Tag Archives: Welcome To…

3rd August 2021 (Online)

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

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

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

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

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

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

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

MetroX: Ishikawa Promo Map
– Image by boardGOATS

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

– Video from youtube.com

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

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink Challenge: Lush Green Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

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

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

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

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

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

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

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

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

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

25th May 2021 (Online)

As the “Feature Game” was to be the “Roar and Write” game, Welcome to Dino World the evening began with a competition to see who could do the best T-Rex impersonation. Voting was carried out using the Vevox utility and the winner with 83% of the vote, thanks to his truly remarkable rendition of “Bang a Gong (Get it on)”, was Beige.  It was only fitting really, given his obvious disappointment a month ago when the game was postponed.  The reason for the competition was to choose who would roll the dice, because this is a game which is all about the dice and planning what to do with them.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

Welcome to Dino World is completely unrelated to the Welcome to… games we have played previously, except for the similarity in the names of course.  There are two levels, but as we hadn’t played it before, we played the “Lite Mode” and saved “Danger Mode” for another day, thus reducing the risk of there being another Isla Nublar type incident in Oxfordshire.  The basic idea of both modes though, is that a player (in this case Beige) rolls three dice and everyone spends these to take a maximum of three actions (one per die).  The unusual aspect of the game is that dice can be combined together to increase their value, so, for example a roll of one, three and four could be used separately to carry out relatively low value actions, or combined together for one larger move.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

There are three possible actions: Build a Facility, Build Path and build a Dinosaur Pen.  There are two types of Facility, Recreation and Welfare.  Recreation requires a die of value one, two or three while Welfare requires a four, five or six.  Thus, with the example roll above, a player could choose to build two Recreation Facilities and one Welfare Facility, or the might choose to combine the one and three do build two Welfare facilities.  Similarly, building Paths has a pip cost, so a die with value four, for example, could be used to build four straight or corner sections, two T-junctions or convert one straight into a crossroads.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

The guts of the game is building dinosaur pens, however.  There are six different types from the small herbivorous protoceratops to the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Each has a different die requirement and takes up a different amount of space in the player park, and some also need power to maintain their security.  Power comes from generators, which will supply up to four orthogonally adjacent pens.  They are free to build, but players can only build a maximum of twelve over all eight rounds, and unused generators are worth two points, so efficiency is the name of the game.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

The driving force of the game are the Visitors though, which are goal cards that vary from game to game.  In the conventional version of the game, these are dealt out between players, such that people who are sitting next to each other share them:  the first player to achieve the goal gets the points and the other player loses out.  This clearly makes the game much more interactive and competitive, but this simply wasn’t possible while playing online.  So, we used the “10+ Players Variant” where the Visitors are drawn from a deck and treated as end-game communal objectives.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the Visitor cards gave points for:

  • ≥3 Power Generators touching;
  • Connecting both entrances with a path;
  • ≥1 Tyrannosaurus Rex pen and ≥1 brachiosaurus pen
  • ≥3 Pens that are all containing herbivore or carnivore including two different types;
  • ≥5 Pens containing a mixture of protoceratops and composognathus;
  • Completely surrounding the Lake with Pens, Facilities and a maximum of two paths.
Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

There is additional variety introduced into the game with the Facility cards.  This time we played with the Picnic Area and the Hatchery. The Picnic Area gave points when next to the lake and the Hatchery gave points for each pen it was next to.  The game is played over eight rounds with the players scoring points for the dinosaurs they have in their park, the Facilities they have built, the number of visitors they have claimed and economy in building Electricity generators.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

The first thing that everyone discovered was how bad they were at drawing dinosaurs.  We had lots of woodlice, a few tadpoles, a chicken, and some fortune cookies with legs.  The next thing everyone found out was that Blue was right when she said the first few rounds were very slow as people needed to spend a lot of time planning, but the later rounds were quicker as players just had to decide how to execute those plans.  There were a lot of high value rolls in the first few rounds, in fact, there was at least one five in each of the first five rounds.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

The high values were very useful as players could build a lot of path or some big dinosaur pens, but Beige decided he didn’t trust the dice and swapped them for a different set.  Although the game was without the blood and guts of Jurassic Park, everyone enjoyed it and found it offered something a little different to some of the other “Roll and Write” games we’ve played.  The scores were fairly well spread, but both Pink and Green thought their scores which were over a hundred were enough until Ivory gave his score of a hundred and seventeen.  He thought he’d got it too until Blue’s score of a hundred and twenty had been double checked and confirmed.

Dinosaur Island
– Image by boardGOATS

As people double-checked their scores and compared notes, we also discussed how different the “Danger Mode” was and how this more advanced version sounded a lot like a “Roar and Write” version of Dinosaur Island, a game we played over two years ago.  As the evening was roaring on, we decided to move on to Board Game Arena, and with relatively few people, we were able to play Downforce, the game we played in December at our online New Year Party (as the closest we could come up with to replace our annual game of PitchCar).

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

The track was picked at random on both occasions, but by chance we used the River Station track both times.  It was when everything was set up that we realised we couldn’t really remember how to play, so had to muddle through.  In practice, the game is quite straight-forward, but it is a lot easier when you know the rules.  The idea is that players are dealt movement cards and then bid for a car.  Each player gets one car, and the idea is that players try to win a car they have movement cards for. Players then take it in turns to play cards and move cars.

Downforce
– Adapted by boardGOATS
from image by BGG contributor The Innocent

There are two key things.  Firstly, the movement cards mostly move multiple cars, which means it is not as simple as choosing a card to move one’s own car.  Secondly, as well as winning prize money for their card finishing the race, players can also bet on other cars to win. As cards move more than one car per turn, it means players have an element of agency in other cars’ movement and can influence how cars do, albeit only to a small degree.  The fact players can only own one car caught some people out as did the betting when the first betting line was crossed.  But otherwise, everyone got the hang of what they were doing quite quickly.

Downforce
– Adapted by boardGOATS
from image by BGG contributor kalcio

The auction proceeded with players getting only one opportunity to bid for each car (that caught some people out too), and with several players failing to get the cars they wanted to match their movement cards.  And then, Emmerson Purpaldi started the race.  Pink’s and Blue’s cars were quickest off the grid and blocked the first corner, before Blue took a narrow lead thanks to Pine shifting her car to clear a path.  Burgundy increased Blue’s lead and her car was the first across the first betting line.  Blue’s lead was briefly threatened by Black, but she led into the first hairpin and then squatted in the narrow lane causing chaos for everyone behind and lots of cursing.

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

With it in everyone else’s interest to move Blue’s stalled vehicle round the corner, Blue was able then able to use her supercharge card to accelerate into the second hairpin bend and block that instead.  As the first car to cross all three betting lines, almost everyone else had a vested interest interest in seeing Blue get to the chequered flag first, with some having bet on her from the start.  Inevitably then, Blue’s car was first round the final bend, but it was much closer at the end than it had looked for most of the race.  Black’s car put a massive spirt on and caught up with Blue just short of the line only for Blue to cross the line on the next turn.

