Tag Archives: Saboteur

5th January 2021 (Online)

It was a very quiet night:  Pine was late arriving due to another meeting; Lime had gone to bed early; Green and Lilac eschewed games in favour of the telly.  So it was just six that settled down to the “Feature Game“.  This was On Tour, a “Roll & Write” game where players are managing a band going on tour.  The idea is that players have to plan the band’s route and schedule their stops visiting as many places as possible as shown on their map.  Blue was having one of her dopey nights and made a bit of a pig’s ear of explaining the rules, but fortunately, they weren’t overly complicated and Burgundy was on the ball and filled in the gaps where necessary.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

The map is divided into six sections: a horizontal border dividing the North and South and two vertical borders separating East, West and Central giving six areas.  At the start of each round, three cards are revealed from the deck.  Each card features one of the possible stops and a region: North, South, East, West or Central.  Two d10 dice, are also rolled, each individually giving a number between zero and nine, which when combined, give two two digit numbers, i.e. five and three give 35 and 53.  These two numbers must both be written on each player’s map in two of the three regions shown on the cards.  At the end of the game, players draw a route from location to location following the marked paths, with each location visited having the same number or higher than the previous one.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

Although this is almost all there is to the game, there are a couple of little niggles.  Firstly, if a double is rolled, instead of two numbers, players draw one star in one of the regions shown on the cards.  Similarly, if all three cards reveal the same region, then players again draw one star in that region.  Finally, if a player can write a number (or star) in the state/country shown on the one of the cards, they draw a circle round it, signifying that it is worth double if it is included in the band’s tour.  Players thus score points for each location visited and an extra point for each location visited that has been circled.  The player with the most point is the winner.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

There is a little bit of setup, where the dice are rolled twice (to give four numbers) and four cards are revealed.  Everyone writes these numbers in in the same locations and circles them, which basically helps to stop everyone from placing on the low numbers on one side and all the high ones on the other.  The first rolls were 09, 90, 38 and 83, placed in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Louisiana and Minnesota respectively.  This put low and high numbers in the east, which was not a good start, but things got worse when the following dice rolls were repeatedly high/low numbers rather than mid range.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

About half way through, Pine popped in having escaped from his meeting, to see how things were going.  As he hadn’t eaten yet, he popped out again and returned later with his grub, just in time to see the last couple of rounds.  The game was full of muttering and this just seemed to increase towards the end, as people had one or two critical numbers they needed to make their tour work.  There was a big cheer from both Burgundy and Ivory when the penultimate roll gave them a 60.  This made a huge difference to them almost doubling their scores, giving Burgundy the winning score of forty-one, three ahead of Ivory on thirty-eight.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

We’d really enjoyed the first try and everyone was keen to give the European map a go too, especially Pine, who liked the idea of planning a music tour.  The starting numbers of 12, 21, 08 and 80 weren’t too bad, even though they were mostly located in the south west of Europe (Montenegro, Austria, Serbia and Estonia respectively).  These were quickly followed by lots more low numbers causing Pine to comment that his Tour was in lockdown and going no-where.  Burgundy muttered about a blockage in central Europe and added that for him Turkey was out of the question, to which Blue queried whether he’d over-indulged at Christmas…

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, Burgundy announced that he’d cleared his blockage, to which Pine answered that was possibly something that had to happen a lot on tour buses given the diet often enjoyed by  roadies.  Meanwhile, the muttering returned as people increasingly needed specific numbers to make things work and gambled on dice rolls making their tour segments connect.  Everyone seemed to get more or less what they needed and most people seemed to decide Ireland and Portugal weren’t worth visiting, dumping difficult numbers there.  Pine started in Turkey and almost ended up back there.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue who last time played safe and added almost nothing to her score in the second half of the game, learned from Ivory and Burgundy and managed to stitch three sections together in the last couple of rounds.  Somehow, players appeared to have more options this time and everyone seemed to spend a lot of time trying to optimise their final routes to get the best scores possible.  This time Burgundy and Ivory again did well, but Pine just beat them to second place, with Blue producing the highest scoring tour, going from Bulgaria to Ireland via a meander through central Europe and the Baltic states.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

The game had been quite enjoyable, but had taken quite a lot longer than expected (although part of that was because we’d played it twice).  There was still time to move to Board Game Arena for a couple of games though.  Ivory took his leave, but after some discussion, everyone else settled down to a game of Saboteur, a game we are all very familiar with and have played quite a bit both in real life and, more recently, online with Board Game Arena.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

We all know the game well so it was quick to get started.  Each player has a hand of cards and takes it in turn to either play a tunnel card, or play an action card.  The aim of the game is to help the team build a tunnel to whichever of the three terminal cards holds the gold, unless you are a Saboteur of course, in which case, your aim is to hinder the efforts made by everyone else.  With just six players there are either one or two Evil Saboteurs, and the rest are Lovely Dwarves.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

This makes it hard for the Saboteur team and they have to get their act together quickly to make the most of what little time they have.  We usually play with the “House Rule” that we treat each round as an independent game, but on Board Game Arena, the game is played over three rounds (as per the rules as written).  Purple started the first round and by chance headed south where Blue soon alleged that gold was to be found.  Burgundy confirmed it, but Pink claimed Blue was fibbing and broke her trolley making life especially difficult for her as she only had tunnel cards to play.

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

When Black said the bottom card was not gold, that really put the cat amongst the pigeons.  Something about Burgundy’s behaviour clearly made Pine suspicious as he broke Burgundy’s pick for him and Pink then broke Black’s trolley too.  The tunnelling had somewhat stalled, but once Pine repaired Blue’s tools the digging resumed.  From there it wasn’t long before Pine reached the gold and Pink and Burgundy were revealed as treacherous Saboteurs, the first time ever for Pink.  It was at this point that everyone realised that Black had looked at the bottom card and claimed it wasn’t gold.  When questioned about it, he said it was just to add a bit of interest…

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple started the second round as well, and Blue again was quick to take a peek at the bottom target card—this time she claimed it was coal.  Pink said he didn’t believe her, but Blue pointed out how unreliable he was after last time.  For everyone else, the jury was still out.  Purple looked at the top card and said it was gold.  Pink confirmed that the bottom card was coal and then Pine’s repeated discarding of cards roused Purple’s suspicions and she smashed his lamp for him.  Black returned the favour, breaking Purple’s lamp.

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

Meanwhile, the tunnel continued progressing slowly.  Then Pine showed his true colours and triggered a rockfall in a critical location.  The gap was quickly plugged by Pink suggesting that perhaps he wasn’t evil this time.  Burgundy broke another of Pine’s tools, but he was quickly able to repair that.  Blue didn’t have any cards that would take her to the top card that Purple claimed was gold, but could make it to the middle card, so rather than discard, confirmed it was coal.  When Black discarded yet another card, it was too much for Burgundy who called him out for the traitor he was and smashed up his trolley.  Then it was only a couple of turns before Purple made it to the gold for the lovely Dwarves.

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

Pink was first to play in the final round and the tunnel made rapid progress towards the middle target card.  The dwarves were nearly half way there when Purple checked the middle card and said it was coal.  Blue immediately checked the bottom card and said it was also coal and the tunnel swiftly turned north and Pine confirmed that was where the gold was.  Purple smashed Black’s lamp—a very suspicious move, and then Pink played a tunnel card pointing away from the agreed target—he pleaded stupidity, but everyone else thought that was also a suspicious move.

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

Blue was able to fix the problem caused by Pink, but a couple of turns later he confirmed his treachery when he played a rockfall and regressed the tunnel.  Fortunately, he could have played it in a worse place and Burgundy was quickly able to repair the damage.  A couple of turns later, after a brief hailstorm of broken tools, Purple also confirmed her status as an evil saboteur.  Fortunately it was too little, too late and Burgundy and Pine were able to extend the tunnel to the gold.

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

It was the second time Pine had made it home, and unusually, despite the fact he had failed as as saboteur in the second round, he took overall victory.  Although time was marching on, there was still enough for a game of our favourite, the 2020 Golden GOAT, 6 Nimmt!.  The game is so simple, yet so much fun, it is the perfect end-of-the-evening game.  It sounds so unpromising:  players simultaneously choose a card, then starting with the lowest value card played they add them to one of the four rows.  If the card is the sixth card, instead they pick up the cards and add them to their scoring pile with the the card they played forming the start of a new row.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

It is as simple as that.  On Board Game Arena, players start with sixty-six points (or “nimmts”) and the player with the most points when one player falls below zero is the winner.  We usually now play with the “Professional Variant”, so cards can be added to either end of the rows which adds to the madness.  This time, Pink was the first to pick up cards while Purple continued in what feels like her New Year’s resolution, not to be the first into the red.

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

With Purple recusing herself from the race to the bottom, Pink, Blue and, unusually, Pine, took her place.  Eventually Blue got left behind and Pink and Pine duked it out.  Remarkably, it was Pine, who nearly always does well in 6 Nimmt!, reached the bottom first, suddenly picking up fourteen bulls’s heads, just before the end of the round bringing the game to an abrupt end.  There was some ribbing about how he was just doing to prove that he didn’t always do well—still, with a little practice before next time, he will no doubt return to his usual position.

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

The winner in this game is always largely incidental, but this time Black was the one who finished with the most points, nine more than Burgundy in second.  There was a bit of chit-chat about school and Christmas before we left.  Pine explained how he was at primary school with Anthea Turner (or perhaps it was her sister Wendy).  Blue told how her mum and uncle were at school with Pam Ayres and her sister Jean, who still lives in Stanford.  When Purple explained about the time that her nephew had reached into Black’s stocking and pulled out his old nuts, we all knew it was time for bed.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:   Ohhhhh, so THAT’S where South Dakota is!

22nd December 2020 (Online)

For our last meeting before Christmas, we usually meet for food and have special Christmas Crackers. This year, this wasn’t possible of course, so instead of crackers everyone had a Box of Delights to be opened simultaneously at 8pm (similar to the Birthday Boxes we’d had in October).  The boxes included a range of chocolates and sweets, home-made gingerbread meeples, a miniature cracker, a meeple magnet, and a selection of dice and other goodies.

