Tag Archives: Wingspan: European Expansion

18th Movember 2021

The evening began with news—the landlord of our beloved Horse and Jockey , Charles, and his wife Anna, who have been trying to retire for years, are finally succeeding.  This time next month, the pub will be under new management.  In due course, we will find out what this means for our little group, but in the meantime, we Keep Calm and Carry On Gaming.  And Blue and Pink, who were first to arrive started off with a quick game of NMBR 9, with Pink aiming to get his revenge for last time (before the Quiz).

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

NMBR 9 is a very simple tile laying game, but the pieces cleverly fit together, except when they don’t.  The idea is that tiles must be placed in layers with pieces placed on higher levels worth more.  Each tile is a stylised number and the number multiplied by the “storey” is its score.  Each numeral, zero to nine appears twice in the deck of cards, so players can place each twice during the game, with the order dictated by the order the cards are drawn.  This time, Pink scored more than last time and Blue scored less, but sadly for Pink, even with Burgundy’s assistance, he was unable to beat Blue’s score of eighty-eight.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue, Pink and Burgundy were joined by Pine who’d had a particularly tiring week, and was therefore delighted to be able to avoid cooking.  As they finished, Green popped up and started setting up Praga Caput Regni.  In this game, players take the role of wealthy citizens who are organizing various building projects in medieval Prague. By expanding their wealth and joining in the construction, they gain favour with the king. Players choose from six actions on the game board, the “action crane”.  The actions are always available, but are weighted with a constantly shifting array of costs and benefits. By using these actions, players can increase their resources, improve the strength of chosen actions, build “New Prague City”, the Charles Bridge, the city walls, or participate in the construction of St. Vitus Cathedral.

Praga Caput Regni
– Image by BGG contributor PZS69

Praga is one of those games with lots of pieces and takes a little while to set up.  Green had agreed to play it with Ivory and Lilac in advance, but were one person down and there was less enthusiasm to play it from the others, so in the end there were just three with Black joining in.  There was quite a lot to explain:  Green had played a few times and Ivory had watched a video, but Black came into it completely cold.  When the game finally started, random selection gave the first turn to the least experienced player, Black.  Although there a lot of things that can be done in this game, each turn usually only provides a small choice (unless you want to pay for the chance to do something specific that isn’t available for free).  With a little advice Black was able to make his choice reasonably quickly and the game was underway.

Praga Caput Regni
– Image by BGG contributor PZS69

Black’s game was a tactical one, trying to do the best that he could each turn rather than following a recognised strategy.  With only one upgrade to his actions tile (building The Kings Road), he ended up with four wall tiles and made it to the top step of the City Walls.  Although he had upgraded his Kings Road tile it was late in the game and he only managed the third step along the road, not quite reaching the Charles Bridge. He did not try for the education tracks, but his mines progressed reasonably well.  Green tried to go for a City Walls/Cathedral strategy, but didn’t manage it very well, reaching only the second tier of the Cathedral and only one step on the City Walls.

Praga Caput Regni
– Image by BGG contributor PZS69

As that strategy just wasn’t working Green switched to completing the King’s Road and managed to get his piece onto the final step of the Bridge.  He upgraded a couple of actions, stone mine and (much later) Town tile actions, but could only manage two walls (rather surprising considering he built his first wall early on). Green did manage to reach the top of the University track and half way up the Knowledge path though.  In contrast, Ivory went very quickly for the Kings Road strategy, which he completed as well.  Like Black he ignored the Learning tracks, but did manage to get his Gold mine to the top, although (strangely) never managed to unlock his six gold bonus cube.  He also only did one Upgrade (the Gold mine action), but completed three walls.

Praga Caput Regni
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory also concentrated on the City Walls and manage to climb to the top tier, but completely ignored the St. Vitus Cathedral.  Within the Town, Green placed most tiles, but only two plaza’s were ever completed, and no one built on the Old Town section North of the Road.  Ivory won the game, with Green a second on a tiebreaker.  Everyone kept forgetting the extra point bonuses from the Upgrades and Books, but it was clear that Ivory was the victor.

Praga Caput Regni
– Image by BGG contributor PZS69

Everyone enjoyed the game, Black in particular liked it much more than he thought he would. Ivory also liked it as did Green though the fact that players seem unable to do very much through the game frustrates him.  Overall it appealed to the group’s idea of strategy planning. Although it seems complex with lots that can be done, it is actually relatively straight-forward to play, with the complexity coming from working out what they want to do and which route will provide the best outcomes later in the game.  It is possible that the key is getting the Golden Arches and therefore extra free actions, but they seemed very lacking this time.

