Tag Archives: Qwixx

17th September 2019

Blue and Pink arrived nice and early and so after ordering food, started a quick game of Ganz Schön Clever (a.k.a. That’s Pretty Clever).  This is one of the first of the “Roll and Write” games from the last couple of years and, as it received a Kennerspiel des Jahres nomination last year, arguably one of the best.  This type of game has been around for many years, with Yahtzee being one of the first, but the current trend was started by games like Qwixx.  Qwixx came out seven years ago, but has since been followed last year by games like Roll to the Top!, Railroad Inc., Welcome to… and the Roll Through the Ages and Penny Papers Adventures series of games.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

These games all have different themes and different mechanisms, but the basic principle is the the same with players rolling dice (sometimes bespoke dice) and marking the results on a piece of paper, usually from a bespoke pad, or more recently a laminated card.  Ganz Schön Clever is an abstract game using six coloured dice which are used to fill in boxes in five coloured areas of the individual player “boards” (the white die is wild).  The active player, rolls all six and chooses one to keep and use, discarding all dice with lower pip values.  They then roll any remaining dice, again keeping and using one and discarding the rest before rolling the rest one last time keeping and using one final die.  The other players can then use one of the discards, before play passes to the left.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part is the way the dice are used, and the fact that filling in some of the boxes gives a bonus action, enabling players to fill in other boxes or gain the opportunity to re-roll their dice or even use an extra die.  With just two, the game is played over six rounds, giving them just eighteen dice on their own turn with another six from their opponent’s turn and as many bonuses as they can get.  The player who wins is therefore the player who makes the best use of the dice they roll and usually, the player who manages to build the most combinations to take advantage of the bonuses available.  This time round, Blue was failed to get a good start and Pink took her to the cleaners, finishing with a hundred and ninety-two, a winning margin of twenty-six.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue and Pink had only just started, when the others started rolling in, but unusually, there was no sign of Burgundy.  By the time food had arrived, we were into double figures, but still no  sign of Burgundy.  People were starting to get worried until Blue borrowed a phone and checked her email to discover he wasn’t feeling well.  There were still enough players for three games, and eventually, everyone else took themselves off leaving Blue, Pink and Green to play the “Feature Game”, West of Africa.  This is a game set in the Canary Islands (which really are west of Africa, unlike Krakatoa which is famously not East of Java), and has a slightly nasty edge to it, making it almost like a “Vanuatu Light”.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is quite simple with some very nice little elements. The basic flow of the game involves planting crops, selling crops, becoming Alcalde (or mayor) of islands and then building settlements.  Each player has their own deck of cards which they use to carry-out their actions, with each card having a value.  Players simultaneously choose up to five of their cards (the first four are free, the fifth comes at a cost), then each hand is evaluated and the lowest value hand is played first.  This means there is a nice tension between choosing a low value hand and going first, or choosing higher value cards, giving other players the chance to carry out actions first, potentially meaning that those actions are no-longer available.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

There are two types of cards: islands and actions.  Moving workers or boats are simple actions where players just move workers a given number of steps along the shipping lanes, however, some of the action cards need a location to be played.  For example, planting crops needs to be played with an island card which indicates where the crop tokens are to be played.  Similarly, selling crops and settling both need to be played with island cards, but the clever part is that island cards can be used for multiple actions and actions can be carried out at multiple islands an unlimited number of times.  The round ends once all players have completed their actions, then any planted crops are automatically moved into the warehouses where they can be moved and/or sold in later rounds.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

