Tag Archives: PitchCar Extension

31st December 2016

As is now traditional, we started our New Year’s Eve Party with the gorgeous, dexterity car-racing game, PitchCar, our “Feature Game”.  Everyone had played it before except Pine, and, as one of the first to arrive, he got the job of building the track.  Never having played it before, the track ended up as a single winding path rather than a circuit, but that didn’t matter, especially as there was a really short space after the chequered flag and we instigated a rule that players had to stop before they ran off the end or they would lose flick and distance in the usual way.  The track itself was really quite complex, including the bridge from the first extension, the cross roads from the fifth extension, and the new narrow bend and jump features from the latest extension.

PitchCar Track - 31/12/16
– Image by boardGOATS

Rather than the usual “flying lap” to see who starts, each player had a single flick with the longest going first.  Black went the furthest so started in pole position, but promptly caused a log-jam due to the narrow curve at the start that created a bit of a bottle-neck.  Once everyone else had got stuck, he took the opportunity on his second turn to make his get away and he did it very effectively quickly building up a commanding lead.  Things were a bit tighter in the middle of the field, but it wasn’t long before everyone had spread out a bit and it became a battle between pairs of players for individual places rather than for the race as a whole.  The arrival snacks in the form of crisps with dip and that 1970s stable cheese and pineapple on sticks, failed to distract Black who continued to lead the way, and finished well ahead of the rest despite taking a couple of shots at the finish to make sure he didn’t over-shoot.   He was followed by Green and Pink who had tussled for position briefly before settling into a steady pattern they maintained to the end.

PitchCar
– Image by BGG contributor visard

With the race over, everyone passed the pieces to Blue who packed them in the case before they crammed themselves round the table for supper of red lentil lasagne, accompanied by salad, home-made bread (onion & cheese and tomato & chorizo), pigs in blankets and devils on horse-back.  Once everyone had eaten their fill, we decided to play a second large group game and since Pink had been keen to play it again all Christmas, we went for Ca$h ‘n Guns. This is a simple party game that always goes with a bang.  The idea is that each player has a small deck of cards with three bullets and five blanks.  After choosing a card, players simultaneously point foam guns at each other.  On the count of three players have the opportunity to withdraw, before any “bullet” cards for guns pointing at people are revealed.  Anyone still “in” and not shot, then gets a share of the loot.  The player with the highest value loot at the end of the game wins.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

This is where the game gets just a little tactical:  there are several different types of loot.  There is cash – always good; jewelry – valuable, and the player with the most gets a $60,000 bonus, and paintings – the first isn’t worth much but the average value increases if the player acquires more.  Players can also choose to take the Godfather role (i.e. first player to choose if they are still “in”), medipacks (useful if you have picked up a bullet wound) and extra bullet cards.  There are lots of other options, but although we had extra guns and characters to choose from, with so many people, we decided to stick to the purest form of the game, not even using the character cards (which give special powers).

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

There is something about pointing foam guns at each other that is just intrinsically funny and it brings out all sorts of peculiar traits.  The first was that from the start, everyone took the opportunity to have a go at Green which mean that he was knocked out by the end of the third round.  Purple started collecting Jewels while Pine, Magenta and Pink began working on their fine-art collections.  In the end, the battle for second place was very close with Blue taking it with $91,000, just ahead of Magenta.  Pink, however, was miles out in front with more than double the takings of anyone else, finishing with a total of $201,000.  Once Pink had finished counting his huge pile, we extricated everyone from the space they were wedged in, moved the table back and got out the second, folding table to give players a little more space.  Purple was keen to play Ulm, a game she and Black had played at Essen and liked so much they had brought a copy back with them.

Ulm
– Image by boardGOATS

The game play in Ulm is simple enough.  It is played over ten rounds, during each of which players get one turn in which they can do three actions that help them to gain points.  Ultimately players are collecting cards, city coats of arms and descendants, all of which can give them points during the game or at the end. This, in combination with the position of their barge and the number of sparrow tokens owned give the end game score, and the player with highest score wins.  The cathedral area is a three by three grid of action tiles.  On their turn, the active player slides a new action tile, randomly drawn from the bag, from the outside into the grid sliding another tile out. That tile stays in its spot on the outside of the grid and no other player can use that row or column until the tile is removed. The three tiles left in that row or column (two old ones and the new one, just added), represent the active player’s three actions for their turn.

