Tag Archives: No Thanks!

19th September 2017

After more discussion that it really warranted, we started the evening with a quick game of Bokken Schieten (aka Ziegen Kriegen).  Given the choice of this, No Thanks! or 6 Nimmt!, Red chose “the Goat Game”, but was disappointed to find it wasn’t what she was expecting.  Bokken Schieten is a very simple trick-taking game based on Blackjack.  Players choose a card from their hand and play it face up in front of them – the person who plays the highest card takes the trick and with it all the cards played in the round.  The player who plays the lowest card draws a Goat Island card and places the goat-meeple on one end, choosing which end will start Goat Island and the value of the number to contribute to the limit.  The game continues with players playing cards and winning tricks, and the player who plays the lowest numbered card adding to Goat Island, choosing whether to add a large or small amount to the total.  At the end of the game players count the number of goat heads on their cards and the winner is the player with the highest total that does not exceed the limit given by the sum of the numbers on Goat Island.

Bokken Schieten
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine was the player who had most recently seen a goat, so he went first.  It quickly became apparent that several players were struggling:  Burgundy had all the low cards, while Magenta had only one card below twenty-four and consequently went bust quite quickly.  Blue also had few low cards, but was so paranoid about going bust she ended up winning no tricks at all.  Goat Island finished with a value of fifteen which immediately put two players out of the running and with Blue taking no tricks it was between Burgundy and Pine.  It turned out that having so many low value cards gave Burgundy the edge as he finished with eleven goat heads, four more than Pine.  It was about this point that Red pointed out that Green, Black and Purple were pariahs because they were the only ones who weren’t wearing blue.  Everyone looked a bit mystified until Red explained that she was celebrating Dublin beating Mayo in the final of the All Ireland Gaelic Football Chamionship, and Dublin played in blue.  Green and Purple quickly demonstrated they did have something blue on (socks and scarf respectively), which just left Black.  He looked shifty and commented that he was also wearing blue, but didn’t think anyone really wanted him to prove it…

Bokken Schieten
– Image by boardGOATS

The silliness continued as Pine commented that he’d received an email with the subject line, “Show us your knickers”.  Apparently this was something to do with recycling and they wanted new undies or “slightly used bras”.  Pine’s well-endowed colleague had commented that none of her bras were “slightly used” and Pine looked to the girls round the gaming table for opinions precipitating a discussion as to what constituted a “slightly used bra”.  With the nonsense continuing into the discussion of games, there were only two games people were keen to play.  Some of the group had played Roll for the Galaxy a few weeks earlier and felt it needed to be played more so everyone could get to grips with it better.  Green was particularly keen to give it another go, and Black and Purple were happy to join him, leaving place for one more.  Burgundy actively rejected it and Red was keen to play the “Feature Game”, Battle Kittens which left three people to sort themselves out.  In the end, we went with seating positions and Pine, although he was a little skeptical and hadn’t played it before, joined the Roll for the Galaxy group leaving Blue and Magenta play Battle Kittens with Red and Burgundy.

Battle Kittens
– Image by boardGOATS

Battle Kittens is a quick-playing card drafting game with a ninja-cat theme.  The idea is that each player is one of the Cat King’s Royal Cat Herders, who starts with seven cat cards, taking one passing the rest on.  As each player receives a new hand, they take another card and keep passing the ever-diminishing hands on until there are no cards left to circulate.  Once this drafting phase has been completed, players divide up their packs of kittens into three groups which will contest the three different battle arenas.  Each arena will be contested on the basis of one of the four traits:  cuteness, strength, wisdom, and agility.  The squads with the three highest point totals in a battlefield are awarded a number of fish tokens in accordance with that particular battlefield’s allotment for first, second and third place.  The key thing is that some kittens have special powers allowing players to pick up “King” cards or add points to other cat cards.  King cards are mostly good, but the King can be fickle sometimes takes out his ill-temper on an unsuspecting squad of kittens.  The game is played over three rounds and the winner is the player with the most fish at the end of the game.

Battle Kittens
– Image by boardGOATS

It took everyone a round to really appreciate what they were trying to do, but by the second round, the gloves were off and the ninja kittens were attacking with everything they had.  It was a hard fought close series of battles as the piles of fish gradually grew and grew.  With the game quickly all done bar the counting, which was very close, but Blue’s Brave Moggies took first place, two fish ahead of Burgundy in second place.  The other table were still underway, so with time for something else, there was another decision to be made.  With time now a factor, there were fewer options and it wasn’t long before a decision was made and players were getting out Sheep & Thief.

Bokken Schieten
– Image by boardGOATS

Sheep & Thief is a strange little “point salad” of a game.  Each player has a board divided into a four by four grid, and starts with their home card and two sheep in the top left hand corner.  each round is played in two halves: first players draft cards then they play them, taking it turns to place one card per turn.  There are lots of different elements to the game: players are trying to connect their home card to the other three corners while trying to keep their sheep safe and trying to catch other players sheep with their fox, meanwhile, they are also attempting to navigate their black sheep to the bottom left right corner of their board.  With points for sheep captured, sheep retained, long rivers, connecting the home card to the other corners of the board as well as for moving their black sheep as far from home as possible, it is hard to see who has the most points and get an idea of who is in the lead.  Blue and Burgundy had both played the game before and both said it was very hard to do everything.

