Tag Archives: Tetris

20th July 2021 (Online)

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: Skills Mini Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: Skills Mini Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: Skills Mini Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

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

The Horse and Jockey
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Niagara
– Image by BGG contributor El_Comandante
adapted by boardGOATS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning Outcome:  Theft is totally unforgivable.

22nd June 2021 (Online)

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

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

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

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

11th May 2021 (Online)

There was the usual chit-chat and community update, but eventually everyone was ready to start playing the “Feature Game” which was the Neue Entdeckungen (New Discoveries) expansion to Cartographers.  Cartographers is a “Roll and Write” game we’ve played and enjoyed quite a bit over the last year. The base game is simple enough, but unlike a lot of the games we’ve played, has more of a “gamery” feel to it than some of the simpler Tetrissy games it is related to like Second Chance or Patchwork Doodle.  The thing these games all have in common is that players are given shapes to draw on a personal player grid.  What makes Cartographers different is the addition of goal cards which give points at the end of each round, in a similar style to another game we have enjoyed playing, Isle of Skye.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Adapted from image by BGG contributor
Johnny Dangerously

Each cards depicts a shape and terrain, giving some element of choice in either terrain type or shape.  The game is played over four rounds, each consisting of several cards.  At the end of each round two of the four goal cards are scored, such that each is scored twice during the game.  This time, the four goal cards were Stoneside Forest (A), Shoreside Expanse (B), Wildholds (C), and The Broken Road (D).  At the end of the first round the first two of these, Stoneside Forest and Shoreside Expanse were scored.  Stoneside Forest gives points for connecting the mountain spaces that are preprinted on the map.  Shoreside Expanse on the other hand rewards players for each area of lake or arable not adjacent to arable or lake (respectively) or the edge of the map.

Der Kartograph: Neue Entdeckungen
– Image by boardGOATS

Stoneside Forest was made more challenging by the fact we were playing with the Neue Entdeckungen (New Discoveries) expansion which adds new ambush cards (from the Ambush Mini Expansion) and a new map with wastelands.  Wastelands are areas that are preprinted on the maps that players are unable to use, but are considered already filled.  There is an alternate map in the base game with a large area of wasteland which we played with last time, but the Neue Entdeckungen expansion map has several smaller areas of wasteland adding a different set of challenges.  we’ve played with both Shoreside Expanse and Stoneside Forest before, so for the first round, we all knew what we were trying to do.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Wildholds and The Broken Road were new to us though.  The Wildholds gives eight points for for each village area occupying six or more spaces.  Eight points is a lot, and if an area is complete in time for the first scoring phase, it will also score the second time making it very lucrative.  With this in mind, Ivory started planning for Wildholds early in the first round, while others concentrated on first round goals first. The final goal, The Broken Road, rewards players with three points for every complete diagonal that connects the left hand edge of their map with the bottom edge.  With eleven possible diagonals, everyone was of the impression that The Broken Road would be easy to score a lot of points with, but it turned out to be more difficult than most people expected.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

In fact, most people left it to the end assuming it would take care of itself, only to discover that it didn’t really.  That said, unusually, the arrival of the Ogeroffensive Ambush card actually did most people a favour.  This is unusual, as Ambush cards give players negative points for any unfilled spaces adjacent to their goblin spaces at the end of the round.  We play the cards using the solo rules where players place them in a given corner and, if that is already filled, slide it one space in a given direction following the edge of the map.  They continue spiralling in to the centre until they find an empty space.

Der Kartograph: Neue Entdeckungen
– Image by boardGOATS

Because the Ogeroffensive arrived as the first card in the round and starts in the bottom left corner, for many people it actually gave them twelve points (filling two diagonals and scoring for two rounds).  Arriving so early in the round, most of those who were able to benefit from it, didn’t even score many negative points as there was plenty of time to fill any empty spaces.  All three of the ambush cards we introduced came out early in the rounds which meant they added a more strategic obstacle rather than throwing an unexpected spanner in the works as they do when they come out at the end of the round.

