Tag Archives: Second Chance

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

8th December 2020 (Online)

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

The Game of Life
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Alhambra
– Image by BGG contributor garyjames

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

Alhambra
– Image by BGG contributor garion

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

Alhambra
– Adapted from Image by BGG contributor Zoroastro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13th October 2020 (Online)

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

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

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

Elizabeth
– Image from cronkshawfoldfarm.co.uk

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

2020 Birthday Box
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

2020 Birthday Biscuits
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

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

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

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

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

15th September 2020 (Online)

Green and Lilac were first to roll up, with pizzas and a large basket full of wild mushrooms.  While they finished their supper, everyone else rolled in and joined the largely aimless chit-chat before Blue started to explain the rules for the “Feature Game“, Patchwork Doodle.  This is another “Roll and Write” style game in the “communal colouring in” vein.  As such it is quite similar to the Second Chance (which we played last time), but with different scoring and a little more planning.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Both games are based on the Tetris idea where shapes depicted on cards are drawn in a grid.  In Second Chance, the cards are revealed two at a time and players choose one to draw on their grid.  If they can’t add either, they get one card just for themselves; if it fits they stay in, if they still can’t draw it, they are out.  When the last card is turned over or the final player has been eliminated, the winner is the player with the fewest empty spaces.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

In Patchwork Doodle, eight cards are revealed at the start, so everyone can see all the cards that will come out in the round.  The chief seamstress then rolls a d3 die to move the factory foreman, and players all draw the shape he lands on.  The round ends after six of the eight shapes have been used.  After each round there is a scoring phase and, the final score is the sum of the three totals minus the number of empty spaces.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to the change in scoring, everyone has three special actions: they can use a shape either side instead of the one selected, make a single cut and draw one of the two resultant shapes, or fill a single one-by-one square.  Additionally, there is a fourth action which allows everyone to use one of the other three actions a second time.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

The interesting, and indeed difficult bit to understand, is the scoring.  Players score the number of squares in (usually) their largest square, plus one point for each row or column it is extended.  Thus a five-by-three rectangle will score eleven points (nine for the three-by-three square, and two points for the extra two rows).  Usually the largest continuous rectangle will give the most points, but sometimes that is not the case and players have to work out what will give them the biggest points haul.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

Once everyone had got to grips with the scoring and asked all their questions, Pink rolled the die and silence descended as everyone concentrated on their colouring in.  At the end of the first round, Pine, Lilac and Ivory had their noses in front achieving a five-by-five square while others were struggling to get much less.  By the second round, people were getting the hang of things and it was clear that Ivory was the one to beat, although Green had a bet on Lilac as she was doing a lot better than he was.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

By the final round, there was a peaceful calm as people engaged their inner toddler.  The scores were a little bit incidental as Mulberry won the prize for “The most inventive work with just two colours” and Lilac just pipped Black and Pine for the neatest and “staying within the lines”.  Pink stumbled at the end going for artistic impression over scoring, putting the penultimate shape in the corner instead of filling the hole in the middle.  Blue top scored with one hundred and twenty, just beating Ivory, largely thanks to the fact she had only one unfilled space.

Patchwork Doodle
– Animation by boardGOATS

Mulberry commented that the communal colouring in was very calming, and Lime said that although he had really enjoyed it, the next game looked too complicated given that he had been up since 4am, and was finding it hard to focus.  The next game, Cartographers, certainly was a step up, so despite having done really well in Patchwork Doodle, Lilac also decided to duck out.  Cartographers is another “Roll and Write” game, but has slightly more of a “boardgame feel” to it.  In fact, part of the reason it we chose it was to celebrate the fact that it had just been announced that Cartographers was runner-up in the 2020 Deutscher Spiele Pries.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Adapted from image by BGG contributor
Johnny Dangerously

The game is played over four seasons during which cards are revealed showing Tetris-like shapes which players draw on their player board.  The difference is that this time, the cards show options giving players an element of choice, either between two different shapes or in the colour to be used.  The colours represent different terrain types, and there are mountain spaces and ruins spaces also pre-printed on the map.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

