Tag Archives: Sushi Go!

19th August 2021 – “Unofficial boardGOATS”

We’d had such fun at the “Post-Covid Test Event” at the Horse and Jockey and some were so disappointed to have missed it, that we decided to have another, this time “unofficial” meeting at the pub before our formal return.  As we chattered away and waited for food to arrive, we told Lime what we’d played last time.  He said he was sorry to have missed Sushi Go! as he really enjoyed it, and in a trice, a real, hardcopy of the game was out and cards were being shuffled and dealt.  We’ve played Sushi Go! plenty of times both online and in person, but as usual, we had a very quick run-through of the rules.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

Players start with a hand of seven cards, and choose one to keep, passing the rest on to the player on their left.  Players repeat this with the aim of the game being to end up with the set of cards that score the most points.  The game is played over three rounds with the player with the highest total winning. The final round was coming to an end when pizza arrived, but we just had time to get to the end.  It was close, but Blue made up for her disastrous showing earlier in the week online with a win, just a single point ahead of Pine (who had missed out completely on the previous game).

Pizza
– Image by boardGOATS

Food was summarily dispatched and Ivory arrived, and after some discussion about what to play and whether to split into two groups, we all settled down together to play the dice-drafting game, Sagrada, with the 5-6 player expansion.  This is another game that most of us are reasonably familiar with and we thought it would be a good game to play to help dust some more of the cobwebs off our gaming skills which had proven to be decidedly rusty at the “Test Event”.  The base game is quite simple:  the starting player draws dice from the bag and players take it in turns to take one and add it to their stained glass window.

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

As well as following the restrictions given on the players’ window cards which specify colours and numbers for some spaces, players must place new dice next to already played dice while avoiding placing dice of the same colour or number in adjacent spaces.  Depending on the difficulty of the player’s window card, players get a number of “cheat tokens” which are worth points at the end, or can be spent to use “Tools” to enable players to improve their move dice, change dice numbers and otherwise break the rules.  This time the Tools cards drawn at random were the Eglomise Brush, the Copper Foil Burnisher and the Cork-backed Straightedge.

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

The Eglomise Brush and the Copper Foil Burnisher allowed players to move dice ignoring any colour/number restrictions printed on their window card, while the Cork-backed Straightedge allowed players to place their chosen die in a location not adjacent to another die.  The Tools are really useful as they allow players to improve their scores. These come from individual goal cards, and shared goal cards drawn at random.  This time we drew one objective card rewarding dice of the same colour arranged diagonally and two that scored points for pairs of dice (ones and twos/threes and fours).

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

The 5-6 player expansion, tweaks the rules a little.  In the base game, in each round, the draft goes one way and then returns so that the first player gets to choose first and last with the last player taking two dice one after the other (similar to the initial settlement placement in The Settlers of Catan).  With large numbers of players this can lead to a lot of down-time, partly because of the sheer number of decisions (which are taken sequentially), but also because there are more dice giving players a larger number of options to consider.  To avoid this, players start the game with their own personal dice pool consisting of two of each colour, rolled to give random numbers.  Players then take one die from the draft and one from their personal dice pool.

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink began, drawing seven dice from the bag, but we were only a few rounds in when Lime thought he might have dropped one.  This queued a mad session of dice counting as well as fond recollections of the time Pine dropped a No Thanks! token between the floor boards which is probably still there.  Fortunately, the dice, though small, would not fit through the gap and it turned out nothing had been dropped anyhow.  Meanwhile, Blue and Burgundy discussed how to interpret the “diagonals” in the objective card as it was unclear from the rules.  We decided to use the generous interpretation and score for each diagonal line, counting dice multiple times, but checking online after proved this incorrect and each diagonally adjacent die of the same colour scores just once.

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime was first to use his cheat tokens, though almost everyone else soon joined him.  The exception was Pine who, despite starting with one of the most difficult Window cards, still had all six cheat tokens left at the end.  Ivory pointed out that Pink’s window seemed to have a lot of high scoring green dice, making it likely that green was his personal objective and giving him a high score that would be hard to beat.  And so it proved, though Ivory scored only one less for his personal, purple objective.  Scores for pairs of dice were mostly similar, though Ivory, who started out with a hatful of ones managed to pair these with five twos giving him ten points.

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end, Burgundy and Pink were both close with fifty-six and fifty-eight points, but Ivory was five points clear with sixty-three.  Lime had a horrifically early morning so reduced the numbers to five, and giving the mess we’d made with Bohnanza last time, the rest of the group decided to give it another go.  This is a fantastic trading game where players first plant beans from their hand, then draw two beans from the deck which can be planted or traded (and planted by the recipient) and finally harvest beans.  The key point about the game is that cards in hand must not be rearranged.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

There are some really clever aspects to the game, for example, because the beans become money, the distribution of beans in the deck changes as the game progresses, but players can manipulate that by choosing when they harvest.  Harvesting just before the deck is shuffled means more cards of that sort become available in the next round.  With slightly fewer players, this becomes increasingly significant.  This time, Burgundy’s shuffling got the blame when Blue started with a handful of green beans and then turned over more.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Green beans continued to fall into her lap and punctuated by a full set of garden beans, some black-eyed beans and a small number of others, she harvested significantly more than the fourteen cards available.  Pine managed to gather a full set of four cocoa beans, which felt all the more special as they often not in the game because they are removed for many player counts.  Pink repeatedly demonstrated how he was unable count, trying to taking four cards to refill his hand each round instead of three.  A couple of rounds in, Blue, bought herself a third bean field and nearly underpaid for that too (the cost varies depending on the number of players).

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game came to an end, players tried to maximise their final scores, and then started counting.  Twelve was beaten by thirteen, which in turn was beaten by fourteen and then Ivory’s score of fifteen.  But Blue was still counting, and counting—the green beans and her third bean field had done their job and she finished with a massive twenty-one.  With that, Ivory left leaving four players and just enough time for a quick game of Love Letter, a game that is available online, but we’ve eschewed playing as it loses all it’s fun.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the most successful of the micro-games, there are just sixteen cards.  Each player starts with one card, draws a second from the deck and then plays one.  The aim of the game is to end with the highest value card, or be the last player standing when the deck is exhausted.  Some cards allow players to assassinate others if they correctly guess what they are holding, or if they compare cards and have the lower value.  The game is played until one wins three rounds.  Burgundy and Blue took the first and second rounds, before Pink took one round and Blue took another and with it, the lead.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine had been knocked out of every round and when Pink picked him again he protested that Blue would be a better target.  His protests were in vain, however, with Pink correctly suggesting Pine was “The Princess”, he was knocked out once more.  Pink’s comment, “Don’t worry, you’ll always be a princess to me,” received a disgruntled, “Eat my tiara!” in reply.  When Burgundy eliminated Pink, that gave Blue the last card and she went for the jugular taking what was the final round and with it, the game.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Anyone can be a princess.

17th August 2021 (Online)

Although the test event at the Horse and Jockey was very successful last week, we decided to continue online for another week.  So, after the usually chatter (mostly centred on the subject of revenge for the drubbing some of us got from Pine in playing the Heart of Africa expansion to Ticket to Ride), we moved on to the evening’s “Feature Game“.  One of the more popular games that we have played online is the “Roar and Write” type game, Welcome to Dino World.  We only played it once and then in “Lite Mode”, but there had been a lot of interest in the more exciting sounding “Danger Mode”, so we decided to give it a try this week.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

The basics of the game is that three dice are rolled giving a number of “pips” which players can spend on up to three actions.  These actions are to:  build paths; build a dinosaur pen (with generators), or build a facility.  The relatively novel aspect of this is that as well as choosing actions to do, players can also combine two or more dice together and use the increased value to do fewer, more powerful actions.  Thus a roll of one, three, and four can be used to do three separate actions of that level, or two actions of value, four say, or a single action of level eight.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

Playing the game with a large number of players (and remotely to boot), instead of players having goal cards that are scored at the end of each round, we use the variant where there are communal goal cards (called “Visitor Cards”) which are scored at the end of the game.  The game lasts just eight rounds, after which everyone adds up their scores for visitors, facilities, unused generators and, of course, each dinosaur pen.  This “Lite” version of the game is made considerably more complex when the game is played on the “Danger” board with the addition of Threat and Security Tracks and a modification to the way generators are built.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea of the Threat Track is that every time a dinosaur pen is added the park, the threat level increases by one for a herbivore and two for a carnivore.  Once per round, players can also increase their Security Level, by crossing off boxes on the Security Track.  These boxes contain points, which if unused at the end of the game, are added to the player’s score.  After the building phase is the malfunction phase when a single six-sided, (d6) “Threat Die” is rolled.  The value of the Threat Die is added to each player’s Threat Level minus the Security Level to give the Danger Level.  If the Danger Level is six or above, disaster strikes, generators malfunction, and dinosaurs start to rampage.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

Although both use 4 MW generators, they work slightly differently in the Danger and Lite Modes.  In Lite Mode, each generator will supply a maximum of four pens (the ones sharing a side with the generator), so a pen that requires a total of 3 MW must be adjacent to three different generators.  In Danger Mode, one generator can supply a maximum of 4 MW, but it can supply more than 1 MW to an individual adjacent pen indicated by a power line drawn between the two.  Thus, the amount of power a generator supplies can change during the game—it is the generators that are working closer to full capacity that are most likely to fail…

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

If the Danger Level in a park reaches six, any generators that are working at maximum capacity fail.  It is a brief power-outage, but as a result, any pens that rely on these generators are affected and one square of these pens is lost (crossed out).  The problem really comes, however, when the final square in a pen is lost and and the pen fails completely, because now the dinosaurs break out and cause damage to all the neighbouring pens causing a cascade reaction.  And any pen that is destroyed completely no longer scores.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, the game is a matter of achieving a fine line between getting the most out of a limited number of generators with the minimum amount of security while still avoiding rampaging dinosaurs.  The rules explanation took longer than expected as there was quite a bit more to Danger Mode, and worse, it was a while since we last played the game in Lite Mode, so we had to revise that too.  Eventually we were going, however, only for a hiatus after the first round for a rules-check.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy was right to point out that although the rules say players can carry out the three actions in any order, each one could only be carried out once per turn, in particular building dinosaur pens and building facilities.  Around half the players had already built two pens in the first round, so we decided that any player that had not done so, could build a second pen in the second round if they chose, and thereafter we would adhere to the rules “as written”.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

As last time, the first couple of rounds were very slow as players tried to assimilate the Visitor cards and work out a plan to maximise the points they could get from them.  This time they were:

  • ≥3 Protoceratops pens (worth four points);
  • ≥2 Different facilities touching orthogonally (worth four points);
  • ≥1 Protoceratops pen, ≥1compsognathus pen, and ≥1 stegosaurus pen all within four paths of any entrance (worth six points);
  • ≥1 T. rex pen and ≥1 brachiosaurus pen (worth six points);
  • ≥4 Brachiosaurus pens (worth ten points);
  • ≥2 Velociraptor pens and ≥3 herbivore pens (worth ten points).

