Tag Archives: The Climbers

28th November 2017

The “Feature Game” was to be Lords of Waterdeep, and with a nearly full turn-out, it was simply a question of who wanted to play it.  Some were a little put off by the Dungeons & Dragons theme, but Burgundy, Green, Ivory, and Purple were keen to give it a go, with Ivory and Purple new to the game.  Each player is a secret Lord of Waterdeep, who uses their agents to recruit adventurers to collect gold so that they can complete Quests to advance their cause.  Each player in turn places one of their “agents” on a building space on the board and immediately resolves the effects of that building. A player may not place his agent on a building space if it has already been taken; the round ends when all agents have been placed, and a game is exactly eight rounds long.  Most of the buildings on the board give money or adventurers. The adventurers are represented by coloured wooden cubes: orange for Fighters, black for Rogues, white for Clerics and purple for Wizards.

Lords of Waterdeep
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mikehulsebus

The adventurers players collect are exchanged for completing Quest cards. These cards can range from only a few points (four to six), but an extra advantage or some adventurer returned (a bit like a cash-back scheme), to some that give a massive amount of points (over twenty).  This is not the only source of points as there is also a substantial reward given to each player for completing the requirements on their secret Lord of Waterdeep card.  Despite the Fighting Fantasy theme, Lords of Waterdeep is really just run of the mill worker placement game, with adventurers instead of resources.  Unlike many games of this genre, “resources” flow in quite readily, but unfortunately they also flow out just as easily too…

Lords of Waterdeep
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mikehulsebus

When Green completed a twenty point Quest early on, he looked a long way in the lead, but although it took a couple of rounds for his advantage to be quashed, quashed it duly was. It didn’t take long for everyone to work out which Quest card types everyone had for their secret goals, with Green and Ivory both wanting Commerce, and Green and Burgundy both chasing Piety. Only Purple remained more elusive to work out which was not surprising since she was actually scoring for every building she built and not scoring for Quests completed at all. No-one guessed, even though she managed to build six out of the maximum ten built. To be fair to Green and Ivory, Green had only played the game once before and that was four years ago, and Ivory had never played at all. Burgundy was at least aware that there was such a task, but after the game commented that he never does well at this game (unusually for him), though he enjoys the challenge.

Lords of Waterdeep
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mikehulsebus

Throughout the game, Purple employed an interesting strategy in that she built up a number of Intrigue cards without using them. She turned that round in the last two or three rounds as her pile of Intrigues got whittled down, gaining her bonuses at everyone else’s expense ( and occasionally to their benefit as well), until she ended the game with none.  Ivory put a lot of effort into trying to get the big scoring quests and at one point was holding out for one on display to use with the building that would gain him an extra four points if he could complete at the same time as picking it up. In the end he bottled it and took it a turn earlier in case it was lost. It turned out he was right to do so, as shortly after he had taken it, all the quest cards were replaced. Ivory also managed to gain a number of bonus points as he too was a prolific builder.

Lords of Waterdeep
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Green was trying to get as many Commerce cards as he could figuring the low scores would add up (Peity cards, his other bonus challenge, were in rather short supply in this game). About half way through, he built the extra worker building that when used allows the player to choose an action before anyone else. Green then used this to great effect taking this piece regularly and combining it with the first player marker to get the first two turns.  In a game where white Clerics were in such short supply (and many of the Quests that appeared later required lots of clerics), this really scuppered the plans of Ivory and Burgundy in particular.  Peity cards need more Clerics than most, Burgundy’s game was often frustrated by the lack of white cubes, and although he kept the first player token in the early part of the game and made good use of it, he just couldn’t quite get his engine going.

Lords of Waterdeep
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mikehulsebus

The intrigue cards added an extra layer and interaction into the game. Many of them gave a benefit, but also gave a lesser advantage to another player of choice. And some were downright mean to a player of choice, and so alliances were made and broken throughout the game. Reasoning and pleading were a regular feature—an enjoyable interaction which is not so direct in other games.  In the end, it was a close game, but Ivory came out on top, just three points ahead of Green.  Everyone enjoyed it though and would be happy to play it again, but there was general agreement that with five players it would get crowded and might begin to drag.

