Tag Archives: Ticket to Ride: London

12th Movember 2019

The combination of Illness, work and jet-lag meant we were really low on numbers, despite having a new player, Emerald.  Blue arrived first followed by Pine and both ordered food.  Green arrived shortly after and ordered the mushroom tagliatelle as he was suffering with toothache and he thought it would be nice and soft.  Blue’s scampi arrived lightening fast, quickly followed by Green’s tagliatelle, much to Pine’s chagrin.  Despite his head-start, Green was still last to finish, partly due to his toothache making him eat slowly, but mostly because he was busy texting.  When called out on it, he explained that it was important – he was helping some friends at a quiz.

Google
– Image from google.com

Green denied it, but that didn’t stop everyone from was roundly chastising him for aiding and abetting cheaters.  That was until Ivory pointed out that it was strange anyone would choose to ask Green when it would be just as easy to ask “Mr. Google”, and “Mr. Google” would probably be better!  Eventually, as Green mopped up the last of his sauce, Blue suggested people started shuffling seats so games could be started.  Blue, Pine and Lime had all had a fairly long week and fancied an easy night, and the “Feature Game”, The Voyages of Marco Polo which Green was leading, was always going to be right up Ivory’s street, and it turned out, Emerald’s too.  So after a little prompting, the groups sort of formed themselves.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we’ve played The Voyages of Marco Polo a couple of times before on a Tuesday, the last time was over a year ago.  In the game, players recreate the journey from Venice to China undertaken by seventeen year-old Marco Polo, his father and older brother.  During their voyage, they travelled through Jerusalem and Mesopotamia and over the “Silk Road” until they reached the court of Kublai Khan in 1275.  In the game, each player has a different character and special power. The game is played over five rounds with players rolling their five personal dice and using each one to perform one action per turn with them.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

The actions include:  gathering resources, gathering camels, earning money, buying purchase orders and travelling.  The game ends with players receiving victory points for arriving in Beijing, fulfilling the most purchase orders, and having visited the cities on the secret city cards that each player gets at the start of the game.  With only three people playing the group decided not to use the Agents of Venice, but did use the New Characters mini-expansion.  It took quite a while to set up and explain the game as it is one of those where the rules explanation is far heavier than the game itself:  after only a round or two it all becomes quite clear how to play. However, the trick is to work out what are the best actions to take and when.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

The main game board is divided into two parts with the upper part showing a map of Marco Polo’s travels from Venice to Beijing.  On the routes there are oasis-spaces as short stops and fourteen cities.  When a traveller stops at a city, they mark that with a trading post and may use the special action of that city for the rest of the game (these are allocated during setup). The first player reaching a city also gets an additional bonus. Travelling costs a varying amount of camels and money depending on the route taken and whether it is over land or sea.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

The bottom part of the board shows the five main actions, which are triggered by the placing of dice. Each player has five personal dice in their player colour and may purchase one additional black die per turn.  The actions are the guts of the game.  The first action is purchasing Resources/Camels and the table on the board indicates how many dice must be placed for different numbers of a given resource.  Players need Camels to travel, and Gold , Silk and Pepper to fulfil orders.  The first player at each Resource gets them for free, with each subsequent player paying as much as the lowest result he placed next to the table.  For the next action, Players can instead take one Resource of their choice and two Camels, and again, each player sets the cost for subsequent players.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

The next action is getting money:  the first player can take five coins in exchange for any die, but the later players must also pay the dice value for doing so.  As an action, Players can also purchase Orders.  These are placed on six “double dice” spaces at the beginning of each round.  The value of one die unlocks the orders up to that number (shown on the spaces) and allows the player to buy one or two of those orders.  The Orders are refreshed and replaced at the beginning of each round. The orders are placed on the player’s individual player board and can be fulfilled at any time as an additional action by returning the resources needed back to the supply.  The completed Order cards are then turned face down and placed in the player’s “drawer”, and the player gets victory points, money, camels, another order, etc. as a reward.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

Finally, players can travel.  To do this, they place two dice are to “unlock” the distance they want to move on the map.  Each traveller starts in Venice and can decide between several possible routes eastward, towards Beijing. Each player also gets two “city cards” with two cities on each of them, which they keep secret. At the end of the game, they get additional victory points depending on how many of these cities they have visited by the end of the game.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

