Tag Archives: Plague & Pestilence

6th March 2018

Food had been ordered by those who intended to eat, but there seemed to be a bit of wait so we decided to play our “Feature Game”, Plague & Pestilence.  This game had been chosen as it was Purple’s birthday and she had enjoyed playing it in the past.  A fairly simple card game, everyone felt it wouldn’t be too difficult to play around when food arrived, added to which, there weren’t many other options available that would play six in a short time.  The game is played in two phases, the first is the “Prosperity Phase” and the second is the “Plague Phase”, but both are played the same way.  During their turn, the active player rolls a pair of purple six-sided dice which indicate how much their population increases by, and takes population cards accordingly.  The active player then draws Prosperity cards to refill their hand and plays one, which allow players to attack others and build their own protections for later in the game.

– Image by boardGOATS

A special Death Ship card is shuffled into the Prosperity deck and when it appears, it triggers the start of the second phase, the “Plague Phase”.  This is played exactly the same as the first phase, but now the dice rolls indicate how much the active player’s population decreases by.  As the game progresses, the plague ravages the populations and players are eliminated; the last player standing is the winner.  The game started fairly benignly as most players either built improvements or had bumper harvests. There was the odd pestilence played and a Mongol raid, however, Green upped the ante when he played the mass migration card and gained five citizens off every other player.  This released the inevitable retribution when he then found himself beset with wars, famines and pestilence.  With two Pied Pipers up his sleeve (metaphorically of course) he was then able to pick on Ivory, and did so twice since Ivory had twice hit Green hard with a major war, and had also caught Pine with Viking raids. Meanwhile, Burgundy tried to build defences, and but they fell to earthquakes and other attacks before he could actually make use of their benefits.

– Image by boardGOATS

The game had not seemed to be going on long when Green drew the Death Ship and the game  entered the Plague Phase. A quick run round the table while everyone tried to bolster their dwindling populations and then food started to arrive.  After a brief interlude, play resumed with Black and his seemingly never-ending stream of Trade Centres.  Before long, a fatal blow was dealt to Burgundy when Purple started a war between him and Green. With three ties in a row, both suffered heavy losses. Although Burgundy did eventually win the war, he suffered some poor dice rolls and soon found himself to be the first without citizens. By now, Green was struggling and Black’s own mass migration had put both him and Pine on the edge as well. The inevitable backlash against Black gave Green and Pine a reprieve, but it was short lived and both toppled very quickly.

– Image by boardGOATS

It was looking like a fight between Ivory and Black as Purple’s pile of people was also looking decidedly dodgy, but then Black tried to start a war between the other two.  Ivory brought out his “Negotiated Peace” card though and all was well. It was a race of attrition that Purple couldn’t win and she was the next to drop out with an empty city.  In the end there was still little Ivory could do and he finally bowed out leaving Black the winner. It was then that Black revealed his hand to have several military advantages that he never used as he was the only one who had not been at war; everyone else had been wondering where those tactical advantages had disappeared to as they really needed them!  With the death and destruction over, we quickly decided to split into two threes.  As it was Purple’s birthday and she wanted to play Cat Lady, Pine and Black joined her.

– Image used with permission of
BGG contributor HedgeWizzard

Cat Lady is a card drafting game, similar in feel to Sushi Go!, though the drafting mechanism is very different.  At the start of the game nine cards from the cat deck are laid out in a three by three array.  On their turn, the active player takes all thee cards in one row or one column and then replaces the cards from the draw deck marking the row they took with a kitty meeple so the next player knows they can’t take that row.  Any cat cards go in front of the owner (or should that be staff?) and these must be fed by the end of the game or they score minus two.  Any food cards give cubes which can then be placed on the face-up cat cards to show they are being fed.  Similar to Sushi Go!, there are also cards that score for the player with the most cards (cat “costumes”) and give players with the fewest negative points and sets that players can collect (toys).  Players can also collect catnip cards which score minus two if the player only has one at the end of the game, or one or two points per cat if they have more.  There are also lost cat cards, and discarding a pair allows players take a two victory point token or one of the three stray cat cards which are particularly useful because they have special powers.

