Tag Archives: Sushi Go!

4th October 2022

To mark the tenth anniversary of our first meeting, this week was a bit of a party. We started with a fish and chip supper (courtesy of Darren at The Happy Plaice) and followed it with cake, complete with “marzimeeples”. There was also a special “solo game” of Carcassone, where everyone chose a tile, wrote their name on it and stuck it on a board to be framed as a keepsake to mark the occasion. Unfortunately, Lilac was unwell and not able to come, and the chaos on the A34 (due to a burst water main on the Oxford ring road and an accident) conspired to delay Black, Purple, Orange and Lemon. Everyone else made it though, and after a quick round of Happy Birthday and some cake, the group moved on to play the now traditional “Feature Game“, Crappy Birthday.

2022 Birthday Cupcakes
– Image by boardGOATS

Crappy Birthday is a party game where players give each other comedy birthday presents and the recipient has to decide who gave the best and worst gifts. We house-rule the game to play a year so that everyone has one birthday, so on their turn, they receive a gift from everyone else. They then look through the gifts and choose the best and worst, and the givers of those gifts get a point each. The winner is the player with the most points at the end of the year. Written like this, the game sounds very dry, but there are three things that make the game a lot of fun.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Firstly, the gift cards are fantastic; the pictures are great and the texts that accompany them are just enough to give a flavour while also allowing interpretation. Secondly, the way we play, the Birthday Boy or Girl goes through the gifts reading them out. It is not so much this, as the disgust, excitement or other response as people “open their gifts” that makes everyone smile. Playing board games can be very impersonal—for many people this is a good thing as it allows people who are shy or private to control what they reveal about themselves because everyone focuses on the game. As a result, gamers often don’t really know an awful lot about each other. In playing Crappy Birthday, however, players reveal just a little bit more of their likes and dislikes, helping everyone to get to know each other that little bit better.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Finally, we only play Crappy Birthday once a year. This is really key, as without this constraint, the cards would get repetitive and the element of surprise would be lost. In terms of game play, it isn’t a very strategic or challenging game, so playing more frequently would likely mean it would quickly outstay its welcome. As it was, Pink started (his birthday was soonest), and he set the tone for the year. As usual, we discovered lots of interesting things about people in the group. Pink surprised everyone with his delight at receiving some Monopoly money toilet paper, though it was a close-run thing between that and a road trip across the Sahara as he’d always fancied participating in the Paris-Dakar Rally. He was much less impressed with the bungee-jump however.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine was next and this time didn’t get his usual pile of equine and meat flavoured gifts. His choice of a giant lobster sculpture for his front yard was also unexpected, and he explained that it would be interesting to see where it ended up when the kids and drunks in the village decided to move it. On Plum’s turn we discovered that she liked the idea of a one-armed bandit and Chess lessons (no cheating, obviously), but preferred Flying lessons. Pink proved he knew Blue best when she picked a non-electric iron as her favourite gift, while Ivory was disappointed that when Teal eschewed his generous gift of a trip on the first trip to Mars. We discovered that Teal used to play the bagpipes, and that Lime was quite disgusted by the thought of a giant baby sculpture for the front of his house (to be fair, it looked quite hideous and not a little creepy).

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Leaping off or out of things seemed to be generally quite unpopular, with a parachute jump being Black’s least favourite gift, though he was delighted by tickets to a live metal music gig. Ivory complained that he kept drawing perfect gifts for people just after their birthday. On his birthday, Pink thought he had a winner when he gave Ivory a snow machine, and everyone else felt the same knowing how much he loves Christmas, but surprised everyone by choosing a space walk as his best gift and a permanent barbed wire fence as his worst. Pine showed his approval when Lemon picked bird watching as her choice gift, and most people could see her point when she ranked her deer-foot lamp as her least favourite.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

There was more surprise on Purple’s turn when she chose a custom chopper as her best gift, but her dislike of a trip on a submarine was less of a shock. The final birthday of the year was Orange who picked throat rings as his best gift. There was a lot of taxidermy-based gifts so it was perhaps fitting that his less surprising choice of worst gift was a good luck bat (not particularly good luck for the bat if the picture is anything to go by). Not that it really mattered, but everyone knew who the winner was long before the end of the year, as Lemon had managed to get a point in half of the rounds and finished with five points. The race for second place was much closer though with three people taking two and Black and Purple tying with three points apiece.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

There was a lot of chatter, some tidying up and more chatter, before Lime and Teal wished everyone else a good night and enjoyable rest of the party, and those remaining tried to decide what to play. Everyone was very indecisive, so eventually Blue made the executive decision that one group would play New York Slice while the others played Ticket to Ride, and Pink went out to the car to collect the rest of the games that had been left in the car when everything else was brought in.  After some four-player, five-player, no definitely four-player shenanigans as Lemon shuffled from one game to the other, Ivory, Orange, Plum and Pink eventually got going with New York Slice.

