Tag Archives: Tsuro

23rd January 2018

Once the inevitable pizzas were dealt with, we settled down to the “Feature Game”.  This was Cities of Splendor, the expansion to Splendor, a splendid little game that we’ve played quite a lot since its release in 2014. The base game is really quite simple, but although a lot of groups apparently find it very dull, our group seem to find quite a lot of mileage in its subtlety and trying to get the better of Burgundy who mostly seems pretty unbeatable.  According to the rulebook, players are Renaissance merchants trying to buy gem mines, transportation methods and artisans in order to acquire the most prestige points. The most wealthy merchants might even receive a visit from a noble, which will further increase their prestige.  Despite all this, the game itself is, in truth, really quite abstract.  Players have essentially have three options on their turn: they can pick up gem tokens; buy a development card, or reserve a development card (and take a Gold token).

Splendor
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

When picking up tokens, the active player can either take three different gems, or, as long as there are four or more available, two the same, with a hand-limit of ten.  These are then used to buy development cards which provide the player with a permanent supply of gems of a given colour and sometimes, some prestige points. The development cards come in three decks, and the Level Three cards as significantly more difficult to obtain, often requiring many gems.  Sometimes it can be a good idea to reserve a particular card, preventing another player from taking it and getting a Gold token in return, which can be used in place of any gemstone when buying a development card.  At the start of the game there is a small number of noble tiles each with with a requirement (e.g. four opals and four rubies); the first player to fulfil this requirement gets the noble and the associated number of prestige points.  The first player to fifteen prestige points is the winner.

Cities of Splendor
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

The expansion, Cities of Splendor, consists of four small modules:  Trading Posts; Strongholds; The Orient, and the eponymous Cities.  We were a little concerned that these expansions were going to take a game we enjoyed largely because it is so very simple, and make it unnecessarily complex (a phenomenon we had experienced previously with some parts of the Between Two Cities expansion, Capitals).  However, unusually, these modules must be used independently of each other, each providing a really very small tweak to the game, but potentially changing the dynamics quite dramatically.  For example, Strongholds provides three little plastic towers for each player, which can be moved by the active player whenever they take a development card.  The active player can either place or move one of their own strongholds, or remove someone else’s, thus providing another way to reserve a development card.  Alternatively, this effectively provides a way for everyone to “gang up” on one player, so this module has been renamed the “Get Burgundy” module…

Cities of Splendor
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

We only had one copy of the expansion, but with several copies of the base game we decided to split into two groups, each playing different modules.  The groups were split along the lines of who wanted to get beaten by Burgundy and who didn’t.  The first group to get going contained Black and Blue, who were optimistic that the changes introduced by the expansion might upset Burgundy just enough to give someone else a chance to win.  As they don’t normally get the chance to play with them, they started with nobles drawn at random from the 2016 and 2017 Brettspiel Advent calendars and the promotional set and then had to decide which expansion module to use.   Rather than opting for the “Get Burgundy” module, they decided it would be fairer to choose something else and opted for the Trading Posts module.  This provides an additional small board with five “Posts” with specific requirements, which if fulfilled give players extra options.  For example, a player with one diamond and three ruby development cards is allowed to collect a single token every time they buy a development card.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Although Splendor is normally quite a thoughtful game, it usually moves along quite quickly. However, the addition of the expansion, slowed the normal fast pace quite noticeably as everyone spent more time working through the options for each turn, especially at the start.  It wasn’t unpleasantly slow though, particularly as everyone had plenty to think about during the down time. Burgundy grabbed lots of diamonds and quickly began to claim some of the special powers available from the Trading Posts, making particularly good use of the first one which allowed him to collect a token every time he picked up a development card.  Black tried to go for the last two Trading posts, one of which gave him two a point for each other Trading Post he had claimed and another which gave him a straight five points.  Blue had started well, but was finding that all the diamond cards had evaporated which brought her game to an abrupt halt.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