– Image used with permission of BGG contributor HedgeWizzard

The tricky part is making sure that the food a player gets matches the cards, because cats are fussy creatures and some like tuna, while others will only eat chicken…  At the end of the game, players score points for each happy well-fed cat and for their toy collection with extras if they have the most cat costumes.  Unfed cats, having the fewest costumes, and the largest surplus of food will give players negative points.  The game began with Purple going for costumes and toys while Black and Pine tried to get catnip to add extra points for their fed cats.  Perhaps Purple concentrated too much on the accoutrements for her pets because she ended up with so many cats that should couldn’t feed them all.  In her defence, it wasn’t that she had no food, it was that her cats were fussy eaters and turned their noses up at the fresh chicken, preferring to starve.  Unfortunately, this meant she lost points for having unfed cats, but also for having the largest surplus of food.  In contrast, the others had well fed cats and were level in almost every department, finishing with only three points between them, and Pine just a whisker in front of Black.

– Edited from video on youtube.com

Meanwhile, on the next table, Burgundy, Green and Ivory opted for NMBR 9. Only Burgundy had played it before, but the rules are simple enough so didn’t take long to explain.  The idea is that players will play a total of twenty tiles, numbered zero to nine, with each one appearing twice. One player turns over a card and calls the number and players each take one tile of that number and add it to their tableau. Tiles must be placed such that at least one edge touches a previous tile. Tiles can be placed on top of other tiles as long as there are no overhanging parts, and the tile sits squarely on more than one other tile. At the end of the game the number tiles are multiplied by the level they sit on minus one. So, a five on the third level scores ten points (5 x (3-1)).  This time, Ivory and Green matched each other for several turns before making a slight different placement which then ballooned into big differences.

NMBR 9
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Ivory and Green were quite pleased early on when they were able to place the eight on the, then highest level when Burgundy had to be content with adding it to his “ground floor”. In the end, Burgundy proved cannier than the others, however, and even managed to get a fourth level by the end of the game, while both Ivory and Green could only manage three tiers. In the final scores, it was Burgundy’s experience that showed through and his score dwarfed that of Ivory and Green, who finished with only a point between them.  Chatting about the game afterwards, everyone was surprised how quick it had been and how easy it was to learn (helped by the zero setup time).  So much so in fact, that even though the game was not to everyone’s taste, everyone felt it made a very handy little filler game and with a nice little bit of challenge. Having played it once though, both Ivory and Green felt they had a better understanding of the challenges and were more familiar with the tessellation possibilities and looked forward to doing better next time.

NMBR 9
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

On the other table, Cat Lady was still underway, so the Green, Ivory and Burgundy opted for another of the hits from Essen 2017, Azul.  Despite the number of times we have now played this in the group, Ivory had somehow missed out.  The idea of the game is that players are tile laying artists decorating a wall in the Palace of Evora with “azulejos”.  On their turn, the active player can either take all the tiles of one colour from one of the factory displays (putting the rest in the central market) or take all the tiles of one colour from the market in the centre of the table.  They then place the tiles in one of the five rows on their player board.  The catch is that each player only has five rows, each with a set number of spaces (up to five). Players can add tiles to a row later in the round, but once a row is full, any left-overs go into the negative scoring row. Once all the tiles have been picked up, players evaluate their board, and, starting with the shortest row, one of the tiles from each full row is added to the player’s mosaic and scored.

Azul
– Image by BGG contributor JackyTheRipper

Players score just one point for a tile that is not placed adjacent to any other tile, whereas tiles added to rows or columns score the same number of points as there are tiles in the completed row (or column). The game continues with players choosing tiles from the factory displays and then adding them to rows, the catch is that as the mosaic fills up, it is harder to fill the rows as each row can only take each colour once. At the end of the game, players score bonus points for completed columns, completed rows and complete sets of five of the same colour.  The game is actually much more complex to explain than to actually play and Ivory appeared to pick it up very quickly, successfully completing a column and two full coloured sets.  Green, on the other hand, had managed only one column and one colour set as he had got stuck with a single blue on the bottom row for at least two turns as there weren’t enough of that colour drawn from the bag which stopped him placing the colours he really wanted to.  It was Burgundy who romped home in the lead though, with two full columns and two complete colour sets and ninety-eight points, just three ahead of Ivory.