Praga Caput Regni
– Image by boardGOATS

The prior arrangement to play Praga meant there weren’t enough people to play the “Feature Game” (Nusfjord), particularly as neither Pine nor Purple fancied it.  Unfortunately, there was no alternative mid-weight game that everyone felt up to playing, so, after half an hour of debate, Pine insisted on sitting out leaving the rest to play what is now a bit of an old favourite, Wingspan.  We’ve played this a lot as a group since it was released two years ago, but Pink and Blue had not yet had the opportunity to play the newest, colourful birds expansion, Oceania.

Wingspan: Oceania Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Wingspan is a fairly straight forward, card driven engine-builder with players collecting bird cards and playing them into their reserve.  To play bird cards in their reserve, players need to encourage them to stay by providing the right food as payment.  Thus there are four actions that players can take on their turn:  Play a card; Collect food, Lay eggs and Pick up cards.  The last three of these are associated with habitats.  Each card has a special power, some come into force when they are first played, some when the habitat is activated, and others when another player carries out an action.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to special powers, each bird card also gives points and holds eggs.  At the end of the game players receive a smorgasbord of points for each bird, for “tucked cards” (those placed under their bird cards as part of an action), for food stored by birds on cards (also as part of an action), for eggs laid on cards, all added to any end of round bonuses achieved and any bonus points from character cards.  The first expansion, with European birds, additionally adds cards which take effect at the end of each round, some of which are very powerful, and the new Oceania Expansion adds a new food type—Nectar.

Wingspan: Oceania Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Nectar can be used as a substitute of any other food type, but it is used in a different way and cannot be carried over from one round to the next.  There was no need to go through all the rules because everyone was familiar with the game, it just needed a summary of how Nectar worked and how the game changed, including the scoring with players who use it the most picking up bonus points at the end.  The expansions mostly add more cards, and although these change the flavour of the game they don’t significantly add to the complexity, so both expansions were included this time along with the cards from the Swift-Start Promo Pack.

Wingspan: Oceania Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, there were almost no birds of prey cards in the game, which was unfortunate for Pink because his Black-Billed Magpie went hungry.  He had the help of Pine, however, who stayed long enough to see his favourite bird, the Black Woodpecker put in an appearance, landing in Blue’s reserve.  Pink went on to concentrate on using Nectar and Character cards, the Omnivore Expert and Fishery Manager, both of which give points for the type of food birds eat.  Burgundy also focused strongly on his bonuses from Character cards (Citizen Scientist and Bird Counter) and both he and Pink scored more than twice Purple’s and Blue’s bonuses.

Wingspan: Oceania Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

This is a relatively small part of the scoring, however.  Purple concentrated on making sure she had plenty of eggs at the end of the game and the purpleness of her reserve with all it’s purple eggs was a sight to behold.  Everyone made good use of Nectar, but Pink cleaned up winning two of the three categories and coming second in the third.  Burgundy took a lot of points for his tucked cards and had lots of his scoring birds in his reserve.  Blue had more birds and more valuable ones too, nearly filling her reserve.  The question was whether her huge pile of eggs was enough to offset the points others had taken elsewhere.  In the event it was, and she finished with just enough to knock Burgundy into second place, slightly ahead of Pink.  And with that, it was home time.

Wingspan: Oceania Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Don’t put all your eggs in one nest.

23rd September 2021

Burgundy and Blue were just finishing their supper when Teal introduced himself.  The three were chatting when Lime, who hadn’t been able to come for over a month, also joined the group.  It was expected to be a quiet night with Green and Lilac away on holiday, Pine working late, and Pink stuck somewhere on the Warwick bypass.  So, there was a lot of chat, but eventually, the group decided to play something and settled on Love Letter.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

This is a very simple little game that we’ve played a lot, but somehow Lime had missed out.  So, there was a very quick rules explanation:  players start with a hand of one card, draw a second and choose one to play and do the action on the card.  The cards are numbered and the aim of the game is to finish the round with the highest card, or more commonly, avoid being knocked out.  There are only sixteen cards in the deck (and one of those is removed at the start of the round), so it doesn’t take long.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

The group were only three rounds in when everyone else turned up (including Pink who had escaped the roadworks), so Lime was declared the winner with two tokens and everyone else was introduced to Teal and started to discuss what to play.  In the end, Burgundy took matters into his own hands and started a game of Wingspan, so while Pink waited for his pizza to arrive, Blue explained the “Feature Game“, Mini Rails.