2020 Christmas Gingerbread Meeples
– Image by boardGOATS

With several little people attending, we decided to play something straight-forward first, so we began the evening with Second Chance.  This is a very simple Tetris-style game game that we’ve played a few times this year.  Players choose one of two cards depicting shapes and draw them in their grid.  If a player cannot draw either shape, another card is revealed and if they are unable to draw that one as well, they are eliminated.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the rules had been explained and everyone had been given their unique starting shape, the group settled down with their colouring pens and pencils and concentrated on trying to fill their grid.  Pink was the first one to take a second chance card, and when he couldn’t place that shape either he was the first to be eliminated and took his bonus space.  The winner is the player with the fewest empty spaces, so while being first out is not a guarantee of anything, obviously players who stay in the longest are likely to do better.  And it was a long time before anyone else was eliminated.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

As people gradually found their space was increasingly limited, there were the usual pleas for something nice, which became more desperate as people needed second chances.  Then there was jealousy as players like Pine were eliminated with outrageously large shapes while others, like Little Lime, stayed in when they got the much coveted small pieces.  Meanwhile, everyone else concentrated on beautifying their art with Christmas colours and embellishments.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, Purple, Pine, Burgundy, Blue and lastly Green were also eliminated leaving just five when the game came to an end because the deck ran out.  Then it was just the scores.  Most people did really well, though some, not quite so much.  More than half finished with single digits though, including excellent performances from Little Lime and Little Green.  There was some beautiful artwork from Lilac (as usual), but festive offerings from Green, Purple and Black too.  There was a three-way tie for second place between Black, Blue and Green.  On his own with only one single empty space though, was Ivory.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

With the first game over, we moved on to discussing the important matter of the GOAT Awards.  Every year, we give the Golden GOAT to our favourite game played during the year and the GOAT Poo award to our least favourite game.  Last year, Wingspan won the Golden GOAT Award and 7 Wonders took the GOAT Poo Prize.  This year, the unanimous winner of the GOAT Poo was Covid and its effect on 2020—nobody could deny that Covid was definitely the worst thing to happen to games night this year.  As Covid wasn’t a game, Camel Up took the award on a tie break from Terraforming Mars and Welcome To….

Camel Up
– Image by boardGOATS

Terraforming Mars just missed out on the GOAT Poo prize, but in coming fourth in the Golden GOAT competition, won the unofficial “Marmite award”, for the most divisive game.  Kingdomino and and last year’s winner Wingspan both made the podium for the Golden GOAT, but controversially, the winner was 6 Nimmt!.  The controversy wasn’t caused by the worthiness of the game, just that Blue ensured it’s emphatic win by placing all four of her votes in its favour.

Golden GOAT - 2020
– Image by boardGOATS

Although 6 Nimmt! is an old game, we’ve played it at the end of almost every meeting on Board Game Arena since March.  In a year with little smile about, it has given us more fun and entertainment than almost all of the other games put together and was responsible for moment of the year.  That was back in May, when Lime joined a game of 6 Nimmt! with a bunch of Frenchmen by mistake.  That is just one of many memorable moments we’ve had with 6 Nimmt! this year though.  Furthermore, since we discovered the new professional variant the game has gained a new lease of life, so it seemed an entirely appropriate, if strange win for a strange gaming year.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

While Pink did the count for the GOAT Awards, Blue reminded everyone of the rules for the “Feature Game” which was to be the Winter Wonderland edition of Welcome To….  The fact that Welcome To… had nearly won the GOAT Poo award was an inauspicious start, especially since the main protagonist was Pine who had struggled last time.  A lot of the ill feeling was due to the dark colour of the board for the Halloween edition which we played last time it got an outing, so the pale blue colour of the Winter Wonderland version was always going to be an improvement.

Welcome To... Halloweeen
– Image by boardGOATS

Welcome To… is one of the more complex games we’ve been playing online.  The idea is that players are developers building part of a town in 1950s USA.  Mechanistically, it is simple enough—the top card on each of three number decks is revealed and players choose one of the three numbers to play.  They mark this on one of the three streets on their player board.  The house numbers must increase from left to right and each number can only appear once in each street.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Each card is paired with the reverse of the previous card drawn from that deck, which gives a special power.  The special power can be rule breaking, enabling players to write a number a second time in a street, or give some flexibility in the number they must write.  Alternatively, the special power can directly provide players with extra points through the building of parks or swimming pools.  Finally, the special power can facilitate the achievement of extra points by enabling players to build fences separating their street into “Estates”, or increasing the number of points each “Estate” provides at the end of the game.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

Aside from the colour scheme and artwork, the main difference between the base game and the Winter Wonderland Version was the addition of fairy lights as a means to get bonus points.  These are added to to a player’s board joining any houses where the numbers are consecutive.  At the end of the game, players get one point for each house in their longest string of lights.  Additionally, the third planning card selected gave a lot of points for anyone brave enough (or perhaps daft enough) to successfully connect an entire street with lights.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

Little Lime and Lime took their leave, and Lilac and Little Green also decided to give it a miss, but that still left eight players, albeit one who was very sceptical.  Pine had nominated Welcome To… for the GOAT Poo Prize, and felt that didn’t bode well, but was prepared to give it a go.  The Plan Cards, give players points during the game as well as being a trigger for the end of the game.  As well as the street full of lights from the Winter edition, there was also one that gave points for a pair of estates (comprising three and six houses) and for players completing all six end houses.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

The game started with a lot of “Bis” cards and quite a few high and low numbers.  It wasn’t a huge surprise then, when several people completed the end of street plan.  Ivory was first to complete the estate plan and eventually, Blue who felt that the Christmas element should be accentuated, completed the fairy lights plan.  The question was, who would be first to finish all three and when, as that was the most-likely end-game trigger.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

It was towards the end that Purple commented that Black had been eliminated.  It wasn’t immediately clear what she was on about, but eventually it was apparent that one of his furry friends had decided that they wanted to be the subject of his attention and had firmly sat on his player board, very effectively obstructing play.  That cat-astrophe put paid to any successful involvement in the game by both Purple and Black, but it wasn’t long before Green announced that he’d finished all three of the Plans and was ending the game.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, everyone totalled up their scores.  Pine said that despite his scepticism, he had actually really enjoyed the game and felt he had done reasonably well and indeed was a long way from coming last.  It was very close for second place with Green just beating Burgundy into third by two points.  The clear winner, for the second time of the night, was Ivory who finished with an exceptional ninety-five points. And with that, he decided to quit while he was ahead and everyone else decided it was only appropriate that they should play the newly-crowned Golden GOAT6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

6 Nimmt! is so very simple, yet so much fun.  Players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and these are then revealed and, starting with the lowest card, added to one of the four rows.  Cards are added to the row with the highest number that is lower than the card played, i.e. the nearest lower number.  When a sixth card is added to a row, the owner takes the first five cards into their score pile, leaving the card they played as the new starting card.  The player with the fewest Bulls’ Heads at the end is the winner.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Board Game Arena implements the game with everyone starting with sixty-six points and the game ending when someone reaches zero.  It also adds a couple of other variants, the most exciting of which is the “Professional Variant”, where players can add cards to either end of the row.  Because Board Game Arena deals with all the up-keep, it makes this variant much easier to manage, and the results often come as a complete surprise.

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

The reason 6 Nimmt! won the Golden GOAT, is that in a year where there has been so much to be miserable about, this game has provided more fun than anything else.  This time, poor Burgundy went from jointly holding the lead to sixth place in just a couple of turns and threatened to beat Purple to the bottom and trigger the end of the game.  As it was, he didn’t quite make it, and left Green who had only picked up seven “nimmts” in the whole game, to win.

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

With seven players, the number of options were limited to more 6 Nimmt!, Saboteur, or something we hadn’t played before.  In the end, we went for a sort of compromise in Incan Gold which most of us knew, though we’d not played it on Board Game Arena.   This is a fairly simple “Push your Luck” game where players are exploring a temple.  Simultaneously, players decide whether they are going to stay or leave the temple.  Players who are in the temple will get shares in any treasure cards that are drawn that round.  These are divided evenly between the players and any remainders are left on the card.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

As well as fifteen treasure cards, there are also Hazard cards in the deck:  three each of five different types.  When a second Hazard card of any given type is drawn, the temple collapses and buries everyone in it and they lose any treasure they have collected.  Additionally, there are five Artefact cards in the deck—these can only be claimed by players leaving the temple.  Any players that leave before it collapses, keep the treasure they have collected hitherto, and take a share in any remainders left on cards. If they leave alone, they also take any artefacts, but only if they leave alone.  Having left the temple, however, they will get no more treasure in that round.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over five rounds and the winner is the player with the most treasure at the end of the game.  The game is extremely random, but can be a lot of fun with the right people.  This time it was particularly random though.  The first two cards drawn were both Hazards and the first round ending after just five cards with only Green getting out in time.  The second round was even worse with three Hazards in a row terminating the round before it had begun.  On the plus-side, having had two rounds ended by Mummies, two of the three Mummy cards were removed from the deck, making it impossible for the mummies to end another round.  There were plenty of other Hazards though…

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

The third round wasn’t much better, lasting only three cards with a second snake ending another round and only Pink taking any treasure.  The fourth round started with an Artefact, but when Burgundy, left, he was joined by Pink and Purple, so none of them were able to take it home.  Just three cards later, a second Giant Spider card brought down the temple and everyone finished with nothing (again).  The final round lasted a little longer, but two players still managed to finish the game without any treasure.

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

Purple made an early escape and grabbed a couple of gems from the floor.  Burgundy and Pink escaped shortly after and Black managed to sneak out as the Giant Spiders closed the temple for good.  As a result of the unusually large number of Hazard cards, the game was especially low scoring.  It ended in a tie between Pink and Green on ten, with Black two points behind in third.

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

With Incan Gold done, there was still time for one more game and it was only fitting to close with another game of 6 Nimmt!.  Having done so well in the last two games made Green the target this time, not that anyone really had enough control to manipulate their own position, much less target anybody else.  Pink, who had also done well in recent games, made a bit of a beeline for the bottom, and it was not much of a surprise when he triggered the end of the game.  This time, Green could only manage third, and it was a two-way tie for first place between Black and Pine (who always does well in 6 Nimmt!, and always denies it).  And with that, we brought our first online Christmas Party to a close and wished everyone a Very Merry Christmas.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  A box of sugar and exciting trinkets is ideal improving your concentration.

Remote Gaming: Some Learning Outcomes

With the advent of Covid-19, boardGOATS, like many other groups were left with the choice of meeting online or not meeting at all.  So, like many other groups, boardGOATS chose to try to continue with meetings.  While some groups have struggled, dwindled, and eventually given up, so far, boardGOATS has managed to keep going with almost everyone still attending regularly.  We decided that we would put together this summary of some of the reasons we think we are still meeting, and a resource companion in case anyone else is in the same boat.

Setting up for online gaming
– Image by boardGOATS

The first, and by far the most important factor is that everyone has been extremely patient and very tolerant of the limitations.  Everyone is fundamentally appreciative of the interaction meeting online offers and have been amazingly understanding of the current issues.  This is essential.  Secondly, we meet once a fortnight:  boardGOATS meetings have always been alternate weeks, but this is actually quite key when meeting online.  If meetings are too frequent everyone can get very frustrated quite quickly, but too infrequent and people lose the routine.  As it is, fortnightly means everyone makes a date to make it happen as otherwise the next one would be a month away.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Finally, there’s planning and organisation.  Having a plan is vital if things are to run smoothly, and smooth is essential to avoid people becoming frustrated.  The group has always had a “Feature Game“, because we’ve always been a group that takes ages to decide what to play; having a starting option helps us to get going a bit quicker.  With remote meetings, however, the “Feature Game” has become essential.  It is also important that someone takes the lead to teach if necessary, and keep things moving to stop games dragging, but also allows the all important banter to flow when possible as well.

Tsuro on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS

The group have broadly used three different approaches to remote gaming, all underpinned by Microsoft Teams.  This choice of platform is largely immaterial, but our decision was made early on because of possible security issues with alternatives and the hardware that some of the group were using.  Either way, this provides sound and, where required, visuals.  We always start the meeting early and then leave a place holder in front of the game camera so everyone knows which screen to pin in advance.  In our case we usually use a stuffed panda doing something humourous, but a game box would suffice too.