Azul
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

While Azul was going on, Cat Lady had finished and the group also fancied playing Azul.  Unfortunately, we only had one copy between us so they settled on Sheep & Thief instead.  This is another light abstract that has proven quite popular in the group.  Each player has a board divided into a four by four grid, and starts with their home card and two sheep in the top left hand corner.  Each round is played in two halves: first players draft cards then they play them, taking it turns to place one card per turn.  It is a strange little “point salad” of a game with players trying to connect their home card to the other three corners while also trying to keep their sheep safe and trying to catch other players sheep with their fox as well as attempting to navigate their black sheep to the town in the bottom right corner of their board.

Sheep & Thief
– Image by boardGOATS

With points for sheep captured, sheep retained, long rivers, connecting the home card to the other corners of the board as well as for moving their black sheep as far from home as possible, it is hard to see who has the most points and get an idea of who is in the lead and it is astonishingly hard to do well at everything.  During this game, there almost seemed to be a lack of sheep and not much movement around the fields either.  The black sheep only moved a space or two and the foxes mostly sat and watched.  Everyone managed to connect their home card to at least one town, but it was Black who managed to collected a huge number of points when he managed to mastermind a huge river system giving him a completely unassailable lead.

Sheep & Thief
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Azul was over, but as Sheep & Thief wouldn’t be long, Green, Ivory and Burgundy settled on a quick game of Love Letter with Green’s home printed Hobbit cards.  It is a while since we last played Love Letter, but nobody had forgotten how as it is simple enough:  draw a second card and chose one to play then action it trying to knock everyone else out—last player standing is the winner.  This time, Burgundy was caught out first as he had been forced to discard the Elvenking, leaving Green with a fifty/fifty guess at Beorn or the Great Eagle (the mutterings on placing the Elvenking suggested he wasn’t Smaug).  Although he guessed right, Ivory played a Troll to compare hands and Green could not match Ivory’s eagle. In the second round, history repeated itself for Burgundy as the first card he played was an Elvenking and the Great Eagle guess proved correct.  It was Green’s Troll card that forced the compare this time and took out Ivory.

– Image by boardGOATS

In the third round, Green started off by keeping himself out of harms way with Elrond, but he drew Smaug as his next card and knew that the writing would be on the wall—it’s very hard to keep that quiet for long. The inevitable happened when Ivory forced Green to reveal his card, but it didn’t do Ivory much good as Burgundy was then able to beat him on another comparison.  With one golden ring apiece and Sheep & Thief being scored on the next table, it was all or nothing on the final round.  Burgundy was knocked out first, but Green and Ivory took it to the final cards, a compare hands. Much to the dismay of Green who had accused Ivory of being Smaug earlier in the round, Ivory had subsequently drawn the dragon card, and with it took the game.  It wasn’t all that late, but nobody really wanted to start anything else.  With Green and Ivory making for home, Black, Burgundy and Pine waited on the birthday girl’s decision, but she also wanted to head off—she’d had a busy day.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Don’t be a fussy pussy or it could be fatal!

19th May 2015

With more new people, most of the regulars and a few less regulars, it was always going to be a busy evening.  So, as it was, we started out with three games.  The first group began with Eight-Minute Empire, a game that we’ve played before on a Tuesday, however, not with this group – only one person playing this time was familiar with it.  It is a quick little area control and set collecting game, though in truth, it only plays in eight minutes if everyone really knows what they are doing and nobody suffers from “Analysis Paralysis”.  On their turn, the active player starts by picking up a card:  they can choose whether to take the first available card which has no cost, or take another and pay the appropriate number of coins from their limited supply.  Each card is a resource which provides points at the end of the game, the number depending on how many of that resource the player has;  each card also has an action associated with it, which can be place armies on the map, move them about, ship them across the sea, build a city etc.  Players score points for having the majority in a countries and controlling the most countries in each continent, as well as for sets of resources.

