Tag Archives: Terraforming Mars

26th July 2022

Blue and Pink were first to arrive and were just finishing their supper when Ivory joined them soon followed by Pine.  Ivory and Pink were keen to play Ark Nova which is longer than our usual fare and therefore needed a quick and early start.  So, when Black and Purple arrived, they grabbed Black and headed over to the other side of the room.  Everyone else conformed to more typical hesitant behaviour and were a lot slower to get going.  This wasn’t helped by Blue who was explaining how Pink had managed to find the “Only Panda Themed Village in Cornwall” and when Lemon and Orange queried it, she felt the need to find the photos to prove it.

The Lanivet Inn
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, the group split into two with Purple, Blue, Pine and Teal playing the “Feature Game“, the Spiel des Jahres nominee, SCOUT.  Although this has a nominal and very tenuous “circus theme”, it really is well hidden and “pasted on” to what is otherwise a relatively traditional, though clever little Rummy-esque card game with a Bohnanza-type twist—players cannot change the order of the cards in their hand.  The idea is that players have a hand of cards and on their turn takes an action:  they play a run or a meld (set of cards of the same value à la Rummy), or take a card from the active set (the previously played set).  The first of these actions is called “Show” and players can only Show the set they want to play beats the previously played set (called the Active Set).  A set wins if it has more cards or the same number, but a higher value, and a meld always beats a run.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

When Showing, the cards played must be consecutive in the player’s hand, so a player can, for example, take a four, five and six from the beginning, middle or end of their hand.  It must beat the current Active Set, and it then becomes the new Active Set with the old one turned face down and added to its owner’s scoring pile.  In this way, the quality of the the Active Set is ever increasing—this mechanism makes SCOUT a ladder-climbing game, of which Tichu and Haggis are probably the best known.  The problem is that of course it will become progressively difficult to play cards (especially with the consecutive constraint), so players can also use the Scout action and take a card from the Active Set, for which it’s owner gets a Scout token as a reward.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

When Scouting, players can only take a card from the end of the Active Set, ensuring that runs retain their integrity and just become shorter and maybe of lower value.  A card that has been Scouted goes into the player’s hand, anywhere they like, so they can use this to connect two cards in a run, or enhance an already existing meld for example.  The really clever part of the game is that the cards have two values, and which value they take depends on which way up the cards are.  This is clever because it adds just enough flexibility to make the game work, while not making things trivial.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of the game, players are dealt a hand of cards and choose which way up the hand goes—not the individual cards, the whole hand.  From this point on, the hand stays the same way up, but when cards are added to a player’s hand (and only then), the added card can be rotated.  The game ends when either, one player runs out of cards, or when it gets to a player’s turn and they were the last person to Show.  In addition to Scout and Show, once during the game, players can also “Scout & Show” which is often used to bring about or prevent the game coming to an end.  Players then add up the number of scoring cards and tokens and subtract the number of cards in the their hand and the player with the most is the winner.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is one of those games that is a bit odd to understand at first, so Purple (who started), began tentatively, but it wasn’t long before people were Scouting and Showing happily.  There was a bit of confusion when it came to Teal’s turn and he Scouted one of his own cards—a rules check didn’t answer the question of whether he should get a token (we called them Cadbury’s Chocolate Bars because of their colour) or not, so we decided not.  It was only later that we realised that of course players could not Scout from their own set, as a round of Scouting triggers the end of the game.  Pine was the clear winner with fourteen points, more than twice Blue in second, and in spite of forgetting he could Scout & Show which would have given him victory earlier.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

The game can be played in campaign mode where players get scoring tokens and add up the total after several rounds, however, we tend to prefer to play games like this as single, short, one-off games.  And this time, everyone wanted to “do a Lime” and give it a second go now they understood what they were doing.  It was about this time that Pine checked his phone for the first time and reported that the England versus Sweden semi-final in the Women’s European football championships was goalless, but that “Sweden were playing well”.  There was a general slightly pessimistic noise around the table and Teal began the second round.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

A cheer from the bar prompted Pine to check his phone again and everyone relaxed a little when he reported that England had scored their first goal.  This second game of SCOUT was much closer than the first with scores of eleven, twelve, thirteen and fourteen, with Blue the victor, just ahead of Teal.  It had been a lot of fun and everyone really appreciated the cleverness of such a simple little game and found it had really grown on them from the two rounds they’d played.  There were other games people fancied playing, however, so the group moved on to Trek 12: Himalaya, a Roll and Write game we first enjoyed playing a few months ago and was given a “Recommendation” by the Spiel des Jahres Award committee.

Trek 12: Himalaya
– Image by boardGOATS

Trek 12 is similar to On Tour which we played several times online, but is a little more complex.  In On Tour, two d10 dice are rolled and players combine them to make a two digit number, so a five and a four can be combined to make a forty-five and a fifty-four, one of which is then written in a location on the map.  Locations are connected by “roads” and players are aiming to make the longest continuous route of numbers that only increase.  Trek 12 does something similar in that two dice are rolled and the numbers combined to give one, but as the sum, difference, or product, alternatively players may choose one single die (either the larger or the smaller).

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

The catch is that each of these operations can only be used just four times each during the game.  The resultant number is then written on the map, but the theme is trekking so chains of ascending or descending numbers represent ropes while groups of the same number represent camps.  Another difference is that in On Tour player can write their numbers anywhere on their map, whereas in Trek 12 numbers have to be added next each other.  This means that it is advisable to start in the centre and work out, advice that Pink eschewed at his cost last time we played.  Scoring is more complex as well, since players score for the highest value in each rope/camp plus one for each other number in the rope/camp with bonuses for the longest rope/largest camp and negative points for any isolated numbers.

Trek 12: Himalaya
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the group  used the Kagkot map, rather than the Dunai map used last time.  Teal, Purple and Pine all started at much the same place putting a five in the middle, but from there things quickly diverged despite the plague of fives that were rolled.  Blue decided to do something different and started with a zero in the middle.  Everyone got themselves into a bit of a tangle, but Purple struggled the most.  Part of the reason might have been distraction caused by the updates on the football as, during the second half of the match, there was a second goal, then a third.  Everyone was still digesting the third which was described as “Outrageous” when a fourth went in just eight minutes later to leave the final score four-nil to England.

Trek 12: Himalaya
– Image by boardGOATS

Teal gambled on getting the high dice rolls he wanted, and jammily got them.  However, the game was won by Blue who put together lots and lots of very short ropes and small camps to give her high base scores, with one long rope to give a decent bonus and a final total just above the target set for the map in campaign mode.  While all this was going on, Lilac and Green were introducing Orange and Lemon to Carcassonne, an older, now classic Euro game that won the Spiel des Jahres award over twenty years ago.  The game is perhaps one of the best known tile-laying games and was the inspiration for the term “Meeple“.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, players draw a tile and add it to the central map.  The tiles feature some combination of Roads, Cloisters, City and Fields.  Once the tile has been placed, the player can then add a single Meeple from their supply to the tile placing it on one of the features so it becomes a Thief, Monk, Knight or Farmer (respectively).  Finally, any features that are completed are scored and the players gets their Meeples back.  In this context, completed means Roads that end with a junction at both ends, Cloisters that are completely surrounded by other tiles, and Cities without gaps where the wall is closed).  Fields or Farms are only scored at the end of the game.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

In this way, players score one point for each tile in a completed Road, nine points for a completed Cloister and two points for each tile in a completed city (plus two for any Pennants).  Although players can’t add a Meeple to a feature that is already occupied, it is possible to end up with shared features.  This happens when two separately owned Roads (say) are joined together.  In this situation, the player with the most Meeples scores the points, or, if there is a tie, both players get the points.  And this is really the crux of the game—players can play nicely or nastily, working together to build big Cities, or muscling in and stealing them from other players just before they score, or even playing tiles to make Features difficult to complete.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, Farms and any still incomplete Features are scored (though they only give only one point for each tile and Pennant in a city and one point for each tile in a Cloister array).  A Farm is a continuous Field, i.e. a green space that a Meeple could “walk” around that might be bordered by Roads, City walls, River or the edge of the map.  Each Farm then scores three points for each City that it “feeds”, i.e. that borders the Farm.  Since Farms can be very high scoring, early Farmers in the right place can be very valuable as they mean other players have to work hard to join fields together if they want to share the points.  On the other hand, an early farmer can be cut off and left scoring very few points.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Additionally, since they are not recovered during the game, Farmers placed early are not scoring points during the game, so part of the skill of the game is timing when to place Farmers to maximise their value.  Scores are kept on a track, and the player with the most points at the end is the winner.  This time, although there were a number of expansions available, with Lemon and Orange were new to the game, the group only added the River expansion, which consists of a small number of tiles played at the start and helps to prevent the formation of one massive Field.  Lilac explained the rules: although it is mostly a simple game, the Farmers always cause a little confusion, in particular where the edges of the Fields were and how you might end up with more than one Farmer in a field.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Lilac placed the second river tile and with little other option available to her placed the first Farmer.  For the next few turns of placing River tiles, the question of when another player could place a farmer was often repeated, until Orange was able to get one with a road and bridge tile.  The River started running along the length of the table, expecting the board to develop more in the that direction than to the edges of the table. Unfortunately, fairly early on the river shifted sideways and the whole board developed across the table rather than along, so they had to shift the tiles a couple of times to make room (this was not meant to be the Discworld!).

