Tag Archives: Oh My Goods!

1st Movember 2016

Blue and Red arrived first, with Red telling the tale of her exciting weekend.  It wasn’t long before Burgundy, Pine and Green had arrived so, at Blue’s behest, Red began telling it all over again.  She had been part of a teem entered into to a twenty-four hour “jigsaw-a-thon” in Belgium.  The Unofficial World Jigsaw Puzzle Championship is held every year in a place called Hannut and includes teams from all over the world.  This year, there were one hundred and twenty four teams, each fielding four active members at any one time (though as many interchanges as required were allowed).  Each team was competitively “jigsawing” in a little pen, Red explained, and when a puzzle was finished the team involved cheered madly and set off a klaxon.  Red’s team came a very creditable fifty-ninth, which was particularly remarkable as they had primarily gone along to have a good time where other teams took it very seriously and were exceptionally well organised.  Everyone was quite taken with the idea though, so much so that Green suggested entering a GOATS team next year.  It remains to be seen whether that actually happens…

Hannut 2016
– Image from 24hpuzzle.be/flickr.com

Green had his own exciting tales to tell about his visit to Millbrook Proving Ground and Burgundy had been to Wembley to see the season’s last American Football match of the NFL International Series which had turned out to be “a great game for neutrals”.  Consequently, it was gone 8pm before we realised that Black and Purple still hadn’t arrived and nobody knew whether they were coming or not.  Texts followed just as Black and Purple walked in commenting how great the NFL match had been.  Needless to say, we were late starting as we chatted on about that again.  Eventually, we split into two groups, with Green, Black and Burgundy settling down to play the “Feature Game”, Batavia.  Batavia was the Dutch colonial name given to the Indonesian city of Jakarta from the seventeenth century.  Batavia was also a ship of the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, or VOC) that was built in Amsterdam, and shipwrecked on her maiden voyage in 1629 off the Western Australian coast.  The game, Batavia, on the other hand, is concerned with shipping commodities from the spice islands in the seventeenth century and features both the city Batavia and the ship Batavia.

Batavia
– Image used with permission of
BGG reviewer EndersGame

Batavia is played over several rounds on a map of Asia featuring the central islands of the spice trade route.  Players are merchants visiting trading posts of the five East India Companies throughout Asia, gaining “majorities”, which earn the right to different commodities, which in turn translate into money that wins the game.  Each round consists of two phases:  an auction phase and a movement phase.  In the first phase, a die is rolled to determine how many cards will be auctioned.  Then, players bid using their promissory notes increasing the bid until everyone has passed with the highest bidder winning the cards and the right to go first.  The interesting part is that the winning bidder does not pay the bank, instead paying the other players by dealing the promissory notes round the table.  This is a very clever balancing mechanism, because it means the total number of promissory notes in circulation remains unchanged throughout the game.  Players who fail to win an auction also have in increased chance of winning the next time, and promissory notes are worth bonus points at the end of the game, giving them an intrinsic value in their own right.

Batavia
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

One the auction has been completed the auction winner begins the movement phase.  Each player has a choice, they can take two cards or play ship cards and move their merchant figure to get a new trading post counter.  Ship cards can only be played if the active player has, or can can achieve a majority of cards in one of the five trading companies – cards are played into a tableau and the player with the most cards of a particular shipping company gets the corresponding Company Seal which indicates possession of the majority in that company (and can be taken from another player if necessary).  Thus a player with a Company Seal can play any cards they wish, but if they do not have a Company Seal, they must play enough cards to earn the right to get one, and then can play additional cards as well.  In other words, if a player does not have any of the Company Seals, and can’t play enough cards to get one, then they must draw two cards instead.  Once the active player has played cards and has at least one Company Seal, they may move their Merchant figure along the hex-track to a trading post counter that corresponds to one of the Company Seals they own.  They take this tile which represents gaining the matching commodity from that trading post and is marked by placing a wooden Crate in the appropriate warehouse for that commodity.

Batavia
– Image by boardGOATS

Once a player has played their cards and moved their Merchant, they may, if they wish, turn their hex-tiles into points (or Gold).  The commodities on the tiles are of no significance, but the tiles traded must be from different companies; the more a player trades, the better the return, i.e one tile gives one point, but five tiles (from each of the five different companies) yields a massive fifteen points.  There is a catch though, trading is prohibited if the hex-tile just acquired comes from a company that the player already had a counter for.  Worse, trading post tiles cannot be turned into points at the end of the game, which means decisions can be tense, especially towards the end of the game.  There is another catch though.  Every time a ship card is played, the token that corresponds to that shipping company is moved along the Pirate track, as is the Pirate cannon.  When the cannon reaches a certain point, players forfeit all cards that correspond to the shipping company token that has made it the furthest along the Pirate track.  This fulfills many functions, including ensuring the number of cards in play doesn’t become unwieldy and preventing one player from getting an unassailable majority as well as encouraging players to diversify.  The game end is triggered when one player reaches the end of the trading post track and the round is finished to ensure everyone gets an equal number of turns.

Batavia
– Image by boardGOATS

We had nearly completed the set up when we discovered several pieces missing from the box that had been used elsewhere and not returned.  Rather than abandon the game though, we scavenged bits for the company seals and ‘navigator’ pieces from other games, primarily Vasco da Gama (at least some part of that game is being played).  With that sorted, we were quickly under way.  The early rounds of the game were characterised with high dice rolls, meaning that there were a lot of cards available for each auction that both Burgundy and Green paid handsomely for.  While Burgundy and Black made steady progress, laying claim to a few different commodities, Green raced ahead concentrating on just nuts and vases, the two highest valued commodities available in the game at that point. Black, on the other hand, won so few auctions that he had to miss his turn twice, collecting just two cards instead.

