were rough, really, really rough with Burgundy, Lime, Pine and Purple all fighting for routes in the same space.  As a result, Black benefited from mostly staying out of the scrap.

Ticket to Ride (USA)
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine, Lime and Purple managed to complete the most tickets, five each, but remarkable, all three were a long way behind Burgundy and Black who only completed three and four tickets respectively.  This was partly due to negative points, but was mostly caused by the fact that the longer tracks give disproportionately more points and Black for example was able to pick up two of the long tracks around Salt Lake City relatively unopposed as he was mostly alone working in the west.  Similarly, Burgundy did well in the north.  As a result, it all came down to the longest route bonus, ten points, but with Black and Burgundy both in the running it gave a twenty point swing to Burgundy giving him a total of one hundred and thirty-five points, nearly twenty more than Black in second place.

Ticket to Ride
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride and Roll for the Galaxy finished simultaneously and only Green decided he needed an early night, leaving everyone else to play one of the group’s favourite game, Las Vegas.  This is a simple game of dice rolling and gambling, where players use their dice to bet in one of the six numbered casinos.  Each casino has one or more money cards and at the end of the round, the player with the most dice in that casino takes the highest value money card.  The player who comes second takes the next highest value card and so on.  When betting, players must place dice in one of the numbered casinos.  The first catch is that they must place all the dice they roll that depict that number in the matching casino.  The second catch is that any dice involved in a tie at the end of the round are removed, and it is this that makes it a great game.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

We have the original version of the game rather than the new edition, Las Vegas Royale, though we added elements from the Las Vegas Boulevard expansion, including the double weight “Big” dice and the Slot Machine.  We also house-rule to only play three rounds instead of the four in the rules as written.  This time, Ivory stole a march in the first round, when he was forced to place his last die as a losing singleton in “Casino Five”, only for Purple to roll a five with her final roll and take out both herself and the hitherto winner, Pine.  As a result Ivory took the jackpot of $90,000 to go with his other winnings.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

It is not a game to give up on though, as anything can happen.  The second round was relatively uneventful, but the deal for the final round left the last three casinos each with a single card of $100,000.  This is highly unusual, but we decided to play on and see what happened.  In the end, it had a bit of an “all or nothing” feel about it, with players going in early and in big.  It was probably no coincidence that the three big jackpots were taken by the three highest scoring players.  Pine thought he had come off worst, Black, who had done so well in the other two games took the wooden spoon.  It was Ivory’s flying start that was key though, and together with his strong finish, his total takings were a massive $430,000, $40,000 more than Blue in second.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Party games can be great when everyone is in a party mood.

6th August 2019

With a party just arriving, Blue and Khaki took a gamble on Burgundy being on his way, and ordered his ham, egg, ‘n’ chips for him on the understanding that they’d have a second course if he failed to turn up in time.  Blue, then eschewed her usual pizza in favour of fajitas which she then proceeded to throw down her front.  Pine, meanwhile, arrived fractionally too late to order food at all.  Burgundy arrived just in time to avoid everyone playing musical food and eating his dinner, so Pine ended up eating everyone else’s chips instead.  With the substantial matter of food dealt with and the arrival of Purple and Black, the group moved on to games.  There was some discussion about playing one large game or two smaller, three-player games, but the latter won out, with the “Feature Game”, Century: Spice Road, the first game on the table.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

This being a similar engine builder type game to Splendor and Burgundy keen to play, Pine could see the writing on the wall and decided to leave Blue and Khaki to it.  The game itself is actually quite different to Splendor.  In Splendor, players take gems and use them to buy cards which then deliver permanent gems enabling them to buy other cards, and eventually get cards that also give points.  In Century: Spice Road, players are spice traders and take cards from a conveyor belt and then use these cards to get spices and then use the spices to buy scoring cards.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part is the fact that there are four spices available, turmeric, saffron, cardamom and cinnamon, with cinnamon worth the most, and turmeric the least.  Thus, the activity cards, variously enable players to take spices, upgrade them, or convert them into other spices.  Players place their spices in their caravan, which holds a maximum of ten spices.  Like Splendor, the game is all about building an efficient engine, though in this case, it uses deck building, so a key part is making sure that as many cards as possible are used before the deck is picked up, which costs a turn.  Similarly, any conversions can be carried out as many times as desired when the card is played, so timing is everything.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy went first and it wasn’t long before he took his first points, leading Pine to comment from the next table, comparing Burgundy taking the lead to Bayern Munich taking a five-nil lead ten minutes in.  Burgundy replied that he wasn’t winning… yet.  It wasn’t long before Blue and Khaki scored themselves, though rather than equalising, it was more a case of reducing the deficit.  It was around this point that Blue made a big play, going for a card that allowed her to upgrade three spices (compared to the initial two in the cards everyone started with), but she immediately regretted it as she paid through the nose to take it (the card at the end of the conveyor belt is free, but taking newer arrivals costs one spice per card space nearer to the deck).

