Tag Archives: No Thanks!

7th October 2021 – boardGOATS do the Quiz

There were five of us for food, and after he’d had a vat of disappointingly watery tomato soup at home, Pine joined the group to make six.  Once everyone had finished eating, there was a brief intermission while we discussed Cheddar Goats (“What, goats made out of cheese?!?!”), and we had a little over an hour before the Quiz was due to start.  Blue and Burgundy were keen to play Bohnanza, but Pink and Pine fancied something different so Green suggested Pick Picknic a simple little “push your luck” game based on chickens eating corn.

Pick Picknic
– Image by boardGOATS

It has been a very long time since we’ve played Pick Picknic, but the rules are not difficult.  At the start of each round, the six coloured farm yards are seeded with a random corn (worth one, two or three points).  Players then simultaneously choose a card from their hand and play it.  If their card is the only card of that colour and is a chicken, it gets all the corn.  If there is more than one chicken of that colour, they can either come to an agreement to share the corn, or fight for it.  If there is a fox amongst the chickens, the fox has a good feed and the corn remains till the next round.  If someone plays a fox card and there are no chickens, the fox goes hungry.

Pick Picknic
– Image by boardGOATS

Pick Picknic is a game in a similar vein to the popular Om Nom Nom.  Both games are based round the food chain with people playing animal cards in an attempt to feed their critters without them becoming food themselves.  The principal difference between the games is that Om Nom Nom has three separate food chains, while Pick Picknic only involves foxes chickens and corn.  However, effectively Pick Picknic has six separate chains as there are six different colours.

Om Nom Nom
– Image by boardGOATS

Further, in Om Nom Nom, everyone has a complete set of cards at the start and everyone plays through their deck during the game, whereas in Pick Picknic players have a hand of five cards drawn at random from a larger deck.  This makes the game slightly less deterministic, as players could hold any card in their hand.  Also, as players’ hands are constantly being replenished and the farm-yards are constantly being reseeded, the game feels more like it is constantly rolling onwards, reaching a point where people know some animals will inevitably go hungry.

Pick Picknic
– Image by boardGOATS

The random nature of the cards certainly showed themselves this time.  Pine had an endless string of foxes, most of which went hungry.  Blue ended up with some very fat chickens who took a lot of corn, and Pink played a handful of foxes, all of which turned out to be fantastic at stealing chicken from Farmer Boggis.  It didn’t take long to work through the bag of square corn, and then it was just the counting.  Blue had a huge pile of corn, but the only chicken she had caught was a “fleet fowl” which was actually worth minus two.

Pick Picknic
– Image by boardGOATS

That almost made the difference, as Blue and Pink were well clear of the others, but there was only three points in it, with Pink proving to be a very fantastic Mr. Fox.  There wasn’t long to think about it though as Charles came round early with the Quiz sheets.  Indeed we were one chip into a game of No Thanks!, when the picture round arrived, and then group had something even more important to worry about when the questions started.

Quiz October 2021
– Image by boardGOATS

It was clear we were very rusty as we had an awful first round.  Things got much better from there though as we delightedly demonstrated out knowledge of as diverse subjects as Dr. Who, sport and what Angela Raynor allegedly called a Tory MP.  As the Quiz progressed, we slowly crawled our way up the rankings from eighth out of nine to finish second, just one point behind the eventual winners “Buggle’s Buddies”.  It was close and we were left to rue a couple of unfortunate errors.  Still, there’s always next month.

Quiz October 2021
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Nobody likes the team that wins the quiz.

9th September 2021

Burgundy, Pink, Blue, Green and Lilac arrived early for food, and while they were waiting squeezed in a very quick game of No Thanks!.  Lilac was new to the game, but it didn’t take long to explain: take the card in the middle and any chips on it, or add a chip to the pile to pass the problem on to the next person.  At the end of the game, players total up the face value of their cards and the winner is the player with the lowest score.  The clever part is that any runs only score for the lowest card, but some cards are removed from the deck before the start.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue started off picking up cards, but unfortunately for her she continued picking up cards and was unable to connect them leaving her with a massive score of eighty two.  Lilac finished a very creditable joint second with fourteen, tying with Burgundy.  Green was the eventual winner though with only ten points for his cards and seven chips left over giving a final score of just three.  As the game came to an end food arrived and as they tucked in, everyone else started to arrive too.  It was about then that Pink got himself into a spot of bother, appearing to suggest that Blue should look more like Keira Knightley…

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone was aghast, and as Pink tried to explain that he was referring to how organised she was in The Devil Wears Prada, until Burgundy commented, “When you reach the centre of the earth you should stop digging.  It was only some considerable time afterwards that Pink realised that Ms Knightley wasn’t in Devil Wears Prada after all, but it was actually Anne Hathaway (she of cottage fame).

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

After a bit of ribbing and some shenanigans with gnocchi and ice cream, the group split into two and settled down for the “Feature Game“, which was Fossilis.  This is a game with an unusual theme where players are collecting dinosaur fossils for their museum.  It uses an “action point” mechanism which is perhaps best known from the “Mask Trilogy” of games (Tikal, Java, Mexica), but has been widely used over the last twenty years in games as varied as Torres, Bus, Pandemic, Tawantinsuyu, Takenoko, Dinosaur Island and many more.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

It is a very simple idea: each action has a cost and players have a set number of “points” they can spend doing actions on their turn.  In some games this mechanism is present, but hidden, while in others it is the main driver of the game; Fossilis falls into the latter category.  Players have four action points to spend on their turn, using them to move stone, clay or sand (dig), collect plaster (for making fossils) or use tweezers to fish in a nearby pit (in a manner reminiscent of Operation) to find a hammer or use plaster to claim a fossilised bone.  Once per turn, players can also trade eggs, resin and “footprints” for Tool or resource cards, and take a dinosaur card from the market and add it to their lab.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea of the dinosaur cards is that they allow players to exchange fossilised bones for identified dinosaur bones which are more valuable.  If a player manages to collect all the bones for a given dinosaur, they are more valuable still.  At any point during their turn a player can claim a dinosaur from the market if they can complete it fully, otherwise, dinosaurs have to go via their lab. This is not the only way to score points though—dinosaurs also have three characteristics and at the end of the game, players who have more than three of a type score points for it.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Players also score points for a full set of nine and having the majority of in a characteristic.  The game uses an interesting timer, where a set amount of plaster is made available and when this has been used an event card is revealed.  After the event has been resolved, the pool of plaster is replenished and the game continues.  Once the third event has been revealed, there is one final pool and one last round before the final scoring.  The player with the most points is the winner.  This time we had two games running, one with Pine, Ivory, Green and Lilac, while Burgundy, Blue, Purple, Pink and Black played on the next table.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

