Tag Archives: Scotland Yard

23rd August 2022

The evening started badly when Purple, Black, Plum and Pine all turned up hungry to a pub that wasn’t serving food and Blue was delayed taking her last opportunity to play with her hosepipe.  Eventually, Blue arrived and suggested getting food from Darren at “The Happy Plaice“, who delivers chips around the area and is in Stanford-in-the-Vale Village Hall car park on a Tuesday.  Blue and Plum nipped off to place an order and returned five minutes later with a collection time of 8pm, which left just enough time for a game of Azul.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Azul is a simple, largely abstract game that we’ve had a lot of fun with since it came out at Essen five years ago.  The idea is that there is a market place where are a number of Factories are selling tiles.  Players can take all the tiles of one colour from one of these Factories and sweep the rest into the Remainders Bin in the centre of the table, or take all the tiles of one colour from the Remainders Bin.  These tiles are added to their one row in their display, but the catch is that they must be added to the same row and match any tiles already there with any left-overs scoring negative points.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the round, any completed rows are scored:  one tile is moved across to the Mosaic taking its place in the row it was collected in and scoring points for any rows and columns they become part of.  The game ends when one player fulfills one entire row in their Mosaic, and since the mosaic is a five by five square, that means after a minimum of five rounds.  With bonuses added for completed rows, completed columns and sets of five of the same colour, the player with the most points is the winner.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine started taking tiles from the bag and started debate about what colour the patterned pale blue tiles were.  He referred to them as “green”, when clearly they were blue.  However, when he pointed out that the blue tiles were blue, it made a bit more sense, though really, they were not green.  Plum opined that they might be cyan and Blue suggested turquoise, but pretty much everyone agreed that they weren’t green.  Pine continued to call them green though, probably partly to slightly annoy and confuse everyone else, but also because to him it was just easier and less confusing.

Another kitty picture of Plum's
– Image by Plum

Plum did unexpectedly well, unexpected because she was distracted when someone mentioned kittens, and for a while she took her turns very quickly so she could return to finding more kitty snaps to pass round.  Perhaps others found them equally distracting or maybe the kittens just gave Plum a bit of extra good luck.  Certainly luck played its part, when for example, she had the first player token and one of the factory tile had three of the cyan/turquoise/green tiles that she had fallen into collecting.  We don’t generally “play nasty” and in general, nobody really engages in hate drafting and the same was true this time, so luck played its part a few times.  Plum finished some way ahead of all the others scoring eighty-two, over twenty more than Pine in second place.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue disappeared about half way through to collect the chip order and, on her return, Azul was over and almost everyone else had arrived.  So while the now very hungry folk tucked in, Green and Lilac started the “Feature Game” which was Scotland Yard.  The food was worth the wait though, because as Black commented, it was some of the best fish he’d had for a long time.  Orange, Lemon, Teal and Lime joined in setting up Scotland Yard, which is a semi-cooperative social and logical deduction game where one side is a team of detectives are trying to catch one player who is Mr. X and is on the run.  Mr. X moves around London taking taxis, buses or subways while the detectives, who nearly always know his mode of transport, work together to try to locate and then catch him.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of the game, the detectives are given a set number of tickets allowing them to travel by taxi, bus and on the underground.  In addition to taxi, bus and Tube tickets, Mr. X (in this case Green, as he was most familiar with the game) also gets two “Double move” tickets and five “Black tickets” which can be used on any service, but can also be used to travel along the Thames by River Boat.  Players can only move between locations if they are connected by a line with the colour dictating the transport type.  Only one player at a time can be at any station so Detectives must work together to not block each other off.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

Detectives can never share tickets with each other, and cannot hide their remaining tickets from Mr. X.  Once a Detective runs out of a certain type of ticket, they cannot use that service again.  Mr. X always moves first followed by the Detectives, and he writes down the destination of his next move in the next free space in the log book, then covers it with the ticket he used.  Mr. X must surface after his third, eighth, thirteenth, eighteenth and twenty-fourth (final) move, by making his move as normal and then placing his pawn where he is for that round. The Detectives win if they are on the same location at any time as Mr. X, whereas Mr. X wins if he evades the detectives until they run out of tickets.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