Sheep & Thief
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue didn’t have many sheep and most of them got stolen by Burgundy and particularly Red who really engaged with the thief aspect of the game.  Meanwhile, Magenta didn’t quite follow the rules surrounding the rivers so we had to re-write things a bit to work round it.  Although Blue had almost no sheep and her black sheep got itself sent back to the start right at the end so scored nothing, Blue did manage to pick up lots of points for a long river and and connecting her home to the other corners, giving her a quite respectable score of twenty-eight.  In contrast, Burgundy hadn’t managed to build a route to any of the corners and only had a short river.  With all the sheep he had stolen and his travelling black sheep (who nearly made it all the way to the far corner), he also scored twenty-eight.  It was quite a surprise when Magenta, who had lots of sheep, but was a little low in the other areas, also scored exactly twenty-eight points.  With a three-way tie, it was with bated breath that everyone waited while Blue added up the scores, but sadly, Red had only managed twenty-three.  This seemed a little low to Red, however, and on the recount, it turned out she had, not twenty-eight, but thirty-three, making her the winner and the best sheep thief!

Sheep & Thief
– Image by boardGOATS

With Red and Magenta heading off and the other game still going on, there was just time for Blue and Burgundy to play something short.  It was hard to decide what, as Splendor was the obvious choice, but last time Blue and Burgundy had played, Blue had finally won after two years of trying and was reluctant to start another losing streak.  The game is a simple one of chip collecting and engine-building with a very loose gemstone theme. Basically, on their turn, players can take gemstone poker chips, or use chips to buy a card. Some cards have points on them and all can be used like the poker chips to buy cards (but without having to return them). The cards also give players access to “Noble tiles” which also give points. The winner is the player with the most points after someone reaches fifteen points.  This time, although Blue started well, Burgundy soon wore her down eventually finishing with seventeen points to Blue’s eleven by take two points and a Noble to end the game.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Meanwhile, on the next table a tight fought battle was underway in Roll for the Galaxy.  Black, Purple and Green had all played it before several times and relatively recently too, so it was only Pine who needed a detailed rules explanation.  In summary, players roll the dice in their cup in secret, behind their player screen. They then distribute the dice according to their symbols, matching them up to each of the five phases, Explore, Develop, Settle, Produce and Ship. Players then, still in secret, re-position one of their dice to use it to choose one action they would like to activate. Players can also put a die to one side for a turn to “Dictate” the symbol on another die, i.e. reassign it to a different phase. Once everyone has positioned all their dice, the player screens are removed and players simultaneously carry out the phases that have been chosen in order.  In general, if a phase is chosen by anyone, it will happen for everyone.  Thus, players can look at what others are doing and try to decide whether someone else will activate a particular phase and then they can activate another.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Each die is used to carry out an action once, so if a player has multiple dice assigned to the same phase, the action may be carried out several times. Any dice that were not used because the phase did not happen or because the player chose not to use them are returned to the players’ cups.  Dice that have been “spent” to carry out an action must be placed in the player’s “Citizenry” and must be transferred back into the player’s dice cup at a cost of $1, before they can be used again.  The aim of the game is to get points which come through Trading goods and Settling and Developing Worlds.  These actions have corresponding phases which players must choose during the game.  Worlds broadly come in two different types:  Production and Development.  Production Worlds come with extra dice in different colours and as the different colours have different distributions of symbols, they have different advantages and disadvantages.  The dice can be “spent” in exchange for victory points or money; all dice have the same value when used to get victory points, but different values when acquiring money.  Development Worlds do not provide dice, but instead give special powers and/or extra points at the end of the game.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Players draw World tiles from a bag during the Explore phase and one of the key parts of the game is controlling these piles and manipulating the worlds built in order to steer a particular strategy.  Another important part of the game is controlling which dice that go into the player’s cup.  In this sense, the game could be compared with deck building games like Dominion or bag-building games like Orléans, where players build the contents of their deck/bag in an effort to control luck.  Perhaps the most important part of the game is choosing which Worlds to build and trying to get a synergy between them.  This is quite hard to get to grips with on the first try as it’s not always easy to identify which Worlds are god ones to keep.  That said, players essentially draw one tile from the bag at a time, so the only decision to be made is which side to use.  On the other hand, one of the options is throwing tiles out, in which case, several tiles may be drawn from the bag simultaneously which is more powerful, but makes the decision much harder.  The game end is triggered when one player has built twelve worlds or the pile of victory point chips is consumed.  It is a game that takes a bit of getting used to and everyone usually struggles a bit at the start, which is what Black and Green were so keen to try it again quickly after they last played.  This time everyone seemed to build their strategies round slightly different approaches.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by BGG contributor haslo

Green started with a green “Genes” World which is valuable when Trading, however, he was able to he was able to pair it with a Development world that gave him a Production bonus making it very lucrative.  With this and a couple of other Production Worlds he was able to engage in a lot of Shipping.  Black began with a red, Military die which has a distribution that encourages Settling and Developing.  It wasn’t until right at the end of the game though that he was able to Develop some of his most valuable Worlds.  Pine began quite tentatively as it was his first time, but quickly got the hang of Producing and Settling and managed to Develop Worlds that gave him bonuses which eased things along.  Purple, on the other hand,  struggled to get to grips with the game, largely thanks to the worlds she picked up at the start.  In the end, she just built as much as she could and triggered the end of the game when she built her twelfth world.  The others weren’t far behind her though and their better combination of Worlds gave them more points.  It was the victory points from Shipping that really made the difference however, but it was very close at the top with just two points in it.  Had Green ended the game a round earlier (as he’d had the chance to do) he might just have kept his nose in front.  As it was, allowing Black to Develop in the final round was a crucial error and gave him the victory by just two points.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