The Facilities were the Viewing Platform and the Ranger Lookout which score points equal to the number of undamaged spaces in one neighbouring pen at the end of the game, and one point per pen visible orthogonally (respectively).

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to the variety from the Visitor and Facility cards, there are also Research cards which are there to mitigate bad luck.  In Lite Mode, Research is just six opportunities to adjust a die by ±1, but these are replaced by three cards, X, Y, and Z which players can use three times, twice and once respectively.  This time, these were:

  • Calculated Risk: When building a carnivore pen, only add one to the threat track but add one damage to the pen (X);
  • Alternate Funding: Use one die as if it were any value (Y);
  • Docile Gene Editing: Do not increase the threat when building a pen this round (Z).

While minimising generators and security gives players more points at the end of the game, there is no benefit in not using their Research, so while most players kept some back in case of emergencies, others started using them from the very beginning.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we were slow to get started and the first few rounds were also very slow, once we got going the rounds were much quicker.  And then came the maths.  Without Ivory to set an early (usually unbeatable) target, Pine stepped up with a score of one hundred and seven.  This was soon topped by Burgundy with a hundred and twenty-seven, then by Black with a hundred and twenty-nine.  However, on recount, Burgundy excitedly announced that he also had a hundred and twenty-nine, while Black sadly revised his score down to a hundred and twenty-seven.  All was not lost as both players recounted again and Black’s score returned to one hundred and twenty-nine while Burgundy’s third and final count proved to be the lowest at a hundred and twenty-six, “Bah!”.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

At this point, Black and Burgundy gave in as Pink’s verified score was a hundred and thirty, and it was clear they were battling for the minor places.  Pink, who thought he had won, however, was decidedly unimpressed when he was beaten by two points by Blue.  There must have been something in the air, or maybe it was the fumes from the vast amount of Tipp-Ex that Blue had used.  Pink’s check of Blue’s score initially increased her tally by six, only for him to reduce it again on a second recount, but the changes weren’t enough to give Pink victory.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine was suffering with screen-eyes so took an early night leaving six to move onto Board Game Arena.  Six is an important number as a lot more games become available, but after some discussion where people expressed the desire to play something different yet light, we chose Go Nuts for Donuts!, which Pine had said he had been playing and had found light and entertaining.  It was indeed very, very simple:  each donut has a number and players simultaneously choose a card to “bid” for them.  The catch is that a bit like Om Nom Nom, if more than one person chooses the same donut, it cannot be shared and nobody gets it.

– Image used with permission
of boardgamephotos

The different types of donuts score points in different ways and the player with the most points after all seventy cards in the deck have been exhausted is the winner.  Some just give points, others score if you have more (or less) than a certain number of one type of cards, while others allow players to take cards from the deck or discard pile.  The clever part is the simple decision, however:  which card to choose.  It is not as simple as it first seems.  Sometimes a player wants the card that gives the most points, but then other players may want that, so perhaps it is better to choose something else, even a card someone else wants simply to stop them getting it.  And which one is best if there is more than one donut of the same type?

Go Nuts for Donuts! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Go Nuts for Donuts! is quite a brutal game in that it is perfectly possible to end up with no cards much less cards you actually want.  It is a lot of fun though, and would probably be even more fun in person when players get to see the whites of each other’s eyes and read their body-language.  This time, although Purple got the most cards with eleven, it was only enough for second place.  Burgundy’s six cards worked better together, and thanks largely to his fine set of four Boston Cream donuts, Burgundy’s score of eighteen just gave him victory by a single point.

Go Nuts for Donuts! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

The appearance, style and set-collection nature of Go Nuts for Donuts! is very reminiscent of Sushi Go!, so with Green’s departure, the rest of the group settled down for one last food-related game.  We’ve played Sushi Go! quite a bit, mostly because it is very quick and simple.  The archetypal card drafting game, players start with a hand of cards and pass the rest on, trying to collect sets to give them the most points at the end of the game.  Played over three rounds, we played with a widdershins draft in the second round, and included the Soy Sauce mini-expansion for extra flavour.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink took the first round largely thanks to a full set of three sashimi cards (which give ten points).  Players always fight for the wasabi cards as these can give a significant points boost, multiplying the next nigiri by three, but Purple was the only one to get any and she couldn’t make the best use of it as she had to pair it with egg nigiri (only worth one point).  The second round was pretty much a repeat of the first with Pink taking another sashimi trio and Blue scoring the egg nigiri with wasabi.

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

With Pink well ahead with thirty-six, the final round was really about limiting losses.  Purple took a full six for her puddings and Pink took six points for his maki rolls, but overall, the takings in the final round were pretty similar.  The rest of the group were actually quite close together with Purple (again) the best of the rest, but despite losing three points for tying for the least puddings, Pink’s final total of forty-two was unbeatable.

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

Learning Outcome:  If the fences of dinosaur pens lose power, things can go very wrong (though perhaps that was already well known).

20th July 2021 (Online)

Since last time, there had been quite a bit of debate about returning to the Horse and Jockey, but there was a little hesitancy and with the extremely hot weather, staying at home this week turned out to be the right choice all round.  As the decision had been just a little bit last-minute, we chose to keep the “Feature Game” simple and opted for the Skills Mini Expansion for Cartographers.  We have played Cartographers several times and everyone has really enjoyed it.  With the Spiel des Jahres winners announced this week, this was also the nearest we could get to playing a game to mark the occasion (it received a nomination for the Kennerspiel award last year).

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Cartographers is a “Roll and Write” type of game, but one with more of a “gamery” feel than most.  It is based on Tetris, with shapes revealed on the flip of a card in a similar way to other games we’ve played this year like Second Chance and Patchwork Doodle.  However, the thing that makes Cartographers more “gamery” than these is the addition of terrain and players usually have to make a choice, either of the shape or the terrain.  The terrains are tied in with goal cards, four of which are revealed at the start of the game.  Two goals are then scored at the end of each of the four seasons, in a similar way to another game we like, Isle of Skye.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

There are lots of other little aspects of the game that make it interesting—the presence of Ruins and Ambush Cards in the deck, for example, deliver a curved ball, just when players feel they are in control.  Players can also build their income by surrounding mountain ranges and choosing to play certain shapes; this gives more points at the end of each round.  The Skills expansion gives players a way to offset this income for special actions which potentially give players other ways of achieving their goals, further adding to the decision space.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the most impressive things about Cartographers is the amount of variety that is built into the game, which means every play feels different and the game stays remarkably fresh.  So, there are two different player maps and four of each type of goal card.  This variety is carried through to the Skills expansion; there are eight cards of which three are chosen at random.  This time we chose the B side of the map (with empty “wasteland” spaces marked) and drew the Greenbough, Mages Valley, Wildholds and Borderlands goal cards together with the Search, Negotiate and Concentrate skills cards.  These skills cost anything from free (like Search) to three (like Concentrate), and each can be played multiple times per game although only one can be played each Season.

Cartographers: Skills Mini Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

We quickly realised that the expensive skills like Concentrate are only likely to be played in the final round, as the cost is in “income” and that income is generated at the end of every round.  So, playing Concentrate at the start of the game will ultimately cost a player twelve points, while playing it in the final round will cost three just three points.  For this reason, the free Search skill was always likely to be used by almost everyone in almost every season (and so it proved).  Of course, the higher tariff reflects the increased power though:  Search allows players to increase the size of the shape they are drawing by a single square; Negotiate (which costs one) allows players to draw a two-by-two shape, and Concentrate allows players to draw the shape a second time.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

As well as the skills which we had not played with before, several of the goal cards were new to us as well, including Greenbough (which rewards gives players one point per row and column with at least one Forest square in it) and Mages Valley (which gave points for each space next to a Mountain—two points for each Lake and one point for each Arable).  We’d played with the Wildholds goal before though (which gives six points for each Village of six or more spaces) and, although Borderlands was new to us (which give points for each completed row or column), we’d played The Broken Road goal which is similar (giving points for completed diagonals).

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The game began much as usual, and Pink, who was watering the tomatoes in the “mini-market-garden”, commented that he could hear Burgundy muttering, sighing and generally sounding stressed from outside.  Although we had played with “Wastelands” before, we had all focussed on how the fact some of the spaces were already full would help.  We had all forgotten how much the Wastelands obstruct plans and generally make life considerably more difficult.  Blue made a bit of using the ruins spaces to give her more flexibility later, but had forgotten that it would reduce the number of spaces she would be able to fill later in the game.

Cartographers: Skills Mini Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

It was clear after the first round that Ivory was going to be tough to beat, a feeling that was cemented after the second round.  Unusually, Burgundy was the first to post a score, with a total of one hundred and forty-one.  Although this was high enough to earn him second though, when Ivory’s score came through he was a massive twenty-five points ahead.  Once again, it had been a very enjoyable game, and as we tidied up there was a little bit of chit-chat about the skills and what they added to the game.  Since they are not compulsory, the consensus  was that we should add them every time, though it was clear that they had been widely used because of the presence of the free Search skill, which everyone had used, and some in every round.

