Tag Archives: Tsuro

2nd May 2017

With the inevitable pizzas mostly dealt with, we started the evening with one of Red’s “silly little games from Germany”.  Tarantel Tango (aka Tarantula Tango) is a daft little “get rid of your cards” game with the addition of animal noises.  The idea is that each player starts with a deck of face down cards which will be placed face up in one of five piles located around a central pentagon.  On their turn, the active player first makes a noise in response to the animal and number of spiders on the previous player’s card before placing their own card in a location dictated by the number of animals on the previous player’s card. Thus if a player’s card depicts one donkey and a spider the next player says, “Eee-ore” and places their card on the top of the next pile.  If the card had two donkeys, the card would be placed on the next pile but one, on the other hand, if there were two spiders, the player would have to make a double animal noise, “Eee-ore, Eee-ore!”

Tarantel Tango
– Image by boardGOATS

Simple enough, but things were confused by the fact that the animal art was like something from a Tim Burton Film, so it was easy to confuse them.  Also, according to the rules, a cow says “Moo-moo” (not “Moo”), which means with two spiders the active player must say, “Moo-moo moo-moo” – something that it is easy to forget when a noise must be made and a card played in less than two seconds, under the pressure of everyone else’s gaze.  Worse, some cards have no spiders at all which means the player must remain mute.  The penalty for failing to make the correct noise or put the card in the right place is to pick up all the cards on the table.  A similar penalty awaits when a Tarantula Card is played – everyone must slap their hand on the table and woe-betide the player who is last…

Tarantel Tango
– Image by boardGOATS

Once Red had roped Pine and Ivory into her madness, they were joined by Pink and Blue who read the rules  out.  Black’s comment from the next table was that it would take ages, but neither he nor Purple could be persuaded to join in, so with Burgundy still finishing his pizza everyone else started, what they thought would be a quick bit of fun.  It seemed like ages before the first person had to pick up cards and before long it looked like Pink had it in the bag with just three cards left.  Unfortunately, the stress of being so close meant he inevitably tripped over his words and gathered a large pile of cards as a consequence.  Ivory was next and managed to reduce his hand to just one card before making his mistake.  From here everyone took it in turns to reduce their stack to small handful of cards, but fail to actually get rid of the final few, by which time Purple was in such fits of laughter she was practically soiling the furniture.  It had been a lot of fun, especially at the start, but we were all quite pleased when we could finally move on to something else, so there was relief all round when Pine finally managed to get rid of his last card successfully.

Tarantel Tango
– Image by boardGOATS

With the gratuitous silliness over, we split into two groups, the first of which consisted entirely of people who hadn’t eaten any pizza and fancied making up for it with the pizza based “Feature GameMamma Mia!.  This is an unusual little card game designed by Uwe Rosenberg of Bohnanza fame (as well as designer of games like Agricola, Le Havre and the more recent Cottage Garden).  Everyone in the group likes Bohnanza, but Red is especially fond of it and was particularly keen to give this one a go.  Uwe Rosenberg has a liking for unusual mechanisms in his card games and Mamma Mia! is no exception.  The idea is that players are trying to fulfill pizza orders by first putting toppings in the oven and then sneaking their order cards in on top before another player does the same and claims the toppings for their order.  So, each player has a deck of personal order cards and a random hand of toppings.  On their turn, each player must place at least one topping card in the oven pile (all the same type) and may follow it with an order card if they choose.

Mamma Mia!
– Image by boardGOATS

All cards are placed face down so players have to try to remember what cards have been played.  Once a player has placed cards in the oven, they draw back up to the hand limit of seven, but the catch is that cards can only be drawn from either the ingredients pile or their own personal order pile.  This is very clever because players have a hand limit of seven and this is something that needs to be handled with care: order cards are needed to give a target to aim for, but too many and there isn’t enough space to hold enough ingredients to build sets.  Just to add to the challenge, we included the Double Ingredients mini expansion which adds a small number of cards which contribute to toppings instead of one.  Black and Purple had played the game before, but it was completely new to Pine and Red and it took a little while for them to get their heads round it.

Mamma Mia!
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine (who’s special ingredient was chili) cleared himself out in the first round taking an order for “Pizza Bombastica” (with at least fifteen toppings) and struggled to get back into the game.  Black (special ingredient pepperoni) on the other hand failed to place orders for any pizza in the first two rounds, instead, as Pine pointed out, “Saved himself to make ‘Quality’ pizza!”  Meanwhile, Red (with mushroom as her special ingredient) was very confused and was struggling to understand what was going on.  This was a feeling that wasn’t helped when Pine requested a “Pineapply-looking-olive” in the final round.  Despite her evident confusion, Red was definitely proving to be the “Queen of Pizza”, a title that also earned her accusations of “card counting” (something she might have tried had she understood what was going on).  In the final accounting, Red finished with seven orders, three more than Purple who had played a quiet, but very effective game making good use of her special ingredient (olives).

Mamma Mia!
– Image by boardGOATS

While the pizzaioli were busy making pizza, the other group (consisting predominantly of pizza eaters) were settling into a game of Last Will.  This is a game we’ve played before, but that was nearly two years ago, so it required a recap of the rules.  Last Will is basically the boardgame equivalent of the 1985 film “Brewster’s Millions”.  The story goes that in his last will, a rich gentleman stated that all of his millions would go to the nephew who could enjoy money the most.  In order to find out who that would be, each player starts with a large amount of money, in this case £70, and whoever spends it first and declares bankruptcy is the rightful heir, and therefore the winner.  The game is played over a maximum of seven rounds each comprising three phases. First, starting with the start player, everyone chooses the characteristics of their turn for the coming round from a fixed list by taking it in turns to place their planner on the planning board. This dictates the number of cards they will get at the start of the round, the number of “Errand Boys” they will be able to place, the number of Actions they will get and where they will go in the turn order.

Last Will
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor PaulGrogan

Inevitably, this is a compromise, so choosing to go first when placing Errand Boys, might guarantee the action of choice, but will only give one card at the start of the round and crucially, only one Action.  On the other hand, choosing to sacrifice position in the turn order could give three or four Actions.  Since all but two cards are discarded at the end of the round and Actions must be used or lost, this decision is critical.  Actions are important, but so are Errand Boys as they allow players to control the cards they are drawing as well as manipulate the housing market and increase the space on their player board.  The heart of the game is the cards, however, which are played in three different ways:  as a one off (white bordered cards); on a player’s board where they can be used multiple times (black bordered cards) or as a modifier (slate bordered cards) which enable players to spend more when black or white bordered cards.  Thus, White bordered “Event Cards” cost a combination of money and Actions to play, but once played, are discarded. In contrast, Black bordered cards cost at least one Action to play, and occupy space on the player’s board, but are kept and can be activated once in each round.