This is one of those games where players want to do lots of things but can’t do everything, need lots of Resources way more than they have, and therefore want to be first to do all the actions, but can’t.  Despite the dice, the luck factor is relatively low; high rolls are usually better, but low ones are also usable in many ways.  With city cards, Orders and attractive special actions in the cities, players usually have clear primary and secondary targets as well as an overall strategy.  At the same time they have the freedom to do what they want.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

The winner is usually the player who makes best use of their character’s special ability, however, so it is this that usually drives strategies.  The characters are very different, for example, with one character the player doesn’t roll their dice, instead turning them to the result they need before each placement.  With another, the player always gets one of the resources from the supply, whenever another player purchases any resource.  As a result of these differing abilities, each player generally follows a totally different path with a very different approach.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

Following the group’s usual policy of the player with the least experience of the game going last, Emerald took that position, but that meant choosing his character first.  Fortunately, he only had four to choose from and they did not take much explaining.  Emerald chose Johannes Carprini which allowed him to jump between oasis points on the travel map; handy to get to those hard to reach bonuses. Ivory then chose Alton Ord (from the New Characters mini-expansion) which gave him extra cumulative bonuses every time he placed a trading station.  This had the potential to become quite lucrative if he could get around the map fast enough.  This left Green with a choice of two. He didn’t favour the extra trading posts, so went for Matteo Polo which gave him a new contract and resource at the beginning of every round; clearly the contract strategy was the way to go for him.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

As ever in this (and many) game resources were tight, camels all too rare and players could never get the dice rolls they needed.  Emerald quickly got the hang of it and was doing his best to move around the travel map while also keeping an eye on completing contracts. Even with the oasis hop, it still took him a few rounds to get to the far side of the board and the triple action city, but once there, he started using the extra actions to his advantage.  Ivory also went travelling and managed to place a number of trading posts and so collect more and more bonuses on the way.  The small city bonus card which allows a player to choose any other small city bonus at the beginning of each round was located near to Venice.  So this was an early target for Ivory and Emerald who both got there early and used it to broadened their options and give them room for manoeuvre.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

Green hardly travelled at all, and found himself somewhat at a dead-end which was compounded by making a free move in the wrong direction, so he only managed to place two trading posts in total.  This wasn’t his game plan anyhow though, and he mostly stuck to the bottom part of the board, hoovering up contracts and hunting down resources to complete them: not bothering with travelling gave him extra dice to do it all with.  He also made use of the favours two or three times and by the end of the game had a huge lead and a pile of completed contracts far higher than either of the other two.  Ivory, in particular, had a lot of bonus points to come from his travels though.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone thought it would be a tight game, and indeed it was.  When all the points were in, Ivory and Green tied on sixty-seven points with Emerald not far behind.  A quick check of the rules for tie breakers gave it to Green thanks to the fact he had two Camels left over.  meanwhile, on the next table, while Ivory and Emerald helped set up Marco Polo and Green began his rules explanation, Pine pointed out the long and unpronounceable title of “Weltausstellung 1893” on the German box.  So, before long Blue was explaining the rules to World’s Fair 1983.

World's Fair 1893
– Image by boardGOATS

This is a fairly simple little game that is now a few years old and flew under the radar a bit at the time.  Reviews generally seemed to be complimentary though, referring to it as a bit of a “Hidden Gem”.  So, having been on the look out for it at a reasonable price for nearly three years, Blue and Pink had finally picked up a German copy at Essen.  The game is a set-collecting dame with an area majority mechanism where players are proposing exhibits for the fair in the five different areas (Fine Arts, Transportation, Manufacturing, Electricity and Agriculture).  The game is played on an eye-catching, modular, Ferris-wheel shaped board surrounded by sections for each of the five areas.

World's Fair 1893
– Image by boardGOATS

The actions are simple enough, making the decisions that players have to take theprimary  focus of the game.  On their turn, the active player places a Supporter cube on one of the five coloured areas, taking all the cards in the area.  They then place three cards drawn from the top of a deck around the wheel, the first going in the now empty area the player chose, and one going in each of the next two areas round the wheel.  There are three types of cards:  Exhibit cards associated with each of the five areas, Medway tickets and Influential People.  The Medway Tickets are the timer, with the Ferris wheel turning one step each time a Ticket is taken.  The round ends after the Ferris wheel has made one full revolution.