Cartographers: Skills Mini Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

With Cartographers over, we had a bit of a discussion about moving back to our much loved and greatly missed, Horse and Jockey.  We’d conducted some anonymous surveys over the preceding week to try to gauge opinion trying to ensure that nobody felt under pressure to do anything they weren’t comfortable with.  Some of the group had been back on occasional Thursdays, playing old favourites like The Settlers of Catan, Wingspan, and Roll for the Galaxy and new games like Red Rising, Mercado de Lisboa, Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam, Tapestry (with the Plans and Ploys expansion), Ginkgopolis, Everdell, and Draftosaurus (aka “Sushi Go with Dinosaurs”).  Others, however, had not been to the pub for nearly eighteen months.  After some discussion, we decided that we’d schedule a trial visit in ten days time, so that those who had not been out could see how they felt without committing, and those that went could report back to those that were feeling a little more reticent.

The Horse and Jockey
– Image by boardGOATS

After that, we moved onto Board Game Arena.  It was a quiet night without both Pine and Lime, and once Green and Ivory had left as well, we were down to five which gave us a lot of options.  Coloretto was one, but in the end we chose Niagara, a game we’ve all played quite a bit, but never online, and we were keen to see the new Board Game Arena implementation and whether losing the tactile moving river would leave the game lacking.  A strong element of the game is the element of simultaneous play, however, and this was a large part of the appeal this time.  Players simultaneously choose a Paddle Tile which dictates how far their canoe will move in the round.  Then, in turn order, players move their canoe up or down the river, paying two movement points to pick up a gem from the bank (or drop one off).

Niagara
– Image by BGG contributor El_Comandante
adapted by boardGOATS

The winner is the player to get four gems of the same colour, five gems of different colours, or any seven gems safely home and into the shallows.  On the face of it, this is relatively simple, but the really clever part of the game is the movement of the river.  In general, the river moves at the speed of the slowest boat—if the lowest numbered Paddle Tile is a two, then the river moves two spaces and all the boats move with it.  However, one of the Paddle Tiles is a weather tile which enables players to increase or decrease the rate to make life harder or easier.  Since everyone has to play all their Paddle Tiles before they can recycle them, the timing of their weather tile is critical: players who leave it to the end run the risk of the river running fast and losing boats over the cascade because they can’t do anything about it.

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

And it wasn’t long before that’s exactly what happened, when both Blue and Black got their timing wrong and lost boats over the falls, so had to pay hard earned gems to get new ones.  Then, to add insult to injury, Pink sneakily crept up on Blue and stole another gem from her.  Players can only steal if they land on the same space as another boat while travelling upstream, and even then it is a choice.  There was much ill feeling especially from Blue, but she wasn’t the only one.  And with that, the gloves came off and everyone tried to redress the balance and ensure that such bad behaviour would not go unpunished.

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

Pink was abreast of that though and had a plan.  Knowing his bad behaviour would make him a target he collected gems in one boat letting others take them while he stole the gems he wanted and got them to shore quickly.  Much to everyone’s disgust, he soon had five different gems and there was nothing anyone could do to stop him getting them home.  Burgundy actually had more gems giving him a nominally higher score, but his set of six did not include five different colours and Blue’s set of five included three nuggets of amber.  The victims of Pink’s grand larceny were unimpressed with his terrible behaviour, and as it was getting late, we decided to call it a night.

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

Learning Outcome:  Theft is totally unforgivable.

13th April 2021 (Online)

During the usual chit-chat it became apparent that Pine didn’t have the paperwork for the “Feature Game“, Tiny Towns, or if he did, he couldn’t find it.  So after everyone had listened to him rifling through his front room for a bit, Pink popped round with replacements and everyone had everything they needed to start.  Tiny Towns is an area and resource management game where players are planning and building a town.  Although it has some similar elements, it makes a bit of a change from the many “Roll and Write” games of which we’ve played so many.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is very simple:  in each round, everyone places a resource cube on one of the sixteen plots on their player board.  After placing cubes, players may, if they wish, remove cubes corresponding to a building and place a corresponding building on one of the newly vacated spaces.  Functionally, that is all there is to it, but the clever part is the interplay between the different buildings and how players score points. The different buildings all require different resources in different arrangements, and although they give different amounts of points and different conditions, the relationship between the building types is always the same.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

For example, the Cottage is always included in the mix of buildings, but to score points, a Cottage needs to be “fed” by a red building.  In the introductory buildings, this is the Farm, but drawing at random, we ended up with the Greenhouse which feeds all the cottages in a contiguous block.  We also had the Shed (which could be built anywhere), the Temple (scored points if adjacent to fed Cottages), the Almshouse (scores increase the more you have, so long as you don’t have an odd number!), the Bakery (scores if adjacent to red or black buildings) and the Trading Post (can be used as any resource for subsequent buildings).

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

As when we played Tiny Towns on previous occasions, we played with the Town Hall variant which works better with more players.  With this, instead of players taking it in turns to choose the resources everyone places, cards are revealed for two rounds and players have a free choice for the third round.  Part of the reason for playing it again was in preparation for the Fortune expansion in a few weeks.  This time though, we added the Monument variant to increase the challenge slightly.  In this, players are dealt two special building cards each at the start of the game and choose one to act as a personal, and initially private, goal.  Each house-hold had a pack of Monument cards so everyone could deal cards and they could remain secret.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

With the Greenhouse in play, almost everyone tried to group all their cottages together, but everyone had a slightly different way of doing this and a different approach to using the other buildings.  Pink in particular focused on Cottages, but later regretted it, while Black tried to score points for Temples, but found it hard to do this and keep his Cottages in a single group as well.  Blue tried to build her monument, the Architects Guild, early, and then use it to create two Trading Posts then use these to build lots of Cottages all snuggled up together.  That didn’t work so well.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory and Pine on the other hand, built the Archive of the Second Age which gave them one point for each different building type in their town, and both managed five.  Burgundy built the Mandras Palace which gave him points for each different building orthogonally adjacent to it, but only managed two, giving him four points.  Green went for the same Monument and made better use of it taking the maximum, eight points.  Perhaps having a palace in your town makes it a better place, but either way, Green and Burgundy took first and second respectively, with Black completing the podium.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Tiny Towns had taken a little while to play and it was getting late, so we moved to Board Game Arena to finish off the night.  For a few weeks, we have been saying we should try the some of the new games, so Green had tried a few and suggested we tried Dingo’s Dreams.  This is a strange little game where players compete to be the first to successfully guide their animal through the dream world.

Dingo's Dreams
– Image from kickstarter.com

Players start with a grid of twenty-five tiles set up at random in a five by five array representing their dreamscape, and one extra tile with their animal depicted on it.  Each turn, a card is revealed and players find the tile that matches it and turn it over.  They then take their animal tile and slide it in from one edge; the tile that emerges is the tile added the next time round.  Players continue until one player succeeds in matching the pattern in their dreamscape to the goal tile.

Dingo's Dreams
– Image by boardGOATS from
boardgamearena.com

Unsurprisingly as he was the only one to have played it before, Green won.  Unfortunately, nobody else understood how the game worked as the explanation wasn’t as clear as it could have been.  That meant nobody really had a clue what was going on and the whole thing felt very random.  As a result, everyone was very glad when it was over and keen to move on to one of our favourite games, No Thanks!, which has become an alternative to 6 Nimmt! as our go to game for relaxing fun.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

No Thanks! is very simple:  on their turn, players take the card or pay a chip to pass the problem on to the next player.  At the end of the game, the face value of the cards score negatively, offset by any remaining chips.  The clever part is that if a player has two or more consecutive cards, only the lowest one is counted, but there are some cards missing from the deck, so there is a strong element of chance.  This time, it was a bit of a car crash, with almost everyone ending up with runs with gaps in them.  The exception was Green, who managed a six card run from thirty to thirty-five, and offset twenty-one of those negative points with chips giving him a winning score of minus nine.

No Thanks! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

With Green having won three out of three games, everyone felt the need for revenge, so we gave it a second go.  Green tried the same trick again collecting high value cards, but wasn’t so lucky this time.  Purple, however, with the last few cards managed to complete a seven card run, and with the lowest card a twelve, she managed that rarest of things—a positive score and everyone was delighted for her.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

It was getting quite late, but there was just time for a game of one of our recent discoveries, Draftosaurus.  As Pine described it the first time we played, this is basically Sushi Go!, but with dinosaurs.  Players start with a handful of dinosaurs, place one in their park and pass the rest on.  Dinosaur placement is according to a dice roll which restricts where on their board players can place their dinosaurs on each turn.  Otherwise, players score according to how well they have fulfilled the different requirements for the pens.

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

This time we played two rounds, first with the Summer board, and then with the Winter board.  In the first round, Pine top-scored with a massive forty points, nine points more than anyone else.  The Winter board was new to everyone except Pine, but despite that, the scores were very close.  Pine still top-scored, but only by a point or so, however, the damage had already been done, and Pine closed the night with the final victory of the evening.

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

Learning Outcome:  Make sure your Greenhouse is big enough to feed all your Cottages.

16th March 2021 (Online)

Purple, Black, Pine and Green chatted while Blue reminded herself of the rules for the first game.  Green showed everyone his new game, Fossilis, which comes with little plastic dinosaur bones, tweezers, and even a tiny plastic scorpion—one to play when we get back to the pub, along with the very newly released Red Rising, the Oceania Expansion for the really popular Wingspan, and a whole host of other games that we’ve been waiting over a year to play.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

And sadly, with the realisation that it was a year and a day since a very small group met at The Jockey for the last (unofficial) games night there, we moved on to playing the “Feature Game“, Das Labyrinth des Pharao.  Das Labyrinth des Pharao is a tile laying game in a similar vein to Take it Easy! which we played a few weeks ago, or the Spiel des Jahres nominee, Karuba (which we last played about five years ago).  In Das Labyrinth des Pharao though, players are exploring a pyramid and collecting treasure.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we’ve not played it on a Tuesday, some of the group have played it before at the Didcot Games Club (November 2015 and September 2016).  Like all the games that we’ve found that work well played online, Das Labyrinth des Pharao is quite simple to play, but it is a little bit “thinky” relying on planning and a little bit of luck.  Everyone had the tiles and board that were delivered a few weeks back, and they had found their Tiny Towns cubes and a meeple from one of the special Christmas crackers we’ve had at one of the unChristmas Parties during happier times.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

The first thing to do was lay out the tiles around the board, in number order—some appear more than once, so these are stacked.  Players then counted out five, four and three of their cubes as treasures.  Once everything was set up, Blue explained that Pink would turn over one of the beautifully decorated number cards (each part of a polyptych), and everyone had to place the corresponding tile on their board.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

They can place the tile anywhere on their board, in any orientation. Some of the tiles have scarabs depicted on them—players can place treasures on these, but must start with the lowest value treasures first.  So, only when all five one-point treasures had been used, could players move on to the four two-point treasures, and finally the three-point treasures (blue, green and red disks respectively, though we were playing with turquoise, yellow and red cubes).

