Tag Archives: The Settlers of Catan

Spiel des Jahres Winners – 2022

The 2022 Spiel des Jahres (German Game of the Year) winner has just been been announced as Cascadia.   Cascadia is a token-drafting and tile laying game featuring the habitats and wildlife of the Pacific Northwest.  Players take turns expanding their terrain area and populating it with wildlife by taking a terrain and wildlife pair of tiles and adding them to their territory.  Players are trying to create large areas of matching terrain to create wildlife corridors, while also placing wildlife tokens to achieve the goal associated with that animal type (e.g. separating hawks from other hawks, surrounding foxes with different animals and keeping bears in pairs).

– Image by BGG contributor singlemeeple

In recent years, there has been a marked change in the sort of games winning the award with a noticeable shift to lighter games with a general drift away from “traditional board games” like past winners, El Grande, Tikal, The Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride: Europe.  This was epitomised by last year’s winner MicroMacro: Crime City, which is arguably more of an activity than a game.  Although this may make games more relevant to a wider cross-section of the public, it also means the Spiel des Jahres awards are increasingly less applicable to more traditional gamers.  This year’s winner, Cascadia is something of a throwback in this regard, being a more conventional modern board game and not as light as some of the recent winners.

– Image by Ludonaute

That said, the introduction of the Kennerspiel des Jahres or “connoisseur” award eleven years ago, was aimed at filling the gap left by the drift of the Spiel des Jahres Award, with a move towards lighter games.  As such, it is usually a better fit for the experienced gamer, though not necessarily those who enjoy classic Euro board games.  This year, all three nominees were more traditional Euro-type games, guaranteeing that the winner would be too.  The Kennerspiel des Jahres winner is announced at the same time as the winner of the “Red Poppel”, and this year it was another nature game, Living Forest, a game where players are a nature spirit trying to save the forest and its sacred tree from the flames of Onibi.

Cascadia
– Image adapted by boardGOATS from the
live stream video on spiel-des-jahres.de

The Kinderspiel des Jahres award winner was announced last month and went to Zauberberg (aka Magic Mountain), a game where players move sorcerers’ apprentices down a mountain, and ride the influence of the will-o’-the-wisp.  As usual, congratulations to all the winners and nominees.

UK Games Expo 2022

Today was the first day of the fifteenth UK Games Expo.  After the cancellation two years ago and the subdued event last year, it was almost back to normal this year.  On arrival, outside the NEC, there were vikings in their camp, playing Hnefatafl with their visitors.

Hnefatafl
– Image by boardGOATS

It seems blinging games has been a thing for over a millennia, as the vikings were proudly showing off their pimped out copy.  Inside, the halls were busy, but not overcrowded, though of course this was Friday, traditionally the “quiet day”.

UKGE 2022
– Image by boardGOATS

Just inside the door was the Burley Games stand with a shelf of variants of Take it Easy!—an unwanted reminder of playing games remotely through Teams for eighteen months, albeit as one of the games that worked quite well in that format.

UKGE 2022
– Image by boardGOATS

Nearby was the Oink Games stand, showing off the newly Spiel des Jahres nominated, SCOUT and just round the corner, the staff from the Oxford-based Osprey Games were obviously delighted that their game Cryptid had received a Kennerspiel nomination and were keeping their fingers crossed that it would go one further.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

Hall One was also the home to Fire Tower, a clever puzzle game with the tag line, “fight fire with fire”.

Fire Tower
– Image by boardGOATS

As well as a very smiley sheep from Catan, there were also a lot of designers about, including Tony Boydell, Alan Paul, Andy Hopwood, Bez Shahriari, Rob Harper and Matt Dunstan, all sharing their games and chatting with gamers.

UKGE 2022
– Image by boardGOATS

There were a number of interesting little British games, including Daring Dustbunnies and Deckchairs On The Titanic, which were on neighbouring stands, while Surprised Stare were selling a special tribute to the festive weekend called Corgi Dash (based on the 1986 Spiel des Jahres winner, Heimlich & Co.).

