Tag Archives: Noch Mal!

27th April 2021 (Online)

The evening started with Beige protesting about the lack of Dinosaurs.  This had to be explained to everyone else:  Pink had dropped round paperwork for Welcome to Dino World on Monday, only for Blue to realise that she’d got confused.  This meant that everyone now wanted Dinosaurs and felt they’d missed out on something they hadn’t known wasn’t going to happen…

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

In order to mark the start of “Golden Week” on Thursday, the “Feature Game” was the MetroX expansion, Sendai & Hakata & Nagoya.  “Golden Week” encompasses four of Japan’s national holidays, celebrating the Japanese Constitution (May 3rd), Children’s day (May 5th), Emperor Hirohito’s birthday (April 29th) and his love of plants (May 4th, also known as Star Wars Day).  Blue’s confusion with dates meant she had thought it was the end of May, not the start.  Still, it meant people have something “up-roar-us” to look forward to in a month or so, and in the meantime, they had trains to play with.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

MetroX is a game we played a few months ago and was provided by Blue’s very lovely BGG Secret Santa.  Somehow, although it is not complicated, it is a rather difficult game to get your head round.  In summary, the game is a variant on the “Roll and Write” games where a card is turned over and players write on their train map.  They assign the number on the card to a line and “build” that number of stations along the line (marking them with an open circle).  When a player completes a line, they score points with the first player (or players) scoring more points than those to finish the line in later rounds (similar to the scoring for columns in Noch Mal! and Noch Mal So Gut!).

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

There are four different types of card, but the most common are plain numbers which allow players to just build stations and these are numbered two to six, with fewer of the high numbers.  Each line must be extended from the start end (the end with the “Indicator Boxes”, marked in red on our paperwork).  This means that although stations can be built in the middle of the line because they are part of another line, stations cannot be added beyond this point (where the lines diverge) unless all the earlier stations have been completed.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Normal number cards cannot “skip” completed stations.  In other words, in a line where the first two stations have not been completed, but the third has, if a “Six” is used to build the first two, the third cannot be jumped, and the remaining four are wasted.  So efficiency is the name of the game.  There are a small number of special cards with a circle round the number that allow players to skip completed stations, but these are few and far between and are only low numbers.  There is also a wild that allows players to fill in one station anywhere on the board without filling in an indicator box.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to scoring points for completed lines, players can also score a lot of points for intersections.  In the deck of just twenty cards, there are three “Star Cards”.  These allow players to build just one station at the cost of one Indicator Box, but instead of writing a zero in the box, they write a number that corresponds to twice the number of lines that go through the station—this is the number of points they score at the end of the game.  With some stations forming the intersection of four or five lines, these can be very lucrative, but the timing of these cards is really critical.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the early cards were not helpful with a circle card coming out first, when there was no opportunity to take advantage of their special ability.  The second card produced even more moans and groans as it was a “Star”, when there was only one place that would give more than two points and some people had already used that with the first card.  There was a bit of confusion as well with some of the colours looking a bit similar as a result, Purple was quick off the mark and was the first to claim a line, but others thought it wasn’t possible given the number of cards we’d had; it turned out the line was longer than she thought.

MetroX: Sendai & Hakata & Nagoya
– Image by boardGOATS

Several people got in a bit of a mess, but Pine got into such a tangle that he retired early as fixing his problems was too difficult.  We got all the way through the deck on the first pass, as the “six” (and shuffle the deck) card was the very last in the deck.  Which meant we had the full quota of low numbers (and high numbers too), and as we’d had some useful cards at the start everyone struggled at times.  Despite the issues, it didn’t really take long to play.  So, while everyone else was still counting up Ivory was the first to post with a massive, and what proved unbeatable score of twenty-eight, helped by being able to put one of his “stars” on the one highest scoring space, giving him a eight points.

MetroX: Sendai & Hakata & Nagoya
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy claimed a “moral score” of twenty-six, which would have given him second place, though in reality he was just off the podium behind Green with twenty-three and Black with twenty-two.  With that, Lime took an early night and Pine joined the group again for the lighter, travelling band, route planning game, On Tour.  We first played this back in January, but a few people missed out.  Those that had been there had really enjoyed it though, and we were keen to give it another go.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is really, really simple:  two d10 dice are rolled to give two numbers.  These are combined to give two, two-digit numbers.  Players have a map with a network of circles, and write these two numbers in two of the circles somewhere on their map.  At the end of the game, they have to plot a route through the numbers along the provided connections such that the route connects adjacent points starting with a low number and never decreasing.  Players get one point for each circle they manage to visit.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

There is a restriction provided by cards which indicate the area of the map numbers can be placed in on each turn.  These also provide a specific location, such that players who place a number in that circle score a bonus if their route goes through it.  There are two maps available:  USA and Europe, so being a group full of Europhiles, this time, we chose Europe.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

The dice were particularly challenging this time though and despite both Blue and Pink trying, neither managed to roll a five, or a two, and there were an awful lot of nines.  There were the inevitable complaints when people didn’t get what they wanted, and these increased in number as things became increasingly critical as the end approached.  Pink possibly came off the worst claiming a “moral score” of thirty-seven, though his actual score was only twenty-five.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

Green managed the highest score, with thirty-eight with a route going from Ireland to Norway via Italy and Bulgaria.  Blue and Black made up the podium four and eight points behind respectively.  Time was marching on, but there was still time for our now traditional end-of-evening trip to Board Game Arena and after everyone had enthusiastically eschewed Dingo’s Dreams, we went for our old favourite, 6 Nimmt! (with the Professional Variant).

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

6 Nimmt! is so simple and so much fun, and we’ve played a lot of it online in the last year.  The simultaneous card selection means the downtime is minimal, and the balance between strategy and luck means it is the perfect game for our large group at the end of the evening.  Starting with the card with the lowest face value, they are added to the end of row that ends with the highest number that is lower than the card in question.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

If the card is the sixth card, the player picks up all the other cards, and that is exactly what happened to Blue on just the second turn.  This game is one of those where once it goes wrong it goes very wrong, and from there, things just went from bad to worse for her as she picked up again on the third turn too.  She wasn’t the only one to get unlucky of course.  For example, Pink managed to pick up on the first turn of one round when four of the other six other players played cards between ninety-one and a hundred, leaving him to place the next card and pick up a pile of cards.

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

Fairly inevitably, Blue ended the game, though it was closer than it might have been with Burgundy finishing with just one point left from his starting sixty-six.  At the other end, Pine (who always does well in this game), lost just ten points giving him a massive win, with twenty-five points more than anyone else.  After a vote on Vevox to decide what to play, we went for the easy option and decided to play 6 Nimmt! again.

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

This time, Pine did not do quite so well and Pink was the one who managed finish with the most points, fifteen points clear of second place, which this time went to Blue.  Remarkably, Burgundy managed the whole of the final round with just one point and on the last card, Purple pipped him to the post and ended the game.  Green had spent a large portion of the second game talking to himself when his sound went down, so decided that was his queue to finish.  Another online vote confirmed things and everyone went to bed.

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

Learning Outcome:  Every country should have a “Golden Week”.

16th February 2021 (Online)

Purple and Black were the first to arrive and chatted with Pine when he popped up.  There was some chit-chat about where Mulberry and Red were at the moment and eventually Green, Lilac, Burgundy, and Ivory also joined the party.  In a return to the “Roll and Write” style of game, the “Feature Game” was to be MetroX (aka メトロックス), a game based around routes on the Tokyo and Osaka underground maps.  People were gamely mispronouncing the names of the lines when Burgundy asked which map we were going to be using, which was when Blue realised that she had sent out the wrong file.  There was a brief hiatus as people fired up their printers and Pine explained how one of his friends had said he “looked like a row of sheep’s arses”, and then with the correct paperwork, we could get started.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is quite simple:  a card is turned over and players assign the number to a line and “build” that number of stations along the line.  When a player completes a line, they score points with the first player (or players) scoring more points than those to finish the line in later rounds (similar to the scoring for columns in Noch Mal! and Noch Mal So Gut! which we played a few weeks back).  There are four different types of cards, but the most common are plain numbers which allow players to just build stations and these are numbered two to six, with fewer of the high numbers.  With each line restricted so that only two or three number cards can be assigned to it, Pine was quick to point out the obvious flaw and with it, the whole point of the game.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Each line has roughly ten to fifteen stations, so while some could be completed with three high numbers, it is not possible to complete them all outright without an awful lot of luck (and/or some very bad shuffling!).  However, most stations appear on more than one line, so the game is about using lines that run parallel creatively, sacrificing some to ensure others score well.  There are catches though.  Firstly, each line must be extended from the start end (the end with the “Indicator Boxes”, marked in red on our paperwork).  This means that although stations can be built in the middle of the line because they are part of another line, stations cannot be added beyond this point (where the lines diverge) unless all the earlier stations have been completed.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Secondly, normal number cards cannot “skip” completed stations.  In other words, in a line where the first two stations have not been completed, but the third has, if a “Six” is used to build the first two, the third cannot be jumped, and the remaining four are wasted.  So efficiency is the order of the game.  There are a small number of special cards with a circle round the number that allow players to skip completed stations, but these are few and far between and are only low numbers.  There is also a wild that allows players to fill in one station anywhere on the board without filling in an indicator box.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to scoring points for completed lines, players can also score a lot of points for intersections.  In the deck of just twenty cards, there are three “Star Cards”.  These allow players to build just one station at the cost of one Indicator Box, but instead of writing a zero in the box, they write a number that corresponds to the number of lines that go through the station.  With some stations forming the intersection of four or five lines, these can be very lucrative, but of course these are in the middle of the board and therefore need careful planning and a bit of good fortune to be able to make them really count.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

People were not really taken with the rules and particularly with the fact they couldn’t see how it was going to work, generally didn’t feel it was “possible”, and that they were going to end up with negative points.  Everyone was happy to give it a go though and we started with the Tokyo board.  We started with a lot of high numbers which made the game seem really straight forward at first.  About half way through though, we discovered that Green had misunderstood the rules (again!) and there was a bit of clarification and a pause while he tried to rectify things.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple was the first to complete a line, claiming Fukutoshin.  That focussed everyone’s mind a bit as they realised it wasn’t quite so impossible after all.  Drawing a six triggers shuffling in the discard pile, and although Pink shuffled the deck thoroughly, the high cards returned, at least initially.  Eventually, we drew some “Stars” and people were able to start picking up bonus points for intersections as well.  Despite all his comments about how impossible it was, Pine soon claimed Namboku and Lilac claimed Chiyoda.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends when there are no Indicator boxes left, and it was as Pink and Burgundy started a count down of how many cards there were left that some players realised that they’d failed to fill them in every time.  There was a bit of a flurry as people tried to correct things and then it was all over and everyone started adding up their scores.  As usual, Ivory was first to post his score, and as usual, it was very competitive.  Pine wasn’t convinced his score of thirty-four was right, especially as it was one more than Ivory’s, but either way, they were both beaten by Pink and Black with thirty-seven and Black took it on a tie-breaker.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Now everyone had got the hang of things, we decided to give the second map, Osaka, a go.  In contrast to the last game, the first card was a “Star” and the other two came out shortly afterwards, making it very difficult for players to score lots of points for intersections.  Despite that, players still seemed to make good progress.  In fact, there were five claims for completing four different lines in one round with Pine, Green and Ivory completing Midosuji, Sakaisuji and Yotsubashi respectively, and Black finishing Yotsubashi as well and New Tram.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

It was just as the game was coming to a close that the gremlins from a month ago came back to victimise Black and Purple.  Unfortunately, we weren’t quick enough to spot it this time, and Pink had shuffled the deck before we noticed.  The game was close to the end so it was sad that we couldn’t see whether Pink or Black did better in the rematch, and everyone else decided to finish up while they sorted out their problems.  Like Take it Easy! a couple of weeks back, by the end, the players were desperately begging for particular cards they needed and as they got what they wanted there were sighs of relief, while other groaned when they got something they couldn’t use.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

When the last card had been revealed, everyone moved on to the scores.  Once again, Pine, was right up there finishing with a total of thirty, but Burgundy, one of the most improved finished one point ahead with thirty-one.  There was some chat about the game while Purple and Black rejoined us, and it seemed it suffered from “marmite factor” with Green saying it wasn’t for him (though if he’d got the rules right it might have helped), and Pine saying that although he’d won, he hadn’t really enjoyed it.  On the other hand, Blue, Pink, and Burgundy thought it was clever and liked it.  While we were chatting, Violet joined the group to talk about a new venture she was considering.

