Tag Archives: Morels

25th February 2014

Thanks to people leaving, moving and catching lurgy we were really short of players – what a come down from a few weeks ago when we had two parallel games and were struggling to find chairs for everyone!  For this reason, we abandoned the “Feature Game” (Sushi Draft!), as it plays better with more people and started out with a quick game of Agricola:  All Creatures Big and Small.  This is a smaller version of one of our more popular “worker placement” games, Agricola.  In this game players are medieval farmers and the idea behind it is that players start with a small number of workers and carry out actions to build up their farm by fencing off pasture, buying animals, ploughing fields and growing corn and vegetables, all the time trying to make sure that workers have enough food.  At the end of the game, players score for a range of things including how large their house is, and how big their family is.

Agricola:  All Creatures Big and Small

In the smaller version, the focus is concentrated on the animals and players primary aim is to develop their stock with a secondary aim of expanding their property and making good use of the new land.  In general, a lot of the basic rules are the same:  You collect resources to build anything and your animals must be kept in an enclosed space (either a building, tied to a drinking trough or in a fenced pasture); any animals that you have more than two of will breed at the end of the round to give another.  In contrast to its big brother, in this game there is no facility for increasing your family from the three you start with, there is very limited facility to upgrade your cottage, food is provided by some other means outside the game (clearly the workers are not going to starve), and minor/major improvements and occupations are provided by buildings.  We had played this before (though not on a Tuesday), so we included four random buildings from the expansion, More Buildings Big and Small, specifically, the Ranch, Dog House, Rearing Station and Barn Floor Manufacturer.

Agricola:  All Creatures Big and Small

Red started and began collecting horses, meanwhile, Blue built a Dog house that allowed her to keep one sheep in each unfenced pasture not adjacent to the forrest.  Red then built a stall and some feeding troughs and started breeding horses and pigs while Blue tried to expand her property and built a Ranch as the flock of sheep carried on growing.  In the dying stages of the game, Red managed to gather together enough sheep to avoid a penalty, but failed to completely cover his second expansion board;  Blue had to allow a couple of animals to escape as she couldn’t find space to house them despite completely covering all three of her expansion boards.  Blue ran out the winner with 51 points to Red’s 43, largely thanks to her large flock of sheep.

Agricola:  All Creatures Big and Small

Next, we played Tobago, which is a Christmas game that we’d played before (though again, not on a Tuesday).  This is a very beautiful game of treasure hunting on the island of Tobago.  The board is divided into segments of different terrain, forest, beach, mountain, river etc.   The idea is that players take it in turns to play cards that successively narrow down the location of the treasure.  Thus, if the first player plays an “in the forest”card, the next might play a not “next to the river” card reducing the number of available spaces that can hold the treasure to those wooded spaces out of earshot of the river.  Each player also has an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) that they can move instead of playing a card, and use to collect treasures.  When an ATV arrives at the treasure space (or the treasure location is unambiguously revealed as a location where there is a vehicle), treasure cards are revealed to the players, with one per card per clue and an extra for the player who found the treasure.  The cards are then pooled, shuffled and the top one turned over.  The last player to place a clue card gets first choice of and can either choose to take the card, or pass (waiting for the next card), and let the next player choose.  Each treasure card has a different value and as players who placed a lot of clue cards will have seen a lot of them, they are in a better position to decide whether it is a good idea to take a treasure or to pass, the more so since there are two “cursed treasures” which prevent any further treasures being revealed as well as causing players to discard their most valuable treasure card.   Once the treasure has been distributed, amulets are distributed around the island; players who collect these can exchange them for an extra turn or use them to prevent treasure loss when the cursed treasure is revealed.


Red placed his ATV in the middle of the island next to a lake, so Blue placed hers on the other side of the water and immediately realised that Red had the optimal position. Red started laying clues, so Blue carefully stalked him matching every clue he placed.  The first treasure was located in such a way that Blue could make it there first giving her the majority of treasure cards.  Placing second meant that Blue had first choice and was able to keep the most lucrative treasures.  This pattern was repeated for the first few treasures and Blue managed to get a nose in front.  Red made tried to collect amulets so he could regain control of the game, but the final damage was done when the cursed treasure cards appeared and in both cases Blue collected more treasures than Red.  As the game came to an end, Red had amassed a fine collection of amulets, but it was too late to make a real impact and Blue won, 73 points to 43.


