Tag Archives: Ticket to Ride: Europe

31st May 2022

While they were waiting for their dinner to arrive, Blue and Pink squeezed in yet another in their on-going head-to-head series of Abandon All Artichokes matches.  The idea of the game is that players start with a deck of ten artichoke cards from which they draw a hand of five cards.  Then, on their turn, they take one card from the face up market, play as many cards as they can, before discarding their hand to their personal discard pile. When, on drawing their new hand of five cards a player has no artichokes, the game ends and that player wins. Pink and Blue have played this cute little “deck shredding” filler game a few times recently and, after an initial flurry of Blue winning, Pink got the hang of it and won a couple of games.

Abandon All Artichokes
– Image by boardGOATS

Last time, Blue got her revenge and Pink said that now Blue had won again, that would probably be that.  This game showed that was not so, and while this had all the potential for being a tight game, Blue claimed victory by carefully stacking the top of her deck ensuring an artichoke-free draw despite having three left.  With food over and everyone else rocking up, it was time to decide who was going to play what.  There was a lot of enthusiasm for Die Wandelnden Türme, which was the “Feature Game“, after people had seen it from a distance last time.

Die Wandelnden Türme
– Image by boardGOATS

As it plays better with more people and there were only eight people in total, the group split into a five and a three, with Pine, Green, Black, and Lime joined by our special guest from Nottingham, Magnolia.  The game is a fun little family game where players start with a handful of Wizards placed on top of the little Towers arranged round the board, and a hand of three cards.  On their turn, the active player gets two actions: play a card or cast a spell. Playing a card which allows them to move one of their Wizards a set number of spaces forward, or move a tower a set number of spaces.  When Towers move, they take any resident Wizards with them but can also land on top of another Tower and trap any pieces that were on the roof.

Die Wandelnden Türme
– Image by boardGOATS

A player that catches other pieces in this way gets to fill a Potion Flask.  They can then spend the Potions to cast spells.  In the base game the spells available are “move a Wizard one space forward” or “move a Tower two spaces forward”, but others are available and change the feel of the game a little.  Players are trying to land all their Wizards in the black, Raven Castle and fill all their Potion Flasks—when someone succeeds, that triggers the end of the game.  It is a fun and entertaining game where players Wizards get variously trapped and if they have a bad memory, can find they lose them in the circus of dancing towers.

Die Wandelnden Türme
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Pine kept losing his wizards last time (captured under the towers), this week everyone managed to keep track of them most of the time.  Only Lime got muddled at one point when a tower was moved and he expected one of his wizards to be underneath, confusion only reigned until his next turn though, when he found it again. Lime was first to get a wizard into the Ravens’ Castle, quickly followed by Pine.  A little while later Pine and then Magnolia got their second wizards in the castle, by using two of their potions for an extra move, then Green got his first wizard “home”.  Black’s wizards still hadn’t caught up with the tower, and he wasn’t managing to fill any of his Potion vials either.

Die Wandelnden Türme
– Image by boardGOATS

With everyone too busy keeping track of their own game, Pine made up for last time’s confusions by filling his final potion vial and dropping his last wizard into the Ravens’ Castle to end the game.  Although there is no second place in this game unless you can get all your wizards into the Ravens’ Castle filled all their Potion vials, Green was closest with all four potions and none used. Magnolia took the last place on the podium, also finishing with four potions, but he had used two of them.  Aside from Pine, no-one had more than one wizard in the tower, in fact, everyone had exactly one.

Die Wandelnden Türme
– Image by boardGOATS

Black’s game was somewhat stymied by the fact all his wizards were trapped under towers so he couldn’t move them, and his cards didn’t allow him to move towers.  This is the downside of Die Wandelnden Türme:  there is some luck of the card draw and when that goes awry players can find themselves stuck, but as it is a short game it’s not too much of an issue and it is a fun little game.  Green remarked how Terry Pratchett-esq it felt with wizards chasing towers and towers chasing wizards.

Die Wandelnden Türme
– Image by boardGOATS

Die Wandelnden Türme is such a quick game that the others were still busy and the group of five looked round for something else to play.  At Pine’s suggestion, they decided to go for a popular classic:  Ticket to Ride: Europe.  This is a well known family of games that everyone was familiar with so there was no need to go through the rules at any length:  on their turn, players take two cards from the market, or spend cards to place trains on the central map.  Players score points for placing trains, but also completing route tickets.  Players receive these at the start of the game but can also draw more in lieu of a turn.  They must be careful though as any incomplete at the end of the game score negatively.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

There were some extra pieces and some unexpected cards in the box so Black perused the rules in the box trying to work out how they worked.  Blue piped up from the other table that they were for the Dice and Europa 1912 Expansions, but the group decided to leave them out and just stick with the base game.  A little kerfuffle broke out when Pine chose to play as Green for the second game in a row, which caused Green to be sad puppy dog.  Green decided that maybe he would use Pink’s special Pink set instead, only for Pine to relent and choose black, leaving green available for Green after all.  With Pine being black, Black chose Yellow, so Lime was blue and Magnolia was red…

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Green popped away for a couple of minutes and in his absence, Pine laid his first, two train route, to kick off the scoring.  Half way through the round Green noticed that Pine had laid his trains on a tunnel.  Although Stations had been clarified at the start of the game (they can be used to connect cities to avoid negative points from tickets), Tunnels hadn’t been mentioned.  So, Green brought the subject up and everyone realised they hadn’t noticed it was a Tunnel.  When a player chooses to “build” one of these, they turn over the top three cards of the draw deck and if any match the colour the player used to build it, they have to pay extras (the idea being that building tunnels is expensive and unpredictable).

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

It was felt that it wouldn’t be fair to force the tunnel check on Pine retrospectively as he may not have chosen to lay the train in the first place if he’d realised he might need more.  However, Lime was uncertain how Tunnels worked and the explanation didn’t seem to clear it up.  So, in the end, Pine drew the three train cards to demonstrate how this worked and on the last card found he needed an extra card. He had a Locomotive card (wild) so used that and thus, the turn was corrected and all was now clear. However, having seen the consequences, both Pine and Lime said they might have chosen different tickets had they realised how Tunnels work.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

The next trains to go down were all around Germany—because one was placed it drew out the rest in order to secure routes that were rapidly filling up.  Pine was the first to lose out on this and used his first station to piggy back a route.  After this initial flurry, trains were placed at a more relaxed pace, but all around Western Europe. Eventually Magnolia broke out eastwards to Kyiv, quickly followed by Lime.  Lime didn’t stop there, however, he carried on to Kharkiv and thence to Rostov.  Magnolia and Lime had this area to themselves for much the rest of the game.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Green was the first player to complete his routes and draw new tickets, but groaned as he looked at them commenting that they were awful and difficult to complete.  There was little sympathy for him round the table, however, he chose one card and pushed on.  Quietly he started collecting green cards and Locomotives.  After collecting his third Loco, Lime became suspicious of Green’s plans.  After yet another Loco Lime mentioned that it must have been his fifth one (he was in fact correct on that) and wondered out loud why he needed so many and whether he could be stopped.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

By then everyone had twigged that Green (who’s route had taken him from Cadiz to Stockholm) was aiming for the big eight train Tunnel along the top from Stockholm to Petrograd.  When he went for it, no green cards or Loco’s turned up—most of them were in his hand so it was unlikely—and the twenty-one points he received took him from the back of the field to the front.  Soon after this Green and Black placed their first stations, which meant everyone had placed exactly one, and everyone all piggy-backed on each other in a daisy chain. The station usage didn’t stop there as Magnolia and Black would both use one more before the end.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game drew to a close it seemed to slow down as no one could get the colour cards they needed, until eventually Lime and Green gave up and just started placing random tracks just for points. These two were leading the points race as well, even though Lime had been complaining all the way through that things just weren’t going right for him and he didn’t know what he was doing really.  Despite all this, it was Lime who ended the game by placing four of his last five trains. Everyone then had their last chance shot and it was time for the final scoring.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

A quick run through the route scores again to double check showed that the group had been pretty good at keeping them right.  It looked like Green had the longest set of connected trains and was ahead on points as well.  Working from the back of the pack to score the Tickets, Pine had several but he had discarded his long route and moved temporarily into second place having suffered from missing out on the Tunnels rule at the start.  Then Black and Magnolia both surpassed a hundred and then Lime leap-frogged to the front.  Lastly Green’s tickets looked to have sealed him victory only to realise that he had forgotten to connect to Berlin.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

Green took the longest train, by a wide margin, which took him into third place, ruing his silly mistake without which he would have taken a narrow victory.  In the end, victory went to Lime, even though he claimed all the way through he did not know what he was doing and it was all going wrong—definitely shades of Burgundy!  Magnolia was second, but first to fourth were all withing about ten points of each other in what had been a close and quite epic game.  With that, Magnolia, Green and Lime took an early night while Black wondered over to see what Pink, Purple and Blue had been up to.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

