Tag Archives: Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition

6th July 2021 (Online)

After the usual pre-game chatter (this time focussed largely on the village of Standlake—north of The River, Tut!), we settled down to play the “Feature Game“.  This was the new Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition.  We have played Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition several times, both with and without the mini expansions and have really enjoyed it.  This new version steps it up a little with several new “Challenges” to add to the base game.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The basic idea is very simple:  four dice are rolled and players have to draw all four pieces of track on their player board.  These must either extend a previous section of road or track, or start at one of the red entrance “arrows”.  Three times during the game, players can, additionally, draw one of six special intersections with only one per turn.  Players score points for the longest sections of road and track, connecting red entrance “arrows” and for filling the central nine squares, losing points for any unconnected, “hanging ends”.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The “Challenge” editions of Railroad Ink add special spaces which represent villages, factories and Universities (though we referred to them as “Houses”, “Spectre Octopi” and “Fingers  Pointing Up”).  These give extra point scoring opportunities and a chance to get an extra “special” section.  It also includes goal cards which give players even more chances to score more points.  These work a bit like the scoring in Noch Mal!, where the first players to complete a “Challenge” score maximum points and others who achieve it later score less.  These provide a lot of variety to the game, especially when combined with the additional mini expansions that each game comes with.

Railroad Ink: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The first thing we noticed was that the dice we had didn’t seem to make sense—there weren’t enough simple straight and simple bend sections.  It quickly became apparent that we had the wrong dice in the box.  Fortunately, we also had the Lush Green Edition, so we stole the dice from that and carried on.  It quickly became apparent that somehow this was much more difficult than the original Blue Edition that we had played so many times.  It wasn’t clear whether this was just an unfortunate series of dice rolls, or whether it was a function of the fact players were trying to do more things which forced them to compromise more, or even the new back-to-back corners.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Either way, it was clear that people had a lot of “hanging ends” and were desperately hoping for “good rolls” (perhaps cheese and pickle rather than egg and cress…).  Most people managed to make something out of their spaghetti-like network though, and before long it was time to compare scores.  Ivory was in charge of the Tusk-lets, so in his absence it was left to Pine to set the target score.  When Pine reported his fifty-three, everyone knew it was a good score from Burgundy’s response of “Bugger.”

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Black matched Pine, and Pink thought he’d pipped them by one point with his fifty-four, but Blue had the beating of all of them finishing with fifty-seven points.  The score survived Pink’s recount, in what had actually been quite a close game.  It had been a reasonably quick game, so we moved on to play Take it Easy!, a tile-laying game we played back in February, but had really enjoyed.  Each hexagonal tile has three pipes crossing it, in three different colours.  Tiles are drawn from a stack one at a time, and each player adds them to their personal player board.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

The tile placement rules are simple:  the tiles can be placed anywhere on the board but must be placed the right way up which fixes the directions of the nine different coloured pipes.  Players score points for any pipes that contain only the one colour, and that score is the number of tiles in the pipe multiplied by the number on the pipe. Thus, the highest scores are achieved by locating the high value pipes so they go through the middle.  Although there are a maximum of fifteen pipes, it is almost impossible to complete all successfully, especially as there are some tiles that are not used.  So, there is an element of chance as well as hedging bets.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

It quickly became clear to Blue that she wasn’t going to be in the running this time, and others felt the same, knowing they had not done as well as they felt they should have done.  Pink, however, once again thought he’d got it in the bag with his score of one hundred and forty-five, ten more than the hitherto next score, by Black.  That was until Green reported a massive score of one-hundred and seventy-three.  Everyone else, some thirty points behind struggled to believe it, but he’d simply made better use of the tiles as everyone else had been waiting for yellow (nine point) tiles to come out.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, we decided to move onto Board Game Arena.  There were lots of options, but Green was keen to share a game he had recently discovered called Hugo: Das Schlossgespenst (aka Escape from the Hidden Castle).  This is a light, family roll-and-move type game, where players take on the role of guests at a party, trying to escape from “Hugo the ghost”.  Hugo starts in the cellar, but quickly moves up to the gallery, chasing any guests that have not been able to escape into one of the side rooms.

Hugo: Das Schlossgespenst
– Image by BGG contributor duchamp

The catch is that even when apparently safe in a room, if another guest guest rolls exactly the right number the resident can be evicted, inevitably right into Hugo’s path.  When Hugo catches someone, they go into the basement and, the deeper they go, the more “Fright Points” that player gets.  The aim of the game is to finish with the fewest “Fright Points” after Hugo has been round the gallery seven times is the winner.

Hugo: Das Schlossgespenst
– Image by boardGOATS
from boardgamearena.com

Although the game seems like it is just a simple roll-and-move game, there is a little bit more to it than that.  Players are in charge of more than one guest, so they have to choose which one to move on each turn.  This decision will depend on where their pieces are with respect to Hugo, but also which rooms are closest, which rooms are empty and whether they can get one of their guests into one of the two “safe rooms” that give players negative “Fright Points”.  In practice, this isn’t much of a decision because after a couple of rounds, Hugo is moving so quickly, escape is the only thing on the players’ minds.

