Tag Archives: Snowdonia

29th Movember 2016

Different week, different people, different sickness, same late start…  After Burgundy had finished worrying the pub staff by changing his supper order (given how fast Blue can polish off a pizza he thought he might be able to eat a Hawaiian quicker than his usual ham, eggs & chips – he was wrong), we split into two groups, with the first playing the “Feature Game”, The Climbers.  This is a great three dimensional strategy game that looks like it is designed round a set of children’s building blocks. It’s appearance belies its true nature however, and, although it looks like a kiddie’s dexterity game, it is really a strategy game with almost no dexterity component at all.  Red and Magenta thought it looked cool and Burgundy had read the rules on line so was also keen to give it a go, so the group was pretty much self-selecting with Blue making up the foursome.

The Climbers
– Image by boardGOATS

We began by placing the two Triple-height blocks in the centre and randomly piling the rest of the bricks round it, covering all the visible surfaces, then Blue started explaining the rules.  It was at about this point that we realised that Burgundy had read a very different set.  The game was originally released in German as Die Aufsteiger.  Since it is very language independent, when they were  translated into English, a few changes were made to the rules and when the second edition was brought out the rules were revised again with some of the additions listed as optional variants.  This means that there are effectively three different sets of rules and to make things worse, lots of people have their own “House Rules” as well.  Since nobody had played it very much we decided to stick to the rules as written in the copy we had, without the addition variants.

The Climbers
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played in turn order with each turn comprising three steps.  Firstly, the active player can move a block, any block so long as there isn’t anything on it, and they can place it anywhere, in any orientation as long as there is sufficient space.  Next the active player can move their Climber as far as they like within the rules.  Climbers can climb up any step below their head height unaided as long as the face they are climbing onto is grey or their own colour.  They can also use their long and/or short ladders to climb larger distances, but they are fragile and therefore single use (though that’s not very green as Red pointed out).  Finally, the active player may place a blocking stone which prevents a brick being moved or used until that player’s next turn.  Probably the most difficult part of the game is the concept of “space”.  There are three different sized coloured blocks:  Cubes (2a x 2a x 2a), Half-height (2a x 2a x a) and Double-height (2a x 2a x 4a).  These blocks have each face painted a different colour, the five that correspond to the player colours and one side that is grey.  There are also two Triple-height blocks that are plain grey and are the base of the setup.

The Climbers
– Image by boardGOATS

The square faces of the blocks can be considered to consist of four smaller squares – this is the basic unit (a x a).  This basic “a2” unit is sufficient space for one Climber.  Blocks can be placed offset, like bricks in a wall sitting on two or more other bricks, so long as these basic “a2” units are observed and remain whole.  The undersurface of each block must also have full contact with the blocks underneath – there cannot be any holes or overhangs.  If a Climber is sat in an inconvenient place, he can be “nudged” out of the way using a block, provided that he isn’t knocked off or moved onto a different block.  This can make space for placing a block, or for a Climber:  Climbers can only sit on their own colour or grey and need an “a2” unit each.  Thus, several Climbers can sit on a large grey face.  The winner is the player who’s Climber is highest at the end of the game.

The Climbers
– Image by boardGOATS

Red and Magenta started climbing one side, with Blue and Burgundy progressing up the other.  Red stole a bit of a march as everyone else got in each others’ way leaving Magenta to fight a rear-guard action on her side.  Meanwhile, Blue and Burgundy fought for supremacy, until Blue managed to extricate one of the large grey blocks and use it to simultaneously screw up Burgundy and create a second summit at a similar height to the one Red was occupying.  With this second peak to fight over, there were effectively two races competing against each other, but it wasn’t long before first Burgundy, then Blue and Magenta were forced to take a pause in climbing.  It was at this point that we realised the mistake we’d all made.  Players can choose whether to climb or not, but the game ends when all players successively don’t (or can’t) finish their turn on a higher level.  With all three of us failing to climb, that left Red with potentially the final turn.  Although she was highest, Blue and Magenta were blocks at the same height, so we had to invoke the tie-breaker which meant the first player to reach that level would win.  Since Red had got there first, she had no incentive to move and, in was thrilled to finish in first place in what had been a hard-fought game.

The Climbers
– Image by boardGOATS

Green, Black and Purple joined the others playing with children’s building blocks, with a game of Totemo, an early Tony Boydell gem (he of Snowdonia and Guilds of London).  This game consists of of colored wooden blocks that have a small dowel attached on one end and a hole in the other. This allows them to be placed in the wooden peg-board.  The game starts with one of the multi-colored wild pieces placed in the center of the board.  Each player starts their turn with three wooden totem pieces.  To place a piece, all totem pieces it touches must abide by the color wheel.  So, for example, a purple block may be placed on its own or adjacent to purple, red or blue blocks; the more blocks it touches, the higher its score.  There are also several blocks with two feathers on top which are totem toppers and cannot be placed on the bottom level. In addition, no other totem piece can be placed on top of them.  Players can only place one totem piece per turn unless they land on a space seeded with a bonus marker.  At the start of the game, several bonus markers are placed round the board – landing on these enables the active player to place another block, up to a maximum of three.