World's Fair 1893
– Image from google.com

At the end of the round, the Tickets are cashed in for a dollar each and the player with the most gets a couple of dollars bonus.  Each area is also evaluated, and the player with the most supporters in that area gets a monetary reward worth three dollars in the three-player game.   In addition the winner is also able to exchange three exhibit cards for that area, for tokens.  The player who comes second receives a smaller remuneration and can exchange one card for a token of the same colour/area.  The game ends after three rounds, and sets of tokens scored, with larger sets worth increasing numbers of points.

World's Fair 1893
– Image by boardGOATS

Perhaps the thing that makes the game is the Influential People cards.  These must be played the turn after they are taken, after the player places their influence token, but before they take the cards.  If a player has more than one influential person card on their turn they have to play them all at this point too.  These allow players to mess with the distribution of Supporter cubes slightly, either by adding an extra one in a given space, or moving one.  As a result, these add a thin layer of complexity to the decision space, making it that bit more interesting.  Thought processes go something along the lines of, “Placing a Supporter here will give these cards, but this person card means this Supporter can be moved giving the majority in that area, but there’s little point in winning that without any cards of that colour, so perhaps it would be better to try something else…”

World's Fair 1893
– Image by boardGOATS

Although the game is not terribly difficult, Blue had only played it once and was a bit flaky with the rules, but it wasn’t long before the game got going.  Half-way through the first round, Blue had a pile of tickets, Lime had a pile of Exhibit cards, and Pine had worked through a pile of Influential Person cards.  Blue took the Medway Ticket bonus, but Pine turned a lot of his now substantial pile of Exhibit cards into a significant pile of coloured tokens.  Blue picked up a few, but Lime took a round to really get the hang of things.  The second round when much the same way with Blue and Lime struggling to edge out Pine.

World's Fair 1893
– Image by boardGOATS

The third round was a tight affair with everyone needing certain colours to get full sets of five in order to be even vaguely competitive.  The key was having enough cards as well as gaining the majority in the necessary area.  As the game drew to a close, Lime decided to go for Fine Arts letting Pine place his Supporter in the Electricity area, take a Medway ticket, get the majority he needed, and end the game as well.  In truth, the writing had been on the wall from the start—it was clear this had been a game that had just clicked for Pine and he romped home with eighty-five points leaving Blue and Lime some way behind fighting it out for second.

World's Fair 1893
– Image by boardGOATS

As World’s Fair 1983 was coming to an end, The Voyages of Marco Polo was only just beginning and it was becoming clear that it was going to last most of the night, so Pine suggested a game of Ticket to Ride: New York.  Like the London version played a few of weeks ago, this is one of the new, smaller versions of the popular route-building game, Ticket to Ride.  These are reduced in size and designed be quicker to play although the game play is very similar.  The New York version is set in the city, with players placing Taxis instead of train carriages.

Ticket to Ride: New York
– Image by boardGOATS

Players also start with two ticket cards (which they must keep one of) and successfully fulfilling these give more points.  Similar to the original games, on their turn, the active player can take coloured cards from the market or play cards to place Taxis.  There is no end-game bonus for the longest route, most completed tickets or similar, instead, bonus points are awarded for each of the landmarks a player builds a route from.

Ticket to Ride: New York
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime started and claimed one of the double track route from The Empire State Building to Gramercy Park.  Pine went next and took the other track leaving Blue stymied before she had even taken a turn, specially given the tiny number of taxis each player had to place.  Not one to give up, she started a detour, very glad that she had decided to keep only one of her starting tickets.  Matched step for step by Pine, she built a route from The Empire State Building to Brooklyn via Chelsea.  Pine on the other hand was building what he later referred to as the “Beckham” route going from Chelsea to Brooklyn.

