Tag Archives: Machi Koro

28th July 2015

We started the evening splitting into three groups, the first of which played Machi Koro.  This was the “Feature Gamea couple of months back when it received a nomination for the coveted German Game of the Year, or Spiel des Jahres Award.  In essence, it is an engine building game with elements taken from The Settlers of Catan and Dominion.  Like Settlers, on their turn players first roll one or two dice, which yield resources, in this case money.  Players then use their money to buy cards like Dominion.  Each card is numbered and provides money, sometimes when the owner rolls, sometimes when someone else does, with the amount sometimes depending on the other cards a player has.

Machi Koro
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

Players have five special buildings costing varying amounts and the winner is the first player to build all of them.  Red, Yellow, Orange and Cyan started setting up while people finished eating, but Red emigrated to play the hidden traitor game, Saboteur, with Teal and Violet when they arrived.  This is one of those little games that everyone always enjoys playing and plays lots of people well.  With only three players, it’s possible to have one bad dwarf, or none at all which makes everyone very twitchy, and as usual, accusations abounded.  After three rounds, Teal ran out the winner with five gold.

Saboteur
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mothertruckin

Machi Koro and Saboteur finished together to the two groups coalesced to play Colt Express.  This had been the “Feature Game”, last time, however, none of this group had been available to play.  Red was particularly keen to give it a go as it has a lot in common with one of her favourite games, Walk the Plank!.  This style of game is sometimes refereed to as a “programming game” because players play all the cards and only after everyone has played cards, do they get to action the cards.  The effect of this is semi-organised chaos as players try to make plans to take care of all eventualities, and then find that by the time they get round to carrying out the actions the situation has completely changed and is nothing like they would have predicted.  This time, Orange took the $1,000 for the sharpest shooter and Cyan took the strongbox.  Despite this, the best thief turned out to be Yellow who finished with $2,700 some way ahead of Cyan in second place.

Colt Express
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Meanwhile, everyone else had been playing the “Feature Game”, which was Last Will.  This is basically the boardgame equivalent of the 1985 film “Brewster’s Millions”.  The story goes that in his last will, a rich gentleman stated that all of his millions would go to the nephew who could enjoy money the most.  In order to find out who that would be, each player starts with a large amount of money, in this case £70, and whoever spends it first and declares bankruptcy is the rightful heir, and therefore the winner.

Last Will
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor PaulGrogan

The game is played over a maximum of seven rounds each comprising three phases.  First, starting with the start player, everyone chooses the characteristics of their turn for the coming round from a fixed list.  These include the number of cards they will get at the start of the round, the number of “Errand Boys” they will be able to place, the number of Actions they will get and where they will go in the turn order.  For example, a player may choose to go first when placing Errand Boys, but will then only get one card at the start of the round and crucially, only one Action.  On the other hand, a player may choose to sacrifice position in the turn order, draw no cards, only place one Errand Boy, but receive four Actions.  Since all but two cards are discarded at the end of the round and Actions must be used or lost, this decision is critical.

Last Will
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

Next, in the revised turn order, players take it in turns to place one Errand Boy before placing their second if applicable.  Errand Boys are important as they allow players to control the cards they are drawing as well as manipulate the housing market and increase the space on their player board.  The heart of the game is the cards, however, which are played in three different ways:  as a one off (white bordered cards); on a player’s board (black bordered cards) or as a modifier (slate bordered cards) which enable players to spend more when black or white bordered cards.  Thus, White bordered cards are event cards which cost a combination of money and Actions to play, but once played, are discarded.  Black bordered cards cost at least one Action to play, but are kept and can be activated once in each round.

Last Will
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

Black bordered cards come in three different types: “Expenses” which allow players to spend money; “Helpers” which additionally allow give players some sort of permanent bonus, and “Properties” which are by far the most complex cards in the game.  Properties are an excellent way of spending money as they are bought for a given amount and will either depreciate every round, or will require maintenance which can be expensive. Unfortunately, players cannot declare bankruptcy if they have property and must sell them.  This is where the property market comes in:  one of the possible errands is to adjust the property market, so if a property is bought when the market is high and sold when it is low, this is another possible avenue for losing money.

Last Will
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor bswihart

At the end of the round, everyone reduces their hand to just two cards and loses any left-over actions, which puts players under a lot of pressure as it makes it very hard to plan.  So the game is an unusual mixture of timing, building card combinations, strategy and tactics.  Only Blue had played it before and that was a long time ago, so it took a long time to explain the rules and make sure that everyone understood how the cards worked.  Even then, there were a lot of misunderstandings.  Burgundy had also read the rules quite carefully as well though and mostly managed to keep everyone on track.