New York Slice
– Image by boardGOATS

New York Slice is a re-implementation of …aber bitte mit Sahne, a game we’ve played a couple of times over the summer.  Having enjoyed the pizza version last month, it definitely deserved another outing.  The idea is that one player makes the pizza and cuts it into segments equal to the number of players, then players take it in turns to choose one of the segments.  When a player takes a segment, they can either eat the individual slices or store them for later. Those they will eat are worth points at the end of the game with the score dependent on the number of pepperoni slices on top. The pieces players keep are scored depending on who has the most of each type at the end of the game.

New York Slice
– Image by boardGOATS

Each piece of pizza has a number on it which tells players the number of that type in the game and also what the player with the most will score at the end of the game.  Some of the pizza slices have anchovies on them and any that are visible at the end of the game are worth minus one.  Each pizza is also served with a Special—a side order bonus tile with rule-breaking powers which accompanies one of the portions.  These can be good or bad, and add something to the decision making all round.  This time, the game was very close with just four points between first and last.

New York Slice
– Image by boardGOATS

As often happens, most people didn’t compete for the majority in the lucrative Meat Feast pizza, instead gobbling up the pepperoni straight away giving Orange the eleven points relatively cheaply.  The most valuable pizzas were collected by Orange and Ivory, whereas Plum made most of her points from her Specials:  “The Everyone-Else Diet” and “Seconds”.  The Everyone-Else Diet” was handy because it gave negative points to everyone else for every two slices eaten.  It was perhaps “Seconds” that just gave her the edge though, as it allowed her to eat one set of slices just before scoring, enabling her to see what she wasn’t winning and eat that.  As a result, she finished a single point ahead of Ivory with Orange taking third.

New York Slice
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table, Blue, Black, Purple and Lemon settled down to a game of the new Ticket to Ride: San Francisco.  This is the latest in the Ticket to Ride series and is making its debut at Essen this year.  The games all follow the same basic pattern:  on their turn players draw coloured cards, or spend them to place trains on the central map.  They score points for trains placed, but also for completing any tickets they kept at the start of the game or picked up and kept during it.  One of the smaller games, Ticket to Ride: San Francisco only plays four and has fewer pieces so games are shorter.

Ticket to Ride: San Francisco
– Image by boardGOATS

Like all the other versions of the game, however, San Francisco also has a small rules tweak:  when players make a connection to a tourist destination, they can collect a token.  They can only collect one per turn and one from each location.  Each tourist destination has different tokens, and players score bonus points at the end of the game for each different token they have collected.  These points are significant, varying from nothing to twelve, with the number of points increasing exponentially as players add more to their collection.  Otherwise, the map is different and instead of trains, players have cable tram-cars to place, but otherwise it is similar to the other versions of Ticket to Ride.

Ticket to Ride: San Francisco
– Image by boardGOATS

Black’s starting tickets both went north-south, but one was on the east side and the other the west side.  So he picked one and immediately went fishing for a more.  Everyone else was slightly better off, and although Blue’s were better aligned they were fairly low scoring so once she had made a little progress she also took more tickets.  Black and Purple went for the potentially lucrative Tourist tokens, while Lemon kept forgetting to pick them up and ended up collecting a handful at the end.  Although the more a player has, the more they are worth, it turns out that getting the last couple is really difficult, and they are the ones that are worth the most points.

Ticket to Ride: San Francisco
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue tried to claim the long route from Fort Mason to the Golden Gate Bridge, but couldn’t get the multi-coloured-wild or the last yellow card she needed despite the draw deck apparently being stuffed with them.  In the end, she ran out of time as Black brought the game to a swift end.  In the end, it was a really close.  Black had the most points from placing trains on the board, closely followed by Purple, who was also very close to running out.  Blue had the most completed tickets though so it all came down to the Tourist tokens which meant Black edged it by a single point from Blue with Purple just a couple of points behind that.

Ticket to Ride: San Francisco
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride was still going on when people had finished their pizzas, so although Ivory headed home, Plum was tempted to stay for one last game of Draftosaurus.  This was new to Orange, so while Pink set up, Plum explained the rules.  Draftosaurus is similar to games like Sushi Go! or Go Nuts for Donuts except that instead of drafting cards, players draft wooden dino-meeples, which players then place in their Dino Park.  Unfortunately, Orange wasn’t familiar with either of those games, so Plum explained that drafting is where players start with a handful of dino-meeples, take one and pass the rest on.

Draftosaurus
– Image by boardGOATS

So, in Draftosaurus, each player begins the round with a handful of wooden dino-meeples and a player board for their dinosaur amusement park.  Everyone chooses one meeple from their handful to place in their park and passes the rest to the next player.  Each turn, one of the players roll a die which adds a constraint on which pens players can place their dinosaur in.  The different pens have different scoring criteria and some also have restrictions.  The game is played over two rounds, with players passing meeples clockwise in the first round and anti-clockwise in the second, ending with twelve meeples in their park.

Draftosaurus
– Image by boardGOATS

The parks boards are double-sided, but this time the group played just one round on the summer side.  The game rocked along quite nicely, though Plum struggled to find mates for the dinosaurs in her Prairie of Love, while Pink and Orange had fun with the Forest of Sameness and Meadow of Differences (which have to have either all the same or all the different dinosaurs in them).  A few scaly beasties ended up being thrown into the river because of the dice restrictions, but everyone did a good job of picking the right King for their Dino Park.  Orange was king of the King of the Dinosaurs with the most Tyranosaurus rex, but he wasn’t the king of Draftosaurus—that was Pink who finished with thirty-nine points and a lot of Hadrosaurs.