At the beginning of the game, goal cards are identified for each season; a selection are available which gives games a lot of variety.  Two of these are scored at the end of each round in a similar way to Isle of Skye, another game that is quite popular with the group, but of course one that we can’t really play at the moment.  These scoring cards are really the driving force of the game, essentially creating a set of criteria that players try to follow when adding pieces to the map.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the scoring cards were “Stoneside Forest”, “Shoreside Expanse”, “Great City” and “Lost Barony”.  These can be really quite variable, for example, the first of thesegave players points for each mountain space connected to another solely by forest.  In contrast, the “Shoreside Expanse” rewarded players for each block of farmland not adjacent water and for each block of lake not adjacent to arable, or the edge of the map.  The Great City, however gave points for each square in players’ largest cities and the lost Barony was reminiscent of Patchwork Doodle giving points for the largest completed area in a square.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The other interesting addition is the “Ambush” cards.  In the “Rules as Written”, one of these is added at the start of each round and when they appear, players pass their map to their neighbour who adds the shape in the most inconvenient place they can.  These then give players negative points for each empty adjacent space.  This doesn’t work well with remote gaming, so we play these using the solo rules where the shape starts in one corner and and moves stars following the edge, progressively spiralling towards the centre until it finds a space that it fits in.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we played Cartographers a few weeks back, quite a lot of people missed out, so we decided to add the “House Rule” that we wouldn’t add Ambush cards for the first round to give players a chance to get started. This works nicely, however, because they are removed from the deck once they have appeared, adding one less makes their appearance much less likely.  For this reason, in future we would probably just add two at the start of the second round as they certainly add quite a lot to the game.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the edge case rules had been clarified, Blue started revealing cards.  Each card has a time counter in the top left corner where the number is roughly based on the number of spaces the shape fills.  This helps to control the rate the board fills at and maintains the level of tension throughout the game.  This time, the first round included quite a few large pieces, one of which was forest which enabled those who spotted it to connect two mountain squares and score a quick six points.  Otherwise, the first round was all about players trying to find good places to place lots of fields and water ensuring they didn’t touch and starting a large city to set up the next round.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The next round was all about the first Ambush card: the Gnoll Raid.  Pink had a near perfect place to put it, tucked neatly round the Rift Lands space he’d placed on his ruins in the previous round.  As he looked pleased with himself, others applied the complicated Ambush rule and variously sounded please or unimpressed depending on how much work it had left them with and how many negative points they had to mitigate.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The third round was fairly quiet as there was no Ambush, increasing the chance of one appearing in the final round.  The last round started very slowly and gently with lots of very “low time” cards appearing and everyone sounding initially unimpressed, then quite pleased as they discovered pleasing ways of filling spaces to help satisfy the “Lost Barony” scoring card.  Then, just when everyone was nearly nearly home safe and sound, we were ambushed by the penultimate card of the game: the Bugbear Assault.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The Bugbear Assault is two one-by-two columns with a gap down the middle, making it quite hard to place at the end of the game.  Mulberry was unable to place it and therefore got away unscathed, but others like Burgundy, Purple and Black found they were suddenly four or five points worse off than they had been a moment earlier.  The final piece was also difficult to place being large and awkward, and then it was just the final scores.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Animation by boardGOATS

It was really tight at the top, with Pine and Pink taking second and third respectively, separated by just a single point.  Ivory, however, who had lost out by four points to Blue in Patchwork Doodle, managed to take victory by the same margin, winning with the same total of one hundred and twenty points.  With that, Ivory departed for the night, and Pine and Green said they would follow.  Before he went, however, Green shared an image of kookaburra which looked a bit like a goat provided you mistook it’s beak for an ear…

Goat or Bird?
– Image by boardGOATS

The chit-chat moved on to the Jockey and what it was like there now.  Black, Purple, Blue and Pink had enjoyed a meal and a distanced game of Wingspan there and Ivory had joined Blue and Pink for games of Everdell and the new mini Ticket to Ride, Amsterdam.  In both cases the pub had been quite quiet, but had felt very safe, partly because there was so much space and partly because the staff had done an excellent job of cleaning.  The pizzas were just as good as always, and it was really good to see the staff again.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Green commented that he was now quite bored with “colouring in”, so Pine’s parting shot was “Blue’s doing a great job”.  Blue agreed that there had been “colouring in” for two weeks running, but that it would be different next time when they would likely be playing Welcome To…, and sadly, there wasn’t really that much alternative to “Roll and Write” that we hadn’t already tried.  Burgundy added that nobody could play what they wanted all the time anyhow, especially at the moment.  And with that, there were five left to accommodate, who switched to play something more interactive on Board Game Arena.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

After a bit of discussion and general ambivalence, those left eventually opted for Coloretto.  This is a very light and simple set collecting game that we all know the rules for:  turn over a card and place it on a truck, or take a truck.  Despite the simplicity of the rules, the game itself is very clever and can be played positively, or aggressively taking cards others want.  The winner is almost always the player who best balances these two elements.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the three of the first four cards to be drawn were Rainbow coloured Jokers.  These are such valuable cards that first Black, then Blue, then Purple took them on their own leaving Burgundy and Pink without a look-in.  From there, Burgundy started collecting sets of blue and brown chameleons, while Pink started work on collecting a rainbow—totally not the point of the game.  Black took a cart that Blue wanted, so she took one that Burgundy wanted and the tit-for-tat rippled through the group.

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

It was quite tight at the end, and by that point almost everyone had joined Pink with five different colours.  Not that it did him much harm as he finished with a very creditable twenty-four to give him second place, just behind Burgundy who finished with twenty-eight.  With that, he decided it was bedtime and that left four…

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

After a bit of debate, the now dwindling group settled down to a game of Kingdomino.  We have all played this game a lot, so it was remarkable that we managed to make such a meal of it.  The game is very simple, but punches above its weight in terms of depth.  The key part is the domino market.  There are are two rows sorted by value; on their turn, the player takes their tile from the first row and moves their meeple to their chosen tile in the second row.  Since tiles are taken in order from least to most valuable, players are trading value for turn order and thus, choice in the next round.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

In other words, if a player chooses the least valuable tile, on their next turn they will play first and therefore have first choice and can pick from four tiles.  Alternatively, if they choose the most valuable tile, they will play last in the next round and will have Hobson’s choice.  The dominoes are placed in the players’ kingdoms with players scoring points for each terrain type, where the number of points is the number of crown features multiplied by the number of squares in the area.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately, Blue, who set up the table chose the rules and picked the seven-by-seven variant, and the bonuses for completing the kingdom and for placing the starting tile in the centre.  Sadly, as the expansion has not yet been implemented on Board Game Arena, the seven-by-seven variant is only available for the two-player game.  There is no warning about this, and Blue was slow to realise, screwing up one tile placement and then was unable to complete her kingdom or get her castle in the middle.