Totemo
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of their turn, the active player replenished their set of totem blocks.  Each round, the start player moves the round marker until it gets closer to the tee-pee indicating the last round. Alternatively, the game can also end if there are no more totem blocks in the bag.  With apologies for not ironing the playing cloth and quick recap of the rules, the game was under way.  The first rounds were, typically, feeler rounds with players just trying to do the best they could.  Black and Purple had played the game many times before while Green, had played it only once and that was a few years ago.  Black and Purple managed to make use of the bonus markers by landing on the correct space on the scoring track and began to pull away from Green who was stuck with red bricks he could only place on their own since there was a predominance of blue bricks on the board.

Totemo
– Image by boardGOATS

This forced Green to change his strategy from simply trying to get the highest score possible to getting the exact score to land on a bonus tile and go again each time.  He started this new approach with a bang, placing all three of his blocks in one go and shot into a healthy lead.  Throughout the game players were each left with one or two blocks they couldn’t easily place, either because they were the wrong colour or were “toppers”.  The game took longer than it should have as everyone was guilty of over analysis at different times, but Black and Purple slowly caught up with Green, and going into the final round were both in the lead once again. Unfortunately neither could quite reach their respective bonus spaces and just added a modest amount to the final score. Green however, placed all three of his blocks and took the lead by more than ten points, with it winning the game.

Totemo
– Image by boardGOATS

With both games finishing together and nobody up for a late night we decided to opt for a large group game, and prompted by Magenta, we quickly settled on Las Vegas.  This is a very simple game where players begin their turn by rolling their dice, then they assign some of them to one of six casinos.  Each casino is numbered one to six and has a jackpot drawn at random from a deck of money.  Players must use all the dice of one number to bet on the casino of that number.  Once everyone has placed all their dice the player who placed the most dice on a casino takes the highest value currency card. The really clever bit is that before any money is handed out, any “draws” are removed, which leads to a lot of barracking.  This time we included the Slot Machine from the 2015 Brettspiel Advent Calendar.  This is like a seventh casino, except that it can hold dice of any number, but each number can only be added once (though a player must add all the dice they have of that number).

Las Vegas
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

We also added the extra dice for more players from the Boulevard expansion, as well as “bigguns”, large dice which count as two in the final reckoning.  Green kicked off the first round, which turned out to be very unproductive for both Blue and Burgundy who struggled to get anything of any value.  Burgundy struggled in the second round as well, as did Black and their problems were compounded by the small number of high value notes that were repeatedly drawn.  Meanwhile, Red was struggling to keep her eyes open, so while everyone else was playing the long game, she was played her dice as quickly as she could then dozing while everyone else finished the round without her.  The problem with everyone playing small numbers of dice in the early part of the game and hanging on to dice for as long as possible was that it slowed the game down considerably, not that anyone really minded on this occasion.  It wasn’t until the last round that we began to realise that this strategy didn’t really work, a conclusion that was reinforced by the fact that a slightly embarrassed Red won the game, some $50,000 ahead of Magenta and Blue in second and third.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  Sometimes sleeping through a game isn’t a disadvantage.

29th December 2015

The pub was very busy, and with one chef down with the lurgy (which had got four of us as well), food was delayed. So, unusually, we started off with a quick game. Expecting more people, we decided to play something short, and opted for Qwixx. This game was designed by Steffen Bendorf who also designed The Game (which has been popular with the group this year) and was nominated for Spiel des Jahres in 2013. So, it has a good pedigree, however, when it was nominated there were a lot of comments about its suitability and eventually, it was beaten by Hanabi, which most people agreed was a better game. We finally got the chance to give it a go in October and generally felt that although the rules made for a promising sounding filler, the resulting game was disappointing. Given how some people continue rave about it though, we’d were keen to give it another try and see if we’d been mistaken.

Qwixx
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Qwixx is a very simple game: each player has a score card displaying the numbers two to twelve in the four different colours, red and yellow ascending and blue and green ascending.  On their turn, the active player rolls six dice, two white, and one of each of the colours, red, blue, green and yellow.  Every player may cross out the number corresponding to the sum of the white dice. The active player may then also cross out a coloured number corresponding to the sum of one white die and one matching coloured die. If the active player cannot or chooses not to cross off a number, then they must tick a penalty box, which costs them five points at the end of the game. The snag is that although numbers can be skipped, they must be crossed off in order, red and yellow ascending, blue and green descending.