2022 Birthday Cupcakes
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome: It’s great to be ten, but bring on eleven!

17th May 2022

Black and Purple were first to arrive this week, but Pink and Blue were not far behind, and once food had been ordered, there was just time for a quick game of Love Letter to commemorate its recent tenth anniversary.  We used to play this quick little filler game quite a bit, but that fell victim to the global pandemic and, as a result, it’d been a while since anyone round the table had played it.  Played with just sixteen cards, the game is really simple, but is a great way to kill a few minutes.  The idea is that each player starts with one card, and on their turn draw a second from the deck and play one of the two.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Each card has a number and an action or effect.  The actions range from number one, the Guard, which allows the player to guess what character card a player is holding and “assassinate” them if correct, to number eight, the Princess, who will win the game for the player holding it at the end, but lose it for them if they are forced to discard it before then. There was just time for three rounds before food arrived.  Black took the first round and Pink the second.  Pink then recused himself as he went to chat to some of the locals about Jubilee plans leaving Black, Purple and Blue to fight it out with Blue taking the final point.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

With the arrival of Pine and Lime, the group went on to play Moneybags, which had been the “Feature Game” a couple of weeks ago.  The idea of this is that, on their turn, players have to decide whether to rob another player’s hessian sack of gold or not.  Critically, however, they must not be too greedy.  This is because the victim can challenge the thief, and if the thief is found to have more than the victim, the victim takes the lot, but that makes them more of a target as now everyone else knows how much they have…

Moneybags
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the game did not go according to plan.  Black played the Godfather and divvied up the loot.  Purple robbed Pine, who promptly challenged and won a huge pile of gold.  As it was his turn next, after lots of advice from everyone else, he closed his bag and stepped out.  Then Blue challenged Black and won, knocking him out too.  Although it was close between Pine and Blue, much closer than most people thought it would be, Pine’s huge stash won out.  The moral of this story is to rob someone before you in the turn order otherwise, if they challenge and win, they can kill the game by closing their bag.

Moneybags
– Image by boardGOATS

This week, the “Feature Game” was the Arts and Architecture expansion to Tapestry, which is something that Ivory in particular, had been waiting ages to play.  We wanted to give others an opportunity to play the base game first and then the (slightly less complex) Plans and Ploys expansion, which got an outing a few weeks ago.  That was enjoyed by everyone involved, so it was now time to add the second expansion.  The base game is simple in terms of what you do, but playing well is much more difficult.  The idea is that there are four advancement tracks:  Science, Technology, Exploration and Military, and on their turn, the active player progresses along one of these taking the actions for the space they land on.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

In general, players must pay resources to carry out actions and, in some cases, may pay more to carry out a bonus action.  The first player to progress along each of the tracks receives a building as they pass landmark spaces, which those players then add to their city.  Filling rows and columns of their city gives additional resources and as these are scarce, the extras can be invaluable.  Players can focus on a specific track or take a more balanced approach, but this decision is often driven by starting Civilisations which give players a special and unique ability.  Coupling the Civilisation with the right strategy is often the difference between success and failure.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

When players run out of resources, they can instead take income which means players move on to the next round at different times.  The Arts and Architecture expansion provides more civilizations, tapestry cards, technology cards and capital city plans.  The biggest change, however, is the addition of a new advancement track featuring new Art or Masterpiece cards and tiles and, of course, associated Landmark miniatures.  Each Income phase, players can activate their masterpiece power and get the benefit shown, typically resources or points allowing players to prolong their turns further, but like the Technologies, they are really a long term investment.

Tapestry: Arts & Architecture
– Image by boardGOATS

Green and Teal joined Ivory in what was a Tapestry rematch of the last game and, in addition to the Arts and Architecture expansion also included the Plans & Ploys expansion. Each player received a standard capital city and an expansion capital city, but everyone decided to try the new ones to add variety to the game.  For the Civilisations, in an effort to ensure things were balanced, the up-to-date starting adjustments were used, and players chose:

  • Craftsmen (Ivory), which gave him a new board to place his income buildings on for extra bonuses;
  • Historians (Teal), which enabled him to choose a player each round, and when that player placed a special building, Teal would gain extra resources;
  • Architects (Green), which gave his income rows double points scoring under certain conditions.
Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

Green’s Civilisation did not last beyond his first income phase, however, as he played the Plague Tapestry card which allowed him to draw a new one. This new one, Entertainers, gave him an extra bonus track to follow each income phase.  Ivory made his intentions clear by moving up the new purple Arts track and gained a couple of special Arts cards.  Green followed him, but also spread a bit more onto the Technology track for a Technology card.   It was Ivory who was first to take an income phase, but as he had not explored the Technology track he did not have a Technology to upgrade on his first income.  Ivory did have a couple of Arts cards to provide him with a nice little bonus though.

