Tag Archives: Ticket to Ride

26th August 2021 (Back at the Jockey!)

Following the test event at the Horse and Jockey and much discussion, we decided to try meeting in person once again.  As the pub are not currently serving food on a Tuesday, we decided to move to Thursdays, at least in the short term, especially as times are so uncertain.  This week, the “Feature Game” was Red Rising, a new card collecting game inspired by Fantasy Realms and themed round the books by Pierce Brown.  The books are set in a dystopian future on Mars following low-born miner Darrow, a Red, as he infiltrates the ranks of the elite Golds.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

In the books, society follows a fourteen-colour caste system from Gold at the top to Red at the bottom.  Red Rising the board game takes this colour hierarchy and adds elements of hand-management and card-combo building.  The idea of the game is very simple:  players start with a hand of five cards and on their turn, play one card onto the game board and pick up another.  The aim is to improve the quality of their hand and with it, its value.  Cards are played on one of four locations on the central game board and have an additional deployment action when played, the effect of which can be dependent on the location they are played in or the card they are played on top of.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

The card picked up must be the top card from another different location except where enabled by the played card.  The location from which the card is collected dictates an additional bonus action:  Move along the Fleet track, Collect helium, Increase one’s presence in the Institute, or Claim the Sovereign token.  There are a couple of other options:  play a card and then take a card blind from the Character deck and roll a die to decide what their bonus action will be.  Alternatively, instead of playing a card, just draw a Character card from the deck and place it, then take the bonus action.  In practice, these two options are relatively rare and only taken if there is nothing to pick up, or the player likes the hand they have.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends when either seven is reached in all three of the Fleet track, helium and the Institute, or one player has reached seven in two of them.  At the end of the game, players sum their total score from each card, the scores from combining effects of cards, ten points if they finished with the Sovereign token, three points for each helium, their score for progressing along the Fleet track, and points for each of their tokens in the institute (four per token for the player with the most, two and one for less committed players). Anyone over the seven card hand-limit loses ten points per card over the limit.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

There is a large deck of cards of which only a relatively small number are seen in each game.  The nature of the game changes dramatically depending on which cards come out.  This time Blue, Pink, Burgundy and Pine made up one table while Ivory, Green, Black and Purple made the other, both playing with the Collector’s Edition.  The first difficulty, was that although beautiful, some of the colours in the Collector’s Edition are difficult to tell apart.  The Influence and Fleet tokens in blue and green, and pink and red, were a particular problem which was made worse in low light.  This was not too much of a problem in practice, however, because influence tokens can be grouped together and we weren’t playing with the maximum number of players so could ditch the worst clashes.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

A bigger problem was the amount of text on the cards.  Pine and Burgundy both had issues with this, which could be got round by passing cards if people wanted to read them.  Additionally, the cards used in a game tend to circulate with one player playing it and another picking it up before playing it themselves.  So the burden is not as heavy as it seems at first.  Despite it not being complicated, the one table seemed to have a significant issue with rules.  Pine struggled with whether the action was associated with the location a cards was played or the location it was collected from.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink, meanwhile, developed an inexplicable habit of taking the action at both locations.  Adding insult to injury, Pink also repeatedly distracted Blue by complaining that he couldn’t see a way of increasing the number of cards in his hand and asking advice.  On the next table, however, Green felt he was being got at.  This is actually quite a normal state of affairs because we all love to pick on Green, but in this case that wasn’t what was happening.  Green’s special power that meant he was able to place an Influence token in the institute every time he took the Sovereign token, but he had a card that meant he would lose points if he had the Sovereign token at the end of the game.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

So, for this reason, Green concentrated on collecting red helium gems instead.  Unfortunately, random draw meant that on this occasion the game had an awful lot of cards that penalised players with the most helium or a player of choice, which Green felt was mostly him.  Worse, the nature of the game is that players play these cards then others pick them up and play them again, which can make it feel like there are more cards like this than there really are.  Black’s influence dominated the Institute, while everyone competed for points on the Fleet track.  It was an extremely close game with four points between first and third.  Purple channelled her inner “Magic: The Gathering” player and with a lot of helium, sneaked ahead of Ivory to take second.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

Despite struggling to get Gold cards and feeling the game was against him, Green finished just ahead with two hundred and fifty two points.  The other game was nowhere near as close and clearly played out very differently.  Blue, also lost some helium thanks to Burgundy, but it only happened once, there was no real shortage of Gold cards, and the game seemed to take a lot longer.  Part of this was because Pine spent a lot of time checking what he was doing and insisting it wasn’t his sort of game, yet he dominated both the Institute and the Fleet track.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

There were over a hundred points between first and last in this game, but the scores didn’t feel as disparate while playing.  In spite of his complaints, it was Pine who came out on top with a massive three hundred and nine points.  Overall, both games were a bit of a mixed bag with Burgundy saying it didn’t gel for him, Pine feeling bewildered (not withstanding his success), Green feeling “got at”, and even Pink (who had played it twice before) made a bit of a hash of things. Ivory, Pink and Blue had played it before, and all three had been unconvinced after the first game, but more positive after the second.  So it is definitely a game that benefits from multiple plays, if people are prepared to give it a second chance…

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory, Green, Black and Purple finished first and, at the time it looked like the other group wouldn’t finish for ages.  So after some discussion, they started another game and chose Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam.  This is one of the “little” spin-off games based on the original Ticket to Ride.  Themed round a city rather than a country or continent, these are smaller and quicker to play than the bigger games, but lots of fun.  This one is based on the Dutch capital, but the game play is essentially the same as the other editions.

Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, players either collect coloured cards from the market, or spend them to place plastic carts and score points.  Players start the game with three tickets (of which they must keep at least two), which depict two locations.  Players who can connect these locations score points at the end of the game; failure to do so leads to negative points.  Each variant has a little tweak.  So, in addition to scoring points from placing pieces and successfully completing tickets, in the Amsterdam edition, players can pick up goods cards when they complete a route marked with carts.

Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam
– Image by boardGOATS

The player with the most of these at the end of the game scores an extra eight points with other players scoring fewer with the amount depending on the number of players.  This time, Purple built her routes through the middle of Amsterdam and to the north.  Everyone else went for the potentially lucrative goods routes in the south, east and west.  The problem with this was the competition, with Green the main casualty.  Although Green managed to get three goods cards he failed to complete his second ticket.

Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory also went for two tickets and completed them, but managed to add five goods cards giving him the most and adding a valuable eight points to his score.  Both Purple and Black largely eschewed goods cards (collecting just one) and concentrated on finishing their three tickets.  In a tight game, which this was, those solitary tickets and the tie-breaker for them was critical.  It was a tie for second between Black and Ivory, but it was Purple, who just edged in front, winning by a single point.

Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam
– Image by boardGOATS

While the others were playing with their trains carts, the second table had finally finished their game of Red Rising, so they picked up where they had left off last time with another game of the filler, Love Letter.  This “micro game” consists of just sixteen cards.  Players start with one, draw a second and play one of them doing the associated action.  The player with the highest value card, or the last player standing is the winner of the round.  The first player to win three rounds is the winner.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Last time, it was all about Blue and Burgundy, with Poor Pine being knocked out every single round.  This time it was a bit different, and it was all about Pine and Blue.  Pink and Burgundy failed to take a single round, but it was tight between Pine and Blue.  There was a bit of ebb and flow with one taking a round and then the other, but it was Pine who took his third round first and with it revenge for last time as he left Blue languishing with just two love tokens.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam and Love Letter finished at about the same time, Purple, Black, Green and Ivory all decided it was time to make a move.  The others felt there was still time for one quick game of …Aber Bitter mit Sahne, a fun little game based on the simple “I divide, you choose” mechanism.  On their turn as Master Baker, the active player constructs a “pie” from pieces drawn at random and divides it into portions, each consisting of several pieces.  Starting with the player to the Baker’s left, each person takes a portion of their choice and decides which pieces to keep and which pieces of cake to eat.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

When all the cake has been distributed, the player with the most of each type scores the number shown on that type, while each piece that has been eaten scores for the number of blobs of cream, sahne.  The clever part is that the number of cake pieces of each type in the game is the number shown on the pieces, thus the most common types are the most valuable, but also need the most pieces to score.  Thus the aim of the game is to collect sets, but only the largest of each type scores, everything else is worthless unless it has been eaten.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Players tend to wind up collecting different sets.  This time, Pine won nine points for his gooseberry pie, Burgundy won seven for his blackberry flan and Pink took twenty-one points for his strawberry tart and chocolate gateaux.  That was without counting the cream though.  Pink thought he’d done enough, but was just beaten by Burgundy who, as well as a lot of cream, also shared the points for a lot of the lower scoring cakes. His final total of thirty-four was one more than Pink with Pine and Blue tied for third.  And on that sweet note, it was home time.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  It will take a little time to get used to playing face-to-face again.

17th August 2021 (Online)

Although the test event at the Horse and Jockey was very successful last week, we decided to continue online for another week.  So, after the usually chatter (mostly centred on the subject of revenge for the drubbing some of us got from Pine in playing the Heart of Africa expansion to Ticket to Ride), we moved on to the evening’s “Feature Game“.  One of the more popular games that we have played online is the “Roar and Write” type game, Welcome to Dino World.  We only played it once and then in “Lite Mode”, but there had been a lot of interest in the more exciting sounding “Danger Mode”, so we decided to give it a try this week.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

The basics of the game is that three dice are rolled giving a number of “pips” which players can spend on up to three actions.  These actions are to:  build paths; build a dinosaur pen (with generators), or build a facility.  The relatively novel aspect of this is that as well as choosing actions to do, players can also combine two or more dice together and use the increased value to do fewer, more powerful actions.  Thus a roll of one, three, and four can be used to do three separate actions of that level, or two actions of value, four say, or a single action of level eight.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

Playing the game with a large number of players (and remotely to boot), instead of players having goal cards that are scored at the end of each round, we use the variant where there are communal goal cards (called “Visitor Cards”) which are scored at the end of the game.  The game lasts just eight rounds, after which everyone adds up their scores for visitors, facilities, unused generators and, of course, each dinosaur pen.  This “Lite” version of the game is made considerably more complex when the game is played on the “Danger” board with the addition of Threat and Security Tracks and a modification to the way generators are built.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea of the Threat Track is that every time a dinosaur pen is added the park, the threat level increases by one for a herbivore and two for a carnivore.  Once per round, players can also increase their Security Level, by crossing off boxes on the Security Track.  These boxes contain points, which if unused at the end of the game, are added to the player’s score.  After the building phase is the malfunction phase when a single six-sided, (d6) “Threat Die” is rolled.  The value of the Threat Die is added to each player’s Threat Level minus the Security Level to give the Danger Level.  If the Danger Level is six or above, disaster strikes, generators malfunction, and dinosaurs start to rampage.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

Although both use 4 MW generators, they work slightly differently in the Danger and Lite Modes.  In Lite Mode, each generator will supply a maximum of four pens (the ones sharing a side with the generator), so a pen that requires a total of 3 MW must be adjacent to three different generators.  In Danger Mode, one generator can supply a maximum of 4 MW, but it can supply more than 1 MW to an individual adjacent pen indicated by a power line drawn between the two.  Thus, the amount of power a generator supplies can change during the game—it is the generators that are working closer to full capacity that are most likely to fail…

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

If the Danger Level in a park reaches six, any generators that are working at maximum capacity fail.  It is a brief power-outage, but as a result, any pens that rely on these generators are affected and one square of these pens is lost (crossed out).  The problem really comes, however, when the final square in a pen is lost and and the pen fails completely, because now the dinosaurs break out and cause damage to all the neighbouring pens causing a cascade reaction.  And any pen that is destroyed completely no longer scores.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, the game is a matter of achieving a fine line between getting the most out of a limited number of generators with the minimum amount of security while still avoiding rampaging dinosaurs.  The rules explanation took longer than expected as there was quite a bit more to Danger Mode, and worse, it was a while since we last played the game in Lite Mode, so we had to revise that too.  Eventually we were going, however, only for a hiatus after the first round for a rules-check.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy was right to point out that although the rules say players can carry out the three actions in any order, each one could only be carried out once per turn, in particular building dinosaur pens and building facilities.  Around half the players had already built two pens in the first round, so we decided that any player that had not done so, could build a second pen in the second round if they chose, and thereafter we would adhere to the rules “as written”.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

As last time, the first couple of rounds were very slow as players tried to assimilate the Visitor cards and work out a plan to maximise the points they could get from them.  This time they were:

  • ≥3 Protoceratops pens (worth four points);
  • ≥2 Different facilities touching orthogonally (worth four points);
  • ≥1 Protoceratops pen, ≥1compsognathus pen, and ≥1 stegosaurus pen all within four paths of any entrance (worth six points);
  • ≥1 T. rex pen and ≥1 brachiosaurus pen (worth six points);
  • ≥4 Brachiosaurus pens (worth ten points);
  • ≥2 Velociraptor pens and ≥3 herbivore pens (worth ten points).

The Facilities were the Viewing Platform and the Ranger Lookout which score points equal to the number of undamaged spaces in one neighbouring pen at the end of the game, and one point per pen visible orthogonally (respectively).

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to the variety from the Visitor and Facility cards, there are also Research cards which are there to mitigate bad luck.  In Lite Mode, Research is just six opportunities to adjust a die by ±1, but these are replaced by three cards, X, Y, and Z which players can use three times, twice and once respectively.  This time, these were:

  • Calculated Risk: When building a carnivore pen, only add one to the threat track but add one damage to the pen (X);
  • Alternate Funding: Use one die as if it were any value (Y);
  • Docile Gene Editing: Do not increase the threat when building a pen this round (Z).

While minimising generators and security gives players more points at the end of the game, there is no benefit in not using their Research, so while most players kept some back in case of emergencies, others started using them from the very beginning.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we were slow to get started and the first few rounds were also very slow, once we got going the rounds were much quicker.  And then came the maths.  Without Ivory to set an early (usually unbeatable) target, Pine stepped up with a score of one hundred and seven.  This was soon topped by Burgundy with a hundred and twenty-seven, then by Black with a hundred and twenty-nine.  However, on recount, Burgundy excitedly announced that he also had a hundred and twenty-nine, while Black sadly revised his score down to a hundred and twenty-seven.  All was not lost as both players recounted again and Black’s score returned to one hundred and twenty-nine while Burgundy’s third and final count proved to be the lowest at a hundred and twenty-six, “Bah!”.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

At this point, Black and Burgundy gave in as Pink’s verified score was a hundred and thirty, and it was clear they were battling for the minor places.  Pink, who thought he had won, however, was decidedly unimpressed when he was beaten by two points by Blue.  There must have been something in the air, or maybe it was the fumes from the vast amount of Tipp-Ex that Blue had used.  Pink’s check of Blue’s score initially increased her tally by six, only for him to reduce it again on a second recount, but the changes weren’t enough to give Pink victory.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine was suffering with screen-eyes so took an early night leaving six to move onto Board Game Arena.  Six is an important number as a lot more games become available, but after some discussion where people expressed the desire to play something different yet light, we chose Go Nuts for Donuts!, which Pine had said he had been playing and had found light and entertaining.  It was indeed very, very simple:  each donut has a number and players simultaneously choose a card to “bid” for them.  The catch is that a bit like Om Nom Nom, if more than one person chooses the same donut, it cannot be shared and nobody gets it.

– Image used with permission
of boardgamephotos

The different types of donuts score points in different ways and the player with the most points after all seventy cards in the deck have been exhausted is the winner.  Some just give points, others score if you have more (or less) than a certain number of one type of cards, while others allow players to take cards from the deck or discard pile.  The clever part is the simple decision, however:  which card to choose.  It is not as simple as it first seems.  Sometimes a player wants the card that gives the most points, but then other players may want that, so perhaps it is better to choose something else, even a card someone else wants simply to stop them getting it.  And which one is best if there is more than one donut of the same type?

Go Nuts for Donuts! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Go Nuts for Donuts! is quite a brutal game in that it is perfectly possible to end up with no cards much less cards you actually want.  It is a lot of fun though, and would probably be even more fun in person when players get to see the whites of each other’s eyes and read their body-language.  This time, although Purple got the most cards with eleven, it was only enough for second place.  Burgundy’s six cards worked better together, and thanks largely to his fine set of four Boston Cream donuts, Burgundy’s score of eighteen just gave him victory by a single point.

Go Nuts for Donuts! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

The appearance, style and set-collection nature of Go Nuts for Donuts! is very reminiscent of Sushi Go!, so with Green’s departure, the rest of the group settled down for one last food-related game.  We’ve played Sushi Go! quite a bit, mostly because it is very quick and simple.  The archetypal card drafting game, players start with a hand of cards and pass the rest on, trying to collect sets to give them the most points at the end of the game.  Played over three rounds, we played with a widdershins draft in the second round, and included the Soy Sauce mini-expansion for extra flavour.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink took the first round largely thanks to a full set of three sashimi cards (which give ten points).  Players always fight for the wasabi cards as these can give a significant points boost, multiplying the next nigiri by three, but Purple was the only one to get any and she couldn’t make the best use of it as she had to pair it with egg nigiri (only worth one point).  The second round was pretty much a repeat of the first with Pink taking another sashimi trio and Blue scoring the egg nigiri with wasabi.

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

With Pink well ahead with thirty-six, the final round was really about limiting losses.  Purple took a full six for her puddings and Pink took six points for his maki rolls, but overall, the takings in the final round were pretty similar.  The rest of the group were actually quite close together with Purple (again) the best of the rest, but despite losing three points for tying for the least puddings, Pink’s final total of forty-two was unbeatable.

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS
from boardgamearena.com

Learning Outcome:  If the fences of dinosaur pens lose power, things can go very wrong (though perhaps that was already well known).

12th August 2021 (Post-Covid Test Event)

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

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

Ticket to Ride: Germany
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Perseid Meteor Shower
– Image from wikimedia.org

Learning outcome:  It’s great to be back.

3rd August 2021 (Online)

Last time, we had decided to have a “test visit” to The Jockey, with the hope that we’d be back this week.  Sadly, since then, the pub has been closed, so we were online for another week.  Lime, Pine, Black and Purple were the first to join the meeting, quickly followed by Burgundy, then everyone else eventually joined the chatter.  We had hoped to mark The Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo and our return to The Jockey by playing Ticket to Ride with the Japanese map.  However, circumstances meant that this was the third unsuccessful attempt to play that game.  So instead, this week, the “Feature Game” was the Ishikawa map for MetroX.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

MetroX is a simple little “Roll and Write” type game that seems easy at first, but is difficult to play well.  The game is driven by a deck of number cards, where the simple ones dictate how many sections can be marked on a route:  Players fill the boxes along the lines with “zeros”, with the number on the card dictating the number of boxes filled.  In general, if the line comes to an end, or some of the boxes had already been filled (because they were part of another line for example), then any excess are lost.  So the game is all about efficiency, as there is a limit to the number of cards that can be used on each line (as shown by the indicator boxes at the start of each one).

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

There are a small number of special cards as well, which break the rules.  For example, there are number cards with a circle, which allow players to skip any filled spaces and and help avoid wastage.  There are also special “star” cards, which allow players to fill a box with a number equal to the number of tracks passing through the space—this number contributes to the player’s final score.  There is also a “free” card which allows players to fill in a single space anywhere on the map.  Cards are turned until all the indicator boxes on the map have been filled or until the six is drawn, in which case, the deck is shuffled and drawing (both of cards and routes) continues.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Points come from the “star” bonuses, but also from line completion bonuses.  These are scored similar to the rows and columns in Noch Mal! or the bonuses in Welcome To…, where the first player to complete a line scores a higher amount than those who complete it later in the game.  This is off-set with a negative score for the number of unfilled boxes at the end of the game.  This time we were playing with the Ishikawa promo map, which is remarkably simple, however, the fact there are very few indicator boxes not only makes it a very short game but also leaves very little room for manoeuvre.  With only eleven rounds (plus any free cards) we were all worried that if we didn’t get a six we might struggle to complete lines.  That concern turned out to be baseless, however, with every line being completed by someone during the game.

MetroX: Ishikawa Promo Map
– Image by boardGOATS

Green’s mind was clearly elsewhere as he missed a number and spent a couple of minutes trying to work out what he’d done and then asked for clarifications on the negative scoring.  For reasons that weren’t entirely clear, everyone struggled to calculate their scores, with a long delay before scores came in, and with a large number of corrections.  Ivory led the scores with nineteen points.  After a brief spell in second behind Pink and Purple, a couple of recounts later it was confirmed as a four-way tie between Ivory, Pink, Burgundy and Purple all with nineteen.  So, following the example of the high jumpers, Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi, they agreed to share the Gold Medal.

– Video from youtube.com

The Japanese are very fond of their railways, so as the Ishikawa map was so quick to play, we decided to follow it with another train game, the new Railroad Ink Challenge, which we first played a month ago.  This is another relatively simple “Roll and Write” game, where players have to draw the road/rail depicted when four dice are rolled.  All four must be drawn and they must connect to an “entrance” or something already drawn on the player’s map.  There are also special cross-roads which can be used a maximum of once per round and only three can be used in the whole game.  Each game lasts for just seven rounds, so again efficiency is vital.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The Challenge edition adds extra features on the maps which in effect give players bonuses when they fill those spaces, and also adds a set of three “goal” cards that give players more points when they complete them.  These work in the same way as the line bonuses in MetroX, except that there are three sets of points available:  one for the first player(s) to complete them, one for the second set of players to complete them and one for everyone else.  Last time, we played the Shining Yellow edition, but this time, although we used the yellow boards, we used challenge cards from the Lush Green edition, randomly drawing cards A, B and E.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Lush Green Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Goal A gave points for players filling five of the nine central spaces; B gave players points for completing three of the “village” spaces and E gave points for completing all nine of the central area.  Ivory’s printer refused to play ball, so he gave up and took an early night.  We were all sorry to see him go of course, but it did give everyone else a chance to win.  The first round included one of the especially awkward back-to-back curves, but it turned out to be the only one, though.  This time there were a lot of T-junctions and fly-overs, with very few straight segments and simple corners. As a result, people started using their “specials” quite early rather than saving them to the end.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

As is often the case, there were a lot of reports of huge numbers of “hanging ends” meaning that players were variously taking chances and keeping options open, but hoping upon hope for helpful dice rolls.  As the game progressed, people started claiming the Goals, with B going first.  Some players had decided to use different colours for road, rail and stations, which ultimately seemed to slow them down as they not only had to choose what to do but also make sure they used the right colour.  That just gave more thinking time to everyone else though, so nobody really minded.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Without expansions, the game only takes seven rounds, so it wasn’t long before people were starting to worry that they were running out of time.  Burgundy said he could really have done with one more round and there were several others who felt the same, but the rules are the rules, so Burgundy posted his score, setting an initial target of fifty-one.  When Green gave his score of seventy-seven, however, he was so far ahead of Burgundy that photographic evidence was requested by everyone else.  While his score was being verified as correct, Blue and and Pink were confirmed as the winners of silver and bronze respectively.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Lush Green & Shining Yellow Editions
– Image by boardGOATS

Time was marching on, so we moved onto Board Game Arena for something light and easy, and sensing that this might be the last chance online, we opted for our go-to game, 6 Nimmt!, with the Professional Variant.  In this simple game, players simultaneously choose a card and, once revealed, starting with the lowest card, they are added to one of the four rows—the one ending in the highest number that is lower than the number on the card.  The player who adds the sixth card to any row, instead takes the five cards and the number of bulls heads on the cards make part of their score.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Face-to-face, these are summed and the lowest scores wins, however, on Board Game Arena, everyone starts with sixty-six points and the scores are subtracted from their running total.  Thus, the game ends when someone falls below zero and the winner has the most points at the end of the game.  In the Professional Variant, players can add cards to the either end of the row, with cards going at the start of a row if they are lower, than the first card in the row and the difference is smaller than it would be if they were to go elsewhere.  This really adds a new dimension to the game, but there is serious mathematical upkeep giving us reservations about playing it with real cards, face-to-face.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

This time, Blue picked up first and enthusiastically started the race for the bottom.  It looked like she was a certainty to end the game very quickly until she had competition from Burgundy.  Everyone else had picked up some cards and Burgundy was the last person to maintain his starting total of sixty-six nimmts, when he suddenly shipped a landslide of points going from the lead to vying for last with Blue in just a handful of turns.  Both Blue and Burgundy managed to steady the ship, albeit briefly, before Blue grabbed enough points to end the game.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Everyone else was actually quite close, and once again we had a tie for the Gold Medal, this time between Purple and Pine (who always does well in this game); both finishing with thirty-eight, just two ahead of Black.  From there, Green wished everyone else a good night leaving just six.  With lower numbers the options abound, but everyone was in the mood for something that didn’t require too much thought, and someone suggested giving L.L.A.M.A. (aka L.A.M.A) a go.  Although it was still in beta testing and we’d not played it online before, we felt there was “no cause for alarm-a”, as we’d played it before (albeit a long time ago) and found it to be a very easy game

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

Nominated for the Spiel des Jahres two years ago, L.A.M.A. has a reputation of being a bit of an “UNO killer”, that is to say, it is a similar game to UNO, but perceived to be better.  L.A.M.A. is an abbreviation for “Lege alle Minuspunkte ab”, which roughly translates as “get rid of your negative points”, and indeed this is what players do, in a similar way to UNO. Players start with a hand of cards and, on their turn can, add a single card face up to the pile in the middle as long as it has the same face value, or the same plus one.  The cards are numbered one to six, with the Llama card simultaneously being above six and below one providing a bridge between the high and low numbers.

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

Alternatively, players can pick up a card or pass.  When players pass, their score is the total of the face values of their cards, but if they have multiple cards of the same face value, they only count once.  So if a player has five cards with a value of two, they would score two points, however, just one card with a higher face value would score more and Llama cards score ten points.  The round ends when either everyone passes, or when someone gets rid of all their cards and everyone takes chips equal to their scores.  Players who succeed in checking out get the bonus of being able to return one chip, which is important because the game ends when someone reaches forty points and the winner is the player with the fewest points.

L.A.M.A. on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Burgundy spent a lot of time moaning about being given poor options by Purple who was sitting on his right. Based on the effect this had, he might have had a point as he was rapidly picking up chips and was the one to make it to forty and trigger the end of the game.  Further, Purple was doing really well, finishing with just nine, twenty-five fewer than anyone else except Black, who just pipped her to victory with only six.  With everyone keen to play another game, but nobody enthusiastic about making a decision on what to play, and medals only awarded once for each “event”, a second round meant the Gold was still up for grabs.

L.A.M.A. on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

This time, Blue joined the moaning when Pine did the same to her as Purple had done to Burgundy, changing the number when she didn’t want and not changing it when she did.  Burgundy did better this time finishing in joint second with Black with twenty-eight points.  The winner of the second round finishing with just a single chip was Purple.  This made her the L.A.M.A. champion taking the final Gold medal of the evening.

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  As with the Olympics, everyone who takes part in playing games is a winner.

Spiel des Jahres Nominations 2021

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

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

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

– Image by from spiel-des-jahres.de

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

 

15th September 2020 (Online)

Green and Lilac were first to roll up, with pizzas and a large basket full of wild mushrooms.  While they finished their supper, everyone else rolled in and joined the largely aimless chit-chat before Blue started to explain the rules for the “Feature Game“, Patchwork Doodle.  This is another “Roll and Write” style game in the “communal colouring in” vein.  As such it is quite similar to the Second Chance (which we played last time), but with different scoring and a little more planning.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Both games are based on the Tetris idea where shapes depicted on cards are drawn in a grid.  In Second Chance, the cards are revealed two at a time and players choose one to draw on their grid.  If they can’t add either, they get one card just for themselves; if it fits they stay in, if they still can’t draw it, they are out.  When the last card is turned over or the final player has been eliminated, the winner is the player with the fewest empty spaces.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

In Patchwork Doodle, eight cards are revealed at the start, so everyone can see all the cards that will come out in the round.  The chief seamstress then rolls a d3 die to move the factory foreman, and players all draw the shape he lands on.  The round ends after six of the eight shapes have been used.  After each round there is a scoring phase and, the final score is the sum of the three totals minus the number of empty spaces.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to the change in scoring, everyone has three special actions: they can use a shape either side instead of the one selected, make a single cut and draw one of the two resultant shapes, or fill a single one-by-one square.  Additionally, there is a fourth action which allows everyone to use one of the other three actions a second time.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