Batavia & Vasco da Gama
– Image by boardGOATS

During the early part of the game we discussed the optimum number of trading post hex-tiles to a swap for points.  The more a player trades, the better the return, i.e one tile gives one point, but five tiles (from each of the five different companies) yields a massive fifteen points, but more is correspondingly more challenging.  Burgundy explained that he felt that three was a good number as four was rife with risks of not being able to get one of the two remaining companies available. He stuck to his guns and exchanged after just three chits, while Green and Black both managed a four relatively easily.  Elsewhere in the  game, Cloth and Coffee were conspicuous by their absence, until about half way when Cloth materialised creating a veritable textile market quarter.  Coffee didn’t become available until the second half of the game and two thirds turned up in the final ten spaces, but by then Green was so far ahead of the other two that neither of them stood much of a chance to even get a foot-hold in that particular racquet.

Batavia
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end, although Burgundy had placed more crates overall, he only had the majority in one commodity, while both Green and Black managed the majority in two each. However with Green snatching the most valuable majorities and the end Target Token he was a clear winner. Black, who had seemed to be on the back foot for most of the game, just snatched the bonus for finishing with the most promissory notes (everyone must have been pretty even handed about their assumptions of card values, to finish with almost exactly the amounts we started with).  When Green snatched that final trading post hex-tile, Burgundy and Black were both a long way behind and plans were scuppered, but it did mean they had a reasonable choice to gather a final useful token.  Ironically, Burgundy placed a final crate in Cotton, which removed Black’s majority there. If he hadn’t done that, Black would have beaten Green by one point. It just goes to show that the player to watch out for isn’t always the most obvious one.

Batavia
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table, after a short debate about what to play, Blue, Red, Pine and Purple started on Kerala: der Weg der Elelfanten, “the way of the elephant”.  This was one of the games that came back from Essen and, as a light tile-laying game got its first outing last time.  Pine and Purple had enjoyed it and Red had missed out last time so was keen to give it a go.  The idea is that on their turn, the active player draws the same number of tiles from the bag as there are players and then chooses one to add to their display of tiles.  The everyone else takes it in turns taking a tile and adding them to their own display.  Play is mostly simultaneous as players puzzle over where to add tiles according to the fairly simple rules.  Tiles must be placed next to a tile with an elephant on it and the elephant is then moved onto the new tile.  It can be placed in an empty space, or on top of a previously laid tile.  However, a large part of the game is to finish with exactly one contiguous region of each colour (except the player’s own colour which can have two regions) as any extras must be removed and each tile taken away scores minus two points at the end of the game while any missing colours score minus five.

Kerala
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue drew with Black drew last time, thanks to a large number of “apron” tiles which score five points each when placed so that the apron matched the correct colour.  This time, everyone else was wise to how valuable these were and Blue had to fight harder for points.  In this game, positioning elephants and choosing suitable tiles (or leaving everyone else with poor tiles) is everything.  Both Purple and Pine and pine got themselves in a bit of a tangle with multiple regions of the same colour.  For the most part though, by the end of the game they had managed to connect the relevant areas and minimise the number of points lost.  It was Red, playing for the first time who got the best of the tiles.  She was no doubt helped by the fact that Blue (sat to her right), got herself in a terrible tangle and ended up trying to build her way out of trouble by placing tiles on top of others.  The problem was that no sooner had she fixed one problem than another came along, which meant she was more concerned about choosing the best tiles she could for herself than leaving tiles that were difficult for the next players.  Once again, the game finished in a tie, but this time it was Pine and Red who finished in joint first place, nearly ten points clear of the others.

Kerala
– Image by boardGOATS

Batavia was still underway, so the group moved onto a nominally quick little card game, called Fleet Warfside.  Although the game is about the fishing industry and uses the same artwork as the original Fleet card game, the game play is quite different.  The idea is that Wharfside is the sequel, with players buying and selling fish (caught in the original Fleet).  Players begin the game with a handful of fishy goods cards which they can use as currency or trade for points.  In ascending value, the goods cards each represent shrimp, oyster, tuna, swordfish, lobster or king crab.  Thus, two oyster cards are worth more than two shrimp cards and two king crab are worth more than two of anything else.  However, an extra card will always be worth more so three shrimps for example is worth more than two of anything else, even the valuable king crab.  Over-paying is allowed, in fact, it is over-paying that means the game works as, at its core, Fleet Wharfside is a set collecting game, and players need to be able to cover all the bases as prices are constantly changing.

Fleet Wharfside
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, players can either carry out a Market action or use the Wharf.  Market action involves buying contract or building card from the face up Market.  The price of each of the four individual cards is set in advance and is given by an indicator card immediately above the contract cards.  When a card is bought, the price of one of the four cards will change as the indicator card is rotated (usually increasing the price).  The Market affected depends on the replacement card drawn.  Instead of carrying out a Market action, players can instead visit the Wharf.  This allows them to do a variety of actions including: use any special abilities that come with the contract cards; assign a maximum of two goods to contracts and store king crab for scoring at the end of the game.  If a contract is completed during this phase, the assigned goods cards are placed on the discard deck and the completed contracts removed from the player’s tableau and placed in their scoring pile.  Bonus points cards are awarded for the first and second contract of each type to be completed.  A Wharf action is finished with a visit to the Wharf where players can take two cards from one of the two pools of face up cards.  There is a hand-limit, but players can choose which cards to discard after they have picked up.

Fleet Wharfside
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

The game end is triggered when a player completes a set number of contracts and the round completed so everyone gets the same number of turns.  Points are scored for completed contracts/buildings (at face value); stored king crab (at a rate of one per card plus a bonus for the player with the most); contract completion bonuses; the largest set in-hand at the end of the game (one point per card), and the player’s personal Captain Bonus (each player gets a random Captain card at the start of the game which depicts one type of goods and the player scores one point per speciality on their completed contracts).  Blue and Pink played Fleet Warfside on their way to Essen last month, but otherwise it was new to the group.  Although it is a great little card game, it is not really like anything else we’ve played on a Tuesday, and as a result, everyone struggled a bit.   Things were made worse by the fact that nobody really used the ability to over-pay, nor did they use the any two for one, which when judiciously used can speed things a long quite a bit.  When explaining the game, Blue commented that although the goal was to finish contracts, in actual fact it was generally better to try to keep the maximum of three contracts for as long as possible, as each contract has a spacial power and as soon as a contract was fulfilled, its power was lost.  Although this comment was well-meaning, it only succeeded in confusing Pine and Purple further.