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

Just as Blue was realising and the extent of her problems, and failing to put them right, Burgundy was busy building a very fine kingdom that would rival “Far Far Away” and when everyone else was unimpressed with the tile draw commented, “Well, all those are good for me.”  The immediate response was, “Just as well, since you don’t have a choice…”

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

Meanwhile, Black put a tile in the wrong place and made a wonderful growling noise, something between a cross dog and an angry bear.  Then discovered the cancel button and cheered, only to discover that the piece he wanted wouldn’t fit after all and howled with disgust.  The Silent One definitely wasn’t silent this time!  In fact, he thought he would have beaten the winner, Burgundy, if he hadn’t placed a single tile the wrong way round, so we decided to play again.

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

This time, Black started going for lakes but had competition from Purple who was also after lakes, but augmented them with forest.  Burgundy went for marshland and Blue actually managed to complete her kingdom and get her castle in the middle this time.  It was much closer, and all the kingdoms were much more mixed.  The winner was Purple though, who just edged Black.  Everyone was really pleased, especially when the Board Game Arena presented her with a trophy for her first win at Kingdomino.  And that seemed like a good way to end the evening.

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

Learning Outcome:  Colouring in nicely is an important board gaming skill.

Next Meeting, 15th September 2020 – Online!

It is at times of stress that people need social contact more than ever, and board games are a great medium for that.  Despite the limitations of “remote gaming”, the overwhelming impression is that it is important to stay in touch, so we are persisting with online meetings.  Therefore, our next meeting will be on Tuesday 15th September 2020; we will gather from around 7.30pm, and start playing at 8pm.

This week, the “Feature Game” will be Patchwork Doodle.  This is another “Roll and Write” style game that is quite similar to the Tetrissy Second Chance, but with different scoring and is loosely based on the idea of making a patchwork quilt.  It is quite a short game so as everyone will have their colouring pens out, we might give Cartographers another go if there is time.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

And talking of needle-work…

Jeff was out of work, and the only place within miles was a factory where they made the stuffed toys called “Tickle-Me-Elmo”.

So, he drove there the next day to offer his services and was immediately introduced to the manager. Jeff explains that he’s out of work, but has a lot of experience in the textiles business and is very neat with a needle and thread. The manager answers, “Well, this is your lucky day, we’ve just lost someone in the factory and it sounds like you would be perfect.” He goes on to explain what he will be doing and tells Jeff he can start first thing in the morning.

The next day Jeff comes in and goes straight to work. It’s not long before there are problems and the head foreman sees the line is backing up and the bottle neck is where Jeff is working.

The foreman checks what Jeff is doing and the goes straight to the factory manager. He says to his boss, “You are not going to believe what the new guy is doing! He has a bag of marbles, some red cloth, and a needle and thread.  As each Elmo comes off the line he is sewing a little red pouch between the legs and is inserting two marbles. I mean, they are kiddies toys—I just didn’t know what to say to him!”

The manager says he will take care of it and heads straight down to the factory floor.  He approaches Jeff and lets him know that they need to talk.  Jeff politely puts down his needle and thread and listens.

The manager explains, “I am really sorry, but I think you may have misunderstood me when I said that each Tickle-Me-Elmo gets two test tickles…”

1st September 2020 (Online)

This week, the evening started with Purple and the “Silent Black” sharing their ice creams, and, as people started joining the meeting, they began preparing for the evening’s “Feature Game“.  This was to be ClipCut Parks.  This is a variant on the the recent “Roll and Write” style games that have been so successful when played remotely.  Like Second Chance and Cartographers, this is a Tetris-style game, but this time, instead of pens, players use scissors.  The idea of the game is that players have a sheet of paper which they cut pieces off, matching the shape, colour and any special features on their park cards.

ClipCut Parks
– Image by boardGOATS

The game comes with a pad of printed paper sheets, a deck of cards, one special red die, and four pairs of scissors.  Players start with two cards each, one paper sheet and a pair of scissors.  On their turn they roll the special die which tells everyone how many cuts they must make and and of what length.  Any pieces that are separated from their main sheet must be placed on one of that player’s pair of park cards, taking care to match any colours and symbols on the card.  When a player completes a park card, they get any bonuses associated with it and draw a new card from the deck.  Any pieces that cannot be placed, are screwed up and set aside to be used as a tie-breaker.  The first player to finish five parks is the winner

ClipCut Parks
– Image by boardGOATS

Clearly deck of Park cards was going to be a problem when playing remotely, so a few minor modifications were made to make the game work in our current circumstances.  Each player had a print-out including a numbered array of cards and one of each of the four different sheets (also numbered).  They then used a six-sided die to choose which sheet they were going to use and which Park cards they were going to start with.  So, as people arrived, this was explained and players began rolling dice and cutting out their chosen sheet.

ClipCut Parks
– Image by boardGOATS

Mulberry complained that the die that Blue had dropped round that morning appeared to be loaded as it kept giving her sixes, but otherwise, everyone had their starting pieces ready shortly after 8pm and were ready to start.  Once the rules had been explained, Pink began rolling the special red die and everyone else started scratching their heads.  Those with good spacial awareness are inevitably at an advantage in this game, and not cutting any fingers off helps too of course.

ClipCut Parks
– Image by boardGOATS

Amidst the quiet concentration, there were a lot of distressed comments at unhelpful die rolls together with plenty of moaning and general complaining as people struggled to make optimum cuts to give pieces of a useable size and shape.  Everyone seemed to struggle to get recycling and wildlife symbols where they needed them.  It wasn’t long before people were calling out as they completed their first parks though, and then, people were finishing their second and third, while some others were still struggling to complete their first Parks.