The evening was nearly over, but after a quick update on Richard Branson and Hurricane Irma, there was just time for a little bit more “Trash Talk” – quite literally as it happens, as the conversation moved onto the subject of “drive-through litter-bins” on motorways.  This is now apparently a thing, which led to a discussion with everyone expressing their disgust at the laziness of people who seem incapable of taking their littler home with them and recycling it.  It was in response to one such comment on this subject from Blue that Pine, much to everyone’s astonishment pronounced, “That is because you’re intelligent…”  And on that note, it was definitely time for home!

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Learning Outcome:  Black wears blue underwear and Pine thinks Blue is “intelligent” (well, sometimes).

10th January 2017

A new year, a new log book, and a shortage of people thanks to sickness, work and problematic cars.  Pine, Magenta and Blue were the first to arrive, so while they were waiting for food they decided to get in a quick game of No Thanks!.  This used to be one of those games that got played a lot, but for some reason it fell out of favour and was replaced by games like Love Letter, 6 Nimmt! and Om Nom Nom.  No Thanks! is a very simple little game where players have to make the binary decision to take a card or pay a chip and pass the problem on to the next player.  At the end of the round, players add the face values of the cards together and offset this with any remaining chips to give their total – the smallest value is the winner.  The really clever part is that if a player has a run of consecutive cards, then only the lowest counts.  Spice is added by the removal of nine cards from the original thirty-two consecutive cards in the deck.

No Thanks!
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor ckirkman

We first introduced Pine to No Thanks! over Christmas, when he had done rather well at it, this time was a bit different, however, with Blue coming in first with twenty-five in a generally high scoring game.  As food arrived, so did the other gamers, with Ivory first and, just as we were explaining the rules to him, Green rolled up as well.  The second hand began with Ivory picking up cards.  As it went on, he picked up more cards, and more and more.  This was excellent for everyone else until it started to look like he might be able to make them into one very long run.  In the end, Ivory’s massive gamble didn’t pay off and he finished with ninety points, a massive  eighty more than anyone else.  It was Magenta who took the round though, her enormous pile of chips offsetting all her cards leaving her with minus one.

No Thanks!
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

With food over and everyone who was expected present, we decided to move onto our “Feature Game” will be Jórvík.  This is a Viking retheme of a game we have played a few times and enjoyed called The Speicherstadt.  The game is card based and driven by a novel auction mechanism that somehow doesn’t really feel like an auction.  The idea is there is a row of cards and players use their meeples to bid with.  They take it in turns to choose which cards they would like to have the option of buying, by placing their meeples in rows below the cards they want.  The cards are then “auctioned” in turn with person who who placed their meeple below a card first getting first refusal.  The clever bit is that the cost of the card is the same number of coins as there are meeples below the card.  When it is their turn, the active player can choose not to to buy the card, but then they must remove their meeple which makes it cheaper for the next player in line.   Thus, placing first can be a good thing if you have enough money to back it up, but money is scarce, very scarce.

Jórvík
– Image by boardGOATS

The cards could be contracts (that give points at the end if fulfilled), ships containing goods (that enable players to fulfill contracts), defenders (which help score points if there is an attack of the Picts), craftsmen (which enable players to sell goods for a better price), feasts (which give points the more you have), journey cards (which just give points) or, towards the end of the game, skald cards (which yield points for some other condition).  The deck of cards is broken into several batches which ensures that while cards don’t come out in a  fixed order, early cards are less powerful than cards that appear later in the game.  The basic Jórvík game is quite light, but the new rendition includes the original Kaispeicher expansion.  This provides extra cards, though more importantly, it also adds a whole new mechanism that still has the same flavour, but turned on its head.

Jórvík

The new expansion adds a second method for players to get cards:  at the start of each round a second row of cards are displayed and, instead of using their turn to place a meeple in the auction, they can use it to reserve a card.  This card (and its meeple marker) are then moved to a new row.  At the end of the round, after the cards in the usual “auction” have been dealt with, the reserved cards are paid for in the order that they were reserved.  The snag is that the cost depends on how many cards were reserved after it.  Thus, players who reserve early have the best selection of cards to choose from, but will end up paying if they choose to buy it.  This means that players often end up reserving a card, as much as anything else, to stop the other players from getting it.  This led to Pine commenting that the game was a bit like window shopping with players standing hopefully next to items they had no hope being able to afford!

Jórvík
– Image by boardGOATS

Only two of us had played the game before (mostly in its original form as The Speicherstadt), and nobody had played with the expansion at all.  Everyone tried different strategies, with Magenta trying to collect feasting cards (largely unsuccessfully) and Green beginning by trying to collect defender cards in the hope of being able to scoop up all the points for repelling the Picts.  Ivory, Blue and Pine were slower to settle on a strategy, though Ivory was ominously collecting what looked like some very powerful cards.  Then, Pine began collecting pink resource cubes, the valuable cloth and successfully used them to fulfill a couple of lucrative contracts.  For a long time this looked like it was going to be a winning strategy, until Blue changed tack.  She had started by trying to pick up contracts and fighting with everyone else for resources, but it was gradually becoming clear to her that this wasn’t working.  Although Blue had fallen foul of the Picts in the first round, since then she had been trying to avoid losing points.  This strategy had kept her in the running, and she decided to to actively pursue the points.  In the end she finished with thirty-six points, just three ahead of Pine in second place.

