Tag Archives: Ticket to Ride: Europe

Remembering Burgundy on his Birthday

Burgundy (also known as Mike Parker) was an Oxfordshire gamer who sadly passed away at the end of December 2021 and is much missed.  He would have been sixty-four on Saturday 27th August and a small group decided that we couldn’t let his birthday pass unmarked.  So, at the South Oxford Crematorium, in Garford (where his ashes had been scattered), six people met to remember him and set light to a 6 Nimmt! card in his honour. The idea was a nice one, however, it turned out that a lighter would have been better than matches in the slight breeze, and 6 Nimmt! cards are not as flammable as we thought:  Burgundy would have been highly amused watching or perhaps he was teasing us by blowing out the flames.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually though, card number sixty-four was successfully burned, or rather charred (or at least most of it was), without doing too much damage to anybody’s fingers or setting fire to the tinder-dry countryside.  From there, the group went to The Fox in Steventon to honour Burgundy’s memory by playing some of his favourite games.  With six, the choices were limited without splitting into two groups, but one of Burgundy’s favourites was Ticket to Ride and the Team Asia expansion allowed everyone to play together.  It was a much tighter game than it had been earlier in the week and everyone played in the “Spirit of Burgundy” with lots of moaning when they picked up a card they didn’t want.  Team Purply-Black ran out the winners, just three points ahead of Team Pinky-Blue (who would have won had Pink let Blue take a chance and draw tickets on her last turn).

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by Lilac

The group were going to squeeze in a quick game of 6 Nimmt! while waiting for food, but the cards (now one short of course) had barely been shuffled when food arrived.  Black, who missed out on on Ham, Egg & Chips at Burgundy’s wake, made up for it this time and then the group had to decide what to play next.  Bohnanza and 6 Nimmt! were options of course, but Green and Black were keen to play something heavier, though that would have meant splitting into two groups which somehow just didn’t seem right.  Concordia was another of Burgundy’s favourites and might have been an option with the Venus expansion, but that was moot as we didn’t have it.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end, the group settled on Wingspan with the European expansion.  Although this only plays five, with two copies the group was able to make it work with an extra player.  This overpowers the “once per turn” (pink) cards, and leads to a lot of down time, but it felt the right thing to do for the occasion.  As a result of the slight unbalancing of the game, Blue got a lot of wheat, Green got an awful lot of worms, Pink and Purple Tucked a lot of cards, and Lilac was left at a bit of a disadvantage as she didn’t get a pink card at all.  Green was the eventual winner by some fifteen points, though it was very close for second with Blue just pipping Purple by a single point.  With the bar closing it was time to go home, but everyone felt that Burgundy would have approved, and would have enjoyed the evening too.

Mike Parker
– Image by Pushpendra Rishi

23rd August 2022

The evening started badly when Purple, Black, Plum and Pine all turned up hungry to a pub that wasn’t serving food and Blue was delayed taking her last opportunity to play with her hosepipe.  Eventually, Blue arrived and suggested getting food from Darren at “The Happy Plaice“, who delivers chips around the area and is in Stanford-in-the-Vale Village Hall car park on a Tuesday.  Blue and Plum nipped off to place an order and returned five minutes later with a collection time of 8pm, which left just enough time for a game of Azul.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Azul is a simple, largely abstract game that we’ve had a lot of fun with since it came out at Essen five years ago.  The idea is that there is a market place where are a number of Factories are selling tiles.  Players can take all the tiles of one colour from one of these Factories and sweep the rest into the Remainders Bin in the centre of the table, or take all the tiles of one colour from the Remainders Bin.  These tiles are added to their one row in their display, but the catch is that they must be added to the same row and match any tiles already there with any left-overs scoring negative points.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the round, any completed rows are scored:  one tile is moved across to the Mosaic taking its place in the row it was collected in and scoring points for any rows and columns they become part of.  The game ends when one player fulfills one entire row in their Mosaic, and since the mosaic is a five by five square, that means after a minimum of five rounds.  With bonuses added for completed rows, completed columns and sets of five of the same colour, the player with the most points is the winner.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine started taking tiles from the bag and started debate about what colour the patterned pale blue tiles were.  He referred to them as “green”, when clearly they were blue.  However, when he pointed out that the blue tiles were blue, it made a bit more sense, though really, they were not green.  Plum opined that they might be cyan and Blue suggested turquoise, but pretty much everyone agreed that they weren’t green.  Pine continued to call them green though, probably partly to slightly annoy and confuse everyone else, but also because to him it was just easier and less confusing.