The three different approaches to remote gaming we have used have been:

  • A real-life game hosted at one location, shared through Teams.
    This works well, but really only for relatively simple games like Second Chance, HexRoller or Noch Mal!, though we’ve played Cartographers and Troyes Dice as well.  It turns out that “Roll and Write” type games work exceptionally well, but other games are possible too.  The most complicated game we’ve played using this method is Las Vegas/Las Vegas Royale, which is one of the group’s favourites, but this is right on the limit of what is possible.  The key is that players need to be able to see the whole game layout with all the information.  For this, the resolution of the camera is important, but also that of the screen used for displaying it at the other end.  Video compression by the platform feeding the data can also be an issue.  Lighting is absolutely critical too—good lighting makes all the difference.
    Main Advantage:  We’ve found this feels most like playing a “real” game.
    Main Disadvantages:  One person/location does most of the manipulation, and there is a  complexity limitation.
    Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
  • A virtual game on Tabletop Simulator manipulated by a small number of people , shared with everyone else through Teams.
    Some people can’t install software on their computers and for others sand-box type environments like Tabletop Simulator are too complex.  Piping a virtual game through Teams is a sort of half-way house.  To make this work, the person “hosting” has to set the game up with the camera view set to “overhead” with everything in view, and leave it there.  Then they share this screen through their meeting platform (in our case, Microsoft Teams).  Again, this means there is a limit on the complexity of the game:  the most complex games we’ve played using this method are Camel Up and Finstere Flure (aka Fearsome Floors)These have worked quite well, but it’s a bit more impersonal and relies on a small number of people operating the Simulator to make the game work.  Downtime is a bit of an issue too for turn based games.  For these reasons, this has been the least popular method for our group.
    Main Advantage:  We can modify and play slightly more complex games to our own house-rules.
    Main Disadvantages:  People need to be comfortable with the software and there are limitations caused by the stability of the platform as well as there being a steep learning curve for those who are not used to playing computer games.
    Tsuro on Tabletop Simulator
  • An online game played on a website (e.g. Board Game Arena) with audio provided by Teams.
    These are great because they allow players to do things like draw cards from a shared deck and keep them hidden until they play them.  This is a fairly fundamental aspect of many games and enables games like Saboteur which would not otherwise be possible.  There is a limited range of games available though, and there is no scope for modifying the game either (adding extra players or altering the end-game conditions, for example).  On the other hand, the software does a lot of the up-keep and can make even quite advanced things possible.  For example, without Board Game Arena to do the maths, we would never have discovered the delightful madness that is the “Professional Variant” of 6 Nimmt! (which recently won the 2020 Golden GOAT at our annual GOAT Awards).   It does feel very much like playing a computer game though.
    Main Advantages:  Very low maintenance and higher complexity games are possible including those with “hidden information”.
    Main Disadvantages:  Everyone needs to have an account on the platform and a device, and the games are restricted to those that are available and the rules as implemented, in particular, player counts.
    Saboteur on Board Game Arena

 

Each of the different modes has their limitations, but we’ve found that by mixing them up we avoid getting fed up with any specific issue.

One of the biggest challenges boardGOATS has is that we have been playing as a group of up to ten.  This is because we are all friends, even though many of us only know each other through the fortnightly meetings.  If the group were to break into two or more parts it would likely be along the lines of game “weight”, which would mean some people would never play together and it could be divisive.  This only works because those who prefer more complex games are extremely patient and understanding.  Ultimately, as a group, we feel the social aspect is the most important thing at the moment, much more important than the quality of the gaming.  We’ll definitely make sure we play lots of more complex games when we finally return to our beloved Horse and Jockey though.

The Horse and Jockey
– Image by boardGOATS

27th October 2020 (Online)

Blue had been up really early so took a nap after supper.  Far from leaving her refreshed though, she woke cold and disorientated, and was a bit dopey for the rest of the evening as a result.  She wasn’t the only one it seemed, as others struggled too and some didn’t make it at all: Mulberry was double-booked thanks to the time difference; Violet forgot and had an essay to finish, and Lime was away on holiday with the family.  The absences weren’t obvious though, thanks to the noisy presence of Little Green, putting in a special appearance for half term.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

As the absentees were confirmed, everyone shared some Goaty Entertainment before starting the “Feature Game“.  This was Tiny Towns, played with some of the pieces from the birthday boxes everyone opened last time.  Unusually in the current climate, this is not a “Roll and Write” game, though it has some similar elements and was played more as a sort of “Roll and Write” variant on this occasion.  At its heart, Tiny Towns is an area control and resource management game where players are planning and building a town on a four-by-four player board.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Game play is fairly straight forward:  Players receive a resource cube and place it on their board, then they if they wish they can swap resources for a building.  Beneath this very simple process is a lot of clever game play underpinned by a Tetris-like mechanic.  To build a building, players  require a particular combination of resources in a very specific arrangement.  The building is then placed on one of the spaces liberated by the removed resources, freeing up more spaces.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

The buildings are different shapes, but all give different scoring possibilities.  For example, each Cottage is worth three points, but only if players have built a Farm to feed them.  Chapels increase the score of each “fed” Cottage, while each Well scores points for each adjacent Cottage.  Theatres score for each different building in the same row or column.  Thus the combination of buildings is important, but so is their location.  Planning is therefore really, really critical.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Putting a building or resource in slightly the wrong place can completely negate any other good planning by blocking off an area of the board potentially  making it totally unplayable.  Because the game can be so unforgiving in this respect, we played with the “Cavern Variant” where players can set aside one unwanted resource just twice during the game.  With so many players, this was coupled with the “Town Hall Variant” where resource cards are used to determine two of the resources and players choose their own for every third round.  Also, instead of placing wooden buildings, players were to draw their constructions on their printout.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was keen to get the game moving, but others struggled to get their heads round the planning element at the start.  Green started patiently re-explaining to Little Green, while some players were ready to move on, and others were trying to concentrate on working out what strategies might work best or were variously delayed by beautifying their artwork.  As a result, it took a while for everyone to get on the same page and feel the rhythm of the game.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time it was too late for poor Lilac who had got herself in a mess and had taken an early shower as a result.  Green had also somehow got himself an extra resource, and once he noticed, didn’t take his next “free choice”. Things weren’t helped by Green’s internet that chose to throw a bit of a wobbly and just added to the frustration and confusion all round.  Meanwhile Blue, who wasn’t very with it and had focussed what little energy she had on keeping everyone else on track, realised she had forgotten to build herself a farm.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Belatedly, Blue tried to rectify things without success and as a result was first to be eliminated with what she thought was a final score of minus four (although this was corrected to one on a recount).  By this time Green had sorted his internet issues and it wasn’t long before other players were putting resources in their Caverns or reporting that it there were only certain resources they could use.  Burgundy was next to be eliminated closely followed by Pine and then everyone else shortly after.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was the last GOAT standing, but longevity doesn’t necessarily mean a high score, though obviously it does help.  In the end, it was a tie between Green and Pink who both finished with thirty points, three points ahead of Burgundy in third.  A quick rules check suggested that Green should take victory on the tie-break, but there was also some discussion as to whether Green should forfeit his position because of his “cheating”, but in the end, Pine offered him a lifeline in a “Guess the colour of the cube” challenge.  When Green called it correctly though, it was clear from the response of the other players that it was best to call it a tie and leave it at that.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

From there the group moved on to the Halloween version of Welcome To…, which is a game we played for the first time a few weeks back.  Welcome To… is one of the most popular of the “Roll and Write” style games and is the highest ranked on the Board Game Geek website.  This Halloween themed version is a little step up in complexity with a couple of minor added features, but otherwise is very similar to the original.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Like Tiny Towns, Welcome To… is played with cards which give people actions.  Rather than building a town though, players are building a 1950s US housing estate.  The top card is turned on each of three decks of cards, and players chose one to use.  The cards are numbered one to fifteen which reflect the house numbers players write on one of three streets on their play-sheet. They must increase from left to right—if a player can’t write one of the three numbers available, they must take a “Building Permit Refusal”—when someone takes their third, that triggers the end of the game.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

As well as the house number, players also get a special action, based on the colour of the reverse of the previous card.  These include rule-breaking actions, like allowing players to alter the number the write down by one or two, or allowing them to build a second house with the same number in a street.  They also enable players to build walls and parks, and increase the number of points they will get for different sized completed estates.  Last time we played we had found that swimming pools were particularly lucrative, but this time they just did not appear.  Everyone patiently waited, but they just didn’t arrive, so everyone had to make the best they could of all the parks they could build.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

The Halloween version adds other features—every time players build a house with a ghost or a candy corn in the garden, they can choose one to circle.  Collecting a set of four, six or nine candy corn gives points, while similar sets of ghosts give special actions.  The catch is that each of these can only be claimed once during the game.  Given the difficulties we have seeing what everyone else is doing, we “house ruled” it that each per player could only claim these on the turn they achieved it giving them the option to stick or to gamble in the hope of getting enough for a more valuable.

Welcome To... Halloweeen
– Image by boardGOATS

As well as the ghosts and candy corn, there was also a special City Plan that players could target.  Since the one drawn at random gave points for circling all five ghosts in the bottom street, it was no surprise that several players went hard and fast for collecting ghosts. Blue and Green both got six ghosts and claimed two extra swimming pools, while Burgundy got the full set of nine, but got himself in an almighty mess trying to get the best from them.

Welcome To... Halloweeen
– Image by boardGOATS

People struggled with the change in rules and the darker colours in the printout as well as just generally struggling because it was one of those nights.  Although they didn’t know it at the time, Green and Blue followed almost identical strategies both going for the City Plans (the one with ghosts and the other two with a four and a five estate and two five estates respectively).  Somehow, Blue just edged Green into second, three points ahead of his score of seventy with Black in third just ahead of Pink.

Welcome To... Halloweeen
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, Ivory bade goodnight and left the rest of the group to play what turned out to be a rather savage game of Saboteur on Board Game Arena.  Saboteur is great fun with a lot of players, but although we only had seven this time, we decided we’d take a break from our usual game of choice at this point, 6 Nimmt!.  The game is really simple:  players take it in turns to play a card from their hand, either to extend the tunnel or a special action, breaking or repairing a player’s tools or causing a rockfall.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

What a player chooses to play depends on which team they are on, a Good Dwarf, trying to find the gold, or an Evil Saboteur who’s sole aim is to stop the dwarves.  The first thing the Dwarves have to do therefore is always establish who the Evil Dwarves are.  So, when Purple played a tunnel card in a sub-optimal place, that was immediately labelled as a “Saboteury move” and she immediately attracted a broken pick-axe and then a broken trolley.  Although she tried to retaliate, Purple and her silent partner Black, failed to prevent the Dwarves getting to the gold.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

The rules for Saboteur, as written (and as implemented on Board Game Arena) consist of three rounds with gold cards distributed at the end of each, so the group began another round.  Nobody believed that Purple could be an Evil Saboteur two rounds in a row, but when she started with another “Saboteury move”, everyone reappraised the situation and she quickly attracted another broken pick-axe.  The Dwarves struggled a bit more this time, largely due to the cards they’d been dealt.  The situation was summed up by Burgundy when he commented, “If anyone wants anything breaking or fixing, then I’m your Dwarf.”  But as the Dwarves desperately needed tunnels building, that wasn’t much help….