Last Will
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

Black bordered cards come in three different types: “Expenses” which allow players to spend money; “Helpers” which additionally allow give players some sort of permanent bonus, and “Properties” which are by far the most complex cards in the game.  Properties are an excellent way of spending money as they are bought for a given amount and will either depreciate every round, or will require maintenance which can be expensive. Unfortunately, players cannot declare bankruptcy if they have property and must sell them.  This is where the property market comes in:  one of the possible errands is to adjust the property market, so if a property is bought when the market is high and sold when it is low, this is another possible avenue for losing money.  At the end of the round, everyone reduces their hand to just two cards and loses any left-over actions, which puts players under a lot of pressure as it makes it very hard to plan.  So the game is an unusual mixture of timing, building card combinations, strategy and tactics.

Last Will
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor bswihart

Burgundy went first as he was the last person to pay for something – he paid for his pizza while everyone else had put their purchases on a tab.  The random draw meant everyone started with £120 (in poker chips), making for a slightly  longer game. Only Ivory hadn’t played it before, but it was such a long time since Blue, Pink and Burgundy it was only a vague memory, and none of them felt they had ever really fully understood the game.  Inevitably therefore, there was plenty of moaning and groaning from Burgundy and a lot of puzzled expressions from Pink.  Accusations of “winning moves” were aimed at Blue (accompanied by appropriate denials) when she was the first to take her dog and a chef on a Boat Trip and then bought herself a small mansion.  Property is the key, as it is expensive to buy and either costs to maintain or depreciates, however, it must be sold before a player can go bankrupt.

Last Will
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

Maintenance costs or depreciation alone are not sufficient to ensure a player spends enough to win, so players need to find a away to make their properties cost more.  Blue first added a Steward (who enabled her to carryout maintenance on a property without needing an action) and then an Estate Agent to her portfolio.  This latter was particularly useful as it enabled her to over pay for property by £2 when buying and sell for £2 below market value.  Meanwhile, Ivory had bought a couple of valuable farms to which he added animals, then he maximised his outgoings by adding a Training Ground.  Not though want of trying, but Pink was the only one who failed to get a helper who would provide an extra action.  Instead, he had to make do with a two Hectic Days (which gave him extra actions) which he coupled with visits to the Ball.  The first of these was very effective, the second less so.  By this time he was beginning to run out of space on his player board, so Pink then decided to get an extension to his player board, but Ivory had other ideas and kept taking it first, much to Pink’s disgust.

Last Will
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

While all this was going on, Burgundy was muttering away and shaking his head ominously, quietly buying properties, and making reservations at restaurants with occasional trips to the theatre or trips on the river.  As the game entered its final stages it was becoming clear that it was Ivory who had really got to grips with the game though.  The extra messenger card came up and, as everyone had other things they wanted to do, he took it cheaply which gave him a little extra flexibility in his options.  Blue and Burgundy had began selling properties first, leaving them with a lot of cash to get rid of.  In contrast, although he had no money left, Ivory still had to sell his farms and dispose of the income before he could actually go bankrupt.  Despite Burgundy and Pink’s best efforts to get in his way though, Ivory just made it, finishing £1 in debt.  Nobody else could match that, with the Blue the closest with £16 credit.

Last Will
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor CellarDoor

Mamma Mia! finished long before Last Will, and the group were looking for something else to play.  Blue (from the next table) suggested they might like to try Indigo, which she described as “a bit like Tsuro but backwards”.  Tsuro is a simple “last man standing” game where players take it in turns to place a tile in front of their stone and move it along the path.  Indigo is also a game of moving stones, however, instead of trying to keep one stone on the board, players are trying to move different coloured stones off the board through their own “gates”.  There are other differences too, for example, the tiles are hexagonal rather than square and instead of choosing which tile to lay from a hand of three, tiles are drawn at random.  To make up for the random draw, players can place tiles anywhere they like, which enables players to try to build routes from their gates to stones, rather than the other way round.

Indigo
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the cleverest parts of the game is its semi-cooperative nature – with four, players share their each of the gates with one of the other players.  This introduces an interesting tension between working with other players while simultaneously competing with them.  So, as Purple commented, players that don’t work together get nothing.  Black, on the other hand, was quite taken with the pretty patterns the tiles made on the board.  It was quite a tight game throughout – since stones are stored secretly and have different values, it wasn’t easy to be certain who was in the lead.  In the event, the lead probably swapped several times, and the game finally finished in a tie between Black and Pine, both with ten points, with Red following on in third, three points behind.

Indigo
– Image by boardGOATS

Last Will was still underway, so the hunt resumed for another game, and Blue suggested Pueblo.  Although a slightly older game, this was a recent acquisition and Pink had met pine when he collected it from the village Post Office.  Although he hadn’t known precisely what it was at the time, the rattle had given away the contents as a boardgame.  Pueblo has a very robust rattle as it consists of lots of very solid plastic pieces.  It is one of those games that is quite different to anything else; Blue and Pink had played it quite a bit out in the garden over the weekend and thought the others might like to give it a go, especially as it was simple enough to play from the rules.

Pueblo
– Image by boardGOATS

Each player has a set of coloured pieces and a matching number of neutral pieces.  These are paired up to make a cube consisting of one coloured and one neutral piece.  On their turn, the active player places any unpaired pieces they may have on the grid shown on the board.  If they don’t have any unpaired pieces, then they break up a cube and choose which half to play.  Once they have placed a piece, the active player moves the Chieftain along the track around the edge of the board.  They can choose whether to move him one, two or three spaces, after which, he looks at the building along the grid lines and scores any coloured bricks he can see.  At the end of the game, the Chieftain makes one last trip round the board and the player with the lowest score at the end wins.

Pueblo
– Image by boardGOATS

The game was quite close, and everyone felt that the idea was great but that the game play was not as exciting as it sounded.  Unfortunately, everyone also suffered a bit from “Analysis Paralysis”, and as a result, the game felt like it dragged, a problem that was undoubtedly made worse playing with four than with two.  This is because with two there is just one opponent and the game becomes one of cat and mouse; with more players this tension is diluted.  As the game progressed, it seemed to drag more and more, so the final trip round the track was dispensed with leaving Pine the winner, just two points ahead of Purple.  With that over, and Last Will coming to an end, Pine, Purple and Black headed off for an early night leaving Red to watch over the final moves before it was time to for everyone else to head home too.

Pueblo
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Games that are a hit for some players are not guaranteed to work for others.

31st December 2015

As people arrived, we began setting up the “Feature Game”.  This, as has become traditional at these New Year events, was the gorgeous, dexterity car-racing game, PitchCar. Burgundy and Pink built a fantastic figure-of-eight track that made good use of the ⅛ turns from the second expansion and made a really fast compact circuit. Before long, Black and Purple had arrived and had introduced themselves to the furry host, followed by Grey and Cerise who were armed with Champagne and Polish delicacies.

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is quite simple, players take it in turns to flick their small wooden cars once, starting with the player at the front of the pack. If the car leaves the track or rolls over, the player forfeits stroke and distance (though any collateral gains by other players stand).  We usually have a single solo lap to determine the order on the start grid and to allow new players to get their eye in, before racing two laps of the track.  While Blue and Pink occupied themselves in the kitchen, everyone else began their practice run.

PitchCar
– Image used with permission of
BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Cerise went first and set a very competitive bench-mark of ten flicks mastering the bridge from the first expansion on her second attempt. Asked whether she’d played it before, she replied, not since she was tiny, playing with bottle-tops. It turned out that Grey had also had a similarly mis-spent childhood and this with his competitiveness made him a formidable opponent. Black and Burgundy gave them a run for their money, but Grey took the lead and held off the competition to take first place, with Cerise close behind, a worthy second.

PitchCar
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor garyjames

With pizza already over-cooked, everyone helped to quickly pack up and then sat down for dinner. Once everyone had eaten their fill, Pink began tidying while everyone else began the next game, Ca$h ‘n Guns. This game combines gambling with a little chance and a dash of strategy, based round the theme of gangsters divvying up their ill-gotten gains by playing a sort of multi-player Russian Roulette. For some reason, setting up degenerated into a discussion about the offensive weapons act and Tony Martin and the debate was still going by the time Pink had finished what he was doing, so he joined in.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Black, (playing “The Hustler”), chose to enact his special power by trading a bullet card for one of Blue’s blanks, much to her delight. Then, Pink (playing “The Doctor”), started as the Godfather, so acted as caller. So, once everyone had “loaded” their weapon with blanks or bullets, on, the count of three, everyone pointed their foam gun at someone. Pink chose to invoke the Godfather’s Prerogative and decided Purple looked most threatening, so directed her to point her gun at Burgundy.  The Godfather then counted to three to give everyone a reasonable chance to withdraw from “The Game”, but also relinquish their claim to a share of the loot for that round.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Throughout, everyone was feeling quite brave, but it was Burgundy (“The Cute”) who had a particularly strong incentive to stay in, as his special power allowed him to take $5,000 before anyone else got a look in.  It was a power he used to great effect taking an early obvious lead.  Meanwhile, Blue (“The Vulture”) was the first to draw blood, defending her property against Grey (“The Greedy”).  Like The Vulture she was, when Grey picked up a second wound, Blue finished him off and took two pictures from his still warm, lifeless hands. With, Burgundy clearly in the lead, Blue had help taking him down, and Pink got caught in the cross-fire.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Picking the pockets of two corpses in the same round made her something of a target and in the next round she found the staring down all three remaining barrels which effectively put her out of the game.  Purple (“The Collector”), began collecting diamonds, but, it was Cerise (“The Lucky Man”)’ who picked up the $60,000 for getting the most diamonds.  As “The Collector”, Purple managed to score a staggering five pictures netting her $100,000 giving her a cool $156,000, $6,000 ahead of Black in second place, with Cerise a close third with $146,000.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

With seven of us, we’d normally split into two groups, but the party atmosphere had got to us a little, and with limited table space we were keen to stick together.  With the majority of Blue and Pink’s not inconsiderable game collection at our disposal, we eschewed the usual go-to seven player game, Bohnanza, and decided to play play Between Two Cities. We played this a few weeks ago, but in essence, it is a draughting game, but one that has the depth of 7 Wonders, but with the simplicity of Sushi Go!.  As before, we didn’t use any of the seating randomisers, but since we were all sat in different places and three players were new to it, this didn’t matter.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy and Black began to build up a large number of factories and thought they were in with a chance of scoring heavily with them, but didn’t notice that Grey and Pink, had more, as did Blue and Pink. Blue and Black began with a complete row of shops, and followed it with extensive white collar employment opportunities, but were unable to expand the park as much as they wanted.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Grey and Cerise had developed a retail outlet centre with no fewer than seven shops and a number of conveniently situated houses and office blocks. Cerise’s other city, shared with Purple began as a paradise with parks and entertainments, until they added a factory to increase the value of their housing stock. Parks had been popular at the start of two other cities too, with Purple starting her other city the same way with Burgundy, and Blue and Pink doing something very similar.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

After three rounds we began the complicated matter of the scores. It was quite close, but Blue and Pink’s City was disproportionately ahead, a problem that was rectified with a quick recount that left two cities jointly leading on sixty. In the normal way, the winning city can only ever be important as a tie-breaker since it is the city with the fewer points that makes each players’ score. In this case, however, Pink owned both, with Blue and Grey. Since Blue’s other city (shared with Black) had fifty-nine points, that put her a close second.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

A quick interlude followed for non-alcoholic Champagne, alcoholic Prosecco, white chocolate, pistachio and Diaquiri fudge, with the chimes of Big Ben and fireworks. Once the New Year greetings were complete, it was onto the important matter of what to play next. Such a large number of players meant the choices were limited, so we went with a couple of old favourites.  Tsuro was first, a quick fun game that we all know well and that featured on our list of ten great games to play with the family at Christmas.

Tsuro
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

A game that anyone can play, in Tsuro each player has a “stone” dragon and on their turn places a tile in front of it and moves the dragon along the path. As the board becomes increasingly crowded, the tiles form a maze of paths that the stones must navigate, staying on the board without colliding with anyone else while trying to eliminate everyone else.  Grey and Cerise were the first to go out by collision, followed by Burgundy who was ejected from the board by Purple. Black eliminated both Pink and Blue with one tile, before winning the game by dealing with the only remaining competitor, Purple.

Tsuro
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor zombiegod

With that over, there was just time for another of our favourite games of 2015, 6 Nimmt!.  For a reason none of us understand, this mixture of barely controlled chaos is strangely compelling, so it is a game we keep coming back to again and again. Despite the number of times we’ve played it as a group, somehow Grey had missed out, so we had a quick summary of the rules: players simultaneously choose a card, then starting with the lowest value card the players take it in turns to add their card to the four rows on the table in ascending order. The player who adds a sixth card, instead takes the first five cards to score and the sixth becomes the first card in the new row. As well as the face value of the cards, they also have a number of bulls’ heads (Nimmts) mostly one or two, but some as many as five or even seven.

6 Nimmt
– Image by boardGOATS

The aim is to minimise the number of Nimmts picked up, so things went horribly wrong from the start, with everyone picking up plenty in the first round, though it remained close aside from Purple who picked up nearly twice what anyone else took. The second round was made especially difficult by the fact that three of the four rows were effectively out of commission. Blue struggled with four cards with a value below ten as well as the highest card in the deck. Purple managed to exceed her score in the first round, giving her a near record- breaking fifty-one. Grey and Burgundy both managed a clean sheet in the second round, so it was Burgundy’s better score of just seven, that gave him the win. So with 2016 started in fine style, we decided it was time for bed.

6 Nimmt
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  Although seven is a difficult player count, there are some excellent games available when everyone is in the right mood.

Boardgames in the News: Ten Great Games to Play with the Family at Christmas

With the nights drawing in and the weather becoming increasingly wet and wintery, what could be nicer than an afternoon playing board games in front of the fire?  If you are new to the hobby, here are ten great modern boardgames to play over the Christmas holidays.  These are all readily available online and/or in dedicated boardgame shops.

  1. PitchCar – This superb car racing game is guaranteed to get kids of all ages playing together; the winner is the person who manages to flick their car round the track first. The game plays six people, but you can get more cars from the Ferti website and play a pursuit type game which is also good fun.  You can also get expansion packs to make your track longer and more interesting if you really like it.
    Target Audience: Families & parties; ages 2 to 102…
    Game Time: From half an hour tailor-able to the group, plus time to build the track.
    Price:  Approximately £45 from amazon.co.uk for the base game (also available in a slightly cheaper mini-version for those without a large table).

    PitchCar
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor garyjames
  2. Tsuro – Players take it in turns to build a path for their “dragon”, creating a maze for everyone else at the same time. The game lasts just fifteen to twenty minutes and plays up to eight people.  It combines just enough strategy and luck that if you get knocked out early, there is always time to try again.  Don’t be tempted to get Tsuro of the Seas though, it takes all the really good things about Tsuro and makes them slightly less good.
    Target Audience: Friends & Families with ages 8+
    Game Time: 15-20 mins with almost no set up time.
    Price:  £20-25 from amazon.co.uk.

    Tsuro
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv
  3. Bohnanza – This one sounds really uninspiring on reading the rules:  players have to trade beans to make the most money from the biggest and best bean fields.  Despite the unpromising sound, you only need to play it once with a couple of other people and before you’ve gone far you will agree it is one of the best games ever made – never has bean farming been so much fun!
    Target Audience: Older children and adults; ages 10+
    Game Time: 45-60 mins
    Price:  Readily available for around £15-20.

    Bohnanza
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor spearjr
  4. Dobble – With five games in the tin, this Snap-inspired game is excellent value.  Since it relies on reactions, it is also one of those games where children are often genuinely better than adults.  And it is so quick to play that it is an ideal game to squeeze in while the kettle is boiling or tea is brewing.
    Target Audience: 3 and up
    Game Time: 2 mins per round
    Price:  Readily available for around £10 or less.

    Dobble
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari
  5. Escape:  The Curse of the Temple – While most Euro Games don’t use dice, in this game players have five each.  This is a team game that is played against the clock, so has the advantage that everyone wins or loses together.  The team of five players simultaneously roll dice to explore the temple and activate gemstones and then try to escape together before the temple collapses around their ears.  This is also ideal for children to play with adults as they can work in pairs or groups learning communication and team working skills.  If the game seems too difficult for the group, it can also be made a little easier by reducing the number of gems the group have to activate.
    Target Audience: age 5+ as long as there are understanding adults playing
    Game Time: 10 mins per game plus a few minutes setting up
    Price:  approximately £25-30 from amazon.co.uk.

    Escape: The Curse of the Temple
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor mikehulsebus
  6. Survive: Escape from Atlantis! – This is good fun and really, really nasty.  Not quite so easy to learn, but really not that difficult either and great fun with four people who have a competitive streak.  Each player has a number of pieces that they are trying to get from the central island to the mainland.  Players take it in turns to move a person or boat, then they take a piece from the island, finally they roll a die to move a whale, shark or sea-monster, with potentially devastating consequences…
    Target Audience: Teenagers; not recommended for children under 12 or people who can’t take getting picked on
    Game Time: 40-60 mins
    Price:  Approximately £25-30 from amazon.co.uk; a 5-6 player expansion is also available which makes things even nastier…

    Survive: Escape from Atlantis!
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor ckirkman
  7. Dixit – This is a great game to play with the mums and grannies in the family.  Players take it in turns to be the “story teller” who chooses a card from their hand and gives a clue that everyone else tries to match.  Everyone then has to guess which card belonged to the story teller, with points awarded for good guesses as well as cards that mislead other players.  The original base game plays six well, but Dixit: Odyssey plays up to twelve with a slight tweak to the rules.  Extra decks of cards are also available.
    Target Audience: Friendly groups and parties.
    Game Time: 30-45 mins
    Price:  Approximately £15-30 from amazon.co.uk, depending on the version.

    Dixit
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor lacxox
  8. Colt Express – For older children and younger adults, this game is a glorious mixture of controlled chaos.  Players are bandits attacking and looting a fantastic 3D train.  Rounds are broken into two parts, first players take it in turns to choose the cards they will play placing them in a communal pile the centre of the table.  Then, once everyone has chosen, players carry out the action on each card in turn.  The problem is by the time they get to the end, the plans they had at the start have gone terribly awry…  A similar feel can be got from the pirate themed Walk the Plank! which is a cheaper, smaller, easier game that packs a lot of fun into a shorter playing time.
    Target Audience: Young, and not-so-young adults.
    Game Time: 30-60 mins
    Price:  Approximately £25 from amazon.co.uk; Walk the Plank! is available for £15-20.

    Colt Express
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman
  9. Ticket to Ride: Europe – Players are collecting coloured cards and spending them to place plastic trains on map/board with the aim of trying to build routes across Europe.  This game has been around a little while now and is available in several different flavours:  for the typical UK family, the Europe edition is probably best (plays up to five players), but for a couple, the Nordic edition with its gorgeous festive artwork might be more appropriate (only two to three players though).  If it is popular, there are also a number of expansion maps available.
    Target Audience: Age 10+.
    Game Time: 30-60 mins
    Price:  Readily available for available for £25-40 depending on the version and vendor.

    Ticket to Ride: Europe
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke
  10. No Thanks! – A quick and simple little betting game anyone can play.  The game consists of a deck of cards and some red plastic chips.  The first can take the top card, or pay a chip and pass the problem onto the next player.  The aim of the game is to finish with the lowest total face value of the cards, but if woe-betide anyone who runs out of chips as they will be left at the mercy of everyone else.
    Target Audience:  Friends and families; children aged 8+.
    Game Time: 10-15 mins
    Price:  Readily available for approximately £10.

    No Thanks!
    – Image used with permission of BGG contributor ckirkman

7th April 2015

Blue and Pink arrived very early and decided to play a quick game of Onirim before their food arrived.  This is a cooperative, two player game with an unusual theme:  players are Dreamwalkers, lost in a mysterious labyrinth – they must discover the eight oneiric doors before dreamtime runs out trapping them forever.

Onirim
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor zombiegod

The idea is that both players have a hand of five cards, three that are their own, and two which are shared and kept face up on the table.  On their turn the players can do one of two things:  play a card, discard a card.  Cards are played one at a time face up in front of the player.  The aim is to play a three cards of the same colour in succession, which allows the player access to the oneiric door of the corresponding colour.  The important thing about the cards is that in addition to a colour suit, they also have a symbol – a sun, a moon or a key.  When played, adjacent cards must not have the same symbols (regardless of colour).  This is much more tricky than it sounds as sun cards are most abundant and key cards have special powers, which means you don’t want to waste them.  For example, if a key card is discarded, the player triggers the prophecy which means they can look at the next five cards, discard one and return the rest in any order.

Onirim
– Image by boardGOATS

Once a player has played or discarded their card, they replenish their hand with a card from the draw deck.  There are seventy-six cards in the deck, including eight doors and ten nightmare cards.  Nightmare cards are a problem, when they are drawn, players have to deal with them in some way.  Players can mitigate the effects of a nightmare by discarding a key card, discarding a gained door or by discarding the whole of their hand (i.e. all five cards, including the two shared cards).  If the player cannot do any of these (or chooses not to), then they must discard the next five cards.  This is bad because the deck is like a ticking clock and the game ends when there are no cards left to play.  Worse, nightmare (and door cards) are not truly discarded as they are returned to the deck once the five cards have been drawn, so their effect does not go away.  On the plus side, if you are replacing a card and you draw a door card, if you have a key card of the same colour, you get to keep it.

Onirim
– Image by boardGOATS

Like Hanabi, this is a cooperative game that can be played with a lot or a little “table talk”.  Since it is quite a tough game, we decided to play with all the cards face up, but with no talking.  We had just started and the game was going unusually well when food turned up.  Sadly, we were very easily distracted and quickly lost focus which led to inevitable defeat as we finished just one door short.  Once we’d finished eating, we gave it another go, but quickly regretted squandering our good beginning in the first game as the second game had a terrible start.  Things picked up, but we still didn’t get close, finishing with six doors.  We were just finishing when Grey and Cerise wandered in clutching a new game called Slavika.

Slavika
– Image by BGG contributor cnidius

Slavika is a card game of heroes and monsters with really beautiful artwork.  Each player is the head of a household and has two hands of cards, one of heroes and one of monsters.  On their turn each player plays three cards, the first card must be a hero, the last card must be a monster and the second card can be either a hero or a monster.  Each player starts with six heroes in their family and five monsters, each with a strength; although monsters are replenished once played, heroes only return when they have finished being heroic.  The idea is that there are a number of regions that players are fighting to protect from the monsters.

Slavika
– Image by BGG contriutor cnidius

Each region is different and has a maximum number of heroes and a maximum number of monsters:  when world is over-run with monsters, the battle is concluded and the combined strength of the monsters is compared with the combined strength of the heroes.  If the heroes win, then the player who contributes the most to the battle (the most heroic player) wins the points and also the treasure stored on the island and the heroes fighting for that world are returned.  If there is also a thief, however, then the most heroic player wins the points but the thief runs off with the treasure.  If the monsters win, then nobody wins anything, the monsters leave, the heroes return home and another treasure card is added to the region and the fighting begins again.  Blue had no idea what was going on, and Pink was not much wiser, but after a couple of rounds they got the hang of it a little and everyone realised that if people insisted on thinking before playing cards, it was going to take way longer than the stated thirty minutes!

Slavika
– Image by BGG contributor MacTele

By this time, Red, Yellow and Orange had also arrived and had riffled through the bags and chosen …Aber Bitter Mit Sahne (aka Piece o’ Cake).  This is a cute little set collecting game that we first played a few weeks back.  The idea is that one player divides the cake and then the others choose which slice to take and how much of it to eat.  Points are scored at the end of the game for the player with the most of each type of cake and for the number of “blobs” of cream on cake that has been eaten.  In case of a draw, all parties win the pints, but no points are scored for sets that aren’t the largest.  Thus, the player dividing needs to try to make sure that they are left with something useful after everyone else has chosen, but at the same time, they don’t want to give away anything too enticing.  Similarly, players choosing have to be careful to take something that is useful, and keep something they think they can build a large set of while maximising the number of blobs of cream they eat.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Red ran away with the first game, but the second was much closer and came right down to the wire with Orange just beating Red by two points.  Meanwhile, Blue, Pink, Grey and Cerise were still playing Slavika, so Red, Yellow and Orange decided to give Tsuro a try.  This is a bit of an old favourite as it is fairly quick, plays up to eight, is very easy to teach, and has a nice healthy dose of tension.  In summary, players start with a hand of three tiles each depicting track and a stone on the edge of the board.  On their turn, the active player plays one tile in their chosen orientation and then moves their stone along the track.  Players must try to stay on the board unless they have no choice and if two stones collide both players are out.  Hands are replenished until there are no tiles left, and when people are knocked out, they redistribute their tiles amongst the remaining players.  Last player on the board wins.

Tsuro
– Image by BGG contributor jeremiahlburns

With only three players, it was slow to get going, but before long  Yellow and Orange had fallen off the board leaving Red to take her second win of the evening.  Just as Red was finishing off her competitors, Pink was trying to use his thief to steal two treasure cards only to find that they were both “moon” cards.  As two moon cards had already been found, that finally brought Slavika to a very abrupt end with Cerise the clear winner.  This left time for another quick game of Tsuro, this time with all seven players joining in.  With Pink’s help, Blue managed to run out of space after just a few turns and spent the rest of the game egging Orange into pushing Red off the board.  Before long Cerise, Yellow and Red had all joined Blue spectating and the game was hanging in the balance with it unclear whether Grey, Pink and Orange would come out on top.  Unfortunately for them, neither Grey nor Orange had useful tiles and Pink ran out the clear winner.

Slavika
– Image by BGG contributor cnidius

The evening finished as it began with just Blue and Pink.  Tempted though they were to have another go a finding the oneiric doors, they decided instead to play the “Feature Game”, Harbour.  This is a recent successful KickStarter project and is a neat little worker placement game with a market manipulation twist.  The idea is that each player has a single worker and can place them on one of the central buildings or a building owned by one of the players (at a cost if it is not their own).  Each building enables players to buy goods or exchange goods they already have for other goods.  Alternatively, some buildings allow players to sell goods and buy a building, and this is where the dynamic market comes in.  There are four types of merchandise, and each has a value, but each can only be sold if a minimum quantity is reached.  For example, players may get $5 for shipping fish, but they must have a minimum of five fish in order to be able to sell them.  Meanwhile, wood may only yield $2, but players will only need two in order to be able to sell.  When someone sells something in the market, demand changes the values at market, with the values of unsold goods increasing and the value of items just sold dropping.

Harbour
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

Each player can store a maximum of six of each item, and unless they have a building that allows them to store goods when selling, if they sell, they must sell everything.  Thus, the game is all about timing and selling goods before other players and when the price is right.  The game ends when one player has built four buildings, leaving the other players with one final turn.  Blue and Pink had played the game once before and Pink was of the opinion that the person who managed to build four buildings first would win.  Blue was less convinced as she felt that that player could get once less turn and that would allow other players to buy more valuable buildings.  This wasn’t an opportunity to test these theories, however, as Blue quickly bought three high value buildings and Pink’s less profitable buildings were sufficiently undervalued to ensure that Blue’s commanding lead was insurmountable.  It is definitely an interesting little game though and will get another outing soon.

Harbour
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kladan

Learning Outcome:  Don’t get distracted by food.

24th February 2015

We started out with a game that was new to the group, …Aber Bitte Mit Sahne (which means “…But Please, With Cream”, although the game is also known as “Piece o’ Cake” in English).  This is a quick little set collecting game we’ve not played before with very simple rules.  The game uses an “I divide, you choose” mechanism with points awarded to players with the most slices of the each different types of cake.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

The first player (the Baker) bakes a cake with the types determined at random.  Each slice has a number of blobs of cream on it and a numeral demonstrating how many of that type there are in the game.  The Baker then divides the cake up (usually so that there are sufficient pieces for everyone to have one), with each piece containing any number of slices of any type.  Next, the player to the left of the Baker selects a piece of cake and chooses what to eat and what to keep.  They can eat or keep as many slices they want.  Any cake they choose to eat is turned face down and the total number of blobs of cream in the pile contributes that number of points to the the final score.  Thus, each player takes a piece of cake and chooses what to eat and what to keep, finishing with the Baker.  Then the next player takes a turn as the Baker and so on.  The game continues for five rounds.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, each type of cake is assessed and the player who has collected the most slices of a variety receives points.  The number of points obtained is the same as the number of slices in the game and is written on each slice of that type of cake.  For example, there are eleven pieces of chocolate cake in the game and the player with the most slices will win eleven points at the end.  Crucially, in case of a tie, all tied players score the points.  In general, players can only eat fresh cake (i.e. cake just served), the exception is that they can forfeit the opportunity to take fresh cake and instead eat all the stale cake of one type in front of them.  This might be a good idea if a player can see that they cannot win a category and the number of blobs of cream will give them more points than they would get from the fresh cake.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy started off as the Baker.  Blue began modestly keeping a slice of apricot cake and eating her chocolate cake (having given up chocolate and cake for Lent, this was very appealing).  Meanwhile, Cerise began collecting strawberry and chocolate, Grey went for gooseberry leaving Red and Burgundy to fight it our for cherry, blackberry and plum.  In the second round, Burgundy set the tone by pinching the a slice of apricot cake from under Blue’s nose handing her a load of relatively worthless slices in the process.  From then on, it was more about stopping other people from getting what they wanted than about collecting something useful, which meant that those who had picked up the start of a set in the first round were in the best position.  The game ended with players sharing the top spot for a lot of the categories, but the strawberry and chocolate that Cerise had picked up early on gave her a massive number of unshared points.  The title of Master Baker went to Burgundy, however, winning by a single point.

Niagara
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor GeoMan

By this time, Green, Black and Purple had arrived, so we split into two groups with the first starting off with the “Feature Game”, Niagara.  This is one of the first games we played in the group back in October 2012, and it was certainly long overdue another outing.  The idea of the game is that players are travelling up and down the Niagara River in canoes collecting gems.  The river is the feature of this game as it is made up of plastic discs that actually move during the game carrying the players boats towards the falls.  Each player has a set of “paddle cards” with numbers 1-6 and a cloud on them and each card must be played one can be reused.

Niagara
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Marsh

Simultaneously, all players choose a paddle card, then they take it in turns to resolve their card.  Each player has two canoes which can either be on the bank or on the river.  Any boat on the river must be moved and a boat on the bank can be moved if the player wants to (though if they are both on the bank, only one can be moved).  Movement is exactly the number shown on the chosen paddle card, no more and no less (except when bring a boat home with a gem on board) and the boats cannot change direction during the turn.  In addition to moving, players can also load or unload a canoe, which costs two movement points and must be done at the start or end of a move.  An empty boat that is travelling up-stream and lands on a space occupied by another boat laden with a gem may also steal it for no charge.

Niagara
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor erfalucho

At the end of the round, after everyone has taken their turn moving their boats, then the river moves.  It’s movement is dictated by the smallest canoe movement, modified by the weather.  Each player has a weather paddle card and as one of their options, they can alter the weather setting from sunny (-1) to very rainy (+2).  Thus if the lowest paddle card played was a three and the weather was very, very wet, the river would move five spaces.  The winner is the player who has either four gems of the same colour, five of different colours or seven of any colour at the end of the game.

Niagara
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor William Hunt

The game started well, and “just to demonstrate to everyone how it was done”, Blue nicked one of Burgundy’s gems and then increased flow rate of the river.  She got her comeuppance since she promptly ended up with two yellow gems.  Meanwhile, Cerise had collected two clear gems and Red followed Blue’s example and increased the weather flow to it’s maximum.   By the time everyone had been through their paddle cards once, everyone had moved on to trying to get the difficult pink and blue gems that are perilously close to the cataract.  The inevitable happened then, when everyone played a “6” and one of Cerise’s precious canoes went sailing over the waterfall.  Despite turning one of her boats into match-wood, she was still the first to get a complete set of five different coloured gems, giving her the win.

Niagara
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor cmessenger

Meanwhile, the other group were showing no signs of finishing, so since Cerise had never played it, the group moved on to one of Red’s favourite games, Bohnanza.   Cerise was very generous which meant everyone else followed suit and the game wasn’t as tough as it has been when we’ve played it recently.  Burgundy went for the “high value” market, but suffered and Red and Blue’s mixed bean strategy and Blue finished just two coins ahead of Red.

Bohnanza
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor spearjr

The other group were still what seemed like hours from finishing, so the first group tried decided to move onto their third game.  Burgundy expressed an interest in playing Blueprints, a cute little dice stacking game.  However, just as Blue was getting it out, Black suddenly commented that their game was coming to an end.  Blueprints can be a little lengthy, so it was quickly replaced with Tsuro, which turned out to be just the right length.

Tsuro
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv

Tsuro is a very simple tile laying, path making game, that has the advantages of playing a range of numbers reasonably well, as well as being very quick to play and extremely easy to teach.  The idea is that players have a stone which is located on the board and a hand of three tiles.  On their turn, they have to place one of the tiles on the board next to their stone such that it extends it’s path and remains on the board, then they replenish their hand.  Players continue until their stone collides with another player’s stone or it is forced off the board (by another player or because they have no choice because of the tiles they have), in which case they are out.  The game started slowly, but Red was the first to go, when she lost a tussle with Burgundy.  Burgundy didn’t last much longer, leaving just Cerise and Blue to tough it out.  Blue was forced to place a tile that left her at the mercy of Cerise, but Cerise had no choice and collided with Blue, ending the game.

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

By this time, the other group were just adding up their scores, but what was it that they had been playing that took so long?  Well, they had been playing Village with The Port expansion.  In Village, each player takes the reins of a family striving for fame and glory.  The game is full of difficult decisions, however, it feels like it moves quite quickly.  What is particularly unique though, is the way the game uses the delicate subject of death as a natural and perpetual part of life in the village and a mechanism for dictating the flow and duration of the game.

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

Each player starts the game with a personal farmyard board and the four members of the first generation of their family.  There is also a central village game board which depicts the different locations players can go to carry out different actions.  At the start of the game/round influence cubes are drawn at random from a bag and placed on these locations.  During the round, players take it in turns choosing a location and taking one of the cubes and then (optionally) carrying out the action. There are a range of actions, from “building a family”, to “crafting goods” or “going to market”.  Some of these (like visiting the “well”) give resources of some kind, while others (like going “travelling” or “entering the church”) are primarily a means to obtain points.

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

While the action is optional, taking a cube is mandatory.  If there isn’t a cube available at the location, then the action cannot be taken.  Cubes are then used to pay for some of the actions.  In addition to the cube cost, some actions also have a “time” cost:  around the edge of the players farmyard, there is a time track and once a player’s token has been round the board one of their meeples dies.

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

When one of their meeples dies, the player has to choose one of their oldest generation family members (i.e. those numbered “1”, or in the event that they are all deceased, one numbered “2”) kill them off.  These meeples are then either laid to rest in the Village Chronicle or in one of the anonymous graves behind the church.  Family members placed in the Chronicle will score victory points at the end of the game, however, if there is no room in the relevant section of the Chronicle, the family member is placed anonymously in the unmarked graves behind the church where they do not score.  The game will end when either the last empty space in the Village Chronicle is filled, or the last anonymous grave is filled.  The winner is the player with the most points at the end.

Village
– Image by BGG contributor jardeon

It took a little while to set up and revise the rules and to work out how the new Port expansion fitted in.  Basically this replaces the original travelling option with the ability to board ship and travel the seven seas. Players hire a captain, and then use the ship to sell domestic goods and pick up foreign commodities. Family members can be sent as missionaries to far away islands and dig up treasure chests.

Village Port
– Image by BGG contributor Grovast

Eventually the game began.  Black started out collecting green cubes, aiming for a market based strategy.  Grey was attracted by the large number of points provided by the expansion and decided to pop down to the port and start sailing almost immediately.  Meanwhile, Purple and Green were a little less certain of their initial direction and just built up a small stock of tiles (namely ox and plough to maximise wheat production).  By the end of the first round, both Purple and Green had sent family members into the church bag, and, by pure chance, both Green’s came out.  In the second round Purple joined yellow at sea, Green fumbled over getting his first meeple to work a second time in the craft halls without dying while Black (a hard task master) worked his first meeple into an early grave without shedding a tear!

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Club Amatent

Blue was also heading deeper into the town hall, piling up extra bonus green cubes and tiles to enhance his market buying opportunities.  Grey continued a balancing act at home while slowly filling his boat.  Green joined Grey and Purple and took to the seas with the highest level captain and rapidly made his way round to collect the various goodies. Purple decided that she did not like the apparent slight by the God(s) and placed even more into the church, and paying for them to be taken out and so gaining the end of round church bonus.

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

Everything was looking rosy for Black, producing quite a pile of market chips, until the sailors began to return, and were able to swap their bounty for lots of points, saoring into the lead on the victory point track. Black was still confident, if a little nervous now, especially since Green had managed to plant one of his meeples in the far corner of the sea for a huge haul of points at the end.  The books of remembrance were slowly filling, as was the grave yard.  Black then took a late plunge into the waters, while Green started sending family members to join the local council in the Town Hall.  Purple collected cubes a plenty (enabling her to make some free actions of her own choice to her advantage) and Grey was really getting to grips with the game and was making good use of his second trip to sea and happily killing meeples left, right and centre, like mad despots!

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

There was a close finish in the final round.   Initially everyone thought it was going to be the last round, but then it started to look like the grave spaces would not be filled after all and another round would ensue.  Then, out of the blue, Green used three cubes to visit the market place, which had otherwise been empty of action cubes.  Buying twice killed off another meeple, which filled the last space in the graveyard and the game was suddenly over (leading the other group to change from Blueprints to Tsuro).  With one last turn each, only Black was able to do anything to increase his score at this point.  Before the final scoring it was very unclear who had won:  Green and Grey were far in front on the victory point track, but Black had a lot of market chips.  It turned out, Black had just done enough, pipping Green by a couple of points with Grey and Purple not far behind in what had been a very close and enjoyable game.

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

Learning Outcome:  Killing meeples is great fun, if a little time consuming!

2nd December 2014

We were very late starting, but after a short discussion we decided to go with the “Feature Game” which was Grog Island.  This is an “Essen Special” that we’ve not played at the group before, but it has turned out to have been a bit of a hit elsewhere due largely to its innovative bidding mechanism.  The game revolves around retiring pirates who aer trying to work out how to spend their ill-gotten gains. This game is played on a board that represents the five peninsulas of “Grog Island”, which is where pirates that have survived to retirement can go to invest their spoils by buying pirate-like properties.

Grog Island

The idea is that each player receives a hand of end-game victory point condition cards, a number of pirate meeples and markers, eight gold coins, a treasure card (containing an undisclosed amount of gold) and a parrot card.   On their turn, the active player rolls five coloured dice, and then places their first bid.  Bids are placed by selecting any number of the dice with the value of the bid equal to the sum of the number of pips on the upper-most face of the dice.  The bid must be less than the players total amount of gold (including hidden treasure cards).

Grog Island

The clever part of the bidding is that the dice that form the bid are placed in descending order, with each dice placed in one of the five available spaces, starting on the left with the highest value dice. If they can afford it, the next player may increase the bid, by increasing the total number of pips visible on the dice.  To do this they can add dice, replace dice, even completely rearrange the order of the dice, so long they do not change the number on any die and the dice remain arranged in descending order starting from the left.

Grog Island

The position and colour of the dice have a number of consequences, both for the eventual winning bidder, and for players who withdraw from the round early.  The player who eventually wins the bid gets to carry out the actions associated with the dice according to their final position.  These include placing pirates on the island and blocking spaces on the island, but the peninsula is restricted to the colour of the die placed in the location associated with that action.  Pirates positions on the island are important, because these are the primary way players can get points during the game, but since those points depend on the victory cards handed out at the start, everyone has a different combination of goals.

Grog Island

Players who drop out of the bidding either because they can’t or choose not to increase its value, get resources corresponding to the colours of the dice in the current bid.  Thus, if the current bid is comprised of the yellow, blue and green dice, the player receives lemons (yellow), fish (blue), and coconuts (green).  These resources can then be used to carry out one of the options on the shipping track.  For each resource, there are two options available:  the top option costs a single resource and varies as the game progresses, while the bottom option is always the same and allows players to place a single pirate on the peninsula of that colour.

Grog Island

We eventually got going, and after some rules confusion (despite extensive discussion before we began), Blue won the first round so had almost no money and very little to show for it.  Purple and Green both managed to win a couple of rounds while Black, struggled to win anything.  Victory points are awarded at the end of the game depending on the conditions on the victory point card, so every turn that Black didn’t win an auction, he ominously took a card.  Now in this game, the dice cannot be freely placed:  they must be placed in descending order (and are locked so the value cannot be changed).  This, coupled with the fact that the bid must always increase (but players don’t want to spend more than they have to) means there are restrictions on where the dice can go.  Black tried everything, he even used Parrot cards to change the number on dice, but unfortunately, somehow, when he eventually did win an auction, he couldn’t do much with it.  Meanwhile, Blue (who hadn’t been feeling at all well), just collected resources and Purple and Green carried on winning auctions and accruing a lot of money.

Grog Island

Blue had spent most of the game checking things with the rules as she seemed completely incapable of remembering what was going on, but despite this, she eventually managed to win a second auction and then suddenly realised that she had collected enough resources to start to place pirates without winning having to win auctions, which meant she didn’t need any money. Purple and Green both also had pirates left to place when three rounds later, Blue brought the game to an end by placing her final pirate.

Grog Island

Black went first with the scoring, and woefully shook his head saying, “I’m screwed,” as he revealed his goal cards and the fact he’d succeeded in almost none of them.  As we moved on to score Green, Black added, “You need to be somewhere round here,” gesturing at the thirty-five point mark; we all muttered disbelievingly.  Green also thought he’d done badly, but in actual fact had nearly double the number of points Black had achieved and was within one point of Purple.  Much to everyone’s surprise, possibly Blue’s most of all, she ran out the clear winner with thirty-five points.

Grog Island

Because of the late start and the inordinate amount of time it had taken to explain and then play Grog Island, we only had time to play one other quick game.  Purple nipped out for a moment and, in her absence, the rest of us elected to play Indigo.  This is a pretty game that we’ve played before on a Tuesday, and was described by Black as, “Like Tsuro in reverse.”  The idea of Tsuro is that players start with a stone on the edge of the board, and they take it in turns to play tiles that extend the path their stone is sitting on and the winner is the one who keeps their stone on the board the longest.

Indigo

In Indigo, the stones start on the board and players have to build paths to guide the stones into their gate.  The really clever part of Indigo is that each gate is shared by two players, making it a sort of semi-cooperative game.  In the four player game, each player shares one gate with every other player, so three out of the four players have two gates next to each other and one on the opposite side of the board.  The final player, in this case Green, has a gap between each of his three gates, spreading them evenly around the board.

Indigo

The game started quickly with Purple and Blue teaming up to bring a yellow stone home, giving them one point each.  Then it was Green’s turn, but from then on, Blue and Black teamed up to build a highly lucrative gate pulling in a handful of green stones and the three-point blue stone.  There was only a single point between first and second and, unsurprisingly, it was Black and Blue who were in the running, with Blue edging it by a nose giving her a clean sweep for the evening.  Path laying games are definitely Blue and Black’s sort of games, and equally certainly, not Purple’s favourites although she doesn’t mind Tsuro.  Green commented that he felt it was much harder with the gates spread out, though Blue was less sure, as she felt it should be easier as stones were never very far away.  Well, we’ll just have to play it again sometime to find out, though as Purple is not so keen it may be a little while…

Indigo

Learning Outcome:  You don’t have to feel 100% to win.

3rd June 2014

This week, we started late partly due to illness and delayed arrivals and then we got side-tracked by the latest haul from the UK Expo over the weekend.  These included The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet, Tsuro of the Seas (an expanded version of one of our favourites, Tsuro), a little card game called Dodekka and most exciting of all, a new game based on the old childrens’ classic, Ivor the Engine, complete with the original artists drawings.

Ivor the Engine

We decided to start with Dodekka, as it had been played at the show. This is a short card game played with five different suits, Fire, Earth, Air, Water or Ether each numbered 0-4. The game starts with three random cards placed in a line from the draw deck. On their turn, a player may choose to take the card closest to the deck into their hand or take a new card from the deck and add it to the end of the row. Players score the total face value of the highest set, minus one point for each additional card and the highest score wins.   As long as the row totals twelve or less (or the new card is the same number as last one) everything is fine, but if the active player chooses to “twist” and goes “bust”, then they must take all the cards on the table into their hand and this can lead to a lot of negative scores!  The game started fairly evenly, but White was the first to succumb to the bust.  It seemed that every time it came round to White, she had to choose between taking a card she didn’t want or taking a chance that she would not go bust from 11!  So yes, the inevitable happened again and just as we were beginning to wonder if this game was flawed, Red went bust and shifted the cycle.  Green (who had not played it before) somehow managed to hang on till the end of the game without going bust and won with the handsome score of 9.

Dodekka

As the theme of the evening was new games and old favourites, next we played Alhambra, but with a couple of new, unplayed modules:  the Characters and Military Encampments from the City Gates expansion.  We’ve played Alhambra a few times as well as its predecessor, Stimmt So!.  Basically, on your turn, you buy coloured tiles with different coloured money cards and add them to your Alhambra. If you can pay with exactly the correct amount, you can buy another tile, but if you over-pay, you get no change and your turn ends. While this all sounds simple enough, there is the little problem that most of the tiles have walls along one, two or three edges, and when placed, these must match up without partitioning the Alhambra.  These walls are critical as poor play in the early stages means that it is possible to get yourself backed into a corner later in the game.  The Military Encampment tiles are placed alongside and outside the Alhambra walls and score points dependent on the number of tiles within that row.  The Characters can do a variety of  things:  some help end-game scoring, some provide a one off bonus, and others give a bonus of some sort every turn.  These cards are in the money deck and are immediately auctioned off when they appear.

Alhambra

The game progressed steadily through to the first scoring round, with White and Green matching tile for tile and Red just a couple behind. After totting up at the first scoring round, Red was only two points.  As the second round progressed, things began to get interesting as the characters started appearing.  Red picked up the first two, which enabled him to swap exchange a tile on the market board if he wanted, or get extra money if he got low.  Green got the third Character, which was a tie breaker for one tile colour at scoring. White then got in on the action with a card which would increase her wall score, and since her wall was looking good already, seemed like a wise investment.  Meanwhile, Red’s Alhambra was looking good for the high scoring tiles and the wall, although building was going to become more challenging.  White was also getting a little boxed in to the west, but built up a few camps improving her score.  Green did not have the long wall, but was really boxed in due to the hap-hazard nature of his city.  So, when the next character card to appeared gave an additional city re-arrangement action for placing a new building, Green did everything he could to get it, and fortunately for him, the others did not try very hard to stop to him.

Alhambra

In the second scoring round Green’s tie breaker character gave him a boost and White’s wall bonus gave her a few extra points, but it was all to no avail as Red soared into the lead.  Moving into the third round and the game picked up intensity as Ruth left the building (i.e. the game became “Ruth”-less!).  The final character to appear enabled the player to get a money card if he bought a high value tile, although looking at what was already on the table there did not seem to be many (if any) left and only Green thought it was worth money.

Alhambra

So the fight was on, White was trying to make her wall as long as possible and added camps as often as she could.  Green and Red fought to get the most of the highest scoring, purple tiles, while Green frantically set about re-arranging his city, turn by turn, often over-paying simply to buy a tile and unlock the re-arrange action, so that he could to get more tiles in. Red won the battle for purple and green tiles, Green just about got his city re-arranged and nabbed a couple of white buildings at the last to give him the lead in that class.  In the scoring, Green then used his tie breaker to take the lead in brown tiles ahead of White, adding them to the lead in red tiles, meanwhile, Red sneaked ahead in the lowest scoring blue tiles.  Both White and Red scored well for camps and walls, but Green had managed to pull his city together and link up his walls to give a respectable score.  In the end, the game was quite close, but Red won the day with 146 points, just seven points ahead of Green in second.  We all agreed that the character cards really added an interesting twist to the game, and will likely remain a feature of our Alhambra games from now on.

Alhambra

This game had taken a very long time, and, even though it was only supposed to be only an hour, according to the game cube timer it had taken over an hour and a half excluding setting up and auctioning!  There was still time for another crack at Dodekka though and this time Green went bust very early on, while Red remained card-less and White went bust next.  Red did not survive and right at the end, Green took a gamble and went bust to finish the game.  As we’d found earlier this is a generally low scoring game and this was no exception, with Red running out the winner on 1 point!  Even so it was agreed that this was a good game, worth playing again… and again… and again…

Dodekka

Learning Outcome:  To win you don’t always have to score highly!