Lords of Waterdeep
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mikehulsebus

Meanwhile, on the next table, they had a bit of a problem:  almost all the games they had were four player games and there were five of them!  That afternoon, Magenta had expressed an interest in playing The Climbers again and, as it plays five, it was an easy choice.  This is a great three dimensional strategy game that we first played about a year ago.  It looks like it is designed round a set of children’s building blocks, but it’s appearance belies its true nature however, and, although it looks like a kiddie’s dexterity game, it is really a strategy game with almost no dexterity component at all.  The game is played in turn order with each turn comprising three steps. Firstly, the active player can move a block, any block so long as there isn’t anything on it, and they can place it anywhere, in any orientation as long as there is sufficient space. Next the active player can move their Climber as far as they like within the rules.

– Image by boardGOATS

Climbers can climb up any step below their head height unaided as long as the face they are climbing onto is grey or their own colour. They can also use their long and/or short ladders to climb larger distances, but they are fragile and therefore single use. Before the end of their turn, the active player may place their blocking stone, which prevents a brick being moved or used until that player’s next turn.  These are also single use though, so timing is everything, in fact that is true for almost everything about this game which was amply demonstrated by Blue. Nominated to go first by random draw, she made the most of it using her long ladder and getting as high up as she could as quickly as possible, much to everyone else’s disgust.  Black got himself somewhat stuck on a ledge, but Red, Pine and Magenta quickly caught up.  Then it became a real game of chess with everyone trying to outmaneuver everyone else.   Red accused Blue of using “Dubious Tactics”, but they proved to be winning tactics as she finished just higher than Red in second.

The Climbers
– Image by boardGOATS

With the Matterhorn conquered, and Lords of Waterdeep still going, it was back to the search for a five-player game, and Santo Domingo fitted the bill.  This is a light card game of tactics and bluffing with a pirate theme set in the world of one of our more popular games, Port Royal.  The idea is that in each round player one character card from their hand which are activated in character order and then are placed on a personal discard pile.  The characters are designed to maximise player interaction, with their result dependent on cards that other players have chosen, similar to games like Citadels and Witch’s Brew.  For example, the first card is the Captain who can take a victory point (from a track on a central game board) up to a maximum of twice. The second character is the Admiral who also takes one victory point, but this time up to a maximum of five times, but this is only possible if there are enough points available. This means players have to play “chicken” and try to time playing their second card when other players play something other than the the Captain or the Admiral.

Santo Domingo
– Image by boardGOATS

Players have to be careful though because the third card is the Governor which gives players goods (rather than points) for every player who played either a Captain or an Admiral card. This means players are trying to maximise their return by reading everybody’s minds and saving their Governor for the round when everyone else is playing the Captain and the Admiral.  Cards four, five and six are the Frigate, Galleon and Customs are roughly analogous to the first three characters, except the Frigate and Galleon yield goods (instead of points) and the Customs card gives points (instead of goods).  Goods are very useful as they can be turned into victory points using the Trader (the seventh character card). Timing is key here too though as the potential return increases for every round that nobody uses the Trader; the return also depends on the number of people to play the card though, so even if everyone waits and then plays the Trader at the same time, players may get less than if they had played a round earlier.

Santo Domingo
– Image by boardGOATS

The final card is the Beggar which allows players to pick up their discard pile so that they can re-use them in the following rounds. At the end of each round, players check to see if anyone has passed thirty points and if so, that triggers the end of the game where any residual goods are converted to points at the minimum rate and the player left with the most points is the winner.  It was about half way through the game that Blue realised that there was something missing.  When the Trader is played, the return is dependent on the yellow track and how many players play the same card.  The problem was that once someone plays the Trader, that triggers a reset of the yellow, trader’s track.  Unfortunately, we forgot the reset bit which meant that players who were prioritising goods were finding it easy to get a good return whenever they wanted.  As a result, the game was very close and finished very quickly.

Santo Domingo
– Image by boardGOATS

Magenta took the first place with thirty-one points, just two ahead of Black in second.  As we had time, we decided to give the game another go, playing correctly this time.  Second time round was still close, though there was a better spread and the Beggar (who also gives goods for every Trader card played in the same round) suddenly became a bit more interesting.  After doing well in the fist game, Black got his timing wrong and failed to trade his goods.  Magenta was extremely efficient the second time round as well, but this time was beaten into second place by Blue.  With the game finished, Red and Magenta headed home and Blue, Black and Pine began a game of Azul.