Saboteur on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple confirmed her allegiance by playing a rockfall card on a critical crossroads.  Fortunately, Black was able to repair albeit with an inconvenient T-junction that prevented the dwarves heading straight for the gold.  It wasn’t immediately obvious who Purple’s partner was and everyone was very surprised when it turned out to be Black and the Evil Saboteurs had been the same for two games on the bounce.  Surely that wouldn’t be the the same for the final round, would it?

Saboteur on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

The final round was much longer and much closer.  Purple tried desperately to get everyone to believe that she was a Good Girl this time, but after the last two rounds everyone was cautious.  Black quickly revealed that he was an Evil Saboteur yet again, and it soon became apparent that Green, who is always a suspect, was his partner.  While Black messed about with the tunnel, Green damaged the Dwarves tools and generally made a nuisance of himself.  Eventually the Good Guys won though some excellent teamwork, resulting in Burgundy finding the gold.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

There is so much luck in the allocation of gold cards at the end of the rounds that we don’t really pay much attention to the result, but this time, it was a tie between Pine and Burgundy.   With that, Pine and Green left the others to play Sushi Go!, a card drafting game that we’ve recently discovered the implementation of on Board Game Arena.  The game is really simple and very quick, so was ideal given that everyone was quite tired.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

In this game, players start each round with a hand of sushi cards, then keep one and pass the rest on, with the aim of collecting sets to give points.  In the first round, Pink top-scored with Blue and Black not far behind, though that was probably because Purple and Burgundy prioritised starting their collection of puddings.

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

In the second round, Burgundy managed a massive twenty points—not quite beating his record of twenty-five, but still more than anyone else.  Consistency is the key to this game though and Pink’s fifteen meant he still had the lead going into the final round.  And it was a tough round, that was ultimately all about the puddings.  Blue starved Pink of dessert, saving her from last place and leaving him with the minus six and almost nothing from the round.  Burgundy had the most puddings and with it took the bonus six points and, as a result finished six points clear of Black in second.  And with that, it was bedtime.

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  One should never ignore the offer of pudding.

29th September 2020 (Online)

This week it was Ivory’s turn to share his pizza with everyone, while Blue and Pink shared ice creams with Purple and Black.  With the food over, Blue explained how we were going to prepare for our birthday next time, by “wrapping parcels” for Crappy Birthday.  This is a silly party game that we play every year to celebrate the anniversary of our first meeting in 2012.  Basically, players take it in turns to have their birthday, and everyone else chooses a gift from a hand of five cards.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately, this doesn’t really lend itself to playing online, but as so many things have been cancelled this year, we didn’t want this to be one of them.  So, to get round the difficulties, we decided to play it over two evenings:  firstly wrapping cards, then opening them two weeks later.  Each player had a set of electronic files containing cards.  Everyone opened the first file and chose a card to give to the player whose name was drawn out of the box lid, making a note of what they were giving and to whom.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

When people had gifted two parcels, they closed the file and opened the next one which included the same cards as the first file and a couple of new ones, thus simulating drawing two more cards.  Once everyone’s name had been drawn, everyone emailed the list of gifts to Blue for her to arrange delivery ready for next time.  And then it was on to the “Feature Game” which was Welcome To….

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Welcome To… is another “Roll and Write” style game, though without the colouring-in element of some of the games we’ve played recently, and as a result is a bit more complex.  In this game, players are planing and building housing estates in 1950s USA.  This time, the player board depicts three rows of houses and a scoring table.  The idea is that there are three decks of double sided cards with a house number on one side and an action on the other.  At the start of each round, the top card is turned over to show the action side.  Players then choose one of the three house number/action pairs to use.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Players must write a house number on any one of the three streets, but the numbers can only feature once on each, and must be ascending from left to right.  Players may then carry out the associated action, which could be building a fence, building a swimming pool or park, adding a number a second time (“Bis!”), modifying the number by one or two (using the Temping Agency) or increasing the value of houses on “Estates” of certain sizes.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, players score points for building swimming pools and parks, having used the “Temping Agency” the most, and also for different sized “Estates”.  An Estate is a continuous group of houses (i.e. no gaps) with a fence at each end.  Estates of size one up to six score different numbers of points and one of the actions players can use is selectively increase the value of some of these.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Additionally, players score points for completed “City Plans”.  These are three cards revealed at the start of the game. which give points to people who complete their requirements.  The catch is, a bit like Noch Mal!, the first person (or people) to be successful get more points, usually around double that of anyone who finishes them later in the game.  This is also one of three “game timers”, with the game ending when someone completes all three Plans.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

The game also ends if someone manages to fill in all the houses in all three streets, which is not easy.  More likely, players are going to find they cannot build any of the three houses being offered.  If this happens, players player take a “Building Permit Refusal”—when someone takes their third, that also triggers the end of the game.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

There are lots of little rules that make the game more complex than most of the “Roll and Write” games we’ve played.  For example, players can build fences anywhere, but parks must be on the street they built their house on, and pools can only be built in the garden of the house if it was on the plan.  That said, it is not actually difficult, but there is a lot to think about and if players are going to score well.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

There were a lot of questions from the group, and people clearly found it difficult to understand, not helped by the difficulties of learning a game over MS Teams.  Nevertheless, teaching and learning through a computer is a skill lots of school teachers, pupils, university lecturers and students have had to develop this year, and it turns out it is useful for gamers too.  So eventually, Pink finished shuffling and turned over the first set of cards to start the game.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Everything went quiet as people put their “Game Face” on and concentrated.  It wasn’t long before the silence was broken by Burgundy sighing, Pine grumbling and Blue checking how people were getting on.  To reduce the waiting and questions whether everyone was ready, we used the “hands up” function to indicate when players had finished writing.  This was really helpful to keep track of things with so many people playing.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

The City Plans in play were all from the basic game (and we weren’t playing with roundabouts either), so all three were based on estate sizes:  1) two of size four; 2) a six and three ones; 3) a four and a three.  Green was first to complete a City Plan taking number three, and was soon followed by Pink and Ivory taking the lucrative second Plan giving them eleven points each.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Gradually, as the game progressed others claimed more City Plans and there was a feeling that the game was coming to a close.  Increasingly, people found their choices were becoming more limited adding to the tension.  This feeling was heightened when Purple became the first to be unable to play, and took a Building Refusal Permit.  A few rounds later, and Mulberry ended the game by completing her third City Plan and everyone started adding up their scores.

Welcome To...
– Animation by boardGOATS

Despite people finding it difficult at first, the scores were surprisingly close with a winning score of ninety-five and most of the group not far behind.  It is definitely a game that rewards a little experience especially as it is quite different to the other games we’ve been playing recently, so it wasn’t surprising that Pink ran out the winner.  Green ran him close though, with an excellent ninety-two.  There was a bit of chatter while some said their “good byes” and the rest of the group decided to play Saboteur on Board Game Arena.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is easy to play and everyone knows what they are doing, so it is always quick to get started.  Each player has a hand of cards and take it in turns to either play a tunnel card, or play an action card.  The aim of the game is to help the team build a tunnel to whichever of the three terminal cards holds the gold.  Unless you are a Saboteur of course, in which case, your aim is to hinder the efforts made by everyone else, but without being spotted…

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Saboteur is usually better with more players, but the group had sort of decided they were going to play it before they realised how many people there were left.  With just six there were either one or two Evil Saboteurs and the rest were Lovely Dwarves.  This makes it hard for the Saboteur team and they have to get their act together quickly to make the most of what little time they have.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

In the first round, Pine made it very clear he was going to make the most of his time and bluntly said he thought Blue was a saboteur and broke her pick axe for her, preventing her doing any tunnelling.  This was apparently in response to her playing a map card in her first turn which he decreed was “A very Saboteury Move”.  Everyone else felt that Pine’s move was much more “Saboteury” and jumped on him in response.  Everyone except Purple that is, who ran to his aid.

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

It wasn’t long before Purple’s true colours were flying when she joined Pine and blocked the tunnel with dead-ends.  However, the Dwarves, now knowing there wasn’t a traitor hiding in their midst, got their act together, dealt with the blockage and headed for the gold.  Before long, it was 1-0 to the Dwarves.

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

The Evil Saboteurs were a little more cagey in the second round.  Purple looked at the bottom card and indicated it was Gold.  After last time, nobody trusted her so first Pink and then Pine double checked and all concurred.  The Dwarves were one card away from an easy run to the Gold when Burgundy’s rockfall card told everyone else which side he was on.  It was too little too late, however, and nothing he or his partner in crime, Black, could do could prevent the Brave Dwarves repainting the tunnel and finding the gold.

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

Early in the third and final round, Burgundy started by looking at the middle card which he claimed was coal.  By this time, suspicion was a currency everyone was rich in, so Pink double-checked and concurred, then checked the bottom target card.  Burgundy claimed suspicion and immediately verified that they’d found Gold.  Purple announced that she thought Pink was behaving suspiciously and broke his pickaxe for him—an extremely Saboteury move!

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

Burgundy attempted to redeem his behaviour in the previous round by repairing Pink’s tools, while Black repaid Purple by smashing Purple’s lamp.  Although Purple was able to fix it herself, it looked like the Dwarves were home safe and sound until Pine’s turn.  As discussed with the team, he played a card between the middle and bottom cards, but when it connected the carefully dug tunnel to the middle, coal, everyone was sure that they’d found the second Saboteur.

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

Pine protested that it was incompetence rather than malice that meant he’d put the card in upside down.  The Dwarves had to fix his “mistake” though, and their cards were running out.  Black discarded a card and Blue had no choice but to smash some more of Purple’s tools, leaving it down to Pink to finish things.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end, it turned out that the Saboteurs were Black and Purple, and Pine just had a sausage-finger-moment.  That left Blue as the “winner”, but the scoring is very random and highly dependent on turn order, so really all that can be said is that it was 3-0 to the Loyal Dwarves.  There was time for something else before Pink’s bedtime, and given the shortage of time, the group bowed to the inevitable and moved on to 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This has become one of our favourite games, especially since we’ve been forced to play online as it is light and fun and fast to play, and helps us to forget the current situation.  The game is so simple, and yet so much fun, with almost no downtime.  Players simply choose a card and Board Game Arena does the rest.  Of course, everyone like to think they have control and their strategy is working, right up until it isn’t.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that the card chosen is played on the end of one of four rows, with players trying to avoid placing the sixth card as that means the points on the other five cards are deducted from their total.  So the aim of the game is to try to second-guess what everyone else is doing and stay safe.  Recently, we’ve been playing the “Professional” variant which allows players to add cards to either end of the rows, adding more “strategy” and more chaos, and a whole lot more fun.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Things started to go wrong Blue first, when she cheered thinking she’d got away without a pick-up, only to discover she’d got nine “nimmts”.  Purple picked up nine in the same turn, however, while Blue managed to stabilise her game, Purple’s went from bad to worse when she managed what might be a new record, picking up nineteen nimmts in a single turn!