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Lilac took an early commanding lead on the score board, with Orange next to start scoring. It seemed to take ages before Lemon got her first points and even longer for Green to get going.  However, Lilac’s lead soon disappeared as Green, Lemon and Orange shared the points for one enormous city—they thought they would never complete it, but with three people after one particular tile, it was almost inevitable really.  Lilac meanwhile was after the single bend road tile to complete a roundabout with her Meeple on it.  Everyone else got that tile, everyone except Lilac of course.  It looked like it would never happen, but in the dying moments of the game, she finally got the tile she needed. It was only worth four points, but it gave her a spare Meeple.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

With the Farmers now understood, with his last tile, Orange was able to complete a City and then place a Meeple on the field part of that tile to be sole farmer for one complete city. It was only three points, but more than the couple he could have scored by using the tile to complete a Road. Having spotted this useful use of a final Meeple, Lemon and then Lilac both did the same.  In the mêlée of farmers, Orange came out on top, managing to knock out Lilac’s and Green’s farmers, and Lemon scored a few too.  The end result was a victory for Orange, a close second for Lemon, with the veterans of Green and Lilac well behind.  Perhaps they did not play quite as aggressively as they could have done, but mostly they just didn’t get the right tiles and were simply out-played.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, Black, Pink and Ivory were playing Ark Nova, but as it was showing no sign of finishing soon, with both Carcassonne and Trek 12 finished, the two groups had a decision to make:  play two games (maybe with a quick game of Musical Chairs first) or play one large game.  Las Vegas was suggested as a possible large game (it plays eight with the Boulevard Expansion), and Living Forest (winner of the Kennerspiel des Jahres this year) was an option if breaking into two groups.  Time marched on, and nobody in the group is very good at decision making and before long it was too late to play Living Forest and Las Vegas can take a while to play.  So in the end, the group decided to introduce Orange and Lemon to an old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Although 6 Nimmt! didn’t win the Spiel des Jahres Award, we certainly think it should have done; it did get a recommendation from the Jury though and of course it won the Golden GOAT in 2020 (a very difficult year for everyone).  Teal had to play taxi for his family, so headed off leaving seven to play.  The game is very simple:  players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and play it face down in front of them.  Once everyone has chosen a card, the cards are revealed and played in order from lowest to highest.  The cards are added to one of the four rows on the table—they are added to the row that ends with the highest number that is lower than the card itself.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

If the card added would have been the sixth card, instead the player takes the cards in the row and their card becomes the start of the new row.  If the card is lower than all the cards at the end of the rows, instead the player chooses a row and their card replaces that row.  At the end of the game, players sum the total of Bull’s heads or “Nimmts” shown on the cards in their scoring pile and the player with the least is the winner.  There are a hundred and four cards in the deck, and we play a variant where the game is played over two rounds, each with half the cards.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The delicious thing about 6 Nimmt! is that everyone feels that they are in control, until the moment when they aren’t.  Some people argue that it is a random game, but as the same players (like Burgundy) often seem to do well, it can’t be.  That said, and it is especially true for those that often do well (like Burgundy), when it goes wrong it can go catastrophically and spectacularly wrong.  As a result the suspense is murder and the game is loads of fun yet never seems to outstay its welcome.  Orange quickly got to grips with it and clearly quickly appreciated the jeopardy.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time we played without the “Professional Variant” that had become so popular online, partly because it would not be fair on the people new to it, but mostly because everyone was tired and nobody was up to the mathematical gymnastics it required.  This time the first round was unusual, because everyone had similar scores.  Usually, at least one player manages to keep a clean or cleanish sheet and at least one player picks up lots of pretty coloured cards, but the range of scores at half way were between seven and thirteen.  That meant it was all to play for in the second half.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The second half was a little more varied with Green only collecting four Nimmts and Blue and Lilac collecting sixteen, but the net effect largely offset the differences in the first round.  Blue top-scored with twenty-seven, Pine was just behind with twenty-six and Lilac after him with twenty-three (she really is going to have to try harder if she is going to compete with the really high scorers).  The winner though was Purple with fifteen, one Nimmt less than the runner up, Green, in what had been a tight game, but a lot of fun, as always.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Ark Nova was still on-going, so Orange, Lemon and Lilac killed a few minutes with a quick round of Dobble.  This Snap-a-Like game is simple, but a lot of fun.  This time, players started with a single card and called a match with the central pile and grabbed a card.  Despite playing in English which is not his first language, Orange is remarkably good at this game, taking twenty-two cards, beating Lemon into second place.  From there, that side of the room just deteriorated into random chatter about random pub-type things (including the Voice of Jack and the demise of Frosts at Millets) as people ran out of steam and waited for Ark Nova to finish.

Dobble
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time, Black, Pink and Ivory were rapidly running out of time as last orders had been called some time ago.  Ark Nova is a much longer game than we usually play with an advertised playing time of upwards of two hours and reputedly considerably more with inexperienced players and setup time included.  It is all about planning and designing a modern, scientifically managed zoo—when this was first mentioned at the start of the evening, Pine looked all interested in the theme, but was quickly put off when Ivory added it was “a bit like Terraforming Mars with animals”.  That said, although it is quite complex, functionally it is not difficult to play on a turn by turn basis, though there is quite a lot to manage and keep a track of.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, players take one of six possible actions:  activating one of the five action cards (Cards, Build, Animals, Association and Sponsor) with a strength equal to the number above the card, or move a card back to the first space and take a cross token instead.  When activating a card players perform the action based on its power level.  The power level is dictated by its position in the row, with the level one power to the left and the level five to the right.  Once a card has been played, it is moved the first space in the player’s five card row (i.e.to the lowest power position on the left) moving the other cards to the right to replace the card removed, effectively incrementing their power by one.  During the game, players can upgrade and turn over the action cards to a more powerful second side using various bonuses.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

The Cards action is the simplest action, which lets players draw cards from the deck (the number depending on strength) then advance the marker two spaces along the break track which defines when the round ends.  The Build action allows players to pay to construct one building on their zoo map.  Players can build basic enclosures with a size of one to five, but they can also build a petting zoo for animal storage or pavilions and kiosks (which give players appeal and money respectively based on adjacent filled enclosures).  With the upgraded build action, players can build multiple different buildings and have access to the large bird aviary and reptile house which allow the storage of multiple animals.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

There’s no point of having enclosures without animals, and that’s where the animals action comes in:  it allows players to add animals into enclosures in their zoo. Some animals have a special requirement and need a symbol in their tableau and/or the upgraded animal card. Adding an animal to an enclosure has a cost, and then the player turns over the empty enclosure of at least the size needed or places the listed cubes into a special enclosure (an aviary or a reptile house).  The player then adds the animal card to their tableau and resolves the abilities on it and receives ticket sales along with possibly conservation points and reputation.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

The association action allows players to take one task on the association board with different tasks available based on their power level.  This allows people to gain reputation points, acquire a partner zoo they don’t already own, gain a partner university, or support a conservation.  Finally the sponsor action allows players to play exactly one sponsor from their hand which offer ongoing abilities.  They can allow players to place unique tiles in their zoo and offer end game conservation point opportunities. Some Sponsor cards have conditions on their play similar to the animal cards.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

Players take it in turns to take actions, resetting every time a break occurs, until the end game has been triggered.  There are two tracks, Appeal (Tickets) and Conservation that follow the same course, but in opposite directions.  The game end is triggered when one player’s pair of scoring markers cross, after which, everyone gets one more turn and then the end-game cards are scored.  The player with the largest overlap between their Conservation and Appeal values is the winner.  A player’s tokens can meet and pass at any point, but Conservation points are much harder to get than Appeal, so to compensate, each step on the early part of the Conservation track is equivalent to two Tickets on the Appeal track, while each Conservation step is worth three Tickets.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink started hard and fast with a simple animal strategy concentrating on upgrading his action cards to get the more powerful actions and getting extra workers.  In contrast, Ivory and Black started a little slower and focused on getting larger (Size five) pens, like the reptile house and the aviary.  These are more difficult to get, but are also more valuable.  Ivory then added a Stork and a Condor, while Black collected a Horse and engaged the services of a European Hobbit-like Expert.  The game was about half-way through when the other table heard a howl of delight from all three of them:  The Panda card had come out.  From this point forward, Pink’s primary aim was to get the Panda and find it a nice, cosy, bamboo-filled space in his zoo where he could love it and hug it at leisure.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Pink got a lot of Tickets early, his Conservation was very low which made him look like he wasn’t a threat.  Maybe Ivory and Black took their eye off him because of this, as they seemed surprised when Pink suddenly got ten Conservation points very quickly using the Association action which triggered the end of the game quite abruptly.  In a similar way to the recent game of Viticulture where Teal did the same thing, this meant everyone else had to make the best of things.  It was probably for the best, however, as by this time it was a real race against the clock.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end game scoring, Ivory also managed to get his Appeal and Conservation pieces to cross over, but Black was less fortunate finishing with a negative score.  It was close between Pink and Ivory, but Ivory scored more in the end-game scoring and took victory by a single point.  Even though it finished in a bit of a rush, they had all really enjoyed the game; Black commented that rather than being like Terraforming Mars, to him it felt more like Wingspan, which was probably just as well as he’s not very fond of Terraforming Mars.   As they rushed to pack the game away, Pink gave his Panda one last hug before putting him back in the box and going home.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Pink Likes Pandas.

5th April 2022

Blue and Pink arrived first and, while they were waiting for their dinner, squeezed in a quick game of Abandon all Artichokes (with the Rhubarb Promo).  This is a very quick “deck shredding” game, where players are trying to get to the point where they draw a hand that contains no Artichoke cards.  The game is really simple:  on their turn the active player takes a card from the face up market, adds it to their hand and then plays as many cards as they can before they discard the rest and draw five new cards.  If this new hand contains no Artichoke cards, the player wins.  Despite its simplicity, Pink kept saying he was confused, so given it was such a short game, it was no surprise that Blue won, and just in time too, as their pizzas turned up.