Mini Rails
– Image by boardGOATS

Mini Rails is a very simple little stock-buying and track-laying train game that compresses a lot of the game play of long and complicated games like the 18xx series into under an hour.  Players have two turns in each round, on one they buy shares in one of the companies and on the other they extend the “track” of one of the networks.  If it is built on a white space, players with holdings in that colour increase their value by the marked amount.  If the network is built on a red space, the stocks in that company are decreased in value.

Mini Rails
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is very simple, but there are a couple of clever little tweaks.  Firstly, there are two “tracks”, one is the turn-order track, while the other holds train disks drawn at random from a bag.  On their turn, players choose one of tokens and decide which action to use it for, “build track”or “buy shares”.  The position of the token that is taken dictates where they will be in the turn order in the next round.  Manipulating this turn order is one key aspect of the game, as is deciding whether to buy and then build, or build and then buy.

Mini Rails
– Image by boardGOATS

Perhaps the most complicated aspect of the game is the end-game scoring.  At the start of each round train discs are drawn from a bag; one more than there are turns.  This means everyone always has a choice, but the token the last player does not use is put to one side indicating they have paid “taxes”.  For the companies that have “paid taxes” any negative dividends are erased and positive dividends are counted.  For those companies that have avoided paying their taxes the reverse is true and negative points will be scored while positive points are lost.

Mini Rails
– Image by boardGOATS

This means it is in the interest of players with both large positive or significant negative scores to forgo building track or buying shares and leave a potentially valuable token as taxes.  Similarly, if a player is left with a choice of two tokens, it may be in their interest to buy/build a relatively unfavourable track to deprive other players of points.  With three players, the game doesn’t take too long to play, and with more it would likely become quite random.

Mini Rails
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime took an early lead, though of course lots of early points are… pointless, if the company doesn’t pay taxes.  In the end it was extremely tight, but in the end, Blue just pipped Lime by a single point.  With just three there isn’t much downtime and the game rocks along nicely with plenty of interaction, though as Pink said, “That’s one hell of an abstraction for a train game.”  Blue pointed out that this was what a lot of gamers thought of when someone said “Train Game”.  Pink felt disappointed at the lack of actual trains and tracks so to make it up to him, the group moved on to play Ticket to Ride Demo.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride Demo is one of the small games based on the Spiel des Jahres winner, Ticket to Ride Europe.  The Demo game has an interesting history—it was designed as a sales tool and had only a small print run.  It was so popular though, that it ultimately spawned a new range of small “City” games, New York, London and Amsterdam.  These games are essentially played the same way as the full-sized versions, but with fewer pieces on a smaller map which means they typically take less than half the time.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn players can do one of three things:  take cards from the market, spend cards to place trains or take tickets.  Players score points for placing trains, but also for connecting the places on their tickets.  The catch is that any tickets that are not completed score negative points.  The small versions of the game are much tighter with less room for error.  Unlike the others, Ticket to Ride Demo has a double sided map, one USA and one Europe.  This time the group played the Europe map.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Compared to the full-sized equivalents, all the little games are like a knife-fight in a phone-box, and this game was no exception.  Lime only completed three of his four tickets as Blue brought the game to a quick and sudden end.  Pink completed all four of his tickets and they were high-scoring too.  Blue’s tickets were less lucrative, but she managed to place all her trains and took the European Express bonus points for the longest continuous route, and with it victory, by just two points.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table an epic, five-player game of Wingspan was underway.  We’ve played Wingspan quite a bit since it came out and always found it very enjoyable.  We’ve played it enough that we’ve also explored the European expansion, but thanks to the restrictions over the last year or so, this was the first opportunity to play the new Oceania expansion.  The base game is a reasonably light, card-driven, combination building game.  On their turn, players can place a bird card from their hand in one of the three habitats, or activate all their cards in one of the habitats and carry out the associated action.

Wingspan: Oceania Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

The habitats are Woodland, Grassland and Wetland and the actions associated with them are collecting food, laying eggs or collecting cards (respectively).  Once the action has been carried out, the active player activates each card in the habitat in turn.  The game is played over four rounds, with a decreasing number of actions per round as the game progresses.  At the end of each round there are goals and each player also starts with a personal bonus card which is evaluated at the end of the game.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The European expansion really only adds extra cards, though this includes a number of birds with abilities that are activated at the end of rounds, and others that increase player interaction.  The new Oceania expansion also adds more cards, but additionally mixes things up a little more with the addition of a new food type, nectar.  Nectar can be used as wild food type, although some of the new bird cards have nectar specified in the cost.  Whenever players spend nectar though, they don’t put it back in the supply, instead they store it in the habitat they spent it on.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, the player with the most nectar stored in each habitat scores five points at the end of the game with the player coming second scoring two points.  Nectar is therefore a very important resource giving a potential fifteen points at the end of the game, although it requires some skill to use it effectively as it can’t be carried over between rounds.  Burgundy and Black really invested in nectar and managed to make good use of it during the game as well as take the lion’s share of the nectar points at the end of the game.