Ulm
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus one of the actions is drawn randomly from the bag, though sparrow tokens acquired during the game enable players to exchange their random tile with one currently on the loading docks.  This is an area on the board where five actions tiles are constantly displayed and where players can get get extra tiles, or exchange tiles.  There are five different actions represented by tiles in different colours.  These are:  clear tiles on one of the four sides of the cathedral area (making more options playable), place a Seal, buy or play a card, move their barge, or take money.  Every time the active player carries out a Seal action, they place one of their Seals in a city quarter and immediately obtain a specific privilege as a bonus. These privileges vary from quarter to quarter.  The river Danube divides the city and the game board north and south.  If a player wants to carry out the Seal action, they can choose either the southern northern city quarter, adjacent to where their barge is.  The river is navigable only in one direction and a river space can’t contain more than one barge, so other players’ barges are jumped over.  This means players can move a surprisingly long way for just one step, if it is timed right.

Ulm
– Image by boardGOATS

Cards can be acquired by exchanging tiles for cards or as a byproduct of buying seals at the Town Hall or Goose Tower quarter.  When played, the active player can either discard the card for the card bonus which they can use during the game, or place the card in front of them, to obtain the points bonus at the end of the game.  Points are scored during the game through cards, Seals and Coats of Arms, but also at the end of the game for any sparrows and for the position of their barge on the Danube.  Perhaps the largest number of points are available for cards with three points per card, but it is the bonus points that are really key.  A set of three different trade cards gets a bonus of three points while three the same gives a six point bonus.  Cathedral cards are the most profitable, however, with a complete set of three cathedral cards netting a eighteen points, but they can also be difficult to get.

Ulm
– Image by boardGOATS

Carrying out a Seal action in the Oath House quarter gives players a Descendant who provides a special ability.  Purple was the only one not to get a Descendant with Black taking the Merchant (allowing him to exchange one of his action tiles for one from the docks) and Pine getting the Councilman (giving him more control over the cards he bought). Violet on the other hand took the City Guard who yielded two points for manipulating the action tiles in the cathedral area such that at least one new line of three in one color is formed in the inner grid of the Cathedral area.  This sound potentially very lucrative, but is actually quite hard to get to work, especially without compromising other scoring opportunities.  To some degree the Descendants dictated the strategies used.  Black tried to build sets of cards but was unlucky and they just didn’t fall for him.  Purple tried to capitalise on the shields and Violet went for Seals.  It was Pine who was the most successful however, very effectively coupling his Councilman with a card strategy with ultimately gave him eight more points than Purple in second place.

Ulm
– Image by boardGOATS

The down side of the random draw component is that the action grid changes constantly with players sliding new action tiles in and sliding old ones out, which makes planning very difficult.  This might explain why Black thought the game shouldn’t take too long, but was still going when midnight struck.  Cue Blue on the next table opening a bottle of fizz and covering the herself and the floor with it.  After watching other villagers setting off fireworks, Ulm continued, as did Tzolk’in on the other table.  They had begun by reminding themselves of the rules.  One of our longer, more complicated games, but one we’ve played a few times, Tzolk’in is a worker placement game built round a sumptuous system of gears.  The idea is that there is a central wheel dictating time, and five others providing actions.  On their turn, players can place workers on the action wheels and at the end of the round, the central wheel turns, moving all the workers round one step making a new action available.  In general, the longer a worker is on a wheel, the better the actions available to the player.  The really key part of the game, however, is the worker placement and removal:  on their turn, players can either take workers and carry out the associated actions, or place workers, but never both.

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor bkunes

There is a cost associated with placing workers:  the first worker is free, but after that, the cost rises considerably the more workers a player places.  Workers can be placed on any of the four wheels, but must be placed in the lowest available space.  Placing on the “zero” space of any wheel is free, but if this is occupied, players can place in the next space.  Since placing in higher spaces yields better rewards or saves time, for every extra space here is an additional fee, which is paid in the currency of the game, corn.  The five wheels, each named after ancient ruined Mayan cities, all provide different actions.  Palenque provides corn and wood while the mountain city of Yaxchilan provides corn, wood, stone, gold and crystal skulls. Uxmal, an ancient commercial centre, provides opportunities for players to hire additional workers , interchange corn and resources, as well as enabling them to carry out certain other actions, like build,  and pay with corn (when normally specific resources would be required).