Eight-Minute Empire
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Cyan started heading over the seas, Yellow went in the other direction and Green ominously began amassing armies in the start region. Orange and White started with a mixture of expansion and growth.  As the game progressed, Cyan was spreading himself thinly over two continents while Orange headed north leaving the main continent behind and Yellow, White and Green fought over the regions in the middle.  White was also doing a fine trade in rubies while Cyan was collecting anvils.  This gave Cyan a dilemma when a double anvil turned up:  although he had the money to pay the two it would cost, he was playing a miserly game and decided to let it pass.  As it happened, it stayed on the table for nearly the full round until White swiped it from under Cyan’s nose.  Everyone saw the mass of Green in the middle, and, thinking he was an experienced player, decided to gang up on him.  With three players going after Green in the last round they did a good job of removing his dominance in the centre, leaving White the winner with eleven points, though the rubies really helped Yellow in second place just two points behind.

Eight-Minute Empire
– Image by BGG contributor lhapka

After a brief drinks break, the group then went on to play Salmon Run.  This was another game that we had played before, but was new to the majority of the players this time so it took a while to remember how it worked.  In essence, it is a race game that uses a hand-drafting mechanism, so players have their own personal draw piles a bit like Dominion.  The game is modular with a range of possible river sections.  This time the group opted for a short game with only four boards, which was enough to give everyone a flavour of the game, ready to give it a proper run through next time.  After a couple of rounds, everyone started to get the hang of it and salmon were zig-zagging their way up stream dodging bears, eagles and rapids, jumping waterfalls and trying to be the first to get to the spawning pool without being too tired.  Throughout the game the group remained uncertain of the the rules though, and at one point Green got himself blocked with no cards in his hand to help him.  After checking, he realised he could in fact play a card and do nothing (the fish banging its head against the wall). Unfortunately this meant he ended up way behind the others.  Before long, Cyan leapt the last waterfall and landed in the spawning pool with a splash.  It was a tight game with three other players teetering on the brink and ready to make the final jump, but in the end no-one else managed to get across leaving Cyan the clear winner.

Salmon Run
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

The second group started out with a repeat of a quick game we played last time, called Yardmaster.  This little train themed card game is turning out to be surprisingly popular with our group, partly at least because it packs a surprising amount of punch for such a simple filler game that plays so quickly.  This time, it was just Burgundy turned the tables on Blue who failed to get the luck of the cards.  Then Purple and and Black turned up to join them for the the “Feature Game”, Machi Koro, which has just been nominated for the Spiel des Jahres.  This card game is a sort of cross between The Settlers of Catan and Dominion, where players take the role of mayor and roll dice and choose cards in order to make it the most successful town.  On their turn, the active player rolls the die (or dice if appropriate) and anyone who owns a card gets money in a similar way to the resource allocation in The Settlers of Catan.  Then, the active player can use their money to buy cards, building up their portfolio in a similar way to Dominion.  The winner is the first player to build all four of their land-mark buildings.

Machi Koro
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

There are two ways of setting up:  all the cards can be available in separate stacks at the start of the game, alternatively, the cards can be shuffled together and dealt out until there are ten different buildings available (others become available when a pile is exhausted).  The latter makes for a more strategic and interesting game, but when learning it is easier to see how the card combinations work by dealing out all the cards.  With so many people new to the game, all the cards were laid out at the start so everyone could see what their options were.  Blue was the only one who had played it before, so to off-set some of that advantage, she decided to try buying a building she had not bought before.  In her previous games, the Café (which rewards the owner with $2 from the active player when they roll a three) had been fairly ineffective, so she bought one.  Purple promptly rolled a three, and had to hand over some cash.  When this happened a second time, suddenly everyone started building Cafés and the gloves were off.

Machi Koro
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

Blue built her Station first which allowed her to roll both dice and go for the higher number and value buildings and Purple and Burgundy were quick to follow.  Black was obviously not enjoying himself as much as the rest, and didn’t seem to be building much.  Eventually, he build a handful of Restaurants and Cafés, but otherwise just sat and accrued cash.  Blue and Purple had built their third landmark before Black had built one and it was looking like he wasn’t really focussing on the game at all.  Eventually, Blue built her Radio Tower winning the game.  Since there is nothing in the rules about what happens next, the rest of the group played on.  Burgundy managed to build his third and fourth landmarks in quick succession to take second place leaving Black and Purple to fight it out.  When Black suddenly completed his set (much to Purple’s disgust) his strategy became clear:  by building his most expensive landmarks first, he got a larger benefit from them, which enabled him to quickly complete the smaller ones.  Without two dice, his income was reduced, but since he had the majority of the red cards, he picked up money on when others rolled nines.  Although it hadn’t paid off this time, it looked like an interesting approach, though it was clear that Black was not terribly keen to play it again since, as he commented later, he is not keen on dice as a randomising factor, though he is quite happy to use cards.  Perhaps we’ll try a “dice deck” of cards next time and see if he likes it more…