Hugo: Das Schlossgespenst
– Image by boardGOATS
from boardgamearena.com

Although the game didn’t take the five minutes advertised, it didn’t take too long.  There was much humour when one of Blue’s guests stuck its head up Pine’s frock, and likewise, when one of Pine’s stuck its head up Burgundy’s frock.  It was very clear to everyone that Green’s prior experience was the explanation for why he very nearly won—it is a game that is all skill of course.  In the event, however, Pine pipped him to the line by just one “Fright Point”.  And with that strangeness over, and this possibly being the last online game session, it seemed fitting to end with the reigning Golden GOAT winner, 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Over the last year or so, we’ve played 6 Nimmt! more than anything else, way more, simply because it is fast, fun, and skirts the fine line between tactical masterpiece and unpredictable luck-fest.  Players simultaneously choose cards that are placed at the end of one of four rows. The player who places the sixth card in a row, instead picks up the other five and their card becomes the first card in the row.  In the Board Game Arena version of the game, players start with sixty-six “Nimmts”, losing some each time they pick up.  The winner is the player with the most “Nimmts” or points when one player’s tally falls below zero.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Playing with the “Professional Variant”, cards can be added to both ends of the rows, simultaneously adding control and chaos in equal measure.  This time, Burgundy was the first to pick up cards, but Green was the first to begin the race to the bottom in earnest.  His personal roller-coaster ride hit maximum speed when he picked up a remarkable eighteen “Nimmts” on one turn.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

For most of the game, everyone was very, very close, except for Green, but then everything went wrong for everyone and the scores plummeted.  Green inevitably triggered the end of the game though, but the final scores were surprisingly close aside from him.  Despite picking up fifteen points on his final card, Burgundy finished with six “Nimmts” more than Pine and Blue who tied for second place.  And with that, it was time for bed.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Watch out, watch out, there’s a Hugo about!

2nd March 2021 (Online)

Blue and Pink finished a difficult couple of weeks by missing out on their fish and chips, so after cooking their own tea (shock, horror!), they joined the chatter with Purple, Black and Pine.  Once everyone else had signed in, we started the “Feature Game” which was the first Hexpansion to HexRoller.  This is another “Roll and Write” style game, but a very abstract one, though based on hexagons (which are the bestagons, obviously).

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

We played the base game before Christmas and, although it is a very simple little abstract game, it went down really well.  It’s not very clear why it was such a success, although it plays especially well “remotely” and with lots of people.  Burgundy also made a good point when he commented that although it was simple, it has meaningful decisions at every step.  The idea is that a handful of dice are thrown, and grouped according to the number rolled.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

Players then choose two of the numbers and write those numbers on their board the same number of times as it has been rolled. This means if four and six are chosen and they appear once and twice respectively, the player will write four down once and six twice.  The player sheets have a play area made of hexagons, some of which have numbers written on them.  Once a player has chosen a number, they start writing in a hexagon next to a number already on the board, with every subsequent number written next to the previous, making a chain.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

The scoring is a bit of a “point salad” with points for filling all seven hexagons in one of the coloured groups; for filling all the orange hexes in the central area; for connecting pairs of pre-printed numbers, and any left over, unused special actions.  Additionally, every round a player picks two numbers and one is written in a box in the top row in the bottom left corner with the other written in the bottom row—these also give points at the end of the game.  Explained like this, the game sounds extremely complex, however the scoring is outlined on the sheet and in practice, it is actually quite easy to play, though like Burgundy commented, there are meaningful decisions to be made at every step.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

The base HexRoller game comes with two different layouts with subtly different scoring schemes, to be played with slightly different numbers of dice.  Although the dice are coloured, the original game does not use these colours, however, that changed in the first Hexpansion, where, instead of just trying to obtain straight runs of numbers, players are trying to get straight runs in each of the four colours.  Additionally, where the base game has three special actions that can each be used once during the game, the first Hexpansion changes this slightly so that each one appears twice and players must use one in each of the six rounds.

HexRoller: Hexpansion 1
– Image by boardGOATS

Like the base HexRoller game, the first Hexpansion also comes with two layouts, with different starting number layouts and slight changes to the scoring.  The remarkable thing is how these two small tweaks make a substantial difference to the game play and the decisions players have to make during the game.  Like last time, we played both layouts, starting with side “A” and moving on to side “B”.  For the first one, everyone agreed that it wasn’t possible to connect more than one or two numbers.  Although everyone agreed that connecting more was possible on side “B”, there was a big debate between the rounds as to how many could actually be connected.  In the end, we gave up on the discussion and left people to prove their point during the game.

HexRoller: Hexpansion 1
– Image by boardGOATS

With only six rounds the game trots along quite quickly, and it wasn’t long before people were taking their shoes and socks off as they tried to work out their score.  As often seems to be the case, Ivory was the first up setting a target of eighty-one.  Also as often seems to be the case, it quickly became apparent that it was a target that was unlikely to be beaten though Pink thought he had a draw until he realised that he was out by ten.  In the end, Blue and Burgundy were the closest with seventy-six and seventy-three respectively.

HexRoller: Hexpansion 1
– Image by boardGOATS

The second game was even quicker, and again, Ivory was the first to post his score of eighty-two.  This time though, his target was quickly overcome with both Pink and Black scoring in the high eighties.  Green pitched in with what he thought was an unassailable round hundred, until he was disappointed by Blue who just beat him by three points.  There was a little chit-chat about how important all the little decisions were, and how misplacing a two had cost Pine sixteen points for example, then we moved on to deciding what to play next.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