They had started out with Ivor the Engine, a charming little game that we used to play quite  a bit but hasn’t had an outing since before the global pandemic hit.  The idea is that the players are helping Ivor to collect lost sheep and complete tasks for his friends.  On their turn, the active player takes a sheep from their current location (if there is one) and then can move their wagon to an adjacent location and play Job cards.  The Job cards are the meat of the game: they can either provide a special action, such as extra moves and adding sheep to the board, or allow you to complete a Job if you are at a location where there are no sheep.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the active player has completed their movement and any card play, they take a Job card from the market. The catch is that jobs can only be carried out at the correct location and there is a hand limit of four cards, and taking a card is mandatory.  This makes the game very tight and some of the actions available on the cards have the potential to make the game quite vicious. The game ends when one player reaches a set number of sheep and then players count up their sheep, add any gold and any end-game bonuses they might have picked up, with the player with the most sheep-points named Ivor’s Best Friend Forever.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Pink and Purple got in each other’s way in the west leaving Blue to collect sheep alone in the east.  The disadvantage of this is that it took a lot of turns to clear the locations of sheep so that she could play the nice set of Job cards she started with.  On the other hand, Pink was causing Purple all sorts of problems very effectively trapping her in Grumbly Town.  Purple tried to get her revenge at the end by dumping a load of sheep into the location he was at and thus stopping him from playing a Job card there.  However, he just played a different card to claim the sheep and ended the game anyhow, taking victory by seven points from Blue in second.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

Once Ivor was over, the trio moved on to Kingdomino—another game we used to play quite a bit, but hasn’t had an outing since we returned to face-to-face games.  This is a very clever little game that won the Spiel des Jahres award five years ago.  The idea is that players take a numbered, double-ended tile and add it to their kingdom.  At least one end of each tile must extend an area of terrain or be placed adjacent to their central castle.  Additionally players’ kingdoms must fall within a five-by-five grid.  At the end of the game, each terrain scores for the number of spaces it occupies multiplied by the number of crowns depicted in it.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

There are additional points available for objectives, but although there are some interesting objectives available in the Age of Giants expansion, the trio decided to stick with the originals:  ten extra points if their castle is in the centre of their kingdom and five if they manage to play all their tiles.  So far, so simple.  The clever part of the game is that the tiles are numbered according to value and chosen according to an ordered market.  In this way, players who choose the least exciting tiles get to choose first in the next round, while players who get the best tile will end up with no choice.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately, playing with only three means that some tiles do not come out and a player can find they do very badly through no fault of their own if Lady Luck deserts them.  This time Blue was the unlucky one, though it wasn’t helped by some poor play (perhaps associated with the arrival of a certain puppy who delighted in chewing her ear).  Purple was did better, but the runaway winner with seventy-three points (more than twice as many as Blue), was Pink.  This was thanks to a large cornfield, which by itself scored almost as many points as Blue’s whole kingdom.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

As the epic game of Ticket to Ride was still on-going on the neighbouring table, Blue, Purple and Pink felt there was time for one more game and, after a little discussion, they settled on Splendor.  This was the game Burgundy played extremely well and was almost unbeatable at, so we always remember him when we play it.  It is very simple:  on their turn, the active player takes gem chips, or uses chips to buy gem cards.  The cards act as permanent gem chips, allowing players to buy more expensive cards.  Some cards also give points with the most expensive cards giving the most points.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Players can also get bonus points for claiming “noble” tiles—these go to the first player who collects a certain combination of gem cards.  This time, Blue went first.  As always, some players struggled to get the cards they wanted, and while Pink had an awful lot of cards, somehow he wasn’t able to make anything of them.  The game ends when one player gets fifteen points and Blue, who had got a bit of a head start, could see that the other two were struggling.  So, when Black joined them, he was just in time to see her end the game, taking the only noble and a high value points card in the last couple of turns.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to wander.

23rd September 2021

Burgundy and Blue were just finishing their supper when Teal introduced himself.  The three were chatting when Lime, who hadn’t been able to come for over a month, also joined the group.  It was expected to be a quiet night with Green and Lilac away on holiday, Pine working late, and Pink stuck somewhere on the Warwick bypass.  So, there was a lot of chat, but eventually, the group decided to play something and settled on Love Letter.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

This is a very simple little game that we’ve played a lot, but somehow Lime had missed out.  So, there was a very quick rules explanation:  players start with a hand of one card, draw a second and choose one to play and do the action on the card.  The cards are numbered and the aim of the game is to finish the round with the highest card, or more commonly, avoid being knocked out.  There are only sixteen cards in the deck (and one of those is removed at the start of the round), so it doesn’t take long.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

The group were only three rounds in when everyone else turned up (including Pink who had escaped the roadworks), so Lime was declared the winner with two tokens and everyone else was introduced to Teal and started to discuss what to play.  In the end, Burgundy took matters into his own hands and started a game of Wingspan, so while Pink waited for his pizza to arrive, Blue explained the “Feature Game“, Mini Rails.

Mini Rails
– Image by boardGOATS

Mini Rails is a very simple little stock-buying and track-laying train game that compresses a lot of the game play of long and complicated games like the 18xx series into under an hour.  Players have two turns in each round, on one they buy shares in one of the companies and on the other they extend the “track” of one of the networks.  If it is built on a white space, players with holdings in that colour increase their value by the marked amount.  If the network is built on a red space, the stocks in that company are decreased in value.

Mini Rails
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is very simple, but there are a couple of clever little tweaks.  Firstly, there are two “tracks”, one is the turn-order track, while the other holds train disks drawn at random from a bag.  On their turn, players choose one of tokens and decide which action to use it for, “build track”or “buy shares”.  The position of the token that is taken dictates where they will be in the turn order in the next round.  Manipulating this turn order is one key aspect of the game, as is deciding whether to buy and then build, or build and then buy.

Mini Rails
– Image by boardGOATS

Perhaps the most complicated aspect of the game is the end-game scoring.  At the start of each round train discs are drawn from a bag; one more than there are turns.  This means everyone always has a choice, but the token the last player does not use is put to one side indicating they have paid “taxes”.  For the companies that have “paid taxes” any negative dividends are erased and positive dividends are counted.  For those companies that have avoided paying their taxes the reverse is true and negative points will be scored while positive points are lost.

Mini Rails
– Image by boardGOATS

This means it is in the interest of players with both large positive or significant negative scores to forgo building track or buying shares and leave a potentially valuable token as taxes.  Similarly, if a player is left with a choice of two tokens, it may be in their interest to buy/build a relatively unfavourable track to deprive other players of points.  With three players, the game doesn’t take too long to play, and with more it would likely become quite random.

Mini Rails
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime took an early lead, though of course lots of early points are… pointless, if the company doesn’t pay taxes.  In the end it was extremely tight, but in the end, Blue just pipped Lime by a single point.  With just three there isn’t much downtime and the game rocks along nicely with plenty of interaction, though as Pink said, “That’s one hell of an abstraction for a train game.”  Blue pointed out that this was what a lot of gamers thought of when someone said “Train Game”.  Pink felt disappointed at the lack of actual trains and tracks so to make it up to him, the group moved on to play Ticket to Ride Demo.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride Demo is one of the small games based on the Spiel des Jahres winner, Ticket to Ride Europe.  The Demo game has an interesting history—it was designed as a sales tool and had only a small print run.  It was so popular though, that it ultimately spawned a new range of small “City” games, New York, London and Amsterdam.  These games are essentially played the same way as the full-sized versions, but with fewer pieces on a smaller map which means they typically take less than half the time.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn players can do one of three things:  take cards from the market, spend cards to place trains or take tickets.  Players score points for placing trains, but also for connecting the places on their tickets.  The catch is that any tickets that are not completed score negative points.  The small versions of the game are much tighter with less room for error.  Unlike the others, Ticket to Ride Demo has a double sided map, one USA and one Europe.  This time the group played the Europe map.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Compared to the full-sized equivalents, all the little games are like a knife-fight in a phone-box, and this game was no exception.  Lime only completed three of his four tickets as Blue brought the game to a quick and sudden end.  Pink completed all four of his tickets and they were high-scoring too.  Blue’s tickets were less lucrative, but she managed to place all her trains and took the European Express bonus points for the longest continuous route, and with it victory, by just two points.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table an epic, five-player game of Wingspan was underway.  We’ve played Wingspan quite a bit since it came out and always found it very enjoyable.  We’ve played it enough that we’ve also explored the European expansion, but thanks to the restrictions over the last year or so, this was the first opportunity to play the new Oceania expansion.  The base game is a reasonably light, card-driven, combination building game.  On their turn, players can place a bird card from their hand in one of the three habitats, or activate all their cards in one of the habitats and carry out the associated action.