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Tikal, the ancient centre of architectural and technological development, provides players with opportunities to build monuments and buildings.  It also enables players to enhance the abilities of their workers using technology tracks.  There are four technology tracks, each one giving a bonus when players carry out certain actions.  For example, the Agriculture Technology provides extra corn or wood when a worker carries out an action that provides these items.  To move along a technology track, players typically have to carry out the appropriate action on the Tikal wheel and pay resource cubes (wood, stone or gold).  The benefits are cumulative, so further along the track a player is, the more advantage they have, but the more it costs to get there.

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

The final wheel, named after the mythical tollan Chichen Itza (known to us as chicken pizza), is a temple where players are supposed to leave crystal skulls (first obtained by visiting Yaxchilan), in return for which players get points and climb steps in the temples.  There are three temples, and the higher up the temple players are at the more points they get at the end of the ages. The other main source of points at the end of the game are Monuments and Buildings.  At the start of the game a handful of Monument tiles and Buildings tiles are revealed.  Monuments are generally very expensive and typically provide points directly, or conditional on some other factor (e.g. the number of workers a player has) at the end of the game.  Monuments are not replaced when someone takes and builds them, though a new set is put out at the end of the first age (i.e. half way through the game). Buildings, on the other hand, provide an advantage for use during the game or indirect points, are replaced once someone has taken the tile and are generally single use.  Although Farms are a type of building, they are multi-use and provide corn every food day, which can be invaluable.

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Food days occur at the end of every age and again at the half-way point.  They can be crippling as players have to feed all their workers two corn each.  For this reason, a large part of the the first half-age is often spent acquiring corn to make sure nobody starves:  starving workers equals lost points.  In addition to food days, at the beginning of each round, every player must have three corn, if they don’t, they anger the gods which means they have to drop a step on one of the temples.  For this reason, and so that we don’t have to remember to check, we usually just put three corn to one side at the start of the game and then forget about it until the end.  In any case, corn is usually in high demand.  At the end of each round we place a “corn on the cog” to be taken when someone takes the start player.  This is an extra chance to get corn, and one that is usually a bit of a last resort, which means players are always tempted to wait as long as possible before they decide to take it, inevitably leaving someone disappointed.

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor bkunes

Unfortunately, we made a mess of the rules.  Firstly, we forgot to change the Monuments at the start of the second age, only remembering at about half way through.  This was unfortunate and may have inconvenienced Burgundy, but wasn’t the real game-breaker.  We had all played the game before, so it really shouldn’t have happened, but when we were setting up the game, Blue placed the skulls around the wheel in the action spaces.  At the time she wondered why there were so few crystal skulls in the general supply, but with so many other things going on she didn’t question it further.  This meant that instead of getting a skull from Yaxchilan and then taking it to Chichen Itza, players just went to Chichen Itza and got skulls.  At some point Pink asked what the skulls were for, but at the end of the game any left overs are worth three points so that was what we said.  It was only after we had run out of skulls and Green asked whether there was any point in Pink placing his workers on the Chichen Itza and whether the spaces could be re-used that we realised our error.

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor jsper

This rules error undoubtedly skewed the game giving the early adopters of the Chichen Itza wheel early success.  Pink and Burgundy were the first to go for this strategy and Blue quickly realised how effective it was and joined them.  Everyone had the opportunity to capitalise on the rules error, however, Green eschewed the chance and focused on climbing up the temples, but suffered as a result.  Blue managed to pick up a monument that rewarded wood tiles taken from Palenque and netted her thirty-two points for that alone at the end of the game.  Despite being awash with corn throughout the game she hadn’t been able to make the most of it.   Blue finished five points behind Pink and Burgundy (in spite of having almost no corn throughout) who tied for first place with eighty points.

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv

Learning Outcome:  Even when you think you know the game, check the rules when things don’t seem right.