Last Will
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

Green (as the last person to the bar and therefore the last person to buy something) went first and started out with an “Old Friend” which gave him an extra action.  Burgundy went for a “lots and lots of cards which don’t cost an Action to activate” strategy while Black and Purple went into the properties market.  Meanwhile, Blue’s starting cards favoured buying farms, but by the end of the first round it was becoming clear that the cards she needed weren’t there and an Events strategy would probably be better.

Last Will
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

Towards the end of the fourth round it was becoming obvious that Burgundy’s preparation (reading the rules) was paying dividends as he was systematically spending more than £12 per round – the amount needed to force an early finish to the game.  Blue on the other hand was trying to work out why her pile of poker chips didn’t seem to be decreasing.  By the end of the fifth round it was clear that Green was pressing Burgundy hard and there would only be one more round.  A quick bit of maths also suggested that there had been a “banking error”.  Although it would normally be in Blue’s favour, unfortunately, as this is game where players are trying to lose money, it didn’t help her.  Since she had been in charge of the poker chips though, it could only have been her own fault.

Poker Chips
– Image by boardGOATS

The game came to an end in round six when Green ran out of chips.  This left him with a final total of zero and everyone else trying to make the best of the final round.  Black and Purple tried selling off their properties and Blue held another couple of expensive parties, but it was Burgundy who spent £20 to finish the winner with £13 of debt.  As we put the game away, we agreed that it was quite an unusual game, though quite complicated, especially on the first play.  We also all felt that it was the sort of game that would benefit from the familiarity with the cards that comes from repeated plays, so it is quite likely that we’ll play it again soon.

Last Will
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor CellarDoor

With everyone else gone, there was just time for a few quick rounds of Love Letter.  This is a game we played a lot a year or so ago, but not so much recently.  The first of the so-called “micro games” it is played with just sixteen cards.  Each player starts with one card and on their turn, draws a second card and then plays one of them.  Each card has a value (one to eight) and an action (discard a card, swap cards with another player, compare cards, etc. etc.).  The object of the game is to have the highest card when the deck has been exhausted or, be the last person remaining, which ever is soonest.  For variety, we played with Green’s much loved, very battered, previously lost but recently re-found, home-made, “Hobbit” themed deck, complete with tiny gold rings.  So, the first problem was remembering what all the cards did and then trying to match them to the new characters…  With five, we played until the first player had two rings – everyone got one except Burgundy before Black won a second round and finished as the winner.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Spending money is not quite as easy as you think.

Spiel des Jahres Winners – 2015

The 2015 winner of the coveted German Game of the Year or Spiel des Jahres award is Colt Express which is a game about bandits robbing an amazing 3D train.  The game plays in two phases:  first everyone plays action cards cards onto a common pile and then the action cards are resolved in the order they were played. There were three games nominated for the Spiel des Jahres this year and we’ve played the other two, Machi Koro and The Game, so we’ll play Colt Express next week to see what all the fuss is about!

Colt Express
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

At the same time the Kennerspiel des Jahres was awarded, which honours more challenging games.  It was introduced in 2011 to replace the jury’s habit of intermittent special awards for games too complex for the Spiel des Jahres (notably Agricola which was awarded a special “Complex Game” prize in 2008).  The 2015 award went to Broom Service, which is a reimplementation of the 2008 Spiel des Jahres nominated game, Witch’s Brew.  It is a role selection game where players collect potions, then deliver them across the land to towers that advertise their desires with color-coded roofs.  This year we haven’t played this or either of the other nominees (Orléans and Elysium), but it probably won’t be long before we do.

Broom Service
– Image from asaboardgamer.com

19th May 2015

With more new people, most of the regulars and a few less regulars, it was always going to be a busy evening.  So, as it was, we started out with three games.  The first group began with Eight-Minute Empire, a game that we’ve played before on a Tuesday, however, not with this group – only one person playing this time was familiar with it.  It is a quick little area control and set collecting game, though in truth, it only plays in eight minutes if everyone really knows what they are doing and nobody suffers from “Analysis Paralysis”.  On their turn, the active player starts by picking up a card:  they can choose whether to take the first available card which has no cost, or take another and pay the appropriate number of coins from their limited supply.  Each card is a resource which provides points at the end of the game, the number depending on how many of that resource the player has;  each card also has an action associated with it, which can be place armies on the map, move them about, ship them across the sea, build a city etc.  Players score points for having the majority in a countries and controlling the most countries in each continent, as well as for sets of resources.

Eight-Minute Empire
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Cyan started heading over the seas, Yellow went in the other direction and Green ominously began amassing armies in the start region. Orange and White started with a mixture of expansion and growth.  As the game progressed, Cyan was spreading himself thinly over two continents while Orange headed north leaving the main continent behind and Yellow, White and Green fought over the regions in the middle.  White was also doing a fine trade in rubies while Cyan was collecting anvils.  This gave Cyan a dilemma when a double anvil turned up:  although he had the money to pay the two it would cost, he was playing a miserly game and decided to let it pass.  As it happened, it stayed on the table for nearly the full round until White swiped it from under Cyan’s nose.  Everyone saw the mass of Green in the middle, and, thinking he was an experienced player, decided to gang up on him.  With three players going after Green in the last round they did a good job of removing his dominance in the centre, leaving White the winner with eleven points, though the rubies really helped Yellow in second place just two points behind.

Eight-Minute Empire
– Image by BGG contributor lhapka

After a brief drinks break, the group then went on to play Salmon Run.  This was another game that we had played before, but was new to the majority of the players this time so it took a while to remember how it worked.  In essence, it is a race game that uses a hand-drafting mechanism, so players have their own personal draw piles a bit like Dominion.  The game is modular with a range of possible river sections.  This time the group opted for a short game with only four boards, which was enough to give everyone a flavour of the game, ready to give it a proper run through next time.  After a couple of rounds, everyone started to get the hang of it and salmon were zig-zagging their way up stream dodging bears, eagles and rapids, jumping waterfalls and trying to be the first to get to the spawning pool without being too tired.  Throughout the game the group remained uncertain of the the rules though, and at one point Green got himself blocked with no cards in his hand to help him.  After checking, he realised he could in fact play a card and do nothing (the fish banging its head against the wall). Unfortunately this meant he ended up way behind the others.  Before long, Cyan leapt the last waterfall and landed in the spawning pool with a splash.  It was a tight game with three other players teetering on the brink and ready to make the final jump, but in the end no-one else managed to get across leaving Cyan the clear winner.

Salmon Run
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

The second group started out with a repeat of a quick game we played last time, called Yardmaster.  This little train themed card game is turning out to be surprisingly popular with our group, partly at least because it packs a surprising amount of punch for such a simple filler game that plays so quickly.  This time, it was just Burgundy turned the tables on Blue who failed to get the luck of the cards.  Then Purple and and Black turned up to join them for the the “Feature Game”, Machi Koro, which has just been nominated for the Spiel des Jahres.  This card game is a sort of cross between The Settlers of Catan and Dominion, where players take the role of mayor and roll dice and choose cards in order to make it the most successful town.  On their turn, the active player rolls the die (or dice if appropriate) and anyone who owns a card gets money in a similar way to the resource allocation in The Settlers of Catan.  Then, the active player can use their money to buy cards, building up their portfolio in a similar way to Dominion.  The winner is the first player to build all four of their land-mark buildings.

Machi Koro
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

There are two ways of setting up:  all the cards can be available in separate stacks at the start of the game, alternatively, the cards can be shuffled together and dealt out until there are ten different buildings available (others become available when a pile is exhausted).  The latter makes for a more strategic and interesting game, but when learning it is easier to see how the card combinations work by dealing out all the cards.  With so many people new to the game, all the cards were laid out at the start so everyone could see what their options were.  Blue was the only one who had played it before, so to off-set some of that advantage, she decided to try buying a building she had not bought before.  In her previous games, the Café (which rewards the owner with $2 from the active player when they roll a three) had been fairly ineffective, so she bought one.  Purple promptly rolled a three, and had to hand over some cash.  When this happened a second time, suddenly everyone started building Cafés and the gloves were off.

Machi Koro
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

Blue built her Station first which allowed her to roll both dice and go for the higher number and value buildings and Purple and Burgundy were quick to follow.  Black was obviously not enjoying himself as much as the rest, and didn’t seem to be building much.  Eventually, he build a handful of Restaurants and Cafés, but otherwise just sat and accrued cash.  Blue and Purple had built their third landmark before Black had built one and it was looking like he wasn’t really focussing on the game at all.  Eventually, Blue built her Radio Tower winning the game.  Since there is nothing in the rules about what happens next, the rest of the group played on.  Burgundy managed to build his third and fourth landmarks in quick succession to take second place leaving Black and Purple to fight it out.  When Black suddenly completed his set (much to Purple’s disgust) his strategy became clear:  by building his most expensive landmarks first, he got a larger benefit from them, which enabled him to quickly complete the smaller ones.  Without two dice, his income was reduced, but since he had the majority of the red cards, he picked up money on when others rolled nines.  Although it hadn’t paid off this time, it looked like an interesting approach, though it was clear that Black was not terribly keen to play it again since, as he commented later, he is not keen on dice as a randomising factor, though he is quite happy to use cards.  Perhaps we’ll try a “dice deck” of cards next time and see if he likes it more…

Coloretto
– Image by BGG contributor SergioMR

Meanwhile, the third group had played an assortment of quicker games beginning with Coloretto.  This cute little set collecting game has been getting played a lot recently on Tuesdays, and, as Teal and Violet were new to the group, Red thought it would be a nice gentle game to start with.  Teal began by collecting a few choice colours, but quickly amassed a positive rainbow of chameleons.  Violet was much more selective and her favouritism for yellow chameleons proved to be particularly sensible in such a close fought game, and gave her clear victory over Red and Teal.  After briefly licking his wounds, Teal then regrouped and proceeded to thrash Red and Violet in a quick game of Dobble.