Abandon All Artichokes
– Image by boardGOATS

They were just finishing eating when Purple and Black arrived, then Pine popped in to personally deliver his apologies, before Green, Ivory and Teal joined the party.  The “Feature Game” was the Prelude expansion for Terraforming Mars, which was last played in the group a little over two years ago.  Ivory shared his memories of that game which he felt he had been doing very nicely in thank-you until Burgundy chucked a meteorite in his direction and left him scrabbling for points at end of the game.  That game had been played with the Hellas map from the Hellas & Elysium expansion, this time though, for the first try with the Prelude expansion, the group decided that maybe it would be quicker just to stick with the one new change.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

In Terraforming Mars, each person takes the role of a giant corporation initiating projects to make Mars habitable by raising the temperature, increasing the oxygen level, and expanding the ocean coverage.  The game is card driven and at the start of each round, players draw four cards, keeping as many as they like, but paying 3M€ per card. Players then take it in turns to take one or two actions from seven available: play a card; use a Standard Project; use an Action Card; convert eight plants into a greenery tile and raise the Oxygen Level; use eight Heat to raise the Temperature; claim a Milestone, and fund an Award.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the round, players simultaneously produce, turning any energy into heat, taking finance according to the combined total of their Terraforming Rating and their M€ production level, and finally receiving all other resources according to their production levels.  The game ends once all three Global Parameters are met: all of the Ocean Tiles have been placed, the Temperature has reached 8°C, and the Oxygen Level is at 14%. Teal, Ivory and Green all knew the game reasonably well so really only needed to discuss the integration of the Prelude expansion.  This provides Prelude corporation cards that jump start the terraforming process or boost the players’ corporation engines.  During setup, as well as corporation cards and their starting hand, players are dealt four Prelude cards, of which they keep two.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

The group decided to not use the advanced cards as they wanted to go home before midnight, so during set up players were dealt one base game corporation card and one corporation card from the new ones that come with the Prelude expansion.  Teal went with the Prelude Cheung Shing, which gave him 3M€ production extra and a 2M€ discount on all building tag cards.  Green wanted to use the Prelude Corporation Card no matter what it was and ended up with Vitor. This would give him 3M€ back for every card that he played with positive points. He also had to fund an award for free as his first turn.  Ivory had chosen Saturn Systems and all his other cards round that.  It was only as they were about to mark out their starting benefits that he realised it was from the Advanced deck.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

Rather than force Ivory to take his other card, the group gave him another two cards to choose from and this time he selected The Miners Guild, which gave him an extra steel production and five steel at the start of the game. Every time he gained a steel or titanium through building on Mars, his steel production would increase by another one too.  Although it was a good project, it did not fully suit the other cards he had selected, so Ivory started with something of a handicap.  If anyone in the group can cope with a handicap, it is Ivory however, as he regularly wins these more complex games.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

The trio then went round the table revealing their chosen Prelude Cards that give players that extra kickstart.  Ivory chose Aquifer Turbines (an Ocean tile, two Energy production and -3M€) and Mohole (three Heat resources and three Heat production). Teal went for Umni Contractor (three Terraforming Steps and extra project card) and the Allied Bank (3M€ and 4M€ production).  Green chose Dome Farming (2M€ production and one Plant production) and Society Support (-1M€ production, one Energy, one Greenery and one Heat production).  At the start Teal went straight for city building with a Standard Project, while Green and Ivory were a little more traditional with paying for project cards.

Terraforming Mars: Prelude
– Image by boardGOATS

Generation One was short and Generation Two was equally as short as Teal bought a second city, which prompted Ivory to also build a Standard Project city in Generation Three.  Teal had placed his cities in a convenient triangle to maximise points from greenery tiles when they got laid, but later in the game (before all those forests could be planted), Ivory played the Urbanisation project and built another city right in the middle of Teal’s carefully constructed plan!  Despite this, it was only towards the latter part of the game did it become clearer who’s strategy was working out and who’s wasn’t.

Terraforming Mars: Prelude
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory had been embracing his “inner Burgundy” and grumbled that he wasn’t getting any Green tag cards, yet Teal seemed to be building nothing but Green tag projects. Green joined the grumble adding that although he’d had some good ones at the beginning with microbe actions, these just weren’t fulfilling their purpose due to the lack of Green tags in his hand.  Black commented from the next table that was why he felt that Terraforming Mars really needs to be played with the drafting variant, where hands are drafted at the start of each turn.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

The group had chosen not to do this as it strongly favours more experienced players.  As Teal felt he was relatively new to the game having only played the electronic version against AI opponents on Board Game Arena, he did not want to add in extra complexity.  Black certainly had a point though and it is something to consider for next time.  With all the cards laid out, Teal commented how it was quite different from the electronic version. Seeing everyone’s cards grow gave an element of satisfaction and wonder that was missing from the computer version—even the wobbling and waving Mars on the computer didn’t make up for it.

Terraforming Mars: Prelude
– Image by boardGOATS

As for the terraforming of Mars itself, the group completed the Oceans fairly quickly and Oxygen levels also rose at a reasonable rate.  It was just so cold for most of the game though!  So, in the end, it was a race to see who could heat up the planet the most.  Throughout the game everyone all remained close on the Terraforming score track, which meant everyone had all equally contributed to the improvement of Mars and the game would be won or lost in the bonus points.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

The award for most Award points went to Ivory, as he came top in two of them.  There was a debate regarding the Award Green had funded at the beginning (Scientist). Green had won clearly with four science tags, but both Teal and Ivory had none.  The question was whether they should they score nothing because they hadn’t achieved anything, or whether they should get a second place tie (and as ties are friendly in this game, both would get the points).  Ivory managed to find a thread on Board Game Geek which resolved the issue:  the designer himself stated that second place is second place, even if nothing was done to achieve it.  So Green scored five, while Teal and Ivory both got two, and the free Award from the Prelude Corporation card, Vitor, scored Green a grand total of three points!

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

Teal managed to get two of Achievements and Ivory got the third with just points for the map left (one point for each forest and for each forest tile adjacent to a players city).  Teal’s early planning came good here, as he scored eighteen points in total, while Green and Ivory took only twelve and ten respectively.  Green had been playing those bonus point projects to good effect, but although he got nine points from them, Ivory and Teal still managed five and four each.  Adding everything up, Teal was the master Terraformer with a massive seventy-four points, eight ahead of Ivory in second—who knows what his score might have been without that starting handicap.

Terraforming Mars: Prelude
– Image by boardGOATS

There are several members of the group who aren’t so keen on Terraforming Mars and others who felt it would be too taxing on a night when their brain felt a bit fried.  So those members of the group looked around for something more relaxing to play.  Lime had said he would be there, and although he was unusually late, Black, Purple, Pink and Blue decided to play a quick game of Coloretto in case he had been delayed by traffic or other unforeseen circumstances. Coloretto is a super-simple, but clever little game that we’ve played a lot, so needs little explanation: on their turn players either draw a card from the deck and add it to a truck, or take a truck and add the coloured cards to their collection. The largest three sets of chameleon cards score positively, while the other score negatively.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Despite having played Coloretto lots of times, we still needed to check what the Golden Joker did and how it differed from the normal multicoloured Joker. This led to a brief hiatus while Pink tried to read the minuscule text in the English Rules and Blue tried to translate from the original German rules. The conclusion verified later was that it acted as a Joker, but the player who took it also got an extra card drawn from the top of the deck—this could be a good or a bad thing depending on how lucky they were. This time, Pink was ultimately the either the luckiest or perhaps the best player (the line is a fine one), with Blue the best of the rest—just.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

The foursome were just looking round for something else to play when Lime walked in wearing a suit having come straight from Reading.  His arrival altered the options as the foursome became five.  In the end, Pink persuaded everyone to play Modern Art as he was keen to play something that would make use of the recently rehoused coins he and Blue had brought back from Essen last time they went (now quite a while ago).  Modern Art is a much older game, dating from 1992, but it had been out of print for a while and we only played within the group for the first time a few months ago.  That had been a remarkably enjoyable experience though, and it definitely deserved a second outing.

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is simple enough to play, but difficult to play well.  The idea is that players take it in turns to auction off one of the Art cards from their hand:  if another player wins, the auctioneer gets the money, if the auctioneer wins, they pay the bank.  At the end of the round, the Art is evaluated according to the artist by determining who has the most artwork in players’ collections, with the most being the most sought-after and therefore the most valuable.  Players then sell these to the bank for the determined amount which gives them money to spend in the next round.

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part (which is also the part that messes with people’s heads) is that in any given round, only Art by the three most popular artists is worth any money, however, the value depends on both the popularity in the current round and any previous rounds.  Thus, a painting might be worth £120,000 if it is by the most popular artist in all four rounds, but would be worthless if that artist was the fourth most popular in the final round.  As all the art is available for play, this is a potentially deterministic problem, however, players can try to control the game by avoiding playing some cards.

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

After a strong first round, Blue began the second round well.  She took a couple of early, cheap Kaminskis followed by auctioning a couple of Kaminskis of her own.  This worked well, except that she didn’t have a fifth to trigger the end of the round and ensure they scored.  As Kaminski is the weakest artist in the tie-break and nobody else seemed keen to help her, she did not make the expected profit. Consequently, she went from having “cash to burn” to struggling, a problem exacerbated by a large winning bid on a Mondrian that didn’t come off.  Meanwhile, everyone else was making money from Blue’s mistakes.

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to the unusual money allocation, different pieces of Art are auctioned in different ways:  some are sealed bids, while others are once round or highest bidder and others use a “double auction” where players sell two pieces at the same time.  The double auctions are curious affairs as, if the active player only has one artwork by the given artist (or chooses not to sell a second), they forfeit their turn as auctioneer and play skips on until another player takes up the mantle, selling one of their own together with the original piece.  This has several consequences: firstly, the new auctioneer takes all the profit, and secondly, any players between the first and second auctioneer miss a turn.