Tiny Towns was an option, this time including the monuments, but even though HexRoller was a quick game, time was marching on.  As it has been a while since we last played Tiny Towns and we’d need to revise the rules, the preferred option was Railroad Ink, a game we have played a few times.  This would have been fine, except that Blue got all excited about playing with one of the mini-expansions that comes with the Deep Blue edition.  Having played with the River last time round, her beady little eyes lit upon the Lake expansion.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The base game itself is quite straight forward:  Four white bespoke dice are rolled and players draw the four features in squares on their player areas.  All four must be drawn, and they must connect correctly to part of the pre-exisiting travel network, or added to a starting point on the edge of the board.  On three occasions during the game, players may also fill in a fifth space from one of the special actions each of which can be used once.  The game finished after seven rounds after which players score for the longest continuous sections of rail and road, for connecting entrances onto their board, for filling in the centre nine spaces and lose points for any “hanging ends”.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The Lakes and Rivers expansions each add two optional blue dice that are rolled with the white dice.  While the Rivers add a sort of third route, the Lakes expansion adds another way to score points and connect route together.  There were some gaps in the rule book, so rather than spend a lot of time trying to find the correct rules online, we decided to “House Rule” them.  The rules say that Lake spaces do not have to connect to other spaces, but we played that any Lake dice that had road or rail segments had to be connected to a road/rail network.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Any road or rail that ends at a pier on lake is deemed to be connected to all other roads attached to a pier on the same lake, making it easier to score points for connecting the together starting entrances.  They also give points in their own right as players score one point for each space occupied by their smallest lake.  Inevitably, therefore, most people started with the plan to create one large lake and connect their road and rail networks to it.  Of course, in practice, his turned out to be easier said than done.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Firstly, using the Lake dice meant that board real-estate was quickly used up making it harder to accommodate the compulsory white dice.  After three rounds Burgundy commented that we were halfway through.  Green objected and it was then that we realised he was somehow a round ahead.  It’s possible that it was because Pink had moved some dice to make it simpler for someone else, only for Green to assume it was a different round.  So, there was a brief hiatus while he rectified things and grumbled about how he didn’t understand the rules.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

It wasn’t long before we had completed all six rounds of “nipples”, “plungers” and “suction pumps” (which is what some of the faces of the Lake dice looked like to us), and everyone tried to work out their score.  Ivory once again posted his score first, a very creditable fifty-eight, but he was immediately beaten by Green with sixty.  Pink out pointed Green with sixty-nine, but he was just pipped by Blue who top scored with seventy-one.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory took his leave and everyone else moved onto Board Game Arena and settled down to a game of No Thanks!.  This is an old favourite that has recently been ported to the platform and fills a similar niche for us as our old favourite, 6 Nimmt!, but works better with smaller numbers of players.  The game is just as simple though:  On their turn, players take the card in the centre or pay a chip to pass the problem on to the next person.  At the end of the game, the player cards score negative points, offset by any left-over chips.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

There are two things that make the game special.  Firstly, anyone with an unbroken sequence of cards only counts the lowest when scoring.  This turns the game on it’s head as it means that a player with twenty-five and twenty-seven actually wants the card in between, where everyone else doesn’t giving them the opportunity to try to milk everyone else for chips.  Secondly, the deck is numbered from three to thirty five, but some of the cards have been removed at random.  This introduces a nice little bit of chance into the game, which just makes it special.

No Thanks! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Purple managed a very impressive final total of minus fifty-seven thanks to a gap between thirty-three and thirty-five meaning that both scored.  At the other end, Pine was the only one in single figures taking victory with a score of minus four.  Pine and Pink were ready for an early night, but were persuaded into playing another game before they left.  This time, it was all a lot closer and with a complete reversal of fortunes, this time Purple finished victorious with minus six, two points clear of Pine who took second place.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

It was just as they left that the dreaded IT gremlins returned, this time with Green as the victim. While everyone else focussed on playing Coloretto, he tried all sorts of things to fix it to no avail.  Coloretto is another simple card game, this time where players take it in turns to either reveal a chameleon card and place it on a truck, or take a truck and add the chameleons to their collection.  At the end of the game players score points for each set they collect with the three largest sets giving positive points and the rest scoring negative points—the bigger the set, the more points it is worth, which is good for the biggest three sets, and not so good for the smaller ones.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple did well with only three colours, a wild and a handful of bonus cards, earning herself second place ahead of Green and Black who tied for third.  As the only one collecting green cards at the start of the game and one of only two collecting blue cards, Blue had an advantage though.  She was able to put cards together safe in the knowledge that no-one else wanted them and that gave her a full set of blue cards and a winning total of thirty-one points.  By this time, Green had rebooted his router and sorted out his internet issues, but everyone had had enough and it was time for bed.

Coloretto on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  You usually score better if you concentrate when the rules are explained.

8th December 2020 (Online)

The evening started off with players discussing pirate copies of games, inspired by a copy of The Game of Life (slightly reluctantly provided by Little Lime).  From there, Green popped in just long enough for everyone to sing “Happy Birthday” to him, and for him to tell people about his new car before putting up with lots of comments about how nice his new Alfa Romeo would look on the side of the road while he was waiting for the AA to turn up…

The Game of Life
– Image by boardGOATS

Once Green had left to open the last of his birthday pressies and eat his Birthday tea, everyone else settled down to start the “Feature Game“, the River Expansion for the “Roll and Write” game Railroad Ink.  This is a fairly simple game that we’ve played a couple of times and really enjoyed.  The idea is that four dice are rolled and players have to add all the features rolled to their map.  These features include straight and curved sections of rail and road as well as flyovers and road/rail interchanges.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The game lasts seven rounds and players earn points for connecting together the entrances marked on the edge of the map, but also for their longest sections of road and rail, and for filling the nine spaces in the centre of the board.  The River is one of two expansions that come with the Deep Blue Edition of Railroad Ink, and adds rivers to the railway, road and intersection options.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Unlike the white dice in the base game which have to be used, the two blue dice are optional.  They also do not have to be connected to the main network.  Pine asked why anyone would use the river because it just restricts what you can do with the rest of your network, but as Burgundy pointed out, it has the potential for giving extra points.  Most obviously this is because points are awarded for the longest section of river each player makes.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Additionally though, some of the faces of the river dice include road and rail sections (crossing the river).  Using these can help the main network reach more of the entrances, something that is important because the game is one round shorter when played with the expansion.  However, any unconnected river sections, like any unconnected road or rail sections, i.e. any “hanging ends”, cost points, one per unconnected end.  So, players who decide to ignore rivers do so at a cost.