UKGE 2022
– Image by boardGOATS

Universities of Warwick, Chester and Canterbury were all present, variously advertising their courses in game design and demonstrating how gaming can be used as a learning device.  One Warwick (IATL) computer science student showed a game he designed to demonstrate the Turing Test and how people are poor at understanding randomness.

UKGE 2022
– Image by boardGOATS

There were also previews of upcoming games.   These included Namiji, a game which has the same theme and uses the same basic mechanic as Tokaido, but increases the complexity with more challenging steps along the way.  Namiji was demonstrated at Essen in 2019, but like so many things, fell foul of the global pandemic in the interim.

Ticket to Ride: San Francisco
– Image by boardGOATS

The new Ticket to Ride game which will be released later this year was also available to see and play.  It is based round the city of San Francisco and features street cars and follows the successful format of a new map and a slight rules tweak.

UKGE 2022
– Image by boardGOATS

Aside from games, there were also a lot of stands selling books, costumes, props, and scenery—these days, the distinctive aroma of singed wood pervades the aisles of games conventions as an homage to the laser cutter, which is used to make everything from wooden boxes, to houses, coasters and puzzles.

UKGE 2022
– Image by boardGOATS

All in all, the return to face-to-face conventions was a date to remember.  UK Games Expo continues until 4pm Sunday 6th June.

Boardgames in the News: Games making Cameos on TV

Board games are an integral part of family life and growing up and, as such, they have a long tradition of appearing on TV programs.  For example, Kramer and Newman get wrapped up in a game of Risk in Seinfeld, Scrabble features in the second series of Hamish Macbeth and in The Simpsons, while Stratego was the game Fox Mulder was playing with his sister the night she was abducted in the X-Files.  Often, games are used to highlight something “geeky” or otherwise “cerebral”.  So, Rimmer was known to maintain a “Risk Campaign Diary” and often recounting games turn-by-turn to his crew mates in Red Dwarf, and in Star Trek: Voyager, Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres were shown playing Quarto (though it is probably known by a different name in the twenty-fourth century).

Escape From Colditz
– Image from bbc.co.uk

More exiting games have started to appear on TV recently though.  A few years ago, we commented on how Mage Knight featured in the BBC romantic drama Last Tango in Halifax but that is by no means the only TV program to use a designer board game to create atmosphere.  The BBC has a bit of a penchant for including board games in their programs, and when they do, they often choose games that are outside the mainstream.  For example, in the 1970s police drama, Life on Mars featured people playing Escape from Colditz, and more recently, the second series of Killing Eve showed Villanelle playing Dixit.

Dixit on Killing Eve
– Image from bbc.co.uk

In this case, it is a plot device, as Villanelle’s protagonist is commented, “You are struggling with the rules of Dixit, a simple story telling game for players aged eight and upwards, and yet you claim to have two philosophy degrees.”  The BBC doesn’t have a monopoly on showing modern board games, however.  The Channel 4 program, The IT Crowd regularly featured a stack of games in the background that variously included Memoir ’44, Ticket to Ride, Shadows over Camelot, Mystery of the Abbey and War on Terror, while Settlers of Catan, Talisman, Ticket to Ride, and Race for the Galaxy are all shown on shelves in The Big Bang Theory, highlighting how games are still often seen as something for “geeks”.

Tikal
– Image from youtube.com

The “geeky” angle may be changing though.  The Amazon thriller Reacher shows people playing Settlers of Catan in a safe-house, and there is a game shown in every series of the Canadian thriller, Orphan Black because co-creator John Fawcett is a gamer and the show has a “Board Game Advisor” (games featured include Gloomhaven, Runewars, Agricola, Descent, Dead of Winter and Scythe)Tikal even appeared in Glee during the fifth season where the cast sing, “What does the Fox Say?”  Some of these appearances may be paid product placement, in particular Arkham Horror in Limitless and Race for the Galaxy in Silicon Valley, with Rio Grande Games allegedly having confirmed that they have paid for games to appear in shows.  That is not the reason in all cases though.

Wingspan
– Image from itv.com

Last week, Wingspan appeared in the ITV soap-opera, Coronation Street with people shown reading the rules and references to having played later.  Designer Elizabeth Hargrave confirmed that this was not a case of product placement, commenting that the show got in touch and no money had changed hands.  It is possible that one of the script writers is a fan of modern board games as “Corrie” did something similar just over a year ago with Billy Mayhew shown struggling to fathom the rules to Mysterium shortly after Christmas. With the appearance of modern board games in programs like this, it is clear they are no longer solely the preserve of the “geeky”, though it would probably help if we could get rid of the “frowning over difficult rules” stereotype.

Mysterium
– Image from itv.com

Boardgames in the News: Asmodee Changes Hands Again and Lots of Money is Made

Asmodee started life as a small French company best known for clever little Snap-variant card game, Dobble.  However, a series of mergers, buyouts and distribution agreements has left the company with a stake in some of the best known modern games including Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Pandemic and Carcassone.  As a result, the company is arguably the most dominant force in the world of modern board games.

Dobble
– Image adapted by boardGOATS

Paris-based private equity house Eurazeo had owned Asmodee for four years, when three and a half years ago, they sold it to another private equity firm, PAI Partners.  At the time, Asmodee, had an enterprise value of €1.2 billion, making €565 million for Eurazeo and its investors and giving a return of about 35%.  Over the last year, Asmodee acquired Plan B Games, the US retailer Minature Market and, following its success during the global pandemic, the games online platform Board Game Arena.  This activity was building towards another potential sale and last autumn, with PAI Partners making preparations to sell Asmodee for a reported €2 billion.

PAI Partners
– Image from paipartners.com

Then, just before Christmas a deal was announced with Sweden’s Embracer Group AB for €2.75 billion.  Embracer Group AB were formerly Nordic Games Licensing AB and THQ Nordic AB and are a Swedish video game company based in Karlstad.  Under this deal, Asmodee would continue to operate much as before, as an operating group within the Embracer Group.  No reorganization is expected and Asmodee’s CEO Stéphane Carville together with his management team would continue in their current roles.

Embracer Group AB
– Image from embracer.com

19th August 2021 – “Unofficial boardGOATS”

We’d had such fun at the “Post-Covid Test Event” at the Horse and Jockey and some were so disappointed to have missed it, that we decided to have another, this time “unofficial” meeting at the pub before our formal return.  As we chattered away and waited for food to arrive, we told Lime what we’d played last time.  He said he was sorry to have missed Sushi Go! as he really enjoyed it, and in a trice, a real, hardcopy of the game was out and cards were being shuffled and dealt.  We’ve played Sushi Go! plenty of times both online and in person, but as usual, we had a very quick run-through of the rules.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

Players start with a hand of seven cards, and choose one to keep, passing the rest on to the player on their left.  Players repeat this with the aim of the game being to end up with the set of cards that score the most points.  The game is played over three rounds with the player with the highest total winning. The final round was coming to an end when pizza arrived, but we just had time to get to the end.  It was close, but Blue made up for her disastrous showing earlier in the week online with a win, just a single point ahead of Pine (who had missed out completely on the previous game).

Pizza
– Image by boardGOATS

Food was summarily dispatched and Ivory arrived, and after some discussion about what to play and whether to split into two groups, we all settled down together to play the dice-drafting game, Sagrada, with the 5-6 player expansion.  This is another game that most of us are reasonably familiar with and we thought it would be a good game to play to help dust some more of the cobwebs off our gaming skills which had proven to be decidedly rusty at the “Test Event”.  The base game is quite simple:  the starting player draws dice from the bag and players take it in turns to take one and add it to their stained glass window.

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

As well as following the restrictions given on the players’ window cards which specify colours and numbers for some spaces, players must place new dice next to already played dice while avoiding placing dice of the same colour or number in adjacent spaces.  Depending on the difficulty of the player’s window card, players get a number of “cheat tokens” which are worth points at the end, or can be spent to use “Tools” to enable players to improve their move dice, change dice numbers and otherwise break the rules.  This time the Tools cards drawn at random were the Eglomise Brush, the Copper Foil Burnisher and the Cork-backed Straightedge.

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

The Eglomise Brush and the Copper Foil Burnisher allowed players to move dice ignoring any colour/number restrictions printed on their window card, while the Cork-backed Straightedge allowed players to place their chosen die in a location not adjacent to another die.  The Tools are really useful as they allow players to improve their scores. These come from individual goal cards, and shared goal cards drawn at random.  This time we drew one objective card rewarding dice of the same colour arranged diagonally and two that scored points for pairs of dice (ones and twos/threes and fours).

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

The 5-6 player expansion, tweaks the rules a little.  In the base game, in each round, the draft goes one way and then returns so that the first player gets to choose first and last with the last player taking two dice one after the other (similar to the initial settlement placement in The Settlers of Catan).  With large numbers of players this can lead to a lot of down-time, partly because of the sheer number of decisions (which are taken sequentially), but also because there are more dice giving players a larger number of options to consider.  To avoid this, players start the game with their own personal dice pool consisting of two of each colour, rolled to give random numbers.  Players then take one die from the draft and one from their personal dice pool.

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink began, drawing seven dice from the bag, but we were only a few rounds in when Lime thought he might have dropped one.  This queued a mad session of dice counting as well as fond recollections of the time Pine dropped a No Thanks! token between the floor boards which is probably still there.  Fortunately, the dice, though small, would not fit through the gap and it turned out nothing had been dropped anyhow.  Meanwhile, Blue and Burgundy discussed how to interpret the “diagonals” in the objective card as it was unclear from the rules.  We decided to use the generous interpretation and score for each diagonal line, counting dice multiple times, but checking online after proved this incorrect and each diagonally adjacent die of the same colour scores just once.

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime was first to use his cheat tokens, though almost everyone else soon joined him.  The exception was Pine who, despite starting with one of the most difficult Window cards, still had all six cheat tokens left at the end.  Ivory pointed out that Pink’s window seemed to have a lot of high scoring green dice, making it likely that green was his personal objective and giving him a high score that would be hard to beat.  And so it proved, though Ivory scored only one less for his personal, purple objective.  Scores for pairs of dice were mostly similar, though Ivory, who started out with a hatful of ones managed to pair these with five twos giving him ten points.

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end, Burgundy and Pink were both close with fifty-six and fifty-eight points, but Ivory was five points clear with sixty-three.  Lime had a horrifically early morning so reduced the numbers to five, and giving the mess we’d made with Bohnanza last time, the rest of the group decided to give it another go.  This is a fantastic trading game where players first plant beans from their hand, then draw two beans from the deck which can be planted or traded (and planted by the recipient) and finally harvest beans.  The key point about the game is that cards in hand must not be rearranged.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

There are some really clever aspects to the game, for example, because the beans become money, the distribution of beans in the deck changes as the game progresses, but players can manipulate that by choosing when they harvest.  Harvesting just before the deck is shuffled means more cards of that sort become available in the next round.  With slightly fewer players, this becomes increasingly significant.  This time, Burgundy’s shuffling got the blame when Blue started with a handful of green beans and then turned over more.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Green beans continued to fall into her lap and punctuated by a full set of garden beans, some black-eyed beans and a small number of others, she harvested significantly more than the fourteen cards available.  Pine managed to gather a full set of four cocoa beans, which felt all the more special as they often not in the game because they are removed for many player counts.  Pink repeatedly demonstrated how he was unable count, trying to taking four cards to refill his hand each round instead of three.  A couple of rounds in, Blue, bought herself a third bean field and nearly underpaid for that too (the cost varies depending on the number of players).