Ticket to Ride: New York
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue was the first to pick up tickets and, after checking she had enough Taxis, decided to gamble, keeping both, as she had only kept the one from her starting pair.  Lime quickly followed and also kept his, as did Pine, who then drew another second set.  Lime claimed two tracks going from Central Park to Gramarcy Park, then suddenly looked crest-fallen having just realised he didn’t have enough Taxis to do what he wanted to.  It wouldn’t have mattered anyhow, as Blue promptly triggered the end of the game.  That only left the scoring.

Ticket to Ride: New York
– Image by boardGOATS

These little versions of Ticket to Ride are always really tight affairs where things can go horribly wrong. In this case, Blue scored most for claiming routes.  Pine would have scored most for tickets except he’d just failed to complete an eight point ticket from The United Nations Building to Wall Street giving him a brutal sixteen point swing.  Lime discovered that he’d not made the mistake he’d thought he had, as he’d actually gone from Midtown to Central Park by the long route, via Gramarcy Park.

Ticket to Ride: New York
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end, the opening play from Lime and Pine taking the two sides of the single Taxi double route from The Empire State Building to Gramercy Park might have been critical.  In forcing Blue to take a detour, she had been able to visit almost all of the eight tourist destinations giving her a very valuable seven points.  This coupled with completing all three of her tickets (including two long ones) and placing all fifteen of her Taxis gave her a final score of forty-four, five more than Lime in second.

Ticket to Ride: New York
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time, The Voyages of Marco Polo were progressing, but it was clear it wasn’t going to finish soon.  With Pine flagging after his trip up to Edinburgh, and Blue and Lime fending off colds, Blue suggested Coloretto as a light game that didn’t take too long or need a lot of thought.  Although it’s been played a lot within the group, it was new to Lime, so Blue gave him a run-down of the rules while Pine shuffled.  The game is really simple: on their turn, the active player either takes a coloured chameleon card and places it on one of the trucks, or takes a truck.

Coloretto
– Imageby boardGOATS

Each truck has a maximum of three chameleons, and there is one truck per player.  Once a player has taken a truck, they are out of the game until everyone has taken a truck and the next round starts.  At the end of the game (when the deck is mostly depleted and the end of game card is drawn), players score sets of chameleons.  The three largest sets are scored positively and everything else gives negative points.  The clever part is the triangular number sequence (one point for the first card, three points for two cards, six points for three cards etc.), which means that one more card in a large group is worth a lot more than a singleton or the second card in a pair.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime picked it up quickly, but not quite quickly enough given that Blue and Pine had played the game many times before.  Served two wild Joker cards by Pine, Blue was able to put together two sets of six, giving her a total score of forty-eight, a healthy advantage over the other two.  Lime had enjoyed playing though, and suggested a second game as it would save getting something else out.  With lethargy playing its part, Pine and Blue were very happy to give it another shot.  This time, Lime was quicker out of the blocks this time, as Blue started to go off the boil.  He wasn’t quite quick enough though, and Pine took the second game with forty-four points, seven ahead of Lime.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime doesn’t give up easily, however.  As The Voyages of Marco Polo was finally coming to an end, and Coloretto is quite quick, Lime suggested a third game.  This time, Lime started very strongly with obvious determination.  Ultimately Lime made a killing picking up a massive fifty-three points, more than ten points clear of Blue in second.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome: You can never have too many camels.

15th October 2019

With food and Ivory both a little delayed, the “Feature Game”, Tapestry was starting to look a bit doubtful. Ivory and the food both arrived eventually though, and Burgundy made haste with his ham, egg and chips while everyone else decided what they were going to play.  To fill in time while the eaters ate, everyone else decided to squeeze in a quick game of Ticket to Ride: London.  This version of Ticket to Ride is reduced in size and is designed be quicker to play, which certainly proved to be the case.  The game play is very similar, however, with players taking it turns to draw coloured cards or use them to place pieces, but in this version the Train pieces are replaced by Routemaster Buses.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Although it is still high quality, the board is also smaller than in the full-sized versions, the players have fewer pieces and a maximum of four can participate.  As usual, players also start with a selection of ticket cards and successfully fulfilling these give more points, but woe betide any player who fails to complete a ticket as the points become negative, which can be very costly indeed.  In addition to these features, this new light version of the game also gives bonus points to players who manage to connect all the locations in an area. Not large numbers of points, but in a tight game it can make all the difference. And these games are often quite tight…