Wingspan: European Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy and Black also prioritised valuable birds and tried to ensure they stayed in the running for the end of round bonuses.  Three out of the four of these involved eggs, which fitted with Ivory and Teal’s strategies which focussed on an end-of-game egg rush.  Ivory also picked up a lot of points from his Common Starling which enabled him to discard up to five bits of food and tuck a card for each one.  With a maximum of twenty points, Ivory did well to take eighteen during the game, but it was only enough for third place this time though.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

It was very close at the top between Black and Burgundy.  Burgundy had four bonus cards one of which proved quite lucrative.  The big difference was in the value of the bird cards, however, while Black edged it in many departments Burgundy had a ten point head start.  This wasn’t simply because he had high value birds, more that he had lots of them.  In the end, Burgundy finished five points ahead of Black with ninety-five, in a good game that had been enjoyed by everyone round the table.

– Image by boardGOATS

Wingspan was still only on its third round when Ticket to Ride Demo came to an end.  At around the same time, Pine pitched up, so the, now foursome settled down for something else which ended up being a game of Reiner Knitzia’s Botswana (aka Wildlife Safari).  This is an unusual auction-like game made all the better by the inclusion of plastic animals.  Played over several rounds, players are dealt a hand of cards and on their turn play a card and take an animal of their choice.  The cards are numbered zero to five and come in five different animal suits.

Botswana
– Image by boardGOATS

The cards are played in the centre of the table in suits and the game ends when all six cards of one suit have been played.  The top card in any suit is the current value of that animal.  Thus, if the top zebra card is a five, a player that has three zebras will earn fifteen points for them if the game ends.  However, if the zero just before the game ends, the zebras will become worthless.  It is a deceptively simple, yet fun little game.  Blue thought she’d won until a recount docked her ten points and she finished just two points behind a delighted Pink.

Botswana
– Image by boardGOATS

As Botswana came to an end, so did Wingspan, and although time was marching on, and Lime and Ivory took an early night, there was still time for everyone else to play one last game.  After a little discussion, we settled on 6 Nimmt!, a game we all know and love.  Players simultaneously choose a card and these are sequentially added to the end of four rows of cards, specifically the row with the highest number that is lower than the card itself.  If the card is the sixth card in the row, instead, the player takes other five and adds them to their scoring pile.  The player with the lowest score at the end of the game is the winner.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

We’ve all played this a lot online over the last year, but doing the maths ourselves was a little daunting, so we decided to go back to playing the non-professional version.  We play over two rounds using half the deck in first and the other half in the second.  This time Teal top-scored in the first round with nineteen, while Burgundy kept a clean sheet with Pink just behind.  Blue’s killer thirty-three in the second round gave her a total of forty-eight, but the winner for the second time in the evening was Pink with just four points.  And with that, it was bedtime.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Today’s railway industry is no longer about trains and tracks. ☹

4th February 2020

Blue and Pink were first to arrive and, while they waited for others and their pizzas to arrive, they tried to squeeze in a quick game of Ganz Schön Clever (a.k.a. That’s Pretty Clever).  This is a “Roll and Write” game, that is to say, players roll dice and use the values they roll to fill in spaces on their score sheet.  So, it is an abstract game where the active player, rolls all six coloured dice and chooses one to keep and use, discarding all dice with lower pip values.  They then roll any remaining dice, again keeping and using one and discarding the rest before rolling the rest one last time keeping and using one final die.  The other players can then use one of the discards, before play passes to the left.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

Filling in some of the boxes gives a bonus action, enabling players to fill in other boxes or gain the opportunity to re-roll their dice or even use an extra die.  The player who wins is therefore the player who makes the best use of the dice they roll and usually, the player who manages to build the most combinations to take advantage of the bonuses available. This time both Blue and Pink started off slowly, but as they were coming to the last couple of rounds, both food and people arrived and their focus drifted a bit.  Pink managed to keep it together better though and as a result finished with a nice round hundred and fifty, some twenty more than Blue.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

As they finished eating, Green, tried to organise players in an effort get a group together to play Terraforming Mars.  It was quickly clear that it was not going to happen, as Burgundy, Black, Pink, Pine and Mulberry expressed an interest in playing the “Feature Game”, Fast Sloths.   This is a race game where players are sloths travelling around a holiday resort on the backs of other animals.  The rules are quite straight forward:  on their turn the active player takes cards from the face up piles that make the market; optionally play cards, and then discard down to conform to the hand-limit (which varies depending on how players are progressing).  When taking cards, they must all be different animals, and the number they can take depends on their position in the race.