Wingspan: Oceania Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

The habitats are Woodland, Grassland and Wetland and the actions associated with them are collecting food, laying eggs or collecting cards (respectively).  Once the action has been carried out, the active player activates each card in the habitat in turn.  The game is played over four rounds, with a decreasing number of actions per round as the game progresses.  At the end of each round there are goals and each player also starts with a personal bonus card which is evaluated at the end of the game.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The European expansion really only adds extra cards, though this includes a number of birds with abilities that are activated at the end of rounds, and others that increase player interaction.  The new Oceania expansion also adds more cards, but additionally mixes things up a little more with the addition of a new food type, nectar.  Nectar can be used as wild food type, although some of the new bird cards have nectar specified in the cost.  Whenever players spend nectar though, they don’t put it back in the supply, instead they store it in the habitat they spent it on.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, the player with the most nectar stored in each habitat scores five points at the end of the game with the player coming second scoring two points.  Nectar is therefore a very important resource giving a potential fifteen points at the end of the game, although it requires some skill to use it effectively as it can’t be carried over between rounds.  Burgundy and Black really invested in nectar and managed to make good use of it during the game as well as take the lion’s share of the nectar points at the end of the game.

Wingspan: European Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy and Black also prioritised valuable birds and tried to ensure they stayed in the running for the end of round bonuses.  Three out of the four of these involved eggs, which fitted with Ivory and Teal’s strategies which focussed on an end-of-game egg rush.  Ivory also picked up a lot of points from his Common Starling which enabled him to discard up to five bits of food and tuck a card for each one.  With a maximum of twenty points, Ivory did well to take eighteen during the game, but it was only enough for third place this time though.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

It was very close at the top between Black and Burgundy.  Burgundy had four bonus cards one of which proved quite lucrative.  The big difference was in the value of the bird cards, however, while Black edged it in many departments Burgundy had a ten point head start.  This wasn’t simply because he had high value birds, more that he had lots of them.  In the end, Burgundy finished five points ahead of Black with ninety-five, in a good game that had been enjoyed by everyone round the table.

– Image by boardGOATS

Wingspan was still only on its third round when Ticket to Ride Demo came to an end.  At around the same time, Pine pitched up, so the, now foursome settled down for something else which ended up being a game of Reiner Knitzia’s Botswana (aka Wildlife Safari).  This is an unusual auction-like game made all the better by the inclusion of plastic animals.  Played over several rounds, players are dealt a hand of cards and on their turn play a card and take an animal of their choice.  The cards are numbered zero to five and come in five different animal suits.

Botswana
– Image by boardGOATS

The cards are played in the centre of the table in suits and the game ends when all six cards of one suit have been played.  The top card in any suit is the current value of that animal.  Thus, if the top zebra card is a five, a player that has three zebras will earn fifteen points for them if the game ends.  However, if the zero just before the game ends, the zebras will become worthless.  It is a deceptively simple, yet fun little game.  Blue thought she’d won until a recount docked her ten points and she finished just two points behind a delighted Pink.

Botswana
– Image by boardGOATS

As Botswana came to an end, so did Wingspan, and although time was marching on, and Lime and Ivory took an early night, there was still time for everyone else to play one last game.  After a little discussion, we settled on 6 Nimmt!, a game we all know and love.  Players simultaneously choose a card and these are sequentially added to the end of four rows of cards, specifically the row with the highest number that is lower than the card itself.  If the card is the sixth card in the row, instead, the player takes other five and adds them to their scoring pile.  The player with the lowest score at the end of the game is the winner.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

We’ve all played this a lot online over the last year, but doing the maths ourselves was a little daunting, so we decided to go back to playing the non-professional version.  We play over two rounds using half the deck in first and the other half in the second.  This time Teal top-scored in the first round with nineteen, while Burgundy kept a clean sheet with Pink just behind.  Blue’s killer thirty-three in the second round gave her a total of forty-eight, but the winner for the second time in the evening was Pink with just four points.  And with that, it was bedtime.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Today’s railway industry is no longer about trains and tracks. ☹

12th August 2021 (Post-Covid Test Event)

After some discussion, we had decided to have a “test visit” to The Jockey.  As they are not doing food on Tuesdays at the moment, this was a Thursday and we decided to make it a fairly light event filled with some of our favourite games.  Those that arrived early started with food and Burgundy was able to order Ham, Egg and Chips for the first time in over a year.  There was a boisterous atmosphere amongst the gamers who were all clearly over the moon to be back, bolstered by the wake on the other side of the room which had been going full-swing since lunchtime.

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
– Image by boardGOATS

While we waited for food to arrive, the group revelled in the delight of face-to-face meeting discussing the meaning of the word “MILF” and whether or not there was such a thing as a “DILF”.  Poor Ivory had been waiting well over a year to play the Japanese map for Ticket to Ride and it had been scheduled at least three times since and had been postponed thanks to “events”.  As it was starting to become a bit of a harbinger, we decided to make the “Feature Game” the generic Ticket to Ride to ensure that the evening wasn’t jinxed again, but there was plenty of opportunity to give it an outing as two copies arrived.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy
– Image by boardGOATS

There were lots of other map choices and while we discussed the real options, lots of new variants were invented.  The pick of these were perhaps the Beeching Variant (loads of the routes get ripped up halfway through the game leaving people with tickets they can’t make) and “Ticket to Row”, the “Climate Change Edition” (as the game progresses, coastal routes disappear due to erosion and flooding).  Ivory was obviously keen to play the Japanese map and was joined by Green, Lilac and Burgundy.  The other map ended up being the Heart of Africa and after some discussion about the best number of players for this map (which has reputation of being brutal), Burgundy moved over to join Blue, Pink and Pine.

Ticket to Ride: Germany
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride is a relatively simple game, often referred to as a “Gateway Game” because it has a reputation of drawing people into playing modern board games.  The decision space on each turn is relatively small, but still meaningful and although a lot of the group like more challenging fare too, we all have a soft-spot for this one.  The idea is that players are building track, by playing coloured cards that match the colour and number of the line shown on the map.  So on their turn, they can draw cards, or place trains by playing cards.  Points are scored for placing trains with longer the routes, giving more points.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 6 – France & Old West
– Image by boardGOATS

Things are not quite as simple as that though, because players also have tickets:  if they can fulfil their tickets using routes they have claimed, they score points.  If, on the other hand, they have unfulfilled tickets at the end of the game, these score negative points.  Thus, instead of picking up cards or placing trains, players can also collect tickets to try to increase their score that way.  The game end is triggered when one player has only two of their little plastic train pieces left.  One of the things that gives Ticket to Ride its remarkable continuing appeal is the incredible variety in expansions available, each of which add interest with a different layout and slight variations to the rules.

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
– Image by boardGOATS

For example, the Japan expansion has routes reserved for Bullet Trains, which are marked by a single Bullet Train miniature.  When a route is claimed, it can be used by all players to complete destination tickets.   Instead of scoring points for such a route, players progress on the separate Bullet Train track with players receiving a bonus at the end of the game: whoever has contributed the most to this shared project receives the largest bonus, with the player who contributes least being penalized.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy
– Image by boardGOATS

In contrast, the Heart of Africa expansion adds new terrain cards which can be picked up instead of train cards which can be used to score extra points when placing trains.  The terrain cards come in three different colour sets representing Desert/Savanna, Jungle/Forests, and Mountains/Cliffs.  When a player places trains of the corresponding colours, if they have at least as many of that terrain card as every other player, they may additionally spend terrain cards to double the points value of their route.  One of the consequences of the different terrain types having fixed colours is that routes of one colour tend to be clumped together.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 3 – The Heart of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

This means that players need lots of cards of the same colour to connect routes together.  This, combined with the fact that there are no “double routes” in the centre of the map, mean the Heart of Africa expansion has a reputation of being particularly savage and unforgiving.  It was also much slower to get going, indeed, the Japan expansion players were well into their game before the Africa players had really started, and they had nearly finished before the others had got halfway through.  In Japan, Ivory went for the Bullet Trains to get the bonus, but also in order to help complete his tickets.  Although nobody really engaged in the building of the Tokyo subway, Kyushu Island was well catered for by Lilac who built a very fine connection from Kokura to Miyazaki.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy
– Image by boardGOATS

In the dying moves of the game, Lilac effectively gave Green fifteen points and with it, the game.  Things were rather different on the next table, however.  Blue and Burgundy got stuck with tickets that meant they had little choice but to go through the jungly centre of Africa.  With Pine having accidentally picked up a large pile of jungle terrain cards, there was no chance of either of them getting double points.  Worse, as Blue struggled she could see there was one single train route that she simply had to take and Burgundy was heading straight for it.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 3 – The Heart of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