It wasn’t long before Burgundy was picking up his second noble, and with Black two turns away from finishing the game himself, the game came to an end as Burgundy claimed his fifteenth point, six more than anyone else.  Meanwhile, on the neighbouring table, they were playing with The Orient Module.  This provides ten extra development cards at each of the three levels, a total of six of which are placed face up (two from each level).  These red-backed, “Orient” cards have interesting and unusual powers.  For example, there is a level one card which acts as a single use, pair of gold tokens which can be used at any time during the game.  The other card available from the level one deck is an “Association” card which is immediately associated with one other card and increases the yield of that card by one.  There are also some double gem cards and one that enables players to reserve a noble.  Everyone made good use of the double gold cards and the “money bag” Association cards (aka “onion” cards) in the first row of Orient cards.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

The second row expansion cards remained in place for quite some time. Purple took a lot of development cards using gold tokens, Green plodded away with opal and sapphire development cards, while Red was trying to hold on to her double gold cards to use on those difficult to get top row cards.  Eventually Green claimed a level two Orient card, a double red gem, which got him to within a whisker of getting the first noble, but Red had other plans.  An Orient card swiftly enabled her to reserve the noble, take from under Green’s nose and thus preventing him from taking a commanding lead.  Before long, Green was back, however, having built up his opals and diamonds which enabled him to claim Isabelle of Castile (with four opals and four diamonds). Then it was only a matter of time, Red claimed her noble, but couldn’t stop Green taking a top row card to finish the game with sixteen points leaving Purple, who had started, very frustrated—she was just one turn from claiming her reserved card which would have given her the last noble and fifteen points.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Red had really enjoyed the extra challenge and had felt that the higher level expansion cards hadn’t really come into play and fancied giving it another go.  So, unusually for the group, rather than packing up, it got a second game.  There was a brief debate whether going first in Splendor is an advantage or not and the discussion spread to the next table.  It seems to be perceived wisdom, but there was a debate about whether the fact that players at the end of the round can get an extra turn (and so play for more points) might offset that.  Ultimately, no-one felt it made much of a difference and since Purple had started last time, it was between Green and Red, so they played Rock-Paper-Scissors to decide. With the excitement building, the count began, 1, 2, 3!  Round One was a draw: both had paper.  With the tension so tight you could cut it with blunt knife they started across the table at each other and prepared for the second round; a switch from paper was likely, but which way: Green went Scissors, but Red took the game with a well timed Rock and started the second game of Splendor.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Playing for a second time did not change the amount of thought that went into each turn; it always felt like a conundrum, one where several moves looked like good ones.  Perhaps the Orient cards hadn’t been shuffled very well, but all the level one “Onion” Association cards came out first and the double gold cards seemed to be stuck at the bottom of the pile. Red claimed to not know what she was doing, but made efficient use of her “Onions” nonetheless.  Purple continued her gold token strategy making sure she took whatever looked useful to Green while Green ironically, just couldn’t get any green emerald cards.  In fact the emerald development card handicap became quite a problem, especially since the other two were holding on to their green tokens and while an “Onion” card might have helped, he still needed one emerald card to start with! Eventually, Green was forced to change his strategy and picked up a level two expansion card to reserve the noble he was after before someone else had the chance to pinch it—all the more critical since it was the only one he could get under the circumstances.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Red took the lead when she gained her first noble, but she said it wouldn’t last long, and she was right. Purple was next and was able to reserve a noble for herself, then Green claimed his reserved noble. The game continued to be quite tight and even though Green managed to claim a second noble, it wasn’t enough to end the game. That privilege fell to Red who finished with seventeen points. Purple was left with nothing she could do to increase her score, but that led to a debate as to what Green might be able to do. With twelve points, green needed five to draw level with Red and there was a five point card he could claim on the table. However, if Purple took that he would then only be able to claim a three point card, unless the card purple took was replaced with another five point development he could claim.  Purple decided to play king-maker and took the card leaving an unhelpful replacement card leaving him two points behind Red, the winner.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Since Red, Green and Purple had gone onto a second game, Blue and Black decided to do likewise and have another pop at Burgundy.  This time, Blue went on the offensive and decided that black opals were essential to her game plan and a couple of rounds in, suddenly realised that she had almost all the black tokens and there were no attainable opal development cards available.  With the others in dire straights, Blue was able to completely strangle the game.  The problem with this strategy is that holding all the tokens of one colour is a very powerful position to be in, but that power is useless unless those tokens are spent and then the power is gone.  Additionally, the other players will inevitably build up their cards in other colours and eventually this will lead to accessible cards for the rare gem turning up.  So, timing is critical and there is a lot of luck involved as well.  Perhaps the key part is to ensure that the amount of effort put in to controlling the game doesn’t exceed the value obtained.  Inevitably, Blue didn’t have the perfect timing required and eventually Burgundy broke free, finishing the game with a massive twenty points, leaving the others standing.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor dotkeller