UKGE 2018
– Image by boardGOATS

She wondered whether there would be any interest in custom dice featuring the boardGOATS logo.  There was some discussion about weighting dice correctly so they are truly random and how the market would be, as nobody wanted Violet to spend money on something that would not give a return.  With Purple and Black back from their gremlin-bashing, Ivory took his leave and everyone else moved on to playing the inevitable 6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena.  We normally play this at the end of the evening, but this time, with lots of people, it put in an early appearance.

Cribbage
– Image by 311matman on instagram.com

While we waited for Violet to sort herself out with an account, Pine pointed out that Green had been playing games, so Green had started investigating Pine’s profile, marvelling at the number of experience points he had.  It was then that he pointed out that Pine was 24th in the overall rankings for Cribbage.  It’s true that most people who use Board Game Arena probably play Euro games rather than traditional games, but all of a sudden we realised we had a bit of a celebrity in our midst.  Eventually though, we got over being star-struck and actually started playing…

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

We’ve played 6 Nimmt! an awful lot, so it needs only a little introduction:  players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and they are revealed at the same time.  Starting with the lowest value card, the cards are added one at a time to four rows – the player who adds the sixth card, instead takes the other five which become their scoring pile.  On Board Game Arena, we now play the “Professional Variant”, where cards can be added to both ends of the rows, causing mayhem when least expected.

 

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

It takes a bit of time to get used to playing with the additional layer of complexity, so it wasn’t really a surprise that poor Violet won the race to the bottom, although he father, Green wasn’t really all that far behind.  The winner was Pink who picked up just ten “nimmts” and finished with fifty-six points.  Black was joint second with the inevitable Pine, who always does well at this game, though this time they were twenty points behind Pink.

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

Time was marching on, and with plenty of people still about, that limited our choices of game somewhat.  Before Christmas, we had given Incan Gold (aka Diamant) a try, but strange card draws had let to a very odd game.  As the dust settled, we decided to give it another go.  The game is a fairly simple “Push your Luck” game where players are exploring a temple.  Players decide whether they are going to stay and explore, or leave the temple and take any treasure with them.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

Players who stay in the temple will get shares in any treasure cards that are drawn that round, but if they are present when a second Hazard card of any given type is drawn, the temple collapses and buries everyone in it and they lose any treasure they have collected.  In the first round, Black left first followed by Green and then gradually everyone else except Pine and Pink decided discretion was the better part of valour.  Inevitably, they got caught, so in the second round Pink was the first to leave (quickly followed by Purple).

 

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

When a treasure came out everyone else tried to leave and take it with them, but as nobody left alone nobody managed to get it.  Eventually, only Pine, Burgundy and Blue were left in and when Blue and Burgundy left too, Pine was all by himself.  When he turned one last card he got fifteen gems all to himself and left with a total of twenty and the treasure as well, much to everyone else’s chagrin.  In the third round Black managed to escape alone to take a treasure and Pine and Green got caught by a couple mummies and while everyone else escaped, nobody scored very well.

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

In the fourth round, Burgundy almost managed to repeat Pine’s effort when he was last in the temple and turned over a fourteen so took all of it, leaving with seventeen gems.  The final round was a bit of a dud, with only Pink and Violet scoring and even they didn’t get much as they left together after the first round, so shared the seven gems left on the floor.  They did better than everyone else though because the fourth card was a second snake and that was that.  It was very close, but the winner was Burgundy, just one gem ahead of Pine.  Black made an excellent third, proving that consistency is important as well as big wins.  And with that, it was time for bed.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  It’s a great shame Henry Beck never worked in Japan.

19th January 2021 (Online)

Although they started the meeting early, Blue and Pink left Pine and Green to chat while they set things up.  Lime popped in and joined the chatter, with everyone else arriving in good time for 8pm.  Blue was just starting to explain the rules for the “Feature Game“, Noch Mal So Gut!, when the gremlins first put an appearance (and no, it wasn’t Beige, though he might have been responsible for summoning them).

Beige
– Image by Pine

For the most part, we’ve been quite lucky with the technology.  We’ve had a couple of issues, once when Lime and Ivory got alternately thrown out of Microsoft Teams and another when Tabletop Simulator died on us last April in the middle of a game of Finstere Flure (aka Fearsome Floors), but otherwise the issues have been very minor.  This time the Gremlin Attack was ultimately more spectacular, although it started slowly with Black and Purple having issues with the window-in-window Teams view that wouldn’t maximise.  Eventually the problem went away and Blue explained the rules.

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

Noch Mal So Gut! is a slightly more complex, more strategic version of Noch Mal!, a game we have played a few times (including with the first Zusatzblock) and is known within the group as “Boardgame Bingo“.  The basic version of the game is quite simple:  the active player rolls three colour and three number dice and picks one of each, using them to cross off coloured blocks on their player board.  Everyone else then picks one colour and one number from the remaining dice and uses them in the same way.  The player board consists of coloured squares in groups making blocks.  Squares can only be crossed off when they are orthogonally adjacent, match the colour on the die chosen and either start in the middle row (Row H) or are next to another square that has already been crossed off.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

The dice are numbered one to five with a wild for the sixth face, and the number indicates exactly how many squares must be crossed off, it is not possible to “overpay”.  Similarly, there are five colours and one wild (black)—each play only gets eight chances to use number or colour wilds during the game, so they must be used sparingly.  Points are scored for completing columns or crossing off all the squares of a colour, with the player who manages this first scoring more points than those to achieve it later in the game.  Negative points are scored for any stars that are not crossed off.  The game ends when a player crosses off all the squares of two colours.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

The second implementation, Noch Mal So Gut!, adds a couple of new features which add a large slice of strategy.  Firstly, there is an extra die which players can choose to use instead of the colour/number dice pair.   This special die provides actions like bombs which blow up any four squares in a two-by-two group, or the ability to cross out two squares with stars on them.  The special actions can only be used if a player has a “special die” token to spend.  These can be collected during the game, primarily by crossing off squares featuring the special symbol.  In addition to the special die, players also score points for completing rows, with the first successful player or players additionally gaining a bonus, special dice tokens, bombs or hearts.  The hearts are one of the symbols on the special die, in fact it features on two faces so comes up quite often.

Noch Mal So Gut!
– Image by boardGOATS

Hearts give players the bonus points when they complete columns; the number of bonus points they get depends on the number of hearts they have when they complete the column.  So this adds a little bit of spice to the game:  should a player spend dice rolls in the early stages on hearts and hope to be able to cash in later?  Or should they concentrate on completing rows and columns and end the game before other players can capitalise on the hearts they have collected?  The good thing about Noch Mal! (and the reimplementation) is the interaction, through the dice selection and also the scoring.  This is something that is sorely missing in many of the “Roll and Write” style games we have been playing.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

That said, the dice selection element does slow the game down somewhat.  It’s not too bad though, as everyone is only waiting for one player before they can make their selection simultaneously.  It didn’t take too long to get started, though first Black and Purple had technical issues and then Green dropped out for a bit too, so they all had to be filled in on the bits they missed.  A couple of others had a moment and Microsoft Teams got the blame, but we soon started playing, and as always, Ivory was quick to start collecting columns making rapid progress to the right where he started to claim lots of points.  We were making good progress when Black and Purple vanished, so we waited to see if they would come back.

Dots
– Dots by Dribbble on
pinterest.com

After some waiting, and attempts to invite them back, it was starting to look like they had a more serious problem.  Green offered to contact them by SMS and everyone else took drink, snack and litter tray breaks while the opportunity was there.  Eventually, we heard back that Black’s computer had crashed and was now doing a disk-check.  We were reluctant to admit defeat, so although we carried on without them, we took screen-shots of the dice choices they had, just in case they were able to rejoin us.  This was working fine until it was Black’s turn and it was looking like the game might have to continue without Black and Purple, when miraculously, they suddenly rejoined the meeting.  A quick flash back through the previous three or four rolls and the game continued from there.

Noch Mal So Gut!
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue picked up the first row, Green took one, Burgundy got a couple and Blue took a couple more.  Pink meanwhile had collected a full set of hearts and was starting to make hay on the bonus points.  People seemed to enjoy this implementation more than the original Noch Mal!, because it offers more in the way of strategy.  It was pushing 10pm by the time Burgundy brought the game to an end, though to be fair we’d spent nearly half of the time dealing with the gremlins. And it took a while to work out the scores too.  Like the original, the first task is to finish with a positive score, which this time, everyone managed.  As the totals came in, Burgundy, Green, Pink and Pine had all done well, but Blue was well out in front finishing with sixty-four points, more than twenty ahead of Pink in second.

Noch Mal So Gut!
– Image by boardGOATS

The lateness of the hour ruled out the possibility of playing ClipCut Parks or Cartographers (again!), and given the IT issues, we decided it was time to move to Board Game Arena.  After a bit of chit-chat about leaving up Christmas lights, Ivory and Lime said good night.  There was some discussion about what to play:  Pine commented that despite nominating it for the GOAT Poo prize before Christmas, he actually really liked Welcome To… on Board Game Arena, and for some reason found it better than playing on paper.  Green took a quick look and vetoed it as “another Roll and Write game” saying he’d had enough of them.  So eventually, we decide to play Saboteur.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Saboteur is an old favourite which we’ve played a lot over the years, including just two weeks ago.  This is a hidden traitor type game where players are Dwarves tunnelling to find gold, or evil Saboteurs trying to prevent the Dwarves succeeding.  Players have a hand of cards which they can use to progress the tunnel or or action cards which they can use to do things like stop other players from digging, cause rock-falls or look at the target cards and help to identify where the gold is hidden.  Half the fun in this game is the banter and accusations that go along with it.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the banter started with Green accusing Blue of being a Saboteur, mostly just because.  Blue retaliated and accused Green, but when Pink played a dead-end card on the main route to the gold, Black broke Pink’s pickaxe for him and Pine followed by breaking his lamp. Green triggered a rock-fall only for his suspicions about Blue to be confirmed when she blocked the tunnel.  With Purple aligning herself on the side of the Saboteurs, by breaking Green’s pick, the three Saboteurs knew each other.  The game is always really difficult for the Saboteurs, but with three against four Dwarves and the tunnel blocked, there was just a chance that they might manage it this time.