Fast Sloths
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is a pick-up-and-deliver type of game, but unusually the sloths are the cargo being delivered.  Movement on the central board is the heart of the game and each player must try to optimize their movement to win.  When playing cards, they must all be of the same animal – the player then moves the animal corresponding to the cards played towards their sloth, so they can pick it up and drop it somewhere else on the map.  Each animal has their own characteristics, the type of terrain they can cross and how they move etc..  The aim of the game is to collect leaves and the first sloth that can gather eight leaves wins.

Fast Sloths
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy got off to a flying start – by both playing first and (even though he was last to pick) securing a good corner tree as his starting location, with a ready-made parade of ants he could bounce over on his way to the next tree.  It was a very tight game, which, after the first few turns while people built up their hand of cards, progressed rapidly with players aiming for a new leaf every turn, or at worst every two turns.

Fast Sloths
– Image by boardGOATS

There was much discussion about the accuracy of the terrains allocated to each transport animal. Donkeys, for example – in Fast Sloths they can’t travel in the mountains or through water, but surely the reasons why donkeys make such good pack animals is that they are great at climbing mountains and wading rivers?  Pink suggested that as this was a “game” perhaps such comparisons weren’t relevant?  However, this suggestion was not received well and went down like a donkey in a river…  Attention then turned to “how true to life” was the representation of unicorn transport.

Fast Sloths
– Image by boardGOATS

The game carried on, with only an occasional call of “Summon the Eagles!” from Mulberry (just imagine Brian Blessed in the film Flash Gordon).  Despite being the first time most people had played the game, all players had clearly got to grips with the mechanism and made speedy progress through the forest – a compliment to the designer it was felt.  In the end, with everyone so closely matched, it came down to marginal differences and Burgundy, after his initial flying start, stayed out in front to win after collecting eight leaves. Hot on his heals were Mulberry, Black and Pine with seven.

Fast Sloths
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table, Green and Ivory had settled on Wingspan, and were eventually joined by Purple and Blue.  Since it won the Kennerspiel des Jahres award last year, this has proved a very popular game within the group.  The copy belonged to Burgundy, and he had integrated the European Expansion and Swift-Start Cards, as well as “pimped his bits”; the artwork on the cards is beautiful and the additional pieces just add to the aesthetics.  The game is  functionally very simple, though playing well requires planning and just a little bit of luck.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, the active player can place an action cube to do one of two things:  pay food to play a bird card from their hand, or activate one of their three habitats and all the birds in it.  The three habitats, allow players to collect food, lay eggs or add more bird cards to their hand.  At the end of each round there are bonus points available for players who are most successful with the targets set out; at the end of the game players score points for each bird card they’ve played (value dependent on the bird), food and eggs on their cards, and flocking birds.   The difficult part is to efficiently build combinations of birds with synergistic special powers that will ultimately yield the best score.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Blue started by playing a White Wagtail in her Wetland, which gave the opportunity to place a bird card at the end of the round so long as she had activated all three habitats and placed a card during the round.  She still had to pay the food needed, so she concentrated on making sure she had all the bits required to make it work for her every round.  Ivory focused on first playing his Savi’s Warbler and then using it to acquire a lot of cards, many from the face-down draw pile, hoping to draw something good.  Green struggled a bit from the start, partly because he was arguably the player with the least experience, but the fact he was distracted by a bird of a different sort tweeting by phone certainly didn’t help.  Purple on the other hand, quietly concentrated solely on her game, and made excellent use of her Double-Crested Cormorant which allowed her to tuck two cards in exchange for one fish.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game progressed, Green increasingly needed prompting to take his turn, and explained that he was getting side-tracked because Blue, playing immediately before him, was taking so long on her turn.  While it was true that Blue’s turns were getting longer, this was almost entirely because the number of birds in her reserve was increasing faster than anyone else’s, largely thanks to her White Wagtail which she was busy putting to good use.  The contrast was quite stark Green’s rather meager reserve and Blue’s, although by this time, both Ivory and Purple, also had a good sized reserves.  As the game entered the final round, Fast Sloths was coming to an end and those players wondered over, so the last few turns were played with an audience.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