The islands are split into east, west and central with islands in the different regions having different characteristics.  So the western Canaries only have spaces for production, while the eastern islands only have spaces for settlements.  Selling goods is more lucrative in the east than in the west, however, each lot selling for twelve gold, instead of six.  So shipping goods eastwards can be lucrative, but that requires playing a card and only four (or five) can be played each round.  Selling only provides gold, however, and players need points to win.  The two players with the most gold at the end of the round get a point each, but this is not the main source of points.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the round, the occupation of each island is evaluated and the Alcalde or mayor of each is assigned, with players getting a point for each island they control.  This is not the main source of points either though, that is settling with each settlement giving three points.  Settling is expensive though and gets more so as the cheaper plots get built on.  Another of the clever little features of the game is that the number of settlements available in each round is limited which adds more pressure to the turn order.  As this is so critical, ties have to be resolved, and are always in favour of the player with the most gold which increasing the importance of money, adding balance to the game.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink had the lowest scoring starting hand so went first.  This can be a substantial advantage as he knew he would be able to do what he wanted.  Green went next and managed to interfere with Blue’s plans, though she had been aware of the risk and had managed to build in some extra options to help mitigate the effects a little.  Pink took control of La Hierro and La Palma, and Green took La Gomera leaving Gran Canaria to Blue who also picked up Fuerteventura, with an eye to later in the game.  Green got the best of the early rounds though setting up a small, but important lead, though more significantly, arguably better positioning.  The game is not a long one, and there isn’t really time to build an engine, so it wasn’t long before Green, in particular, was threatening to trigger the end of the game by getting twenty-five points.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

It was then that Blue made her monumental mistake: when choosing which of two island cards to play she ended up playing both and not the sale action card to go with them.  This, coupled with Green’s action which he took first, meant she was unable to do anything at all in the penultimate round.  Green followed this by messing up his final round, also failing to play a sale action card which meant he didn’t have enough gold to build the number of houses he wanted to.  He was still able to build one final settlement though, giving him a clear win with forty points.  It was much closer for second with Pink’s thirty-two points just pipping Blue by a single point.  It had been an enjoyable game, but despite the excellent balance and some really nice touches, none of the three players could put their collective finger on what was lacking and what the game needed to take it from “OK, but eminently forgettable” to “great”.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the neighboring table, despite their reluctance to play it with two chemists, Pine and Lime had joined Red and Mulberry to play Periodic: A Game of the Elements.  This is a recent KickStarter delivery, and seemed entirely appropriate for the International Year of the Periodic Table.  On their turn, the active player either pays energy to activate trends (such as “Decrease Atomic Mass” or “Increase Atomic Radii”) to move their flask around the periodic table board in the direction allowed by the trend.  If they finish a trend movement on an element that appears on the top, visible card of one of the four goal card decks, they can “discover” that element.  Flasks can be moved up to five spaces, but activating the trend multiple times means the player’s flask can be moved further enabling them to “discover” multiple elements.

Periodic: A Game of the Elements
– Image by boardGOATS

The first activation costs one energy point and all additional trends costing two energy points with tokens spent in this way placed on a space associated with the trend used.  Instead of paying to move, the active player can take all the energy accrued on that trend and move their flask according to a trend, but just once.  Thus, the conservation of energy forces players to spend carefully and play efficiently.  When someone discovers all the elements for one goal they take the associated card with a bonus action tile, and all the other players who discovered some of the elements on the card, get consolation points.  Players can also discovering particular types of elements, as shown in by cards laid out around the edge of the board.

Periodic: A Game of the Elements
– Image by boardGOATS

Moving along a step along this “track” gives players academic achievement which is worth an ever increasing amount of points.  The third and final source of points are from the agenda cards which give players personal objectives and are dealt out at the start of the game.  The game ends when someone completes the research track or when a stack of goal cards is depleted and the player with the most points at the end wins.  Unfortunately, due to a “rules malfunction”, the group were halfway through the third stack of goal cards when they realised the game should have ended so decided to carry on till all four piles were depleted in what they referred to as “Periodic: The Director’s Cut”.

Periodic: A Game of the Elements
– Image by boardGOATS

All in all, Pine and Lime needn’t have worried that Mulberry’s and Red’s chemistry backgrounds would give them a significant advantage.  Although there were a lot of nice chemistry references that the scientists appreciated it was not necessary to understand these to play the game effectively.  The strategies employed varied:   Red and Mulberry concentrated on progressing on along the academic track, while Lime on his agenda cards and Pine focused on goal cards.  In the end, it didn’t make a lot of difference and there was a three-way tie for second place with Red, “The Evil Chemist” finishing seven points ahead of the others, with a final total of seventy-one.  Everyone had enjoyed the game though and would be happy to give it another go though they all agreed they would do things differently next time.