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

Pink broke Black’s trolley only for Burgundy to repair it immediately.  Pine removed the blockage and Blue blocked it again.  Eventually Pine cleared it again and with the deck exhausted, victory for the Saboteurs was tantalisingly close.  That triggered a tsunami of tool destruction.  The Dwarves were creeping ever closer to their target though, but there was just a chance.  If Purple could play a straight tunnel past the target it would mean the Dwarves would have to tunnel that bit further, and perhaps they wouldn’t have the cards.

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

Unfortunately, Purple misunderstood and, amid much hilarity, the Dwarves gleefully claimed their treasure.  They almost certainly would have won anyhow, but it still felt a bit like an opportunity missed.  There wasn’t time to dwell on it though as it was time for the second round.  Burgundy declared his position early by playing a dead end card forcing Pink to clear it, exonerating him.  Pine joined Burgundy’s side when he caused a tunnel collapse in the middle of Route One and Purple again showed her evil side by breaking tools.  The Dwarves quickly patched up the tunnel, but the Saboteurs again put up a fight.

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

Eventually, Blue claimed some coal and the gold with a single card, and it was time for the third round.  This time, the Dwarves hedged their bets and started with a three-pronged approach, but before long, the tunnel was marching forward towards the central card.  Green revealed his true nature as an Evil Saboteur by playing a dead-end card and was joined by Purple and Pink, (again). Pine cleared his blockage enabling Black to get to the treasure before the deck was exhausted.

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

The winner depends on the distribution of “gold cards” at the end of each round.  There are the same number of cards as players, and the number of gold on the cards varies at random between one and three.  The person who finds the gold will always get the highest value card and one other, as they are doled out to the winning team, highest first, in reverse player order.  The problem is, as the Dwarves have the advantage, the “winner” will almost always be a player who has not been a Saboteur.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

This time that was not the case, with Blue and Burgundy tying for first place, both having been Saboteurs, but also both having personally found gold and also been the penultimate player (thus getting four cards).  Black was the only player not to have been Evil at some point during the game and took the bronze medal, also having taken four cards, but with a lower total value.  Poor Purple though, who had been a Saboteur in all three rounds definitely drew the short straw.  In fact, we are starting to think her friendly exterior belies an Evil lurking beneath as she has been the Saboteur on no fewer than four occasions this year already!

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

As Pink and Pine signed off, eschewing our usual finale of 6 Nimmt!, this time we enticed Green to stay for one last game of Coloretto.  This is a very simple card game that forms the underlying mechanism of the perhaps better known board game, Zooloretto.  On their turn, players have a very simple choice:  Draw a coloured chameleon card and add it to a truck, or take a truck.  The chameleons come in seven different colours and players are trying to build sets, but only the largest three sets will score positively, with the rest subtracted from that total.  With five players, the game is quite short.  This time, the game started with everyone pretty much level until Blue started to lag behind.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Forced to gamble, when she found herself the only player left “in” with an almost empty truck, she chanced her arm and turned over cards.  When she got lucky the first time, she tried gambled the second time it happened and went from the back of the pack to taking a large lead.  Black tried the same trick and also got lucky then when Burgundy decided to “take one for the team” and played “King Maker”, Black took the lead as the game came to an end and held on for a fine victory.  With that, Green decided it was definitely time for bed and after a little bit of chit-chat, everyone else went too.

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

Learning Outcome:  Being evil is harder than you might think.

Remote Gaming: Some Learning Outcomes

With the advent of Covid-19, boardGOATS, like many other groups were left with the choice of meeting online or not meeting at all.  So, like many other groups, boardGOATS chose to try to continue with meetings.  While some groups have struggled, dwindled, and eventually given up, so far, boardGOATS has managed to keep going with almost everyone still attending regularly.  We decided that we would put together this summary of some of the reasons we think we are still meeting, and a resource companion in case anyone else is in the same boat.

Setting up for online gaming
– Image by boardGOATS

The first, and by far the most important factor is that everyone has been extremely patient and very tolerant of the limitations.  Everyone is fundamentally appreciative of the interaction meeting online offers and have been amazingly understanding of the current issues.  This is essential.  Secondly, we meet once a fortnight:  boardGOATS meetings have always been alternate weeks, but this is actually quite key when meeting online.  If meetings are too frequent everyone can get very frustrated quite quickly, but too infrequent and people lose the routine.  As it is, fortnightly means everyone makes a date to make it happen as otherwise the next one would be a month away.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Finally, there’s planning and organisation.  Having a plan is vital if things are to run smoothly, and smooth is essential to avoid people becoming frustrated.  The group has always had a “Feature Game“, because we’ve always been a group that takes ages to decide what to play; having a starting option helps us to get going a bit quicker.  With remote meetings, however, the “Feature Game” has become essential.  It is also important that someone takes the lead to teach if necessary, and keep things moving to stop games dragging, but also allows the all important banter to flow when possible as well.

Tsuro on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS

The group have broadly used three different approaches to remote gaming, all underpinned by Microsoft Teams.  This choice of platform is largely immaterial, but our decision was made early on because of possible security issues with alternatives and the hardware that some of the group were using.  Either way, this provides sound and, where required, visuals.  We always start the meeting early and then leave a place holder in front of the game camera so everyone knows which screen to pin in advance.  In our case we usually use a stuffed panda doing something humourous, but a game box would suffice too.

The three different approaches to remote gaming we have used have been:

  • A real-life game hosted at one location, shared through Teams.
    This works well, but really only for relatively simple games like Second Chance, HexRoller or Noch Mal!, though we’ve played Cartographers and Troyes Dice as well.  It turns out that “Roll and Write” type games work exceptionally well, but other games are possible too.  The most complicated game we’ve played using this method is Las Vegas/Las Vegas Royale, which is one of the group’s favourites, but this is right on the limit of what is possible.  The key is that players need to be able to see the whole game layout with all the information.  For this, the resolution of the camera is important, but also that of the screen used for displaying it at the other end.  Video compression by the platform feeding the data can also be an issue.  Lighting is absolutely critical too—good lighting makes all the difference.
    Main Advantage:  We’ve found this feels most like playing a “real” game.
    Main Disadvantages:  One person/location does most of the manipulation, and there is a  complexity limitation.
    Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
  • A virtual game on Tabletop Simulator manipulated by a small number of people , shared with everyone else through Teams.
    Some people can’t install software on their computers and for others sand-box type environments like Tabletop Simulator are too complex.  Piping a virtual game through Teams is a sort of half-way house.  To make this work, the person “hosting” has to set the game up with the camera view set to “overhead” with everything in view, and leave it there.  Then they share this screen through their meeting platform (in our case, Microsoft Teams).  Again, this means there is a limit on the complexity of the game:  the most complex games we’ve played using this method are Camel Up and Finstere Flure (aka Fearsome Floors)These have worked quite well, but it’s a bit more impersonal and relies on a small number of people operating the Simulator to make the game work.  Downtime is a bit of an issue too for turn based games.  For these reasons, this has been the least popular method for our group.
    Main Advantage:  We can modify and play slightly more complex games to our own house-rules.
    Main Disadvantages:  People need to be comfortable with the software and there are limitations caused by the stability of the platform as well as there being a steep learning curve for those who are not used to playing computer games.
    Tsuro on Tabletop Simulator
  • An online game played on a website (e.g. Board Game Arena) with audio provided by Teams.
    These are great because they allow players to do things like draw cards from a shared deck and keep them hidden until they play them.  This is a fairly fundamental aspect of many games and enables games like Saboteur which would not otherwise be possible.  There is a limited range of games available though, and there is no scope for modifying the game either (adding extra players or altering the end-game conditions, for example).  On the other hand, the software does a lot of the up-keep and can make even quite advanced things possible.  For example, without Board Game Arena to do the maths, we would never have discovered the delightful madness that is the “Professional Variant” of 6 Nimmt! (which recently won the 2020 Golden GOAT at our annual GOAT Awards).   It does feel very much like playing a computer game though.
    Main Advantages:  Very low maintenance and higher complexity games are possible including those with “hidden information”.
    Main Disadvantages:  Everyone needs to have an account on the platform and a device, and the games are restricted to those that are available and the rules as implemented, in particular, player counts.
    Saboteur on Board Game Arena

 

Each of the different modes has their limitations, but we’ve found that by mixing them up we avoid getting fed up with any specific issue.

One of the biggest challenges boardGOATS has is that we have been playing as a group of up to ten.  This is because we are all friends, even though many of us only know each other through the fortnightly meetings.  If the group were to break into two or more parts it would likely be along the lines of game “weight”, which would mean some people would never play together and it could be divisive.  This only works because those who prefer more complex games are extremely patient and understanding.  Ultimately, as a group, we feel the social aspect is the most important thing at the moment, much more important than the quality of the gaming.  We’ll definitely make sure we play lots of more complex games when we finally return to our beloved Horse and Jockey though.

The Horse and Jockey
– Image by boardGOATS

24th Movember 2020 (Online)

As people signed in, Blue, Pink and Burgundy shared some feelings about the “Feature Game” which was to be Troyes Dice.  This is back to the “Roll and Write” style games and is a very recent release, based on the well regarded game Troyes (a game about a medieval city, the name of which is pronounced a bit like “trois”, the French for the number “three”).  When Pine joined the group he made his feelings known about the awful joke at the bottom of the reminder page, and said it was old when he was at school back in the middle ages…

Rue Émile Zola in Troyes
– Adapted from image by Zairon on wikimedia.org

Troyes Dice is a planning and resource management game with an interesting rondel mechanism at its heart.  Although the fundamentals are not overly complex, the number of options players have make the game very challenging.  The game is played over eight days, each with a morning and afternoon phase.  At the start of each phase, four dice are rolled and placed on the four available coloured plazas.  The clear dice then adopt the colour of the plaza they are placed on, while the black die “destroys” its plaza making it unavailable.

Troyes Dice
– Image by boardGOATS

Players then choose one of the coloured dice to use, and pay the associated cost shown in the centre of the dial.  Dice bought in this way can be used to buy resources or to construct a building of the same colour and number.  Buildings come in two types: Worker buildings which ultimately give points and Prestige buildings which provide special effects.  There are three colours red, yellow and white representing the Noble, Civil and Religious districts respectively, and there are different resources and special effects associated with the different districts.

