Tag Archives: Saboteur

14th June 2022

Pink and Blue were the first to arrive, bringing guests from eastern Europe, Orange and Lemon.  Orange and Lemon were new to our sort of board gaming.  After an explanation of what mushy peas are, food and some chit chat, others started arriving.  The “Feature Game” was the Moor Visitors expansion to Viticulture.  Teal had been keen to play the Tuscany board and the plan was to play both together. So when he and Ivory had arrived, they took themselves off to the other side of the room with Pink and started setting up.

Viticulture
– Image by boardGOATS

Viticulture is a worker placement game about planting vines, harvesting grapes and making wine.  The idea is that the game is broken into seasons and years, and players take it in turns to place their workers in the various locations on the board to carry out the associated actions  Although it is not in and of itself an especially innovative game, it is very polished and smooth, and a joy to play.  There are a couple of little elements within the game of note.  Firstly, each location can take a limited number of workers dependent on the number of players.  To grease the wheels a little though, each player also has a “Grande” worker that they can place anywhere, even in a “full” space.

Viticulture
– Image by boardGOATS

Players start the game with four cards from which they choose two, a mama and a papa and these dictate players’ starting conditions:  money, number of workers, buildings and cards.  There are four different types of card, Vines, Contracts, and summer and winter Visitors.  Players can only plant vines in the summer, and then only if they have sufficient land and any necessary buildings.  From there, grapes can be harvested in the autumn and placed in players’ crush pads and thence combined to form wine and stored and aged in their cellar.  Wine can then be used to fulfill contracts in exchange for points.  Although this is the main source of points, it is not the only one.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

Some of the Visitor cards give special actions that can be used to generate points, as can buildings like the Windmill and the Tasting Room and some of the Visitor cards.  At the end of each year, players get their workers back and age their grapes and wines as well as collecting residual payments (income).  The Moor Visitors expansion adds extra visitor cards which are just mixed into the deck providing more variety.   The Tuscany expansion mixes things up more, by changing the seasons in which the actions occur, particularly adding actions to spring and autumn.  It also provides a couple of extra mechanisms, including the “Influence” action, special buildings and specialist workers.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, there was the initial random draw of the start tokens to “see who’s cock comes out first”, and then the game got under way.  Ivory and Teal both trained one of their workers to be “Special Workers”. These act as normal workers, but have a special ability when used in a particular way.   Each game, two of these are drawn at random from a deck, and when players train workers, they can make that worker a specialist for an additional fee.  The specialisms are open to all players, though each player can only have a maximum of one worker with each skill set.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

The Special Workers this time were the Soldato who bullies other players into paying to use the same action space, and the Sommelier which gives an additional opportunity to age grapes.  Ivory went for the military option while Teal selected one of his workers to learn about serving wine.  Elsewhere, Pink’s strategy was centered around the use of his Fruit Dealer card from the Moor Visitors expansion.  This gave him a point (or money) every time he harvested a specific field.  Teal built a Café which allowed him to turn grapes into money or points.  Everyone also began with what seems like the accepted strategy of selling off land to gain funds in the early part of the game, buying it back later as required.

Viticulture: Moor Visitors Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory made an early move to stake his claim on the influence map, using the Influence action to place his Stars.  When placing Star tokens, players get a bonus reward for doing so.  In this way, it effectively provides an alternative way to access some “actions” when they are not available on the main board.  At the end of the game, the player with the most Stars in each region gets one or two bonus points.  After placing all six of their Star tokens, players can still use the Influence action by moving them to swing control of regions (but without gaining the instant reward).  As the game progressed, everyone else muscled in on the Influence action too, and by the end of the game, Pink had the edge.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

It was an extremely tight game.  With the Tuscany expansion, the end is triggered when someone passes twenty-five points. This time, everyone was very watchful, determined not to get caught out like last time when an early break by Teal unexpectedly ended the game leaving Ivory and Pink unable to play their big final plays.  As a result, everyone finished the game with exactly the same number of points—twenty-six.  That meant the advantage Pink had on the Influence map made the difference, leaving him three points ahead of Ivory and Teal who shared second place both finishing with twenty-eight points, in what had been an epic game between three experienced players.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

While Pink, Ivory and Teal took themselves off to set up Viticulture, everyone else introduced themselves to Orange and Lemon, and gaming was forgotten for the moment.  Eventually, this non-Viticulture group separated into two halves, one playing Imhotep while the other (including Orange and Lemon), beginning more slowly, with lighter introductory games.  Imhotep is a fun family game that won a nomination for the Spiel des Jahres award in 2016.  We’ve played it a few times since then, but like so many games, it had a two year hiatus thanks to the global pandemic.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

In Imhotep, players move large wooden “stone” blocks by boat to build five monuments.  The game is quite simple to play:  on their turn, the active player can acquire blocks from the quarry, load blocks onto a boat, sail a boat to a monument and add blocks to it, or play an action card.  Each monument scores points in different ways, and the player with the most points after six rounds is the winner.  The game was new to Lilac and Lime, but they quickly got the hang of it—it is quite easy to learn the functions, but deciding the best way to play is where the challenge comes in.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

Lilac started out making a play for the Obelisks and quickly took a commanding lead there with four stones by the end of the second round, with one each to Black and Lime.  Lime decided to go for Statues in the market place, which everyone else ignored and so he too managed to get an early lead in them with three by the end of the second round. Black wanted to get his group of five stones into the Burial Chamber, which Green (who had previously announced that he was thirty-fifth world-wide in the Board Game Arena rankings) had spotted and tried hard, but ultimately unsuccessfully to block.  Green managed to get a few larger regions himself in the process though.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

The Pyramids got steadily built, but unusually for Imhotep the Temple was ignored for most of the game. It wasn’t until the sixth round that any stones were placed there.  The scores for the Pyramid (and towards the end, the Temple as well), kept everyone close together—there was usually only three or four points from first to last place, with the order changing frequently as the game progressed.  Coming to the last couple of rounds, Lilac was challenged by Lime and Black in the Obelisk, but Lime and Lilac (both new to the game), missed the stones in one of the last boats, which Black watched closely.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

On Black’s turn he moved a two stone boat with only his and Green’s stone to take the lead and give Green a bump from last place to equal third with Lime.  Lilac may have lost out in the Obelisk, but she managed to gain a full five stone region in the Burial chamber, plus a couple of other odd stones. Black got his five but no more. Everyone got a final points bonus from a green card, although Black and Lime’s were for the Temple and only scored a single point. Lilac took a big score of seven for the Burial chamber card.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

Green also scored well for the Obelisk (five point) and for the Pyramids (six points), as earlier in the game Lime had shifted a three stone boat to the already filled Pyramid preventing the other players scoring more than a single point each.  In the final tally it was very close between Lime and Green, but Green pipped him by a single point, finishing with fifty points to Lime’s forty-nine.  The game finished at exactly the same time as the other group finished their second game.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple and Blue had been introducing Orange and Lemon to some of the group’s favourite filler games.  They started out gently with Tsuro, aka “The game of the Path”.  This is super quick and simple, with players choosing to play one of the three cards in their hand on their turn, and placing it to extend the path their stone is on.  The winner is the last player still on the board, with players eliminated when their stone is unavoidably moved off the board or collides with someone else’s.