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

Black therefore took second and Pine just pipped Pink to take third.  The prize money for the first four places is only one part of the game though, and betting on Blue from the start together with third in the race gave Pine a very creditable second place.  Thanks to betting on Blue from the start, Burgundy took third despite his car failing to cross the line.  There was no beating Blue though, as she had decided to put all her eggs in one basket and had bid on her own car.  On top of that, she had paid the least for her car in the auction, giving her an unassailable lead and a winning margin of $11,000,000.

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

The game is great fun, and, despite the large amount of luck in the game, there is more to it than that—it is all about surfing your luck and making the best of what you have.  Burgundy for example had excellent cards that matched his car well, but got stuck at the back of the pack and couldn’t use them effectively.  It hadn’t been a short game, and with people being tired and ready for an early night, there was just time for a quick game of 6 Nimmt! before bed.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we have reduced our consumption a bit since New Year, it is still one of our favourite end-of-night games.  There was just time for a quick game of 6 Nimmt! before bed.  Although we have reduced our consumption a bit since New Year, it is still one of our favourite end-of-night games.  The game is so simple, yet so much fun:  the simultaneous card selection keeps everyone involved and the tension as Board Game Arena adds cards to the four rows keeps everyone entertained even once they are out of contention.

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

When Blue was the first to pick up cards, and then picked up more cards, it looked like there was no chance of her making it a clean sweep for the night.  She had lost nearly half her starting points and was engaged in a race to the bottom with Purple before Pine and Black had even picked up a card.  But from there, it was a remarkable recovery.  First she was passed by Burgundy and then Black.

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

By this time, Burgundy was picking up cards so fast that he’d gone from leading challenging Purple to end the game.  And then Pine (who always does well in this) started picking up cards as well—the only questions that remained where whether it would be Burgundy or Purple who would end the game and whether Pine or Blue would pick up points before they did.  In the end, Purple ended the game, and Pine just managed to hold on to win by two points.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Beige likes dinosaurs.

19th January 2021 (Online)

Although they started the meeting early, Blue and Pink left Pine and Green to chat while they set things up.  Lime popped in and joined the chatter, with everyone else arriving in good time for 8pm.  Blue was just starting to explain the rules for the “Feature Game“, Noch Mal So Gut!, when the gremlins first put an appearance (and no, it wasn’t Beige, though he might have been responsible for summoning them).

Beige
– Image by Pine

For the most part, we’ve been quite lucky with the technology.  We’ve had a couple of issues, once when Lime and Ivory got alternately thrown out of Microsoft Teams and another when Tabletop Simulator died on us last April in the middle of a game of Finstere Flure (aka Fearsome Floors), but otherwise the issues have been very minor.  This time the Gremlin Attack was ultimately more spectacular, although it started slowly with Black and Purple having issues with the window-in-window Teams view that wouldn’t maximise.  Eventually the problem went away and Blue explained the rules.

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

Noch Mal So Gut! is a slightly more complex, more strategic version of Noch Mal!, a game we have played a few times (including with the first Zusatzblock) and is known within the group as “Boardgame Bingo“.  The basic version of the game is quite simple:  the active player rolls three colour and three number dice and picks one of each, using them to cross off coloured blocks on their player board.  Everyone else then picks one colour and one number from the remaining dice and uses them in the same way.  The player board consists of coloured squares in groups making blocks.  Squares can only be crossed off when they are orthogonally adjacent, match the colour on the die chosen and either start in the middle row (Row H) or are next to another square that has already been crossed off.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

The dice are numbered one to five with a wild for the sixth face, and the number indicates exactly how many squares must be crossed off, it is not possible to “overpay”.  Similarly, there are five colours and one wild (black)—each play only gets eight chances to use number or colour wilds during the game, so they must be used sparingly.  Points are scored for completing columns or crossing off all the squares of a colour, with the player who manages this first scoring more points than those to achieve it later in the game.  Negative points are scored for any stars that are not crossed off.  The game ends when a player crosses off all the squares of two colours.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

The second implementation, Noch Mal So Gut!, adds a couple of new features which add a large slice of strategy.  Firstly, there is an extra die which players can choose to use instead of the colour/number dice pair.   This special die provides actions like bombs which blow up any four squares in a two-by-two group, or the ability to cross out two squares with stars on them.  The special actions can only be used if a player has a “special die” token to spend.  These can be collected during the game, primarily by crossing off squares featuring the special symbol.  In addition to the special die, players also score points for completing rows, with the first successful player or players additionally gaining a bonus, special dice tokens, bombs or hearts.  The hearts are one of the symbols on the special die, in fact it features on two faces so comes up quite often.

Noch Mal So Gut!
– Image by boardGOATS

Hearts give players the bonus points when they complete columns; the number of bonus points they get depends on the number of hearts they have when they complete the column.  So this adds a little bit of spice to the game:  should a player spend dice rolls in the early stages on hearts and hope to be able to cash in later?  Or should they concentrate on completing rows and columns and end the game before other players can capitalise on the hearts they have collected?  The good thing about Noch Mal! (and the reimplementation) is the interaction, through the dice selection and also the scoring.  This is something that is sorely missing in many of the “Roll and Write” style games we have been playing.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

That said, the dice selection element does slow the game down somewhat.  It’s not too bad though, as everyone is only waiting for one player before they can make their selection simultaneously.  It didn’t take too long to get started, though first Black and Purple had technical issues and then Green dropped out for a bit too, so they all had to be filled in on the bits they missed.  A couple of others had a moment and Microsoft Teams got the blame, but we soon started playing, and as always, Ivory was quick to start collecting columns making rapid progress to the right where he started to claim lots of points.  We were making good progress when Black and Purple vanished, so we waited to see if they would come back.

Dots
– Dots by Dribbble on
pinterest.com

After some waiting, and attempts to invite them back, it was starting to look like they had a more serious problem.  Green offered to contact them by SMS and everyone else took drink, snack and litter tray breaks while the opportunity was there.  Eventually, we heard back that Black’s computer had crashed and was now doing a disk-check.  We were reluctant to admit defeat, so although we carried on without them, we took screen-shots of the dice choices they had, just in case they were able to rejoin us.  This was working fine until it was Black’s turn and it was looking like the game might have to continue without Black and Purple, when miraculously, they suddenly rejoined the meeting.  A quick flash back through the previous three or four rolls and the game continued from there.

Noch Mal So Gut!
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue picked up the first row, Green took one, Burgundy got a couple and Blue took a couple more.  Pink meanwhile had collected a full set of hearts and was starting to make hay on the bonus points.  People seemed to enjoy this implementation more than the original Noch Mal!, because it offers more in the way of strategy.  It was pushing 10pm by the time Burgundy brought the game to an end, though to be fair we’d spent nearly half of the time dealing with the gremlins. And it took a while to work out the scores too.  Like the original, the first task is to finish with a positive score, which this time, everyone managed.  As the totals came in, Burgundy, Green, Pink and Pine had all done well, but Blue was well out in front finishing with sixty-four points, more than twenty ahead of Pink in second.