Der Kartograph: Neue Entdeckungen
– Image by boardGOATS

The rounds get shorter as the game progresses and it wasn’t long before it was the final round and everyone was looking to maximise their final scores.  From the in-game table chatter, it was clear that Ivory and Burgundy were going to be difficult to beat and, as is so often the case, so it proved.  This time, Burgundy had the edge over Ivory and took victory by four points.  The battle for the final place on the podium was fierce too, but Black ultimately took that from Blue by just two points.  Regardless of where they ended up though, everyone had enjoyed it.  From there, we moved on to another “Roll and Write” game that we’ve played quite a bit over the last year, Railroad Ink.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

This is a fairly straight-forward game where dice are rolled and players have to write the road and rail segments on their maps.  The base game is played over seven rounds with four white dice rolled in each round.  In this game, all the dice have to be used, but players also get three chances to play special “cross-roads dice” during the game.  At the end of the game, players score for their longest rail segment, their longest road section, the spaces they have succeeded in filling in the centre of the board and the number of entrances they have managed to connect together.

Railroad Ink on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, however, we decided to play it online through Board Game Arena rather than engaging our inner artist and playing on paper.  There were advantages and disadvantages to playing the game online and people had mixed feelings about it.  It was certainly easier to correct errors, but somehow it lost… something…  It was another highly enjoyable game though and the results were also close at the top.  With Ivory taking an early night, the challengers to Burgundy’s crown were Green and Blue.  Despite their best efforts, Burgundy’s crown was too firmly wedged, and he finished four points ahead of Blue and five ahead of Green.  Although Cartographers had taken longer than many of the games we play, and time was marching on, there was still enough for one last game.  And this time, with just six, we relatively quickly (for us) settled on For Sale after a quick Vevox vote.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

For Sale is an older game that has had a bit of a resurgence recently for us.  The idea is that the game comes in two phases:  firstly, players use their starting $14,000 to buy properties at auction, then they use these properties to “bid” for cheques in the second phase.  The winner is the player with the highest total in cheques and left over starting currency.  It is such a quick game to play that this time we played it twice.   The first time through, Pink paid $8,000 for the space station while Purple picked up the cardboard box for free.  But then, Pink sold his space station for $15,000 and Purple ended up parting with her box without return.

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

That is only part of the story of course, but important to most people was that Burgundy didn’t take his third win in succession.  In the end, everyone (except Burgundy) was content as they got that part of their wish as Black topped the podium edging in front of Blue, though Burgundy was just a couple of thousand behind.  You can’t keep a good gamer down for long though and Burgundy saw the second game as his chance for revenge.  In the event, the same three were on the podium, but with Black and Burgundy swapping places.  This time it wasn’t close at all either, with Burgundy finishing $9,000 ahead of his nearest challenger.  And that was that for another week.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Sites of Insectoid Invasions should be shown on every map.

16th March 2021 (Online)

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

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

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

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

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

2nd February 2021 (Online)

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

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

 

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

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

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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.

8th December 2020 (Online)

The evening started off with players discussing pirate copies of games, inspired by a copy of The Game of Life (slightly reluctantly provided by Little Lime).  From there, Green popped in just long enough for everyone to sing “Happy Birthday” to him, and for him to tell people about his new car before putting up with lots of comments about how nice his new Alfa Romeo would look on the side of the road while he was waiting for the AA to turn up…

The Game of Life
– Image by boardGOATS

Once Green had left to open the last of his birthday pressies and eat his Birthday tea, everyone else settled down to start the “Feature Game“, the River Expansion for the “Roll and Write” game Railroad Ink.  This is a fairly simple game that we’ve played a couple of times and really enjoyed.  The idea is that four dice are rolled and players have to add all the features rolled to their map.  These features include straight and curved sections of rail and road as well as flyovers and road/rail interchanges.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The game lasts seven rounds and players earn points for connecting together the entrances marked on the edge of the map, but also for their longest sections of road and rail, and for filling the nine spaces in the centre of the board.  The River is one of two expansions that come with the Deep Blue Edition of Railroad Ink, and adds rivers to the railway, road and intersection options.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Unlike the white dice in the base game which have to be used, the two blue dice are optional.  They also do not have to be connected to the main network.  Pine asked why anyone would use the river because it just restricts what you can do with the rest of your network, but as Burgundy pointed out, it has the potential for giving extra points.  Most obviously this is because points are awarded for the longest section of river each player makes.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Additionally though, some of the faces of the river dice include road and rail sections (crossing the river).  Using these can help the main network reach more of the entrances, something that is important because the game is one round shorter when played with the expansion.  However, any unconnected river sections, like any unconnected road or rail sections, i.e. any “hanging ends”, cost points, one per unconnected end.  So, players who decide to ignore rivers do so at a cost.