Tsuro
– Image by boardGOATS

There was a certain amount of people “feeling their way” at the start, but with only four players there’s a lot of space on the board at the start.  Players can exploit this and set themselves up with a nice little corner to work in, curating their tiles and avoiding getting themselves into difficulty.  That didn’t last long though, and came to an end when everyone wound up sat on the same tile.  Purple was the first to go, soon followed by Blue.  From there, there was a bit of a head to head, before Lemon “offed” Orange and claimed victory in her first game.

Tsuro
– Image by boardGOATS

Imhotep was still going and Viticulture had only just started, so Blue and Purple decided to introduce Orange and Lemon to the tile laying game, NMBR 9.  The idea is that players take a random tile and place it in their area—tiles must be joined to the others, and if placed on top of other tiles they must additionally be entirely supported and by two or more tiles.  At the end of the game, when two of each tile, numbered zero to nine have been played, the game ends.  Players score points for each tile multiplied by the “floor” it is on.  Thus ground floor tiles score nothing, but any tiles on the second level (the first floor) will score their face value, and so on for higher levels.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

Although the rules are quite simple, in practice the game is one that can really make your brain hurt.  In this sense, it was a significant step up from Tsuro, though still quite a short light game.  This time, the tile order did not help players at all with high numbers coming early and at inconvenient times.  Players concentrated on building a sound foundation in the hope of better tiles to follow.  In the event, this worked better for some than others, and, as a result, it was very close between first and second.  Lemon, with seventy-two points ran out the winner once again, just two points ahead of Blue in second place.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

With both groups finished at the same time, there was a lot of chatter, before eventually the groups joined to play something together.  Orange had played Saboteur before, and with such a large group, it seemed an obvious game to play.  There was a quick reminder of the rules for those who had not played it before or who were new to it.  A hidden traitor card game, it is one where there is a lot of banter with players accusing each other left, right and centre.  The group is split into two teams—Lovely Dwarves and Evil Saboteurs.  The aim of the game for the Dwarves is to find the gold, while the clue is in the name for the Nasty, Evil Saboteurs, who are trying to stop them.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, players either play a card, or discard a card.  There are two types:  tunnels and actions.  Tunnels are played in the central area and must extend the existing tunnel network.  Action cards are special cards including map cards (which allow players to take a peak at a target card and report back on whether it is gold or not), rockfall cards (which allow players to remove a troublesome tunnel card), and tool cards.  This last category is where the fun comes.  Players can prevent others from digging tunnels by “breaking” their tools.  Mostly this is because they think someone is on the opposite team, but occasionally it is just “because”.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Lime started by picking on Pine for what turned out to be no very good reason.  Pine claimed the gold was in the middle (very early) and five others checked it and concurred.  Pine had a lovely “Saboteury” hand, but emphatically claimed he wasn’t.  And indeed, he wasn’t which meant Lime had to apologise to him at the end as he’d picked on him throughout.  Blue picked on Green—because “He’s always a Saboteur, Right?”—except he wasn’t either.  The guilty parties were Lemon, Lilac and Purple, but it was a fairly easy win for the Dwarves for whom Lime brought victory home.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

It had been a lot of fun, so everyone was keen to have another go.  After she had been on Team Evil the first time round, Pine perhaps unfairly targetted Lilac who was wholly innocent the second time.  The same could not be said of Purple who was a Saboteur twice in a row.  After picking on him the first time, Blue had to make peace with Green as they were on the same side in the second game (and not the “right” one either).  It is essential for Saboteurs to work well together, and although they did and it was close, it was not quite close enough and Lemon found the gold for the Dwarves.  There was time for one last round, and if the second round was close, the final round was even closer.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

While the Dwarves were worrying about who might be the three Saboteurs, Lime and Black managed to sow the seed of confusion when with Lime claimed that the gold was in the middle and Black agreeing.  Later it turned out that this was actually coal and although Lime showed his true colours early, it wasn’t until he was joined by Black that the Dwarves realised they’d been duped.  Concerned about the third Saboteur, Blue just managed to find the Gold before they ran out of cards.  Lime and Black had done really well as Saboteurs though, especially as it turned out there were only two of them.  It had been a lot of fun, but with Viticulture at an end, several people wanting an early night and it now having got quite late, everyone decided to leave it at that.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  It’s never too early to start making enemies.

20th April 2022

Meeting for the first time on a Wednesday, Pink and then Blue were the first to arrive, and like last time, played a game of Abandon all Artichokes (with the Rhubarb mini-expansion) while they waited for food to arrive. This is a very quick and simple “deck shredding” game: on their turn the active player takes a card from the face up market, adds it to their hand and then plays as many cards as they can before they discard the rest and draw five new cards. If this new hand contains no Artichoke cards, the player wins.  Although it is very simple, it seems the function sequence is somehow challenging.  Pink struggled last time, but seemed to have got the better of it as he won.

Abandon All Artichokes
– Image by boardGOATS

As they were finishing, Pine turned up and, while Pink went to the bar, Blue explained the rules to him and then they played again.  Pine also struggled a bit with which pile was the discard pile and which the draw pile, and where to take cards from and where they were going to.  There is hope though as, despite the arrival of food in the middle, Pink won the second game too.  Pink and Blue were just finishing their supper when Purple and Black arrived, soon followed by Green, Lime and Ivory.