The last game we played was Morels, which we’ve played before, but was new to one of the players.  This is a fairly traditional set collecting game, but is a very nice rendition with lovely art-work and some hand made forage sticks provided by the designer.  The idea is that you can collect the readily available mushrooms “at your feet” for free, or you can choose a less accessible fungi and pay the difference in forage sticks, the game’s currency.  Once you have a set of three or more mushrooms you can cook them, and add cider or butter if appropriate to add extra points at the end of the game.  Red started again as he hadn’t played it before and made a point of collecting some forage sticks by trading a pair of “Hen of the Woods” for six forage sticks early on.  Meanwhile, Blue picked up a couple of basket cards and couple of night cards, but was unable to get a nice set worth cooking.  Red picked up a couple of Porcini cards and Blue collected a couple of Morels and both players waited for the third card to make up the set.  Red cooked a handful of Tree Ears flavoured with some cider and Honey Fungi, while blue cooked some Shitake with butter and some Lawyers’ Wigs.  As the supply of fungi started to dwindle, Blue finally managed to pick up the third Morel and cook it, but Red took the last pan card preventing her from playing the Chanterelles.  Despite this, Blue took the game by 38 Mushroom Varietal Points to 29, giving her a hat-trick of wins for the evening.


Learning Outcome:  It is nice to come back from a loosing streak with a bit of a bang.

17th December 2013

We planned to start early and get in a quick game of the “Feature Game”, Morels, however, we had just finished going through the rules and were just about to start when the late arrivals arrived early.  So, we left the mushrooms for another day and moved on to one of our favourites, Keyflower.  The reason why we were all especially keen to play this, is that the expansion, Keyflower:  The Farmers was released at Essen and we had been waiting since October for a good opportunity to give it an outing.  There are two documented ways to integrate the expansion with the main game:  you can choose tiles randomly from those available in the base game and the expansion, or you can use all the farming tiles and just use random base game tiles to “top up” the numbers.  Since it was the first time any of us had played the expansion, we chose to use this latter, “Farmers Variant”.


The idea behind the expansion is so simple that it is really very clever, and it is hard to believe that it wasn’t designed at the same time as the base game (though according to the designer, it was not).  In summary, the structure of the game remains the exactly same, but the new tiles give you access to animals which you place in the fields defined by the roads and the edge of the village.  There are a handful of rules associated with the animals (they breed at the end of spring, summer and autumn, but not winter because its too cold; they don’t breed if they are sharing with other animals because they are too shy), and the expansion also introduces wheat (which can be used to entice animals from one field to another or to encourage the horse pulling the cart enabling it to move more resources), but otherwise the game is essentially the same.  Or not…


As usual, we handed out our winter tiles and a handful of meeples (or Keyples as they are called in this game), before the spring tiles were laid out for everyone to look at.  With the farmers expansion, sheep are introduced in spring, pigs in summer, and cows in autumn.  So sheep came out first and Blue and Green got the key sheep producing tiles, and everyone with sheep tried to make sure they had at least two so that they could profit from the end of season breeding.  Unusually, almost no resource production tiles came out as these were of course displaced by the animal tiles, and this was the way it stayed for the rest of the game.  On the other hand, all the “green Keyple” tiles came out making them more abundant than usual.