Dobble
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

Red had been enviously watching Blue and Burgundy playing Yardmaster across the room (which might explain her poor showing in Dobble).  So, as soon as they had finished, she decided to introduce Teal and Violet to it.  As the most experienced player, Red was in a good position to get revenge for getting beaten in Coloretto and her complete drubbing in Dobble.  The game was quite close, but a crucial coup of a green number one at the very last minute swept her sorting yard into play, making Red the clear winner.

Yardmaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor moonblogger

With one victory each, Red got out another of her favourite games, Walk the Plank!.  This is a very simple if silly game, with a lot of opportunity to attack the others playing.  One of the big successes in the group, it has really earned it’s keep as one of the few genuinely popular KickStarter games.  This time was no different to previous games and everyone engaged whole-heartedly in trying to force their opponents off the plank and into the murky depths of the ocean.  Since it had been one game all, this could be seen as the groups tie-breaker and it was Teal who’s pirates managed to resist the temptation to jump into the shark-infested water the longest giving him two wins to Red and Violet’s one.

Walk the Plank!
– Image by boardGOATS

With the second group still playing Machi Koro, Red Teal and Violet joined Cyan, Green and White for a quick game of Pick Picknic.  Like Walk the Plank!, Pick Picknic uses simultaneous card selection, but adds negotiation and a dash of chance and “double think”.  The idea is that there are six yards of different colours, if someone plays the only chicken card of a given colour, they get all the grain at that coloured farm.  If multiple players go for the same coloured yard, then players can either agree to share the corn in any way that is mutually acceptable or roll the die for all of it.  Foxes don’t eat corn, however, they only eat chickens, so if someone plays a fox card, they will eat any chicken cards of that colour.  The game was really close and much hilarity ensued when when Cyan and Green, fighting over a yard managed to roll a tie five times in a row.  In the final count, White finished the winner, just four corn ahead of Green and six clear of Violet.

Pick Picknic
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

With people beginning to head off and everyone else reluctant to make it a late night, the remaining players began to look for something short-ish and fun.  Purple suggested Plague & Pestilence again, but when that wasn’t greeted enthusiastically, she proposed 6 Nimmt! instead.  Having had an outing last time, as well as at the Didcot group a few days ago, it is starting to become a bit of a regular.  In this case however, it was clear that everyone had fond memories of Burgundy collecting handfuls of cards and wanted to see if he was going to do it again.  Sadly, that was clearly not his intent and he finished the first round with just eight, only one behind the leader, Green.  Green didn’t keep the lead for long though as he was repeatedly forced to pick up high scoring cards finishing with a nice round forty.  Purple improved on her relatively poor first round, but still had quite a few more than Burgundy, Black and Blue.  It was fitting perhaps then, that it was Burgundy who, despite having a terrible hand played a blinder to finish just one point ahead of Black and two ahead of Blue.

6 Nimmt
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  A long game can be very satisfying, but lots of little games can be lots of fun.

Spiel des Jahres Nominations – 2015

Each year a jury of German-speaking board game critics (from Germany, Austria, Switzerland), review all the games released in Germany in the preceding twelve months.  Their job is a really important one amongst gamers, because they award the coveted Spiel des Jahres, the German Game of the Year.  There are also other awards including the Kinderspiel and Kennerspiel des Jahres (Childrens’ and Connoisseurs’ Games of the Year).   These awards are highly lucrative for the winners as many German families look for the red logo when choosing games to buy at Christmas.

Spiel des Jahres
– Image from spieldesjahres.de

The criteria used by the judges include:

  • game concept (originality, playability, game value),
  • design (functionality, workmanship),
  • layout (box, board, rules),
  • rule structure (composition, clearness, comprehensibility).

The announcement of the Spiel and Kennerspiel des Jahres awards will be made early in July.  Last year, the winner was Camel Up with Splendor as runner-up and Istanbul taking the Kennerspiel des Jahres award.  The nominees for this year have just been announced and this year, unusually, we haven’t played any of them in the group yet.  However, one of our more popular two-player games, Patchwork was included as a recommended game and we are planning to play one of the nominees, Machi Koro, this week.