Abandon All Artichokes
– Image by boardGOATS

This week, the “Feature Game” was the new edition of Libertalia, Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest, a card driven game where players are admirals commanding a crew of sky pirates in search of adventure, treasure, and glory.  Pine had watched the advertised play-through video and professed it “looked” fun, so was keen to give it a go.  Ivory and Pink joined the party, while Green shouted across from the other end of the table that he would be happy either way as he knew nothing about it.  In the end, after considerable debate, Ivory, Pink and Pine were joined by Blue and Purple, leaving Green, Black and Lime to find something else to play.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Blue had read the rules, she had very deliberately not looked at the character cards, so Pine arguably knew most about Winds of Galecrest.  It is a rejuvenated version of the older game, Libertalia, but with new, lighter artwork, additional characters and streamlining of some of the mechanisms.  Very simply, each player starts with a deck of forty cards, of which six are drawn into their hand.  The idea is that players have the same character cards to play, but can play them in different orders.  Thus, one player (in our case Pink) shuffles their forty numbered cards and then draws six, which the the others find in their numbered and sorted decks.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over three voyages, the first of which takes four days, the second, five days, and the final voyage takes six days.  Each day, players simultaneously choose a card to play, which when revealed are laid out in numerical order on the island.  The are then played three times: first in ascending order (daytime), next in descending order (dusk) and finally simultaneous (night).  Some cards only have actions that activate in one or two of the time-frames, but any characters still on the island, move back to that player’s ship and stay there till the end of the voyage.  At the end of the voyage, players activate any loot and characters they have with end of voyage actions.  Despite that being pretty much all there is to the game (and it being written clearly on the board), the group still managed to make a bit of a meal of it.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

The first hand consisted of six relatively uninteresting cards (or so it seemed at the time), which all had daytime actions.  The first voyage, and to some extent the second too, players were feeling their way.  Because the group failed to remove the Character cards from their ships at the end of the first voyage, that skewed things somewhat, especially as some players had the First Mate in their ship which in some cases scored twice giving points for the number of characters in their ship which was also artificially inflated.  Ivory knew which cards he’d played and when, but others were unsure and some had built a strategy that relied on having certain Characters in their boat at the end of the second voyage.  So rather than trying to back-track, ships were emptied for the first time at the end of the second round.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

It took the group a bit of time to understand when the actions for the loot happened—most occur at the end of the voyage, but some occur on the day they are collected, during the dusk phase.  As a result, several players missed some of those dusk actions, the additional reputation gained from picking up a Barrel in particular.  At the beginning of the second round, Blue, Pine, Ivory and Pink agreed they were all playing the “obvious card”.  On revealing their cards they discovered they had differing ideas of what the obvious play was, which gave the first inkling that there was much more to the actions than had first appeared, but the players really got to grips with the planning aspects of the game in the final round.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory played his Carpenter, which reduced his funds by half, and immediately followed it with the Officer which increased his kitty to twelve doubloons.  Then, because he is always a threat, he was targeted by Pine and then Blue, losing first his Carpenter and then his Gambler from his ship (both give money at the end of the round).  Blue then assassinated Pink’s Carpenter and he took out her Gambler in revenge.  Pink discovered that the Saber type loot was much more dangerous than he gave it credit for as yet another of his Characters on the island bit the dust.  Meanwhile, Purple was building the contents of her treasure chest largely unmolested, mostly only suffering as collateral damage.  Pine also made killing by playing his Bodyguard with perfect timing, simultaneously taking lots of gold for discarding all the Sabers and Hooks from the loot pile, and starving everyone else of treasure.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

In the final accounting Blue was the most successful pirate, though she was one of the beneficiaries of the “rules malfunction” at the end of the second voyage.  Purple made an excellent second place though, picking up loads of gold from her loot while largely managing to avoid being caught in the cross-fire as the others attacked each other.  Libertalia is a much more vicious game than those we usually play, even though it was a “Calm” game and supposedly “easy and friendly”—Heaven only knows what Stormy will be like!  It was a lot of fun though, especially when the group started to get to grips with it properly during the final round.  It’s clear the game could cause a lot of relationship trouble, but that won’t stop it getting another outing soon.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table things were much more peaceful with Green, Black and Lime laying carpets.  No-one felt up to anything too taxing or long tonight, so after reviewing the selection of games available Black suggested they play Marrakech, which certainly fitted the bill. Marrakech, is an unusual little game, with fantastic little rugs made of fabric and coins made out of wood, where players take the role of a rug salesman who tries to outwit the competition.  Each player starts with ten Dirhams and an equal number of carpets.  On their turn, players may rotate Assam ninety degrees, then roll the die and move him forward as many spaces as shown (up to four).

Marrakech
– Image by boardGOATS

If Assam lands on another player’s carpet, the active player must pay one Dirham per contiguous carpet square of that colour.  Finally, the active player then places one of their carpets orthogonally adjacent to Assam.  The winner is the player with the most money after the last carpet has been laid.  After a quick explanation to Lime (who hadn’t played it before), the group had to decide the Role of the Merchant.  On Board Game Arena, there are two options:  one where the player turns him himself before rolling the dice, and another where the player who just played gets to turn him at the end of their turn and before the next player.

Marrakech
– Image by boardGOATS

After a brief check of the rules, the group discovered that the first option was the original rule (move the merchant before rolling the dice) and so they went with that.  As a result it took several turns before anyone landed on anyone else’s carpet, then Black landed on a single square of Lime’s.   A couple more turns and landing on carpet became a regular activity.  When Green landed on a five square of Black’s, it became apparent that Lime had been labouring under a false understanding about what counted as a paying patch of carpet. He had thought that players have to pay for all the carpet squares connected, by any means including other people’s carpets, but of course only the patch that the Merchant is stood on counts.

Marrakech
– Image by boardGOATS

At various points in the game everyone had a large patch of carpet posing a hazard to the other players: Green had a large area in one corner, Black a large squarish patch in the middle, and Lime managed to get a zig-zag line from one corner all the way to the opposite one.  Mostly everyone managed to avoid landing on these until they were broken up, but that duck was broken when Green landed on a large Black area, shifting the coin balance heavily in Black’s favour.  At the end of the game carpet value was added to coins, and although Green had the most carpet showing, Black had significantly more coins than the others and finished as the winner by five points.

Marrakech
– Image by boardGOATS

Libertalia was still ongoing, and Marrakech had served as an excellent aperitif, but it was now it was time to move on to something more substantial, and the game of choice was Niagara. This is fantastic family game, that won the Spiel des Jahres Award in 2005, but is still a lot of fun seventeen years later.  The idea is that players have two canoes that they are using to navigate up and down the river while trying to collect gems and land them safely on shore.  Players simultaneously choose a paddle card from their hand, which dictates the distance their canoes travel.  Once everyone’s boat has travelled, the river moves and any canoes that are too close to the falls take the long drop and are turned to matchwood.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

Players are trying to land five gems of the same type (or seven different colours) and the first to do so is the winner.  We last played this about nine months ago, online, through the medium of Board Game Arena.  On that occasion, Pink had betrayed everyone’s trust and stole several people’s precious loot.  The victims (in particular Burgundy), were vociferous in their grievance, and as a result, despite Pink being enthusiastic about playing again, nobody was keen to join him.  With Pink tied up in a quite different loot battle, this was a good opportunity to play again as it was still quite early and it was also an opportunity to introduce Lime to an old classic.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

