Tag Archives: Montego Bay

26th August 2014

We started the evening with a big bowl of chips, some ice-cream and a game of Hanabi.  This is a a co-operative game where everyone works together to try to achieve a common aim.  The idea is very simple:  everyone has a hand of tiles which are turned to face away, so that players can see everyone else’s tiles, but not their own.  On their turn, players then either play a tile, give a clue about the colour or number of the tiles in front of a player, or discard a tile (and recover a clue).  The aim is to lay twenty-five tiles in order within their suits.

Hanabi

Everyone had played the game before, but never together as a group, so we had a quick discussion of conventions.  The game can be played very strictly in complete silence with “poker faces”, but given how hard the game is, we’ve always played it in a fairly relaxed way.  Some groups have a lot of extra ways of giving clues, for example, if a player has three green tiles, they point to them in a prearranged order, say, from lowest to highest, however, within the group we’ve always felt this is a step too far.  We typically play with a conveyor-belt, where new tiles are generally placed at one end and, in the absence of other information,  should it be necessary, the oldest tiles are discarded.  This not only helps the players giving clues ensuring that tiles stick about for as long as possible and makes sure people know which tile is “in the hot seat”, but also helps the owner remember which tile is which.  In the past, we’ve also used some element of the active player talking through their thought process so that other players can learn how people think.  This is nice when learning, but does have the tendency to give away a little too much information, so this time, with more experienced players, we tried to keep that to a minimum.

Hanabi

We started off well with one player beginning with three ‘ones’ all of different colours, but then the trouble set in.  The absence of “twos” meant that nobody could really find any really good clues to give and before long we were forced to discard tiles which led to the inevitable consequence of throwing away both white “threes”.  Although it limited our highest possible score, it had the advantage that people could freely discard white tiles and recover clues.  Doors opened a little and we managed to play complete blue, green and red fireworks.  The total of nineteen gave us an excellent crowd pleasing display, though it would be interesting to see if the same group could do as well, or even better next time, playing a little more strictly.

Hanabi

Meanwhile a couple of other players arrived and, seeing that the game had some way to go, decided to start a quick game of The Little Prince:  Make Me a Planet.  This is a pretty little game based on the book, The Little Prince, by the French writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.  We’ve not played it before on a Tuesday, though many of us have played it on other occasions.  The idea is that each player is trying to build a planet from a total of sixteen square tiles.  The tiles have one of four different motifs: characters, up edges, down edges and middles and when four of each are combined, they make a picture of a planet with the four corner spaces occupied by the characters.

The Little Prince:  Make Me a Planet

On their turn, the active player chooses a motif, draws one tile per player and keeps one.  They then choose another player and pass on the remaining tiles for them to select one, then pass remaining tiles on etc.   The final player gets no choice and gets to keep the last tile, but to make up for that, this player becomes the start player for the next round.  Each tile features a number of items:  lamp posts, sheep stars, strange-looking foxes, elephants, baobob trees, cobras etc. which are used for scoring.  The score for each item depends on the characters, however, and items will score highly for one planet and poorly, or even negatively for another.  The game was tight all the way through, but Purple finished ahead with a lead of seven points.

The Little Prince:  Make Me a Planet

The games came to an end and we decided to start two simultaneous games of The Speicherstadt, our “Feature Game” for the week.  This is an unusual auction card game where players compete for victory points, which come mainly from contracts (sets of resources) and special cards.  The game is set in Hamburg around 1900 where there was a unique complex of storehouses (Speicherstadt) and a network of canals and bridges forming a terminus for spices, coffee, tea and carpets from all over the world.  Players act as wholesaler at the heyday of the Speicherstadt acquiring shiploads for the storehouses and making profits selling selling them.  We played this game quite a bit a few months back, but somehow seemed to have forgotten how to play it.  After a period of staring blankly at the rules, we remembered that each player starts with three meeples which they use for bidding, and bid by placing them above their chosen card (and any meeples already there).  Once everyone has declared their interest, the first card is auctioned:  the person at the front of the queue has the first chance to buy and the price is set by the total number of meeples in the queue.  If they choose to buy at that price, they pay up and the auction is over.  If they choose not to buy (or are unable to), then they forfeit their opportunity, remove their meeple and the next person has a chance (and the cost is reduced accordingly).  The deck is stacked so that contracts mostly come out first, then “schiffs” which carry the goods used to fulfil the contracts.  There are also firemen (or feuerwehrmenn) and a smattering of other interesting and valuable cards.

The Speicherstadt

In the first game, Blue failed to acquire any firemen and was duly punished by losing a total of ten points during the game.  Because Orange and Red had not played before, they had neglected contracts in the early stages, which meant goods were plentiful and were mostly sold.  Blue picked up the most contracts, but it was nowhere near enough.   On the other hand, Orange took all ten points, so the question was whether the contracts and Counting Houses held by Red were enough.  It came right down to the wire and the game finished with just one point in it, in Red’s favour, by just two points.  Meanwhile, the second game was playing in a completely different way.  In contrast to the first where contracts had gone unclaimed and all the “schiffs” were bought and goods sold, in the second game, most of the contracts had been snapped up, but with a shortage of money, some of the ships had not been bought.  In the second game, Green had picked up most of the firemen points and finished thirteen points clear of Black, his nearest challenger.

The Speicherstatd

A couple of people left early and those remaining played decided to play Montego Bay.  This is a game we’ve played a few times before, that features simultaneous card selection, which are then played in a predefined order.  Cards are numbered one to five and each player chooses two to move their big docker and their little docker round a circular track.  If they land on a space that is already occupied, then the piece that was there, moves to the other side of the track if that space is available.  If that space is also occupied, then the active piece moves as far as it can and then stops.  Each space corresponds to a cellar that contains some number of barrels which players then take it in turns to load into boats.   When a boat is full (or if it is the first boat in line at the end of the round), it sails and players score points for having the most barrels in boats when they go.  Beware the broken barrels though, if a player lands on a cellar with some of these they must remove the corresponding number of barrels from the boats rendering the best laid plan in tatters.

Montego Bay

Black started off really well with excellent timing on a couple of boats and catching lots of points as a result.  Then Purple joined in before Green took a commanding lead.   Blue made some in-roads, but proved her own worst enemy when she landed her big man on a cellar with broken barrels and then, to add insult to injury, landed her little man on the same space, moving the big man to the other side where there were even more broken barrels waiting for her.  Green ran out the winner with forty-four points to Blue’s thirty-eight in second place.

Montego Bay

Learning Outcome:  If fire is inevitable, ignore it at your peril.

28th January 2014

This week was memorable for a number of reasons.  Firstly, the non-playing member of the group, had been to the vet for the first time in about fifteen years and she didn’t like what they did to her (in fairness, she started it by taking a chunk out of the vet, but it is certain both she and the vet won’t forget the day quickly).  Secondly, nearly every current member turned up, the first time this had happened since the fire at the Jockey, and with the added bonus of a new member, we were just a bit pushed for space.  It is a very nice problem to have though, especially since this time last year we were really struggling.

Zooloretto: The Dice Game

People arrived gradually, so we started with our “Feature Game”, the filler Zooloretto:  The Dice Game.  This is closely related to the tile laying game, Zooloretto, which we’ve played before.  Both use the “Coloretto mechanism” which is a variant of the “I divide, you choose” mechanism that children sometimes use when sharing a cake.  Basically, the idea is that players take it in turns to roll dice (or draw tiles or cards depending on the game) and choose which “truck” to place them in.  When they see a truck they like, they can choose to take the contents instead of rolling (then they sit out of the rest of the round).  In the case of the dice version, players are collecting custom animal dice;  the idea is to have as many as possible up to a given limit and exceeding the maximum incurs a penalty.  The first two people to arrive were about half way through when two more turned up and joined in for a second game.

Zooloretto:  The Dice Game

After the second game we had a quick game of “extend the table, rearrange the furniture and hunt for extra chairs” and were just finishing as the last group arrived.  After some discussion, we decided to split the group into two and the first group played Montego Bay.  This is a game that we played last year and all felt that it was quite enjoyable, so we decided to give it another outing.  In summary, players control two figures, a large docker and a small docker who are travelling round the warehouses collecting barrels of rum to place on ships before they sail.  There are two aspects to the game, the first is the priority given to filling boats because, when a boat sails, the player with the largest number of barrels on board scores the most points.  Secondly, everyone chooses how far to move their dockers simultaneously at the start of the round, however, players take their turns in a prearranged order which leads to an interesting juxtaposition of chaos and “double-think”.  In this game, Orange came back from the dead with optimal use of “Lazy Jack” to win by four points.

Montego Bay

Meanwhile, the second group played 7 Wonders, which we played at New Year.  Played in three rounds, this is a card drafting game where players take one card from their hand and then pass the rest on, then repeatedly do the same with the cards they receive until there are none left.  The idea of the game is to build an civilisation and complete their “wonder”.  For the last game there were seven of us and it was over-long and completely disorganised chaos.  This time there was a much more manageable number and it worked much, much better.  One player had played it many times before and it showed in the score with him winning with fifty-two points, five ahead of second place.  The other group were only about halfway through their game though, so that gave an opportunity for a rematch.  Revenge was duly served as the game finished with the winner of the second game fifteen points clear of a tight pack which included the winner of the first game.

7 Wonders

For the last game we got back together as a large group and finished with a game of SaboteurWe played this nearly a year ago, but again didn’t have an optimal number of players.  This time, with more than twice as many, the game played much, much better.  The idea is that players are digging for gold by laying cards to form tunnels.  Everyone is either a “Dwarf” or a “Saboteur” and at the end of the game, points are given to the Dwarves if they extend the tunnel to find the gold, and Saboteurs if they succeed in stalling the Dwarves so much that they fail.  In addition to extending tunnel network, players can also play cards that inhibit the digging ability of others, or alternatively remove an impediment someone else has played.  The first game everyone was watching our “Habitual Saboteur” and waiting for him to do something suspicious, meanwhile, another player moaned about the nature of his hand, and kept discarding cards and everyone else seemed to get on with digging.  The Dwarves were about halfway there when one player declared she was a Saboteur and played a very obstructive card and immediately received a hail-storm of broken tool cards.  It was only after the Dwarves had run out of cards that the “discarder” showed his true colours as a Saboteur and the Habitual Saboteur wasn’t (this time).

Saboteur

In the second round, our Habitual Saboteur made up for his good behaviour in the first round and teamed up with the Saboteur Queen.  It looked like the dwarves might just make it when another Saboteur jumped out of the shadows throwing broken tools at all the Dwarves and putting the gold definitively beyond their reach.  Going into the final round, the Saboteur Queen (who ended up obstructing in all three rounds) had what was thought to be an unassailable lead with six points to a maximum of three elsewhere and a third failure for the Dwarves would have given her a landslide victory.  However, this time she only had the one team-mate which made it much more difficult for her to obstruct the tunnellers and, in due course, it was the Habitual Saboteur (who once again, surprisingly, wasn’t) who laid the final card and found the gold.  He managed to take a total of four points from the last round and just pipped the Saboteur Queen to the win.

Saboteur

Learning Outcome:  Don’t believe anyone when you know there is a Saboteur in your midst!

19th November 2013

Since we arrived in “dribs and drabs” and one player had to leave early, we started out playing a couple of quick little games.  First up was Pick Picknic.  This is a cute little game where players simultaneously play coloured chicken cards.  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 farm, then players can either agree to share the corn in any way that is mutually agreeable or roll for all of it.  They must beware the foxes though – foxes don’t eat corn, they only eat chickens; if someone plays a fox card, they will eat any chicken cards of that colour.  The first game was a bit of a white-wash, in contrast, however, the second game was a draw.