When Blue took the critical route from under Burgundy’s nose, it started a cascading chain reaction of events where they continually messed up each other’s plans.  Meanwhile, Pine sniggered from the sidelines as he built his routes round the south coast largely unopposed—even on the odd occasion that someone else managed to get in his way, it was on a double route.  Pink was getting it largely his own way too, as he was going round the west and north edges of the map.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 3 – The Heart of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine picked up handfuls of tickets most of which seemed to lie on the routes he’d already connected, and then Pink suddenly moved to end the game leaving Burgundy with no other choice but to take tickets and hope for a miracle (to no avail).  As the last trains were placed, Pine had a substantial lead which only increased when he added his ticket scores and Globetrotter bonus for having the most complete tickets.  Although it was all built on extreme good fortune in his starting tickets, Pine had put together a fantastic game finishing with a massive one hundred and seventy-five points, forty points ahead of Pink in second.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

As the depths of deepest darkest Africa were being slowly explored, the other three decided to take advantage of Burgundy’s preoccupation to play Splendor without him to guarantee one of them a rare victory in a game that we haven’t played for over a year.  The game is very simple:  on their turn, players either collect gems, or use the gems to buy cards.  The cards then act as permanent gems, while the more expensive cards also give victory points as well.  A player reaching fifteen points triggers the end of the game, and the player with the most points wins.  Although we have played it a lot, this time was with Green’s brand new copy, with the wrapper still on.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the cellophane had been removed and cards well shuffled, the group settled down to play.  Maybe it was poor shuffling or perhaps just luck, but diamond cards (whites) were slow to come out at the start.  In addition to points on cards, players can also get points for collecting Noble tiles.  This time, Ivory suddenly claimed two Nobles in quick succession which, together with a high-scoring card pushed him over the line.  Green was able to claim a third Noble, but it wasn’t enough and he finished one point behind Ivory in what had been a close game.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

The Explorers of Africa finished at around the same time as the gem dealers.  So, as Ivory headed off to get ready for his weekend away, Pink suggested a game of our old favourite, Bohnanza.  Everyone had played it a lot except Lilac, so as Blue explained the rules, Pine and Burgundy prepared and shuffled the deck.  The game is a simple enough trading game, but depends on the vital rule that players must not change the order of the cards in their hand.  On their turn, the active player must play the first card in their hand, and may play the second if they choose.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Then, the player turns over the top two cards from the central deck.  They can plant these in their two been fields if there is space, but fields can only hold beans of one type, and beans on the table must be planted, so most often these are traded to other players.  Once the two cards on the table have been dealt with, the active player can finally trade cards from their hand, but again, all cards traded must be planted.  When they are done, they draw cards to go into their hand.  The aim of the game, once again is to collect sets.  At any point, players can trade in their planted beans, getting coins at the rate indicated by the “Bean-o-meter”.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

And this is one of the clever parts of the game—when a player sells their beans, they take the relevant number of cards and turn them over, turning them into money.  One side effect of this is that rare cards become increasingly rare, while the more common cards become increasingly common.  The deck also gets progressively smaller as fewer cards are recycled making the rounds shorter as the game goes on.  The game lasts three rounds, but as a result of this, the last round is usually very short indeed. There are a lot of other nuances, which Green and Blue tried to explain so Lilac wasn’t too disadvantaged.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

The others expressed their disapproval by referring to them all as “Team Trio”.  However, while Lilac was getting the hang of it and everyone was doing what they could to be nice to her, Blue lost the plot and sold several fields of beans without taking her reward.  It seemed to be contagious, because in the final round Burgundy’s pile of coins somehow became the draw pile.  Chaos reigned and hilarity ensued as Blue, Pine, Pink and Burgundy tried to work out what had happened and variously blamed each other.  Burgundy probably got most of his coins back, but there wasn’t really much doubt that the winner was Lilac with fifteen coins.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Although it was late there was still much chatter, about how it wasn’t the same without Black, Purple and Lime, and what we were going to do going forwards.  It got quite a lot later too, because as we headed out someone pointed out the clear skies and how it should be possible to see the Perseid Meteor Shower.  As we stood in the car park, someone spotted a “shooting star”, but everyone else missed it.  So we waited for another, and another, and another.  Eventually, everyone had a crick in their neck and rather than spend the whole night there, we decided it was time to go.

Perseid Meteor Shower
– Image from wikimedia.org

Learning outcome:  It’s great to be back.

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: Gaming at a Distance

With so many people tucked up at home there has been some debate as to whether this will encourage people to play games more.  Among gamers, there has been a lot of discussion about solo games where players compete against the game, but this loses the social aspect.  Online gaming is also an option; this can enable playing with real people, but loses the tactile element of gaming that so many people love.  In most cases though, people are not “home alone”, they are with family, so perhaps this is an opportunity to play games with them?

Cities of Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

The occasional board game column in The Guardian has published a list of twenty family games including some modern family classics like, Ticket to Ride: London, Splendor, Kingdomino, Dobble and (inevitably) Pandemic.  It also includes a few, more recent games, like Wingspan, and Just One, as well as some less well known games like Patchwork Express, Legacy of Dragonholt and Blue Lagoon.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

There has some suggestion that there has been a flurry of buying games to play with their families, but is there any real evidence of this?  Anecdotally, there have been comments that prices of games have increased on Amazon.co.uk which could indicate an increase in sales.  The website camelcamelcamel.co.uk tracks prices on Amazon, and it seems to indicate that prices for many popular light games have increased in the last week.

Ticket to Ride: Europe on camelcamelcamel.co.uk (23/03/20)
– Image by boardGOATS from camelcamelcamel.co.uk

There is another possible reason though: Amazon has suspended warehouse services (storage and shipping) of non-medical supplies and “high-demand” products for third party sellers.  This would have the effect of pushing prices up.  A lot of Friendly Local Games Shops sell online though, and many of these have sales on at the moment, so why not support one of the small businesses that are struggling at the moment, and leave Amazon to deal with toilet rolls and hand sanitiser?

21st January 2020

Over the last three years we’ve spent a lot of Tuesday evenings discussing Brexit and following events in the House of Commons as they occured.  Since this was going to be the last games night with the UK in the EU, and as a predominantly pro-EU group, we wanted to mark the occasion and show our support for our European friends and all those who have campaigned against Brexit so valiantly.  For this reason, we decided to make the “Feature Game” “European Ticket to Ride“, in other words, European editions of one of our favourite games, i.e. the Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Netherlands and of course, Europe games/expansions.  Unfortunately, Blue (and therefore most of the maps) was late arriving, and then, nobody could decide what they wanted to play; the only one who expressed any strong opinion was Lime who wanted to play the France map.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 6 – France & Old West
– Image by boardGOATS

With nine players, three groups of three looked good, but the debate as to who would play what rivaled the Brexit negotiations, not helped by the number of people who were enticed by the Japan map on the reverse of the Italy map.  In the end, Ivory and Green took themselves off to play the new Poland map, and, after a lot of discussion, Lime, the only one who had a strong opinion ended up forgoing his choice of France and joined the Poles to even up the numbers.  With Black, Purple and Pine starting on France, that just left Blue, Burgundy and Mulberry to decide, and eventually they decided to play the Italy map using the Germany base game components.

Ticket to Ride: Germany
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride is a very well-known, well-loved game that has now become something of a “gateway game”, that is, a game that starts people unfamiliar with modern boardgames along the slippery slope.  The game is popular with casual gamers because it is simple to play, with few options and a little bit of luck, but not too much.  The game is played on a map with cities connected by train routes each made up of anything from one to nine spaces (depending on the map).  On their turn, the active player can do one of a small handful of things:  firstly, they can take train cards from the market or use the train cards to place plastic trains on the map and score points.  To place trains on the map, players spend coloured cards to match the route they are claiming.  As well as coloured train cards, there are also multi-coloured locomotive cards which are wild; a face up Locomotive can only be drawn as the first card and ends the turn, making them more expensive as well as useful.

Ticket to Ride: Germany
– Image by boardGOATS

Most cities have only a single route between them, but some are double or even triple, though these can only be used with higher player counts.  Instead of taking train cards or placing trains on the map, players can also draw tickets.  These are a sort of personal objective that give players points for connecting two cities—the further apart, the more points the ticket is worth, but the larger the risk, as failure gives negative points.  Players start the game with a handful of these and can choose which ones to keep.  They can also draw more during the game, keeping some and discarding others, but the specific conditions depend on the map used.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy
– Image by boardGOATS

This is the basics of the original 2004, Spiel des Jahres winning game, with a USA map, Ticket to Ride, but each variant provides a different map and some slight modifications to the rules.  For example, Ticket to Ride: Europe adds Ferry routes which require a certain number of locomotive cards to be played in addition to the coloured train cards. It also adds Stations, which can used to help players complete tickets where a route has been blocked.  For some different maps players get different numbers of trains, Poland is one of the smaller maps, with only thirty-five trains, compared with the forty-five in the Europe and US versions or the three German editions (Germany, Deutschland and Märklin).

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

The other thing that makes the Poland expansion map stand out (aside from the fact that it is Map Collection Volume “6½” and goes by the name of “Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska”) is that routes that connect to the countries bordering Poland give points directly.  Unusually, the routes that cross the border include some triple routes and even a quadruple route, all of which can be used regardless of the number of players.  Each country then also has a small deck of three or four cards, each card giving a different number of points.  The first player to connect to two countries through Poland takes the cards with the highest value, the next takes the next most lucrative and so on.  Adding more countries to a player’s network adds more cards and more points for that player.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

Green was particularly keen to play the Polish expansion because of the “Czech connection”, and Ivory also wanted to try it as it was a new map for him; Lime went along to make up the numbers.  They were quick to get going and started off laying out routes without interfering with each other very much at all.  Ivory was first to link two countries (Czechia and Slovakia), which was annoying to Green as he joined the the same countries on the very next turn.  However, Green got his own back by getting in Ivory’s way and linking Germany into his network first.  Lime was late to join the country network party, but concentrated on the Poland’s eastern borders. Ivory and Lime started taking new tickets about midway through the game, but Green instead continued to concentrate on linking more countries into his network.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

It was only in the last couple of turns that Green finally turned to tickets when it looked difficult to add any more countries to his already substantial, four country network.  While Ivory and Green had been fighting over routes, Lime had quietly travelled the entire width of Poland and also linked several countries into his network, rivalling Green.  In the final scoring it was Lime who had charged ahead, scoring well with tickets and country cards, finishing with ninety-six points—deserved since he gave up his preferred choice of the France map.  It was very close for second though, with Green just three points ahead of Ivory with seventy-nine.  Meanwhile, on the next table, Black, Purple and Pine were setting up the game Lime had missed; a much longer game, that had barely started as the Poles were finishing.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 6 – France & Old West
– Image by boardGOATS

France is one of the more complex expansions as the map mostly only depicts the track-bed, and players choose what colour a line will be.  So, every time a player takes carriage cards, they also take a coloured tile of their choice and place it somewhere on the board.  Thereafter, any player can claim that route by spending the appropriately coloured cards and placing the correct number of train pieces.  Some of these track-beds overlap, but once a tile has placed any track-beds under it are no-longer available.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 6 – France & Old West
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start, nobody really knew how to play with the track-bed tiles: placing them somewhere near one’s own route telegraphed probable plans, potentially giving others an opportunity to obstruct.  On the other hand, progress could not be made at all until tiles had been placed.  The map is very, very large so to begin with everyone could get on with their own thing.  Purple monopolised the Loire, Auvergne and Burgundy regions while Pine occupied the north coast and eastern borders.  Pine had competition from Black in the Normandy, Picardy and Champagne regions, but other than that, Black took himself off to the west and south and everyone got on with their own thing.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 6 – France & Old West
– Image by boardGOATS

Ultimately, the game was very lopsided.  Pine kept drawing tickets and kept getting lucky; he repeatedly got tickets along similar routes so needed minimal addition to his already substantial network.  As a result, he not only took the longest route bonus, but also the Globetrotter points for the player with the most successful tickets, with eight.  Had Black been successful with all his, things would have been closer, but failing two meant it was a tie for second place with both Black and Purple finishing with eighty, exactly half Pine’s massive victory.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 6 – France & Old West
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, further down the table Burgundy eschewed Netherlands, so the group went instead for Italy, played with the Germany base game, in which the pieces have an unusual colour set.  This gave Blue a slight quandary as to which she should play with, as blue wasn’t available.  Instead Blue opted for purple, only for Purple on the next table to offer to swap pieces as she had chosen blue because purple wasn’t available.  Sadly there was already enough confusion of pieces with Pine, Black and Purple playing with Burgundy’s base game and Blue’s France expansion so swapping pieces just seemed likely to make the chances of all the bits going back into the right boxes that bit smaller.  So in the end, both suffered with the “wrong colour”.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy
– Image by boardGOATS

The Italy map is a more conventional expansion than France, with the only significant differences being a tweak to the Ferry rules and a new bonus scoring opportunity.  Instead of needing Locomotive cards, these Ferry routes include some carriages with a round wave-icon on them.  These can be satisfied either using special Ferry cards, or Locomotive cards.  The special Ferry cards are in a separate deck and one of these can be taken instead of drawing train cards, up to a limit of two at any one time.  Each of these special Ferry cards then count as two “wave” cards.  This makes them better value than Locomotive cards drawn face up from the market, but less versatile.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy
– Image by boardGOATS

The bonus is potentially extremely lucrative, giving points for having a network that connects different regions of Italy.  This starts with one point for five connected regions and increments according to the “Lazy Caterer’s Sequence” to give a massive fifty-six points for a network connecting fifteen or more regions.  The layout of the map itself has a lot in common with the Nordic map in that it is quite long and thin with what feel like a lot of north/south routes running the length of the country, in the middle of the board and a lot of short, east/west routes available in the north and the south.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue kept all her starting tickets and Burgundy jettisoned just the one, but in contrast, Mulberry kept the minimum she could.  As a result, it wasn’t long before Mulberry was picking up more tickets, and then more and then even more, much to Burgundy’s and Blue’s horror.  When questioned, Mulberry said, “Just Nickels and Dimes, Nickels and Dimes…”  This didn’t calm Burgundy and Blue in the slightest, as they were still struggling to complete their starting tickets.  Eventually though, they also took more tickets, with Burgundy keeping a lot of his, while Blue was less fortunate.  Burgundy supplemented his tickets with a couple of very long Ferry routes netting him eighteen points each.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game came to an end, Blue was still struggling to get the yellow carriage cards she needed to complete her final ticket.  So when Burgundy brutally ended the game it cost Blue some forty points, though in truth she was a couple of turns away from getting them even if she had somehow managed to get that one final yellow card.  It was clear that unless Burgundy had a lot of incomplete tickets, he would probably be able to defend his already substantial lead.  Mulberry’s tickets may have been “Nickels and Dimes”, but she had an awful lot of them; as the phrase goes, “Take care of the pennies and the pounds take care of themselves.”  With just regional bonus to add, Burgundy was out of sight and although Blue and Mulberry made a dent in the gap it wasn’t enough.  It was close for second place though, but in the end a couple of extra regions gave it to Blue.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy
– Image by boardGOATS

The Poland game was finished first and with France only just started and Italy only halfway through the Poles toyed with the idea of trying another European Ticket to Ride Map, but instead opted for a quick game of the 2017 Spiel des Jares Winner Kingdomino.  This is a light little game with a very clever market mechanic.  The idea is that players take it in turns to take a tile from the market and add it to their kingdom.  Each tile comprises two “squares” (like a domino), each showing a terrain.  At the end of the game, players score points for each area of terrain in their kingdom gaining points equal to the number of “squares” multiplied by the number of crowns in that region.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part of the game is the market which consists of two columns of tiles, each tile having a rank reflecting their value based on scarcity of the terrain(s) it depicts and the number of crowns.  The tiles in each row are placed, and taken, in descending order.  When a player takes their tile from the current column, they choose which tile they want from the next column, thus a player taking a less valuable tile gets a wider choice on the next round.  Unfortunately, as each column has to have the same number of tiles as players, the game can be a bit unbalanced with three, because some of the tiles are removed at random.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

As well as scoring for terrain, players also score bonus points for placing all their tiles in a five-by-five array with their castle in the centre.  This time, Ivory managed a full kingdom with his castle in the centre, and a large wheat field with a healthy number of crowns. His score was also assisted by a not inconsiderable lake (although with only a couple of crowns) and a small but valuable mountain.  Lime, fresh from his stunning Polska victory, realised too late that his castle was not central in his kingdom and his last couple of tiles were unplaceable.  Green managed a complete kingdom with his castle in the middle, though his was made up largely of forest.  Pasture, wheat and sand also featured and gave what was a winning score of sixty-three, some ten points ahead of Ivory in second.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

With the Italian map players just finishing, the group decided to join them and see what else was on offer. There were three options: For Sale (best with it’s a maximum of six), Century: Spice Road (plays a maximum of five) and World’s Fair 1893 (maximum of four).  Mulberry decided to get an early night, leaving five players and Century: Spice Road.  This is a resource management game with deck building at it’s core.  Neither Lime nor Green had played it before so there was a quick run down of the rules first.  These are simple enough though.  The central area consists of two markets: one for action cards and one for contracts.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, the active player can take an action card from the market, if they take the card at the end of the row (the one that has been there longest), it is free, otherwise they have to pay resources dependent on the card’s position.  This card goes into the player’s hand where, on a later turn, they can use it to get spices, upgrade spices or convert spices into other spices.  When used, a card is placed on the player’s personal discard pile, and they can also spend a turn picking up all their discarded cards.  The spices, turmeric, saffron, cardamom and cinnamon are then used to fulfill contracts, giving points.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