Qwixx
– Image by boardGOATS

Points are scored for the number of each colour crossed out and penalties subtracted; the game ends when one player has picked up four penalties, or players have crossed off the last number for two colours locking them for everyone. Scarlet, an experienced local gamer who is usually unavailable on Tuesday evenings, commented that it was a bit like Yahtzee, but with slightly more decisions to make. This didn’t further endear the game to Blue, who has bad memories of playing Yahtzee as a child. Scarlet did manage to demonstrate a modicum of strategy when he chose to cross off a sixth red number rather than his first green number since that would give more points at the end. His discovery clearly gave him a bit of an edge as he took second place, eight behind Burgundy who won with eighty.  We had a bit of discussion about what strategy there was, but it was not really enough to rescue the game in anyone’s eyes and it now faces donation to a worthy cause.

Qwixx
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Meanwhile, Grey and Cerise had arrived and seeing everyone else engaged decided to play a quick game of Hey, That’s My Fish!. This is a cute little abstract with a penguin theme, and, in common with games like Carcassonne, although it plays more, in many ways, it is at its best as a two player game when it is most vicious. The game is played on a grid of hexagonal tiles, with each player starting with four penguin figurines which players take it in turns to move in straight lines across the tiles. When a penguin is moved, the active player gets the tile it was sitting on, leaving a gap that cannot be crossed. Thus, the ice flow progressively melts away trapping the penguins in increasingly smaller spaces.

Hey, That's My Fish!
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv

A number of fish is depicted on each tile, and the player with the most fish at the end of the game, i.e. when there are no more valid moves, is the winner. This is just the sort of game that Grey likes, deliciously savage with plenty of opportunity to go for the jugular and for a while he had Cerise under the cosh. Her delight at the end was obvious though when the final reckoning put her four fish clear.  With food imminent for those who hadn’t yet eaten, and Green expected, we decided to split the group and start the “Feature Game”, Broom Service.  This game uses the role selection mechanic from Witch’s Brew (a game we played a few weeks ago), but adds much more with a board and a delivery mechanic.  Witch’s Brew was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres in 2008, but was beaten by Keltis (a boardgame equivalent of the popular two player card game Lost Cities), but its reincarnation, Broom Service, won the Kennerspiel des Jahres this year.

Broom Service
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Like Witch’s Brew, players start with a hand of character cards from which they simultaneously choose a subset in secret. The start player then chooses a card and announces they are that character declaring they are either “brave” or “cowardly”. The other players then must follow suit if they hold that card. If a player is cowardly they take a lesser reward immediately, but if they are brave, they must wait until the end of the round to see if they get a reward. Once everyone has declared their position, the last brave player takes a greater prize and anyone who was brave earlier in the round gets nothing.  The character cards come in three types, Gatherers (who provide ingredients), Witches (who allow players to travel to an adjacent region) and Druids (who deliver potions to the towers). There is also the Weather Fairy who charms away clouds using magic wands.

Broom Service
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

The rules are modified by event cards that are revealed at the start of the round, and with less than five players, the game is also made tighter by the inclusion of “bewitched” roles (cue Burgundy and Pink demonstrating how to wiggle-twitch their noses like Tabitha). The game is considerably more complex than the cute theme and artwork imply. Compared with Witch’s Brew, there are also a number of small rules that it is difficult to remember at the start, though they are in keeping with the theme.  The game ends after eight rounds, and, although points are awarded for delivering potions during the game, there are extra points for weather clouds and sets of potions collected.

Broom Service
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Grey quickly got his nose in front delivering potions early, but Scarlet and and Cerise followed suit and kept the points difference down. It didn’t last however, and before long, Grey had moved his witches away from everyone else’s into the south-east corner of the board where he was able to score heavily without competition.  Despite Cerise’s best efforts with the Weather Fairy and Scarlet’s set collecting, Grey had an unassailable lead and finished nearly thirty points clear with ninety-three points. Second place was much closer, however, Scarlet taking it by just two points from Cerise.

Broom Service
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Meanwhile, once the matter of food had been dealt with, Blue, Pink and Burgundy were debating what to play. It had been narrowed down to Snow Tails or Snowdonia (with Pink requesting an expansion to add interest), when Green appeared, newly arrived from visiting relations over Christmas. He was keen to play Snowdonia, so that sealed the deal, with the Jungfraubahn expansion added as a sweetener.

Snowdonia
– Image by BGG contributor duchamp

The base game is not that complex and we’ve played it a few times, however, it is one of those games that somehow everyone struggles to remember how it works. With both Burgundy and Blue suffering with Seasonal Lurgy, adding the expansion was always going to make things more complicated too.  The idea is that players take it in turns to place their workers in the seven possible actions, which are then activated in order. These actions include, visiting the stockyard; converting iron ore into iron bars; digging to remove rubble from the track-bed; laying track; building part of a station; taking contract cards; and surveying the route.