On the first table, Ivory & Pine were new to the game. Pine said he had always been useless at Operation, but liked the dinosaur theme, while Ivory admitted to being initially sceptical about it. Ivory went through the game without any additional hammer bonuses instead concentrating on getting all nine of the dinosaur characteristics using the supplies to good effect.  Pine took an early lead collecting artefacts for tools and supplies.  Green obtained the Jack Hammer power tool and in the later part of the game used it to open up centre of the dig site only to destroy the first skull found in the game and mangle a hammer, thus making that square useless.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Lilac had won her previous game of Fossilis (played against Green, Purple and Black a few days earlier) and tried the same strategy of gaining extra points for complete dinosaurs. Unfortunately she got the bonus too late in the game to make it work for her and with Pine and Green targeting the same dinosaur characteristics they ended up cancelling each other out.  That left only one winner, Ivory, who trampled Pine as he passed leaving him in second place.  Although the game clearly took longer than the advertised forty-five minutes the game moved along swiftly and finished well before the other table.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Adding the fifth player clearly slowed things down for several reasons.  Firstly, although people tried to plan their turn in advance, inevitably the game state changed meaning players had to start again.  Worse, players struggled to see into the dig site to see what was available in the pits.  This meant players often had to wait for their turn and have the dig site passed to them and plan from there.  The length of the game was exacerbated when the Patronage event card appeared and everyone except Purple took six pieces of plaster.  Purple and Black had played the game a few days before, but Burgundy, Pink and Blue were new to the game, though Burgundy had done some research online.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy’s research suggested that the best strategy was not to focus on completing dinosaurs fully, but to concentrate on getting as many dinosaurs as possible.  This leads to a loss of value for the dinosaurs when they are scored during the game, but can pay off at the end of the game when the bonuses for characteristics are scored.  This is because each dinosaur has three characteristics each of which can score three times:  once if the player has three, twice if they also have the most, and three times if they have a full set of nine.  This can more than make up for points “lost” by failing to complete it fully.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink had not done any research in advance so tried the opposite and focussed on completing his dinosaurs and took a skill tile that enabled him to pick up the top tool tile for free every time he did so.  Blue took a skill tile which allowed her to move stone for one less action point while Black took a skill which allowed him to work on two dinosaurs in his lab at once.  Purple could have done with a skill tile that would help her stay on the dig site or get back on for free, because people kept pushing he off, but unfortunately there wasn’t anything like that available.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

In the closing stages, Blue and Pink had a significant advantage, but Burgundy picked up a few more dinosaurs at the end of the game and then started raking in the bonus points.  He finished some twenty points ahead of Blue and Pink who were separated by a single point and took second and third.  There was quite a bit of chit chat about the game as they ended.  Ivory said he liked it, much more than he was expecting and would definitely like to play it again. As for Pine, well, the game has dinosaurs and anything with dinosaurs gets his approval, even if some of them look like they’ve been drawn by that kids, playing that game where they drawing different parts and put them together at the end.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue was less impressed.  The feeling on the other table was that the scoring was off a little and there wasn’t a strategy that would beat the “get as many dinosaurs as you can” plan.  Certainly five players was too many and perhaps three would be a sweet-spot.  Pink was keen to give it another go, but although everyone else on that table would play it again if someone else wanted to, they all said there were other games they would choose first.  That said, it is a fantastic theme and very unusual and the deluxe edition of the game comes with a lot of expansions to add variety, and it is possible that they might add changes to the balance of scoring too.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Green, Lilac, Ivory and Pine finished a long way ahead of the other table, and as Lilac had never played Love Letter, it got its third outing in as many sessions. They were a tired little group though and in the end, Lilac chose to sit it out and watch.  The game is a really simple one where players start their turn with a card, then draw another and choose one to play.  The aim of the game is to be the player with the highest card at the end of the round, or in practice, be the last player standing.  The winner of each round gets a token and the first to a given number is the winner.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine started well, guessing Green’s card before he even had a chance to play. He went on to win the first two rounds. In the third round, Pine did it again to Green, but Ivory won the round.  There was one more each to both Pine and Ivory and Green was beginning to wonder if he’d ever get a go.  Green then promptly won two rounds on the trot; with three players, the winning line is five tokens, so suddenly Green thought he was in with a chance.  Then Pine won two more rounds to complete his rout, winning his fifth token and with it, the game.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  The thigh bone is not necessarily still connected to the hip bone…

13th April 2021 (Online)

During the usual chit-chat it became apparent that Pine didn’t have the paperwork for the “Feature Game“, Tiny Towns, or if he did, he couldn’t find it.  So after everyone had listened to him rifling through his front room for a bit, Pink popped round with replacements and everyone had everything they needed to start.  Tiny Towns is an area and resource management game where players are planning and building a town.  Although it has some similar elements, it makes a bit of a change from the many “Roll and Write” games of which we’ve played so many.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is very simple:  in each round, everyone places a resource cube on one of the sixteen plots on their player board.  After placing cubes, players may, if they wish, remove cubes corresponding to a building and place a corresponding building on one of the newly vacated spaces.  Functionally, that is all there is to it, but the clever part is the interplay between the different buildings and how players score points. The different buildings all require different resources in different arrangements, and although they give different amounts of points and different conditions, the relationship between the building types is always the same.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

For example, the Cottage is always included in the mix of buildings, but to score points, a Cottage needs to be “fed” by a red building.  In the introductory buildings, this is the Farm, but drawing at random, we ended up with the Greenhouse which feeds all the cottages in a contiguous block.  We also had the Shed (which could be built anywhere), the Temple (scored points if adjacent to fed Cottages), the Almshouse (scores increase the more you have, so long as you don’t have an odd number!), the Bakery (scores if adjacent to red or black buildings) and the Trading Post (can be used as any resource for subsequent buildings).