Jórvík
– Image by boardGOATS

Despite winning, Blue wasn’t sure about the expansion.  She felt it added a largely random element that players had no control over.  She felt the that the fact players were reserving cards that only they could buy meant that once someone had selected a card nobody else had a chance to contest it.  The only thing they could do was force the price up.  Green, on the other hand, said he really liked it and thought it was really clever, though he agreed that with five players it probably wasn’t at its best.  In the end, we concluded that it would likely add a lot to two and three player games, which encouraged Blue to get out her copy of The Speicherstadt with Pink to try it with KaispeicherJórvík had taken longer than expected and for Ivory and Magenta it was home time.

Jórvík
– Image by boardGOATS

Living more locally, Green, Pine and Blue had time for a quick game and chose Lanterns: The Harvest Festival.  This pretty little tile-laying game was a Christmas present chosen with the group in mind, so this seemed like a good opportunity to give it a go.  The game is very simple:  players have a hand of tiles and take it in turns to add one to the central “lake”.  Each tile has up to four coloured sections and if the tile is placed in such a way that some of these match the tiles they are next to, the active player gets a lantern card of that colour.  In addition, every turn, each player gets a card that corresponds to the colour on their side of the tile placed.  At the start of their turn, players can make a devotion and trade sets of lantern cards for points tiles.  There are three stacks of points tiles, with values decreasing from top to bottom.  Each stack corresponds to different sets, with one each for three pairs, a set of seven different and four of a kind.  There are also special platform tiles that give players favour tokens.  These grease the wheels a little as pairs can be spent to allow players to swap a card for one of a different colour.

Lanterns: The Harvest Festival
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

The winner is the player with the most points once all the tiles have been played.  This means that there are two competing factors, players want to make as many dedications as they can, but higher value dedications are better.  Tile placement was cagey at the start, but before long Green and Blue began making dedications, quickly followed by Pine.  It was Green who managed to maintain the highest frequency of dedications though Blue’s early tiles were generally slightly higher in value.  Frequency was important and his later tiles were also higher value which meant Green finished ten points clear with fifty one.  With bed calling, there was just time to discuss a new idea:  “Monster Games” sessions.  The idea is that as a group we have quite a lot of games that are too long to play on games nights, so the plan is to arrange ad hoc games afternoons in private residences, with the first one planned for 14th January.

Lanterns: The Harvest Festival
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Learning Outcome:  Sometimes it is better to stop others than make a purchase yourself.

29th December 2016 – boardGOATS do the Quiz

Our local is the The Horse and Jockey pub in Stanford-in-the-Vale, and we meet there every fortnight on a Tuesday.  Every Thursday, they also hold a pub quiz, so as it was Christmas, we decided to get a special GOATS team together.  Blue, Pink, Pine, Violet and Violet’s mum were all up for it, so we booked a table for 8pm to have dinner first.  Unfortunately, Blue had over-indulged on turkey at lunch so had fallen asleep in the afternoon.  Although Pink had woken her, he failed to do so very effectively, so they were a bit late and by the time they arrived, there was a bit of a queue for food.  Not to worry though, we were nearly finished by the time the quiz started and were quite able to answer the first few questions and eat at the same time.

Quiz
– Image by boardGOATS

The quiz typically consists of five rounds of ten general knowledge questions, a picture round, a “Who am I” round, and two anagrams.  The “Who am I” round consists of five clues with players giving answers after each clue and teams scoring progressively less as the clues progress.  This and the anagrams (which score three points each) can be quite critical and often sort the sheep from the goats.   Only Pine and Blue had been before, and both had been part of teams that had not really troubled the scorers, so we were more than a little pleased when we got four points for the “Who am I” (Claire Balding, who apparently went to the same school as Miranda Hart) and, mostly thanks to Pine, the full six points for both anagrams!  Correctly identifying Kim Jong Un (obscured by a Santa hat, beard and glasses) as well as most of the others in the picture round meant that we finished strongly.  With a grand total of fifty-four points, we took first place, three points clear of “Something Simple” who finished second.  After a quick chat with a nice couple from Faringdon who had been marking our answers and had played Karuba and Ticket to Ride with their family over the holidays, we took care of the complicated matter of the bill (taking into account our winnings) and Violet and her mum went home.

Quiz
– Image by boardGOATS

Since Pine had his drink to finish and Blue and Pink had taken the precaution of bringing along a couple of small games, we decided to do what gamers do best and play games.  First up was No Thanks!.  This is a great little “push your luck” game where a card is turned over and players have to take the card or pay a mini poker chip to pass the problem on to the next player.  At the end of the round, players add the face values of the cards together and offset this with any remaining points to give their total – the smallest value is the winner.  The really clever part is that if a player has a run of consecutive cards, then only the lowest counts.  Spice is added by the removal of nine cards from the original thirty-two consecutive cards in the deck.  Blue did appallingly badly throughout, and while Pine won both the first two rounds, Pink won the final one by such a large margin that his aggregate total was the lowest overall, making him the winner.