Since it wasn’t until the third round that Mr. X first appears, not a lot happened in the first couple of rounds and everyone just milled around their starting positions, edging towards the interchange stations.  When Mr. X duly appeared in round three, it was at Bank station, but Green decided not to hang around and played his double turn with a black ticket to disappear again, leaving everyone uncertain as to where he had travelled to.  There was much discussion and Lime was certain he had taken the Tube line to Kings Cross. Not everyone was in much position to travel far, so Lime took himself in that direction since he was already in the area, Lilac was closest to Mr X’s last known location and headed by taxi that way.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone else tried their best to head towards East London, some north of the river and some south.  Although Lime’s suggestion was a good one, and later Green admitted that he had missed that as an escape route, he had in fact taken a taxi towards the bridge in the hope of out-foxing everyone by staying somewhat close to his last known position.  For the next few turns, only Green knew that Lilac was actually tracking Mr. X only one space behind for most of the next several turns, until Lemon had arrived and then was also only one space behind.  In the second appearance, Green again did a double turn with a black ticket, but this time he only had a taxi or a bus as an option.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime felt somewhat out of the game as he had chased a wild goose on his own towards Regents Park, but everyone else was closing in and it was looking extremely tight for Mr. X.  This time Mr. X used the bus, but the consensus amongst the detectives was that he had used another taxi and was close by.  As a result Green slipped past them and crossed the river.  There then followed a cat and mouse game in the south east corner. Green was unable to (secretly of course) get to another bus station as the detectives were too close, and he was left relying on taxis to shuffle around the streets.  Amazingly, he managed to keep just out of reach of the detectives, but when he had to reveal his location again, everyone knew what they had to do.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time, Lime had managed to double back and was able to rejoin the action.  The detectives debated where Mr. X could possibly be with much discussion and gesticulation of locations on the board. As the end of the game neared and time was running out, the game seemed to swing away from the Detectives’ grasp. They started tripping over each other and then realised they had used far too many Taxis and ran out. Left with only buses and tubes, it became difficult to close the net and Mr. X was able to just flit around doubling back regularly to stay just out of reach and win the game.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone had enjoyed that game and nobody wanted to go home just yet, so as the other games were still ongoing, the group settled on a quick game of 6 Nimmt! as a short one for six players.   The game is very simple and everyone knows how to play:  simultaneously choose a card to play which is added to one of the four rows on the table.  They are added to the rows starting with the card with the lowest face value; each card is added to the row ending in the highest number card that is lower than the value of the card played.  If the card is the sixth card, instead the player picks up the five old cards.  The player with the fewest “nimmts” (bulls’ heads) is the winner.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

6 Nimmt! did not fail to deliver it’s usual mix of lucky escapes and unfortunate catches to the amusement of all.  No-one escaped cards in the first round, but both Orange and Teal succeeded in being “nimmt free” in the second.  As a result it was these two who finished with the lowest score taking first and second place respectively.  Lilac and Lemon were less fortunate, and top-scored with the most nimmts overall.  That was enough for Lime and Teal who decided to head home. Green and Lilac considered leaving too, but eventually decided on a quick four player with Lemon and Orange, and Tsuro was the choice.

Tsuro
– Image by boardGOATS

Quite quickly, Orange, Lemon and Lilac moved quite close to each other, leaving Green to wind his own path on the other side of the board. A couple suitable tiles later, Orange and Lemon avoided a collision and headed off in different directions and away from Lilac. Everyone was able to meander their own way for a few more turns until Lilac realised she was headed to a dead end and in two tiles turn was guaranteed to run off the board.  Orange and lemon managed to survive for only one turn more, when Lemon was forced to play a tile that sent them both off the board. This was a lucky escape for Green as he would also have had to head off the board on his next tile.