Troyes Dice
– Image by boardGOATS

Although this is fairly straight forward, the number of options players have and the interplay between them make the game one of the most complex that we have played since the group has been forced to play online.  All the Worker buildings get players workers which equate to points at the end of the game.  However, more points are available to players that build Cathedrals (Religious Prestige buildings) as Cathedrals give points to players for building other buildings.

Troyes Dice
– Image by boardGOATS

So, a player who has built the left-most Cathedral (i.e. number one) will get points for the number of Noble Prestige buildings they have built.  The amount of points each one of these is worth depends on when the player builds that particular building:  if it is the first or second, they will be worth just one point, but if it is built later in the game and is the fifth or sixth, each Noble Prestige building will be worth three points.  Thus a player who builds all six buildings of one type and then manages to build the associated Cathedral will score six, twelve, or eighteen points depending on when the Cathedral was built.  So timing is critical.

Troyes Dice
– Image by boardGOATS

The Civic Prestige buildings give players resources depending on the number of dice of the relevant colour currently available.  Resources are essential.  Money (the Civic Resource) is essential for buying dice and the higher value dice cost more.  The other two resources, red pennants and white bibles are useful because they allow players to alter the number of the die to be used, or its colour.  This is adds hugely to the number of possible options available.

Troyes Dice
– Image by boardGOATS

The third set of Prestige buildings in the red, Noble district, is the most difficult to understand.  Building one of these protects all the buildings of the same number from the black die.  From the third round, the black die not only makes its plaza unavailable, but also makes any buildings of that colour and number that have not yet been built, unbuildable for the rest of the game.  If a player builds, say, the sixth Noble (red) Prestige building, that means that any subsequent black sixes rolled will have no  effect on that player.

Troyes Dice
– Image by boardGOATS

There are a number of obvious strategies that arise.  For example, to get the maximum protection, Noble Prestige buildings should be built as early as possible.  In contrast, since the Religious Prestige buildings that are built later give more points, trying to build some other scoring buildings first is a good idea.  This is risky though, as failing to build the target building will score nothing.  Although the rules are quite complex, in practice they are not as bad as they may seem at first.  Simply put, players choose one of the three available dice and use it to collect resources or build a building in one of the three districts.

Troyes Dice
– Image by boardGOATS

It is dealing with the number of options available that is the real challenge though.  There are only three active dice, but using a combination of pennants and bibles, the numbers and colours of the dice can be changed to almost anything people want, which gives lots to think about.  That said, even this is not as difficult as it seems at first because resources are valuable so unless the action is mission critical, most options will rule themselves out as they are too expensive.

Troyes Dice
– Image by boardGOATS

First time through though, the number of options can seem bewildering and planning a strategy can seem daunting.  That said, for the first couple of rounds, Blue and Pink talked through the options people had available and almost everyone did the same thing, starting by building protective fortresses because these were good value and early in the game seemed to give the best chance to use them.

Troyes Dice
– Image by boardGOATS

Playing games remotely can be a bit of a solitaire experience and it is generally very hard to follow what others are doing.  As a result, players often take more information from throw-away comments than they would usually do.  From this, Green seemed to think that he and Burgundy were following very similar strategies.  The game is also a slow burner, and Ivory repeatedly commented that he couldn’t see where he was going to get any points from.  This unsettled Pine, because this sort of game is usually meat and drink to Ivory, so if he was struggling, that meant Pine felt doomed.

Troyes Dice
– Image by boardGOATS

About half-way through, Black and Purple went silent and didn’t respond when people asked if they were OK.  Someone pointed out to them that their microphone was on mute, but there was still no reply and even text messages didn’t get a response.  Eventually they rejoined the group and Purple got a bit of a telling off for muting the mike, though she was adamant it wasn’t her fault.

Troyes Dice
– Image by boardGOATS

There are only eight days, or sixteen rounds in the game, so it didn’t last over-long.  It wasn’t long before players were adding up their scores and Ivory was finding that he had more points than he’d thought.  It wasn’t surprising that Pink top-scored with Blue in second place, as they had both played it it before.  What was more surprising was how close together everyone else was.  Ivory was a very close third with forty-four and Green was just two points behind him, but everyone else was within ten points of Blue too.

Troyes Dice
– Image by boardGOATS

With that done, it was definitely time for something lighter. We haven’t played Noch Mal! (aka Encore!, or Boardgamers Bingo as some of the group call it) for a while and since we have some new player boards, we thought we’d give it another outing.  The idea of the game is that six dice are rolled, three showing numbers one to five and a question mark, and three showing five different colours and a cross.  The active player chooses one colour die and one number die to use and everyone else gets to pick one of each of those that remain.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Players use their dice to cross of blocks on their player boards with players scoring points for completing columns and for crossing all of one colour off.  The question marks and crosses are wild, but players can only use total of eight during the whole game—any that remain unused by the end of the game score a point.  Players also score negative points for any stars that have not been crossed by the time one player has completed all of two colours and brings proceedings to a close.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

In this game, the first target is to end with a positive score.  The first time we played, everyone really struggled with that, but more recently people seem to have got the hang of things a little.  We decided to play Zusatzblock I, which is a pink colour.  This time, although it was not obvious why, playing with the new board seemed to really upset things.  For some, it was clear that the pink background messed up their ability to see the difference the colours (we dealt with people’s difficulty distinguishing colours on camera by placing the coloured dice on a home-made, quickly-cobbled-together play mat).

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine in particular really struggled with the colours and got his plans completely screwed up when he confused orange with red.  Others did not have that excuse though, and many still failed to get a positive result.  In a remarkably low scoring game thanks to the game “finishing early”, Green looked to have it with a score of just eight.  That was until Pink, who had triggered the end of the game as part of his plan, announced he’d managed a massive ten points and took his second victory of the night.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Time was marching on, but HexRoller had gone down really well last time and was almost over before it had begun, so the group decided to give it another go.  This is a completely abstract game where players write numbers rolled to write on a grid.  There are eight dice rolled each round and players choose two of the numbers rolled and write them on their grid the number of times they appear.  Numbers must be written in spaces adjacent to numbers (of the same value) that already appear on the board.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

Points are scored for filling the coloured regions, connecting the two preprinted numbers, for not using the special actions etc..  Although it is not very easy to understand from the description, it is actually quite easy to play, so much so, that Pine, who had missed out last time picked it up really quickly.  Also, as the game is played over just seven or eight rounds (depending on the board used), so doesn’t really have time to outstay its welcome.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

Despite its simplicity, Black managed to make a meal of it and somehow missed out a number.  Although everyone else really enjoyed the game last time, it seems it is not his favourite.  Pink tried to claim a “moral score” of fifty-four because he only needed one more number to fill one of his coloured areas, but nobody else was buying into that.  It wouldn’t have been enough for him to win his third game of the night though, as victory went to Burgundy who finished with sixty-three points.

HexRoller
– Image by Burgundy

Everyone was feeling a little jaded so we decided to play just one more game, our old favourite, 6 Nimmt! (on Board Game Arena).  This pops up almost every games night, and after the new-lease of life given to it by the “Professional” variant, we thought we’d give the “Tactical” variant a go.  The idea of the game is that players start with a hand of ten cards and simultaneously choose one to play.  Starting with the lowest card played, these are then added to the end of one of the four rows of cards (in the case of the “Professional” variant, to either end).

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

When a player’s card is the sixth card added to a row, the player takes the other five into their scoring pile.  Normally, the cards have a face value between one and a hundred and four, with typically around half in play in any given round.  This means that if a row has three cards in it and ends with a eighteen, playing the nineteen is guaranteed to be safe.  Playing higher numbers, say low to mid twenties, though is increasingly risky, but is often a good gamble.

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

The “Tactical” variant changes the number of cards in the deck so that the highest card is ten times the number of players plus the four on the table.  In other words, every card is present in every round and now, there really is nowhere to hide.  This makes the game much more stressful, but as it progressed, we came to the slow realisation that it actually wasn’t as much “fun”.  We decided this was probably because there wasn’t as much chance in the game, which effectively reduced the excitement of finding out whether you were going to “get away” with a risky card.

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

Furthermore, if the cards were not in your favour, it very much felt that it was game over—yes it might be possible to reduce the number of nimmts picked up, but in most cases, there wasn’t much you could do about it.  So in a way, reducing the chance almost made it feel like the game was more random, rather than less.  Some things don’t change though.  Purple was still the main instigator of the race to the bottom, although this time her main competitor was Black who actually got their first and triggered the end of the game.  As usual, Pine came in the top three, this time beaten only by Burgundy.  And with that, everyone signed off for an early night.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by Burgundy

Learning Outcome:  If at first you don’t succeed, Troyes, Troyes, et Troyes again!

29th September 2020 (Online)

This week it was Ivory’s turn to share his pizza with everyone, while Blue and Pink shared ice creams with Purple and Black.  With the food over, Blue explained how we were going to prepare for our birthday next time, by “wrapping parcels” for Crappy Birthday.  This is a silly party game that we play every year to celebrate the anniversary of our first meeting in 2012.  Basically, players take it in turns to have their birthday, and everyone else chooses a gift from a hand of five cards.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately, this doesn’t really lend itself to playing online, but as so many things have been cancelled this year, we didn’t want this to be one of them.  So, to get round the difficulties, we decided to play it over two evenings:  firstly wrapping cards, then opening them two weeks later.  Each player had a set of electronic files containing cards.  Everyone opened the first file and chose a card to give to the player whose name was drawn out of the box lid, making a note of what they were giving and to whom.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

When people had gifted two parcels, they closed the file and opened the next one which included the same cards as the first file and a couple of new ones, thus simulating drawing two more cards.  Once everyone’s name had been drawn, everyone emailed the list of gifts to Blue for her to arrange delivery ready for next time.  And then it was on to the “Feature Game” which was Welcome To….