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Players started placing Buses very early in the game, and it wasn’t long before it became clear that everyone was trying to claim routes in the same “south of the river” area.  Although Ivory eventually extended to the east, Lime broke ranks first and claimed a north west route.  Pine completed his routes early and went for more tickets a couple of times. Then before we knew it, the game was over as Ivory placed his last bus.  Placed Bus scores had Ivory way out in front as he had several of the long, four-bus routes, while Lime brought up the rear as he had been claiming mostly two-bus lengths routes.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

So it was looking like a bit of a “slam dunk” for Ivory.  Everyone had managed to complete an area or two and pick up the associated bonuses, but Ivory had actually managed to get the four point area with all his long routes in the east.  When the completed route scores were added in, Pine just pipped Green, but unfortunately for Lime he had failed complete his longest route causing him to lose eleven points.  The clear winner was Ivory though, and managing to complete three high scoring routes just increased his already substantial lead giving him a dominant win.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

With food just about done and the first game coming to an end, there was some debate who would play the “Feature Game”, Tapestry.   This is the hot new game from Jamie Stegmaier, designer of Scythe and producer of Wingspan, so everyone knew what they were getting – amazing production values in a very solid game. In this case, the game is quite simple in terms of the number of rules, however, they combine together to make a much more complex game.  The idea is that on their turn, the active player simply either pay resources to progress their civilisation in one of the four directions (Science, Exploration, Military and Technology) and carries out the associate action, or they start a New Era for their people and collect Income.  It is how these apparently simple options interact that leads to a complex and deep game however.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over four Eras, with each player book-ending their game with an Income phase.  Players choose when to take their own Income phases which has the unusual consequence that Civilisations can be in different Eras and even finish at very different times.  Advancing their Civilisation can have a wide range of consequences because each step along the four tracks is different and, in general, the further along the tracks the more powerful the action is.  For example, in the early stages of the game, a player taking the explore action might be able to place a tile on the central player board, which later may enable them to expand the are they control.  Later in the game, however, a player who reaches the end of the Explore track can move away from terra firma and explore Space, which can be very lucrative.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

After the usual debate over who was going to play, Black joined the inevitable trio of Burgundy, Blue and Ivory.  The game is asymmetric, so each player’s civilisation has a different special power. For example, Ivory’s civilisation, “Leaders”, were to allow him to progress along one of the tracks at the start of each Era.  Black’s “Merrymakers” also granted a bonus at the start of each Era, but this time it’s according to three private progression tracks; the further up a track that the Merrymakers move, the more potent the benefit they receive.  The bonus received by Burgundy’s “Chosen” would depend on his position on each of the four technology tracks at the start of each Era: where there were no players in front of him, he would pick up victory points equal to the number of other players in the game (three in this case).

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

Not all civilisations give advantages during the income phase, however.  For instance, Blue’s “Isolationists” gave her an advantage when colonising.  The game features a central board which represents the colonies’ territories.  At the start of the game, the colonies are well separated by unexplored land.  The Explore action generally enables players to take tiles from the supply (though some are provided as part of the Income phase), and place hexes on the map next to territory they control.  When carrying out a Military action, players can take control of a neighbouring, explored hex, by placing one of their coloured markers on it.  If the tile is already occupied, it can be “attacked” with the second player simply placing one of their markers and tipping over the defeated player’s marker.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

Each hex can hold a maximum of two pieces, so there is no come-back.  In general, players are also not able to place a second marker as a defense.  This means that players are naturally reticent when it comes to expanding and controlling the border regions as expanding can leave their border regions vulnerable by providing a path for the opposition to attack.  The Isolationists colony helps to prevent this by enabling the player to place a second marker on a small number of occasions.  Occupying territory is one way of scoring points.  Another is by improving a civilisation technologically.  This is done by taking orange Technology cards.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

Technology cards give no immediate advantage, but they give a bonus when they are upgraded, either as part of the Income phase at the start of an Era or as an action.  They also give points during the Income phase, but the number of points depends how developed their Capital is.  Each player has a personal play area that includes a Capital City board as well as an area to place their Technology cards, a space at the top to store buildings and the Tapestry Cards that give the game its name.  There are four types of buildings which start the game placed on four tracks that roughly correspond to the four types of advancement and yield resources: Markets (yellow), Houses (grey), Farms (brown) and Armourers (red).