The first round played relatively gently and much the way it normally does with everyone holding their cloud paddle tile (which allows them to change the speed of the river) back for the last round.  Going into the second round however, Black and Green conspired to shake things up a notch. After putting a canoe onto the river, Black then moved the cloud from the plus one space it had been left on at the end of first round, to the plus two space. However, Green had also thought this was a bold move and had planned to do the same, but unfortunately, he had to move the cloud and as plus two is the maximum, the only direction to go from plus two was back to plus one.  The result was that everyone spent the rest of that round moving five steps forward and four back.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

The highest cards were not enough to get players’ boats off the river and each time they just got dragged back again, with the landing stage forever out of reach.  Green tried to “go against the flow” using some lower cards earlier in the round and holding a bigger card for later, but apart from moving around on different river discs, the end result was still the same.  Everyone ended up on the same disc a couple of times too, and Lime was unfortunate when he lost one of his boats over the rapids.  At the beginning of the third round players got their boats off the river.  By this point, Black had managed to collect four different coloured gems and only needed that elusive pink. Green also had four gems, but that included two purple ones.  Lime had just two gems as he decided to trade one to get his second canoe back.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

Black tried to inch down the river, sometimes choosing not to move a canoe in order to arrive at that last spot to collect his game winning pink gem. However Lime slowed the river down to minus one, and this left Black’s canoes in the wrong place.  In the meantime, Lime also collected another couple of gems and Green managed to pick up another two as well, one purple and one blue.  This left Green needing just one gem to win with seven (the fact that a pink would give him one of each did not matter—there is no double win in this game).  As the new round began, Green got on the river, collected the final purple gem and there was nothing the others could do to stop him landing it on his next turn.  And with that, the paddling was over with Green the victor.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

Although it was not that late, Lime and Green left for their respective homes, leaving Black to watch the final few turns of Libertalia.  When that wound up, Ivory headed home and there was still time left for something short. While everyone else discussed the options, Pink went to the bar for a “tot” of Dead Man’s Fingers Rum.  In his absence, Bohnanza was eschewed as “not short” and 6 Nimmt! and Coloretto had both been played recently.  Saboteur doesn’t play so well with smaller numbers so in the end, the game chosen was Sushi Go!.  The first thing to do was to remove the promotional expansions for its big brother Sushi Go Party! (Sukeroku, Inari, Sake and Pickled Ginger; these can be played with the original version but other cards need to be removed), however the Soy Sauce promo cards included as usual.

Dear Man's Finger Rum
– Image by Pine

The game is really simple:  from their hand of cards, players simultaneously choose one to keep and pass the rest on before repeating until everyone has no cards.  At the end of the round the different cards are scored according to their individual characteristics.  After three rounds, puddings are evaluated and the winner is the player with the largest total number of points.  This time there was a serious shortage of puddings in the first round and Blue seemed to have more than her fair share.  It wasn’t clear whether it was because she was overly focused on deserts or whether it was just because she’s rubbish at the game, but her score was lower than everyone else except Pine.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine made up for it in the second and third rounds.  In general, consistency is usually the winning factor in Sushi Go!, so Pink should have been in a good position, but both Black and Purple had a couple of really strong rounds, as indeed did Pine.  As a result, it was a really close game.  Pine was undone by the combination of his poor first round and the fact he was the only one with no puddings and lost six points as a result.  In contrast, Blue’s score was boosted by six points as she had a clear majority.  It was Purple and Black who were the ones to beat though, as they tied for the lead on thirty points and tied on the pudding tie break as well, so shared victory.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  If you are looking for job security, don’t become a pirate.

4th Movember 2021 – boardGOATS do the Quiz

We’d had so much fun last month, we decided to give the Jockey quiz another go, all the more-so since we came second last time and had hopes of going one better. First there was food though and that was followed by a quick game of NMBR 9.  This is nominally a four player game, but with a second copy, it can play more so all five, Blue, Pink, Green, Lilac, and Burgundy could all play together.  The game is a very simple tile laying and stacking game built round shapes made from the digits zero to nine.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that players can place tiles on top of other tiles so long as there is no “overhang”, and the higher numbered tiles are, the more they score.  This time, Blue managed to build a massive five layers, though it was placing a nine on her fourth layer that made the difference scoring twenty-seven points on its own and ultimately giving her clear victory with just under a hundred points.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

The previous quiz had been so successful that Purple and Black joined the group along with Pine, just in time for the second game.  With only a little time and so many players, there were really only two options, and 6 Nimmt! was preferred to Saboteur.  6 Nimmt! is so simple, but so much fun, with players choosing simultaneously choosing a card and then discovering whether they will dodge disaster, drop someone else in it, or wind up picking up a pile of cards themselves.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

We have played loads of 6 Nimmt! online over the last couple of years, mostly using the Professional variant, but feeling that the maths was beyond us this time without a computer to keep us inline, we eschewed that this time.  Instead, we played with our usual face-to-face variant where we play two rounds, each with half the deck.  This time it looked like Blue was going to carry on from NMBR 9, with a clear first round.  It is consistency that is key here though and her second round score put her out of the running.  Pink, Black and Lilac kept their first round scores to single digits, and with low second round scores it was really tight between Black and Pink.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately for Black, Pink just edged it with a total of nineteen, three less than Black.  There wasn’t time for him to grieve, however, as Charles came round with the picture round for the quiz.  It turned out that Purple was particularly good at this, and we were confident before we found we’d got them all correct.  Sadly, we did less well elsewhere, not helped by failing to spot that “LICKED LOVE HURT” is an anagram of “ORVILLE THE DUCK”.  This was particularly galling as two members of the team had independently identified “the duck” as a possibility, but had moved on as “LIEDLOV” didn’t look like anything useful.