Fleet Wharfside
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

The effect was an endless stream of questions and queries and repeated questions and queries which gave Red a fit of the giggles. The advertised time for Fleet Warfside is twenty to thirty minutes, but although Blue was expecting it to take longer, even she wasn’t expecting it to drag on as long as it did.  The problem was made worse since its sweet-spot is probably three players and with people agonising over what to do and questioning what the options are, the effect was even worse than it was.  Unsurprisingly given that she was the only one to play it before, Blue finished as the winner five points ahead of Red in second place.  Sadly, although it is a clever little game, with this group it was not a great success this time.  Actually, it may be that the more abstract, less visual nature of card games is the problem, since the same people struggled with Port Royal Unterwegs last time and with Oh My Goods! the time before – perhaps something to keep in mind for the future.

Isis and Osiris
– Image by boardGOATS

Since Batavia had finished, Green, Burgundy and Black looked round for something to play that might fill the time while Fleet Wharfside ground on.  Green’s eye fell on Isis & Osiris, a little game that Blue and Pink had brought back for him as a present from Essen.  The pieces  needed removing from their frames and nobody had played it before so there a flurry of rules reading, though in truth it was a simple enough game.  The game comprises elements of strategy and memory.  At the start, players are dealt a pile of tiles, face down, and get a handful of octagonal wooden blocks in their colour.  Game play is very simple: on their turn, the active player can either place a tile face down, first showing it to everyone else, or they can place a block.  At the end of the game, all the tiles are turned face up and players score points for those tiles orthogonally adjacent to their blocks.  The catch is that the tile values range from minus four to plus four (with no zeros), i.e. are both positive and negative.

Isis and Osiris
– Image by boardGOATS

After the inevitable terrorism comments, we started.  The skill in this game is to not only remember where all the best scoring tiles have gone, but also to work out when and where to place your own piece in order to maximise those tile placements: if someone turns up a high negative tile they certain to try to place it next to your piece and away from their own.  While playing we soon realised that a real quandary was when to place the four wooden pieces. Placing them early ensures they are out and gets a large part of the board covered.  Alternatively, waiting until near the end gives a better idea of where the scores are, but leaves less spaces in which to actually get those points. On reflection it seems that it really needs to be a balance, going early or late will probably end up with being boxed out of controlling your own destiny (not that you feel like you have much control normally anyhow).

Isis and Osiris
– Image by boardGOATS

We were unsure what kind of scores we would get. We had the feeling it was one of those game where negative scores would be all too common, and even a single point might be the winning score In the end the scores were a little higher than that at four, five and eight.  Burgundy admitted to forgetting where the scoring tiles were very early, on but still went on to win. It’s not clear what that says about this game, though we would need to play it a couple more times to find out how “random” it really is. With good players with good memories it could be a very challenging game.  Still it did only take the twenty minutes claimed (including set up, explanation and confusion during scoring) which makes it a good filler, which is more than could be said for Fleet Warfside on the next table which was still going.  It was obvious they would be another half hour or so, so with no messing our old favourite Splendor was out of the box and ready to go.

Isis and Osiris
– Image by boardGOATS

In Splendor, players have just three options on their turn:  collect gem tokens, buy a gem card using gem tokens (and/or cards), or reserve a gem card and receive a gold (wild) token at the same time.  Players can have a maximum of ten tokens, though unlimited cards and the cards act as permanent tokens.  Thus, at its heart Splendor is an engine building game built on a set-collection mechanism.  Players score points when they buy some gem cards and for attracting Nobles which are awarded to the first player collect certain combinations of gem cards; the game end is triggered when one player reaches fifteen points and the player with the most at the end wins.  One of the fun things about this game is that, despite its relative simplicity, each game plays differently.  This time it seemed to be a token-heavy game, in other words everyone did a lot of token hoarding, keeping several key colours out of circulation, making progress in a particular colour tricky for everyone.  As a result a number of gold tokens were taken for very lowly cards, several level twos and even a couple of level one cards. Indeed, Black took gold several times for want of anything better to do, since nothing else looked helpful.  The lack of tokens seemed to weigh particularly heavily on Burgundy in the early parts of the game, giving Black and Green a little optimism that maybe this time they might be able to topple him for the first time in four games.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Overall it was a very tight game. Burgundy, in spite of his protestations of having nothing he could do, managed to take the first Noble card. Black quickly got another with a high scoring card, leap frogging him into a strong lead and Green wasn’t far behind in gathering his first Noble.  Burgundy was able to build on his first Noble (one with three cards in each of three colours) by adding just two more cards to give his second Noble and put him within a whisker of ending the game with fourteen points. At this point, Black recognised that this could be his last turn, but he needed two turns to complete his plan. He did the best he could and also reached fourteen points.  Green went next, but his plan worked out just in time, and he placed a reserved card worth three points giving him his second Noble in the same way that Burgundy had and helping him to fifteen points triggering the game end making it the last round.  Unfortunately,  thanks to the turn order, Burgundy got one final turn and it didn’t take a lot of effort to find a way to gather two more points to maintain his Splendor crown, albeit with a warning shot across his bows: next time we’ll get him, maybe.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

With Fleet Warfside finally over, Red there was still time one final short filler, and, after a quick discussion, we resorted to our old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.  While Burgundy shuffled, the rest of us engaged in a discussion as to when we last played – after a look through the book, the verdict was July, which only left us to decide whether that was “ages” or not.  We reminded ourselves of the rules:  players simultaneously choose a card, then simultaneously reveal them before playing them in ascending order placing each on the row finishing with the highest card that is lower than the card being played.  When the sixth card is added to a row, the first five are taken and the number of heads contributes to the player’s score, lowest score wins.  We tend to play a variant over two rounds with half the deck in each round and not resetting the table in between which tends to result in a cascade of points in the second round, and this time was no exception.  Black and Burgundy top scored in the first round with zero and one point respectively and nobody else close, setting up a head to head in the second.  Victims of the second round cascade, unfortunately for them, Black and Burgundy both had disastrous second round.  It was Red who redeemed a poor first round to win by one point from Purple and Green who finished in joint second place.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Card games are more abstract and sometimes more difficult to understand.