Periodic: A Game of the Elements
– Image by boardGOATS

On the other side of the room, Ivory was introducing Black and Purple to this year’s Kennerspiel des Jahres winner, Wingspan.  Wingspan was our “Feature Game”, a few weeks ago and was always going to have another outing – in fact, this time we had a choice of two copies!  Wingspan is a robust, card-based engine builder, with beautiful production and gorgeous artwork.  The idea is that players are collecting birds for their reserves.  On their turn, the active player chooses one of four actions/habitats, and then starting with the card furthest to the right in that habitat, activate each card in turn.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The primary action associated with the habitats are spending food to play cards; getting food; laying eggs, and more drawing bird cards.  Players start with eight possible actions per turn, which gradually reduces to five over the course of the four rounds of the game.  All the bird cards in the game give bonuses that fit with their real-life behaviour.  For example, the food needed to play cards closely resemble their diet.  The designer and producer have paid attention to other details too.  For example, the number of eggs each bird has in their nest is not accurate, but are proportionately correct and bonus actions are associated with birds that flock and birds of prey.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the game was very tight, though different strategies were employed.  Purple tried to maximise her food income, starting with an Eastern Phoebe which provided invertebrates , and later adding a Baltimore Oriole, a Red-Breasted Nuthatch, a Mountain Chickadee and an Indigo Bunting ensuring a lucrative food source giving her a wide variety too.  Then she added a White-Faced Ibis and a Ferruginous Hawk both birds of prey that are triggered by other players actions and give points at the end of the game for each food they bring in.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

It’s arguable that the cards could have been shuffled better, and as a result birds that ate small mammals or fish and aquatics didn’t come out till later so she wasn’t able to take as much advantage of some of her food supplies as she might.  In contrast, Black and Ivory went for a more egg-based strategy, with Ivory playing a Cassin’s Sparrow and a Brown-Headed Cowbird both of which laid eggs, the sparrow when activated and the Cowbird on other players’ turns.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Black played a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, which also activated on on other players’ turns and coupled it with a House Finch which enabled him to store a lot of eggs.  The end result was really close, with only four points between first and third.  Everyone had a similar number of “tucked” birds, bonus points and end of round points.  Purple took more from her birds and finished with ten food on her cards from her predators.  Although Black and Ivory had no stored food they had twice as many eggs as Purple and, on aggregate, Ivory pipped Purple, by just two points.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

With time marching on, some of the group decided to head off for an early night leaving Blue, Black, Purple, Pink and Pine to play “something short”.  Pink determinedly eschewed the option of Bohnanza, and suggested “Sahne” instead, which was quickly accepted by the other four.  This cute little game, correctly known as …aber bitte mit Sahne (a.k.a. Piece o’ Cake), is the archetypal “I divide, you choose” game.  Played over five rounds, players take it in turns to be the “Master Baker”.  They divide the eleven slices of the pie into pieces and each player takes it in turns to take a piece (leaving the Master Baker with whatever’s left).

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

As players take their share, they can choose to keep slices or eat slices:  eating a slice guarantees points (equal to the number of blobs of cream on top), while saving it gives the opportunity for more points if the player has the most of that type stored at the end of the game.  Each slice has a number on it which is the number of points the player with the most uneaten slices of that type gets, but also how many are available (though a couple are always removed to add a little non-determinism).  Thus, the most valuable cakes are also those with the most slices available but also those with the most cream.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple started out collecting slices of strawberry tart, while Pine opted for what he insisted was gooseberry flan, but looked like it was made out of peas.  He also went for the pizza (or possibly apricot?) and got into a tussle with Blue for that and cockroach (which Pine insisted on calling pecan, though in truth it could have been date too).  Things kicked off when Pine offered Pink (sat to his left) a particularly favourable selection and when Blue pointed this out, was persuaded by Pink to be “nice”.  However on Pink’s turn, when he had the option to be nice to Blue, he wasn’t.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome: Clever mechanisms, a great game do not necessarily make.