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

As when we played Tiny Towns on previous occasions, we played with the Town Hall variant which works better with more players.  With this, instead of players taking it in turns to choose the resources everyone places, cards are revealed for two rounds and players have a free choice for the third round.  Part of the reason for playing it again was in preparation for the Fortune expansion in a few weeks.  This time though, we added the Monument variant to increase the challenge slightly.  In this, players are dealt two special building cards each at the start of the game and choose one to act as a personal, and initially private, goal.  Each house-hold had a pack of Monument cards so everyone could deal cards and they could remain secret.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

With the Greenhouse in play, almost everyone tried to group all their cottages together, but everyone had a slightly different way of doing this and a different approach to using the other buildings.  Pink in particular focused on Cottages, but later regretted it, while Black tried to score points for Temples, but found it hard to do this and keep his Cottages in a single group as well.  Blue tried to build her monument, the Architects Guild, early, and then use it to create two Trading Posts then use these to build lots of Cottages all snuggled up together.  That didn’t work so well.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory and Pine on the other hand, built the Archive of the Second Age which gave them one point for each different building type in their town, and both managed five.  Burgundy built the Mandras Palace which gave him points for each different building orthogonally adjacent to it, but only managed two, giving him four points.  Green went for the same Monument and made better use of it taking the maximum, eight points.  Perhaps having a palace in your town makes it a better place, but either way, Green and Burgundy took first and second respectively, with Black completing the podium.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Tiny Towns had taken a little while to play and it was getting late, so we moved to Board Game Arena to finish off the night.  For a few weeks, we have been saying we should try the some of the new games, so Green had tried a few and suggested we tried Dingo’s Dreams.  This is a strange little game where players compete to be the first to successfully guide their animal through the dream world.

Dingo's Dreams
– Image from kickstarter.com

Players start with a grid of twenty-five tiles set up at random in a five by five array representing their dreamscape, and one extra tile with their animal depicted on it.  Each turn, a card is revealed and players find the tile that matches it and turn it over.  They then take their animal tile and slide it in from one edge; the tile that emerges is the tile added the next time round.  Players continue until one player succeeds in matching the pattern in their dreamscape to the goal tile.

Dingo's Dreams
– Image by boardGOATS from
boardgamearena.com

Unsurprisingly as he was the only one to have played it before, Green won.  Unfortunately, nobody else understood how the game worked as the explanation wasn’t as clear as it could have been.  That meant nobody really had a clue what was going on and the whole thing felt very random.  As a result, everyone was very glad when it was over and keen to move on to one of our favourite games, No Thanks!, which has become an alternative to 6 Nimmt! as our go to game for relaxing fun.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

No Thanks! is very simple:  on their turn, players take the card or pay a chip to pass the problem on to the next player.  At the end of the game, the face value of the cards score negatively, offset by any remaining chips.  The clever part is that if a player has two or more consecutive cards, only the lowest one is counted, but there are some cards missing from the deck, so there is a strong element of chance.  This time, it was a bit of a car crash, with almost everyone ending up with runs with gaps in them.  The exception was Green, who managed a six card run from thirty to thirty-five, and offset twenty-one of those negative points with chips giving him a winning score of minus nine.

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

With Green having won three out of three games, everyone felt the need for revenge, so we gave it a second go.  Green tried the same trick again collecting high value cards, but wasn’t so lucky this time.  Purple, however, with the last few cards managed to complete a seven card run, and with the lowest card a twelve, she managed that rarest of things—a positive score and everyone was delighted for her.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

It was getting quite late, but there was just time for a game of one of our recent discoveries, Draftosaurus.  As Pine described it the first time we played, this is basically Sushi Go!, but with dinosaurs.  Players start with a handful of dinosaurs, place one in their park and pass the rest on.  Dinosaur placement is according to a dice roll which restricts where on their board players can place their dinosaurs on each turn.  Otherwise, players score according to how well they have fulfilled the different requirements for the pens.

Draftosaurus on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

This time we played two rounds, first with the Summer board, and then with the Winter board.  In the first round, Pine top-scored with a massive forty points, nine points more than anyone else.  The Winter board was new to everyone except Pine, but despite that, the scores were very close.  Pine still top-scored, but only by a point or so, however, the damage had already been done, and Pine closed the night with the final victory of the evening.

Draftosaurus on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Learning Outcome:  Make sure your Greenhouse is big enough to feed all your Cottages.

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.

2nd March 2021 (Online)

Blue and Pink finished a difficult couple of weeks by missing out on their fish and chips, so after cooking their own tea (shock, horror!), they joined the chatter with Purple, Black and Pine.  Once everyone else had signed in, we started the “Feature Game” which was the first Hexpansion to HexRoller.  This is another “Roll and Write” style game, but a very abstract one, though based on hexagons (which are the bestagons, obviously).

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

We played the base game before Christmas and, although it is a very simple little abstract game, it went down really well.  It’s not very clear why it was such a success, although it plays especially well “remotely” and with lots of people.  Burgundy also made a good point when he commented that although it was simple, it has meaningful decisions at every step.  The idea is that a handful of dice are thrown, and grouped according to the number rolled.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

Players then choose two of the numbers and write those numbers on their board the same number of times as it has been rolled. This means if four and six are chosen and they appear once and twice respectively, the player will write four down once and six twice.  The player sheets have a play area made of hexagons, some of which have numbers written on them.  Once a player has chosen a number, they start writing in a hexagon next to a number already on the board, with every subsequent number written next to the previous, making a chain.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

The scoring is a bit of a “point salad” with points for filling all seven hexagons in one of the coloured groups; for filling all the orange hexes in the central area; for connecting pairs of pre-printed numbers, and any left over, unused special actions.  Additionally, every round a player picks two numbers and one is written in a box in the top row in the bottom left corner with the other written in the bottom row—these also give points at the end of the game.  Explained like this, the game sounds extremely complex, however the scoring is outlined on the sheet and in practice, it is actually quite easy to play, though like Burgundy commented, there are meaningful decisions to be made at every step.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

The base HexRoller game comes with two different layouts with subtly different scoring schemes, to be played with slightly different numbers of dice.  Although the dice are coloured, the original game does not use these colours, however, that changed in the first Hexpansion, where, instead of just trying to obtain straight runs of numbers, players are trying to get straight runs in each of the four colours.  Additionally, where the base game has three special actions that can each be used once during the game, the first Hexpansion changes this slightly so that each one appears twice and players must use one in each of the six rounds.

HexRoller: Hexpansion 1
– Image by boardGOATS

Like the base HexRoller game, the first Hexpansion also comes with two layouts, with different starting number layouts and slight changes to the scoring.  The remarkable thing is how these two small tweaks make a substantial difference to the game play and the decisions players have to make during the game.  Like last time, we played both layouts, starting with side “A” and moving on to side “B”.  For the first one, everyone agreed that it wasn’t possible to connect more than one or two numbers.  Although everyone agreed that connecting more was possible on side “B”, there was a big debate between the rounds as to how many could actually be connected.  In the end, we gave up on the discussion and left people to prove their point during the game.