At this point, the Wingspan players were putting the finishing touches to reserves.  Green kept commenting how he knew he was coming last and it was clear who had won, but Ivory was not so sure.  In the final accounting every bird in Purple’s reserve had a good point value adding to her points from the tucked birds and Ivory did best in the end of round goals.  Blue had the most birds giving her the same amount of points as Purple (though the individual cards were not as good) and she scored slightly fewer points that Ivory in the end of round goals.  In every other area, however, Blue led the pack giving her the lead overall with ninety-eight points.   Ivory was twenty points behind, and just pipped to second place by Purple.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Mulberry, Pine and Ivory Ieft to get an early night, leaving everyone else to play something short;  the game that fitted the bill and was on the top of the pile was For Sale.  This is a very clever property auction game that we played for the first time in years at New Year. The game comes in two parts:  buying properties and then selling them.  So, each player starts the game with $14,000 to spend on property cards.  There are thirty properties, numbered to reflect their relative value and these are auctioned in groups equal in size to the number of players.  The clever part of the auction is that when a player passes and withdraws, they pay half the value of their final bid and take the property with the lowest value; the winner takes the most valuable property, but pays their final bid in full.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

In the second part of the game, cheque cards equal in number to the number of players are laid out, with values from zero to $15,000.  Each player then chooses one property card from their supply and everyone reveals them simultaneously: the highest value property earns the highest value cheque with the second most valuable property earning its owner the second largest cheque and so on.  The winner is the player with the highest total from the sum of their cheques and any left-over cash.  This time, Black took the most valuable property, the space station and with it, on of the $15,000 cheques while Burgundy took the other.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

At the other end of the scale, Pink took both the void cheques, but despite this still managed $33,000 for the rest of his properties.  This was nothing compared to the winner, Green, who finished with $53,000, $2,000 more than Burgundy in second.  The night was still young, however, and there was still time for one of our favourite games, 6 Nimmt!.  Although this is often derided as a game of chance, it is clear that it is not pure luck.  The idea is that everyone has a hand of cards from a deck numbered one to a hundred and four.  Simultaneously, everyone chooses a card from their hand, and, starting with the lowest value card, these are then added to one of the four rows of cards.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Each card is added to the row with the highest end card that is lower than the card they have played.  If the card is the sixth card, they take the five cards in the row and their card becomes the first card in the new row.  Each card has a number of bull’s heads on it—this is the number of points they score.  The player with the fewest points at the end of the game wins.  We play with a variant that half the cards are dealt out for the first hand and the rest for the second, which gives us a score at half-time.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time Burgundy and Black were in the lead at the half-time with a single nimmt, with Blue a couple of points behind.  Pink set the competitive high score of thirty-one.  Black picked up a handful of cards in the second half, indeed, only Purple, Blue and Burgundy managed to keep their second half scores to single figures.  In the end, it was Blue who just had the edge, beating Burgundy by three nimmts.  At the other end, however, Pink had no competition finishing with a very respectable high score of forty-five, not a record, but a substantial total nonetheless, and a good end to a fun evening.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Donkeys are not as versatile as you might think.

29th October 2019

Blue and Pink were first on the scene, armed with special deliveries from Essen and some new exciting toys to play with.  Burgundy, Pine, Lime and Green weren’t far behind and soon those that hadn’t eaten earlier were tucking in.  Inevitably, the conversation was all about the games fair in Essen and how much it had grown – this year, according the organisers, there were over 209,000 participants, ten percent more than last year.  There were also one thousand two hundred exhibitors from fifty-three nations, occupying six large halls, around twice the hall space when Green last went.

Essen 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

As people arrived, they received their consignments.  Purple and Black got their sadly rather squished copy of the new release, Fast Sloths complete with Expansion and Chameleon promo, a copy of the new portable set of Settlers of Catan (“Catan Traveller“) and a several bags of German lebkuchen biscuits.  Burgundy got his annual Concordia expansion (the Balearica/Cyprus map) and the European Birds expansion for Wingspan.  This last game was one of the sell-out games at Essen, and Blue and Pink had been at the front of what became a very long queue to get it.  That said, the length was probably more to do with the fact that it was also the queue to get a hand on one of the fifty English language copies of Tapestry at the show. Given the fact that Wingspan is very popular at the moment and it would need very little learning, the new expansion was “Feature Game” for the night.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is relatively simple, with players collecting birds for their reserves.  On their turn, the active player chooses one of four actions/habitats, and then starting with the card furthest to the right in that habitat, activating each card in turn.  The actions associated with the habitats are spending food to play cards; getting food; laying eggs, and more drawing bird cards.  Players start with eight possible actions per turn, which gradually reduces to five over the course of the four rounds of the game.  All the bird cards in the game have actions that fit with their real-life behaviour.  For example, the food needed to play cards closely resembles their diet, the number of eggs each bird has in their nest is proportionately correct and bonus actions are associated with birds that flock and birds of prey.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The European Expansion adds more birds that mostly do more of the same thing, but includes birds that have new end of round powers.  There were enough copies for everyone to play, so we set up two games in tandem.  Blue, Green and Pink helped Burgundy christen his new copy, while Black, Purple, Ivory, Pine and Lime gave Blue and Pink’s copy it’s first outing.  After making sure all the new cards were thoroughly shuffled into the deck, Burgundy’s group were first to get started.  The end of round objectives were particularly awkward as the final round rewarded players with the most birds without eggs on nests (one of the new objective tiles).

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue started off very well, but then her game stalled as she struggled to find useful cards.  Burgundy wasn’t far behind and his very hungry Griffon Vulture seemed to be very effective when it came to catching mice.  Blue’s Barred Owl was also successful on almost every occasion it went hunting while Green’s Northern Harrier repeatedly went hungry.  Meanwhile, Pink was building a very fine reserve with lots of high value birds, although he felt they didn’t give him such effective actions.  With Blue struggling to get anything she could play and Green muttering about not understanding the game, it was left to Pink and Burgundy to fight it out.  In the end, although Pink had far more interesting birds, Burgundy did much better with his personal objectives and end of round objectives, giving him a total of seventy-three points, nine more than Pink in second place.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

On the neighbouring table, everyone started off slowly.  Black grabbed one of the new European birds that allowed him to steal food which he used to great effect.  Black and Lime also took one of the new end of round bonus cards each which allowed them both to tuck cards.  Pine played a Long-tailed Tit, one of the new double space birds, allowing him to get lots of food. Ivory focused on cards with activation powers and in the second round, he and Lime built egg laying engines, with Lime making good use of his Fish Crow which allowed him to exchange eggs for food. Purple struggled due to the lack of fish, clearly having an eye on the last round objective (most birds in wetlands).

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Both Pine and Lime struggled seeing and understanding the cards, but despite this, both managed to get effective engines going, particularly Lime.  By the end, Black had lots of valuable birds and did well on his objectives and Pine missed out on a seven point objective bonus by just by one corn eating bird (getting three points instead). Black also did well on tucked cards, as did Lime.  Everyone drew for the first end of round objective (most birds in any row), with Ivory followed by Lime for the second (most birds with “brown powers”).  Lime managed to win the third round objective battle (most grassland birds), edging Ivory into second place, but the final round (most wetland birds), was a three-way tie between Ivory (again!), Pine and Purple who all had the maximum number of birds in their wetland.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Although he did well on objectives, in the final round Ivory’s primary focus was on getting as many eggs laid as possible and he finished with a massive twenty-seven, a significant contributor to his final, winning score of seventy-nine, seven more than Black in second place and ten more than Lime in third.  There was the inevitable comparisons between the two games, and when Ivory asked whether people felt the expansion had made much difference to the game, opinions seemed divided.  Having birds he could see in his garden had made a big difference to Pine, though to those people who were less interested in our feathered friends and more interested in the game play, the expansion had made less of an impact.  For those that have it though, the European expansion will no-doubt remain a permanent feature.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The four-player game including Burgundy, Pink, Blue and Green finished first by some margin, giving them time to play something else.  With Blue and Pink having exchanged last year’s variant on the 2018 Spiel des Jahres winner, Azul (Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra), for this Essen’s latest model, Azul: Summer Pavilion, this seemed a good time to give it an outing.  All three games are based round a clever “market” mechanism:  players take all the tiles of one colour from one of the stalls and put the rest in the central pool, or take all the tiles of one colour from the central pool.  In the original game and in the second iteration, these are placed straight away in a tableau, with the original representing a mosaic and the second a stained glass window.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