Quiz November 2021
– Image by boardGOATS

There was much hilarity, when Green confidently announced he knew that the item on the front cover of “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a mask, only to discover it is actually a tie.  Unfortunately, although we were in the running until the end, despite Pine working out that “RICOTTA SERVICES” is an anagram of “VICTORIA’S SECRETS”, we finished joint fifth with fifty-four points, six points behind the winners, “Blah Blah blah”.  Must do better next time, possibly at the village quiz on Saturday…

Quiz November 2021
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  “I ‘ate that duck…”

The evening began with the usual friendly chit-chat.  This time, it was mostly focussed on whether or not we would be able to go back to our beloved Jockey for the next meeting (spoiler: we won’t).   But we also discussed at length why Van Diemans in the village was so called, whether it had anything to do with Tasmania or U2, and who Mr. Van Dieman was anyhow (spoiler: nobody knew the answers to any of these, but the street name is spelled differently to the “land”).  We then began to set up the “Feature Game” which was the Fortune expansion for Tiny Towns.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Tiny Towns is a cute little area control, resource management and town building game with a strong spacial element.  We have played the game several times: after a couple of plays of the minimalistic base game, we have since added the alternative building cards, then the Monuments, and felt we were now ready to add the first expansion, Fortune.  The basic idea is very simple:  players place resources, one per space on their four-by-four town plan.  When they have the right combination of resources in the right arrangement, they can be replaced with a building.  This frees up some spaces, but makes one unavailable for the rest of the game which makes planning essential.  Different buildings give points in different ways, and to add variety, there are alternative buildings available for each type.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

In person, the game plays up to four with players taking it in turns to choose the resource that everyone must place.  Playing online, we use the “Town Hall Variant” which uses a deck of cards to give two resources while every third is a free choice.  For ease with so many, we also play a sort of “Roll and Write” variant where players print their player board and draw the buildings when they build them.  Monuments are special buildings that act as a sort of private goal with everyone having their own Monument deck to draw two cards from at the start of the game, picking one to keep.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

The Fortune expansion allows a little additional flexibility giving players the opportunity to acquire gold and then spend it so they can choose their own resources.  Players receive gold for building two buildings in the same round.  This requires slightly more planning and leads to a little more restriction, but the reward is flexibility later in the game, or an extra point if the gold is unspent.  Players can only hold a maximum of four gold coins at any one time though (or five if they have built a Monument that provides extra storage space).

Tiny Towns: Fortune
– Image by boardGOATS

We also chose to play with the optional “Cavern” rule which is really more of a “hole in the ground” where players can throw resources.  It only holds two resources and players cannot recover these resources and use them later in the game (hence, more of a bottomless pit than a Cavern).  This time we played with both the Cavern rule and the Fortune expansion. Playing with both the Cavern and the Fortune expansion gave a lot of flexibility, perhaps too much flexibility as it took away a lot of the tension and challenge that makes the original game, though it was a lot less stressful as a result.  Playing again, we’d probably play with one or the other, but perhaps not both, as they do a similar thing.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

We started by drawing the cards for the buildings.  They were the Cottage (always included of course), the Farm, the Fountain, the Cathedral, the Gamblers’ Den, the Market, and the Trading Post.  The Cathedral and Gamblers’ Den were from the Fortune expansion, with most of the others being optional alternative cards from the base game.  There was some debate whether the seven points a Cathedral would give was worth the effort and how the Trading Post works.  With all the little rules niggles ironed out we started.  There were the usual complaints when people wanted one thing and got something else.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

The game began with a lot of stone and wood, which players were mostly able to augment with their choice in every third round.  Most people made a point of building a up a stash of coins in the early part of the game while there was space available to work with.  Players gradually drop out when they can no-longer place resources in their town.  Blue was the first to drop out and early too, having used her Trading Post to provide additional resources and her Masons’ Guild Monument to build extra buildings.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Others soon started following though, and it wasn’t long before Ivory was posting his traditionally high opening score.  At his opening bid of forty-one there were lots of agonised groans, and with good cause as it turned out.  Three others were within three points of him and several others were not much further away.  Burgundy, Pink and Blue scored thirty-eight, thirty-nine and forty respectively, but despite recounts, nobody was quite able to catch Ivory.

Tiny Towns: Fortune
– Image by boardGOATS

It had been a very good game and everyone had really enjoyed it, but time was marching on.  So once Lime and Ivory had taken their leave, the rest of the group moved on to Board Game Arena and after some debate, decided to play Saboteur.  This is a hidden traitor game that we have played quite a bit. The idea is that there are two teams: Lovely Loyal Dwarves and Nasty Evil Saboteurs.  The Dwarves are playing cards trying to find gold, while the Saboteurs are trying to stop them by pushing the tunnel in the wrong direction and breaking their tools.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

There is a bit of a flaw in the game, however.  In order to keep a level of ambiguity, the number of Saboteurs/Dwarves is always slightly vague.  In real life, this is done by drawing cards from a deck containing one more card than the number of players.  The problem is though, the swing of two players from the Saboteurs to the Dwarves means it goes from extremely difficult for the Saboteurs to nigh-on impossible.  This is particularly the case with the smaller numbers of players, six or seven, say.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

For this reason, we decided to see if we could include something from the Saboteur 2 expansion, to level things up.  Not wanting to introduce too much change too suddenly, we only included the “Selfish Dwarf”.  This basically gives one of the Dwarves a slightly different goal—while he is also digging for the treasure, he only wins the round if he is the one to actually find it.  At the start of the first round, it was immediately obvious that Green was a Saboteur—he is a natural Saboteur and we always assume he is anyhow, with or without evidence.  This time he was definitely a Saboteur, though and it quickly became apparent that Black was also a Saboteur.

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

It became apparent that something was amiss when Pink and Pine appeared to join them with even Purple behaving a little suspiciously.  Blue in particular was very confused as although nobody else knew it yet, she knew she was a saboteur (she checked several times just to be certain!), but there were already more Saboteurs than was possible given the number of players.  In the end, Pine decided to trust Blue and that put the final nail in the Dwarves attempts to find the wealth.  The Dwarves got nowhere close at all just heading endlessly south, which gave a rare victory for the Saboteurs, who turned out to be Pink, Green and Blue.

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

This was only the second win for the Saboteurs since we’ve been playing online, with the previous occasion being very recent, the last time we played the game, in fact.  The Saboteurs were very pleased with themselves and their efforts, and the Selfish Dwarf, who turned out to be Burgundy, had just got nowhere too.  The second round the Dwarves made much better progress from the start.  There was a little debate about where the gold was, but once they had concluded it was at the bottom they made a bit of a beeline towards it.  Somehow, things weren’t quite that simple though.

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

The Dwarves had a lot of misfortune with the cards they had and just as it looked like they might make it, they didn’t have the cards.  And then Pine put the boot in and that was that—two wins out of two for the Saboteurs who, this time, were Pine, Pink and Purple.  The game is played over three rounds with the winning team getting gold at the end of each round.  So with one round to go everyone felt sure that the Dwarves would be able to make up for it in the final round.

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

Once again, it became apparent early on that Pink was a Saboteur, third time in three rounds.  Despite his protestations (he always protests, Saboteur or not), Green was behaving very suspiciously and disappeared under a hail of broken tools as the Dwarves tried to limit the damage he could cause.  The real question was whether there was another Saboteur or not, and if there was, who was it?  Suspicion fell on Black thanks to the number of cards he was discarding and how generally unhelpful he was being, but nobody was quite certain.