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

This mistake was compounded by the fact that Blue didn’t really use the card as she had more efficient ways upgrading her spices.  Meanwhile, Burgundy and Khaki were building up their pile of scoring cards, with Khaki ominously taking a lot of the oldest scoring cards, and with it a large number of the rather pretty bonus metal coins.  The game moved really quickly – it’s not really multi-player solitaire, but everyone had plans, so play moved on very quickly with only sporadic breaks when people had to make decisions, so it wasn’t long before everyone was getting close to taking the critical sixth scoring card which triggers the end of the game.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

It turned out that all the high scoring cards had come out at the beginning and towards the end, everyone was waiting and hoping someone else would take a low scoring card and leave them with something more exciting.  Blue had the chance to kill the game early and prevent Burgundy and Khaki taking a sixth card, but she thought Burgundy was setting his sights higher than he was.  So in the end it was Burgundy who took his sixth card to trigger the final round and everyone finished with the same number scoring cards, though Burgundy’s were generally of much higher value.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

It was really close for second place, with Blue taking it by just one point, but Burgundy finished eleven points clear with eighty-six, fulfilling Pine’s prophecy (based on his unbeatable prowess at Splendor) that he would win.  Blue was left ruing the fact she hadn’t ended the game when she had the chance, but in reality Burgundy would probably have won anyhow as he’d only taken a low scoring card end, giving him fewer points than his margin of victory.  However, we’d all enjoyed the game, as it plays quickly and doesn’t out-stay it’s welcome as well as being quite nicely produced.  It does look like it is going to be one of those games that nobody else will want to play with Burgundy though.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table, Pine had joined Black and Purple to play the rather beautiful Bosk.  This is a fairly simple little game that has had a couple of outings recently and has proven quite popular.  The game plays over two seasons, spring, where players grow their saplings, and autumn, where the trees then drop their leaves.  Summer and winter are scoring phases.  In summer, players score points for each row or column where they have the largest total and in winter, players score for having the most leaves in each area.

Bosk
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, with players becoming more familiar with how the game works, it was really tight.  Although the scoring in the first half always seems important, it isn’t really, and is usually quite close.  It is a game where small margins are always important though.  So while the wooden squirrels were doing acrobatics in the middle of the table, players’ trees were shedding leaves all all over the forest.  When it came to scoring, it was very “tit-for-tat” with one player scoring best in one area and then another playing scoring best in the next area.  In the end, it was Black who just managed to sneak the win, two points ahead of Pine.

Bosk
– Image by boardGOATS

With both games finishing simultaneously, and everyone being keen to play together, we decided to introduce Khaki to one of our favorite games, Las Vegas.  This is a great betting game which is quite unlike anything else.  The idea is that there are six casinos, each with a pot of money in one or more notes.   On their turn, each player rolls a handful of D6 dice and place some on one of the casinos.  The player with the most dice on a casino once all dice have been played takes the highest denomination note in the pot.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

As with all the best games, it is the little rules that make the difference.  In this case, there are two “catches”.  Firstly, the player must place all of one number on one of the six casinos, so if they rolled a two and six fives, the must place the two on the “Two” casino, or all six fives on the “Five” casino.  Secondly, when everyone has run out of dice, any dice that tie are eliminated, which means there could be three players with four dice each, and one player with a singleton and the singleton wins.  A new edition of the game has just been announced, Las Vegas Royale, but rather than implement the changes to the rules released with the new edition, we played in our usual, highly enjoyable way.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is supposed to be played over four rounds, but we find it can outstay it’s welcome a little for players who are out of the running, so we house-rule it to three rounds instead.  We also add “The Biggun” dice and the Slot Machine from the Boulevard expansion.  The big dice count for two in the final reckoning, which adds a little bit of variety to the game, while the Slot Machine gives players an alternative to placing dice in the casinos.  Each number can only be placed once in the slot machine, but the player must place all their dice of that number (as usual).  In the event of a tie, the total number of pips, and then the highest value dice are the deciding factors.  This a relatively relaxing game to play with friends with short burst of thought interspersed with a lot of table chat and general encouragement and exhortation to make a mess of things for someone else.