No Thanks!
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

After that we played a few quick rounds of Love Letter.  This simple game played with just sixteen cards is almost the ubiquitous filler game.  Starting with one card, on their turn players draw a second and choose one to play.  Each card has a number and an action and the player left with the highest card at the end is the winner.   Pink tried to insist that Blue was always the Baron, only to get caught out as the Baron himself.  Blue started the next round as the Princess, so swapped cards with Pink and promptly caught him on the next turn.  In contrast, Pine managed to go nearly an entire round as the Princess only to be caught just before the end.  It was close and it all came down the the last game, but in a move that would have drawn allegations of match-fixing in football, Pink drew his second card face up by mistake, and then chose not to play it.  Pine gleefully assassinated Pink’s Baron once again, only to succumb himself a couple of rounds later leaving Blue to finish with three wins (to Pink’s two) and claimed victory.

LoveLetter
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  Gamers can be good at quizzes too.

 

Boardgames in the News: Ten Great Games to Play with the Family at Christmas

With the nights drawing in and the weather becoming increasingly wet and wintery, what could be nicer than an afternoon playing board games in front of the fire?  If you are new to the hobby, here are ten great modern boardgames to play over the Christmas holidays.  These are all readily available online and/or in dedicated boardgame shops.

  1. PitchCar – This superb car racing game is guaranteed to get kids of all ages playing together; the winner is the person who manages to flick their car round the track first. The game plays six people, but you can get more cars from the Ferti website and play a pursuit type game which is also good fun.  You can also get expansion packs to make your track longer and more interesting if you really like it.
    Target Audience: Families & parties; ages 2 to 102…
    Game Time: From half an hour tailor-able to the group, plus time to build the track.
    Price:  Approximately £45 from amazon.co.uk for the base game (also available in a slightly cheaper mini-version for those without a large table).

    PitchCar
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor garyjames
  2. Tsuro – Players take it in turns to build a path for their “dragon”, creating a maze for everyone else at the same time. The game lasts just fifteen to twenty minutes and plays up to eight people.  It combines just enough strategy and luck that if you get knocked out early, there is always time to try again.  Don’t be tempted to get Tsuro of the Seas though, it takes all the really good things about Tsuro and makes them slightly less good.
    Target Audience: Friends & Families with ages 8+
    Game Time: 15-20 mins with almost no set up time.
    Price:  £20-25 from amazon.co.uk.

    Tsuro
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv
  3. Bohnanza – This one sounds really uninspiring on reading the rules:  players have to trade beans to make the most money from the biggest and best bean fields.  Despite the unpromising sound, you only need to play it once with a couple of other people and before you’ve gone far you will agree it is one of the best games ever made – never has bean farming been so much fun!
    Target Audience: Older children and adults; ages 10+
    Game Time: 45-60 mins
    Price:  Readily available for around £15-20.

    Bohnanza
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor spearjr
  4. Dobble – With five games in the tin, this Snap-inspired game is excellent value.  Since it relies on reactions, it is also one of those games where children are often genuinely better than adults.  And it is so quick to play that it is an ideal game to squeeze in while the kettle is boiling or tea is brewing.
    Target Audience: 3 and up
    Game Time: 2 mins per round
    Price:  Readily available for around £10 or less.

    Dobble
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari
  5. Escape:  The Curse of the Temple – While most Euro Games don’t use dice, in this game players have five each.  This is a team game that is played against the clock, so has the advantage that everyone wins or loses together.  The team of five players simultaneously roll dice to explore the temple and activate gemstones and then try to escape together before the temple collapses around their ears.  This is also ideal for children to play with adults as they can work in pairs or groups learning communication and team working skills.  If the game seems too difficult for the group, it can also be made a little easier by reducing the number of gems the group have to activate.
    Target Audience: age 5+ as long as there are understanding adults playing
    Game Time: 10 mins per game plus a few minutes setting up
    Price:  approximately £25-30 from amazon.co.uk.

    Escape: The Curse of the Temple
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor mikehulsebus
  6. Survive: Escape from Atlantis! – This is good fun and really, really nasty.  Not quite so easy to learn, but really not that difficult either and great fun with four people who have a competitive streak.  Each player has a number of pieces that they are trying to get from the central island to the mainland.  Players take it in turns to move a person or boat, then they take a piece from the island, finally they roll a die to move a whale, shark or sea-monster, with potentially devastating consequences…
    Target Audience: Teenagers; not recommended for children under 12 or people who can’t take getting picked on
    Game Time: 40-60 mins
    Price:  Approximately £25-30 from amazon.co.uk; a 5-6 player expansion is also available which makes things even nastier…

    Survive: Escape from Atlantis!
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor ckirkman
  7. Dixit – This is a great game to play with the mums and grannies in the family.  Players take it in turns to be the “story teller” who chooses a card from their hand and gives a clue that everyone else tries to match.  Everyone then has to guess which card belonged to the story teller, with points awarded for good guesses as well as cards that mislead other players.  The original base game plays six well, but Dixit: Odyssey plays up to twelve with a slight tweak to the rules.  Extra decks of cards are also available.
    Target Audience: Friendly groups and parties.
    Game Time: 30-45 mins
    Price:  Approximately £15-30 from amazon.co.uk, depending on the version.