Another kitty picture of Plum's
– Image by Plum

Plum did unexpectedly well, unexpected because she was distracted when someone mentioned kittens, and for a while she took her turns very quickly so she could return to finding more kitty snaps to pass round.  Perhaps others found them equally distracting or maybe the kittens just gave Plum a bit of extra good luck.  Certainly luck played its part, when for example, she had the first player token and one of the factory tile had three of the cyan/turquoise/green tiles that she had fallen into collecting.  We don’t generally “play nasty” and in general, nobody really engages in hate drafting and the same was true this time, so luck played its part a few times.  Plum finished some way ahead of all the others scoring eighty-two, over twenty more than Pine in second place.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue disappeared about half way through to collect the chip order and, on her return, Azul was over and almost everyone else had arrived.  So while the now very hungry folk tucked in, Green and Lilac started the “Feature Game” which was Scotland Yard.  The food was worth the wait though, because as Black commented, it was some of the best fish he’d had for a long time.  Orange, Lemon, Teal and Lime joined in setting up Scotland Yard, which is a semi-cooperative social and logical deduction game where one side is a team of detectives are trying to catch one player who is Mr. X and is on the run.  Mr. X moves around London taking taxis, buses or subways while the detectives, who nearly always know his mode of transport, work together to try to locate and then catch him.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of the game, the detectives are given a set number of tickets allowing them to travel by taxi, bus and on the underground.  In addition to taxi, bus and Tube tickets, Mr. X (in this case Green, as he was most familiar with the game) also gets two “Double move” tickets and five “Black tickets” which can be used on any service, but can also be used to travel along the Thames by River Boat.  Players can only move between locations if they are connected by a line with the colour dictating the transport type.  Only one player at a time can be at any station so Detectives must work together to not block each other off.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

Detectives can never share tickets with each other, and cannot hide their remaining tickets from Mr. X.  Once a Detective runs out of a certain type of ticket, they cannot use that service again.  Mr. X always moves first followed by the Detectives, and he writes down the destination of his next move in the next free space in the log book, then covers it with the ticket he used.  Mr. X must surface after his third, eighth, thirteenth, eighteenth and twenty-fourth (final) move, by making his move as normal and then placing his pawn where he is for that round. The Detectives win if they are on the same location at any time as Mr. X, whereas Mr. X wins if he evades the detectives until they run out of tickets.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

Since it wasn’t until the third round that Mr. X first appears, not a lot happened in the first couple of rounds and everyone just milled around their starting positions, edging towards the interchange stations.  When Mr. X duly appeared in round three, it was at Bank station, but Green decided not to hang around and played his double turn with a black ticket to disappear again, leaving everyone uncertain as to where he had travelled to.  There was much discussion and Lime was certain he had taken the Tube line to Kings Cross. Not everyone was in much position to travel far, so Lime took himself in that direction since he was already in the area, Lilac was closest to Mr X’s last known location and headed by taxi that way.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone else tried their best to head towards East London, some north of the river and some south.  Although Lime’s suggestion was a good one, and later Green admitted that he had missed that as an escape route, he had in fact taken a taxi towards the bridge in the hope of out-foxing everyone by staying somewhat close to his last known position.  For the next few turns, only Green knew that Lilac was actually tracking Mr. X only one space behind for most of the next several turns, until Lemon had arrived and then was also only one space behind.  In the second appearance, Green again did a double turn with a black ticket, but this time he only had a taxi or a bus as an option.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime felt somewhat out of the game as he had chased a wild goose on his own towards Regents Park, but everyone else was closing in and it was looking extremely tight for Mr. X.  This time Mr. X used the bus, but the consensus amongst the detectives was that he had used another taxi and was close by.  As a result Green slipped past them and crossed the river.  There then followed a cat and mouse game in the south east corner. Green was unable to (secretly of course) get to another bus station as the detectives were too close, and he was left relying on taxis to shuffle around the streets.  Amazingly, he managed to keep just out of reach of the detectives, but when he had to reveal his location again, everyone knew what they had to do.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time, Lime had managed to double back and was able to rejoin the action.  The detectives debated where Mr. X could possibly be with much discussion and gesticulation of locations on the board. As the end of the game neared and time was running out, the game seemed to swing away from the Detectives’ grasp. They started tripping over each other and then realised they had used far too many Taxis and ran out. Left with only buses and tubes, it became difficult to close the net and Mr. X was able to just flit around doubling back regularly to stay just out of reach and win the game.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone had enjoyed that game and nobody wanted to go home just yet, so as the other games were still ongoing, the group settled on a quick game of 6 Nimmt! as a short one for six players.   The game is very simple and everyone knows how to play:  simultaneously choose a card to play which is added to one of the four rows on the table.  They are added to the rows starting with the card with the lowest face value; each card is added to the row ending in the highest number card that is lower than the value of the card played.  If the card is the sixth card, instead the player picks up the five old cards.  The player with the fewest “nimmts” (bulls’ heads) is the winner.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

6 Nimmt! did not fail to deliver it’s usual mix of lucky escapes and unfortunate catches to the amusement of all.  No-one escaped cards in the first round, but both Orange and Teal succeeded in being “nimmt free” in the second.  As a result it was these two who finished with the lowest score taking first and second place respectively.  Lilac and Lemon were less fortunate, and top-scored with the most nimmts overall.  That was enough for Lime and Teal who decided to head home. Green and Lilac considered leaving too, but eventually decided on a quick four player with Lemon and Orange, and Tsuro was the choice.

Tsuro
– Image by boardGOATS

Quite quickly, Orange, Lemon and Lilac moved quite close to each other, leaving Green to wind his own path on the other side of the board. A couple suitable tiles later, Orange and Lemon avoided a collision and headed off in different directions and away from Lilac. Everyone was able to meander their own way for a few more turns until Lilac realised she was headed to a dead end and in two tiles turn was guaranteed to run off the board.  Orange and lemon managed to survive for only one turn more, when Lemon was forced to play a tile that sent them both off the board. This was a lucky escape for Green as he would also have had to head off the board on his next tile.

Tsuro
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, as the five chip-eaters finished their supper (and made the rest of the pub clientele jealous with the smell),  Ivory and Blue tried to come up with something to play—either a game that played six or two smaller games.  Usually, the group would go down the route of two small games, but this time, Blue found the Asia expansion map for Ticket to Ride in Ivory’s bag, and as the Team Asia variant plays six and everyone loves Ticket to Ride, it wasn’t long before the decision was made.  This version of the game has only a few small rules tweaks, but the feel is completely different to every other version as players are working in pairs and teamwork is essential.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

The basic rules are still the same:  players take it in turns to either take Train cards, or use the Train cards to pay to place Trains on the map with the number and colour of the cards matching that of the route claimed.  As usual, players are trying connect the locations marked on their Tickets for which they get extra points for completing and lose points if they fail.  The difference in the Team Asia variant is that players work in teams, and unusually for a game played in pairs, players sit next to their partners.  This is very clever and really makes the game work as it means one player can set up their partner.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

The other rules tweaks are centered round cards that the players in a team share and cards players keep private.  At the start of the game, players place one of their Ticket cards into the shared area, so that both players can see them, other cards are kept private (though players can choose to take a turn to reveal two of their hidden cards to their partner).  When a player draws Train cards, one of these must be placed in the shared area with the other placed in their private hand—a decision players have to make when before they draw their second card.  Similarly, should a player draw more Ticket cards, only one can be shared while the others are kept private.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Players also have separate pools of Train pieces (albeit with teams having the same colour), which is critical, because if one player runs out of pieces, they are significantly restricted in what they can do.  The game ends when one Team has only four Train pieces left (or fewer), at which point every player gets one more turn.  The game starts with everyone getting four Train cards and five Tickets from which they must choose at least three, a difficult choice, and one to share, another difficult choice.  The looks on everyone’s faces as their partner’s chosen Ticket was revealed told the tale for each pair.  While Blue and Ivory were reasonably satisfied, Pine and Plum were decidedly unimpressed and Black and Purple just shrugged.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

After several attempts to drop just one Train piece in a random selection sort of way, Team Piney-Plum went first. Pine placed the first Train and everyone else groaned as they seemed to hit the ground running.  Everyone started placing trains in the south east corner of the map, with the teams moving out in different directions.  When Pine was clearly unimpressed with the Train cards available in the Market and shrugged taking anything, Ivory delightedly pointed out that he should have taken the one off the top of the pile when it turned out to be a Locomotive (wild) card.  Pine equally delightedly pointed out the same to Ivory when he did the repeated the feat couple of turns later.  From then on, it seemed that almost every time someone had the same decision, the same thing happened and, as a result, “Should have taken the one from the pile” became a frequent chorus.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

Team Piney-Plum took the lucrative red line into Cawnpaw giving them fifteen points and an early lead which they never really reliquished during play.  In contrast, Team Bluey-Ivory got stuck with lots of single Train lines and lagged at the rear.  After some grunting, muttering and non-specific pointing, Ivory commented that they’d “take the coastal route”.  When Pine pointed out everyone who was listening knew where they were going, Blue pointed out all the possible coastal routes, but nobody was really fooled.  There were two things that stopped anyone from interfering: firstly, the group rarely plays “nasty”, but mainly, everyone was too worried their own issues to give anyone else more problems.  Indeed, when Ivory pointed out the singleton white route between Chunking and Nanning threatening to take it to block Team Purpley-Black, nobody really thought he was serious.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

That didn’t stop people messing up each other’s plans however.  For example, when Blue spotted Pine had picked up two orange cards, she nipped in quickly and nabbed the line from Cawnpaw to Bombay with a pawful of Locomotive (wild) cards—this wasn’t out of spite though, it was simply critical to Team Bluey-Ivory’s plans and without it, they would have been very stuck.  Team Piney-Plum also had a bit of a tussle with Team Purpley-Black in the south east quadrant of the map, and then got in a bit more of a tangle with Team Bluey-Ivory around the Punjab.  However, with only two teams getting in each other’s way each case, everyone was mostly able to work round it and get to where they wanted to be.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

Black was the first to take more Tickets (four, choose at least one, with won in the shared area) and then Ivory did the same.  And then Ivory had another go too, keeping a Ticket that made Blue squawk, but Ivory was right when he said he thought it could be done.  So much so that a couple of rounds later, Blue took a punt on Tickets too, and although she got unlucky, she did at least get a nice short route they could bin with little loss.  In contrast, Team Piney-Plum eschewed the option of taking Tickets as they were to busy struggling to complete their starting set and were focused on building a ridiculously roundabout route that covered almost all four corners of the map.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

Towards the end of the game, Team Purpley-Black made a late dash to the north west, including a brave, and ultimately successful effort to build a Tunnel into Rawalpindi.  They were the only ones with the courage to try digging with all the Tunnel routes being high risk, low reward.  Indeed, Blue’s Ticket attempt gave her Team an opportunity for eighteen points, but she decided discretion was the better part of valour because even though it only needed one Train piece, it was a Tunnel section potentially needing up to seven cards.  As the game drew to a close, there was the usual scrabbling to get points at the end; Pine ran out of trains, but Plum still had a handful so didn’t trigger the end of the game until the next round.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

At this point, Team Piney-Plum had a huge lead, and after the obligatory recount they increased their lead by taking the Asian Express bonus for the longest continuous route (with forty-five Train pieces).  Tickets were then added, starting with Team Purpley-Black.  They had lots of Tickets and quickly took the lead.  Team Bluey-Ivory were next—they also had a lot of completed Tickets, on average of a slightly higher value and one more than Team Purpley-Black as it turned out, which meant they just took the Asian Globetrotter Bonus and with it, the lead.  That left Team Piney-Plum, and although they completed all their tickets, they didn’t have as many and, were unable to overhaul Team Bluey-Ivory’s lead taking a valiant second.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

The differences in strategies was interesting though.  Team Piney-Plum’s starting Tickets didn’t match at all so they went the round-about route almost everywhere, they mostly stuck to longer track sections and had a lot of cards in hand.  Team Bluey-Ivory built loads of short track sections to connect the end stations for their starting Tickets together and had a permanent shortage of Train Cards with just enough to complete their short term goal.  Team Purpley-Black prioritised getting tickets built a branched track to ensure they were all completed.  The one thing everyone agreed on though was how different the Team experience was to the usual game—not one to be played too often, but it made a nice change.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  You should always take the cards from the top of the pile…

Spiel des Jahres Winners – 2022

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

– Image by BGG contributor singlemeeple

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

– Image by Ludonaute

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

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

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

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 focused 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.