Noch Mal So Gut!
– Image by boardGOATS

The lateness of the hour ruled out the possibility of playing ClipCut Parks or Cartographers (again!), and given the IT issues, we decided it was time to move to Board Game Arena.  After a bit of chit-chat about leaving up Christmas lights, Ivory and Lime said good night.  There was some discussion about what to play:  Pine commented that despite nominating it for the GOAT Poo prize before Christmas, he actually really liked Welcome To… on Board Game Arena, and for some reason found it better than playing on paper.  Green took a quick look and vetoed it as “another Roll and Write game” saying he’d had enough of them.  So eventually, we decide to play Saboteur.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Saboteur is an old favourite which we’ve played a lot over the years, including just two weeks ago.  This is a hidden traitor type game where players are Dwarves tunnelling to find gold, or evil Saboteurs trying to prevent the Dwarves succeeding.  Players have a hand of cards which they can use to progress the tunnel or or action cards which they can use to do things like stop other players from digging, cause rock-falls or look at the target cards and help to identify where the gold is hidden.  Half the fun in this game is the banter and accusations that go along with it.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the banter started with Green accusing Blue of being a Saboteur, mostly just because.  Blue retaliated and accused Green, but when Pink played a dead-end card on the main route to the gold, Black broke Pink’s pickaxe for him and Pine followed by breaking his lamp. Green triggered a rock-fall only for his suspicions about Blue to be confirmed when she blocked the tunnel.  With Purple aligning herself on the side of the Saboteurs, by breaking Green’s pick, the three Saboteurs knew each other.  The game is always really difficult for the Saboteurs, but with three against four Dwarves and the tunnel blocked, there was just a chance that they might manage it this time.

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

Pink broke Black’s trolley only for Burgundy to repair it immediately.  Pine removed the blockage and Blue blocked it again.  Eventually Pine cleared it again and with the deck exhausted, victory for the Saboteurs was tantalisingly close.  That triggered a tsunami of tool destruction.  The Dwarves were creeping ever closer to their target though, but there was just a chance.  If Purple could play a straight tunnel past the target it would mean the Dwarves would have to tunnel that bit further, and perhaps they wouldn’t have the cards.

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

Unfortunately, Purple misunderstood and, amid much hilarity, the Dwarves gleefully claimed their treasure.  They almost certainly would have won anyhow, but it still felt a bit like an opportunity missed.  There wasn’t time to dwell on it though as it was time for the second round.  Burgundy declared his position early by playing a dead end card forcing Pink to clear it, exonerating him.  Pine joined Burgundy’s side when he caused a tunnel collapse in the middle of Route One and Purple again showed her evil side by breaking tools.  The Dwarves quickly patched up the tunnel, but the Saboteurs again put up a fight.

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

Eventually, Blue claimed some coal and the gold with a single card, and it was time for the third round.  This time, the Dwarves hedged their bets and started with a three-pronged approach, but before long, the tunnel was marching forward towards the central card.  Green revealed his true nature as an Evil Saboteur by playing a dead-end card and was joined by Purple and Pink, (again). Pine cleared his blockage enabling Black to get to the treasure before the deck was exhausted.

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

The winner depends on the distribution of “gold cards” at the end of each round.  There are the same number of cards as players, and the number of gold on the cards varies at random between one and three.  The person who finds the gold will always get the highest value card and one other, as they are doled out to the winning team, highest first, in reverse player order.  The problem is, as the Dwarves have the advantage, the “winner” will almost always be a player who has not been a Saboteur.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

This time that was not the case, with Blue and Burgundy tying for first place, both having been Saboteurs, but also both having personally found gold and also been the penultimate player (thus getting four cards).  Black was the only player not to have been Evil at some point during the game and took the bronze medal, also having taken four cards, but with a lower total value.  Poor Purple though, who had been a Saboteur in all three rounds definitely drew the short straw.  In fact, we are starting to think her friendly exterior belies an Evil lurking beneath as she has been the Saboteur on no fewer than four occasions this year already!

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

As Pink and Pine signed off, eschewing our usual finale of 6 Nimmt!, this time we enticed Green to stay for one last game of Coloretto.  This is a very simple card game that forms the underlying mechanism of the perhaps better known board game, Zooloretto.  On their turn, players have a very simple choice:  Draw a coloured chameleon card and add it to a truck, or take a truck.  The chameleons come in seven different colours and players are trying to build sets, but only the largest three sets will score positively, with the rest subtracted from that total.  With five players, the game is quite short.  This time, the game started with everyone pretty much level until Blue started to lag behind.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Forced to gamble, when she found herself the only player left “in” with an almost empty truck, she chanced her arm and turned over cards.  When she got lucky the first time, she tried gambled the second time it happened and went from the back of the pack to taking a large lead.  Black tried the same trick and also got lucky then when Burgundy decided to “take one for the team” and played “King Maker”, Black took the lead as the game came to an end and held on for a fine victory.  With that, Green decided it was definitely time for bed and after a little bit of chit-chat, everyone else went too.

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

Learning Outcome:  Being evil is harder than you might think.

22nd December 2020 (Online)

For our last meeting before Christmas, we usually meet for food and have special Christmas Crackers. This year, this wasn’t possible of course, so instead of crackers everyone had a Box of Delights to be opened simultaneously at 8pm (similar to the Birthday Boxes we’d had in October).  The boxes included a range of chocolates and sweets, home-made gingerbread meeples, a miniature cracker, a meeple magnet, and a selection of dice and other goodies.

2020 Christmas Gingerbread Meeples
– Image by boardGOATS

With several little people attending, we decided to play something straight-forward first, so we began the evening with Second Chance.  This is a very simple Tetris-style game game that we’ve played a few times this year.  Players choose one of two cards depicting shapes and draw them in their grid.  If a player cannot draw either shape, another card is revealed and if they are unable to draw that one as well, they are eliminated.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the rules had been explained and everyone had been given their unique starting shape, the group settled down with their colouring pens and pencils and concentrated on trying to fill their grid.  Pink was the first one to take a second chance card, and when he couldn’t place that shape either he was the first to be eliminated and took his bonus space.  The winner is the player with the fewest empty spaces, so while being first out is not a guarantee of anything, obviously players who stay in the longest are likely to do better.  And it was a long time before anyone else was eliminated.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