In the new, Summer Pavilion variant, tiles taken from the market are put to one side for the second phase when players take it in turns to place them on their personal player board.  Where the tiles in the first two versions are square (opaque and clear plastic respectively), in the new edition, they are rhombus-shaped.  Instead of rows, each player’s tableau consists of stars made  up of six rhombi.  In this game, as they add pieces players score points for the size of the block.  For example, adding a piece to an existing partial star consisting of two pieces gives three points.  Thus, increasing the size progressively yields increasing amounts of points.  Although this is an obvious difference, the biggest difference in the game play is the cost of placing tiles and the use of “Wilds”.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

Each space on a player’s tableau has a number on it: one to six.  This is the cost to place a tile in that space.  So, placing on a six-space means they place one tile on the board and five in the tile tower.  The tiles must all match the colour being placed, however, every round, one of the six colours is “Wild” and this can be used as a substitute.  The Wild colour affects the tile drawing phase too:  Wilds cannot be chosen from the market, however, if there is are Wilds present in the market, one (and only one) must be taken as well.  For example, if there are two blue tiles, a red and a green (which is Wild), the player can take the two blues and the green, or the red and the green, but cannot take the green alone.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

There are several bonuses, both in game and end game.  Players who surround certain features on their tableau get to take extra tiles from a second, special market.  This helps grease the wheels and makes the decision space a little more interesting too.  At the end of the game, players get bonus points for completing stars and for covering all the “ones”, all the “twos” etc..  The stars give different numbers of points depending on the colour.  Each tableau has one of each colour available and one central multicolour star in which every tile must be a different colour.  At the end of the game, the player with the most points is the winner.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Blue had found time to punch the pieces in advance, she had not been able to read the rules properly so did it on the fly – the rules are not long, nor are they complex.  That said, this version certainly adds strategic depth compared with the original, without the fiddliness of the second version.  Without any experience, there were no clear strategies.  Blue targeted the bonus points for the must lucrative, purple star and the central star as “low hanging fruit”, while Pink went for the in-game bonus tiles and picked up the extras for completing all the “ones” and “twos”, but didn’t quite make the “threes”.  Burgundy played for some of the less valuable stars and Green struggled to get anything to work at all.  It was really close, with only one point between Blue and Burgundy, and Pink just a handful of points behind him.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

This was a brand new game, never played by anyone round the table, so inevitably, something got missed in the rules.  In both the base game, Azul, and the follow-up, Stained Glass of Sintra, the first person to take tiles from the central pool in each round takes the first player marker and a penalty for doing so.  The same is true here, but unlike the base game, the size of the penalty depends on the number of tiles taken with the first player token.  Everyone played by the same rules, so nothing was “unfair” and nobody noticed any balance issues, however, in such a close game it is very likely to have made a difference.  We’ll get it right next time!

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Essen is Awesome!

Essen 2019 – Update

Sunday was the last day of this year’s Internationale Spieltage, the largest games fair in Europe (and arguably the world), known to gamers worldwide simply as “Essen”.  Although there was a lot of buzz about some of the hot games like Maracaibo and Cooper Island, it is the smaller, less well-known games that really make the fair what it is.  For example, Firefly Dance, is a fun little memory game with gorgeous little light-up fireflies activated with a wooden magic wand.

Firefly Dance
– Image by boardGOATS

Some games sold out within minutes: the last copy of Tapestry went in less than half an hour, and other early sell-outs included Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea, A Fistful of Meeples and Point Salad.  There were lots of good deals to be had, including Passing Through Petra, one of the hot games from last year which was reduced from €60 to just €15.  Part of this might have been to attract attention to the Renegade Games stand because according to staff their entire supply of this year’s releases were “stuck in customs”.  This included their copies of Paladins of the West Kingdom (the sequel to last year’s smash hit, Architects of the West Kingdom).

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

There were also a number of other unusual games available, for example, Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska, the new Poland map for Ticket to Ride, as well as the more widely available new Japan/Italy Map Collection.  There were other expansions as well, including the European Birds expansion to Wingspan, Sagrada: The Great Facades – Passion and Terraforming Mars: Turmoil.  In addition to expansions, there were several stand-alone re-implementations of old favourites, including the new 6 Nimmt! Brettspiel (boardgame), Glen More II: Chronicles and Azul: Summer Pavilion.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

Games fairs are also about demonstrations of games that have not yet been released.  There were many of these, but one of the highlights was perhaps Namiji which is the sequel to Tokaido and will be the subject of a crowd-funding campaign in a month’s time.  So there is much to look forward to  from the Essen haul, old games as well as new, which will make the coming months very exciting indeed.

Namiji
– Image by boardGOATS