Tag Archives: Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 2 – India & Switzerland

6th September 2022

Plum and Pine were the first to arrive, shortly followed by Blue with Orange and Lemon.  With nobody eating, the group were in a position to start thinking about games straight away.  Plum had offered to lead Wingspan, with Lime in mind as he had recently acquired a copy of Wingspan and was keen to give it another go.  Pine commented that although he loves birds, he’d never really got on with the game-play of Wingspan so, sadly he’d prefer to play something else.  The “Feature Game” was to be Project L, a sort of Tetris-like, engine-building game and it sounded much more his thing.

Project L
– Image by boardGOATS

So, Plum took herself off to the other side of the pub to set up Wingspan with the European expansion.  The European expansion adds more cards including end of round cards, but doesn’t add any extra mechanisms (like the Oceania expansion), so it was felt that including it wouldn’t cause too much confusion.  As the others rolled up, there was much surprise as Teal and Ivory said they would rather give Project L a go.  Then Pine changed his mind and joined Wingspan (along with Purple and Lime), allowing Black to play the “Feature Game” as he had played Wingspan recently at Burgundy’s Birthday Event.  That left six to play Project L: Orange, Lemon, Blue, Ivory, Teal and Black.

Project L
– Image by boardGOATS

Project L is a very simple game:  players start with two small plastic pieces and use them to complete Puzzles winning more pieces enabling them to complete more complex Puzzles and thus build an engine.  On their turn the active player can do three actions from a list of five things:  upgrade a piece to a larger one, take a Puzzle from the display, recycle the Puzzle display, place a piece in a Puzzle they own, or place one piece in each of their Puzzles (or in as many different Puzzles as they can).  This last, “Master Action” can only be carried out once per turn, and is clearly very powerful once players can get it going, however, to make it work they need lots of Puzzles and lots of pieces.

Project L
– Image by boardGOATS

With six, to reduce the amount of down time there is the “Line Clear Variant” available.  In the normal game, there are two rows of four Puzzles, one of White backed Puzzles and one of slightly more advanced and therefore more rewarding, Black backed Puzzles.  In addition to winning pieces for completing Puzzles, players can also get  points—the player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.  The game end is triggered when the draw deck of Black backed Puzzles is exhausted at which point the round is then finished and one more, final, round is played.  In the Ticket to Ride: Switzerland, there are two rows of each colour, each containing three Puzzles.  One pair of Black and White Puzzle rows are marked with a dark stone and the other pair with a colourless stone.

Project L
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea of the Line Clear Variant is that two players play simultaneously with the active players marked by a dark and a colourless stone that are passed round.  When it is their turn, players can only recycle or take Puzzles from the rows that match the colour of their their stone.  Ivory was picked as the start player (he drew the player aid marked with the start player symbol) and he began with the dark stone, so Orange, sitting opposite, started with the light stone.  Everyone began a little tentatively, but before long players were filling their Puzzles with gay abandon.  The game end is slightly less clear with the Line Clear Variant.  Still triggered by exhausting the Black Puzzle Deck, the game continues until the first player has been passed both of the markers again, in any order).

Project L
– Image by boardGOATS

The Black Puzzles ran out quite quickly—Project L really is just a “Filler Game“, but players still had to finish things off.  The start player was Ivory, which meant that Orange was a little caught out.  Once the game has finished, everyone can place any pieces they have left, but at the cost of a point for each one.  Orange was unlucky, and unable to complete any of his remaining Puzzles, neither could could Lemon.  Teal had managed to finish off all his Puzzles in his last turn, but everyone else placed three of their pieces to finish things off.  It was quite close for a first game:  Blue finished with eighteen points, but Ivory and Black tied with fifteen apiece with Ivory sneaking second place on the tie breaker (the player with the most completed Puzzles).