Las Vegas: The Slot Machine
– Image by boardGOATS

In the first round, Khaki rolled a handful of fours, so made a play for the “4” casino.  Following it with more fours secured his position, so when he rolled more fours in the second round he was encouraged to go for it again.  By the final third round, everyone was placing subconscious bets on whether he would try again, which of course he did, ultimately winning the “4” casino in all three rounds.  In fact the last round was the deciding factor, ultimately coming down to the last couple of dice, which lost Pine and Burgundy a lot of cash.  It was Blue and Purple, mostly flying under the radar that took the honours with $330,000 each, finishing joint first, and opting to share victory rather than invoking the tie-breaker.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

There was still plenty of time, but clearly everyone was in a holiday mood and fancied playing light fare, so we decided to finish with an old favourite, Bohnanza.  Kahki had not played it before, so was given a quick run-down of the rules.  The important thing, is that players must not re-order their hand – this is so automatic in card games that new or not, everyone always reminds everyone else immediately after the cards are dealt.  On their turn, players then play the first card from their hand into one of the two “bean fields” in front of them.  They may optionally play a second, but then the top two cards from the deck are turned over.  These must be “planted” before anything else can happen, but they can be planted in the active player’s field or can be traded for something and planted in a field belonging to another player.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the trades have been dealt with, the active player can trade with other players, swapping cards in hand, and then finally tops up their hand by drawing a set number from the deck (dependent on the number of players). There are many clever things about this game, but one of the most important is that when fields are harvested, some of the beans are turned over and become coins which are kept by the player, with the rest moving to the discard pile.  The reason this is important is because some beans are rarer than others and rare beans give a better yield.  This means the balance of the deck changes during the game with rare beans becoming rarer, while there is a glut of common beans.  The winner is the player with the most coins at the end, which is usually the player who best surfed this changing balance.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is very sociable and always played in good nature, with players generally offering and accepting reasonable trades, and not being obnoxiously obsessed with winning.  This time was no exception, although Burgundy did refuse Pine’s totally reasonable offer to take a pint for a Red Bean.  Purple made good progress early on, with a large number of Black-eyed Beans while others struggled to make much progress at all.  As a result, when the deck was depleted for the first time round, there were very few cards in the discard pile making the second round extremely short.  The third was even shorter, made worse by the fact that Blue lost the plot and shuffled the last few cards in with the discard pile

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

When, in the last turn of the game, Purple turned over two Green Beans which Blue wanted, she offered her whole hand, sizeable hand to purple in exchange.  Purple being a kind-hearted, generous sort, graciously accepted, much to Black’s disgust.  The offer was partly to make up for the screw-up with the deck in the hope that Purple would be able to score some points, but of course did Blue no harm either.  In the end it nearly cost Purple the game.  Often the game ends in a multi-way tie, sometimes for first, but more commonly for second place.  The pair of Green Beans that Blue received gave her one extra point, breaking what would have been a three way tie for second with Black and Khaki, putting her one coin behind Purple, the winner with fourteen.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Don’t play Splendor OR Century with Burgundy unless you fancy a pasting.