12th January 2016

With Red, Magenta and Blue moaning about work and only Burgundy waiting for real food, when Pine rolled up we began straight away with our “Feature Game”, the light filler, Las Vegas. This is a very simple dice game, but actually quite a lot of fun.  On their turn, each player begins by rolling their dice, then assigning some of them to one of the six casinos.  Each casino is numbered one to six and has a jackpot of over $50,000, drawn at random from a deck of money.  Thus, each jackpot could be anything from $50,000 to $180,000 and comprise one to five notes.  On their turn, players must use all the dice of one number to bet on the casino of that number.

Las Vegas
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Once everyone has placed all their dice the player who placed the most dice on a casino takes the highest value currency card. The player with the most money after four rounds is the winner.  The snag is that before any money is handed out, any dice leading to a draw are removed. It is this rule that makes the game interesting, raising the decisions above the trivial and, in our view, making it a better and much more fun game than Qwixx which we played two weeks ago.  Although the game only plays five (without the Boulevard expansion), Blue had added an extra set of purple dice just in case, so when Green walked in just before the game started, he was able to join in.

Las Vegas
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

In the early part of the round, each player has to decide whether to conserve dice or whether to make a statement and go in big.  As the round progresses, players must choose where to place their bets then try to finesse their position before being forced to place their last die or dice based solely on chance.  The factors that go into the decision include the value of the rewards available, the current position and the number of notes as well as the probabilities of other players interfering.  The probabilities are non-trivial too, because rolling multiples can change the number of dice available for the next roll.

Las Vegas
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor ckirkman

In the first round, everyone made the same mistake and committed too many dice too early, but after that, we all got the hang of it and the game was quite close.  Players keep their winnings hidden, but since everyone had had rounds with lean pickings as well as generous ones, we all felt we were in with a chance.  The last round began with it all to play for and everyone taking it in turns to roll lots of sixes.  At the end of the game, we announced our totals in turn:  Green finished with $260,000, Pine with $250,000, Burgundy and Blue tied with £270,000, but Magenta just pipped them with $280,000.  Red, however, took longer to count up her cash for good reason and finished well clear with $360,000.

Las Vegas
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor joeincolorado

With the arrival of Black and Purple, we decided to split into two groups.  The only game that everyone really wanted to play was Isle of Sky: From Chieftain to King, so since we only had the one copy, five went for that leaving the three others to find something else to play.  Isle of Skye is a tile laying game where players play a sort of solitaire Carcassonne, bidding for tiles and scoring a the end of each of the six rounds.  We’ve only played the game once on a Tuesday in November, but it has proven to be very popular at other local meetings too, so everyone playing had played before and the game was quick to get going.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Burgundy had played it a few times and, unusually, generally seems to struggle with this game.  This time he started well, and took the lead from the start, unfortunately however, he struggled to pick up scrolls, so suffered in the end game scoring.  One of the peculiarities of this game is the fact that from round three, at the start of the round players get one extra gold coin per player in front of them on the score track, increasing to four extra coins by the final round.  This really adds up, and a player who takes advantage of this bonus can have a large impact on the score track.  Black made hay on the bonus sitting at the back for most of the game, however, he failed to use the gold and finished with fifty-one unspent coins.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Punkin312

Between Burgundy at the front and Black at the rear, Purple, Pine and Magenta were jostling for position.  Without sheep and cattle featuring strongly in the scoring tiles this time, Pine felt he would struggle, but he made a surge for the front in the final scoring.  Magenta who had spent a lot of the game at the back of the pack with Black gradually moved through the field in the later rounds and finished four ahead of Burgundy in joint first with Pine on sixty-six, with Pine taking it on the tie-breaker.