HexRoller: Hexpansion 1
– Image by boardGOATS

With only six rounds the game trots along quite quickly, and it wasn’t long before people were taking their shoes and socks off as they tried to work out their score.  As often seems to be the case, Ivory was the first up setting a target of eighty-one.  Also as often seems to be the case, it quickly became apparent that it was a target that was unlikely to be beaten though Pink thought he had a draw until he realised that he was out by ten.  In the end, Blue and Burgundy were the closest with seventy-six and seventy-three respectively.

HexRoller: Hexpansion 1
– Image by boardGOATS

The second game was even quicker, and again, Ivory was the first to post his score of eighty-two.  This time though, his target was quickly overcome with both Pink and Black scoring in the high eighties.  Green pitched in with what he thought was an unassailable round hundred, until he was disappointed by Blue who just beat him by three points.  There was a little chit-chat about how important all the little decisions were, and how misplacing a two had cost Pine sixteen points for example, then we moved on to deciding what to play next.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

Tiny Towns was an option, this time including the monuments, but even though HexRoller was a quick game, time was marching on.  As it has been a while since we last played Tiny Towns and we’d need to revise the rules, the preferred option was Railroad Ink, a game we have played a few times.  This would have been fine, except that Blue got all excited about playing with one of the mini-expansions that comes with the Deep Blue edition.  Having played with the River last time round, her beady little eyes lit upon the Lake expansion.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The base game itself is quite straight forward:  Four white bespoke dice are rolled and players draw the four features in squares on their player areas.  All four must be drawn, and they must connect correctly to part of the pre-exisiting travel network, or added to a starting point on the edge of the board.  On three occasions during the game, players may also fill in a fifth space from one of the special actions each of which can be used once.  The game finished after seven rounds after which players score for the longest continuous sections of rail and road, for connecting entrances onto their board, for filling in the centre nine spaces and lose points for any “hanging ends”.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The Lakes and Rivers expansions each add two optional blue dice that are rolled with the white dice.  While the Rivers add a sort of third route, the Lakes expansion adds another way to score points and connect route together.  There were some gaps in the rule book, so rather than spend a lot of time trying to find the correct rules online, we decided to “House Rule” them.  The rules say that Lake spaces do not have to connect to other spaces, but we played that any Lake dice that had road or rail segments had to be connected to a road/rail network.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Any road or rail that ends at a pier on lake is deemed to be connected to all other roads attached to a pier on the same lake, making it easier to score points for connecting the together starting entrances.  They also give points in their own right as players score one point for each space occupied by their smallest lake.  Inevitably, therefore, most people started with the plan to create one large lake and connect their road and rail networks to it.  Of course, in practice, his turned out to be easier said than done.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Firstly, using the Lake dice meant that board real-estate was quickly used up making it harder to accommodate the compulsory white dice.  After three rounds Burgundy commented that we were halfway through.  Green objected and it was then that we realised he was somehow a round ahead.  It’s possible that it was because Pink had moved some dice to make it simpler for someone else, only for Green to assume it was a different round.  So, there was a brief hiatus while he rectified things and grumbled about how he didn’t understand the rules.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

It wasn’t long before we had completed all six rounds of “nipples”, “plungers” and “suction pumps” (which is what some of the faces of the Lake dice looked like to us), and everyone tried to work out their score.  Ivory once again posted his score first, a very creditable fifty-eight, but he was immediately beaten by Green with sixty.  Pink out pointed Green with sixty-nine, but he was just pipped by Blue who top scored with seventy-one.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory took his leave and everyone else moved onto Board Game Arena and settled down to a game of No Thanks!.  This is an old favourite that has recently been ported to the platform and fills a similar niche for us as our old favourite, 6 Nimmt!, but works better with smaller numbers of players.  The game is just as simple though:  On their turn, players take the card in the centre or pay a chip to pass the problem on to the next person.  At the end of the game, the player cards score negative points, offset by any left-over chips.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

There are two things that make the game special.  Firstly, anyone with an unbroken sequence of cards only counts the lowest when scoring.  This turns the game on it’s head as it means that a player with twenty-five and twenty-seven actually wants the card in between, where everyone else doesn’t giving them the opportunity to try to milk everyone else for chips.  Secondly, the deck is numbered from three to thirty five, but some of the cards have been removed at random.  This introduces a nice little bit of chance into the game, which just makes it special.

No Thanks! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Purple managed a very impressive final total of minus fifty-seven thanks to a gap between thirty-three and thirty-five meaning that both scored.  At the other end, Pine was the only one in single figures taking victory with a score of minus four.  Pine and Pink were ready for an early night, but were persuaded into playing another game before they left.  This time, it was all a lot closer and with a complete reversal of fortunes, this time Purple finished victorious with minus six, two points clear of Pine who took second place.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

It was just as they left that the dreaded IT gremlins returned, this time with Green as the victim. While everyone else focussed on playing Coloretto, he tried all sorts of things to fix it to no avail.  Coloretto is another simple card game, this time where players take it in turns to either reveal a chameleon card and place it on a truck, or take a truck and add the chameleons to their collection.  At the end of the game players score points for each set they collect with the three largest sets giving positive points and the rest scoring negative points—the bigger the set, the more points it is worth, which is good for the biggest three sets, and not so good for the smaller ones.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple did well with only three colours, a wild and a handful of bonus cards, earning herself second place ahead of Green and Black who tied for third.  As the only one collecting green cards at the start of the game and one of only two collecting blue cards, Blue had an advantage though.  She was able to put cards together safe in the knowledge that no-one else wanted them and that gave her a full set of blue cards and a winning total of thirty-one points.  By this time, Green had rebooted his router and sorted out his internet issues, but everyone had had enough and it was time for bed.

Coloretto on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  You usually score better if you concentrate when the rules are explained.