Railroad Ink
– Image by boardGOATS

The game hadn’t been going long before someone said, “I’ve just created a junction”.  This was almost inevitably followed by the reply, “You never thought that would happen…” and the response, “What, with you and the girl from Clapham…?”  After a couple of verses and the odd chorus of the Squeeze hit, the conversation segued smoothly on to the fact that “Those Were the Days” was actually originally a folk song.  The game only resumed after Pine had shared a version called Davni Chasy by The Wedding Present.

Railroad Ink
– Image by boardGOATS

With only six rounds with the expansion, the game did not really take very long, and everyone seemed to enjoy the added challenge of including the river.  It was a tight game with just three points covering the three podium positions, Ivory just sneaked victory, two points ahead of Pink and Pine in third.  Lime had been up since 4am and had another early start the following day, so went for a well earned early night, but everyone else carried on to give Patchwork Doodle another outing.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

Patchwork Doodle is a fairly simple game Tetris-based game where players try to fill their player player-board with Tetris shapes shown on cards.  Although the game is similar to Second Chance, it is played over three rounds with eight cards displayed at the start of each round with six played according to a die roll.  This means that players know which cards are coming up, but not the order they will appear in.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

Each player begins with their own individual shape.  Black had the embarrassing one, which led to a discussion about how a photographer had taken revenge on Philip Green for his poor behaviour towards a journalist.  Everyone had a good laugh once someone had found the photo and shared it, then we began playing.  The end of round scoring also makes the game a little more challenging than Second Chance with players scoring most of their points for the largest contiguous square area at each point during the game.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink and Ivory got off to a flying start with five-by-five squares, giving them twenty five points in the first round.  As the rounds progressed, other players started to catch up, but those early points were hard to off-set.  Blue, remarkably managed to fill every square of her grid giving her eighty-one points in the final round.  Unfortunately for her, it wasn’t quite enough to catch Pink who took victory with one hundred and thirty-seven.  That didn’t stop Blue claiming the “moral victory” for the perfect finish though, even if she was three points short.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, Ivory took his leave, and everyone else moved to Board Game Arena.  As people logged on, they all received “Trophies” to mark six months active on the platform.  While this is clearly an achievement of sorts, it was bitter-sweet as it also highlighted just how long we’ve been playing online.  We decide not to stop and think about it though, and moved on to choosing a game.  With six players, there were several options.  Pine didn’t want to finish too late, while Blue was keen to play something a little different and with help from others, persuaded him to play Alhambra.

Alhambra
– Image by BGG contributor garyjames

Alhambra is a classic gateway, tile laying game, based on the slightly older title, Stimmt So!.  The idea is that on their turn, players can either buy buildings (or shares in the original), or take a money card.  The catch is that there are four currencies in the game.  Players pay with whatever cards they have, but if they don’t have the exact amount they must overpay.  Obviously, it is advantageous to pay with the exact amount, but not only because they save money.  Players doubly gain when they pay with the right amount, because they get an extra turn and can make another purchase (again getting yet another turn if they pay exactly) or take money.

Alhambra
– Image by BGG contributor garion

There are two scoring phases during the game, and one at the end.  In these, players with the most buildings of each of the different types score points, with the number of points depending on the type of building and the frequency of it in the game.  There is one significant difference between Alhambra and Stimmt So! that goes beyond the theme.  Some of the buildings have a wall along one, two or three sides.  Players score points for their longest external “wall” section within their complex, but the wall also has a big impact on how a player places their tiles.

Alhambra
– Adapted from Image by BGG contributor Zoroastro

Players must be able “walk” from their starting tile to all the other tiles in their complex, so walls are placed round the outside.  If a player is not careful, this can severely limit their ability to place other tiles and get them into a terrible mess.  The Board Game Arena implementation ensures that players can’t inadvertently make mistakes, but that makes the game quite unforgiving.  There is a get out clause—players can place tiles in their reserve or move tiles at a later date, but as the game is all about efficiency, this can be very costly.