Project L
– Image by boardGOATS

A lot of the comment was about how nicely produced the game is and it had been enjoyable to play too although not very memorable.  It was time to move on to something else though and with six, the obvious and usual choice would be Bohnanza, but Ivory had other ideas and suggested New York Slice.  This is a reimplementation of …aber bitte mit Sahne which we played recently, but with a pizza theme instead of a cake theme.  In both games, the idea is that one player makes the cake (or pizza) and divides it up into segments equal to the number of players, then players take it in turns to choose one of the segments.

New York Slice
– Image by boardGOATS

When a player takes a segment, they can either eat slices or store them for later.  Those they will eat are worth points at the end of the game with the number dependent on the number of blobs of cream (or pepperoni slices) on top.  The pieces players keep are scored depending on who has the most of each type at the end of the game.  Each piece of cake (or pizza) has a number on it which tells players the number of that type in the game and also what the player with the most will score at the end of the game.  There are a few things that are different about New York Slice, however, which make it a little more competitive and slightly more of a “Gamers’ Game”.

New York Slice
– Image by boardGOATS

Firstly, in the case of a tie for who has the most pieces of a type of pizza, in …aber bitte mit Sahne all players score points whereas in New York Slice nobody gets anything.  Secondly, some of the pizza slices have anchovies on them and any of these that are visible at the end of the game are worth minus one (because everyone hates anchovies on pizzas right?  Well, everyone except Teal it seems…).  Probably the biggest change though, is that in New York Slice, each pizza is served with a Special—a bonus tile with rule-breaking powers.  In most cases, these are added to one of the segments for players to choose. They can be enticing and helpful, or they can be unhelpful and make players’ lives more difficult.

New York Slice
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory cut the first pizza, leaving Blue to be the first to choose.  The first Special was “Cut in Line”, which Blue took straight away and then promptly forgot about it until the final round.  Ivory went into battle for mushroom pizza, but lost out to Teal.  The front-runner looked to be Black who stored the most BBQ and veggie pizza slices, largely thanks to his “Supersize Combos” Special which meant his two half slices became two whole slices of each type.  That only gave him joint second however, with Lemon who turned out to be quite the carnivore and finished with the most beef and meat feast pizzas.

New York Slice
– Image by boardGOATS

The winner, however, and by a single point, was Blue who picked up a lot of anchovies along with her “You Like Anchovies” Special and coupled that with winning the most lucrative pizza (pepperoni).  Full of pizza, Teal and Ivory decided it was time, leaving Black and Blue with Orange and Lime and a decision to make as to what to play next.  With Wingspan something over half-way through, they were looking for something substantial to play, but not too long.  Blue’s suggestion was Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska, the Poland map for Ticket to Ride.  This was one that nobody around the table had played before though it had been played in the group two and a half years ago, shortly after it was released at Essen.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

The Poland map works in much the same way as all the Ticket to Ride games; players collect coloured train cards and spend them to place plastic train pieces on the central map scoring points for placing trains, but also completing the route “Ticket” cards that they chose at the start of the game and maybe later too.  In addition to the usual rules, the base game maps all have a little something extra.  As well as the usual city locations, the Poland map also has countries, but unlike the Swiss map, these are not simply locations to connect to.  Instead when a player connects two countries, they collect one Country Card corresponding to each.  These are worth points at the end of the game.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

When a third country is added to the “network”, the player again collects Country Cards, one for each country in the network. When Blue explained the rules, Black commented that that aspect was interesting and he was curious to see how it affected the game.  Blue started and was followed by Orange, Lemon and then Black.  Black started by collecting more Tickets—this was a tactic that was discussed briefly at Burgundy’s Birthday Memorial event.  Black had commented then that this was the way all the best players did it.  The idea is that by collecting Tickets early, players are best placed to make the most efficient use of their trains and know what coloured cards they might need.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