    Dixit
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor lacxox
  8. Colt Express – For older children and younger adults, this game is a glorious mixture of controlled chaos.  Players are bandits attacking and looting a fantastic 3D train.  Rounds are broken into two parts, first players take it in turns to choose the cards they will play placing them in a communal pile the centre of the table.  Then, once everyone has chosen, players carry out the action on each card in turn.  The problem is by the time they get to the end, the plans they had at the start have gone terribly awry…  A similar feel can be got from the pirate themed Walk the Plank! which is a cheaper, smaller, easier game that packs a lot of fun into a shorter playing time.
    Target Audience: Young, and not-so-young adults.
    Game Time: 30-60 mins
    Price:  Approximately £25 from amazon.co.uk; Walk the Plank! is available for £15-20.

    Colt Express
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman
  9. Ticket to Ride: Europe – Players are collecting coloured cards and spending them to place plastic trains on map/board with the aim of trying to build routes across Europe.  This game has been around a little while now and is available in several different flavours:  for the typical UK family, the Europe edition is probably best (plays up to five players), but for a couple, the Nordic edition with its gorgeous festive artwork might be more appropriate (only two to three players though).  If it is popular, there are also a number of expansion maps available.
    Target Audience: Age 10+.
    Game Time: 30-60 mins
    Price:  Readily available for available for £25-40 depending on the version and vendor.

    Ticket to Ride: Europe
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke
  10. No Thanks! – A quick and simple little betting game anyone can play.  The game consists of a deck of cards and some red plastic chips.  The first can take the top card, or pay a chip and pass the problem onto the next player.  The aim of the game is to finish with the lowest total face value of the cards, but if woe-betide anyone who runs out of chips as they will be left at the mercy of everyone else.
    Target Audience:  Friends and families; children aged 8+.
    Game Time: 10-15 mins
    Price:  Readily available for approximately £10.

    No Thanks!
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor ckirkman

17th Movember 2015

While Burgundy, Magenta and Blue were busy feeding, we decided to play something to keep Pine from eating too many of the chips, so for the third games night running, we had a quick mess about with magnets and bells in Bellz!.  It was another close game with some slightly borderline shaking and other sneaky efforts.  Before long though after incredible snatch taking two medium bells as he moved faster than magnetism, Burgundy had only one large bell left.  This solitary bell was very effectively trapped though and he failed to take the opportunity leaving Blue to close out.  Pine followed, despite the fact that he claimed he was no good at dexterity games.

Bellz!
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor SpeedD

With people still finishing, we looked for another light game that people could play while wielding cutlery, and No Thanks! fitted the bill.  This is a very simple game that we used to play quite a lot, but recently has languished in the box, usurped by newer fare.  The game is very simple:  from a shuffled deck of thirty-three cards (numbered three to thirty-five), nine cards are removed and the top card turned face up.  The first player has a choice they can either take the card or pay a chip and pass the problem on to the next player.  This player can either take the card and the chip or pay a chip and so on.  At the end of the game the face values of each player’s cards are totalled (offset by any remaining chips) and the player with the lowest number is the winner.  The catch is that if players have consecutive cards, only the lowest counts, which is where the fun really starts.

No Thanks!
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

The game is all about keeping your nerve and picking up the right card at the right time.  Burgundy began by picking up some high cards, while Pine started with a few cards in the twenties and teens.  Blue and Magenta stuck it out as long as they could before they were forced to take something.  Somehow Blue managed to avoid anything really horrid until the last card when Magenta persuaded Burgundy to hand it on leaving her with a whopping sixty-nine and last place.  With Burgundy unable to get the cards he needed to extend his run, that left just Magenta and Pine with Pine taking it by four points with just twenty three points.

No Thanks!
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mikehulsebus

Not expecting anyone else to arrive, we decided to move onto the “Feature Game” which was Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King.  This is a tile laying game with some similarity to Carcassonne, except that players have their own map and the tiles are auctioned.  Played over six rounds, players start by earning income for their clan’s territory, getting five gold for their castle and one for each whiskey distillery (barrels) connected to their castle by road.  Next, each player draws three tiles from a bag and places them in a row in front of their screen.  In private, the players then allocate piles of coins to two of the tiles and a mattock marker to the third.  The coins represent the cost anyone buying a tile will have to pay, while the mattock indicates which tile will be discarded.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Once everyone has decided the value of their tiles, the screens are removed and the tiles marked with a mattock discarded.  Next, beginning with the start player, each player takes it in turn to buy a tile from one of the other players.  When everyone has either bought a tile or passed, all remaining tiles are bought for the assigned value by the owner.  So, when setting the value, players have to be very careful not to over-price something otherwise they will be left paying over the odds for something they don’t want.  In fact, the problem is worse than that as the difference between being forced to buy your own tile and selling it is twice the assigned value.