31st December 2015

As people arrived, we began setting up the “Feature Game”.  This, as has become traditional at these New Year events, was the gorgeous, dexterity car-racing game, PitchCar. Burgundy and Pink built a fantastic figure-of-eight track that made good use of the ⅛ turns from the second expansion and made a really fast compact circuit. Before long, Black and Purple had arrived and had introduced themselves to the furry host, followed by Grey and Cerise who were armed with Champagne and Polish delicacies.

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is quite simple, players take it in turns to flick their small wooden cars once, starting with the player at the front of the pack. If the car leaves the track or rolls over, the player forfeits stroke and distance (though any collateral gains by other players stand).  We usually have a single solo lap to determine the order on the start grid and to allow new players to get their eye in, before racing two laps of the track.  While Blue and Pink occupied themselves in the kitchen, everyone else began their practice run.

PitchCar
– Image used with permission of
BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Cerise went first and set a very competitive bench-mark of ten flicks mastering the bridge from the first expansion on her second attempt. Asked whether she’d played it before, she replied, not since she was tiny, playing with bottle-tops. It turned out that Grey had also had a similarly mis-spent childhood and this with his competitiveness made him a formidable opponent. Black and Burgundy gave them a run for their money, but Grey took the lead and held off the competition to take first place, with Cerise close behind, a worthy second.

PitchCar
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor garyjames

With pizza already over-cooked, everyone helped to quickly pack up and then sat down for dinner. Once everyone had eaten their fill, Pink began tidying while everyone else began the next game, Ca$h ‘n Guns. This game combines gambling with a little chance and a dash of strategy, based round the theme of gangsters divvying up their ill-gotten gains by playing a sort of multi-player Russian Roulette. For some reason, setting up degenerated into a discussion about the offensive weapons act and Tony Martin and the debate was still going by the time Pink had finished what he was doing, so he joined in.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Black, (playing “The Hustler”), chose to enact his special power by trading a bullet card for one of Blue’s blanks, much to her delight. Then, Pink (playing “The Doctor”), started as the Godfather, so acted as caller. So, once everyone had “loaded” their weapon with blanks or bullets, on, the count of three, everyone pointed their foam gun at someone. Pink chose to invoke the Godfather’s Prerogative and decided Purple looked most threatening, so directed her to point her gun at Burgundy.  The Godfather then counted to three to give everyone a reasonable chance to withdraw from “The Game”, but also relinquish their claim to a share of the loot for that round.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Throughout, everyone was feeling quite brave, but it was Burgundy (“The Cute”) who had a particularly strong incentive to stay in, as his special power allowed him to take $5,000 before anyone else got a look in.  It was a power he used to great effect taking an early obvious lead.  Meanwhile, Blue (“The Vulture”) was the first to draw blood, defending her property against Grey (“The Greedy”).  Like The Vulture she was, when Grey picked up a second wound, Blue finished him off and took two pictures from his still warm, lifeless hands. With, Burgundy clearly in the lead, Blue had help taking him down, and Pink got caught in the cross-fire.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Picking the pockets of two corpses in the same round made her something of a target and in the next round she found the staring down all three remaining barrels which effectively put her out of the game.  Purple (“The Collector”), began collecting diamonds, but, it was Cerise (“The Lucky Man”)’ who picked up the $60,000 for getting the most diamonds.  As “The Collector”, Purple managed to score a staggering five pictures netting her $100,000 giving her a cool $156,000, $6,000 ahead of Black in second place, with Cerise a close third with $146,000.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

With seven of us, we’d normally split into two groups, but the party atmosphere had got to us a little, and with limited table space we were keen to stick together.  With the majority of Blue and Pink’s not inconsiderable game collection at our disposal, we eschewed the usual go-to seven player game, Bohnanza, and decided to play play Between Two Cities. We played this a few weeks ago, but in essence, it is a draughting game, but one that has the depth of 7 Wonders, but with the simplicity of Sushi Go!.  As before, we didn’t use any of the seating randomisers, but since we were all sat in different places and three players were new to it, this didn’t matter.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy and Black began to build up a large number of factories and thought they were in with a chance of scoring heavily with them, but didn’t notice that Grey and Pink, had more, as did Blue and Pink. Blue and Black began with a complete row of shops, and followed it with extensive white collar employment opportunities, but were unable to expand the park as much as they wanted.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Grey and Cerise had developed a retail outlet centre with no fewer than seven shops and a number of conveniently situated houses and office blocks. Cerise’s other city, shared with Purple began as a paradise with parks and entertainments, until they added a factory to increase the value of their housing stock. Parks had been popular at the start of two other cities too, with Purple starting her other city the same way with Burgundy, and Blue and Pink doing something very similar.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