As people gradually found their space was increasingly limited, there were the usual pleas for something nice, which became more desperate as people needed second chances.  Then there was jealousy as players like Pine were eliminated with outrageously large shapes while others, like Little Lime, stayed in when they got the much coveted small pieces.  Meanwhile, everyone else concentrated on beautifying their art with Christmas colours and embellishments.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, Purple, Pine, Burgundy, Blue and lastly Green were also eliminated leaving just five when the game came to an end because the deck ran out.  Then it was just the scores.  Most people did really well, though some, not quite so much.  More than half finished with single digits though, including excellent performances from Little Lime and Little Green.  There was some beautiful artwork from Lilac (as usual), but festive offerings from Green, Purple and Black too.  There was a three-way tie for second place between Black, Blue and Green.  On his own with only one single empty space though, was Ivory.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

With the first game over, we moved on to discussing the important matter of the GOAT Awards.  Every year, we give the Golden GOAT to our favourite game played during the year and the GOAT Poo award to our least favourite game.  Last year, Wingspan won the Golden GOAT Award and 7 Wonders took the GOAT Poo Prize.  This year, the unanimous winner of the GOAT Poo was Covid and its effect on 2020—nobody could deny that Covid was definitely the worst thing to happen to games night this year.  As Covid wasn’t a game, Camel Up took the award on a tie break from Terraforming Mars and Welcome To….

Camel Up
– Image by boardGOATS

Terraforming Mars just missed out on the GOAT Poo prize, but in coming fourth in the Golden GOAT competition, won the unofficial “Marmite award”, for the most divisive game.  Kingdomino and and last year’s winner Wingspan both made the podium for the Golden GOAT, but controversially, the winner was 6 Nimmt!.  The controversy wasn’t caused by the worthiness of the game, just that Blue ensured it’s emphatic win by placing all four of her votes in its favour.

Golden GOAT - 2020
– Image by boardGOATS

Although 6 Nimmt! is an old game, we’ve played it at the end of almost every meeting on Board Game Arena since March.  In a year with little smile about, it has given us more fun and entertainment than almost all of the other games put together and was responsible for moment of the year.  That was back in May, when Lime joined a game of 6 Nimmt! with a bunch of Frenchmen by mistake.  That is just one of many memorable moments we’ve had with 6 Nimmt! this year though.  Furthermore, since we discovered the new professional variant the game has gained a new lease of life, so it seemed an entirely appropriate, if strange win for a strange gaming year.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

While Pink did the count for the GOAT Awards, Blue reminded everyone of the rules for the “Feature Game” which was to be the Winter Wonderland edition of Welcome To….  The fact that Welcome To… had nearly won the GOAT Poo award was an inauspicious start, especially since the main protagonist was Pine who had struggled last time.  A lot of the ill feeling was due to the dark colour of the board for the Halloween edition which we played last time it got an outing, so the pale blue colour of the Winter Wonderland version was always going to be an improvement.

Welcome To... Halloweeen
– Image by boardGOATS

Welcome To… is one of the more complex games we’ve been playing online.  The idea is that players are developers building part of a town in 1950s USA.  Mechanistically, it is simple enough—the top card on each of three number decks is revealed and players choose one of the three numbers to play.  They mark this on one of the three streets on their player board.  The house numbers must increase from left to right and each number can only appear once in each street.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Each card is paired with the reverse of the previous card drawn from that deck, which gives a special power.  The special power can be rule breaking, enabling players to write a number a second time in a street, or give some flexibility in the number they must write.  Alternatively, the special power can directly provide players with extra points through the building of parks or swimming pools.  Finally, the special power can facilitate the achievement of extra points by enabling players to build fences separating their street into “Estates”, or increasing the number of points each “Estate” provides at the end of the game.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

Aside from the colour scheme and artwork, the main difference between the base game and the Winter Wonderland Version was the addition of fairy lights as a means to get bonus points.  These are added to to a player’s board joining any houses where the numbers are consecutive.  At the end of the game, players get one point for each house in their longest string of lights.  Additionally, the third planning card selected gave a lot of points for anyone brave enough (or perhaps daft enough) to successfully connect an entire street with lights.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

Little Lime and Lime took their leave, and Lilac and Little Green also decided to give it a miss, but that still left eight players, albeit one who was very sceptical.  Pine had nominated Welcome To… for the GOAT Poo Prize, and felt that didn’t bode well, but was prepared to give it a go.  The Plan Cards, give players points during the game as well as being a trigger for the end of the game.  As well as the street full of lights from the Winter edition, there was also one that gave points for a pair of estates (comprising three and six houses) and for players completing all six end houses.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

The game started with a lot of “Bis” cards and quite a few high and low numbers.  It wasn’t a huge surprise then, when several people completed the end of street plan.  Ivory was first to complete the estate plan and eventually, Blue who felt that the Christmas element should be accentuated, completed the fairy lights plan.  The question was, who would be first to finish all three and when, as that was the most-likely end-game trigger.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

It was towards the end that Purple commented that Black had been eliminated.  It wasn’t immediately clear what she was on about, but eventually it was apparent that one of his furry friends had decided that they wanted to be the subject of his attention and had firmly sat on his player board, very effectively obstructing play.  That cat-astrophe put paid to any successful involvement in the game by both Purple and Black, but it wasn’t long before Green announced that he’d finished all three of the Plans and was ending the game.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, everyone totalled up their scores.  Pine said that despite his scepticism, he had actually really enjoyed the game and felt he had done reasonably well and indeed was a long way from coming last.  It was very close for second place with Green just beating Burgundy into third by two points.  The clear winner, for the second time of the night, was Ivory who finished with an exceptional ninety-five points. And with that, he decided to quit while he was ahead and everyone else decided it was only appropriate that they should play the newly-crowned Golden GOAT6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

6 Nimmt! is so very simple, yet so much fun.  Players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and these are then revealed and, starting with the lowest card, added to one of the four rows.  Cards are added to the row with the highest number that is lower than the card played, i.e. the nearest lower number.  When a sixth card is added to a row, the owner takes the first five cards into their score pile, leaving the card they played as the new starting card.  The player with the fewest Bulls’ Heads at the end is the winner.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Board Game Arena implements the game with everyone starting with sixty-six points and the game ending when someone reaches zero.  It also adds a couple of other variants, the most exciting of which is the “Professional Variant”, where players can add cards to either end of the row.  Because Board Game Arena deals with all the up-keep, it makes this variant much easier to manage, and the results often come as a complete surprise.

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

The reason 6 Nimmt! won the Golden GOAT, is that in a year where there has been so much to be miserable about, this game has provided more fun than anything else.  This time, poor Burgundy went from jointly holding the lead to sixth place in just a couple of turns and threatened to beat Purple to the bottom and trigger the end of the game.  As it was, he didn’t quite make it, and left Green who had only picked up seven “nimmts” in the whole game, to win.