Azul
– Image by BGG contributor JackyTheRipper

This is a new release that Pink and Blue picked up at Essen this year and so far has been popular with the group as well as receiving a lot of buzz further afield.  The idea of the game is that players are tile laying artists decorating a wall in the Palace of Evora with “azulejos”.  On their turn, the active player can either take all the tiles of one colour from one of the factory display (putting the rest in the central market) or take all the tiles of one colour from the market in the centre of the table.  They then place the tiles in one of the five rows on their player board.  The catch is that each player only has five rows, each with a set number of spaces, one to five. Players can add tiles to a row later in the round, but once a row is full, any left-overs go into the negative scoring row. Once all the tiles have been picked up, players evaluate their board, and, starting with the shortest row, one of the tiles from each full row is added to the player’s mosaic and scored.

Azul
– Image by BGG contributor JackyTheRipper

Players score one point for a tile that is not placed adjacent to any other tile, whereas tiles added to rows or columns score the same number of points as there are tiles in the completed row (or column). The game continues with players choosing tiles from the factory displays and then adding them to rows, the catch is that as the mosaic fills up, it is harder to fill the rows as each row can only take each colour once. The game is actually much more complex to explain than to actually play, and as such is just the sort of game we really appreciate.  Blue and Black had both played before, but Pine was new to the game.  Last time he played, Black had commented that this was “just the sort of game that he really liked, but wasn’t any good at”, so it was left to Blue to lead the way.  Pine didn’t need much showing however, and soon had a very fine wall of his own.  So much so in fact, that when Blue was forced to pick up five black “azulejos” she didn’t have space for he was in prime position to take a well deserved win.

Azul
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

While Azul was still underway, Lords of Waterdeep had come to an end, so Green, Ivory, Burgundy and Purple decided there was time for quick game of Lanterns: The Harvest Festival.  This is a straight-forward, light tile laying game, where players are decorating the palace lake with floating lanterns and competing to become the most honored artisan when the festival begins. Each tile is divided into four quarters, each of which has a colour, red, orange, blue, green, purple, black and white. On their turn, players choose a tile from their hand of three and add it to the central palace lake. Every player then receives a lantern card corresponding to the color on the side of the tile facing them, with the active player receiving bonus cards for any edges where the colours of the new tile match those of the lake. At the start of their next turn, players can gain honour tiles by dedicating sets of lantern cards, three pairs, four of a kind or seven different colours. Each tile is worth honour points and the player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Lanterns: The Harvest Festival
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Purple, Burgundy and Ivory went for trying to collect for the full colour set, while Green was content to begin targeting the “two-pairs” or four of a kind. Purple was a late starter to exchange her cards, forcing Burgundy to go for a couple of two-pairs, and Green got stuck with three orange lantern cards with none left to collect. Part way through the game, they suddenly realised that the six point scoring taken was actually a nine point scoring token and everyone had to work out who should have earned what. There weren’t too many already taken, so the correction was worked out quite easily. Purple seemed to not only hoard the cards, but was also building a large collection of bonus discs, such that the others thought that she wasn’t going to be able to use them all.  As usual there was the normal mutterings of the tiles being the wrong way round. Later on with shortages of some colours, tiles were placed in such a way to prevent some players collecting anything at all.  As the game wore on Purple started to exchange her cards and use her discs. By the end of the game she had actually used them all, and it turned out that she’d used them to perfection, proving that hoarding can sometimes be a winning strategy.

Lanterns: The Harvest Festival
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Just as they started, Azul finished so Blue suggested Black might like to give NMBR 9 a try since he had been quite intrigued last time when Pine, Blue and Purple had played it. Black was Keen and Pine had enjoyed it, so Blue explained the rules.  The idea is that players will play a total of twenty tiles, numbered zero to nine, with each one appearing twice.  One player turns over a card and calls the number and players each take one tile of that number and add it to their tableau.  Tiles must be placed such that at least one edge touches a previous tile.  Tiles can be placed on top of other tiles as long as there are no overhanging parts, and the tile sits squarely on more than one other tile.  At the end of the game the number tiles are multiplied by the level they sit on minus one.  So, a five on the third level scores ten points (5 x (3-1)).