2nd April 2019

The evening began with a lot of people eating, the return of Mulberry’s daughter, Maroon, and the arrival of someone new, Lime.  So while the usual suspects finished their supper, everyone else played a game of Incan Gold (aka Diamant).  This is a light, “push-your-luck” type game, where players are exploring a mine by turning over cards, sharing any Gems these reveal.  After each card has been revealed, players simultaneously choose whether to leave the mine or stay and see another card revealed.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately, as well as gem cards, the deck also includes Hazards like scorpions, snakes, poison gas, explosions and rockfalls.  When a particular Hazard is revealed for a second time, the mine collapses.  Anyone still inside the mine at this point loses all the gems they’ve collected during the round, while those that left early keep their winnings and stash them in their tent.  So, the trick is that as players leave, the share of the gems grows larger, but so does the risk of collapse. Additionally, there are also Artifact cards.  When one of these is revealed nobody gets any gems until they leave, but if they leave alone, they not only get the Artifact, but also any remainders from the division of spoils associated with the Gem cards revealed earlier in the round.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over five rounds, and like all push-your-like games like this, players who are unlucky in the first round often feel they are out of the game.  This is particularly true where one player does really well in the first round as they have can play safe and can afford to leave the mine early to consolidate their position.  However, this time there were a lot of players and everyone was somehow encouraged to stay in the mind keeping things close.  As the game progressed however, the pack began to split and a small group of leaders began to emerge.  In the end, Mulberry’s wind-ups failed to put Pine off his game and he finished with more than twice her total, winning the game with twenty-five Gems.  Purple was a close second though, with Maroon not far behind in third.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

With food and the first game finished, it was time to decide who was going to play the week’s “Feature Game”, Dinosaur Island.  This is a worker placement game set in a dinosaur theme park.  Although it’s not named specifically, the colour, theme, artwork and feel is clearly intended to evoke an impression of the most famous dinosaur theme park, Jurassic Park,  despite having ten people and the Totally Liquid expansion available (which provides the pieces for a fifth player), we decided it was likely to be a long game and that sticking to four or fewer might be wise, and so it proved.  The rest of the group were half-way through their chosen game, Las Vegas, before the dino-group had even finished setting up, never mind the rules run-through.

Dinosaur Island
– Image by boardGOATS

Las Vegas is one of our most popular games, and the idea is very simple, on their turn, the active player rolls their dice and uses them to “bet” in one of the casinos.  “Betting” is done by placing all the dice of one value on the corresponding casino.  On their next turn, the player re-rolls their dice and does the same again.  Each casino has a pot of cash and after the last dice has been placed, the player with the highest “bid” at each casino (i.e. the player who placed the most dice), wins the largest denomination note.  Similarly, the player who placed the second largest bid taking the second highest denomination and so on.  The catch is that before the order is determined, any dice involved in a tie are completely removed, so a bet of a single die can win, even though there could be several higher bets, which makes the game great fun.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

We usually play with the extra high denomination notes and the “Big Dice” from the Boulevard expansion, as well as the Slot Machine mini-expansion.  The “Big Dice” add to interest in the decision making when pacing bets, as they are double-weight, and count for two dice.  The Slot Machine, on the other hand, gives another place for players to bet, but instead of having a specific number, players can place all their dice of one number as long as each number is only placed once.  At the end of the round, the player with the most dice in the Slot Machine takes the highest denomination note from the pot, but in the case of a tie, the total number of pips on the dice are taken into account, then the highest value dice.

Las Vegas: The Slot Machine
– Image by boardGOATS

Once again, Pine was caught in a tussle, this time with Purple, which culminated in him placing four sixes to beat her “three-of-a-kind”, just to annoy her.  Green almost always does badly at this sort of game and this was no exception, although the game was reasonably close this time.  Mulberry and Maroon, mother and daughter tied for third place, but it turned out that the squabble between Purple and Pine might actually have had a real impact on the final result as they toughed it out for first place.  In the end, those four dice might have been critical as Pine beat Purple by a measly $30,000 – a substantial amount to most of us, but a relatively small sum in this game where most players win quarter of a million dollars or more.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Dinosaur Island was still going on and was looking like it still had some way to go (though they had finally started).  Mulberry, Maroon and Pine all wanted an early night, but Green and Lime decided to keep Purple company for another game, which eventually turned out to be Walk the Plank!  This is another popular game and Green and Purple felt it was essential to introduce Lime to it.  The game is a programming game with a pirate theme.  The idea is that each player has a hand of cards and at the start of the round “programs” their turn by deciding which cards they are going to play, then they take it in turns to action one card per turn.  The point is, although players have to choose three cards at the start of the round, by the time the final cards are played the game has changed so much that any plans made at the start will have gone completely to wrack and ruin.