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

With seven players, the number of options were limited to more 6 Nimmt!, Saboteur, or something we hadn’t played before.  In the end, we went for a sort of compromise in Incan Gold which most of us knew, though we’d not played it on Board Game Arena.   This is a fairly simple “Push your Luck” game where players are exploring a temple.  Simultaneously, players decide whether they are going to stay or leave the temple.  Players who are in the temple will get shares in any treasure cards that are drawn that round.  These are divided evenly between the players and any remainders are left on the card.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

As well as fifteen treasure cards, there are also Hazard cards in the deck:  three each of five different types.  When a second Hazard card of any given type is drawn, the temple collapses and buries everyone in it and they lose any treasure they have collected.  Additionally, there are five Artefact cards in the deck—these can only be claimed by players leaving the temple.  Any players that leave before it collapses, keep the treasure they have collected hitherto, and take a share in any remainders left on cards. If they leave alone, they also take any artefacts, but only if they leave alone.  Having left the temple, however, they will get no more treasure in that round.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over five rounds and the winner is the player with the most treasure at the end of the game.  The game is extremely random, but can be a lot of fun with the right people.  This time it was particularly random though.  The first two cards drawn were both Hazards and the first round ending after just five cards with only Green getting out in time.  The second round was even worse with three Hazards in a row terminating the round before it had begun.  On the plus-side, having had two rounds ended by Mummies, two of the three Mummy cards were removed from the deck, making it impossible for the mummies to end another round.  There were plenty of other Hazards though…

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

The third round wasn’t much better, lasting only three cards with a second snake ending another round and only Pink taking any treasure.  The fourth round started with an Artefact, but when Burgundy, left, he was joined by Pink and Purple, so none of them were able to take it home.  Just three cards later, a second Giant Spider card brought down the temple and everyone finished with nothing (again).  The final round lasted a little longer, but two players still managed to finish the game without any treasure.

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

Purple made an early escape and grabbed a couple of gems from the floor.  Burgundy and Pink escaped shortly after and Black managed to sneak out as the Giant Spiders closed the temple for good.  As a result of the unusually large number of Hazard cards, the game was especially low scoring.  It ended in a tie between Pink and Green on ten, with Black two points behind in third.

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

With Incan Gold done, there was still time for one more game and it was only fitting to close with another game of 6 Nimmt!.  Having done so well in the last two games made Green the target this time, not that anyone really had enough control to manipulate their own position, much less target anybody else.  Pink, who had also done well in recent games, made a bit of a beeline for the bottom, and it was not much of a surprise when he triggered the end of the game.  This time, Green could only manage third, and it was a two-way tie for first place between Black and Pine (who always does well in 6 Nimmt!, and always denies it).  And with that, we brought our first online Christmas Party to a close and wished everyone a Very Merry Christmas.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  A box of sugar and exciting trinkets is ideal improving your concentration.

27th October 2020 (Online)

Blue had been up really early so took a nap after supper.  Far from leaving her refreshed though, she woke cold and disorientated, and was a bit dopey for the rest of the evening as a result.  She wasn’t the only one it seemed, as others struggled too and some didn’t make it at all: Mulberry was double-booked thanks to the time difference; Violet forgot and had an essay to finish, and Lime was away on holiday with the family.  The absences weren’t obvious though, thanks to the noisy presence of Little Green, putting in a special appearance for half term.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

As the absentees were confirmed, everyone shared some Goaty Entertainment before starting the “Feature Game“.  This was Tiny Towns, played with some of the pieces from the birthday boxes everyone opened last time.  Unusually in the current climate, this is not a “Roll and Write” game, though it has some similar elements and was played more as a sort of “Roll and Write” variant on this occasion.  At its heart, Tiny Towns is an area control and resource management game where players are planning and building a town on a four-by-four player board.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Game play is fairly straight forward:  Players receive a resource cube and place it on their board, then they if they wish they can swap resources for a building.  Beneath this very simple process is a lot of clever game play underpinned by a Tetris-like mechanic.  To build a building, players  require a particular combination of resources in a very specific arrangement.  The building is then placed on one of the spaces liberated by the removed resources, freeing up more spaces.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

The buildings are different shapes, but all give different scoring possibilities.  For example, each Cottage is worth three points, but only if players have built a Farm to feed them.  Chapels increase the score of each “fed” Cottage, while each Well scores points for each adjacent Cottage.  Theatres score for each different building in the same row or column.  Thus the combination of buildings is important, but so is their location.  Planning is therefore really, really critical.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Putting a building or resource in slightly the wrong place can completely negate any other good planning by blocking off an area of the board potentially  making it totally unplayable.  Because the game can be so unforgiving in this respect, we played with the “Cavern Variant” where players can set aside one unwanted resource just twice during the game.  With so many players, this was coupled with the “Town Hall Variant” where resource cards are used to determine two of the resources and players choose their own for every third round.  Also, instead of placing wooden buildings, players were to draw their constructions on their printout.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was keen to get the game moving, but others struggled to get their heads round the planning element at the start.  Green started patiently re-explaining to Little Green, while some players were ready to move on, and others were trying to concentrate on working out what strategies might work best or were variously delayed by beautifying their artwork.  As a result, it took a while for everyone to get on the same page and feel the rhythm of the game.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time it was too late for poor Lilac who had got herself in a mess and had taken an early shower as a result.  Green had also somehow got himself an extra resource, and once he noticed, didn’t take his next “free choice”. Things weren’t helped by Green’s internet that chose to throw a bit of a wobbly and just added to the frustration and confusion all round.  Meanwhile Blue, who wasn’t very with it and had focussed what little energy she had on keeping everyone else on track, realised she had forgotten to build herself a farm.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Belatedly, Blue tried to rectify things without success and as a result was first to be eliminated with what she thought was a final score of minus four (although this was corrected to one on a recount).  By this time Green had sorted his internet issues and it wasn’t long before other players were putting resources in their Caverns or reporting that it there were only certain resources they could use.  Burgundy was next to be eliminated closely followed by Pine and then everyone else shortly after.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was the last GOAT standing, but longevity doesn’t necessarily mean a high score, though obviously it does help.  In the end, it was a tie between Green and Pink who both finished with thirty points, three points ahead of Burgundy in third.  A quick rules check suggested that Green should take victory on the tie-break, but there was also some discussion as to whether Green should forfeit his position because of his “cheating”, but in the end, Pine offered him a lifeline in a “Guess the colour of the cube” challenge.  When Green called it correctly though, it was clear from the response of the other players that it was best to call it a tie and leave it at that.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

From there the group moved on to the Halloween version of Welcome To…, which is a game we played for the first time a few weeks back.  Welcome To… is one of the most popular of the “Roll and Write” style games and is the highest ranked on the Board Game Geek website.  This Halloween themed version is a little step up in complexity with a couple of minor added features, but otherwise is very similar to the original.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Like Tiny Towns, Welcome To… is played with cards which give people actions.  Rather than building a town though, players are building a 1950s US housing estate.  The top card is turned on each of three decks of cards, and players chose one to use.  The cards are numbered one to fifteen which reflect the house numbers players write on one of three streets on their play-sheet. They must increase from left to right—if a player can’t write one of the three numbers available, they must take a “Building Permit Refusal”—when someone takes their third, that triggers the end of the game.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

As well as the house number, players also get a special action, based on the colour of the reverse of the previous card.  These include rule-breaking actions, like allowing players to alter the number the write down by one or two, or allowing them to build a second house with the same number in a street.  They also enable players to build walls and parks, and increase the number of points they will get for different sized completed estates.  Last time we played we had found that swimming pools were particularly lucrative, but this time they just did not appear.  Everyone patiently waited, but they just didn’t arrive, so everyone had to make the best they could of all the parks they could build.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

The Halloween version adds other features—every time players build a house with a ghost or a candy corn in the garden, they can choose one to circle.  Collecting a set of four, six or nine candy corn gives points, while similar sets of ghosts give special actions.  The catch is that each of these can only be claimed once during the game.  Given the difficulties we have seeing what everyone else is doing, we “house ruled” it that each per player could only claim these on the turn they achieved it giving them the option to stick or to gamble in the hope of getting enough for a more valuable.