ClipCut Parks
– Image by Mulberry

Mulberry was quick to get her nose out in front, although others’ careful planning did help to reduce the deficit.  Pink, Green, Ivory and the Silent One were all close to finishing with some just one snip away when Mulberry called her fifth completed Park all too soon, and to the complete disbelief of some who were still a long way behind.  All in all, ClipCut Parks had a very different feel to the other games we’ve played, though it worked just as well.  Some people clearly felt they were just getting the hang of it when it ended, and in general, although everyone seemed happy to give it another go, the consensus was “some other time”.

ClipCut Parks
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime had had a really rough day, so took his leave and Mulberry headed off too.  Everyone else was keen to play something else though, so since Second Chance had just missed out last time, we decided rectify that.  This is another Tetrissy game, but this time with colouring in.  It is very simple:  players start with a nine-by-nine grid and a starting shape which they draw on their grid.  Then, two cards from a deck are turned over and everyone draws one of the two shapes anywhere on their grid.  If they can’t use either shape, then another card is turned over, just for them, and if they can’t use that either, they are eliminated.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, a lot of the small pieces came out early.  This made things difficult for everyone because these pieces are best used for filling in the gaps left by the larger pieces.  As a result, there was a lot of moaning and then Ivory was the first to need a second chance.  Sadly, it was unhelpful and after the bonus for finishing first, he was knocked out leaving him unable to improve on his nineteen points.  Burgundy and Pine soon followed and eventually the game boiled down to a battle between Purple and Blue.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Avoiding elimination is obviously helpful, but it isn’t everything:  the winner is the the player with the fewest empty spaces.  Purple and Pine finished with what might normally be a winning score of ten, however, somehow, the pieces had aligned for Blue and she finished with the remarkably low score of three to take victory.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was keen to play Crafty Badger, a recent arrival delivered from the US by Mulberry.  It has a very cute badger, but was ruled out for several reasons.  Firstly, the game is a memory game suitable for anyone above the age of three, but it wouldn’t play terribly well over Microsoft Teams.  Secondly, even with Ivory taking his leave, there were six players and the game only played four.  So, instead, we decided to play For Sale.

Crafty Badger
– Image by boardGOATS

For Sale is a fairly simple game that we’ve played a lot this year, initially in real life, but more recently, online through Board Game Arena.  The idea is that players first buy property cards through auction, then sell them trying to make as much profit as possible.  The cards are numbered one to thirty, with the higher the number the more desirable the property.  Once the properties have all been auctioned, fixed value cheques are revealed and players choose which property they are going to sell—the cheques are handed out with the largest going to the most desirable, and everyone trying to avoid the worthless void.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Players who pass during the auction stage, take the lowest available card and get half their bid returned, while the player who wins the auction pays their full bid.  Until last time, we have played by the more recent, Überplay rules where the returned money is rounded down.  Last time, however, we played using the original Ravensburger/Schmid, rules where the money returned was rounded up.  This gave everyone a little bit more money to spend and made passing early a little bit more lucrative.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy usually does really well in For Sale, but last time we played it, he had a really bad time which we partly blamed on this change to the rules. So this time, to give everyone else a chance again, we decided to stick with the new rules.  Despite this, normal service was resumed and although he ran out of money during the buying phase, Burgundy managed to pick up some very desirable properties including the most valuable, the space station.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

The game isn’t only about buying; timing when selling is very important too.  So, the fact that Burgundy managed to take the largest cheque in three of the five rounds was partly the result of having good properties but also the result of playing them at the right time.  Either way, winning more than half the selling rounds was the main reason he ultimately finished with fifty-four points, four more than Black who took second place ahead of Pink in third.

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

The night was still young and there was time for our now almost inevitable couple of rounds of 6 Nimmt!.  We now almost exclusively play with the crazy “Professional Variant”, which adds a whole new level of madness:  players simultaneously chose a card to play, then starting with the card with the lowest face value they add them to one of the four rows.  What makes this variant special is that the card is added to either end of the rows, whichever gives the smallest difference.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This adds a new layer of complexity, and, importantly, means that cards with low numbers are much more useful and can even be used to stymie others.  It also means that rows with the highest value cards are no-longer “dead” and can eventually get picked up when someone’s plans go awry.  Some say the game is pure luck, but there is definitely more to it than that, and with the “Professional Variant”, even more so.  The fact that some players generally do well and others generally do not so well, is proof of this.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Although he always claims it’s not the case, Pine is one who usually does well at 6 Nimmt!; while wins are definitely hard to come by, it is rare that he isn’t in the top three.  Purple, on the other hand, is often a bit of a card magnet.  This time she was first to pick up, and second.  In fact she was only saved from three in a row by Blue who had a bit of a nightmare too this time.  Inevitably perhaps, Purple triggered the end of a tough game in which Black ran out the winner with just seventeen.

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

Once is rarely enough with 6 Nimmt!, and a rematch is so east to set up on Board Game Arena.  This time, Black went from hero to zero, easily winning the race to the bottom and finishing with a spectacular minus fourteen.  Blue and Pink went the other way, with Pink remaining almost unscathed, finishing with sixty-one and Blue taking second place.  There was a little bit of chatter, but everyone was tired, so it was a (relatively) early finish.

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

Learning Outcome:  All public parks should have wildlife and recycling facilities.