Coloretto
– Image by BGG contributor SergioMR

Meanwhile, the third group had played an assortment of quicker games beginning with Coloretto.  This cute little set collecting game has been getting played a lot recently on Tuesdays, and, as Teal and Violet were new to the group, Red thought it would be a nice gentle game to start with.  Teal began by collecting a few choice colours, but quickly amassed a positive rainbow of chameleons.  Violet was much more selective and her favouritism for yellow chameleons proved to be particularly sensible in such a close fought game, and gave her clear victory over Red and Teal.  After briefly licking his wounds, Teal then regrouped and proceeded to thrash Red and Violet in a quick game of Dobble.

Dobble
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

Red had been enviously watching Blue and Burgundy playing Yardmaster across the room (which might explain her poor showing in Dobble).  So, as soon as they had finished, she decided to introduce Teal and Violet to it.  As the most experienced player, Red was in a good position to get revenge for getting beaten in Coloretto and her complete drubbing in Dobble.  The game was quite close, but a crucial coup of a green number one at the very last minute swept her sorting yard into play, making Red the clear winner.

Yardmaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor moonblogger

With one victory each, Red got out another of her favourite games, Walk the Plank!.  This is a very simple if silly game, with a lot of opportunity to attack the others playing.  One of the big successes in the group, it has really earned it’s keep as one of the few genuinely popular KickStarter games.  This time was no different to previous games and everyone engaged whole-heartedly in trying to force their opponents off the plank and into the murky depths of the ocean.  Since it had been one game all, this could be seen as the groups tie-breaker and it was Teal who’s pirates managed to resist the temptation to jump into the shark-infested water the longest giving him two wins to Red and Violet’s one.

Walk the Plank!
– Image by boardGOATS

With the second group still playing Machi Koro, Red Teal and Violet joined Cyan, Green and White for a quick game of Pick Picknic.  Like Walk the Plank!, Pick Picknic uses simultaneous card selection, but adds negotiation and a dash of chance and “double think”.  The idea is that there are six 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.  The game was really close and much hilarity ensued when when Cyan and Green, fighting over a yard managed to roll a tie five times in a row.  In the final count, White finished the winner, just four corn ahead of Green and six clear of Violet.

Pick Picknic
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

With people beginning to head off and everyone else reluctant to make it a late night, the remaining players began to look for something short-ish and fun.  Purple suggested Plague & Pestilence again, but when that wasn’t greeted enthusiastically, she proposed 6 Nimmt! instead.  Having had an outing last time, as well as at the Didcot group a few days ago, it is starting to become a bit of a regular.  In this case however, it was clear that everyone had fond memories of Burgundy collecting handfuls of cards and wanted to see if he was going to do it again.  Sadly, that was clearly not his intent and he finished the first round with just eight, only one behind the leader, Green.  Green didn’t keep the lead for long though as he was repeatedly forced to pick up high scoring cards finishing with a nice round forty.  Purple improved on her relatively poor first round, but still had quite a few more than Burgundy, Black and Blue.  It was fitting perhaps then, that it was Burgundy who, despite having a terrible hand played a blinder to finish just one point ahead of Black and two ahead of Blue.

6 Nimmt
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  A long game can be very satisfying, but lots of little games can be lots of fun.

5th May 2015

We weren’t sure whether Yellow and Orange (who recently moved to Swindon) were coming, so we started out with a quick game of 6 Nimmt!.  This is an older game, and though very simple it is one that everyone in our group somehow struggles to remember the rules for.  The game is played with a deck of cards numbered from two to one hundred and four and features a number of “Bulls Heads” (mostly just one, but some have as many as seven).  Four cards, chosen at random are turned face up on the table to make the start of four rows.  The idea is that everyone then simultaneously chooses and reveals a card from their hand.  Then, starting with the player who played the lowest card, players add their cards to the rows on the table.