2nd February 2021 (Online)

There was a bit of chit-chat as people turned up clutching their brown, manilla envelopes, delivered over the previous few days by Purple Packet-force or Pink Parcel Post.  At 8pm, everyone opened their envelope to find the bits and pieces for two games: the “Feature GameTake it Easy!, and Das Labyrinth des Pharao (with the Sphinx und Triamide expansion boards) which we will play in a month or so.  There was also a little chocolate, so as people munched, Blue explained the rules to Take it Easy!.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

Take it Easy! is a tile laying game where players have a pile of hexagonal tiles which they place on their hexagon player board (because hexagons are simply the bestagons).  Each tile has three pipes crossing it, in three different colours.  There are a total of nine different coloured pipes, three in each different direction.  Tiles are drawn from a stack one at a time, and each player adds them to their personal player board.  The rules are simple:  the tiles can be placed anywhere on the board but must be placed so the numbers are the right way up so that the directions of the nine different coloured pipes are fixed.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

Players score points for any pipes that contain only the one colour, and the number of points is dependent on the colour of the pipe (the number on the pipe) and the number of tiles in the pipe.  Thus, a yellow pipe, five tiles long going straight down the middle scores forty-five points, while a black pipe, along the edge, just three tiles long would only score three points.  There are a maximum of fifteen pipes, but it is almost impossible to complete all successfully, especially as there are some tiles that are not used, so there is an element of chance as well as hedging bets.  Blue and Pink drew tiles and displayed them for everyone to see.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

The pieces the players used had been modified with the addition of letters to make it slightly easier for players to uniquely identify the individual tiles.  We were about three or four tiles in, when someone’s comment suddenly made Green realise that he’d started with the wrong tile.  Having form with this sort of thing, Green got a certain amount of stick for “cheating”, but having found it early, he corrected his mistake and we carried on.  As the game drew towards a conclusion, the number of spaces players had left progressively decreased, and increasingly, players needed specific colours and then specific tiles to complete their pipes.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was particularly desperate, but inevitably didn’t get the yellow pipe he so desperately wanted, which ultimately cost him thirty-six points.  As everyone else was still taking off their shoes and socks to add up their scores, Ivory gave his total as one hundred and ninety-four, to howls of distress from everyone else, who clearly felt they were nowhere close.  Indeed, the closest score was a hundred and eighty-two from Green in second with Blue four points behind him.  Although everyone believed Ivory’s score, they were keen to see how he’d done it so we looked at the photo he’d sent in and admired his layout and looked sadly at their own.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

Take it Easy! hadn’t taken very long to play, indeed it was only quarter to nine.  Everyone had really enjoyed it and now they felt they understood the game a little better, they all fancied another chance to see if they could catch Ivory on the second attempt.  So, this time everyone had their plan and they were keen to get going.  As the tiles were drawn there were variously coos of delight when a desired tile came out and teeth sucking when the tile was difficult to place.  Again, as the game progressed, the teeth sucking and pleas for particular tiles got more desperate.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

When the last tile was drawn the stress was released and everyone settled down to count.  Ivory was first to finish his arithmetic, and when he commented that he’d done better than last time, everyone else’s hearts sank.  Ivory set a new target of two hundred and two, but aside from him, almost everyone else failed to improve on their first score (Lime’s excuse was that he was missing the help of his assistant).  Lilac was the most improved though, increasing her score by sixty to take an excellent second place with one hundred and ninety-six, with nobody else coming close.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

We had all really enjoyed Take it Easy! and we’ll definitely give the game another outing, but in the meantime it was still quite early, so although Lime took an early night, everyone else was keen to play Cartographers.  This is a game we’ve been trying to get to the table since before Christmas, but have been unsuccessful thanks to the IT gremlins last time, and On Tour and electing the Golden GOAT taking longer than expected.  However, even two plays through of Take it Easy! had not taken over-long and with everyone familiar with the rules, we thought there was time to squeeze it in.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

That was before the gremlins returned, this time to kybosh Ivory’s printer.  It looked like plans would have to be revised, but after a bit of poking he persuaded it to cooperate and everyone settled down to concentrate on their artwork. Cartographers is a “Roll and Write” type game or perhaps more accurately a “Flip and Colour”, as the game is driven by cards instead of dice and players are colouring terrain blocks, fitting shapes together in a Tetris-style.  This is similar to other games like Second Chance and Patchwork Doodle, but is definitely a step up thanks to goal cards revealed at the start of the game.  There are four goals two of which are scored at the end of each round in a way reminiscent of the scoring in another game that is popular with the group, the 2016 Kennerspiel des Jahres winner, Isle of Skye.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the four goal cards were Stoneside Forest (three points for each mountain terrain connected to another with forest), Shoreside Expanse (three points for each lake or arable that is not adjacent to water, farmland or the edge of the map), Great City (one point for each space in a player’s second largest city) and The Cauldrons (one point for each single, empty space completely surrounded; the only goal card that was different to when we played the game back in September).  Goals A and B are scored at the end of the first round, Goals B and C at the end of the second and so on.  The game proceeds with players drawing their choice of shape and terrain from the card revealed, trying to score as effectively as possible for the current round, but also with an eye to scoring in later rounds.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is made more interesting in that cards give players a choice of terrain or shape and sometimes both, increasing the decision space over games like Second Chance and Patchwork Doodle.  Additionally there are Ruins cards which restrict where players can play for a turn, and Ambush cards which force players to put negatively scoring shapes on their board.  In the past, we have used the house-rule that instead of introducing one Ambush every round we only add them from the second round onwards to give people a chance to settle into the game.  Additionally, because we are playing remotely, we play the Ambush cards using the solo player rules.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we like the spice the Ambush cards add, they can swing the game quite a bit and add a bit of randomness.  Part of the driving-force to play Cartographers was the desire to try out the alternative, “Wastelands” map, so because of the additional challenge we thought this would add, we again used the house-rule, and only added three Ambush cards during the game.  The “Wastelands” are an area of the map that is inaccessible to the map-makers and as such is terrain already filled in, but is space that cannot be used.  It quickly became apparent that this meant players filled up their maps much more quickly so it became harder to place the bigger shapes from a much earlier point in the game.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

For some, this was an advantage when it came to the Ambush cards later in the game, as it meant there wasn’t sufficient space to add them to the player board.   The first round was full of Water and Farmland, which was useful for the Shoreside Expanse goal (at the end of the first and second rounds), but keeping them separate with the additional obstacle of the Wasteland was difficult.  Worse, this caused obstructions for players trying to score for connecting their Mountains using forest (Stoneside Forrest, scoring in the first and final rounds).