NMBR 9
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

The game followed the usual course, but it wasn’t long before the the bingo calls started.  Pine began, but Ivory on the next table soon joined in: “Number eight,  garden gate”; “On it’s own, number one”.  Pine finished with, “This number’s smaller, Ivory’s the caller!”  And finished the evening just about was, with only the maths left to be sorted out.  Both Blue and Black had managed to sneak a nine and a one onto the third story.  Pine had more than Black on the first story, but Blue had more than either of them and finished with a grand total of fifty three, some five points more than either of the others.

NMBR 9
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Learning Outcome: Don’t be misled by an unpromising theme.

29th Movember 2016

Different week, different people, different sickness, same late start…  After Burgundy had finished worrying the pub staff by changing his supper order (given how fast Blue can polish off a pizza he thought he might be able to eat a Hawaiian quicker than his usual ham, eggs & chips – he was wrong), we split into two groups, with the first playing the “Feature Game”, The Climbers.  This is a great three dimensional strategy game that looks like it is designed round a set of children’s building blocks. It’s appearance belies its true nature however, and, although it looks like a kiddie’s dexterity game, it is really a strategy game with almost no dexterity component at all.  Red and Magenta thought it looked cool and Burgundy had read the rules on line so was also keen to give it a go, so the group was pretty much self-selecting with Blue making up the foursome.

The Climbers
– Image by boardGOATS

We began by placing the two Triple-height blocks in the centre and randomly piling the rest of the bricks round it, covering all the visible surfaces, then Blue started explaining the rules.  It was at about this point that we realised that Burgundy had read a very different set.  The game was originally released in German as Die Aufsteiger.  Since it is very language independent, when they were  translated into English, a few changes were made to the rules and when the second edition was brought out the rules were revised again with some of the additions listed as optional variants.  This means that there are effectively three different sets of rules and to make things worse, lots of people have their own “House Rules” as well.  Since nobody had played it very much we decided to stick to the rules as written in the copy we had, without the addition variants.

The Climbers
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played in turn order with each turn comprising three steps.  Firstly, the active player can move a block, any block so long as there isn’t anything on it, and they can place it anywhere, in any orientation as long as there is sufficient space.  Next the active player can move their Climber as far as they like within the rules.  Climbers can climb up any step below their head height unaided as long as the face they are climbing onto is grey or their own colour.  They can also use their long and/or short ladders to climb larger distances, but they are fragile and therefore single use (though that’s not very green as Red pointed out).  Finally, the active player may place a blocking stone which prevents a brick being moved or used until that player’s next turn.  Probably the most difficult part of the game is the concept of “space”.  There are three different sized coloured blocks:  Cubes (2a x 2a x 2a), Half-height (2a x 2a x a) and Double-height (2a x 2a x 4a).  These blocks have each face painted a different colour, the five that correspond to the player colours and one side that is grey.  There are also two Triple-height blocks that are plain grey and are the base of the setup.

The Climbers
– Image by boardGOATS

The square faces of the blocks can be considered to consist of four smaller squares – this is the basic unit (a x a).  This basic “a2” unit is sufficient space for one Climber.  Blocks can be placed offset, like bricks in a wall sitting on two or more other bricks, so long as these basic “a2” units are observed and remain whole.  The undersurface of each block must also have full contact with the blocks underneath – there cannot be any holes or overhangs.  If a Climber is sat in an inconvenient place, he can be “nudged” out of the way using a block, provided that he isn’t knocked off or moved onto a different block.  This can make space for placing a block, or for a Climber:  Climbers can only sit on their own colour or grey and need an “a2” unit each.  Thus, several Climbers can sit on a large grey face.  The winner is the player who’s Climber is highest at the end of the game.

The Climbers
– Image by boardGOATS

Red and Magenta started climbing one side, with Blue and Burgundy progressing up the other.  Red stole a bit of a march as everyone else got in each others’ way leaving Magenta to fight a rear-guard action on her side.  Meanwhile, Blue and Burgundy fought for supremacy, until Blue managed to extricate one of the large grey blocks and use it to simultaneously screw up Burgundy and create a second summit at a similar height to the one Red was occupying.  With this second peak to fight over, there were effectively two races competing against each other, but it wasn’t long before first Burgundy, then Blue and Magenta were forced to take a pause in climbing.  It was at this point that we realised the mistake we’d all made.  Players can choose whether to climb or not, but the game ends when all players successively don’t (or can’t) finish their turn on a higher level.  With all three of us failing to climb, that left Red with potentially the final turn.  Although she was highest, Blue and Magenta were blocks at the same height, so we had to invoke the tie-breaker which meant the first player to reach that level would win.  Since Red had got there first, she had no incentive to move and, in was thrilled to finish in first place in what had been a hard-fought game.

