Tag Archives: No Thanks!

Boardgames in the News: What are “Filler” Games?

To most people, games come in two types, board games and card games.  Modern board gamer, however, have many other classifications.  For example, board gamers make the distinction between Strategy Games and Family Games.  Strategy Games typically are more complex than Family Games, which is not to say that Family Games don’t involve strategy, simply that the strategies are more involved.  Typically, a “Light Family Game” will be relatively simple in concept and take around forty-five minutes to an hour to play, where “Heavy Strategy Games” tend to take at least a couple of hours and sometimes several or more.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

Examples of Family Games include Niagara, Downforce and Escape: The Curse of the Temple, while Altiplano, Keyflower and Concordia might be described as Strategy Games.  There is a third category which, can be harder to describe, Filler Games.  These are typically shorter games that often also fit the Family Game criteria, but have sufficient challenge that players of heavier Strategy Games enjoy playing them between other games.  “Shorter” is obviously in the eye of the beholder—to people who often play games that last several hours, any game that lasts less than an hour and a half might be a “Filler game”.

– Image by boardGOATS

However, if a games night lasts around three hours, a Filler Game might be one that lasts no more than around thirty minutes or so.  More importantly, and in order to save time, they have minimal setup time and are usually well known amongst gamers or at least are very quick to teach.  Popular Filler Games include card games like No Thanks! and Love Letter, but also tile laying games like NMBR9 and board games like Tsuro and Draftosaurus.  All these fit the basic criteria, but additionally are good fun and are great for warming up or down at the start or end of an evening, as well as for playing between games and while waiting for other games to finish.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

28th June 2022

When Blue, Pink, Orange and Lemon rolled in (late thanks to the delights of the Oxford traffic and garden watering), Plum was already there.  A gamer with Gweeples in Didcot, Plum was a friend of Burgundy’s that members of the group first met at his funeral about six months ago.  While she finished her tagliatelle, Blue and Pink waited for their supper to arrive, and everyone admired Pink’s Pornstar Martini, the group revisited Tsuro, which Orange and Lemon had enjoyed so much on their first visit, last time.

Tsuro
– Image by boardGOATS

While setting up, Pine arrived and needed a quick reminder of the rules, but that only took a moment:  players have a hand of three tiles and, on their turn place one of them in front of their stone and extend it’s path, moving their stone (and any others) to the end of its path.  Players are eliminated when their stone goes off the board or collides with another stone—the last player on the board is the winner.  First blood went to Blue, who took out Lemon and Pine, but that was collateral damage as she had no choice and went off the board herself at the same time.

Tsuro
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was next, being trapped and left with no option, and then just Plum and Orange remained to duel it out.  There was very little space left on the board and the writing was already on the wall when Plum went off.  That left Orange a worthy winner, especially as he had a tile to spare too.  Teal arrived and while Blue and Pink fed, he led everyone else in a game of No Thanks!.  This is a game we’ve played a lot in the group and is a very clever design but like all the cleverest games, has very simple rules.  Played with a numbered deck of thirty-two cards, the idea is that on their turn, the active player can take the card in the middle or pay a chip to pass the problem on to the next person.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

The next person has the same decision:  they can take the card and the chip, or pay a chip, and so on.  At the end of the game, a player’s total score is the sum of the face value of the cards they took and the player with the lowest number wins.  There are two key points that make the game, however.  Firstly, if a player has consecutively numbered cards, only the lowest card in the run contributes to their total, which means cards have different values to different players.  Secondly, nine cards are removed from the deck, which adds jeopardy on top.  The game can play out in several different ways.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

The player or players with the most chips are always in control, until one player is left with so few chips or runs out completely, that they are forced to take cards even when they don’t want them.  This can prevent players, even those with lots of chips, from getting the cards they need to close runs causing the strategy to back-fire, and leaving those with the most chips with the most points as well.  This time, Orange and Teal amassed a huge pile of chips each, but both managed to avoid ending up with multiple high scoring runs.  Then someone dropped a chip on the floor giving Pine the opportunity to recount the tale of how he dropped a chip between the floor boards and how it is still there despite everyone’s best efforts.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the dropped chip was recovered successfully and the game ended without further mishap.  Orange and Teal took first and second respectively, giving Orange two in two games to match Lemon’s achievement at the start of last time.  By this time, the feeders had finished feeding and everyone else had arrived, so it was time for the “Feature Game“.  To mark the start of the Tour de France later in the week, this was to be the Peloton expansion for the cycling game, Flamme Rouge.  Flamme Rouge is a fast-paced, tactical bike-racing game where each player controls a team of two riders: a Rouleur and a Sprinteur.  The aim is to manage the first rider to cross the finish line.

Flamme Rouge
– Image by boardGOATS

Each rider has a deck of cards, and Players move their riders one at a time, by drawing four cards from the rider’s deck, choosing one to play, and recycling the rest.  Once every player has picked cards for both their riders, players simultaneously reveal their cards and, starting with the cyclist at the front, each rider is moved in turn.  After all the riders have moved, slip-streaming takes effect, with groups that have exactly one space between them and the group in front moving forward to remove the gap.  Finally, every rider that still has an empty space in front of them is deemed to be riding into the wind and takes an exhaustion card which goes into their deck—these are bad because they are slow cards and block up plays’ hands.

Flamme Rouge
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of the race, everyone’s Rouleurs have the same cards, and everyone’s Sprinteurs have the same cards.  The Rouleurs have lots of cards with a similar face value, where the Sprinteurs have some cards that are faster and have a higher value, which are offset by others that are slower and have a lower value.  Players have to balance how they manage their riders and make the most of the slip-streaming opportunities.  The game is modular with the option to add hills to the base game.  The Peloton expansion adds extra riders (so that the game plays up to six players), cobbled sections (aka “Pavé”), Feed Zones, and rules to set up a break-away.

Flamme Rouge
– Image by boardGOATS

Unusually with so many people, rather than splitting in to three groups playing three different games, we split into just two with both playing the same game.  Since the Grand Départ was due to take place in the essentially flat Denmark this year, both groups largely played without hills, but included cobbled sections (à la Stage 5, from Lille to Arenberg, a week later).  Cobbled sections change width frequently and are generally narrower than normal road, but perhaps more importantly, riders can no-longer benefit from slipstreaming but still get exhaustion cards.  The slightly larger group, led by Ivory and Teal also decided to start with a break-away.

Flamme Rouge
– Image by boardGOATS

Their chosen route was Stage 11 of the stage race and took in three sections of Pavé.  The first of these was shortly after the start, the second after the first hairpin and a short slight up-hill ramp, and the third was after a second hairpin and a little chicane.  Teal and Lime made it into the breakaway and they stayed away for most of the game.  Being at the front “pushing air out of the way” all the time is tiring though, and inevitably, they picked up a lot of exhaustion cards.  That meant that as the Peloton was bearing down on them, just as the finish line was in sight, they didn’t have the energy fend them off.

Flamme Rouge
– Image by boardGOATS

As a result, Black and Pink, who had been sheltering in the middle of the group slid across the line just ahead of the gallant breakaway, who were definitely candidates for the day’s combativity award.  Black took first place, having spent most of the race doing as little as possible and saving it all for the final sprint.  While saving energy is a good tactic, Purple took it to a different level picking up no exhaustion cards at all, though she wasn’t able to turn on the burners in time to take advantage of it.

Flamme Rouge
– Image by boardGOATS

The smaller group, led by Blue and Plum rode a simpler route based on the Avenue Corso Paseo ride, with a cobbled section in the middle between the two hairpin bends.  With most people in this group new to the game, they decided to keep things simple and eschewed the complexities of hills completely, sticking to a pan-flat course, and kept to the standard roll-out used in the base game.  First Orange and then Lemon rode off the front while Pine and especially Blue were repeatedly under threat of being spat out of the back of the peloton.  Most rounds seemed to end with Blue breathing a sigh of relief as she managed to hang on and Lemon laughing as she picked up yet another exhaustion card.

Flamme Rouge
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the riders had passed the Pavé the speed picked up and Blue and Pine started to try to move forward in the field.  Lemon who had led most of the way “bonked” and “hit the wall”, and as a result, was unceremoniously dropped.  It was tight, but Pine’s Rouleur was first over the line just holding off Plum’s first rider who took second followed by Pine’s Sprinteur who took third.  It had been a close and quite attritional race, but despite the fact there were fewer riders with a shorter parkour, the race finished at much the same time as the other one.  So races were compared and there was a bit of chatter about other options as people packed away.

Flamme Rouge
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory took himself off for an early night, as did Teal, but those that were left were keen to play on, albeit not for long in some cases.  Inevitably there was a lot of discussion about what to play, but when Ticket to Ride got a mention, Pine and Lime were keen to give the London version a run out, and were quickly joined by Pink and Purple.  Ticket to Ride is one of our favourite games and we play a lot of different versions, short and long.  They all have the same basic structure, but different layouts on different maps, and often with a little rules change.  In summary, in the original game, players are connecting cities across the USA.

Ticket to Ride (USA)
– Image by boardGOATS

They do this by collecting coloured cards and then spending those cards to place trains.  Players score points for placing trains and also for completing “Tickets” by connecting two cities together by any chosen route—the further apart the cities, the more points they are worth.  The game end is triggered when one player has only two train pieces left and at the end of the game, the player with the most points is the winner.  The original game takes around an hour to play with the full compliment, but more recently, there have been a number of smaller, lighter versions available.  They have the same rules, but players have fewer pieces and the maps are more congested, based on cities like New York, Amsterdam and later this year, San Francisco.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, however, the version chosen was London.  In this edition, players are placing buses to mark routes, and in addition to scoring points for claiming routes and Tickets, players also score points for connecting all the places in the same district. Pine won the “name the people on the front of the box” competition and went first.  Lime crossed the city travelling from Baker Street to The Tower of London while both Purple and Pink did the same but from Buckingham Palace to Brick Lane, and via different routes. Pine had a northern route and a south route that looked like they would join up in the middle, but didn’t quite make it.  He did manage to claim a district though, the only player to do so for a district of any significant size.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

It was very close between first and second, though there was a bit more distance to Pink in third.  In the end, Lime just pipped Pine to victory by two points.  Meanwhile, there had been some debate between the other five as to what they would play.  Blue suggested introducing Orange and Lemon to one of our old stalwarts, 6 Nimmt!, but it wasn’t one of Plum’s favourite games.  So instead, Blue and Black introduced everyone else to …Aber Bitte mit Sahne, a clever but simple little “I divide, you choose” game.  The idea is that one player is The Baker who divides the cake into pieces and then everyone else takes it in turns to take a one of them.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Each slice of cake has a type, a number on it and a some cream.  When a player takes cake, they can choose to eat it or store it.  For all eaten cake, players a point for each blob of cream.  For stored cake, however, the player with the most of each type will score the number of points associated with that type.  The clever part is that the number of points is equivalent to the number of slices of that type in the game, so the more common types which are harder to get a majority in are worth more, but they also have the most cream, tempting players to eat them straight away.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

It is always difficult for the first couple of players to take the role of Baker, but this is exacerbated with five players.  Blue went first, then Black.  It was only a couple of rounds in, that the twinkle appeared in Plum’s eye as she realised how clever the game was and expressed her approval.  It was quite tight in the early stages with players staking their claims to different sorts of cake.  There was competition for kiwi and redcurrent, but others went largely un-stored (and therefore eaten).  After everyone had been the Baker it was time to see who had the most of each and add up the scores.  Black got lucky with the chocolate as everyone else was greedy and ate theirs.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately, there was a rules misunderstanding and Orange thought he would get points for every slice he kept if he had the most of that type, so we’ll have to play it again soon so he can try again.  This time though, Black who had been very abstemious and eaten none of his cake, ran out the clear winner with thirty-five points to Blue’s twenty-nine and Plum’s twenty-seven for second and third place respectively.  Ticket to Ride: London was still underway on the next table, so as Orange and Lemon had not played it before, Blue got out Dobble.  We’ve not played this in the group for years, but it is a fantastic little Snap-based filler.

Dobble
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that every card has several pictures and each card shares exactly one match with every other card in the deck and using this principle, there are five possible Snap-based games.  Black decided discretion was the better part of valor and opted to spectate while Plum had a significant drive so headed off, leaving just Blue, Orange and Lemon.  They started with a pile of cards each and the winner the first to shed their pile onto the central one.  The game was all very well, but there was a vocabulary check as, although Blue said they could play in Ukrainian, Orange and Lemon were game to give English a go.  Once the items had been identified, the mania started.

Dobble
– Image by boardGOATS

As it was a trial game, the piles weren’t carefully measured, but Orange quickly got the hang of it and in spite of the language differences, managed to shed his pile first for yet another victory.  From there, the group did the reverse and started with one card and grabbed progressively matching cards from the middle.  This can be quite savage, which is why Blue opted for the gentler game first.  Still, everyone was well-behaved and nobody got scratched.  The tension and concentration was palpable though and Ticket to Ride finished and Lime and Pine left with only a a cursory grunt from those playing Dobble, before Blue just edged it to win the final game of the night.

Dobble
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Tour de France coverage is available on ITV4.

1st December 2021

It was a relatively quiet night with no Burgundy, Lilac or Teal.  However, that was slightly offset by the arrival of Lime who had missed the last few and Beige, who is much cuter in real life than on Teams.  The first game of the evening, as Blue and Pink finished their supper, was No Thanks!.  A very simple game where players take a card or pay a chip to pass the problem on, it is easy to play when attention is elsewhere.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, players sum the face value of the cards they collect and the player with the lowest score wins.  The clever part is that if players have a run of cards, they only score the lowest, and the fact that some cards are missing encourages players to gamble.  This time, Blue “top scored” with a massive sixty-six having tried and failed to make a run out of high scoring cards.  Green won with a careful game that gave him thirty points and Pink was took second place, four points behind.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

As people arrived, the group split into two with the one group playing the “Feature Game“, Draftosaurus.  This is a very light drafting game, a bit like Sushi Go!, but with dinosaurs (because everyone, especially Beige, likes dinosaurs).  We have played this quite a bit, but mostly online over the last year or so, but the tactile wooden dino-meeples add a lot to the experience.  The basic idea is that players start with a handful of wooden dinosaurs, pick one to keep and then pass the rest on.

Draftosaurus
– Image by boardGOATS

Players then choose which pen to place the dinosaur in obeying the restrictions the pens have for example, each dinosaur placed in the Meadow of Differences must be different.  Players also take it in turns to roll the Placement Die and have to additionally follow the conditions imposed it (e.g placing the dinosaur in an empty pen or a pen that does not contain a Tyrannosaurus rex).  The game is played over two rounds and at the end of the game, when all the dino-meeples have been placed, players add up their scores.

Draftosaurus
– Image by boardGOATS

Each pen scores according to its specialism, with players scoring an extra point for each Tyrannosaurus rex they have have.  Draftosaurus is a very quick and light game, but is also very enjoyable, and this time the scoring was very tight too with just five pints separating first and last places.  Blue just managed to edge it though finishing one point ahead of Pine with Purple and Lime tied in third.

Draftosaurus
– Image by boardGOATS

With five players the options were a little limited, but Pink effectively made the decision as he was keen to play Fabled Fruit, a game we last played two and a half years ago.  This is a game he’s very fond of because he likes the cute animal artwork and bright primary colours.  It is a light card game, with the unusual feature that the game evolves and changes each time it is played.  This “Legacy” style was made popular by Rob Daviau and Matt Leacock with Pandemic Legacy, a game that divided gamers as it required them to destroy components and write over the board, an anathema to people who are accustomed to looking after their games, sometimes to an extreme degree.

Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
– Adapted from image by BGG contributor Muse23PT

Once Pandemic Legacy has been played out, the end product is a personalised copy of Pandemic which embodies the memories of the campaign.  This further irritates some gamers because they feel they are left with a comparatively unplayable copy of the game or at least one that is less well be unbalanced and may have design flaws.  Fabled Fruit is different from the Legacy games as the changes are not destructive, so the game can be reset and played again from the beginning, in this case by simply sorting the cards.

Fabled Fruit
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is quite simple—it starts with six decks of four cards in the central play area and on their turn players move their worker from one pile to another and either carry out the action associated with the cards, or buy a card.  Each card has a cost in fruit and, when bought represents a fruit smoothy.  When a player buys their third card (in the five player game) they trigger the end of the game and the player with the most smoothies at the end of the round wins.

Fabled Fruit
– Image by boardGOATS

The starting decks include simple actions like “take two fruit cards from the deck” and “give one banana to any other player and get two fruits in exchange”.  As the game evolves though, the actions become more interesting with the introduction of a fruit card market and more complex interactions.  This time Blue got out of the blocks quickest and was the first to three with Pine and Purple tied for second.  It was a very enjoyable game and people were just starting to get interested in how the actions were changing and what animal would be introduced next, so the group decided to play it a second time and see what happened.

Fabled Fruit
– Image by boardGOATS

By the second round there was lots of talk about how the some fruit looked like hemorrhoids and from there the conversation deteriorated into a discussion of bum grapes and hairy nuts.  This time, Lime was the victor with Pine taking second place.  As it was packed away and Pink sorted the cards to reset it, the group lamented the “problem” with “Legacy-type” games.  Sadly, they really shine with a small group like a family or household that play together frequently.  The problem with a group like boardGOATS is that people play in different groups each time, so it isn’t really possible to work through a campaign properly.

Fabled Fruit
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, Lime took his leave and there was just time for the remaining foursome (plus Beige) to play a quick game of Coloretto. This distills the essence of the, arguably, better known board game, Zooloretto, into a simple yet clever little card game.  We’ve all played it a lot, so it needed little introduction:  on their turn, players either turn a card and add it to a truck, or take one of the trucks.  The aim is to collect sets, but only the three score positively, the others all score negative points with the player with the most winning.  This time, Blue picked up a couple of full sets and won by a bit of a landslide with Pink in second.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table, Black, Green and Ivory were playing Brass: Birmingham, the Sequel to Brass (Lancashire).  It is an economic strategy game that tells the story of competing entrepreneurs in Birmingham during the industrial revolution, 1770-1870.  Each round, players take turns according to the turn order track, receiving two action points to perform any of the actions:  Build, Network, Develop, Sell, Loan and Scout.  The game is played over two halves: the canal era (years 1770-1830) and the rail era (years 1830-1870).

Brass: Birmingham
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is quite complex so Ivory’s explanation took a little while.  Black had previously read the rules, but Green came in with no prior knowledge, so it was typical that the Start Player application chose Green to go first.  He started the first, Canal part of the game building in the North West, while Ivory went for the Midlands and Black the Mid-South. Black and Ivory were soon linking their routes and connected up to the board edge trading towns. Ivory’s experience of the game meant he was first to use it and collect the Beer barrel.

Brass: Birmingham
– Image by boardGOATS

Green’s routes remained separate from the other two for a while, and although that gave him relatively uninterrupted growth in the region, he found himself limited to only one trade. Thus he pushed south to join up with the other two.  At the halfway point, Ivory was narrowly in the lead over a surprised Green, with Black a few points behind. The board was then cleared and reset. Everyone had managed to build at least a couple of stage two buildings.

Brass: Birmingham
– Image by boardGOATS

As the second, Rail part of the game went on it became clear that everyone had switched places.  Green was building up in the South East, and Ivory was working in the North and Black even further South.  It took much longer to join up the routes so it wasn’t until the very end that players started to build and use resources that others had planned for.  By the end of the game and after the final scoring, Ivory had romped away to a comfortable win, with Black leapfrogging Green into a comfortable second place.

Brass: Birmingham
– Image by boardGOATS

It had been enjoyable, though it was a bit of a rush at the end as time was pressing.  Brass is an unusual game in the way that players can each use the others resources, which is an interesting twist.  With many different options to planning, this makes for quite a thinky game which leaves players feeling they can do so much better the next time.

Brass: Birmingham
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Beige is a lot smaller in real life.

17th Movember 2021 @ The Women’s Institute

Invited to introduce the Stanford-in-the-Vale Women’s Institute to the concept of modern board games, Blue and Pink took a pile of light games to the Village Hall.  After the obligatory rendition of William Blake’s Jerusalem, in tables of four, people were introduced to No Thanks!, Coloretto, Tsuro, Indigo, Riff Raff, Second Chance, Aber Bitte mit Sahne… and Just One.  Rather inevitably, the biggest success, however, was Boom Boom Balloon—it was quite a sight to see the middle aged ladies of the WI competing to make the biggest bang!

Boom Boom Balloon
– Image by boardGOATS

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.