Alhambra on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from Board Game Arena

The game started very cautiously with people feeling their way.  Pink tried to build a long wall and got himself into a tangle with a very small complex surrounded by a tight wall; Blue just failed to score any points until the end of the game.  It was quite close in the fight for second place, but the runaway winner with eighty-one points was Purple.  She had the most Garden buildings and Palaces outright, shared the lead in Seraglios and Chambers and scored points in almost every other category too, positively storming to victory.

Alhambra on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from Board Game Arena

Unfortunately, Alhambra is not at its best with six and, although the game can trot along at quite a pace with players that know what they are doing, it took quite a lot longer than it really should.  Although some had played the game before, others were new to it and even those familiar with the game were a little rusty.  The game would have been a lot quicker if people hadn’t insisted on thinking too, but as a result, it finished a lot later than planned and when it was over that was pretty much it for the evening.

Alhambra on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS
from Board Game Arena

Learning Outcome:  If you buy an Alfa Romeo you should expect jokes about it.

27th October 2020 (Online)

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

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Welcome To... Halloweeen
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Welcome To... Halloweeen
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Welcome To... Halloweeen
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Saboteur on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Saboteur on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

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

13th October 2020 (Online)

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

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

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

Elizabeth
– Image from cronkshawfoldfarm.co.uk

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

2020 Birthday Box
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

2020 Birthday Biscuits
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

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

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

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

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

15th September 2020 (Online)

Green and Lilac were first to roll up, with pizzas and a large basket full of wild mushrooms.  While they finished their supper, everyone else rolled in and joined the largely aimless chit-chat before Blue started to explain the rules for the “Feature Game“, Patchwork Doodle.  This is another “Roll and Write” style game in the “communal colouring in” vein.  As such it is quite similar to the Second Chance (which we played last time), but with different scoring and a little more planning.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Both games are based on the Tetris idea where shapes depicted on cards are drawn in a grid.  In Second Chance, the cards are revealed two at a time and players choose one to draw on their grid.  If they can’t add either, they get one card just for themselves; if it fits they stay in, if they still can’t draw it, they are out.  When the last card is turned over or the final player has been eliminated, the winner is the player with the fewest empty spaces.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

In Patchwork Doodle, eight cards are revealed at the start, so everyone can see all the cards that will come out in the round.  The chief seamstress then rolls a d3 die to move the factory foreman, and players all draw the shape he lands on.  The round ends after six of the eight shapes have been used.  After each round there is a scoring phase and, the final score is the sum of the three totals minus the number of empty spaces.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to the change in scoring, everyone has three special actions: they can use a shape either side instead of the one selected, make a single cut and draw one of the two resultant shapes, or fill a single one-by-one square.  Additionally, there is a fourth action which allows everyone to use one of the other three actions a second time.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

The interesting, and indeed difficult bit to understand, is the scoring.  Players score the number of squares in (usually) their largest square, plus one point for each row or column it is extended.  Thus a five-by-three rectangle will score eleven points (nine for the three-by-three square, and two points for the extra two rows).  Usually the largest continuous rectangle will give the most points, but sometimes that is not the case and players have to work out what will give them the biggest points haul.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

Once everyone had got to grips with the scoring and asked all their questions, Pink rolled the die and silence descended as everyone concentrated on their colouring in.  At the end of the first round, Pine, Lilac and Ivory had their noses in front achieving a five-by-five square while others were struggling to get much less.  By the second round, people were getting the hang of things and it was clear that Ivory was the one to beat, although Green had a bet on Lilac as she was doing a lot better than he was.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

By the final round, there was a peaceful calm as people engaged their inner toddler.  The scores were a little bit incidental as Mulberry won the prize for “The most inventive work with just two colours” and Lilac just pipped Black and Pine for the neatest and “staying within the lines”.  Pink stumbled at the end going for artistic impression over scoring, putting the penultimate shape in the corner instead of filling the hole in the middle.  Blue top scored with one hundred and twenty, just beating Ivory, largely thanks to the fact she had only one unfilled space.