Tapestry: Plans and Ploys
– Image by boardGOATS

Teal went a different route and travelled up the Explore track and expanded his island.  The resources he gained on the way enabled him to take his first income much later than the others.  This pattern of Teal taking income last remained in play to the end of the game. Green took the second income first, and Ivory switched back to first for the third income. It was Ivory who took his final income first, closely followed by Green leaving Teal to play on his own at the end.  By this time, Ivory had collected all the Arts buildings, completed both the Arts and Science tracks and expanded his empire by three more hexes.

Tapestry: Arts & Architecture
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory had also collected three Arts cards and replaced two of his income scoring tracks. He had only placed two income buildings on his Civilisation card, but had mostly completed his capital city (including a massive seven special buildings), but had only one, solitary technology card.  Teal had completed the Explore track, although two of his space hexes were very poor scoring for him, and had not progressed at all on the Arts track. His empire was seven hexes in size, including the one in the centre of the territory. He had also collected six special buildings on his way, but no Technology at all.

Tapestry: Arts & Architecture
– Image by boardGOATS

Green managed to complete the Arts and Technology track, choosing to travel up the Arts again for his technology completion bonus. He did not expand his empire at all, although he had grown the islands a little. He finished with four Arts cards and three Technology cards, but only five special buildings.  In the final scoring  Green finished with a personal best of two hundred and ninety-three points, beating the hitherto invincible Ivory who “only” managed two hundred and fifty-one, some way ahead of Teal.  Part of the reason for this was that Teal did not place his last player cube choice from his civilisation on his penultimate income.

Tapestry: Arts & Architecture
– Image by boardGOATS

This was because the game ended in a bit of a rush because time was getting on and Teal unfortunately didn’t thought the others wouldn’t get any more buildings.  As a result he missed out on a few free resources in the final round and even a few resources can make a huge difference. As ever it is difficult to find the right balance in Tapestry as players need to both specialise and be a Jack of all trades, which is very hard to do.  Although the game took longer as a result of the expansions, all three liked the added enhancements and would be keen to play again with all the extras.

Tapestry: Arts & Architecture
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the the other side of the room, Lime was introducing Black, Lilac and Pine to Die Wandelnden Türme, a recently released, curious little family game.  The idea is that players start with a handful of Wizards placed on top of the little Towers around the board, and a hand of three cards.  On their turn, the active player plays a card which allows them to move one of their Wizards a set number of spaces forward, or move a tower a set number of spaces.  When Towers move, they take any resident Wizards with them but can also land on top of another Tower and trap any pieces that were on the roof.  A player that catches other pieces in this way gets to fill a Potion Flask.  They can then spend the Potions to cast spells.

Die Wandelnden Türme
– Image by boardGOATS

In the base game the spells available are “move a Wizard one space forward” or “move a Tower two spaces forward”, but others are available and change the feel of the game a little.  Players are trying to land all their Wizards in the black, Raven Castle and fill all their Potion Flasks—when someone succeeds, that triggers the end of the game.  It is a fun and entertaining game where players Wizards get variously trapped and if they have a bad memory, can find they lose them in the circus of dancing towers.  And that is exactly what happened to poor Pine.  His Wizards disappeared and every time he uncovered where he thought they were, he discovered they weren’t.

Die Wandelnden Türme
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end it was a tie between Lime and Black, but it had been a lot of fun, and Pink in particular was watching with envious eyes from the next table as he’d read about the game in the Spielbox magazine and fancied giving it a go.  While eying up the Wizards, Pink was playing Calico with Purple and Blue.  This is another game that is new to the group, although it was released a couple of years ago.  It has a similar feel to Patchwork, the popular two-player tile-laying game about designing quilts, though the games are by different designers.  The most obvious difference is that Patchwork is a Tetris-like game with polyomino tiles, where all the tiles in Calico are regular hexagons.

Calico
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, the active player chooses a patch tile from their hand of two, and sews it into their quilt, before replenishing their hand.  If they complete a colour group with that tile, they can add a button to their quilt; if they create a pattern group that is attractive to a cat, it will come over and sit on their quilt.  At the end of the game, when the quilt is finished, players score for buttons, cats, and their own personal target.  In reality, the theme is a bit “pasted on”, but the pieces are nice, and make what is otherwise a bit of a brain-burny abstract a little more accessible.  Purple and Pink struggled with the puzzly nature of the game at the beginning, where Blue got a better start.

Calico
– Image by boardGOATS

Achieving the personal targets is difficult—these specify the number of different tiles that should surround a particular tile.  For example, the goal tile AA-BB-CC scores when surrounded by three different colours, or three different patterns, with two matching tiles in each colour/pattern.  Successfully fulfilling a target with both the colour and the pattern scores more points, but is significantly more difficult.  Despite explaining this to Purple in her rules outline and saying she had decided to give up on the extras, Blue somehow got lucky and was able to fulfill two of private goals with both the colour and the pattern.  With lots of buttons and cats, it was a bit of a runaway victory for Blue, but it was very close for second, with Pink just edging it.

Calico
– Image by boardGOATS

Die Wandelnden Türme finished first, so the foursome scratched about for something else to play and settled on The Game.  This is a simple cooperative game that was one of Burgundy‘s favourites.  The team have a deck of cards numbered from two to ninety-nine (in our case, from a copy of The Game: Extreme, but ignoring the special symbols), and they must play each card on one of four piles.  For two piles where the card played must be higher than the top card, and for two it must be lower.  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”.