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

Fairly inevitably, Purple triggered the end of the game, but the other end was less clear.  That was until the end of the game, when Blue, who had somehow managed to avoid picking up anything else, just pipped Burgundy to the win.  With that, Pine and Pink bade everyone else good night and the remaining foursome looked for something else to play.

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

There were a few options, but they were limited by the fact that nobody wanted to play anything long or too intense. In the end, they decided to give Sushi Go! a try.  This is a game we’ve all played before, but nobody had played on Board Game Arena.  is a pure card drafting game: players start with a hand of cards and keep one and pass the rest on.  The aim is to collect cards in combinations to give them points.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

In Sushi Go!, it is all about collecting the right cards at the right time.  For example, three Sashimi cards are worth ten points, but two are worthless.   There is also a significant “hate drafting” aspect though.  This is where players take cards to inconvenience others rather than to benefit one’s own game.  This is mostly because Maki Roll and Pudding points are awarded to those with the most cards, but can also be because causing another player to finish with worthless cards can sometimes be as effective as scoring points oneself.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

The first round was one of rediscovery since it was a very long time since anyone had played it.  Blue rediscovered the perils of trying to collect Sashimi, when she got stuck with only two which scored her nothing.  Burgundy, on the other hand, just before her in turn order, collected three and claimed ten points.  Purple collected lots of Nigiri and Black made hay out of Maki Rolls.  So, going into the second round it was pretty much a three-way tie with all to play for.

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

In the second and third rounds, Black and Purple made a lot of points from playing Nigiri cards after wasabi cards which is a multiplier and can be very lucrative.  Although Black was in the lead going into the final round, the fact Burgundy took two Wasabi/Nigiri combos meant he took a fine victory.  The game plays so quickly though and the Board Game Arena rendition is so good that everyone fancied trying giving it another go.

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

The second game was much closer, the competition for Wasabi and Maki Rolls got more intense with everyone now well aware of how lucrative they could be.  Although it was very close, in the end, Burgundy just managed to keep his crown, beating Black into second place by a single point and everyone else just a couple of points behind.  With such a tight finish, a third game was inevitable.  Blue who had come last in the previous two games was determined not to this time.  However, a grotty starting had meant she was forced to start with lot of puddings.

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

By this time, everyone was looking more carefully at what they were passing on, so Blue finished with a bit of hate-drafting, ensuring that Burgundy couldn’t get a full set of Sashimi and that ensured she avoided the wooden spoon.  Purple and Black started out with Wasabi and really managed to make their cards count.  In the end, there were still only two points in it, but this time it was Black and Purple fighting out for first place, which Black just took.  And then it was definitely time for bed.

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

Learning Outcome: Swimming pools are not as common as you might think.

7th July 2020 (Online)

The evening started with a round of “Swap Shop” as Lime tried to get rid of a couple of aquarium snails that were surplus to requirements (the other occupants of the tank having recently expired), and Purple offering a size ten frock.  Once the snails had been re-homed with Magenta in Wantage, we’d discussed the reopening of the Horse and Jockey, and everyone had compared their colouring tools, Blue explained the rules for the “Feature Game“, the cross between communal colouring and Tetris that is Second Chance.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

This is a really, really, simple “Roll and Write” type game, similar in style and feel to  Noch Mal! which we played a few weeks back over Microsoft Teams and really enjoyed.  In that game, players were rolling dice, whereas Second Chance is card driven.  Each player starts with piece of paper with a nine-by-nine array of squares which they colour in depending on what is revealed on the cards.  Two cards are turned over at a time, each displaying a shape; players choose one to add to their player area.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

The shape can go anywhere in the array as long as it doesn’t overlap anything else or extend out of the area.  More than one player can choose each shape and once drawn, its position is final.  If a player is unable to use either shape they get another card specially for them—their second chance.  If they are still unable to go, they are out, otherwise, they live to fight another day.  The game ends when one player fills their grid, everyone is out or the deck of cards is depleted.  The player with the fewest uncovered spaces at the end is the winner.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Players start with their own individual first tile which they must place over the central square.  Although the game only officially plays six, fortunately there are enough of these in the box for everyone to have a different start, even though there were ten of us playing.  It wasn’t long before there was a contented silence as everyone got on with their colouring projects.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

As Pink turned over the cards, there were grunts of disgust and sighs of delight in almost equal measure.  Little Lime seemed greatly entertained by the whole thing and Pine commented that he could just imagine her telling all her chums that “My Daddy does colouring in with his friends online…”  The general consensus was that the game felt a lot like being back at primary school, though Pine commented that it was also like watching landscape architects.  He explained that he worked with some and they spent a lot of time colouring in and have amazing boxes of pencils but only ever use green and brown.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game continued, people enjoyed their colouring, but variously struggled with artistic impression.  Pine commented that his looked like a work of Jackson Pollock’s, and Green felt would make rhyming slang for his…  Despite Little Lime’s assistance Lime was the first to need a second chance and when he was unlucky in his draw, he was the first out.  Little Lime explained that he could do better next time if he bought an effective rubber.  Purple also needed a second chance, but grabbed hers with both hands and managed to stay in for the rest of the game.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

More people gradually dropped out, a couple every round, and it wasn’t long before we got to the last two cards.  At the end, Lilac, Green and Purple were all still in, and remarkably, so was Burgundy despite having struggled for the last six or seven rounds.  It’s not lasting the longest that is key in this game though, it is most efficiently packed grid.  Of course, staying in longer usually means more and possibly better opportunities, however.  This time, two of the podium places went to the group of survivors, and Purple finished with nine empty spaces, just pipped by Burgundy with eight.

Second Chance
– Image by Burgundy

Second Chance had been a lot of fun, but with remote gaming likely to continue for a while and a lot of “Roll and Write” games on the horizon, after some discussion, we decided to give Saboteur a go.  This is a fun hidden traitor game that we’ve played quite a bit and works really well on Board Game Arena.  The idea is really simple:  players are divided into two teams (Dwarves and Saboteurs), and take it in turns to place tunnel cards with the aim of either tunneling to the gold (Dwarves) or preventing the tunnel reaching the treasure (Saboteurs).  The catch is that nobody knows who else is on their team.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to tunnel cards, players can also play action cards, breaking other players’ tools (and thus preventing them from extending the tunnel network), fixing other players’ broken tools, causing a tunnel collapse and using a map to look at one of the three target cards to see whether it is gold or coal.  Players start with four cards in hand, and draw a replacement each time they play, or discard a card.  Since the game ends when the deck is depleted and everyone has played their last card, it is critical that every player gets as much as possible from their cards.

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

Blue went first, but claimed she had a hand with three broken tool cards and one tunnel dead-end card , so said she had no option but to discarded a card—A Very Saboteury Move.  Burgundy and Pink played map cards and checked the middle and top target cards respectively, and both said they saw coal.  Pine was suspicious and double checked Pink and concurred.  When Black checked the bottom card and confirmed it was gold, things were looking promising, but very little progress had been made on the tunnel and strangely a lot of cards had been discarded with everyone claiming that they didn’t have useful tunnel cards.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue said she had a Saboteur’s Hand, which was a shame since she wasn’t one.  Pink asked whether that was a medical condition and wondered whether there was treatment available for it on the NHS.  The bickering stopped abruptly when Purple suddenly “lamped” Team Greeny-Lilac smashing their lantern and leaving them unable to dig.  Blue then got in on the act and pulled the wheels of Ivory’s trolley.  Purple really had it in for Green and smashed his trolly before Pine joined in and broke shaft of Team Greeny-Lilac’s axe—it seemed they really had it in for them.

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

With everyone apparently having no tunnel cards, people were asking for help in how to spend their actions cards:  whose tools should they break or repair?  When Ivory repeatedly pleaded with Lime to repair his ruin of a trolley, Pink said he’d seen more convincing arguments written on the side of a bus!  At this point, the Dwarves were in complete disarray and in serious trouble.  It is quite unusual for the Saboteurs to win, but half way through the deck, the Dwarves had made very little progress on the tunnel and were still confused about who the Saboteurs were.

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

In the end, it turned out to be a win for the Evil Saboteurs, Black, Burgundy and Purple; despite appearances, Pine, Pink and Green were all actually innocent—this time.  It had been a very bruising round though, and everyone took a minute to calm down while the Saboteurs savoured their victory.  Board Game Arena had other ideas, however, and the second round was underway before we could blink.

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

This was much quicker—the tunnel quickly stretched forward towards the middle target even though Greeny-Lilac said it was coal.  Purple double-checked and agreed that it was coal and when Blue peeked at the bottom card and said that was coal, everyone knew where they were going.  That was until Lime said the top card was also coal…

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

This gave the Dwarves a dilemma:  logic dictated that either both Greeny-Lilac and Purple were Saboteurs (the second time in a row for Purple), or one of Blue or Lime were telling porkies.  The Valiant Dwarves hedged their bets with two tunnels one headed north and one headed south.  All doubts were abruptly put to bed when Lime revealed his true colours by playing a rock-fall card, earning a broken pick-axe from Pine in return.

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

It was too little too late though, and with just two Saboteurs they were always going to struggle.  It wasn’t long before the Dwarves, in this case Team Greeny-Lilac, found the gold and put the round to bed.  The final round was possibly even shorter, certainly the path was more direct.  Blue once again played a map card and called the bottom card coal while Black played a map on the middle and called that gold.

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

In the absence of any other information, Ivory, Burgundy and Greeny-Lilac headed towards the middle and it was all looking very easy when Purple dropped her bomb-shell, playing a dead-end card leaving the Dwarves with a diversion.  Pink then lent his support to Purple (a Saboteur for the third time!), blocking the alternative route.  Much to her disgust, Pine accused Blue of “Boris Johnson Logic” and then exacerbated his bad behaviour by breaking Blue’s pick-axe.  Blue retaliated by breaking Pink’s pick and Ivory joined in by breaking Purple’s.

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

With a maximum of three Saboteurs possible all three were revealed and when Burgundy smashed Pine’s lantern they were all disabled too.  At least they were unable to dig, but they could still cause mischief.  Fortunately for the Dwarves, they didn’t have the cards to cause too much trouble.  Every time someone repaired a tool, a Dwarf stepped in and broke another one, keeping the evil Saboteurs pinned down.

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

Greeny-Lilac played a rockfall on the dead-end and Lime, Black and Ivory finished the job off.  That only left the scores.  These are bit strange and depend on treasure cards that are shared out amongst the winners, so luck is a big factor.  This time is was a tie for first place though, with honours shared between Black and Ivory.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, Ivory and Team Greeny-Lilac called it an night and everyone else decided to close the evening with a game of our old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.  There was some discussion about playing with one of the variants.  Normally, players choose a card and then starting with the lowest, they are added one at a time to one of the four rows with the player who places the sixth card picking up.  One of the options is that cards can go at either end, being added to whichever row is closest.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue was keen to give the variant a go, but Pine had played it before and said he didn’t really understand what it did, but it felt very random.  With such a large number of people it seemed wise to leave it for another day, so we stuck to the usual game.  This time, Blue picked up six Nimmts on her first turn and had a terrible first round.  Purple didn’t do much better either picking up fifteen in one turn, and it all looked like it was going to be over quite quickly.

