Tag Archives: Splendor

31st May 2022

While they were waiting for their dinner to arrive, Blue and Pink squeezed in yet another in their on-going head-to-head series of Abandon All Artichokes matches.  The idea of the game is that players start with a deck of ten artichoke cards from which they draw a hand of five cards.  Then, on their turn, they take one card from the face up market, play as many cards as they can, before discarding their hand to their personal discard pile. When, on drawing their new hand of five cards a player has no artichokes, the game ends and that player wins. Pink and Blue have played this cute little “deck shredding” filler game a few times recently and, after an initial flurry of Blue winning, Pink got the hang of it and won a couple of games.

Abandon All Artichokes
– Image by boardGOATS

Last time, Blue got her revenge and Pink said that now Blue had won again, that would probably be that.  This game showed that was not so, and while this had all the potential for being a tight game, Blue claimed victory by carefully stacking the top of her deck ensuring an artichoke-free draw despite having three left.  With food over and everyone else rocking up, it was time to decide who was going to play what.  There was a lot of enthusiasm for Die Wandelnden Türme, which was the “Feature Game“, after people had seen it from a distance last time.

Die Wandelnden Türme
– Image by boardGOATS

As it plays better with more people and there were only eight people in total, the group split into a five and a three, with Pine, Green, Black, and Lime joined by our special guest from Nottingham, Magnolia.  The game is a fun little family game where players start with a handful of Wizards placed on top of the little Towers arranged round the board, and a hand of three cards.  On their turn, the active player gets two actions: play a card or cast a spell. Playing a card which allows them to move one of their Wizards a set number of spaces forward, or move a tower a set number of spaces.  When Towers move, they take any resident Wizards with them but can also land on top of another Tower and trap any pieces that were on the roof.

Die Wandelnden Türme
– Image by boardGOATS

A player that catches other pieces in this way gets to fill a Potion Flask.  They can then spend the Potions to cast spells.  In the base game the spells available are “move a Wizard one space forward” or “move a Tower two spaces forward”, but others are available and change the feel of the game a little.  Players are trying to land all their Wizards in the black, Raven Castle and fill all their Potion Flasks—when someone succeeds, that triggers the end of the game.  It is a fun and entertaining game where players Wizards get variously trapped and if they have a bad memory, can find they lose them in the circus of dancing towers.

Die Wandelnden Türme
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Pine kept losing his wizards last time (captured under the towers), this week everyone managed to keep track of them most of the time.  Only Lime got muddled at one point when a tower was moved and he expected one of his wizards to be underneath, confusion only reigned until his next turn though, when he found it again. Lime was first to get a wizard into the Ravens’ Castle, quickly followed by Pine.  A little while later Pine and then Magnolia got their second wizards in the castle, by using two of their potions for an extra move, then Green got his first wizard “home”.  Black’s wizards still hadn’t caught up with the tower, and he wasn’t managing to fill any of his Potion vials either.

Die Wandelnden Türme
– Image by boardGOATS

With everyone too busy keeping track of their own game, Pine made up for last time’s confusions by filling his final potion vial and dropping his last wizard into the Ravens’ Castle to end the game.  Although there is no second place in this game unless you can get all your wizards into the Ravens’ Castle filled all their Potion vials, Green was closest with all four potions and none used. Magnolia took the last place on the podium, also finishing with four potions, but he had used two of them.  Aside from Pine, no-one had more than one wizard in the tower, in fact, everyone had exactly one.

Die Wandelnden Türme
– Image by boardGOATS

Black’s game was somewhat stymied by the fact all his wizards were trapped under towers so he couldn’t move them, and his cards didn’t allow him to move towers.  This is the downside of Die Wandelnden Türme:  there is some luck of the card draw and when that goes awry players can find themselves stuck, but as it is a short game it’s not too much of an issue and it is a fun little game.  Green remarked how Terry Pratchett-esq it felt with wizards chasing towers and towers chasing wizards.

Die Wandelnden Türme
– Image by boardGOATS

Die Wandelnden Türme is such a quick game that the others were still busy and the group of five looked round for something else to play.  At Pine’s suggestion, they decided to go for a popular classic:  Ticket to Ride: Europe.  This is a well known family of games that everyone was familiar with so there was no need to go through the rules at any length:  on their turn, players take two cards from the market, or spend cards to place trains on the central map.  Players score points for placing trains, but also completing route tickets.  Players receive these at the start of the game but can also draw more in lieu of a turn.  They must be careful though as any incomplete at the end of the game score negatively.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

There were some extra pieces and some unexpected cards in the box so Black perused the rules in the box trying to work out how they worked.  Blue piped up from the other table that they were for the Dice and Europa 1912 Expansions, but the group decided to leave them out and just stick with the base game.  A little kerfuffle broke out when Pine chose to play as Green for the second game in a row, which caused Green to be sad puppy dog.  Green decided that maybe he would use Pink’s special Pink set instead, only for Pine to relent and choose black, leaving green available for Green after all.  With Pine being black, Black chose Yellow, so Lime was blue and Magnolia was red…

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Green popped away for a couple of minutes and in his absence, Pine laid his first, two train route, to kick off the scoring.  Half way through the round Green noticed that Pine had laid his trains on a tunnel.  Although Stations had been clarified at the start of the game (they can be used to connect cities to avoid negative points from tickets), Tunnels hadn’t been mentioned.  So, Green brought the subject up and everyone realised they hadn’t noticed it was a Tunnel.  When a player chooses to “build” one of these, they turn over the top three cards of the draw deck and if any match the colour the player used to build it, they have to pay extras (the idea being that building tunnels is expensive and unpredictable).

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

It was felt that it wouldn’t be fair to force the tunnel check on Pine retrospectively as he may not have chosen to lay the train in the first place if he’d realised he might need more.  However, Lime was uncertain how Tunnels worked and the explanation didn’t seem to clear it up.  So, in the end, Pine drew the three train cards to demonstrate how this worked and on the last card found he needed an extra card. He had a Locomotive card (wild) so used that and thus, the turn was corrected and all was now clear. However, having seen the consequences, both Pine and Lime said they might have chosen different tickets had they realised how Tunnels work.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

The next trains to go down were all around Germany—because one was placed it drew out the rest in order to secure routes that were rapidly filling up.  Pine was the first to lose out on this and used his first station to piggy back a route.  After this initial flurry, trains were placed at a more relaxed pace, but all around Western Europe. Eventually Magnolia broke out eastwards to Kyiv, quickly followed by Lime.  Lime didn’t stop there, however, he carried on to Kharkiv and thence to Rostov.  Magnolia and Lime had this area to themselves for much the rest of the game.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Green was the first player to complete his routes and draw new tickets, but groaned as he looked at them commenting that they were awful and difficult to complete.  There was little sympathy for him round the table, however, he chose one card and pushed on.  Quietly he started collecting green cards and Locomotives.  After collecting his third Loco, Lime became suspicious of Green’s plans.  After yet another Loco Lime mentioned that it must have been his fifth one (he was in fact correct on that) and wondered out loud why he needed so many and whether he could be stopped.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

By then everyone had twigged that Green (who’s route had taken him from Cadiz to Stockholm) was aiming for the big eight train Tunnel along the top from Stockholm to Petrograd.  When he went for it, no green cards or Loco’s turned up—most of them were in his hand so it was unlikely—and the twenty-one points he received took him from the back of the field to the front.  Soon after this Green and Black placed their first stations, which meant everyone had placed exactly one, and everyone all piggy-backed on each other in a daisy chain. The station usage didn’t stop there as Magnolia and Black would both use one more before the end.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game drew to a close it seemed to slow down as no one could get the colour cards they needed, until eventually Lime and Green gave up and just started placing random tracks just for points. These two were leading the points race as well, even though Lime had been complaining all the way through that things just weren’t going right for him and he didn’t know what he was doing really.  Despite all this, it was Lime who ended the game by placing four of his last five trains. Everyone then had their last chance shot and it was time for the final scoring.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

A quick run through the route scores again to double check showed that the group had been pretty good at keeping them right.  It looked like Green had the longest set of connected trains and was ahead on points as well.  Working from the back of the pack to score the Tickets, Pine had several but he had discarded his long route and moved temporarily into second place having suffered from missing out on the Tunnels rule at the start.  Then Black and Magnolia both surpassed a hundred and then Lime leap-frogged to the front.  Lastly Green’s tickets looked to have sealed him victory only to realise that he had forgotten to connect to Berlin.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

