Tag Archives: Take it Easy!

6th July 2021 (Online)

After the usual pre-game chatter (this time focussed largely on the village of Standlake—north of The River, Tut!), we settled down to play the “Feature Game“.  This was the new Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition.  We have played Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition several times, both with and without the mini expansions and have really enjoyed it.  This new version steps it up a little with several new “Challenges” to add to the base game.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The basic idea is very simple:  four dice are rolled and players have to draw all four pieces of track on their player board.  These must either extend a previous section of road or track, or start at one of the red entrance “arrows”.  Three times during the game, players can, additionally, draw one of six special intersections with only one per turn.  Players score points for the longest sections of road and track, connecting red entrance “arrows” and for filling the central nine squares, losing points for any unconnected, “hanging ends”.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The “Challenge” editions of Railroad Ink add special spaces which represent villages, factories and Universities (though we referred to them as “Houses”, “Spectre Octopi” and “Fingers  Pointing Up”).  These give extra point scoring opportunities and a chance to get an extra “special” section.  It also includes goal cards which give players even more chances to score more points.  These work a bit like the scoring in Noch Mal!, where the first players to complete a “Challenge” score maximum points and others who achieve it later score less.  These provide a lot of variety to the game, especially when combined with the additional mini expansions that each game comes with.

Railroad Ink: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The first thing we noticed was that the dice we had didn’t seem to make sense—there weren’t enough simple straight and simple bend sections.  It quickly became apparent that we had the wrong dice in the box.  Fortunately, we also had the Lush Green Edition, so we stole the dice from that and carried on.  It quickly became apparent that somehow this was much more difficult than the original Blue Edition that we had played so many times.  It wasn’t clear whether this was just an unfortunate series of dice rolls, or whether it was a function of the fact players were trying to do more things which forced them to compromise more, or even the new back-to-back corners.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Either way, it was clear that people had a lot of “hanging ends” and were desperately hoping for “good rolls” (perhaps cheese and pickle rather than egg and cress…).  Most people managed to make something out of their spaghetti-like network though, and before long it was time to compare scores.  Ivory was in charge of the Tusk-lets, so in his absence it was left to Pine to set the target score.  When Pine reported his fifty-three, everyone knew it was a good score from Burgundy’s response of “Bugger.”

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Black matched Pine, and Pink thought he’d pipped them by one point with his fifty-four, but Blue had the beating of all of them finishing with fifty-seven points.  The score survived Pink’s recount, in what had actually been quite a close game.  It had been a reasonably quick game, so we moved on to play Take it Easy!, a tile-laying game we played back in February, but had really enjoyed.  Each hexagonal tile has three pipes crossing it, in three different colours.  Tiles are drawn from a stack one at a time, and each player adds them to their personal player board.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

The tile placement rules are simple:  the tiles can be placed anywhere on the board but must be placed the right way up which fixes the directions of the nine different coloured pipes.  Players score points for any pipes that contain only the one colour, and that score is the number of tiles in the pipe multiplied by the number on the pipe. Thus, the highest scores are achieved by locating the high value pipes so they go through the middle.  Although there are a maximum of fifteen pipes, it is almost impossible to complete all successfully, especially as there are some tiles that are not used.  So, there is an element of chance as well as hedging bets.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

It quickly became clear to Blue that she wasn’t going to be in the running this time, and others felt the same, knowing they had not done as well as they felt they should have done.  Pink, however, once again thought he’d got it in the bag with his score of one hundred and forty-five, ten more than the hitherto next score, by Black.  That was until Green reported a massive score of one-hundred and seventy-three.  Everyone else, some thirty points behind struggled to believe it, but he’d simply made better use of the tiles as everyone else had been waiting for yellow (nine point) tiles to come out.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, we decided to move onto Board Game Arena.  There were lots of options, but Green was keen to share a game he had recently discovered called Hugo: Das Schlossgespenst (aka Escape from the Hidden Castle).  This is a light, family roll-and-move type game, where players take on the role of guests at a party, trying to escape from “Hugo the ghost”.  Hugo starts in the cellar, but quickly moves up to the gallery, chasing any guests that have not been able to escape into one of the side rooms.

Hugo: Das Schlossgespenst
– Image by BGG contributor duchamp

The catch is that even when apparently safe in a room, if another guest guest rolls exactly the right number the resident can be evicted, inevitably right into Hugo’s path.  When Hugo catches someone, they go into the basement and, the deeper they go, the more “Fright Points” that player gets.  The aim of the game is to finish with the fewest “Fright Points” after Hugo has been round the gallery seven times is the winner.

Hugo: Das Schlossgespenst
– Image by boardGOATS
from boardgamearena.com

Although the game seems like it is just a simple roll-and-move game, there is a little bit more to it than that.  Players are in charge of more than one guest, so they have to choose which one to move on each turn.  This decision will depend on where their pieces are with respect to Hugo, but also which rooms are closest, which rooms are empty and whether they can get one of their guests into one of the two “safe rooms” that give players negative “Fright Points”.  In practice, this isn’t much of a decision because after a couple of rounds, Hugo is moving so quickly, escape is the only thing on the players’ minds.

Hugo: Das Schlossgespenst
– Image by boardGOATS
from boardgamearena.com

Although the game didn’t take the five minutes advertised, it didn’t take too long.  There was much humour when one of Blue’s guests stuck its head up Pine’s frock, and likewise, when one of Pine’s stuck its head up Burgundy’s frock.  It was very clear to everyone that Green’s prior experience was the explanation for why he very nearly won—it is a game that is all skill of course.  In the event, however, Pine pipped him to the line by just one “Fright Point”.  And with that strangeness over, and this possibly being the last online game session, it seemed fitting to end with the reigning Golden GOAT winner, 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Over the last year or so, we’ve played 6 Nimmt! more than anything else, way more, simply because it is fast, fun, and skirts the fine line between tactical masterpiece and unpredictable luck-fest.  Players simultaneously choose cards that are placed at the end of one of four rows. The player who places the sixth card in a row, instead picks up the other five and their card becomes the first card in the row.  In the Board Game Arena version of the game, players start with sixty-six “Nimmts”, losing some each time they pick up.  The winner is the player with the most “Nimmts” or points when one player’s tally falls below zero.

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

Playing with the “Professional Variant”, cards can be added to both ends of the rows, simultaneously adding control and chaos in equal measure.  This time, Burgundy was the first to pick up cards, but Green was the first to begin the race to the bottom in earnest.  His personal roller-coaster ride hit maximum speed when he picked up a remarkable eighteen “Nimmts” on one turn.

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

For most of the game, everyone was very, very close, except for Green, but then everything went wrong for everyone and the scores plummeted.  Green inevitably triggered the end of the game though, but the final scores were surprisingly close aside from him.  Despite picking up fifteen points on his final card, Burgundy finished with six “Nimmts” more than Pine and Blue who tied for second place.  And with that, it was time for bed.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Watch out, watch out, there’s a Hugo about!