20th September 2016

Since the planned “Feature Game” (Cuba) was a long one and we didn’t want anyone to get stuck playing two-player games all evening, we decided to play a quick filler until everyone had arrived.  After a brief discussion, we decided to go for Between Two Cities.  This game is quite popular with our group as it is both competitive, and cooperative and, as such, is totally different to anything else we play.  The idea is that, instead of each player having a personal player board that they work on in isolation, each player sits between two boards which they share with their neighbours.  The game play is based on card drafting games like Sushi Go! and 7 Wonders with scoring taking elements from tile-laying games like Carcassonne and Alhambra.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over three rounds with players placing building tiles to construct cities consisting of sixteen tiles in a four by four array.  Each player starts the first round with six tiles, of which they secretly choose two and pass the rest to the left.  Once everyone has chosen their two, everyone reveals their choices and then negotiates with their neighbours to try to to ensure they get the tiles they want in the two cities they have a share in.  Play continues with each player picking up the hand they were passed and choosing another pair of tiles etc. until there are no tiles left.  In the second round players get three double tiles of which they choose two and discard the third.  These double tiles contain two buildings in a vertical or horizontal arrangement.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

This is where things can get difficult, as the final city must form a four by four square and the location of buildings can be critical to their scoring.  For example, a housing estate built in a city with lots of other different types of buildings is worth up to five points at the end of the game, unless it is next to a factory in which case it is only worth one point.  Similarly, an isolated shop is worth two points, but a row of four is worth sixteen points.  The third and final round is played the same way as the first, except that tiles are passed in the opposite direction.  The winner is the player with the highest scoring second city.  We had just begun getting the game out and revising the game play when Black and Purple arrived, the last two expected.  So, in a quick switch, four jumped ship to play the “Feature Game” leaving Black and Purple to join Red, Magenta and Pine in Between Two Cities.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

The five cities all had very different characteristics, for example, Pine shared two contrasting cities with Magenta and Red.  The city he shared with Magenta had a pleasing arrangement of houses around a large central park with a couple of shops, bars, offices and a factory.  On his other side he shared the top scoring industrial town with Red which comprised a small housing estate buffered from factories by a row of office blocks.  Red shared her second city with Purple. This was built round a large park with lots of offices some bars, but only the one housing estate which cost it points.  Purple also shared a city with Black comprised two small parks surrounded by houses and bars with a couple of shops thrown in for good measure.  The fifth and final city was another industrial conurbation shared by Magenta and Black with lots of factories, and offices interspersed with bars and restaurants giving it a high score.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

The key to the game is to build two cities with similar scoring, but ideally using different components.  The other important factor, however, is the layout of the buildings and keeping them flexible for as long as possible.  The most successful in this regard was Pine, who was sat between the first and third highest scoring cities shared with Magenta and Red, who took second and third place respectively.  Filling in the log book was quite a pantomime, accompanied by photos and complicated diagrams before the group moved on to their next game, Pi mal Pfloumen, also known in our group as “Oh my Plums!”.  We’ve played this a couple of times, most recently last time, but on both occasions we struggled with the clarity of the rules.  This time, we finally managed to play it right (we think) and unsurprisingly, the game worked much better played correctly.

Pi Mal Pflaumen
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is one of set collecting built on a framework of trick taking.  Each card has a value, a “fruit suit” and, in many cases, a special action as well.  Players take it in turns to play a card, then, starting with the player who played the card with the highest face value, players then take it in turns to choose a card.  These are added to their tableau in front of them.  In general, any special actions are carried out when the card is taken, which can include taking “π cards” (which can be added to cards when they are played to increase their face value), taking cards from other players or claiming the Watchdog card (which protects from card theft).

Pi mal Pflaumen
– Image by boardGOATS

Some cards depict a “fruit mix” which lead to scoring opportunities, and can be claimed at any point when a player is taking cards at the end of the trick.  It all made a lot more sense this time though Red still didn’t have a clue what was going on.  It was quite a close game, but was finally decided when Red took a critical plum spoiling Black and Pine’s plans and with it taking the game, just ahead of Purple in second place. With Red and Magenta heading home for an early night and the game on the next table still going, Black, Purple and Pine were looking for something interesting to play.  Blue suggested Oh My Goods!, which is a little card game, but as none of the others had played it (and Blue was engaged elsewhere), they settled down to decipher the rules.  Meanwhile, the neighbouring table were just over halfway through their game of Cuba.

Pi mal Pflaumen
– Image by boardGOATS

Cuba is a fairly simple game mechanistically, but is deceptively complex thanks to the way actions interact and build on each other.  Each player has a player board featuring a four by four array of plantations and/or buildings and a lot for storage.  They also have a pack of five character cards each with an associated action.  In the first part of each round, players take it in turns to play a character card until they have each played four of them.  In the second part of the round, the remaining character provides the basis of each player’s votes in Parliament, with different characters providing different numbers of votes.  This part of the game is vaguely reminiscent of voting for Laws in Lancaster.  In Cuba, players can improve their position by buying more votes in a blind bidding phase with the winner choosing two which two bills Parliament will enact.  There are a number of little features that give the game teeth, for example, any money spent on buying votes goes to the bank, regardless of whether the player wins or loses.  Similarly, the start player (which decided based on the final character card played) can be critical as it is the tie breaker in the voting phase as well as giving priority in the next round.

Cuba
– Image by boardGOATS

Getting these wrong can mess up plans spectacularly, but far more critical are the character cards played, the order they are played in and how they are played.  For example, the Worker card allows a player to move their Worker to any plantation on their player board and then activate the plantation at its new location and all plantations orthogonal to it.  Plantations can generate resources (rock, wood or water) or produce (sugar, citrus fruit or tobacco), but as the game progresses may be replaced by buildings.  Buildings are placed over plantation spaces using the Architect card and exchanging them for resources.  Like plantations, they are activated by playing the Foreman card who activates all buildings orthogonal to the Worker, but does not move the worker as part of the action.  Thus, the relationship between playing the Worker card and playing Foreman card is very important.