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

This happened a couple of times as the group played out most rounds to the near maximum, especially as the game wore on—the final round had four Hicks, Ivorys and Okamotos before it came to an end meaning the tie breaker determined which would score.  It is an odd game and, not helped by a bit of “group think”, it was also quite a long game this time, though enjoyable, especially as it wasn’t obvious who was winning.  Black was obviously doing well, but then Lime also made a couple of good sales.  It was Pink, however who navigated the notoriously fickle art market most successfully though, finishing with £428,000, £26,000 more than Purple who took a strong second.

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Mars has a Marmite Factor.

22nd December 2020 (Online)

For our last meeting before Christmas, we usually meet for food and have special Christmas Crackers. This year, this wasn’t possible of course, so instead of crackers everyone had a Box of Delights to be opened simultaneously at 8pm (similar to the Birthday Boxes we’d had in October).  The boxes included a range of chocolates and sweets, home-made gingerbread meeples, a miniature cracker, a meeple magnet, and a selection of dice and other goodies.

2020 Christmas Gingerbread Meeples
– Image by boardGOATS

With several little people attending, we decided to play something straight-forward first, so we began the evening with Second Chance.  This is a very simple Tetris-style game game that we’ve played a few times this year.  Players choose one of two cards depicting shapes and draw them in their grid.  If a player cannot draw either shape, another card is revealed and if they are unable to draw that one as well, they are eliminated.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the rules had been explained and everyone had been given their unique starting shape, the group settled down with their colouring pens and pencils and concentrated on trying to fill their grid.  Pink was the first one to take a second chance card, and when he couldn’t place that shape either he was the first to be eliminated and took his bonus space.  The winner is the player with the fewest empty spaces, so while being first out is not a guarantee of anything, obviously players who stay in the longest are likely to do better.  And it was a long time before anyone else was eliminated.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

As people gradually found their space was increasingly limited, there were the usual pleas for something nice, which became more desperate as people needed second chances.  Then there was jealousy as players like Pine were eliminated with outrageously large shapes while others, like Little Lime, stayed in when they got the much coveted small pieces.  Meanwhile, everyone else concentrated on beautifying their art with Christmas colours and embellishments.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, Purple, Pine, Burgundy, Blue and lastly Green were also eliminated leaving just five when the game came to an end because the deck ran out.  Then it was just the scores.  Most people did really well, though some, not quite so much.  More than half finished with single digits though, including excellent performances from Little Lime and Little Green.  There was some beautiful artwork from Lilac (as usual), but festive offerings from Green, Purple and Black too.  There was a three-way tie for second place between Black, Blue and Green.  On his own with only one single empty space though, was Ivory.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

With the first game over, we moved on to discussing the important matter of the GOAT Awards.  Every year, we give the Golden GOAT to our favourite game played during the year and the GOAT Poo award to our least favourite game.  Last year, Wingspan won the Golden GOAT Award and 7 Wonders took the GOAT Poo Prize.  This year, the unanimous winner of the GOAT Poo was Covid and its effect on 2020—nobody could deny that Covid was definitely the worst thing to happen to games night this year.  As Covid wasn’t a game, Camel Up took the award on a tie break from Terraforming Mars and Welcome To….

Camel Up
– Image by boardGOATS

Terraforming Mars just missed out on the GOAT Poo prize, but in coming fourth in the Golden GOAT competition, won the unofficial “Marmite award”, for the most divisive game.  Kingdomino and and last year’s winner Wingspan both made the podium for the Golden GOAT, but controversially, the winner was 6 Nimmt!.  The controversy wasn’t caused by the worthiness of the game, just that Blue ensured it’s emphatic win by placing all four of her votes in its favour.

Golden GOAT - 2020
– Image by boardGOATS

Although 6 Nimmt! is an old game, we’ve played it at the end of almost every meeting on Board Game Arena since March.  In a year with little smile about, it has given us more fun and entertainment than almost all of the other games put together and was responsible for moment of the year.  That was back in May, when Lime joined a game of 6 Nimmt! with a bunch of Frenchmen by mistake.  That is just one of many memorable moments we’ve had with 6 Nimmt! this year though.  Furthermore, since we discovered the new professional variant the game has gained a new lease of life, so it seemed an entirely appropriate, if strange win for a strange gaming year.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

While Pink did the count for the GOAT Awards, Blue reminded everyone of the rules for the “Feature Game” which was to be the Winter Wonderland edition of Welcome To….  The fact that Welcome To… had nearly won the GOAT Poo award was an inauspicious start, especially since the main protagonist was Pine who had struggled last time.  A lot of the ill feeling was due to the dark colour of the board for the Halloween edition which we played last time it got an outing, so the pale blue colour of the Winter Wonderland version was always going to be an improvement.

Welcome To... Halloweeen
– Image by boardGOATS

Welcome To… is one of the more complex games we’ve been playing online.  The idea is that players are developers building part of a town in 1950s USA.  Mechanistically, it is simple enough—the top card on each of three number decks is revealed and players choose one of the three numbers to play.  They mark this on one of the three streets on their player board.  The house numbers must increase from left to right and each number can only appear once in each street.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Each card is paired with the reverse of the previous card drawn from that deck, which gives a special power.  The special power can be rule breaking, enabling players to write a number a second time in a street, or give some flexibility in the number they must write.  Alternatively, the special power can directly provide players with extra points through the building of parks or swimming pools.  Finally, the special power can facilitate the achievement of extra points by enabling players to build fences separating their street into “Estates”, or increasing the number of points each “Estate” provides at the end of the game.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

Aside from the colour scheme and artwork, the main difference between the base game and the Winter Wonderland Version was the addition of fairy lights as a means to get bonus points.  These are added to to a player’s board joining any houses where the numbers are consecutive.  At the end of the game, players get one point for each house in their longest string of lights.  Additionally, the third planning card selected gave a lot of points for anyone brave enough (or perhaps daft enough) to successfully connect an entire street with lights.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

Little Lime and Lime took their leave, and Lilac and Little Green also decided to give it a miss, but that still left eight players, albeit one who was very sceptical.  Pine had nominated Welcome To… for the GOAT Poo Prize, and felt that didn’t bode well, but was prepared to give it a go.  The Plan Cards, give players points during the game as well as being a trigger for the end of the game.  As well as the street full of lights from the Winter edition, there was also one that gave points for a pair of estates (comprising three and six houses) and for players completing all six end houses.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

The game started with a lot of “Bis” cards and quite a few high and low numbers.  It wasn’t a huge surprise then, when several people completed the end of street plan.  Ivory was first to complete the estate plan and eventually, Blue who felt that the Christmas element should be accentuated, completed the fairy lights plan.  The question was, who would be first to finish all three and when, as that was the most-likely end-game trigger.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

It was towards the end that Purple commented that Black had been eliminated.  It wasn’t immediately clear what she was on about, but eventually it was apparent that one of his furry friends had decided that they wanted to be the subject of his attention and had firmly sat on his player board, very effectively obstructing play.  That cat-astrophe put paid to any successful involvement in the game by both Purple and Black, but it wasn’t long before Green announced that he’d finished all three of the Plans and was ending the game.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, everyone totalled up their scores.  Pine said that despite his scepticism, he had actually really enjoyed the game and felt he had done reasonably well and indeed was a long way from coming last.  It was very close for second place with Green just beating Burgundy into third by two points.  The clear winner, for the second time of the night, was Ivory who finished with an exceptional ninety-five points. And with that, he decided to quit while he was ahead and everyone else decided it was only appropriate that they should play the newly-crowned Golden GOAT6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

6 Nimmt! is so very simple, yet so much fun.  Players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and these are then revealed and, starting with the lowest card, added to one of the four rows.  Cards are added to the row with the highest number that is lower than the card played, i.e. the nearest lower number.  When a sixth card is added to a row, the owner takes the first five cards into their score pile, leaving the card they played as the new starting card.  The player with the fewest Bulls’ Heads at the end is the winner.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Board Game Arena implements the game with everyone starting with sixty-six points and the game ending when someone reaches zero.  It also adds a couple of other variants, the most exciting of which is the “Professional Variant”, where players can add cards to either end of the row.  Because Board Game Arena deals with all the up-keep, it makes this variant much easier to manage, and the results often come as a complete surprise.

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

The reason 6 Nimmt! won the Golden GOAT, is that in a year where there has been so much to be miserable about, this game has provided more fun than anything else.  This time, poor Burgundy went from jointly holding the lead to sixth place in just a couple of turns and threatened to beat Purple to the bottom and trigger the end of the game.  As it was, he didn’t quite make it, and left Green who had only picked up seven “nimmts” in the whole game, to win.

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

With seven players, the number of options were limited to more 6 Nimmt!, Saboteur, or something we hadn’t played before.  In the end, we went for a sort of compromise in Incan Gold which most of us knew, though we’d not played it on Board Game Arena.   This is a fairly simple “Push your Luck” game where players are exploring a temple.  Simultaneously, players decide whether they are going to stay or leave the temple.  Players who are in the temple will get shares in any treasure cards that are drawn that round.  These are divided evenly between the players and any remainders are left on the card.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

As well as fifteen treasure cards, there are also Hazard cards in the deck:  three each of five different types.  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.  Additionally, there are five Artefact cards in the deck—these can only be claimed by players leaving the temple.  Any players that leave before it collapses, keep the treasure they have collected hitherto, and take a share in any remainders left on cards. If they leave alone, they also take any artefacts, but only if they leave alone.  Having left the temple, however, they will get no more treasure in that round.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over five rounds and the winner is the player with the most treasure at the end of the game.  The game is extremely random, but can be a lot of fun with the right people.  This time it was particularly random though.  The first two cards drawn were both Hazards and the first round ending after just five cards with only Green getting out in time.  The second round was even worse with three Hazards in a row terminating the round before it had begun.  On the plus-side, having had two rounds ended by Mummies, two of the three Mummy cards were removed from the deck, making it impossible for the mummies to end another round.  There were plenty of other Hazards though…

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

The third round wasn’t much better, lasting only three cards with a second snake ending another round and only Pink taking any treasure.  The fourth round started with an Artefact, but when Burgundy, left, he was joined by Pink and Purple, so none of them were able to take it home.  Just three cards later, a second Giant Spider card brought down the temple and everyone finished with nothing (again).  The final round lasted a little longer, but two players still managed to finish the game without any treasure.