After three rounds we began the complicated matter of the scores. It was quite close, but Blue and Pink’s City was disproportionately ahead, a problem that was rectified with a quick recount that left two cities jointly leading on sixty. In the normal way, the winning city can only ever be important as a tie-breaker since it is the city with the fewer points that makes each players’ score. In this case, however, Pink owned both, with Blue and Grey. Since Blue’s other city (shared with Black) had fifty-nine points, that put her a close second.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

A quick interlude followed for non-alcoholic Champagne, alcoholic Prosecco, white chocolate, pistachio and Diaquiri fudge, with the chimes of Big Ben and fireworks. Once the New Year greetings were complete, it was onto the important matter of what to play next. Such a large number of players meant the choices were limited, so we went with a couple of old favourites.  Tsuro was first, a quick fun game that we all know well and that featured on our list of ten great games to play with the family at Christmas.

Tsuro
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

A game that anyone can play, in Tsuro each player has a “stone” dragon and on their turn places a tile in front of it and moves the dragon along the path. As the board becomes increasingly crowded, the tiles form a maze of paths that the stones must navigate, staying on the board without colliding with anyone else while trying to eliminate everyone else.  Grey and Cerise were the first to go out by collision, followed by Burgundy who was ejected from the board by Purple. Black eliminated both Pink and Blue with one tile, before winning the game by dealing with the only remaining competitor, Purple.

Tsuro
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor zombiegod

With that over, there was just time for another of our favourite games of 2015, 6 Nimmt!.  For a reason none of us understand, this mixture of barely controlled chaos is strangely compelling, so it is a game we keep coming back to again and again. Despite the number of times we’ve played it as a group, somehow Grey had missed out, so we had a quick summary of the rules: players simultaneously choose a card, then starting with the lowest value card the players take it in turns to add their card to the four rows on the table in ascending order. The player who adds a sixth card, instead takes the first five cards to score and the sixth becomes the first card in the new row. As well as the face value of the cards, they also have a number of bulls’ heads (Nimmts) mostly one or two, but some as many as five or even seven.

6 Nimmt
– Image by boardGOATS

The aim is to minimise the number of Nimmts picked up, so things went horribly wrong from the start, with everyone picking up plenty in the first round, though it remained close aside from Purple who picked up nearly twice what anyone else took. The second round was made especially difficult by the fact that three of the four rows were effectively out of commission. Blue struggled with four cards with a value below ten as well as the highest card in the deck. Purple managed to exceed her score in the first round, giving her a near record- breaking fifty-one. Grey and Burgundy both managed a clean sheet in the second round, so it was Burgundy’s better score of just seven, that gave him the win. So with 2016 started in fine style, we decided it was time for bed.

6 Nimmt
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  Although seven is a difficult player count, there are some excellent games available when everyone is in the right mood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31st December 2014

The first challenge of the evening was to set up a track for our “Feature Game”, the gorgeous, dexterity car-racing game, PitchCar.  We started with getting pieces out of the box, then we decided the table needed to be expanded, then we struggled to make the ends of the track meet!  After a bit of pantomime, we eventually resorted to one of the suggested tracks, including chicanes and the bridge/tunnel from the first expansion.

PitchCar Track 31/12/14

Once the track is set up, the game itself is very straight-forward, with players taking it in turns to flick their little wooden “cars”, and the winner the first to complete (in our case) two laps of the track.  The rules are simple: a flick must be a flick (not a push), and cars must end their turn the right way up on the track.  Leaving the track is allowed, but cars must not fly more than two track sections or touch the table.  The leading player always plays first in each round.  Anyone who violates the rules forfeits stroke and distance, but any consequential moves to cars that stay on the track are valid.