Snowdonia
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv

There are two twists: the weather and the game. The stockyard is refilled from a bag, and there are small number of white cubes in the bag which, when drawn cause the game to play itself. This mechanism came about because the designer dislikes players who hoard resources, so in this game, if people don’t keep things moving, the likelihood of white cubes coming out increases and the game moves along on its own. The other interesting mechanism is the weather which increases and decreases the digging and track laying rate making players’ timing key.

Snowdonia
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor winterplum

Green, Pink, Blue and Burgundy were still setting out the game and trying to work out what modifications the Jungfraubahn expansion made, when Broom Service finished, so Grey, Cerise and Scarlet played a quick game of Cosmic Encounter. This is a game they were all familiar with, though we’ve not played it on a Tuesday night before.  The game is reasonably straight forward, with each player leading an alien race trying to establish colonies on other players’ planets with the winner the first player to have five colonies on planets outside their home system.

Cosmic Encounter
– Image by BGG contributor RRunner

On their turn, The active player becomes “The Offense”. The Offense encounters another player on a planet by moving a group of his or her ships through the hyperspace gate to that planet. They draw cards from the destiny deck which contains colors, wilds and specials. The Offense then takes the hyperspace gate and points at one planet in the system indicated by the drawn destiny card. The Offense and The Defense both commit ships to the encounter and both sides are able to invite allies, play an encounter card as well as special cards to try and tip the encounter in their favour.  The game was close with lots of too-ing and fro-ing, but Cerise was the one to finally successfully establish five colonies, with Grey and Scarlet finishing with four and three colonies respectively.

Cosmic Encounter
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

By this time, the other group had finally sussed out what they were doing and had got under way with Snowdonia.  The Jungfraubahn expansion changes the game quite considerably replacing fog with snow which adds rubble to the track that must be cleared again before track can be built.  It also introduces dynamite which can be used to remove large amounts of rubble as well as being used to initially clear a route through the mountains before the track-bed is prepared. Added to these, the new contract cards, seemed to introduce even more bad weather than “north-wet” Wales!

Snowdonia
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor winterplum

Blue and Burgundy were both a bit slow off the mark and struggled to really get going. In contrast, Green quickly picked up an engine and Pink got a couple of valuable contract cards. With Grey and Cerise leaving, Scarlet was left as an interested spectator. Eventually, Blue and Burgundy got going, but it was a bit of a rear-guard action.  With the expansion, the game was taking slightly longer than expected, so Green, decided to take the opportunity to play Scarlet as a substitute and went home leaving the rest to finish the game without him. He had set out his plan and Scarlet did an excellent job executing it, however, Pink just had the edge.

Snowdonia
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor ansi

Green/Scarlet took a massive seventy-nine points in bonuses and with twenty-nine points for station building together with the maximum for his surveyor, they finished with one hundred and twenty-two.  The break down for Pink was nearly completely reversed with him taking seventy-eight points for station building and nearly sixty more in bonuses, giving a total of one hundred and thirty-eight, and the game.

Snowdonia
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor winterplum

Learning outcome: Lurgy does not improve gaming ability.

11th August 2015

It was a quiet week, so unsure of how many people we would be, we started out with what was supposed to be something quick, our “Feature Game”, Port Royal.  This is a fairly light card game with elements of push your luck and and deck (or rather tableaux) building.  On their turn, the active player turns over the top card from the deck:  this could be a coloured Ship, or a Person.  The player then has two options, they can turn over another card and add it to the row, or take one of the face up cards.  They can continue turning over cards either until they choose to take one or until they go bust because they draw a Ship and the colour matches one that has already been revealed.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

When taken, the coloured Ships are immediately exchanged for money according to the number of coins shown on the card.  They also have a military value which is where the People cards come in.  The People cards cost money, but in general, yield both victory points and special powers.  For example, Sailors and Pirates give players a military strength.  If their strength matches that of a Ship, the active player may repel the Ship to avoid going bust.  There are also Settlers, Captains and Priests which are used to fulfill the requirements of Expeditions.  Expeditions are cards that are immediately put to one side when drawn and allow players to increase their number of victory points by trading People cards for the higher value Expedition card.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor jsper

There are other People cards too.  For example, the Governor awards players two extra coins if there are five or more cards on the table, and the Admiral allows players to take more than one card. Once the active player has taken their turn, then the next player can choose to take a card from the remaining face up cards, paying the active player one coin for the privilege.  Once everyone has had the chance to take a card, play passes to the next player.  The game end is triggered when one player hits twelve victory points and play continues until everyone has had the same number of active player turns.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

The game has obvious elements of “push your luck card turning” like Incan Gold, dual purpose cards like Bohnanza, tableau building like 7 Wonders and Dominion, and set collecting like Splendor.  However, it also has other interesting features.  One of the most interesting aspects was the way that the appearance of some cards is delayed because they are tied up as currency.  This meant that in our game, the Tax Man didn’t appear at all for the first half of the game and then appeared several times in quick succession.  Similarly to Bohnanza, the composition of the deck also changes.  In Bohnanza, the deck shrinks dramatically and as all the rare cards are turned into money their rarity increases.  In Port Royal, it is the People cards that become rarer as they are played into harbours, and ships, which start off quite scarce, become increasingly common increasing the chances of going bust.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