 Cuba
– Image by boardGOATS

Furthermore, there is a significant distinction between resources (cubes), produce (octahedral blocks) and goods (rum and cigars created from sugar and tabacco):  while resources and goods can be stored in the lot, produce will rot if left out overnight and must be moved to the Warehouse before the end of the round if they are to be saved.  In order to move produce to the Warehouse, the Warehouse must be activated by the Foreman.  This could be because it is one of the buildings orthogonal to the Worker or because the player sacrifices his positional advantage and activates the warehouse as a single building anywhere on the board.  Thus, the position of the buildings is very important, not only because careful placement allows players to activate multiple buildings, but also because they are placed on top of plantations which are then no-longer usable.  Produce can also be saved from rotting by either using buildings to turn it into goods or by playing the Mayor to place items on a ship.  This last option can be difficult to rely on however as all merchandise must be placed on the same ship and spaces on each ship are limited.

Cuba
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, while Cuba relies on a good strategy, meticulous planning is also vital for success.  Although we could all see this up front, only Green had played it before (albeit some years ago), so he was the only with an idea of the possible strategies.  So, to give everyone else a few extra moments to familiarise themselves with their player board, Green was declared the start player and took the wooden blue sedan (pinched from the El Presidente expansion as a start player marker).  Green began by building the Dam to increase his board’s water supply, while everyone else started with what appeared to be a more flexible opening by using their Worker to collect resources and produce.  By the end of the first part of the first round, Burgundy had shipped a few goods, Green had collected a lot of water, and Ivory and Blue weren’t sure what they were doing, but had decided that collecting and storing produce seemed like a good base to start from.  Then came second part of the round:  bribing officials to decide which bills should be enacted.

Cuba
– Image by boardGOATS

Since Burgundy had been the only one to ship goods he was the only one with fewer than five votes.  Everyone secretly chose an additional amount, but as Green really, really, really wanted this one, he bid four of his ten pesos, while everyone else wasn’t certain how to value the bills and therefore didn’t bid.  So Green chose his expensive laws for the round and in particular the water subsidy which would give him three points straight away.  The second round mirrored the first with everyone choosing their “Worker” until Green played his “Architect”, building the Golf Course (which converts water into victory points).  While everyone else could see what Green was doing, nobody else had worked out what was a good combination of buildings and therefore what strategy to play for. Blue made a mistake thinking the Bank she was would give victory points, but when she activated it she realised it gave her money.  Still, it did give her an advantage during the bribing and in the second round was able to choose the laws.  This time she changed the goods tax from citrus to sugar, and brought in the Harbour Act (this makes any fully loaded ships leave the harbour immediately with all remaining ships moving along accordingly).

Cuba
– Image by boardGOATS

After taxes had been paid and subsidies received (Green had already converted his water and so did not receive the subsidy this time) the scores were evenly spaced with Green at the front, building a solid lead.   Over the next few rounds everyone stumbled on, still not really sure what to do as Green developed quite a strong lead.  Burgundy was the only one who was really doing any shipping while Ivory had managed to build a Rum Factory and was converting lots of sugar into Rum, which he was hoping to ship.  Unfortunately, he really struggled since only the first ships seemed to required rum and the later ones all seemed to need cigars.  By the time Ivory had given up and sold his rum, ships that did want it finally started appearing, but it was largely too late.  It was at the end of round four when the game took a sudden turn though.  Burgundy had worked hard on shipping, which the rest of us had mostly ignored.  With the Harbour Law still in force, the ships moved on when full and nobody had noticed that Ivory had every piece of merchandise required for the top scoring ship.  So when it was his turn he loaded it completely taking fifteen points, and with it, the lead.  Suddenly everyone knew how important shipping could be.

Cuba
– Image by boardGOATS

With only two rounds to go, it was a bit late to change strategies and only Blue made any inroads using her stash of pesos to win the laws and ensuring she could gather the full five points for fulfilling the taxes while everyone else struggled to get two points. This together with the Rum Café she had built gave her a sudden flurry of points, but it was too, little too late.  In the final final scoring, Green was unable to catch Ivory who finished four points behind Ivory – not how anyone would have predicted from the early rounds where Green had been so dominant and everyone else had been learning.  We had all enjoyed it though, especially once we’d got to grips with the difference between resources, produce and goods.  The sudden change of fortunes as strategies clicked kept it interesting too, though in any future there may be more competition for shipping than there was in this one.  It’s highly likely we’ll play it again soon though.

Cuba
– Image by boardGOATS

As Cuba was coming to an end, Black, Purple and Pine were still making a bit of a meal of Oh My Goods!, getting bogged down in the complexity of the theory of “chaining”.  Although this is the clever part of the game it is a complicated place to start in what is otherwise a simple game.  Players start with a hand of dual purpose cards which can act as resources or buildings.  They also start the  game with a single card face up in front of them, a charcoal burner stacked with face down cards:  charcoal.  The idea is that this charcoal can be used as money to spend on building, or as charcoal to use as an input to other processes.  At the start of each round players get an extra couple of cards before cards are turned over to make the morning market.  This can consist of as few as two cards or as many as eight or more.  The market provides input for buildings – there will be a second, evening market before the end of the round – but players have to use the morning market to provide a steer to decide which building they are going to activate and what they are going to build.

Oh My Goods!
– Image by boardGOATS

Each player has one worker and must be assigned to the building he is going to activate.  The worker can can work efficiently or lazily.  If he works efficiently, he will need the necessary resources in full and will provide two items of produce.  On the other hand, if he works lazily, he can manage with one less than the total necessary resources, but will only produce one item.  The resources can come from the market, but can also be topped up from the player’s hand.  Once each player has placed their worker, decided whether he will be efficient or lazy and chosen a card to build, the second market is revealed.  Once this evening market has been completed, players take it in turns to carryout their production and, if appropriate, build.

Oh My Goods!
– Image by boardGOATS

A building only produces if the necessary resources (on the bottom left corner of the card) can be provided either through the market or from a players hand.  If the worker is efficient, then he produces twice and two cards are taken from the draw deck and placed face down on the top of the card as produce.  If the worker is lazy, only he only produces once.  This is where the game gets slightly nasty:  if the player cannot supply the required input, then the turn is wasted, though if they have sufficient money, they can still use it to build.  If a building is activated, it can additionally be used to “chain” i.e. produce goods using input from other buildings (rather than the market) and it was this that was confusing people.  The problem is that this is only possible once a player has several building and although it is a key part of the game, the ability to build good working chains is highly dependent on the cards drawn.  As such, it is not something to worry about too much when learning to play.