The contract cards that have been around for longest get a bonus, in this case a coin is worth one or three points at the end of the game.  The challenge, or at least part of the challenge is storing the spices: each player has a caravan card which will hold a maximum of ten spice cubes, so converting cubes into other cubes and buying contracts has to be done efficiently otherwise spices are wasted.  The game end is triggered when one player has five contract cards.  There are a couple of minor details, like the number of cards in the markets and the values of the coins, but Burgundy clearly knew these without needing to check the rules.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

The engine-building nature of this game has a lot in common with Splendor and as Burgundy is invincible at that the writing was on the wall before the group even started.  It was no surprise therefore that when Ivory picked up the first contract, Burgundy was immediately behind him.  Green, new to the game, wasn’t far behind either.  Blue had a complete nightmare, but Lime, after a slow start suddenly seemed to get the hang of it and then made rapid progress.  It wasn’t long before Ivory took his final card though.  Taking the maximum number of cards is always key, and when he said he had sixty-seven points it looked like he might have been successful, however, Burgundy, managed to take one last card in that final round as he was the last to play, and ultimately, he managed to take first place by just three points.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Europe has a very extensive (and exciting) rail network.

1st October 2019

It was a bitty start with lots of chit-chat and eating, including Blue’s fantastic pizza with mushrooms growing out of it. A little bit of singing to celebrate the fact it was the eve of our seventh birthday was immediately followed by special meeple cakes. Eventually, when everyone had finally finished sucking the icing off their wooden meeples, we finally settled down to the now traditional birthday “Feature Game”, Crappy Birthday.

Pizza
– Image by boardGOATS

Crappy Birthday is a very silly party game that most of the group would normally turn their noses up at, but love to play once a year. The idea is that each person has a hand of cards featuring silly things and chooses one to give to the active player as a birthday present. The Birthday Boy/Girl then chooses the best and worst gifts which score the giver a point. Players take it in turns to receive gifts and after everyone has had one go, the player with the most points is the winner. It is very simple, but the best part is really when the recipient has to sit and sort through all their gifts and justify their choices. It seems a really silly game, and indeed it is, but it encourages people to get to know each other a little better and in a different way too.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

This year, we discovered that Black would like a trip to the North Pole, Pine fancied two weeks in a swamp and Purple fancied a course on Mime Art.  In contrast, Burgundy was not keen on getting his earlobes stretched, Blue wasn’t keen on a GPS (with or without an annoying voice) and Lime eschewed some “garden manikins”.  Perhaps the most surprising thing we discovered was just how great Ivory would be as a day-time quiz host.  Amongst the fun, the scores were largely incidental, but everyone picked up just one or two points except for Purple who scored three points and Black who just pipped her to the post, with four points.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Since Blue and Ivory had both brought Roll for the Galaxy, it was clear that they were keen to give it a go and when Green said he’d play it, the only real question was which copy would get played. Since it can be quite a long game, Blue and Ivory got going quickly and left the others to sort themselves out. Although Ivory was keen to give the new Rivalry expansion a go, as it has been a while since we last played (and Green wasn’t totally familiar with it either), the trio decided to leave that for another day.  Although a lot of the group seem to get in a bit of a mess with Roll for the Galaxy, it is not actually a complicated game. It is a “pool building” game, similar to deck builders like Dominion or bag builders like Orléans or Altiplano, except with dice.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that at the start of the round, everyone simultaneously rolls all their dice in their cup and, depending on what faces are shown, secretly allocate the dice to the five possible phases of the game: Explore, Develop, Settle, Produce & Ship. One of the dice can be used to select which phase that player wants to “nominate”, i.e. guarantee will happen. Any die can be used for this, it does not have to match the chosen phase. Once everyone has assigned all their dice and chosen their phase to nominate, all dice are revealed and the active phases are revealed. The clever part is the element of double think that players have to use: a player can only nominate a single phase, so if they want to Produce and Ship they have to rely on someone else to nominate the other one. Guess right and both phases will happen, guess wrong and they will only get one of them, and if that relies on something else happening, they may find they end up doing neither.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, while there are a lot of other moving parts, fundamentally, a successful player must piggy-back on other players because it will give them more actions.  Dice that are used then go into the players’ Citizenries, and unused dice go back into the players’ cups. Dice are extracted from the Citizenries and returned to the cups on payment of $1 per die, once all the actions have been carried out. Thus, the player with the most appropriate dice can turn the handle on their engine most efficiently. The aim of the game is to finish with the most points, which are obtained from settling and developing worlds and shipping goods to give points.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

So, the first action is Explore, which is taking world tiles from a bag. These are double-sided with a development on one side and a production or settlement world on the other. They go into either the Development or Settlement piles so that dice are placed on top of these during the Develop and Settle phases: when the cost has been matched by the number of dice, the world is added to the player’s tableau and they can use whatever special power it provides. Some of the worlds are production worlds which typically provide more, exciting dice to add to the system.  In addition to extra, coloured dice, Production worlds also house dice played during the Produce phase. These can then be consumed for victory points or traded for cash, enabling more dice to be transferred from the player’s citizenry to their cup.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends at the end of the round when either, a player Settles/Develops their twelfth world or when the stock of victory point chips run out. The winner is the player with the highest score from their combined victory points and worlds. There are a couple of other minor rules (for example players can pay one die to effectively change the face of one other die), but essentially, that is all there is to it.  Players start with a double tile comprising a complimentary pair of settlement and development worlds and a start world, together with a couple of tiles to add to their Development/Settlement piles.  For the first game it is recommended that players choose the Development and World with the lowest cost to add to their piles, because that is easier to play.  For later games, however, players can choose, which gave Blue a really tough decision.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end she decided to go for it, and chose to start with the “Galactic Federation”, “6+” development world in her building pile.  This would give her an extra one third of her development points at the end of the game, but more importantly two of the dice used for every development would bypass her citizenry, going straight into her cup.  Green started with no fewer than three of the red, “Military” dice, which coupled with his “Space Piracy” starting development, gave him really a good source of finance. He looked very unimpressed with this combination, but Ivory and Blue felt it was a really nice combination of starting tiles. Ivory’s start tiles were also nice, but didn’t have quite the same degree of complimentarity, but he did get a nice  purple, “Consumption” die.  The starting tiles are only the beginning though; the game is all about building an engine made up of dice, Production Worlds, and Developments and then using it efficiently.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

In the case of Blue, her starting tiles led her towards a Development strategy, so she spent a lot of the early part of the game Exploring to try to find nice Development tiles to enhance that approach.  Green and Ivory had a more conventional, “build the finances and the dice pool then Produce and Consume” strategy.  The problem with this was they both frequently wanted the same phases, but ended up with either both of them choosing to, say, Produce, or both choosing Ship, when what they both really wanted was to maximise their dice by Producing and then Shipping.  Blue, on the other hand, could mostly be fairly sure that neither Ivory or Green were going to what she wanted, so was able to focus on her own plan, and just piggy-back the actions of the others.  Although the game has a reputation of being slow (with our group at least), this time, the game got going quite quickly and it wasn’t long before Ivory started his Production engine, Shipping his produce for victory points.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

Green soon followed, while Blue kept building her Developments and occasionally taking advantage of the “Produce/Consume” strategies of the others to provide enough finance to move her dice out of her Citizenry.  Blue felt her game was really boring since all she did was Develop, but in the end, it was probably the fact that Blue was doing something different that was key.  Blue triggered the end of the game placing her twelfth Development/World tile, which gave her the most points from building, slightly more than Green.  Ivory Consumed the most victory points, with Green not far behind, and Blue not really troubling the scorer in that department.  It therefore all came down to bonuses from the “6+” Developments, which is where Blue made up for other deficiencies taking fifteen points giving her a total of fifty-seven points, five more than Green who was just a couple ahead of Ivory.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

It had been a lot of fun, and next time we’ll have to give one of the modules form the Rivalry expansion a try.  On the next table, their game was coming to an end too.  Having been abandoned to sort themselves out, someone mentioned Ticket to Ride, and with everyone having a good idea how to play, that turned out to be most popular. The game is very simple and everyone has played it, in most cases, quite a lot, so we often play with expansion maps.  This time, the Team Asia/Legendary Asia expansion was an option, but as we usually play with the Europe version of the game, the group decided to play with original USA map with the addition of the USA 1910 additional route cards.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

The basics of the game is that players start with a handful of train pieces and place them on the board to connect cities, paying with cards.  Thus, on their turn a player can take two coloured train cards from the market (either the face up cards or blind from the deck) or play sets of cards of a single colour that matches both the number and colour of one of the tracks on the board.  Players score points for the number of trains they place, but also for tickets.  Players choose from a handful of these at the start of the game and can take more tickets on their turn instead of placing trains or taking train cards.  These are risky though, because although they are a source of points, any tickets that are not completed at the end of the game give negative points.

Ticket to Ride (USA)
– Image by boardGOATS

The original version of Ticket to Ride (with the USA map) is much less forgiving than the Europe edition that we more usually play.  This is partly thanks to the layout of the tracks, but also due to the absence of Stations which can help alleviate some of the stress associated with failure to complete tickets.  With five, it was always going to be a really hard game and likely to end up with a bit of a train-wreck for someone, and so it turned out.  The eastern states were rough, really, really rough with Burgundy, Lime, Pine and Purple all fighting for routes in the same space.  As a result, Black benefited from mostly staying out of the scrap.

Ticket to Ride (USA)
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine, Lime and Purple managed to complete the most tickets, five each, but remarkable, all three were a long way behind Burgundy and Black who only completed three and four tickets respectively.  This was partly due to negative points, but was mostly caused by the fact that the longer tracks give disproportionately more points and Black for example was able to pick up two of the long tracks around Salt Lake City relatively unopposed as he was mostly alone working in the west.  Similarly, Burgundy did well in the north.  As a result, it all came down to the longest route bonus, ten points, but with Black and Burgundy both in the running it gave a twenty point swing to Burgundy giving him a total of one hundred and thirty-five points, nearly twenty more than Black in second place.

Ticket to Ride
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride and Roll for the Galaxy finished simultaneously and only Green decided he needed an early night, leaving everyone else to play one of the group’s favourite game, Las Vegas.  This is a simple game of dice rolling and gambling, where players use their dice to bet in one of the six numbered casinos.  Each casino has one or more money cards and at the end of the round, the player with the most dice in that casino takes the highest value money card.  The player who comes second takes the next highest value card and so on.  When betting, players must place dice in one of the numbered casinos.  The first catch is that they must place all the dice they roll that depict that number in the matching casino.  The second catch is that any dice involved in a tie at the end of the round are removed, and it is this that makes it a great game.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

We have the original version of the game rather than the new edition, Las Vegas Royale, though we added elements from the Las Vegas Boulevard expansion, including the double weight “Big” dice and the Slot Machine.  We also house-rule to only play three rounds instead of the four in the rules as written.  This time, Ivory stole a march in the first round, when he was forced to place his last die as a losing singleton in “Casino Five”, only for Purple to roll a five with her final roll and take out both herself and the hitherto winner, Pine.  As a result Ivory took the jackpot of $90,000 to go with his other winnings.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

It is not a game to give up on though, as anything can happen.  The second round was relatively uneventful, but the deal for the final round left the last three casinos each with a single card of $100,000.  This is highly unusual, but we decided to play on and see what happened.  In the end, it had a bit of an “all or nothing” feel about it, with players going in early and in big.  It was probably no coincidence that the three big jackpots were taken by the three highest scoring players.  Pine thought he had come off worst, Black, who had done so well in the other two games took the wooden spoon.  It was Ivory’s flying start that was key though, and together with his strong finish, his total takings were a massive $430,000, $40,000 more than Blue in second.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Party games can be great when everyone is in a party mood.

25th June 2019

It was lovely to see Burgundy back after his long lay-off, and the staff at The Jockey were thrilled to provide him with his ham, egg and chips once more.  While people finished eating there was a bit of chit chat, which extended into lots and lots of chit chat after people had finished eating.  Green explained that this was likely his last visit until September, while Lime commented that he had enjoyed Villagers so much last time that he’d bought a copy for himself.  He hadn’t realised that it had only just been released, and this led into a discussion about KickStarter and why people might be prepared to support a project months, possibly years in advance of its arrival.  This encouraged Ivory to show off his latest acquisition, Tiny Epic Mechs, a cool little game with meeples that can hold weapons or wear mech suits, and came with some KickStarter exclusive content.

Tiny Epic Mechs
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, after several attempts to get people playing games, Blue made an executive decision.  She split the group into a three and a four, with the four playing the “Feature Game”, Hook! and left the remaining three to sort themselves out.  Hook! is a very, very silly game where players are trying to place square cards over other cards, orienting them so that the holes pick out certain features and not others.  The game is played simultaneously, with each player first drawing a “target” card, taking a look at it and placing it in the middle.  Each player then chooses one of their three “aim” cards, each with a different arrangement of three holes, and places it over one of the target cards.

Hook!
– Image by boardGOATS

Cat-like, each player starts with nine lives, and, for every picture of their character that someone picks out with their aim card, they lose a life.  If they manage to hide behind a barrel or a crate, that protects them from cannon fire, but not from a grenade, which destroys all barrels and crates and causes everyone to lose a life.  Catching a “black pirate” in their sights allows the player to choose which of their opponents suffers.  Rum, on the other hand, helps to deaden the pain and restores a life, even bringing a pirate back from the brink of death if they lose their last life, but manage to take a swig of grog in the same round.  There are two aims to the game:  firstly, a player needs to survive till the end, and secondly finish with the most parrots—any target card where a parrot was visible through the sights is kept and the parrots added up at the end of the game.

Hook!
– Image by boardGOATS

The pirates come in three colours, red, blue and yellow, and two types (“sailors” and “captains”), with the colour distinction being much, much more obvious than the difference between sailors.  Thus, with the stress induced by the time pressure of the game, the potential for picking out a captain instead of a sailor is much larger than picking red instead of yellow for example.  This means that with more than three players, it is better to play with pairs of colours and team play is recommended.  Therefore, Blue and Lime played as one team, and Mulberry and Pine played as the other.  Pine commented, “I thought we didn’t do cooperative games,” which led to a discussion of what these were and the promise that one would be the “Feature Game” next time (probably Forbidden Island or maybe Flash Point: Fire Rescue).

Flash Point: Fire Rescue
– Image by BGG contributor aldoojeda

As the group played the first few rounds of Hook!, it quickly became apparent that Blue was more of a hazard to herself and her team-mate than the opposition, dropping several cannon balls on her foot and accidentally catching Lime a couple of times too.  Lime, it turned out, was quite good at catching parrots, while Mulberry and Pine had a bit of a thing for making Mojitos.  As it was the game’s first outing, it took a bit to get the hang of game play.  The idea that everyone looks at their card first and then plays meant that everyone ended up playing on their own cards.  We tried to fix this with a simultaneous count of three:  “Draw, One, Two, Three, Place!” but while that was more successful, it wasn’t perfect.

Hook!
– Image by boardGOATS

Playing again, we’d probably just skip the “preview target cards” phase and simultaneously place them in the middle without looking.  The vagaries of the game didn’t stop us having a ball though, as everyone attacked everyone in mad chaos.  Then Blue suddenly looked in real danger as her number of lives tumbled (mostly due to self-inflicted wounds).  Realising that she was at serious risk of an unscheduled visit to Davy Crockett and that Parrots aren’t known for hanging around corpses, she prioritised staying alive over parrots.  Before long, Pine was in a similarly precarious state, and he was not so lucky as Lime unceremoniously stabbed him in the back and dumped his body overboard.  As Pine’s parrots flew away, that left Mulberry with a titanic battle, the more-so as she was now also getting low on lives.

Hook!
– Image by boardGOATS

Although both Blue and Mulberry survived till the end, the winner was undoubtedly Lime who not only had more lives left than anyone else, but also had almost as many parrots as the other two put together, giving his team glorious victory.  With all the fight taken out of her and citing jet-lag, Mulberry was making noises about finding her bed, but Blue twisted her arm a little and she agreed to give Ticket to Ride: London a go before she left.  This is a cut-down version of the Spiel des Jahres winning, train game, Ticket to Ride.  This game has spawned a whole family of games and expansions, including maps of Europe, Asia, India and Africa, but the most recent are the two city specials, New York and London.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is very simple: on their turn, players can do one of three things, draw coloured travel cards, spend travel cards to place pieces on the board, or pick up tickets.  Points are scored for placing pieces (usually scored during the game) and for connecting the two places shown on the ticket cards (scored at the end of the game).  Any unfulfilled tickets score negative points.  Each of the variants has some other little feature, for example, Pennsylvania includes a stocks and shares element, Märklin includes passengers and Nederland includes bridge tolls that players have to pay.  The new city titles, have fewer trains (less than half), players draw two tickets instead of three, and, in the case of London, bonus points for connecting all the places in a district.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 4 – Nederland
– Image by boardGOATS

Only Blue had played this new version of the game before, but Pine had played other versions many times and Lime had also played one of them before, though it was a while ago and he wasn’t sure which it was.  The London game is really cute though and has a lot of UK references.  For example, for those of a certain vintage the box features John Steed and Mrs Peel, and the travel cards include yellow submarines and black cabs.  Perhaps the best though are the pieces where trains have been replaced with really high quality miniature Routemaster buses.  As ever, there have been lots of online criticisms, but we just liked spotting the obvious references and trying to guess what the orange car was meant to be (a Lamborghini Miura?).

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine went first and started quickly by placing a couple of Routemasters.  Blue, Mulberry and Lime were a bit slower, building up their collection of cards.  With some versions of Ticket to Ride, the game is all about planning routes, gathering the necessary cards and then playing all these cards in quick succession so others don’t have a chance to block.  In other versions, this strategy doesn’t work so well as the key parts of the network are taken early in the game.  The shorter games, especially those with short routes tend to fall more into the latter camp, so Mulberry looked to be playing a dangerous game as she fell behind with the number of pieces she’d placed and amassed a huge pile of cards.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine, always one to play this game close to the wire, was the first to chance it with some tickets, drawing two and keeping one.  Then, he drew another two and kept one.  Lime and Mulberry were still working on their existing routes, but Blue decided to follow Pine’s example and drew two tickets, but kept both.  As Pine, pushed his luck once more, it turned out he’d pushed it too far this time, drawing two tickets that were almost impossible to complete.  Blue learning from Pine’s mistake (rather like last time she had played Ticket to Ride with Pine), decided not to draw any more tickets and instead, brought the game to a swift end by placing all but one of her remaining Routemasters to connect Piccadilly Circus to Baker Street.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Checking the scores proved that most people had managed to more or less keep on top of their scoring during the game and it was just tickets and district bonuses.  Inevitably, the bonuses were minimal, so as is common in this game, it was all about tickets.  Lime and Mulberry had both completed their tickets, so the question was whether drawing more had been a good bet for Blue and Pine.  Pine had more than Blue, but unfortunately, he’d failed to complete the last one, leaving Blue some way in front with forty-one points.  In the battle for second place, Pine had come off best demonstrating that drawing more tickets can be a good move, but only if you can complete them.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table, the trio of Burgundy, Green and Ivory had decided to give Endeavor: Age of Sail another outing.  Perhaps it was because Green wanted revenge for last time, or maybe Burgundy had missed out, or possibly it was just because Green wanted to play the game again while considering whether or not to commit to getting the new Age of Expansion buildings, but whatever the reason, out it came for the second time on the bounce.  The game is a simple game of exploration in the age of Captain Cook, played over eight rounds.  Players first build, then populate and remove workers from their buildings, all according to how far they have progressed along the associated technology track.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

The guts of the game are the actions, however, which allow players to colonise cities on the central map board, engage in shipping, attack occupied cities, plunder and become slave masters. Last time, it was the “Feature Game”, specifically including the Exploits expansion.  The really change the game, giving players a different aspect to work on.  This time Exploits were included again, though different ones to last time: “The Sun Never Sets”, “Globalization”, and “Underground Railroad”.  Between them they covered most of the continents, requiring India & the Caribbean; the Far East & the Caribbean, and Africa & North America to be opened (respectively) for the three Exploits to take effect.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

As before, Ivory started building a robust network of connected cities while Green once again used tried to use the Exploits as a target.  In contrast, Burgundy largely ignored the Exploits and played a traditional game concentrating on building up his technology tracks giving him a strong foundation from which to build in the colonies.   Playing with the new three-player map meant that all regions were opened up by the end of the game, though it was a bit late for Green to capitalise on the Exploits as he’d hoped.  Worse, Ivory’s city network meant he was able to sneak a hat-full of points from the “Sun Never Sets” and “Globalization” Exploits as well.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory and Burgundy managed to build one of the Charter Company buildings from the mini expansion and, like Blue last time, both ended up with too many cards and had to choose what to cull.  This problem was exacerbated by the number of Governor cards they picked up.  As the game drew to a close, the last of the continents were opened up activating the final Exploit, but it was too late for anyone to occupy any of the stations on the Underground Railroad.  With the last round coming to an end, all that was left to count up the points.  Although it wasn’t actually a tie like last time, it was still a very close game.  This time, honours went to Burgundy who finished with seventy points,  just three more than Ivory who, in turn, was three ahead of Green.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

As Endeavor was just coming to an end, so Blue, Pine and Lime looked round for something quick to play.  Ivory excitedly suggested that when they were finished everyone could play Bohnanza, but Pine vetoed that and in the meantime, Blue’s beady eye moved from Biblios to settle instead on No Thanks!.  This is an old favourite, but one that Lime had not been introduced to yet.  As a really quick game, both to teach and play, this was ideal.  Everyone starts with eleven red chips, and the first player turns over the top card in the deck (which runs from three to thirty-five).  They can then either take the card or pay one chip to pass the problem on to the next player who then has the same choice.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part is the scoring—the winner is the player with the lowest total face value once the deck has been exhausted (offset by any remaining chips).  There is a catch though, if a player has continuous sequence of cards (e.g. seven, eight, nine, ten), they only count the first card (i.e. they score seven not thirty-four).  The real gamble comes because some of the cards are removed from the pile at the start of the game.  Lime started by collecting lots and lots chips, while Blue helped by pointing out some of the things to look out for.  Although having chips is a must, and having most chips gives control of the game, once one player runs out, that control is largely lost.  This is because any player with no chips is forced to take whatever comes along.  Lime finished with a massive ninety points with Pine some way behind, with Blue cruising to victory with forty-one.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Endeavor was now finished, they were still packing up, Lime was keen to give it another go while Pine insisted he wasn’t coached this time, so the trio squeezed in another quick round.  Lime tried the same trick, and hoarded lots of chips, again putting Pine under a lot of pressure as he ran out of chips.  He managed to keep his total down though by making a very fortuitous run, and ended with two points less than Lime.  This time, Blue concentrated more on her own game and was able to just hold on to enough chips to see out the deck, while avoiding picking up too many cards, giving her a second victory.  It was much closer in the battle for second place though, with Pine taking it by just two points.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

With Endeavor finally over and packed away, Ivory (perhaps more boisterous than usual as it was exactly six months to Christmas), once again suggested Bohnanza.  Pine once again vetoed it, this time even more grumpily following the suggestion that we should all sing some festive hits to get us in the mood.  Blue diplomatically suggested 6 Nimmt! as an alternative as everyone loves it and Lime had not yet played that either.  6 Nimmt! is a great game that gives players the illusion of control right up until the point when it all goes horribly wrong.  The idea is that everyone has a hand of cards and simultaneously chooses one to play.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Starting with the card with the lowest face value, these cards are added to one of four rows, specifically the row with the highest value that is lower than the card played.  When a sixth card is added to the row, the five cards already on the table are taken and the new card restarts the row.  As well as a face value, each card has a number of Bulls’ Heads, most only one, but some as high as seven.  At the end of the game, the player with the fewest “nimmts” is the winner, with a special “wooden spoon” shout-out for the person whose plans went most awry landing them with a huge pile of bull.  As a group we usually play in two rounds, each with approximately half the deck (numbered one to a hundred and four).

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue top-scored in the first round, with twenty-four nimmts, but everyone else had a far more respectable total and Green led the way with just two.  This is a game where everything can fall apart spectacularly in the second round, so there was everything to play for.  The second time round time, Lime beat Blue’s score from the first round taking twenty-five nimmts, giving him a total of thirty-two.  This was nothing compared to Pine though, who took thirty-five in the second round alone, giving him a a sizeable forty-eight.  Blue made a clear round, but for her the damage had already been done, so the honours fell to Green who was consistency itself, taking just three in the second round giving a total of five – the only one to finish in single figures.  Lime was keen to play again, but as others were leaving, it was time to pack up. There was still time for a long gossip though before we sadly said goodbye to Green after what was likely to be his last meeting until September.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Leaning Outcome:  You don’t have to play a game correctly to have fun.

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!

Boardgames in the News: What does Brexit mean for Eurogamers?

On Thursday, after a long and miserable campaign, the UK public voted to leave the EU.  Boardgamers are a friendly bunch, so what does the imminent divorce mean for us?  Obviously there’s lots of speculation and scare stories, but the most immediate and obvious effect is undoubtedly the cost and potentially the availability of boardgames in the UK.  A copy of Ticket to Ride: Europe bought from Germany using Amazon.de would have cost €43.92 including postage, which would have been about £33.45 on Thursday evening at 10pm.  At 5am the following morning, this had risen to £35.94, an increase of £2.50 in just seven hours.  The same game bought from the USA from Amazon.com costs $64.69 (including shipping and tax waivers etc.) which was about £43.21 at 10pm on Thursday rising to a staggering £48.25 at 5am the next morning – an increase of over £5!  The exchange rates will probably improve over time, however, it will be a while before they achieve pre-referendum levels and there will no doubt be more uncertainty to come too, no doubt.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS