Blue’s dinner had just arrived when two new gamers walked in, closely followed by Black and Purple. While Blue munched her burger and chips, at Purple’s request, the others played a quick couple of rounds of Dobble. This is a game that used to be one of our “go to” fillers, but has been somewhat neglected over the last year or so. Being basically, glorified “Snap”, it is a good game to warm up or finish with and is very easy to teach. Not hampered by the fact that they’d never played it before, the wins were shared between Azure (well, it’s a shade of green) and Orange.
While we waited for Green to arrive we played a quick five player game of the “Feature Game”, Love Letter. This small card game is supposed to play a maximum of four, but we thought we’d try it with five. The basic idea of the game is to be the player with the highest numbered card at the end of the game. So, each player starts with a card in hand and on their turn draws a second and then chooses one to play. Since each card has an effect and there are only sixteen cards in the deck, by playing a card, players are both gaining information about what cards other people have as well as giving away information about their remaining card. Used correctly, this information allows players to attack others and potentially eliminate them from the game. Everyone had won a round and we’d already concluded that although we were enjoying playing it wasn’t really a five-player game. So, the arrival of Green meant we decided to stop when the first player reached two, which happened to be Blue.
Next we had the inevitable debate about what to play and whether to split into two groups. Azure and Orange commented that they liked worker placement games which put Keyflower in the mix, one of our favourite games and one we’ve played quite a lot. It plays six, but several of us thought it might drag, especially with players who had not played it before. Various other options were offered, but Blue is always happy to play Keyflower and others followed, so it quickly became a single six player game.
The premise of the game is quite simple: over four rounds (or seasons) tiles are auctioned using meeples (or Keyples) as currency. The clever part is that to increase a bid, players must follow with the same colour. Keyples can also be used to perform the action associated with a tile, any tile, it doesn’t have to be their own, but each tile can only be used three times in each round and, again, players must follow the colour. The aim of the game is to obtain the maximum number of victory points at the end. However, the high scoring tiles aren’t auctioned until the last round (Winter), so players have to keep their options open. On the other hand, the tiles that are auctioned in Winter are chosen by the players from a hand of tiles dealt out at the start, so players can choose to take a steer from that. However, for that to work, you have to win the tile at the end…
With six players, almost all of the tiles are used, which makes it very different to playing with the smaller numbers we are more familiar with. Somehow, with so many players keen to to get involved from the start, the Spring tiles were highly contested and Blue lost out finishing with none. During Summer and Autumn, players strategies started to emerge. Green was collecting green Keyples, while Black was collecting Yellow Keyples. Meanwhile, Azure was collecting resources, and Orange, Purple and Blue were concentrating on trying to upgrade the tiles they had. Purple struggled because everyone else seemed to want her coal and generally managed to get there first while Blue struggled because she needed a pick-axe skill tile and couldn’t get it.
Winter arrived and the Apothecary and Village Hall tiles came out for Black, the Key Market tile came out for Green, the Scribe and Scholar tiles came out for Blue and Orange who had collected quite a pile of skill tiles between them. Blue had secured the start player at the end of Summer and went first with a free choice of tiles and a massive pile of red meeples to fight with. Although she only had one set, she decided to chance it and went for the higher earning potential of the Scribe tile which yields ten points for every set of three. Orange went for the Scholar, Black bid for the Apothecary and Green went for the Key Market with one of his massive pile of green Keyples, leaving Purple and Azure to fight for the rest of the tiles, including the Watermill (which rewards groups of five resources) and the Keythedral (which gives a straight twelve points) amongst others.
Players were beginning to pass, but Green was still increasing his stock of green Keyples, leaving Blue with a decision: keep her now much smaller supply of remaining red Keyples to defend the important Scribe tile, or try to improve her position by trading in one last tile to see if she could get another set or two. After a quick (mis)estimate of Green’s score Blue decided she had to go for the extra points, which increased her number of sets of skill tiles from two to five. While she popped out for a moment, Green under the impression that Blue had more remaining red Keyples, decided to use his two remaining reds to challenge for the Scribe tile in the hope that it would deplete her supply allowing him to win his choice of boats. Unfortunately, although Blue could match his bid, she didn’t have enough to beat it. Although Green did not fully appreciate it at the time, this did far more damage to Blue than to him and it told in the final scores. Green finished with sixty-six points, well clear of the pack, and Blue who (without the Scribe lost fifty points), finished just ahead of Black in second place. Despite our skepticism, Keyflower was very enjoyable with six and it turned out to be one of the best games we’ve played.
Learning Outcome: Don’t over-estimate the position of the other players.