Tag Archives: Orléans

10th February 2022

It was just Blue and Pink for food, so while they waited, they killed time with a very quick game of Ticket to Ride: London.  The little, city versions of Ticket to Ride make great appetisers, and this one is no exception.  The game play is essentially the same as in the full-sized versions (collect coloured cards and play them to buy routes), except they have fewer pieces, a much smaller map and take a lot less time to play.  In terms of strategy, there usually isn’t really time to do much, so it’s typically a case of doing one thing and doing it well.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Blue decided to really challenge herself.  The London game gives bonus points for connect for players that collect certain locations together.  Blue worked out that if she managed to complete her longer ticket (Buckingham Palace to Brick Lane), going via the “ring road”, she could also complete her shorter ticket (Hyde Park to St Paul’s), and pick up lots of bonus points too, with just one bus left over.  Unfortunately for her, Pink managed to end the game just one turn too soon, leaving her with a gap between Regent’s Park and King’s Cross, no bonuses, no tickets and almost no points.  When it came to sparing her blushes, food couldn’t arrive too soon.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

With Green bringing his parents (Saffron & Sapphire), the “Feature Game” was a light, hand-management, double-think fox and chickens game that we’ve played a few times before, called Pick Picknic.  It looked like three games were going to be needed, so Pink suggested Altiplano (in lieu of Orléans which didn’t quite make it last time), and took it to the other side of the room along with Ivory, Sage and Teal.  Pick Picknic plays six, but with eight foxes to fight over the chickens, two games of four seemed the best way to set things up.  Green suggested breaking up his family unit, so Blue instigated a trade and swapped Lilac and Sapphire for Lime and Purple.

Pick Picknic
– Image by boardGOATS

So, after a quick game of Musical Chairs, Green, Saffron, Lime and Purple settled down to play Pick Picknic.  At the start of each round, the six coloured farm yards are seeded with a random corn (worth one, two or three points).  Players then simultaneously choose a card from their hand and play it.  If their card is the only card of that colour and is a chicken, it gets all the corn.  If there is more than one chicken of that colour, they can either come to an agreement to share the corn, or fight for it.  If there is a fox amongst the chickens, the fox has a good feed and the corn remains till the next round.  If someone plays a fox card and there are no chickens, the fox goes hungry.

Pick Picknic
– Image by boardGOATS

The game started in an amicable manner sharing out the corn instead of fighting for it when the need arose, until half way through when Lime decided he no longer wanted to share. He won, but the scene was now set and squabbles broke out over corn more often.  In the meantime, Lime’s foxes were getting fat from eating everyone else’s birds and corn was building up, uneaten.  The others’ foxes were usually not so lucky, and Purple’s foxes were hungriest of all.  Towards the end of the game peace finally broke out once again and sharing was order of the day once more.  In the final tally, Lime proved the wiliest of us finishing first with fifty points and Saffron and Green close behind with forty-four and forty-five respectively.

Pick Picknic
– Image by boardGOATS

On the neighbouring table, Blue, Lilac, Black and Sapphire were a little slower to get going as they had to choose a game, but eventually decided on Coloretto.  While we’ve played it a lot, it was new to both Lilac and Sapphire so there was a recap of the rules first.  Blue explained that on their turn players have a simple decision:  turn over the top card in the deck and choose a “cart” to add it to, or take the cards from one of the carts.  Lilac commented that it was similar to Zooloretto, which of course it is, as Coloretto was it’s predecessor and they share the same basic mechanism.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Players are trying to collect sets of the coloured chameleon cards, but there are two clever features.  Firstly, the largest three sets score positively and scores for the others are subtracted from a player’s total.  Secondly, for each set, the first card is worth a single point, but the second is worth two, the third is worth three and so on (up to a maximum of six cards).  Thus, it is better to get six cards of one colour, rather three in each of two suits.  Sapphire, took this to heart, focusing solely on red and green, and often taking nearly empty trucks as a result.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Lilac was more adventurous and pushed her luck a bit, ending up with a bit of a rainbow, but with a couple of strong suits and a few bonus point cards.  Blue commented that, although players need to avoid negative points, players who don’t take cards generally don’t do well, and promptly took lots of cards and ended up with lots of negative points as a result.  Black, very experienced at this game, played smart and took an early lead which he held right until the last round when Blue got lucky and drew cards in her longest suit and with it, took victory, pushing Black into second.  Lilac and Sapphire were not far behind and separated by a single point.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Pick Picknic and Coloretto finished at much the same time.  Purple then requested a game of Azul, so we preceded it with another quick game of Musical Chairs as Blue swapped places with Green.  Then, after a little discussion, Green, Lilac, Black and Sapphire chose to play Draftosaurus.  This is a fun little drafting game like Sushi Go!, but instead of drafting cards, players are drafting little wooden dinosaurs.  The dinomeeples are placed on the player’s board with different areas on the board scoring points in different ways.  For example, the “Meadow of Differences” can only hold one of each type of dinosaur, but will score twenty-one points if it contains all six (using the same scoring scheme as Coloretto).

Draftosaurus
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over two rounds (drafting clockwise and then anti-clocwise), before all the parks are scored.  Players also score an extra point for each Tyrannosaurus rex they have in their park, as well as extra points if they have if they have the most dinosaurs of the type they put in their “King of the Jungle” pen.  Everyone knows there is only one King of Jurassic Park and Black was looking like the winner with his T-rex strategy. He not only got several bonus points for pens with T-rex’s he also got seven points for having the most T-rexes too.  However it was Green’s more general approach to his dinosaur park that pipped Black to the post.

Draftosaurus
– Image by boardGOATS

All the scores were close though: Green finished with thirty-seven with Black in second with thirty four, and Lilac and Sapphire were just behind.  As everyone else was still playing, the group carried on together and moved on to the fun little push-your-luck game, Port Royal.  This (like its little cousin “Unterwegs“) is a very simple game: on their turn, the active player chooses to “twist” and turn over the top card of the deck, or “stick” and keep the current card set.  The deck of cards consist of coloured ship cards and character cards.  The first decision is to decide whether to risk a “twist” because if second ship card of a colour is drawn the player goes bust and their turn ends.

Port Royal
– Image by boardGOATS

If a player “sticks” they can take a ship and add its treasure to their stash, or they can use their gold to buy the support of characters.  These give players victory points and special powers, but also can be used to claim contracts and give more points.  The cards are double-sided like those in San Juan or Bohnanza, so in the same way, keeping an eye on the discard pile and the money in players’ hoard is key.  Once the active player has taken a card, players round the table can take a card too, but they must pay the active player for the privilege.  The game ends when one player has twelve points or more, that triggers the end of the game and the winner is the player with the most points.

Port Royal
– Image by boardGOATS

Black, once again, got off to a fighting start, collecting arms to help him ward off the pirates while Lilac had her eye on the contract symbols. Sapphire went for the Admiral, which gave him a bonus for drawing at least five cards and would give others an increased chance to buy and pay him even more.  Green started out with Green Trader bonus, but then got consistently hit by the black pirates before he could barely draw any cards, so his game was hampered from the very start.  With his fighting force at strength, Black was able to haul the cards out and start raking in the points.  Lilac managed to convert high value contracts before anyone else, gaining her more coins to buy more cards.

Port Royal Unterwegs
– Image by boardGOATS

Sapphire built up a “Jack of all Trades” hand, but it only steadily gained him points.  Green managed to finally rid himself of the scourge of the black pirates by stopping draws early, and started collecting symbols, but it was too late as Black reached the twelve points before anyone else. Everyone had one more turn, and Lilac was able to convert her final contract to also reach twelve. Both Lilac and Black managed one more purchase to finish on thirteen points each, but Lilac won took the tie break by virtue of having one more coin left than Black.  Sapphire and Green were also tied on points (on nine-points), but Sapphire completed the podium places with four coins more.

Port Royal
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Blue, Saffron, Purple and Lime were playing Azul.  We’ve enjoyed the recent versions of these (Stained Glass of Sintra and Summer Pavillion), but this time the original was the game of choice.  All three use the same market mechanism where players either take tiles of one colour from one of the small markets and put the rest in the central pool, or take all the tiles of one colour from the central pool.  In this original version of Azul, players add these tiles to the channels on the left of player board, and at the end of the round if any of these are full, they move one tile to their mosaic and recycle the rest.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Players score points for placing tiles such that they are part of a row and/or a column in the mosaic and at the end of the game, players score bonus points for completed rows and columns and also for placing all five tiles of any one colour.  There is a catch, however.  When a player takes tiles, all the tiles must go into a single tile channel, and must be of the same colour as any that are already there.  Any left overs score negative points and, as the more left over tiles a player has, the more negative points each one will score.  This has the potential to leave one player picking up lots of tiles and scoring lots of negative points.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, that player was Lime.  Having scored a few points during the first round, he was unimpressed when all his negative points at the end of that round pushed him straight back to zero.  This wasn’t the only time that happened though, to the point that it became a bit of a running joke, especially as he made it a point every round to take the first player token (which counts as another negative tile).  One of the key tactics of the game is to try to complete tile channels at the end of the round because these are then emptied leaving the maximum amount of flexibility for the next round.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

And this is exactly what Saffron did.  Despite never having played the game before, by focusing on completing her tile channels she was always able to dig herself out of any difficulties.  Although the game was longer than Draftosaurus, it didn’t seem like very long before Purple triggered the end of the game by completing a row, the only one to do so.  It was quite close, but Blue just edged it from Saffron who took an excellent second.  With that, Lime headed off (before the drawbridge was raised) and Blue left Purple and Saffron chatting while she went to watch the last few rounds of Altiplano on the other side of the room.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Altiplano is a much longer game and one that we are very fond of in the group.  Indeed, it was the first winner of the Golden GOAT award (in 2018), though we haven’t really been able to get it to the table since then.  For a while, it had been in the plan to play The Traveler expansion, however, we wanted to play the base game again first and with both Teal and Sage new to the game only the Sunny Days mini expansion was included.  The basic mechanism of the game is quite simple:  on their turn, players carry out the action based in the location their meeple is in, and optionally, moves their meeple either before or after, if they can.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is a “bag building” game, so a bit like its predecessor, Orléans, or even deck builders like Dominion, players need the correct resources to be available when they carry out the actions.  So, at the start of each round, players draw resource disks out of their bag and place them on their player board to be used in the locations they plan to visit.  Mostly the game trots along quite merrily as this stage of the game is carried out simultaneously and everyone does their planning at the same time so the action phase is quite rapid.  Pink explained what all the different locations did and that there were two main sources of points:  Contracts and Resources.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, the resources give points with the amount depending on what it is: primary resources score one point (wood, stone, fish etc.) while advanced processed materials (like cloth and glass) can score up to three or four points.  These will score even more points if they are stored in the Warehouse.  When a resource is used it is places into the players recycling box and goes back into their bag when their bag is empty.  In this way, instead of relying on probability/luck as in Orléans where used resources are returned straight to the bag, all resources are used before they are recycled.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