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

There was also a lot of Settlement early on, with Woodland relatively scarce.  There weren’t any Ruins until later either and with the first Ambush card only appearing in the third round, players could mostly do what they wanted in the early part of the game.  When the Ruins came towards the end, some players had no choice where to place them while others benefited from being unable to place them at all.  The same was true for the Ambush cards with some players being unable to play them at all and therefore not picking up negative points at the end of the game.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

When everyone was feeling the pinch the Marshlands card appeared, which is one of the biggest shapes.  Purple’s distressed cry of, “It won’t fit, I can’t get it in!”, was followed by Black’s dry response, “It’s too big…” which had everyone else in stitches.  From there it wasn’t long before the game came to an end.  Ivory was once again the first to report his score, posting a massive total of one hundred and eight, which most people felt would not be surpassed.  Indeed, that was the way it stayed with nobody else exceeding a hundred (after Black’s goblin-related recount), until Pink, giving his score last, sneaked into the lead with one hundred and twelve.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

It was quite late, so Ivory headed off to bed as did Lilac, but there was still time for the rest to play a game of our current end of evening favourite, the Professional Variant of 6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena.  This is so simple yet so much fun:  players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and then add them to one of the four rows in order.  The fast play, lack of down time, and the illusion of control together with the sudden disasters that befall people who are doing well, just hits the spot for the group.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Burgundy started the race to the bottom, but was quickly joined by Purple.  Her efforts were outstripped by Burgundy though who had high cards when he wanted low ones and low cards when he wanted high ones.  As a result, he finished with a very impressive minus twenty-seven.  At the other end, Green, Pink, Pine and Blue were neck-and-neck, until Green started collecting nimmts.  Pine, who always does well in 6 Nimmt! held the lead for most of the game, but with the end in sight, it all went wrong for him leaving Blue to take the glory just ahead of Pink.  Thanks to Burgundy’s prowess at collecting nimmts there was still time for one last game.

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

There was a lot of discussion about options, but when someone pointed out that No Thanks! had had been added to the list of games (albeit in beta), everyone was keen to give it a go.  As Blue set up the game, Pine asked whether there was a “drop a token between the floorboards option” in reference to a memorable evening that had ended with a round of Hunt the Game Piece only to find that it had dropped seamlessly through the gap to nestle in the dust under the floor of The Jockey.  That sort of diversion aside, we all know the rules and the game is (usually) quick to play, so we thought we’d give it a go.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

No Thanks! is an extremely simple game:  the top card from the deck is revealed and the first player has a simple choice, take the card or pay a chip to pass the decision on to the next player.  When a player takes a card, they also take any chips and then turn over the next card and start again.  The cards have a face value between three and thirty-five, but nine cards are removed at random.  When the deck is depleted, players sum the face value of their cards and subtract this total from the number of chips they have to give their final score—the player with the most positive score is the winner.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

The really clever part of the game is that players who have a run, only count the lowest card.  This means cards have different values to different players and there-in lies the tension and the fun.  Further, since the number of chips players have is kept secret, players have to decide whether the card they want will still be available when their next turn comes.  The version of the game we usually play, nominally only plays a maximum of five people.  The more recent version plays up to seven, as does the Board Game Arena implementation.

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

The first thing we discovered was that the “Spend a Chip” button was perilously close to the top of the cards which meant it was very easy to “sausage-finger” and accidentally take a card without meaning to.  Black was the first to fall foul of this, but he was not the only one.  The second thing was that somehow, playing online somehow took away some of the tension, perhaps partly due to the automatic bidding, possibly contributed to by the fact we were playing with six, but probably mostly due to the fact that players cannot see the angst of their opponents as they try to make the simple decision.

 

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

Success in this game is always achieving a rare positive score.  This time, Pink hogged all the chips finishing with nearly half the total in the game.  This put pressure on everyone else and even the winner finished in the red, albeit with a lot more than the minus sixty-four scored by the player at the bottom.  The winner was Pine, with minus six, some nine points ahead of Burgundy in second place.  Although we all enjoyed playing, somehow it didn’t have quite the same effect as 6 Nimmt!, so the search to find another game we can play at the end of the evening continues.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Never assume the name of a game is a guide on how to play it.

3rd March 2020

After a short, but sweet battle over who wasn’t going to have the last lamb pie and mash, Burgundy and Blue settled down to eat.  They were soon joined by Pine, Lime, and then Black and Purple bringing news of their new black and purple car.  When Ivory and Green arrived, the key players were in place for the for the “Feature Game”, the Hellas map from the Hellas & Elysium expansion to Terraforming Mars.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

In Terraforming Mars, each person takes the role of a giant corporation, sponsored by the World Government on Earth to initiate projects to make Mars habitable.  This is by raising the temperature, increasing the oxygen level, and expanding the ocean coverage.  The Hellas map presents a new areas of Mars to explore, in particular, the Mars south pole and the enormous seven-hex Hellas crater that just begs to become a giant lake.  Building around the pole gives placement bonuses in the form of heat and possibly even water.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of each round, players draw four cards, keeping as many as they like, but paying 3M€ per card.  Since the cards are so critical to the game-play, there is a variant where the cards are drafted, letting players see more of the cards available, but making the decisions more critical.  Players then take it turns to take one or two actions from seven possible actions.  At the end of the round, players simultaneously produce, turning any energy into heat, taking finance according to the combined total of their Terraforming Rating and their M€ production level, and finally receiving all other resources according to their production levels.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends once all three Global Parameters are met:  all of the Ocean Tiles have been placed, the Temperature has reached 8°C, and the Oxygen Level is at 14%. The game is driven by the cards, but the guts of it are the actions.  These include: play a card; use a Standard Project; use an Action Card; convert eight plants into a greenery tile and raise the Oxygen Level; use eight Heat to raise the Temperature; claim a Milestone, and fund an Award.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

Each card has a set of requirements, for example, Grass cannot grow at very low temperatures, so the Grass Card can only be played when the Temperature is above -16°C.  Other cards may require the player to spend energy, or other resources.  They also have a financial cost, though some can be paid for using Steel and/or Titanium as well.  There are three types of cards: red Event Cards, Green Automatic Cards and Blue Action Cards.  Green and Blue cards have an effect that occurs when they are played.  Red Event Cards have  an action that takes place once and are turned face down once they have been played.  Blue Action Cards also give the player a special ability that can be activated many times during the game, but only once per round.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to the actions on the cards, players can also carry out actions associated with Standard Projects.  These can be used several times per round and mostly involve spending money to increase the Temperature, add tiles to the board, or increase the player’s Energy Production.  Players can also sell cards at a rate of 1M€ per card, an expensive option as it’s less than they cost to buy, and it costs an action, but needs must when the Devil drives.  Finally, players can claim milestones (if they have played enough cards with Tags that qualify) or fund an award.  These cost money, but give Points at the end of the game.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

This is the basic game play, but there are a lot of expansions and variants, so setting up was slow as the group tried to figure out which cards came from which expansion and what bits they actually needed to use.  They got there in the end and chose to add in a few extra corporations to the standard set. Only Ivory received one of them, but still chose an original corporation, Ecoline, which gave him Plant production and reduced the number of plants he needed for a new Forest tile from eight to seven.  Green went for Inventrix, which gave him three extra cards at the start of the game and reduced the restrictions on the environmental requirements.  Burgundy chose Teractor, which allowed him to play cards with Earth Tags more cheaply.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory made an early play to plant a city amongst the northern green belt. He knew it was an unusual opening move and a bit of a gamble, but one he hoped would pay dividends later.  Burgundy also planted a city in the first round, nearer to the large potential ocean area in the Hellas crater. Green waited a little longer for his first city, but broke away from the others to plant it near the southern polar region, hoping to expand upon the unique scoring potential for this new board.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

Like most games of Terraforming Mars this one progressed gradually and slowly as everyone built their “engines”.  Ivory was clearly working on a Forest growth strategy, and also looking for the bonus end game awards.  Burgundy was trying to build cities next to oceans for bonus money and also keeping the sides of his cities next to Forests for end game scoring.  Green tried to use his relaxed environmental requirements to his advantage by playing cards early, but in the process failed to do anything with his southern city goal.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory made the first Milestone claim, taking the Energizer, for increasing his Energy Production to six.  He was about to claim the second too, Diversifier, for having eight different tags played, but then realised that he couldn’t use the Red Event cards and so couldn’t claim it after all.  Very soon after Green took it instead, much to the annoyance of Burgundy who was also on the verge of taking it, and would have done so on his next turn.  Ivory later claimed the third Milestone, Tactician (five environmentally restricted cards), which both he and Burgundy had noticed Green could have claimed earlier and made noises to that effect, but weren’t specific.  Green, however, had forgotten what it was awarded for and hadn’t noticed he qualified.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

As for the Awards, Ivory again funded the first one to activate the Cultivator, obviously key to his strategy as as it rewarded most Forests.  Ivory also wanted Space Baron in play (for most Jovian tags) and Burgundy paid for the final Magnate Award, which rewards the player with the most green cards.  In the end though, Burgundy won all three awards, with Ivory taking second place in two and Green just pipping Ivory to second by one card for the Magnate Award.  When it came to the scoring, the Terraforming Ratings were quite close with Ivory just ahead of Burgundy as he had been for most of the game.  Burgundy took a lot of points for the awards though and scored heavily for his cities.  The overall winner was therefore Burgundy with eighty-three points, sneaking ahead of Ivory who took second place.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

While the Terraforming Mars group began setting up, everyone else took a slightly more relaxed look at the options available, and after some discussion, the group settled on Isle of Skye.  This won the Kennerspiel des Jahres in 2016 and is a game most of the group have played before and really enjoyed.  The best way to describe it is a bit like Carcassonne, but with individual play areas and a very clever auction for the tiles.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that players start with three tiles drawn randomly, and place them in front of their screen.  Behind the screen they use their own money decide the price of two of the tiles and choose one to discard.  Once everyone has revealed their prices and discards, the first player chooses a maximum of one tile to purchase from the offering.  They cannot choose one of their own, and they pay the amount shown to the owner of the tile.  Once everyone has made their purchase, players then buy any remaining tiles in front of them, paying with the money the used to indicate the price.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

This auction is very clever for lots of reasons. Firstly, the player with the best tiles, does not necessarily get them.  If they think they have something valuable, then they can give it a high price and will either end up keeping it (paying the money to the bank), or end up getting a lot of money for it.  For this reason, the key thing is getting the value right—over-pricing a tile risks it failing to sell and getting landed with it at a heavy cost.  This was Ivory’s comment from the next table.  There is a more subtle aspect to the auction, however.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Although they have the widest choice, if the first player prices their tiles too high, they may not have sufficient funds to buy anyone else’s, worse, nobody else will buy their tiles which means they will end up having to pay for them themselves, leaving them short of cash in the next round as well.  On the other hand, because the money paid for tiles and the money used to indicate their cost go straight into the seller’s hand, players later in the turn order, may have less choice, but will likely have more available cash.  In this way, the advantage of turn order is self-correcting and everyone has difficult decisions to make and probabilities to consider, though the decisions are different for each player.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the tiles have been bought and paid for, players add them to their kingdom.  Like Carcassonne, the terrain type on the edges of the tiles have to match up (though roads do not), and the tiles have features that are used for scoring.  There are more different features than in Carcassonne, however, and the scoring is very different.  In each game there are four scoring conditions, and each one is used three times during the game (five rounds for the five player game).  Additionally, there are also tiles that feature scrolls which are personal scoring conditions that take effect at the end of the game.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

As Lime was new to the game, the group decided not to include the main components of the Journeyman or Druid expansions.  All the tiles went into the bag though, including those from both of the large expansions and the several mini expansions (the Adjacency Scrolls, both Tunnelplättchen, the Themenplättchen and the Kennerspiel des Jahres Promo), and anywhere the main feature required one of the main expansions were just rejected when they were drawn.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine got a flying start in the first round getting five points for his Broch/Lighthouse/Farm combo and a couple of points for a completed mountain range.  As the game progressed, more buildings fell into his lap and the points kept coming.  Black tried to collect Broch/Lighthouse/Farm sets, but couldn’t get any Brochs, so gave up and concentrated on getting diagonals instead.  This is not as easy as it looks because every tile added to a diagonal requires the fixed placement of two tiles.  Each round, players get a maximum of three tiles, so this is very restrictive.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

It was a hard game:  Lime failed to complete and score any mountains and Purple struggled as there were two rounds when she failed to get any points at all.  Blue started off trying to build in a diagonal, but ended up picking up points for Barrels connected to her Castle by road, mostly at Lime’s expense.  She was aided when Pine drew a Barrel tile that Lime really fancied and had lots of money to pay for.  Not wanting to give away his plans, Lime told Pine he didn’t want the tile, so Pine, who believed him, chucked it away, leaving Blue a clear run.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine maintained and grew his lead, though the others did threaten to catch up towards the end.  His Brochs and enclosed scroll giving him two points for each one made all the difference though and he finished with sixty-nine points ten ahead of second place.  The battle for that was much closer with three players within six points of each other.  It was Blue who sneaked in front though, just ahead of Lime who put in a very creditable performance on his first attempt.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Terraforming Mars was still going on the next table, so although it was getting late the group decided to play something short, and considered Coloretto, but in the end settled on No Thanks!.  This is a really quick and simple “push your luck” reverse auction game.  Everyone starts with eleven chips and on their turn, either takes the card on offer (and any chips on it) or pays a chip to pass the problem on to the next person.  The aim of the game is end up with the lowest card total, subtracting any chips they have left.  The catch is that if a player has a run of cards, only the lowest is counted, however, at the start of the game nine cards are removed from the thirty-three in the deck…

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Black won a relatively uneventful first round with twenty, while Purple “top scored” with fifty-three.  It was quick and Terraforming Mars was into another round, so Lime suggested another round and everyone else concurred.  This was more remarkable.  Blue was first to take card.  Since the player who takes a card then has first dibs on the next card, when the next was close the the first, she took that too.  This continued with only a couple of breif interludes for cards she really didn’t want.  In the end, she had a remarkable run of fifteen cards from the twenty-four in play.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately for her, as they were mostly low value cards and cards she needed, she had been unable to milk them to get chips from the others.  So she finished with a very reasonable thirteen, but in forth place behind Lime with twelve and, remarkably, Black with minus three and Pine who took the game with minus four, winning by virtue of the fact he played later in the round.  The Terraformers were just finishing, so the cards were shuffled for a third and final time.  This time, Lime tried the collecting cards trick, but he was not as lucky as Blue and ended with a card total of ninety-nine (and twenty-three chips).  Black and Blue both finished with a more normal nine, and tied for the win.  With everyone finished, but time was marching on, so everyone decided to say “No Thanks!” to another game and went home.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Getting a lead is good, but you have to be able to keep it.

Boardgames in the News: Withdrawal of Customer Service by Asmodee

One of the characteristics of modern boardgames is the number of pieces in the box:  generally the more complex the game, the more pieces there are, and the more it costs.  For many, part of the fun of acquiring a new game is checking, sorting and otherwise caressing these, often bespoke, pieces.  It is very easy to lose or break a piece and an estimated 1-2% of new purchases arrive damaged or with something missing.  One of the truly special things about the boardgame industry has been the general understanding of the sadness caused by a missing piece, and the support the manufacturers give when a game has become incomplete, even if it is not the manufacturers fault.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

For example, just over a year ago, one of the boardGOATS dropped a counter for No Thanks!.  After an extended session of “Hunt the Game Piece”, we eventually found it nestling in a cushion of dust, just out of reach, exactly where it fell, having cleanly dropped through the gap between the pub floorboards.  The game is inexpensive and readily available, but our copy is much played and much loved, and replacing it for the sake of one token seemed wasteful.  Of course the missing token could be substituted with something else, a penny say, but that would have made us sad every time we played it.  So, a quick email to AMIGO Spiele offering to purchase a couple of spares, and one week later a small handful of red counters arrived in the post—exceptional Customer Service from a superb company.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

The remarkable thing is that this is not the only example:  similar service has been received from Zoch Verlag (Auf Teufel komm raus), NSKN Games (Snowdonia: Deluxe Master Set), Queen Games (Kingdom Builder), Ferti Games (PitchCar), Tactic (Nollkoll), Z-man (Le Havre), Rio Grande Games (Torres) & Splotter (The Great Zimbabwe), to name but a few, sometimes their fixing a problem of their making, sometimes just helping out.  This superb service (sometimes with a fee, but often without charge) builds a good relationship with the customer and encourages more sales—so not so much “No Thanks”, as “Yes Please”!

Orléans
– Image by boardGOATS

Last week, however, Asmodee USA closed its Customer Services Department to the public, and announced that all games with missing pieces should be returned to the vendor (as yet there is no comment on who should pay for returns of online purchases, or what happens with gifts that arrive with a piece missing).  Worse, the FAQ adds that when buying a second-hand copy, they “encourage you to make sure that all components of a game are present and intact before purchasing” as they “cannot offer replacements for products that were not purchased directly from our USA retail partners or webstores”.  Their justification for this is:

“With the number of quality titles in Asmodee USA’s growing library, maintaining an independent stock of elements of each game becomes more difficult. We believe offering the customer service through the store they have purchased the game from will be a better experience.”

It was initially thought that this would only affect USA customers, however, it seems that is not the case.  Asmodee UK have passed the buck:  according to their website, for replacement pieces for Asmodee, Fantasy Flight Games, Days of Wonder, Catan, Plaid Hat Games or Z-Man Games, “please visit http://parts.asmodeena.com/”, which in turn simply says:

“As of February 18, 2020, if a game is purchased in the US that has damaged or missing components, please return to where you originally bought the game for assistance.”

This change in policy may or may not make business sense in the short term, but for the gamer it is a very sad loss of what always felt like friendly support, and something that made boardgaming special.

UKGE 2018
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink’s sPecial Party

It being a very special day for Pink, he decided he wanted to spend it playing games with friends and family at the Jockey.  The early arrivals set up PitchCar, including the new “Loop” expansion and others played Loopin’ Louis, Patchwork Express, Dobble and the surprise hit, Boom Boom Balloon.  Little-Lime won PitchCar (perhaps flicking talent runs in the family as Lime himself managed to complete the  loop at least three times), and almost everyone managed to lose Boom Boom Balloon at least once.  Late in the afternoon, a game of Scotland Yard was started with Pink as the fugitive, and finished almost before it was begun when he was quickly captured.  It was then restarted with Mrs. Lime as the fugitive and turned into an epic game that went on for a couple of hours with a brief break as people tucked into the buffet supper and amazing sticky-toffee pudding cake-desert provided by the Jockey Kitchen.

Boom Boom Balloon
– Image by boardGOATS

The evening continued with more games including No Thanks!, Finstere Flure (a.k.a. Fearsome Floors), Saboteur, …Aber Bitte mit Sahne (a.k.a. Piece o’ Cake) and Ice Cool.  The team of five eventually managed to corner Mrs. Lime, freeing up Pink to play his special request, Captain Sonar, which his team fittingly won, twice.  This was followed by a game of Ca$h ‘n Guns (it is always fun entertaining the bar staff by waving foam pistols about and threatening to shoot each other), before finishing with 6 Nimmt!, a game to match Pink’s socks.  It was a great day, and we all went home tired, but very happy, with Pink and Blue keen to thank everyone for sharing Pink’s sPecial day.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

23rd July 2019

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

Ice Cream
– Image from horseandjockey.org

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

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

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

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

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

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

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

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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