Walk the Plank!
– Image by boardGOATS

So, players start with three pirate meeples each and the aim is to push everyone else off the ship, along the plank and off the end thus sending them to visit Davey Jones’ Locker.  Once again, Green was picked on by the others and was the first to lose all three of his pirateeples to the kraken, and therefore took on the role of the Ghost Meeple.  The Ghost is confined to the ship, has a restricted set of actions and only gets to carry out one per round.  Unfortunately, the game doesn’t play so well with two, and as a result when it got down to a couple of meeples each for Purple and Lime they got bogged down in a bit of a stale-mate.  This didn’t make it any less fun though.  In the end it was a Ghostly Green who helped push Purple’s final meeple off the boat and Lime did the rest giving him his first win; hopefully we can look forward to many more in the coming weeks.

Walk the Plank!
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the neighbouring table the other four were playing the week’s “Feature Game”, Dinosaur Island.  Although it took a long time to set up and explain, Dinosaur Island is not actually that complex a game.  The game is played over four phases.  In the first phase, a set of beautiful bespoke dice are rolled and players play their scientist meeples to choose dinosaur “designs” or DNA resources associated with the available dice, or increase their DNA storage.  In the second phase, players can use their funds to buy upgrades to their technologies from the market place, which basically improves the quality of the actions players can take in the next phase.   The third phase is the core, “worker-placement” round.  This is when players can “build” dinosaurs, reinforce their security, convert DNA into other types of DNA etc.

Dinosaur Island
– Image by boardGOATS

In the final, fourth round, players open their park to the public, drawing visitor-meeples blind, out of a bag.  The visitors come in two types, yellow, paying visitors and pink “hoodlums” who don’t pay and are very good at avoiding getting eaten.  The total number of visitors is dependent on the total excitement rating of the dinosaurs each player has in their park; the more dinosaurs a player has and the more exciting they are, the more visitors a player has and therefore the more money they receive in gate receipts.  However, the more exciting dinosaurs also need better security which is expensive.  If a park’s security is insufficient, the dinosaurs get out and start eating the visitors – each surviving visitor scores the park owner a victory point while visitors that are eaten cost victory points.

Dinosaur Island
– Image by boardGOATS

There are a couple of little tweaks that give the game a lot of replay-ability.  For example, there are eleven “plot twist” cards which introduce slight variations to the rules keeping things fresh.  For example, turn order is normally dictated by the number of points each player has, but the group played with a “plot twist” that meant the player order was always the same, with the first player progressing clockwise one place each round.  There are also thirty-nine end-game goal cards of which a small number of cards are selected for each game, when a set number of these have been completed by at least one player, this triggers the end of the game.  Any number of players can complete these objectives and receive the points associated with them, but once one player has completed an objective, it will become unavailable at the end of the round.  Thus all players who achieve an objective will do so in the same round.

Dinosaur Island
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the group, played with the aquatic dinosaurs from the Totally Liquid expansion, partly because they alleviate the incessant “neon pink-ness” of game, but mostly just because they are cool.  Blue began by getting a bit carried away with the coolness of swimming dinos and started out taking a plan for a very exciting Megalodon largely simply because she had heard of it, and without thinking through the consequences. Having read the rules in advance, Burgundy had a much better handle on the challenges associated with the game and made a beeline for the special Dino Security upgrade which enabled him to increase the security in his park a second time per round at no extra cost.

Dinosaur Island
– Image by boardGOATS

Black also understood the importance of threat and security and decided to try to deal with the problem by keeping his threat level down.  One unfortunate side-effect of this is that most low threat dinosaurs are un-exciting and attract fewer visitors.  It all became a bit academic though as his threat level spiraled out of control.  Blue, realised she had made a bit of bish and needed to do something to enable her to start producing Megalodons without getting all her visitors eaten and hemorrhaging points.  So she decided to concentrate on upgrading her technologies hoping to net the bonus seven points from the end-game objective rewarding players for having four upgraded technologies.  Black quickly realised he couldn’t keep up with Blue’s developments and as it wasn’t going to happen for him focused his efforts elsewhere.