6 Nimmt
– Image used with permission of BGG
contributor punkin312

Cards are added to the row that ends with the highest number that is below their card.  Thus, if the cards on the table are four, ten, fifty, and seventy-two, a player with fifteen would add it to the row containing ten.   If the card played is the sixth card in the row, then the player must take the cards and place their card in the empty space.  If the card played is lower than the last card in all the rows, the player must take all the cards in a row of their choosing.  The aim of the game is to be the player with the lowest number of Bulls’ Heads or “Nimmts”.  As play continues, the number of cards in the rows increase (making it harder to play safely) and the number of cards in hand decrease on each turn (players don’t pick up after each turn), so the decisions get increasingly agonising, especially when the rows contain cards with a lot of Bulls’ Heads.

6 Nimmt
– Image by BGG contributor Niko the Shadow

Burgundy started the first round badly and finished worse, ending with thirty-five Nimmts, compared with Black and Purple who both finished the first round with none.  The idea is that a game consists of two rounds, each played with a random half of the deck.  Unfortunately, we miss-counted and used to many in the first round, so the second round included some repeated cards.  Not that it helped Burgundy much as he finished the second round with twenty-one giving him a combined total of over fifty.  Black and Purple did better, but it was Green who had the best over-all, with just two Nimmts in the first round and none in the second, he was the clear winner.

6 Nimmt
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

We then moved on to our Feature Game which was another older game, The Settlers of Catan, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.  As it is an old classic, we had three different editions available and countless expansions.  Since everyone was keen to play it, we set up two parallel games.  Although we’ve only played it once before in the group, everyone knew the game, so we just had a quick reminder of the rules as we were setting up.  At its basic level, the game is one of resource management and civilisation building.  Players start with two roads and two settlements.  These are placed along the edges and on the corners of the hexagons of the modular board.  Each hexagon has a number on it, and on each player’s turn, first they roll both dice and resources are awarded to players with settlements on the corners of the hexagon that  corresponds to the total rolled.  Once the resources have been handed out, the active player can trade resources with other players and use them to build more roads and settlements, develop their settlements into cities or buy development cards.  Victory points are awarded for settlements, cities and the longest continuous road as well as via development cards (both as straight victory points and for the player with the most soldier cards, i.e. the largest army).

The Settlers of Catan
– Image by BGG server robot BoardGameGeek

Burgundy, Blue and Red played with a ten year old, third Mayfair edition, while Green, Black and Purple eschewed an older Mayfair edition and opted for the slightly easier setup provided by the fourth Mayfair edition.  Green, Black and Purple were nearly ready to go, while Burgundy, Blue and Red were still separating the base game from expansion tiles.  No sooner had this been noted by the first group when, calamity, quarter a pint of beer was spilled over their cards, narrowly missing their board!  A hasty drying session ensued and the third copy of Catan came in handy after all, as it was temporarily cannibalised for cards.

The Settlers of Catan
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor ronster0

Meanwhile, Blue, Burgundy and Red had finished setting out their randomised board and had started to critique it.  There was only one good source of brick and nothing for ore, in fact, the only abundant supply of anything seemed to be wood and sheep of which there were plenty.  This was exacerbated by the fact that nine was by far the most frequently rolled number in the first half of the game, which delivered both wood and sheep.  Blue had gone first and had grabbed the best brick space, however, although Red and Burgundy apparently had two better starting positions, it was a bit claustrophobic as they were both camped in close proximity on one side of the board.  Red really suffered as she ended up with two awkwardly placed positions and that made her game really tough.  Everywhere she went she was blocked by Burgundy and Blue and although she challenged for the longest road, she just couldn’t get out of the trap.  Although Blue had much more space to work with, good settlement positions were further apart which meant she had to build a lot of road before she could build.  Consequently, she quickly picked up the Longest Road card.  While Blue was road building, Burgundy got his nose in front and was first to build his third settlement.  With the extra resources this provided, Burgundy was able to keep his nose in front, settling more and building cities first.  He also had enough resources to buy a handful of Development Cards, which first of all netted him the Largest Army, and then enabled him to masterfully take the Longest Road card by building three sections in one turn.  This, together with a single victory point card brought him to ten points bringing the game to a close.