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Welcome To… is another “Roll and Write” style game, though without the colouring-in element of some of the games we’ve played recently, and as a result is a bit more complex.  In this game, players are planing and building housing estates in 1950s USA.  This time, the player board depicts three rows of houses and a scoring table.  The idea is that there are three decks of double sided cards with a house number on one side and an action on the other.  At the start of each round, the top card is turned over to show the action side.  Players then choose one of the three house number/action pairs to use.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Players must write a house number on any one of the three streets, but the numbers can only feature once on each, and must be ascending from left to right.  Players may then carry out the associated action, which could be building a fence, building a swimming pool or park, adding a number a second time (“Bis!”), modifying the number by one or two (using the Temping Agency) or increasing the value of houses on “Estates” of certain sizes.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, players score points for building swimming pools and parks, having used the “Temping Agency” the most, and also for different sized “Estates”.  An Estate is a continuous group of houses (i.e. no gaps) with a fence at each end.  Estates of size one up to six score different numbers of points and one of the actions players can use is selectively increase the value of some of these.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Additionally, players score points for completed “City Plans”.  These are three cards revealed at the start of the game. which give points to people who complete their requirements.  The catch is, a bit like Noch Mal!, the first person (or people) to be successful get more points, usually around double that of anyone who finishes them later in the game.  This is also one of three “game timers”, with the game ending when someone completes all three Plans.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

The game also ends if someone manages to fill in all the houses in all three streets, which is not easy.  More likely, players are going to find they cannot build any of the three houses being offered.  If this happens, players player take a “Building Permit Refusal”—when someone takes their third, that also triggers the end of the game.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

There are lots of little rules that make the game more complex than most of the “Roll and Write” games we’ve played.  For example, players can build fences anywhere, but parks must be on the street they built their house on, and pools can only be built in the garden of the house if it was on the plan.  That said, it is not actually difficult, but there is a lot to think about and if players are going to score well.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

There were a lot of questions from the group, and people clearly found it difficult to understand, not helped by the difficulties of learning a game over MS Teams.  Nevertheless, teaching and learning through a computer is a skill lots of school teachers, pupils, university lecturers and students have had to develop this year, and it turns out it is useful for gamers too.  So eventually, Pink finished shuffling and turned over the first set of cards to start the game.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Everything went quiet as people put their “Game Face” on and concentrated.  It wasn’t long before the silence was broken by Burgundy sighing, Pine grumbling and Blue checking how people were getting on.  To reduce the waiting and questions whether everyone was ready, we used the “hands up” function to indicate when players had finished writing.  This was really helpful to keep track of things with so many people playing.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

The City Plans in play were all from the basic game (and we weren’t playing with roundabouts either), so all three were based on estate sizes:  1) two of size four; 2) a six and three ones; 3) a four and a three.  Green was first to complete a City Plan taking number three, and was soon followed by Pink and Ivory taking the lucrative second Plan giving them eleven points each.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Gradually, as the game progressed others claimed more City Plans and there was a feeling that the game was coming to a close.  Increasingly, people found their choices were becoming more limited adding to the tension.  This feeling was heightened when Purple became the first to be unable to play, and took a Building Refusal Permit.  A few rounds later, and Mulberry ended the game by completing her third City Plan and everyone started adding up their scores.

Welcome To...
– Animation by boardGOATS

Despite people finding it difficult at first, the scores were surprisingly close with a winning score of ninety-five and most of the group not far behind.  It is definitely a game that rewards a little experience especially as it is quite different to the other games we’ve been playing recently, so it wasn’t surprising that Pink ran out the winner.  Green ran him close though, with an excellent ninety-two.  There was a bit of chatter while some said their “good byes” and the rest of the group decided to play Saboteur on Board Game Arena.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is easy to play and everyone knows what they are doing, so it is always quick to get started.  Each player has a hand of cards and take it in turns to either play a tunnel card, or play an action card.  The aim of the game is to help the team build a tunnel to whichever of the three terminal cards holds the gold.  Unless you are a Saboteur of course, in which case, your aim is to hinder the efforts made by everyone else, but without being spotted…

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Saboteur is usually better with more players, but the group had sort of decided they were going to play it before they realised how many people there were left.  With just six there were either one or two Evil Saboteurs and the rest were Lovely Dwarves.  This makes it hard for the Saboteur team and they have to get their act together quickly to make the most of what little time they have.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

In the first round, Pine made it very clear he was going to make the most of his time and bluntly said he thought Blue was a saboteur and broke her pick axe for her, preventing her doing any tunnelling.  This was apparently in response to her playing a map card in her first turn which he decreed was “A very Saboteury Move”.  Everyone else felt that Pine’s move was much more “Saboteury” and jumped on him in response.  Everyone except Purple that is, who ran to his aid.

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

It wasn’t long before Purple’s true colours were flying when she joined Pine and blocked the tunnel with dead-ends.  However, the Dwarves, now knowing there wasn’t a traitor hiding in their midst, got their act together, dealt with the blockage and headed for the gold.  Before long, it was 1-0 to the Dwarves.

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

The Evil Saboteurs were a little more cagey in the second round.  Purple looked at the bottom card and indicated it was Gold.  After last time, nobody trusted her so first Pink and then Pine double checked and all concurred.  The Dwarves were one card away from an easy run to the Gold when Burgundy’s rockfall card told everyone else which side he was on.  It was too little too late, however, and nothing he or his partner in crime, Black, could do could prevent the Brave Dwarves repainting the tunnel and finding the gold.

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

Early in the third and final round, Burgundy started by looking at the middle card which he claimed was coal.  By this time, suspicion was a currency everyone was rich in, so Pink double-checked and concurred, then checked the bottom target card.  Burgundy claimed suspicion and immediately verified that they’d found Gold.  Purple announced that she thought Pink was behaving suspiciously and broke his pickaxe for him—an extremely Saboteury move!

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

Burgundy attempted to redeem his behaviour in the previous round by repairing Pink’s tools, while Black repaid Purple by smashing Purple’s lamp.  Although Purple was able to fix it herself, it looked like the Dwarves were home safe and sound until Pine’s turn.  As discussed with the team, he played a card between the middle and bottom cards, but when it connected the carefully dug tunnel to the middle, coal, everyone was sure that they’d found the second Saboteur.

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

Pine protested that it was incompetence rather than malice that meant he’d put the card in upside down.  The Dwarves had to fix his “mistake” though, and their cards were running out.  Black discarded a card and Blue had no choice but to smash some more of Purple’s tools, leaving it down to Pink to finish things.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end, it turned out that the Saboteurs were Black and Purple, and Pine just had a sausage-finger-moment.  That left Blue as the “winner”, but the scoring is very random and highly dependent on turn order, so really all that can be said is that it was 3-0 to the Loyal Dwarves.  There was time for something else before Pink’s bedtime, and given the shortage of time, the group bowed to the inevitable and moved on to 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This has become one of our favourite games, especially since we’ve been forced to play online as it is light and fun and fast to play, and helps us to forget the current situation.  The game is so simple, and yet so much fun, with almost no downtime.  Players simply choose a card and Board Game Arena does the rest.  Of course, everyone like to think they have control and their strategy is working, right up until it isn’t.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that the card chosen is played on the end of one of four rows, with players trying to avoid placing the sixth card as that means the points on the other five cards are deducted from their total.  So the aim of the game is to try to second-guess what everyone else is doing and stay safe.  Recently, we’ve been playing the “Professional” variant which allows players to add cards to either end of the rows, adding more “strategy” and more chaos, and a whole lot more fun.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Things started to go wrong Blue first, when she cheered thinking she’d got away without a pick-up, only to discover she’d got nine “nimmts”.  Purple picked up nine in the same turn, however, while Blue managed to stabilise her game, Purple’s went from bad to worse when she managed what might be a new record, picking up nineteen nimmts in a single turn!

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

Fairly inevitably, Purple triggered the end of the game, but the other end was less clear.  That was until the end of the game, when Blue, who had somehow managed to avoid picking up anything else, just pipped Burgundy to the win.  With that, Pine and Pink bade everyone else good night and the remaining foursome looked for something else to play.

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

There were a few options, but they were limited by the fact that nobody wanted to play anything long or too intense. In the end, they decided to give Sushi Go! a try.  This is a game we’ve all played before, but nobody had played on Board Game Arena.  is a pure card drafting game: players start with a hand of cards and keep one and pass the rest on.  The aim is to collect cards in combinations to give them points.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

In Sushi Go!, it is all about collecting the right cards at the right time.  For example, three Sashimi cards are worth ten points, but two are worthless.   There is also a significant “hate drafting” aspect though.  This is where players take cards to inconvenience others rather than to benefit one’s own game.  This is mostly because Maki Roll and Pudding points are awarded to those with the most cards, but can also be because causing another player to finish with worthless cards can sometimes be as effective as scoring points oneself.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

The first round was one of rediscovery since it was a very long time since anyone had played it.  Blue rediscovered the perils of trying to collect Sashimi, when she got stuck with only two which scored her nothing.  Burgundy, on the other hand, just before her in turn order, collected three and claimed ten points.  Purple collected lots of Nigiri and Black made hay out of Maki Rolls.  So, going into the second round it was pretty much a three-way tie with all to play for.

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

In the second and third rounds, Black and Purple made a lot of points from playing Nigiri cards after wasabi cards which is a multiplier and can be very lucrative.  Although Black was in the lead going into the final round, the fact Burgundy took two Wasabi/Nigiri combos meant he took a fine victory.  The game plays so quickly though and the Board Game Arena rendition is so good that everyone fancied trying giving it another go.

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

The second game was much closer, the competition for Wasabi and Maki Rolls got more intense with everyone now well aware of how lucrative they could be.  Although it was very close, in the end, Burgundy just managed to keep his crown, beating Black into second place by a single point and everyone else just a couple of points behind.  With such a tight finish, a third game was inevitable.  Blue who had come last in the previous two games was determined not to this time.  However, a grotty starting had meant she was forced to start with lot of puddings.

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

By this time, everyone was looking more carefully at what they were passing on, so Blue finished with a bit of hate-drafting, ensuring that Burgundy couldn’t get a full set of Sashimi and that ensured she avoided the wooden spoon.  Purple and Black started out with Wasabi and really managed to make their cards count.  In the end, there were still only two points in it, but this time it was Black and Purple fighting out for first place, which Black just took.  And then it was definitely time for bed.

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Learning Outcome: Swimming pools are not as common as you might think.

18th August 2020 (Online)

The evening started with a bit of chit-chat about happenings in the village and the big hole in the A417 which had a large number of Thames Water employees staring into it and had closed the road to Wantage.  Since nobody is travelling very far to games night these days, nobody was inconvenienced.  Every cloud…  Although nobody was inconvenienced by the road closure, that didn’t mean nobody had been travelling: Green and his family all called in from Aviemore and shared their picture of “little Nessy” and their plans to visit her big sister the following day.