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

During the game, the buildings are moved to the players’ Capital Cities, revealing bonuses that the player will get during the forthcoming income phases.  These bonuses include resources (money, people, mushrooms and power), but also victory points, additional terrain hexes, Tapestry cards and scoring multipliers.  These multipliers are critical:  players score points for the number of Technology cards, the size of the territory they control on the central map, and the number of completed rows and columns in their Capital.  The more buildings a player moves to their Capital, the more of these multipliers are revealed and the more points a player gets.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to their personal buildings, players can also enhance their cities with large buildings which are awarded to to the first player to progress onto certain spaces on the development tracks.  These special buildings are wonderfully over-produced and come pre-painted, really adding to the appearance and feel of the game.  As they are only space fillers, there is no question – they could certainly be replaced with simple card tiles and would have been had the game been produced a few years ago.  This is not a deluxe edition however; the added “bling” comes as standard and elevates the feel of the game above the ordinary (and unfortunately,  elevates the price too).  Unfortunately, these sculpts have very rounded corners which makes it a little hard to see what space they cover during play.  They are really gorgeous though!

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

The key to the game is probably the resources though as progressing along the four development tracks, Science, Exploration, Military and Technology need to be paid for.  The price increases the further up the track the player gets as well, so running out of resources largely dictates when players will choose to start a New Era.  That said, if a player moves into a New Era before their neighbours, they get additional resources which can be just enough to encourage players to move on early.  Although it is clear that resources are important, the winner is likely to be the player that best leverages the advantages from their Civilisation.  Like all good engine builders, however, there are always more things to do than resources available.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

The game started slowly, with Blue taking an early lead largely thanks to her Civilisation giving her points as she explored and expanded her territory.  She was up against Ivory though, who was also progressing along the expansion track, though his progress was accelerated by his use of the Science development.  In the early stages of this development track the action is to move one space along another track dictated by by a roll of the Science die, but without taking the action.  This has the advantage of accelerating development (moving two spaces instead of one per turn), which increases the likelihood of obtaining the beautiful, big, special buildings and consequently makes filling rows and columns in the Capital easier.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

This is at the expense of increasing the cost of actions earlier in the game, on the other hand, the actions become more powerful and are therefore worth the price provided that the player can make the most of them.  One additional consequence of Ivory making an early dart up the development tracks was the damage it did to Burgundy.  Burgundy’s “Chosen” Civilisation gave him three victory points equal for every track he was ahead on.  Ivory’s rapid progress, increased by the power of his “Leaders” Civilisation, essentially annulled Burgundy’s “advantage”.  Burgundy’s game was further stymied by his struggle to get resources to move things along, a problem that only got worse as the game progressed.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

As a result, Burgundy turned to Technology cards, but it took a while to get this alternative approach going.  Black meanwhile, kept things simple, concentrating on making the most of his Merrymakers and trying to expand to the centre of the map first.  In this, his life was made difficult by being sandwiched between Blue and Ivory who squeezed his options.  Blue made it to the middle first, and used her special power to prevent anyone else taking it from her and picking up the points for getting there second.  Black made good use of his Trap cards which he initially kept in case he was attacked, but then used instead of Tapestry cards to give him points.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

He started slowly as he built his engine, but it wasn’t long before Ivory started to edge in front.  By the third era, he really started to push forward, Blue gave chase, but she was always chasing and when Ivory launched his Civilisation into space, the writing was on the wall.  He didn’t quite manage to lap the players at the back and so spared their blushes, but he wasn’t far off, finishing with a very creditable one hundred and eighty-five points.  It is clearly a game that needs multiple plays to understand and get the best out of, and everyone could see its potential, although Burgundy felt some of the Civilisations were more powerful than others.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the neighbouring table, the others decided to play an old favourite,  Jamaica.  This was new to Lime and although Pine had played it once before, he couldn’t remember it.  The game is a pirate-themed tactical race with beautiful artwork and quality pieces, where the winner is the player who best balances their position in the race with success at generally being a pirate doing piratical things. Each player always has a hand of three cards, and a personal board depicting the five “holds” of their ship, into which goods can be loaded during the game. Each round, one player is designated as “Captain” and rolls two dice, examines their cards, then announces which die will correspond to the “day” and which to the “night”.