Oh My Goods!
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory and Green left, leaving Blue to try to explain to Pine, Black and Purple, and Burgundy to spectate.  Perhaps it was because it was late and people were tired, or perhaps it was because the players had confused themselves, but the game itself was still rather tortuous.  Pine’s concluding comment was that if Room 101 existed, he knew which game he would be sending there…  In this light the scores seemed rather irrelevant, though it was obvious that the player who understood best was going to win and that was Black who finished with twenty-two points.  He agreed that it was a clever game and he might be interested in giving it another go, though sadly it is probably beyond Blue’s powers of persuasion to encourage Purple or Pine to try again soon.

Oh My Goods!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  Sometimes, you don’t have to understand what’s going on, but it usually helps…!

6th September 2016

Pink (making one of his rare appearances) arrived first with Red and Magenta, closely followed by Blue and then Burgundy.  So, with the food order done, we scratched about for something quick to play when Red suggested a little card game called Unter Spannung (aka 7 Ate 9).  This was a game she had picked up in Germany a week earlier when she’d been travelling and had found herself unable to resist spending all her money in a toy shop.  Although the rules were in German, Red and Blue had managed to come up with a translation and had played it quite extensively when they had been away in Switzerland for work.  Neither Red nor Blue speak any German, so they weren’t certain that they were playing correctly, but they had found it to be fun all the same and taught everyone else the same way.

Unter Spannung
– Image by boardGOATS

They described Unter Spannung as “Dobble with maths” and basically, the idea is that each player starts with a hand of four cards and a deck of cards that they must try to get rid of.  Each card has a number on the corner (the face value) and a modifier in the centre (of the form ±1, ±3 or ±3).  The game begins with a single face up card in the centre and simultaneously everyone tries to play a card where the face value matches the total for the centre card (i.e. the face value plus or minus the modifier).  Thus, if the card in the middle is 8±1, players can play any card with a face value of seven or nine.  The snag is that cards are only numbered one to ten, so the the maths gets a little more tricky.  For example, 8±3 is five or eleven, but since there is no eleven, it becomes one.  Simple enough, though at the lower end things become more difficult as negative numbers don’t simply become positive, rather, zero becomes ten and any negative must be subtracted from this.  So, 1±3 is four or minus two which in turn becomes eight…

Unter Spannung
– Image by boardGOATS

Like Dobble, cards are placed simultaneously in a frantic rush and the card then played becomes the new top card, which causes mayhem when someone has just got there first.  Unlike Dobble, players start with a hand of four cards but can add cards whenever they want, so as soon as there is a bit of a lull in placing cards everyone frantically draws cards from their deck.  The first player to get rid of all their cards (hand and deck) is the winner.  Although the game nominally only plays four, we added an extra and just played a slightly short round.  Red and Blue had an inevitable advantage having played before, and everyone else struggled to get their heads round it.  The first round went to Red who stomped her authority on the game early on.  Then Burgundy’s food arrived which he used as an excuse to duck out of the second round which Blue took having warmed up a little.

Unter Spannung
– Image by boardGOATS

With food and gamers arriving thick and fast, there was a brief hiatus, before we split into three groups.  The first group (Black and Purple) began their belated supper while Red, Blue, Pink and Magenta began the “Feature Game”, which was The Manhattan Project: Chain Reaction.  This is a fairly short resource conversion card game based on The Manhattan Project boardgame.  In this simpler, card game version, players are firstly mining to create yellowcake, then purifying the yellowcake to get uranium which they can then use to make a bomb.  Players start with a hand of five cards, each of which is dual function, providing either an action or a people.  In order to get the yellowcake players need people to do the mining and then a mining card.  There are several different types of people:  labourers, engineers, scientists, etc.  These can be provided directly by cards, or using people and location cards to generate larger numbers or people with different skills. For example, a University can be used to create engineers or scientists.  Combining these with enrichment plant cards and yellowcake gives players uranium which in turn allows players to claim one of the face up bomb cards.  When acquired, these can be augmented by the addition of a bomb-loading card which also comes at a price.

The Manhattan Project: Chain Reaction
– Image by boardGOATS

All the cards come in a range of input requirements and outputs, but in general, the more expensive cards give richer rewards.  There are always several bomb cards available and the game end is triggered when one player achieves a total of ten megatonnes of bomb (including any bomb-loading cards).  The rules were a little bit difficult to disentangle somehow so it took us a while to really get to grips with what should have been a fairly simple game and there was a high chance that the player who understood first would win.  In the event, luck played a fairly large part too as there are additional special cards.  These are important as the hand-limit of five cards is quite restrictive and the special cards can enable players to get extras. It was Pink who managed to get the first bomb card, although Red and Magenta both had substantial piles of uranium and yellowcake respectively.  Then from no-where, Blue suddenly built a seven megatonne bomb, quickly followed by Red and Magenta.  It was all too late though as Pink finished the game and with it comprehensively won.  In truth this isn’t really the sort of theme our group usually go for, and with a fairly heavy slice of luck and slightly rough roles we made heavy weather of it.  That said, we felt it was definitely worth playing again.

The Manhattan Project: Chain Reaction
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Green, Ivory, Pine and Burgundy played Imhotep, one of the nominees for the Spiel des Jahres this year.  We played it a few weeks back in July and it went down quite well, so since Green wasn’t able to stay for long it was a good opportunity for a second outing.  In this game, players take the role of builders in Egypt who are trying to emulate Imhotep.  The premise of the game is very simple.  On their turn, the active player chooses one of four actions:  procure new stones (very large wooden blocks); load stones on a boat; sail a boat to a monument; or play an action card.  Players can only store a maximum of five stones and when they procure stones they can collect a maximum of three.  Stones are loaded onto ships one at a time, but which of the five possible destinations the boats end up at and the order they are unloaded in is vital, so timing and planning is everything and, as we discovered last time, other players have the ability to screw up even the best laid plans.  Thus, the challenge is to work out how to accomplish strategies when the boats rarely go where you want them to.  There were two players who were new to the game this time, but it is easy to explain and play, although it is much much harder to work out where to place cubes in the boats and when to move things.  It usually takes a couple of rounds for the game to settle in and for patterns to emerge, and this time was no different.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the dust from the early quarry blocks had settled, Green had a one block lead in the obelisk (he had used the Obelisk to good effect last time out and narrowly won that game), Pine already had a good area in the Burial Chamber, Burgundy was big in the pyramid and Ivory had a smattering of cubes in most places.  When a boat with a single cube space appeared, Green decided to take a punt on it and see where he ended up. Surprisingly it stayed put until all the other boats had been docked, leaving it with just two choices: the Pyramid for four points or the obelisk to extend Green’s lead there to two cubes. Pine was first to have to make that decision, and chose to defer it by cutting more blocks from the quarry, Ivory and Burgundy followed and did likewise leaving Green with a free choice.  His supply of blocks was looking a bit thin though compared to the others and so he also chose to re-stock leaving Pine no choice since his sled was full.  After deliberation between the others (no-one wanted Green’s advice) he chose the obelisk and Green was pleased with two cube lead as he thought it would be quite easy to maintain.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game progressed everyone became more wily at positioning stones on the boats, and Pine was prevented from increasing the size of his Burial Chamber group and no-one else could get a larger grouping than two either!  The ‘Wall’ received a number of cubes this game, including quite a few of Ivory’s, and eventually it reached the third level.  Burgundy continued to dominate the Pyramid, while the the obelisk continued to grow and Burgundy was began to make inroads to Green’s lead, while Pine kept a watching brief in third.  By the latter part of the game everyone was so focused on their own strategies that they often failed to notice Burgundy attempting to dominate one particular boat.  The first time he did this he managed to collect two purple statue cards in one turn and the second time he got two cubes into the obelisk (although Green jumped aboard at the last minute to limit the damage). In the penultimate round, Burgundy had got three stones on a four stone ship.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

Green was next and a quick count suggested that if this were to go to the obelisk it would lose him the lead.  So, he felt he had no choice; that boat had to dock somewhere else and he chose the Pyramid as the least damage, though it still netted Burgundy six points.  That gave Pine an opening to get a couple of his stones to the obelisk so that he overtook Burgundy, pushing him into second.  Going into the final round, the writing was on the wall.  Burgundy could no longer win the Obelisk win, and as long as Green placed a stone on the same boat as Pine, he was guaranteed the full fifteen points for first place (as last time).  Otherwise it was mostly just a mopping up exercise to get the most points possible with the last stones.  Both Burgundy and Ivory had managed two or three purple statue cards and so the final scoring was tight.  Despite being the only one without a green bonus scoring card (which gives points for the total number of cubes in the different areas), Green still finished a couple of points ahead of Pine in what was another close and enjoyable game.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

With both games finishing, Black and Purple having consumed their supper and Green heading off, it looked like it was change.  However, in the event, Green was directly replaced by Black and Purple and the other group began another game of Imhotep.  The game has an in-built expansion as each location board has a second side with slightly more involved building options.  For example, while Side A has just one large Pyramid, Side B has three smaller Pyramids and players choose which one to add their cube to.  Pink, who had played Side A at the UK Games Expo, was keen to give the alternative options a try.  It turned out that these actually add quite a bit to the complexity as they add another layer to the decision making.  This is because instead of just considering what everyone would get at each location, players have to consider what everyone will do at each location and what this will give them.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

So for example, instead of just looking at where all the cubes will go in the Pyramid and what they will score, the active player now has to consider which Pyramid each player will pick and what that leaves for everyone else.  For this reason, it possibly wasn’t the best choice for a first game.  As a result, as they had not played it before, both Red and Magenta struggled with trying to work out what they were trying to do and what strategies would work best.  In the early stages, it was all very tentative.  Instead of just building the highest, on Side B, points are awarded throughout the game for “mini-obelisks” containing just three blocks, though the early mini-obelisks are worth more.  Blue got an early start with Pink following in second place.  Meanwhile, Red and Magenta scooped up some of the early Market cards, correctly thinking they were important, hoping that it would allow them to learn what else might be a good strategy.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

It was in the third round it became apparent that we had a problem on our hands as Pink had taken a bit of a run-away lead in the Temple.  When playing with Side A players add cubes to a row of five blocks, with additional blocks going into the second and eventually third rows.  Points are scored at the end of the round for each stone delivered that is visible from above.  With Side B, blocks are added in  the same way, but the bonus are different.  Thus, the first “space” on the alter will give one point or two extra wooden blocks.  Other spaces give Market cards and even two points making it quite lucrative.  Unfortunately, for the rest of us, Pink had somehow managed to steal a march on the rest of us.  He then made a point of sending a small boats there which meant his early blocks continued to work for him well beyond their usual lifetime.  This was not helped by the fact that Pink also contrived to ensure that the little boats contained his blocks, so any that were covered were covered by his own blocks so he continued to benefit. Blue, having played the game before could see the problem and managed to muscle in a little, but it was slow and Pink stormed into the lead with nothing anyone else could do about it.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, Blue and Magenta managed to break Pink’s strangle-hold on the Temple, while Red began to fall behind but continued to collect purple Statue cards stacking up points for the end of the game.  Magenta gradually began to dominate in the Burial Chamber too.  With Side A, the blocks are placed in position in strict rotation and the each player scores points for their largest contiguous area according to the Triangular Number Series.  With Side B, however, each row of blocks is evaluated independently and eight points awarded to the person with the most blocks in the row, with four points for second place and two for third.  With three rows, a player who goes into this heavily can pick up a lot of points which is exactly what Magenta did, winning two and coming placing on the third as well.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