Welcome To... Halloweeen
– Image by boardGOATS

As well as the ghosts and candy corn, there was also a special City Plan that players could target.  Since the one drawn at random gave points for circling all five ghosts in the bottom street, it was no surprise that several players went hard and fast for collecting ghosts. Blue and Green both got six ghosts and claimed two extra swimming pools, while Burgundy got the full set of nine, but got himself in an almighty mess trying to get the best from them.

Welcome To... Halloweeen
– Image by boardGOATS

People struggled with the change in rules and the darker colours in the printout as well as just generally struggling because it was one of those nights.  Although they didn’t know it at the time, Green and Blue followed almost identical strategies both going for the City Plans (the one with ghosts and the other two with a four and a five estate and two five estates respectively).  Somehow, Blue just edged Green into second, three points ahead of his score of seventy with Black in third just ahead of Pink.

Welcome To... Halloweeen
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, Ivory bade goodnight and left the rest of the group to play what turned out to be a rather savage game of Saboteur on Board Game Arena.  Saboteur is great fun with a lot of players, but although we only had seven this time, we decided we’d take a break from our usual game of choice at this point, 6 Nimmt!.  The game is really simple:  players take it in turns to play a card from their hand, either to extend the tunnel or a special action, breaking or repairing a player’s tools or causing a rockfall.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

What a player chooses to play depends on which team they are on, a Good Dwarf, trying to find the gold, or an Evil Saboteur who’s sole aim is to stop the dwarves.  The first thing the Dwarves have to do therefore is always establish who the Evil Dwarves are.  So, when Purple played a tunnel card in a sub-optimal place, that was immediately labelled as a “Saboteury move” and she immediately attracted a broken pick-axe and then a broken trolley.  Although she tried to retaliate, Purple and her silent partner Black, failed to prevent the Dwarves getting to the gold.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

The rules for Saboteur, as written (and as implemented on Board Game Arena) consist of three rounds with gold cards distributed at the end of each, so the group began another round.  Nobody believed that Purple could be an Evil Saboteur two rounds in a row, but when she started with another “Saboteury move”, everyone reappraised the situation and she quickly attracted another broken pick-axe.  The Dwarves struggled a bit more this time, largely due to the cards they’d been dealt.  The situation was summed up by Burgundy when he commented, “If anyone wants anything breaking or fixing, then I’m your Dwarf.”  But as the Dwarves desperately needed tunnels building, that wasn’t much help….

Saboteur on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple confirmed her allegiance by playing a rockfall card on a critical crossroads.  Fortunately, Black was able to repair albeit with an inconvenient T-junction that prevented the dwarves heading straight for the gold.  It wasn’t immediately obvious who Purple’s partner was and everyone was very surprised when it turned out to be Black and the Evil Saboteurs had been the same for two games on the bounce.  Surely that wouldn’t be the the same for the final round, would it?

Saboteur on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

The final round was much longer and much closer.  Purple tried desperately to get everyone to believe that she was a Good Girl this time, but after the last two rounds everyone was cautious.  Black quickly revealed that he was an Evil Saboteur yet again, and it soon became apparent that Green, who is always a suspect, was his partner.  While Black messed about with the tunnel, Green damaged the Dwarves tools and generally made a nuisance of himself.  Eventually the Good Guys won though some excellent teamwork, resulting in Burgundy finding the gold.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

There is so much luck in the allocation of gold cards at the end of the rounds that we don’t really pay much attention to the result, but this time, it was a tie between Pine and Burgundy.   With that, Pine and Green left the others to play Sushi Go!, a card drafting game that we’ve recently discovered the implementation of on Board Game Arena.  The game is really simple and very quick, so was ideal given that everyone was quite tired.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

In this game, players start each round with a hand of sushi cards, then keep one and pass the rest on, with the aim of collecting sets to give points.  In the first round, Pink top-scored with Blue and Black not far behind, though that was probably because Purple and Burgundy prioritised starting their collection of puddings.

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

In the second round, Burgundy managed a massive twenty points—not quite beating his record of twenty-five, but still more than anyone else.  Consistency is the key to this game though and Pink’s fifteen meant he still had the lead going into the final round.  And it was a tough round, that was ultimately all about the puddings.  Blue starved Pink of dessert, saving her from last place and leaving him with the minus six and almost nothing from the round.  Burgundy had the most puddings and with it took the bonus six points and, as a result finished six points clear of Black in second.  And with that, it was bedtime.

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  One should never ignore the offer of pudding.

29th September 2020 (Online)

This week it was Ivory’s turn to share his pizza with everyone, while Blue and Pink shared ice creams with Purple and Black.  With the food over, Blue explained how we were going to prepare for our birthday next time, by “wrapping parcels” for Crappy Birthday.  This is a silly party game that we play every year to celebrate the anniversary of our first meeting in 2012.  Basically, players take it in turns to have their birthday, and everyone else chooses a gift from a hand of five cards.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately, this doesn’t really lend itself to playing online, but as so many things have been cancelled this year, we didn’t want this to be one of them.  So, to get round the difficulties, we decided to play it over two evenings:  firstly wrapping cards, then opening them two weeks later.  Each player had a set of electronic files containing cards.  Everyone opened the first file and chose a card to give to the player whose name was drawn out of the box lid, making a note of what they were giving and to whom.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

When people had gifted two parcels, they closed the file and opened the next one which included the same cards as the first file and a couple of new ones, thus simulating drawing two more cards.  Once everyone’s name had been drawn, everyone emailed the list of gifts to Blue for her to arrange delivery ready for next time.  And then it was on to the “Feature Game” which was Welcome To….