The Settlers of Catan
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually after a lot of mopping, the second game of The Settlers of Catan had got underway.  As is often the case in this game, it was the statistically unlikely numbers which came up all the time and the more probable ones hardly ever!  This time, five appeared time and again, until Purple was awash with sheep  Wood, ore and wheat appeared often enough, but brick was not available at all, probably because they were both elevens and the twelve!  So, the sheep were exchanged for brick and everyone quickly built their third settlement.  Black obstinately refused to join up his two bits of road to claim the Longest Road card which left Green free to take it having extended his road slightly to try to get some ore into his production.

The Settlers of Catan
– Image by BGG contributor shannona

Everyone built a another settlement or two and Black started turning his into cities, but still didn’t join his roads.  Green struggled to get sufficient wheat and ore, so started buying development cards instead of building cities (as they only need one of each rather than a total of five). In the process, Green also ended up with a number of soldiers which resulted in the Largest Army card.  It was then that we discovered that Black had been inadvertently cheating. He had been using his port to swap two wood for his missing resources (he had two settlements on the wood hexagon that happened to be a six).  Of course there would have been nothing wrong with that, except that in this case his port was for the ore port not the wood port!  Green and Purple ribbed him mercilessly for the rest of the game (and indeed the rest of the evening, as he deserved.

The Settlers of Catan
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor thephantomhennes

Fairly quickly Green had taken a commanding lead with five points to the others two and three, which then became six and eventually eight when he took the Largest Army card.  Green kept plugging away at the development cards, trying to get victory points, but a clear lead meant he was also attracting the attention of the robber and his brick port was great considering he had three settlements giving brick, but the dice just weren’t playing the high numbers game.  Eventually Green found a victory point card and he needed just one more to win.  A settlement at the end of the road or a victory point development card (or perhaps a city) would do it, but by now Black had three cities and a settlement, plus that little gap in his roads.  With people finally rolling sixes and Black gaining four wood every time, the inevitable happened. He built another settlement and the missing piece of road meant his was now one longer than Green. So Black went to ten points, and Green tied with Purple two points behind.  Still, Black had cheated…!

The Settlers of Catan
– Image by BGG contributor olaha

The second game was still in full flow when Blue, Burgundy and Red finished, and decided to give a quick game, Yardmaster an outing.  This is a cute little set collecting game with a train theme and some parallels with the Ticket to Ride games.  In Yardmaster, however, players are building a locomotive rather than routes.  On their turn players can do two actions.  The actions are: draw a cargo card (either blind or from the face up discard pile); buy a railcar card from the four face up cards in the middle, or swap their “Exchange Token” with any other one around the table.  To buy a railcar, players pay using sets of cargo cards, so a yellow number three railcar will cost three yellow “oil” cards.  However, the exchange tokens allow players to use other cargo cards at a rate of two-to-one, so in the above example, if the player only had two yellow oil cards but also had two blue “coal” cards and the blue exchange token, they would still be able to buy the yellow number three railcar.

Yardmaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor joeincolorado

When buying a railcar, if the number or colour match the previous car, then it must be added to the end of their locomotive.  If not, then players can park it in their personal sorting yard and add it later, when another railcar is being bought and added to the locomotive.  This is the clever part of the game as it allows players to “stack” points in their personal train yard enabling them both to take some risks and strategically remove railcars from the grasping hands of their opponents.  Players score is the total of the numbers of the on the railcars making up their locomotive (waggons in the sorting yard do not score).  Burgundy started with a succession of ones and gradually built a very long, if not very high scoring loco.  Meanwhile, Blue and Red grabbed a couple of higher scoring waggons each.

Yardmaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor moonblogger

Although quick, Yardmaster was still going when the second game of Settlers finally finished and Green, Black and Purple were looking around something to play and opted for Plague & Pestilence.  This is another old game, dating back to the early 1990s and has been out of print for a long time, however, Green had brought along a self-printed version.  The game is played in two “phases”.  The first is the Prosperity Phase. During their turn, the active player rolls a pair of purple six-sided dice which indicates how much their population increases by.  Then the active player draws Prosperity cards to refill their hand and plays one.  A special Death Ship card is shuffled into the Prosperity deck and drawing it indicates the start of the second phase, the Plague Phase.  This is played exactly the same as the first phase, but the dice rolls now indicate how much the active player’s population decreases by.  As the game progresses, the plague ravages the populations and players are eliminated; the last player is the winner.