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

Meanwhile, Blue, Green and Red were playing an aggressive game of Citadels.  This is a slightly older, role selection game.  Everyone starts with a hand of district cards and the start player, “The King”, also has a hand of eight Character cards.   The Character cards are shuffled and one is placed face down blind.  The King can then choose one Character card and pass the rest on to the next player.  The cards are drafted in this way until (in the three player game) everyone has two and the remaining card joins the first card, face down to one side.  Thus, each player has two Character cards and each Character card has a number and a special ability.  “The King” then calls the characters in turn, by number and name, and the player who has that card then immediately carries out their turn.

Citadels
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor themilkcrate

A turn consists of either taking money or drawing two cards from the deck, then paying the monetary cost to build one of the district cards from their hand.  The game ends at the end of the round in which a player builds his eighth district card.  The scores are then added up with players receiving points for their buildings equalling the total cost to build them, plus bonuses for being the first player to build eight district cards, bonuses for having at least one district in each of the five colours and for achieving a total of eight buildings before the game ends.  We played with some of the Characters from the Dark City expansion so “The Witch” replaced “The Assassin”, “The Tax Collector” replaced “The Thief” and “The Navigator” replaced “The Architect”.  We also chose a random selection of the valuable “purple buildings”, a factor that turned out to be quite critical to the game play in the end.

Citadels
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Nodens77

Blue took an early lead, building a couple of “purple buildings”, in particular, the very annoying Ball Room.  The “purple buildings are expensive to build, but generally come with some sort of special power, in the case of the Ball Room, if the owner is also The King, every player must say “Thanks, Your Excellency” before taking their turn otherwise it is forfeit.  Without “The Thief” in play, Blue was able to let her money build up and was hoping to build the Library, when Red played “The Magician” and swapped hands with her.  Unimpressed, in the next round Blue played the same trick, giving Red the apparently rather useless Armory in exchange.  To make sure Red didn’t nick it back, Blue built the Library quickly, her third purple building giving her a healthy lead though she, like Green was struggling to get the blue cards she wanted to pick up the bonus for having a building of each colour.  Green meanwhile was having other problems of his own, compounded by the fact that he forgot to be obsequious and therefore lost a turn.

Citadels
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Red made persistent assaults on Blue, but it was when Blue had six district cards built and was trying to find a way to close out the game that Red decided to use that “rather useless Armory” to destroy Blue’s valuable Library.   Discussion ensued as Blue had originally decided to ditch the Armory as it was too restrictive, but Red wasn’t so sure.  Green resorted to looking it up on-line and found a wealth of discussion none of which really answered our questions.  After a brief hiatus, we decided to let Red go ahead as Blue was so far in front, although it wasn’t that far as it turned out.  Both Green and Blue hadn’t seen a blue district card all game so missed out on the three point bonus and, as Red completed her eighth building first, she also took an extra two points for that, finishing on thirty-seven.  Green and Blue tied for second place though arguably Green should not have been able to take his last turn since he forgot to “Thank, Her Excellency” again…

Citadels
– Image by boardGOATS taken from boardgamegeek.com

Citadels is one of those rare games that plays a wide player count, nominally from two to eight players.  However, while there is a consensus that it does not play all numbers equally well, the on-line jury is still out as to where its “sweet spot” is.  In fact, some people appear to think it is best with small numbers, while others prefer it with more players.  We’ve played Citadels a few times on a Tuesday, a couple of times with just two players, but also with five.  Blue and Green had been involved on each occasion and Blue in particular had quite enjoyed the game with just two players, but had hated it with five.  With two she felt it was a game where players could really try to get inside the head of their opponent whereas with five she felt it was horribly chaotic and difficult to follow what was going on.  Knowing this, Green had thought three might have some of the features of the head-to-head game while adding more dimension to the game play and, despite losing, Blue agreed, that three was an excellent number of players for this game.

Citadels
– Image by BGG contributor lolcese

While Citadels was finishing, the other players filled the time with a couple of rounds of an old favourite, Dobble.  The first round was a warm up which Magenta ducked out of as she has a bit of a reputation as the “Dobble Queen”.  This was played with the conventional “Towering Inferno” variant, where players call out matches and grab cards from the central pile.  In the second round, Magenta joined in so “The Poisoned Gift” variant was chosen, otherwise known as “Gang up on Magenta”.  In this version, instead of grabbing cards from the middle for yourself, you match them and stick them on someone else’s pile (usually Magenta’s), with the aim to finish with as few cards as possible.  Everyone accordingly rained cards down on Magenta who duly lost with Black winning by one from Pine and Burgundy.

Dobble
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

Time was ticking on, so we decided to play a quick game of Saboteur.  This is a team game where you don’t know who your team mates are.  With eight players, there is a team of five or six Dwarves trying to find the treasure, and two or three Saboteurs, trying to stop them.  On their turn, the active player can play a tunnel card to progress towards the three possible treasure locations, play an action card or discard a card face down (a very Saboteur-like action).  The action cards come in a variety of flavours:  broken tool cards that are played in front of other players and prevent them from laying tunnel cards; tool cards than cancel out broken tool cards; map cards that allow players to look at one of the possible treasure locations to see whether it contains the gold or not, as well as rockfall cards that allow players to remove tunnel cards that have already been placed.

Saboteur
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mikehulsebus

The game is supposed to consist of three rounds with the winning team taking prize cards, however, last time we played, we decided that the addition of prizes meant the game inevitably outstayed its welcome.  We felt it would be better to play one round, and if we wanted, play a second, but treat them as separate games, which is exactly what happened this time.  In the first “game”, Magenta and Purple claimed the gold was at one side, while Black and Blue claimed it was in the middle – clearly we had two of our Saboteurs, but which pair looked guilty?

Saboteur
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mikehulsebus

After a couple of rounds, Magenta showed her true colours and played a broken tool card in a Saboteur-like manner and she and Purple were promptly stomped on.  Suitably, after everyone had doubted him for so long, Black was the one to finally find the gold.  Green had had enough and headed off, but Pine, Red and Magenta agreed to stay for one more go.  This time Red decided to have a go at Pine from the very start – maybe it was the pointiness of his ears or the way he carried his pick axe, but she claimed he was definitely a Saboteur.  Everyone else was less quick to condemn, and before long it became clear that it was Red and Purple (again!) who were guilty and, although it was closer, the Dwarves still got to the gold first.

Saboteur
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mothertruckin

With people leaving, there was just time for Black, Purple, Burgundy and Blue to squeeze in a quick game of The Game.  We started dreadfully, and two piles were very quickly closed off.  Somehow we managed to keep going though and, despite an appalling run of luck and a couple of us making dodgy decisions, Black was eventually able to draw the last card from the deck.  Playing just one card at a time made things a little easier, but we still had over twenty cards to get rid of.  Sadly, it was not to be; the poor start had done its damage and we finished with a total of eleven cards in hand.

The Game
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  When a game is *that* popular, bring it again!

29th December 2015

The pub was very busy, and with one chef down with the lurgy (which had got four of us as well), food was delayed. So, unusually, we started off with a quick game. Expecting more people, we decided to play something short, and opted for Qwixx. This game was designed by Steffen Bendorf who also designed The Game (which has been popular with the group this year) and was nominated for Spiel des Jahres in 2013. So, it has a good pedigree, however, when it was nominated there were a lot of comments about its suitability and eventually, it was beaten by Hanabi, which most people agreed was a better game. We finally got the chance to give it a go in October and generally felt that although the rules made for a promising sounding filler, the resulting game was disappointing. Given how some people continue rave about it though, we’d were keen to give it another try and see if we’d been mistaken.

Qwixx
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Qwixx is a very simple game: each player has a score card displaying the numbers two to twelve in the four different colours, red and yellow ascending and blue and green ascending.  On their turn, the active player rolls six dice, two white, and one of each of the colours, red, blue, green and yellow.  Every player may cross out the number corresponding to the sum of the white dice. The active player may then also cross out a coloured number corresponding to the sum of one white die and one matching coloured die. If the active player cannot or chooses not to cross off a number, then they must tick a penalty box, which costs them five points at the end of the game. The snag is that although numbers can be skipped, they must be crossed off in order, red and yellow ascending, blue and green descending.

Qwixx
– Image by boardGOATS

Points are scored for the number of each colour crossed out and penalties subtracted; the game ends when one player has picked up four penalties, or players have crossed off the last number for two colours locking them for everyone. Scarlet, an experienced local gamer who is usually unavailable on Tuesday evenings, commented that it was a bit like Yahtzee, but with slightly more decisions to make. This didn’t further endear the game to Blue, who has bad memories of playing Yahtzee as a child. Scarlet did manage to demonstrate a modicum of strategy when he chose to cross off a sixth red number rather than his first green number since that would give more points at the end. His discovery clearly gave him a bit of an edge as he took second place, eight behind Burgundy who won with eighty.  We had a bit of discussion about what strategy there was, but it was not really enough to rescue the game in anyone’s eyes and it now faces donation to a worthy cause.

Qwixx
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Meanwhile, Grey and Cerise had arrived and seeing everyone else engaged decided to play a quick game of Hey, That’s My Fish!. This is a cute little abstract with a penguin theme, and, in common with games like Carcassonne, although it plays more, in many ways, it is at its best as a two player game when it is most vicious. The game is played on a grid of hexagonal tiles, with each player starting with four penguin figurines which players take it in turns to move in straight lines across the tiles. When a penguin is moved, the active player gets the tile it was sitting on, leaving a gap that cannot be crossed. Thus, the ice flow progressively melts away trapping the penguins in increasingly smaller spaces.

Hey, That's My Fish!
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv

A number of fish is depicted on each tile, and the player with the most fish at the end of the game, i.e. when there are no more valid moves, is the winner. This is just the sort of game that Grey likes, deliciously savage with plenty of opportunity to go for the jugular and for a while he had Cerise under the cosh. Her delight at the end was obvious though when the final reckoning put her four fish clear.  With food imminent for those who hadn’t yet eaten, and Green expected, we decided to split the group and start the “Feature Game”, Broom Service.  This game uses the role selection mechanic from Witch’s Brew (a game we played a few weeks ago), but adds much more with a board and a delivery mechanic.  Witch’s Brew was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres in 2008, but was beaten by Keltis (a boardgame equivalent of the popular two player card game Lost Cities), but its reincarnation, Broom Service, won the Kennerspiel des Jahres this year.

Broom Service
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Like Witch’s Brew, players start with a hand of character cards from which they simultaneously choose a subset in secret. The start player then chooses a card and announces they are that character declaring they are either “brave” or “cowardly”. The other players then must follow suit if they hold that card. If a player is cowardly they take a lesser reward immediately, but if they are brave, they must wait until the end of the round to see if they get a reward. Once everyone has declared their position, the last brave player takes a greater prize and anyone who was brave earlier in the round gets nothing.  The character cards come in three types, Gatherers (who provide ingredients), Witches (who allow players to travel to an adjacent region) and Druids (who deliver potions to the towers). There is also the Weather Fairy who charms away clouds using magic wands.

Broom Service
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

The rules are modified by event cards that are revealed at the start of the round, and with less than five players, the game is also made tighter by the inclusion of “bewitched” roles (cue Burgundy and Pink demonstrating how to wiggle-twitch their noses like Tabitha). The game is considerably more complex than the cute theme and artwork imply. Compared with Witch’s Brew, there are also a number of small rules that it is difficult to remember at the start, though they are in keeping with the theme.  The game ends after eight rounds, and, although points are awarded for delivering potions during the game, there are extra points for weather clouds and sets of potions collected.

Broom Service
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Grey quickly got his nose in front delivering potions early, but Scarlet and and Cerise followed suit and kept the points difference down. It didn’t last however, and before long, Grey had moved his witches away from everyone else’s into the south-east corner of the board where he was able to score heavily without competition.  Despite Cerise’s best efforts with the Weather Fairy and Scarlet’s set collecting, Grey had an unassailable lead and finished nearly thirty points clear with ninety-three points. Second place was much closer, however, Scarlet taking it by just two points from Cerise.