Railroad Ink
– Image by boardGOATS

The game hadn’t been going long before someone said, “I’ve just created a junction”.  This was almost inevitably followed by the reply, “You never thought that would happen…” and the response, “What, with you and the girl from Clapham…?”  After a couple of verses and the odd chorus of the Squeeze hit, the conversation segued smoothly on to the fact that “Those Were the Days” was actually originally a folk song.  The game only resumed after Pine had shared a version called Davni Chasy by The Wedding Present.

Railroad Ink
– Image by boardGOATS

With only six rounds with the expansion, the game did not really take very long, and everyone seemed to enjoy the added challenge of including the river.  It was a tight game with just three points covering the three podium positions, Ivory just sneaked victory, two points ahead of Pink and Pine in third.  Lime had been up since 4am and had another early start the following day, so went for a well earned early night, but everyone else carried on to give Patchwork Doodle another outing.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

Patchwork Doodle is a fairly simple game Tetris-based game where players try to fill their player player-board with Tetris shapes shown on cards.  Although the game is similar to Second Chance, it is played over three rounds with eight cards displayed at the start of each round with six played according to a die roll.  This means that players know which cards are coming up, but not the order they will appear in.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

Each player begins with their own individual shape.  Black had the embarrassing one, which led to a discussion about how a photographer had taken revenge on Philip Green for his poor behaviour towards a journalist.  Everyone had a good laugh once someone had found the photo and shared it, then we began playing.  The end of round scoring also makes the game a little more challenging than Second Chance with players scoring most of their points for the largest contiguous square area at each point during the game.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink and Ivory got off to a flying start with five-by-five squares, giving them twenty five points in the first round.  As the rounds progressed, other players started to catch up, but those early points were hard to off-set.  Blue, remarkably managed to fill every square of her grid giving her eighty-one points in the final round.  Unfortunately for her, it wasn’t quite enough to catch Pink who took victory with one hundred and thirty-seven.  That didn’t stop Blue claiming the “moral victory” for the perfect finish though, even if she was three points short.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, Ivory took his leave, and everyone else moved to Board Game Arena.  As people logged on, they all received “Trophies” to mark six months active on the platform.  While this is clearly an achievement of sorts, it was bitter-sweet as it also highlighted just how long we’ve been playing online.  We decide not to stop and think about it though, and moved on to choosing a game.  With six players, there were several options.  Pine didn’t want to finish too late, while Blue was keen to play something a little different and with help from others, persuaded him to play Alhambra.

Alhambra
– Image by BGG contributor garyjames

Alhambra is a classic gateway, tile laying game, based on the slightly older title, Stimmt So!.  The idea is that on their turn, players can either buy buildings (or shares in the original), or take a money card.  The catch is that there are four currencies in the game.  Players pay with whatever cards they have, but if they don’t have the exact amount they must overpay.  Obviously, it is advantageous to pay with the exact amount, but not only because they save money.  Players doubly gain when they pay with the right amount, because they get an extra turn and can make another purchase (again getting yet another turn if they pay exactly) or take money.

Alhambra
– Image by BGG contributor garion

There are two scoring phases during the game, and one at the end.  In these, players with the most buildings of each of the different types score points, with the number of points depending on the type of building and the frequency of it in the game.  There is one significant difference between Alhambra and Stimmt So! that goes beyond the theme.  Some of the buildings have a wall along one, two or three sides.  Players score points for their longest external “wall” section within their complex, but the wall also has a big impact on how a player places their tiles.

Alhambra
– Adapted from Image by BGG contributor Zoroastro

Players must be able “walk” from their starting tile to all the other tiles in their complex, so walls are placed round the outside.  If a player is not careful, this can severely limit their ability to place other tiles and get them into a terrible mess.  The Board Game Arena implementation ensures that players can’t inadvertently make mistakes, but that makes the game quite unforgiving.  There is a get out clause—players can place tiles in their reserve or move tiles at a later date, but as the game is all about efficiency, this can be very costly.

Alhambra on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from Board Game Arena

The game started very cautiously with people feeling their way.  Pink tried to build a long wall and got himself into a tangle with a very small complex surrounded by a tight wall; Blue just failed to score any points until the end of the game.  It was quite close in the fight for second place, but the runaway winner with eighty-one points was Purple.  She had the most Garden buildings and Palaces outright, shared the lead in Seraglios and Chambers and scored points in almost every other category too, positively storming to victory.

Alhambra on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from Board Game Arena

Unfortunately, Alhambra is not at its best with six and, although the game can trot along at quite a pace with players that know what they are doing, it took quite a lot longer than it really should.  Although some had played the game before, others were new to it and even those familiar with the game were a little rusty.  The game would have been a lot quicker if people hadn’t insisted on thinking too, but as a result, it finished a lot later than planned and when it was over that was pretty much it for the evening.

Alhambra on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS
from Board Game Arena

Learning Outcome:  If you buy an Alfa Romeo you should expect jokes about it.

13th October 2020 (Online)

The evening began slowly, with people signing in and confirming they had their parcels and had not yet opened them.  There was a bit of chatter about isolating, and about Green and Lilac’s new house (which had very similar decor to the previous one).  Pink had acquired yet another Panda and proudly had it on display.

A Panda not crossing, with details of a Panda Crossing
– Image by boardGOATS

From there the conversation took a bizarre turn on to the subject of Panda Crossings, which really did exist (along with the other “Animal Crossings”), in the 1960s.  It was no surprise they were phased out after just five years, though, given how complicated they were, and the fact that safe operation relied on the difference between a “Pulsating” Amber and a “Flashing” Amber…

Elizabeth
– Image from cronkshawfoldfarm.co.uk

At 8pm, the Special Guest arrived; Elizabeth and some of her buddies from Cronkshaw Fold Farm in Lancashire joined the meeting.  Elizabeth is very talented and has a particular penchant for yoga.  So much so, in fact that she and her friends have been the subject of a half hour documentary filmed last summer.  As Elizabeth and friends galloped about and showed us their delightful home, everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and then opened their boxes.

2020 Birthday Box
– Image by boardGOATS

The boxes were part of the celebration of our eighth birthday.  As is now traditional, the “Feature Game” was Crappy Birthday, a silly little filler/party game that is great fun when played very occasionally (and about once a year is perfect).  The idea is that each player takes it in turns to receive gifts from everyone else and then they choose the best and the worst; the players who gifted the selected presents get a point.  So in this game players are aiming for extremes making it almost the opposite of games like Dixit or Just One where players are aiming for the centre-ground.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

With the current challenge of “remote gaming” we had to play Crappy Birthday a little differently this year.  So, everyone “wrapped their parcels” last time we met and this time everyone took it in turns to unwrap them.  While people ate their treats, names were drawn out of the Crappy Birthday box lid and everyone took it in turns to “open their gifts”, while everyone else ate their cake, biscuits and chocolate.

2020 Birthday Biscuits
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue went first to show those that hadn’t experienced a GOATS birthday party how to play.  As always, it was a learning experience all round.  This time, we learnt that Blue would quite like a trip to the middle east (complete with riding camels), but that Monopoly toilet paper might block her drain and everyone else was concerned about the possibility of paper cuts.  Green and Lilac both dislike smoking and have been to a Star Wars wedding and Lilac would like a ferret.  Black quite fancied unicycle lessons and Purple thought a giant fake bear rug would really add to the ambience in their living room.  Although Black likes fish, a hundred pounds is a lot especially when raw, but as he could put it in the freezer, he decided that the persistence of his own Mariachi band would be worse.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory disliked the sound of “Organ Holiday by Ethel Smith”, and would not be swayed even by Pine’s hurt protest that it had pride of place in his collection.  Then he saw the hideous living room tapestry, and although he loves the game (and had really enjoyed playing it with the Plans and Ploys Expansion and Pink and Blue recently), he said it was also not for him.  Since the LP would be for just a year and the tapestry was permanent, the wall covering was therefore rejected as his least favourite.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

A lot of people seemed to think that Burgundy would really appreciate physical extreme sports but the one he rejected was bungee jumping.  Unlike everyone else who seemed to reject any long term, life-changing experiences, his Burgundy’s preferred gift was a an eagle as a life-long companion, though Blue was concerned it might interfere with Games Night.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Mulberry calling in from California fancied a fighter jet ride and rejected a bus ride to Florida, and not only because it was such a long way away.  Meanwhile, animal gifts were quite popular and although Pine would have loved the opportunity to be licked by a giraffe or go on an African safari, those gifts were received by Violet, calling in from Aberystwyth.  She accepted the safari, but, not being a child of the 70s, was unimpressed by the fluffy dice.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine’s wildlife gifts were in the form of hairless cat, a weekend with some monkeys in a hot spring and the chance to hunt and and clean his own Thanksgiving turkey.  Having had a landlady with a cat with galloping alopecia, Pine spurned the unfortunate moggy.  Then, despite the fact the turkey was the vegetarian’s obvious least favourite, that was Pine’s preferred choice as there was nothing to say he couldn’t give it it’s freedom once it’d had a wash.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

After some rude comments about his taste in clothing, Pink explained that being on the reality show “Can America Disco” was his idea of a nightmare and that he quite fancied an Easter Island moʻai statue for his front garden.  And then, the last player, Lime, also rejected publicity in the form of his own personal paparazzi posting hourly updates on his doings.  Like Pink, he also chose the garden ornament, as Lime wanted a new patio and thought a giant chess board would be just the job.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

And with that, all that was left was the scores.  This time, we found that Team Greeny-Lilac and Pink were particularly good at this game, but it was Lime who seemed to take a point every time, taking seven out of a possible eleven points.  That said, it was remarkable how many people gave gifts they thought people would like that ended up winning a point for being the most disliked.  That’s half the fun though.  With the birthday celebration dealt with, we then moved on to playing other games.  We are getting better at this, though our repertoire is still quite limited.  There had been a few requests to play Railroad Ink again, however, so we started with that.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Railroad Ink is a very simple “Roll and Write” route planning game.  The idea is that four dice are rolled and everybody adds all four to their map.  Three of the dice show straight and curved sections and T-junctions for road and rail.  The other, the fourth die shows stations connecting road to rail, and a fly-over (crossing, but not connecting).  The game is played over seven rounds, after which players score points for their longest road segments, their longest rail segments, the number of locations on the edge of the board have been connected, and the number of spaced in the central grid that have been filled.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Having played it before, it didn’t take too long to get going and there was a sort of focussed silence as everyone concentrated, punctuated by occasional moans when the dice didn’t give people what they wanted.  Sadly, these games are very much “multiplayer solitaire”, and we really only found out how people did when adding up the scores.  This time, it was really close with just five points separating the top six players.  Initially it looked like it was a tie between Blue and Pink, but a recount pushed Blue into second just ahead of Green and then Pine.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory and Lime followed Mulberry taking their leave, and everyone else settled down to something quick and light in the form of Second Chance.  This is a very simple Tetris-style game where two cards are revealed and players chose one of the two shapes to add to their tableau.  Players can add shapes anywhere and in any orientation.  If they can’t use either of the shapes they get a second chance—another card is revealed, but if they can’t add that shape either, then they are eliminated.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

The winner is the player with the fewest unused spaces, so the winner is not necessarily the player that stays in the longest.  This and the fact that the game is not over-long means that player elimination is not a huge problem.  This time, all the large and awkward shapes came out first which meant there was sudden and catastrophic collapse as almost everyone crashed out together.  As a result, the scores were really close.  Lilac’s beautiful colouring earned her a worthy second place and she was unfortunate to be beaten by the very jammy Pink, who sailed through with several second chances and finished with just three unfilled spaces.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time, it was starting to get late and people drifted off leaving just five for our, now regular, game of 6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena.  It is very simple:  simultaneously, players choose a card, then starting with the lowest value, these are added to one of the four rows.  The player who adds the sixth card takes the other five and the player with the most “nimmts” at the end loses.  It is very random, but somehow gives the illusion of control, right until the wheels drop off…

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

We play this so much because it is light and great fun, with no downtime.  And with the “Professional Variant” that we now use where cards are added to both ends of the rows, the game has had a new lease of life for us.  It works really well with fewer players too.  This time, Black was first and second to pick up, and it didn’t get much better as the game wore on and it wasn’t a surprise when he triggered the end of the game leaving Burgundy to taste victory, just ahead of Green.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Then, Green said good night leaving just four.  Having enjoyed several games of Sushi Go! last time, we decided to give it another try, this time with the Soy Sauce mini expansion.  This is one of the simplest of the card drafting games—players have hand of cards, keep one and pass the rest on.  With Sushi Go!, players are collecting sets with a sushi theme and trying to collect the most points over three rounds.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

This was another close game.  Burgundy and Blue tied the first round, one devoid of puddings, but Black and Purple weren’t far behind.  The second round was much less even though and was taken by Blue with a massive eighteen points.  She wasn’t able to keep it up for the final round which Black took with sixteen points.  It wasn’t quite enough, to overtake Blue though and she finished with a total of forty-three, just two ahead of Black, in a game where there just wasn’t enough dessert to go round.

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

There was just time for one more game, so after a brief discussion, the group opted for another set collecting game, Coloretto.  This is another very simple game where players have the simple choice:  Take a card and add it to a truck, or take a truck and add the cards to their collection.  Players score positive points for their three top scoring sets, and negative points for all the others.  Normally, the scoring is according to the Triangular Number Series, where more cards score increasingly more points (one, three, six, ten, fifteen and twenty-one).

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

This time we decided to play with the alternative, “Difficult” scoring, where small sets score the most and their value peaks at eight points for three cards, falling gradually for larger sets.  This changes the game significantly, as taking a fourth or fifth card has the same impact on a player’s score as starting another set.  And everyone has fewer points to play with…  It took a couple of rounds for people to realise the implications of this change to scoring.  Then players started taking trucks when they were almost empty and when a “+2” card came up it was taken straight away.

Coloretto on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

As a result, there were more rounds and the game became one of avoiding things going wrong.  And for most people, once it started going wrong, things generally went from bad to worse.  First was Purple, then Black, then just before the end, Blue was landed with pile of cards she didn’t want.  So, it wasn’t a huge surprise that Burgundy, who had managed to avoid falling off the precipice, finished with the most points.  Purple was by far the best of the rest though having been most successful at stemming the flood of unwanted cards.  Then it was time for the last of the birthday boys and girls to go to bed.

Coloretto on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Learning Outcome: A gift’s worth is in the eye of the recipient.

18th August 2020 (Online)

The evening started with a bit of chit-chat about happenings in the village and the big hole in the A417 which had a large number of Thames Water employees staring into it and had closed the road to Wantage.  Since nobody is travelling very far to games night these days, nobody was inconvenienced.  Every cloud…  Although nobody was inconvenienced by the road closure, that didn’t mean nobody had been travelling: Green and his family all called in from Aviemore and shared their picture of “little Nessy” and their plans to visit her big sister the following day.

Little Nessie
– Image by Green

While Mulberry (now recovered from her jet-lag) encouraged her computer to play ball, Green “shared” a glass of whisky with everyone and people reminisced about a certain New Year Party and a particular bottle of the “finest” Bavarian whisky.  Eventually, we finally started the “Feature Game“, Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition.  We’ve found “Roll and Write” style games work really well under the current constraints, so we thought we’d try another one.  Rather than a communal colouring fest like Second Chance or Cartographers, in this game players are planning a road and rail network where players score points for connecting, generating a long road and a long track, and using the middle of their board, but lose points for “hanging ends”.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is very simple:  each round, all the dice are rolled and everyone adds all of the features to their map.  Three of the dice feature roads and rails (straight sections, bends and T-junctions) while one features interchange stations (straight and on a bend) and an flyover.  There are seven rounds and everyone scores their map once at the end.  The game comes with a couple of expansions, but as this was the first try for most people, this time we stuck to the base game with just the four white dice.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

When players add features they must “grow” their network from one (or more) of the entrances to the map and they make notes of the round in the corner of each square to try to avoid confusion. A continuous road, railway line or network is not interrupted by stations, but a rail and a road that cross at a flyover are not connected.  In addition to the seven rolls of four dice that everyone must add to their board, players may, optionally, also add special cross-roads to their map, given in white on the print-outs above the play areas.  A maximum of one per round can be added, up to a total of three during the game.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the round players score points for several things.  Firstly, they score points for each separate network they have built, with networks scoring points for the more exits they are connected to according to a table.  Points are then scored for each players’ longest stretch of road and longest section of rail, taking one point per segment.  Next, players get bonus points for each square they’ve filled in the centre of their board.  Finally, players lose points for each “hanging end” i.e. ends that do not connect correctly.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink rolled and then the questions and clarifications started.  Eventually though, everyone was happy, or at least happy enough and had scribbled things on their board.  Pink and Blue showed their boards to help explain and then Pink rolled for the next round.  This inevitably led to more clarifications, before Pink could roll again.  And so it continued.  Everyone seemed to have got the hang of what they were doing, and by this time everyone was lamenting the lack of junctions and blaming Pink for his poor rolling, while Pine and Green were complaining about their “Hanging Ends”.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Just before the fifth round, Pink reminded everyone about their special spaces, saying that if they wanted to use all three and hadn’t used any yet, they would need to use one per round from this point forward.  This distressed Mulberry as she couldn’t find a way to use any of them without messing things up.  It took a while for everyone else to realise her plight and point out that it was a good idea to use them if you could, but they were optional.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Before long, everyone was adding up their scores and checking what was and wasn’t valid.  It was only then that Green realised that he’d connected roads to some of his rail entrances and rails to some of his road entrances.  He tried to say that it hadn’t been clear at the start, but as everyone else had managed to get it right, nobody was feeling very charitable (it was Green, after-all).  So his score of forty-six was duly reduced to twenty-one.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

It was quite close at the front with Blue, Ivory and Black (now known as “The Silent One”) all vying for second place, but Burgundy just took the runner-up position.  Pink, however, was a few points in front and finished with a fine fifty-three.  Although Pine had really enjoyed it and some of the others were happy to play again, there were some who had found it very challenging and wanted a change.  Lime took his leave as he’d had a rough week.  Mulberry didn’t have any other print-outs, so being the brave millennial that she is, she said she would edit the pdf on her tablet using a stylus.

Noch Mal!
– Image by Mulberry

Although opinions had hitherto been divided about what to play, Noch Mal! (aka Encore!) would likely be easier for her than Second Chance, so that decided it.  Noch Mal! has become known as “Board Gamers’ Bingo” by some members of the group, and certainly it has a bit of a feel of that about it.  Three colour and three number dice are rolled and the active player chooses one of each and crosses off the number of squares in that colour.  Everyone else chooses from the colours and numbers left.  The catch is that players must cross off exactly that right number of that colour, they must be in a continuous block and adjacent to something already crossed off in the starting column.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Points are scored during the game for completed columns and crossing off all of one colour with the game ending when one player crosses off all of their second colour.  The first thing we noticed was that red and orange looked the same and yellow was nearly invisible on screen.  So, after Pink threatened to rearrange the furniture and crawl under the sofa to get to the plug so he could move the light, Blue took the easy option and wrote the colours on a bit of paper to act as labels and the game began.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

For those that hadn’t played before, and even those that had, Ivory was startlingly quick to be the first to complete a column, even more so given that it was almost as far to the right as he could go.  After that it was a gentle trickle as players called out that they’d finished columns.  Before long, Green called that he’d finished the first colour, appropriately enough, green.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

All the columns were completed and others started to finish colours and everyone knew the end was nigh when Green took his second colour and with it ended the game.  As players began to call out their totals, Mulberry was completely aghast that people had actually managed to score points since she’d finished with minus two.  She wasn’t alone with a low score and everyone else tried to reassure her that they’d all been there – the first time the group played, three players finished with negative points and the average score was one!

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time Green’s father who had joined in from Scotland, top scored with nineteen, but Green felt he hadn’t quite been playing right.  It was close at the top with Ivory finishing with ten, Pine with twelve and Blue with thirteen.  The winners were Green and The Silent One, tied on fourteen points.  With that, the Scottish Connection went to bed as they had an early start in the morning for their Nessy hunt.  Ivory and Mulberry also took their leave, leaving six to play on.  Playing games on Board Game Arena is just that bit easier and enables a wider variety of games so everyone moved there.

"Tomato" Whisky
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink is very fond of For Sale, so he suggested that, and, as it is a very quick and relatively easy game, everyone else quickly concurred.  This game is played in two halves, buying and then selling.  In the first half, in each round enough cards are revealed for one per player.  Players then bid to stay in, taking the lowest value card when they pass.  Once all thirty property cards have been auctioned off, players sell them.  In this phase, in each round, cheques are revealed and players choose one of their properties to sell.  The cheques are then shared out with the highest value cheque going to the player who sold the most desirable (highest numbered) property.  The wealthiest player at the end is the winner.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the key rules that makes the auctions interesting is that players who pass, get half their bid returned, while the player who wins the auction pays their full bid.  In the original Ravensburger/Schmid editions, where a bid was an odd value, the money returned was rounded up.  However, in real life, we play with the more recent, Überplay version where the returned money is rounded down, so this is the way we play online too.  For a bit of variety, this time we decided to play with the original rule, which would give everyone a little bit more money to spend and make passing early a little more lucrative.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy normally does really well at this game setting standards others seek to achieve.  The change to the rules seemed to really cramp his style though, and he just couldn’t find his rhythm.  Pine and Purple were similarly afflicted, where, in contrast, Blue, Pink and Black seemed to flourish where they usually struggled a bit.  Most of the high cards came out towards the end of the first half, so the players who hadn’t spent too much in the early rounds were able to capitalise, often getting high value cards without having to pay their full bid.

For Sale on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

In the end Purple had managed to spend only $3,000, but that meant her properties didn’t give her a great return.  In contrast, everyone else had spent most of the their starting pot, and Burgundy had no spare change at all.  Pink felt sure he had the game in the bag, but it was much tighter at the top than he thought with Black snapping at his heels, and Blue beating him by a single point with fifty-three.  It was clear that the change in the rules had unbalanced some people’s game so we decided to give it another go and give Pink another chance.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

The artwork on the property cards is one of the things that makes the game special and fortunately it has been ported to the online version of the game too.  The most valuable property, number thirty, is a space station while the least valuable, number one, is a cardboard box.  There are some lovely intermediates though and offering them to people always adds to the atmosphere.  This time, Purple commented that “Burgundy’s on the Bothy,” only for Pine to respond, “Burgundy’s on the toilet, you’re on the bothy and Black’s on the banjo-shack!”

For Sale on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

This time, Burgundy and Purple still struggled, though Pine did much better.  It was still tight, and remarkably the end result was almost exactly the same as before with Blue winning again.  This time she had a margin of two points and a total of fifty-two, but the placings were a bit different.  Black moved one place up on the podium and took second, with Pine taking third place, leaving Pink a little crest-fallen.  There is one thing guaranteed to cheer up any disappointed gamer, however, and that is to play 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Since we discovered the “Professional” variant a few weeks back, it has given 6 Nimmt! a new lease of life for the group.  The game is so simple and yet so much fun with the illusion of control until everything goes wrong.  In the basic game game players simultaneously choose cards and then, starting with the lowest, add them to the end of one of four rows, picking up cards if the card they chose was the sixth card added to a row.  In the “Professional variant, cards can be added to either end of the rows making the decision space that bit more complex, dramatically increasing the madness.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

As people moved to the table, someone commented that it was now playable in 3D, though why anyone would want to play a card game in 3D was anybody’s guess.  Inevitably, there was a pause while everyone tried the 3D option.  Unfortunately, most people found it was difficult to operate and, everyone seemed to have issues with either cards not showing or not sitting where they should.  Still, it’s only in “beta” testing, and we love 6 Nimmt! just as it is.  So everyone returned to the 2D mode and got on with playing.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

This time, Black, who had done so well in all the other games, seemed determined to lose and to do so spectacularly.  The only thing that seemed likely to prevent it was Purple who has a remarkable knack of picking up cards a skill that is only increased by the new variant.  While she didn’t do quite as well as last time, she did manage to pick up fourteen.  She wasn’t the only one to pick up lots of “Nimmts” in one turn, Pine managed thirteen in one turn and Burgundy twelve.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Winning in 6 Nimmt! always requires a combination of good play with a healthy slice of good fortune.  For this reason, we usually celebrate the looser, the person who has been most generous in picking up cards for others, as much as the winner.  This time, Black’s generosity of spirit was very much in evidence, but Purple was the most altruistic.  At the other end, Burgundy had put an end to his poor run in For Sale, coming second, but it was Pink who book-ended the evening with his second win.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS
from boardgamearena.com

Learning Outcome:  An integrated transport policy is a Good Thing.

Boardgames in the News: What are “Roll and Write” Games?

In the last few years, “Roll and Write” games have been everywhere, but what defines them and what let to the rise in their popularity?  Well, their roots lie in simple dice games, which are as old as the hills, but arguably the first “Roll and Write” game is Yahtzee, a game that is now a childhood classic.  Although the commercial game dates from the 1950s, the game is based on the older family of traditional games, including Yacht, Generala, Poker Dice etc..

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that players roll five dice to try to get specific combinations, re-rolling some, all or none up to three times.  These fall into different categories each of which can only be scored once and are crossed off on a scoring sheet.  This roll and re-roll mechanism has been used as the basis of many more modern games like Pickomino (aka Heck Meck), To Court the King and even Roll for the Galaxy, but these are not “Roll and Write” games, they are dice games.  More dice games with a “Writing” element, followed as well though.  These include Reiner Knizia’s Decathalon, the Catan Dice Game, and Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age with its subsequent series of games.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

Perhaps the most influential game of this type, however, is Qwixx.  In this game, each player has their own score-sheet with four rows, numbered two to twelve, each in a different colour.  On their turn, the active player rolls six dice: two white and one of each of the four colours. The active player can mark off the sum of one white die and one coloured die in the row of the same colour, while everyone else can mark off the sum of the two white dice on any one of their four rows.  The catch is that the numbers must be crossed out in order: descending for the blue and green rows, ascending for the red and yellow rows.

Qwixx
– Image by boardGOATS

And that is the core that really makes a “Roll and Write” game:  the decision making.  While there is no industry recognised definition, it is widely understood that games that fall into the “Roll and Write” category have the following key characteristics:

  • A randomiser: traditionally dice, but some games use cards etc.;
  • A key element of decision making;
  • Individual work sheets, which are more than just a score pad.

Qwixx was published seven years ago, and was popular in its own right receiving a nomination for the Spiel des Jahres award in 2013.  Its legacy, however, is the way it helped to open the door for other games in the genre.  Noch Mal! (aka Encore!) followed in 2016 and in 2018, “Roll and Write” games really took off.  Yahtzee, Quixx and Roll Through the Ages have now been followed many other very popular and successful games including, Welcome to…, Ganz Schön Clever! (aka That’s Very Clever!), Railroad Ink, and Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale.  Between them, these games have received two Kennerspiel and two Spiel des Jahres nominations.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

There are now, hundreds of “Roll and Write” games available and new games continue to arrive, each with their own twist: some based round rolling dice, some involving a deck of cards, and there are even games now that involve cutting out!  But what is the appeal, and why the sudden growth in this genre?  For the publisher they are obviously cheap and relatively easy to produce, often needing little in the way of complex or bespoke components.  In a squeezed market this is very important.  For designers they are easy to prototype and many of these games are relatively easy to play-test too.  This is because they can often be played solo, and the mathematics of probability are well understood (by mathematicians at least).

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

For gamers, the low price of these games means financial investment is typically small.  They are usually quick to learn and don’t over-stay their welcome either, which means they are low risk and if they “click” they also can see a lot of table time.  They are easy to play remotely too, because players just need pens and a work-sheet each, and access to a web camera.  And thus, the timing of the rise has been serendipitous: with so many people stuck at home this year, “Roll and Write” games are really coming into their own now.  It remains to be seen whether their popularity will continue into 2021 and beyond.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS