Tag Archives: The Game of Life

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.

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

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

The Game of Life
– Image by boardGOATS

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

The Game of Life
– Image by boardGOATS

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

The Game of Life
– Image by boardGOATS

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

The Game of Life
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Boardgames in the News: How to Spot Fake and Counterfeit Games

Over the last few months, there have been increasing numbers of reports of fake or counterfeit games.  The quality of these forgeries is extremely variable and a huge range of games appear to be affected, from popular gateway games like Ticket to Ride: Europe, 7 Wonders or Dominion to more complex games like Terraforming Mars.  Card games like Codenames might be thought of as an obvious target due to how simple they are to reproduce, however, one of the most affected games is Azul, and some reports suggest that it is the cardboard components that are poor quality—the plastic tiles are indistinguishable from the genuine articles.

Codenames
– Image from czechgames.com

So, how does one spot a counterfeit board game?  The answer is basically the same as for anything else.  Firstly, look at the quality.  This is probably the strongest indicator and if the quality of the fake is particularly high the buyer might not mind so much, or even notice.  Things to look out for include:

Splendor
– Image from imgur.com by BGG contributor ceephour

Some counterfeits are very high quality however.  This can be due to the so-called third shift work“, where a game is made in a factory that is nominally closed overnight, but the workers gain access and create bootleg copies with stolen material or off-cuts. Some of these are very good, but in some cases they also use parts that failed the quality control tests.  In such cases, the seller maybe more of an indication.  If buying on ebay or Amazon market place, beware if the seller has a strange name, claims to be located in the UK but isn’t, and has a very long delivery time.  In such cases, the scam is often to get payment a long time in advance, so that by the time the item is delivered (if at all), they are long gone.

Terraforming Mars
– Image from imgur.com

Thirdly, don’t imagine that Amazon is safe either:  there are three types of transaction, “Shipped from and sold by third-party seller”, “Sold by third-party seller and fulfilled by Amazon” and “Shipped and sold by Amazon”.  Amazon only “sells” authentic items, however due to “commingling“, their stock can become contaminated by fakes.  This is because when an item is sold by a third-party seller and fulfilled by Amazon, the third-party seller ships their item to Amazon who add it to their pile in their warehouse before they ship it on.  If the third-party is dodgy, the person buying from them may get lucky and get a copy from Amazon’s stock which means someone else will be unlucky…

Finally, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is—caveat emptor: Buyer Beware!

Game Plan: Rediscovering Boardgames at the V & A Museum of Childhood

Inspired by the recent articles on Saturday Live and the Today Programme, on Easter Sunday, Pink and Blue decided to visit the V & A Museum of Childhood to see their “Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered” exhibition.  Catching a train from Oxford Parkway and negotiating the London Underground, they arrived in Bethnal Green.  With its vaulted ceiling and exposed metal work, the Museum building looks for all the world like a re-purposed Victorian Civil building, a train station, swimming pool or maybe some sort of pumping station.  Much to their disappointment, however, after extensive discussion and investigation, it turned out that the building was designed for the purpose, albeit after relocation of parts from “Albertopolis” on Exhibition Road.

Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered
– Image by boardGOATS

The exhibition itself was well presented and occupied a sizeable portion of the overall floor space.  Although it was located in one of the upstairs galleries, the exhibition was well advertised and, from entering the main hall, games were brought to the visitors’ attention with table space and signs offering the loan of games should people want to play.  It wasn’t an idle promise either, as there were several family groups making full use of the opportunity, albeit playing what might be called classic games rather than more modern, Euro games.

Senet
– Image by boardGOATS

A quick look at the model train cabinet and brief spell side-tracked by one or two other exciting toys preceded entry to the exhibition which was shrouded by an eye-catching red screen.  The first exhibit was a copy of Senet, arguably one of the oldest games in the world – so old in fact that we’ve lost the rules and nobody knows how to play it.  This was followed by some traditional games including a beautiful wooden Backgammon set made in Germany in 1685 and decorated with sea monsters and a lot of fascinating Chess sets, old and new.  Next, there were some ancient copies of Pachisi (which evolved into Ludo) and Snakes and Ladders, both games that originated in India and were originally played seriously by adults.

Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered
– Image by boardGOATS

Further round there were many other curious games, for example, The Noble Game of Swan from 1821, which was an educational game for children, itself developed from the much older, Game of the Goose.  Education was a bit of theme and there were a lot of games from the nineteenth and early twentieth century designed to teach geography in some form or another.  These included Round the Town, a game where players had to try to cross London via Charing Cross, and Coronation Scot, a game based on travelling from Glasgow to London inspired by the eponymous 1937 express train made to mark the coronation of George VI.

Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered
– Image by boardGOATS

Education didn’t stop there either:  for those that had been members of RoSPA‘s “Tufty Club“, there was a game promoting road safety featuring Tufty the Squirrel and his mates Minnie Mole and the naughty Willy Weasel.  However, when designing this roll-and-move game, they clearly ran out of imaginative “adventures” with a road safety message, as they had to resort to “Picking and eating strange berries – Go back three spaces…”

Tufty Road Safety Game
– Image by boardGOATS

Progressing through the late twentieth century, there were the inevitable copies of the childhood classic games, including Game of Life, Risk, Cluedo, Mouse Trap, Trivial Pursuit, Connect 4, Scrabble and the inevitable Monopoly, all of which risked bringing a tear to the eye as visitors remembered playing them as children.  The exhibition eventually brought us up to date with modern Euro-style games, presenting copies of Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan.

Pandemic
– Image by boardGOATS

More interestingly, there was also an original prototype of Pandemic supplied by the designer, Matt Leacock, complete with his scribbles and bits of paper stuck over infection routes he decided to remove as the game developed.  One of the final display showed how the influence boardgames have had on the computer gaming industry is sometimes strangely reciprocated, with a copy of the Pac-Man game, including the title figure wrought in sunshine yellow plastic.

Pac Man
– Image by boardGOATS

Leaving the exhibition, there was just one last game – “What’s Your Gameface?“.  This cute flow chart entertained Blue and Pink for far longer than is should have as they tested it out with all their friends, relatives and fellow gamers (nobody came out as “Cheater”).

Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered
– Image by boardGOATS

With the exhibition done, there was still time for a wander round the rest of the museum and a quick cuppa in the cafe.  Reflecting on the exhibition, perhaps one of the best aspects had actually been the quotations that adorned the walls.  It seems luminaries from Plato to Roald Dahl have all had something to say on the subject of games.  Perhaps George Bernard Shaw supplied the most thought provoking comment though, when he said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”  With this in mind, we did what gamers do when they travel, so tea and cake was accompanied by two rounds of Mijnlieff, the super-cool noughts and crosses game.  With the museum closing, it was time to head home, but there was still time for a game or two of 3 Sind Eine Zu Viel! on the train back to Oxford…

Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered
– Image by boardGOATS

The Exhibition is only open till 23rd April 2017, so there isn’t much time left and it is well worth a visit.

Boardgames in the News: The Hobby Grows and Grows

In the UK in the 1960s and 1970s, boardgames were only available from toy shops, and the range was limited to a relatively small number of “traditional” games, like Chess, Monopoly, Game of Life or Cluedo.  With the appearance of bigger, supermarket-like stores like Toys “R” Us in the 1980s and 1990s, a wider range became available and, occasionally, games like the early Spiel des Jahres winner, Rummikub, made their way onto our shelves.  As children grew up, they might graduate into playing Risk and eventually move onto longer, more complex games like those produced by Avalon Hill.  However, if you liked playing games, but war themes were not for you, it was quite difficult to find good alternative games to play.  They were there though:  games like Acquire and the 18xx railway games had been about for a long time, but these were the exception rather than the rule and were still an acquired taste.

Rummikub
– Image by BGG contributor OldestManOnMySpace

In contrast, in Germany, games like Scotland Yard were starting to become readily available and genuinely very popular.  The success of the Spiel des Jahres, which rewarded good games like Ra, El Grande, Tikal, and the 1995 winner, The Settlers of Catan, meant that boardgames were receiving a lot of publicity in Continental Europe.  The characteristics of these “German Games” (or “Euro Games”) typically include balance, with only a small amount of luck, and lack of player elimination.  As the market developed, beautiful boards and lots of wooden pieces also became an essential component.  Unlike war games, “Euro Games” tend to be less confrontational and much more suitable for family gaming.

The Settlers of Catan
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

In the 1990s, UK designers like Alan R. Moon and Richard Breese started publishing small numbers of “designer games”.  These were often largely assembled by hand and generally had a limited print run.  For example, only 1,200 copies of Elfenroads (precursor to the later, Spiel des Jahres winner Elfenland) were ever made and Keywood, the first of the highly acclaimed “Key Series“, was hand-made and had a print-run of just 200.  Given the exclusive nature of these games, it was not surprising then, that many teenagers either gave up on boardgames or moved on to collectable card games, like Magic: The Gathering or Role-Playing Games.

Elfenroads
– Image by BGG contributor dougadamsau

So it was with the growth of the internet that “Euro Games”, or designer boardgames became available to people in the UK.  Firstly, this was because it enabled people to find out about the games that were available, with sites like UseNet and eventually BoardGameGeek in 2000, providing a valuable source of information.  Secondly, internet shopping made “German Games” much more accessible.  The growth of the hobby meant an increase in boardgame publishers, and the appearance of designers like Reiner Knizia who were sufficiently prolific and successful to make a living from designing games.  Over the last fifteen years or so, the hobby has grown and grown and games like Carcassonne and The Settlers of Catan are now available in Waterstones and WHSmith, there are regular comments in The Guardian, there are repeatedly TV appearances, and boardgame cafés are sprouting up all over the place.  The question is, will it continue to grow, or have we reached a high water line?

Ernie
– Image from boardgamegeek.com