The interesting, and indeed difficult bit to understand, is the scoring.  Players score the number of squares in (usually) their largest square, plus one point for each row or column it is extended.  Thus a five-by-three rectangle will score eleven points (nine for the three-by-three square, and two points for the extra two rows).  Usually the largest continuous rectangle will give the most points, but sometimes that is not the case and players have to work out what will give them the biggest points haul.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

Once everyone had got to grips with the scoring and asked all their questions, Pink rolled the die and silence descended as everyone concentrated on their colouring in.  At the end of the first round, Pine, Lilac and Ivory had their noses in front achieving a five-by-five square while others were struggling to get much less.  By the second round, people were getting the hang of things and it was clear that Ivory was the one to beat, although Green had a bet on Lilac as she was doing a lot better than he was.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

By the final round, there was a peaceful calm as people engaged their inner toddler.  The scores were a little bit incidental as Mulberry won the prize for “The most inventive work with just two colours” and Lilac just pipped Black and Pine for the neatest and “staying within the lines”.  Pink stumbled at the end going for artistic impression over scoring, putting the penultimate shape in the corner instead of filling the hole in the middle.  Blue top scored with one hundred and twenty, just beating Ivory, largely thanks to the fact she had only one unfilled space.

Patchwork Doodle
– Animation by boardGOATS

Mulberry commented that the communal colouring in was very calming, and Lime said that although he had really enjoyed it, the next game looked too complicated given that he had been up since 4am, and was finding it hard to focus.  The next game, Cartographers, certainly was a step up, so despite having done really well in Patchwork Doodle, Lilac also decided to duck out.  Cartographers is another “Roll and Write” game, but has slightly more of a “boardgame feel” to it.  In fact, part of the reason it we chose it was to celebrate the fact that it had just been announced that Cartographers was runner-up in the 2020 Deutscher Spiele Pries.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Adapted from image by BGG contributor
Johnny Dangerously

The game is played over four seasons during which cards are revealed showing Tetris-like shapes which players draw on their player board.  The difference is that this time, the cards show options giving players an element of choice, either between two different shapes or in the colour to be used.  The colours represent different terrain types, and there are mountain spaces and ruins spaces also pre-printed on the map.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

At the beginning of the game, goal cards are identified for each season; a selection are available which gives games a lot of variety.  Two of these are scored at the end of each round in a similar way to Isle of Skye, another game that is quite popular with the group, but of course one that we can’t really play at the moment.  These scoring cards are really the driving force of the game, essentially creating a set of criteria that players try to follow when adding pieces to the map.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the scoring cards were “Stoneside Forest”, “Shoreside Expanse”, “Great City” and “Lost Barony”.  These can be really quite variable, for example, the first of thesegave players points for each mountain space connected to another solely by forest.  In contrast, the “Shoreside Expanse” rewarded players for each block of farmland not adjacent water and for each block of lake not adjacent to arable, or the edge of the map.  The Great City, however gave points for each square in players’ largest cities and the lost Barony was reminiscent of Patchwork Doodle giving points for the largest completed area in a square.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The other interesting addition is the “Ambush” cards.  In the “Rules as Written”, one of these is added at the start of each round and when they appear, players pass their map to their neighbour who adds the shape in the most inconvenient place they can.  These then give players negative points for each empty adjacent space.  This doesn’t work well with remote gaming, so we play these using the solo rules where the shape starts in one corner and and moves stars following the edge, progressively spiralling towards the centre until it finds a space that it fits in.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we played Cartographers a few weeks back, quite a lot of people missed out, so we decided to add the “House Rule” that we wouldn’t add Ambush cards for the first round to give players a chance to get started. This works nicely, however, because they are removed from the deck once they have appeared, adding one less makes their appearance much less likely.  For this reason, in future we would probably just add two at the start of the second round as they certainly add quite a lot to the game.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the edge case rules had been clarified, Blue started revealing cards.  Each card has a time counter in the top left corner where the number is roughly based on the number of spaces the shape fills.  This helps to control the rate the board fills at and maintains the level of tension throughout the game.  This time, the first round included quite a few large pieces, one of which was forest which enabled those who spotted it to connect two mountain squares and score a quick six points.  Otherwise, the first round was all about players trying to find good places to place lots of fields and water ensuring they didn’t touch and starting a large city to set up the next round.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The next round was all about the first Ambush card: the Gnoll Raid.  Pink had a near perfect place to put it, tucked neatly round the Rift Lands space he’d placed on his ruins in the previous round.  As he looked pleased with himself, others applied the complicated Ambush rule and variously sounded please or unimpressed depending on how much work it had left them with and how many negative points they had to mitigate.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The third round was fairly quiet as there was no Ambush, increasing the chance of one appearing in the final round.  The last round started very slowly and gently with lots of very “low time” cards appearing and everyone sounding initially unimpressed, then quite pleased as they discovered pleasing ways of filling spaces to help satisfy the “Lost Barony” scoring card.  Then, just when everyone was nearly nearly home safe and sound, we were ambushed by the penultimate card of the game: the Bugbear Assault.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The Bugbear Assault is two one-by-two columns with a gap down the middle, making it quite hard to place at the end of the game.  Mulberry was unable to place it and therefore got away unscathed, but others like Burgundy, Purple and Black found they were suddenly four or five points worse off than they had been a moment earlier.  The final piece was also difficult to place being large and awkward, and then it was just the final scores.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Animation by boardGOATS

It was really tight at the top, with Pine and Pink taking second and third respectively, separated by just a single point.  Ivory, however, who had lost out by four points to Blue in Patchwork Doodle, managed to take victory by the same margin, winning with the same total of one hundred and twenty points.  With that, Ivory departed for the night, and Pine and Green said they would follow.  Before he went, however, Green shared an image of kookaburra which looked a bit like a goat provided you mistook it’s beak for an ear…

Goat or Bird?
– Image by boardGOATS

The chit-chat moved on to the Jockey and what it was like there now.  Black, Purple, Blue and Pink had enjoyed a meal and a distanced game of Wingspan there and Ivory had joined Blue and Pink for games of Everdell and the new mini Ticket to Ride, Amsterdam.  In both cases the pub had been quite quiet, but had felt very safe, partly because there was so much space and partly because the staff had done an excellent job of cleaning.  The pizzas were just as good as always, and it was really good to see the staff again.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Green commented that he was now quite bored with “colouring in”, so Pine’s parting shot was “Blue’s doing a great job”.  Blue agreed that there had been “colouring in” for two weeks running, but that it would be different next time when they would likely be playing Welcome To…, and sadly, there wasn’t really that much alternative to “Roll and Write” that we hadn’t already tried.  Burgundy added that nobody could play what they wanted all the time anyhow, especially at the moment.  And with that, there were five left to accommodate, who switched to play something more interactive on Board Game Arena.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

After a bit of discussion and general ambivalence, those left eventually opted for Coloretto.  This is a very light and simple set collecting game that we all know the rules for:  turn over a card and place it on a truck, or take a truck.  Despite the simplicity of the rules, the game itself is very clever and can be played positively, or aggressively taking cards others want.  The winner is almost always the player who best balances these two elements.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the three of the first four cards to be drawn were Rainbow coloured Jokers.  These are such valuable cards that first Black, then Blue, then Purple took them on their own leaving Burgundy and Pink without a look-in.  From there, Burgundy started collecting sets of blue and brown chameleons, while Pink started work on collecting a rainbow—totally not the point of the game.  Black took a cart that Blue wanted, so she took one that Burgundy wanted and the tit-for-tat rippled through the group.

Coloretto on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

It was quite tight at the end, and by that point almost everyone had joined Pink with five different colours.  Not that it did him much harm as he finished with a very creditable twenty-four to give him second place, just behind Burgundy who finished with twenty-eight.  With that, he decided it was bedtime and that left four…

Coloretto on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

After a bit of debate, the now dwindling group settled down to a game of Kingdomino.  We have all played this game a lot, so it was remarkable that we managed to make such a meal of it.  The game is very simple, but punches above its weight in terms of depth.  The key part is the domino market.  There are are two rows sorted by value; on their turn, the player takes their tile from the first row and moves their meeple to their chosen tile in the second row.  Since tiles are taken in order from least to most valuable, players are trading value for turn order and thus, choice in the next round.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

In other words, if a player chooses the least valuable tile, on their next turn they will play first and therefore have first choice and can pick from four tiles.  Alternatively, if they choose the most valuable tile, they will play last in the next round and will have Hobson’s choice.  The dominoes are placed in the players’ kingdoms with players scoring points for each terrain type, where the number of points is the number of crown features multiplied by the number of squares in the area.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately, Blue, who set up the table chose the rules and picked the seven-by-seven variant, and the bonuses for completing the kingdom and for placing the starting tile in the centre.  Sadly, as the expansion has not yet been implemented on Board Game Arena, the seven-by-seven variant is only available for the two-player game.  There is no warning about this, and Blue was slow to realise, screwing up one tile placement and then was unable to complete her kingdom or get her castle in the middle.

Kingdomino on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Just as Blue was realising and the extent of her problems, and failing to put them right, Burgundy was busy building a very fine kingdom that would rival “Far Far Away” and when everyone else was unimpressed with the tile draw commented, “Well, all those are good for me.”  The immediate response was, “Just as well, since you don’t have a choice…”

Kingdomino on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS
from boardgamearena.com

Meanwhile, Black put a tile in the wrong place and made a wonderful growling noise, something between a cross dog and an angry bear.  Then discovered the cancel button and cheered, only to discover that the piece he wanted wouldn’t fit after all and howled with disgust.  The Silent One definitely wasn’t silent this time!  In fact, he thought he would have beaten the winner, Burgundy, if he hadn’t placed a single tile the wrong way round, so we decided to play again.

Kingdomino on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS
from boardgamearena.com

This time, Black started going for lakes but had competition from Purple who was also after lakes, but augmented them with forest.  Burgundy went for marshland and Blue actually managed to complete her kingdom and get her castle in the middle this time.  It was much closer, and all the kingdoms were much more mixed.  The winner was Purple though, who just edged Black.  Everyone was really pleased, especially when the Board Game Arena presented her with a trophy for her first win at Kingdomino.  And that seemed like a good way to end the evening.

Kingdomino on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS
from boardgamearena.com

Learning Outcome:  Colouring in nicely is an important board gaming skill.

Boardgames in the News: The Great Escape?

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

HeidelBÄR Games Logo
– Image from twitter.com

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

Plaid Hat Games Logo
– Image from plaidhatgames.com

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

Forgotten Waters
– Image from plaidhatgames.com

18th February 2020

Food was a little delayed, so we decided to start playing something.  Food was clearly on our collective minds though, because we opted for a starter of Point Salad.  This is a very simple set collecting game where players take cards from the market.  The cards are double sided with brightly coloured vegetables on one side and scoring conditions on the other.  The market consists of three piles of cards showing the scoring condition sides, and six cards showing the reverse, the vegetable side.  The number of cards a player can take depends on where they take it from:  one scoring card or two vegetable cards.

Point Salad
– Image by boardGOATS

Each pile of cards feeds one pair of vegetables.  So, when a vegetable is taken, a scoring condition card is turned over to reveal its vegetable side, and that scoring condition is no longer available.  Players can also, once per turn, turn over one of their scoring cards so it becomes a vegetable, but they may never turn over a vegetable to make it a scoring card.  The game is over when all the cards have been distributed, and the scores have been totaled.  One of the more unusual things about this game is that both vegetable and scoring cards can be used more than once.  So, a player with a card giving points for sets of onion, cabbage and carrot (i.e. coleslaw), can score it as many times as they have sets.  Furthermore, if they also have a card that scores for pairs of carrots and lettuces (i.e. rabbit food), they can reuse the carrot cards and count them a second time.

Point Salad
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine began collecting lettuces, an obsession with green things that ended up lasting the whole evening.  Burgundy was more obsessed with red things, specifically tomatoes, so Mulberry, Black and Purple took great delight in snaffling them first, even when they didn’t help.  Blue only needed mayonnaise for her coleslaw as she collected onions, cabbages and carrots and generally made a nuisance of herself with Mulberry, sat to her left.  Food arrived before the game finished, and with people getting distracted by pizza and chips (always more appealing than salad) it is possible there were some missed opportunities.  It was tight finish at the front with only six points between the winner and third place.  Sadly, despite everyone else’s best efforts, Burgundy top-scored with fifty-six, ahead of Mulberry and then Blue.

Point Salad
– Image by boardGOATS

Once everyone had finished eating, it was time to decide who would play what.  The “Feature Game” was The Isle of Cats, a tile-laying game where players are rescuing cats and packing them onto their ship.  There were a lot of takers, none of which were keen to back down (even though Mulberry misunderstood and thought it was called “Pile of Cats” which, on reflection, does sound very exciting).  The game is not terribly complicated though we did make a bit of a meal of it. It is played over five rounds, each of which starts with card drafting.  Players are dealt seven cards and keep two passing the rest to their neighbour; this is repeated until they receive only one single card.

The Isle of Cats
– Image by boardGOATS

The cards come in five different colours: blue, green, yellow, brown and purple.  Blue cards are Lesson cards which are really just Objective cards, but these come in two types, personal and public.  Yellow cards depict some combination of “Boots”, “Cat Baskets” and “Broken Baskets”.  Boots are useful because they dictate where you come in the turn order, while Baskets are needed to used to “pay” to rescue Cats.  Yellow cards are treasure cards, brown cards are special “Oshax” cat cards and purple cards are instant effect cards that can be played at any time.

The Isle of Cats
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of every round, each player receives twenty Fish which are used to pay for both cards and Cats.  So, once the cards have been drafted, players choose which ones they want to buy. with prices varying from free to five Fish.  The rest are discarded.  It is imprudent to over-spend, as Fish are also needed later in the round to lure cats off the island and onto the players’ ships; some cats are easier to lure than others, with cats on one side of the island costing three Fish and others costing five Fish.

The Isle of Cats
– Image by boardGOATS

Once everyone has paid for their cards, they must play any blue Lesson cards they kept in the round.  Any Public Lessons are revealed while Private Lessons are kept to one side face down.  Players then play their green cards—this is the guts of the game.  Players do not have to play all their green cards straight away, some can be kept for later rounds.  The number of Boots played are counted up, and the turn order is adjusted according to the number of Boots played so that the player with the most goes first and so on.  Player then take it in turns to spend one of their baskets and the appropriate amount of Fish to take one of their Cats and place it on their ship.

The Isle of Cats
– Image by boardGOATS

Each player starts the game with one “Permanent Basket” which they can use once per round, aside from this, the other Baskets usually come from the cards played or other Permanent Baskets acquired later in the game.  The Cats come in five different colours and are depicted on polyomino tiles which are placed on the players’ Ship-player boards.  At the end of the game players score points for grouping Cats of the same colour together in Families:  the larger the Family the more points.  So, a group of three Cats of the same colour will score eight points, while a Family of ten Cats scores a massive forty points.  In addition, players lose one point for each rat they have failed to cover with a cat, and lose five points for each room they fail to fill.

The Isle of Cats
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, perfectly tessellating Cats is the aim of the game, but additional points are also available from the Lesson-objective cards.  It would be quite a challenge to perfectly tessellate tiles while keeping cats of the same colour together and conforming to the arbitrary objectives given in the Lessons, however, there are a couple of things to help grease the wheels.  Players who cover Scrolls on their Ships with a Cat of the same colour can add a Treasure tile to their ship for free—these are small tiles that are very useful for filling in holes.  There are only five scrolls though, one of each colour.

The Isle of Cats
– Image by boardGOATS

Additionally, however, once everyone has run out of Baskets, they can also play their Rare Treasure, yellow and brown cards.  The yellow cards enable players to place more Treasure tiles while brown cards allow players to place the very rare Oshax Cats (or “Oh, shucks!” Cats as we mostly called them).  These are very friendly Cats and will join any Cat Family of the player’s choice, though they have to pick the colour when they place it.  The cards are quite rare and very expensive, but a couple of these can be a really good way to boost the size of a Family.

The Isle of Cats
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to Baskets on cards, each player starts with one Permanent Basket which they can use once per round.  Blue started the game quickly, by playing two lesson cards followed by a special card which enabled her to swap them for a second Permanent Basket.  Everyone looked on agog, envious of the advantage that would give, however, it had cost a  lot of Fish, and she spent the rest of the game trying to recover. Mulberry struggled to get some useful cards, but eventually managed to get a Permanent Basket of her own while Burgundy managed to get a couple of his own and he concentrated on trying to make sure there were no gaps round the edge of his boat to fulfill Lesson 113 to give him twelve points.

The Isle of Cats
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine meanwhile, continued his obsession with green and hogged all the green cats.  Since cards are drafted most of the cards are seen by some of the other players, so when he said he wasn’t sure how one of his Lesson cards worked, Blue and Burgundy knew exactly what his problem was.  The Lesson in question was Card 222 which gave ten points for each row of twelve containing at least twelve cats of the same colour.  Green’s queries concerned whether the row had to be continuous or whether they could be broken up by treasure, and whether Oshax cats counted.  We said they didn’t have to be continuous and Oshax cats counted so long as they were the right colour.  As a result, Pine’s green car family continued to grow, now forming long rows, lots of them.

The Isle of Cats
– Image by boardGOATS

It was in the final round that Mulberry turned nasty playing Public Lesson Card 235 which meant anyone  who didn’t have seven treasures would lose five  points, which inconvenienced Blue quite a bit.  When it came to scoring, it turned out that we weren’t quite right with the rule for Card 222—the rows should have been continuous.  That might have cost Pine ten or even twenty points, though of course had he known that, he would likely have been able to offset that a little.  It wouldn’t have mattered anyhow as finished with ninety points and a huge lead.  Over thirty points behind, it was close for second, but Burgundy, who just managed to ensure there were no gaps at the edge of his boat, pipped Blue, by two points.

The Isle of Cats
– Image by boardGOATS

There are a number of really nice things about The Isle of Cats.  Firstly the production quality is stellar and there are some really, really nice touches.  The cat artwork is fantastic and the fancy screen-printed cat-eeples from the deluxe upgraded version are quite special.  Unquestionably, we made a mistake playing with five the first time round—we were slow, with a lot of people spending a lot of time checking whether tiles would fit and that made the game even slower.  Mulberry commented that she disliked variable turn order as a mechanism:  it is common in lots of games, but tends to encourage a lot of pauses followed by queries about whose turn it is.  The are other little things like the fact the purple and brown cards could have been more distinct.  Overall, it definitely deserves another chance, but it might be hard to get some of the players from the first time to give it a second try.

The Isle of Cats
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table, Ivory, Black and Lime, started off with Key Flow.  This was particularly sad for Blue to see, because Key Flow is a sort of card game of Keyflower, one of her favourites.  That said, Key Flow had been played at our sister group, the Didcot Games Club, just a few days previously, so she consoled herself with the memory of that and concentrated on The Isle of Cats.  Although Key Flow has a lot in common with Keyflower, it has a very different feel.  Where Keyflower is really an auction game (using meeples as currency), Key Flow is a card drafting game.  So, in Key Flow, players start with a handful of cards, simultaneously choose one and place it face down, passing the rest on.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Players then simultaneously reveal their card and add it to their village before picking up the hand they’ve just been given, selecting another card and so on.  Like Keyflower, the game is played over four seasons, and like Keyflower players receive some of the Winter offerings  at the start of the game which they can then use to drive their strategies.  The iconography is very similar too, so a player who is familiar with Keyflower generally feels at home with Key Flow.  The cards come in three flavours:  village buildings, riverside buildings and meeples.  Village cards are placed in a player’s village, in a row extending either side of their starting home card.  Riverside tiles are placed in a row below, slightly off-set.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Meeple cards are used to activate Village cards by placing them above the relevant building.  As in Keyflower, buildings provide resources, skill tiles, transport and upgrades.  They also provide meeple tokens which can be used to increase the power of meeple cards or activate a player’s own buildings at the end of the round.  Arguably the clever part is how the meeple cards work.  At the centre of each card there are a number of meeples which dictate the power of the card.  A single meeple card can be played on any empty building; a double meeple card can be played on an empty building or one where one other card has already been played.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

If two cards have already been played, a triple meeple card is required to activate it a third and final time.  Alternatively, a lower power meeple card can be played with one of the meeple tokens, which upgrade a single meeple card to a triple meeple card.  Double meeple cards can also be upgraded, but each building can only be activated a maximum of three times per round.  The really clever part is that the meeple cards have arrows on them indicating where they can be played:  in the player’s own village, in the neighbouring village to the right, the village to the left, or some combination.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Black began the game by adding the Key Mine to his village which provided him with iron (wooden, black octagonal prisms).  In summer he added the Smelter which added more iron producing capacity (converting skill tiles), but he quickly upgraded this to give gold instead as it is more versatile and can be used instead of any other resource and any left overs are worth a point each at the end of the game.  Ivory also had resource providers in the shape of the Workshop which provided him with a wood, an iron and a stone every time it was activated.  He then added an Apprentice Hall which generated skill tiles.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Lime built a village strong in gold production, with the Gold Mine and Brewer and potentially the Carpenter too if he could upgrade it.  To his village, Black added a flock of sheep on his river bank while Ivory added a heard of pigs; Lime was more of a mixed farmer though with a bit of everything.  As the game progressed into the scoring rounds, Ivory added a Truffle Orchard which gave him four points for each pig and skill tile pair, allowing him to put all his pigs to good use netting twenty-four points.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime and Black pulled in similar points tallies with their Emporium (four points for each green meeple and gold pair) and Traveller’s Lodge (points for transport and boats) respectively.   With similar points for their upgraded buildings as well, it was close and the smaller contributors became really important.  Ivory’s Trader which scored him fifteen points for stone and axe skill tiles, while both Black and Lime scored ten points for their Autumn stores (Stone and Timber Yards respectively).

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Perhaps it was the points he got from the meeples (Winter Fair and Craftsmen’s Guild), but there was only two points between first and second in the end. Black finished with a total of seventy-one points, just enough for victory—a couple of points more than Ivory, with Lime not far behind.  It had been a hard fought game, and Ivory was impressed how the Scribe, which in Keyflower he felt was always a winner, had little effect.  For him, this made the game more interesting, though he had really enjoyed the last time the group played Keyflower with the Farmers expansion, as that had also mixed things up.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Given the recent game with the Didcot group it was inevitable that a comparison was going to be made.  This time Black won, but he scored fewer points than he had the previous week when he had come second.  Perhaps the most marked difference was how much quicker the three player game of Key Flow had been than the six player game a few days earlier.  Where the six player game had taken all evening, there was still time for something small, and with Lime taking an early bath, Ivory and Black chose to play a head-to-head of Ticket to Ride: London.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride is a train game with an inexplicable alure, which everyone in the group loves and we’ve found that the small versions of the game, New York and London make excellent fillers.  The rules and game play are very similar to the full versions, but the take half the time, and with just two players, that makes it a very short game indeed.  On their turn, players take coloured cards or spend them to place their pieces on the map.  Points are awarded for completing tickets, but critically, failing to connect two locations marked on a ticket will score negative points.  The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Ivory built a network connecting Brick Land and the Tower of London in the East with Hyde Park in the West, while Black joined Regent’s Park in the North with Waterloo and Elephant & Castle in the South.  The crunch point came in the area around Covent Garden, but despite this, both players managed to complete all four of their tickets.  This meant it was down to the length of the tickets and the number of pieces placed—Ivory had the edge on both of these.  His revenge for the result in Key Flow was completed by a four point bonus for connecting all four in the St. Paul’s district resulting in a ten point victory.  With that, Ivory headed home, leaving Back to watch the end of The Isle of Cats.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Games take longer with more players.

21st January 2020

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

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

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

Ticket to Ride: Germany
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Ticket to Ride: Germany
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

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

24th December 2019 – “Unofficial boardGOATS” on Christmas Eve

It being Christmas Eve, with many people away or having other plans and already having held our Christmas Party, we decided to have a quiet, “unofficial” meeting for those who fancied it.  As a result, there was no “Feature Game“, and just four to respond positively to a Doodle Poll. So, Pine and Lime joined Blue and Pink (newly arrived from Radio Oxford) for food and a chat before settling down to play some light games.  The first of these was Azul, winner of the Spiel des Jahres  and Deutscher Spiele Preis in 2018, a game we played a lot when it first came out at Essen in 2017, but has more recently been largely superseded by the newer versions (Stained Glass of Sintra and Summer Pavilion).

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Azul is very light and simple to play, but with surprising staying power.  Despite Azul being so popular with the group, Lime had somehow missed out so we had a run-down of the rules first.Players take coloured tiles from a central market and add them to rows on their player board next to their mosaic.  The rows are different lengths and can only hold one colour at a time.  For any rows that are complete at the end of a round, one of the tiles is moved into that players mosaic and the row is emptied for the next round.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part of the game is the tile market.  There are a number of “stalls” in the market, each holding four coloured tiles.  On their turn, the active payer can take all of one colour from one of the stalls moving the rest to the central pool, or alternatively, they can take all the tiles of one colour from the central pool.  Once all the tiles are gone, the round ends and tiles in the rows are moved across to the mosaic then the market is restocked from the draw bag.  Scoring occurs during the game when tiles are added to the mosaic, and bonus points are awarded at the end of the game for completed rows, columns and any colours which appear in each row/column.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink put all his efforts into trying to get bonus points for placing a full set of red tiles monopolising them early on and making it really hard for everyone else to get any.  It was a really, really tight game, and Lime put in an excellent show to take second place against much more experienced opposition.  He was just pipped by three points by Blue, who finished strongly taking bonus points for two completed columns.  Lime had enjoyed his first play and likes playing games twice so suggested a replay. With the relaxed atmosphere, everyone else was happy to go along with it.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

The second game wasn’t as tight as the first.  Pink collected more red tiles, annoying everyone else, again, and Blue was forced to take an eight point penalty which she thought was going to put her out of the game.  She made up for it by picking up bonus points for one complete column and a set of blue tiles and once again sneaked ahead of Lime.  Everyone was trampled into the dirt by Pine, however, with an enormous score—his first ever over a hundred.  As we were packing away, we discussed how he did it, and concluded that it was all about the scores from tile placement, and the bonus points really were, just that: a nice bonus, but not really something to aim for.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

The night was still young and everyone fancied playing something else.  In keeping with the relaxed nature of the evening, a pair of comfy slippers seemed in order, in this case, Ticket to Ride: London. This is a trimmed down version of the popular modern classic, Ticket to Ride.  All the game play is much the same: on their turn the active player, takes coloured cards into their hand or plays coloured cards to place pieces on the map trying to complete route cards they received at the start of the game.  In the original game, the cards and pieces were carriages, in this cut down version the cards depict other forms of transport and the pieces are buses, and players have fewer of them.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Points are placing trains on the map with the longest sections scoring more heavily.  In this cut down version, there are also bonus points for connecting stops in certain regions.  The biggest factor is usually the tickets however, as completed tickets score points, while incomplete tickets give negative points.  The active player may forfeit their turn, instead taking additional tickets, which adds an element of jeopardy: taking more tickets can add to the score, but if they aren’t fulfilled by the end of the game, it can be costly.  Pine started the game with two tickets giving long, roughly parallel routes that he thought he would be able to make work.  However, as is often the case with the cut-down versions of Ticket to Ride, the game started fast and Pine quickly realised he would be lucky if he could finish one and end with a positive score, never mind complete both.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

It was really tight around central London, and almost everyone struggled as others upset their plans.  This made for another tight game.  Blue finished the game by reducing her stock of buses to two first, and ended up with a winning score of forty largely thanks to a couple of fortunate tickets picked up late in the game.  Lime likes playing games more than once and suggested a rematch.  Pine, having had a really rough time the first time round was keen to improve on his first attempt and Pink and Blue were happy to go along with it.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine again picked up Regent’s Square to Elephant & Castle, but pairing this with a shorter route made  it much more achievable.  This time, Blue really struggled to place trains, and looked to be in a lot of trouble with only seventeen points when Pink brought the game to an early end.  Both Blue and Lime had nothing they could do on their final turn so were left with a decision: gamble on taking more tickets to try to get one that is already complete, or hope they had enough tickets already.  Both thought about it, but chose to forgo the gamble, which turned out to be the right choice.  In the final accounting, Blue picked up a massive twenty-three points from her tickets, to give her an unassailable total of forty (again—nothing if not consistent), dashing Pinks hopes, leaving him five points behind.  With that, everyone wished each other a Very Merry Christmas and headed home to put their stockings up.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  While GOATS love a good party, a quiet night can also be really enjoyable.