Players can leave unwanted resources on their player board, but this can obstruct their plans, so another option is to move them to the Warehouse.  Once in the Warehouse, they cannot be removed, but each full shelf (which can only store one type of resource), gives more points at the end of the game.  Only completely full shelves score in this way, which cost Pink some valuable points when he realised Ivory had pinched the last available fish just before he got there.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

The other main route to scoring points is through completing Contracts.  Players can only have one on the go at any one time, but when complete, they are worth points and also provide the player with a corn which goes straight in the warehouse and can act as a space-filler too.  As well as getting resources from the Wood, Mines, Seafront etc., players can also buy Contracts, build Carts (to provide them with additional travel options), build Boats or Huts (which provide resources and increase their resource scoring), or buy Board Extensions which give them enhanced abilities.  These Extensions also act as a timer triggering the game end.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

The game was really tight and despite the fact that all four protagonists employed different strategies, a postage stamp would have covered the final scores.  Pink, despite having carefully explained the importance of Contracts as a means to get points, decided to see how he could do by avoiding them completely—the only one to do so.  He concentrated instead on getting resources, especially high value ones, and storing them in his Warehouse.  Teal’s strategy was driven by the fact he started with the Woodcutter which allowed him to turn food into wood, so he concentrated on building Canoes, lots of Canoes.  This was not a strategy anyone had seen before, but it provided him with a lot of resources.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory went for Contracts in a big way, taking a massive fifty-five points for them alone.  Since resources on Contracts don’t score in and of themselves, however, this meant he scored fewer points elsewhere.  Sage went for a more “all round” strategy, picking up a lot of points for his contracts too, but also building a lot of Huts to enhance his resource score.  As the game came to a close there was the inevitable checking what the final Extension tiles and then everyone took their shoes and socks off for the complex final scoring.  The winner, on his first time out was Teal, his unconventional Canoe strategy netting him eighty-six points.  Pink finished second with eighty-three and Ivory was just one point behind that, in what had been a very tight game.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome: Teach a man to fish, and he’ll swap them for a pile of stones.

27th January 2022 – In Memory of Burgundy

Following the very sad passing of Mike Parker (known on this site as Burgundy), we decided to dedicate this meeting to his memory.  We decided to forgo the usual “Feature Game” and replace it with “Burgundy’s Favourites”, including games as diverse as Concordia, Orléans, Wingspan, Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot and Dominion. Burgundy had supper at the pub before every games night. Because he always had the same thing, he was known as “Ham, Egg & Chips Man” by the staff at The Jockey.  So we decided to gathering early to reminisce and celebrate his gaming life, and share his favourite supper.

Ham, Egg & Chips
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy’s cousins joined us for dinner and we took it in turns to chat and learn things we didn’t know about him. We also had a couple of special guests from elsewhere in the county who fancied joining us to do a bit of gaming in Burgundy’s memory. Chatting to people who knew him in slightly different spheres, one of the first things we found out was that, a creature of habit, Burgundy was known known for having Lasagne when he went to Gweeples, setting up his game while he waited for his molten supper to cool to a point where he could eat it.  There was lots of chatter over dinner and Lime joined us online, but technology difficulties meant he hopped in and out and then, after several rounds of the Hokey-Cokey, eventually gave up.

Mike Parker
– Image by Daniel Monticelli

Black also briefly joined us from Malta—he’d been to a Greek restaurant for dinner, but we all agreed our Ham, Egg & Chips was better.  After a toast to Burgundy, who will never be forgotten, people eventually settled down to play games.  First up was Ivory, Pink, Lilac and Teal who chose Ticket to Ride with the UK map.  Ticket to Ride was one of Burgundy’s favourite games and is popular with the whole group so everyone knows the basics of how to play:  on their turn, the active player can choose two coloured cards from the market to add to their hand, place trains paying with cards, or draw tickets which give extra points at the end of the game if completed.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Every expansion set comes with a slight rules twist.  In the case of the UK map, this is the addition of technologies and concessions.  At the start of the game, players can build only one and two train routes and only in England.  By spending wild cards, players can buy technologies which enable them to build routes consisting of three trains or more, build ferries, and build train routes in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Players can also buy bonus cards that allow them to score extra points for taking certain actions during play.  As usual, the game ends when one player only has two of their plastic trains left and the winner is the player with the most points.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink (playing with his special pink trains for the first time) started off with a “Home Nations” strategy, eschewing the chance to visit France.  Lilac, on the other hand, explored the Dawlish coast and the area around Dundalk.  Teal took the East Coast Mainline north, and explored Scotland as far north as Wick and Ivory took the West Coast  Mainline and continued up to Stornaway.  The game was really tight, with Lilac, Pink and Ivory all completing nine tickets, and that seemed to be the strategy with Pink the eventual winner thanks to being slightly luckier than the others, finishing just three points ahead of Lilac.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table, Green, and Magenta were joined by visitors from Oxford and Gweeples, Sage and Jade in a game of Splendor.  Splendor is a simple game, but one at which  Burgundy was a true expert, and at one point went unbeaten for two years.  The idea is that players use poker chips to buy cards which can, in turn be used to buy more cards of a higher value which eventually give points.  When a player reaches fifteen points, that triggers the end of the game and the player with the most points wins.  Game-play is very simple: on their turn players can take three different coloured chips, take two chips of the same colour, buy a card from the display, or reserve a card taking a gold token (which is wild) at the same time.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

As is usual, the game started slowly with Magenta eventually opening the scoring. The others followed with low scoring cards, but Magenta remained one step ahead until everyone else started claiming the higher scoring cards and eventually Nobles.  Green pulled ahead and looked like he might pull off a true Burgundy style victory, but Sage was closing in.  Sage obstructed Green with a tactical reservation, but that just put off the inevitable for another turn. When Green reached fifteen points, the game ended immediately as he was the last player in the round.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Sage was a close second with the early leader, Magenta, in third. There wasn’t a high score, a resounding win, as there no doubt would have been had Burgundy had been playing, so victory did not feel fully deserved in his absence.  Blue and Purple had been chatting to the family, who were enjoying talking and, after a long day, were reluctant to play anything.  So, when they left to get an early night, Blue and Purple played a quick filler game of NMBR 9 while they waited for something else to finish.  Burgundy played NMBR 9 a lot over the years and, like everything else he was always very good competition, winning more than he lost.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

The game has almost zero set up time, and doesn’t take long to play or put away either.  There are twenty cards (zero to nine), which have matching tokens.  Each round, one card is revealed and players take a matching tile and add it to their tableau.  A player’s tableau consists of layers of tiles.  When placing tiles, they must be placed alongside other tiles, or on top.  If placing on top of other tiles, they must overlap more than one, be placed adjacent to others, and next to at least one other on the same layer.  Neither Blue or Purple were focused entirely on the game which Blue edged, as they were too busy gossiping and watching what was happening on the next table.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

The game of Splendor and NMBR 9 finished pretty much at the same time, and the group joined up for a game of 6 Nimmt!.  6 Nimmt! is another game that Burgundy really enjoyed playing with the group and indeed, played a lot.  This was especially true online over the last couple of years, where he played forty-three times with us, winning over one in four of the games.  Jade had only played online, so the group introduced him, and indeed Sage as well, to the variant we usually play.  We play the game in two halves, dealing half the deck out for the first round and then the other half for the second round.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone was familiar with the basic game play:  simultaneously choose a card which is added in turn, starting with the lowest, to one of the four rows in the play area.  Each card is added to the row that ends with the highest card that is lower than the card played.  If it is the sixth card, the player “wins” all five cards in the row, and their card becomes the new first card.  In contrast to the online version on Board Game Arena, where players start with sixty-six points and count-down to zero, players start at zero and the player who “wins” the most points is the loser.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Green “won” the first round, top-scoring with twenty, while Sage managed to keep a clean sheet.  As Burgundy was always the exemplar though, performance in the first round is often no indication of how the second round will go, which is one of the reasons why we love this variant.  So it was all to play for, especially for everyone who’s first score was in single figures.  This time it was not to be, however, and although Sage picked up thirteen “nimmts” in the second round, everyone else’s total was more.  It was close at the other end and with lots of pretty coloured cards, Purple and Jade high-scored with twenty-nine.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride was still going and with six players, and time marching on, there was only really one option, the option Burgundy would have chosen: Bohnanza.  Jade had never played it before, so, after a quick rules summary, as is often customary in this group, he went last so he could see how things work and get a feel for the game.  In this game, although we generally play “friendly”, it is particularly important as it is a trading game and it is important to be able to get a feel for the value of any advice offered.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

As Purple pointed out, the most important thing about Bohnanza is not to sort your cards because players play cards from the front of their hand and add cards to the back forming a sort of conveyor-belt.  On their turn, the active player plants the first bean card in their hand into one of their two bean fields, and may plant the second if they choose.  Two cards are then revealed and these can be planted by the active player or traded.  This leads to another key rule: what is on the table must stay on the table so anything traded must be planted.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Fields can be harvested at any point, with some of the cards being turned over and stored as coins.  However, beans can only go in empty fields or share fields with beans of the same type.  Players only have two fields (or three if they buy a third), so if players are unable to trade a card away, they may have to harvest fields before they are ready.  In this sense, we generally play “friendly” and rather than forcing players to plant something they don’t want, we have a culture of giving cards away.  This extends to players taking cards in free trades from someone’s hand to further their game too.  As a result, the game sometimes the player who is best able to make the most of these freebies is the winner.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Unusually, and to the accompaniment of a lot of sucking of teeth from everyone else round the table, Sage ponied up his two coins for a third bean field—the only one to do so, and especially risky in the second round.  He wanted to plant a couple of Red Beans though, so at worst it was probably revenue neutral and certainly worth the risk.  Blue benefited from a lot of Coffee bean donations while Purple, Green, Jade and Magenta all planted the highly lucrative, but quite scarce, Black-eyed Beans.  The first round took an age, but in contrast, the last was really short, so short, Sage sadly commented that although he had the perfect hand, he wasn’t going to be able to play it. 

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

It was a close game though, and an extra turn or two could have made all the difference.  As it was, Blue was the eventual victor with sixteen “Bohnentaler”, three more than Jade.  Time was pressing and that was the last game for that group, but in the meantime, on the next table, Ticket to Ride had finished and the quartet had moved onto what was arguably the game of the night, Splendor.  This time, the game started with a shortage of blue, sapphires, then green emeralds became hard to get.  It was nice to note that everyone played according to Burgundy’s maxim, “Always take a free one.”

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end, Pink ended the game, and although Ivory managed to score in his final turn, he wasn’t able to catch up.  As the games came to an end and everyone chatted, the mood was sombre, perhaps with half a mind to the following day.  In spite of that, it has been a good evening making new friends, and playing games.  All evening Burgundy was never far from our thoughts, but that was particularly true during the two games of Splendor.  And he always will be whenever we play Splendor from now on.

Mike Parker
– Image by Pushpendra Rishi

Learning outcome:  Mike, Burgundy, was THE GOAT, and we all miss him.

Michael Parker (1958-2021)

Michael Jonathan Parker (mostly known as Mike in gaming circles) was the only son of Stan and Pam and was born on 27th August 1958 in Oxford at the Nuffield Maternity Home (part of the old Radcliffe Infirmary).  Brought up in the Botley area, he went to Mathew Arnold School where he was one of just three pupils who took O-Level Astronomy—a first for the school and pretty unusual anywhere at the time.

Mike Parker
– Image by Pushpendra Rishi

In 1976, Mike went on to study electronic engineering at the University of Hull, after which he returned to Oxfordshire to work in the developing world of IT.  Mike spent the rest of his life in the county, living in Botley until 2015 when he moved a short way down the A34, to Didcot.  Mike had many interests, including music and American football where he was a statistician for Oxford Saints.  One of his most enduring past-times though, was playing games.

Mike Parker & The Magic Folk
– Image from Mike Parker (origin unknown)

It was as a young man that this interest first developed, when he played Chess with his father.  They played regularly, both together and with friends.  Then, when the Oxford Magic: The Gathering scene started in the mid-1990s, Mike became hooked on that.  In the early days he played at events and tournaments, but more recently his passion was his Cube, the curated set he used for drafting.

Mike Parker
– Image from Didcot Games Club (origin unknown)

Mike worked hard on balancing his Cube, introducing new cards with each new release and attended every pre-release event in Oxford.  He also bought premium foil versions of cards, making his a very special Cube to play with.  Mike was well-known for favouring green when drafting, so if you were sat next to him at the table, you could usually be fairly certain that colour would be taken before you saw it.  Mike’s Cube Sundays were legendary and he continued to draft weekly until events intervened.

Mike with Mike and Joe setting up a new club
– Image from Mike Parker (origin unknown)

Around the turn of the millennium, every Friday night, Mike was playing Magic in Didcot.  So, when one of the Magic players started Didcot Games Club in 2001, Mike joined them as too.  He was there from the first night, and took responsibility of looking after the finances.  His interest in the collectable nature of Magic quickly transferred, and he developed a fondness for Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot, and later Dominion which Mike collected all the expansions for and also played often.

Mike Parker
– Image from Didcot Games
Club (origin unknown)

As well as playing at Didcot Games Club, he was also an occasional visitor to the Oxford Meeples meetings and always attended the quarterly “Big DoG” events that they run.  Over the years Mike also put in appearances at other conventions including OxCon and UKGE.

Mike Parker
– Image by Pushpendra Rishi

In time, he became a much valued regular at boardGOATS too (where he was “Burgundy” on the website, and known as “Ham, Egg & Chips Man” by the staff at The Horse and Jockey).  When he moved from Botley to Didcot after he retired from working at Sophos, Gweeples became his local group and he soon started playing games there as well.  In fact, if there was a local group playing games, it was highly likely that Mike would be a regular.

Mike Parker and firends at Thirsty Meeples
– Image from Mike Parker (origin unknown)

Mike was an omnivorous gamer: while he loved playing complex strategy games, he also really enjoyed lighter games.  Aside from Magic, Concordia and Orléans were two of his favourites and he was well known for his good-natured grumbling, muttering and moaning just before his strategy paid off and he emerged victorious.

Mike Parker
– Image by Pushpendra Rishi

As well as complicated fare, Mike was equally at home playing family-friendly games like Bohnanza, Wingspan, Ticket to Ride, and 6 Nimmt!.  Indeed he was almost unbeatable at Splendor and at one point held a two year unbroken streak.  The only games he really wasn’t fond of were “social deduction” games, but even then he’d cheerfully join in if that was what someone else wanted to play.

Mike Parker
– Image by Daniel Monticelli

Mike sadly passed away suddenly, but peacefully, in December 2021 (funeral 4pm on Friday 28th January in Garford).  Right up to the end he was engaged in his gaming passion, playing in person and also online via Steam (where he was mike_parker), and researching material on Board Game Arena and Board Game Geek (where he was Bored_Mike).  Below are some of the comments from friends and fellow gamers who will all miss his unique blend of humour, gaming brilliance, and kindness.  Very simply, Mike was a lovely man who has gone too soon.

 

I’m going to miss Mike Parker, those of you who knew him from Magic he was around from pretty much the beginning of the scene in Oxford.

This guy had a heart of gold.

– Seraphina Namine Lorell, Oxford Magic

 

Mike was very welcoming when I first started playing with the Oxford Magic group back in 2001. I remember the many occasions we compared our RG builds at pre-releases and drafts! (Before Gruul was invented 😉)

– Mark Walker, Oxford Magic

 

Mike was always lovely to see and play against at prereleases – kind and friendly with a great sense of humour (especially if his pool or your pool was bad).  He was a lovely man and my dad always loved seeing him at magic events as the “older crowd” too.

– Alice Walker, Oxford Magic

 

I am really sorry to hear about Mike 😢

Mike to me was a really gentle man even when he was completely destroying you at a game! I am really going to miss his complaints that the game was already going horribly wrong on turn one before proceeding to beat us all! I have many great memories playing against him.  He was friendly and warm and will be sorely missed.

– Tom (Ivory), boardGOATS

 

Mike was such a lovely person. I’m so sad to hear this.

– Katie Roberts, Oxford Magic

 

I’m gutted. Mike was such a lovely man. Gentle, kind and welcoming. His Cube Sundays were legendary and I will miss him dearly.

– Jamie Ball, Oxford Magic

 

Such sad news, Mike was a true gentleman and all round great person. I fondly remember seeing him and interacting with him at pre-release events for every new set, and loved playing against him, as well as his legendary Cube sessions held over the years, I will miss sitting down at the table, seeing all the packs laid out and of course, the box of mini rolls that he always seemed to have readily available.
I also saw him quite often when he still lived in Botley as he would often come to my checkout when I was working in the co-operative food store there.

Needless to say, he will be greatly missed and will stay in our hearts for all time. Rest In Peace Mike ❤️

– Aaron Williams, Oxford Magic

 

Mike was always willing to play any game with anybody whether they were hardened gamers or new to the joys of boardgames. He was definitely one of the good guys, he even put up with me calling him Eric for several of our days of gaming until Joanne (my wife) asked me why I was calling him that when his name was Mike.  Mike, the gentleman that he was, never corrected me and just carried on as if it was normal. Every time we met up we joked about it.

Joanne, said that he was a kind man, and she always enjoyed gaming with him; she knew she was going to have a good time, no matter what the outcome.  She’ll miss the muttering when a card draw went badly, or someone sneaked in and took the space/card/resource he wanted. He played a mean game of Concordia, a favorite game for both of us, I know because he beat me on many many occasions. I was also part of the 2 year Splendor losing streak 🙂 and so were a lot of the other attendees at our events.

I never got to play his favorite game Orléans with him, but I do know that some of my friends bought the game after his teaching of it, which I think says a lot about him.

– Andy Gordon, Oxford Meeples

 

Really sad to hear a great person has left us 😥
Rest well Mike you will be missed by the MtG community

– Andrew Gardner, Oxford Magic

 

Mike would often give me advice on what to do in a game if he saw I was struggling. Quite often I would take a resource/place a dobbie/pick a card that he was after, and he would mutter, grumble, and be gracious about it. In all the short years that I have known him, he had always been gracious, and good humoured. He will leave a gigantic hole in the Oxfordshire gaming family.

– Purple, boardGOATS & Didcot Games Club

 

That’s awful news. Mike was such a lovely bloke, always had a top time going round his place to play his Cube.

– Huw Morris, Oxford Magic

 

This is such sad news. He was instrumental in inducting myself and many other Gweeples friends to heavier Euros like Concordia and Orléans. He will be sorely missed.

– Daniel Monticelli, Gweeples

 

His steady presence and gaming skill will be missed. I can’t tell you how many times he beat us at Concordia and Splendor. Happy gaming Mike.

– Pushpendra Rishi, Gweeples

 

When I first started to play in the local magic tournament scene Mike was my opponent to beat. Our Mike-Mirror-Matches will be amongst the fondest of memories of my early years in Didcot.

The generosity Mike showed to new and young players was characteristic. He often donated many of his drafted cards to those just starting into the hobby. Years later I saw the room he had dedicated to storing the larger portion of his collection, and I can understand that the moving of those excess cards might not have been purely altruistic. 😀

Mike was a good friend. As he moved to Didcot my wife, Nikki, and I lived just around the corner. We had him over for many a games night. The Christmas before my daughter was born we had Mike over for a Christmas meal, all our plans had been messed around due to ill timed hospital visits. So, missing our family we reached out to him. Had we not been in the mix of the pandemic we had hoped to invite him this year too. As it was everyone here went into isolation for the first two weeks of 2022 so we were clapping ourselves on the back for not exposing him. When we found out he’d passed, that felt hollow… on top of the grief.

– Mike Hargreaves, Didcot Magic & Gweeples

 

Mike was a large part of our gaming community being an active and respected member of every group between Didcot and Oxford (and likely a few more we do not yet know about!). He was a patient teacher and introduced many of our members to games such as Orléans and Concordia… but will likely be remembered for his skill at Splendor, a game I have lost to him many times.

In our community there is a well known phrase that when playing a game the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning. Mike embodied the virtues of this statement and will be missed by many.

– Dave Stephenson, Gweeples

 

Mike was a structural part of boardGOATS, always present, and always happy to play any game from Love Letter through to Terraforming Mars with great skill and commitment. I can honestly say, if I managed to beat Mike at anything, it would be an occasion to come home feeling that I had really achieved something.

– Anon., boardGOATS & Didcot Games Club

 

Gutted. Mike was such a nice guy.

– Max Gilbert, Oxford Magic

 

So sad, but so many fantastic memories. Like standing in the pub car park after games night, freezing to death for well over an hour and getting a crick in the neck spotting Perseids. Or playing games remotely with Mike who didn’t have a camera, and everyone instantly knowing his dice roll hadn’t gone the way he wanted by his immediate response—he could so easily have changed the result and we’d all have been none the wiser, but that would never have occurred to him which made it all the funnier. Or recently, when we did the Quiz, Mike indignantly marching off with his stick to correct the Landlord and Question Master because their answer to a question on NFL wasn’t right (he got the verdict overturned). And so many more great memories.

Mike was such a lovely chap, kind, funny, modest and unassuming. He was competitive and brilliant competition, but always magnanimous in victory or defeat, even if he had been hard done by (though he generally won more than he lost).

We will all miss him so very much.

– Blue, boardGOATS & Didcot Games Club

 

I first knew Mike from Magic tournaments 20 years ago…

– Jonathan Challis, Oxford Magic & Gweeples

 

Mike was very welcoming when I joined the group a few years ago. I will miss his good natured grumbling about how badly he was doing, often before he pulled off a masterstroke and won the game.

– Jez (Pine), boardGOATS

 

He will be missed. He was such a lovely gentleman.

– Kirsten Christensen, boardGOATS

 

Mike was a very good game player. He was one of those who it was challenge to beat. Whether he won or lost he just seemed to be happy to have played. When he started muttering and huffing about his in game choices anyone who didn’t know him would think he was doing badly and was going to lose, but for those who played him regularly we knew that he was most likely going to win with a big margin.
I’ve been playing games with Mike for nearly 10 years now. He was amiable and fun to play against, a joke and a laugh about the game was never far away.

An abiding memory of Mike I will always have was actually when our game group did the pub quiz. When the answer to an American Football question was not what Mike had told us, he went straight up to the quiz master to inform him his information was out of date. It was funny as we had never seen Mike so forceful before! The point was given after all.

We will miss Mike at BoardGOATS, as a gamer and as a friend.

– Chris (Green), boardGOATS & Didcot Games Club

 

Rest well Mike. You were a lovely person to know and it’s a huge shame I hadn’t seen you in a long time since I moved away. He was a wonderful man.

– George Youens, Oxford Magic

 

I didn’t get out to gaming events very often, but pretty much every time I did, whether in Stanford, Didcot, or around Oxford, Mike was there. We seemed to have pretty similar tastes in board games, so played together a good many times, and I enjoyed every one of them, with a sense of friendly rivalry and appreciation of a game well played.

As things return to normal and we get back to seeing people to play games again it will seem wrong to not have him there. Mike was a lovely guy and will be very much missed.

– Rob Harper, Didcot Games Club

 

I’m very sorry to hear about Mike. He had a great sense of humour and was guaranteed to win any game of Splendor he played. However, he would do it with such a cheeky smile that you could not be angry at him for long. His knowledge of and interest in board games was profound, and it was always great to chat about the moving and shaking in the board game world.

He will be greatly missed by everyone at boardGOATS, and I am sending my best wishes to all his family and friends.

– Claire Murray, boardGOATS

 

He was a very enthusiastic MtG fan and good guy in general. A blow to the community for sure.

– Felix Lloyd Read, Oxford Magic

 

We will miss you Mike; Ham, Egg and Chips will always have your name on it – as will the end seat at the Jockey – may you spread your wings wide to play Wingspan again – onward and goodbye.

– Stuart (Lime), boardGOATS

 

We would like to say in a few words:
Mike was a huge and unforgettable part of GOATS;
What’s the best way for Mike to start the games or quiz
Than having his Ham, Egg and Chips?!

Mike would never follow Twitter,
But we always liked the way he wittered;
It was never silent during games,
Once you found out that Mike was in his winning place;
Mike and Splendor?
Brace yourselves as you would always have to surrender.

If you want to play the Wingspan game,
Just think of Mike, as it would be the winning name;
And if you want to play some more,
Be prepared for it, as Mike would always score!

And in case you don’t know this —
But Mike the wizzer was also an excellent quizzer:
Mike would score a lot of points
For our incredible Team, “GOATS”;
And we all know where Mike was also at his best,
It would be his American football interest.

Mike’s American football passion
Scored the points for GOATS in a matter of seconds;
This became clear to us and averted disaster,
When Mike decided to approach the quiz master!
Do you know anything about the Washington Football Team?
Mike could definitely tell you,
As he had American football expertise.

And with a great honour to our friend
We will always play his favourite game in Mike’s name;
Mike was our very precious friend
And without him, GOATS will never be the same.

We all know when playing a quiz or a game,
we will think of Mike as he was the best gamer friend.

Mike was such an amazing and humble gentleman.
He will be greatly missed by all,
And the gap will never be filled.
He might be gone, but never forgotten.
Rest in peace, Mike. 💜

– Jirina (Lilac), boardGOATS

 

Huge thanks to everyone who contributed, especially those who helped with information and detail without whom this would not have been possible—you know who you are and your help is greatly appreciated.

 

Next Meeting, 27th January 2022

We are still meeting on Thursdays for the time being, so, our next meeting will be on THURSDAY 27th January 2022.  As usual, we will start playing shorter games from 7.30pm as people arrive, until 8pm when we will start something a little longer (the table is booked from 6.30pm for those who would like to eat first).

Following the sad passing of Mike Parker (aka Burgundy), this week the meeting will be dedicated to his memory.  The “Feature Game” will therefore be “Burgundy’s Favourites” and will include games like Concordia, Orléans, Bohnanza, Wingspan, Ticket to Ride (particularly with the UK map as it was one especially liked), Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot, Dominion, 6 Nimmt! and Splendor.

Burgundy had supper at the pub before every games night and always had the same thing, so was known as “Ham, Egg & Chips Man” by the staff at The Jockey.  Therefore, some of us will be gathering early to reminisce and celebrate his gaming life, sharing his favourite supper.  All welcome of course, though it would be helpful to know numbers in advance for catering purposes.

Mike Parker
– Image by Pushpendra Rishi

And speaking of Ham, Egg & Chips…

The landlord was tending the bar at the local pub when Jeff walked in with Ham, Egg & Chips on his head.  Jeff sat at the bar and ordered a beer, quietly drank it, paid, and then left.

The next day, at around the same time, Jeff came in again, complete with a fresh portion of Ham, Egg & Chips on his head.  Again, he ordered a beer, drank it, paid, and then left.

On the third day, the landlord decided he really had to ask Jeff about his unusual head gear. So, after pouring the beer, and setting it down on the bar in front of him, he said, “It’s not really any of my business, and don’t feel obliged to answer, but you know seeing someone with Ham, Egg & Chips on his head isn’t exactly an every day thing.  So I have to ask, what’s the deal?”

Jeff replied, “Oh, no problem, I don’t mind you asking at all.  Basically, I tried sausage, hard boiled egg and potatoes, but they kept rolling off…”

Sad News about Burgundy

It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of Burgundy.  A long-standing gamer in the local area, Burgundy (63) had been involved with Didcot Games Club and Oxford Meeples long before he became a much valued regular at boardGOATS about seven years ago, and more recently at Gweeples.  We will all hugely miss his grumbling, muttering and moaning, especially during his favourite games like Concordia, Orléans and Bohnanza.  We’ll even miss being beaten by him at Splendor, which was pretty much guaranteed even after we eventually broke his two year winning streak.  Known as “Ham, Egg & Chips Man” by the staff at The Jockey, he will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him, and we plan to dedicate our next meeting to him.

The funeral service is to be held at 4pm on Friday 28th January at South Oxford Crematorium, Garford.

Burgundy GOAT
– Image by boardGOATS

Boardgames in the News: TMG on the Brink

One of the leading designer games companies, Tasty Minstrel Games (aka TMG) is reportedly on the brink of demise. Working closely with the Reiner Stockhausen’s dlp Games, they have been responsible for the US editions of Orléans, Yokohama, Citrus and Bohemian Villages.  Well known for their “Deluxified” editions of games, they’ve also collaborated extensively with many other European companies leading to US editions of Village, Belfort , Gùgōng, Gentes, Guilds of London, Eminent Domain and The Oracle of Delphi, and re-releases of popular games like Luna, Colosseum and At the Gates of Loyang. They have not been simply “partners” reproducing other games, developing Scoville, Captains of Industry, and Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done.

Orléans
– Image by boardGOATS

A few years ago, TMG controversially raised over $150,000 selling shares online, but it seems these funds have now run out.  According to an email sent out by TMG to stock holders discussed on a recent Dice Tower News, their “book value is in the negative” which they describe as “virtual bankruptcy”.  As a result, in an attempt to save the company they are laying off staff and have called a halt to game development for the next “two to three years”.  The most recent KickStarter campaign is also being abandoned with backers receiving a refunds.  In the immediate future, the company will be focusing on selling its existing stock hoping that they will “eventually being able to start up again”.

-Video by the Dice Tower

Indications that TMG have been struggling have been there for a while, with allegations they delayed payment to some of their designers and most recently when they failed to renew the publishing rights to their highest rated game, Orléans.  The question is, why has this happened?  Of course, the global pandemic will have played its part, as will the recent sudden increase in shipping costs.  However, these are probably only another nail in the coffin.  The underlying cause is almost certainly the increased pressure caused by a market saturated with high quality games and a lot of noise generated by a conveyor-belt of crowd-funded products.  Sadly, it looks like TMG simply ran out of road, and money.

– Image from playtmg.com

1st October 2019

It was a bitty start with lots of chit-chat and eating, including Blue’s fantastic pizza with mushrooms growing out of it. A little bit of singing to celebrate the fact it was the eve of our seventh birthday was immediately followed by special meeple cakes. Eventually, when everyone had finally finished sucking the icing off their wooden meeples, we finally settled down to the now traditional birthday “Feature Game”, Crappy Birthday.

Pizza
– Image by boardGOATS

Crappy Birthday is a very silly party game that most of the group would normally turn their noses up at, but love to play once a year. The idea is that each person has a hand of cards featuring silly things and chooses one to give to the active player as a birthday present. The Birthday Boy/Girl then chooses the best and worst gifts which score the giver a point. Players take it in turns to receive gifts and after everyone has had one go, the player with the most points is the winner. It is very simple, but the best part is really when the recipient has to sit and sort through all their gifts and justify their choices. It seems a really silly game, and indeed it is, but it encourages people to get to know each other a little better and in a different way too.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

This year, we discovered that Black would like a trip to the North Pole, Pine fancied two weeks in a swamp and Purple fancied a course on Mime Art.  In contrast, Burgundy was not keen on getting his earlobes stretched, Blue wasn’t keen on a GPS (with or without an annoying voice) and Lime eschewed some “garden manikins”.  Perhaps the most surprising thing we discovered was just how great Ivory would be as a day-time quiz host.  Amongst the fun, the scores were largely incidental, but everyone picked up just one or two points except for Purple who scored three points and Black who just pipped her to the post, with four points.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Since Blue and Ivory had both brought Roll for the Galaxy, it was clear that they were keen to give it a go and when Green said he’d play it, the only real question was which copy would get played. Since it can be quite a long game, Blue and Ivory got going quickly and left the others to sort themselves out. Although Ivory was keen to give the new Rivalry expansion a go, as it has been a while since we last played (and Green wasn’t totally familiar with it either), the trio decided to leave that for another day.  Although a lot of the group seem to get in a bit of a mess with Roll for the Galaxy, it is not actually a complicated game. It is a “pool building” game, similar to deck builders like Dominion or bag builders like Orléans or Altiplano, except with dice.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that at the start of the round, everyone simultaneously rolls all their dice in their cup and, depending on what faces are shown, secretly allocate the dice to the five possible phases of the game: Explore, Develop, Settle, Produce & Ship. One of the dice can be used to select which phase that player wants to “nominate”, i.e. guarantee will happen. Any die can be used for this, it does not have to match the chosen phase. Once everyone has assigned all their dice and chosen their phase to nominate, all dice are revealed and the active phases are revealed. The clever part is the element of double think that players have to use: a player can only nominate a single phase, so if they want to Produce and Ship they have to rely on someone else to nominate the other one. Guess right and both phases will happen, guess wrong and they will only get one of them, and if that relies on something else happening, they may find they end up doing neither.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, while there are a lot of other moving parts, fundamentally, a successful player must piggy-back on other players because it will give them more actions.  Dice that are used then go into the players’ Citizenries, and unused dice go back into the players’ cups. Dice are extracted from the Citizenries and returned to the cups on payment of $1 per die, once all the actions have been carried out. Thus, the player with the most appropriate dice can turn the handle on their engine most efficiently. The aim of the game is to finish with the most points, which are obtained from settling and developing worlds and shipping goods to give points.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

So, the first action is Explore, which is taking world tiles from a bag. These are double-sided with a development on one side and a production or settlement world on the other. They go into either the Development or Settlement piles so that dice are placed on top of these during the Develop and Settle phases: when the cost has been matched by the number of dice, the world is added to the player’s tableau and they can use whatever special power it provides. Some of the worlds are production worlds which typically provide more, exciting dice to add to the system.  In addition to extra, coloured dice, Production worlds also house dice played during the Produce phase. These can then be consumed for victory points or traded for cash, enabling more dice to be transferred from the player’s citizenry to their cup.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends at the end of the round when either, a player Settles/Develops their twelfth world or when the stock of victory point chips run out. The winner is the player with the highest score from their combined victory points and worlds. There are a couple of other minor rules (for example players can pay one die to effectively change the face of one other die), but essentially, that is all there is to it.  Players start with a double tile comprising a complimentary pair of settlement and development worlds and a start world, together with a couple of tiles to add to their Development/Settlement piles.  For the first game it is recommended that players choose the Development and World with the lowest cost to add to their piles, because that is easier to play.  For later games, however, players can choose, which gave Blue a really tough decision.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end she decided to go for it, and chose to start with the “Galactic Federation”, “6+” development world in her building pile.  This would give her an extra one third of her development points at the end of the game, but more importantly two of the dice used for every development would bypass her citizenry, going straight into her cup.  Green started with no fewer than three of the red, “Military” dice, which coupled with his “Space Piracy” starting development, gave him really a good source of finance. He looked very unimpressed with this combination, but Ivory and Blue felt it was a really nice combination of starting tiles. Ivory’s start tiles were also nice, but didn’t have quite the same degree of complimentarity, but he did get a nice  purple, “Consumption” die.  The starting tiles are only the beginning though; the game is all about building an engine made up of dice, Production Worlds, and Developments and then using it efficiently.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

In the case of Blue, her starting tiles led her towards a Development strategy, so she spent a lot of the early part of the game Exploring to try to find nice Development tiles to enhance that approach.  Green and Ivory had a more conventional, “build the finances and the dice pool then Produce and Consume” strategy.  The problem with this was they both frequently wanted the same phases, but ended up with either both of them choosing to, say, Produce, or both choosing Ship, when what they both really wanted was to maximise their dice by Producing and then Shipping.  Blue, on the other hand, could mostly be fairly sure that neither Ivory or Green were going to what she wanted, so was able to focus on her own plan, and just piggy-back the actions of the others.  Although the game has a reputation of being slow (with our group at least), this time, the game got going quite quickly and it wasn’t long before Ivory started his Production engine, Shipping his produce for victory points.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

Green soon followed, while Blue kept building her Developments and occasionally taking advantage of the “Produce/Consume” strategies of the others to provide enough finance to move her dice out of her Citizenry.  Blue felt her game was really boring since all she did was Develop, but in the end, it was probably the fact that Blue was doing something different that was key.  Blue triggered the end of the game placing her twelfth Development/World tile, which gave her the most points from building, slightly more than Green.  Ivory Consumed the most victory points, with Green not far behind, and Blue not really troubling the scorer in that department.  It therefore all came down to bonuses from the “6+” Developments, which is where Blue made up for other deficiencies taking fifteen points giving her a total of fifty-seven points, five more than Green who was just a couple ahead of Ivory.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

It had been a lot of fun, and next time we’ll have to give one of the modules form the Rivalry expansion a try.  On the next table, their game was coming to an end too.  Having been abandoned to sort themselves out, someone mentioned Ticket to Ride, and with everyone having a good idea how to play, that turned out to be most popular. The game is very simple and everyone has played it, in most cases, quite a lot, so we often play with expansion maps.  This time, the Team Asia/Legendary Asia expansion was an option, but as we usually play with the Europe version of the game, the group decided to play with original USA map with the addition of the USA 1910 additional route cards.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

The basics of the game is that players start with a handful of train pieces and place them on the board to connect cities, paying with cards.  Thus, on their turn a player can take two coloured train cards from the market (either the face up cards or blind from the deck) or play sets of cards of a single colour that matches both the number and colour of one of the tracks on the board.  Players score points for the number of trains they place, but also for tickets.  Players choose from a handful of these at the start of the game and can take more tickets on their turn instead of placing trains or taking train cards.  These are risky though, because although they are a source of points, any tickets that are not completed at the end of the game give negative points.

Ticket to Ride (USA)
– Image by boardGOATS

The original version of Ticket to Ride (with the USA map) is much less forgiving than the Europe edition that we more usually play.  This is partly thanks to the layout of the tracks, but also due to the absence of Stations which can help alleviate some of the stress associated with failure to complete tickets.  With five, it was always going to be a really hard game and likely to end up with a bit of a train-wreck for someone, and so it turned out.  The eastern states were rough, really, really rough with Burgundy, Lime, Pine and Purple all fighting for routes in the same space.  As a result, Black benefited from mostly staying out of the scrap.

Ticket to Ride (USA)
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine, Lime and Purple managed to complete the most tickets, five each, but remarkable, all three were a long way behind Burgundy and Black who only completed three and four tickets respectively.  This was partly due to negative points, but was mostly caused by the fact that the longer tracks give disproportionately more points and Black for example was able to pick up two of the long tracks around Salt Lake City relatively unopposed as he was mostly alone working in the west.  Similarly, Burgundy did well in the north.  As a result, it all came down to the longest route bonus, ten points, but with Black and Burgundy both in the running it gave a twenty point swing to Burgundy giving him a total of one hundred and thirty-five points, nearly twenty more than Black in second place.

Ticket to Ride
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride and Roll for the Galaxy finished simultaneously and only Green decided he needed an early night, leaving everyone else to play one of the group’s favourite game, Las Vegas.  This is a simple game of dice rolling and gambling, where players use their dice to bet in one of the six numbered casinos.  Each casino has one or more money cards and at the end of the round, the player with the most dice in that casino takes the highest value money card.  The player who comes second takes the next highest value card and so on.  When betting, players must place dice in one of the numbered casinos.  The first catch is that they must place all the dice they roll that depict that number in the matching casino.  The second catch is that any dice involved in a tie at the end of the round are removed, and it is this that makes it a great game.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

We have the original version of the game rather than the new edition, Las Vegas Royale, though we added elements from the Las Vegas Boulevard expansion, including the double weight “Big” dice and the Slot Machine.  We also house-rule to only play three rounds instead of the four in the rules as written.  This time, Ivory stole a march in the first round, when he was forced to place his last die as a losing singleton in “Casino Five”, only for Purple to roll a five with her final roll and take out both herself and the hitherto winner, Pine.  As a result Ivory took the jackpot of $90,000 to go with his other winnings.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

It is not a game to give up on though, as anything can happen.  The second round was relatively uneventful, but the deal for the final round left the last three casinos each with a single card of $100,000.  This is highly unusual, but we decided to play on and see what happened.  In the end, it had a bit of an “all or nothing” feel about it, with players going in early and in big.  It was probably no coincidence that the three big jackpots were taken by the three highest scoring players.  Pine thought he had come off worst, Black, who had done so well in the other two games took the wooden spoon.  It was Ivory’s flying start that was key though, and together with his strong finish, his total takings were a massive $430,000, $40,000 more than Blue in second.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Party games can be great when everyone is in a party mood.

19th February 2019

Blue, Black, Purple, Burgundy and Mulberry were just trying to squeeze in a quick game of No Thanks! before eating, when Green arrived with his parents.  They were quickly followed by the first round of food, so it wasn’t until they had finished that the carefully counted piles of chips finally got put to use.  The game is very simple:  players take it in turns to either take the card on the table or pay a chip to pass the problem on to the next player.  If they don’t have any chips left they must take the card when it is their turn (and any chips that are on it).  The game ends when the deck has been depleted and everyone scores the sum of the face value of the cards minus any remaining chips—the player with the lowest score is the winner.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Last time we played this, Pine dropped a chip, but a thanks to the kind generosity of the people at  Amigo Spiele, it had not only been very swiftly replaced, but they had kindly sent spares in case the something similar happened again.  And they were almost required straight away, when Black managed to send a couple of chips flying.  Having learnt our lessen from last time, we immediately took a quick intermission to play “Hunt the Game Piece”, finding one quickly, while the other perched precariously over the same large gap that the had been so disastrous last time.  The rogue chip was rescued without further calamity, but for the avoidance of other mishaps, we might have to put tissue paper down the hole for next time…

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

The game of No Thanks! was a bit incidental around all that excitement.  Burgundy took the first card in an effort to get ahead, but it wasn’t the best card to build from.  Purple and Blue were forced into trying to build runs from the ends, which is always risky, but can yield huge rewards.  This wasn’t going to be one of those times though and Purple’s problems were compounded by the fact that she only discovered the twenty-three in the middle of her long run was missing when it came to scoring.  Mulberry was very tempted by some if scoring cards, but despite the fact she was pushed to her last chip, she managed to avoid getting herself into a mess.  Black played a very canny game building a small medium value run, not tempted to take a chance on gaps.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

With everyone finished eating, it was time to decide what to play.  Black had suggested that Dixit might be suitable for Green’s parents.  However, Green was keen to play the “Feature Game”, Celestia (a remake of the older game, Cloud 9), and as Black was the only one who knew the rules, that meant he was up for that too.  Burgundy was less keen, so in the end, as Celestia is better with more players, and to avoid too much shuffling of seats, Blue, Mulberry and Burgundy left everyone else to board the airship.  In this game there is no board, instead there are nine city tiles making a path.  Players then take on the roles of adventurers exploring the cities of Celestia by airship.  At the beginning of each journey a new captain is identified and they begin by rolling the dice to discover the challenges they will face.  Before the Captain faces these challenges, however, however, each player must decide whether to stay on board, or leave the airship.

Celestia
– Image by boardGOATS

At each city there is a pile of treasure cards (mostly just victory points) which get better as the journey progresses.  When a player leaves the ship, they take a treasure card at that city, forfeiting the potential riches to come.  Once everyone has made their decision, the Captain has to deal with the challenges by playing equipment cards.  If the Captain is successful, the airship moves on to the next city where a new captain is identified who rolls the dice and so on.  If the Captain is unable to deal with the challenges they face, the airship crashes, returning to the first city and none of the passengers on board get any treasure.  Those passengers who left the ship then get back on board for the start of the new journey.  When one  player has a total of fifty points the game ends.

Celestia
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the group added the A Little Help expansion which adds cards that players can use to help out the Captain.  There are a few extra cards like The Bandit and The Mooring Line as well, which players who are not on the ship can use to make life harder for those trying to get to the next city.  The group also added the lifeboat from the A Little Initiative expansion, which enables players to continue on their journey alone.  One of the key parts of Celestia is hand management as cards are scarce.  Players start with a hand of cards, six cards in a four or more player game and only get to draw a card when the journey ends, either due to a crash or arriving at the ninth city.  With the inclusion of the expansion cards, there seemed to be quite a bit to remember when learning the rules, but as ever, once underway the game flowed and the rules became clearer. Even so there was still a lot of double checking of which cards could be used when. Black and Purple had both played the game before and knew how quickly things could get difficult.

Celestia
– Image by boardGOATS

So Black and Purple cashed in their travel tickets early in the first round and hopped off the airship quite early on, leaving everyone else wondering if they were missing something as they sailed onwards. In contrast, Green and his parents (who had not played before) stayed on board and as a result took a lot of points.  This all seemed a little too easy and on rechecking the rules it became apparent that something was wrong. Players had been drawing cards after arriving at each city as the Captain changed rather than after it crashed, which meant everyone was awash with cards.  From then on the group played correctly, but the damage had already been done.  The balance of cards had been destroyed, and Green and his mum had an unassailable lead.  Green came out he victor with some canny play that allowed him to hop on and off the airship, but it was a hollow victory as those first twenty-five points were not fairly won.  The game definitely deserves another try though as it is a clever and fun game when played correctly.

Celestia
– Image by boardGOATS

While the airship was being filled, Blue, Mulberry and Burgundy debated what they were going to play.  Orléans was very tempting, but as Celestia was supposed to be relatively quick, the trio decided to play the shorter Tokaido instead.  This is a simple, but very clever game where players are traveling the East Sea Road from Kyoto to Edo (Tokyo), meeting people, tasting fine food, collecting beautiful items, discovering great panoramas, and visiting temples and wild places.  The winner is the player who discovers the most interesting and varied things and is the most initiated traveler.  The really clever part of the game is the turn order, because the player at the back goes first.  Although this is an unusual mechanism, it is not unique and is also seen in Glen More, an out of print game that is getting a face-lift and reprint this year as Glen More II: Chronicles.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that each location on the road can only be occupied by one player.  Players only ever move forward and the player at the back has a free choice of which empty location they move to.  They can choose to stop at the first empty location which means they will be able to maximise the number of locations they can visit, or they can choose to skip a few locations potentially gifting these to their opponents, but ensuring they stop at the locations they will profit most from.  Thus the game is all about optimising movement, compromising visiting the best locations, visiting the most locations and preventing opponents visiting the locations they want by getting there first.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

Each player starts with a character card which gives them a different start condition and a special power.  Burgundy was positioned at the front playing Yoshiyasu enabling him to draw a second card whenever he encounters someone, and choose which one to keep Encounter cards give a one-off bonus, so being able to choose instead of relying on random draw is a nice advantage.  Mulberry started in second position on the track and as Kinko, was able to pay one Yen less for her food at mealtime.  There are several stops for food along the way and money is always scarce so anything that saves money is always good.  Blue began at the back (and therefore started), playing Sasayakko who gets the cheapest souvenir for free whenever she buys two or more when visiting the Village.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

In this game, it is essential that players make the most of their special powers, so Blue visited as many Villages as she could, collecting as many sets of souvenirs as she could.  To do this though, she need lots of money and money is not easy to come by.  Similarly, Burgundy stopped to make as many encounters as he could and coupled this with visiting the Hot Springs.  Hot Springs simply give a two or three point card drawn at random from a deck, with the three point cards depicting monkeys playing in the spring.  Somehow, every time Burgundy drew a Hot Spring card, it featured monkeys, while Blue and Mulberry received no monkey-love; after his fifth card it was something they really began to resent.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

Mulberry was the first to score points and Burgundy wasn’t far behind.  Blue was slowest off the mark, but eventually caught up and overtook the others, romping into the lead, helped by Burgundy who persisted in moving Blue’s token when he scored points.  That wasn’t the full story, however.  At the end of the game points are awarded to the players with the most Hot Spring cards, the most Encounter cards, the most Souvenirs, for donating money at the Temples, and for the player who spent the most on food.  With Burgundy taking the vast majority of these points, he caught up and, after several recounts, both Blue and Burgundy finished on eighty-one points with Mulberry not far behind.  With more achievement cards, Burgundy was the clear winner, but he’d tried to be generous with his points throughout the game and insisted on sharing victory with Blue (to go with the lack of sleep they shared).

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

Celestia was still going and wasn’t looking like it was going to be finished very soon, so Blue,  Burgundy and Mulberry decided to try something else.  After a bit of discussion, they opted for a new game by the producers of the Spiel des Jahres and Deutscher Spiele Preis winner, Azul, that had been brought back from Essen late last year.  Blue had played Reef with Pink, Black and Purple after The Gallerist during a recent “Monster Games” session, but otherwise it hadn’t made it to the table.  It isn’t a complex game though and is very quick to teach:  on their turn, players can either take a card from the pool of face up cards, or play a card, adding the pieces of coral depicted in the top half to their reef and then scoring the pattern shown in the bottom half of the card.

Reef
– Image by boardGOATS

The reefs are a three by four grid and the pieces of coral can be played anywhere and can stack up to a maximum height of four.  Scoring the patterns is as viewed from above, and each one can be scored several times with different patterns worth different numbers of points.  This means there are two approaches to the game, scoring low but frequently, or building to one large score.  Mulberry opted for the first approach and facilitated this with single colour piles of coral.  Blue tried the alternative strategy, building to a large twenty-plus point score, while Burgundy tried a mixture.  As a result, Mulberry quickly built up a healthy lead, and the question was whether the others would catch her or not.  It was close, very close, with just four points covering all three players.  This time though, little and often was the winner, and Mulberry finished with forty-two points, one more than Burgundy.

Reef
– Image by boardGOATS

Celestia was still going, so Mulberry stayed to play one last game, San Juan.  This is an old game from the Alea Small Box Series that is sometimes referred to as the card game of Puerto Rico.  The idea is that on their turn, the active player chooses a role, Builder, Producer, Trader, Prospector, Councillor and then everyone takes it in turn to carry out the associated action.  The person who chose the action gets to use the privilege of the role (pay one less for building, trade or produce one extra item etc.).  One of the clever things about the game is that cards have multiple purposes, similar to Bohnanza where cards can be money or beans.  In San Juan, each card can be played onto the table as a building, but when in hand they can be used as payment, and during the game they can be used as produce as well.  Each card has a value when built and there are a small number of special buildings whose score depends on the other buildings in play.  The game ends when a player builds their twelfth building.

San Juan
– Image by boardGOATS

Mulberry was tired and really struggled, so Blue and Burgundy tried to help explain what she could do, certain she’d get the hang of it.  They stressed the importance of not getting left behind on the building, a message Mulberry took to heart, building at every opportunity.  Blue made life difficult for everyone though, building a Guardhouse reducing everyone else’s hand limit to six.  Burgundy saw one of the valuable six point plus violet building cards early in the game, but that was it, so he ended up building lots of production facilities.  Blue on the other hand built lots of violet buildings and with it a City Hall giving her one point per violet building.  In the meantime, Mulberry kept building so when Blue failed to spot she had eleven buildings she accidentally triggered the final round.  It was very, very tight, but somehow, Blue just kept her nose in front finishing with twenty-three points, one more than Burgundy and two more than Mulberry.

San Juan
– Image by boardGOATS

In the meantime, Celestia had finally come to an end.  With Green and his parents wanting to leave and Pine finally putting in an appearance after a long day bird watching in the West Country, the group we went for a very short game, one about birds: Pick Picknic.  This game combines simultaneous card selection with bluffing and a slice of luck.  The idea is that there are six farm  yards of different colours, if someone plays the only chicken card of a given colour, they get all the grain at that coloured farm.  If multiple players go for the same coloured yard, then players can either agree to share the corn in any way that is mutually acceptable or roll the die for all of it.  Foxes don’t eat corn, however, they only eat chickens, so if someone plays a fox card, they will eat any chicken cards of that colour.  This time there seemed to be a lot of hungry foxes, and lots of fighting birds.

– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

These were accompanied by the usual exclamations as people realised that their attempt to grab a pile of corn was stymied by someone else’s decision.  It was a close game, with four players within four points of each other.  It was tight at the front too with just a handful of points between first and second place, but it was Purple who just edged Green’s father into second place.  With that over Family Green headed off and, as Burgundy was still occupied playing San Juan, everyone else felt it was a good opportunity to play Splendor as someone else would have a chance to win.  Splendor is a game we’ve played a lot and it is ideal for late in the evening when everyone is tired because it doesn’t need too much thought.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Splendor is very simple:  players take it in turns to take gems (chips) or use the gems to buy cards from the display.  Cards can be used to buy other cards, but some of the cards also give points, and collecting certain combinations of cards allows players to claim a Noble tile giving more points.  Essentially, it is a race to fifteen points, though as players finish the round (so everyone gets the same number of turns), it is the player with the most points who wins.  This time the game started with everyone evenly matched.  There was a lot of overlap in the colours required to claim Nobles tiles, so they were claimed at much the same time.  Then Black took the lead and although both Purple and Pine were close to adding to their respective totals, Black’s score of nineteen was unassailable.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Close Games are Good Games.

Boardgames in the News: What are “House Rules” and are they a Good Thing?

Occasionally, our game reports refer to “House Rules”.  These are slight alterations to the game rules which our group introduce when we play.  For example, the GOATS are quite slow players and, although we love Las Vegas, we find that it drags a little if the full four rounds are played, so we have a “House Rule” which means we stop after three.  Similarly, for us Saboteur sometimes drags and we find the scoring element a bit pointless.  For this reason, we usually skip the scoring and play each round as a short, independent game, which means we can play for as long as we want and just stop when we’ve had enough without worrying about overall winners.  The group also recently discussed allowing two players to make a pact with the Devil in Auf Teufel komm raus when playing with six, to help those players bringing up the rear catch-up, and perhaps make the decisions a little more interesting for the other players too.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

“House Rules” are frequently quite controversial though, and the reason is largely philosophical:  the game designer’s vision is based on “The Rules as Written”.  Tampering with the rules can be seen as showing anything from a lack of respect for the designer, to ignorance.  This is because the designer, publisher and development team will have the best understanding of the game through extensive play-testing, and that will be reflected in the rules. There is a point here, famously, many people play Monopoly “wrong”, for example, which changes the character of the game significantly making it overly long and often extremely tedious (especially for players at the back).

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

When asked, most games designers will encourage experimentation though. This is for two main reasons.  Firstly, most game designers enjoy experimenting themselves: to them there is no “one true rule set”, only the “current rule set”.  This is true for the rest of us too, as some games change when new editions are published—for example, Carcassonne, where the first, second and third editions all have different scoring, or Orléans, where the rules for the Bathhouse changed between the first and second edition.

Orléans
– Image by boardGOATS

Secondly, most designers understand that different groups have different characteristics and dynamics, and therefore enjoy different aspects of playing games.  Designers also want people to get the maximum enjoyment out of their game and sometimes that means tweaking the rules slightly.  So ultimately, they want people to play the way that makes them happiest.  For the avoidance of arguments, it is clearly important to make any “House Rules” very clear to everyone playing, as there is an expectation that games will be played with “The Rules as Written” except by prior arrangement.  However, if playing a game in a particular way is enjoyable, there is clearly absolutely nothing wrong with using “House Rules” as long as everyone knows they are doing it.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

13th Movember 2018

There was a bit of a delay for food, so after Blue had handed over an exciting box of echidnas to Pine and given Burgundy and Green a selection of Splendor, Orléans, and Zooloretto promo cards from Essen, we decided to play something quick.  As there were a lot of hungry people, we decided to start with a quick game of Om Nom Nom.  This is a fabulous little double think game based on critters eating other critters further down the food chain.  The game is set up with a large handful of dice which are rolled to give either items from the bottom of the food chains (flies, carrots and cheese) or animals from the middle of the food chains (frogs, rabbits and mice).  Players start with six cards representing animals from the middle of the food chain and the predators from the top of their food chains (hedgehogs, wolves and cats).  Players simultaneously choose a card to play and then everyone reveals them and they are placed on the appropriate space on the three central player boards. before and the animals begin to feed starting at the top of the food chain.  For example, wolves eat frogs and any surviving frogs then eat flies.

Om Nom Nom
– Image by boardGOATS

If only one card of any type is played, the predator feeds and the player takes their card back with any cards/dice their animal has eaten placing everything in their scoring pile.  Where more than one card of the same type is played and there is enough food to go round it is shared equally and everyone eats (taking their cards back with their share of the prey).  If there is not enough food for everyone to get a share, they all starve and lose their cards going home with nothing.  This is repeated until there are no cards left.  Food at the bottom of a chain is worth two points at the end of the game and food from the middle of a chain and any cards are worth one point.  The game is played over three rounds and the winner is the player with the most points.

Om Nom Nom
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue won the first round with eleven, more than twice the points anyone else managed to gather.  Om Nom Nom is one of those games where a high score in one round is usually balanced by a dreadful score in the next, so everyone expected Blue to fail to score at all in the second round.  Burgundy’s twelve points in the second round looked really good, but contrary to the usual run of things, Blue somehow managed to improve her score picking up eighteen points—one less than the record for a single round in our group.  The third round was a little bit of a dead rubber, but Burgundy was keen to see Blue get her bad round and if she did, fancied his chances.  It was a much more even final round and with lots of points available, things looked good for Burgundy, but unfortunately for him, everyone else chose this round to get it together.  In the end it was all about second place, which Burgundy just managed to take ahead of Black and Mulberry as food arrived.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

While Burgundy, Blue and Mulberry ate their belated supper, everyone else carried on the food theme, playing a little Japanese game picked up by Black and Purple at Essen called くだものフレンズ or Fruit Friends.  This is a little card drafting and set collecting game where players are collecting different types of fruit using the “I divide, you choose” mechanism.  There are a surprisingly few games that use this idea, but two of the best are …Aber Bitte Mit Sahne (aka Piece o’ Cake) and San Marco.  …Aber Bitte Mit Sahne is relatively unusual as it works well with players dividing the pie into more than three.  In contrast, San Marco is a three to four player game, but plays much better with three than four because the “I divide, you choose” mechanism generally works best when the pile is divided into three.

Fruit Friends
– Image by boardGOATS

In Fruit Friends, each player starts with a random start or “seed” card, dealt face up.  Players are then dealt seven cards which they divide into three piles of two (discarding the final card).  Beginning with the player who was dealt the apple start card, players offer the three piles to the player on their left who takes one pair; the next player then chooses from the remaining two piles leaving one pair for the active player.  Play continues in this way until everyone’s cards have been taken.  The second round is played the same way except cards are offered anti-clockwise and the player with the grapes start card goes first.  The final round is clockwise again, and the player with the kiwi start card begins.  At the end of the game, each player has eighteen fruit cards, with each type scoring differently.

1 card 2 card 3 card 4 card 5+ cards
Apples 0 points 2 points 5 points 9 points 14 points (max)
Grapes 2 points 5 points 8 points 11 points 11 points (max)
Kiwis 2 points 6 points 0 points 12 points 18 points (max)
Bananas 3 points 7 points 12 points 0 points 0 points
Peaches 2 points 5 points 9 points 14 points 20 points (max)

There are some catches, for example, peaches come in two colours, yellow and white, but only one of them scores.  Oranges score one point per apple card and similarly melons score one point per grape card (both up to a maximum of four points). The scoring intervals also offer some quirks, so while almost everyone scored twelve points for their bananas at the end of the game, Ivory went “Banana Bust” by over-shooting.  Otherwise it was close at the top and you could fit the first four players in a fruit-basket with only five points between them.  It was Purple, the “Kiwi Queen”, who just had the edge, “pipping” Green by a single point with Pine and Black finishing in joint third.

Fruit Friends
– Image by boardGOATS

By the time the game came to an end, the eaters had mostly finished, so Black started getting out the “Feature Game”, Imaginarium (also described previously as “the one with the elephant on the box”).  Burgundy and Ivory were quick to stake a claim to play it and Purple was equally quick to opt out.  Mulberry and Blue made up the five, so Green started to collect together the games he thought the rest might play, which Pine pointed out just made it look like he was playing Jenga with boardgames.  It took a while to come to a conclusion, but eventually the trio went for Echidna Shuffle.

Jenga
– Image by boardGOATS

Echidna Shuffle is a game that we first discovered at the UK Games Expo back in June and since then, has been very popular with everyone who has played it.  This is partly because of the fabulous, over-produced pieces, especially the lovely echidnas with cute smiley faces.  The game is very simple:  Players have to get their bugs to their tree-stumps by moving echidnas around the board.  On their turn the active player rolls the die, and moves echidnas a total of that number of spaces.  The clever part is that players only roll the die on alternate turns with intermediate turns evaluated from the dice board giving a total over two turns of nine moves.  Thus, if someone rolls the maximum, a seven, the next turn they get just two.  Similarly, if they roll a small number, say a three, then they get a six on the next turn.  This means nobody gets screwed over by the dice, but there is still a nice, randomisation effect to the movement.

Echidna Shuffle
– Image by boardGOATS

There are two sides to the game board:  green “Summer” and snowy “Winter”.  There was some discussion as to which to play.  Pine thought the Summer side of the board rather than the Winter side was more of a challenge.  He explained that it was more confusing on the snowy side and that it is not so easy to block people.  On the other hand, the first time it was played with the Summer side, the game had become something of an epic marathon as everyone worked together to stop everyone else winning.  So this time the group started with the “advanced” Winter board and ended up with a very short game indeed.  After only about three rounds, Purple had got one of her bugs home and Green had managed two.  Then Pine surprised everyone and with a roll of seven managed to complete all three of his bugs and the game was over, almost before it had begun.

Echidna Shuffle
– Image by boardGOATS

Echidna Shuffle is really meant to be a children’s game, so perhaps it should not have been a huge surprise that it ended quite so quickly.  Maybe Pine had had a point though, so unusually the game got a second chance, this time with the Summer board.  This second game, did indeed last longer, but was still relatively quick and before too long everyone had just one bug remaining each. Green was first to get to this point, but Purple and Pine managed to successfully block his route while they also got their second bug home.  In the end Pine became the “Kingmaker” as everyone knew how many moves each player would get and he found himself in the position where he could either move the echidna out of purples way and into Green’s or do something else entirely. Either action (or inaction) would result in win for either Green or Purple and in the end he inevitably chose to open the door for Purple.

Echidna Shuffle
– Image by boardGOATS

It maybe that as a bunch of adult gamers, we have found the limit of this very pretty and lovable game.  On the other hand, the number of players also has quite an impact—the full compliment of six seems to have the effect of dragging out the Summer board, but the combination of a small number of players and the complexity of the Winter board appears to make the game too open.  Hopefully the company will bring out some new expansions or different board layouts that will give us more to explore, in the meantime, the game may get fewer outings in the weeks to come.

Echidna Shuffle
– Image by boardGOATS

Because of the late start and the fact that Green wanted an early night, there wasn’t enough time for another medium-weight game, but it was still early enough for a short game. After some discussion, the trio agreed upon Walk the Plank!, a cute little programming game with a hefty dose of “take that”.  In programming games players choose the cards they are going to play before the round starts and then action them during the round, usually taking it in turns to reveal one card and then carry out the associated action.  One of the classic games of this type is Colt Express which won the Spiel des Jahres a few years ago, but Walk the Plank! is a quicker and simpler game.  The idea is each player has three pirate meeples on a ship and the last one remaining is the winner.  Players start each round by simultaneously choosing three cards and laying them face down in front of them.  On their turn, players turn over the top card and action it.

Walk the Plank!
– Image by boardGOATS

The cards allow players to do things like “shove” one of the meeples belonging to the player on their left, or to the player on their right.  When this is played a meeple that shares a space with one belonging to the active player is moved one step along the plank and thus closer to falling into the depths.  There are lots of other actions including “drag to ship”, “drag to sea” and “Charge!”, but the most exciting cards are probably the “retract the plank” cards.  At the start of the game the plank comprises three pieces, but usually at least one player removes one of these at the start of the game, heightening the stress levels. We usually play with a couple of house-rules too, firstly we play to the last meeple standing (the rules say the last two share victory) and we allow the plank to be completely removed (the rules say there is always one piece left).

Walk the Plank!
– Image by boardGOATS

We’ve loved the game for years and have several different editions within the group—this time we played with the “limited edition” which includes some optional extra cards.  This time two of the extra single use cards were added to each player’s deck:  “Parlay”, which gives a player a chance to turn the tables via a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors, and “Dynamite”, which pushes everyone on one tile one space closer to the sea.  After a little shuffling about, Green played his “Dynamite”, but succeeded in sending two of his own men closer to the water as well as the others.  Then Purple played a “Charge!” card to try to push Green into the sea.  Green used his “Parlay” to see if he could to prevent it, but this ended up in hysterics thanks to a total inability to play the game correctly.  It started with Green playing on the count of three as agreed and Purple after the count of three (i.e. on four).  After multiple attempts including one where Purple ended up just pointing vaguely at Green everyone was in fits of giggles, but it didn’t look like the tie was anywhere nearer being resolved.

Rock-Paper-Scissors
– Image from theguardian.com

Pine suggested that perhaps they should try after the count instead.  Green duly obliged, but Purple had finally worked out how to play on the count of three and still the problem persisted.  Then Green chose stone and Purple also chose stone changing to paper at the last second, but this was spotted by Pine who ruled a “Let” and so they had to try yet again.  By this time everyone was laughing so hard that in a fit of confused giggles Purple then chose “none of the above” by using a single finger.  Pine suggested Green and Purple put their hands behind their backs, but this time it was Green’s turn to make a mess of things and he just couldn’t get the hang of it.  In the end, in an effort to stop Purple from soiling the furniture, Pine suggested they remove the counting element and play with closed eyes which was finally successful.  It was largely immaterial by this time, but Green won, so one of Purple’s pirates went charging off the plank into the sea.

Walk the Plank!
– Image by boardGOATS

Getting back to the game seemed tame by comparison. Everyone ended up back on the boat and then started moving forward again.  With the plank retracted, Green found himself with all three of his pirates on the end when Pine played his dynamite and Green was out in one go taking one of Purple’s and one of Pines own with him.  So Green became the Ghost and with two pirates versus one, it looked to be Pines game.  Two rounds later, though the Ghost shoved one of Pine’s pirates off the ship to level things up until Purple played her “Dynamite” and managed to get both dumped into the water, bringing the game to a shuddering halt, and on that note, Green headed home.

Walk the Plank!
– Image by boardGOATS

Imaginarium was still underway with no sign of finishing soon, so Pine and Purple decided to give Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra a go as Pine had missed out last time.  As in the original game, Azul, players take all the tiles of one colour from a “factory” and put the rest in the middle, or they take all the tiles of one colour from the middle. Tile placement and scoring is rather different however. All the tiles taken in a turn are placed in a single column of the player’s personal player board. This board is modular with the double-sided strips laid out at random so everyone has a different starting setup.  Tiles must be placed in the strip immediately below the Glazier meeple, or in a strip to its right.  The Glazier is then placed above the strip the tiles were placed in.  Instead of taking tiles, players can choose to reset the Glazier’s position, moving him back to the left most strip.

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
– Image by boardGOATS

Players get points when strips are completed scoring the sum of the score depicted below the strip and any strips to the right that have already been completed.  There is also a colour bonus—each round has a colour drawn at random at the start of the game, and any tiles that match the colour for the round score extra.  Once a strip has been completed, it is flipped over; after it has been filled a second time it is removed.  Any left over tiles that cannot be placed yield a penalty with players moving along a negative score track which has small steps at the start that get larger.  There are also end-game bonus points with two variants available, one colour dependent and the other rewarding completing adjacent strips.

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
– Image by boardGOATS

This is definitely a game that takes a at least one play to understand how it works and what the best way to score points is.  For example, the way the score builds, it is imperative to complete the furthest right strips early as then they score again and again.  However, they are relatively low scoring, so this is not the only important strategy. So while Pine started off well, Purple scored more later, especially when she picked up colour bonus point as well.  Early in the game, the penalty for picking up the first player token or for having left-over tiles is small, but it quickly increases, and with Pine taking the first player token more than Purple, he finished with more negative points too.  All the little extras combined to make it a bit of a landslide in Purple’s favour, but then Purple had the advantage of having played the game several times, so next time will surely be different.

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
– Image by boardGOATS

While these games had been going on, the “Feature Game”, Imaginarium was getting an outing.  Subtitled “The Dream Factory”, this game is a worker-placement, engine builder with a Steam Punk theme where players are building machines in a factory.  Beautifully produced with remarkable artwork, players first take it in turns to choose a position on the factory conveyor-belt.  They select either the broken machine card that they are going to buy or a position to collect charcoalium.  These are then carried out in “action” order which then also becomes the selection order for the next round.  At the end of the round any unused cards move long the conveyor-belt and the early positions are populated with new, exciting cards.  As the game progresses, the broken machine cards generally become more expensive, but the machines become more useful, producing more and/or higher value resources.

Imaginarium
– Image by boardGOATS

On a player’s turn, their existing “machines” first produce resources, then the player must buy the broken machine card they had chosen. The active player finally carries out two actions dictated by an unusual clock mechanism:  each player has a board with the six possible actions arranged in a circle and the hands of the clock are fixed such that players are unable to take actions that are adjacent.  As the clock hands must be moved every round, players are only able to take repeat one action in consecutive rounds.  Possible actions include hiring a character, trading resources, extracting charcoalium, repairing broken machines and reorganising or dismantling existing machines.  When a machine card is taken from the conveyor-belt, it is broken, they must be repaired before they will work and produce resources.  Once repaired, machines can be combined to make them more efficient, or dismantled to give points, the game ends when one player gets to twenty points.

Imaginarium
– Image by boardGOATS

One of Ivory’s questions before playing a new game is always, “Where are the points going to come from?” In addition to dismantling machines, points are also available for completing “projects” i.e. satisfying goals drawn at random at the start of the game, or by trading charcoalium.  There are also two points available for players who have the most of one of the four resources at the end of the game.  As the game was late starting, the group decided to end the game at fifteen points instead of twenty, though to begin with it didn’t look much like anyone was going to get to fifteen points before midnight.  Black assured everyone that people would pick up speed as the game progressed and eventually, Ivory got going completing the first of the projects and then Black and Blue followed.

Imaginarium
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is mostly multi-player solitaire, except when it’s not.  There are some machine cards that take resources from the other players.  In a game where resources are very tight and players are very reliant on resources for their plans this can be crucial.  The game also has a distinctly mean streak, as a player that is unable to pay for the card they have chosen, doesn’t get the card, but also loses all their resources, completely upsetting their plans and forcing them to start again from scratch, potentially losing them the game.  This is exactly what happened to Blue—Ivory went earlier in the turn order and bought and then repaired a machine that took all her charcoalium which meant she lost the card she was going to buy and all her resources.  She vowed to get her revenge, but the opportunities for that are few and far between.  As she waited for her chance, she gathered charcoalium to ensure she would be able to buy the right card when it came up.

Imaginarium
– Image by boardGOATS

Sadly for her, interaction in the game is minimal so there she never really got her chance.  Amassing large amounts of charcoalium wasn’t totally without use though as it enabled her to fulfill one of the projects and as they were playing to a smaller total, she started trading them in for points in an effort to avoid coming last.  Meanwhile, Ivory kept amassing points and Mullberry kept doing “the weird goat-head thing” which ensured she always had plenty of charcoalium and was starting to build a productive engine.  Black and Burgundy had also just got their engines going and were planning to score heavily when Ivory announced that he’d passed the fifteen point mark.  With Blue still to take her turn, she maximised her points and everyone added up their scores.  Sadly, for Black, Burgundy and Mullberry this wasn’t a long process as shortening the game had had the unforeseen consequence that the game ended just before their plans had come to fruition.  Much to her surprise, Blue had done rather better as she had stuck to short-term targets that lent themselves to the short game.

Imaginarium
– Image by boardGOATS

There was only one winner though and Blue’s fourteen points flattered her position as the scores did not tell the true story of the game.  It’s definitely a game to try again sometime, though perhaps with fewer people which would give players a bit more control over their own destiny.  The artwork is somehow both amazing and very disturbing at the same, and it certainly had an unforeseen effect on Blue.  She is not normally one to remember dreams or one to design games, but when she awoke the next morning she had a fleeting recollection of dreaming about playing a card only version of Om Nom Nom that she had designed called “Yum Yum Tum”.  We will have to see if that ever comes to fruition.

Imaginarium
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  When gamers are hungry they play games about eating.