Black and Purple started out collecting Settlers, Priests and Captain cards, hoping for an opportunity to upgrade the victory points with Expedition cards.  Blue and Burgundy eschewed Expeditions and instead went for the expensive People, with powerful actions.  That said, Burgundy struggled at the start, going bust in the first two rounds which left him penniless and hampered his ability to buy anything at all.  Meanwhile, Green was fighting just to get the cards he wanted before someone else pinched them.  Eventually, Purple took her second Expedition card and triggered the end of the game, but nobody else was close enough to threaten her position; Burgundy took second on a tie-break with Green, who both finished with nine victory points .

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

The rules booklet was not the best, however, and there were a number of questions we had that went un-answered.  For example, we were unclear on how to combine the Admiral with either the Jester or the Governor.  The question was, since the Admiral allows a player to take two cards, does that mean they apply the Jester/Governor special powers twice?  On reflection, we felt the way we played (by a strict reading of the rules) was incorrect as it meant the combination was exceptionally powerful.  Similarly, could a player repel a card if it was the first of a colour to be drawn, or is it only the second card that can be repelled?  On balance, although it was a long way from being the “quick game” we expected, we all enjoyed it and felt it was a good game.  Green in particular was quite taken with the effect the dual-use of the cards had on the draw deck and everyone had had thoughts on how they could have done better, but it was fitting that the one who currently has to wear an eye-patch won the pirate game!

Snowdonia: The Daffodil Line
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor tonyboydell

After some debate, we decided that we wanted to play a deeper game next which meant we were quite limited as we didn’t have many five-player games.  We all enjoy Snowdonia, so since we’ve all played it before we thought we could fit it into the time we had left despite the prolonged setup time (not helped by the fact that Blue’s box contains most of two copies).  Unfortunately, we got side-tracked by the possibility of playing one of the alternative scenarios.  We started setting out The Daffodil Line and then we realised it only played four, so as the game is very tight anyhow we decided not to try to stretch it to five and broke the shrink-wrap on Britannia Bridge instead.

Snowdonia: Britannia Bridge
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor tonyboydell

Snowdonia is a very tight, worker placement game, where players have just two workers and an optional third if they have the required train and coal.  The game simulates building a railway, with players first choosing actions in turn order, then carrying out the actions in “action order”.  The actions include collecting resources from the stockyard, clearing rubble from the route, building track, and building stations.  There are points for most things, but one of the actions is to take contract cards which give players extra points for completing a set number of given tasks (e.g. laying three sections of track).

Snowdonia
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor ansi

There are a number of interesting aspects to the game.  Firstly, the weather.  Snowdonia is well known for its rain, fog and very occasional sun, and this has an effect on the rate players can perform tasks.  Secondly, the author, Tony Boydell, is known to dislike resource hoarding and has built in a mechanism to discourage it.  At the start of each round, resources are drawn from a bag and placed in the stockyard.  There are also a small number of white cubes in the bag – for each one that is drawn the game carries out an action.  Since resources are limited, if players hoard them, the chance of drawing white cubes increases and the game speeds up, perhaps unpredictably.

Snowdonia
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor winterplum

Britannia Bridge (or Pont Britannia in Welsh) is the bridge across the Menai Strait between the the mainland of Wales and the island of Anglesey and the scenario simulates building a railway from the mainland to Holyhead on Anglesey.  Thus, before players can build any track, they have to build the bridge.  Uncharacteristically the weather remained quite sunny, though as it was Anglesey rather than Snowdonia, perhaps that was to be expected.  This kept the dig rate up and the track-bed was cleared in record time.  However, although four white cubes came out in fairly quick succession, after that, they seemed to lurk in the corners of the bag, so much so that we checked they were there twice.

Snowdonia
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor winterplum

Black and Purple both built locomotives early giving them the distinct advantage of the optional temporary labourer.  Black used his to move his Surveyor collect contract cards and Blue decided to obstruct his plans by taking the some of the most lucrative (but most challenging) contracts.  Everyone else looked at the short track and some of the high scoring options and decided to go for points.  Blue, Green and Burgundy decided to wait until the maintenance was done before buying a train, but since the white cubes were so slow, by the time it happened they all decided the game was too far advanced for it to be worthwhile.

Snowdonia: Britannia Bridge
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor tonyboydell

Although Black got an early train (The Dawn Raider) and made good use of his extra worker, he was unable to used his special ability as it depended on white cubes being drawn.  Purple took the nine point train and also used the extra worker to move her surveyor.  Burgundy scored a massive number of points by building bits of stations and the game sort of stalled with one track left to build and nobody very keen to build it.  Green eventually got fed up and felt everyone else was picking up points faster than he was, so he decided to end the game.  Blue somehow managed to scrape it all together in the last round building the last siding she needed to fulfill her thirty-one point contract for four track sections and grabbed a six point contract which she had already fulfilled.  These, together with other bits and pieces this gave her a total of seventy-nine points, just two ahead of Black (who also completed three contracts) and someway clear of Burgundy who took third place with sixty-six points.