Little Nessie
– Image by Green

While Mulberry (now recovered from her jet-lag) encouraged her computer to play ball, Green “shared” a glass of whisky with everyone and people reminisced about a certain New Year Party and a particular bottle of the “finest” Bavarian whisky.  Eventually, we finally started the “Feature Game“, Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition.  We’ve found “Roll and Write” style games work really well under the current constraints, so we thought we’d try another one.  Rather than a communal colouring fest like Second Chance or Cartographers, in this game players are planning a road and rail network where players score points for connecting, generating a long road and a long track, and using the middle of their board, but lose points for “hanging ends”.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is very simple:  each round, all the dice are rolled and everyone adds all of the features to their map.  Three of the dice feature roads and rails (straight sections, bends and T-junctions) while one features interchange stations (straight and on a bend) and an flyover.  There are seven rounds and everyone scores their map once at the end.  The game comes with a couple of expansions, but as this was the first try for most people, this time we stuck to the base game with just the four white dice.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

When players add features they must “grow” their network from one (or more) of the entrances to the map and they make notes of the round in the corner of each square to try to avoid confusion. A continuous road, railway line or network is not interrupted by stations, but a rail and a road that cross at a flyover are not connected.  In addition to the seven rolls of four dice that everyone must add to their board, players may, optionally, also add special cross-roads to their map, given in white on the print-outs above the play areas.  A maximum of one per round can be added, up to a total of three during the game.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the round players score points for several things.  Firstly, they score points for each separate network they have built, with networks scoring points for the more exits they are connected to according to a table.  Points are then scored for each players’ longest stretch of road and longest section of rail, taking one point per segment.  Next, players get bonus points for each square they’ve filled in the centre of their board.  Finally, players lose points for each “hanging end” i.e. ends that do not connect correctly.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink rolled and then the questions and clarifications started.  Eventually though, everyone was happy, or at least happy enough and had scribbled things on their board.  Pink and Blue showed their boards to help explain and then Pink rolled for the next round.  This inevitably led to more clarifications, before Pink could roll again.  And so it continued.  Everyone seemed to have got the hang of what they were doing, and by this time everyone was lamenting the lack of junctions and blaming Pink for his poor rolling, while Pine and Green were complaining about their “Hanging Ends”.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Just before the fifth round, Pink reminded everyone about their special spaces, saying that if they wanted to use all three and hadn’t used any yet, they would need to use one per round from this point forward.  This distressed Mulberry as she couldn’t find a way to use any of them without messing things up.  It took a while for everyone else to realise her plight and point out that it was a good idea to use them if you could, but they were optional.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Before long, everyone was adding up their scores and checking what was and wasn’t valid.  It was only then that Green realised that he’d connected roads to some of his rail entrances and rails to some of his road entrances.  He tried to say that it hadn’t been clear at the start, but as everyone else had managed to get it right, nobody was feeling very charitable (it was Green, after-all).  So his score of forty-six was duly reduced to twenty-one.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

It was quite close at the front with Blue, Ivory and Black (now known as “The Silent One”) all vying for second place, but Burgundy just took the runner-up position.  Pink, however, was a few points in front and finished with a fine fifty-three.  Although Pine had really enjoyed it and some of the others were happy to play again, there were some who had found it very challenging and wanted a change.  Lime took his leave as he’d had a rough week.  Mulberry didn’t have any other print-outs, so being the brave millennial that she is, she said she would edit the pdf on her tablet using a stylus.

Noch Mal!
– Image by Mulberry

Although opinions had hitherto been divided about what to play, Noch Mal! (aka Encore!) would likely be easier for her than Second Chance, so that decided it.  Noch Mal! has become known as “Board Gamers’ Bingo” by some members of the group, and certainly it has a bit of a feel of that about it.  Three colour and three number dice are rolled and the active player chooses one of each and crosses off the number of squares in that colour.  Everyone else chooses from the colours and numbers left.  The catch is that players must cross off exactly that right number of that colour, they must be in a continuous block and adjacent to something already crossed off in the starting column.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Points are scored during the game for completed columns and crossing off all of one colour with the game ending when one player crosses off all of their second colour.  The first thing we noticed was that red and orange looked the same and yellow was nearly invisible on screen.  So, after Pink threatened to rearrange the furniture and crawl under the sofa to get to the plug so he could move the light, Blue took the easy option and wrote the colours on a bit of paper to act as labels and the game began.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

For those that hadn’t played before, and even those that had, Ivory was startlingly quick to be the first to complete a column, even more so given that it was almost as far to the right as he could go.  After that it was a gentle trickle as players called out that they’d finished columns.  Before long, Green called that he’d finished the first colour, appropriately enough, green.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

All the columns were completed and others started to finish colours and everyone knew the end was nigh when Green took his second colour and with it ended the game.  As players began to call out their totals, Mulberry was completely aghast that people had actually managed to score points since she’d finished with minus two.  She wasn’t alone with a low score and everyone else tried to reassure her that they’d all been there – the first time the group played, three players finished with negative points and the average score was one!

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time Green’s father who had joined in from Scotland, top scored with nineteen, but Green felt he hadn’t quite been playing right.  It was close at the top with Ivory finishing with ten, Pine with twelve and Blue with thirteen.  The winners were Green and The Silent One, tied on fourteen points.  With that, the Scottish Connection went to bed as they had an early start in the morning for their Nessy hunt.  Ivory and Mulberry also took their leave, leaving six to play on.  Playing games on Board Game Arena is just that bit easier and enables a wider variety of games so everyone moved there.

"Tomato" Whisky
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink is very fond of For Sale, so he suggested that, and, as it is a very quick and relatively easy game, everyone else quickly concurred.  This game is played in two halves, buying and then selling.  In the first half, in each round enough cards are revealed for one per player.  Players then bid to stay in, taking the lowest value card when they pass.  Once all thirty property cards have been auctioned off, players sell them.  In this phase, in each round, cheques are revealed and players choose one of their properties to sell.  The cheques are then shared out with the highest value cheque going to the player who sold the most desirable (highest numbered) property.  The wealthiest player at the end is the winner.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the key rules that makes the auctions interesting is that players who pass, get half their bid returned, while the player who wins the auction pays their full bid.  In the original Ravensburger/Schmid editions, where a bid was an odd value, the money returned was rounded up.  However, in real life, we play with the more recent, Überplay version where the returned money is rounded down, so this is the way we play online too.  For a bit of variety, this time we decided to play with the original rule, which would give everyone a little bit more money to spend and make passing early a little more lucrative.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy normally does really well at this game setting standards others seek to achieve.  The change to the rules seemed to really cramp his style though, and he just couldn’t find his rhythm.  Pine and Purple were similarly afflicted, where, in contrast, Blue, Pink and Black seemed to flourish where they usually struggled a bit.  Most of the high cards came out towards the end of the first half, so the players who hadn’t spent too much in the early rounds were able to capitalise, often getting high value cards without having to pay their full bid.

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

In the end Purple had managed to spend only $3,000, but that meant her properties didn’t give her a great return.  In contrast, everyone else had spent most of the their starting pot, and Burgundy had no spare change at all.  Pink felt sure he had the game in the bag, but it was much tighter at the top than he thought with Black snapping at his heels, and Blue beating him by a single point with fifty-three.  It was clear that the change in the rules had unbalanced some people’s game so we decided to give it another go and give Pink another chance.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

The artwork on the property cards is one of the things that makes the game special and fortunately it has been ported to the online version of the game too.  The most valuable property, number thirty, is a space station while the least valuable, number one, is a cardboard box.  There are some lovely intermediates though and offering them to people always adds to the atmosphere.  This time, Purple commented that “Burgundy’s on the Bothy,” only for Pine to respond, “Burgundy’s on the toilet, you’re on the bothy and Black’s on the banjo-shack!”

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

This time, Burgundy and Purple still struggled, though Pine did much better.  It was still tight, and remarkably the end result was almost exactly the same as before with Blue winning again.  This time she had a margin of two points and a total of fifty-two, but the placings were a bit different.  Black moved one place up on the podium and took second, with Pine taking third place, leaving Pink a little crest-fallen.  There is one thing guaranteed to cheer up any disappointed gamer, however, and that is to play 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Since we discovered the “Professional” variant a few weeks back, it has given 6 Nimmt! a new lease of life for the group.  The game is so simple and yet so much fun with the illusion of control until everything goes wrong.  In the basic game game players simultaneously choose cards and then, starting with the lowest, add them to the end of one of four rows, picking up cards if the card they chose was the sixth card added to a row.  In the “Professional variant, cards can be added to either end of the rows making the decision space that bit more complex, dramatically increasing the madness.

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

As people moved to the table, someone commented that it was now playable in 3D, though why anyone would want to play a card game in 3D was anybody’s guess.  Inevitably, there was a pause while everyone tried the 3D option.  Unfortunately, most people found it was difficult to operate and, everyone seemed to have issues with either cards not showing or not sitting where they should.  Still, it’s only in “beta” testing, and we love 6 Nimmt! just as it is.  So everyone returned to the 2D mode and got on with playing.

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

This time, Black, who had done so well in all the other games, seemed determined to lose and to do so spectacularly.  The only thing that seemed likely to prevent it was Purple who has a remarkable knack of picking up cards a skill that is only increased by the new variant.  While she didn’t do quite as well as last time, she did manage to pick up fourteen.  She wasn’t the only one to pick up lots of “Nimmts” in one turn, Pine managed thirteen in one turn and Burgundy twelve.

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

Winning in 6 Nimmt! always requires a combination of good play with a healthy slice of good fortune.  For this reason, we usually celebrate the looser, the person who has been most generous in picking up cards for others, as much as the winner.  This time, Black’s generosity of spirit was very much in evidence, but Purple was the most altruistic.  At the other end, Burgundy had put an end to his poor run in For Sale, coming second, but it was Pink who book-ended the evening with his second win.

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

Learning Outcome:  An integrated transport policy is a Good Thing.

Boardgames in the News: What are “Roll and Write” Games?

In the last few years, “Roll and Write” games have been everywhere, but what defines them and what let to the rise in their popularity?  Well, their roots lie in simple dice games, which are as old as the hills, but arguably the first “Roll and Write” game is Yahtzee, a game that is now a childhood classic.  Although the commercial game dates from the 1950s, the game is based on the older family of traditional games, including Yacht, Generala, Poker Dice etc..

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that players roll five dice to try to get specific combinations, re-rolling some, all or none up to three times.  These fall into different categories each of which can only be scored once and are crossed off on a scoring sheet.  This roll and re-roll mechanism has been used as the basis of many more modern games like Pickomino (aka Heck Meck), To Court the King and even Roll for the Galaxy, but these are not “Roll and Write” games, they are dice games.  More dice games with a “Writing” element, followed as well though.  These include Reiner Knizia’s Decathalon, the Catan Dice Game, and Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age with its subsequent series of games.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

Perhaps the most influential game of this type, however, is Qwixx.  In this game, each player has their own score-sheet with four rows, numbered two to twelve, each in a different colour.  On their turn, the active player rolls six dice: two white and one of each of the four colours. The active player can mark off the sum of one white die and one coloured die in the row of the same colour, while everyone else can mark off the sum of the two white dice on any one of their four rows.  The catch is that the numbers must be crossed out in order: descending for the blue and green rows, ascending for the red and yellow rows.

Qwixx
– Image by boardGOATS

And that is the core that really makes a “Roll and Write” game:  the decision making.  While there is no industry recognised definition, it is widely understood that games that fall into the “Roll and Write” category have the following key characteristics:

  • A randomiser: traditionally dice, but some games use cards etc.;
  • A key element of decision making;
  • Individual work sheets, which are more than just a score pad.

Qwixx was published seven years ago, and was popular in its own right receiving a nomination for the Spiel des Jahres award in 2013.  Its legacy, however, is the way it helped to open the door for other games in the genre.  Noch Mal! (aka Encore!) followed in 2016 and in 2018, “Roll and Write” games really took off.  Yahtzee, Quixx and Roll Through the Ages have now been followed many other very popular and successful games including, Welcome to…, Ganz Schön Clever! (aka That’s Very Clever!), Railroad Ink, and Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale.  Between them, these games have received two Kennerspiel and two Spiel des Jahres nominations.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

There are now, hundreds of “Roll and Write” games available and new games continue to arrive, each with their own twist: some based round rolling dice, some involving a deck of cards, and there are even games now that involve cutting out!  But what is the appeal, and why the sudden growth in this genre?  For the publisher they are obviously cheap and relatively easy to produce, often needing little in the way of complex or bespoke components.  In a squeezed market this is very important.  For designers they are easy to prototype and many of these games are relatively easy to play-test too.  This is because they can often be played solo, and the mathematics of probability are well understood (by mathematicians at least).