Dinosaur Island
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Ivory had bagged the popular T-Rex dinosaur plan and was producing them in large numbers.  He, like Black also got heartily sick of pulling “hoodlums” out of the bag instead of paying visitors.  Black bought himself a technology to deal with the problem, but Ivory chose a different route, employing an expert who arrested any hoodlums in his park with the net effect that they became less prevalent for everyone else as well.  Experts are expensive though and not everyone could afford one, or felt they were worth the money.  Certainly they are more valuable if they are employed early in the game so players get their money’s worth

Dinosaur Island
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone got points from the end-game objectives, but as the game came to a close it was clear who was in pole position.  Although his security wasn’t quite sufficient the huge number of visitors turning up every round put Ivory in front by some twenty-plus points.  In contrast, it was very close for second place however, with just five points between second place and the wooden spoon.  The nature of the game means keeping tabs on points, security, threat and excitement levels is quite a fiddly business. Since it was possible to throw a very small blanket over the three competing for second place, it is quite possible that the scores weren’t accurate, nevertheless, the Black finished in second place in what had been a very enjoyable game.

Dinosaur Island
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Security is very important and should not be neglected.

Boardgames in the News: 20 Years of Alea

Latin for “dice”, Alea is a brand of Euro games that celebrates their twentieth anniversary this year.  Alea is owned by Ravensburger, a company that has been around for nearly a hundred and fifty years producing everything from instruction manuals to children’s books under their familiar Blue Triangle trademark.  Alea is a more recent development intended to develop a range of strategy games distinct from their more family-friendly range.  Dating from 1999, the Alea range is credited with bringing a lot of “modern classics” to our tables, including Puerto Rico, Ra, Taj Mahal, San Juan, The Castles of Burgundy, Broom Service and one of our groups all time favourites, Las Vegas.  There are four series in the range, the “Big”, “Medium”, “Small” and “very Small” box games, each game in the series is numbered with the artwork on the covers designed to have a “book-shelf” look.

Alea Big Box Games
– Portmanteau image created by boardGOATS

It looked like the end was nigh when Asmodee bought Heidelberger Spieleverlag in 2017, and with it the distribution rights to the Alea brand.  However, Ravensburger reclaimed the rights last year, so to celebrate that and Alea’s twentieth anniversary, they are relaunching the line with new graphics.  They are starting with a new version of The Castles of Burgundy, a boxed set including all the current expansions, and Las Vegas Royale, a big-box version of Las Vegas, including selected elements from the Boulevard Expansion and some new action tiles.  It remains to be seen how many of the old familiar titles will also get a face-lift and make an appearance in the new line and how many new exciting titles will be introduced.

The Complete Original Alea Range
No. Big Box Medium Box Small Box
1 Ra (1999) Louis XIV (2005) Wyatt Earp (2001)
2 Chinatown (1999) Palazzo (2005) Royal Turf (2001)
3 Taj Mahal (2000) Augsburg 1520 (2006) Die Sieben Weisen (2002)
4 The Princes of Florence (2000) Witch’s Brew (2008) Edel, Stein & Reich (2003)
5 Hoity Toity (2000) Alea Iacta Est (2009) San Juan (2004)
6 The Traders of Genoa (2001) Glen More (2010)
7 Puerto Rico (2002) Artus (2011)
8 Mammoth Hunters (2003) Las Vegas (2012) &
Las Vegas Boulevard (2014)
9 Fifth Avenue (2004) Saint Malo (2012)
10 Rum & Pirates (2006) La Isla (2014) V. Small Box
11 Notre Dame (2007) San Juan (2014) The Castles of Burgundy:
The Card Game
(2016)
12 In the Year of the Dragon (2007) Broom Service:
The Card Game
(2016)
13 Macao (2009) Las Vegas:
The Card Game
(2016)
14 The Castles of Burgundy (2011) The Castles of Burgundy:
The Dice Game
(2017)
15 Bora Bora (2013) Puerto Rico:
Das Kartenspiel
(2018)
16 Puerto Rico with Expansions (2014)
17 Broom Service (2015)
18 Carpe Diem (2018)

 

31st December 2018

The evening began with Pine’s arrival, and he helped Pink rearrange the furniture for PitchCar while Blue added the finishing touches to supper.  PitchCar is a brilliantly simple, dexterity car racing game—players take it in turns to flick their wooden cars, and the first one to get round the track three times is the winner.  Before long Burgundy, Purple and Black had arrived and pieces from the base game and five of the first six expansions were all over the place and everyone was diving in trying to make an interesting looking track.  There was a problem though, the problem we always have, which is a shortage of straight sections.  It was then that Blue produced another expansion from under the sofa:  the “Long Straights“.  These are exactly what they sound like, two, very long, plank-like, straight sections that are a pain to store and difficult to transport, so rarely get used.  They have the potential to add a very fast section to the track though, so this time we used both with a tight hairpin in between them to add interest.