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game came to an end, players tried to maximise their final scores, and then started counting.  Twelve was beaten by thirteen, which in turn was beaten by fourteen and then Ivory’s score of fifteen.  But Blue was still counting, and counting—the green beans and her third bean field had done their job and she finished with a massive twenty-one.  With that, Ivory left leaving four players and just enough time for a quick game of Love Letter, a game that is available online, but we’ve eschewed playing as it loses all it’s fun.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the most successful of the micro-games, there are just sixteen cards.  Each player starts with one card, draws a second from the deck and then plays one.  The aim of the game is to end with the highest value card, or be the last player standing when the deck is exhausted.  Some cards allow players to assassinate others if they correctly guess what they are holding, or if they compare cards and have the lower value.  The game is played until one wins three rounds.  Burgundy and Blue took the first and second rounds, before Pink took one round and Blue took another and with it, the lead.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine had been knocked out of every round and when Pink picked him again he protested that Blue would be a better target.  His protests were in vain, however, with Pink correctly suggesting Pine was “The Princess”, he was knocked out once more.  Pink’s comment, “Don’t worry, you’ll always be a princess to me,” received a disgruntled, “Eat my tiara!” in reply.  When Burgundy eliminated Pink, that gave Blue the last card and she went for the jugular taking what was the final round and with it, the game.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Anyone can be a princess.

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.

Spiel des Jahres Nominations 2021

The nominations for the Spiel des Jahres have been announced.  There are three categories, the Kinderspiel (children’s game) , the Kennerspiel (“expert’s” game) and the most desirable of all, the family award, the Spiel des Jahres.  The nominees for this year’s awards have been announced as:

  • Kinderspiel des Jahres
    Kinderspiel des Jahres 2019Dragomino by Bruno Cathala, Marie Fort and Wilfried Fort
    Fabelwelten (aka Storytailors) by Wilfried Fort and Marie Fort
    Mia London by Antoine Bauza and Corentin Lebrat

Last year, the winner of the Spiel des Jahres was Pictures, a game where players model the picture on their card using the available components, e.g. shoelaces, coloured cubes, etc.; players get points for correctly guessing other players images and for other players guessing their image.  This is considerably lighter than some of the earlier winners, notably, Tikal and El Grande, or even some of the best known winners like The Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne or Ticket to Ride.  As the main award winners have become lighter over the years, we have found the Kennerpiel des Jahres better fits to our tastes.  The Kennerspiel nominees are not especially complex games, but are typically a step up from the light, family-friendly games of the main prize, the Spiel des Jahres.

– Image by from spiel-des-jahres.de

Last year the Kennerspiel award went to The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine a game we have still been unable to play thanks to the global pandemic.  The Crew beat our preferred choice, Cartographers.  In contrast to The Crew, as a “Roll and Write” game, we have played Cartographers a lot.  So far, we are unfamiliar with the nominees this year and likely won’t get the chance to play any of them until some time after the winners have been announced (19th July in Berlin for the Kennerpiel and Spiel des Jahres Awards; 14th June for the Kinderspiel des Jahres).

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

 

Boardgames in the News: Fake Games from a High Street Name

As reported previously, fake and counterfeit goods are not uncommon online, especially with purchases from certain auction sites.  Even companies like Amazon are not immune though, thanks to co-mingling of stock with that from other third-party sellers and returned items.  More recently, however, there have been lots of reports of issues with copies of Pandemic, Dead of Winter, Carcassonne, Catan, and Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle bought from Zavvi.  This is of note, not because of the games (which have been targeted before), but because Zavvi is a reputable high street name.