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

In the end, the Dwarves simply ran out of cards—although they knew where they were going they didn’t quite make it giving the Evil saboteurs a completely unprecedented three wins from three with Pink winning all three rounds.  The question is, what caused it?  Well, it certainly was significant that in all three cases, the Dwarves were playing with the maximum quota.  It is possible that the Selfish Dwarf contributed slightly too, but Pink who seemed to be the architect of their success, afterwards said he felt that the Saboteurs did well because in each case he started his evil deeds early in the round instead of waiting.  It will be interesting to see if that works next time we Saboteur.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Saboteurs really CAN win!

16th March 2021 (Online)

Purple, Black, Pine and Green chatted while Blue reminded herself of the rules for the first game.  Green showed everyone his new game, Fossilis, which comes with little plastic dinosaur bones, tweezers, and even a tiny plastic scorpion—one to play when we get back to the pub, along with the very newly released Red Rising, the Oceania Expansion for the really popular Wingspan, and a whole host of other games that we’ve been waiting over a year to play.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

And sadly, with the realisation that it was a year and a day since a very small group met at The Jockey for the last (unofficial) games night there, we moved on to playing the “Feature Game“, Das Labyrinth des Pharao.  Das Labyrinth des Pharao is a tile laying game in a similar vein to Take it Easy! which we played a few weeks ago, or the Spiel des Jahres nominee, Karuba (which we last played about five years ago).  In Das Labyrinth des Pharao though, players are exploring a pyramid and collecting treasure.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we’ve not played it on a Tuesday, some of the group have played it before at the Didcot Games Club (November 2015 and September 2016).  Like all the games that we’ve found that work well played online, Das Labyrinth des Pharao is quite simple to play, but it is a little bit “thinky” relying on planning and a little bit of luck.  Everyone had the tiles and board that were delivered a few weeks back, and they had found their Tiny Towns cubes and a meeple from one of the special Christmas crackers we’ve had at one of the unChristmas Parties during happier times.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

The first thing to do was lay out the tiles around the board, in number order—some appear more than once, so these are stacked.  Players then counted out five, four and three of their cubes as treasures.  Once everything was set up, Blue explained that Pink would turn over one of the beautifully decorated number cards (each part of a polyptych), and everyone had to place the corresponding tile on their board.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

They can place the tile anywhere on their board, in any orientation. Some of the tiles have scarabs depicted on them—players can place treasures on these, but must start with the lowest value treasures first.  So, only when all five one-point treasures had been used, could players move on to the four two-point treasures, and finally the three-point treasures (blue, green and red disks respectively, though we were playing with turquoise, yellow and red cubes).

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

After the third round, players have to choose which of the six possible entrances they are going to start from and then progress their “explorer meeple” along the path as far as they can.  In the rules, players mark the path at intervals so everyone else can see how far the explorers have travelled, but given the added difficulties associated with playing remotely and the fact that players could count their own path at any time, we omitted this.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends after twenty-five of the twenty-eight cards have been revealed and then people add up their scores.  Firstly, they score one point for each quarter tile their tunnel extends along.  Next they score points for each treasure chamber their tunnel passes, that is a chamber that contains one treasure surrounded by walls on all four sides.  As usual, the player with the most points is the winner.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

The game was a bit of a tale of people missing cards and having to try to correct it, and for a change, it wasn’t just the usual suspects.  As the game progressed, it became clear that most people had tried to follow Blacks advice and tried to place as many of their treasure tokens as they could.  The problem with this is that they aren’t worth anything unless players have managed to enclose them in a chamber and ensure their route passes alongside.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

In fact, one of the biggest problems for some turned out to be connecting valuable parts of their tunnel to their chosen entrance to ensure their treasure hunter was able to explore the temple.  Pine and Pink seemed particularly afflicted, and as the game drew to a close, Burgundy and Pink in particular were getting increasingly desperate for tile number fourteen.  The final tile was number six, which did most of the job and with that, everyone had to work out their scores.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

As usual, Ivory posted his score first, setting a competitive target of fifty, made up of thirty-one from his path and nineteen in treasure.  In general, the scores were quite close, with almost everyone scoring between forty and fifty.  The longest path was thirty-seven and the most treasure collected was nineteen.  In most cases, those that had a long path (like Blue and Burgundy) had few treasures, while those with a lot of treasure (like Pine and Green) had not explored as deep into the temple.  The exception was Pink, who managed to do well at both and finished with a total of fifty-four.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

It had been a fairly short game, and as it was a while since we’d practised our colouring, we moved onto a quick game of “Roll and WriteTetris, in the form of Second Chance.  We’ve played this quite a bit since we first started playing online, but the last time was just before Christmas, so we decided to give it another go.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that two shapes are revealed and players must draw them in their nine-by-nine grid.  The shapes come in different sizes and the game rewards efficiency in packing.  If a player is unable to play either shape, they get a second chance: one card all to themselves.  If they can play that, then they can carry on, but if they are unable to play that as well, then they are eliminated.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Unusually, being eliminated is not necessarily a guarantee of failure in this game:  the winner is the player with the fewest unfilled spaces at the end, which is when the deck of cards runs out.  So, in this game, a player can be knocked out, but still win.  This time, there were a couple of people who threatened to need a second chance, but then suddenly in one round, nobody was able to place either shape and everyone needed a second chance.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

That round took out everyone but Green and Black, but as there were no cards left, it turned out to be the final round, and that was that.  The scores varied from eleven to two, with a tie between Lilac and Blue for first.  Pink suggested a vote based on the quality of the art-work, but nobody wanted to choose between them and a tie it remained.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

From there, Ivory and Lilac took an early night, while the rest of the group moved to Board Game Arena for a game of Saboteur.  This hidden traitor game is one we’ve played a lot online over the last year.  The idea is that players are either Good Dwarves or Evil Saboteurs, with the Dwarves trying to play cards to build a tunnel and find the treasure, while the Saboteurs try to stop them using blocking cards and by breaking the Dwarves’ tools.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

It is always extremely difficult for the Saboteurs to win, but we live in hope and everyone is always pleased to get the opportunity to try.  The first round it was Blue’s and Black’s turn to try.  With seven players, there can be two or three Saboteurs—with just two it was pretty much guaranteed to be gold for the Dwarves, and so it proved.  The Dwarves headed straight for the gold, and despite a desperate rear-guard action the round was quickly over.