22nd June 2021 (Online)

After the usual chit-chat and some special Euro 20 discussion, we began setting up the “Feature Game“, which was the Sphinx und Triamide expansion for Das Labyrinth des Pharao.  Das Labyrinth des Pharao is a tile laying game in a similar vein to Take it Easy!, which we played earlier this year, and the Spiel des Jahres nominee Karuba, which we haven’t played for ages.  Although it is a slightly older game, we first played Das Labyrinth des Pharao just a couple of months back and really enjoyed it.  The idea is that players are exploring a pyramid, placing tiles and trying to find treasure.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone has their own player board, a meeple, some treasure cubes (in our case stolen from players’ copies of Tiny Towns)  and a set of tiles which correspond to the cards in the shared deck.  The top card in the deck is turned and everyone has to find the corresponding numbered tile and place it somewhere, anywhere on their board.  Three turns in, players have to choose which entrance they are going to use, and place their meeple as far into the temple as their path extends.  Each time a path tile has a scarab icon on it, players can choose to place a treasure on that space when they add it to their board.  Treasures must be placed in order, starting with the lowest value (worth one point) with the highest value (worth three points), only placed after all the others.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

If the treasure is entirely enclosed in a chamber by itself and the meeple’s path runs adjacent to it, the player can grab the treasure as they go past.  Thus, there are two ways to score points:  players score one point per quarter of a tile their meeple travels, and get more points for treasure they collect.  The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner, but the catch is that three tiles aren’t used and if a player needs one of them to complete their route, they can find their score decimated by fate.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

The base game is played on a simple square pyramid board, but we were playing with the Sphinx und Triamide expansion.  This provides a double-sided alternative board, one side with a nasty looking triple pyramid featuring two very critical spaces, and the other a cool-looking sphinx with a long, thin body making it difficult to effectively join the front and back legs.  There was lot of discussion about which board, and even a vote using vevox.app was inconclusive and Blue ultimately had to make the decision, opting for the sphinx as it looked like it might be slightly easier to work with (and everyone likes cats).

Das Labyrinth des Pharao: Sphinx und Triamide
– Image by boardGOATS

That decision quickly proved baseless as the first tiles were placed and it became clear that tile positions were very critical for the sphinx too.  There were the inevitable moans and groans as people realised early mistakes and discovered how few tiles were available to do what they wanted.  It is really hard to tell how badly things are going when you can’t see everyone else’s board, but it was clear that for most people, there were key tiles they needed.  Some, like Black, were forced either to gamble on a key tiles putting in an appearance, or play safe.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

Nobody had a complete disaster this time, and when Ivory was first to announce his score of forty-one, most people felt that was competitive.  Pine therefore thought he had it with his forty-five, until Burgundy revealed his score of sixty-one.  Sadly for him, he was pipped to the win by just two points by Green.  Perhaps the most unfortunate, however, was Black, who had agonised over whether to gamble, but had decided to play safe only to be given the tile he needed on the very next turn.  Had he taken the chance, he would have finished with an unsurpassed sixty-seven.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao: Sphinx und Triamide
– Image by boardGOATS

It was still reasonably early, so we decided to play something else and after a little bit of discussion, we settled for Second Chance.  We’ve played this a lot over the last year, but it is quick and fun and everyone enjoys a little bit of competitive colouring in.  Again, the game is card driven: cards are revealed showing Tetris-like shapes which players draw on their player board.  Two cards are revealed each round and players get to choose which they use.  This means that, at least in the early stages of the game, everyone gets access to all the shapes, however, if two desired shapes come out at the same time, then players have to make a decision.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, smaller shapes came out early and players were very wary of the particularly awkward “Staircase of Doom”, and getting stuck with it when they didn’t have the space.  In the event, it came out at the same time as the almost as awkward “H” (we all know how traitorous “H” is), which laid waste to large numbers of players who had lots of space, but not in the right shape.  All these players got a second chance and Burgundy went out first though most others were able to carry on.  With so many second chances so quickly, the game suddenly went from lots of cards left to almost none, leaving a few players still “in” when the deck was exhausted.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory, Green and Blue would have been able to continue, but that’s not the aim of the game—the winner is the player with the fewest empty spaces, unusually, regardless of whether they were eliminated or not.  The abrupt end had caught out some, and this time, there was a tie for first place between Pink and Ivory, with five spaces left.  Meanwhile Green and Burgundy also tied for third just one space behind, but all were unusually poor scores for us with previous winners finishing with three empty spaces or fewer.  Taking their medals with them, that was the cue for Ivory and Green to take an early night while the rest of the group moved to Board Game Arena to finish with a couple of games of 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

With the possibility of returning to The Jockey in the coming month or so, sadly 6 Nimmt! is a game that is unlikely to ever be quite the same again in real life.  We have always really enjoyed playing it, but over the last year, we have played this nearly thirty times—way more than anything else.  So once we are able to play in person again, we will probably take a bit of a break from it.  It has unquestionably made game nights more bearable though, and has even provided memorable experiences in a year that has mostly been devoid of happy memories (the highlight of the year being Lime getting stuck in a game against a load of French players as we all spectated and cheered him on).

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

One of the big differences between the way we play now and the way we used to play in person, is the addition of the “Professional Variant” rules.  In the basic game, players simultaneously choose a card and then, starting with the lowest these are added to the end of the row where the final card is the highest card that is lower than the card played.  In the “Professional Variant”, cards can also be added to the other end of rows if they are lower than the first card.  This has made the game more fun, but it certainly helps to have a computer to work things out.  Playing without this variant will undoubtedly lack something, but playing with it will need everyone to work hard at the maths.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time though, were were playing online of course.  So, instead of counting who has the most “nimmts” at the end, we all started with a tally of sixty-six, and the loser is the player who wins the race to the bottom.  Blue started strongly and looked to be a shoe in, but Burgundy decided she shouldn’t be the one to hog the limelight and joined her ultimately taking the lead and then winning the race nobody wants to win.  It was very at the other end though with Pink just pipping Black by a solitary point and Pine coming home a little way behind in third.  The second game was even tighter at the top with Blue going from zero to hero to tie with Pink for first, while Purple finished just two points behind.  While some things changed, others stayed the same as Burgundy ended the game (and the evening), with a magnificent minus seventeen.

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

Learning Outcome:  Some games can be sphinx-ter tighteningly fun.

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?

16th February 2021 (Online)

Purple and Black were the first to arrive and chatted with Pine when he popped up.  There was some chit-chat about where Mulberry and Red were at the moment and eventually Green, Lilac, Burgundy, and Ivory also joined the party.  In a return to the “Roll and Write” style of game, the “Feature Game” was to be MetroX (aka メトロックス), a game based around routes on the Tokyo and Osaka underground maps.  People were gamely mispronouncing the names of the lines when Burgundy asked which map we were going to be using, which was when Blue realised that she had sent out the wrong file.  There was a brief hiatus as people fired up their printers and Pine explained how one of his friends had said he “looked like a row of sheep’s arses”, and then with the correct paperwork, we could get started.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is quite simple:  a card is turned over and players assign the number to a line and “build” that number of stations along the line.  When a player completes a line, they score points with the first player (or players) scoring more points than those to finish the line in later rounds (similar to the scoring for columns in Noch Mal! and Noch Mal So Gut! which we played a few weeks back).  There are four different types of cards, but the most common are plain numbers which allow players to just build stations and these are numbered two to six, with fewer of the high numbers.  With each line restricted so that only two or three number cards can be assigned to it, Pine was quick to point out the obvious flaw and with it, the whole point of the game.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Each line has roughly ten to fifteen stations, so while some could be completed with three high numbers, it is not possible to complete them all outright without an awful lot of luck (and/or some very bad shuffling!).  However, most stations appear on more than one line, so the game is about using lines that run parallel creatively, sacrificing some to ensure others score well.  There are catches though.  Firstly, each line must be extended from the start end (the end with the “Indicator Boxes”, marked in red on our paperwork).  This means that although stations can be built in the middle of the line because they are part of another line, stations cannot be added beyond this point (where the lines diverge) unless all the earlier stations have been completed.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Secondly, normal number cards cannot “skip” completed stations.  In other words, in a line where the first two stations have not been completed, but the third has, if a “Six” is used to build the first two, the third cannot be jumped, and the remaining four are wasted.  So efficiency is the order of the game.  There are a small number of special cards with a circle round the number that allow players to skip completed stations, but these are few and far between and are only low numbers.  There is also a wild that allows players to fill in one station anywhere on the board without filling in an indicator box.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to scoring points for completed lines, players can also score a lot of points for intersections.  In the deck of just twenty cards, there are three “Star Cards”.  These allow players to build just one station at the cost of one Indicator Box, but instead of writing a zero in the box, they write a number that corresponds to the number of lines that go through the station.  With some stations forming the intersection of four or five lines, these can be very lucrative, but of course these are in the middle of the board and therefore need careful planning and a bit of good fortune to be able to make them really count.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