Green took the longest train, by a wide margin, which took him into third place, ruing his silly mistake without which he would have taken a narrow victory.  In the end, victory went to Lime, even though he claimed all the way through he did not know what he was doing and it was all going wrong—definitely shades of Burgundy!  Magnolia was second, but first to fourth were all withing about ten points of each other in what had been a close and quite epic game.  With that, Magnolia, Green and Lime took an early night while Black wondered over to see what Pink, Purple and Blue had been up to.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

They had started out with Ivor the Engine, a charming little game that we used to play quite  a bit but hasn’t had an outing since before the global pandemic hit.  The idea is that the players are helping Ivor to collect lost sheep and complete tasks for his friends.  On their turn, the active player takes a sheep from their current location (if there is one) and then can move their wagon to an adjacent location and play Job cards.  The Job cards are the meat of the game: they can either provide a special action, such as extra moves and adding sheep to the board, or allow you to complete a Job if you are at a location where there are no sheep.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the active player has completed their movement and any card play, they take a Job card from the market. The catch is that jobs can only be carried out at the correct location and there is a hand limit of four cards, and taking a card is mandatory.  This makes the game very tight and some of the actions available on the cards have the potential to make the game quite vicious. The game ends when one player reaches a set number of sheep and then players count up their sheep, add any gold and any end-game bonuses they might have picked up, with the player with the most sheep-points named Ivor’s Best Friend Forever.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Pink and Purple got in each other’s way in the west leaving Blue to collect sheep alone in the east.  The disadvantage of this is that it took a lot of turns to clear the locations of sheep so that she could play the nice set of Job cards she started with.  On the other hand, Pink was causing Purple all sorts of problems very effectively trapping her in Grumbly Town.  Purple tried to get her revenge at the end by dumping a load of sheep into the location he was at and thus stopping him from playing a Job card there.  However, he just played a different card to claim the sheep and ended the game anyhow, taking victory by seven points from Blue in second.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

Once Ivor was over, the trio moved on to Kingdomino—another game we used to play quite a bit, but hasn’t had an outing since we returned to face-to-face games.  This is a very clever little game that won the Spiel des Jahres award five years ago.  The idea is that players take a numbered, double-ended tile and add it to their kingdom.  At least one end of each tile must extend an area of terrain or be placed adjacent to their central castle.  Additionally players’ kingdoms must fall within a five-by-five grid.  At the end of the game, each terrain scores for the number of spaces it occupies multiplied by the number of crowns depicted in it.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

There are additional points available for objectives, but although there are some interesting objectives available in the Age of Giants expansion, the trio decided to stick with the originals:  ten extra points if their castle is in the centre of their kingdom and five if they manage to play all their tiles.  So far, so simple.  The clever part of the game is that the tiles are numbered according to value and chosen according to an ordered market.  In this way, players who choose the least exciting tiles get to choose first in the next round, while players who get the best tile will end up with no choice.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately, playing with only three means that some tiles do not come out and a player can find they do very badly through no fault of their own if Lady Luck deserts them.  This time Blue was the unlucky one, though it wasn’t helped by some poor play (perhaps associated with the arrival of a certain puppy who delighted in chewing her ear).  Purple was did better, but the runaway winner with seventy-three points (more than twice as many as Blue), was Pink.  This was thanks to a large cornfield, which by itself scored almost as many points as Blue’s whole kingdom.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

As the epic game of Ticket to Ride was still on-going on the neighbouring table, Blue, Purple and Pink felt there was time for one more game and, after a little discussion, they settled on Splendor.  This was the game Burgundy played extremely well and was almost unbeatable at, so we always remember him when we play it.  It is very simple:  on their turn, the active player takes gem chips, or uses chips to buy gem cards.  The cards act as permanent gem chips, allowing players to buy more expensive cards.  Some cards also give points with the most expensive cards giving the most points.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Players can also get bonus points for claiming “noble” tiles—these go to the first player who collects a certain combination of gem cards.  This time, Blue went first.  As always, some players struggled to get the cards they wanted, and while Pink had an awful lot of cards, somehow he wasn’t able to make anything of them.  The game ends when one player gets fifteen points and Blue, who had got a bit of a head start, could see that the other two were struggling.  So, when Black joined them, he was just in time to see her end the game, taking the only noble and a high value points card in the last couple of turns.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to wander.

27th January 2022 – In Memory of Burgundy

Following the very sad passing of Mike Parker (known on this site as Burgundy), we decided to dedicate this meeting to his memory.  We decided to forgo the usual “Feature Game” and replace it with “Burgundy’s Favourites”, including games as diverse as Concordia, Orléans, Wingspan, Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot and Dominion. Burgundy had supper at the pub before every games night. Because he always had the same thing, he was known as “Ham, Egg & Chips Man” by the staff at The Jockey.  So we decided to gathering early to reminisce and celebrate his gaming life, and share his favourite supper.

Ham, Egg & Chips
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy’s cousins joined us for dinner and we took it in turns to chat and learn things we didn’t know about him. We also had a couple of special guests from elsewhere in the county who fancied joining us to do a bit of gaming in Burgundy’s memory. Chatting to people who knew him in slightly different spheres, one of the first things we found out was that, a creature of habit, Burgundy was known known for having Lasagne when he went to Gweeples, setting up his game while he waited for his molten supper to cool to a point where he could eat it.  There was lots of chatter over dinner and Lime joined us online, but technology difficulties meant he hopped in and out and then, after several rounds of the Hokey-Cokey, eventually gave up.

Mike Parker
– Image by Daniel Monticelli

Black also briefly joined us from Malta—he’d been to a Greek restaurant for dinner, but we all agreed our Ham, Egg & Chips was better.  After a toast to Burgundy, who will never be forgotten, people eventually settled down to play games.  First up was Ivory, Pink, Lilac and Teal who chose Ticket to Ride with the UK map.  Ticket to Ride was one of Burgundy’s favourite games and is popular with the whole group so everyone knows the basics of how to play:  on their turn, the active player can choose two coloured cards from the market to add to their hand, place trains paying with cards, or draw tickets which give extra points at the end of the game if completed.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Every expansion set comes with a slight rules twist.  In the case of the UK map, this is the addition of technologies and concessions.  At the start of the game, players can build only one and two train routes and only in England.  By spending wild cards, players can buy technologies which enable them to build routes consisting of three trains or more, build ferries, and build train routes in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Players can also buy bonus cards that allow them to score extra points for taking certain actions during play.  As usual, the game ends when one player only has two of their plastic trains left and the winner is the player with the most points.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink (playing with his special pink trains for the first time) started off with a “Home Nations” strategy, eschewing the chance to visit France.  Lilac, on the other hand, explored the Dawlish coast and the area around Dundalk.  Teal took the East Coast Mainline north, and explored Scotland as far north as Wick and Ivory took the West Coast  Mainline and continued up to Stornaway.  The game was really tight, with Lilac, Pink and Ivory all completing nine tickets, and that seemed to be the strategy with Pink the eventual winner thanks to being slightly luckier than the others, finishing just three points ahead of Lilac.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table, Green, and Magenta were joined by visitors from Oxford and Gweeples, Sage and Jade in a game of Splendor.  Splendor is a simple game, but one at which  Burgundy was a true expert, and at one point went unbeaten for two years.  The idea is that players use poker chips to buy cards which can, in turn be used to buy more cards of a higher value which eventually give points.  When a player reaches fifteen points, that triggers the end of the game and the player with the most points wins.  Game-play is very simple: on their turn players can take three different coloured chips, take two chips of the same colour, buy a card from the display, or reserve a card taking a gold token (which is wild) at the same time.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

As is usual, the game started slowly with Magenta eventually opening the scoring. The others followed with low scoring cards, but Magenta remained one step ahead until everyone else started claiming the higher scoring cards and eventually Nobles.  Green pulled ahead and looked like he might pull off a true Burgundy style victory, but Sage was closing in.  Sage obstructed Green with a tactical reservation, but that just put off the inevitable for another turn. When Green reached fifteen points, the game ended immediately as he was the last player in the round.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Sage was a close second with the early leader, Magenta, in third. There wasn’t a high score, a resounding win, as there no doubt would have been had Burgundy had been playing, so victory did not feel fully deserved in his absence.  Blue and Purple had been chatting to the family, who were enjoying talking and, after a long day, were reluctant to play anything.  So, when they left to get an early night, Blue and Purple played a quick filler game of NMBR 9 while they waited for something else to finish.  Burgundy played NMBR 9 a lot over the years and, like everything else he was always very good competition, winning more than he lost.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