Pandemic
– Image by BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Zavvi is owned by The Hut Group (aka THG), along with a range of other companies that sell everything from lipstick to language services.  The Hut Group also own I Want One of Those (aka IWOOT) who have recently been selling quite a lot of games at a good price including Sagrada, Horrified, and Ticket to Ride: London.  There doesn’t appear to be any question of the authenticity of these games, but IWOOT have been selling copies of Dead of Winter, Pandemic, Carcassonne and Hogwarts Battle too and these also seem to be fakes, presumably from the same, communal supply as the Zavvi games.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
– Image by BGG contributor zgabor

Both Zavvi and IWOOT have been reluctant to acknowledge that the games are fake insisting to customers that they “do not handle fake goods”, they “source all stock direct from the brand suppliers”, and “items sold by ourselves are not counterfeit”.    Neither Zavvi nor IWOOT are known for selling counterfeits.  So, assuming it is against company policy, how their supply chain became contaminated is an interesting question and it is possible that they themselves have been the subject of a deception.  It seems unlikely that these fakes were supplied through the usual UK distribution channels, but it is possible they were bought in good faith from another supplier.

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
– Image by BGG contributor mikehulsebus

Perhaps the biggest issue here is the poor Customer Service people have reportedly received, including standard unhelpful replies or an offer of only a partial refund.  It seems persistence is the only answer, though reporting the company to the Trading Standards and/or the finance handling service (credit card company or PayPal), can help.  For those struggling with IWOOT, suggesting to Customer Services that they look at “ISM ticket 1195382” can also help (ISM is the Ivanti Service Manager ticketing system).

Boardgames in the News: Carcassonne Catches Catan

Board Game Geek (BGG) is arguably the foremost website for information on board games.  It includes a forum for discussion, but also an extensive database currently comprising nearly a hundred and twenty thousand games with associated reviews, photos, publication details and rules clarifications.  There are over two million registered users of the site, many of whom use the BGG to record the games they own, log each time they play, and register their ratings of games in the database.

The Settlers of Catan
– Image by boardGOATS

For many years, the most rated game according to the BGG website was The Settlers of Catan but it has now been overtaken by Carcassonne (95,496 and 95,499 ratings respectively as of 1am BST on Sunday 19th July).  Over the coming weeks the numbers will fluctuate and the tide will ebb and flow, but it looks like Catan, which was released in 1995 (five years before Carcassonne), has been caught.  The race is not over, however, Pandemic is not far behind…

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Boardgames in the News: The Great Escape?

Over the last decade, Asmodee has swallowed most of the big names in modern family board games, including the likes of Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures, 7 Wonders, Dominion, Agricola, and Pandemic amongst others.  This has been through the relentless acquisition of the companies that produce these titles, in particular, Days of Wonder, Fantasy Flight Games, Z-man Games, Mayfair, Lookout Spiele, and Repos Production.  This monopolising of the market cannot be a good thing for gamers, indeed the effects are already being felt with the introduction of Minimum Advertised Pricing (MAP) and now the loss of customer servicing for all Asmodee products.

HeidelBÄR Games Logo
– Image from twitter.com

There is perhaps a glimmer of hope, however.  Three years ago, the German publisher and distributor Heidelberger Spieleverlag was acquired by Asmodee, with the publishing part splitting off to form the Asmodee Studio, HeidelBÄR Games.  Last year, however, ownership and with it the nucleus of the HeidelBÄR team, was transferred back to the previous manager, Heiko Eller-Bilz.  The resulting enterprise is much smaller than it was, but the most important asset, the people, are in a position to develop new titles.

Plaid Hat Games Logo
– Image from plaidhatgames.com

More recently, Plaid Hat Games have made a similar, slightly slower, journey.  Around five years ago, Plaid Hat Games was bought out by Canadian company F2Z Entertainment, then the parent company of Z-Man Games, Filosofia Éditions and Pretzel Games (now known as Asmodée Canada).  However, earlier this year it was announced that Plaid Hat Games had been reacquired by Colby Dauch, the original founder, albeit without the rights to some of their biggest products, including Dead of Winter, Aftermath, and Mice and Mystics, which remain with the Asmodee Group.  Plaid Hat Games retained the rights to Summoner Wars though, and are currently developing a new product, Forgotten Waters, which will be the first game released by Plaid Hat after their Great Escape.

Forgotten Waters
– Image from plaidhatgames.com