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

For gamers, the low price of these games means financial investment is typically small.  They are usually quick to learn and don’t over-stay their welcome either, which means they are low risk and if they “click” they also can see a lot of table time.  They are easy to play remotely too, because players just need pens and a work-sheet each, and access to a web camera.  And thus, the timing of the rise has been serendipitous: with so many people stuck at home this year, “Roll and Write” games are really coming into their own now.  It remains to be seen whether their popularity will continue into 2021 and beyond.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

4th August 2020 (Online)

Blue and Burgundy got going early to set up the game on Tabletop Simulator, but were progressively joined by Pink, Black and Purple and eventually, everyone else.  Mulberry dropped in to say “Hi!” but was suffering from her recent change in time-zone, so soon waved goodbye.  There was a bit of chit-chat about people returning to work and how it interefered with thier social lives, but once everyone had settled down, we started the “Feature Game” which was Finstere Flure (aka Fearsome Floors).

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

Finstere Flure is a relatively simple race type game, where players are trying to get two of their family of pieces from one side of Prince Fieso’s Fortress to the other.  Unfortunately, the pillared dungeon is occupied by a not over-bright monster that is trying to eat people.  Finstere Flure only plays seven and the resolution of the web cameras we’ve been using means that it wouldn’t be possible for people to see very well.  For these reasons, people were playing in household teams and we used Tabletop Simulator on the Steam platform, piped through Microsoft Teams to display the game (which worked quite well when we played both Camel Up and Tsuro).

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

This was more complicated than most of the “Roll and Write” type games we have played recently, but we felt a bit of variety would be a good thing.  In Finstere Flure, each player/household team have three double-sided pieces that they are trying to move from one side of the dungeon to the other.  On their turn, players move one of their pieces and then flip it over.  Each side has a number on it with the total summing to seven.  However, in a similar way to Echidna Shuffle, some pieces alternate slow movement with quick movement (six on one side and one on the other for example) while others move at a more steady pace (alternately moving three and four spaces).

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Players continue to take turns until all their pieces have been moved and turned over, after which the monster moves.  All the monsters move in the same way, but the one we chose was “Slenderman” because he was most visible when viewed from above using the simulator.  Slenderman has a deck of eight cards which dictate how far he moves.  When he moves he looks ahead, left and then right and if he sees one person, he turns towards them and takes one step before looking again and moving.  If he sees two or more people, he turns towards the closest and moves towards them.  If he the people he sees are the same distance away, he carries on moving straight ahead.  He never looks behind, and he cannot see diagonally (there are pillars in the way).

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

Sometimes, the monster moves a given number of steps and others he keeps moving until he catches a set number of pieces.  During the game, the monster works through his deck twice—during the first pass, any pieces he catches are returned to the start, on the second pass, they are removed from the game.  There are a couple of other little rules however.  For example, there are obstacles in the dungeon, namely boulders and pools of blood (or jelly, whichever players think might be more slippery).  Players can push boulders about and use them to mess with each other’s plans, or slip on the jelly to move further on their turn.

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

Players can only move boulders when the space behind it is unoccupied, however, and although they can pass through a space occupied by another player, they cannot finish their turn sharing a space.  The monster, Slenderman, on the other hand, is bigger and stronger, so can move more than one boulder at a time.  Also, if someone gets trapped between a rock and a hard place, he can squash them, or even pulverise rocks if he isn’t minded to change direction when pushing them into a wall.  He can also teleport from one side of the dungeon to the other if he walks into a wall.  This can spell disaster for players who thought their pieces were safe, a long way away from him.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Team Purply-Black (owners of a hard copy and thus most experienced) went first, bravely moving one of their clerics into the unknown.  They were followed by Burgundy.  It was at this point that we realised something specific to the Tabletop Simulator that we hadn’t spotted during testing:  the reverse, “dark sides” of the pieces are all black and they are almost impossible to distinguish.  So, Blue made a quick modification to some of the pieces, making some hexagons and some squares to make them easier to identify.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Play was a little slow with people having to describe which piece they wanted to move and where they wanted to move it to.  Fortunately, the original, individual artwork on the pieces on the hard copy of the game had been included in the electronic version, so we had something to describe.  It was about this time that we discovered that Burgundy knew the names of all the Addams Family characters played by Team Slightly-Lilacy-Green.  Clearly Burgundy has hidden depths!

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Lime was the first to get one of his pieces eaten, and also the second.  He wasn’t alone however, as almost everyone had at least one piece eaten at some point and most had several munched.  In fact, it turned out that Slenderman was very hungry; when he ate five pieces in one turn, Pine commented that he was in danger of becoming “Porkyman”!  The chaos was fun, so much so that at one point, Ivory was heard to say, “What can I do to get more carnage?”

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Since we were forced to focus on the characters (especially when they were showing their “dark side”, there was a lot of chit chat about them and some of them were even given names, like Team Purply-Black’s “Roger the Chorister” and Pine’s “Geeky-boy”.  Team Slightly-Blue-but-mostly-Pink were playing with the “Three Ages of Elvis”: “Young Elvis”, “Prime Elvis”, and “Burger Elvis” (or “Elvis on the toilet” given his pained expression).  We always have fun picking on Green, but the largely solitaire games we’ve played recently don’t lend themselves to it.  This game gave everyone a much missed opportunity, and with him playing as Team Only-a-Slightly-Lilacy-Shade-of-Green, everyone grabbed the chance with both hands.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

It was just as Morticia was about to be “din-dins” (again) that the program crashed.  When we first started holding online games nights we worried a lot about the “tech” and whether it would hold up.  Aside from a few issues with Ivory and Lime struggling to stay in the same Teams Meeting together a few weeks back, mostly it has been fine though.  This crash looked like it might be game over though and, according to the chat, we were not alone.  Burgundy had played a few games with another group (including Terraforming Mars) and said Tabletop Simulator did that from time to time and that it usually came back after a few minutes.  So we waited.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from
Tabletop Simulator on Steam

And we waited some more.  People took the opportunity to get drinks etc., and we continued to wait.  Nothing happened so eventually we decide to restart the Server and see if it continued where we’d left off, only to find the game had been auto-saved a couple of moves before the crash.  So we were off again getting in each other’s way.  Despite picking on Green as much as we could, nothing could stop him getting Gomez out of the dungeon first.  Morticia and Wednesday were a very long way from giving him a second though.  In fact, it looked like Team Purply-Black were going to take it.  They had “Roger the Chorister” and “Parson Snows” very close to the exit with the ability to escape on the next turn, and “Paul Wicker the Tall Vicar” not far behind.  It was then that everyone independently decided that it was the duty of all gamers to make life as difficult as possible for those winning.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

So, first Burgundy used one of his geeks to push a boulder in “Parson Snows’ ” way and then parked the geek in the exit space.  In response to Pine’s cry of, “It’s now or never!”, “Young Elvis”  moved another boulder and effectively sealed off the exit until the next round.  This gave everyone an opportunity to gather in the corner ready to pounce should the opportunity arise.  Inevitably (since he had a piece camped on the exit space), Burgundy was the next to get someone one out, and then the flood gates opened.  “Young Elvis” was quickly followed by Pine’s Dog and “Roger the Chorister”. Eventually, the inevitable happened and Burgundy got his second Geek home bringing the end of the game.  People didn’t seem keen to stop, and Pink was pleased to be able to announce “Elvis has left the building!” next.

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

It was clear that from there it all really depended on turn order and that was no fun, so we finished at that point.  It had been a long game with a lot of downtime, but it had been fun too, and quite different to the “multiplayer solitaire” games we’ve played a lot recently (i.e. Noch Mal!, Second Chance and Cartographers), which made a nice change.  Tabletop Simulator takes a lot of practice though and even then definitely has the “Marmite factor”.  Indeed, Burgundy dislikes it so much that he’s stopped gaming with another online group that use it exclusively, which is very sad.  We are using it in a different way, and very occasionally, so it is probably just about manageable, but it will definitely be a while before we try it again.

Chess on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

With Finstere Flure taking a long time, Ivory and Lime took their leave, leaving seven for one quick game of 6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena.  This is now our most played game, beating other favourites like Bohnanza and Splendor, and if the situation doesn’t change, it will likely get the chance to build up a healthy lead.  Although we’ve not tired of it, last time we tried the “Professional Variant” on Board Game Arena and that definitely added new interest.  Although we all said six was the maximum we’d want to play this crazy version with, everyone who had experienced it before wanted to try again and we all wanted to share our new-found fun with Green who had missed out last time.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The basic game is very simple:  Players simultaneously choose a card then, starting with the lowest, in sequence, they are added to the four rows on the table.  If anyone’s card is the sixth in a row, instead they take the pre-existing cards and their card becomes the first in the new row.  In the “Professional Variant”, cards can be added to both ends.  Again, if this card is the sixth, the other cards are added to that player’s scoring pile and that forms a new row.  It might be thought that this would be predictable so nobody would do this.  However, if a player tries to play low (or is forced to) and is undercut by another, this is exactly what happens.  And when it does, it causes complete chaos for everyone.

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

This time, Pine started off leading with Black just behind in second.  In fact, Black was within one point of taking the lead until the cat came in and he started picking up cards.  The wheels dropped off for Pine too and he went from the lead to the back in only a couple of rounds, leaving others to fight for the lead.  Green (now playing on his own as Lilac had gone to bed), was somewhat taken aback by the new version and had much the same initial response to the new variant as everyone else had last time.  It isn’t random chaos though, it is definitely predictable, but it is certainly much, much harder to predict.  As a result, players need a sort of sixth sense and a lot of luck to surf the madness successfully.

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

Pine managed to stabilise his game and, having gone from the front of the pack to the back was working his way back up the field when Purple brought the game to an end.  It had always looked likely that she would win the “race to zero”, especially when she managed to pick up sixteen nimmts in a single turn—possibly a record for us.  So, when Purple picked up five with her final card, that gave her what is likely another new record of minus thirty-five.  In this game the winner is largely incidental, but it was close with Blue taking it, just three nimmts clear of Pink in second and eight ahead of the “almost always there or there abouts” Pine, in third.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone was quite tired so we just chatted starting with the Beirut explosion, news of which had come in while we’d been playing, and with footage that was quite remarkable.  As the mood shifted from buoyant to sombre, Pine said he was time for him to leave as he had a meeting in the morning.  Green interrupted, “Before you go, can I ask a recycling question?  How do you recycle the wax from cheese?”  That lightened the mood again and it was brightened further by Pine’s reply of, “How do you think?  Or you can make candles…!”  Somewhat from left of field, Purple then added, “But if you make candles, don’t light lots of them then leave the house to burn down while you go and propose to your girlfriend!”  Everyone was very bemused wondering what Black had done when he proposed, but eventually it became clear that it wasn’t personal experience, just a news story…  With that, Pine left and everyone else chatted about options and games for the coming weeks as people drifted off to bed.