Tsuro
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, as the five chip-eaters finished their supper (and made the rest of the pub clientele jealous with the smell),  Ivory and Blue tried to come up with something to play—either a game that played six or two smaller games.  Usually, the group would go down the route of two small games, but this time, Blue found the Asia expansion map for Ticket to Ride in Ivory’s bag, and as the Team Asia variant plays six and everyone loves Ticket to Ride, it wasn’t long before the decision was made.  This version of the game has only a few small rules tweaks, but the feel is completely different to every other version as players are working in pairs and teamwork is essential.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

The basic rules are still the same:  players take it in turns to either take Train cards, or use the Train cards to pay to place Trains on the map with the number and colour of the cards matching that of the route claimed.  As usual, players are trying connect the locations marked on their Tickets for which they get extra points for completing and lose points if they fail.  The difference in the Team Asia variant is that players work in teams, and unusually for a game played in pairs, players sit next to their partners.  This is very clever and really makes the game work as it means one player can set up their partner.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

The other rules tweaks are centered round cards that the players in a team share and cards players keep private.  At the start of the game, players place one of their Ticket cards into the shared area, so that both players can see them, other cards are kept private (though players can choose to take a turn to reveal two of their hidden cards to their partner).  When a player draws Train cards, one of these must be placed in the shared area with the other placed in their private hand—a decision players have to make when before they draw their second card.  Similarly, should a player draw more Ticket cards, only one can be shared while the others are kept private.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Players also have separate pools of Train pieces (albeit with teams having the same colour), which is critical, because if one player runs out of pieces, they are significantly restricted in what they can do.  The game ends when one Team has only four Train pieces left (or fewer), at which point every player gets one more turn.  The game starts with everyone getting four Train cards and five Tickets from which they must choose at least three, a difficult choice, and one to share, another difficult choice.  The looks on everyone’s faces as their partner’s chosen Ticket was revealed told the tale for each pair.  While Blue and Ivory were reasonably satisfied, Pine and Plum were decidedly unimpressed and Black and Purple just shrugged.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

After several attempts to drop just one Train piece in a random selection sort of way, Team Piney-Plum went first. Pine placed the first Train and everyone else groaned as they seemed to hit the ground running.  Everyone started placing trains in the south east corner of the map, with the teams moving out in different directions.  When Pine was clearly unimpressed with the Train cards available in the Market and shrugged taking anything, Ivory delightedly pointed out that he should have taken the one off the top of the pile when it turned out to be a Locomotive (wild) card.  Pine equally delightedly pointed out the same to Ivory when he did the repeated the feat couple of turns later.  From then on, it seemed that almost every time someone had the same decision, the same thing happened and, as a result, “Should have taken the one from the pile” became a frequent chorus.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

Team Piney-Plum took the lucrative red line into Cawnpaw giving them fifteen points and an early lead which they never really reliquished during play.  In contrast, Team Bluey-Ivory got stuck with lots of single Train lines and lagged at the rear.  After some grunting, muttering and non-specific pointing, Ivory commented that they’d “take the coastal route”.  When Pine pointed out everyone who was listening knew where they were going, Blue pointed out all the possible coastal routes, but nobody was really fooled.  There were two things that stopped anyone from interfering: firstly, the group rarely plays “nasty”, but mainly, everyone was too worried their own issues to give anyone else more problems.  Indeed, when Ivory pointed out the singleton white route between Chunking and Nanning threatening to take it to block Team Purpley-Black, nobody really thought he was serious.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

That didn’t stop people messing up each other’s plans however.  For example, when Blue spotted Pine had picked up two orange cards, she nipped in quickly and nabbed the line from Cawnpaw to Bombay with a pawful of Locomotive (wild) cards—this wasn’t out of spite though, it was simply critical to Team Bluey-Ivory’s plans and without it, they would have been very stuck.  Team Piney-Plum also had a bit of a tussle with Team Purpley-Black in the south east quadrant of the map, and then got in a bit more of a tangle with Team Bluey-Ivory around the Punjab.  However, with only two teams getting in each other’s way each case, everyone was mostly able to work round it and get to where they wanted to be.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

Black was the first to take more Tickets (four, choose at least one, with won in the shared area) and then Ivory did the same.  And then Ivory had another go too, keeping a Ticket that made Blue squawk, but Ivory was right when he said he thought it could be done.  So much so that a couple of rounds later, Blue took a punt on Tickets too, and although she got unlucky, she did at least get a nice short route they could bin with little loss.  In contrast, Team Piney-Plum eschewed the option of taking Tickets as they were to busy struggling to complete their starting set and were focused on building a ridiculously roundabout route that covered almost all four corners of the map.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

Towards the end of the game, Team Purpley-Black made a late dash to the north west, including a brave, and ultimately successful effort to build a Tunnel into Rawalpindi.  They were the only ones with the courage to try digging with all the Tunnel routes being high risk, low reward.  Indeed, Blue’s Ticket attempt gave her Team an opportunity for eighteen points, but she decided discretion was the better part of valour because even though it only needed one Train piece, it was a Tunnel section potentially needing up to seven cards.  As the game drew to a close, there was the usual scrabbling to get points at the end; Pine ran out of trains, but Plum still had a handful so didn’t trigger the end of the game until the next round.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

At this point, Team Piney-Plum had a huge lead, and after the obligatory recount they increased their lead by taking the Asian Express bonus for the longest continuous route (with forty-five Train pieces).  Tickets were then added, starting with Team Purpley-Black.  They had lots of Tickets and quickly took the lead.  Team Bluey-Ivory were next—they also had a lot of completed Tickets, on average of a slightly higher value and one more than Team Purpley-Black as it turned out, which meant they just took the Asian Globetrotter Bonus and with it, the lead.  That left Team Piney-Plum, and although they completed all their tickets, they didn’t have as many and, were unable to overhaul Team Bluey-Ivory’s lead taking a valiant second.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

The differences in strategies was interesting though.  Team Piney-Plum’s starting Tickets didn’t match at all so they went the round-about route almost everywhere, they mostly stuck to longer track sections and had a lot of cards in hand.  Team Bluey-Ivory built loads of short track sections to connect the end stations for their starting Tickets together and had a permanent shortage of Train Cards with just enough to complete their short term goal.  Team Purpley-Black prioritised getting tickets built a branched track to ensure they were all completed.  The one thing everyone agreed on though was how different the Team experience was to the usual game—not one to be played too often, but it made a nice change.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  You should always take the cards from the top of the pile…

Pink’s sPecial Party

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

Boom Boom Balloon
– Image by boardGOATS

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

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Boardgames in the News: Cooperation and the “Alpha Gamer Problem”

Competition is one of the main characteristics people associate with board games, however, in the modern world of Euro games, this is no longer true.  Firstly, one of the primary qualities of Euro games is the lack of “direct interaction”.  This means that although there is competition, it is difficult for players to be “nasty” to each other.  This is an important aspect of modern gaming as it takes away the aggressive element and makes them more inclusive, particularly for families.  These games still have winners and losers though, and while everyone likes winning, nobody likes losing and some people really, really hate it.  This is where “cooperative games” come in:  instead of players competing against each other, everyone works as a team, trying to beat the game.

Pandemic
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

There are now hundreds of cooperative games available, but although the first of these date back to the 1960s, the explosion really happened about ten years ago following the release of Pandemic.  Designed by Matt Leacock, Pandemic is a very accessible game where players are disease-fighting specialists whose mission is to treat disease hot-spots while researching cures for the four plagues before they get out of hand.  The game board features the major global population centres and on their turn, each player can travel between cities, treat infection, discover a cure, or build a research facility. The clever part of the game is the two decks of cards that drive it.  The first of these enables players to travel and treat infection, but also contains Epidemic cards that accelerate and intensify the diseases’ activity. The second deck controls the “normal” spread of the infections, with players drawing a set number of these, that increases when Epidemic cards are drawn.

Pandemic
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Since Pandemic, a large number of cooperative games have been published, including Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert and Forbidden Sky, all of which use cards in a similar way to Pandemic to increase the threat.  All of these have been designed by Matt Leacock and have a very similar feel, though a different theme.  There have also been a number of variations on the Pandemic game which retain the original theme, including the well-regarded Pandemic Legacy titles which change the feel a lot.  Other similar games by different designers include Ghost Stories, Freedom: The Underground Railroad and Flash Point: Fire Rescue, each with a different theme, but with changes to the mechanism (Flash Point for example uses dice instead of cards) and varying degrees of difficulty (Ghost stories played with four is supposed to be one of the most challenging games of its type to win).

Forbidden Island
– Image by BGG contributor DLCrie

Not all cooperative games are family friendly and accessible.  Arkham Horror is set in the H.P. Lovecraft‘s Cthulu mythos.  Each player is a resident of or visitor to the fictional town of Arkham, Massachusets during the 1920s and takes the roll of a character ranging from a gangster to a college professor.  The players discover a nefarious cult attempting to awaken a great evil, and, to prevent an invasion from other realms, they must seal off access to Arkham.  To survive, players must equip themselves with all manner of weapons, and spells, while searching for clues to aid them in their mission.  The game has a substantial rule set and the games are epic experiences which take four to five hours to complete (and are therefore not for the faint-hearted).

Arkham Horror
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

While there is plenty of variety available with cooperative games, there are two often cited problems.  Firstly, many players find that cooperative games lack “something”.  In reality, this is largely just a matter of taste, in the same way that some gamers feel that “Euro Games” lack something when compared with highly random dice-heavy games with player elimination.  Perhaps a more fundamental issue is that of the so-called “alpha gamer”. This is where one player effectively becomes the general, and tells everyone else what to do.  This problem arises because most cooperative games are essentially puzzles that can be solved by one player.  Some games designers have tried to fix this issue by adding hidden information, usually in the form of cards, and a rule that players cannot share such knowledge.  Simply instructing players not to share knowledge is much easier said than done, however, as even a slight inflection in the voice or a change of expression can give away a lot of information.

Hanabi
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv

In 2013, a very simple, yet clever card game called Hanabi won the Spiel des Jahres.  The idea is that instead of every player looking at the front of their hand of cards and showing the backs to all the other players, hands are held the other way so that each player can’t see their own cards, but can see everyone else’s.  In principle this means players can discuss what a player should do, but a lot of information can be given away accidentally.  For this reason, the best, most intense games of Hanabi are played in near total silence and stony faced.  This is actually extremely hard to do, which is why for many, The Game, a similar cooperative card game nominated for the Spiel des Jares in 2015 has proved to have more longevity.  This is because players can discuss anything they like as long as they never give away specific number information.

Shadows over Camelot
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

One of the early cooperative games was Shadows over Camelot, which is a hand-management and deduction-based board game where players are knights of the Round Table collaborating to overcome quests like the search for the Holy Grail.  In order to get round the “alpha gamer” problem Shadows over Camelot introduced a traitor mechanic.  At the start of the game, players are given a Loyalty Card, one of which says “Traitor”.  The player that draws the Traitor card then tries to sabotage the efforts of the Loyal Company.  Initially the Traitor hides within the Company, so players have to be very careful about what information they disclose as the Traitor could use it against them.  Worse, players have to be very careful about what information they believe as it could be given by the Traitor in an effort to mislead.

Shadows over Camelot
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Initially, the Traitor acts as one of the loyal knights, but as suspicions mount, players can accuse others of being a traitor.  If outed, the Traitor’s actions become more limited, but potentially more devastating.  Stacking the deck in different ways can be used to introduce different levels of doubt.  For example, four players drawing from eight Loyalty Cards including one traitor, are unlikely to to have a traitor, but the possibility is just enough to keep people on their toes; at the other extreme, if there are no excess cards a traitor is guaranteed.  One of the problems with the hidden traitor in Shadows over Camelot though, is that it doesn’t scale well with the number of players: seven knights playing against one traitor are still likely to win, whereas three knights are always going to struggle.

Lord of the Rings
– Image by BGG contributor fubar awol

In Shadows over Camelot, the scaling problem was fixed with the Merlin’s Company expansion, which introduced a possible second traitor.  Expansions also arguably improved one of the most intense, cooperative games, Lord of the Rings.  This twenty year old game follows the journey of the Fellowship of the Ring, with players taking on the roles of the hobbits.  It is also a card driven game, which players lose if the ring-bearer is overcome by Sauron, or win if the Ring is destroyed by throwing it into the volcanic fires of Mount Doom. The Friends & Foes and Battlefields expansions add complexity and variety, while the Sauron expansion introduces a semi-cooperative element with someone actively playing the Dark Lord.

Lord of the Rings
– Image by BGG contributor takras

The semi-cooperative, “one versus many” style of game is not new, indeed it was the core mechanism of the winner of the 1983 Spiel des Jahres Award, Scotland Yard.  A staple of many charity shops, this is still a popular family game that still holds up more than thirty years later.  Although modifying the cooperative nature solves the “alpha gamer” problem, it doesn’t fix the other problem:  if one player is significantly weaker than others, everyone suffers.  This is issue inherent in any team game: the team is only as strong as its weakest link, however, it is a particular problem when the weak player is the Traitor.  This is actually a problem in any game where one player has a pivotal role though; Codenames, for example, can be a truly awful experience if the wrong person gets the job of “Spy Master”.

Scotland Yard
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv

Despite the issues associated with cooperative and semi-cooperative games, they continue to be very popular.  In the recent years, The Game and Hanabi have featured strongly in the Spiel des Jahres awards and nominees, while the top two games in the BoardGameGeek ranking, Gloomhaven and Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, both feature cooperative play as well.  With epic campaign games like Kingdom: Death Monster and The 7th Continent continuing to build on and develop the mechanism, cooperative games are clearly here to stay, even if they aren’t suitable for every group.

Kingdom Death: Monster
– Image by BGG contributor haslo

Boardgames in the News: The Hobby Grows and Grows

In the UK in the 1960s and 1970s, boardgames were only available from toy shops, and the range was limited to a relatively small number of “traditional” games, like Chess, Monopoly, Game of Life or Cluedo.  With the appearance of bigger, supermarket-like stores like Toys “R” Us in the 1980s and 1990s, a wider range became available and, occasionally, games like the early Spiel des Jahres winner, Rummikub, made their way onto our shelves.  As children grew up, they might graduate into playing Risk and eventually move onto longer, more complex games like those produced by Avalon Hill.  However, if you liked playing games, but war themes were not for you, it was quite difficult to find good alternative games to play.  They were there though:  games like Acquire and the 18xx railway games had been about for a long time, but these were the exception rather than the rule and were still an acquired taste.

Rummikub
– Image by BGG contributor OldestManOnMySpace

In contrast, in Germany, games like Scotland Yard were starting to become readily available and genuinely very popular.  The success of the Spiel des Jahres, which rewarded good games like Ra, El Grande, Tikal, and the 1995 winner, The Settlers of Catan, meant that boardgames were receiving a lot of publicity in Continental Europe.  The characteristics of these “German Games” (or “Euro Games”) typically include balance, with only a small amount of luck, and lack of player elimination.  As the market developed, beautiful boards and lots of wooden pieces also became an essential component.  Unlike war games, “Euro Games” tend to be less confrontational and much more suitable for family gaming.

The Settlers of Catan
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

In the 1990s, UK designers like Alan R. Moon and Richard Breese started publishing small numbers of “designer games”.  These were often largely assembled by hand and generally had a limited print run.  For example, only 1,200 copies of Elfenroads (precursor to the later, Spiel des Jahres winner Elfenland) were ever made and Keywood, the first of the highly acclaimed “Key Series“, was hand-made and had a print-run of just 200.  Given the exclusive nature of these games, it was not surprising then, that many teenagers either gave up on boardgames or moved on to collectable card games, like Magic: The Gathering or Role-Playing Games.

Elfenroads
– Image by BGG contributor dougadamsau

So it was with the growth of the internet that “Euro Games”, or designer boardgames became available to people in the UK.  Firstly, this was because it enabled people to find out about the games that were available, with sites like UseNet and eventually BoardGameGeek in 2000, providing a valuable source of information.  Secondly, internet shopping made “German Games” much more accessible.  The growth of the hobby meant an increase in boardgame publishers, and the appearance of designers like Reiner Knizia who were sufficiently prolific and successful to make a living from designing games.  Over the last fifteen years or so, the hobby has grown and grown and games like Carcassonne and The Settlers of Catan are now available in Waterstones and WHSmith, there are regular comments in The Guardian, there are repeatedly TV appearances, and boardgame cafés are sprouting up all over the place.  The question is, will it continue to grow, or have we reached a high water line?

Ernie
– Image from boardgamegeek.com