Jamaica
– Image by BGG contributor verminose

Each player then simultaneously selects and places it face down in front of them.  Each card has two symbols on it (corresponding to “day” and “night”). The symbols indicate either ship movement (forward or backward) or the loading of a type of goods.  The cards are then revealed simultaneously and resolved clockwise one by one, starting with the Captain. When it is a player’s turn to resolve their card, first the “day” part, then the “night” part, multiplying the number of pips on the appropriate die by the  icons on the card to either move forwards (or backwards) by a given amount, or to load goods.

Jamaica
– Image by BGG contributor verminos

When they take goods (gold, food or gunpowder), Players must have space to store them.  If they do not, they must throw the contents of one hold (containing something different) overboard.  When moving, players pay depending one the space they finish on:  on a deep sea space the cost is food; in a port they must pay doubloons.  At a pirate’s lair, the player can take a treasure token and draw a treasure card, (which can be good, or “stinky”, “cursed” treasure), and if they are sharing the space with another pirate ship, they must fight.

Jamaica
– Image by BGG contributor verminose

Battles are resolved with the attack die, but the attacker rolls first and adds to their total by discarding gunpowder. The defender then dies the same, though if either player rolls the special “star” it counts as a direct hit and that player wins outright and can take one holds worth of goods, a treasure card, or give away some “cursed” treasure.  The game end is triggered when a player’s ship reaches the finish line, after completing one circuit of Jamaica when players receive different amounts of gold depending how far they were from the finish line when the race concluded. This is added to any gold gathered along the way  and the player with the most total gold is declared the winner.

Jamaica
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

The race started very slowly (as is often the case) as players stayed in Port Royal and stocked up, but then everyone started moving forwards (and backwards) and fights very quickly broke out. With Gold and food changing ships and ships moving forwards and backwards, or in Green’s case, backwards and forwards: he crossed the finish line from the wrong direction – but no, he couldn’t win that way!   Pine was the first one to claim a treasure and then a second;  the map card enabling him to have an extra card in his hand to choose from, not that seemed to help him:  he still complained that he had poor choice of options. Lime was next, and then followed a period when everyone ended up attacking each other, so much that at least one player ended up in two battles during the same morning move.

Jamaica
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Once players had got around the first corner of the island things began to speed up (again, as is usual for this game). Lime led the way and round this part of the island, Chris started to hoover up the treasures and found himself with an extra hold.  It wasn’t all good though, as became clear when he defeated a sneaky attack from Purple and took the opportunity of foisting a “stinky”, cursed treasure onto her (and the associated negative points.  As the flotilla rounded the final corner, Lime was still out in front with everyone else not far behind. While everyone had full holds, Purple’s ship looked more like a take-away van on a Saturday night, and no gold!

Jamaica
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

Lime rolled a five and then a six when he was only three spaces away from Port Royal, but he played a double move anyway and finished the game. The rest of the salty sea-dogs were able to make use of that following wind and bring themselves across the red line into at least point scoring positions, but still some way off Port Royal.  The final scoring was looking quite good for Lime, but he insisted that he didn’t think he would win, as he knew he had a minus five point “stinky” treasure.

Jamaica
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Ceryon

Pine and Green had finished just one space apart, had a lot of gold on ships and treasure cards.  Pine had the plus seven, and Green had three scoring treasures, but one was a minus three, so the scores were very close indeed.  Purple, unfortunately was almost lost at sea, only creeping across the line with no gold in her hold and only a negative treasure.  Otherwise, it was really close, but Green just beat Pine into second place with Lime just a couple of points behind.  Once again this proved how good a game Jamaica is, well balanced and extremely fun.