PitchCar Track 31/12/17
– Image by boardGOATS

Like last year, instead of making a circuit, we made a single long race track weaving around plates of crudites, mugs of tea, and trays of “pigs in blankets”.  There was a big debate whether to use The Cross as a cross-roads or back-to-back corners.  In the end, the double corners won, the track was complete and we had a push off to see who would start at the front of the grid.  Black won with a magnificent flick, followed closely by Purple.  Blue stalled on the grid and the only one to come off worst was Burgundy who came off the track and defaulted to the back of the grid.  The race began:  Black and Purple continued strongly and everyone else shuffled about in the middle order with Burgundy bringing up the rear.  Then Burgundy adjusted is driving style slightly and gradually began to work his way through the field.  Meanwhile the wheels dropped off for Purple who had briefly taken the lead, but suddenly seemed to lose the knack of flicking, and gradually, the rest of the pack overtook her one by one.

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

Almost everyone had trouble going over the bridge, but particularly Blue, Pink and Purple.  Eventually they made it over though and shot down the rail to the hairpin some failed to make the corner, but the long straights added a bit of speed and excitement.  The tunnel ended up being a relay race with Black getting stuck under the bridge, only to be pushed out by Blue, who in turn also got stuck and was freed by Pink.  Similarly, he was freed by Burgundy and Burgundy was liberated by Pine.  And that order was maintained all the way to the finishing line, despite Blue needing several shots at crossing it without overshooting.  Green and his lady-friend, Lilac, had been held up though were expected any second; food wasn’t quite ready either so we ran the race in reverse starting with Purple, the last player to cross the line in  the first race.

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

Inevitably, we’d only just started when Green and Lilac arrived, so they just joined in.  In fact by this time, Blue had actually managed to go backwards and was further behind the line than others were in front of it.  With the larger pack, this time round the race was even more eventful with Black managing to park his car in a plate of crudites just missing a bowl of salsa and Pink repeatedly bouncing off the edge of the mouth of the tunnel obstructing everyone else behind him.  Bizarrely, although the tunnel caused mayhem, the bridge was much less of a problem this time though with Pine leading the way by deftly bunny-hopping over it and almost everyone else just following his example.  Leading over the bridge was a huge advantage, and though Blue threatened to catch him, he maintained his position to the finish.  With food ready and waiting, the track was progressively dismantled as those bringing up the rear made their way to the finish line.  Although it only gets an outing two or three times a year, PitchCar is always great fun and the seventh expansion, “The Loop” which is due in the new year, looks like it will add even more madness to the game.

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

With PitchCar over and the track in a heap in the corner, food swiftly appeared in the guise of enchiladas with corn on the cob, nachos and some strange yellow, habanero salsa that reminded Pine of wallpaper paste.  Supper was accompanied by more special crackers, little parcels, Herb Alpert and the Tujuana Brass, and finished with ice cream, and then it was on with the games; after a little debate first up was Ca$h ‘n Guns.  This is push your luck game with a gangster theme played over a series of eight multi-player duels over their ill-gotten spoils.  The player with the largest haul after eight rounds is the winner, as long as they are still alive of course.  Each player has a character standee, a foam gun, and a clip of three bullet cards and eight blank cards.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of each round, everyone simultaneously chooses a whether to “load” their gun with a bullet or a blank, and on the count of three, points it at one of the other players.  On a second count of three, they choose whether to remain in, or withdraw taking their shot with them.  Anyone whose target is still standing reveals whether their gun was loaded with a live bullet or a blank.  Anyone who received a shot takes a plaster signifying their wound and is out of the rest of the round; three wounds and they are eliminated from the game.  All players remaining then take it in turns to take a loot card from the centre of the table—there are eight cards, so the number of cards each player gets depends on how many players have survived the “duel”.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image by boardGOATS