Snowdonia
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor winterplum

Although we enjoyed the variation and the Bridge undoubtedly changed the start, the different scenario didn’t change the game very much:  contract cards were still very powerful and ultimately made the difference though Burgundy did incredibly well just building stations.  In short, the weather and its effect on the “dig rate” together with the lack of white cubes made a much larger impact on the game than the Bridge.   And that can happen in any game of Snowdonia.

Snowdonia
– Image by BGG contributor aleacarv

Learning Outcome:  The weather has a big influence on building a railway, wherever you choose to build it.

Boardgames in the News: Are Games a Good Investment?

It might seem strange for a courier company to comment on the value of boardgames, however, David Jinks, the Head of Publications at ParcelHero (a UK courier comparison site), has been has been reported to have strong opinions on the subject.  He explains how traditional games can be worth many thousands if the edition is right; they even have a page on their website discussing collectible games.  So why are ParcelHero so interested?  Well, it turns out that buying and selling vintage copies of Monopoly is big business, most of which is done on the internet using sites like eBay (who have several buyers’ guide pages on the subject).  Thus, ParcelHero’s involvement is in shipping these items (though in truth it is probably mostly about publicity as there are a lot of other things that they can deliver too).

Container
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Zoroastro

Now, there will always be a market for vintage copies of traditional family games, but what about the more modern classics?  Sadly, that early copy of The Settlers of Catan is not worth a lot yet, though of course it might be when the game has been around as long as Monopoly of course.  There are modern games that sell for a small fortune however.  These tend to be games where there is some combination of high demand, small print-run, popular designer and unlikely reprint.  There are a number of games that fall into this category and some are not all that old.  Container was released in 2007 by Valley Games Inc., and is an unusual production and shipping game – those who have played it claim there is nothing similar.  The recent law suit that ensnared the reprint of Up Front means a reprint is unlikely, so copies cannot be easily be obtained for less than £100.

Key Market
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor duartec

Another example, is Key Market, which was designed by David Brain and released at Essen in 2010, however, only nine hundred copies were made and it sold out very quickly.  R&D Games are a small company and have moved on to other things (including one of our favourite games, Keyflower), so it looks unlikely that Key Market will be reprinted in the near future.  This is not the only high value game from the Key Series: a set of the earlier titles Keywood, Keydom and Keytown recently went for £1,800!

Keywood, Keydom & Keytown on eBay
– Image by boardGOATS

It’s not just games from small companies that become rare and demand high prices.  Colosseum was a Days of Wonder game with a wide release, but following an alleged dispute between the designer and publisher, it seems unlikely it will be reprinted.  Witch’s Brew is in a similar boat, though it is the implementation of its central mechanism in the Spiel des Jahres winning Broom Service which is likely to prevent a reprint.  The irony is that Witch’s Brew and Broom Service are quite different even though though the publisher and designer have been saying otherwise, so demand is not likely to drop, quite the opposite.

Witch's Brew
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

So clearly there is money to be made from boardgames, or at least, from some boardgames.  However, for every game that increases in value there are many that end up nearly worthless.  Worse, timing is everything; there is nothing like the announcement of a reprint to have a sudden impact on the market of a desired game.  So, before a reprint is announced the price climbs steadily as the desired item becomes increasingly rare and people continue to pay the inflated prices as “they are only going to go up”.

Mission: Red Planet
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

When a new release is announced, everyone has to take a gamble.  Many potential buyers will wait for the new edition hoping that the price will be lower and the quality will have improved in line with modern expectations.  So, demand suddenly drops and sellers are left with a tricky choice:  reduce the price and hope someone who hasn’t heard the news will bite, or sit tight and wait.  Notably, the recent Fantasy Flight Games announcement of a third edition of Fury of Dracula has led to a sudden flood of copies on the secondary market caused by people hoping to get a sale before the price drops.  Similarly, the secondary market price for Mission: Red Planet plummeted when a second edition was announced. On the other hand, waiting can turn out to be a better option in the event that the new edition is deemed inferior to the original.  This is not as uncommon as one might imagine, as artwork often changes and there are frequently also “improvements” to the rules as well and changes to some components.

Fury of Dracula - Secondary Market
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor tumorous

Sometimes changes are for the better, but it is not uncommon for buyers to prefer the original.  For example, for the second edition of one of our favourite games, Snowdonia, the wooden workers were upgraded to plastic figurines, however, our group find the first edition tokens more tactile.  Sometimes, the publicity surrounding a release of a second edition has the additional effect of reviving a market that had become stagnant due to the lack of availability.  In such cases, the reprint can actually increase the price of an already expensive edition when the new version is thought of as inferior.  Mostly, however, a reprint will cause the price to fall as the difference between editions is something only a connoisseur will really appreciate.

Snowdonia
– Image by boardGOATS

So, where does this leave us?  There are a number of facts that are undoubtedly true.  Firstly, with the exception of the most popular games, almost all modern boardgames are perpetually “between print runs”, with sufficient stock available to supply demand.  For this reason, games can suddenly become unavailable and to some degree the buyer should take the opportunity when they see it, as it may not be there for long.  That said, the best games generally remain in demand and are almost always re-released in some form or another.  The recent announcement by Rio Grande demonstrates that even long out of print classics like the 1992 game Elfenroads, do sometimes eventually get a re-print, albeit in a very different form.

Elfenroads
– Images from the manufacturers

The fact that boardgames are currently a niche market means that mature games are inevitably more likely to go out of print with a corresponding increase in demand.  So, good games ideally with high production values will rarely depreciate by more than 50% if bought for a good price and sold in the right place.  Thus, a gamer with a mature high quality collection who looks their games well, will rarely lose a lot of money if they keep them for long enough, especially if they can chose their time to sell.  Of course, spotting good games at the right price is the challenge, but very occasionally, if they have the correct edition, a gamer might make a killing.

Catan - 3D Collector's Edition
– Image by BGG contributor theotherside

Essen 2014

It is that time of year once again, when a boardgamer’s thoughts turn to Germany, specifically, Essen.  Essen is a German city in the industrial heartland on the River Ruhr.  In German, “Essen” means “food”, but to gamers it means “Spiel” – the largest games fair in Europe and, arguably, the world, The Internationale Spieltage (which is held in Essen of course).  The fair runs for four days every year and everyone who is anyone goes.   As in most years, a lot of new and exciting games are released at the Fair.  This year, amongst other things, there are expansions for some of our favourite games including Keyflower and Snowdonia.  There are (of course) lots of exciting new games as well, including Click & Crack, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Evolution, Five Tribes, Cat Tower, Subdivision etc.  There are a few of us going this year and it is certain that they will bring back some exciting new toys to play with.

Essen

17th June 2014

Well, some of us had food at the pub first, others stopped off for food on the way and then we had a bit of a gossip about what games are high on our “want to play list”, the end result?  We started late again!  We were all keen to play the “Feature Game”, Snowdonia though, and agreed it was way too long since its last outing.  This was amply demonstrated by the number of rules we’d forgotten – despite the fact that we’d all played it before, running through the rules and setting up took at least half an hour and even then, Blue didn’t have a clue what was going on.

Snowdonia

In summary, the game is a worker-placement game about building the rack-railway up Mount Snowdon. Players have two labourers each and take it in turns to choose which of the following actions they will carry out in the round:  A) Collect resources from the stockyard; B) Excavate and remove rubble to create trackbed; C) Go to the building works to convert iron into steel or rubble into stone; D) Lay track on excavated trackbed; E) Build a station or an engine; F) Go to the site office and collect a new contract, and G) Move your surveyor further up the mountain.  Once everyone has placed all their labourers, the actions are performed in order A to G (thus, any special actions on a Contract card cannot generally be used in the same round).

Snowdonia

As in real life, the weather on Mount Snowdonia can be a real pain, work slows when the rain comes and trackbed cannot be excavated and track cannot be laid at all when the fog sets in.  Although these are random events, the weather forecast is unusually reliable and you can see the bad weather coming and plan accordingly.  At the end of each round, the resources in the stockyard are replenished by drawing them blind from a bag.  This is very clever as it adds a small amount of randomness but, as there is a limited number of each type available, if there is a glut of stone, there will be a shortage in the bag making it more likely that other resources will be drawn.  In addition to resources, “Events” can also be triggered:  although the sequence of events is known in advance, the timing is uncertain as they only occur when a white cube is drawn from the bag.  These events affect almost all aspects of the game, including laying track, completing stations and excavating trackbed.  Scores are calculated at the end of the game and points awarded for track laid and contributions to stations, however, the largest points are awarded for any contracts fulfilled.

Snowdonia

Yellow and Purple were most familiar with the game so went first, and Yellow started by snapping up a nice, tasty contract rewarding him for collecting rubble.  Purple then visited the stockyard and started hoarding coal and iron while Green started surveying.  Blue still had no idea what she was doing, so in the first few turns collected a couple of contract cards, foolishly choosing them based on the special action rather than the end-game points.

Snowdonia

Yellow then added a contract to build track to his contract for rubble and made a concerted effort to excavate and build while the weather was nice.  Purple and Green decided to use their hard earned iron to build an engine while Blue faffed about and collected yet more contracts.  As soon as Purple and Green had built their engines however, an event cube was drawn and engine maintenance was due.  As Green could not pay, he had to return his engine to the shed unused, effectively costing him the both the resources and the actions, all for no gain.  To add insult to injury, Blue pounced on Green’s engine, with it adding 9 points to her final score.