PitchCar

Blue missed out on the practice lap as she was preparing food, so started from the back of the grid.  Black got off to a flying start and led round the first couple of corners before the rest of the pack caught up. Blue and Pink had caught up by the bridge, but Black held them off through the chicanes before they finally passed going into the bridge.  It was short-lived however, with Black retaking the lead before Pink passed and took a commanding lead going into the second lap with a disputed two wheels off the track.  Even with an eventually agreed penalty of a missed turn, his position turned out to be unbeatable.  Meanwhile, Blue and Black tussled before Blue got stuck on the bridge on her second pass and Black romped away, finishing second.  That left Blue and Purple to fight it out for the honour of the wooden spoon.  This was a competition they both seemed determined to win, with a series of miss-flicks, and over-flicks, but Blue eventually made it across the line first, with a cloud of smoke.

PitchCar

While tea was cooking, we played a couple of quick games of Belisha. This is a Rummy-based game with cards that depict a trip from London to Oban.  The game was a Christmas present and appears to be an original 1937 edition which probably makes it the oldest game we’ve played.  The cards run one to thirteen in four colour suits, but each card also has a road sign.  Like Rummy, players first draw a card from the face down draw deck or the face up discard pile.  They then play any runs or melds they want, with the difference being that the melds can be in numbers or road signs.  Turns end when the active player discards a card.   The game itself is fairly straight forward, though we still managed to play it wrong!  When laying runs of cards, we were playing any cards in sequence, whereas they are (of course) supposed to be the same colour/suit.  With this game it is usual to play several rounds and the game ends when a player to reaches a pre-agreed total, however, as we were only filling time, we just played a couple of hands with honours going to Black and Pink.

Belisha

After we’d eaten, we decided to play CO2.  This was the Feature Game two weeks ago, but we didn’t get round to playing it.  As only two people had played it before (and that was a long time ago), we spent quite a long time reminding ourselves of the rules, to say nothing of punching out all the pieces!  The game itself is quite an unusual one as it is cooperative, but also competitive.  The idea is that players have to cooperate to save the planet, but the player who is the most successful wins.  Alternatively, if players don’t cooperate, then the greenhouse effect will overpower the planet and everybody loses.

CO2

Each player is the CEO of an energy company responding to government requests for new, environmentally friendly power plants.  There are three stages to building a power plant:  proposing a project; installing the infrastructure for a project, and building the power plant.  Proposing a plant is rewarded by the local government grants (money, technical resource cubes or scientific sponsorship).  On the other hand, installing infrastructure has an environmental cost:  at the start of the game, each region starts with a certain number of Carbon Emissions Permits (CEPs, granted by the United Nations).  These CEPs are spent whenever the region needs to install the energy infrastructure for a project. Building a power plant earns victory points, but also has a cost associated with it which is paid in money and technical resource cubes.  This cost varies depending on the nature of the plant and also changes throughout the game.

CO2

The game is played over five decades and each decade comprises three rounds.  In these three rounds, the players need to try to satisfy the energy demand of the different continents.  At the beginning of each new decade, the energy demand of each region is evaluated and if they don’t have enough power plants, they have to build a fossil fuel plant to supply the deficit.  These are drawn at random from a pile and correspond to gas, coal and oil.  Each of these cost the region one CEP, but more importantly, they contribute to the burden of CO2 in the environment.  When the level of CO2 reaches 350 ppm, the world starts to suffer environmental disasters and at 500 ppm, the game is over and everyone loses.

CO2

At the beginning of each decade, money is awarded to each company based on their scientific expertise.  Each company starts with a scientist, though they can get more if they choose when proposing a new project.  The CEO of the company can assign their scientists to project, which earns them expertise in one of the associated scientific technologies each turn.  When a power plant is built, if there is a scientist working on the project they get the opportunity to do what scientists like to do best: travel to a conference to present their work.  When the conference has its full compliment of scientists, more expertise is awarded and they all return to the company.  Thus, through the scientists, the companies gain wealth which can be used for building power plants, however, they also need a given level of scientific expertise in each technology before they can build power plants of that type.

CO2

The game is quite fiddly and there are a lot of things to consider.  For example, a player may propose a solar power station or install its infrastructure, but they cannot build one unless they have sufficient scientific expertise.  Similarly, the location of solar power plants is also restricted to certain continents, so a solar project can only be proposed in certain regions.  The player who builds the most different power plants in a region gains control of that region and (more importantly) its CEPs.  CEPs are used when building the infrastructure to build a power plant, but are also worth points at the end of the game.  CEPs can be bought and sold on a market, and their price fluctuates throughout the game, with the final value affecting the number of victory points they are worth.  Points are also awarded to players who successfully complete their company’s personal goal (which is depicted on cards handed out at the start), or for achieving goals set out by the UN (which are cards laid out near the board and are available to players throughout the game).