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

After the third round, players have to choose which of the six possible entrances they are going to start from and then progress their “explorer meeple” along the path as far as they can.  In the rules, players mark the path at intervals so everyone else can see how far the explorers have travelled, but given the added difficulties associated with playing remotely and the fact that players could count their own path at any time, we omitted this.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends after twenty-five of the twenty-eight cards have been revealed and then people add up their scores.  Firstly, they score one point for each quarter tile their tunnel extends along.  Next they score points for each treasure chamber their tunnel passes, that is a chamber that contains one treasure surrounded by walls on all four sides.  As usual, the player with the most points is the winner.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

The game was a bit of a tale of people missing cards and having to try to correct it, and for a change, it wasn’t just the usual suspects.  As the game progressed, it became clear that most people had tried to follow Blacks advice and tried to place as many of their treasure tokens as they could.  The problem with this is that they aren’t worth anything unless players have managed to enclose them in a chamber and ensure their route passes alongside.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

In fact, one of the biggest problems for some turned out to be connecting valuable parts of their tunnel to their chosen entrance to ensure their treasure hunter was able to explore the temple.  Pine and Pink seemed particularly afflicted, and as the game drew to a close, Burgundy and Pink in particular were getting increasingly desperate for tile number fourteen.  The final tile was number six, which did most of the job and with that, everyone had to work out their scores.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

As usual, Ivory posted his score first, setting a competitive target of fifty, made up of thirty-one from his path and nineteen in treasure.  In general, the scores were quite close, with almost everyone scoring between forty and fifty.  The longest path was thirty-seven and the most treasure collected was nineteen.  In most cases, those that had a long path (like Blue and Burgundy) had few treasures, while those with a lot of treasure (like Pine and Green) had not explored as deep into the temple.  The exception was Pink, who managed to do well at both and finished with a total of fifty-four.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

It had been a fairly short game, and as it was a while since we’d practised our colouring, we moved onto a quick game of “Roll and WriteTetris, in the form of Second Chance.  We’ve played this quite a bit since we first started playing online, but the last time was just before Christmas, so we decided to give it another go.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that two shapes are revealed and players must draw them in their nine-by-nine grid.  The shapes come in different sizes and the game rewards efficiency in packing.  If a player is unable to play either shape, they get a second chance: one card all to themselves.  If they can play that, then they can carry on, but if they are unable to play that as well, then they are eliminated.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Unusually, being eliminated is not necessarily a guarantee of failure in this game:  the winner is the player with the fewest unfilled spaces at the end, which is when the deck of cards runs out.  So, in this game, a player can be knocked out, but still win.  This time, there were a couple of people who threatened to need a second chance, but then suddenly in one round, nobody was able to place either shape and everyone needed a second chance.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

That round took out everyone but Green and Black, but as there were no cards left, it turned out to be the final round, and that was that.  The scores varied from eleven to two, with a tie between Lilac and Blue for first.  Pink suggested a vote based on the quality of the art-work, but nobody wanted to choose between them and a tie it remained.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

From there, Ivory and Lilac took an early night, while the rest of the group moved to Board Game Arena for a game of Saboteur.  This hidden traitor game is one we’ve played a lot online over the last year.  The idea is that players are either Good Dwarves or Evil Saboteurs, with the Dwarves trying to play cards to build a tunnel and find the treasure, while the Saboteurs try to stop them using blocking cards and by breaking the Dwarves’ tools.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

It is always extremely difficult for the Saboteurs to win, but we live in hope and everyone is always pleased to get the opportunity to try.  The first round it was Blue’s and Black’s turn to try.  With seven players, there can be two or three Saboteurs—with just two it was pretty much guaranteed to be gold for the Dwarves, and so it proved.  The Dwarves headed straight for the gold, and despite a desperate rear-guard action the round was quickly over.

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

The second round was much closer.  The evil Pine, Pink and Green made life extremely difficult for the Dwarves very effectively blocking their first route to the gold and forcing them to go all around the houses before they found the gold.  Early in the game, Pink caused chaos by disagreeing with Pine as to where the Gold was, and the ensuing confusion made it very close.  The Saboteurs had a lot of cards that worked in their favour, but they still couldn’t quite stop Purple from finding the gold in the end.  The third and final round was a different story though…

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

Initially, the tunnels made good progress, but largely by chance, the tunnel headed towards the top card, when the treasure (it turned out) was at the bottom.  Things were made worse for the Dwarves when paranoia meant they turned on each other early.  There was more confusion about where the gold was and the Dwarves were in disarray.  Eventually, Pine revealed his colours, and then Black, and finally Burgundy.  For once, the cards went the Saboteurs’ way and they played them really well too.  Despite a desperate effort, there was nothing the Dwarves could do against such wickedness, and after a year of trying, the Saboteurs took their first victory.

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

Time was marching on and we were looking for one last game to play, something perhaps a little different from the usual 6 Nimmt!.  After some discussion, Green and Black ducked out and everyone else played Draftosaurus—a game that Blue and Pink have very nearly picked up on several occasions, including Essen in 2019, just after it first came out and that Pine described as “Sushi Go! with dinosaurs”.  With that description, nobody could resist giving it a go.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

By this, Pine meant the main mechanism is drafting.  In Sushi Go! players have a hand of cards, then simultaneously, they choose one to keep and pass the rest on.  In Sushi Go!, players are collecting sets of cards, but in Draftosaurus players are drafting little wooden dinosaur meeples and placing them in their dinosaur park, on their personal player board.  The clever part, and what makes it different to Sushi Go!, is that the scoring is driven by the different park locations.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

Before each draft, a die is rolled that restricts where players can place their chosen dinosaur and the seven locations all score for different combinations of dinosaurs.  This means that players can want the same dinosaurs for different reasons, or different dinosaurs for the same reasons.  The game is played over two rounds, drafting six dinosaurs drawn at random from a bag, first clockwise and then anti-clockwise.  In the Board Game Arena rendering, this is all done electronically and the tactile nature is lost, however, the graphics are charming.

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

For those who were new to the game, it took a couple of turns to work out where the scoring opportunities  are and how to make the best of them, and also to work out how the dinosaurs are passed round and how players could affect each other.  Pine was the only one to have played before, and therefore had a better grasp of how things worked.  Rather than use this experience to beat everyone else’s faces into the dirt, he helped keep everyone else straight and offered help and advice as required.

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

Draftosaurus rocks along at quite a pace, and it wasn’t long before the game was coming to an end.  Burgundy and Pink had got to grips with the game best and quickest and there was only one point in it.  Although they had mostly tried different approaches, both had also tried to collect different dinosaurs in the Meadow of Differences.  Burgundy had the edge though, and took victory with thirty-eight points.

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

Everyone had really enjoyed it and fallen a little bit in love with the charming graphics, quick game play, and what’s not to like about building a dinosaur park?!?!  This is definitely one to get and play once we can meet up properly again.  And on that positive note, looking forward to playing together with tactile dino-meeples after a year of gaming from home, it was time for bed.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

Learning Outcome:  Pharaohs and Dinosaurs, what’s not to like?

10th Movember 2020 (Online)

With Blue and Pink otherwise engaged, the early arrivals were left to talk amongst themselves to begin with.  Eventually, everyone joined the table talk and admired the new, very yellow arrival that was the Oceana Expansion for Wingspan.  Sadly it will likely be a while before it gets an outing with the group, but it gives us something to look forward to.

Wingspan: Oceania Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the yellow eggs had been put away, it was time to start the “Feature Game” which was to be HexRoller.  This is another of the “Roll and Write” style games and is a relatively recent release.  The game is quite simple in concept, though the scoring is quite involved and it is quite different to anything else we have played in this vein.  The idea is that a handful of dice are rolled and “binned” into according to value.  Players then choose two numbers rolled and write those numbers on their player board as many times as that number was rolled.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

This means if three and five are chosen and they appear once and twice respectively, the player will write three down once and five twice.  The game is played on a pre-printed sheet with a play area made of hexagons (because they are the bestagons, obviously).  Some of these have numbers written on them.  Once a player has chosen a number, they start writing in a hexagon next to a number already on the board, with every subsequent number written next to the previous, making a chain.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

Once per turn, players can also use one of three special actions, each of which can only be used once per game.  These allow players to write one of their chosen numbers an extra time; write a two anywhere, and choose a third set of dice from the pool.  At the end of the game players score from a smorgasbord of opportunities.  There are points for filling all seven hexagons in one of the coloured groups; for filling all the orange hexes in the central area; for connecting pairs of pre-printed numbers, and any left over, unused special actions.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

Additionally, every round a player picks two numbers and one is written in a box in the top row in the bottom left corner with the other written in the bottom row.  At the end of the game, a “straight” starting from three, score points equating to the highest number in the straight.  In other words, a set of two threes, a five, a four, a six, and a couple of eights would score six points.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

Explained, the game sounds extremely complex, however the scoring is outlined on the sheet and in practice, it is actually quite easy to play, though challenging to play well.  That said, it is very different to any of the other games we’ve played and nobody really had much idea how it would pan out.  There are two different boards and with different layouts.  We started with the slightly more challenging, “seven dice” board, but only realised we were using eight dice after we’d already started, and that probably made it quite a bit easier.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

With only seven rounds, the game rocked along quite quickly and was over in about twenty-five minutes.  Some people did better than others, but it was tight at the top with Green and Ivory tied for first place with sixty-seven and Burgundy just two points behind.  Everyone had really enjoyed it though, and we were all very keen to play the second, “Eight Dice” layout.  This layout is nominally the easier of the two, though we didn’t realise that before we started otherwise we’d have played it first.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