With the game coming to a close, we all thought Pink had it in the bag, but we still had the end game scoring cards to count up.  Sadly, Red’s Statues didn’t get her quite as many as we thought, but it was very close with both Pink and Magenta finishing with forty-two points.  Blue just managed to squeak ahead though finishing with forty-three in what turned out to be yet another tight game.  So that was three out of three as it had been close first time we played as well when Green had won, taking the Obelisk.  This led some of us to speculate whether the Obelisk is perhaps a little too powerful.  Although it has featured heavily in all three games, the games have all been exceptionally close so the jury is still out.  Now that we know it is a potential game changer though, next time there might be more blocks placed there and a greater battle for supremacy. In turn that could let someone else slip through and score heavily elsewhere which could make it interesting.  It’ll probably get another outing soon as we can’t let Green remain unbeaten.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

While the second game of Imhotep was going on, at Blue’s suggestion, the other group got on with Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King.  This won the Kennerspiel des Jahres this year and has proved very popular with our group as there is quite a bit of variability in the set up ensuring the games remain interesting.  Despite the fact that she wasn’t playing, it was Blue’s suggestion as she knew that Black, Burgundy and Pine liked it a lot and thought that Ivory might appreciate it too.  Borrowing heavily from tile-laying games like Carcassonne, Isle of Skye is a much deeper game without adding an awful lot to the rules.  The idea is that players draw three tiles from a bag and and then secretly choose one to discard and set prices for the other two.  This is done by placing the tiles in front of a screen and a discard token and money for the player’s stash behind.  The money remains in place for the duration of the round, unless the corresponding tile is purchased by another player.

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

This mechanism is very clever as if nobody else wants the tile, then the player uses the money to purchase it themselves.  Thus, it is critically important to correctly evaluate the worth of the tile, depending on whether it is most desirable to sell it or keep it.  The other clever part of the game is the scoring:  This is mostly carried out at the end of each of the six rounds.  At the start of the game, four scoring tiles are drawn at random and these are used in different combinations at the end of the rounds in such a way that each appears a total of three times, but only one is used in the first round while three are used in the final round.  This time, the first two scoring tiles drawn both rewarded mountain ranges, so although this could have made for an interesting, competitive game, in the interests of balance, we decided to chuck them back and start again.

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

The four scoring tiles were: five points for the player with the most money and two for the player with the next most (A); two points for each cow on the road connected to the castle (B); three points for each vertical row with more than three tiles (C) and one point for each completed terrain (D).  Burgundy started collecting cattle while Black went for sheep.  Maybe it was because Black got there first, or perhaps it was because someone misheard, but Pine (who can usually be counted on to go for a woolly fleece) tried to use ships to build his score.  Purple isn’t a great whiskey drinker, but as usual, she built her strategy on a foundation of barrels.  This didn’t leave much for Ivory, but there is always someone who struggles with a lack of cash and someone else who seems unnecessarily flush.  This time it was Ivory who made a killing on his tiles and with money in the scoring tiles it guaranteed him a solid number of points to build on.  It was a another close game  with only five points between first and third.  It was Burgundy who just pipped Black to finish in front however, with Pine a close third.

Unter Spannung
– Image by boardGOATS

Red and Magenta were about to make a move, but with Isle of Skye still going, they stuck about for a couple more rounds of Unter Spannung, which Red and Blue took again, though it was a bit closer this time.  As the other group finished and Ivory headed off too, the rump were left to play one last game.  Black had been keen to play Pi mal Pflaumen, but had missed out when it was the “Feature Game” a few weeks back, so he was very keen to give it a go.  This game is a relatively simple little card game, but one that we struggled with the rules for last time and contrived to make a bit of a mess of this time too. Pi mal Pflaumen (or “Oh my Plums!” as we call it in a sideways reference to another little card game, Oh My Goods!), is a trick taking game with elements of set collecting and lovely artwork.  The idea is that each card features a fruit, a number and most also have some sort of special action.  Each player begins with a hand of cards and, starting with the start player, everyone takes it in turns to play one card.  Then, the player who played the highest value card chooses one of the cards which they place face up in a tableau in front of them, before they carry out the action associated with the card.

Pi Mal Pflaumen
– Image by boardGOATS

There are several different special actions, it could be steal a card from another player; take the “watchdog” card (which guards against other players stealing cards), or take three “pi” cards.  Instead of an action, some cards indicate a scoring condition and the points awarded for achieving it.  These are of the form of, for example, ABC or AAA, indicating three different fruit or three identical fruit respectively.  The more fruit involved and the more similar the fruit, the more points they are worth.  When a player owns both the scoring card and the matching Fruit cards, they are all removed from their display and put to one side to score at the end of the game.  The game is played over three rounds and winner is the player with the most points at the end.

Pi mal Pflaumen
– Image by boardGOATS

Last time we played, we had a fairly extensive discussion about the rules.  The rules are a little unclear:  they clearly state that “when a card is taken you must immediately carryout its action”, but they don’t make it clear whether this applies to claiming points on “Fruit Mix” cards as well.  We couldn’t remember how we played last time, but this time we played that points could only be claimed when the card was taken (with cards in the player’s tableau used to fulfill the condition).  In an added complication, we also had to decide what implications this had for cards that players have stolen.  The rules state that “you can immediately use a stolen card to create a Fruit Mix”.  Initially we presumed that this applied only to the fruit mix cards, but a little doubt began to set in.  Checking the rules fora online after the event suggested that Fruit Mix cards from the tableau could also be claimed, and the key phrase in the rules stated that “one or more Fruit Mixes” can be claimed when a card is taken, which is only possible if cards in the tableau are used, but this only became apparent some time after the game.

Pi mal Pflaumen
– Image by boardGOATS

It was another tight game with everyone claiming some low scoring Fruit Mixes in the first round, but Burgundy took a slight lead making him a target for the rest of the game.  In the second and third round, the value of the fruit mixes on the cards increases adding a bit of all or nothing element to the game.  For example, Blue had spent much of the game with low cards and, as a result had ended up taking the last card more than her fair share.  The last card comes with a bonus “Plum” card though, so if she had managed to pick up the twenty-five, she could have claimed a massive twelve points for a total of four Plum cards.  Purple did her best to help Blue out, but Black had a large pile of π cards and with Burgundy and Pink’s help was able to control things.  In the end it was Pink who finished with the most points, just three clear of Blue with Black in third place.

Pi mal Pflaumen
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  Well balanced games also make for tight results.