Snowdonia

Engines allow players to pay one lump of coal per turn to entice one labourer out of the pub to work for one turn.  So, in a sudden flurry of activity, Blue used her engine to provide an extra worker for the next round and sent all three to the stockyard, which with a special action that provided two extra resources for that round, set her up with enough iron for the rest of the game.  Meanwhile, Purple used her stockpile of coal and her engine to great effect and Green followed suit once he’d managed to get the resources together to buy a replacement engine.  Yellow carried on organising his rubble collecting and track laying round the vagaries of the Welsh weather while Green’s Surveyor continued up the mountain. By this time, Blue was just about starting to get to grips with the aim of the game and was belatedly trying to contribute to enough stations and build a bit of track in order to fulfill two of her contracts.  Having a large number to choose from helped here, as it meant she could match the contracts to what was achievable.

Snowdonia

The game has a tendency to end rather suddenly, as the number of resources in the bag drops so that the frequency of the events increases.  This game was no exception and Yellow was scrabbling to complete all the track he needed for his contracts, while Blue would have been completely scuppered without her last station contribution.  As she was losing badly, Blue decided to gamble that the events would not end the game, and collected resources and laid track, rather moving her Surveyor.  She got lucky and in the last turn, Purple picked up the last of the Rubble and moved her Surveyor up the mountain, Yellow did a little retrospective surveying and Blue used one of her special actions to great effect to take 14 points by contributing two iron bars to the final station, making her final score presentable.   In contrast the extra turn did nothing for Green as he couldn’t build anything and his Surveyor had been at the top of the mountain for several turns.  With his careful planning and efficiency throughout, it was no surprise that Yellow ran out the winner, however, it was initially surprising that he was only two points ahead of Purple.  On closer inspection it became apparent that Yellow had done it without the use of an engine and had relied on careful planning and a targeted strategy.  In contrast, Purple had made good use of her engine and the extra worker it had provided and scored lots of points in each aspect of the game.

Snowdonia

Learning Outcome:  Two very different strategies can sometimes give very similar scores.

he swing doors of the Wild West saloon crashed open and in came Little Pete, black with fury. “All right!” he raged, “all right! Who did it? What goldarned varmint painted my horse blue?” The huge figure of Black Jake, notorious gunfighter and town baddie rose from a chair by the door. “It was me, shrimp,” he drawled, bunching his gigantic fists, “what about it?” “Oh, well, er,” stammered little Pete wretchedly, “all I wanted to say was. . .when are you going to give it another coat?” – See more at: http://www.funnymail.com/jokes/swing-doors-wild-west-saloon#sthash.TruYgllK.dpuf
he swing doors of the Wild West saloon crashed open and in came Little Pete, black with fury. “All right!” he raged, “all right! Who did it? What goldarned varmint painted my horse blue?” The huge figure of Black Jake, notorious gunfighter and town baddie rose from a chair by the door. “It was me, shrimp,” he drawled, bunching his gigantic fists, “what about it?” “Oh, well, er,” stammered little Pete wretchedly, “all I wanted to say was. . .when are you going to give it another coat?” – See more at: http://www.funnymail.com/jokes/swing-doors-wild-west-saloon#sthash.TruYgllK.dpuf
he swing doors of the Wild West saloon crashed open and in came Little Pete, black with fury. “All right!” he raged, “all right! Who did it? What goldarned varmint painted my horse blue?” The huge figure of Black Jake, notorious gunfighter and town baddie rose from a chair by the door. “It was me, shrimp,” he drawled, bunching his gigantic fists, “what about it?” “Oh, well, er,” stammered little Pete wretchedly, “all I wanted to say was. . .when are you going to give it another coat?” – See more at: http://www.funnymail.com/jokes/swing-doors-wild-west-saloon#sthash.TruYgllK.dpuf

Essen 2013

Although Essen is a small German city in the industrial heartland on the River Ruhr, it is used by gamers to refer to the largest games fair in Europe and, arguably, the world, The Internationale Spieltage (which is held in Essen of course).  The fair runs for four days every year and everyone who is anyone goes.   As in most years, a lot of new and exciting games are released at the Fair.  This year, amongst other things, this includes an expansion for one of our favourite games, Keyflower.  The expansion is called Keyflower:  The Farmers and introduces animals to the game.  There are also expansions being released for Snowdonia and Tzolk’in:  The Mayan Calendar, both of which are excellent games and have been enjoyed by members of the group.  In addition to expansions to known games, there are (of course) lots of exciting new games, including Rockwell, Glass Road, Expedition: Northwest Passage, Amerigo and loads of others!  Those of us that are lucky enough to be going are sure to bring back some exciting new toys to play with over the next few weeks.

Essen