Patchwork Doodle
– Animation by boardGOATS

Mulberry commented that the communal colouring in was very calming, and Lime said that although he had really enjoyed it, the next game looked too complicated given that he had been up since 4am, and was finding it hard to focus.  The next game, Cartographers, certainly was a step up, so despite having done really well in Patchwork Doodle, Lilac also decided to duck out.  Cartographers is another “Roll and Write” game, but has slightly more of a “boardgame feel” to it.  In fact, part of the reason it we chose it was to celebrate the fact that it had just been announced that Cartographers was runner-up in the 2020 Deutscher Spiele Pries.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Adapted from image by BGG contributor
Johnny Dangerously

The game is played over four seasons during which cards are revealed showing Tetris-like shapes which players draw on their player board.  The difference is that this time, the cards show options giving players an element of choice, either between two different shapes or in the colour to be used.  The colours represent different terrain types, and there are mountain spaces and ruins spaces also pre-printed on the map.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

At the beginning of the game, goal cards are identified for each season; a selection are available which gives games a lot of variety.  Two of these are scored at the end of each round in a similar way to Isle of Skye, another game that is quite popular with the group, but of course one that we can’t really play at the moment.  These scoring cards are really the driving force of the game, essentially creating a set of criteria that players try to follow when adding pieces to the map.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the scoring cards were “Stoneside Forest”, “Shoreside Expanse”, “Great City” and “Lost Barony”.  These can be really quite variable, for example, the first of thesegave players points for each mountain space connected to another solely by forest.  In contrast, the “Shoreside Expanse” rewarded players for each block of farmland not adjacent water and for each block of lake not adjacent to arable, or the edge of the map.  The Great City, however gave points for each square in players’ largest cities and the lost Barony was reminiscent of Patchwork Doodle giving points for the largest completed area in a square.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The other interesting addition is the “Ambush” cards.  In the “Rules as Written”, one of these is added at the start of each round and when they appear, players pass their map to their neighbour who adds the shape in the most inconvenient place they can.  These then give players negative points for each empty adjacent space.  This doesn’t work well with remote gaming, so we play these using the solo rules where the shape starts in one corner and and moves stars following the edge, progressively spiralling towards the centre until it finds a space that it fits in.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we played Cartographers a few weeks back, quite a lot of people missed out, so we decided to add the “House Rule” that we wouldn’t add Ambush cards for the first round to give players a chance to get started. This works nicely, however, because they are removed from the deck once they have appeared, adding one less makes their appearance much less likely.  For this reason, in future we would probably just add two at the start of the second round as they certainly add quite a lot to the game.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the edge case rules had been clarified, Blue started revealing cards.  Each card has a time counter in the top left corner where the number is roughly based on the number of spaces the shape fills.  This helps to control the rate the board fills at and maintains the level of tension throughout the game.  This time, the first round included quite a few large pieces, one of which was forest which enabled those who spotted it to connect two mountain squares and score a quick six points.  Otherwise, the first round was all about players trying to find good places to place lots of fields and water ensuring they didn’t touch and starting a large city to set up the next round.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The next round was all about the first Ambush card: the Gnoll Raid.  Pink had a near perfect place to put it, tucked neatly round the Rift Lands space he’d placed on his ruins in the previous round.  As he looked pleased with himself, others applied the complicated Ambush rule and variously sounded please or unimpressed depending on how much work it had left them with and how many negative points they had to mitigate.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The third round was fairly quiet as there was no Ambush, increasing the chance of one appearing in the final round.  The last round started very slowly and gently with lots of very “low time” cards appearing and everyone sounding initially unimpressed, then quite pleased as they discovered pleasing ways of filling spaces to help satisfy the “Lost Barony” scoring card.  Then, just when everyone was nearly nearly home safe and sound, we were ambushed by the penultimate card of the game: the Bugbear Assault.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The Bugbear Assault is two one-by-two columns with a gap down the middle, making it quite hard to place at the end of the game.  Mulberry was unable to place it and therefore got away unscathed, but others like Burgundy, Purple and Black found they were suddenly four or five points worse off than they had been a moment earlier.  The final piece was also difficult to place being large and awkward, and then it was just the final scores.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Animation by boardGOATS

It was really tight at the top, with Pine and Pink taking second and third respectively, separated by just a single point.  Ivory, however, who had lost out by four points to Blue in Patchwork Doodle, managed to take victory by the same margin, winning with the same total of one hundred and twenty points.  With that, Ivory departed for the night, and Pine and Green said they would follow.  Before he went, however, Green shared an image of kookaburra which looked a bit like a goat provided you mistook it’s beak for an ear…