Plague & Pestilence
– Image by boardGOATS

Green, Purple and Black had played Plague & Pestilence recently (though not on a Tuesday) and Purple had won decisively with a whole handful of population cards, so was looking forward to a repeat performance.  With it being a game where being nasty was not just possible, but obligatory, Purple and Green quickly ganged up on Black to punish him for cheating in The Settlers of Catan.  Water off a ducks back, he responded with “Pied Piper” cards and “Mass Migrations”!  However his attempts at getting Green and Purple to fight came to naught thanks to Purple’s apparently endless supply of “Negotiated Settlement” cards.  Populations rose and fell, city improvements were built and destroyed. Some surreptitious changing of population cards from small denominations into large ones to reduce the size of the their pile and hide the true value of the hand went on.  Then the death ship arrived and the game was really afoot.

Plague & Pestilence
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Red, Burgundy and Blue were bringing Yardmaster to a close, having ridden out a spell of poor railcar cards.  Burgundy was just a handful of points away from winning, and with a cards in his sorting yard needed to buy the red one in the middle, but it was Blue’s turn.  Red urged Blue to take the card or Burgundy would end the game on his next go, but Blue had other plans and using her Exchange Token bought a yellow three and took the opportunity to move all the cards from her sorting yard onto the end of her locomotive, giving her a score of twenty, seven more than Burgundy.

Yardmaster Express
– Image by boardGOATS

Plague & Pestilence was still ongoing, so, after a quick chat about Yardmaster, Blue, Red and Burgundy decided to give its little brother, Yardmaster Express a go.  This shares the locomotive building feature, but is even quicker and simpler than Yardmaster, though much more luck-driven.  The game is based on card drafting, so the start player begins with a hand of railcar cards, draws one from the draw deck and then chooses one to add to their loco.  As before, the waggons must match in colour or number, but this time, the cards are “split” so they contain two waggons and the front waggon may not be the same as the rear one.  Scores are the sum of the numbers on the waggons, as before, but bonus points are awarded to the player (or players) with the longest continuous set of waggons of the same colour.  This can be significant as the bonus is equal to the number of waggons.  If a player cannot match the colour or number they can play the card face down as wild, but these score less and break any otherwise continuous string of waggons.  Once a card has been chosen, the had is passed to the next player who draws a card and chooses one.   There is a little bit of opportunity to screw over the next player by taking the cards they want, but otherwise, the game is highly luck dependent, and this time, Blue was the lucky one.

Plague & Pestilence
– Image by boardGOATS

Over in Plague & Pestilence, survival was the order of the day.  Purple unfortunately had several very high roles and no improvement cards to reduce them, so quickly found her deck dwindling.  Green and Black, however, were getting better luck on the roles, and combining them with City Improvements, managed to hold on to more of their population.  Purple, with a population reduced to just ten, had one last go at Green with a “Pied Piper” card, but ultimately it wasn’t enough as she rolled 9s and 10s and within a couple more turns was dead. The gloves were now off between Green and Black.  Well not so much gloves off as desperately trying to shore-up our own populations against the relentless tide of plague and death.  Green eventually managed to win the war of attrition, thanks in no small part to four consecutive trade centre cards (which increased his population by ten each time)!

Plague & Pestilence
– Image by boardGOATS

With both games finally finishing more or less together, we had a quick chat and then decided to finish as we had started, with another game of 6 Nimmt!.  This time we started with the correct number of cards and, as before, Burgundy managed to start collecting Nimmts like they were going out of fashion.  Once again, Black managed to avoid picking up any Nimmts in the first round, but this time it was Blue that joined tied with zero at the halfway point.  Much to everyone’s surprise it was Burgundy however, who won the second round with just three Bulls’ Heads.  Unfortunately, with eighteen in the first round he was always going to find it hard to compete for the lead, which left Blue and Black with fourteen overall, having finished both rounds with exactly the same number and the evening finished with a draw.

6 Nimmt
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  New games can be good, but classics remain popular for a reason.