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

Purple made an early escape and grabbed a couple of gems from the floor.  Burgundy and Pink escaped shortly after and Black managed to sneak out as the Giant Spiders closed the temple for good.  As a result of the unusually large number of Hazard cards, the game was especially low scoring.  It ended in a tie between Pink and Green on ten, with Black two points behind in third.

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

With Incan Gold done, there was still time for one more game and it was only fitting to close with another game of 6 Nimmt!.  Having done so well in the last two games made Green the target this time, not that anyone really had enough control to manipulate their own position, much less target anybody else.  Pink, who had also done well in recent games, made a bit of a beeline for the bottom, and it was not much of a surprise when he triggered the end of the game.  This time, Green could only manage third, and it was a two-way tie for first place between Black and Pine (who always does well in 6 Nimmt!, and always denies it).  And with that, we brought our first online Christmas Party to a close and wished everyone a Very Merry Christmas.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  A box of sugar and exciting trinkets is ideal improving your concentration.

Golden GOAT Award Winners – 2020

Usually, just before Christmas, the boardGOATS meet for food, have a bit of a party, and decide the winners of the GOAT Awards.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible this year of course, but we still had a bit of a party online with festive treats for everyone, and chose our favourite game of the year.  As in previous years, we awarded two prizes:  the Golden GOAT for our favourite game and the “GOAT Poo” award for our least favourite.  As last year, everyone had three points to hand out for the Golden GOAT Award (plus a bonus if wearing Festive Attire), and everyone could nominate up to two individual games for the GOAT Poo Prize.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

This year, the unanimous winner of the GOAT Poo was Covid and its effect on 2020.  As this wasn’t a game though, Camel Up officially took the GOAT Poo on a tie break.  Terraforming Mars won the unofficial “Marmite award”, just escaping the GOAT Poo, but also coming fourth overall for the Golden GOAT.  Kingdomino made the podium and last year’s winner, Wingspan, was runner up.  The winner though, was 6 Nimmt!.

Golden GOAT - 2020
– Image by boardGOATS

Although 6 Nimmt! is an old game, this year we’ve played it on Board Game Arena at the end of almost every meeting, and it has provided so much fun and entertainment in a year that has otherwise been sorely lacking in that regard.  Certainly, moment of the year went to Lime accidentally joining a game of 6 Nimmt! with a bunch of Frenchmen, but that is just one of many memorable moments we’ve had with it.  Since discovering the “Professional Variant” the game has been rejuvenated for us too, so it seemed an entirely appropriate win for a strange gaming year.

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

Boardgames in the News: A Case Study of a Counterfeit Game

With Christmas just round the corner, there is a rush to buy gifts while wallets are squeezed and time is short—exactly the circumstances where counterfeiters flourish.  Previously, we commented on how reports of counterfeit games had been increasing and highlighted some of the key features to look out for.  Counterfeiting is a problem that affects a wide range of games including family friendlies like Ticket to Ride: Europe, Azul and 7 Wonders, but also more specialist fare like Terraforming Mars and Deep Sea Adventure.  Since then, a member of the boardGOATS group accidentally acquired a counterfeit copy of The Game of Life, which we thought would make a useful case study of some of the things to look out for and provide a timely reminder of the problem.

The Game of Life
– Image by boardGOATS

The Game of Life is of particular interest because there are have been many different versions and editions over the years.  This means it can be hard to spot whether a copy is a fake even if there is a genuine copy to hand.  In this particular case, the first and most obvious problem is the complete lack of a brand name or logo anywhere on the box or the components.  The English edition is published by Milton Bradley (now Hasbro), or Winning Moves in the USA, but none of this appears anywhere on the box.  Presumably this is to avoid falling foul of “Brand Piracy” laws, but if the counterfeiters think that makes their products legal, they are very wrong.

The Game of Life
– Image by boardGOATS

This is not the only indicator with this copy.  In this example, the font on the cards use western characters from a Chinese font set—these almost look like old fashioned type-writer script without serifs.  This is very unlikely to be a design choice for a genuine western board game and also don’t match the fonts elsewhere.  Additionally, the cards have squared off corners, which is now relatively unusual for modern cards in western games.  In contrast, the rules card has cut corners (and a western font), but has “nibs” where it has been punched from a larger piece of card.  The corners and “nibs” are not confirmation of a counterfeit in themselves, but would not be expected in quality product.

The Game of Life
– Image by boardGOATS

Other aspects that make this copy of The Game of Life look suspicious are associated with component quality.  For example, the game board is very thin card stock, poorly folded and the edges are not wrapped with tape or similar.  Again, these do not necessarily mean that this is a counterfeit copy: component quality does sometimes change between print-runs and it is very possible that the publisher has decided to make changes for this edition.  It is often indicative though and shows how counterfeit copies, which this certainly is, can be of inferior quality.

The Game of Life
– Image by boardGOATS

This copy of The Game of Life was bought in good faith, but came from an online auction seller.  Some of these sellers have been trading for many years and provide great deals and an excellent service, others not so much and it is not always easy to tell the difference.  The bottom line though, is the only way to guarantee that a product is genuine, is to buy from a reputable seller.

4th August 2020 (Online)

Blue and Burgundy got going early to set up the game on Tabletop Simulator, but were progressively joined by Pink, Black and Purple and eventually, everyone else.  Mulberry dropped in to say “Hi!” but was suffering from her recent change in time-zone, so soon waved goodbye.  There was a bit of chit-chat about people returning to work and how it interefered with thier social lives, but once everyone had settled down, we started the “Feature Game” which was Finstere Flure (aka Fearsome Floors).

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

Finstere Flure is a relatively simple race type game, where players are trying to get two of their family of pieces from one side of Prince Fieso’s Fortress to the other.  Unfortunately, the pillared dungeon is occupied by a not over-bright monster that is trying to eat people.  Finstere Flure only plays seven and the resolution of the web cameras we’ve been using means that it wouldn’t be possible for people to see very well.  For these reasons, people were playing in household teams and we used Tabletop Simulator on the Steam platform, piped through Microsoft Teams to display the game (which worked quite well when we played both Camel Up and Tsuro).

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

This was more complicated than most of the “Roll and Write” type games we have played recently, but we felt a bit of variety would be a good thing.  In Finstere Flure, each player/household team have three double-sided pieces that they are trying to move from one side of the dungeon to the other.  On their turn, players move one of their pieces and then flip it over.  Each side has a number on it with the total summing to seven.  However, in a similar way to Echidna Shuffle, some pieces alternate slow movement with quick movement (six on one side and one on the other for example) while others move at a more steady pace (alternately moving three and four spaces).

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Players continue to take turns until all their pieces have been moved and turned over, after which the monster moves.  All the monsters move in the same way, but the one we chose was “Slenderman” because he was most visible when viewed from above using the simulator.  Slenderman has a deck of eight cards which dictate how far he moves.  When he moves he looks ahead, left and then right and if he sees one person, he turns towards them and takes one step before looking again and moving.  If he sees two or more people, he turns towards the closest and moves towards them.  If he the people he sees are the same distance away, he carries on moving straight ahead.  He never looks behind, and he cannot see diagonally (there are pillars in the way).

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

Sometimes, the monster moves a given number of steps and others he keeps moving until he catches a set number of pieces.  During the game, the monster works through his deck twice—during the first pass, any pieces he catches are returned to the start, on the second pass, they are removed from the game.  There are a couple of other little rules however.  For example, there are obstacles in the dungeon, namely boulders and pools of blood (or jelly, whichever players think might be more slippery).  Players can push boulders about and use them to mess with each other’s plans, or slip on the jelly to move further on their turn.

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

Players can only move boulders when the space behind it is unoccupied, however, and although they can pass through a space occupied by another player, they cannot finish their turn sharing a space.  The monster, Slenderman, on the other hand, is bigger and stronger, so can move more than one boulder at a time.  Also, if someone gets trapped between a rock and a hard place, he can squash them, or even pulverise rocks if he isn’t minded to change direction when pushing them into a wall.  He can also teleport from one side of the dungeon to the other if he walks into a wall.  This can spell disaster for players who thought their pieces were safe, a long way away from him.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Team Purply-Black (owners of a hard copy and thus most experienced) went first, bravely moving one of their clerics into the unknown.  They were followed by Burgundy.  It was at this point that we realised something specific to the Tabletop Simulator that we hadn’t spotted during testing:  the reverse, “dark sides” of the pieces are all black and they are almost impossible to distinguish.  So, Blue made a quick modification to some of the pieces, making some hexagons and some squares to make them easier to identify.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Play was a little slow with people having to describe which piece they wanted to move and where they wanted to move it to.  Fortunately, the original, individual artwork on the pieces on the hard copy of the game had been included in the electronic version, so we had something to describe.  It was about this time that we discovered that Burgundy knew the names of all the Addams Family characters played by Team Slightly-Lilacy-Green.  Clearly Burgundy has hidden depths!

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Lime was the first to get one of his pieces eaten, and also the second.  He wasn’t alone however, as almost everyone had at least one piece eaten at some point and most had several munched.  In fact, it turned out that Slenderman was very hungry; when he ate five pieces in one turn, Pine commented that he was in danger of becoming “Porkyman”!  The chaos was fun, so much so that at one point, Ivory was heard to say, “What can I do to get more carnage?”

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Since we were forced to focus on the characters (especially when they were showing their “dark side”, there was a lot of chit chat about them and some of them were even given names, like Team Purply-Black’s “Roger the Chorister” and Pine’s “Geeky-boy”.  Team Slightly-Blue-but-mostly-Pink were playing with the “Three Ages of Elvis”: “Young Elvis”, “Prime Elvis”, and “Burger Elvis” (or “Elvis on the toilet” given his pained expression).  We always have fun picking on Green, but the largely solitaire games we’ve played recently don’t lend themselves to it.  This game gave everyone a much missed opportunity, and with him playing as Team Only-a-Slightly-Lilacy-Shade-of-Green, everyone grabbed the chance with both hands.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

It was just as Morticia was about to be “din-dins” (again) that the program crashed.  When we first started holding online games nights we worried a lot about the “tech” and whether it would hold up.  Aside from a few issues with Ivory and Lime struggling to stay in the same Teams Meeting together a few weeks back, mostly it has been fine though.  This crash looked like it might be game over though and, according to the chat, we were not alone.  Burgundy had played a few games with another group (including Terraforming Mars) and said Tabletop Simulator did that from time to time and that it usually came back after a few minutes.  So we waited.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from
Tabletop Simulator on Steam

And we waited some more.  People took the opportunity to get drinks etc., and we continued to wait.  Nothing happened so eventually we decide to restart the Server and see if it continued where we’d left off, only to find the game had been auto-saved a couple of moves before the crash.  So we were off again getting in each other’s way.  Despite picking on Green as much as we could, nothing could stop him getting Gomez out of the dungeon first.  Morticia and Wednesday were a very long way from giving him a second though.  In fact, it looked like Team Purply-Black were going to take it.  They had “Roger the Chorister” and “Parson Snows” very close to the exit with the ability to escape on the next turn, and “Paul Wicker the Tall Vicar” not far behind.  It was then that everyone independently decided that it was the duty of all gamers to make life as difficult as possible for those winning.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

So, first Burgundy used one of his geeks to push a boulder in “Parson Snows’ ” way and then parked the geek in the exit space.  In response to Pine’s cry of, “It’s now or never!”, “Young Elvis”  moved another boulder and effectively sealed off the exit until the next round.  This gave everyone an opportunity to gather in the corner ready to pounce should the opportunity arise.  Inevitably (since he had a piece camped on the exit space), Burgundy was the next to get someone one out, and then the flood gates opened.  “Young Elvis” was quickly followed by Pine’s Dog and “Roger the Chorister”. Eventually, the inevitable happened and Burgundy got his second Geek home bringing the end of the game.  People didn’t seem keen to stop, and Pink was pleased to be able to announce “Elvis has left the building!” next.

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

It was clear that from there it all really depended on turn order and that was no fun, so we finished at that point.  It had been a long game with a lot of downtime, but it had been fun too, and quite different to the “multiplayer solitaire” games we’ve played a lot recently (i.e. Noch Mal!, Second Chance and Cartographers), which made a nice change.  Tabletop Simulator takes a lot of practice though and even then definitely has the “Marmite factor”.  Indeed, Burgundy dislikes it so much that he’s stopped gaming with another online group that use it exclusively, which is very sad.  We are using it in a different way, and very occasionally, so it is probably just about manageable, but it will definitely be a while before we try it again.

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

With Finstere Flure taking a long time, Ivory and Lime took their leave, leaving seven for one quick game of 6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena.  This is now our most played game, beating other favourites like Bohnanza and Splendor, and if the situation doesn’t change, it will likely get the chance to build up a healthy lead.  Although we’ve not tired of it, last time we tried the “Professional Variant” on Board Game Arena and that definitely added new interest.  Although we all said six was the maximum we’d want to play this crazy version with, everyone who had experienced it before wanted to try again and we all wanted to share our new-found fun with Green who had missed out last time.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The basic game is very simple:  Players simultaneously choose a card then, starting with the lowest, in sequence, they are added to the four rows on the table.  If anyone’s card is the sixth in a row, instead they take the pre-existing cards and their card becomes the first in the new row.  In the “Professional Variant”, cards can be added to both ends.  Again, if this card is the sixth, the other cards are added to that player’s scoring pile and that forms a new row.  It might be thought that this would be predictable so nobody would do this.  However, if a player tries to play low (or is forced to) and is undercut by another, this is exactly what happens.  And when it does, it causes complete chaos for everyone.

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

This time, Pine started off leading with Black just behind in second.  In fact, Black was within one point of taking the lead until the cat came in and he started picking up cards.  The wheels dropped off for Pine too and he went from the lead to the back in only a couple of rounds, leaving others to fight for the lead.  Green (now playing on his own as Lilac had gone to bed), was somewhat taken aback by the new version and had much the same initial response to the new variant as everyone else had last time.  It isn’t random chaos though, it is definitely predictable, but it is certainly much, much harder to predict.  As a result, players need a sort of sixth sense and a lot of luck to surf the madness successfully.

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

Pine managed to stabilise his game and, having gone from the front of the pack to the back was working his way back up the field when Purple brought the game to an end.  It had always looked likely that she would win the “race to zero”, especially when she managed to pick up sixteen nimmts in a single turn—possibly a record for us.  So, when Purple picked up five with her final card, that gave her what is likely another new record of minus thirty-five.  In this game the winner is largely incidental, but it was close with Blue taking it, just three nimmts clear of Pink in second and eight ahead of the “almost always there or there abouts” Pine, in third.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone was quite tired so we just chatted starting with the Beirut explosion, news of which had come in while we’d been playing, and with footage that was quite remarkable.  As the mood shifted from buoyant to sombre, Pine said he was time for him to leave as he had a meeting in the morning.  Green interrupted, “Before you go, can I ask a recycling question?  How do you recycle the wax from cheese?”  That lightened the mood again and it was brightened further by Pine’s reply of, “How do you think?  Or you can make candles…!”  Somewhat from left of field, Purple then added, “But if you make candles, don’t light lots of them then leave the house to burn down while you go and propose to your girlfriend!”  Everyone was very bemused wondering what Black had done when he proposed, but eventually it became clear that it wasn’t personal experience, just a news story…  With that, Pine left and everyone else chatted about options and games for the coming weeks as people drifted off to bed.

Lots of Candles Make Fire
– Image from bbc.co.uk

Learning Outcome:  Slender monsters can eat an awful lot and retain their sylphlike figure.

Deutscher Spiele Preis 2020 – Time to Vote

Although the convention season has been severely disrupted this year, the awards are carrying on as usual.  The best known of these is probably the Spiel des Jahres: this year’s nominations were announced earlier this week.  The Deutscher Spiele Preis, or German Game Prize, is slightly less well known, but arguably better reflects the slightly more advanced, “Gamers Games”, with the results usually more in line with Kennerspiel des Jahres category rather than the family Spiel des Jahres award, or “Red Pöppel”.  Recent winners of the Deutscher Spiele Preis include Wingspan, Azul, Terraforming Mars, Mombasa, and The Voyages of Marco Polo.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The Deutscher Spiele Preis (which is awarded at the Internationale Spieltage, in Essen), is selected by a general vote which is open to anyone, players, journalists and dealers alike.  The incoming votes are evaluated by an independent institute and only votes with details of the full name and address are valid (any duplicates are removed).   All votes are treated the same with games placed first receiving five points, those placed second receiving four, and so on.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

Only new games from the previous year are included in the ranking, so this year that’s games released since May 2019.  Thus anything new at Essen last year or the Spielwarenmesse (Nürnberg) this year, is eligible.  This includes:  Alubari, Maracaibo, Point Salad, Tiny Towns, Isle of Cats, Wavelength, Jaws, In the Hall of the Mountain King, Azul: Summer Pavilion, Fast Sloths, or any of the games nominees or recommended for the Spiel/Kennerspiel des Jahres awards.

Deutscher Spiele Pries 2020
– Image from spiel-messe.com

Voting is open until 31st July; it’s not necessary to submit a full list, so why not take the opportunity to vote for your favourite release of the year?

3rd March 2020

After a short, but sweet battle over who wasn’t going to have the last lamb pie and mash, Burgundy and Blue settled down to eat.  They were soon joined by Pine, Lime, and then Black and Purple bringing news of their new black and purple car.  When Ivory and Green arrived, the key players were in place for the for the “Feature Game”, the Hellas map from the Hellas & Elysium expansion to Terraforming Mars.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

In Terraforming Mars, each person takes the role of a giant corporation, sponsored by the World Government on Earth to initiate projects to make Mars habitable.  This is by raising the temperature, increasing the oxygen level, and expanding the ocean coverage.  The Hellas map presents a new areas of Mars to explore, in particular, the Mars south pole and the enormous seven-hex Hellas crater that just begs to become a giant lake.  Building around the pole gives placement bonuses in the form of heat and possibly even water.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of each round, players draw four cards, keeping as many as they like, but paying 3M€ per card.  Since the cards are so critical to the game-play, there is a variant where the cards are drafted, letting players see more of the cards available, but making the decisions more critical.  Players then take it turns to take one or two actions from seven possible actions.  At the end of the round, players simultaneously produce, turning any energy into heat, taking finance according to the combined total of their Terraforming Rating and their M€ production level, and finally receiving all other resources according to their production levels.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends once all three Global Parameters are met:  all of the Ocean Tiles have been placed, the Temperature has reached 8°C, and the Oxygen Level is at 14%. The game is driven by the cards, but the guts of it are the actions.  These include: play a card; use a Standard Project; use an Action Card; convert eight plants into a greenery tile and raise the Oxygen Level; use eight Heat to raise the Temperature; claim a Milestone, and fund an Award.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

Each card has a set of requirements, for example, Grass cannot grow at very low temperatures, so the Grass Card can only be played when the Temperature is above -16°C.  Other cards may require the player to spend energy, or other resources.  They also have a financial cost, though some can be paid for using Steel and/or Titanium as well.  There are three types of cards: red Event Cards, Green Automatic Cards and Blue Action Cards.  Green and Blue cards have an effect that occurs when they are played.  Red Event Cards have  an action that takes place once and are turned face down once they have been played.  Blue Action Cards also give the player a special ability that can be activated many times during the game, but only once per round.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to the actions on the cards, players can also carry out actions associated with Standard Projects.  These can be used several times per round and mostly involve spending money to increase the Temperature, add tiles to the board, or increase the player’s Energy Production.  Players can also sell cards at a rate of 1M€ per card, an expensive option as it’s less than they cost to buy, and it costs an action, but needs must when the Devil drives.  Finally, players can claim milestones (if they have played enough cards with Tags that qualify) or fund an award.  These cost money, but give Points at the end of the game.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

This is the basic game play, but there are a lot of expansions and variants, so setting up was slow as the group tried to figure out which cards came from which expansion and what bits they actually needed to use.  They got there in the end and chose to add in a few extra corporations to the standard set. Only Ivory received one of them, but still chose an original corporation, Ecoline, which gave him Plant production and reduced the number of plants he needed for a new Forest tile from eight to seven.  Green went for Inventrix, which gave him three extra cards at the start of the game and reduced the restrictions on the environmental requirements.  Burgundy chose Teractor, which allowed him to play cards with Earth Tags more cheaply.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory made an early play to plant a city amongst the northern green belt. He knew it was an unusual opening move and a bit of a gamble, but one he hoped would pay dividends later.  Burgundy also planted a city in the first round, nearer to the large potential ocean area in the Hellas crater. Green waited a little longer for his first city, but broke away from the others to plant it near the southern polar region, hoping to expand upon the unique scoring potential for this new board.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

Like most games of Terraforming Mars this one progressed gradually and slowly as everyone built their “engines”.  Ivory was clearly working on a Forest growth strategy, and also looking for the bonus end game awards.  Burgundy was trying to build cities next to oceans for bonus money and also keeping the sides of his cities next to Forests for end game scoring.  Green tried to use his relaxed environmental requirements to his advantage by playing cards early, but in the process failed to do anything with his southern city goal.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory made the first Milestone claim, taking the Energizer, for increasing his Energy Production to six.  He was about to claim the second too, Diversifier, for having eight different tags played, but then realised that he couldn’t use the Red Event cards and so couldn’t claim it after all.  Very soon after Green took it instead, much to the annoyance of Burgundy who was also on the verge of taking it, and would have done so on his next turn.  Ivory later claimed the third Milestone, Tactician (five environmentally restricted cards), which both he and Burgundy had noticed Green could have claimed earlier and made noises to that effect, but weren’t specific.  Green, however, had forgotten what it was awarded for and hadn’t noticed he qualified.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

As for the Awards, Ivory again funded the first one to activate the Cultivator, obviously key to his strategy as as it rewarded most Forests.  Ivory also wanted Space Baron in play (for most Jovian tags) and Burgundy paid for the final Magnate Award, which rewards the player with the most green cards.  In the end though, Burgundy won all three awards, with Ivory taking second place in two and Green just pipping Ivory to second by one card for the Magnate Award.  When it came to the scoring, the Terraforming Ratings were quite close with Ivory just ahead of Burgundy as he had been for most of the game.  Burgundy took a lot of points for the awards though and scored heavily for his cities.  The overall winner was therefore Burgundy with eighty-three points, sneaking ahead of Ivory who took second place.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

While the Terraforming Mars group began setting up, everyone else took a slightly more relaxed look at the options available, and after some discussion, the group settled on Isle of Skye.  This won the Kennerspiel des Jahres in 2016 and is a game most of the group have played before and really enjoyed.  The best way to describe it is a bit like Carcassonne, but with individual play areas and a very clever auction for the tiles.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that players start with three tiles drawn randomly, and place them in front of their screen.  Behind the screen they use their own money decide the price of two of the tiles and choose one to discard.  Once everyone has revealed their prices and discards, the first player chooses a maximum of one tile to purchase from the offering.  They cannot choose one of their own, and they pay the amount shown to the owner of the tile.  Once everyone has made their purchase, players then buy any remaining tiles in front of them, paying with the money the used to indicate the price.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

This auction is very clever for lots of reasons. Firstly, the player with the best tiles, does not necessarily get them.  If they think they have something valuable, then they can give it a high price and will either end up keeping it (paying the money to the bank), or end up getting a lot of money for it.  For this reason, the key thing is getting the value right—over-pricing a tile risks it failing to sell and getting landed with it at a heavy cost.  This was Ivory’s comment from the next table.  There is a more subtle aspect to the auction, however.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Although they have the widest choice, if the first player prices their tiles too high, they may not have sufficient funds to buy anyone else’s, worse, nobody else will buy their tiles which means they will end up having to pay for them themselves, leaving them short of cash in the next round as well.  On the other hand, because the money paid for tiles and the money used to indicate their cost go straight into the seller’s hand, players later in the turn order, may have less choice, but will likely have more available cash.  In this way, the advantage of turn order is self-correcting and everyone has difficult decisions to make and probabilities to consider, though the decisions are different for each player.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the tiles have been bought and paid for, players add them to their kingdom.  Like Carcassonne, the terrain type on the edges of the tiles have to match up (though roads do not), and the tiles have features that are used for scoring.  There are more different features than in Carcassonne, however, and the scoring is very different.  In each game there are four scoring conditions, and each one is used three times during the game (five rounds for the five player game).  Additionally, there are also tiles that feature scrolls which are personal scoring conditions that take effect at the end of the game.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

As Lime was new to the game, the group decided not to include the main components of the Journeyman or Druid expansions.  All the tiles went into the bag though, including those from both of the large expansions and the several mini expansions (the Adjacency Scrolls, both Tunnelplättchen, the Themenplättchen and the Kennerspiel des Jahres Promo), and anywhere the main feature required one of the main expansions were just rejected when they were drawn.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine got a flying start in the first round getting five points for his Broch/Lighthouse/Farm combo and a couple of points for a completed mountain range.  As the game progressed, more buildings fell into his lap and the points kept coming.  Black tried to collect Broch/Lighthouse/Farm sets, but couldn’t get any Brochs, so gave up and concentrated on getting diagonals instead.  This is not as easy as it looks because every tile added to a diagonal requires the fixed placement of two tiles.  Each round, players get a maximum of three tiles, so this is very restrictive.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

It was a hard game:  Lime failed to complete and score any mountains and Purple struggled as there were two rounds when she failed to get any points at all.  Blue started off trying to build in a diagonal, but ended up picking up points for Barrels connected to her Castle by road, mostly at Lime’s expense.  She was aided when Pine drew a Barrel tile that Lime really fancied and had lots of money to pay for.  Not wanting to give away his plans, Lime told Pine he didn’t want the tile, so Pine, who believed him, chucked it away, leaving Blue a clear run.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine maintained and grew his lead, though the others did threaten to catch up towards the end.  His Brochs and enclosed scroll giving him two points for each one made all the difference though and he finished with sixty-nine points ten ahead of second place.  The battle for that was much closer with three players within six points of each other.  It was Blue who sneaked in front though, just ahead of Lime who put in a very creditable performance on his first attempt.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Terraforming Mars was still going on the next table, so although it was getting late the group decided to play something short, and considered Coloretto, but in the end settled on No Thanks!.  This is a really quick and simple “push your luck” reverse auction game.  Everyone starts with eleven chips and on their turn, either takes the card on offer (and any chips on it) or pays a chip to pass the problem on to the next person.  The aim of the game is end up with the lowest card total, subtracting any chips they have left.  The catch is that if a player has a run of cards, only the lowest is counted, however, at the start of the game nine cards are removed from the thirty-three in the deck…

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Black won a relatively uneventful first round with twenty, while Purple “top scored” with fifty-three.  It was quick and Terraforming Mars was into another round, so Lime suggested another round and everyone else concurred.  This was more remarkable.  Blue was first to take card.  Since the player who takes a card then has first dibs on the next card, when the next was close the the first, she took that too.  This continued with only a couple of breif interludes for cards she really didn’t want.  In the end, she had a remarkable run of fifteen cards from the twenty-four in play.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately for her, as they were mostly low value cards and cards she needed, she had been unable to milk them to get chips from the others.  So she finished with a very reasonable thirteen, but in forth place behind Lime with twelve and, remarkably, Black with minus three and Pine who took the game with minus four, winning by virtue of the fact he played later in the round.  The Terraformers were just finishing, so the cards were shuffled for a third and final time.  This time, Lime tried the collecting cards trick, but he was not as lucky as Blue and ended with a card total of ninety-nine (and twenty-three chips).  Black and Blue both finished with a more normal nine, and tied for the win.  With everyone finished, but time was marching on, so everyone decided to say “No Thanks!” to another game and went home.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Getting a lead is good, but you have to be able to keep it.

Next Meeting – 3rd March 2020

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 3rd March, at the Horse and Jockey pub in Stanford-in-the-Vale. As usual, we will be playing shorter games from 7.30pm as people arrive, until 8pm when we will start something a little longer.

This week, the “Feature Game” will be the Hellas map from the Hellas & Elysium expansion to Terraforming Mars. In Terraforming Mars, each person takes the role of a giant corporation, sponsored by the World Government on Earth to initiate projects to raise the temperature, the oxygen level, and the ocean coverage until the environment on Mars is habitable.  The Hellas map presents a new areas of Mars to explore: the Mars’ south pole and the enormous seven-hex Hellas crater that just begs to become a giant lake. Building around the pole gives placement bonuses in the form of heat and possibly even water.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

And speaking of Mars…

Jeff got off the space ship to start the first day of his holiday on the red planet.  Looking around he decided he could really do with a drink, so headed for the nearest bar.

Waiting in the queue to be served, he picked up a bar towel and started chewing the corner. The barman looked a bit concerned, so asked, “Are you all right sir?  Maybe I could get you a beer instead…?”

“Oh,” replied Jeff, “That’d be great”.  And he ordered a pint, found a table, and sat down to enjoy his beer.

After a bit he started gnawing on the back of one of the chairs. Eventually, the barman came to the conclusion he had to do something; after all, Jeff was beginning to worry the other customers. He approached Jeff and asks what on earth (or perhaps Mars) he thought he was doing?

Jeff looked bemused.  “I’m really sorry,” he said, “I thought this was a Mars Bar…”

4th February 2020

Blue and Pink were first to arrive and, while they waited for others and their pizzas to arrive, they tried to squeeze in a quick game of Ganz Schön Clever (a.k.a. That’s Pretty Clever).  This is a “Roll and Write” game, that is to say, players roll dice and use the values they roll to fill in spaces on their score sheet.  So, it is an abstract game where the active player, rolls all six coloured dice and chooses one to keep and use, discarding all dice with lower pip values.  They then roll any remaining dice, again keeping and using one and discarding the rest before rolling the rest one last time keeping and using one final die.  The other players can then use one of the discards, before play passes to the left.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

Filling in some of the boxes gives a bonus action, enabling players to fill in other boxes or gain the opportunity to re-roll their dice or even use an extra die.  The player who wins is therefore the player who makes the best use of the dice they roll and usually, the player who manages to build the most combinations to take advantage of the bonuses available. This time both Blue and Pink started off slowly, but as they were coming to the last couple of rounds, both food and people arrived and their focus drifted a bit.  Pink managed to keep it together better though and as a result finished with a nice round hundred and fifty, some twenty more than Blue.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

As they finished eating, Green, tried to organise players in an effort get a group together to play Terraforming Mars.  It was quickly clear that it was not going to happen, as Burgundy, Black, Pink, Pine and Mulberry expressed an interest in playing the “Feature Game”, Fast Sloths.   This is a race game where players are sloths travelling around a holiday resort on the backs of other animals.  The rules are quite straight forward:  on their turn the active player takes cards from the face up piles that make the market; optionally play cards, and then discard down to conform to the hand-limit (which varies depending on how players are progressing).  When taking cards, they must all be different animals, and the number they can take depends on their position in the race.

Fast Sloths
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is a pick-up-and-deliver type of game, but unusually the sloths are the cargo being delivered.  Movement on the central board is the heart of the game and each player must try to optimize their movement to win.  When playing cards, they must all be of the same animal – the player then moves the animal corresponding to the cards played towards their sloth, so they can pick it up and drop it somewhere else on the map.  Each animal has their own characteristics, the type of terrain they can cross and how they move etc..  The aim of the game is to collect leaves and the first sloth that can gather eight leaves wins.

Fast Sloths
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy got off to a flying start – by both playing first and (even though he was last to pick) securing a good corner tree as his starting location, with a ready-made parade of ants he could bounce over on his way to the next tree.  It was a very tight game, which, after the first few turns while people built up their hand of cards, progressed rapidly with players aiming for a new leaf every turn, or at worst every two turns.

Fast Sloths
– Image by boardGOATS

There was much discussion about the accuracy of the terrains allocated to each transport animal. Donkeys, for example – in Fast Sloths they can’t travel in the mountains or through water, but surely the reasons why donkeys make such good pack animals is that they are great at climbing mountains and wading rivers?  Pink suggested that as this was a “game” perhaps such comparisons weren’t relevant?  However, this suggestion was not received well and went down like a donkey in a river…  Attention then turned to “how true to life” was the representation of unicorn transport.

Fast Sloths
– Image by boardGOATS

The game carried on, with only an occasional call of “Summon the Eagles!” from Mulberry (just imagine Brian Blessed in the film Flash Gordon).  Despite being the first time most people had played the game, all players had clearly got to grips with the mechanism and made speedy progress through the forest – a compliment to the designer it was felt.  In the end, with everyone so closely matched, it came down to marginal differences and Burgundy, after his initial flying start, stayed out in front to win after collecting eight leaves. Hot on his heals were Mulberry, Black and Pine with seven.

Fast Sloths
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table, Green and Ivory had settled on Wingspan, and were eventually joined by Purple and Blue.  Since it won the Kennerspiel des Jahres award last year, this has proved a very popular game within the group.  The copy belonged to Burgundy, and he had integrated the European Expansion and Swift-Start Cards, as well as “pimped his bits”; the artwork on the cards is beautiful and the additional pieces just add to the aesthetics.  The game is  functionally very simple, though playing well requires planning and just a little bit of luck.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, the active player can place an action cube to do one of two things:  pay food to play a bird card from their hand, or activate one of their three habitats and all the birds in it.  The three habitats, allow players to collect food, lay eggs or add more bird cards to their hand.  At the end of each round there are bonus points available for players who are most successful with the targets set out; at the end of the game players score points for each bird card they’ve played (value dependent on the bird), food and eggs on their cards, and flocking birds.   The difficult part is to efficiently build combinations of birds with synergistic special powers that will ultimately yield the best score.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Blue started by playing a White Wagtail in her Wetland, which gave the opportunity to place a bird card at the end of the round so long as she had activated all three habitats and placed a card during the round.  She still had to pay the food needed, so she concentrated on making sure she had all the bits required to make it work for her every round.  Ivory focused on first playing his Savi’s Warbler and then using it to acquire a lot of cards, many from the face-down draw pile, hoping to draw something good.  Green struggled a bit from the start, partly because he was arguably the player with the least experience, but the fact he was distracted by a bird of a different sort tweeting by phone certainly didn’t help.  Purple on the other hand, quietly concentrated solely on her game, and made excellent use of her Double-Crested Cormorant which allowed her to tuck two cards in exchange for one fish.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game progressed, Green increasingly needed prompting to take his turn, and explained that he was getting side-tracked because Blue, playing immediately before him, was taking so long on her turn.  While it was true that Blue’s turns were getting longer, this was almost entirely because the number of birds in her reserve was increasing faster than anyone else’s, largely thanks to her White Wagtail which she was busy putting to good use.  The contrast was quite stark Green’s rather meager reserve and Blue’s, although by this time, both Ivory and Purple, also had a good sized reserves.  As the game entered the final round, Fast Sloths was coming to an end and those players wondered over, so the last few turns were played with an audience.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

At this point, the Wingspan players were putting the finishing touches to reserves.  Green kept commenting how he knew he was coming last and it was clear who had won, but Ivory was not so sure.  In the final accounting every bird in Purple’s reserve had a good point value adding to her points from the tucked birds and Ivory did best in the end of round goals.  Blue had the most birds giving her the same amount of points as Purple (though the individual cards were not as good) and she scored slightly fewer points that Ivory in the end of round goals.  In every other area, however, Blue led the pack giving her the lead overall with ninety-eight points.   Ivory was twenty points behind, and just pipped to second place by Purple.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Mulberry, Pine and Ivory Ieft to get an early night, leaving everyone else to play something short;  the game that fitted the bill and was on the top of the pile was For Sale.  This is a very clever property auction game that we played for the first time in years at New Year. The game comes in two parts:  buying properties and then selling them.  So, each player starts the game with $14,000 to spend on property cards.  There are thirty properties, numbered to reflect their relative value and these are auctioned in groups equal in size to the number of players.  The clever part of the auction is that when a player passes and withdraws, they pay half the value of their final bid and take the property with the lowest value; the winner takes the most valuable property, but pays their final bid in full.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

In the second part of the game, cheque cards equal in number to the number of players are laid out, with values from zero to $15,000.  Each player then chooses one property card from their supply and everyone reveals them simultaneously: the highest value property earns the highest value cheque with the second most valuable property earning its owner the second largest cheque and so on.  The winner is the player with the highest total from the sum of their cheques and any left-over cash.  This time, Black took the most valuable property, the space station and with it, on of the $15,000 cheques while Burgundy took the other.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

At the other end of the scale, Pink took both the void cheques, but despite this still managed $33,000 for the rest of his properties.  This was nothing compared to the winner, Green, who finished with $53,000, $2,000 more than Burgundy in second.  The night was still young, however, and there was still time for one of our favourite games, 6 Nimmt!.  Although this is often derided as a game of chance, it is clear that it is not pure luck.  The idea is that everyone has a hand of cards from a deck numbered one to a hundred and four.  Simultaneously, everyone chooses a card from their hand, and, starting with the lowest value card, these are then added to one of the four rows of cards.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Each card is added to the row with the highest end card that is lower than the card they have played.  If the card is the sixth card, they take the five cards in the row and their card becomes the first card in the new row.  Each card has a number of bull’s heads on it—this is the number of points they score.  The player with the fewest points at the end of the game wins.  We play with a variant that half the cards are dealt out for the first hand and the rest for the second, which gives us a score at half-time.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time Burgundy and Black were in the lead at the half-time with a single nimmt, with Blue a couple of points behind.  Pink set the competitive high score of thirty-one.  Black picked up a handful of cards in the second half, indeed, only Purple, Blue and Burgundy managed to keep their second half scores to single figures.  In the end, it was Blue who just had the edge, beating Burgundy by three nimmts.  At the other end, however, Pink had no competition finishing with a very respectable high score of forty-five, not a record, but a substantial total nonetheless, and a good end to a fun evening.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Donkeys are not as versatile as you might think.