However, it is a bit of a “Go Big or Go Home” strategy because if something critical goes wrong early, the player could get left with an armful of unfulfilled Tickets leaving them with lots of negative points.  And with the Poland map, this was far from impossible as it turned out to be quite a scrap for the centre of the board.  Lemon asked what she should do when someone had just taken a track she wanted, clearly meaning Orange who had just nabbed a critical route from Bydgoszcz to Płock.  “Kill them,” was the instant reply to much hilarity.  Lemon commented that she would get her revenge, though it was unclear whether that was planned for the game or sometime later…

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, Blue claimed the first Country Cards, connecting Belarus to Germany.  When she added Russia and Lithuania, it was clear how these could add significant points to a player’s tally.  Further, the repeated nature of collecting Country Cards each time the network grew provided a good source of points of a similar magnitude to those gained from Tickets, but without the associated jeopardy.  The Country Cards are stacked in descending order of value so that the ones earnt early in the game are worth more, but although the value decreases, as more countries are added to  player’s network more tickets are picked up.  As a result, value of each additional card pick up (and therefore each country when added) remains fairly constant depending on how many players are fighting for Country Cards.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Blue stole a bit of an early march on the Country Cards in the north, while Black acquired loads of Tickets and Orange got in everyone’s way.  While Blue’s primary route was in the north running east-west, Black and Orange focused on north-south and Lemon had two separate smaller networks which she unfortunately failed to connect together.  As everyone else saw how lucrative Country Cards could be, they joined in, connecting countries to the south.  Lemon pointed out the route they had taken from Ukraine through south Poland to Warsaw where they got a flight to the UK.  It was about then that the pub became an attraction in itself when one of the locals pointed out that the lease was for sale once more.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

The game came to a slightly sudden end when Lemon ran out of trains—the Poland map is played with just thirty-five trains per player instead of the more usual forty-five.  Actual game play time isn’t much shorter than usual because, like the India map, there are fewer longer routes so players have to take more turns placing trains.  At the end of the game though, it was close with Lemon in the lead thanks largely to the fact she had concentrated on the lucrative long routes where possible.  Orange and Black had completed a lot of Tickets though, and when they were added on together with the Country Cards, they tied for second place with eighty-two points.  The winner was Blue, however, thanks to the huge pile of Country Cards.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, over the other side of the room, Plum, Pine, Lime and Purple were playing Wingspan with Blue’s pimped out set.  Wingspan is a beautiful bird-themed game where players are collecting birds in three different habitats.  On their turn, they can “plant” a bird card in one of these habitats, or activate one of the three habitats to collect food, lay eggs or collect more cards.  The clever part of the game is that when players activate a habitat, they also activate any birds within that habitat—in this way, the game is card driven. Played over four rounds, there are bonus points at the end of each round (dependent on tiles drawn at the start of the game).  Otherwise, players score for birds, eggs, tucked cards, and personal bonus cards at the end of the game.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Players start with eight actions in the first round, but that decreases by one each round as the game progresses.  However, because players add birds to their habitats during the game, although they get fewer turns in later rounds, they are actually doing more things in each turn as they are activating more cards.  In Blue’s pimped out copy, she had replaced the wooden action cubes with little fluffy birds which are cute, but led to some initial confusion with the phrase “playing a bird” meaning variously take an action (playing a fluffy little bird) or play a bird card into a habitat.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, everyone was slow to start—the start is almost always slow in Wingspan as players need cards to play and food so they can pay the cost, but this time it was especially true as players found their feet.  Lime began with a woodland bird that gave an extra food after re-setting the bird-feeder, which really helped him out throughout the game.  He also had a once-between-turns card which was triggered when another player tucked a card.   Since Purple had a bird with a tucking action, that looked like a good call.  Considerable merriment was derived from the tucking action:  who was tucking the most, watching out for people tucking etc..  Unfortunately however, Purple’s action required the tucked card to be taken from Purple’s hand so she often passed up the chance meaning she was not the most prolific tucker…