Jamaica
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

With Tapestry still under way, the group moved onto another, this time more recent, favourite, Kingdomino, albeit one that we’ve not played for nearly a year.  In this short game, players take a domino and add to the kingdom and then place a meeple on one of the dominoes on display for the next round.  When placing the dominoes, one of the two ends must connect to terrain of the same type already in the kingdom, or connect directly to the start tile.  Points are awarded at the end of the game by multiplying the number of tiles in an area of terrain by the number of crowns in the area.  Although we have the Age of Giants expansion, this time the group used the base game so all dominoes must fit in a five-by-five space (or be discarded) and bonus points are awarded for successfully placing all tiles and finishing with the start tile in the centre.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Sadly, Pine made an unfortunate placement decision partway through and thus created himself a single space gap which meant he was not complete a five-by-five kingdom with his castle in the middle.  This was because hadn’t caught the rule that the whole kingdom needed to be square so he’d ended up choosing a tile which was not as good as he’d thought and thus created even more problems for himself.  Everyone else completed their kingdoms so everyone got the full fifteen point bonus.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Green went for a mixture of several smaller sections (including stone and sand), but none scored highly. Purple ended up with fewer, but slightly larger regions (wheat, water and forest) and a similar score to Green.  Lime on the other hand, concentrated on a couple of larger regions, water and forest, each six or seven spaces and with three crowns each they gave a healthy score. On top of that Lime had a few low scoring space regions to top off a very good score and take the victory by twenty points.  An excellent score, especially since it was the first time he’d played the game.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Game-play is very important, but component quality is important too.

25th June 2019

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

Tiny Epic Mechs
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Hook!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Hook!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Flash Point: Fire Rescue
– Image by BGG contributor aldoojeda

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

Hook!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Hook!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

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

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

UK Games Expo 2019 – Not as Hot as Last Year, but that’s a Good Thing…

Last weekend was the thirteenth UK Games Expo (sometimes known as UKGE, or simply Expo), the foremost games event.  Every year it grows bigger, and this was no exception. Historically, Expo is focused on gamers playing games rather than publishers selling new games, however, the exhibition aspect has been growing, and this year there were two halls full of vendors selling games and demoing wares.  Last year, there was an issue with the air conditioning on the Friday which, combined with the thousands of “hot water bottles” walking about looking at games, made it unbelievably hot.  This year, working facilities and a little more space made it much, much more pleasant, although Saturday was busier than ever!

UKGE 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

This year the hot games included Wingspan, copies of which were flying off the slightly wobbly shelves following it’s recent Kennerspiel des Jahres nominationFoothills, a two player Snowdonia game by UK designers Ben Bateson and Tony Boydell (designer of the original Snowdonia, Ivor the Engine and Guilds of London) was another extremely popular game.  Foothills is produced by Lookout Spiele, but there were sixty copies available from the designer’s Surprised Stare stand, which sold out in less than forty minutes (though there were a small number of copies to be had elsewhere for those that kept their eyes peeled).

Foothills
– Image by boardGOATS

Surprised Stare were also demoing Foothills and another Snowdonia-based game, Alubari, which is due for release later in the year (hopefully).  There was a new Ticket to Ride game available (London) as well as another instalment in the Catan series (Rise of the Inkas); the new expansion for Endeavor: Age of Sail was also available to see (coming to KickStarter later in June) and “old” favourites like Echidna Shuffle were there to be played and bought too.  There were some very good deals to be had from some of the third party sellers as well, including some of the Days of Wonder games for just £15.

Horticulture Master
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the reasons for attending conventions is the opportunity to see and play games that are not available elsewhere.  One example was Horticulture Master, a cute little Taiwanese game with beautiful artwork, which combined card collecting elements from Splendor with Tetris-like tile laying from games like Patchwork and Bärenpark.  Another cute little game was Titans of Quantitas from Gingerbread Games, a clever two player strategy game based round the old fashioned digital rendering of the number eighty-eight.  What really made this game special though was the fact that the stall was guarded by a fiberglass goat!  Not everything was quite as wholesome though, as one Games Master was thrown out and banned for life for including content in a role-playing game that allegedly involved sexual violence and played on the shock factor.  This is definitely the exception rather than the rule, however, and UK Games Expo is a great place for family and friends to spend a weekend.

UKGE 2019
– Image by boardGOATS