Pick Picknic

Next up was a game with a similar box and name, but other wise completely different: Pickomino.  This is a strange little dice rolling game with appealing “worm tiles”.  On a their turn, players roll eight dice.  They must keep all the dice of one “type”, i.e. all those with a one, or all those with a two etc., however, they must not have any of that number or type already.  Then they can, if they choose, re-roll the remaining dice and do the same again.  When they decide to “stick”, they can take any “worm tile” available in the pool with a value equal to or less than the total shown on their dice, and place it on the top of their pile.  When the number rolled exactly matches the topmost tile on someone elses pile, then the player may steal that tile if they choose.  The person with the most worms at the end wins.

Pickomino

Unfortunately, since the rules were in French and the English translation was not entirely clear, we didn’t play this quite right, so we’ll have to give it another go sometime. Since new players had arrived and one had to leave, we moved on to something a little deeper in Montego Bay.  This is an unusual little game about loading barrels into boats.

Montego Bay

To do this, each player has two workers, a large one and a smaller one, and a set of 5 cards for each worker which are used to move them.  Simultaneously, all players secretly choose one of the numbered cards from each of their card sets, then the workers are moved one at a time along the path around the outside of the warehouse, according to a prearranged (otherwise random) order.  Thus, when it is a workers turn to to move, the appropriate card is revealed and the worker moved accordingly.  The clever part is what happens if the space is already occupied, as the original worker is pushed to the opposite side of the warehouse.  In some cases, the position opposite side of the warehouse is also already occupied in which case both spaces are blocked and the active worker simply moves as far as he can.  When all workers have moved, the warehouses are checked if there is a worker next to a chamber. If a worker is next to a chamber with barrels, players receive drums in their colour equal to the number of barrels in the room. These drums are placed in one or more of the ships in the harbour; players may decide freely, but when a ship is full, it sails away immediately and players score points depending on who has the most barrels on the ship.  In contrast, if the chamber has broken barrels in it, drums must be removed from ships.  Thus, players are trying to make sure their workers are optimally placed, but since their pieces can be influenced by other players, everyone is trying to anticipate what each other will do.  Because of all the “double think”, the game is very prone to “analysis paralysis”, however, it wasn’t too bad and only really became noticeable in the last rounds of the game when it was all quite tight and moves were critical to the final score.  Green took the honours in the end, a couple of points clear of Blue, but everyone expressed an interest in playing it again sometime.

 

Montego Bay

Lastly, was the “Feature Game”, Coup.  This is a very quick little card game of bluffing and back-stabbing.  The idea is that each player starts with two cards representing the people they influence.  On their turn they can take a small amount of money or declare who one of their people is and do a more exciting action associated with that character.  The catch is that since the cards are hidden, players only know who they have influence over themselves – everyone else is secret.  Other players then have a choice, one of them can challenge the active player, or one of them can declare they are a character that can block the action (this declaration can also be challenged), or they can do nothing.  When a player is challenged, they must display one card:  if it demonstrates that they were telling the truth then they draw a replacement card, if it indicates they were lying then they lose a card.  The aim is to be the last player with influence (i.e. a hidden card).  The key to the game is to play as a team against the leader to prevent them from building up enough money to carry out a coup (which there is no real protection from), but to play independently when it is your own turn.  Unfortunately, we didn’t really get the team aspect of the game and, because we didn’t play very many hands, players didn’t really have time to work out that if a player tells the truth, that is a powerful tool to be used against them.  For this reason, it seemed more a game of chance (because if you tell the truth you are safe from challenges), than a game of skill.

Coup

Learning Outcome:  Sometimes short games are best played repeatedly so that they take as long as “big” games which gives time to play the meta-game.