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Plum’s first two were wetland birds with one-off powers.  As her bonus card rewarded her for having cards left in hand at the end of the game, the fact these early birds increased her card drawing powers from the very start meant they could help towards that too.  Pine’s bonus card rewarded him for having birds with geographical names which he pretty much had in his starting hand. Lime’s bonus was for birds with tucked cards, but he only realised later that it meant multiple birds with tucked cards not the number of cards tucked.  He was able to pick up another bonus card later in the game, which worked slightly better for him though.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine’s bird hunting for rodents largely went hungry in the early part of the game, though it did better in the later rounds.  Plum, instead of sharing her latest kitty pictures, mimicked her favourite kitty behaviour, and watched hawk-like for a successful hunt to trigger once-between-turns action.   She had a killer “three birds in one go move” set up ready to go—two birds both with a “play a second bird in the grasslands” action.  Although she was a little disappointed to have been unable to deploy it in time for the worms they ate to count towards the second round goal of most eaten worms.  This increased her egg laying power though and the final third bird allowed her to a sacrifice an egg for two new bird cards ensuring she achieved her bonus in the final round.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

With the game finally coming to an end, all that was left was the scores.  Plum and Lime took the most points for their birds while Purple and Pine had the most eggs.  While everything else was fairly close, Lime had his nose in front in most areas and this showed in the final scores which were moderately spread out.  Lime’s score of eighty-seven points was some ten points ahead of Plum in second, who was similarly ahead of Pine.  As always with Wingspan, it had been fun, though it had sadly confirmed to Pine that while he adores the theme, the game play just isn’t for him.  And on that sad note, with everyone else also finished, it was time for home.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Everyone loves Pizza.

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.

28th May 2019

While Pink, Blue and Khaki finished their pizzas, the other early arrivals played a quick game of Coloretto.  This is a relatively short game of set collecting which is very popular with the group; it was new to Lime though so needed a quick rules explanation.  The idea of the game is that on their turn, players can either pick up a chameleon card from the face down deck and add it to a “truck”, or take a truck (passing for the rest of the round).  The innovative part of the game is the scoring which uses the triangular number sequence (one point for the first card, three points for two cards, six points for three cards etc.), with positive points for three sets and negative for the rest.  Thus, players need large sets in three different colours and small sets in all the rest.

Coloretto
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

With five players, it was relatively hard to make trucks particularly unappealing to everyone, so the negative scores were kept to a minimum.  It was quite close at the top as a result, with Black, Lime and Mulberry all in the running.  Lime finished with the highest score for his sets totalling thirty, with Mulberry a handful of points behind, but Black had four bonus points and no negatives.  In the end, Lime pipped Black by a single point with Mulberry just a couple of points behind that.

Coloretto
– Image by BGG contributor SergioMR

With Coloretto over, everyone finished with their supper and the stragglers all arrived, there was the usual discussion over who would play what.  The “Feature Game”, Viticulture with the Tuscany expansion, was always likely to take most of the night, so the question was really who was going to play that and what else was on offer.  One of the options suggested was Ticket to Ride with the India map, which was described by Pine as an game where you “just pile people on top of the trains and pack the inside with goats!”  Clearly none of our GOATS fancied the inside of a hot carriage and the discussion continued as Ivory, Pink and Blue started setting out Viticulture and Mulberry (having spent some time as a oenologist) dragged Khaki along for the ride.