Broom Service
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Meanwhile, once the matter of food had been dealt with, Blue, Pink and Burgundy were debating what to play. It had been narrowed down to Snow Tails or Snowdonia (with Pink requesting an expansion to add interest), when Green appeared, newly arrived from visiting relations over Christmas. He was keen to play Snowdonia, so that sealed the deal, with the Jungfraubahn expansion added as a sweetener.

Snowdonia
– Image by BGG contributor duchamp

The base game is not that complex and we’ve played it a few times, however, it is one of those games that somehow everyone struggles to remember how it works. With both Burgundy and Blue suffering with Seasonal Lurgy, adding the expansion was always going to make things more complicated too.  The idea is that players take it in turns to place their workers in the seven possible actions, which are then activated in order. These actions include, visiting the stockyard; converting iron ore into iron bars; digging to remove rubble from the track-bed; laying track; building part of a station; taking contract cards; and surveying the route.

Snowdonia
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv

There are two twists: the weather and the game. The stockyard is refilled from a bag, and there are small number of white cubes in the bag which, when drawn cause the game to play itself. This mechanism came about because the designer dislikes players who hoard resources, so in this game, if people don’t keep things moving, the likelihood of white cubes coming out increases and the game moves along on its own. The other interesting mechanism is the weather which increases and decreases the digging and track laying rate making players’ timing key.

Snowdonia
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor winterplum

Green, Pink, Blue and Burgundy were still setting out the game and trying to work out what modifications the Jungfraubahn expansion made, when Broom Service finished, so Grey, Cerise and Scarlet played a quick game of Cosmic Encounter. This is a game they were all familiar with, though we’ve not played it on a Tuesday night before.  The game is reasonably straight forward, with each player leading an alien race trying to establish colonies on other players’ planets with the winner the first player to have five colonies on planets outside their home system.

Cosmic Encounter
– Image by BGG contributor RRunner

On their turn, The active player becomes “The Offense”. The Offense encounters another player on a planet by moving a group of his or her ships through the hyperspace gate to that planet. They draw cards from the destiny deck which contains colors, wilds and specials. The Offense then takes the hyperspace gate and points at one planet in the system indicated by the drawn destiny card. The Offense and The Defense both commit ships to the encounter and both sides are able to invite allies, play an encounter card as well as special cards to try and tip the encounter in their favour.  The game was close with lots of too-ing and fro-ing, but Cerise was the one to finally successfully establish five colonies, with Grey and Scarlet finishing with four and three colonies respectively.

Cosmic Encounter
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

By this time, the other group had finally sussed out what they were doing and had got under way with Snowdonia.  The Jungfraubahn expansion changes the game quite considerably replacing fog with snow which adds rubble to the track that must be cleared again before track can be built.  It also introduces dynamite which can be used to remove large amounts of rubble as well as being used to initially clear a route through the mountains before the track-bed is prepared. Added to these, the new contract cards, seemed to introduce even more bad weather than “north-wet” Wales!

Snowdonia
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor winterplum

Blue and Burgundy were both a bit slow off the mark and struggled to really get going. In contrast, Green quickly picked up an engine and Pink got a couple of valuable contract cards. With Grey and Cerise leaving, Scarlet was left as an interested spectator. Eventually, Blue and Burgundy got going, but it was a bit of a rear-guard action.  With the expansion, the game was taking slightly longer than expected, so Green, decided to take the opportunity to play Scarlet as a substitute and went home leaving the rest to finish the game without him. He had set out his plan and Scarlet did an excellent job executing it, however, Pink just had the edge.

Snowdonia
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor ansi

Green/Scarlet took a massive seventy-nine points in bonuses and with twenty-nine points for station building together with the maximum for his surveyor, they finished with one hundred and twenty-two.  The break down for Pink was nearly completely reversed with him taking seventy-eight points for station building and nearly sixty more in bonuses, giving a total of one hundred and thirty-eight, and the game.

Snowdonia
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor winterplum

Learning outcome: Lurgy does not improve gaming ability.