Tag Archives: Rajas of the Ganges

9th June 2020 (Online)

It’s been over three months since we were last officially at the Horse and Jockey, and it is clear everyone is really missing it.  When people joined the meeting from 7.30pm and everyone asked how people were doing, most people had nothing much to say.  Pine is still furloughed, Blue is back at work from time to time, as is Green; Ivory never left, while Pink and Black are still working from home.  Otherwise though, everyone is just getting used to the way things are now.  This week, the “Feature Game” was to be Noch Mal!.  This is a “roll and write” game by Inka and Markus Brand, designers of Village, Rajas of the Ganges and the award-winning EXIT: The Game series.  Although Noch Mal! was first released in 2016, it has only recently been released in English (as Encore!), although the game itself is language independent.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Noch Mal! is quite similar to the 2018 Kennerspiel des Jahres nominee Ganz Schön Clever (aka That’s Very Clever), where one player rolls the dice and then chooses some to use to cross off boxes on their player card, leaving the left over dice for the other player(s) to use.  The player sheet for Noch Mal! is simpler than the one in Ganz Schön Clever though, and there is less structure to the dice rolling making it more suitable for more players.  Indeed, although it is only supposed to play six, we felt it could easily play more, and this is important to us at the moment because the social aspect is the main reason for these online meetings.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea of Noch Mal! is that the active person rolls the dice and then chooses two of the six dice to use.  Three of the dice are relatively normal d6 dice (numbered one to five with a “question mark” replacing the six), while the other three dice are “colour dice” with coloured crosses instead of numbers (red, green, blue, orange, yellow and black).  The player cards depict a rectangular array of square boxes, in groups of different colours.  Players choose two dice, a colour and a number and “spend” them to cross squares off on their sheet.  Thus, if they choose green and five, they must cross off exactly five green squares.  The catch is that these must be in a clump together and must include a square in the starting row (H) or one that is orthogonally adjacent to a square already crossed off.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Players get points for completing columns, or crossing off all the squares of one colour, with the first player to do so scoring a bonus.  The “question mark” and “black” faces are “wild” and can be used as any number or colour (respectively), but each player can only use a total of eight wilds during the game.  Points are scored for completed columns (those furthest from the central starting column score more), crossing off all of one colour, and any unused wilds.  Some of the squares also feature a star—each one of these that is not crossed off earns a two point penalty.  The game ends when one player crosses off all the squares of two colours and the player with the most points is the winner.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone had three dice and we began by rolling to see who would go first.  Ivory won, but there were lots of roll-offs to settle tie breaks, so determining the order was in danger of taking longer than the game itself!  To keep people involved and give them a feeling of agency everyone rolled their own number dice, while Blue and Pink rolled the colours and displayed everything on one of their cameras.  For the first three rounds the active players (Ivory, Burgundy and Pink) don’t choose dice and everyone else can choose from the full six, so Pine was the first to play a “proper turn”.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was quick out of the traps and was first to score a column, and then taking points for a second too.  This meant he was three points up before anyone else had scored.  Worse, nobody else could score anything for the starting column (H), and only one point was available now for column G too.  Ivory had other plans though and had expanded to the right of the table and was soon picking up some of the higher scoring columns further away from the centre.  Others tried the same strategy, some with success, others less so.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

The general feeling was a little bit like Bingo with dice with players calling out when they completed a column.  This feeling was accentuated when lots of people called “House” for a load of columns on the right, all at the same time.  Eventually players started claiming colours; inevitably, Ivory was first, and also the first to discover what a curate’s egg it was as he was then forced to pass.  It wasn’t long before someone completed their second colour and everyone then had to work out their scores.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

It was no real surprise that Ivory top scored with what seemed like an enormous ten points, though Black ran him very close with eight.  Pink, Lime Blue and Green felt they had done well to avoid finishing with negative points and Purple would have done a lot better if she hadn’t lost sixteen points for her eight remaining stars.  It had been interesting though and now everyone felt they had a better understanding of how the game worked, it seemed a good idea to give it another try.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Lime was the first to score points, claiming column H so fast that it seemed impossible.  Having finished with zero last time though, he was keen to get points on the board straight away.  It was then that the IT gremlins began their attack.  First Lime had problems with the camera freezing, then Ivory as well.  It seemed that the problem was somehow specific to Lime and Ivory and when one left, that seemed to sort out the problem for the other one.  When Green looked at the text chat channel, he commented that it was a very long stream of “Lime has left”, “Lime has joined”, “Ivory has left”, “Ivory has joined”, “Lime has left”…

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Inevitably, we decided it was the French (again) trying to get their revenge for our invasion of their game of 6 Nimmt! a few weeks back—they have very long memories do the French!  Obviously, we weren’t going to let them win, so Lime and Ivory took it in turns to duck out when necessary and Blue and Pink took it in turns to let them back in, and the game carried on.  This time, everyone had a better idea of what strategies were available and players made a better job of completing columns.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

More players completed one colour and almost everyone had a near full grid by the end.  This meant it was down to rolling low numbers and those who hadn’t used up all their “wild” tokens.  This turned out to be really quite important with Burgundy and Pink among others, running out and therefore unable to make use of turns that others could.  It was slow at the end, but eventually Black completed his second colour and everyone tallied up the scores.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone except Ivory had improved their score, and this time everyone finished in the black.  Purple took the award for the most improved player, improving her score by twenty-three points having made an effort to clear up her stars.  As the scores came in, Pink really thought he had it with eighteen, but he’d failed to look across the table to see Blue had twenty, and with it victory.  Noch Mal! had worked really well which shows how our tastes have changed:  in the pub, we would never had played a game like this with so many, however, as Pine pointed out, playing a real game through a camera felt more like game night than playing an virtual game, so we’ll keep that in mind for future events.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, Pine and Lime finally gave in to the French Gremlins and left for an early night, and eventually, Green joined them.  The others were up for something else though, and as Pink was wearing his new 6 Nimmt! socks, that seemed like a good idea.  So everyone logged into Board Game Arena for one of our favourite games.  The game needs little real introduction: players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and everyone reveals them.  Starting with the lowest, the cards are added in turn to one of the four rows—when a sixth card is added the owner instead takes the five cards and starts a new row with their card, scoring the number of bulls’ head points (or “Nimmts”) depicted on the card.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

On Board Game Arena, the player with the most points when one player’s score falls below zero is the winner.  There was the usual moaning about how bad everyone’s hand was and how badly everyone always did, but Burgundy pretty much nailed it when he said nobody is going to do well, the aim is just to do less badly than anybody else.  In that sense, the game is a bit like escaping a bear, you don’t need to run fast, just faster than everyone else.  This time, Pine started off as the slowest runner being the first to pick up, but was soon followed but Black, Purple and then Burgundy.

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

For a long time, it looked like it was going to be a “two bull race” between Blue and Pink, but six is a critical number in 6 Nimmt!, so with six players strange things can happen with players becoming synchronised and picking up lots of points on multiple turns.  It looked like it was going that way for Blue, but she managed to stem the flow and was tied for second with Pine for quite a while before he started picking up cards again.  It looked like Pink’s Lucky 6 Nimmt! Socks were working their magic, but when Black (who had been looking like bear-fodder for the whole game) ended the game, Pink had just picked up, leaving Blue one point ahead.

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

There was still time for one more quick game, and with six, the perfect quick game (and one that is available on Board Game Arena), is For Sale.  This is an old game that we dug out about six months ago, before all the current strife, and it got a couple of outings.  Since all games have been online, it is one of the games we can still play, and, as a result, it’s had several outings recently.  It is a game of two halves, first players buy property cards, then they sell them, and the player who makes the most money is the winner.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

The properties are numbered one to thirty, with the number indicating the relative value.  Buying properties is through auction, with players increasing the bid or passing and taking the lowest value property available and paying half of their bid for the privilege.  The last player then takes the highest value property, but pays their full bid.  In the second part of the game, cheques are revealed and players choose a card to play, with the cheques assigned according to the value of the property played.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus the game consists of two auctions: a variant of an all-pay auction and a sealed bid auction.  In the first auction, a key tactic is predicting what other players will bid so passing can be timed in such a way as to get the best value for money.  Whereas previously, most players increased the bid by the minimum increment, this time it was clear that people were playing a little more tactically, with higher starting bids and increments of $2,000 that pushed other players into paying more.

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

Black’s and Purple’s strategies were different however:  Black spent a total of just $2,000 on properties, mostly just passing and taking the property offered, and Purple spent only $3,000.  In contrast, Blue spent $13,000 and Pine spent $12,000, i.e. nearly all of their starting $14,000.  There is strategy in the second part of the game too though, and getting the timing right for selling each property is key.  For example, although Blue’s profits of $37,000 were larger than Black’s, his rate of return of $21,000 for just $2,000 outlay was better, matched only by Purple’s return of $32,000 for her $3,000 investment.

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

That superb return was enough to give Purple third place.  It is not all about rate of return though:  it is the player who makes best use of all their funds that wins.  In this case, this meant we had a tie for first place between Pine and Burgundy, both finishing with a massive $59,000.  The tie break is the player with the most cash at the end, which just gave it to Burgundy who had achieved his $55,000 from properties bought for $10,000.  And with that, it was time for bed.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  A lot of fun can be had with a handful of dice and a few sheets of paper.

Deutscher Spiele Preis – 2018

This week the The Deutscher Spiele Preis, or German Game Prize list was announced with first prize going to Azul.  Typically the Deutsche Spiele Preis rewards a slightly heavier game than the the Spiel des Jahres awards, but for the first time since Dominion in 2009, one game took both awards.  This year we haven’t played many of the games on either list, but our first game of Azul was shortly after it’s release at Essen last year and our local groups have played the spots off it since.  So, it is no surprise to us that it has been recognised by both the Spiel des Jahres Jury and the voters from the industry’s stores, magazines, professionals and game clubs, as well as taking the French award at Cannes, the As d’Or and the Origins “Best Family Game of the Year”.

Azul
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Other games that featured on the top ten list included the winner of the Kennerspiel des Jahres award, Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg (currently only available in German) and one of the runners-up, Heaven & AleThe Mind, which received a nomination for the Spiel des Jahres Award, also featured in the top ten, as did the inevitable Pandemic Legacy: Season 2.  Other than Azul, the only game we’ve played is Altiplano, and that squeaked in at number ten, but Rajas of the Ganges and Clans of Caledonia may feature in the not too far distant future.  The Deutscher Spiele Preis for Best Children’s game went to Memoarrr!.  The prizes will be awarded at the Internationale Spieltage, Essen.

Azul
– Image used with permission of
BGG contributor Vacabck