It has a larger central area, though, and is played over one extra round.  Some of the scoring is also very slightly different, which some people didn’t notice until the end when they came to calculating their score which led to quite a lot of recalculations.  Burgundy was third again, and Blue took second with fifty-seven.  Although Pink was insistent that because he was unable use a single die in the final round, he had a “moral score” of seventy-three his total of fifty stands.  That left Ivory the winner for the second time with a score of sixty-one.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

HexRoller is a really quick little game, and even playing it twice, there was still time for something else.  As we had struggled a little with Tiny Towns last time, we had planned to give it another go, this time with a new set of buildings.  The idea of the game is clever but quite simple:  players place resources on the spaces on their four-by-four town grid, and then, when the have the right resources in the the correct arrangement, they can replace them with a building.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Different buildings are built from different combinations of resources in different arrangements and, ultimately give different numbers of points.  We play using the Town Hall Variant where two resources are drawn at random, and then players choose their own for every third.  So, the key to the game is careful planning, but also  keeping options open in case the required resources don’t come up.  And luck also helps of course.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

This time we drew buildings from the alternative cards adding the Granary, Millstone, Bakery, Trading Post, Cloister and Almshouse to the Cottage.  These change the game considerably.  For example, the Granary feeds eight cottages (rather than the four of the Farm we used last time), but they must be in the eight surrounding spaces.  Similarly, the Millstone is worth two points if next to a red or yellow building (in this case a Granary and the Bakery), rather than a single point for each adjacent cottage.  The resources always take up more space than the buildings though and if players aren’t careful they can easily end up building on a space that makes it impossible to work with what’s left.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Several players including Green, Blue and Pink picked up on the fact that the Cloister had the potential to be highly lucrative, scoring one point for each cloister in a corner.  Blue explained (several times) that this meant that two Cloisters both in corners would score two points each, whereas if one were in a corner and the other were not they would score one point each.  Pink decided that they were too difficult to build to get the most from them as they required four different resources, but Purple, Blue, Green and Lime were braver and decided to give it a go.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Pink and Burgundy went heavily for Almshouses.  The larger the number of these, the more points they score, but while an odd number of these scores positively, an even number scores negatively.  So this strategy was not without risk, although as players are not obliged to build buildings, they could always wait, and only build when they know they have a second ready to go.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime was the first to be unable to do anything.  One of the down sides of playing games like this remotely is that players can’t watch what other players are doing, so as players dropped out, nobody else knew how they had done until the scores started to come in.  This time there was quite a spread with scores covering a range of nearly fifty points from minus fifteen upwards.  Burgundy had managed to avoid the pitfalls of the Almshouse and finished with twenty-eight points.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue, however, had made the Cloister strategy work building a total of six, including one in each corner.  It was at this point that Green realised he could have built another two Cloisters, but had thought they wouldn’t score.  Worse, he hadn’t realised the empty spaces would score negatively, leaving him some eight points worse off.  He insisted that he wouldn’t concede, that there should be a recount as the rules hadn’t been clear, and that a lawsuit would clear it up…

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

As in Pennsylvania, however, nobody listened to the litigant.  It was getting late though, so Lime, Lilac and Ivory left everyone else to play For Sale.  This is a great game for six players and the rendering of Board Game Arena is really good, making it really quick and fun to play.  The game itself comes in two parts:  buying properties and then selling them—the player who finishes with the most money wins.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone starts with $14,000 dollars and the bid must increase by at least $1,000 each time with players who pass taking the lowest numbered property available and getting half their stake returned.  There are two ways to play this, with the money returned rounded up or down – this time we chose to give every player the maximum amount of money with their returns rounded up.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, all the high cards came out in the final round.  This meant Burgundy paid just $1,000 for his castle (number twenty-eight) and Purple paid just $2,000 for the sky-scraper (number twenty-nine), although Green still paid $7,000 for the most valuable property (the space station).  As a result, most people had acquired some nice properties for a very good price.

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

It was a three-way tie between Black, Burgundy and Green for the player who managed to sell their properties for the most money, with all three taking $48,000.  However, it is the total, including any money left from the starting funds.  In this, Pink and Blue had only spent $3,000 so had $11,000 left.  This enabled Blue to just beat Burgundy into second place and take victory with $53,000.  At this point, Pine, who had been unable to join in earlier as he was staying with his poorly mother.  Inevitably, the game of choice with seven, was 6 Nimmt!

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

6 Nimmt! is one of the group’s favourite games, and we really enjoy the additional madness that the “Professional Variant” gives.  In the original game, players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and then, starting with the lowest value card, cards are added in order to one of the four rows of cards on the table.  Each card is added to the row that finishes with the highest number that is lower than the number on the card.  Placing the sixth card instead causes the player to take the five cards into their scoring pile.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The “Professional Variant” allows players to add cards to the other end of the rows, as long as the difference is smaller.  This has the effect of making otherwise be “safe” plays, decidedly “unsafe”, and makes low value cards much more interesting to play.  It can have far more catastrophic effects on the game though, and this time was one of those games.

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

Purple was the first to pick up cards, immediately followed by Green.  It wasn’t long before others joined in the race to the bottom.  Purple was leading the pack, though when Burgundy picked up seventeen nimmts, shortly followed by another fifteen and several other smaller totals, he overtook her, finishing with a magnificent minus forty-two!  The winner was largely incidental, but was Blue, who had only picked up fifteen in the whole game some twenty less than Pine, who always does well in this game, in second place.

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

With that over, Green and Pink signed off, leaving five to continue, and the game of choice was Coloretto.  This is a very simple set collecting game, that we played from time to time when we were at the Jockey, but has become one of our staples this year.  The game is so simple and plays very quickly: players take a card from the deck and add it to a truck, or they take a truck and sit out until the end of the round.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Players score points for their sets, with the three most lucrative sets scoring positively and any others scoring negatively.  Last time we played, we used the “Difficult” scoring, but that hadn’t been as interesting as, say, the “Professional Variant” for 6 Nimmt!, so this time  we used the standard scoring, according to the Triangular Number Series.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

With everyone very familiar with the game, it is often quite close and this was one of those games.  Indeed Pine and Black tied for second place with twenty-five points, but were beaten by Burgundy who finished just two points clear.  There was just time for one more game, and Sushi Go! has become one of our recent favourites in such circumstances, as it plays very quickly and the rendering on Board Game Arena is really good, though it would be really nice if they could add some of the extra options available in Sushi Go Party!.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

As it is, we played with the Soy Sauce mini expansion.  The game is very simple and we find that a little bit of Soy does add a little extra flavour.  The game is one of card drafting and set collecting, with players choosing one card from their hand to keep, passing the rest on.  Some cards score for sets of two or three (Tempura and Sashimi), while the Nigiri score more if played after Wasabi for example.  Soy goes well with everything, so scores if the player also has the most variety on their plate at the end of the round.

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

The game changers Maki Rolls and the Puddings which give points for the player with the most at the end of the round and game respectively.  The Puddings can be the real game-changers though as the player with the most gets six points and the player with the fewest loses six points.  In a close game that can make all the difference.

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

This time, Blue and Pine took an early lead at the end of the first round while the others built up their Pudding supply for the end of the game.  Black took the lead after the second round though.  Burgundy put in a storming final round taking the six points for the most desserts, but with a three-way tie for the fewest, the negative points were split between Blue, Pine and Black.  Burgundy didn’t quite catch the leaders though, and he finished two points behind Pine and Black, who tied for first place.  And, well fed, it was time for bed.

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

Learning Outcome:  Listening to the rules explanation usually gets you more points.

27th October 2020 (Online)

Blue had been up really early so took a nap after supper.  Far from leaving her refreshed though, she woke cold and disorientated, and was a bit dopey for the rest of the evening as a result.  She wasn’t the only one it seemed, as others struggled too and some didn’t make it at all: Mulberry was double-booked thanks to the time difference; Violet forgot and had an essay to finish, and Lime was away on holiday with the family.  The absences weren’t obvious though, thanks to the noisy presence of Little Green, putting in a special appearance for half term.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

As the absentees were confirmed, everyone shared some Goaty Entertainment before starting the “Feature Game“.  This was Tiny Towns, played with some of the pieces from the birthday boxes everyone opened last time.  Unusually in the current climate, this is not a “Roll and Write” game, though it has some similar elements and was played more as a sort of “Roll and Write” variant on this occasion.  At its heart, Tiny Towns is an area control and resource management game where players are planning and building a town on a four-by-four player board.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Game play is fairly straight forward:  Players receive a resource cube and place it on their board, then they if they wish they can swap resources for a building.  Beneath this very simple process is a lot of clever game play underpinned by a Tetris-like mechanic.  To build a building, players  require a particular combination of resources in a very specific arrangement.  The building is then placed on one of the spaces liberated by the removed resources, freeing up more spaces.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

The buildings are different shapes, but all give different scoring possibilities.  For example, each Cottage is worth three points, but only if players have built a Farm to feed them.  Chapels increase the score of each “fed” Cottage, while each Well scores points for each adjacent Cottage.  Theatres score for each different building in the same row or column.  Thus the combination of buildings is important, but so is their location.  Planning is therefore really, really critical.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Putting a building or resource in slightly the wrong place can completely negate any other good planning by blocking off an area of the board potentially  making it totally unplayable.  Because the game can be so unforgiving in this respect, we played with the “Cavern Variant” where players can set aside one unwanted resource just twice during the game.  With so many players, this was coupled with the “Town Hall Variant” where resource cards are used to determine two of the resources and players choose their own for every third round.  Also, instead of placing wooden buildings, players were to draw their constructions on their printout.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was keen to get the game moving, but others struggled to get their heads round the planning element at the start.  Green started patiently re-explaining to Little Green, while some players were ready to move on, and others were trying to concentrate on working out what strategies might work best or were variously delayed by beautifying their artwork.  As a result, it took a while for everyone to get on the same page and feel the rhythm of the game.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time it was too late for poor Lilac who had got herself in a mess and had taken an early shower as a result.  Green had also somehow got himself an extra resource, and once he noticed, didn’t take his next “free choice”. Things weren’t helped by Green’s internet that chose to throw a bit of a wobbly and just added to the frustration and confusion all round.  Meanwhile Blue, who wasn’t very with it and had focussed what little energy she had on keeping everyone else on track, realised she had forgotten to build herself a farm.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Belatedly, Blue tried to rectify things without success and as a result was first to be eliminated with what she thought was a final score of minus four (although this was corrected to one on a recount).  By this time Green had sorted his internet issues and it wasn’t long before other players were putting resources in their Caverns or reporting that it there were only certain resources they could use.  Burgundy was next to be eliminated closely followed by Pine and then everyone else shortly after.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was the last GOAT standing, but longevity doesn’t necessarily mean a high score, though obviously it does help.  In the end, it was a tie between Green and Pink who both finished with thirty points, three points ahead of Burgundy in third.  A quick rules check suggested that Green should take victory on the tie-break, but there was also some discussion as to whether Green should forfeit his position because of his “cheating”, but in the end, Pine offered him a lifeline in a “Guess the colour of the cube” challenge.  When Green called it correctly though, it was clear from the response of the other players that it was best to call it a tie and leave it at that.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

From there the group moved on to the Halloween version of Welcome To…, which is a game we played for the first time a few weeks back.  Welcome To… is one of the most popular of the “Roll and Write” style games and is the highest ranked on the Board Game Geek website.  This Halloween themed version is a little step up in complexity with a couple of minor added features, but otherwise is very similar to the original.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Like Tiny Towns, Welcome To… is played with cards which give people actions.  Rather than building a town though, players are building a 1950s US housing estate.  The top card is turned on each of three decks of cards, and players chose one to use.  The cards are numbered one to fifteen which reflect the house numbers players write on one of three streets on their play-sheet. They must increase from left to right—if a player can’t write one of the three numbers available, they must take a “Building Permit Refusal”—when someone takes their third, that triggers the end of the game.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

As well as the house number, players also get a special action, based on the colour of the reverse of the previous card.  These include rule-breaking actions, like allowing players to alter the number the write down by one or two, or allowing them to build a second house with the same number in a street.  They also enable players to build walls and parks, and increase the number of points they will get for different sized completed estates.  Last time we played we had found that swimming pools were particularly lucrative, but this time they just did not appear.  Everyone patiently waited, but they just didn’t arrive, so everyone had to make the best they could of all the parks they could build.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

The Halloween version adds other features—every time players build a house with a ghost or a candy corn in the garden, they can choose one to circle.  Collecting a set of four, six or nine candy corn gives points, while similar sets of ghosts give special actions.  The catch is that each of these can only be claimed once during the game.  Given the difficulties we have seeing what everyone else is doing, we “house ruled” it that each per player could only claim these on the turn they achieved it giving them the option to stick or to gamble in the hope of getting enough for a more valuable.

Welcome To... Halloweeen
– Image by boardGOATS

As well as the ghosts and candy corn, there was also a special City Plan that players could target.  Since the one drawn at random gave points for circling all five ghosts in the bottom street, it was no surprise that several players went hard and fast for collecting ghosts. Blue and Green both got six ghosts and claimed two extra swimming pools, while Burgundy got the full set of nine, but got himself in an almighty mess trying to get the best from them.

Welcome To... Halloweeen
– Image by boardGOATS

People struggled with the change in rules and the darker colours in the printout as well as just generally struggling because it was one of those nights.  Although they didn’t know it at the time, Green and Blue followed almost identical strategies both going for the City Plans (the one with ghosts and the other two with a four and a five estate and two five estates respectively).  Somehow, Blue just edged Green into second, three points ahead of his score of seventy with Black in third just ahead of Pink.

Welcome To... Halloweeen
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, Ivory bade goodnight and left the rest of the group to play what turned out to be a rather savage game of Saboteur on Board Game Arena.  Saboteur is great fun with a lot of players, but although we only had seven this time, we decided we’d take a break from our usual game of choice at this point, 6 Nimmt!.  The game is really simple:  players take it in turns to play a card from their hand, either to extend the tunnel or a special action, breaking or repairing a player’s tools or causing a rockfall.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

What a player chooses to play depends on which team they are on, a Good Dwarf, trying to find the gold, or an Evil Saboteur who’s sole aim is to stop the dwarves.  The first thing the Dwarves have to do therefore is always establish who the Evil Dwarves are.  So, when Purple played a tunnel card in a sub-optimal place, that was immediately labelled as a “Saboteury move” and she immediately attracted a broken pick-axe and then a broken trolley.  Although she tried to retaliate, Purple and her silent partner Black, failed to prevent the Dwarves getting to the gold.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

The rules for Saboteur, as written (and as implemented on Board Game Arena) consist of three rounds with gold cards distributed at the end of each, so the group began another round.  Nobody believed that Purple could be an Evil Saboteur two rounds in a row, but when she started with another “Saboteury move”, everyone reappraised the situation and she quickly attracted another broken pick-axe.  The Dwarves struggled a bit more this time, largely due to the cards they’d been dealt.  The situation was summed up by Burgundy when he commented, “If anyone wants anything breaking or fixing, then I’m your Dwarf.”  But as the Dwarves desperately needed tunnels building, that wasn’t much help….

Saboteur on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple confirmed her allegiance by playing a rockfall card on a critical crossroads.  Fortunately, Black was able to repair albeit with an inconvenient T-junction that prevented the dwarves heading straight for the gold.  It wasn’t immediately obvious who Purple’s partner was and everyone was very surprised when it turned out to be Black and the Evil Saboteurs had been the same for two games on the bounce.  Surely that wouldn’t be the the same for the final round, would it?

Saboteur on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

The final round was much longer and much closer.  Purple tried desperately to get everyone to believe that she was a Good Girl this time, but after the last two rounds everyone was cautious.  Black quickly revealed that he was an Evil Saboteur yet again, and it soon became apparent that Green, who is always a suspect, was his partner.  While Black messed about with the tunnel, Green damaged the Dwarves tools and generally made a nuisance of himself.  Eventually the Good Guys won though some excellent teamwork, resulting in Burgundy finding the gold.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

There is so much luck in the allocation of gold cards at the end of the rounds that we don’t really pay much attention to the result, but this time, it was a tie between Pine and Burgundy.   With that, Pine and Green left the others to play Sushi Go!, a card drafting game that we’ve recently discovered the implementation of on Board Game Arena.  The game is really simple and very quick, so was ideal given that everyone was quite tired.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

In this game, players start each round with a hand of sushi cards, then keep one and pass the rest on, with the aim of collecting sets to give points.  In the first round, Pink top-scored with Blue and Black not far behind, though that was probably because Purple and Burgundy prioritised starting their collection of puddings.

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

In the second round, Burgundy managed a massive twenty points—not quite beating his record of twenty-five, but still more than anyone else.  Consistency is the key to this game though and Pink’s fifteen meant he still had the lead going into the final round.  And it was a tough round, that was ultimately all about the puddings.  Blue starved Pink of dessert, saving her from last place and leaving him with the minus six and almost nothing from the round.  Burgundy had the most puddings and with it took the bonus six points and, as a result finished six points clear of Black in second.  And with that, it was bedtime.

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  One should never ignore the offer of pudding.

13th October 2020 (Online)

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

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

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

Elizabeth
– Image from cronkshawfoldfarm.co.uk

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

2020 Birthday Box
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

2020 Birthday Biscuits
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

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

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

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

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

29th September 2020 (Online)

This week it was Ivory’s turn to share his pizza with everyone, while Blue and Pink shared ice creams with Purple and Black.  With the food over, Blue explained how we were going to prepare for our birthday next time, by “wrapping parcels” for Crappy Birthday.  This is a silly party game that we play every year to celebrate the anniversary of our first meeting in 2012.  Basically, players take it in turns to have their birthday, and everyone else chooses a gift from a hand of five cards.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately, this doesn’t really lend itself to playing online, but as so many things have been cancelled this year, we didn’t want this to be one of them.  So, to get round the difficulties, we decided to play it over two evenings:  firstly wrapping cards, then opening them two weeks later.  Each player had a set of electronic files containing cards.  Everyone opened the first file and chose a card to give to the player whose name was drawn out of the box lid, making a note of what they were giving and to whom.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

When people had gifted two parcels, they closed the file and opened the next one which included the same cards as the first file and a couple of new ones, thus simulating drawing two more cards.  Once everyone’s name had been drawn, everyone emailed the list of gifts to Blue for her to arrange delivery ready for next time.  And then it was on to the “Feature Game” which was Welcome To….

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Welcome To… is another “Roll and Write” style game, though without the colouring-in element of some of the games we’ve played recently, and as a result is a bit more complex.  In this game, players are planing and building housing estates in 1950s USA.  This time, the player board depicts three rows of houses and a scoring table.  The idea is that there are three decks of double sided cards with a house number on one side and an action on the other.  At the start of each round, the top card is turned over to show the action side.  Players then choose one of the three house number/action pairs to use.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Players must write a house number on any one of the three streets, but the numbers can only feature once on each, and must be ascending from left to right.  Players may then carry out the associated action, which could be building a fence, building a swimming pool or park, adding a number a second time (“Bis!”), modifying the number by one or two (using the Temping Agency) or increasing the value of houses on “Estates” of certain sizes.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, players score points for building swimming pools and parks, having used the “Temping Agency” the most, and also for different sized “Estates”.  An Estate is a continuous group of houses (i.e. no gaps) with a fence at each end.  Estates of size one up to six score different numbers of points and one of the actions players can use is selectively increase the value of some of these.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Additionally, players score points for completed “City Plans”.  These are three cards revealed at the start of the game. which give points to people who complete their requirements.  The catch is, a bit like Noch Mal!, the first person (or people) to be successful get more points, usually around double that of anyone who finishes them later in the game.  This is also one of three “game timers”, with the game ending when someone completes all three Plans.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

The game also ends if someone manages to fill in all the houses in all three streets, which is not easy.  More likely, players are going to find they cannot build any of the three houses being offered.  If this happens, players player take a “Building Permit Refusal”—when someone takes their third, that also triggers the end of the game.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

There are lots of little rules that make the game more complex than most of the “Roll and Write” games we’ve played.  For example, players can build fences anywhere, but parks must be on the street they built their house on, and pools can only be built in the garden of the house if it was on the plan.  That said, it is not actually difficult, but there is a lot to think about and if players are going to score well.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

There were a lot of questions from the group, and people clearly found it difficult to understand, not helped by the difficulties of learning a game over MS Teams.  Nevertheless, teaching and learning through a computer is a skill lots of school teachers, pupils, university lecturers and students have had to develop this year, and it turns out it is useful for gamers too.  So eventually, Pink finished shuffling and turned over the first set of cards to start the game.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Everything went quiet as people put their “Game Face” on and concentrated.  It wasn’t long before the silence was broken by Burgundy sighing, Pine grumbling and Blue checking how people were getting on.  To reduce the waiting and questions whether everyone was ready, we used the “hands up” function to indicate when players had finished writing.  This was really helpful to keep track of things with so many people playing.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

The City Plans in play were all from the basic game (and we weren’t playing with roundabouts either), so all three were based on estate sizes:  1) two of size four; 2) a six and three ones; 3) a four and a three.  Green was first to complete a City Plan taking number three, and was soon followed by Pink and Ivory taking the lucrative second Plan giving them eleven points each.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Gradually, as the game progressed others claimed more City Plans and there was a feeling that the game was coming to a close.  Increasingly, people found their choices were becoming more limited adding to the tension.  This feeling was heightened when Purple became the first to be unable to play, and took a Building Refusal Permit.  A few rounds later, and Mulberry ended the game by completing her third City Plan and everyone started adding up their scores.

Welcome To...
– Animation by boardGOATS

Despite people finding it difficult at first, the scores were surprisingly close with a winning score of ninety-five and most of the group not far behind.  It is definitely a game that rewards a little experience especially as it is quite different to the other games we’ve been playing recently, so it wasn’t surprising that Pink ran out the winner.  Green ran him close though, with an excellent ninety-two.  There was a bit of chatter while some said their “good byes” and the rest of the group decided to play Saboteur on Board Game Arena.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is easy to play and everyone knows what they are doing, so it is always quick to get started.  Each player has a hand of cards and take it in turns to either play a tunnel card, or play an action card.  The aim of the game is to help the team build a tunnel to whichever of the three terminal cards holds the gold.  Unless you are a Saboteur of course, in which case, your aim is to hinder the efforts made by everyone else, but without being spotted…

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Saboteur is usually better with more players, but the group had sort of decided they were going to play it before they realised how many people there were left.  With just six there were either one or two Evil Saboteurs and the rest were Lovely Dwarves.  This makes it hard for the Saboteur team and they have to get their act together quickly to make the most of what little time they have.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

In the first round, Pine made it very clear he was going to make the most of his time and bluntly said he thought Blue was a saboteur and broke her pick axe for her, preventing her doing any tunnelling.  This was apparently in response to her playing a map card in her first turn which he decreed was “A very Saboteury Move”.  Everyone else felt that Pine’s move was much more “Saboteury” and jumped on him in response.  Everyone except Purple that is, who ran to his aid.

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

It wasn’t long before Purple’s true colours were flying when she joined Pine and blocked the tunnel with dead-ends.  However, the Dwarves, now knowing there wasn’t a traitor hiding in their midst, got their act together, dealt with the blockage and headed for the gold.  Before long, it was 1-0 to the Dwarves.

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

The Evil Saboteurs were a little more cagey in the second round.  Purple looked at the bottom card and indicated it was Gold.  After last time, nobody trusted her so first Pink and then Pine double checked and all concurred.  The Dwarves were one card away from an easy run to the Gold when Burgundy’s rockfall card told everyone else which side he was on.  It was too little too late, however, and nothing he or his partner in crime, Black, could do could prevent the Brave Dwarves repainting the tunnel and finding the gold.

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

Early in the third and final round, Burgundy started by looking at the middle card which he claimed was coal.  By this time, suspicion was a currency everyone was rich in, so Pink double-checked and concurred, then checked the bottom target card.  Burgundy claimed suspicion and immediately verified that they’d found Gold.  Purple announced that she thought Pink was behaving suspiciously and broke his pickaxe for him—an extremely Saboteury move!

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

Burgundy attempted to redeem his behaviour in the previous round by repairing Pink’s tools, while Black repaid Purple by smashing Purple’s lamp.  Although Purple was able to fix it herself, it looked like the Dwarves were home safe and sound until Pine’s turn.  As discussed with the team, he played a card between the middle and bottom cards, but when it connected the carefully dug tunnel to the middle, coal, everyone was sure that they’d found the second Saboteur.

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

Pine protested that it was incompetence rather than malice that meant he’d put the card in upside down.  The Dwarves had to fix his “mistake” though, and their cards were running out.  Black discarded a card and Blue had no choice but to smash some more of Purple’s tools, leaving it down to Pink to finish things.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end, it turned out that the Saboteurs were Black and Purple, and Pine just had a sausage-finger-moment.  That left Blue as the “winner”, but the scoring is very random and highly dependent on turn order, so really all that can be said is that it was 3-0 to the Loyal Dwarves.  There was time for something else before Pink’s bedtime, and given the shortage of time, the group bowed to the inevitable and moved on to 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This has become one of our favourite games, especially since we’ve been forced to play online as it is light and fun and fast to play, and helps us to forget the current situation.  The game is so simple, and yet so much fun, with almost no downtime.  Players simply choose a card and Board Game Arena does the rest.  Of course, everyone like to think they have control and their strategy is working, right up until it isn’t.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that the card chosen is played on the end of one of four rows, with players trying to avoid placing the sixth card as that means the points on the other five cards are deducted from their total.  So the aim of the game is to try to second-guess what everyone else is doing and stay safe.  Recently, we’ve been playing the “Professional” variant which allows players to add cards to either end of the rows, adding more “strategy” and more chaos, and a whole lot more fun.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Things started to go wrong Blue first, when she cheered thinking she’d got away without a pick-up, only to discover she’d got nine “nimmts”.  Purple picked up nine in the same turn, however, while Blue managed to stabilise her game, Purple’s went from bad to worse when she managed what might be a new record, picking up nineteen nimmts in a single turn!

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

Fairly inevitably, Purple triggered the end of the game, but the other end was less clear.  That was until the end of the game, when Blue, who had somehow managed to avoid picking up anything else, just pipped Burgundy to the win.  With that, Pine and Pink bade everyone else good night and the remaining foursome looked for something else to play.

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

There were a few options, but they were limited by the fact that nobody wanted to play anything long or too intense. In the end, they decided to give Sushi Go! a try.  This is a game we’ve all played before, but nobody had played on Board Game Arena.  is a pure card drafting game: players start with a hand of cards and keep one and pass the rest on.  The aim is to collect cards in combinations to give them points.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

In Sushi Go!, it is all about collecting the right cards at the right time.  For example, three Sashimi cards are worth ten points, but two are worthless.   There is also a significant “hate drafting” aspect though.  This is where players take cards to inconvenience others rather than to benefit one’s own game.  This is mostly because Maki Roll and Pudding points are awarded to those with the most cards, but can also be because causing another player to finish with worthless cards can sometimes be as effective as scoring points oneself.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

The first round was one of rediscovery since it was a very long time since anyone had played it.  Blue rediscovered the perils of trying to collect Sashimi, when she got stuck with only two which scored her nothing.  Burgundy, on the other hand, just before her in turn order, collected three and claimed ten points.  Purple collected lots of Nigiri and Black made hay out of Maki Rolls.  So, going into the second round it was pretty much a three-way tie with all to play for.

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

In the second and third rounds, Black and Purple made a lot of points from playing Nigiri cards after wasabi cards which is a multiplier and can be very lucrative.  Although Black was in the lead going into the final round, the fact Burgundy took two Wasabi/Nigiri combos meant he took a fine victory.  The game plays so quickly though and the Board Game Arena rendition is so good that everyone fancied trying giving it another go.

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

The second game was much closer, the competition for Wasabi and Maki Rolls got more intense with everyone now well aware of how lucrative they could be.  Although it was very close, in the end, Burgundy just managed to keep his crown, beating Black into second place by a single point and everyone else just a couple of points behind.  With such a tight finish, a third game was inevitable.  Blue who had come last in the previous two games was determined not to this time.  However, a grotty starting had meant she was forced to start with lot of puddings.

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

By this time, everyone was looking more carefully at what they were passing on, so Blue finished with a bit of hate-drafting, ensuring that Burgundy couldn’t get a full set of Sashimi and that ensured she avoided the wooden spoon.  Purple and Black started out with Wasabi and really managed to make their cards count.  In the end, there were still only two points in it, but this time it was Black and Purple fighting out for first place, which Black just took.  And then it was definitely time for bed.

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

Learning Outcome: Swimming pools are not as common as you might think.

26th Movember 2019

There were lots of people feeding and with a bit of a queue, so the non-eaters, Ivory, Mulberry and Lime, decided to play something while they waited.  There were lots of options, but it was a long time since we’d played The Game and it ticked all the boxes, so unusually, a decision was made really quickly.  This is a simple cooperative card game (in our case, played with a copy of The Game: Extreme, but ignoring the special symbols), but new to Mulberry and Lime.  The team have a deck of cards from two to ninety-nine and they must play each card on one of four piles, two where the card played must be higher than the top card, and two where it must be lower.

The Game: Extreme
– Image by boardGOATS

There are just three rules:  on their turn, the active player can play as many cards as they like (obeying the rules of the four piles), but must play at least two cards before replenishing their hand, and players can say anything they like but must not share “specific number information”.  Finally, there is the so-called “Backwards Rule” where players can reverse a deck as long as the card they play is exactly ten above or below the previous card played on that pile.  This time, it went a bit wrong early on, but the trio managed to pull it back.  Lime got stuck with fifty-six and sixty-four that he couldn’t play, and eventually the game came to a halt with six cards still to play.