The game can be quite brutal, and this was no exception, indeed, Black was out in the second round and Green quickly followed.  Pine pointed out that everyone on his side of the table had been injured while Blue, Pink and Burgundy were all uninjured.  Purple decided to fix that and faced off with Burgundy, both ending up injured as a result.  Lilac proved a dangerous adversary as she collected extra bullets from the loot and ended up with a full set going into the final rounds.  Blue injured Burgundy and coped a bullet in return.  After Black’s and Green’s dismissal, everyone was more circumspect and didn’t gamble as readily with their lives, so all the other players survived to the end of the game.  That just left the small matter of the scores.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine and Purple had both been collecting gems, but had finished up with the same number so neither picked up the $60,000 bonus for having the most.  Blue had started out collecting artwork, but there wasn’t much available.  It became clear why, when the loot for the final round was revealed:  almost all of it was art.  It was tough in the final round; Blue was taken out by Burgundy, which effectively removed her from the running.  Pink had been doing well as the Godfather, but had taken a couple of hits in the latter stages and was also taken out of the final round.  Pink finished with $110,000 and second place.  The final round was attritional and there were few people left to share the swag.  Most of the artwork ended up going to Pine and with it first place overall thanks to a final total of $123,000 worth of loot.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image by boardGOATS

There was still time till midnight, and it was a toss-up between two of our favourite light games, 6 Nimmt! and Las Vegas, in the end we went for dice over cards and played Las Vegas.  This is a very simple game, but a lot of fun. The play area is made up of six casinos, each numbered one to six with a jackpot drawn at random from a deck of money cards.  With eight players, each jackpot totals at least $90,000 and comprises one or more notes.  On their turn, players must use all the dice of one number to bet on the casino of that number by placing them on that casino tile.  Once everyone has placed all their dice the player who placed the most dice on a casino takes the highest value currency card. The player with the most money after four rounds is the winner.  The snag is that before any money is handed out, any dice leading to a draw are removed. It is this rule that makes the game interesting, raising the decisions above the trivial.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

We usually play with a few “House Rules”:  we replace one of each player’s dice with a big, “double weight” die from the Las Vegas Boulevard expansion; we include the Slot Machine, and only play three rounds.  The Slot Machine is a little different to the Casinos as players place all their dice of one number on the tile, but each number can only be placed once.  Unlike the Casinos, if there is a draw, then the player with the total number of pips wins, and if it’s still a tie, then the player with the highest value die wins.  The game is very robust to interruptions which is just as well as we took a break at midnight for toasts to the new year and to Ivory’s new arrival (we are looking forward to his return in March).  Prosecco and sparkling apple juice were accompanied by the village fireworks, an exceptional panettone and mince pies and eventually everyone made it back to the table and the game resumed.

Las Vegas: The Slot Machine
– Image by boardGOATS

Perhaps it was the interruptions, but Black’s game went almost as badly as it had in Ca$h ‘n Guns, and he won nothing at all in the first two rounds and not much in the third.  It turned out that Purple and Burgundy didn’t do any better as all three finished with just $100,000.  That was better than Green however, who made a paltry $20,000.  Pink started off really well, but at the start of the second round we realised he was using one more die than anyone else.  After paying a $10,000 penalty, he finished with $240,000, $10,000 more than Blue.  Lilac, on the other hand, took more in the first round than Blue or Pink took in the whole game and finished with $410,000.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Normally $410,000 would be more than enough to guarantee a win, but Pine, who took three $70,000 notes in the final round alone finished with a massive $510,000, a personal and probably group record.  With the game over, Green took Lilac home to nurse her sore throat and everyone else finished their drinks and chatted for a while, watching Pink and Pine demolish a bottle of Bavarian whisky picked up in Essen during the Spiel.  Everyone who had been there commented how much they had enjoyed The Gallerist at the ninth “Monster Game” session a few days earlier.  Although it had taken ages and was very complex, it wasn’t a real brain-burner and everything had been done well.  The rule book was good, the board was clearly laid out, the player-aids were helpful, the pieces were great and the box was really top quality—in fact, it was almost the complete opposite of Agra, which struggled through at the previous “Monster Games” event.  The second game, Reef, had also gone down well, but everyone was particularly keen to give The Gallerist another go.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  GOATS enjoy a good party just as much as the next ruminant.