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Welcome To… is another “Roll and Write” style game, though without the colouring-in element of some of the games we’ve played recently, and as a result is a bit more complex.  In this game, players are planing and building housing estates in 1950s USA.  This time, the player board depicts three rows of houses and a scoring table.  The idea is that there are three decks of double sided cards with a house number on one side and an action on the other.  At the start of each round, the top card is turned over to show the action side.  Players then choose one of the three house number/action pairs to use.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Players must write a house number on any one of the three streets, but the numbers can only feature once on each, and must be ascending from left to right.  Players may then carry out the associated action, which could be building a fence, building a swimming pool or park, adding a number a second time (“Bis!”), modifying the number by one or two (using the Temping Agency) or increasing the value of houses on “Estates” of certain sizes.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, players score points for building swimming pools and parks, having used the “Temping Agency” the most, and also for different sized “Estates”.  An Estate is a continuous group of houses (i.e. no gaps) with a fence at each end.  Estates of size one up to six score different numbers of points and one of the actions players can use is selectively increase the value of some of these.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Additionally, players score points for completed “City Plans”.  These are three cards revealed at the start of the game. which give points to people who complete their requirements.  The catch is, a bit like Noch Mal!, the first person (or people) to be successful get more points, usually around double that of anyone who finishes them later in the game.  This is also one of three “game timers”, with the game ending when someone completes all three Plans.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

The game also ends if someone manages to fill in all the houses in all three streets, which is not easy.  More likely, players are going to find they cannot build any of the three houses being offered.  If this happens, players player take a “Building Permit Refusal”—when someone takes their third, that also triggers the end of the game.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

There are lots of little rules that make the game more complex than most of the “Roll and Write” games we’ve played.  For example, players can build fences anywhere, but parks must be on the street they built their house on, and pools can only be built in the garden of the house if it was on the plan.  That said, it is not actually difficult, but there is a lot to think about and if players are going to score well.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

There were a lot of questions from the group, and people clearly found it difficult to understand, not helped by the difficulties of learning a game over MS Teams.  Nevertheless, teaching and learning through a computer is a skill lots of school teachers, pupils, university lecturers and students have had to develop this year, and it turns out it is useful for gamers too.  So eventually, Pink finished shuffling and turned over the first set of cards to start the game.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Everything went quiet as people put their “Game Face” on and concentrated.  It wasn’t long before the silence was broken by Burgundy sighing, Pine grumbling and Blue checking how people were getting on.  To reduce the waiting and questions whether everyone was ready, we used the “hands up” function to indicate when players had finished writing.  This was really helpful to keep track of things with so many people playing.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

The City Plans in play were all from the basic game (and we weren’t playing with roundabouts either), so all three were based on estate sizes:  1) two of size four; 2) a six and three ones; 3) a four and a three.  Green was first to complete a City Plan taking number three, and was soon followed by Pink and Ivory taking the lucrative second Plan giving them eleven points each.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Gradually, as the game progressed others claimed more City Plans and there was a feeling that the game was coming to a close.  Increasingly, people found their choices were becoming more limited adding to the tension.  This feeling was heightened when Purple became the first to be unable to play, and took a Building Refusal Permit.  A few rounds later, and Mulberry ended the game by completing her third City Plan and everyone started adding up their scores.

Welcome To...
– Animation by boardGOATS

Despite people finding it difficult at first, the scores were surprisingly close with a winning score of ninety-five and most of the group not far behind.  It is definitely a game that rewards a little experience especially as it is quite different to the other games we’ve been playing recently, so it wasn’t surprising that Pink ran out the winner.  Green ran him close though, with an excellent ninety-two.  There was a bit of chatter while some said their “good byes” and the rest of the group decided to play Saboteur on Board Game Arena.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is easy to play and everyone knows what they are doing, so it is always quick to get started.  Each player has a hand of cards and take it in turns to either play a tunnel card, or play an action card.  The aim of the game is to help the team build a tunnel to whichever of the three terminal cards holds the gold.  Unless you are a Saboteur of course, in which case, your aim is to hinder the efforts made by everyone else, but without being spotted…

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Saboteur is usually better with more players, but the group had sort of decided they were going to play it before they realised how many people there were left.  With just six there were either one or two Evil Saboteurs and the rest were Lovely Dwarves.  This makes it hard for the Saboteur team and they have to get their act together quickly to make the most of what little time they have.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

In the first round, Pine made it very clear he was going to make the most of his time and bluntly said he thought Blue was a saboteur and broke her pick axe for her, preventing her doing any tunnelling.  This was apparently in response to her playing a map card in her first turn which he decreed was “A very Saboteury Move”.  Everyone else felt that Pine’s move was much more “Saboteury” and jumped on him in response.  Everyone except Purple that is, who ran to his aid.

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

It wasn’t long before Purple’s true colours were flying when she joined Pine and blocked the tunnel with dead-ends.  However, the Dwarves, now knowing there wasn’t a traitor hiding in their midst, got their act together, dealt with the blockage and headed for the gold.  Before long, it was 1-0 to the Dwarves.

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

The Evil Saboteurs were a little more cagey in the second round.  Purple looked at the bottom card and indicated it was Gold.  After last time, nobody trusted her so first Pink and then Pine double checked and all concurred.  The Dwarves were one card away from an easy run to the Gold when Burgundy’s rockfall card told everyone else which side he was on.  It was too little too late, however, and nothing he or his partner in crime, Black, could do could prevent the Brave Dwarves repainting the tunnel and finding the gold.

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

Early in the third and final round, Burgundy started by looking at the middle card which he claimed was coal.  By this time, suspicion was a currency everyone was rich in, so Pink double-checked and concurred, then checked the bottom target card.  Burgundy claimed suspicion and immediately verified that they’d found Gold.  Purple announced that she thought Pink was behaving suspiciously and broke his pickaxe for him—an extremely Saboteury move!

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

Burgundy attempted to redeem his behaviour in the previous round by repairing Pink’s tools, while Black repaid Purple by smashing Purple’s lamp.  Although Purple was able to fix it herself, it looked like the Dwarves were home safe and sound until Pine’s turn.  As discussed with the team, he played a card between the middle and bottom cards, but when it connected the carefully dug tunnel to the middle, coal, everyone was sure that they’d found the second Saboteur.

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

Pine protested that it was incompetence rather than malice that meant he’d put the card in upside down.  The Dwarves had to fix his “mistake” though, and their cards were running out.  Black discarded a card and Blue had no choice but to smash some more of Purple’s tools, leaving it down to Pink to finish things.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end, it turned out that the Saboteurs were Black and Purple, and Pine just had a sausage-finger-moment.  That left Blue as the “winner”, but the scoring is very random and highly dependent on turn order, so really all that can be said is that it was 3-0 to the Loyal Dwarves.  There was time for something else before Pink’s bedtime, and given the shortage of time, the group bowed to the inevitable and moved on to 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This has become one of our favourite games, especially since we’ve been forced to play online as it is light and fun and fast to play, and helps us to forget the current situation.  The game is so simple, and yet so much fun, with almost no downtime.  Players simply choose a card and Board Game Arena does the rest.  Of course, everyone like to think they have control and their strategy is working, right up until it isn’t.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that the card chosen is played on the end of one of four rows, with players trying to avoid placing the sixth card as that means the points on the other five cards are deducted from their total.  So the aim of the game is to try to second-guess what everyone else is doing and stay safe.  Recently, we’ve been playing the “Professional” variant which allows players to add cards to either end of the rows, adding more “strategy” and more chaos, and a whole lot more fun.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Things started to go wrong Blue first, when she cheered thinking she’d got away without a pick-up, only to discover she’d got nine “nimmts”.  Purple picked up nine in the same turn, however, while Blue managed to stabilise her game, Purple’s went from bad to worse when she managed what might be a new record, picking up nineteen nimmts in a single turn!