The Climbers
– Image by boardGOATS

Green, Black and Purple joined the others playing with children’s building blocks, with a game of Totemo, an early Tony Boydell gem (he of Snowdonia and Guilds of London).  This game consists of of colored wooden blocks that have a small dowel attached on one end and a hole in the other. This allows them to be placed in the wooden peg-board.  The game starts with one of the multi-colored wild pieces placed in the center of the board.  Each player starts their turn with three wooden totem pieces.  To place a piece, all totem pieces it touches must abide by the color wheel.  So, for example, a purple block may be placed on its own or adjacent to purple, red or blue blocks; the more blocks it touches, the higher its score.  There are also several blocks with two feathers on top which are totem toppers and cannot be placed on the bottom level. In addition, no other totem piece can be placed on top of them.  Players can only place one totem piece per turn unless they land on a space seeded with a bonus marker.  At the start of the game, several bonus markers are placed round the board – landing on these enables the active player to place another block, up to a maximum of three.

Totemo
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of their turn, the active player replenished their set of totem blocks.  Each round, the start player moves the round marker until it gets closer to the tee-pee indicating the last round. Alternatively, the game can also end if there are no more totem blocks in the bag.  With apologies for not ironing the playing cloth and quick recap of the rules, the game was under way.  The first rounds were, typically, feeler rounds with players just trying to do the best they could.  Black and Purple had played the game many times before while Green, had played it only once and that was a few years ago.  Black and Purple managed to make use of the bonus markers by landing on the correct space on the scoring track and began to pull away from Green who was stuck with red bricks he could only place on their own since there was a predominance of blue bricks on the board.

Totemo
– Image by boardGOATS

This forced Green to change his strategy from simply trying to get the highest score possible to getting the exact score to land on a bonus tile and go again each time.  He started this new approach with a bang, placing all three of his blocks in one go and shot into a healthy lead.  Throughout the game players were each left with one or two blocks they couldn’t easily place, either because they were the wrong colour or were “toppers”.  The game took longer than it should have as everyone was guilty of over analysis at different times, but Black and Purple slowly caught up with Green, and going into the final round were both in the lead once again. Unfortunately neither could quite reach their respective bonus spaces and just added a modest amount to the final score. Green however, placed all three of his blocks and took the lead by more than ten points, with it winning the game.

Totemo
– Image by boardGOATS

With both games finishing together and nobody up for a late night we decided to opt for a large group game, and prompted by Magenta, we quickly settled on Las Vegas.  This is a very simple game where players begin their turn by rolling their dice, then they assign some of them to one of six casinos.  Each casino is numbered one to six and has a jackpot drawn at random from a deck of money.  Players must use all the dice of one number to bet on the casino of that number.  Once everyone has placed all their dice the player who placed the most dice on a casino takes the highest value currency card. The really clever bit is that before any money is handed out, any “draws” are removed, which leads to a lot of barracking.  This time we included the Slot Machine from the 2015 Brettspiel Advent Calendar.  This is like a seventh casino, except that it can hold dice of any number, but each number can only be added once (though a player must add all the dice they have of that number).

Las Vegas
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

We also added the extra dice for more players from the Boulevard expansion, as well as “bigguns”, large dice which count as two in the final reckoning.  Green kicked off the first round, which turned out to be very unproductive for both Blue and Burgundy who struggled to get anything of any value.  Burgundy struggled in the second round as well, as did Black and their problems were compounded by the small number of high value notes that were repeatedly drawn.  Meanwhile, Red was struggling to keep her eyes open, so while everyone else was playing the long game, she was played her dice as quickly as she could then dozing while everyone else finished the round without her.  The problem with everyone playing small numbers of dice in the early part of the game and hanging on to dice for as long as possible was that it slowed the game down considerably, not that anyone really minded on this occasion.  It wasn’t until the last round that we began to realise that this strategy didn’t really work, a conclusion that was reinforced by the fact that a slightly embarrassed Red won the game, some $50,000 ahead of Magenta and Blue in second and third.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  Sometimes sleeping through a game isn’t a disadvantage.