The fact that both tables wanted to give their module another go says a lot about what we thought of them.  Clearly, the changes to the rules were not enormous but added a nice little bit of variation to a game we’ve played and enjoyed a lot.  Inevitably, we felt some of the Trading Posts some seemed much more powerful than others.  For example, the second Post enabled a player to take an extra gem of a different colour when taking two gems of the same colour.  The problem with this is that taking two tokens of the same colour is only possible if there are at least four tokens available in that colour.  In the two and three player games this is relatively unusual until later on when players have a lot of cards and no-longer need tokens, by which time it is too late.  In the four player game, we felt this would become much more valuable though.  On the other table, the players still felt they had been unable to use the high value Orient cards, even after a second attempt.  This led to a lot of discussion, in particular whether raising end-game trigger from fifteen to twenty, might encourage their use.  Certainly it could be an interesting variant to try on another occasion, either way, Cities of Splendor is certainly going see the table again for lots of reasons: it has breathed new life into the old game, we have two the other two modules to try, and Burgundy went straight out and bought a copy as well!

Kingdomino
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

While Burgundy was finishing beating Black and Blue black and blue, the other group were looking for something to play.  Red had started the evening relating her failed attempts to acquire Kingdomino for less than a fiver.  She had been keen to get hold of it even though she had not played it, so this seemed an opportune moment for Red to be properly introduced to the game.  It’s such a simple game that the rules explanation was quickly done:  Players take a domino which they add to their kingdom and then place their meeple on one of the dominoes on display for the next round.  There are a couple of really clever bits to this game though.  Firstly, since the dominos have a numerical value and are set out and taken, from low to high, players going for the more valuable tiles are trading this value against their position in the turn order.  Secondly, the two ends of the dominos depict terrain and when placed one end must connect to terrain of the same type already in the kingdom (or connect directly to the start tile).  Since all dominoes must fit in a five-by-five space (or be discarded) keeping options open is an essential part of the game.

Kingdomino
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Finally, some tiles also depict one or more crowns, which are the key to scoring as each player multiplies the number of tiles in each contiguous region of terrain with the number of crowns on the tiles in that region.  This means that no matter how big an area is, it is worthless without any crowns.  Although it is a simple little game, it is easy to make a fatal mistake, and that’s exactly what happened this time.  Somehow, Purple messed up her grid patterns, but worse was to come.  She had been targetting mountains and pastures, while both Red and Green were looking to forests and lakes to fill their kingdoms. With only three playing a dozen dominoes were removed and it was not until the end of the game (face down).  It was only at the end of the game that it became apparent why Red and Green had found it so much easier to fulfil their plans—the high scoring mines and lots of pasture (including three of the crown tiles) had been removed. The odds had been heavily stacked against Purple this time.  With the others both getting a full set of bonus points, it was very close between first and second despite the fact that Green had played the game several times.  In the end there was only two points  in it, with Green the narrow victor.

Kingdomino
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

On the other table, Cities of Splendor had finished and the group were looking for something to play.  Inspired by the nearby game of Kingdomino, Black spotted Queendomino which he had not yet played.  Blue commented that she was happy to play it and be proven wrong, but that she felt it took all the good things in a great little game and broke it.  In her mind, the comparison was similar to that of Tsuro and Tsuro of the Seas.  The former is a short, light game that plays lots of people and despite player elimination is still great fun with minimal downtime.  On the other hand, playing Tsuro of the Seas at the Didcot Games Club had, on one notable occasion, ended up with Burgundy getting knocked out a couple of turns in and spending the next hour and a half as a spectator.   In Blue’s eyes, Queendomino’s first offence was the fact that instead of the tidy little box that Kingdomino came in, it had a huge, Ticket to Ride sized box, mostly because there was a tile-tower included.  This offended her sense of efficiency, but wouldn’t have been so bad, if it had worked properly.  Although the magnetic closing mechanism was cool, Blue in particular had repeated difficulties getting the tiles out of the bottom, a problem that was exacerbated as the stack got smaller and the reduced mass pressed less on the tile being drawn out, making it increasingly difficult.

Queendomino
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

As for the game, the basic mechanism is the same as Kingdomino, however, there is an extra tile type: red building plots.  These act exactly the same as the other terrain types, except that there are a number of building tiles on display that payers can buy and add to their kingdom.  This building display is only refilled at the end of the round which can make being late in the turn order more of a problem.  This can be compounded if someone chooses to bribe the dragon to burn down one of the buildings.  Amongst other things, these buildings provide knights and turrets that players can use to collect taxes and score more points.  While this has the potential to make the game deeper, the downside is that it can make the already slightly mathsy scoring even worse.  Despite all this and Blue’s really rather appalling rules explanation, everyone was surprisingly keen to give it a go.  Burgundy inevitably, tried to profit from the new components and eagerly started collecting wooden turrets.  Blue and Black were a little more circumspect, though both of them picked up a few knights and used them to good effect to collect enough in taxes to ensure they were able to build a couple of nice buildings.

Queendomino
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

In the end, it surprisingly close, and after several re-counts, Black was deemed the winner, six points ahead of Burgundy in second place.  Looking at the scores, it turned out that both Black and Blue had made most of their points on the original terrain, and it was arguable how much the new buildings had really helped.  Burgundy’s entire game plan had revolved around the new buildings, but somehow, although it looked like he was running away with it, the game hadn’t quite panned out like that.  Blue asked what the others thought of it and Burgundy commented that he’d be happy to give it another go, but that was in complete contrast to Black, who’s one word answer, summed up Blue’s feelings, “Terrible”.  At some point point during the game, Red had asked whether Blue would feel better about the game if it didn’t have the tower, to which Blue replied that it wasn’t the tower per se, it was more that the tower was a metaphor for all all the stuff they had added to the original Kingdomino game:  it was nice to look at, but fiddly, totally un-necessary and overall made the whole experience much less enjoyable.  With that, she had removed the tiles from the tower and immediately felt better about the whole thing, but not enough to save the game from being sold at the earliest opportunity.  So, Burgundy might not get his second chance to play it after all.

Queendomino
– Image used with permission of
boardgamephotos

Meanwhile on the next table, everyone was feeling a little tired, but as the hugely complex game of Queendomino, was still going on, Red and Green decided not to leave Purple relegated to observer, and chose to play one more short game.  The game in question was Battle Kittens, primarily because it’s got kittens in it, but also because it’s quite quick.  This was a game Blue picked up on a trip to Reading with Green, and, as he had enjoyed it more than she had, he’d received it as a little gift at the GOATS New Year Party.  At it’s core, it is a card drafting game where players draft their hand of kitten cards and then send them off to battle.  Each of the three arenas will contest three of the four kittenny attributes: agility, strength, wisdom and cuteness.  Players decide which kittens they want to put into each arena and then resolve any special cards with the highest total running out the winner.  At various times, both Purple and Red had a victory cruelly snatched away from them to the benefit of Green. The first time this happened was to Red who had a high score with three kittens and had it ended there she would have won that battle.  Unfortunately, she was forced to take a King card first, and lost all her other kittens and ended up losing the battle. Similarly, in the second round, Purple managed to get some really good Crown cards and won a couple of battles quite convincingly, but they either gave more fish for coming second or gave an equal number for first and second place and thus did nothing to dent Green’s growing pile of fish as his kittens gambolled their way to victory.

Battle Kittens
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome: Some expansions really add to the game, others can take a great game and make it “terrible”.

28th December 2017 – boardGOATS do the Quiz

As we meet at The Jockey every week, last year at Christmas we decided to enter a team for their Quiz night between Christmas and New Year.  We didn’t have a large team, but Blue, Pink, Pine, Violet and Violet’s mum were in attendance and had managed to win for the GOATS at the first attempt.  Flushed with that success, we decided to give it a go this year too. This time there were seven of us with Pine bringing along his mate, Azure.  As before, we booked a table for 8pm and, as usual, pizza was largely the order of the day with a burger, tagliatelle and scampi for those who decided not to follow the tradition.  While we were waiting for food to arrive, Green asked whether Red was going to be about over Christmas as he had some Gruyère for her. Unfortunately Azure misheard and asked who Trevor was.  Much hilarity ensued as Pine got himself in a terrible mess explaining who Red was and why he thought she wouldn’t be interested in someone called Trevor, but would love a block of cave-aged cheese!  To spare his further blushes, someone quickly suggested we played a game, which seemed like a good idea.  With so many people and so little time, the choice was limited, so we went with Tsuro.

Tsuro
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv

Tsuro is a very simple game to teach and play, and, although it has nasties such as player elimination, it is so quick to play that these things don’t really matter.  The idea is that each player has a “Stone” which starts on a marker at the edge of the board and a hand of three tiles.  On their turn, the active player then places a tile on the next square in such a way as to create a path in front of the stone.  They then move their stone (and any others affected) along the path to the new end.  The game continues with players taking turns to place tiles and move stones trying to keep their stone on the board and avoid colliding with any other stone; the last stone left is the winner.  This time, it was a cagey start as everyone was very careful.  It wasn’t until the draw deck had been depleted, that the first players were eliminated, with Pine  forced to play a tile that caused him to collide with Blue removing both from the game.  Purple and Azure were next leaving three players until Black was forced to take himself off the board and Green with him, leaving Pink the sole survivor.

Tsuro
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

While we were eating Green asked about the “Monster Games” session the night before.  The evening had started with Kingdomino, and included NMBR 9, Azul and 6 Nimmt!.  The highlight had been El Grande, however, a game that we enjoyed on a previous “Monster Games” session.  This time, however, we decided to add the Grand Inquisitor & the Colonies expansion.  This adds an extra couple of elements to the game (but still no Portugal, much to Pink’s disgust).  Both Blue and Black quite liked the Grand Inquisitor component and would happily play with it again, but neither were very keen on the Colonies aspect, despite the fact that Blue had been able to use it to great effect towards the end of the game.  Pine had the last word on the subject though when he commented that he’d found it amusing that everyone had known before the start that Black and Blue were competing for first place, while everyone else was trying to avoid coming last.  It was perhaps just as well that the landlord chose that moment to hand out the paperwork for the picture round…

El Grande
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

We started off badly, but quickly improved with a perfect score in the second round.  We maintained steady progress, but the team that beat the “Eggheads” would take some catching.  As the Quiz progressed it was clear that we would need a really good score in the “Who Am I?”, anagram and picture rounds to be in with a chance.  We got all three anagrams, but the “Who Am I?” was a bit of a disaster as we worked out who it was (“the big bloke from The Chase“), but couldn’t remember his name.  It turned out that that was actually enough information, but we only found that at the very end, so only got one point (his name is Mark Labbett).  Although we put in a reasonable picture round, it wasn’t good enough to make up the difference and we finished in a respectable second place.

Quiz December 2017
– Image by boardGOATS

With the Quiz over, we reverted to what we do best and went back to playing board games, or in this case, a dice game, as we finished the evening with Las Vegas.  The game itself is a very simple betting game.  Players begin their turn by rolling their dice and then assign some of them to one of six casinos (one for each dice face) each of which has a jackpot drawn at random from a deck of money.  Players must place all the dice displaying one number to bet on the casino of that number, and when done, play passes to the next player.  Once everyone has placed all their dice the player who placed the most dice on a casino takes the highest value currency card, with the person in second place taking the next and so on. The really clever bit is that before any money is handed out, any “draws” are removed.  This leads to a lot of barracking when dice are played as opponents try to encourage the active player to choose their favoured option.

Las Vegas
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor ckirkman

As usual, we included the Big Dice from the Boulevard expansion and the Slot Machine mini-expansion from the 2015 Brettspiel Advent Calendar.  The large dice are double weight and count as two in the final  reckoning.  The Slot Machine acts like a seventh casino, except that it can hold dice of any number, but dice of each number can only be added once (though a player must add all the dice they have of that number).  Since we play the game unusually slowly, we generally stop after just three rounds rather than the four recommended in the rules, and today was no exception.  Reducing the number of rounds meant that everyone had to make each round count to stay in the running, especially in such a close game.  Three players took over $300,000, with Green just $10,000 ahead of Black.  It was Blue who finished first, however, thanks largely to her judicious use of the slot machine which ensured a healthy return in the first two rounds.  And with that, it was home time for everyone, including Trevor the Cheese.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Shy bairns get nowt.

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!