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

The second round was much closer.  The evil Pine, Pink and Green made life extremely difficult for the Dwarves very effectively blocking their first route to the gold and forcing them to go all around the houses before they found the gold.  Early in the game, Pink caused chaos by disagreeing with Pine as to where the Gold was, and the ensuing confusion made it very close.  The Saboteurs had a lot of cards that worked in their favour, but they still couldn’t quite stop Purple from finding the gold in the end.  The third and final round was a different story though…

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

Initially, the tunnels made good progress, but largely by chance, the tunnel headed towards the top card, when the treasure (it turned out) was at the bottom.  Things were made worse for the Dwarves when paranoia meant they turned on each other early.  There was more confusion about where the gold was and the Dwarves were in disarray.  Eventually, Pine revealed his colours, and then Black, and finally Burgundy.  For once, the cards went the Saboteurs’ way and they played them really well too.  Despite a desperate effort, there was nothing the Dwarves could do against such wickedness, and after a year of trying, the Saboteurs took their first victory.

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

Time was marching on and we were looking for one last game to play, something perhaps a little different from the usual 6 Nimmt!.  After some discussion, Green and Black ducked out and everyone else played Draftosaurus—a game that Blue and Pink have very nearly picked up on several occasions, including Essen in 2019, just after it first came out and that Pine described as “Sushi Go! with dinosaurs”.  With that description, nobody could resist giving it a go.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

By this, Pine meant the main mechanism is drafting.  In Sushi Go! players have a hand of cards, then simultaneously, they choose one to keep and pass the rest on.  In Sushi Go!, players are collecting sets of cards, but in Draftosaurus players are drafting little wooden dinosaur meeples and placing them in their dinosaur park, on their personal player board.  The clever part, and what makes it different to Sushi Go!, is that the scoring is driven by the different park locations.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

Before each draft, a die is rolled that restricts where players can place their chosen dinosaur and the seven locations all score for different combinations of dinosaurs.  This means that players can want the same dinosaurs for different reasons, or different dinosaurs for the same reasons.  The game is played over two rounds, drafting six dinosaurs drawn at random from a bag, first clockwise and then anti-clockwise.  In the Board Game Arena rendering, this is all done electronically and the tactile nature is lost, however, the graphics are charming.

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

For those who were new to the game, it took a couple of turns to work out where the scoring opportunities  are and how to make the best of them, and also to work out how the dinosaurs are passed round and how players could affect each other.  Pine was the only one to have played before, and therefore had a better grasp of how things worked.  Rather than use this experience to beat everyone else’s faces into the dirt, he helped keep everyone else straight and offered help and advice as required.

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

Draftosaurus rocks along at quite a pace, and it wasn’t long before the game was coming to an end.  Burgundy and Pink had got to grips with the game best and quickest and there was only one point in it.  Although they had mostly tried different approaches, both had also tried to collect different dinosaurs in the Meadow of Differences.  Burgundy had the edge though, and took victory with thirty-eight points.

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

Everyone had really enjoyed it and fallen a little bit in love with the charming graphics, quick game play, and what’s not to like about building a dinosaur park?!?!  This is definitely one to get and play once we can meet up properly again.  And on that positive note, looking forward to playing together with tactile dino-meeples after a year of gaming from home, it was time for bed.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

Learning Outcome:  Pharaohs and Dinosaurs, what’s not to like?

19th January 2021 (Online)

Although they started the meeting early, Blue and Pink left Pine and Green to chat while they set things up.  Lime popped in and joined the chatter, with everyone else arriving in good time for 8pm.  Blue was just starting to explain the rules for the “Feature Game“, Noch Mal So Gut!, when the gremlins first put an appearance (and no, it wasn’t Beige, though he might have been responsible for summoning them).

Beige
– Image by Pine

For the most part, we’ve been quite lucky with the technology.  We’ve had a couple of issues, once when Lime and Ivory got alternately thrown out of Microsoft Teams and another when Tabletop Simulator died on us last April in the middle of a game of Finstere Flure (aka Fearsome Floors), but otherwise the issues have been very minor.  This time the Gremlin Attack was ultimately more spectacular, although it started slowly with Black and Purple having issues with the window-in-window Teams view that wouldn’t maximise.  Eventually the problem went away and Blue explained the rules.

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

Noch Mal So Gut! is a slightly more complex, more strategic version of Noch Mal!, a game we have played a few times (including with the first Zusatzblock) and is known within the group as “Boardgame Bingo“.  The basic version of the game is quite simple:  the active player rolls three colour and three number dice and picks one of each, using them to cross off coloured blocks on their player board.  Everyone else then picks one colour and one number from the remaining dice and uses them in the same way.  The player board consists of coloured squares in groups making blocks.  Squares can only be crossed off when they are orthogonally adjacent, match the colour on the die chosen and either start in the middle row (Row H) or are next to another square that has already been crossed off.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

The dice are numbered one to five with a wild for the sixth face, and the number indicates exactly how many squares must be crossed off, it is not possible to “overpay”.  Similarly, there are five colours and one wild (black)—each play only gets eight chances to use number or colour wilds during the game, so they must be used sparingly.  Points are scored for completing columns or crossing off all the squares of a colour, with the player who manages this first scoring more points than those to achieve it later in the game.  Negative points are scored for any stars that are not crossed off.  The game ends when a player crosses off all the squares of two colours.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

The second implementation, Noch Mal So Gut!, adds a couple of new features which add a large slice of strategy.  Firstly, there is an extra die which players can choose to use instead of the colour/number dice pair.   This special die provides actions like bombs which blow up any four squares in a two-by-two group, or the ability to cross out two squares with stars on them.  The special actions can only be used if a player has a “special die” token to spend.  These can be collected during the game, primarily by crossing off squares featuring the special symbol.  In addition to the special die, players also score points for completing rows, with the first successful player or players additionally gaining a bonus, special dice tokens, bombs or hearts.  The hearts are one of the symbols on the special die, in fact it features on two faces so comes up quite often.

Noch Mal So Gut!
– Image by boardGOATS

Hearts give players the bonus points when they complete columns; the number of bonus points they get depends on the number of hearts they have when they complete the column.  So this adds a little bit of spice to the game:  should a player spend dice rolls in the early stages on hearts and hope to be able to cash in later?  Or should they concentrate on completing rows and columns and end the game before other players can capitalise on the hearts they have collected?  The good thing about Noch Mal! (and the reimplementation) is the interaction, through the dice selection and also the scoring.  This is something that is sorely missing in many of the “Roll and Write” style games we have been playing.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

That said, the dice selection element does slow the game down somewhat.  It’s not too bad though, as everyone is only waiting for one player before they can make their selection simultaneously.  It didn’t take too long to get started, though first Black and Purple had technical issues and then Green dropped out for a bit too, so they all had to be filled in on the bits they missed.  A couple of others had a moment and Microsoft Teams got the blame, but we soon started playing, and as always, Ivory was quick to start collecting columns making rapid progress to the right where he started to claim lots of points.  We were making good progress when Black and Purple vanished, so we waited to see if they would come back.