The Game: Extreme
– Image by boardGOATS

By the time The Game was over, the eaters had just about finished as well and the group split into two, one five to play the “Feature Game”, Mississippi Queen.  This is an older game that won the Spiel des Jahres award in 1997, but has recently been re-released in a new edition having been out of print for many years.  In this game, players race their paddle steamers down the Mississippi, picking up passengers along the way.  Onboard, coal supplies are limited, so each ship’s acceleration and manoeuvrers must be carefully planned.  The key to the game are the cool little plastic paddle steamers which have two numbered paddle wheels – one to track coal and the other to record the speed.

Mississippi Queen
– Image by boardGOATS

The five riverboats start at jetties and then set sail along the river, which is made up of a hexagonal grid.  At the start of their turn, the active player can adjust their speed by one and then move that number of hexagonal spaces, turning a maximum of once before, during or after the move.  The player can increase or decrease their speed by more or make extra turns by burning coal.  Everyone starts with just six coal though and there is no source of coal during the game, so when it’s gone it’s gone.

Mississippi Queen
– Image by boardGOATS

The game has a lot in common with Powerships, a mad spaceship racing game we played about six months ago, but there are a couple of key differences.  Firstly, each player has to pick up two passengers from the islands during the race, which means they must arrive at a jetty at a speed of one.  There is a more subtle difference which is nevertheless important to the way the game plays.  In Powerships, the map is modular, but is set out before the start of the game, where it is built as play progresses in Mississippi Queen.

Mississippi Queen
– Image by boardGOATS

In Mississippi Queen, after the first turn, play proceeds according to position in the race (like PitchCar).  The advantage of this is that players at the front don’t obstruct players moving up from behind, however, it can lead to a run-away leader problem instead.  In Mississippi Queen though, the river is “built” as the game progresses; when the leader moves onto the final space, they draw a new river tile and roll the die to determine placement (left, right or straight ahead).  The fact that the player in the lead has less time to plan has the additional effect of off-setting the advantage of less obstruction, helping to prevent the leader running away with the game.

Mississippi Queen
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Lime stormed into the lead, but overshot the first island allowing Blue to sneak in behind him and grab a passenger.  There are plenty of islands though, so Lime had plenty of other opportunities.  Unfortunately, he overshot the second island as well as he was going too fast.  By the third island, Lime was starting to get desperate, but hadn’t got his speed and position right and ended up burning almost all his coal and doing a full circuit of the island to rectify things.  This, and almost sinking gave everyone else a chance to catch up and Blue managed to snatch another passenger putting her in a position to make a run for the finish.

Mississippi Queen
– Image by boardGOATS

Although she was able to move into the lead, Blue was hampered by an inability to plan and was forced to burn some of her carefully hoarded pile of coal.  Mulberry wasn’t far behind, and had the advantage of being able to see slightly further down the river so was better able to plan and could therefore carry more speed.  Purple and Pine got into a tangle over picking up a beautiful lady, delaying them both as Blue and Mulberry puffed off into the distance.  Lime bravely fought his way back, but it was between Blue and Mulberry with Mulberry rapidly eating into Blue’s lead.  Blue just managed to make it to the jetty burning the last of her coal to drift in gently, just ahead of Mulberry.  Lime limped in next, leading the others in.  Meanwhile, on the next table, everyone else was playing one of the archetypal card-drafting games 7 Wonders.

7 Wonders
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Players start each round with a hand of cards, and everyone simultaneously chooses one and plays it.  The remains of the hands are then passed on to the next player who chooses a card and plays it.  Play continues like this until each player has two cards at which point one is discarded.  The game is distinguished from simpler card-drafting games like Sushi Go! by the civilisation and engine building aspects.  In 7 Wonders, the players are the leader of one of the seven great cities of the Ancient World. They use the cards to gather resources, develop commercial routes, and affirm their military supremacy.  Some cards have immediate effects, while others provide bonuses or upgrades later in the game. Some cards provide discounts on future purchases, some provide military strength to overpower your neighbors and others give nothing but victory points.

7 Wonders
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor  punkin312

After three rounds (or Ages), the player with the most points has the most advanced city and is the winner.  The player boards are chosen at random at the start of the game.  In this case, Green got Halicarnassus, and chose Side B so would be looking to build extra cards from the discard deck in the second and third rounds. Black got Ephesus and also went with Side B and so was only going for victory points and extra money.  Ivory got Babylon and again Side B was favoured, giving him the second tier bonus of being able to build both his final two cards.  Red received Alexandria and was also going to use Side B which would provide her extra resources and victory points.

7 Wonders
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Green’s game was one of building resources in order to build the pyramid enabling him to  build the extra cards.  He started building up his military, and although he was joined at the same level by both his neighbours (Ivory and Black), he began to pull ahead of Ivory after the second round and by the end of the third round had amassed an unassailable army. In the process though, he had neglected green science cards and purple guilds.  Building extra cards from the discard pile is perhaps not as helpful as it might seem as the cards in the discard pile are there because they are the least useful cards. Maybe with more players there would be more to choose from and this bonus would work more favourably, on thee other hand, it might just end up with more duplicates.

7 Wonders
– Image used with permission of
BGG contributor punkin312

On the opposite side of the table was Red.  She, in contrast (and not under threat from the growing armies of Green) mostly ignore the fighting, but still managed to win one battle. With the extra resources available from her pyramid she did not need as many resource cards and decided to concentrate on the other cards.  She invested heavily in the yellow bonus cards and also managed to get a full complete set of science cards.  These she managed to combine with the purple guild which gave her an extra science symbol of her choice.  She also managed to build a second purple guild, which gave her extra points for all brown, grey and purple cards. She also managed to acquire a very large pile of money which netted a fair few points too.

7 Wonders
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Ivory’s game was built around trying to get to the second pyramid level quickly, so initially he took a lot of resource cards. Unfortunately he didn’t get to the second level until the end of the second round, but having looked at the card he then decided the extra money would be more useful. He managed to build both his last cards in the final round, but like Green found, that extra card is not always that useful. He did manage to collect some high scoring blue cards, but  although he tried, he failed to get a full set of science cards. He did get a couple of purple guilds though with one scoring the yellow cards belonging to neighbours, Red and Green who had both gone quite heavily into those. The other gave him points for every battle lost by his neighbours. He got nothing from Green for this, but scored quite nicely from Red.  His resource heavy early game meant that he was left trying to catch up on the other later cards and abandoned his attempts to build a strong army and just took the beating.

7 Wonders
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Black’s game was concentrated on the blue victory point cards and his pyramid build.  A smattering of yellow bonus cards aided his end game score because he scored for all the brown cards built by both himself and his neighbours (Green and Red). He collected some science, but not a complete set.  Although beaten by Green in the final battle, he avoided defeat in the first two and took a clean sweep of victories over Red.  So although everyone had had a strong game in one area, these were more than offset by less strong elements elsewhere.  It turned out that the strongest games were had by Black and Ivory who finished level on fifty-one, some way ahead of Red in third.  The tie break was won by Black who had the more money at the end of the game.

7 Wonders
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Mississippi Queen was still going, but coming to an end so something quick was needed and Ticket to Ride: London hit the spot.  This is one of the new, smaller versions of the popular route-building game, Ticket to Ride.  These are reduced in size and designed be quicker to play although the game play is very similar.  Players take it turns to draw coloured cards or use them to place pieces, but in this version the Train pieces are replaced by Routemaster Buses.  As usual, players also start with a selection of ticket cards and successfully fulfilling these give more points, but woe betide any player who fails to complete a ticket as the points become negative, which can be very costly indeed.  In addition to these features, this new light version of the game also gives bonus points to players who manage to connect all the locations in an area.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

The action started around central London, (Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar square) as Red, then Black and Ivory laid buses around the area, all concerned that the other may block their paths. Green went further out to Kings Cross and Regents Park.  As the game progressed, Ivory, Red and Black continued to challenge each other around central, East and Southern London. Green happily laid his buses round to the East unopposed.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Black, who had only kept one ticket, was the first to complete his ticket and go for more.  He was closely followed by Red (who had also only kept the one), and then Ivory (who had kept two).  Green never took new tickets, concentrating on his two and connecting all the stations in the five point district. Black, Red and Ivory continued to take new tickets, but it looked like Green might end the game as he was soon down to only three buses.  Ivory checked around the table to see who had buses and how many cards they had left and decided that he had time.  Even though he had missed the fact that Green had only a single card in hand, he still managed to lay his last buses first; one turn too early for Green who had to settle for a two length route instead of the three he was aiming for (and close to getting).

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Black placed one last bus, but Red decided to gamble on new tickets as she had nothing she could claim.  Ivory still had one final turn, but with no more buses to lay, he decided against the ticket gamble.  In the final scoring, Ivory was way ahead of everyone else, due to claiming four “long” routes (threes and fours) and completing some high scoring tickets.  Red, Black and Green were all within two points of each other. Red’s final ticket gamble failed and cost her a clear second place, and Green’s gamble on connecting all the stations in the five point district (and the stations in the two point district as well) did not pay off either.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Some left for an early night and those that were left decided to play one last quick game.  Pine was adamant that Bohnanza and Las Vegas weren’t “quick” so in the end, 6 Nimmt! got the nod.  This is one of our most popular games, and frequently gets played in circumstances like this.  It is very simple and there is something almost magical about playing well:  simultaneously everyone chooses a card from their hand and places it face down in front of them.  Once everyone has picked a card, they are all revealed and, starting with the lowest card, the cards are added to one of the four row, the row where the end card has the highest value that is lower than their card.  The point is that the row a card is played on changes as players place cards.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The player who places the sixth card, takes the five cards and scores the number of bulls’ heads shown.  The winner is the player with the fewest bulls’ heads.  We play the game in two rounds, and this time the first round was mostly pretty even with everyone taking twelve to fifteen Nimmts except Blue who somehow scraped a clear round.  This meant it was all to play for in the second round, especially with the tendency for a good round to be followed by a bad one.  Unusually, nobody had a terrible game:  Pine top scored with forty, followed by Purple with thirty-one, and everyone else was quite closely grouped. Blue’s clear first round gave her a head-start and she finished with fourteen, just two ahead of Ivory and three ahead of Black in what was an unusually close game.  And with that, it was home-time.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning  Outcome:  Neglect end game bonuses at your peril.