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

Fairly inevitably, Purple triggered the end of the game, but the other end was less clear.  That was until the end of the game, when Blue, who had somehow managed to avoid picking up anything else, just pipped Burgundy to the win.  With that, Pine and Pink bade everyone else good night and the remaining foursome looked for something else to play.

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

There were a few options, but they were limited by the fact that nobody wanted to play anything long or too intense. In the end, they decided to give Sushi Go! a try.  This is a game we’ve all played before, but nobody had played on Board Game Arena.  is a pure card drafting game: players start with a hand of cards and keep one and pass the rest on.  The aim is to collect cards in combinations to give them points.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

In Sushi Go!, it is all about collecting the right cards at the right time.  For example, three Sashimi cards are worth ten points, but two are worthless.   There is also a significant “hate drafting” aspect though.  This is where players take cards to inconvenience others rather than to benefit one’s own game.  This is mostly because Maki Roll and Pudding points are awarded to those with the most cards, but can also be because causing another player to finish with worthless cards can sometimes be as effective as scoring points oneself.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

The first round was one of rediscovery since it was a very long time since anyone had played it.  Blue rediscovered the perils of trying to collect Sashimi, when she got stuck with only two which scored her nothing.  Burgundy, on the other hand, just before her in turn order, collected three and claimed ten points.  Purple collected lots of Nigiri and Black made hay out of Maki Rolls.  So, going into the second round it was pretty much a three-way tie with all to play for.

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

In the second and third rounds, Black and Purple made a lot of points from playing Nigiri cards after wasabi cards which is a multiplier and can be very lucrative.  Although Black was in the lead going into the final round, the fact Burgundy took two Wasabi/Nigiri combos meant he took a fine victory.  The game plays so quickly though and the Board Game Arena rendition is so good that everyone fancied trying giving it another go.

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

The second game was much closer, the competition for Wasabi and Maki Rolls got more intense with everyone now well aware of how lucrative they could be.  Although it was very close, in the end, Burgundy just managed to keep his crown, beating Black into second place by a single point and everyone else just a couple of points behind.  With such a tight finish, a third game was inevitable.  Blue who had come last in the previous two games was determined not to this time.  However, a grotty starting had meant she was forced to start with lot of puddings.

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

By this time, everyone was looking more carefully at what they were passing on, so Blue finished with a bit of hate-drafting, ensuring that Burgundy couldn’t get a full set of Sashimi and that ensured she avoided the wooden spoon.  Purple and Black started out with Wasabi and really managed to make their cards count.  In the end, there were still only two points in it, but this time it was Black and Purple fighting out for first place, which Black just took.  And then it was definitely time for bed.

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

Learning Outcome: Swimming pools are not as common as you might think.

15th September 2020 (Online)

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

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Patchwork Doodle
– Animation by boardGOATS

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

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

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Animation by boardGOATS

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

Goat or Bird?
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

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

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

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boardgames in the News: What are “Roll and Write” Games?

In the last few years, “Roll and Write” games have been everywhere, but what defines them and what let to the rise in their popularity?  Well, their roots lie in simple dice games, which are as old as the hills, but arguably the first “Roll and Write” game is Yahtzee, a game that is now a childhood classic.  Although the commercial game dates from the 1950s, the game is based on the older family of traditional games, including Yacht, Generala, Poker Dice etc..

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that players roll five dice to try to get specific combinations, re-rolling some, all or none up to three times.  These fall into different categories each of which can only be scored once and are crossed off on a scoring sheet.  This roll and re-roll mechanism has been used as the basis of many more modern games like Pickomino (aka Heck Meck), To Court the King and even Roll for the Galaxy, but these are not “Roll and Write” games, they are dice games.  More dice games with a “Writing” element, followed as well though.  These include Reiner Knizia’s Decathalon, the Catan Dice Game, and Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age with its subsequent series of games.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

Perhaps the most influential game of this type, however, is Qwixx.  In this game, each player has their own score-sheet with four rows, numbered two to twelve, each in a different colour.  On their turn, the active player rolls six dice: two white and one of each of the four colours. The active player can mark off the sum of one white die and one coloured die in the row of the same colour, while everyone else can mark off the sum of the two white dice on any one of their four rows.  The catch is that the numbers must be crossed out in order: descending for the blue and green rows, ascending for the red and yellow rows.

Qwixx
– Image by boardGOATS

And that is the core that really makes a “Roll and Write” game:  the decision making.  While there is no industry recognised definition, it is widely understood that games that fall into the “Roll and Write” category have the following key characteristics:

  • A randomiser: traditionally dice, but some games use cards etc.;
  • A key element of decision making;
  • Individual work sheets, which are more than just a score pad.

Qwixx was published seven years ago, and was popular in its own right receiving a nomination for the Spiel des Jahres award in 2013.  Its legacy, however, is the way it helped to open the door for other games in the genre.  Noch Mal! (aka Encore!) followed in 2016 and in 2018, “Roll and Write” games really took off.  Yahtzee, Quixx and Roll Through the Ages have now been followed many other very popular and successful games including, Welcome to…, Ganz Schön Clever! (aka That’s Very Clever!), Railroad Ink, and Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale.  Between them, these games have received two Kennerspiel and two Spiel des Jahres nominations.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

There are now, hundreds of “Roll and Write” games available and new games continue to arrive, each with their own twist: some based round rolling dice, some involving a deck of cards, and there are even games now that involve cutting out!  But what is the appeal, and why the sudden growth in this genre?  For the publisher they are obviously cheap and relatively easy to produce, often needing little in the way of complex or bespoke components.  In a squeezed market this is very important.  For designers they are easy to prototype and many of these games are relatively easy to play-test too.  This is because they can often be played solo, and the mathematics of probability are well understood (by mathematicians at least).

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

For gamers, the low price of these games means financial investment is typically small.  They are usually quick to learn and don’t over-stay their welcome either, which means they are low risk and if they “click” they also can see a lot of table time.  They are easy to play remotely too, because players just need pens and a work-sheet each, and access to a web camera.  And thus, the timing of the rise has been serendipitous: with so many people stuck at home this year, “Roll and Write” games are really coming into their own now.  It remains to be seen whether their popularity will continue into 2021 and beyond.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS