Tag Archives: Wingspan

16th March 2021 (Online)

Purple, Black, Pine and Green chatted while Blue reminded herself of the rules for the first game.  Green showed everyone his new game, Fossilis, which comes with little plastic dinosaur bones, tweezers, and even a tiny plastic scorpion—one to play when we get back to the pub, along with the very newly released Red Rising, the Oceania Expansion for the really popular Wingspan, and a whole host of other games that we’ve been waiting over a year to play.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

And sadly, with the realisation that it was a year and a day since a very small group met at The Jockey for the last (unofficial) games night there, we moved on to playing the “Feature Game“, Das Labyrinth des Pharao.  Das Labyrinth des Pharao is a tile laying game in a similar vein to Take it Easy! which we played a few weeks ago, or the Spiel des Jahres nominee, Karuba (which we last played about five years ago).  In Das Labyrinth des Pharao though, players are exploring a pyramid and collecting treasure.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we’ve not played it on a Tuesday, some of the group have played it before at the Didcot Games Club (November 2015 and September 2016).  Like all the games that we’ve found that work well played online, Das Labyrinth des Pharao is quite simple to play, but it is a little bit “thinky” relying on planning and a little bit of luck.  Everyone had the tiles and board that were delivered a few weeks back, and they had found their Tiny Towns cubes and a meeple from one of the special Christmas crackers we’ve had at one of the unChristmas Parties during happier times.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

The first thing to do was lay out the tiles around the board, in number order—some appear more than once, so these are stacked.  Players then counted out five, four and three of their cubes as treasures.  Once everything was set up, Blue explained that Pink would turn over one of the beautifully decorated number cards (each part of a polyptych), and everyone had to place the corresponding tile on their board.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

They can place the tile anywhere on their board, in any orientation. Some of the tiles have scarabs depicted on them—players can place treasures on these, but must start with the lowest value treasures first.  So, only when all five one-point treasures had been used, could players move on to the four two-point treasures, and finally the three-point treasures (blue, green and red disks respectively, though we were playing with turquoise, yellow and red cubes).

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

After the third round, players have to choose which of the six possible entrances they are going to start from and then progress their “explorer meeple” along the path as far as they can.  In the rules, players mark the path at intervals so everyone else can see how far the explorers have travelled, but given the added difficulties associated with playing remotely and the fact that players could count their own path at any time, we omitted this.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends after twenty-five of the twenty-eight cards have been revealed and then people add up their scores.  Firstly, they score one point for each quarter tile their tunnel extends along.  Next they score points for each treasure chamber their tunnel passes, that is a chamber that contains one treasure surrounded by walls on all four sides.  As usual, the player with the most points is the winner.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

The game was a bit of a tale of people missing cards and having to try to correct it, and for a change, it wasn’t just the usual suspects.  As the game progressed, it became clear that most people had tried to follow Blacks advice and tried to place as many of their treasure tokens as they could.  The problem with this is that they aren’t worth anything unless players have managed to enclose them in a chamber and ensure their route passes alongside.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

In fact, one of the biggest problems for some turned out to be connecting valuable parts of their tunnel to their chosen entrance to ensure their treasure hunter was able to explore the temple.  Pine and Pink seemed particularly afflicted, and as the game drew to a close, Burgundy and Pink in particular were getting increasingly desperate for tile number fourteen.  The final tile was number six, which did most of the job and with that, everyone had to work out their scores.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

As usual, Ivory posted his score first, setting a competitive target of fifty, made up of thirty-one from his path and nineteen in treasure.  In general, the scores were quite close, with almost everyone scoring between forty and fifty.  The longest path was thirty-seven and the most treasure collected was nineteen.  In most cases, those that had a long path (like Blue and Burgundy) had few treasures, while those with a lot of treasure (like Pine and Green) had not explored as deep into the temple.  The exception was Pink, who managed to do well at both and finished with a total of fifty-four.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

It had been a fairly short game, and as it was a while since we’d practised our colouring, we moved onto a quick game of “Roll and WriteTetris, in the form of Second Chance.  We’ve played this quite a bit since we first started playing online, but the last time was just before Christmas, so we decided to give it another go.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that two shapes are revealed and players must draw them in their nine-by-nine grid.  The shapes come in different sizes and the game rewards efficiency in packing.  If a player is unable to play either shape, they get a second chance: one card all to themselves.  If they can play that, then they can carry on, but if they are unable to play that as well, then they are eliminated.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Unusually, being eliminated is not necessarily a guarantee of failure in this game:  the winner is the player with the fewest unfilled spaces at the end, which is when the deck of cards runs out.  So, in this game, a player can be knocked out, but still win.  This time, there were a couple of people who threatened to need a second chance, but then suddenly in one round, nobody was able to place either shape and everyone needed a second chance.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

That round took out everyone but Green and Black, but as there were no cards left, it turned out to be the final round, and that was that.  The scores varied from eleven to two, with a tie between Lilac and Blue for first.  Pink suggested a vote based on the quality of the art-work, but nobody wanted to choose between them and a tie it remained.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

From there, Ivory and Lilac took an early night, while the rest of the group moved to Board Game Arena for a game of Saboteur.  This hidden traitor game is one we’ve played a lot online over the last year.  The idea is that players are either Good Dwarves or Evil Saboteurs, with the Dwarves trying to play cards to build a tunnel and find the treasure, while the Saboteurs try to stop them using blocking cards and by breaking the Dwarves’ tools.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

It is always extremely difficult for the Saboteurs to win, but we live in hope and everyone is always pleased to get the opportunity to try.  The first round it was Blue’s and Black’s turn to try.  With seven players, there can be two or three Saboteurs—with just two it was pretty much guaranteed to be gold for the Dwarves, and so it proved.  The Dwarves headed straight for the gold, and despite a desperate rear-guard action the round was quickly over.

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

The second round was much closer.  The evil Pine, Pink and Green made life extremely difficult for the Dwarves very effectively blocking their first route to the gold and forcing them to go all around the houses before they found the gold.  Early in the game, Pink caused chaos by disagreeing with Pine as to where the Gold was, and the ensuing confusion made it very close.  The Saboteurs had a lot of cards that worked in their favour, but they still couldn’t quite stop Purple from finding the gold in the end.  The third and final round was a different story though…

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

Initially, the tunnels made good progress, but largely by chance, the tunnel headed towards the top card, when the treasure (it turned out) was at the bottom.  Things were made worse for the Dwarves when paranoia meant they turned on each other early.  There was more confusion about where the gold was and the Dwarves were in disarray.  Eventually, Pine revealed his colours, and then Black, and finally Burgundy.  For once, the cards went the Saboteurs’ way and they played them really well too.  Despite a desperate effort, there was nothing the Dwarves could do against such wickedness, and after a year of trying, the Saboteurs took their first victory.

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

Time was marching on and we were looking for one last game to play, something perhaps a little different from the usual 6 Nimmt!.  After some discussion, Green and Black ducked out and everyone else played Draftosaurus—a game that Blue and Pink have very nearly picked up on several occasions, including Essen in 2019, just after it first came out and that Pine described as “Sushi Go! with dinosaurs”.  With that description, nobody could resist giving it a go.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

By this, Pine meant the main mechanism is drafting.  In Sushi Go! players have a hand of cards, then simultaneously, they choose one to keep and pass the rest on.  In Sushi Go!, players are collecting sets of cards, but in Draftosaurus players are drafting little wooden dinosaur meeples and placing them in their dinosaur park, on their personal player board.  The clever part, and what makes it different to Sushi Go!, is that the scoring is driven by the different park locations.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

Before each draft, a die is rolled that restricts where players can place their chosen dinosaur and the seven locations all score for different combinations of dinosaurs.  This means that players can want the same dinosaurs for different reasons, or different dinosaurs for the same reasons.  The game is played over two rounds, drafting six dinosaurs drawn at random from a bag, first clockwise and then anti-clockwise.  In the Board Game Arena rendering, this is all done electronically and the tactile nature is lost, however, the graphics are charming.