18th August 2020 (Online)

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

Little Nessie
– Image by Green

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Noch Mal!
– Image by Mulberry

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

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

"Tomato" Whisky
– Image by boardGOATS

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

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4th August 2020 (Online)

Blue and Burgundy got going early to set up the game on Tabletop Simulator, but were progressively joined by Pink, Black and Purple and eventually, everyone else.  Mulberry dropped in to say “Hi!” but was suffering from her recent change in time-zone, so soon waved goodbye.  There was a bit of chit-chat about people returning to work and how it interefered with thier social lives, but once everyone had settled down, we started the “Feature Game” which was Finstere Flure (aka Fearsome Floors).

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

Finstere Flure is a relatively simple race type game, where players are trying to get two of their family of pieces from one side of Prince Fieso’s Fortress to the other.  Unfortunately, the pillared dungeon is occupied by a not over-bright monster that is trying to eat people.  Finstere Flure only plays seven and the resolution of the web cameras we’ve been using means that it wouldn’t be possible for people to see very well.  For these reasons, people were playing in household teams and we used Tabletop Simulator on the Steam platform, piped through Microsoft Teams to display the game (which worked quite well when we played both Camel Up and Tsuro).

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

This was more complicated than most of the “Roll and Write” type games we have played recently, but we felt a bit of variety would be a good thing.  In Finstere Flure, each player/household team have three double-sided pieces that they are trying to move from one side of the dungeon to the other.  On their turn, players move one of their pieces and then flip it over.  Each side has a number on it with the total summing to seven.  However, in a similar way to Echidna Shuffle, some pieces alternate slow movement with quick movement (six on one side and one on the other for example) while others move at a more steady pace (alternately moving three and four spaces).

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Players continue to take turns until all their pieces have been moved and turned over, after which the monster moves.  All the monsters move in the same way, but the one we chose was “Slenderman” because he was most visible when viewed from above using the simulator.  Slenderman has a deck of eight cards which dictate how far he moves.  When he moves he looks ahead, left and then right and if he sees one person, he turns towards them and takes one step before looking again and moving.  If he sees two or more people, he turns towards the closest and moves towards them.  If he the people he sees are the same distance away, he carries on moving straight ahead.  He never looks behind, and he cannot see diagonally (there are pillars in the way).

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

Sometimes, the monster moves a given number of steps and others he keeps moving until he catches a set number of pieces.  During the game, the monster works through his deck twice—during the first pass, any pieces he catches are returned to the start, on the second pass, they are removed from the game.  There are a couple of other little rules however.  For example, there are obstacles in the dungeon, namely boulders and pools of blood (or jelly, whichever players think might be more slippery).  Players can push boulders about and use them to mess with each other’s plans, or slip on the jelly to move further on their turn.

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

Players can only move boulders when the space behind it is unoccupied, however, and although they can pass through a space occupied by another player, they cannot finish their turn sharing a space.  The monster, Slenderman, on the other hand, is bigger and stronger, so can move more than one boulder at a time.  Also, if someone gets trapped between a rock and a hard place, he can squash them, or even pulverise rocks if he isn’t minded to change direction when pushing them into a wall.  He can also teleport from one side of the dungeon to the other if he walks into a wall.  This can spell disaster for players who thought their pieces were safe, a long way away from him.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Team Purply-Black (owners of a hard copy and thus most experienced) went first, bravely moving one of their clerics into the unknown.  They were followed by Burgundy.  It was at this point that we realised something specific to the Tabletop Simulator that we hadn’t spotted during testing:  the reverse, “dark sides” of the pieces are all black and they are almost impossible to distinguish.  So, Blue made a quick modification to some of the pieces, making some hexagons and some squares to make them easier to identify.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Play was a little slow with people having to describe which piece they wanted to move and where they wanted to move it to.  Fortunately, the original, individual artwork on the pieces on the hard copy of the game had been included in the electronic version, so we had something to describe.  It was about this time that we discovered that Burgundy knew the names of all the Addams Family characters played by Team Slightly-Lilacy-Green.  Clearly Burgundy has hidden depths!

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Lime was the first to get one of his pieces eaten, and also the second.  He wasn’t alone however, as almost everyone had at least one piece eaten at some point and most had several munched.  In fact, it turned out that Slenderman was very hungry; when he ate five pieces in one turn, Pine commented that he was in danger of becoming “Porkyman”!  The chaos was fun, so much so that at one point, Ivory was heard to say, “What can I do to get more carnage?”

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Since we were forced to focus on the characters (especially when they were showing their “dark side”, there was a lot of chit chat about them and some of them were even given names, like Team Purply-Black’s “Roger the Chorister” and Pine’s “Geeky-boy”.  Team Slightly-Blue-but-mostly-Pink were playing with the “Three Ages of Elvis”: “Young Elvis”, “Prime Elvis”, and “Burger Elvis” (or “Elvis on the toilet” given his pained expression).  We always have fun picking on Green, but the largely solitaire games we’ve played recently don’t lend themselves to it.  This game gave everyone a much missed opportunity, and with him playing as Team Only-a-Slightly-Lilacy-Shade-of-Green, everyone grabbed the chance with both hands.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

It was just as Morticia was about to be “din-dins” (again) that the program crashed.  When we first started holding online games nights we worried a lot about the “tech” and whether it would hold up.  Aside from a few issues with Ivory and Lime struggling to stay in the same Teams Meeting together a few weeks back, mostly it has been fine though.  This crash looked like it might be game over though and, according to the chat, we were not alone.  Burgundy had played a few games with another group (including Terraforming Mars) and said Tabletop Simulator did that from time to time and that it usually came back after a few minutes.  So we waited.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from
Tabletop Simulator on Steam

And we waited some more.  People took the opportunity to get drinks etc., and we continued to wait.  Nothing happened so eventually we decide to restart the Server and see if it continued where we’d left off, only to find the game had been auto-saved a couple of moves before the crash.  So we were off again getting in each other’s way.  Despite picking on Green as much as we could, nothing could stop him getting Gomez out of the dungeon first.  Morticia and Wednesday were a very long way from giving him a second though.  In fact, it looked like Team Purply-Black were going to take it.  They had “Roger the Chorister” and “Parson Snows” very close to the exit with the ability to escape on the next turn, and “Paul Wicker the Tall Vicar” not far behind.  It was then that everyone independently decided that it was the duty of all gamers to make life as difficult as possible for those winning.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

So, first Burgundy used one of his geeks to push a boulder in “Parson Snows’ ” way and then parked the geek in the exit space.  In response to Pine’s cry of, “It’s now or never!”, “Young Elvis”  moved another boulder and effectively sealed off the exit until the next round.  This gave everyone an opportunity to gather in the corner ready to pounce should the opportunity arise.  Inevitably (since he had a piece camped on the exit space), Burgundy was the next to get someone one out, and then the flood gates opened.  “Young Elvis” was quickly followed by Pine’s Dog and “Roger the Chorister”. Eventually, the inevitable happened and Burgundy got his second Geek home bringing the end of the game.  People didn’t seem keen to stop, and Pink was pleased to be able to announce “Elvis has left the building!” next.

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

It was clear that from there it all really depended on turn order and that was no fun, so we finished at that point.  It had been a long game with a lot of downtime, but it had been fun too, and quite different to the “multiplayer solitaire” games we’ve played a lot recently (i.e. Noch Mal!, Second Chance and Cartographers), which made a nice change.  Tabletop Simulator takes a lot of practice though and even then definitely has the “Marmite factor”.  Indeed, Burgundy dislikes it so much that he’s stopped gaming with another online group that use it exclusively, which is very sad.  We are using it in a different way, and very occasionally, so it is probably just about manageable, but it will definitely be a while before we try it again.

Chess on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

With Finstere Flure taking a long time, Ivory and Lime took their leave, leaving seven for one quick game of 6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena.  This is now our most played game, beating other favourites like Bohnanza and Splendor, and if the situation doesn’t change, it will likely get the chance to build up a healthy lead.  Although we’ve not tired of it, last time we tried the “Professional Variant” on Board Game Arena and that definitely added new interest.  Although we all said six was the maximum we’d want to play this crazy version with, everyone who had experienced it before wanted to try again and we all wanted to share our new-found fun with Green who had missed out last time.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The basic game is very simple:  Players simultaneously choose a card then, starting with the lowest, in sequence, they are added to the four rows on the table.  If anyone’s card is the sixth in a row, instead they take the pre-existing cards and their card becomes the first in the new row.  In the “Professional Variant”, cards can be added to both ends.  Again, if this card is the sixth, the other cards are added to that player’s scoring pile and that forms a new row.  It might be thought that this would be predictable so nobody would do this.  However, if a player tries to play low (or is forced to) and is undercut by another, this is exactly what happens.  And when it does, it causes complete chaos for everyone.

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

This time, Pine started off leading with Black just behind in second.  In fact, Black was within one point of taking the lead until the cat came in and he started picking up cards.  The wheels dropped off for Pine too and he went from the lead to the back in only a couple of rounds, leaving others to fight for the lead.  Green (now playing on his own as Lilac had gone to bed), was somewhat taken aback by the new version and had much the same initial response to the new variant as everyone else had last time.  It isn’t random chaos though, it is definitely predictable, but it is certainly much, much harder to predict.  As a result, players need a sort of sixth sense and a lot of luck to surf the madness successfully.

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

Pine managed to stabilise his game and, having gone from the front of the pack to the back was working his way back up the field when Purple brought the game to an end.  It had always looked likely that she would win the “race to zero”, especially when she managed to pick up sixteen nimmts in a single turn—possibly a record for us.  So, when Purple picked up five with her final card, that gave her what is likely another new record of minus thirty-five.  In this game the winner is largely incidental, but it was close with Blue taking it, just three nimmts clear of Pink in second and eight ahead of the “almost always there or there abouts” Pine, in third.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone was quite tired so we just chatted starting with the Beirut explosion, news of which had come in while we’d been playing, and with footage that was quite remarkable.  As the mood shifted from buoyant to sombre, Pine said he was time for him to leave as he had a meeting in the morning.  Green interrupted, “Before you go, can I ask a recycling question?  How do you recycle the wax from cheese?”  That lightened the mood again and it was brightened further by Pine’s reply of, “How do you think?  Or you can make candles…!”  Somewhat from left of field, Purple then added, “But if you make candles, don’t light lots of them then leave the house to burn down while you go and propose to your girlfriend!”  Everyone was very bemused wondering what Black had done when he proposed, but eventually it became clear that it wasn’t personal experience, just a news story…  With that, Pine left and everyone else chatted about options and games for the coming weeks as people drifted off to bed.

Lots of Candles Make Fire
– Image from bbc.co.uk

Learning Outcome:  Slender monsters can eat an awful lot and retain their sylphlike figure.

21st July 2020 (Online)

The evening started with everyone eating their supper and chatting about where they had been out.  Pine admired Green and Lilac’s pizzas and Blue and Pink told everyone about their visits to The Jockey beer garden.  Pine shared his experience visiting the café at the Court Hill Centre on The Ridgeway, and there was a lot of discussion about how The Maybush had re-opened (again) and how it might compare to the Rose Revived over the road.  Purple commented that BBC4 was re-showing their series about the history of board games, Games Britania, which sounded quite interesting.

Llandudno
– Image by Lime

Once everyone had joined the Microsoft Teams party (minus Lime who was enjoying the view in Llandudno), we settled down to play the “Feature Game“, which was Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale.  This is a slightly more complicated “Roll and Write” game, that builds on our experience with Noch Mal! and Second Chance both of which have worked well.  Although Cartographers is a little bit more involved than some of the other games of this kind, it works well with many players.  It was nominated for the Kennerspiel des Jahres Award this year and we thought we would play it to celebrate the winners of the Spiel/Kennerspiel des Jahres winners which were announced on Monday.

Pictures
– Image adapted by boardGOATS from the
live stream video on spiel-des-jahres.de

We’ve had little chance to play any of the Spiel/Kennerspiel des Jahres nominees so were not in a position to comment on them.  That said, the winners (Pictures and The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine respectively), were not games that are a good match for the group anyhow, though some of the runners up might have been of interest under more normal circumstances.  As it is now, Cartographers is the only game we can really play at the moment as it can be played remotely with a couple of minor tweaks.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is another “Tetrissy” game where players can, once again, release their inner toddler and enjoy an evening of colouring in.  The idea is that players have been sent out by Queen Gimnax to map the northern territory, claiming it for the Kingdom of Nalos.  Through edicts, the Queen announces which lands she prizes the most, and meeting these demands increases players reputation – the player with the highest reputation at the end of the game is the winner.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The game takes place over four seasons, a year.  During each season, Exploration cards are revealed, each depicting the terrain type (Lakes, Woodland, Farmland and Village) and shape that has been discovered which players draw on their map.  These can be rotated, or mirrored, but must be drawn so they don’t overlap with a filled space and are wholly within the borders of the map.  Some Exploration cards give players a choice of terrain, others a choice of shape, but all come with a “time”, zero, one, or two—when the total reaches the number for that season, the round is over, the cards are returned to the deck which is reshuffled, and the map is scored.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of the game, there are four scoring cards revealed and these are scored in pairs at the end of each round, similar to Isle of Skye.  Thus at the end of the first round, Spring, cards A and B are scored, at the end of the Summer, cards B and C are scored and so on.  This time the four scoring cards were Sentinel Wood, Canal Lake, Shieldgate and The Cauldrons.  These delivered points for Woodland adjacent to the edge of the map; Farmland and Lakes next to each other; the size of players’ second largest village and any single spaces surrounded by mapped territory.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

There are two maps available; for our first game, we chose to use “Side A”, which comes with five spaces already filled with Mountain terrain and six spaces marked with Ionic columns as Ruin spaces.  These act as normal spaces, though when a Ruin card is revealed, the next Exploration card revealed must cover one of those Ruin spaces.  If a shape does not fit or cannot be placed according to the rules (or over a Ruins space if required), the player fills a single, one-by-one space with the terrain of their choice.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to Exploration and Ruins cards there are also Ambush cards.  There are four of these special cards, and one is added to the deck in each round.  They can have a massive impact on the game, so when they are revealed, they are removed from the game.  The Ambush cards depict a shape and a direction, clockwise or anti-clockwise.  The idea is that players pass their map to the next player in the direction depicted and they add the shape to the map filling it with purple monsters.  Each space orthogonal to a Monster space, then scores minus one at the end of the round, and every round that follows.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

We had planned to reduce the number of Monsters (introducing the first one in the second round and seeing how it went), but holding up maps and trying to explain where the Monster terrain should go was always going to be a problem.  Burgundy, who had watched the Rahdo’s Run Through online suggested playing them with the Solo rules.  These place the Monster terrain in one corner and if it doesn’t fit, it is then moved around the map first hugging the edge and then slowly moving inwards in a spiral until there is a space it fits in.  Since we played the first round without them, and one didn’t appear, we only revealed two in the whole game, but playing this way worked well.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The first round started with an Orchard and a decision:  with Sentinel Wood giving points for woodland round the edge of the map and Canal Lake giving points for Farmland next to Lakes and Lakes next to Farmland, was it best to start with Woodland or Farmland?  Hindsight is a wonderful thing and, when the Fishing Village and Hinterland Stream were also revealed (both providing either Lake or Farmland) it was clear that Woodland was the wrong choice.  With just four cards in the first round, it quickly became clear that placing Farmland and Lakes well could score highly, which is exactly what Green and Burgundy did.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone else went into the second round feeling they had lost already, and when most of the cards that came out had a timing of two and didn’t include Lake and Farmland, it looked like Green and Burgundy were just going to stretch their lead further.  There was much hilarity when Black asked what people would score if they only had one big red thing—he worked it out amid the giggles, eventually.  With time almost out, the first Ambush card, Gnoll Raid, put in an appearance.  This scuppered lots of people’s plans and gave almost everyone plenty of negative points to work on, especially since there weren’t many more cards to go in the round.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The third round was relatively uneventful with players working hard to mitigate the effects of the Gnoll Raid while ensuring there were plenty of single space gaps to score in the last two rounds.  At the start of the final round, the Kobold Onslaught was revealed and with a slightly awkward profile, most people were going to have problems reducing their negative tally.  That said, with gaps giving positive points, some people found that the negative effects could be neutralised to some extent.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Some of the scores in the final round were very large compared to those earlier in the game, some were in the thirties compared with single digits in the first round.  This was largely because players had been able to plan for the final round of course, in particular by lining the edge of their map with Woodland.  As players tallied up their scores it looked like Burgundy had it, especially with his thirty-nine in the final round, however, Blue had done well in the second and third rounds which was just enough to beat him by a single point.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

While Blue and Burgundy double-checked their maths, Pink commented that he was going up to Durham to check the house was OK.  Pine replied that he was just like Boris Johnson’s father Stanley who had been to Greece to check his holiday home, then asked whether he’d prefer to be compared with Stanley Johnson or Dominic Cummings.  Pink thought about it, then said that although Stanley Johnson was irritating, he was only marginally more irritating than Stanley Unwin and Dominic Cummings was actually evil, so it would have to be Stanley.

Stanley Unwin
– Image from televisionheaven.co.uk

There was a lot of conversation about this largely theoretical point when Pine suddenly said, “Who?  Who’s Stanley Unwin?  I think I may have got him confused with Stanley Holloway and was thinking about Albert and the Lion…” This prompted memories of the stick with a horse’s head handle and lots of tales from The North and reminiscences of holidays in Wales.  Despite this sojourn and the fact that Cartographers is more complex than the “Roll and Write” games that we’d played previously, it hadn’t taken very long to play.  So after a bit of a discussion of the options, we decided to give our old favourite 6 Nimmt! yet another outing, on Board Game Arena.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This is a simple game that we’ve played a lot, where players simultaneously choose cards and then, starting with the lowest card revealed, add them to rows of cards on the table.  The player to place the sixth card in any given row instead takes the five cards on the table, which then go in their scoring pile.  The rows always increase in in number from left to right.  In the version of the game we play, cards are added to the high end of the row where the end card is has the highest value that is lower than the card placed.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

There is a variant, where players can add cards to both ends of the rows, but last time we played, Pine, the only one who had played it said it was very random so we gave it a miss.  The subject came up again, but with everyone involved, we decided to stick to the “normal version”.  This time, Purple was the first to pick up cards, taking ten “nimmts”, quickly followed by Blue, and the game was starting to look like a re-run of the last time we played.  Team Greeny-Lilac really struggled using a mobile phone, so Blue shared her screen between turns so he could better see the layout.  Despite their inability to see the cards on display properly, they were doing really well, until their vision improved when Blue started to share her screen.

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

At that point, they suddenly started to pick up cards and it all went down hill.  In fact the were going down hill so fast that they hit the fence first smashing through it with a very fine minus eight, while Black was the winner with fifty-six.  Ivory decided to call it a night there, but everyone else was happy to give it another go.  This time, Purple saved Team Greeny-Lilacs blushes by ensuring they didn’t finish two games at the bottom, and Burgundy took the honours finishing with forty-eight.  With that, Team Greeny-Lilac decided they’d had enough of fighting with the website on a mobile.  With numbers dropping to six, Pink was keen to give the “Professional” game a go.

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

Six is a funny number for 6 Nimmt!, so despite Pine’s reluctance, we decided to try it.  In this variant, cards can go on either end of the row, whichever is closest.  So a twelve would normally go after a ten, say, but in this version if one of the rows starts with a thirteen, it would go before that instead, shifting all the cards along.  If this means there are now six cards in the row, then the cards move into that player’s scoring pile and the card they played forms the starting card for the row.  This game always causes a lot of moaning and groaning and cursing, though as a nice group of people, we also always say thank-you when someone else picks up a fist-full of cards on our behalf, saving blushes. The “Professional” variant, however, was absolute mayhem!

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

It certainly wasn’t random, but the predicting what might happen was considerably more complex than for the standard game.  For some this made it more interesting, for others it just seemed total chaos.  Everyone was very glad the computer was working out where to place the cards though.  There were a couple of very interesting consequences of the new rules, though.  For example, low numbers, in particular single digits, are no-longer near-automatic pick-ups.  So, instead of waiting to play number one when there is a row with a singleton, it can now be used to mess everyone else about.  As it is always going to be resolved first, it will always go at the front of another row.  Additionally, cards that were previously very safe plays, are now not.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

So, playing a forty-four after a forty three as the fifth card in a row was almost always safe under the normal rules, but with this variant, if someone else has played a card at the front of that row, that forty-four is now the sixth card guaranteeing a pile of nimmts.  Similarly, rows with the highest cards are usually dead and just increase the competition for the other rows making it more difficult.  With the new rules though, these rows can still be played and can become a trap for the unwary too.  As a result, the new rules made it really interesting, but could have completely unpredictable effects, and everybody felt it would be too random with more than six players.

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

Some things don’t change no matter what you do and Purple seemed to have an uncanny knack of picking a card that went in just the wrong place.  Nobody really understood how, but Pink won the first round—not to say that Pink shouldn’t have won, just that everyone was so busy trying to work out what was going on and why, that nobody was watching what Pink was doing!  It was an absolute hoot though, and when Pink said he thought it was time he went to bed Blue commented that it wasn’t fair for him to leave without giving everyone else a chance to challenge him to another game. So, only slightly reluctantly, he stayed for one more game. This was just as crazy as the first and just as much fun too.  This time it was very close between Black and Blue, with Blue just edging it.  But the winner wasn’t important, it was all about the game.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Under the right circumstances, even a favourite can be improved.