Viticulture
– Image by boardGOATS

Viticulture is a worker placement game where players plant and harvest grapes then make and trade wine.  Although there is nothing especially innovative about the game itself, it is an exceptionally good example of its type and is considered bit of a modern classic as a result.  There are two editions, the original Viticulture, and the “Essential Edition“.  We usually play with Essential Edition which includes some of the smaller expansions from the original Tuscany (like the Mama and Papa set up cards), and, as the revised edition, is considered to be the definitive version.  In this base game, the actions are split into two seasons, Summer and Winter, with visitor cards arriving in the Autumn and extra cards arriving in the Spring.  Visitor cards come in two varieties, yellow Summer and blue Winter cards which are played in the different seasons as a special action.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

The Tuscany expansion messes about with this arrangement with actions in all four seasons, so players have to eke out their meagre supply of workers to last the whole year.  In addition to the larger, “expanded” and restructured board, the Tuscany expansion also adds an extra deck of building cards that players can use to create a personal action space or increase the effectiveness of other actions.  These can be very powerful if used effectively.  Additionally, there is a “influence” board that depicts the regions which players can place “Star-eeples” on to get an instant bonus.  If they have the majority in a given region at the end of the game, they also get a small number of bonus points. Finally, Tuscany also adds workers with a special ability, these cost a little more to train, but if used efficiently can more than pay for that over the course of the game.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

The other major difference between Viticulture and Tuscany is that the game tends to start slower, with players building their vineyard getting all the pieces of their engine together.  The game is not terribly complicated in terms of taking actions, but planning is tough and as people new to the game, Mulberry and Khaki struggled a bit to get going.  Blue, on the other hand, was out of the traps like a rabbit and got vines planted and harvested with remarkable speed, but then promptly stalled as she desperately needed money, more contracts, and more space in her wine cellar.  In contrast, Ivory and Pink were slower to get going because they were carefully planning their strategies.

Viticulture
– Image by boardGOATS

In the early part of the game, nothing much seemed to happen.  Blue’s simple, but fast start, got her well in front, while Khaki began by actually going backwards, sacrificing victory points to try to build up his team of workers.  Everything else was pretty quiet though, as Ivory was collecting cards and Mulberry concentrated on building.  Pink started with the intention of building an irrigation tower and no trellis (to save money), but that was quickly scuppered when every vine he draw after the first required a visit from “Mrs. Trellis of North Wales“.  There were plenty of sarcastic comments from the next table as they felt they were well on the way to finishing, while it looked like nobody had made any positive progress except Blue, despite playing for well over an hour.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

Then suddenly, things began to happen.  Pink had sorted out the vine situation, and had purchased a large cellar (to go with the medium cellar he’d started with) which meant he could fulfil some valuable contracts, increasing his residual payments at the end of the round giving him a substantial income in a game where money is always very tight.  Then Ivory began his charge for the finish, setting his Wine Press and Guest House to work.  He was particularly adept at leveraging his Guest House for points, finding ways to take Visitor cards from other players and turn them into points, and then playing other Visitor cards that enabled him to repeat the action.  Mulberry built an Academy that would give her money whenever another player trained a worker, but it was too late in the game as most people had finished training by that point.  Khaki’s Fountain was more effective though giving him money every time someone else gave a tour.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game approached the end, the question was whether Blue was going to get over the line before Pink and Ivory, really started raking in the points.  With her trained Salesman who enabled her to full-fill two contracts as part of one action, but had proved fairly useless for most of the game, it looked like she might just make it.  Pink was coming up fast and screwed up Blue’s plans on the influence board just for good measure.  Khaki and Mulberry suddenly started to make real progress as well, with Khaki making a rapid shift from negative points to lots of points over just a couple of turns.  It was Ivory though, who stormed ahead, full-filling several orders in the final round as well picking up an extra five bonus points from the influence board.  He finished with a grand total of forty points, ten more than Blue in second place who, in turn, was a single point ahead of Pink.

Viticulture
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, the second group were playing Maya, an older game where players are taking part in the construction of pyramids in places like Chichen Itza and Palenque.  The game is a combination of semi-blind bidding mechanics, special actions, and building up “influence” by building pyramids in the ancient Mayan civilization.  The greater the influence, the more gold players get from the Mayan leaders and the aim of the game is to have the greatest pile of gold.  Each player starts with an identical hand of cards, ranging from three to eight, representing workers.  Players start by using their worker cards to bid for actions.  These actions come with a pile of stones, and this is one of the clever parts of the game – players must have enough workers left to move the stones they win or forfeit some of their prize.