The Game
– Image by boardGOATS

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.  The game ends when, either all the cards have been played onto the four piles, or a player cannot play a card.  This time, things went wrong from the start and unusually, kept going wrong, so much so that there were still two cards left in the deck when the group could no-longer play.  Lilac ducked out and Pine, Lime and Black gave it a second try, but the end result was not much better.  Clearly the group keenly felt the loss of Burgundy’s special skills.

– Image by boardGOATS

While they played their second game of The Game, Calico came to an end, and Lilac joined Purple, Pink and Blue for a game of Sushi Go!, the archetypal “card drafting” game.  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.  This time, the game was interrupted by an arrival, one some people had been waiting all evening for.  The “special guest” was the new resident at the pub, a gorgeous black Labrador puppy by the name of Winston.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

The game decidedly played second fiddle when cuddles were on offer.  Despite the distraction of Winston, or perhaps because of his help, Blue, who is usually appalling at this game, somehow managed to make two solid rounds.  Pink did the same in the first and third rounds, while Purple and Lilac were more consistent over the three rounds.  Purple finished with the most puddings, and Pink and Lilac shared the penalty for having the least.  Those penalty points made all the difference as Blue pipped Pink to the post.  And as Tapestry had also finished and Pink had finished admiring Teal’s copy of Root, it was time for all little puppies to go to bed.

Winston
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome: It’s hard to specialise and be a “Jack of all trades” simultaneously.

20th April 2022

Meeting for the first time on a Wednesday, Pink and then Blue were the first to arrive, and like last time, played a game of Abandon all Artichokes (with the Rhubarb mini-expansion) while they waited for food to arrive. This is a very quick and simple “deck shredding” game: on their turn the active player takes a card from the face up market, adds it to their hand and then plays as many cards as they can before they discard the rest and draw five new cards. If this new hand contains no Artichoke cards, the player wins.  Although it is very simple, it seems the function sequence is somehow challenging.  Pink struggled last time, but seemed to have got the better of it as he won.

Abandon All Artichokes
– Image by boardGOATS

As they were finishing, Pine turned up and, while Pink went to the bar, Blue explained the rules to him and then they played again.  Pine also struggled a bit with which pile was the discard pile and which the draw pile, and where to take cards from and where they were going to.  There is hope though as, despite the arrival of food in the middle, Pink won the second game too.  Pink and Blue were just finishing their supper when Purple and Black arrived, soon followed by Green, Lime and Ivory.

Abandon All Artichokes
– Image by boardGOATS

This week, the “Feature Game” was the new edition of Libertalia, Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest, a card driven game where players are admirals commanding a crew of sky pirates in search of adventure, treasure, and glory.  Pine had watched the advertised play-through video and professed it “looked” fun, so was keen to give it a go.  Ivory and Pink joined the party, while Green shouted across from the other end of the table that he would be happy either way as he knew nothing about it.  In the end, after considerable debate, Ivory, Pink and Pine were joined by Blue and Purple, leaving Green, Black and Lime to find something else to play.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Blue had read the rules, she had very deliberately not looked at the character cards, so Pine arguably knew most about Winds of Galecrest.  It is a rejuvenated version of the older game, Libertalia, but with new, lighter artwork, additional characters and streamlining of some of the mechanisms.  Very simply, each player starts with a deck of forty cards, of which six are drawn into their hand.  The idea is that players have the same character cards to play, but can play them in different orders.  Thus, one player (in our case Pink) shuffles their forty numbered cards and then draws six, which the the others find in their numbered and sorted decks.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over three voyages, the first of which takes four days, the second, five days, and the final voyage takes six days.  Each day, players simultaneously choose a card to play, which when revealed are laid out in numerical order on the island.  The are then played three times: first in ascending order (daytime), next in descending order (dusk) and finally simultaneous (night).  Some cards only have actions that activate in one or two of the time-frames, but any characters still on the island, move back to that player’s ship and stay there till the end of the voyage.  At the end of the voyage, players activate any loot and characters they have with end of voyage actions.  Despite that being pretty much all there is to the game (and it being written clearly on the board), the group still managed to make a bit of a meal of it.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

The first hand consisted of six relatively uninteresting cards (or so it seemed at the time), which all had daytime actions.  The first voyage, and to some extent the second too, players were feeling their way.  Because the group failed to remove the Character cards from their ships at the end of the first voyage, that skewed things somewhat, especially as some players had the First Mate in their ship which in some cases scored twice giving points for the number of characters in their ship which was also artificially inflated.  Ivory knew which cards he’d played and when, but others were unsure and some had built a strategy that relied on having certain Characters in their boat at the end of the second voyage.  So rather than trying to back-track, ships were emptied for the first time at the end of the second round.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

It took the group a bit of time to understand when the actions for the loot happened—most occur at the end of the voyage, but some occur on the day they are collected, during the dusk phase.  As a result, several players missed some of those dusk actions, the additional reputation gained from picking up a Barrel in particular.  At the beginning of the second round, Blue, Pine, Ivory and Pink agreed they were all playing the “obvious card”.  On revealing their cards they discovered they had differing ideas of what the obvious play was, which gave the first inkling that there was much more to the actions than had first appeared, but the players really got to grips with the planning aspects of the game in the final round.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory played his Carpenter, which reduced his funds by half, and immediately followed it with the Officer which increased his kitty to twelve doubloons.  Then, because he is always a threat, he was targeted by Pine and then Blue, losing first his Carpenter and then his Gambler from his ship (both give money at the end of the round).  Blue then assassinated Pink’s Carpenter and he took out her Gambler in revenge.  Pink discovered that the Saber type loot was much more dangerous than he gave it credit for as yet another of his Characters on the island bit the dust.  Meanwhile, Purple was building the contents of her treasure chest largely unmolested, mostly only suffering as collateral damage.  Pine also made killing by playing his Bodyguard with perfect timing, simultaneously taking lots of gold for discarding all the Sabers and Hooks from the loot pile, and starving everyone else of treasure.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

In the final accounting Blue was the most successful pirate, though she was one of the beneficiaries of the “rules malfunction” at the end of the second voyage.  Purple made an excellent second place though, picking up loads of gold from her loot while largely managing to avoid being caught in the cross-fire as the others attacked each other.  Libertalia is a much more vicious game than those we usually play, even though it was a “Calm” game and supposedly “easy and friendly”—Heaven only knows what Stormy will be like!  It was a lot of fun though, especially when the group started to get to grips with it properly during the final round.  It’s clear the game could cause a lot of relationship trouble, but that won’t stop it getting another outing soon.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table things were much more peaceful with Green, Black and Lime laying carpets.  No-one felt up to anything too taxing or long tonight, so after reviewing the selection of games available Black suggested they play Marrakech, which certainly fitted the bill. Marrakech, is an unusual little game, with fantastic little rugs made of fabric and coins made out of wood, where players take the role of a rug salesman who tries to outwit the competition.  Each player starts with ten Dirhams and an equal number of carpets.  On their turn, players may rotate Assam ninety degrees, then roll the die and move him forward as many spaces as shown (up to four).

Marrakech
– Image by boardGOATS

If Assam lands on another player’s carpet, the active player must pay one Dirham per contiguous carpet square of that colour.  Finally, the active player then places one of their carpets orthogonally adjacent to Assam.  The winner is the player with the most money after the last carpet has been laid.  After a quick explanation to Lime (who hadn’t played it before), the group had to decide the Role of the Merchant.  On Board Game Arena, there are two options:  one where the player turns him himself before rolling the dice, and another where the player who just played gets to turn him at the end of their turn and before the next player.

Marrakech
– Image by boardGOATS

After a brief check of the rules, the group discovered that the first option was the original rule (move the merchant before rolling the dice) and so they went with that.  As a result it took several turns before anyone landed on anyone else’s carpet, then Black landed on a single square of Lime’s.   A couple more turns and landing on carpet became a regular activity.  When Green landed on a five square of Black’s, it became apparent that Lime had been labouring under a false understanding about what counted as a paying patch of carpet. He had thought that players have to pay for all the carpet squares connected, by any means including other people’s carpets, but of course only the patch that the Merchant is stood on counts.

Marrakech
– Image by boardGOATS

At various points in the game everyone had a large patch of carpet posing a hazard to the other players: Green had a large area in one corner, Black a large squarish patch in the middle, and Lime managed to get a zig-zag line from one corner all the way to the opposite one.  Mostly everyone managed to avoid landing on these until they were broken up, but that duck was broken when Green landed on a large Black area, shifting the coin balance heavily in Black’s favour.  At the end of the game carpet value was added to coins, and although Green had the most carpet showing, Black had significantly more coins than the others and finished as the winner by five points.

Marrakech
– Image by boardGOATS

Libertalia was still ongoing, and Marrakech had served as an excellent aperitif, but it was now it was time to move on to something more substantial, and the game of choice was Niagara. This is fantastic family game, that won the Spiel des Jahres Award in 2005, but is still a lot of fun seventeen years later.  The idea is that players have two canoes that they are using to navigate up and down the river while trying to collect gems and land them safely on shore.  Players simultaneously choose a paddle card from their hand, which dictates the distance their canoes travel.  Once everyone’s boat has travelled, the river moves and any canoes that are too close to the falls take the long drop and are turned to matchwood.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

Players are trying to land five gems of the same type (or seven different colours) and the first to do so is the winner.  We last played this about nine months ago, online, through the medium of Board Game Arena.  On that occasion, Pink had betrayed everyone’s trust and stole several people’s precious loot.  The victims (in particular Burgundy), were vociferous in their grievance, and as a result, despite Pink being enthusiastic about playing again, nobody was keen to join him.  With Pink tied up in a quite different loot battle, this was a good opportunity to play again as it was still quite early and it was also an opportunity to introduce Lime to an old classic.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

The first round played relatively gently and much the way it normally does with everyone holding their cloud paddle tile (which allows them to change the speed of the river) back for the last round.  Going into the second round however, Black and Green conspired to shake things up a notch. After putting a canoe onto the river, Black then moved the cloud from the plus one space it had been left on at the end of first round, to the plus two space. However, Green had also thought this was a bold move and had planned to do the same, but unfortunately, he had to move the cloud and as plus two is the maximum, the only direction to go from plus two was back to plus one.  The result was that everyone spent the rest of that round moving five steps forward and four back.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

The highest cards were not enough to get players’ boats off the river and each time they just got dragged back again, with the landing stage forever out of reach.  Green tried to “go against the flow” using some lower cards earlier in the round and holding a bigger card for later, but apart from moving around on different river discs, the end result was still the same.  Everyone ended up on the same disc a couple of times too, and Lime was unfortunate when he lost one of his boats over the rapids.  At the beginning of the third round players got their boats off the river.  By this point, Black had managed to collect four different coloured gems and only needed that elusive pink. Green also had four gems, but that included two purple ones.  Lime had just two gems as he decided to trade one to get his second canoe back.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

Black tried to inch down the river, sometimes choosing not to move a canoe in order to arrive at that last spot to collect his game winning pink gem. However Lime slowed the river down to minus one, and this left Black’s canoes in the wrong place.  In the meantime, Lime also collected another couple of gems and Green managed to pick up another two as well, one purple and one blue.  This left Green needing just one gem to win with seven (the fact that a pink would give him one of each did not matter—there is no double win in this game).  As the new round began, Green got on the river, collected the final purple gem and there was nothing the others could do to stop him landing it on his next turn.  And with that, the paddling was over with Green the victor.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

Although it was not that late, Lime and Green left for their respective homes, leaving Black to watch the final few turns of Libertalia.  When that wound up, Ivory headed home and there was still time left for something short. While everyone else discussed the options, Pink went to the bar for a “tot” of Dead Man’s Fingers Rum.  In his absence, Bohnanza was eschewed as “not short” and 6 Nimmt! and Coloretto had both been played recently.  Saboteur doesn’t play so well with smaller numbers so in the end, the game chosen was Sushi Go!.  The first thing to do was to remove the promotional expansions for its big brother Sushi Go Party! (Sukeroku, Inari, Sake and Pickled Ginger; these can be played with the original version but other cards need to be removed), however the Soy Sauce promo cards included as usual.

Dear Man's Finger Rum
– Image by Pine

The game is really simple:  from their hand of cards, players simultaneously choose one to keep and pass the rest on before repeating until everyone has no cards.  At the end of the round the different cards are scored according to their individual characteristics.  After three rounds, puddings are evaluated and the winner is the player with the largest total number of points.  This time there was a serious shortage of puddings in the first round and Blue seemed to have more than her fair share.  It wasn’t clear whether it was because she was overly focused on deserts or whether it was just because she’s rubbish at the game, but her score was lower than everyone else except Pine.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine made up for it in the second and third rounds.  In general, consistency is usually the winning factor in Sushi Go!, so Pink should have been in a good position, but both Black and Purple had a couple of really strong rounds, as indeed did Pine.  As a result, it was a really close game.  Pine was undone by the combination of his poor first round and the fact he was the only one with no puddings and lost six points as a result.  In contrast, Blue’s score was boosted by six points as she had a clear majority.  It was Purple and Black who were the ones to beat though, as they tied for the lead on thirty points and tied on the pudding tie break as well, so shared victory.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  If you are looking for job security, don’t become a pirate.

1st December 2021

It was a relatively quiet night with no Burgundy, Lilac or Teal.  However, that was slightly offset by the arrival of Lime who had missed the last few and Beige, who is much cuter in real life than on Teams.  The first game of the evening, as Blue and Pink finished their supper, was No Thanks!.  A very simple game where players take a card or pay a chip to pass the problem on, it is easy to play when attention is elsewhere.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, players sum the face value of the cards they collect and the player with the lowest score wins.  The clever part is that if players have a run of cards, they only score the lowest, and the fact that some cards are missing encourages players to gamble.  This time, Blue “top scored” with a massive sixty-six having tried and failed to make a run out of high scoring cards.  Green won with a careful game that gave him thirty points and Pink was took second place, four points behind.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

As people arrived, the group split into two with the one group playing the “Feature Game“, Draftosaurus.  This is a very light drafting game, a bit like Sushi Go!, but with dinosaurs (because everyone, especially Beige, likes dinosaurs).  We have played this quite a bit, but mostly online over the last year or so, but the tactile wooden dino-meeples add a lot to the experience.  The basic idea is that players start with a handful of wooden dinosaurs, pick one to keep and then pass the rest on.

Draftosaurus
– Image by boardGOATS

Players then choose which pen to place the dinosaur in obeying the restrictions the pens have for example, each dinosaur placed in the Meadow of Differences must be different.  Players also take it in turns to roll the Placement Die and have to additionally follow the conditions imposed it (e.g placing the dinosaur in an empty pen or a pen that does not contain a Tyrannosaurus rex).  The game is played over two rounds and at the end of the game, when all the dino-meeples have been placed, players add up their scores.

Draftosaurus
– Image by boardGOATS

Each pen scores according to its specialism, with players scoring an extra point for each Tyrannosaurus rex they have have.  Draftosaurus is a very quick and light game, but is also very enjoyable, and this time the scoring was very tight too with just five pints separating first and last places.  Blue just managed to edge it though finishing one point ahead of Pine with Purple and Lime tied in third.

Draftosaurus
– Image by boardGOATS

With five players the options were a little limited, but Pink effectively made the decision as he was keen to play Fabled Fruit, a game we last played two and a half years ago.  This is a game he’s very fond of because he likes the cute animal artwork and bright primary colours.  It is a light card game, with the unusual feature that the game evolves and changes each time it is played.  This “Legacy” style was made popular by Rob Daviau and Matt Leacock with Pandemic Legacy, a game that divided gamers as it required them to destroy components and write over the board, an anathema to people who are accustomed to looking after their games, sometimes to an extreme degree.

Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
– Adapted from image by BGG contributor Muse23PT

Once Pandemic Legacy has been played out, the end product is a personalised copy of Pandemic which embodies the memories of the campaign.  This further irritates some gamers because they feel they are left with a comparatively unplayable copy of the game or at least one that is less well be unbalanced and may have design flaws.  Fabled Fruit is different from the Legacy games as the changes are not destructive, so the game can be reset and played again from the beginning, in this case by simply sorting the cards.

Fabled Fruit
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is quite simple—it starts with six decks of four cards in the central play area and on their turn players move their worker from one pile to another and either carry out the action associated with the cards, or buy a card.  Each card has a cost in fruit and, when bought represents a fruit smoothy.  When a player buys their third card (in the five player game) they trigger the end of the game and the player with the most smoothies at the end of the round wins.

Fabled Fruit
– Image by boardGOATS

The starting decks include simple actions like “take two fruit cards from the deck” and “give one banana to any other player and get two fruits in exchange”.  As the game evolves though, the actions become more interesting with the introduction of a fruit card market and more complex interactions.  This time Blue got out of the blocks quickest and was the first to three with Pine and Purple tied for second.  It was a very enjoyable game and people were just starting to get interested in how the actions were changing and what animal would be introduced next, so the group decided to play it a second time and see what happened.

Fabled Fruit
– Image by boardGOATS

By the second round there was lots of talk about how the some fruit looked like hemorrhoids and from there the conversation deteriorated into a discussion of bum grapes and hairy nuts.  This time, Lime was the victor with Pine taking second place.  As it was packed away and Pink sorted the cards to reset it, the group lamented the “problem” with “Legacy-type” games.  Sadly, they really shine with a small group like a family or household that play together frequently.  The problem with a group like boardGOATS is that people play in different groups each time, so it isn’t really possible to work through a campaign properly.

Fabled Fruit
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, Lime took his leave and there was just time for the remaining foursome (plus Beige) to play a quick game of Coloretto. This distills the essence of the, arguably, better known board game, Zooloretto, into a simple yet clever little card game.  We’ve all played it a lot, so it needed little introduction:  on their turn, players either turn a card and add it to a truck, or take one of the trucks.  The aim is to collect sets, but only the three score positively, the others all score negative points with the player with the most winning.  This time, Blue picked up a couple of full sets and won by a bit of a landslide with Pink in second.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table, Black, Green and Ivory were playing Brass: Birmingham, the Sequel to Brass (Lancashire).  It is an economic strategy game that tells the story of competing entrepreneurs in Birmingham during the industrial revolution, 1770-1870.  Each round, players take turns according to the turn order track, receiving two action points to perform any of the actions:  Build, Network, Develop, Sell, Loan and Scout.  The game is played over two halves: the canal era (years 1770-1830) and the rail era (years 1830-1870).

Brass: Birmingham
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is quite complex so Ivory’s explanation took a little while.  Black had previously read the rules, but Green came in with no prior knowledge, so it was typical that the Start Player application chose Green to go first.  He started the first, Canal part of the game building in the North West, while Ivory went for the Midlands and Black the Mid-South. Black and Ivory were soon linking their routes and connected up to the board edge trading towns. Ivory’s experience of the game meant he was first to use it and collect the Beer barrel.

Brass: Birmingham
– Image by boardGOATS

Green’s routes remained separate from the other two for a while, and although that gave him relatively uninterrupted growth in the region, he found himself limited to only one trade. Thus he pushed south to join up with the other two.  At the halfway point, Ivory was narrowly in the lead over a surprised Green, with Black a few points behind. The board was then cleared and reset. Everyone had managed to build at least a couple of stage two buildings.

Brass: Birmingham
– Image by boardGOATS

As the second, Rail part of the game went on it became clear that everyone had switched places.  Green was building up in the South East, and Ivory was working in the North and Black even further South.  It took much longer to join up the routes so it wasn’t until the very end that players started to build and use resources that others had planned for.  By the end of the game and after the final scoring, Ivory had romped away to a comfortable win, with Black leapfrogging Green into a comfortable second place.

Brass: Birmingham
– Image by boardGOATS

It had been enjoyable, though it was a bit of a rush at the end as time was pressing.  Brass is an unusual game in the way that players can each use the others resources, which is an interesting twist.  With many different options to planning, this makes for quite a thinky game which leaves players feeling they can do so much better the next time.

Brass: Birmingham
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Beige is a lot smaller in real life.

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.