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

After all the tiles have been bought, players add them to their clan territories following the Carcassonne riles that terrain must match.  However, presumably since all roads on Skye are just dirt tracks, roads do not need to connect, something those of us who suffer with OCD found quite offensive to begin with.  At the end of the round, points are awarded according to the four scoring tiles chosen at random at the start of the game.  In our game the scoring tiles were:

  1. One point for each animal next to a farm;
  2. Three points for each lake with a ship and a lighthouse;
  3. Two points for each cow on a road connected to the castle;
  4. Five points for the person with the most barrels and two for the person with the next most barrels.
Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

At the end of the first round, just scoring tile “A” is scored, at the end of the second, just tile “B”, but at the end of the third, both “C” and “D” are scored so that each tile is scored three times during the game, at the end of different rounds, in different combinations.  At the end of the game, each player turns any residual money into points (at a rate of five to one) and players also score any scroll tiles they may have been able to add to their clan territory.  These give a set number of points for certain items, for example, one point for each pair of ships etc.  These are scored twice it the terrain the scroll is in is “complete”, i.e. it is enclosed.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Punkin312

Burgundy was the only player who had played the game before and commented that he had been given a bit of a pasting so was hoping to do better, though he thought it was a hard game.  It didn’t sound hard at all, but we quickly discovered what he meant, with everyone struggling from the very beginning.  Pine and Magenta made the best starts getting farms and animals and scoring early, while Blue and Burgundy brought up the rear.  Blue, who never does well in more strategic games drew scroll tiles that rewarded players with barrels.  Unfortunately, as barrel tiles connected to the castle give players money at the start of the game, and scoring tile “D” gave points for them, they were a hot commodity and Blue was quickly left behind.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

As he’d found the previous time he’d played, Burgundy could see the tiles he wanted, but was struggling to acquire them or keep them.  As a result he started to drop off the pace and before long, Pine had left Magenta as well and was romping away looking like he might start to lap people.  While everyone else moaned as they struggled to do what they wanted, Pine continued happily collecting lots and lots of cows and sheep which he cleverly added to his growing conurbation of farms so that they counted multiple times.  In the later rounds, however, there is a catch-up mechanism which gives extra money to the players at the back.

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

From round three onwards, at the start of the round, each player gets additional money for each player in front of them.  The amount increases as the game progresses, so the player at the back gets an extra three gold coins at the start of round three, but a massive twelve additional gold at the start of the final round.  Unfortunately, we somehow managed to botch this, half-way through the game switching to handing it out at the end of the round instead of the start, so the additional wherewithal didn’t quite give people the extra buying power intended by the designers.  That said, although Pine was the clear winner by nearly thirty points with a total of eighty-five, Blue managed move from a long way behind everyone else into second place thanks to scroll scoring that capitalised on all the brochs and barrels she had acquired.  For all the moaning, everyone enjoyed the game and agreed that it needed playing again as it would probably be very different with different scoring tiles.

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

After some discussion about what to play and flirting briefly with the idea of Aquaretto,  we decided to play Port Royal.  Although we’d played it before, it was one of those games that it is somehow hard to remember and therefore Blue made a bit of a pig’s ear of teaching it.  That said, it isn’t a complicated game:  the game is played in turns with the active player turning over cards.  They can keep turning over cards until either they choose to stop or they draw a second ship card that they cannot repel.  Assuming they choose to stop, they can then take a ship card or buy a character card before the remaining cards are offered round the table with players paying the active player one doubloon if they choose to buy/take a card.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

The key is the character cards as they are what enable players to build an engine and get an advantage over the opposition.  Unfortunately for him, Burgundy never seemed to have enough money when the cards he wanted came up.  On the other hand, Magenta took a Jester at just the right moment to give her a steady income exactly when she needed it.  Meanwhile, Blue picked up some good cards, but failed to capitalise and Pine began collecting for contracts, but couldn’t pick up the most cost effective ones.  Then, suddenly, Magenta snuck up on the inside and Pine pointed out that she had eleven points.  Blue then lost the plot a little and let her get the twelfth point which triggered the end of the game.  Nobody could improve their position much, except Magenta who rubbed salt in the wound buying another two cards.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor jsper

With the evening nearing the end, we decided to give another new game a quick try as it the box said it only took five to ten minutes.  Well, an hour later, we were still playing Red7, and the landlord was subtly reminding us of the time…  So how did it go so wrong?  Well the game is fairly straight forward:  on their turn, each player can play one card from their hand into their tableau in front of them, or play a card into the centre which changes the rules of the game (a little like Fluxx), or they can do both.  If they cannot play a card or choose not to, they are out of the round.

Red7
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

The game is played with a deck of forty-nine cards, numbered one to seven and in seven different colour suits.  Each player starts with seven cards in hand and one face up on the table.  The player with the highest value card is “winning” because the rule at the start is that the highest card wins.  In the event that there is a tie and the highest face value is displayed by more than one player, the tie is broken by the colours with red higher than orange, which is high than yellow and so on through the spectrum to violet.  The colours also dictate the rules, so any red card played in the centre will change the rules to “the highest” wins.  Similarly, any orange card played in the centre changes the rules so that the winner is the person with the most cards of the same number.

Red7
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

In each case, ties are broken by the card that is highest (taking into account both number and colour) from the cards that satisfy the current rule.  Thus, if the rule is “the most even cards” and there are two players with the same number of even cards in front of them, the player with the highest even card is the winner.  At the end of their turn, the active player must be in a winning position, or they are out of the round. The round continues until there is only one player left.  Magenta took the first round with eight points and Burgundy the next with eleven.  When Magenta took the third and Blue the fourth, Pine was beginning to feel a little left out.  After Burgundy took the fifth round which took him to twenty-seven points (more than twice any one else’s total), we decided to give Pine one last chance as clearly Burgundy had it in the bag.  Sadly, for Pine, the last round was taken by Blue with a massive twenty-two points putting her just three points ahead of Burgundy.