Goat or Bird?
– Image by boardGOATS

The chit-chat moved on to the Jockey and what it was like there now.  Black, Purple, Blue and Pink had enjoyed a meal and a distanced game of Wingspan there and Ivory had joined Blue and Pink for games of Everdell and the new mini Ticket to Ride, Amsterdam.  In both cases the pub had been quite quiet, but had felt very safe, partly because there was so much space and partly because the staff had done an excellent job of cleaning.  The pizzas were just as good as always, and it was really good to see the staff again.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Green commented that he was now quite bored with “colouring in”, so Pine’s parting shot was “Blue’s doing a great job”.  Blue agreed that there had been “colouring in” for two weeks running, but that it would be different next time when they would likely be playing Welcome To…, and sadly, there wasn’t really that much alternative to “Roll and Write” that we hadn’t already tried.  Burgundy added that nobody could play what they wanted all the time anyhow, especially at the moment.  And with that, there were five left to accommodate, who switched to play something more interactive on Board Game Arena.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

After a bit of discussion and general ambivalence, those left eventually opted for Coloretto.  This is a very light and simple set collecting game that we all know the rules for:  turn over a card and place it on a truck, or take a truck.  Despite the simplicity of the rules, the game itself is very clever and can be played positively, or aggressively taking cards others want.  The winner is almost always the player who best balances these two elements.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the three of the first four cards to be drawn were Rainbow coloured Jokers.  These are such valuable cards that first Black, then Blue, then Purple took them on their own leaving Burgundy and Pink without a look-in.  From there, Burgundy started collecting sets of blue and brown chameleons, while Pink started work on collecting a rainbow—totally not the point of the game.  Black took a cart that Blue wanted, so she took one that Burgundy wanted and the tit-for-tat rippled through the group.

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

It was quite tight at the end, and by that point almost everyone had joined Pink with five different colours.  Not that it did him much harm as he finished with a very creditable twenty-four to give him second place, just behind Burgundy who finished with twenty-eight.  With that, he decided it was bedtime and that left four…

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

After a bit of debate, the now dwindling group settled down to a game of Kingdomino.  We have all played this game a lot, so it was remarkable that we managed to make such a meal of it.  The game is very simple, but punches above its weight in terms of depth.  The key part is the domino market.  There are are two rows sorted by value; on their turn, the player takes their tile from the first row and moves their meeple to their chosen tile in the second row.  Since tiles are taken in order from least to most valuable, players are trading value for turn order and thus, choice in the next round.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

In other words, if a player chooses the least valuable tile, on their next turn they will play first and therefore have first choice and can pick from four tiles.  Alternatively, if they choose the most valuable tile, they will play last in the next round and will have Hobson’s choice.  The dominoes are placed in the players’ kingdoms with players scoring points for each terrain type, where the number of points is the number of crown features multiplied by the number of squares in the area.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately, Blue, who set up the table chose the rules and picked the seven-by-seven variant, and the bonuses for completing the kingdom and for placing the starting tile in the centre.  Sadly, as the expansion has not yet been implemented on Board Game Arena, the seven-by-seven variant is only available for the two-player game.  There is no warning about this, and Blue was slow to realise, screwing up one tile placement and then was unable to complete her kingdom or get her castle in the middle.

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

Just as Blue was realising and the extent of her problems, and failing to put them right, Burgundy was busy building a very fine kingdom that would rival “Far Far Away” and when everyone else was unimpressed with the tile draw commented, “Well, all those are good for me.”  The immediate response was, “Just as well, since you don’t have a choice…”

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

Meanwhile, Black put a tile in the wrong place and made a wonderful growling noise, something between a cross dog and an angry bear.  Then discovered the cancel button and cheered, only to discover that the piece he wanted wouldn’t fit after all and howled with disgust.  The Silent One definitely wasn’t silent this time!  In fact, he thought he would have beaten the winner, Burgundy, if he hadn’t placed a single tile the wrong way round, so we decided to play again.

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

This time, Black started going for lakes but had competition from Purple who was also after lakes, but augmented them with forest.  Burgundy went for marshland and Blue actually managed to complete her kingdom and get her castle in the middle this time.  It was much closer, and all the kingdoms were much more mixed.  The winner was Purple though, who just edged Black.  Everyone was really pleased, especially when the Board Game Arena presented her with a trophy for her first win at Kingdomino.  And that seemed like a good way to end the evening.

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

Learning Outcome:  Colouring in nicely is an important board gaming skill.