The game has almost zero set up time, and doesn’t take long to play or put away either.  There are twenty cards (zero to nine), which have matching tokens.  Each round, one card is revealed and players take a matching tile and add it to their tableau.  A player’s tableau consists of layers of tiles.  When placing tiles, they must be placed alongside other tiles, or on top.  If placing on top of other tiles, they must overlap more than one, be placed adjacent to others, and next to at least one other on the same layer.  Neither Blue or Purple were focused entirely on the game which Blue edged, as they were too busy gossiping and watching what was happening on the next table.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

The game of Splendor and NMBR 9 finished pretty much at the same time, and the group joined up for a game of 6 Nimmt!.  6 Nimmt! is another game that Burgundy really enjoyed playing with the group and indeed, played a lot.  This was especially true online over the last couple of years, where he played forty-three times with us, winning over one in four of the games.  Jade had only played online, so the group introduced him, and indeed Sage as well, to the variant we usually play.  We play the game in two halves, dealing half the deck out for the first round and then the other half for the second round.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone was familiar with the basic game play:  simultaneously choose a card which is added in turn, starting with the lowest, to one of the four rows in the play area.  Each card is added to the row that ends with the highest card that is lower than the card played.  If it is the sixth card, the player “wins” all five cards in the row, and their card becomes the new first card.  In contrast to the online version on Board Game Arena, where players start with sixty-six points and count-down to zero, players start at zero and the player who “wins” the most points is the loser.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Green “won” the first round, top-scoring with twenty, while Sage managed to keep a clean sheet.  As Burgundy was always the exemplar though, performance in the first round is often no indication of how the second round will go, which is one of the reasons why we love this variant.  So it was all to play for, especially for everyone who’s first score was in single figures.  This time it was not to be, however, and although Sage picked up thirteen “nimmts” in the second round, everyone else’s total was more.  It was close at the other end and with lots of pretty coloured cards, Purple and Jade high-scored with twenty-nine.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride was still going and with six players, and time marching on, there was only really one option, the option Burgundy would have chosen: Bohnanza.  Jade had never played it before, so, after a quick rules summary, as is often customary in this group, he went last so he could see how things work and get a feel for the game.  In this game, although we generally play “friendly”, it is particularly important as it is a trading game and it is important to be able to get a feel for the value of any advice offered.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

As Purple pointed out, the most important thing about Bohnanza is not to sort your cards because players play cards from the front of their hand and add cards to the back forming a sort of conveyor-belt.  On their turn, the active player plants the first bean card in their hand into one of their two bean fields, and may plant the second if they choose.  Two cards are then revealed and these can be planted by the active player or traded.  This leads to another key rule: what is on the table must stay on the table so anything traded must be planted.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Fields can be harvested at any point, with some of the cards being turned over and stored as coins.  However, beans can only go in empty fields or share fields with beans of the same type.  Players only have two fields (or three if they buy a third), so if players are unable to trade a card away, they may have to harvest fields before they are ready.  In this sense, we generally play “friendly” and rather than forcing players to plant something they don’t want, we have a culture of giving cards away.  This extends to players taking cards in free trades from someone’s hand to further their game too.  As a result, the game sometimes the player who is best able to make the most of these freebies is the winner.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Unusually, and to the accompaniment of a lot of sucking of teeth from everyone else round the table, Sage ponied up his two coins for a third bean field—the only one to do so, and especially risky in the second round.  He wanted to plant a couple of Red Beans though, so at worst it was probably revenue neutral and certainly worth the risk.  Blue benefited from a lot of Coffee bean donations while Purple, Green, Jade and Magenta all planted the highly lucrative, but quite scarce, Black-eyed Beans.  The first round took an age, but in contrast, the last was really short, so short, Sage sadly commented that although he had the perfect hand, he wasn’t going to be able to play it. 

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

It was a close game though, and an extra turn or two could have made all the difference.  As it was, Blue was the eventual victor with sixteen “Bohnentaler”, three more than Jade.  Time was pressing and that was the last game for that group, but in the meantime, on the next table, Ticket to Ride had finished and the quartet had moved onto what was arguably the game of the night, Splendor.  This time, the game started with a shortage of blue, sapphires, then green emeralds became hard to get.  It was nice to note that everyone played according to Burgundy’s maxim, “Always take a free one.”

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end, Pink ended the game, and although Ivory managed to score in his final turn, he wasn’t able to catch up.  As the games came to an end and everyone chatted, the mood was sombre, perhaps with half a mind to the following day.  In spite of that, it has been a good evening making new friends, and playing games.  All evening Burgundy was never far from our thoughts, but that was particularly true during the two games of Splendor.  And he always will be whenever we play Splendor from now on.

Mike Parker
– Image by Pushpendra Rishi

Learning outcome:  Mike, Burgundy, was THE GOAT, and we all miss him.

Michael Parker (1958-2021)

Michael Jonathan Parker (mostly known as Mike in gaming circles) was the only son of Stan and Pam and was born on 27th August 1958 in Oxford at the Nuffield Maternity Home (part of the old Radcliffe Infirmary).  Brought up in the Botley area, he went to Mathew Arnold School where he was one of just three pupils who took O-Level Astronomy—a first for the school and pretty unusual anywhere at the time.

Mike Parker
– Image by Pushpendra Rishi

In 1976, Mike went on to study electronic engineering at the University of Hull, after which he returned to Oxfordshire to work in the developing world of IT.  Mike spent the rest of his life in the county, living in Botley until 2015 when he moved a short way down the A34, to Didcot.  Mike had many interests, including music and American football where he was a statistician for Oxford Saints.  One of his most enduring past-times though, was playing games.

Mike Parker & The Magic Folk
– Image from Mike Parker (origin unknown)

It was as a young man that this interest first developed, when he played Chess with his father.  They played regularly, both together and with friends.  Then, when the Oxford Magic: The Gathering scene started in the mid-1990s, Mike became hooked on that.  In the early days he played at events and tournaments, but more recently his passion was his Cube, the curated set he used for drafting.

Mike Parker
– Image from Didcot Games Club (origin unknown)

Mike worked hard on balancing his Cube, introducing new cards with each new release and attended every pre-release event in Oxford.  He also bought premium foil versions of cards, making his a very special Cube to play with.  Mike was well-known for favouring green when drafting, so if you were sat next to him at the table, you could usually be fairly certain that colour would be taken before you saw it.  Mike’s Cube Sundays were legendary and he continued to draft weekly until events intervened.

Mike with Mike and Joe setting up a new club
– Image from Mike Parker (origin unknown)

Around the turn of the millennium, every Friday night, Mike was playing Magic in Didcot.  So, when one of the Magic players started Didcot Games Club in 2001, Mike joined them too.  He was there from the first night, and took responsibility for looking after the finances.  His interest in the collectable nature of Magic quickly transferred, and he developed a fondness for Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot, and later Dominion which Mike collected all the expansions for and also played often.

Mike Parker
– Image from Didcot Games
Club (origin unknown)

As well as playing at Didcot Games Club, he was also an occasional visitor to the Oxford Meeples meetings and always attended the quarterly “Big DoG” events that they run.  Over the years Mike also put in appearances at other conventions including OxCon and UKGE.

Mike Parker
– Image by Pushpendra Rishi

In time, he became a much valued regular at boardGOATS too (where he was “Burgundy” on the website, and known as “Ham, Egg & Chips Man” by the staff at The Horse and Jockey).  When he moved from Botley to Didcot after he retired from working at Sophos, Gweeples became his local group and he soon started playing games there as well.  In fact, if there was a local group playing games, it was highly likely that Mike would be a regular.

Mike Parker and firends at Thirsty Meeples
– Image from Mike Parker (origin unknown)

Mike was an omnivorous gamer: while he loved playing complex strategy games, he also really enjoyed lighter games.  Aside from Magic, Concordia and Orléans were two of his favourites and he was well known for his good-natured grumbling, muttering and moaning just before his strategy paid off and he emerged victorious.

Mike Parker
– Image by Pushpendra Rishi

As well as complicated fare, Mike was equally at home playing family-friendly games like Bohnanza, Wingspan, Ticket to Ride, and 6 Nimmt!.  Indeed he was almost unbeatable at Splendor and at one point held a two year unbroken streak.  The only games he really wasn’t fond of were “social deduction” games, but even then he’d cheerfully join in if that was what someone else wanted to play.

Mike Parker
– Image by Daniel Monticelli

Mike sadly passed away suddenly, but peacefully, in December 2021 (funeral 4pm on Friday 28th January in Garford).  Right up to the end he was engaged in his gaming passion, playing in person and also online via Steam (where he was mike_parker), and researching material on Board Game Arena and Board Game Geek (where he was Bored_Mike).  Below are some of the comments from friends and fellow gamers who will all miss his unique blend of humour, gaming brilliance, and kindness.  Very simply, Mike was a lovely man who has gone too soon.

 

I’m going to miss Mike Parker, those of you who knew him from Magic he was around from pretty much the beginning of the scene in Oxford.

This guy had a heart of gold.

– Seraphina Namine Lorell, Oxford Magic

 

Mike was very welcoming when I first started playing with the Oxford Magic group back in 2001. I remember the many occasions we compared our RG builds at pre-releases and drafts! (Before Gruul was invented 😉)

– Mark Walker, Oxford Magic

 

Mike was always lovely to see and play against at prereleases – kind and friendly with a great sense of humour (especially if his pool or your pool was bad).  He was a lovely man and my dad always loved seeing him at magic events as the “older crowd” too.

– Alice Walker, Oxford Magic

 

I am really sorry to hear about Mike 😢

Mike to me was a really gentle man even when he was completely destroying you at a game! I am really going to miss his complaints that the game was already going horribly wrong on turn one before proceeding to beat us all! I have many great memories playing against him.  He was friendly and warm and will be sorely missed.

– Tom (Ivory), boardGOATS

 

Mike was such a lovely person. I’m so sad to hear this.

– Katie Roberts, Oxford Magic

 

I’m gutted. Mike was such a lovely man. Gentle, kind and welcoming. His Cube Sundays were legendary and I will miss him dearly.

– Jamie Ball, Oxford Magic

 

Such sad news, Mike was a true gentleman and all round great person. I fondly remember seeing him and interacting with him at pre-release events for every new set, and loved playing against him, as well as his legendary Cube sessions held over the years, I will miss sitting down at the table, seeing all the packs laid out and of course, the box of mini rolls that he always seemed to have readily available. I also saw him quite often when he still lived in Botley as he would often come to my checkout when I was working in the co-operative food store there.

Needless to say, he will be greatly missed and will stay in our hearts for all time. Rest In Peace Mike ❤️

– Aaron Williams, Oxford Magic

 

Mike was always willing to play any game with anybody whether they were hardened gamers or new to the joys of boardgames. He was definitely one of the good guys, he even put up with me calling him Eric for several of our days of gaming until Joanne (my wife) asked me why I was calling him that when his name was Mike.  Mike, the gentleman that he was, never corrected me and just carried on as if it was normal. Every time we met up we joked about it.

Joanne, said that he was a kind man, and she always enjoyed gaming with him; she knew she was going to have a good time, no matter what the outcome.  She’ll miss the muttering when a card draw went badly, or someone sneaked in and took the space/card/resource he wanted. He played a mean game of Concordia, a favorite game for both of us, I know because he beat me on many many occasions. I was also part of the 2 year Splendor losing streak 🙂 and so were a lot of the other attendees at our events.

I never got to play his favorite game Orléans with him, but I do know that some of my friends bought the game after his teaching of it, which I think says a lot about him.

– Andy Gordon, Oxford Meeples

 

Really sad to hear a great person has left us 😥
Rest well Mike you will be missed by the MtG community

– Andrew Gardner, Oxford Magic

 

Mike would often give me advice on what to do in a game if he saw I was struggling. Quite often I would take a resource/place a dobbie/pick a card that he was after, and he would mutter, grumble, and be gracious about it. In all the short years that I have known him, he had always been gracious, and good humoured. He will leave a gigantic hole in the Oxfordshire gaming family.

– Purple, boardGOATS & Didcot Games Club

 

That’s awful news. Mike was such a lovely bloke, always had a top time going round his place to play his Cube.

– Huw Morris, Oxford Magic

 

This is such sad news. He was instrumental in inducting myself and many other Gweeples friends to heavier Euros like Concordia and Orléans. He will be sorely missed.

– Daniel Monticelli, Gweeples

 

His steady presence and gaming skill will be missed. I can’t tell you how many times he beat us at Concordia and Splendor. Happy gaming Mike.

– Pushpendra Rishi, Gweeples

 

When I first started to play in the local magic tournament scene Mike was my opponent to beat. Our Mike-Mirror-Matches will be amongst the fondest of memories of my early years in Didcot.

The generosity Mike showed to new and young players was characteristic. He often donated many of his drafted cards to those just starting into the hobby. Years later I saw the room he had dedicated to storing the larger portion of his collection, and I can understand that the moving of those excess cards might not have been purely altruistic. 😀

Mike was a good friend. As he moved to Didcot my wife, Nikki, and I lived just around the corner. We had him over for many a games night. The Christmas before my daughter was born we had Mike over for a Christmas meal, all our plans had been messed around due to ill timed hospital visits. So, missing our family we reached out to him. Had we not been in the mix of the pandemic we had hoped to invite him this year too. As it was everyone here went into isolation for the first two weeks of 2022 so we were clapping ourselves on the back for not exposing him. When we found out he’d passed, that felt hollow… on top of the grief.

– Mike Hargreaves, Didcot Magic & Gweeples

 

Mike was a large part of our gaming community being an active and respected member of every group between Didcot and Oxford (and likely a few more we do not yet know about!). He was a patient teacher and introduced many of our members to games such as Orléans and Concordia… but will likely be remembered for his skill at Splendor, a game I have lost to him many times.

In our community there is a well known phrase that when playing a game the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning. Mike embodied the virtues of this statement and will be missed by many.

– Dave Stephenson, Gweeples

 

Mike was a structural part of boardGOATS, always present, and always happy to play any game from Love Letter through to Terraforming Mars with great skill and commitment. I can honestly say, if I managed to beat Mike at anything, it would be an occasion to come home feeling that I had really achieved something.

– Anon., boardGOATS & Didcot Games Club

 

Gutted. Mike was such a nice guy.

– Max Gilbert, Oxford Magic

 

So sad, but so many fantastic memories. Like standing in the pub car park after games night, freezing to death for well over an hour and getting a crick in the neck spotting Perseids. Or playing games remotely with Mike who didn’t have a camera, and everyone instantly knowing his dice roll hadn’t gone the way he wanted by his immediate response—he could so easily have changed the result and we’d all have been none the wiser, but that would never have occurred to him which made it all the funnier. Or recently, when we did the Quiz, Mike indignantly marching off with his stick to correct the Landlord and Question Master because their answer to a question on NFL wasn’t right (he got the verdict overturned). And so many more great memories.

Mike was such a lovely chap, kind, funny, modest and unassuming. He was competitive and brilliant competition, but always magnanimous in victory or defeat, even if he had been hard done by (though he generally won more than he lost).

We will all miss him so very much.

– Blue, boardGOATS & Didcot Games Club

 

I first knew Mike from Magic tournaments 20 years ago…

– Jonathan Challis, Oxford Magic & Gweeples

 

Mike was very welcoming when I joined the group a few years ago. I will miss his good natured grumbling about how badly he was doing, often before he pulled off a masterstroke and won the game.

– Jez (Pine), boardGOATS

 

He will be missed. He was such a lovely gentleman.

– Kirsten Christensen, boardGOATS

 

Mike was a very good game player. He was one of those who it was challenge to beat. Whether he won or lost he just seemed to be happy to have played. When he started muttering and huffing about his in game choices anyone who didn’t know him would think he was doing badly and was going to lose, but for those who played him regularly we knew that he was most likely going to win with a big margin. I’ve been playing games with Mike for nearly 10 years now. He was amiable and fun to play against, a joke and a laugh about the game was never far away.

An abiding memory of Mike I will always have was actually when our game group did the pub quiz. When the answer to an American Football question was not what Mike had told us, he went straight up to the quiz master to inform him his information was out of date. It was funny as we had never seen Mike so forceful before! The point was given after all.

We will miss Mike at BoardGOATS, as a gamer and as a friend.

– Chris (Green), boardGOATS & Didcot Games Club

 

Rest well Mike. You were a lovely person to know and it’s a huge shame I hadn’t seen you in a long time since I moved away. He was a wonderful man.

– George Youens, Oxford Magic

 

I didn’t get out to gaming events very often, but pretty much every time I did, whether in Stanford, Didcot, or around Oxford, Mike was there. We seemed to have pretty similar tastes in board games, so played together a good many times, and I enjoyed every one of them, with a sense of friendly rivalry and appreciation of a game well played.

As things return to normal and we get back to seeing people to play games again it will seem wrong to not have him there. Mike was a lovely guy and will be very much missed.

– Rob Harper, Didcot Games Club

 

I’m very sorry to hear about Mike. He had a great sense of humour and was guaranteed to win any game of Splendor he played. However, he would do it with such a cheeky smile that you could not be angry at him for long. His knowledge of and interest in board games was profound, and it was always great to chat about the moving and shaking in the board game world.

He will be greatly missed by everyone at boardGOATS, and I am sending my best wishes to all his family and friends.

– Claire Murray, boardGOATS

 

He was a very enthusiastic MtG fan and good guy in general. A blow to the community for sure.

– Felix Lloyd Read, Oxford Magic

 

We will miss you Mike; Ham, Egg and Chips will always have your name on it – as will the end seat at the Jockey – may you spread your wings wide to play Wingspan again – onward and goodbye.

– Stuart (Lime), boardGOATS

 

We would like to say in a few words:
Mike was a huge and unforgettable part of GOATS;
What’s the best way for Mike to start the games or quiz
Than having his Ham, Egg and Chips?!

Mike would never follow Twitter,
But we always liked the way he wittered;
It was never silent during games,
Once you found out that Mike was in his winning place;
Mike and Splendor?
Brace yourselves as you would always have to surrender.

If you want to play the Wingspan game,
Just think of Mike, as it would be the winning name;
And if you want to play some more,
Be prepared for it, as Mike would always score!

And in case you don’t know this —
But Mike the wizzer was also an excellent quizzer:
Mike would score a lot of points
For our incredible Team, “GOATS”;
And we all know where Mike was also at his best,
It would be his American football interest.

Mike’s American football passion
Scored the points for GOATS in a matter of seconds;
This became clear to us and averted disaster,
When Mike decided to approach the quiz master!
Do you know anything about the Washington Football Team?
Mike could definitely tell you,
As he had American football expertise.

And with a great honour to our friend
We will always play his favourite game in Mike’s name;
Mike was our very precious friend
And without him, GOATS will never be the same.

We all know when playing a quiz or a game,
we will think of Mike as he was the best gamer friend.

Mike was such an amazing and humble gentleman.
He will be greatly missed by all,
And the gap will never be filled.
He might be gone, but never forgotten.
Rest in peace, Mike. 💜

– Jirina (Lilac), boardGOATS

 

Huge thanks to everyone who contributed, especially those who helped with information and detail without whom this would not have been possible—you know who you are and your help is greatly appreciated.

 

Next Meeting, 27th January 2022

We are still meeting on Thursdays for the time being, so, our next meeting will be on THURSDAY 27th January 2022.  As usual, we will start playing shorter games from 7.30pm as people arrive, until 8pm when we will start something a little longer (the table is booked from 6.30pm for those who would like to eat first).

Following the sad passing of Mike Parker (aka Burgundy), this week the meeting will be dedicated to his memory.  The “Feature Game” will therefore be “Burgundy’s Favourites” and will include games like Concordia, Orléans, Bohnanza, Wingspan, Ticket to Ride (particularly with the UK map as it was one especially liked), Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot, Dominion, 6 Nimmt! and Splendor.

Burgundy had supper at the pub before every games night and always had the same thing, so was known as “Ham, Egg & Chips Man” by the staff at The Jockey.  Therefore, some of us will be gathering early to reminisce and celebrate his gaming life, sharing his favourite supper.  All welcome of course, though it would be helpful to know numbers in advance for catering purposes.

Mike Parker
– Image by Pushpendra Rishi

And speaking of Ham, Egg & Chips…

The landlord was tending the bar at the local pub when Jeff walked in with Ham, Egg & Chips on his head.  Jeff sat at the bar and ordered a beer, quietly drank it, paid, and then left.

The next day, at around the same time, Jeff came in again, complete with a fresh portion of Ham, Egg & Chips on his head.  Again, he ordered a beer, drank it, paid, and then left.

On the third day, the landlord decided he really had to ask Jeff about his unusual head gear. So, after pouring the beer, and setting it down on the bar in front of him, he said, “It’s not really any of my business, and don’t feel obliged to answer, but you know seeing someone with Ham, Egg & Chips on his head isn’t exactly an every day thing.  So I have to ask, what’s the deal?”

Jeff replied, “Oh, no problem, I don’t mind you asking at all.  Basically, I tried sausage, hard boiled egg and potatoes, but they kept rolling off…”

Sad News about Burgundy

It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of Burgundy.  A long-standing gamer in the local area, Burgundy (63) had been involved with Didcot Games Club and Oxford Meeples long before he became a much valued regular at boardGOATS about seven years ago, and more recently at Gweeples.  We will all hugely miss his grumbling, muttering and moaning, especially during his favourite games like Concordia, Orléans and Bohnanza.  We’ll even miss being beaten by him at Splendor, which was pretty much guaranteed even after we eventually broke his two year winning streak.  Known as “Ham, Egg & Chips Man” by the staff at The Jockey, he will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him, and we plan to dedicate our next meeting to him.

The funeral service is to be held at 4pm on Friday 28th January at South Oxford Crematorium, Garford.

Burgundy GOAT
– Image by boardGOATS

12th August 2021 (Post-Covid Test Event)

After some discussion, we had decided to have a “test visit” to The Jockey.  As they are not doing food on Tuesdays at the moment, this was a Thursday and we decided to make it a fairly light event filled with some of our favourite games.  Those that arrived early started with food and Burgundy was able to order Ham, Egg and Chips for the first time in over a year.  There was a boisterous atmosphere amongst the gamers who were all clearly over the moon to be back, bolstered by the wake on the other side of the room which had been going full-swing since lunchtime.

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
– Image by boardGOATS

While we waited for food to arrive, the group revelled in the delight of face-to-face meeting discussing the meaning of the word “MILF” and whether or not there was such a thing as a “DILF”.  Poor Ivory had been waiting well over a year to play the Japanese map for Ticket to Ride and it had been scheduled at least three times since and had been postponed thanks to “events”.  As it was starting to become a bit of a harbinger, we decided to make the “Feature Game” the generic Ticket to Ride to ensure that the evening wasn’t jinxed again, but there was plenty of opportunity to give it an outing as two copies arrived.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy
– Image by boardGOATS

There were lots of other map choices and while we discussed the real options, lots of new variants were invented.  The pick of these were perhaps the Beeching Variant (loads of the routes get ripped up halfway through the game leaving people with tickets they can’t make) and “Ticket to Row”, the “Climate Change Edition” (as the game progresses, coastal routes disappear due to erosion and flooding).  Ivory was obviously keen to play the Japanese map and was joined by Green, Lilac and Burgundy.  The other map ended up being the Heart of Africa and after some discussion about the best number of players for this map (which has reputation of being brutal), Burgundy moved over to join Blue, Pink and Pine.

Ticket to Ride: Germany
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride is a relatively simple game, often referred to as a “Gateway Game” because it has a reputation of drawing people into playing modern board games.  The decision space on each turn is relatively small, but still meaningful and although a lot of the group like more challenging fare too, we all have a soft-spot for this one.  The idea is that players are building track, by playing coloured cards that match the colour and number of the line shown on the map.  So on their turn, they can draw cards, or place trains by playing cards.  Points are scored for placing trains with longer the routes, giving more points.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 6 – France & Old West
– Image by boardGOATS

Things are not quite as simple as that though, because players also have tickets:  if they can fulfil their tickets using routes they have claimed, they score points.  If, on the other hand, they have unfulfilled tickets at the end of the game, these score negative points.  Thus, instead of picking up cards or placing trains, players can also collect tickets to try to increase their score that way.  The game end is triggered when one player has only two of their little plastic train pieces left.  One of the things that gives Ticket to Ride its remarkable continuing appeal is the incredible variety in expansions available, each of which add interest with a different layout and slight variations to the rules.

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
– Image by boardGOATS

For example, the Japan expansion has routes reserved for Bullet Trains, which are marked by a single Bullet Train miniature.  When a route is claimed, it can be used by all players to complete destination tickets.   Instead of scoring points for such a route, players progress on the separate Bullet Train track with players receiving a bonus at the end of the game: whoever has contributed the most to this shared project receives the largest bonus, with the player who contributes least being penalized.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy
– Image by boardGOATS

In contrast, the Heart of Africa expansion adds new terrain cards which can be picked up instead of train cards which can be used to score extra points when placing trains.  The terrain cards come in three different colour sets representing Desert/Savanna, Jungle/Forests, and Mountains/Cliffs.  When a player places trains of the corresponding colours, if they have at least as many of that terrain card as every other player, they may additionally spend terrain cards to double the points value of their route.  One of the consequences of the different terrain types having fixed colours is that routes of one colour tend to be clumped together.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 3 – The Heart of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

This means that players need lots of cards of the same colour to connect routes together.  This, combined with the fact that there are no “double routes” in the centre of the map, mean the Heart of Africa expansion has a reputation of being particularly savage and unforgiving.  It was also much slower to get going, indeed, the Japan expansion players were well into their game before the Africa players had really started, and they had nearly finished before the others had got halfway through.  In Japan, Ivory went for the Bullet Trains to get the bonus, but also in order to help complete his tickets.  Although nobody really engaged in the building of the Tokyo subway, Kyushu Island was well catered for by Lilac who built a very fine connection from Kokura to Miyazaki.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy
– Image by boardGOATS

In the dying moves of the game, Lilac effectively gave Green fifteen points and with it, the game.  Things were rather different on the next table, however.  Blue and Burgundy got stuck with tickets that meant they had little choice but to go through the jungly centre of Africa.  With Pine having accidentally picked up a large pile of jungle terrain cards, there was no chance of either of them getting double points.  Worse, as Blue struggled she could see there was one single train route that she simply had to take and Burgundy was heading straight for it.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 3 – The Heart of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

When Blue took the critical route from under Burgundy’s nose, it started a cascading chain reaction of events where they continually messed up each other’s plans.  Meanwhile, Pine sniggered from the sidelines as he built his routes round the south coast largely unopposed—even on the odd occasion that someone else managed to get in his way, it was on a double route.  Pink was getting it largely his own way too, as he was going round the west and north edges of the map.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 3 – The Heart of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine picked up handfuls of tickets most of which seemed to lie on the routes he’d already connected, and then Pink suddenly moved to end the game leaving Burgundy with no other choice but to take tickets and hope for a miracle (to no avail).  As the last trains were placed, Pine had a substantial lead which only increased when he added his ticket scores and Globetrotter bonus for having the most complete tickets.  Although it was all built on extreme good fortune in his starting tickets, Pine had put together a fantastic game finishing with a massive one hundred and seventy-five points, forty points ahead of Pink in second.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

As the depths of deepest darkest Africa were being slowly explored, the other three decided to take advantage of Burgundy’s preoccupation to play Splendor without him to guarantee one of them a rare victory in a game that we haven’t played for over a year.  The game is very simple:  on their turn, players either collect gems, or use the gems to buy cards.  The cards then act as permanent gems, while the more expensive cards also give victory points as well.  A player reaching fifteen points triggers the end of the game, and the player with the most points wins.  Although we have played it a lot, this time was with Green’s brand new copy, with the wrapper still on.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the cellophane had been removed and cards well shuffled, the group settled down to play.  Maybe it was poor shuffling or perhaps just luck, but diamond cards (whites) were slow to come out at the start.  In addition to points on cards, players can also get points for collecting Noble tiles.  This time, Ivory suddenly claimed two Nobles in quick succession which, together with a high-scoring card pushed him over the line.  Green was able to claim a third Noble, but it wasn’t enough and he finished one point behind Ivory in what had been a close game.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

The Explorers of Africa finished at around the same time as the gem dealers.  So, as Ivory headed off to get ready for his weekend away, Pink suggested a game of our old favourite, Bohnanza.  Everyone had played it a lot except Lilac, so as Blue explained the rules, Pine and Burgundy prepared and shuffled the deck.  The game is a simple enough trading game, but depends on the vital rule that players must not change the order of the cards in their hand.  On their turn, the active player must play the first card in their hand, and may play the second if they choose.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Then, the player turns over the top two cards from the central deck.  They can plant these in their two been fields if there is space, but fields can only hold beans of one type, and beans on the table must be planted, so most often these are traded to other players.  Once the two cards on the table have been dealt with, the active player can finally trade cards from their hand, but again, all cards traded must be planted.  When they are done, they draw cards to go into their hand.  The aim of the game, once again is to collect sets.  At any point, players can trade in their planted beans, getting coins at the rate indicated by the “Bean-o-meter”.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

And this is one of the clever parts of the game—when a player sells their beans, they take the relevant number of cards and turn them over, turning them into money.  One side effect of this is that rare cards become increasingly rare, while the more common cards become increasingly common.  The deck also gets progressively smaller as fewer cards are recycled making the rounds shorter as the game goes on.  The game lasts three rounds, but as a result of this, the last round is usually very short indeed. There are a lot of other nuances, which Green and Blue tried to explain so Lilac wasn’t too disadvantaged.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

The others expressed their disapproval by referring to them all as “Team Trio”.  However, while Lilac was getting the hang of it and everyone was doing what they could to be nice to her, Blue lost the plot and sold several fields of beans without taking her reward.  It seemed to be contagious, because in the final round Burgundy’s pile of coins somehow became the draw pile.  Chaos reigned and hilarity ensued as Blue, Pine, Pink and Burgundy tried to work out what had happened and variously blamed each other.  Burgundy probably got most of his coins back, but there wasn’t really much doubt that the winner was Lilac with fifteen coins.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Although it was late there was still much chatter, about how it wasn’t the same without Black, Purple and Lime, and what we were going to do going forwards.  It got quite a lot later too, because as we headed out someone pointed out the clear skies and how it should be possible to see the Perseid Meteor Shower.  As we stood in the car park, someone spotted a “shooting star”, but everyone else missed it.  So we waited for another, and another, and another.  Eventually, everyone had a crick in their neck and rather than spend the whole night there, we decided it was time to go.

Perseid Meteor Shower
– Image from wikimedia.org

Learning outcome:  It’s great to be back.

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.

Boardgames in the News: Gaming at a Distance

With so many people tucked up at home there has been some debate as to whether this will encourage people to play games more.  Among gamers, there has been a lot of discussion about solo games where players compete against the game, but this loses the social aspect.  Online gaming is also an option; this can enable playing with real people, but loses the tactile element of gaming that so many people love.  In most cases though, people are not “home alone”, they are with family, so perhaps this is an opportunity to play games with them?

Cities of Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

The occasional board game column in The Guardian has published a list of twenty family games including some modern family classics like, Ticket to Ride: London, Splendor, Kingdomino, Dobble and (inevitably) Pandemic.  It also includes a few, more recent games, like Wingspan, and Just One, as well as some less well known games like Patchwork Express, Legacy of Dragonholt and Blue Lagoon.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

There has some suggestion that there has been a flurry of buying games to play with their families, but is there any real evidence of this?  Anecdotally, there have been comments that prices of games have increased on Amazon.co.uk which could indicate an increase in sales.  The website camelcamelcamel.co.uk tracks prices on Amazon, and it seems to indicate that prices for many popular light games have increased in the last week.

Ticket to Ride: Europe on camelcamelcamel.co.uk (23/03/20)
– Image by boardGOATS from camelcamelcamel.co.uk

There is another possible reason though: Amazon has suspended warehouse services (storage and shipping) of non-medical supplies and “high-demand” products for third party sellers.  This would have the effect of pushing prices up.  A lot of Friendly Local Games Shops sell online though, and many of these have sales on at the moment, so why not support one of the small businesses that are struggling at the moment, and leave Amazon to deal with toilet rolls and hand sanitiser?

20th August 2019

It was ominously gloomy and empty in pub the when Khaki and Mulberry arrived.  With Blue away for work, she had left the logbook with the landlord and it was sadly sitting on the table waiting for them.  Fearing the repercussions of ignoring the demanding tome, they ordered food and took their places at the table.  They were soon joined by Burgundy, Purple, Black, Lime and Ivory, making it a decent turn-out for a meeting that was very nearly cancelled.

The Book - 20/08/19
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the feeding was over and done with, it was time to organise people to play games.  Purple, Mulberry and Lime began with the “Feature Game”, Ivor the Engine.  This is a great little game with fantastic artwork from the late, great Peter Firmin.  Although it is designed round a the children’s cartoon, the cute artwork belies the viscous little teeth the game has.  The idea is that players move their wagon round the board, playing cards to carryout errands which are paid in sheep – the player with the most sheep at the end of the game is the winner.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of the game the board is randomly filled with lost sheep. On their turn, the active player begins by collecting a sheep at their current location, if one is available, receiving bonus sheep if they take the last sheep in a location. Then they play cards and move their wagon playing cards before or after they move.  There is one free movement and others can be bought with coal.  The active player can play as many or as few cards as they wish, but there is a tight hand-limit of four cards and only one card can be played at each location. The cards can be used in one of two ways:  they can provide a special action (e.g. extra moves or moving sheep about), or if the active player is at a location where there are no sheep, they can use them to complete a “Job” receiving sheep as a reward.  Finally, players take a card from the face-up display discarding a card if necessary.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

It seems very gentle at first glance, but there are a couple of things that make the game quite strategic.  Firstly, only one player can be in a location at any one time, which can be surprisingly inconvenient for players who have built a plan and a hand of job cards only to be obstructed by another player squatting in the wrong place.  With cards at such a premium it is also surprisingly irritating when another player takes a desired card.  Managing these is key to being successful, but the nastiest part of the game are the event cards.  At the end of a player’s turn, they draw cards from the deck to replace any they have taken and place them face up in the display.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

If an Event card is revealed, then the actions must be carried out by everyone – some are nice, some are slightly inconvenient, others are downright nasty.  For example, some Events cause players to move their wagon to the other end of the board which can be very helpful or extremely frustrating depending on the player’s plans.  Players can also be forced to forfeit sheep, or worse, hard won resources or Job cards.  Like Job cards, Event cards are also dual purpose, and (once the Event has been resolved) can be taken from the “market” at the end of a turn, like Job cards.  They are valuable though, providing a means to score more at the end of the game, so they must be bought using gold, which is very rare and difficult to come by.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple explained the rules very thoroughly as there are a couple of slightly fiddly exceptions, for example, it costs two coal to move along the main line, but eventually the game got going.  Everyone started on the same side of the board and got in each other’s way a bit.  Lime struggled a bit in a game that can be quite unforgiving despite it’s cute graphics and child-friendly theme.  Things improved for him as he picked up six sheep on his final turn.  Mulberry’s game started well, but in contrast to Lime, fizzled out towards the end.  Purple got lucky as she picked up sheep throughout and cards that were conveniently close to her current position.  Purple’s experience ensured she capitalised on her good fortune, finishing five points ahead of Lime, with thirty-three.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile on the next table, “the boys” were playing Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra.  This was released last year at Essen and uses the market mechanism from the 2018 Spiel des Jahres winner, Azul.  The idea is of this is that on their turn, players take all the pieces of one colour from a market and place the left-overs in the middle, or, take all the tiles of one colour from the middle.  In Stained Glass of Sintra, instead of placing these pieces in a row and moving them onto a grid, pieces are placed directly into the player’s window.  This is modular consisting of the double-sided strips laid out at random so everyone has a different starting setup.

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
– Image by boardGOATS

There are restrictions on how the pieces can be placed though:  tiles must be placed in the strip immediately below their Glazier meeple, or in a strip to its right.  The Glazier is then placed above the strip the tiles were placed in,, so he gradually moves to the right. Instead of taking tiles, players can choose to reset the Glazier’s position, moving him back to the left most strip.  Players get points when strips are completed scoring the sum of the score depicted below the strip and any strips to the right that have already been completed. There is also a colour bonus—each round has a colour drawn at random at the start of the game, and any tiles that match the colour for the round score extra.

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
– Image by boardGOATS

Once a strip has been completed, it is flipped over; after it has been filled a second time it is removed. Any left over tiles that cannot be placed are placed into the glass tower and yield a penalty with players moving along a negative score track which has small steps at the start that gets larger. When the market is empty the round ends and the round indicator tile is also dropped into the glass tower which is emptied when the .  There are also end-game bonus points with two variants available, one colour dependent and the other rewarding completing adjacent strips.

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
– Image by boardGOATS

Kahki started, but was the only one new to the game and didn’t know what he was doing.  Somehow though he managed to build a lead which kept growing. Black and Burgundy weren’t far behind although there was a lot of smashed orange “glass” when Burgundy was forced to pick up eight orange pieces but only had space for four.  Ivory struggled and there was yet more broken orange glass when he picked up twelve orange pieces, only having space for two.  As a result, there were a lot of penalty points at the end, and it was only a surprise to Kahki that he was the winner by some twenty points.

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
– Image by boardGOATS

The Ivor group had barely finished the rules explanation by this point, so the group moved on to play Splendor.  This is one of our most popular games, but has largely degenerated into an exercise in trying to beat Burgundy as he wins every time.  The game is a very simple engine builder, where players can either take “gem” chips on their turn, or use them to buy a card from the display.  Cards then provide a perpetual “gem” allowing players to buy more expensive cards which give points.  Points are also provided by “Noble” tiles which are revealed at the start of the game and are won by the first player to get a certain combination of gem cards.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, all the Noble tiles needed rubies (red), but very few ruby cards came out.  Ivory started well taking an early lead with a few low scoring cards before Khaki caught up him taking a three point card. Burgundy made a very slow start, reserving a couple of cards while Black picked up a few points here and there.  Ivory took the first Noble and managed to fight his way to fourteen points, but then the inevitable happened.  Burgundy’s game suddenly snowballed and a couple of rounds later he bought his last reserved card and, as the last player in the round, brought the game to an end.  Burgundy finished on sixteen points, just two ahead of Ivory who took second place in what was a very tight game where Burgundy was pushed right to the wire, albeit with the usual result.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time, Ivor was finally finished, and Khaki and Mulberry headed off for an early night, leaving everyone else to play Alhambra.  This, the 2003 Spiel des Jahres winner, is a tile laying game where players are building their city.  Basically, on their turn, the active player may take money from the open money market; purchase a building from the building market and either place it in their Alhambra or their reserve, or engage in construction and re-construction projects with buildings that had been placed in the player’s Alhambra or their reserve.  The core of the game is the market, where players buy building tiles with coloured money cards and add them to their Alhambra.  This key purchasing mechanism comes from its predecessor, Stimmt So!.

Alhambra
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor EndersGame

There are four different currencies which come in different colours.  At the start of a player’s turn, there are four tiles available, each in a different coloured market, which can only be purchased with the currency that matches the market’s colour.  If the active player can pay with exactly the correct amount, they can buy another tile, but if they over-pay, they get no change and their turn ends.  While this all sounds simple enough, there is the little problem that sets Alhambra apart from Stimmt So!:  most of the tiles have walls along one, two or three edges, and when placed, these must match up without partitioning the Alhambra.  The walls are critical as poor play in the early stages can mean it is possible to get backed into a corner later in the game.

Alhambra
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor EndersGame

There are fifty-four tiles in six different types, each type in a different colour. They are Pavilions (Blue), Manors/Seraglios (Red), Mezzanines/Archades (Brown), Chambers (White), Gardens (Green) and Towers (Purple).  Most tiles have one or more walls around the edges and each tile also shows numerical value from two to thirteen, which is their cost.  Each of the six different building types in a player’s Alhambra score in each of the scoring phases, with players receiving points for having the most of each type in the first scoring round.  In the second scoring round the player in second place also scores and in the final scoring round points are also available for third place in each building type.  Points are also awarded in each scoring round for players’ longest external “wall” section within their complex.

Alhambra
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mothertruckin

The game ends when the building market can no longer be replenished from the building tile supply, and there is a final scoring, whereupon the player with the highest score wins.  In this game, the distribution of tiles was very uneven, with all the Tower tiles coming out early and and the Manor and Garden tiles coming out late.  Ivory took an early lead after the first scoring round having picked up a lot of the early Towers.  It was not to last though.  Alhambra is a game that rewards efficiency, and Black and Burgundy both made the most of paying exactly the right amount and taking extra turns, while Ivory and Lime fell into the trap of putting tiles into their reserve which cost them an extra turn to place them in their Alhambras.

Alhambra
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor EndersGame

While Purple had the most Towers in the second scoring round, others had caught up by the third and final scoring round.  As a result, Towers finished in a three-way tie, so nobody scored well.  Lime finished with the longest wall taking a massive fifteen points in the final scoring phase, but unfortunately he did not have enough points elsewhere to trouble the leaders, Burgundy and Black.  Burgundy also had a substantial wall, giving him twelve points, and with his Gardens and Pavillions, he took a creditable second place, but was some way behind Black who finished with over a hundred points thanks to having the most Chambers and coming second in many of the other buildings and generally being efficient throughout.

Alhambra
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor EndersGame

Learning Outcome: boardGOATs can survive without Blue and Green as long as Purple is around.