Lots of Candles Make Fire
– Image from bbc.co.uk

Learning Outcome:  Slender monsters can eat an awful lot and retain their sylphlike figure.

21st July 2020 (Online)

The evening started with everyone eating their supper and chatting about where they had been out.  Pine admired Green and Lilac’s pizzas and Blue and Pink told everyone about their visits to The Jockey beer garden.  Pine shared his experience visiting the café at the Court Hill Centre on The Ridgeway, and there was a lot of discussion about how The Maybush had re-opened (again) and how it might compare to the Rose Revived over the road.  Purple commented that BBC4 was re-showing their series about the history of board games, Games Britania, which sounded quite interesting.

Llandudno
– Image by Lime

Once everyone had joined the Microsoft Teams party (minus Lime who was enjoying the view in Llandudno), we settled down to play the “Feature Game“, which was Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale.  This is a slightly more complicated “Roll and Write” game, that builds on our experience with Noch Mal! and Second Chance both of which have worked well.  Although Cartographers is a little bit more involved than some of the other games of this kind, it works well with many players.  It was nominated for the Kennerspiel des Jahres Award this year and we thought we would play it to celebrate the winners of the Spiel/Kennerspiel des Jahres winners which were announced on Monday.

Pictures
– Image adapted by boardGOATS from the
live stream video on spiel-des-jahres.de

We’ve had little chance to play any of the Spiel/Kennerspiel des Jahres nominees so were not in a position to comment on them.  That said, the winners (Pictures and The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine respectively), were not games that are a good match for the group anyhow, though some of the runners up might have been of interest under more normal circumstances.  As it is now, Cartographers is the only game we can really play at the moment as it can be played remotely with a couple of minor tweaks.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is another “Tetrissy” game where players can, once again, release their inner toddler and enjoy an evening of colouring in.  The idea is that players have been sent out by Queen Gimnax to map the northern territory, claiming it for the Kingdom of Nalos.  Through edicts, the Queen announces which lands she prizes the most, and meeting these demands increases players reputation – the player with the highest reputation at the end of the game is the winner.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The game takes place over four seasons, a year.  During each season, Exploration cards are revealed, each depicting the terrain type (Lakes, Woodland, Farmland and Village) and shape that has been discovered which players draw on their map.  These can be rotated, or mirrored, but must be drawn so they don’t overlap with a filled space and are wholly within the borders of the map.  Some Exploration cards give players a choice of terrain, others a choice of shape, but all come with a “time”, zero, one, or two—when the total reaches the number for that season, the round is over, the cards are returned to the deck which is reshuffled, and the map is scored.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of the game, there are four scoring cards revealed and these are scored in pairs at the end of each round, similar to Isle of Skye.  Thus at the end of the first round, Spring, cards A and B are scored, at the end of the Summer, cards B and C are scored and so on.  This time the four scoring cards were Sentinel Wood, Canal Lake, Shieldgate and The Cauldrons.  These delivered points for Woodland adjacent to the edge of the map; Farmland and Lakes next to each other; the size of players’ second largest village and any single spaces surrounded by mapped territory.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

There are two maps available; for our first game, we chose to use “Side A”, which comes with five spaces already filled with Mountain terrain and six spaces marked with Ionic columns as Ruin spaces.  These act as normal spaces, though when a Ruin card is revealed, the next Exploration card revealed must cover one of those Ruin spaces.  If a shape does not fit or cannot be placed according to the rules (or over a Ruins space if required), the player fills a single, one-by-one space with the terrain of their choice.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to Exploration and Ruins cards there are also Ambush cards.  There are four of these special cards, and one is added to the deck in each round.  They can have a massive impact on the game, so when they are revealed, they are removed from the game.  The Ambush cards depict a shape and a direction, clockwise or anti-clockwise.  The idea is that players pass their map to the next player in the direction depicted and they add the shape to the map filling it with purple monsters.  Each space orthogonal to a Monster space, then scores minus one at the end of the round, and every round that follows.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

We had planned to reduce the number of Monsters (introducing the first one in the second round and seeing how it went), but holding up maps and trying to explain where the Monster terrain should go was always going to be a problem.  Burgundy, who had watched the Rahdo’s Run Through online suggested playing them with the Solo rules.  These place the Monster terrain in one corner and if it doesn’t fit, it is then moved around the map first hugging the edge and then slowly moving inwards in a spiral until there is a space it fits in.  Since we played the first round without them, and one didn’t appear, we only revealed two in the whole game, but playing this way worked well.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The first round started with an Orchard and a decision:  with Sentinel Wood giving points for woodland round the edge of the map and Canal Lake giving points for Farmland next to Lakes and Lakes next to Farmland, was it best to start with Woodland or Farmland?  Hindsight is a wonderful thing and, when the Fishing Village and Hinterland Stream were also revealed (both providing either Lake or Farmland) it was clear that Woodland was the wrong choice.  With just four cards in the first round, it quickly became clear that placing Farmland and Lakes well could score highly, which is exactly what Green and Burgundy did.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone else went into the second round feeling they had lost already, and when most of the cards that came out had a timing of two and didn’t include Lake and Farmland, it looked like Green and Burgundy were just going to stretch their lead further.  There was much hilarity when Black asked what people would score if they only had one big red thing—he worked it out amid the giggles, eventually.  With time almost out, the first Ambush card, Gnoll Raid, put in an appearance.  This scuppered lots of people’s plans and gave almost everyone plenty of negative points to work on, especially since there weren’t many more cards to go in the round.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The third round was relatively uneventful with players working hard to mitigate the effects of the Gnoll Raid while ensuring there were plenty of single space gaps to score in the last two rounds.  At the start of the final round, the Kobold Onslaught was revealed and with a slightly awkward profile, most people were going to have problems reducing their negative tally.  That said, with gaps giving positive points, some people found that the negative effects could be neutralised to some extent.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Some of the scores in the final round were very large compared to those earlier in the game, some were in the thirties compared with single digits in the first round.  This was largely because players had been able to plan for the final round of course, in particular by lining the edge of their map with Woodland.  As players tallied up their scores it looked like Burgundy had it, especially with his thirty-nine in the final round, however, Blue had done well in the second and third rounds which was just enough to beat him by a single point.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

While Blue and Burgundy double-checked their maths, Pink commented that he was going up to Durham to check the house was OK.  Pine replied that he was just like Boris Johnson’s father Stanley who had been to Greece to check his holiday home, then asked whether he’d prefer to be compared with Stanley Johnson or Dominic Cummings.  Pink thought about it, then said that although Stanley Johnson was irritating, he was only marginally more irritating than Stanley Unwin and Dominic Cummings was actually evil, so it would have to be Stanley.

Stanley Unwin
– Image from televisionheaven.co.uk

There was a lot of conversation about this largely theoretical point when Pine suddenly said, “Who?  Who’s Stanley Unwin?  I think I may have got him confused with Stanley Holloway and was thinking about Albert and the Lion…” This prompted memories of the stick with a horse’s head handle and lots of tales from The North and reminiscences of holidays in Wales.  Despite this sojourn and the fact that Cartographers is more complex than the “Roll and Write” games that we’d played previously, it hadn’t taken very long to play.  So after a bit of a discussion of the options, we decided to give our old favourite 6 Nimmt! yet another outing, on Board Game Arena.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This is a simple game that we’ve played a lot, where players simultaneously choose cards and then, starting with the lowest card revealed, add them to rows of cards on the table.  The player to place the sixth card in any given row instead takes the five cards on the table, which then go in their scoring pile.  The rows always increase in in number from left to right.  In the version of the game we play, cards are added to the high end of the row where the end card is has the highest value that is lower than the card placed.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

There is a variant, where players can add cards to both ends of the rows, but last time we played, Pine, the only one who had played it said it was very random so we gave it a miss.  The subject came up again, but with everyone involved, we decided to stick to the “normal version”.  This time, Purple was the first to pick up cards, taking ten “nimmts”, quickly followed by Blue, and the game was starting to look like a re-run of the last time we played.  Team Greeny-Lilac really struggled using a mobile phone, so Blue shared her screen between turns so he could better see the layout.  Despite their inability to see the cards on display properly, they were doing really well, until their vision improved when Blue started to share her screen.

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

At that point, they suddenly started to pick up cards and it all went down hill.  In fact the were going down hill so fast that they hit the fence first smashing through it with a very fine minus eight, while Black was the winner with fifty-six.  Ivory decided to call it a night there, but everyone else was happy to give it another go.  This time, Purple saved Team Greeny-Lilacs blushes by ensuring they didn’t finish two games at the bottom, and Burgundy took the honours finishing with forty-eight.  With that, Team Greeny-Lilac decided they’d had enough of fighting with the website on a mobile.  With numbers dropping to six, Pink was keen to give the “Professional” game a go.

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

Six is a funny number for 6 Nimmt!, so despite Pine’s reluctance, we decided to try it.  In this variant, cards can go on either end of the row, whichever is closest.  So a twelve would normally go after a ten, say, but in this version if one of the rows starts with a thirteen, it would go before that instead, shifting all the cards along.  If this means there are now six cards in the row, then the cards move into that player’s scoring pile and the card they played forms the starting card for the row.  This game always causes a lot of moaning and groaning and cursing, though as a nice group of people, we also always say thank-you when someone else picks up a fist-full of cards on our behalf, saving blushes. The “Professional” variant, however, was absolute mayhem!

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

It certainly wasn’t random, but the predicting what might happen was considerably more complex than for the standard game.  For some this made it more interesting, for others it just seemed total chaos.  Everyone was very glad the computer was working out where to place the cards though.  There were a couple of very interesting consequences of the new rules, though.  For example, low numbers, in particular single digits, are no-longer near-automatic pick-ups.  So, instead of waiting to play number one when there is a row with a singleton, it can now be used to mess everyone else about.  As it is always going to be resolved first, it will always go at the front of another row.  Additionally, cards that were previously very safe plays, are now not.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

So, playing a forty-four after a forty three as the fifth card in a row was almost always safe under the normal rules, but with this variant, if someone else has played a card at the front of that row, that forty-four is now the sixth card guaranteeing a pile of nimmts.  Similarly, rows with the highest cards are usually dead and just increase the competition for the other rows making it more difficult.  With the new rules though, these rows can still be played and can become a trap for the unwary too.  As a result, the new rules made it really interesting, but could have completely unpredictable effects, and everybody felt it would be too random with more than six players.

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

Some things don’t change no matter what you do and Purple seemed to have an uncanny knack of picking a card that went in just the wrong place.  Nobody really understood how, but Pink won the first round—not to say that Pink shouldn’t have won, just that everyone was so busy trying to work out what was going on and why, that nobody was watching what Pink was doing!  It was an absolute hoot though, and when Pink said he thought it was time he went to bed Blue commented that it wasn’t fair for him to leave without giving everyone else a chance to challenge him to another game. So, only slightly reluctantly, he stayed for one more game. This was just as crazy as the first and just as much fun too.  This time it was very close between Black and Blue, with Blue just edging it.  But the winner wasn’t important, it was all about the game.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Under the right circumstances, even a favourite can be improved.