In summer and autumn, Yellow tried to get into the animal husbandry business breeding pink cows and got into a tussle for it with Blue, who largely lost out and played most of the game with a village of just four tiles.  Meanwhile, the other sheep-farmer, Green, eschewed pigs and cows and concentrated on expanding his flock to nearly epic proportions.  By winter, Blue, with her hamlet and miniscule fields, was stacking pigs and cows in a way that would not have won favour from the RSCPA and Green (the shepherd) was trying to obtain the services of a weaver to increase the value of his flock.  Meanwhile, Yellow was trying to expanded his cattle business and Red, the only player who had managed to get resource production tiles was mining for gold, employing a jeweller to maximise her the outcome from her gold and moving iron from one side of her village to the other.  In the dying moves of the game, the Yellow outbid Blue for the dairy who in turn placed a large bid for the weaver which Green was unable to match.  This cost Green somewhere in the region of twenty points and forced him to take the hillside tile and try to make the best use of it he could.  Despite the inconvenience, Green still romped away with the win some twenty points ahead of Blue and Yellow who came joint second.  Even so, somehow this didn’t seem quite as much of a white-wash as last time


Learning Outcome:  Trying to breed pink cows does not make you a better farmer!

11th June 2013

A couple of us arrived very early and managed to squeeze in a couple of games and dinner before anyone else arrived.  First up was Forbidden Desert.  This is a very new, cooperative game, where players work together to try to escape from the desert before the get swamped by the sand storm or die of thirst.  Although they have a lot in common, it is quite different to its older brother, Forbidden Island, and we felt, quite a bit more advanced.  Since it was only the second time out of the box, we played on the Novice Level.  Essentially, the game consists of a grid of tiles with a storm in the middle.  As the game progresses, the storm moves about, shifting the other tiles creating sand dunes as it goes.  The explorers also have to combat the lack of water in the desert, all the while trying to find clues to the location of parts of an ancient burried flying machine, and eventually, the parts themselves.  In the end we did it with a little breathing space, but there is no way we would have escaped without the Water Carrier’s special ability to get more water from the well.

Forbidden Desert

Next we managed a quick game of Morels.  This is a really pretty set collecting game with a mushroom theme and added “woodsiness” in the form of forage sticks which act as a sort of currency.  The idea is that you can collect the easily accessible mushrooms “at your feet” for free, or you can choose a less accessible fungi for the cost of one or more forage sticks.  Once you have a set of three or more mushrooms you can cook them, with added cider or butter flavouring to add points at the end of the game.


It is the Stanford-in-the-Vale Summer Festival this weekend and we are planning to have a stall to raise our profile (weather permitting).  Since it is quite robust, we are planning to make Army of Frogs available to people to play, so we thought we should try to get to grips with it first. Basically the idea is that you jump one of your hexagonal frog tiles (if you can) and then place a frog from your hand, finally drawing another frog from the bag to make your hand back up to two frogs.  Somehow, we managed to play this apparently simple little game wrongly not once, but twice!  Something to work on before Sunday…

Army of Frogs

Then, we played this weeks “Feature Game”, Mission: Red Planet, which is about colonizing Mars.  In this game, each player is a colonial power which sends astronauts, in space shuttles, to occupy the most promising zones on the planet.  It is an interesting game with a curious mixture of luck and judgement.  The luck comes from the rockets that are available at the start of each round, the value of each region of Mars (which is hidden in the early part of the game) and the destiny cards drawn.  The judgement comes from the character cards which enable players to place a number of astronauts into rockets and often do something else, like launch a rocket early or move astronauts around on Mars or even sabotage someone elses plans.  The character played also dictates when the player gets their turn which leads to a lot of trying to “out think” everyone else, and with only ten rounds, once a card has been played you may not get the chance to play it again.  This sort of game can either go very well or very badly and this is exactly what happened:  Red came in four points ahead of Blue with fifty-five points, while Green finished with less than half that.

Mission: Red Planet

The last game of the night was Salmon Run.  This is a new little race game, where players are fish dodging bears, eagles and rapids, jumping waterfalls and trying to be the first to get to the spawning pool without being too tired.  The game has a modular board and, as it was new to most of us, we used a fairly easy set up:  S1, 4E, 3E, 2M and F1.  Red started quickly up the right side of the course with Black and Grey giving chase.  Unfortunately Red banged her head against the bank which gave Grey and Black the chance to overtake.  Black set the bear on Grey a couple of times and managed to sneak ahead, but Grey made a run for the last water fall and managed to sneak into the spawning pool, and as the last player in the round, ended the game and the evening.

Salmon Run

Learning Outcome:  For teaching at the Summer Festival, it is probably a good idea to have some laminated crib-sheets available!