Dots
– Dots by Dribbble on
pinterest.com

After some waiting, and attempts to invite them back, it was starting to look like they had a more serious problem.  Green offered to contact them by SMS and everyone else took drink, snack and litter tray breaks while the opportunity was there.  Eventually, we heard back that Black’s computer had crashed and was now doing a disk-check.  We were reluctant to admit defeat, so although we carried on without them, we took screen-shots of the dice choices they had, just in case they were able to rejoin us.  This was working fine until it was Black’s turn and it was looking like the game might have to continue without Black and Purple, when miraculously, they suddenly rejoined the meeting.  A quick flash back through the previous three or four rolls and the game continued from there.

Noch Mal So Gut!
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue picked up the first row, Green took one, Burgundy got a couple and Blue took a couple more.  Pink meanwhile had collected a full set of hearts and was starting to make hay on the bonus points.  People seemed to enjoy this implementation more than the original Noch Mal!, because it offers more in the way of strategy.  It was pushing 10pm by the time Burgundy brought the game to an end, though to be fair we’d spent nearly half of the time dealing with the gremlins. And it took a while to work out the scores too.  Like the original, the first task is to finish with a positive score, which this time, everyone managed.  As the totals came in, Burgundy, Green, Pink and Pine had all done well, but Blue was well out in front finishing with sixty-four points, more than twenty ahead of Pink in second.

Noch Mal So Gut!
– Image by boardGOATS

The lateness of the hour ruled out the possibility of playing ClipCut Parks or Cartographers (again!), and given the IT issues, we decided it was time to move to Board Game Arena.  After a bit of chit-chat about leaving up Christmas lights, Ivory and Lime said good night.  There was some discussion about what to play:  Pine commented that despite nominating it for the GOAT Poo prize before Christmas, he actually really liked Welcome To… on Board Game Arena, and for some reason found it better than playing on paper.  Green took a quick look and vetoed it as “another Roll and Write game” saying he’d had enough of them.  So eventually, we decide to play Saboteur.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Saboteur is an old favourite which we’ve played a lot over the years, including just two weeks ago.  This is a hidden traitor type game where players are Dwarves tunnelling to find gold, or evil Saboteurs trying to prevent the Dwarves succeeding.  Players have a hand of cards which they can use to progress the tunnel or or action cards which they can use to do things like stop other players from digging, cause rock-falls or look at the target cards and help to identify where the gold is hidden.  Half the fun in this game is the banter and accusations that go along with it.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the banter started with Green accusing Blue of being a Saboteur, mostly just because.  Blue retaliated and accused Green, but when Pink played a dead-end card on the main route to the gold, Black broke Pink’s pickaxe for him and Pine followed by breaking his lamp. Green triggered a rock-fall only for his suspicions about Blue to be confirmed when she blocked the tunnel.  With Purple aligning herself on the side of the Saboteurs, by breaking Green’s pick, the three Saboteurs knew each other.  The game is always really difficult for the Saboteurs, but with three against four Dwarves and the tunnel blocked, there was just a chance that they might manage it this time.

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

Pink broke Black’s trolley only for Burgundy to repair it immediately.  Pine removed the blockage and Blue blocked it again.  Eventually Pine cleared it again and with the deck exhausted, victory for the Saboteurs was tantalisingly close.  That triggered a tsunami of tool destruction.  The Dwarves were creeping ever closer to their target though, but there was just a chance.  If Purple could play a straight tunnel past the target it would mean the Dwarves would have to tunnel that bit further, and perhaps they wouldn’t have the cards.

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

Unfortunately, Purple misunderstood and, amid much hilarity, the Dwarves gleefully claimed their treasure.  They almost certainly would have won anyhow, but it still felt a bit like an opportunity missed.  There wasn’t time to dwell on it though as it was time for the second round.  Burgundy declared his position early by playing a dead end card forcing Pink to clear it, exonerating him.  Pine joined Burgundy’s side when he caused a tunnel collapse in the middle of Route One and Purple again showed her evil side by breaking tools.  The Dwarves quickly patched up the tunnel, but the Saboteurs again put up a fight.

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

Eventually, Blue claimed some coal and the gold with a single card, and it was time for the third round.  This time, the Dwarves hedged their bets and started with a three-pronged approach, but before long, the tunnel was marching forward towards the central card.  Green revealed his true nature as an Evil Saboteur by playing a dead-end card and was joined by Purple and Pink, (again). Pine cleared his blockage enabling Black to get to the treasure before the deck was exhausted.

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

The winner depends on the distribution of “gold cards” at the end of each round.  There are the same number of cards as players, and the number of gold on the cards varies at random between one and three.  The person who finds the gold will always get the highest value card and one other, as they are doled out to the winning team, highest first, in reverse player order.  The problem is, as the Dwarves have the advantage, the “winner” will almost always be a player who has not been a Saboteur.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

This time that was not the case, with Blue and Burgundy tying for first place, both having been Saboteurs, but also both having personally found gold and also been the penultimate player (thus getting four cards).  Black was the only player not to have been Evil at some point during the game and took the bronze medal, also having taken four cards, but with a lower total value.  Poor Purple though, who had been a Saboteur in all three rounds definitely drew the short straw.  In fact, we are starting to think her friendly exterior belies an Evil lurking beneath as she has been the Saboteur on no fewer than four occasions this year already!

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

As Pink and Pine signed off, eschewing our usual finale of 6 Nimmt!, this time we enticed Green to stay for one last game of Coloretto.  This is a very simple card game that forms the underlying mechanism of the perhaps better known board game, Zooloretto.  On their turn, players have a very simple choice:  Draw a coloured chameleon card and add it to a truck, or take a truck.  The chameleons come in seven different colours and players are trying to build sets, but only the largest three sets will score positively, with the rest subtracted from that total.  With five players, the game is quite short.  This time, the game started with everyone pretty much level until Blue started to lag behind.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Forced to gamble, when she found herself the only player left “in” with an almost empty truck, she chanced her arm and turned over cards.  When she got lucky the first time, she tried gambled the second time it happened and went from the back of the pack to taking a large lead.  Black tried the same trick and also got lucky then when Burgundy decided to “take one for the team” and played “King Maker”, Black took the lead as the game came to an end and held on for a fine victory.  With that, Green decided it was definitely time for bed and after a little bit of chit-chat, everyone else went too.

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

Learning Outcome:  Being evil is harder than you might think.

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.