Red7
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

So why did the game take so much longer than advertised?  Well, obviously we had to read and understand the rules, but that didn’t account for it.  Each round does indeed take about five to ten minutes, but we didn’t feel we had really grasped it after one round and the rules for the advanced game also say that players should continue until one reaches a set number of points.  So we just played another round and then another and another… By the end we were just starting to get the hang of it, but we were also really beginning to appreciate the depth of something so very simple.  Part of the issue is getting into the mindset that enables you to quickly evaluate what cards you can play.  The next level is working out what is the best card to play that keeps the maximum level of options open.  However, by the last round we were just beginning to see that the game was really about using the rules to control what the other players could do, driving the game and ultimately, maximising the number of points won, or minimising the number of points taken by the opposition.  As a game, the structure of this has a lot in common with Love Letter and could another quick filler in a similar vein.

Red7
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Learning Outcome:  Simple games can turn out to be amongst the most complex.

BoardGOATS @ “The Mix” II – Saturday 21st November 2015

Following the success of our first drop-in session in April, The Mix in Wantage town centre is again hosting a gaming session on Saturday from 10.30 am until 2 pm.  Once again, members of the club will be providing games and teaching people how to play them.

The Mix
– Image from thewantagemix.wordpress.com

There isn’t very much space so we won’t be playing long games, in any case, the idea is to show people what modern boardgames are all about by demonstrating shorter games.  We will bring a few eye-catching games like PitchCar, Riff Raff, Bamboleo, Boom Boom Balloon, Toc Toc Woodman, and Saturn, but most of the gaming will be smaller filler games like Dobble, Turf Horse Racing, No Thanks!, Walk the Plank!, Love Letter, The Great Balloon Race and some of our other light favourites.  We will also be bringing some of the classic gateway games like Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, The Settlers of Catan and Jamaica as well as a small number of deeper games, just to show people what else is out there.

Boom Boom Balloon
– Image used with permission of henk.rolleman

Boardgames in the News: The Past, Present and Future of Z-man Games

The summer is now here which means conferences and take-overs.  Last summer, Asmodée acquired Days of Wonder and then followed it with Fantasy Flight Games, Ystari Games, Asterion Press and Pearl Games. Last week, Canadian company F2Z Entertainment announced the purchase of the U.S. company Plaid Hat Games (who are responsible for Dead of Winter and Summoner Wars).  Most people in the UK will have no idea who F2Z Entertainment are, however, they are the parent company of Pretzel Games, but perhaps more significantly, they also own Filosofia Éditions who in turn bought Z-Man Games four years ago.

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
– Image by BGG contributor mikehulsebus

Z-Man Games was created in 1999 by New Yorker, Zev Shlasinger, for the sole purpose of reviving Shadowfist, the multiplayer Collectable Card Game.  From then on, the company produced a number of other American style games, including Grave Robbers from Outer Space and Ideology: The War of Ideas.  The company had a much more significant impact on Euro-games, however, by introducing many German games to the United States.  Z-man was one of the first companies to do this by actively engaging with the original European manufacturer and providing English translations.  The first game to receive this treatment was Ursuppe (a.k.a. Primordial Soup) designed and produced by Doris & Frank.   At the time, this was a very highly regarded game and the success of this reproduction quickly led to English editions of games like Santiago, Saboteur and No Thanks!.

Ursuppe (a.k.a. Primordial Soup)
– Image used with permission from BGG contributor samoan_jo

In 2007, Agricola was released in Germany to great acclaim, but as the cards are very text-heavy, it was essentially unplayable by non-native speakers.  The problem with this game was the huge number of wooden pieces adding to the expense of producing a new edition.  At the time, heavy Euro-games were perceived as a niche market and nobody was prepared to risk the capital outlay for such an expensive game.  Z-Man were only a small company and were already engaged on their own projects including the production of what was to become another hit, Pandemic, and could not take the risk either.  In the end, amid much controversy, Zev Shlasinger decided to gauge the interest of the community with one of the first boardgame pre-orders and the rest, as they say, is history.  So the impact of Z-Man on the history of modern boardgames highly significant, and arguably, they were the forerunner of the current KickStarter Craze.

Agricola
– Image by BGG contributor Simulacrum

In 2011, Z-Man Games was taken over by the French-Canadian distributor, Filosofia Éditions.  With the take-over of Plaid Hat Games last week, the company now has the “cradle to grave” of the boardgame market:  creation, publishing and distribution.  So in that sense, the deal is clearly a sensible one.  However, Z-Man Games used to be a by-word for exceptional customer service and following the take-over by Filosofia, this reputation was tarnished.  Although it seems to be picking up again, this demonstrates one of the downsides of this streamlining of the market.  More serious however, is the potential loss of innovation that comes from  agglomeration, particularly on a large scale.  That said, so far at least, all the “studios” that are part of the Asmodée group have kept their identity – the boardgamer in the pub would have no idea that Fantasy Flight Games and Days of Wonder are part of the same company.  Only time will tell whether we have seen the pinnacle of the golden age of boardgames or whether there is even better still to come.

Z-man Games
– Image by marshallgames.co.uk