6th August 2019

With a party just arriving, Blue and Khaki took a gamble on Burgundy being on his way, and ordered his ham, egg, ‘n’ chips for him on the understanding that they’d have a second course if he failed to turn up in time.  Blue, then eschewed her usual pizza in favour of fajitas which she then proceeded to throw down her front.  Pine, meanwhile, arrived fractionally too late to order food at all.  Burgundy arrived just in time to avoid everyone playing musical food and eating his dinner, so Pine ended up eating everyone else’s chips instead.  With the substantial matter of food dealt with and the arrival of Purple and Black, the group moved on to games.  There was some discussion about playing one large game or two smaller, three-player games, but the latter won out, with the “Feature Game”, Century: Spice Road, the first game on the table.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

This being a similar engine builder type game to Splendor and Burgundy keen to play, Pine could see the writing on the wall and decided to leave Blue and Khaki to it.  The game itself is actually quite different to Splendor.  In Splendor, players take gems and use them to buy cards which then deliver permanent gems enabling them to buy other cards, and eventually get cards that also give points.  In Century: Spice Road, players are spice traders and take cards from a conveyor belt and then use these cards to get spices and then use the spices to buy scoring cards.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part is the fact that there are four spices available, turmeric, saffron, cardamom and cinnamon, with cinnamon worth the most, and turmeric the least.  Thus, the activity cards, variously enable players to take spices, upgrade them, or convert them into other spices.  Players place their spices in their caravan, which holds a maximum of ten spices.  Like Splendor, the game is all about building an efficient engine, though in this case, it uses deck building, so a key part is making sure that as many cards as possible are used before the deck is picked up, which costs a turn.  Similarly, any conversions can be carried out as many times as desired when the card is played, so timing is everything.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy went first and it wasn’t long before he took his first points, leading Pine to comment from the next table, comparing Burgundy taking the lead to Bayern Munich taking a five-nil lead ten minutes in.  Burgundy replied that he wasn’t winning… yet.  It wasn’t long before Blue and Khaki scored themselves, though rather than equalising, it was more a case of reducing the deficit.  It was around this point that Blue made a big play, going for a card that allowed her to upgrade three spices (compared to the initial two in the cards everyone started with), but she immediately regretted it as she paid through the nose to take it (the card at the end of the conveyor belt is free, but taking newer arrivals costs one spice per card space nearer to the deck).

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

This mistake was compounded by the fact that Blue didn’t really use the card as she had more efficient ways upgrading her spices.  Meanwhile, Burgundy and Khaki were building up their pile of scoring cards, with Khaki ominously taking a lot of the oldest scoring cards, and with it a large number of the rather pretty bonus metal coins.  The game moved really quickly – it’s not really multi-player solitaire, but everyone had plans, so play moved on very quickly with only sporadic breaks when people had to make decisions, so it wasn’t long before everyone was getting close to taking the critical sixth scoring card which triggers the end of the game.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

It turned out that all the high scoring cards had come out at the beginning and towards the end, everyone was waiting and hoping someone else would take a low scoring card and leave them with something more exciting.  Blue had the chance to kill the game early and prevent Burgundy and Khaki taking a sixth card, but she thought Burgundy was setting his sights higher than he was.  So in the end it was Burgundy who took his sixth card to trigger the final round and everyone finished with the same number scoring cards, though Burgundy’s were generally of much higher value.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

It was really close for second place, with Blue taking it by just one point, but Burgundy finished eleven points clear with eighty-six, fulfilling Pine’s prophecy (based on his unbeatable prowess at Splendor) that he would win.  Blue was left ruing the fact she hadn’t ended the game when she had the chance, but in reality Burgundy would probably have won anyhow as he’d only taken a low scoring card end, giving him fewer points than his margin of victory.  However, we’d all enjoyed the game, as it plays quickly and doesn’t out-stay it’s welcome as well as being quite nicely produced.  It does look like it is going to be one of those games that nobody else will want to play with Burgundy though.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table, Pine had joined Black and Purple to play the rather beautiful Bosk.  This is a fairly simple little game that has had a couple of outings recently and has proven quite popular.  The game plays over two seasons, spring, where players grow their saplings, and autumn, where the trees then drop their leaves.  Summer and winter are scoring phases.  In summer, players score points for each row or column where they have the largest total and in winter, players score for having the most leaves in each area.

Bosk
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, with players becoming more familiar with how the game works, it was really tight.  Although the scoring in the first half always seems important, it isn’t really, and is usually quite close.  It is a game where small margins are always important though.  So while the wooden squirrels were doing acrobatics in the middle of the table, players’ trees were shedding leaves all all over the forest.  When it came to scoring, it was very “tit-for-tat” with one player scoring best in one area and then another playing scoring best in the next area.  In the end, it was Black who just managed to sneak the win, two points ahead of Pine.

Bosk
– Image by boardGOATS

With both games finishing simultaneously, and everyone being keen to play together, we decided to introduce Khaki to one of our favorite games, Las Vegas.  This is a great betting game which is quite unlike anything else.  The idea is that there are six casinos, each with a pot of money in one or more notes.   On their turn, each player rolls a handful of D6 dice and place some on one of the casinos.  The player with the most dice on a casino once all dice have been played takes the highest denomination note in the pot.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

As with all the best games, it is the little rules that make the difference.  In this case, there are two “catches”.  Firstly, the player must place all of one number on one of the six casinos, so if they rolled a two and six fives, the must place the two on the “Two” casino, or all six fives on the “Five” casino.  Secondly, when everyone has run out of dice, any dice that tie are eliminated, which means there could be three players with four dice each, and one player with a singleton and the singleton wins.  A new edition of the game has just been announced, Las Vegas Royale, but rather than implement the changes to the rules released with the new edition, we played in our usual, highly enjoyable way.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is supposed to be played over four rounds, but we find it can outstay it’s welcome a little for players who are out of the running, so we house-rule it to three rounds instead.  We also add “The Biggun” dice and the Slot Machine from the Boulevard expansion.  The big dice count for two in the final reckoning, which adds a little bit of variety to the game, while the Slot Machine gives players an alternative to placing dice in the casinos.  Each number can only be placed once in the slot machine, but the player must place all their dice of that number (as usual).  In the event of a tie, the total number of pips, and then the highest value dice are the deciding factors.  This a relatively relaxing game to play with friends with short burst of thought interspersed with a lot of table chat and general encouragement and exhortation to make a mess of things for someone else.

Las Vegas: The Slot Machine
– Image by boardGOATS

In the first round, Khaki rolled a handful of fours, so made a play for the “4” casino.  Following it with more fours secured his position, so when he rolled more fours in the second round he was encouraged to go for it again.  By the final third round, everyone was placing subconscious bets on whether he would try again, which of course he did, ultimately winning the “4” casino in all three rounds.  In fact the last round was the deciding factor, ultimately coming down to the last couple of dice, which lost Pine and Burgundy a lot of cash.  It was Blue and Purple, mostly flying under the radar that took the honours with $330,000 each, finishing joint first, and opting to share victory rather than invoking the tie-breaker.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

There was still plenty of time, but clearly everyone was in a holiday mood and fancied playing light fare, so we decided to finish with an old favourite, Bohnanza.  Kahki had not played it before, so was given a quick run-down of the rules.  The important thing, is that players must not re-order their hand – this is so automatic in card games that new or not, everyone always reminds everyone else immediately after the cards are dealt.  On their turn, players then play the first card from their hand into one of the two “bean fields” in front of them.  They may optionally play a second, but then the top two cards from the deck are turned over.  These must be “planted” before anything else can happen, but they can be planted in the active player’s field or can be traded for something and planted in a field belonging to another player.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the trades have been dealt with, the active player can trade with other players, swapping cards in hand, and then finally tops up their hand by drawing a set number from the deck (dependent on the number of players). There are many clever things about this game, but one of the most important is that when fields are harvested, some of the beans are turned over and become coins which are kept by the player, with the rest moving to the discard pile.  The reason this is important is because some beans are rarer than others and rare beans give a better yield.  This means the balance of the deck changes during the game with rare beans becoming rarer, while there is a glut of common beans.  The winner is the player with the most coins at the end, which is usually the player who best surfed this changing balance.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is very sociable and always played in good nature, with players generally offering and accepting reasonable trades, and not being obnoxiously obsessed with winning.  This time was no exception, although Burgundy did refuse Pine’s totally reasonable offer to take a pint for a Red Bean.  Purple made good progress early on, with a large number of Black-eyed Beans while others struggled to make much progress at all.  As a result, when the deck was depleted for the first time round, there were very few cards in the discard pile making the second round extremely short.  The third was even shorter, made worse by the fact that Blue lost the plot and shuffled the last few cards in with the discard pile

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

When, in the last turn of the game, Purple turned over two Green Beans which Blue wanted, she offered her whole hand, sizeable hand to purple in exchange.  Purple being a kind-hearted, generous sort, graciously accepted, much to Black’s disgust.  The offer was partly to make up for the screw-up with the deck in the hope that Purple would be able to score some points, but of course did Blue no harm either.  In the end it nearly cost Purple the game.  Often the game ends in a multi-way tie, sometimes for first, but more commonly for second place.  The pair of Green Beans that Blue received gave her one extra point, breaking what would have been a three way tie for second with Black and Khaki, putting her one coin behind Purple, the winner with fourteen.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Don’t play Splendor OR Century with Burgundy unless you fancy a pasting.