People were not really taken with the rules and particularly with the fact they couldn’t see how it was going to work, generally didn’t feel it was “possible”, and that they were going to end up with negative points.  Everyone was happy to give it a go though and we started with the Tokyo board.  We started with a lot of high numbers which made the game seem really straight forward at first.  About half way through though, we discovered that Green had misunderstood the rules (again!) and there was a bit of clarification and a pause while he tried to rectify things.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple was the first to complete a line, claiming Fukutoshin.  That focussed everyone’s mind a bit as they realised it wasn’t quite so impossible after all.  Drawing a six triggers shuffling in the discard pile, and although Pink shuffled the deck thoroughly, the high cards returned, at least initially.  Eventually, we drew some “Stars” and people were able to start picking up bonus points for intersections as well.  Despite all his comments about how impossible it was, Pine soon claimed Namboku and Lilac claimed Chiyoda.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends when there are no Indicator boxes left, and it was as Pink and Burgundy started a count down of how many cards there were left that some players realised that they’d failed to fill them in every time.  There was a bit of a flurry as people tried to correct things and then it was all over and everyone started adding up their scores.  As usual, Ivory was first to post his score, and as usual, it was very competitive.  Pine wasn’t convinced his score of thirty-four was right, especially as it was one more than Ivory’s, but either way, they were both beaten by Pink and Black with thirty-seven and Black took it on a tie-breaker.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Now everyone had got the hang of things, we decided to give the second map, Osaka, a go.  In contrast to the last game, the first card was a “Star” and the other two came out shortly afterwards, making it very difficult for players to score lots of points for intersections.  Despite that, players still seemed to make good progress.  In fact, there were five claims for completing four different lines in one round with Pine, Green and Ivory completing Midosuji, Sakaisuji and Yotsubashi respectively, and Black finishing Yotsubashi as well and New Tram.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

It was just as the game was coming to a close that the gremlins from a month ago came back to victimise Black and Purple.  Unfortunately, we weren’t quick enough to spot it this time, and Pink had shuffled the deck before we noticed.  The game was close to the end so it was sad that we couldn’t see whether Pink or Black did better in the rematch, and everyone else decided to finish up while they sorted out their problems.  Like Take it Easy! a couple of weeks back, by the end, the players were desperately begging for particular cards they needed and as they got what they wanted there were sighs of relief, while other groaned when they got something they couldn’t use.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

When the last card had been revealed, everyone moved on to the scores.  Once again, Pine, was right up there finishing with a total of thirty, but Burgundy, one of the most improved finished one point ahead with thirty-one.  There was some chat about the game while Purple and Black rejoined us, and it seemed it suffered from “marmite factor” with Green saying it wasn’t for him (though if he’d got the rules right it might have helped), and Pine saying that although he’d won, he hadn’t really enjoyed it.  On the other hand, Blue, Pink, and Burgundy thought it was clever and liked it.  While we were chatting, Violet joined the group to talk about a new venture she was considering.

UKGE 2018
– Image by boardGOATS

She wondered whether there would be any interest in custom dice featuring the boardGOATS logo.  There was some discussion about weighting dice correctly so they are truly random and how the market would be, as nobody wanted Violet to spend money on something that would not give a return.  With Purple and Black back from their gremlin-bashing, Ivory took his leave and everyone else moved on to playing the inevitable 6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena.  We normally play this at the end of the evening, but this time, with lots of people, it put in an early appearance.

Cribbage
– Image by 311matman on instagram.com

While we waited for Violet to sort herself out with an account, Pine pointed out that Green had been playing games, so Green had started investigating Pine’s profile, marvelling at the number of experience points he had.  It was then that he pointed out that Pine was 24th in the overall rankings for Cribbage.  It’s true that most people who use Board Game Arena probably play Euro games rather than traditional games, but all of a sudden we realised we had a bit of a celebrity in our midst.  Eventually though, we got over being star-struck and actually started playing…

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

We’ve played 6 Nimmt! an awful lot, so it needs only a little introduction:  players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and they are revealed at the same time.  Starting with the lowest value card, the cards are added one at a time to four rows – the player who adds the sixth card, instead takes the other five which become their scoring pile.  On Board Game Arena, we now play the “Professional Variant”, where cards can be added to both ends of the rows, causing mayhem when least expected.

 

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

It takes a bit of time to get used to playing with the additional layer of complexity, so it wasn’t really a surprise that poor Violet won the race to the bottom, although he father, Green wasn’t really all that far behind.  The winner was Pink who picked up just ten “nimmts” and finished with fifty-six points.  Black was joint second with the inevitable Pine, who always does well at this game, though this time they were twenty points behind Pink.

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

Time was marching on, and with plenty of people still about, that limited our choices of game somewhat.  Before Christmas, we had given Incan Gold (aka Diamant) a try, but strange card draws had let to a very odd game.  As the dust settled, we decided to give it another go.  The game is a fairly simple “Push your Luck” game where players are exploring a temple.  Players decide whether they are going to stay and explore, or leave the temple and take any treasure with them.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

Players who stay in the temple will get shares in any treasure cards that are drawn that round, but if they are present when a second Hazard card of any given type is drawn, the temple collapses and buries everyone in it and they lose any treasure they have collected.  In the first round, Black left first followed by Green and then gradually everyone else except Pine and Pink decided discretion was the better part of valour.  Inevitably, they got caught, so in the second round Pink was the first to leave (quickly followed by Purple).

 

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

When a treasure came out everyone else tried to leave and take it with them, but as nobody left alone nobody managed to get it.  Eventually, only Pine, Burgundy and Blue were left in and when Blue and Burgundy left too, Pine was all by himself.  When he turned one last card he got fifteen gems all to himself and left with a total of twenty and the treasure as well, much to everyone else’s chagrin.  In the third round Black managed to escape alone to take a treasure and Pine and Green got caught by a couple mummies and while everyone else escaped, nobody scored very well.

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

In the fourth round, Burgundy almost managed to repeat Pine’s effort when he was last in the temple and turned over a fourteen so took all of it, leaving with seventeen gems.  The final round was a bit of a dud, with only Pink and Violet scoring and even they didn’t get much as they left together after the first round, so shared the seven gems left on the floor.  They did better than everyone else though because the fourth card was a second snake and that was that.  It was very close, but the winner was Burgundy, just one gem ahead of Pine.  Black made an excellent third, proving that consistency is important as well as big wins.  And with that, it was time for bed.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  It’s a great shame Henry Beck never worked in Japan.