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

With Blue and Purple leading the way to the bottom, the only real question was which of the others would be left behind at the end.  It was very tight, and since Blue and Purple fought a valiant rear-guard action the game went on longer than initially expected; Purple in particular hung on for ages with just one point.  In fact, she managed to hold on to that single point until the end of the game as it was Blue who went into the red and brought it to a stop.

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

The game finished with tie for first place between Lime and Pink on forty-four with Burgundy a little way behind in third with thirty-six.  With that, Lime and Pink bade everyone else good night leaving five to carry on.  There were several options, but the group went for one of the easiest and picked Coloretto.  This is a game that everyone is familiar with and has very simple “point decisions” to make:  turn over a coloured card and add it to a truck, or take the cards on one truck and bow out for the rest of the round.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Although the decision is very simple, there is a surprising amount of depth, because even though trucks only hold three cards, the colours are critical.  Players are collecting different coloured cards and the more cards the more points they deliver, with points awarded according to the Triangular Number Series.  This means that up to the maximum of six, adding just one more card, increases the number of points by around fifty percent.  The key part is that the largest three sets score positively, while the rest are negative, so players want three large sets and everything else to be as small as possible.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

The game started with Blue getting lucky with a couple of early yellow chameleons while Purple and picked up a couple of wild cards.  These are really useful because they are added to a set at the end of the game to give the maximum number of points possible.  Black, Burgundy and Pine all started collecting the 1970s sets (orange and brown cards), with the competition making it more difficult for all of them.

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

Meanwhile, Blue, finding competition for the yellow cards moved to collecting grey and soon had a full set of six.  With this, a large set of yellows and almost no negative points, it looked like she had an unassailable lead.  And so it proved:  when the end of the game was triggered there was nothing anyone could do.  While it was quite tight for second place with Burgundy’s twenty-four points sneaking ahead of Black, Blue was some way clear with thirty-five points.

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

Clearly that was unsatisfactory, and Black and Burgundy were keen to rectify matters, so they twisted Pine’s arm and persuaded him to join in a re-match.  Things didn’t go quite according to plan, however.  Purple’s starting colour of green proved challenging when five of the first ten cards drawn were green and everyone else contrived to ensure they all went into different carts making sure everyone ended with at least one.

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

The next round didn’t look as if it was going to be much better for poor Purple when the first card drawn was also green, but she grabbed it early.  Blue made an early error enabling Burgundy to pick up a nice pair of blue cards.  It was really tight though, with most players matching each other blow for blow and everyone finishing rounds dead level, first with five points then nine points, then fourteen.

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

It was only at the end of the fourth round that the gaps started to show with Burgundy and Purple edging ahead by a couple of points.  Going into the final round it was close, but although it was tight, Burgundy had control of the situation and finished three points clear of the field with twenty seven points.  It was a tie for second between Blue and Purple, who had somehow managed to collect five green cards and a wild with no negative points.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

The numbers were dwindling, but there was still a hard-core of hardened gamers who were reluctant to retire to bed, though nobody wanted to start something difficult or long.  The options were limited so it wasn’t long before someone suggested the simle tile-laying game Kingdomino and everyone else quickly agreed.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Although the pieces are all the same size and shape (two by one rectangles), Kingdomino has a lot of the Tetris-like aspects of Second Chance, in that the aim is to fit everything together as efficiently as possible.  The really clever aspect of the game is the market.  This consists of two columns of four tiles drawn at random, but placed in ranking order from low to high.  Each player begins with a marker on one tile in the left column and starting with the lowest value tile, the player takes the tile adds it to their Kingdom and then places their marker on the tile of their choice in the second column.  In this way, the player with the least valuable tiles gets to choose first in the next round.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Points are scored for the number of crowns in an area multiplied by the number of tiles in that area.  Thus an area of five squares with three crowns in it would score fifteen points.  In this case though, we also included two scoring bonus:  five points if there were no discarded tiles and ten points for finishing with their castle in the centre of their kingdom.  At the start of the game, four tiles are revealed and players choose which they take in turn without knowing what will turn up in the next round.

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

Purple went first and took went for two crowns on pasture. Black went next and made the same choice, but ended up with the fourth tile, meaning he would get Hobson’s choice in the next round.  Burgundy went third and took the second tile leaving Blue began with a tile that gave her sea and cornfield with a crown.  As this was the lowest value, Blue went first, so had first choice from the next selection and was able to choose another tile giving her more sea and cornfield.  This was also a low value tiles so also gave her first choice and in turn, this meant she was able to choose more corn and go first then and then more sea.

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

Meanwhile, Black was building his pasture, Burgundy was starting trying to focus on the valuable tiles (with more crowns) and Purple was hedging her bets with a bit of everything.  Blue continued with her ever-growing cornfield adding crowns whenever she had the chance, while Black and Burgundy got into a bit of a tussle for marshland and mountain terrain.

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

The marshland and mountain tiles being high rated were often last to be played, which meant that these players were often last to play giving them the left-overs from the next selection.  Blue, on the other hand, continued to play a “low rent” game, always taking the cheap tiles, as a result, she ended up with a very large cornfield of eleven spaces and four out of the five available crown giving her forty-four points for that alone.  Purple scored well for her forests and lakes, while Black focussed on grasslands and swamps, but even their two terrains didn’t match the total for Blue’s massive cornfield.

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

Everyone got their both bonuses and with that and a substantial lake, Blue finished with a winning score over seventy.  It was second place that was more interesting, however, which was a tie between Purple and Black with sixty-one points each.  What nobody hitherto knew, was that there was a tie-breaker:  the size of the biggest territory multiplied by a hundred added to the total number of crowns in the kingdom.  With that, Purple took great delight in second place.  And then it was time for bed for even the most dedicated of board gamers.

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

Learning Outcome:  Once in a while, everyone really enjoys releasing their inner toddler.

26th May 2020 (Online)

As people signed in, the evening began with a lot of comments about visits to Durham and driving to “Barney’s Castle” to in lieu of eye-testing and, after his unexpected “French connection” last time, Lime said he’d sent a coachload of Gallic gamers to visit Pink and Blue.  By 8pm, everyone had joined the Microsoft Teams meeting and had signed into the online platform, Board Game Arena ready to start our first game.  This was to be the “Feature Game“, Saboteur.  The game is fairly simple:  players have a hand of four cards and take it in turns to play one.  The aim of the game depends on which side they are on:  the Dwarves, or the Saboteurs.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

The Dwarves are digging a tunnel trying to find the gold buried in them there hills, while the Saboteurs are trying to stop them.  There are a limited number of cards in the deck, and when the cards run out, time us up—if the Dwarves have not reached the gold, the Saboteurs win.  In addition to playing tunnel cards, players have the ability to delay obstruct each other’s plans by breaking their tools.  These can be repaired, but players only want to repair tools belonging to members of their own team, and here’s the catch:  nobody knows who is a Saboteur, leading to distrust and chaos.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

The game began with Pink saying he didn’t know how to play and extending the tunnel in a strange direction (very Saboteur-like behaviour).  Green and Mulberry played map cards and said all they could see was coal – this was eventually confirmed by Blue who said the top card was the gold.  Although that suggested all three were likely to be Good Dwarves, it quickly became apparent that Mulberry was in fact an evil Saboteur, casting doubt on the other two as well.  When Burgundy and Purple both started to exhibit treacherous behaviour it was clear they couldn’t all be Saboteurs.

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

Unusually, it turned out that Green was innocent, a point he accentuated with hurt dignity.  When Mulberry was questioned about why she hadn’t lied about the whereabouts of the gold when she had the chance, she replied, “You don’t lie about facts that are verifiable…”:  a comment that gave everyone else food for thought.  Despite a very good effort from Mulberry, Burgundy and Purple, It wasn’t long before Lime set up Pink to claim the gold.

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

When we play this in real life, we usually play single rounds and not worry too much about sharing out gold and having an “overall” winner.  Playing through Board Game Arena though, we didn’t really have much option and were suckered into a three round game with gold cards handed out to the winning team each time.  Ivory started the next round and Pine was the first to use a map to look for the treasure with Green and Black following soon after.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime started off discarding a card which looked a trifle suspicious, and his first real play didn’t allay everyone’s concerns.  Their worst fears were confirmed when he played a rock-fall card on a key cross-roads in the centre of the map announcing his affiliation with Team Saboteur.  There was a little confusion over the difference between “Gold” and “Coal” which sounded very similar over the sound channel, though some of the confusion may have been deliberate, especially as Green and Black (who’d had all the map cards), joined the wicked Saboteurs.

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

Inevitably, Burgundy and Pine jumped on Lime and smashed his mining lamp and trolley, while Purple repaired the damage and Mulberry extended the tunnel, but only found coal for her efforts.  Then there was a race between the Evil Saboteurs and the Good Dwarves, with Black and Green trying to repair Lime’s broken tools as fast as everyone else was breaking them.  In between, progress on the tunnel was slow, but eventually Blue struck gold, and it was another victory to the Dwarves.

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

The third round didn’t feel as close as the first two.  Burgundy, Blue and Mulberry were the  Saboteurs and really spent too much effort convincing everyone they weren’t evil and, as a result, took too long to actually do any sabotage.  The problem wasn’t helped by Mulberry breaking Burgundy’s pick-axe and the fact that Blue didn’t want to reveal her allegiance by fixing it for him.  By the time they’d sorted themselves out, it was way too late; the Dwarves had made a beeline for the gold and Pine had completed the tunnel with the deck barely depleted.

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

With that, it was only the final reckoning to work through.  Anyone who had been an unsuccessful Saboteur was out of the running, leaving Ivory, Pine and Pink in the podium positions.  At the end of each round, three gold cards were drawn at random with a face value between one and three.  These were allocated to players on the winning side with the last two players to receiving two cards and everyone else getting one card with the value decreasing in reverse player order.  Therefore, there wasn’t much to choose between the top three:  Pink just edged it, with seven gold, one more than Ivory and Pine who tied for second with Lime and Blue the best of the rest, finishing with five apiece.  With that, the game degenerated into a chorus of “Gold” by Spandau Ballet, “Ahhhhh…!”

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Although some online implementations considerably reduce the upkeep in games, unquestionably, playing online is considerably more taxing than playing in real life.  Somehow, the additional effort needed to keep track of what’s going on and follow the verbal chatter and the written banter on the two written chat threads.  So, although Saboteur had barely taken an hour and there was plenty of time for more games, with laziness the order of the day, 6 Nimmt! was the popular choice.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

6 Nimmt! is one of the group’s favourite games, mainly because of the fine line it walks between control and total chaos.  Each player has a hand of cards and, simultaneously, everyone chooses one to play.  Starting with the card with the lowest face value, in turn, the cards are added to one of the four rows: the row ending with the highest card that is lower than the fave value of the card played.  When the card to be added to a row would be the sixth, instead, the player takes the five cards and the card becomes the new first card in the row.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The number of bull’s heads or “nimmts” depicted on the cards becomes the players score, and the player with the lowest score is the winner.  In the Board Game Arena implementation, everyone starts with sixty-six points and everyone keeps playing until someone’s score falls below zero.  The more players, the more mad the game becomes, so with ten, it was guaranteed to be disorganised chaos.

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

This time, Ivory was the first to pick up cards, but Black and Burgundy soon started the race to the bottom in earnest, picking up cards almost every turn.  It wasn’t long before Lime joined the chase though, and before long nobody was unaffected.  Blue, Pine and Pink managed to avoid too many expensive pick ups and as Burgundy triggered the end of the game, it was a three horse race.  Pine managed to duck and dive best at the end of the game and won by a nose.

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

Sadly, Green had been struggling with his internet connection which kept dropping out, so he ducked out leaving everyone else to start another game.  This time it was Lime’s turn to keep picking up, ending with thirty-nine cards and zero points.  It was quite close at the top though, with seven players within a range of twelve points, and a three-way tie for first, between Pink, Ivory and remarkably Purple, who can usually be relied on to collect cards with gay abandon.  By this time, people were tiring, but once Mulberry, Ivory and Lime had said goodnight, there were six—just enough for a quick game of For Sale.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

For Sale is a very clever little auction game that plays really well with six players.  Each player starts with $14,000, which they use to bid for properties numbered one to thirty.  The auction is unusual though, in that players must increase the bid, or pass and and take the lowest value property available, paying half their stake.  Bidding continues until the winner takes the most valuable property in the batch.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Once all the properties have been sold, players then sell off their properties.  In this phase of the game, six cheques are revealed and players simultaneously choose a property.  The properties are ranked, with the most valuable taking the largest cheques.  The winner is the player who has made the most of their starting capital, turning it into the largest total cheques.

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

There was considerable amusement when Pink (who normally resides in Durham) took “Barney Castle”;  inevitably, he was asked whether he needed his eye-sight testing…  Otherwise, the game was a fairly uneventful, tense affair which ended with just $5,000 separating five of the players.  Burgundy was the winner though, with $47,000, $1,000 more than Pine who had $1,000 more than Blue.  The game was so quick, and is one where players sometimes need to “get their eye in”, to be able to value properties.  So, everyone was happy to give it a second try.

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

Somehow Burgundy got lost between the two games though, ended up spectating someone else’s game.  This time they weren’t French though and he was only watching; the problem was spotted quite quickly too, so could be rectified quite easily.  It didn’t put Burgundy off his game, and he finished with $51,000.  Although it wasn’t quite as close as the first game, the top three were the same, but this time it was Blue who finished $1,000 behind Burgundy.  And with that, everyone had had enough.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  Not all Dwarves work for Snow White…

Pink’s sPecial Party

It being a very special day for Pink, he decided he wanted to spend it playing games with friends and family at the Jockey.  The early arrivals set up PitchCar, including the new “Loop” expansion and others played Loopin’ Louis, Patchwork Express, Dobble and the surprise hit, Boom Boom Balloon.  Little-Lime won PitchCar (perhaps flicking talent runs in the family as Lime himself managed to complete the  loop at least three times), and almost everyone managed to lose Boom Boom Balloon at least once.  Late in the afternoon, a game of Scotland Yard was started with Pink as the fugitive, and finished almost before it was begun when he was quickly captured.  It was then restarted with Mrs. Lime as the fugitive and turned into an epic game that went on for a couple of hours with a brief break as people tucked into the buffet supper and amazing sticky-toffee pudding cake-desert provided by the Jockey Kitchen.

Boom Boom Balloon
– Image by boardGOATS

The evening continued with more games including No Thanks!, Finstere Flure (a.k.a. Fearsome Floors), Saboteur, …Aber Bitte mit Sahne (a.k.a. Piece o’ Cake) and Ice Cool.  The team of five eventually managed to corner Mrs. Lime, freeing up Pink to play his special request, Captain Sonar, which his team fittingly won, twice.  This was followed by a game of Ca$h ‘n Guns (it is always fun entertaining the bar staff by waving foam pistols about and threatening to shoot each other), before finishing with 6 Nimmt!, a game to match Pink’s socks.  It was a great day, and we all went home tired, but very happy, with Pink and Blue keen to thank everyone for sharing Pink’s sPecial day.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

9th July 2019

The pub was madly busy thanks to a boisterous party and a couple of large groups in the bar area, so we decided to start with a game while we waited for food.  The “Feature Game” was to be Forbidden Desert, but as most people were waiting for food, we decided to start with something we could play as a group.  6 Nimmt! was the first suggestion, but in keeping with the cooperative game theme of the Feature, we decided to start with Saboteur.  In this game, players are either Dwarves or Saboteurs, where Dwarves are collectively trying to dig a tunnel to find the Gold, while the Saboteurs are trying to stop them.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn players can play a tunnel card to extend the network, play an action card or discard a card and pass. Action cards come in several flavours.  There are red and green tool cards, with red broken tool cards stopping others from digging and green “fixed” tool cards that repair broken tools.  There are map cards that allow players to peek at one of the three target cards to see if it holds the gold, and rock-fall cards that enable players to remove a single card  from the tunnel network.  All the action cards can be used by Dwarves and Saboteurs alike to impede the other team.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Black was the first to play and began ditching all his rubbish blocking tunnel cards while Pine started off by explaining how Burgundy was always a Saboteur and generally made Burgundy’s life a misery by besetting him with broken tools and reminding everyone how last time we played Burgundy was a Saboteur three times running.  This time, we had more players, but it wasn’t long before it became clear that Burgundy was indeed a Saboteur, along with Lime, who was playing it for the first time and was not at all secretive of his position.  Eventually, Red found the Gold on behalf of the Saboteurs, and Black was outed as the third and final Saboteur and had apparently all the cards he had been discarding had been good tunnel cards not bad ones.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

The rules as written state that there should be three rounds and players pass gold cards around in an effort to determine who will be the overall winner.  We don’t think the game needs a winner in this way, so we play with a “house-rule” that treats each round as a game in its own right.  This way, we can stop at two games if it is beginning to outstay its welcome, or carry on and play three or even four rounds, giving more people to join Burgundy as Saboteurs.  Everyone had really enjoyed the first round and was keen to go again, so cards were handed out and Pine once again accused Burgundy of a “Saboteury” first move.  Blue had loads of blocking cards, but after Black had spent almost all the previous round dumping cards, didn’t dare pass for fear that she would be accused of being a Saboteur.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue asked everyone else for advice and Red suggested that the one thing she could do to convince her that she was a Good Little Dwarf was play a blocking card on Burgundy, which she obligingly did.  It didn’t work, however, and it wasn’t long before Red declared Blue a Saboteur.  In frustration Blue showed Red all the blocking cards she had and that seemed to stem the tide of accusations, at least for a few turns.  With Burgundy buried under a pile of broken tool cards, his delight was evident when Blue revealed her true colours and played a disruptive blocking card.  It was just a smidge too late though and Black brought the round to an end by finding the Gold.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time food had been ordered, but was not looking like it was going to arrive immediately, so we decided to see if Burgundy could make it three in a row again.  Inevitably, we were only a couple of turns in, therefore, when food turned up and the tunnel network was obstructed by Purple’s enormous bowl of mushroom tagliatelle.  Pine confused everyone by indicating his position early, playing a blocking card right in the middle of the map.  Perhaps it was the difficulty of playing round a plate of pasta, or perhaps her mind was just elsewhere, but a very curious card placement quickly led to Purple being labeled as a Saboteur joining Burgundy and Pine.  Flying well under the radar, if only the real Saboteurs had had helpful cards to play then they might have won, however, it was not to be.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

It turned out that Blue and Black were once again the real Saboteurs (along with the more obvious Pine), but frustratingly there was nothing they could do and Red once again finished the round by finding the Gold for the Dwarf team.  By this time everyone was very hungry, so food mostly disappeared quite rapidly and while Black, Purple and Burgundy dealt with their last few mouthfuls, Blue, Lime, Pine and Mulberry took themselves off to the table by the door (ostensibly to get space to play, but partly to take advantage of the respite the cooling draught offered from the humidity), to play the “Feature Game”, Forbidden Desert.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

Where Saboteur is a “semi-cooperative” game because it has a traitor mechanic, Forbidden Desert is a fully cooperative game.  This means everyone plays together against the game, with the same goal.  The story is that a helicopter has crash-landed in the desert, and the survivors, in our case, an Archaeologist, a Climber, an Explorer and a very well behaved, cooperative, er, camel (“Water Carrier”), must try to find the buried, missing pieces of a historic air-ship, in order to escape.  This, with minimal water, the sun beating down and the growing sand-storm, means that players have to be quick in their hunt, and smart in keeping the keeping the storm from getting out of hand.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played on a five by five grid made of twenty-four tiles and one gap.  The tiles all start face down and must be excavated to reveal their other side.  Some tiles will yield clues as to where the missing air ship parts are, others hide potentially useful equipment, while excavating others will yield a launch pad or the entrance to a tunnel.  Everything is useful, but all four pieces of the ship must be found together with the launch pad, before the players can escape.  On their turn players have four action points per turn which they can use freely to move, remove sand from the tile they are on (or an adjacent one), excavate a cleared tile, or pick up a piece of airship.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

Once all four actions have been completed cards from the storm deck are turned over and tiles are moved in the direction indicated into the eye of the storm reflecting the shifting dunes.  As they are moved, sand tiles are placed on each one, building up the dunes and burying the antiquities in sand.  There is a finite number of sand tiles and running out triggers the end of the game with the team losing.  Running out of sand is only one way to lose however.  If any player runs out of water, the whole team loses, and the storm level increasing to its maximum also spells doom.  On the other hand, if the team manage to find all the parts and the launch pad, they will be able to escape from the desert.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the problems with cooperative games is “quarter-backing” also known as the “alpha gamer problem”, where one player takes control and tells everyone else what to do.  With Blue the only player to have played it before (though Lime had played Forbidden Island some time ago), it would have been easy for her assume the role of Colonel, but that sucks all the fun out of the game.  So there was a little discussion as to how we should approach the game (primarily trying to make the best use of our characters’ special abilities and trying to work quickly to excavate tiles) and then we started, with the storm level on “normal”.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

The game began badly, when two of the first tiles we excavated were tunnel tiles.  These are very useful because players can use them to shelter from the sun and thus preserve water when a Sun Beats Down card is revealed.  They also enable players to travel from one part of the board to another in a single move.  Unfortunately, the tiles were adjacent which meant they were much less helpful than usual.  Prioritising, digging in order to find parts of the airship, the team found a lot potentially useful equipment, but it seemed ages before the first clue came up, a hint to where the propeller was buried.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

The team soon found the second clue to the location of the propeller which turned out to be relatively conveniently located so Pine, the Climber, quickly picked it up.  It was then that Lime pointed out that the number of sand tiles available was getting critical, and something had to be done.  A couple of turns and concentrating on the sand problem and use of Mulberry’s Dune Blaster, helped, but a couple of Sun Beats Down cards in the meantime meant there was now a water shortage. so Pine and Blue (the Water Carrier), set out to rectify the situation.  Unfortunately, the first of the possible springs turned out to be a mirage.  While it didn’t lead to anyone running out of water immediately, valuable time and moves had to be used to excavate another tiles.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

Once a spring had been found, Blue was able to top up her water supply and share water with Pine, before taking some back to the Lime and Magenta (who by this time was hiding in a tunnel to conserve her dwindling water supply).  With everyone settling into their roles and assuming the duties associated with their special abilities, it wasn’t long before the second part of the airship had been located.  Everyone had water and the sand situation was more or less under control, but it was all taking too long.  The storm had picked up and with it, the Sun Beats Down cards were coming round at an increasing speed.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

Worse, the rate of sand deposition was also increasing. and it wasn’t long before the situation was getting desperate again, and clues to the location of the missing parts of the airship were proving impossible to find.  Forced into making difficult decisions, Pine and Lime started to take risks.  To begin with they seemed to pay off, but it wasn’t long before there was a succession of bad cards, culminating in two Sun Beats Down cards, and Pine and Lime who were left out in the sun ran out of water and sadly perished.  It had been good fun though and everyone had enjoyed playing, even though the team had ultimately failed to escape.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, the other group had been playing Villagers.  This is a new card drafting and tableau building game that first got an outing a few weeks ago and was so successful that Lime immediately bought himself a copy. The idea is that players take it in turns to take villager cards from the “road”, then add them to their village tableau.  Different villager cards have different advantages; some give money at the end of the game, while others enable players to draw more cards from the road per round or place more cards in their village per round.  The clever part of the game is the interplay between the cards caused by the conditions required before they can be played.

Villagers
– Image by boardGOATS

For example, a Blacksmith cannot be added to a village unless there is a Miner already present.  The cards are then played in a tree structure such that the Blacksmith is placed over the Miner card, superseding any icons depicted on it.  Many villager cards, especially the more valuable ones, also require a payment of two gold to another specific villager.  The money then sits on that villager card until a scoring round.  Ideally, the payment would be made to a villagers in the player’s own village, so that the money ultimately remains theirs, but if the active player does not have the necessary villager and someone else does then the money is paid to the opponent.

Villagers
– Image by boardGOATS

Like a lot of card games, there is a lot of luck in the game and there is a knack to surfing it.  Although many of the the group have played it before, Black had missed out, and he struggled waiting for a Grazier to become available.  In general, everyone went for a range of different types of villagers, everyone except Burgundy who went mad for Mining, because it “seemed like a good idea at the time”.  He started with a Seeker and then when he added an Ore Muler his income increased spectacularly and he looked like he was going to romp away with it.  Red and Black eventually managed to play Monks which helped to grease the wheels for them, but it was too late. Burgundy had the edge over Red in almost every department beating her into second place by twenty gold.

Villagers
– Image by boardGOATS

Villagers and Forbidden Desert finished at about the same time, and as time was getting on, Mulberry took Red home, and Pine and Lime didn’t want a late night so went their separate ways too.  That just left Blue, Burgundy, Black and Purple; Purple fancied a game of Bosk, and, as there wasn’t time to debate it, everyone else went along with her suggestion without debate.  This is a really pretty game, and although Black and Purple have played it quite a bit since they picked it up at the UK Games Expo, Blue and Burgundy were new to it.

Bosk
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played in two parts:  first players place their trees in the forest on a grid, then each tree sheds its leaves and players try to control where the leaves fall to give them the most leaves in each of the areas of the forest.  The first phase is really just an hors d’oeuvre; the second phase is the guts of the game.  At the end of the first phase, players score for having the majority in each row or column.  Purple was at the back, so went first in the second phase, and more importantly, the direction the wind goes in.  This is important because if the wind is in the wrong direction, any player with trees of the same number wedged up against the same edge  will find their options severely restricted.

Bosk
– Image by boardGOATS

An awful lot of time was spent by all staring at the board, but this is no hardship as it really is a very picturesque game.  Blue and Burgundy were feeling their way, but it was always advantage to Black with his greater experience.  In the end, it was surprisingly close, though that was possibly due to Blue confused by the “S-shaped” score board, screwing up the scoring.  The margin of victory was still significant though as Black finished with thirty-five points while Blue and Burgundy tussled for second place with thirty-one and thirty respectively.  It was then that the group realised the half hour game had taken twice that and everyone quickly left before they out-stayed their welcome and the landlord threw them out.

Bosk
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Working together is fun, though it helps to know who is on  your side.

14th May 2019

A lot of the usual suspects weren’t about, so it looked like it was going to be a really quiet  night.  This was due to be offset by Pink, who was putting in one of his rare appearances from the frozen north, but at 6pm he was stuck at Leicester Services with a “limping” car.  While Pink’s arrival looked in doubt, he also lost the unofficial title of “furthest traveled” with Mulberry bringing along her other-half, newly arrived from California.  He had been awake for some forty hours traveling, so was reluctant to actually play anything, but we really appreciated his company all the same.  We were just starting the “Feature Game” when Pink arrived (thanks to a couple of very nice AA men), so as he scoffed his pizza we went through the rules for Powerships.

Powerships
– Image by boardGOATS

Powerships is not a complex game:  Black described it as “roll and move”, which is a little harsh if arguably accurate.  The game is played on a hexagonal grid representing the solar system and featuring the planets.  On their turn, players may take or return a single die, and then re-roll as many of their dice as they choose.  They may then rotate their space ship sixty degrees left or right and then move it the total number of spaces shown on their dice.

Powerships
– Image by boardGOATS

The movement rules are slightly more complex.  A crash is hitting a planets, a dust cloud or the “Trumpian” wall surrounding the solar system (there is a problem with alien immigrants in 2345 apparently).  Players may only crash if they have no choice, and if they crash, the penalties are severe: they must go in the direction that means they travel the furthest (even if that is unfavourable), they lose all their dice, and they move their damage maker left by a space for every unused movement (leading to a reduction in the maximum number of dice they can have).

Powerships
– Image by boardGOATS

Although ships can pass others, spaces cannot be occupied by more than one ship—they don’t crash though (fortunately), they just pull-up short, just behind. There are a number of special spaces:  yellow chevrons apply drift to a ship as they pass; space currents cause ships to change direction and warp speed and hyperspace enable ships to briefly go twice as fast.  What really makes the game, however, is the course:  players have to travel round three planets in a specific order and in a particular direction as marked by three orange bollards, before arriving at the finishing planet.

Powerships
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, as it was Tuesday, Mercury was the  starting planet. Random chance selected Purple as start player, but as spaceship placement is in reverse player order, Mulberry chose pole position and Blue placed her ship next.  Perhaps it was because he was still focusing on his pizza or maybe he decided to be a gentleman, but Pink placed his ship on the opposite side of the starting planet and just for good measure pointed it away from the first corner on Venus so that he was not forced to crash into Mercury on his first turn.  Green, Lime, Black and Purple placed their ships in turn order, with their start positions increasingly obstructed until Purple was left with no choice but to start on the planet itself surrounded by everyone else, and hope to avoid rolling a one on her first turn.

Powerships
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple was lucky and managed to escape from the ring of ships, parking herself squarely in front of Mulberry.  As everyone else rolled their first die and moved towards the first corner, the unfortunate consequences of Pink’s initial position became apparent.  Rolling a three, forced him to move his ship away from the first bollard and directly towards the walled edge of the solar system, where he stayed for the next few turns, trapped between some space dust, Saturn and a hard place, shuffling about in a strange many-point turn.

Powerships
– Image by boardGOATS

The rest of the fleet made good progress towards the first check-point, Venus, and then Blue foolishly rolled an extra dice and was forced to head off-course.  Green and Mulberry were pulling away a little as the pack headed into the farthest reaches of the solar system and approached the second corner located on Uranus, and that was where the mayhem really began. Purple went the wrong way round the bollard, so had to go back for a second shot; Mulberry hit the planet head on at full speed and was forced to maneuver slowly, and carryout repairs before she could build up speed again; Lime overshot and had to pirouette to get back on course while Black carefully dodged the debris, but struggled to find a clear course.

Powerships
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Green sailed on serenely, finding the unobstructed path to the third marker on Pluto, on his first attempt.  It was perhaps just as well, as he was so busy advising Lime and fiddling with his phone that he missed his turn.  He suddenly realised he had missed out, but as everyone else unanimously agreed that turn order had been scrupulously observed and it was all in his imagination, he had no choice to but to acquiesce.  When Pink was about to taking his next move there was much hilarity when Green suddenly noticed he had missed out again! It was much harder for everyone to deny him a second time, and Green paid more attention for the rest of the game.

Powerships
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink had finally escaped from the combined gravitational pull of the starting planet and the  wall and Blue was moving back up the field as everyone else struggled to avoid calamity.  As Green headed towards the finish at Neptune, Black and Blue engaged in fierce struggle for second place (which Blue ultimately won by one turn) and Lime led the rest of the pack round the final corner.  It was coming into the home straight that Lime snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when he failed to decelerate and careered off for what looked like a second lap.  Mulberry was the beneficiary closely followed by Purple, with Pink and Lime bringing up the rear in what had been a mad, chaotic race, but a lot of fun.

Powerships
– Image by boardGOATS

With Powerships taking more than an hour longer than the advertised half-hour, Mulberry signed Pine’s birthday card and then took her jet-lagged husband home leaving six.  Inevitably as Pink was around, someone raised the subject of Bohnanza.  Other games were discussed, including 6 Nimmt! and Saboteur, but someone pulled a face for all of them, and in the end as Lime hadn’t played it, “Beans” won the day. This is one of our all-time favourite games, and everyone else was very familiar with it, especially Pink who claims to dislike the game while owning several copies of it in multiple languages.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Black explained the rules to Lime as everyone else tried to work out the game set up for six.  The game itself is actually very simple: each player starts with two bean fields in front of them.  On their turn, the active player must plant the first card in their hand and may plant a second before turning over the top two cards from the draw deck.  These two bean cards must be planted before play can continue, but they can be planted in the active player’s field or in someone else’s if a trade can be agreed.  Once these cards have been dealt with, the active player can freely trade as many cards as they want from their hand (all of which must be planted) before drawing cards and ending their turn.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

At any time, a player can harvest a field of beans, at which point some of the beans are retained with the cards turned face down, becoming “money”.  The player with the most money after three trips through the deck is the winner.  There are two key rules: firstly, players cannot rearrange their hand – it has a front and a back and cards are played from the front and arrive at the back.  Thus the game is all about manipulating the order of the cards in hand by trading the unwanted ones for something more helpful.  Secondly, although players can harvest a field whenever they want, they cannot harvest a field with only one bean card unless all that player’s fields are singletons.  While the rules of the game are not difficult, things were complicated considerably by the fact that the only version available was in Spanish – a special gift from Red to Pink.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Blue’s Spanish was up to the job, the fact that everyone else (familiar with the English version) used the English names for the beans instead of those on the cards, confused Lime utterly.  Despite that, Lime got stuck in to what turned out to be a very tight game.  Green, Pink and Purple bought a third bean field; Green was adamant that he gained no advantage from his though Purple and her “Judías Colora” may have done a little better and Pink thought he might have got an extra coin out of it.  In the end, Blue and her seemingly never-ending stream of “Pochas” had the edge and she finished in first place with a total of fifteen coins, some way ahead of a five-way, eleven-point tie for second place.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Pay attention or you might miss a turn (or two).