Maya
– Image by boardGOATS

Players then take turns placing them on the different pyramid locations, placing one stone at a time and starting on the lowest levels.  In general, players can only place a single stone per turn, though they can place a second stone if they discard a third stone back into the supply (quarry).  When a player completes a level of a pyramid and has the majority of stones on that level, they get a free stone from their supply to place on the next level of that pyramid, thus, clever players can discard a stone to play two, and then receive that discarded stone back immediately to place it higher.

Maya
– Image by boardGOATS

Once all the stones have been placed, the pyramids are evaluated. Each level of a pyramid is scored separately, and only those in first and second place receive gold. Where there is a tie, all players get the gold as if they had placed first.  At the end of the round, the pyramids decay, and all players who scored gold on any level of has to return one block from that level back to the supply. If this leaves a player with no blocks on a level, all of that player’s stones on higher levels also go back to the supply. The game ends after three rounds.

Maya
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone started off building in Tikal, while Pine and Lime developed Copan and Black and Purple struggled in Uxmal.  Palenque was all but ignored by everyone except Purple until the last round when everyone joined her because they were unable to build in the other areas.  It was a very tight game and the nature of it meant nobody knew who was wining until the totals had been calculated.  There was just six points between first and last, but it was Pine who came out on top this time, one point ahead of Lime who took second place.

Maya
– Image by boardGOATS

Viticulture was still going on, so after enjoying a bit of heckling about how the scoreboard hadn’t changed, the group decided to re-visit Bohnanza, this time with an English deck, to reduce Lime’s confusion.  This is one of our most played games, with almost everyone very familiar with it.  The key part of the game is that players must plant their bean cards in the order they receive them.  The only way this fundamental rule can be violated is by trading bean cards with other players.  As everyone knows the game so well, it is often very tight with frequent multi-player ties.  This time it was also very close, but there was more spread than there often is.  On this occasion, the tie was for first place, and it was Black and Pine who finished top with a total of twenty.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Sometimes slow and steady wins the race.

9th February 2016

Blue was delayed by washing machine shenanigans and Green by pancakes, so while Burgundy, Black and Purple were entertained by food, Red and Magenta distracted them with a few quick rounds of Love Letter.  Magenta took the first two rounds winning the second by drawing the princess as the penultimate card; the third round went to Black when he played a Prince and asked Purple to discard her card which turned out to be the Princess.  With the arrival of Green and Blue had finishing her pancakes, we decided to play our “Feature Game” which was Ticket to Ride and its variants.

Love Letter
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Which variant was the subject of some debate as we had all played different versions and everyone wanted to try a different one.  For example, Blue had never played the original USA version, but all those that had didn’t want to play again; similarly while Green was interested in playing Märklin, Black and Purple weren’t keen; they were interested in Switzerland or Nordic Countries, but Magenta, Blue and Green were unenthusiastic about that.  And so it went on, in fact, the only thing everyone agreed on was that we should split into a three and a four and nobody wanted to play Europe edition (as everyone had played that a lot). In the end, the group of three was based round Black and Purple who wanted to play with the Switzerland map and setup, and were joined by Burgundy who was fairly flexible.  That left the group of four who decided to go for Nederland as none of them had played it before.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

The basic Ticket to Ride game can be summarised as follows:  players take it in turns to carry out one of three possible actions and when one player has two pieces left or fewer, everyone gets one more turn before the game ends and points are tallied.  The first action is to lay trains on the map, but in order to do this, they must spend train cards in the colour featured on the map.  Thus, if a player wants to claim a four car route, they must play four cards of the corresponding colour and finally place four of their plastic carriages on the board in the correct location scoring points as they do so.  If they do not have cards to claim the route they want then they can, instead, choose two cards, either from the five face up cards next to the board, or from the face down draw pile.  “Laying trains” scores points, but a large number of a player’s points are scored at the end through tickets which give points to players that have connected several short routes together to connect two more distant cities.  Each player starts the game with some tickets (chosen from a larger number), but on their turn may, instead of drawing cards or claiming routes, draw more tickets.  At the end of the game, tickets which have been successfully completed score points, while unfulfilled tickets score negatively.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by BGG contributor stormrover

Although this is a fairly complete summary of the rules for the original base game, each different version has slight modifications and variations that change the game slightly.  The “Swiss trio” got under way first as Burgundy was quite familiar with the rule modifications:  tunnels, ferry routes and country-to-country tickets; locomotive cards can only be used for ferries and tunnels, but can be drawn from the face-up cards without penalty.  The game was very close with Purple trying to make a long route from east to west, Black travelling north to south and Burgundy doing a bit of both. The tunnels were a bit of a hindrance with everyone struggling to get through the Alps without paying extra.

Ticket to Ride: Switzerland
– Image by boardGOATS

As the ticket scoring came to a close, Burgundy had his nose in front and looked to have the win in the bag, but carefully counting up the trains gave Black the bonus for the longest route and with it, the win by just two points.  Burgundy was particularly cheesed off as he had attempted to claim a tunnel on his final turn that would have given him the longest route, but the fates conspired against him.  It was only later that we realised that there hadn’t been a recount for the points awarded as trains were placed on the map and as, invariably points tend to get missed out, a recount is generally sensible.

Ticket to Ride: Switzerland
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Blue, Green, Red and Magenta had worked out the rules changes applicable to Nederland.  There are no ferry routes or country-to-country tickets and obviously, no tunnels, however, in this low-country with countless canals and rivers, there are bridges instead. and these have a toll.  Each player starts with “toll tokens” to a total value of thirty.  Most of the routes are double routes, so can be claimed by two different players, this feature is common with all other versions of Ticket to Ride when playing with the maximum number of players, but in this game they are used for all games.  The first player to claim a double route pays the marked toll to the bank, but the second player to claim that route pays the toll to the player who got there first.  These tolls become quite critical in the end game as there are bonus points available for players who manage to conserve toll tokens, and these bonuses are sizable with fifty-five points going to the player with the most tokens at the end of the game and thirty-five and twenty for second and third.  Players who can’t afford to build, can borrow from the bank, but that removes them from the race for bonus points as well as costing points at the end of the game.

Ticket to Ride: Nederland
– Image by boardGOATS

As is traditional, everyone began by moaning about where their starting tickets were.  Beyond that, nobody really knew quite what to expect, but it was clear that this wasn’t a game where players could ill-afford to hoard train cards and wait as they were likely to find themselves paying tolls to other players and giving them bonus points.  As such, everyone got going quickly and Red led the way placing several long routes giving her an early lead.  Everyone else caught up, and as players started to run low on trains, they realised they had to watch the number of toll tokens they had left else they would have to begin to borrow and that would put them out of the running for the bonuses.  Blue picked up extra tickets first, but they left her with a really tough decision as most of her track was in the north-west and the tickets she had were pretty much everywhere else.  After a very long time thinking, she decided to keep them all and go for broke.  The others soon followed, picking up more tickets, and Green had several goes with some corresponding to routes he had already claimed.  It was only a couple of turns after she had drawn her extra tickets that Magenta counted her trains and started to make some uncomfortable sounding noises suggestive of possible problems ahead.

Ticket to Ride: Nederland
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue triggered the end of the game and it was all too close to call with less than ten points between first and last before the tickets and bonus points were added on. Green was the first to count up and there was a stunned silence when we found he had a massive one hundred and thirty-seven points from the tickets to add to his train total of fifty-two.  Red had a couple of tickets that she had failed to complete so her ticket total took a bit of a bruising, but her problems were nothing to Magenta’s.  She only realised she didn’t have enough pieces to complete all her tickets when it was too late, so all her hard work to fulfil her initial tickets was almost completely negated as she finished with a ticket total of just one!  Blue had managed to complete all her routes and was pretty much neck-a-neck with Green which, like the other game, left it all down to the bonus points for toll tokens.  Red took the fifty-five points for the most remaining toll tokens, giving her a very respectable one-hundred and fifty-four and third place.  Blue picked up an extra thirty-five points and finished forty points ahead of Green who finished with the fewest toll tokens and therefore didn’t add to his score.

Ticket to Ride: Nederland
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine had appeared towards the end of the game and, after a brief explanation of the rules, had commented on the name of the game in German:  Zug um Zug, which translates to “step by step”, although Zug also means train.  This kind of double-entendre is not uncommon in Euro game titles and prompted a discussion of other games with similar “jokes”.  Blue mentioned Tier auf Tier which literally translates to the English title “Animal upon Animal”, a children’s game where players stack wooden animals, creating “tiers”.  Magenta brought up her favourite game, Bohnanaza, where “Bohn” is the German for bean.  Green chipped in with his offering of Citadels, which is called “Ohne Furcht und Adel” in German which literally means “without fear and noble” (colloquially translated as “without fear and nobility”).  This is actually a pun on “Ohne Furcht und Tadel”, which means “without fear or blemish”.  It is an old-fashioned expression seldom used now except perhaps when describing a perfect performance by Michael Schumacher for example, that refers to somebody being very valiant and chivalrous (ala King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table).  Interestingly, when trying to find the correct literal translation, Green submitted “Ohne Furcht und Adel” to Google and got “Citadels” in return, perhaps a measure of how embedded games are in German life.

Animal Upon Animal
– Image by BGG contributor dr.mrow

With eight of us, and nobody terribly keen to play anything too cerebral, we decided to go for something light, 6 Nimmt got a mention, but we settled on Las Vegas, using the extra dice for more players players and the wild cards from the Boulevard expansion, and the Slot Machine from the 2015 Brettspiel Advent Calendar.  This was a Christmas gift and had its first outing in January when it was the “Feature Game”, but as a light dice game that plays a wide range of player numbers it is quite versatile.  On their turn, each player begins by rolling their dice, then assigning some of them to one of the six casinos.  Each casino is numbered one to six and has a jackpot drawn at random from a deck of money.

Las Vegas
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor ckirkman

On their turn, players must use all the dice of one number to bet on the casino of that number.  Once everyone has placed all their dice the player who placed the most dice on a casino takes the highest value currency card. The really clever bit is that before any money is handed out, any “draws” are removed, which leads to a lot of barracking.  The Slot Machine is like a seventh casino, except that it can hold dice of any number, but each number can only be added once (though a player must add all the dice they have of that number).  The game was a lot of chaotic fun with with lots of chit-chat and before long we had worked our way through the card deck and spent an hour doing it.  Although there is a lot of down-time with so many players, it didn’t seem to matter very much and it was quite relaxing to chat about things.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

We found Slot Machine definitely added a useful extra option to the game, however, the “wild cards” were less interesting.  This inspired a discussion about the value or otherwise of expansions.  In an evening essentially devoted to expansions, it was interesting consider whether the addition of expansions took a simple game that everyone liked and made it unnecessarily more complex, or whether it breathed new life into a game people had become tired of.  In the case of Ticket to Ride at least, it was clear that with a game that players had become almost too familiar with, the extra maps provided a nice alternative.  Meanwhile, the game was providing an interesting background to the discussion and the end results were almost incidental.  Magenta redeemed herself after the disastrous ticket fiasco, finishing with $390,000 and third.  Second place went to Red with $420,000, but with her second victory of the night, Blue took home the bacon with $460,000, more than twice that of last place.

Las Vegas
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor joeincolorado

Learning outcome:  Germans *do* have a sense of humour!