CO2

We were very, very lucky with the set up.  Each region gets one fossil fuel power plant drawn at random and the total CO2 sets the initial CO2 level in the environment.  In our case, we had a lot of gas-fired power stations which are relatively environmentally friendly, so we started off well.  Purple started building in Oceania and Black in North America.  Meanwhile Blue started building up her expertise in solar and Pink just looked puzzled. Although were were unable to satisfy the worlds power demands, for the first couple of decades, we continued to be lucky and avoid the most highly polluting fossil fuel plants, which gave us a chance to start to get a feel for the game.

CO2

After a brief break to admire everyone else’s fireworks and sharing a bottle of dodgy rosé champagne, we continued playing.  Pink was now somehow in the lead, despite having to be woken up for his turn each round.  Blue suddenly realised that she’d proposed a couple of nuclear fusion projects that weren’t allowed in those regions, but everyone just shrugged and carried on with Black commenting that it “was that sort of game”.  Eventually, the CO2 level reached critical and disaster struck North America.  As Blue was the only player without a power plant in the region, she had to pay the price (a valuable technical resource cube).

CO2

It was then that Black claimed a UN goal card, to choruses of, “Oooo!  What did you do there?  What does that do!?!?” as Black surged along the score track taking the lead.  Inevitably, everyone suddenly looked to see what power plants they had built and tried to match them to the cards that had been sat quietly beside the board for the whole game, totally ignored.  Then there was a flurry of people claiming them as the game came to an end.  It was only then that Pink noticed how many CEPs Blue had amassed – with her company goal card giving her extra points for each CEP she had in hand.  Black’s company goal on the other hand, gave him points for achieving UN goal cards, which explained how he knew what they did and had paid so more attention to them than anyone else.  As the people reading the rules, Black and Blue had a better grasp of the game and it was not surprising that they finished fighting it out for the lead, but in the end it was Blue who took the first win of 2015, albeit having mess-up in the middle.

CO2

Learning Outcome:  Late at night is not the best time to learn to play long and complicated games…

31st December 2013

The evening started with a quick two player game of “extend the table and try to find space for it”.  Just as we were finishing, one of our regulars arrived with his family, including his dinosaur-pyjama-clad four year old – unquestionably the youngest GOAT to date!

PitchCar

As planned, we started off with our “Feature Game”, the gorgeous, dexterity car-race, PitchCar.  The idea of this game is that, starting with the player at the front of the field in each round, players take it in turns to flick their small wooden car round the custom-made circuit.  Since the game was new to so many of the players, we started out with a simple track with just one jump (from the first expansion) and smooth corners (from the second expansion).  Despite their tender years, Black and Yellow demonstrated a remarkable aptitude, and Black ran in the easy winner.

PitchCar Track 1 - 31/12/13

The first game was such a hit that when three more people arrived, we built a second, slightly more complex track while pizzas were “prepped”.  In this game, Blue (played by one of the new arrivals), quickly got half a lap ahead and managed to maintain his lead until the end.  This was followed by a game of “hunt for enough chairs” by which time, the first of the pizzas were ready.  By this time, despite it being two hours past his bedtime, “dinoGOAT” was still keen to play on, however, we managed to persuade him (with the aid of a mince pie) that it was bedtime and we’d play Dinosaur Race another time.

PitchCar Track 2 - 31/12/13

That left us with just enough people to give the first of our “Christmas Games” an outing.  Waldschattenspiel is not, as you might think, a game about what bears do in the woods.  It is actually a really unusual game, played in the dark, where one player (the designated adult!) operates a candle and the others are little dwarf meeples with felt hats.  The idea is that that wooden trees cast shadows, and the dwarves, who start the game hiding in the woods, have to meet up together behind the same tree. The snag is that when they move, they must do so without being illuminated by the candle. Any photophobic dwarves caught in the light become “frozen” and are unable to move until they are rescued by other dwarves.  The dwarves started out badly when Green got trapped, and then frozen, very early on.  The rest of the dwarves managed to meet up, but in a failure of strategy, tried to rescue Green as a group.  When they all got trapped and only Red was able to escape, the writing was on the wall and the Candle scored a win on the next move.