2nd February 2021 (Online)

There was a bit of chit-chat as people turned up clutching their brown, manilla envelopes, delivered over the previous few days by Purple Packet-force or Pink Parcel Post.  At 8pm, everyone opened their envelope to find the bits and pieces for two games: the “Feature GameTake it Easy!, and Das Labyrinth des Pharao (with the Sphinx und Triamide expansion boards) which we will play in a month or so.  There was also a little chocolate, so as people munched, Blue explained the rules to Take it Easy!.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

Take it Easy! is a tile laying game where players have a pile of hexagonal tiles which they place on their hexagon player board (because hexagons are simply the bestagons).  Each tile has three pipes crossing it, in three different colours.  There are a total of nine different coloured pipes, three in each different direction.  Tiles are drawn from a stack one at a time, and each player adds them to their personal player board.  The rules are simple:  the tiles can be placed anywhere on the board but must be placed so the numbers are the right way up so that the directions of the nine different coloured pipes are fixed.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

Players score points for any pipes that contain only the one colour, and the number of points is dependent on the colour of the pipe (the number on the pipe) and the number of tiles in the pipe.  Thus, a yellow pipe, five tiles long going straight down the middle scores forty-five points, while a black pipe, along the edge, just three tiles long would only score three points.  There are a maximum of fifteen pipes, but it is almost impossible to complete all successfully, especially as there are some tiles that are not used, so there is an element of chance as well as hedging bets.  Blue and Pink drew tiles and displayed them for everyone to see.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

The pieces the players used had been modified with the addition of letters to make it slightly easier for players to uniquely identify the individual tiles.  We were about three or four tiles in, when someone’s comment suddenly made Green realise that he’d started with the wrong tile.  Having form with this sort of thing, Green got a certain amount of stick for “cheating”, but having found it early, he corrected his mistake and we carried on.  As the game drew towards a conclusion, the number of spaces players had left progressively decreased, and increasingly, players needed specific colours and then specific tiles to complete their pipes.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was particularly desperate, but inevitably didn’t get the yellow pipe he so desperately wanted, which ultimately cost him thirty-six points.  As everyone else was still taking off their shoes and socks to add up their scores, Ivory gave his total as one hundred and ninety-four, to howls of distress from everyone else, who clearly felt they were nowhere close.  Indeed, the closest score was a hundred and eighty-two from Green in second with Blue four points behind him.  Although everyone believed Ivory’s score, they were keen to see how he’d done it so we looked at the photo he’d sent in and admired his layout and looked sadly at their own.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

Take it Easy! hadn’t taken very long to play, indeed it was only quarter to nine.  Everyone had really enjoyed it and now they felt they understood the game a little better, they all fancied another chance to see if they could catch Ivory on the second attempt.  So, this time everyone had their plan and they were keen to get going.  As the tiles were drawn there were variously coos of delight when a desired tile came out and teeth sucking when the tile was difficult to place.  Again, as the game progressed, the teeth sucking and pleas for particular tiles got more desperate.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

When the last tile was drawn the stress was released and everyone settled down to count.  Ivory was first to finish his arithmetic, and when he commented that he’d done better than last time, everyone else’s hearts sank.  Ivory set a new target of two hundred and two, but aside from him, almost everyone else failed to improve on their first score (Lime’s excuse was that he was missing the help of his assistant).  Lilac was the most improved though, increasing her score by sixty to take an excellent second place with one hundred and ninety-six, with nobody else coming close.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

We had all really enjoyed Take it Easy! and we’ll definitely give the game another outing, but in the meantime it was still quite early, so although Lime took an early night, everyone else was keen to play Cartographers.  This is a game we’ve been trying to get to the table since before Christmas, but have been unsuccessful thanks to the IT gremlins last time, and On Tour and electing the Golden GOAT taking longer than expected.  However, even two plays through of Take it Easy! had not taken over-long and with everyone familiar with the rules, we thought there was time to squeeze it in.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

That was before the gremlins returned, this time to kybosh Ivory’s printer.  It looked like plans would have to be revised, but after a bit of poking he persuaded it to cooperate and everyone settled down to concentrate on their artwork. Cartographers is a “Roll and Write” type game or perhaps more accurately a “Flip and Colour”, as the game is driven by cards instead of dice and players are colouring terrain blocks, fitting shapes together in a Tetris-style.  This is similar to other games like Second Chance and Patchwork Doodle, but is definitely a step up thanks to goal cards revealed at the start of the game.  There are four goals two of which are scored at the end of each round in a way reminiscent of the scoring in another game that is popular with the group, the 2016 Kennerspiel des Jahres winner, Isle of Skye.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the four goal cards were Stoneside Forest (three points for each mountain terrain connected to another with forest), Shoreside Expanse (three points for each lake or arable that is not adjacent to water, farmland or the edge of the map), Great City (one point for each space in a player’s second largest city) and The Cauldrons (one point for each single, empty space completely surrounded; the only goal card that was different to when we played the game back in September).  Goals A and B are scored at the end of the first round, Goals B and C at the end of the second and so on.  The game proceeds with players drawing their choice of shape and terrain from the card revealed, trying to score as effectively as possible for the current round, but also with an eye to scoring in later rounds.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is made more interesting in that cards give players a choice of terrain or shape and sometimes both, increasing the decision space over games like Second Chance and Patchwork Doodle.  Additionally there are Ruins cards which restrict where players can play for a turn, and Ambush cards which force players to put negatively scoring shapes on their board.  In the past, we have used the house-rule that instead of introducing one Ambush every round we only add them from the second round onwards to give people a chance to settle into the game.  Additionally, because we are playing remotely, we play the Ambush cards using the solo player rules.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we like the spice the Ambush cards add, they can swing the game quite a bit and add a bit of randomness.  Part of the driving-force to play Cartographers was the desire to try out the alternative, “Wastelands” map, so because of the additional challenge we thought this would add, we again used the house-rule, and only added three Ambush cards during the game.  The “Wastelands” are an area of the map that is inaccessible to the map-makers and as such is terrain already filled in, but is space that cannot be used.  It quickly became apparent that this meant players filled up their maps much more quickly so it became harder to place the bigger shapes from a much earlier point in the game.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

For some, this was an advantage when it came to the Ambush cards later in the game, as it meant there wasn’t sufficient space to add them to the player board.   The first round was full of Water and Farmland, which was useful for the Shoreside Expanse goal (at the end of the first and second rounds), but keeping them separate with the additional obstacle of the Wasteland was difficult.  Worse, this caused obstructions for players trying to score for connecting their Mountains using forest (Stoneside Forrest, scoring in the first and final rounds).

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

There was also a lot of Settlement early on, with Woodland relatively scarce.  There weren’t any Ruins until later either and with the first Ambush card only appearing in the third round, players could mostly do what they wanted in the early part of the game.  When the Ruins came towards the end, some players had no choice where to place them while others benefited from being unable to place them at all.  The same was true for the Ambush cards with some players being unable to play them at all and therefore not picking up negative points at the end of the game.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

When everyone was feeling the pinch the Marshlands card appeared, which is one of the biggest shapes.  Purple’s distressed cry of, “It won’t fit, I can’t get it in!”, was followed by Black’s dry response, “It’s too big…” which had everyone else in stitches.  From there it wasn’t long before the game came to an end.  Ivory was once again the first to report his score, posting a massive total of one hundred and eight, which most people felt would not be surpassed.  Indeed, that was the way it stayed with nobody else exceeding a hundred (after Black’s goblin-related recount), until Pink, giving his score last, sneaked into the lead with one hundred and twelve.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

It was quite late, so Ivory headed off to bed as did Lilac, but there was still time for the rest to play a game of our current end of evening favourite, the Professional Variant of 6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena.  This is so simple yet so much fun:  players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and then add them to one of the four rows in order.  The fast play, lack of down time, and the illusion of control together with the sudden disasters that befall people who are doing well, just hits the spot for the group.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Burgundy started the race to the bottom, but was quickly joined by Purple.  Her efforts were outstripped by Burgundy though who had high cards when he wanted low ones and low cards when he wanted high ones.  As a result, he finished with a very impressive minus twenty-seven.  At the other end, Green, Pink, Pine and Blue were neck-and-neck, until Green started collecting nimmts.  Pine, who always does well in 6 Nimmt! held the lead for most of the game, but with the end in sight, it all went wrong for him leaving Blue to take the glory just ahead of Pink.  Thanks to Burgundy’s prowess at collecting nimmts there was still time for one last game.

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

There was a lot of discussion about options, but when someone pointed out that No Thanks! had had been added to the list of games (albeit in beta), everyone was keen to give it a go.  As Blue set up the game, Pine asked whether there was a “drop a token between the floorboards option” in reference to a memorable evening that had ended with a round of Hunt the Game Piece only to find that it had dropped seamlessly through the gap to nestle in the dust under the floor of The Jockey.  That sort of diversion aside, we all know the rules and the game is (usually) quick to play, so we thought we’d give it a go.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

No Thanks! is an extremely simple game:  the top card from the deck is revealed and the first player has a simple choice, take the card or pay a chip to pass the decision on to the next player.  When a player takes a card, they also take any chips and then turn over the next card and start again.  The cards have a face value between three and thirty-five, but nine cards are removed at random.  When the deck is depleted, players sum the face value of their cards and subtract this total from the number of chips they have to give their final score—the player with the most positive score is the winner.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

The really clever part of the game is that players who have a run, only count the lowest card.  This means cards have different values to different players and there-in lies the tension and the fun.  Further, since the number of chips players have is kept secret, players have to decide whether the card they want will still be available when their next turn comes.  The version of the game we usually play, nominally only plays a maximum of five people.  The more recent version plays up to seven, as does the Board Game Arena implementation.

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

The first thing we discovered was that the “Spend a Chip” button was perilously close to the top of the cards which meant it was very easy to “sausage-finger” and accidentally take a card without meaning to.  Black was the first to fall foul of this, but he was not the only one.  The second thing was that somehow, playing online somehow took away some of the tension, perhaps partly due to the automatic bidding, possibly contributed to by the fact we were playing with six, but probably mostly due to the fact that players cannot see the angst of their opponents as they try to make the simple decision.

 

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

Success in this game is always achieving a rare positive score.  This time, Pink hogged all the chips finishing with nearly half the total in the game.  This put pressure on everyone else and even the winner finished in the red, albeit with a lot more than the minus sixty-four scored by the player at the bottom.  The winner was Pine, with minus six, some nine points ahead of Burgundy in second place.  Although we all enjoyed playing, somehow it didn’t have quite the same effect as 6 Nimmt!, so the search to find another game we can play at the end of the evening continues.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Never assume the name of a game is a guide on how to play it.

28th April 2020 (Online)

People started to arrive online from about 7pm with Mulberry briefly joining the party to say that she was going to have to work and sadly couldn’t join in the game.  It wasn’t long before everyone was once again sharing their stuffed toys, including Burgundy who’s new friend “Bunny” was watching over him from on high.  While Blue and Burgundy set up the game, Lime proudly showed off his new haircut that Mrs. Lime had done for him, only for someone to comment that it made him look like a bit like Tin Tin

Bunny
– Image by Burgundy

The “Feature Game” was to be Tsuro, a very simple game of tile laying.  The idea is that on their turn, the active player placed a tile in the space next to their stone and moves their stone along the path.  The last player left on the board is the winner.  The game plays lots of people, so was thought to be ideally suited to these online game sessions, but unfortunately, has hidden information in that each player has a secret hand of tiles that they play from.  In order to accommodate this playing online (using Tabletop Simulator to visualise, shared through Microsoft Teams), we simply displayed two tiles and on their turn each player picked one.

Tsuro
– Image by boardGOATS

This reduces the amount of planning possible, making the game less strategic, more tactical and, potentially, more random.  So to compensate a little and make it fairer, when any tiles with four-fold symmetry were drawn, they were put to one side as an extra option, a third tile, available until someone picked it.  As there were a lot of players, we also decided to use the slightly larger board from Tsuro of the Seas, and modify the pieces to suit our purposes.  Aside from this, the rules were the same as the original:  players can rotate the pieces (or ask someone to do it for them), but they must place them in the space next to their piece.

Tsuro
– Image by boardGOATS

Once a tile has been placed on the board, all stones must be moved along any paths extended, and any that collide or go off the board will be eliminated.  Burgundy started in the bottom left corner followed by Black, Purple and Lime, who was joined in the early stages by Little Lime who was keen to help.  Pine with his special friend, Beige assisting, followed by Pink, Blue and Green with Lilac and his “pet” sloth in support.  Everyone was fairly well spaced out around the edge of the board, so the game began quite slowly.  That was OK though as everyone had to get a feel for the graphics and what they were doing.

Tsuro on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

As the game progressed, people started to get entangled with each other.  The first to come a cropper was Black with Pink not too far behind.  Burgundy and Blue got stuck and went off together followed by Green who ran out options and then ran out of road.  When Lime was eventually forced off the board by a lack of space, there were just two left.  As Purple had to move into the space around Pine (playing on behalf of Beige), giving him the opportunity to push her off the board and claim the first victory for his little Gremlin.

Tsuro on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

That had gone quite well and hadn’t taken very long, so as setting up has some overhead, we decided it would be quickest to just play it again.  Blue and Burgundy re-stacked all the tiles and everyone chose their start positions.  For some reason, this time Green ended up surrounded by lots of empty space while everyone else was bunched together.  Green quickly put up a barrier and then went off to play with Lilac to play together alone in the corner, leaving everyone else to fight for space.

Tsuro on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Pine commented that Blue hadn’t moved far, but when she commented that she’d just been round in a circle, Pine objected inciting Pink to call him a “Boardgame Pedant”.  Pine took this mantle with pride and said he might add it to his CV as it already said he was a “Bird-watching Pedant”.  Blue queried this with “Bird-watching Pheasant?” and Pink upped the ante with “Bird-watching Peasant?”  Pine concurred, “Yeah, that too…”

Tsuro on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

As the game plodded on, Pink was the first to go off, soon followed by Lime and Black.  Then there was a bit of a hiatus though as players got tangled up.  Pine was the first who kindly eschewed the opportunity to expel Blue from the game (or maybe he had no choice); and then Blue returned the favour (also with no other option).  Somehow, the paths kept getting entwined bring everyone to the same place, while Pine played with himself in the top corner, ominously.

Tsuro on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS

It was during this second game that the technology started to struggle a little and Teams kept freezing as the load on the network began to exceed the capacity of the village carrier pigeon.  The game just about kept moving though, with Pink, bored having been the first to leave the game, started intimidating Blue with his large Panda.  Blue and Pine were next off, thanks to Purple, who had to choose who was going to stay in the game with her.  In the end, her choice of Burgundy proved to be unfortunate as he ruthlessly dispatched her on his next turn.  It didn’t make much difference though, and Green with lots of space and no competition was the winner.  Although his second tile had been crucial to his success, it was really the unintentional assistance from Pine when he played a convenient blocking tile in E5 that clinched it.

Tsuro on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

With that over, there was a little bit of chit chat about other game options that would work online:  Finstere Flure was an option on the Simulator, but 6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena was discussed, as was Take it Easy! with pieces delivered by Blue and Pink.  That didn’t last long though as the evening degenerated into comparing soft toys again (“Is that Kingston Bagpuss?!?!”) accompanied by renditions of songs by The Eagles.  As Green, Lilac and Pine melted away, Blue, Pink, Purple, Black and Burgundy played a few turns to get to the end of Spring in their Keyflower rematch.  But that’s another story…

Keyflower on boardgamearena.com
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Learning Outcome:  With all this “working from home”, the Stanford Carrier Pigeon needs a good feed.

6th February 2018

With seven of us and the “Feature Game”, Ave Caesar, only playing six, we started the evening with a small problem.  The general consensus was that the game is more fun with more people, so splitting into two small groups didn’t feel right.  Blue offered to sit out as she was still eating, as did Burgundy and almost everyone else as well, but in the end, Purple and Black teamed up so we could all play together.  An older family game dating from 1989, Ave Caesar is also a fairly simple game.  The idea is that each player has a deck of movement cards, a chariot, and a coin, and the aim of the game is to be the first player to cross the line after completing three laps of the track.  On the way round each player must pay tribute to Caesar on the way by pulling up in front of the Emperor in his dedicated pit lane, chucking their Denarius into the game box and crying “Hail Caesar!”.

Ave Caesar
– Image by boardGOATS

There are some nasty, unforgiving little features about this game.  For example, the track is generally a maximum of two lanes wide.  Worse, players can only use each of their cards once and don’t have lot of spare moves, so the outside lane should be used sparingly otherwise they may run out of moves before they complete their final lap.  Even worse than that, each player starts with a hand of three cards and plays one, then refreshes their hand.  The snag is that players cannot jump or move through occupied spaces and must use every space on the card they play, in other words, they cannot play a five for example if there are only three spaces they can move.  These “nasty features” can make the game very frustrating, but are also the clever part as they provide the challenge.

Ave Caesar
– Image by boardGOATS

There have been several editions of the game, but the original Ravensburger is widely believed to be the best because it has slightly longer tracks which makes for a tighter game as players have fewer moves to spare.  It is well understood that the newer version that we were playing with could be improved by removing a five card from each player’s deck.  So we started sorting and counting cards, and finding a five to remove from each deck.  With this done, all those eating had also finished and Burgundy started with a modest two.  Blue was second and, with two sixes in hand felt that it was a good idea to get rid of one of them nice and early.  The problem with sixes is that you can’t play them when you are in the lead, but they can be quite difficult to play from the back as there has to be enough space in front to play them.

Ave Caesar
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy’s two proved to be a mistake as everyone else promptly overtook him and left him stuck at the back for most of the rest of the lap.  In fact, he was so stuck, that he ended up missing three turns on the first lap alone.  In contrast, Blue had broken away from the pack and was looking at lapping Burgundy, but this had its own problems as she needed to get rid of her sixes, which she couldn’t do while in the lead.  Blue went to hail Caesar on her first lap to give people a chance to catch up.  After a bit of moaning that he hated Bank-holiday traffic, Pine finally managed to break away from the log-jam and take the lead giving Blue a chance to ditch a six, and everyone else a chance to make some progress too.  Everyone else that is, except Burgundy who was doing an excellent job of bringing up the rear.

Ave Caesar
– Image by boardGOATS

During the second lap, Pine just managed to nip in and pay his dues to Caesar, while Green followed and then reduced his chariot speed to a crawl and “Hailed” three times successfully causing a queue behind.  It was the third lap where things started to get interesting though with everyone jockeying for position to try to make sure that they didn’t have to waste moves.  Blue had a bigger problem though, she was miles in front, but still had to draw her final six from the deck and then play it.  She tried hanging back, reluctant to give away the size of her problem, but that card stayed in the pack.  Finally, as she drew her last card, she found her final six, but it was too late and Team Black and Purple cantered past and pipped her to the finish.  Green trotted in taking third place and leading the rest of the pack home.  Ironically, had she not suggested removing the fives at the start of the game, Blue would have won easily, but that would have been boring.

Ave Caesar
– Image by boardGOATS

It hadn’t been Ivory’s sort of game, so to placate him we offered him Yokohama, a game he’s been angling to play since before Christmas, but there wasn’t quite enough time for that, so he went for Sagrada instead and was joined by Pine and Blue.  This is a very pretty little game with many features in common with one of our current favourites, Azul.  It has simple rules, but lots of complexity and is essentially an abstract with a very thin theme, but for some reason that doesn’t seem to matter.  In Sagrada, players build a stained glass window by building up a grid of dice on their player board. Each board has some restrictions on which colour or shade (value) of die can be placed there and players take it in turns to take dice from a pool and add them to their window.  Depending on the difficulty of the starting grid, players start with a small number of favour tokens which act as “get out of jail free” options and allow them to use special tools to rearrange some of the dice, either during “drafting”, or sometimes those already in their window.

Sagrada
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Points are awarded for fulfilling certain criteria, depicted on cards drawn at random at the start of the game.  Although completing the window can be challenging in its own right if the dice don’t roll well, it is the objective cards that are the key to the game.  Each player has their own private objective which scores for the number of pips displayed on dice of a given colour in that player’s window. There are also three public objectives which everyone can use to score points; in this case we were scoring for coloured dice diagonally adjacent; complete sets of one to six and pairs of five and six. The game starts with each player choosing a window from two double-sided cards dealt at random.  The hard ones come with a lot of favour tokens; this time almost all the options available seemed to be the difficult ones, which made Blue especially wary given the dogs’ breakfast she made of the game at New Year playing a challenging window.

Sagrada
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Everyone seemed to go for different strategies this time.  Blue went for the public “diagonals” goal, making a pretty Battenburg pattern, but only managed to get one five, so struggled with the other objectives.  In contrast, Ivory did well getting pairs of five and six, but only got one three, so couldn’t score so well for the sets.  Pine completely ignored the diagonals and really concentrated on his private goal and getting complete sets of one to six.  It was a really tight game and Blue and Ivory were to rue those dice they’d failed to get as Pine finished with forty-three points, just two ahead of Ivory and three clear of Blue.  Despite finishing second, Ivory was much happier with this game than Ave Caesar and was up for giving something else a go.  Pine was keen to play Animals on Board again, and it is a nice enough little game and not long so Ivory was happy to give it a go too.  The idea is that players are collecting animals to go in their cardboard ark.  Each set of animals in the game is numbered from one to five and a selection are drawn at random and placed face up in the centre of the table.

Animals on Board
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

On their turn the active player either divides one of the groups in the middle into two parts (and takes a box of fruit for their pains) or takes the animals from one of the groups, paying for them with boxes of fruit at a rate of one per animal.  At the end of the game (triggered when one player picks up their tenth animal) Noah claims any pairs of animals and the remaining animals are scored: singletons score their face value and sets of three or more score five per animal.  It was quite tight, Ivory collected four rhinos and Pine managed three hippos.  Blue brought the game to a sudden and unexpected end when she unexpectedly found herself with a large set she could take profitably, leaving her with two sets of three, foxes and zebras, and with it, the she took the game.

Animals on Board
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Meanwhile, on the neighbouring table, Black, Pink, Burgundy and Green were playing the classic, Settlers of Catan (now known simply as “Catan”).  Despite being over twenty years old now, it still holds up as a good family game in a way that some other games of the same vintage do not.  The game is played on an iconic variable tile game board on which players build settlements and cities on the nodes and roads along the edges.  One of the things that makes the game so popular is the lack of down time: a turn consists of rolling dice, trading and then buying and/or building.  Each hexagon on the board is numbered and rolling the dice gives resources to every player with a settlement on the hexagon on the number rolled.  Since each node is on the corner of three hexagons, players frequently get resources during other players’ turns.  Everyone is potentially involved in the trading of course, so the only part of anyone’s turn that is not shared is the buying and building phase, but this is usually quite short.

The Settlers of Catan
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the random layout of tiles gave an even spread, but the number tokens placed on them had an unusual symmetry:  both eights were on the mountains (giving stone), both threes were on the fields (giving wheat) and both nines were on the clay beds (giving brick).  Green started and inevitably chose the choice spot with that would give him wool, wood and clay, much to Burgundy’s chagrin. Black was last to place and decided to connect his two roads and settlements, so by the time it Green got his second turn, he had very little option and ended up with a port location which would yield only two cards to everyone rather than three.  The dice seemed to be rolling according to the predicted distribution with the red numbers (six & eight) coming up often.  This gave Burgundy a lot of stone and wood, but due to his lack of brick he quickly converted a settlement to a city which only increased his supply of stone.

– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately for him, all these extra resources counted against him as the other number to come up regularly was seven, so meaning the robber was moved and everyone had to reduce the number of resource cards they were holding to seven.  Burgundy often was higher due to his regular double productions, but to make it worse he frequently seemed to because of his own demise since he was the one who kept rolling the sevens—three times in succession at one point! With that kind of luck he really began to wonder if he should just pack it in right then and go play something else.  While Burgundy was struggling with his own security though, Purple and Green were steadily building their kingdoms. Purple gained another settlement and converted one of her others into a city. Green had spread out from his choice spot to build another settlement on the port side of the value eight mountains and in the other direction to another port with more clay, giving him the longest road, and with it two bonus points, for the moment at least.

The Settlers of Catan
– Image by boardGOATS

Black seemed to be languishing, unable to get traction and the cards he needed for expansion. Catan requires investment for growth, but he had barely two coins to rub together to invest with at all.  Once Green had built on the mountain-side the eight rolls seemed to dry up and he struggled to get enough stone or wheat to convert his settlements to cities.  Purple’s hidden development card made everyone think she had an extra hidden point, and possibly the lead. Certainly the early rolls went in her favour and it was beginning to look like this could be her game. Green’s long road brought him into the running, and the power of Burgundy’s cities meant he wasn’t far behind. The production Burgundy’s cities provided meant he was able to go after longest road and take it from Green, thus starting a little road building war between the two.

The Settlers of Catan
– Image by boardGOATS

With nowhere else on the board worth building on, Burgundy decided on an alternative strategy and started trading for development cards. He managed to place two knights and was about to take the Largest Army, until everyone else reminded him he three army cards for that. It only delayed the inevitable though, as one round later he played a third knight card, claimed the Largest Army and two points with it. He easily built two more roads and with it retook the Longest Road card for a second time simultaneously revealing he had a one point development card in his hand.  This meant he went from five points on the board to a total of ten points in one turn and with it finished the game.  Purple and Black revealed they also had a one point development card to give them both six points and joint second place.

The Settlers of Catan
– Image by boardGOATS

Both tables finished at about the same time and, as Ivory headed home, Burgundy commented that he’d like to give NMBR 9 a go.  Everyone else chimed in that they’d be happy to join him , but Pine and Purple got there first and with no set up time got started quickly.  The game is very simple: one player turns over a card and calls the number and players each take one tile of that number and add it to their tableau.  All the tiles are roughly number-shaped and each player will play a total of twenty tiles, numbered zero to nine, with each one appearing twice.  Tiles must be placed such that at least one edge touches a previous tile. Tiles can be placed on top of other tiles as long as there are no overhanging parts, and the tile sits squarely on more than one other tile. At the end of the game the number tiles are multiplied by the level they sit on minus one. So, a five on the third level scores ten points (5 x (3-1)).

NMBR 9
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Unlike a lot of games, it is very difficult to tell who is winning, as the largest scores come late in the game when adding tiles to the higher layers.  However, the lower layers must be able to  accommodate the later tiles as and when they come out, otherwise a player can’t take advantage of the opportunities they may offer.  This time Burgundy “got lucky” and was able to squeeze a seven, an eight and a nine onto his third level giving him a massive forty-eight points for them alone and a bit of a land-slide victory.  We’ve played this game a few times now as a group and all the previous games have been quite close.  Other Bingo-type game like Take it Easy!, Das Labyrinth des Pharao or Karuba, have been relatively unpopular with the group as they feel like multiplayer solitaire, but somehow, in our group, everyone gets involved helping everyone else out, which makes this game much more enjoyable.

NMBR 9
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

The other three chatted for a few minutes before deciding to play a quick game of Kingdomino as it is a game we know well and can play quickly and without committing too much thought.  It  consists of dominoes featuring two terrain “tiles” with some tiles also depicting one or more crowns.  Players are building their kingdoms by placing dominoes where one end must either connect to another domino matching at least one of its terrain types or to the starting tile (which can be considered to be “wild”).  All dominoes must fit in a five-by-five space and if one or more dominoes cannot be placed according to these rules, then they are discarded. At the end of the game, each player multiplies the number of tiles in each contiguous region of terrain with the number of crowns on the tiles in that region and adds them up together with any bonuses to give their score.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

The game was really tight with each player capitalising and building on different terrain types:  Black took forests, Green took pasture and Blue took sea.  There were three points between first and third, but it was Black who finished at the front, just one point ahead of Blue.  With three players, some tiles are removed from the game at random.  Like last time, almost all the tiles removed were  the high-scoring mountain and marshland tiles, but at least this time nobody’s game plan depended on them.  It did encourage some discussion, though with Black commenting that he didn’t like the game with three because of this uncontrolled randomness, and Blue commenting that perhaps the tiles that are taken out should be turned face up and displayed so that players can at least see what won’t be available.  Maybe a variant for another time.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome: Some games stand the test of time, others not so much.

14th November 2017

While Blue and Burgundy finished their supper, everyone else played a quick game of The Game, played with cards from The Game: Extreme.  The game is a very simple cooperative game: played with a deck of ninety-eight cards the group have to play all of them to win.  Each player starts with a hand of cards and must play at least two of their cards on one of the four piles. The first rule is that cards added to two of the piles must be higher face value than those previously played, while cards on the other two must be lower.  The second rule is “the backwards rule”, which says that if the interval is exactly ten the first rule is reversed.  The third and final rule is that players  can say anything they like so long as they don’t share specific number information about the contents of their hand.  The Extreme version has blue cards instead of red ones, but also has additional symbols on the cards which add further restrictions and make playing cards more difficult.

– Image by boardgoats

By ignoring the extra symbols the original version of The Game can be played with cards from The Extreme version.  As is often the case, the game started badly with almost everyone starting with cards between thirty and seventy.  There are two problems with this, firstly it forces players to progress the decks faster then they wanted.  Secondly, the very high and very low cards are still waiting to be revealed which causes the same problem a second time later in the game.  And this is exactly what happened.  Pine for example started with nothing below forty and only one card above sixty, and ended the game with a lots of cards in the nineties.  With such an awful hand before everyone else was ready, he ended up just playing everything and was the first to check-out.  By this time Burgundy and Blue were finished with pizza and had discovered that watching the others struggle was strangely compelling.  It wasn’t long before Purple was unable to play though, which brought the game to a close with a combined to total of seven cards unplayed.

The Game: Extreme
– Image by boardGOATS

With food finished and The Game over, the group split into two with the first group playing the “Feature Game”, Flamme Rouge.  This is a bicycle game that Blue and Pink played at Essen in 2016, but actually picked up at the fair this year.  The game is quite simple, bit even then we managed to get it slightly wrong.  The idea is that each player has two riders, a Sprinteur and a Rouleur, each of which has a deck of cards. Simultaneously, players draw four cards from one of their the rider’s deck and choosing one to play, before doing the same for their second rider.  Once everyone has chosen two cards, the riders move, starting with the rider at the front of the pack, discarding the used cards.  Once all the riders have moved, then the effect of slip-streaming and exhaustion are applied.  Exhaustion is simple enough – players simply add an exhaustion card to the deck for any rider without cyclists in the square in front of them at the end of the round.  The slip-streaming is slightly more complex, but the idea is that every pack of cyclists that has exactly one space between them and the pack in front, benefits from slip-streaming and is able to catch up that one space.

Flamme Rouge
– Image by BGG contributor mattridding

Slip-steaming is applied from the back, which means riders may be able to benefit multiple times.  The problem was, Blue had played incorrectly at Essen: they had played that a pack had to comprise at least two riders and would move forward regardless of how many spaces there were in front of them.  Ironically, the person to suffer most from this rules mishap was Blue as her Sprinteur was dropped from the pack early in the race and, although he got on to the back of the pack again, the exhaustion caused by all the early effort meant he struggled for the rest of the race and was soon dropped completely.  All the other riders managed to stay in the Peloton and, as the race drew to a close, there was some jockeying for position.  Black’s Sprinteur made a dash for the line, but got his timing very slightly wrong and didn’t quite make it.  Pine’s Sprinter on the other hand, timed his dash to perfection and pipped Black to first place.  In fact, Pine rode such a canny race, his Rouleur came in third.

Flamme Rouge
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor zombiegod

Meanwhile, on the next table, Burgundy, Purple and Green were giving Azul a go.  This is a brand new release that Pink and Blue picked up at Essen this year and played back at their hotel while they were in Germany.  It has such nice pieces and is such a clever, yet simple game, that Blue tipped it for the Spiel des Jahres award next year (or at least a nomination if something even better comes out).  The idea of the game is that players are tile laying artists decorating a wall in the Palace of Evora with “azulejos”.  On their turn, the active player can either take all the tiles of one colour from one of the factory display (putting the rest in the central market) or take all the tiles of one colour from the market in the centre of the table.  They then place the tiles in one of the five rows on their player board.

Azul
– Image by BGG contributor JackyTheRipper

Each row can only contain one colour, but players may have more than one row with any given colour.  The catch is that each player only has five rows, each with a set number of spaces, one to five.  Players can add tiles to a row later in the round, but once a row is full, any left-overs go into the negative scoring row.  Once all the tiles have been picked up, players evaluate their board, and, starting with the shortest row, one of the tiles from each full row is added to the player’s mosaic and scored. Players score one point for a tile that is not placed adjacent to any other tile, whereas tiles added to rows or columns score the same number of points as there are tiles in the completed row (or column).  The game continues with players choosing tiles from the factory displays and then adding them to rows, the catch is that as the mosaic fills up, it is harder to fill the rows as each row can only take each colour once.

Azul
– Image by BGG contributor JackyTheRipper

The game is much more complex to explain than to actually play, and as such is just the sort of game we really appreciate.  There are also end game bonuses which keep everyone guessing right up to the end.  So, although fairly simple to play, it is very clever and gives players a lot to think about.  Blue had played it with Burgundy, Black and Purple at the Didcot Games Club and everyone had enjoyed it, so Burgundy and Purple were keen to share it with Green.  The previous game had been very tight between first and second, with a tie for third, but this time, the game seemed quite tight throughout the game.  In the end, Burgundy finished the clear winner with seventy-eight points.  It remained tight for second place though, but Purple’s extra experience showed and she pipped Green by four points.  Both games finished at about the same time, so with Black, Ivory and Green keen to play 7 Wonders, and Purple and Blue not so keen, it was musical chairs while everyone else decided which group to join.

Azul
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

7 Wonders is a card drafting game similar to games like Sushi Go! or Between Two Cities.  Each player starts with a hand of cards and, simultaneously, each player chooses a card to play, a card to keep and then a passes the rest to the next player. The cards are played with various different aims:  players might try to build up their city and erect an architectural wonder, or attempt to have a superior military presence to neighbouring players. The game consists of three rounds, the first and third passing cards to the left, with the middle round passing cards to the right.  Black and Green went down the military route taking points from both Ivory and Burgundy and picked up additional victory points from blue cards.  Ivory and Burgundy, on the other hand, went for science points, but Ivory managed to take the most squeezing out both Burgundy and Black.  It was a close game with just five points between first place and third place, but it was Green who just finished in front.

7 Wonders
– Image by BGG contributor damnpixel

On the next table, Blue, Purple and Pine played a game of another Essen acquisition, Animals on Board.  This actually belonged to Pink, but Blue still had it in the bag from Didcot Games Club a few days before.  It is a very simple game of set collecting, with elements from Coloretto and 3 Sind Eine Zu Viel!.  Totally over produced, the game comes with fantastic cardboard arcs and thick card animal tiles.  There are five of each animal, and each set includes animals numbered from one to five and a selection are drawn at random and placed face up in the centre of the table.  On their turn the active player either divides one of the groups into two parts (and takes a box of fruit for their pains) or takes the animals from one of the groups, paying for them with boxes of fruit at a rate of one per animal.  At the end of the game (triggered when one player picks up their tenth animal) Noah claims any pairs of animals.  The remaining animals either score their face value if they are singletons, or score five if there are three or more.

Animals on Board
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor chriswray84

Blue began collecting pandas and zebras, while Purple and Pine fought over the tigers, foxes and crocodiles.  It was Blue who triggered the end of the game and everyone counted up their totals in whst turned out to be a very close game.  Everyone had at least one set of three and Purple had managed to take four foxes.  Blue had managed to pick up a total of eleven animals and that extra critter made the difference giving, her the win.  Since it had been so close and 7 Wonders was still going, they decided there was just enough time to play something else and see if revenge could be had.  Since NMBR 9, another game that came back from Essen, needs no setting up, they decided to give it a go.

NMBR 9
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

NMBR 9 is a Bingo-type game like Take it Easy! or Karuba, where  one player calls a number and everyone plays their tile that corresponds to that number.  NMBR 9 takes the number theme one step further, since all the tiles are roughly number-shaped.  The idea is that players will play a total of twenty tiles, numbered zero to nine, with each one appearing twice.  One player turns over a card and calls the number and players each take one tile of that number and add it to their tableau.  Tiles must be placed such that at least one edge touches a previous tile.  Tiles can be placed on top of other tiles as long as there are no overhanging parts, and the tile sits squarely on more than one other tile.  At the end of the game the number tiles are multiplied by the level they sit on minus one.  So, a five on the third level scores ten points (5 x (3-1)).

NMBR 9
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Blue started off well, which was unsurprising as she had played it before with Pink.  She quickly got herself into a bit of a tangle though, with the plaintive cry, “I’ve got a hole in the wrong place!”  Pine was steadily making up ground, but concurred, muttering, “There are too many sticky out bits on a four…”  With 7 Wonders finally coming to an end, Black and Burgundy found their curiosity piqued by the strange shaped tiles and tried to work out what was going on.  It wasn’t long before the last cards were turned over though and everyone had to take their shoes and socks off to work out the scores.  Pine’s smart second level placement had yielded success and he finished with score of sixty-one, a comfortable lead of five over blue in second place.

NMBR 9
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Learning Outcome:  Some games, make surprisingly good spectator sports.