Waldschattenspiel

Next up was the second of our Christmas Games, 7 Wonders.  This is a card drafting game, where each person picks one card from their hand to play, then passes their remaining cards on to the next player.  The aim of the game is to build your civilisation by developing your science and technology and building one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  We played the ‘A’ side and with seven players, most of whom had never played it before, there was a lot of chaos, and the game was a bit of a mystery to a lot of us. However, the game was won by one of the new players, who, as well as successfully building the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, also had a strong army and had a well developed civilisation.

7 Wonders

A couple more players left and the rest of us played with the tower from Amerigo while we decided what the next game should be.  Enticing though it was, it only played four, so, after much deliberation, we decided to play Dixit.

Amerigo

This is a clever, light card game, where the “active player” secretly chooses a card and uses a sound, word, phrase or sentence to describe it.  The other players all choose the best card from their hand to match the sentence and secretly hand them to the active player who shuffles the cards and displays them to everyone. The players then try to guess which card was played by the active player with points being awarded for choosing correctly, having your card chosen by another player, and, as the active player, for being ambiguous enough to ensure that some players, but not all, chose their card.  The artwork by Marie Cardouat is wonderfully surreal and the game produced some equally peculiar clues in what ended up as a close game. Blue took an early lead, but it couldn’t last and, everyone else closed, pausing for just a brief interlude to sing Auld Lang Syne and watch fireworks (it was raining, so we “wimped out” of setting off our own and just admired everyone else’s from the warm; one group were especially obliging and set off some very nice ones just outside the window!). White snuck ahead of Blue with the last point of the game, and took the first win of 2014 adding it to her last win of 2013. This was in contrast to Red who lost both the last game of 2013 and the first game of 2014!

Dixit

Learning Outcome:  Cold pizza isn’t that bad after all!

27th December 2012

With Christmas day and New Years day both falling on a Tuesday (and players valuing playing games with their family more than with other GOATS – can’t imagine why!) we decided to have an extraordinary meeting on the Thursday.

This week there were six of us, including two new people.  However, although we didn’t start until 8pm (as burgers and chips had to be dealt with), we still managed to squeeze in four games.

With Christmas so recent, everyone had new games to play, and the first one up was a Santa Special – Mundus Novus. This is a card game where players are seventeenth century Spanish ship owners, travelling to the New World and making their fortune.  It took us a while to get started, but once we got the hang of it, everyone started to rack up dubloons at a steady rate. We were pretty much neck-a-neck when the game came to a bit of a shuddering halt because one of us played the equivalent of a Royal Flush, which wins the game outright.

Mundus Novus

Next we played the “Feature Game” which was PitchCar, a gorgeous, dexterity car-racing game.  This game was also a Christmas Special and included the first expansion which has shicanes and jumps/bridges.  For this game we used one of the standard layouts making full use of the special features.

PitchCar Track - 27/12/12

Once everyone had completed their qualifying lap, we were off.  Yellow, who won the qualifying, stalled on the grid, so Pink led into the first corner and got in everyone else’s way.  Meanwhile, Black went for a pitstop and came out Orange. After about half a lap, Green had got his nose in front and despite the best efforts of Blue and White (who came from the back of the grid to finish second), this proved an unassailable lead.

PitchCar

Next up was The Resistance: Avalon.  This game is a little different with players dividing into two teams, the Loyal Servants of Arthur and the Minions of Mordred, to go on a series of quests.  Arthur’s team want the quests to be successful, whereas Mordred’s team want them to fail.  The catch is, the Loyal Servants of Arthur don’t know who Mordred’s men are and players vote for teams to go on each quest.  The first two quests were successful, before the Minions managed to sneak in a failure.  After winning the fourth quest, the Loyal servants snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when Merlin was named correctly and assassinated.

Avalon

The last game of the evening was an old favourite, Dobble and we played several chaotic rounds in different styles before we went home.

Dobble

Learning Outcome: A little research before preparing your Christmas list goes a long way!