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

For those who were new to the game, it took a couple of turns to work out where the scoring opportunities  are and how to make the best of them, and also to work out how the dinosaurs are passed round and how players could affect each other.  Pine was the only one to have played before, and therefore had a better grasp of how things worked.  Rather than use this experience to beat everyone else’s faces into the dirt, he helped keep everyone else straight and offered help and advice as required.

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

Draftosaurus rocks along at quite a pace, and it wasn’t long before the game was coming to an end.  Burgundy and Pink had got to grips with the game best and quickest and there was only one point in it.  Although they had mostly tried different approaches, both had also tried to collect different dinosaurs in the Meadow of Differences.  Burgundy had the edge though, and took victory with thirty-eight points.

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

Everyone had really enjoyed it and fallen a little bit in love with the charming graphics, quick game play, and what’s not to like about building a dinosaur park?!?!  This is definitely one to get and play once we can meet up properly again.  And on that positive note, looking forward to playing together with tactile dino-meeples after a year of gaming from home, it was time for bed.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

Learning Outcome:  Pharaohs and Dinosaurs, what’s not to like?

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.

Golden GOAT Award Winners – 2020

Usually, just before Christmas, the boardGOATS meet for food, have a bit of a party, and decide the winners of the GOAT Awards.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible this year of course, but we still had a bit of a party online with festive treats for everyone, and chose our favourite game of the year.  As in previous years, we awarded two prizes:  the Golden GOAT for our favourite game and the “GOAT Poo” award for our least favourite.  As last year, everyone had three points to hand out for the Golden GOAT Award (plus a bonus if wearing Festive Attire), and everyone could nominate up to two individual games for the GOAT Poo Prize.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

This year, the unanimous winner of the GOAT Poo was Covid and its effect on 2020.  As this wasn’t a game though, Camel Up officially took the GOAT Poo on a tie break.  Terraforming Mars won the unofficial “Marmite award”, just escaping the GOAT Poo, but also coming fourth overall for the Golden GOAT.  Kingdomino made the podium and last year’s winner, Wingspan, was runner up.  The winner though, was 6 Nimmt!.

Golden GOAT - 2020
– Image by boardGOATS

Although 6 Nimmt! is an old game, this year we’ve played it on Board Game Arena at the end of almost every meeting, and it has provided so much fun and entertainment in a year that has otherwise been sorely lacking in that regard.  Certainly, moment of the year went to Lime accidentally joining a game of 6 Nimmt! with a bunch of Frenchmen, but that is just one of many memorable moments we’ve had with it.  Since discovering the “Professional Variant” the game has been rejuvenated for us too, so it seemed an entirely appropriate win for a strange gaming year.

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

10th Movember 2020 (Online)

With Blue and Pink otherwise engaged, the early arrivals were left to talk amongst themselves to begin with.  Eventually, everyone joined the table talk and admired the new, very yellow arrival that was the Oceana Expansion for Wingspan.  Sadly it will likely be a while before it gets an outing with the group, but it gives us something to look forward to.

Wingspan: Oceania Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the yellow eggs had been put away, it was time to start the “Feature Game” which was to be HexRoller.  This is another of the “Roll and Write” style games and is a relatively recent release.  The game is quite simple in concept, though the scoring is quite involved and it is quite different to anything else we have played in this vein.  The idea is that a handful of dice are rolled and “binned” into according to value.  Players then choose two numbers rolled and write those numbers on their player board as many times as that number was rolled.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

This means if three and five are chosen and they appear once and twice respectively, the player will write three down once and five twice.  The game is played on a pre-printed sheet with a play area made of hexagons (because they are the bestagons, obviously).  Some of these have numbers written on them.  Once a player has chosen a number, they start writing in a hexagon next to a number already on the board, with every subsequent number written next to the previous, making a chain.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

Once per turn, players can also use one of three special actions, each of which can only be used once per game.  These allow players to write one of their chosen numbers an extra time; write a two anywhere, and choose a third set of dice from the pool.  At the end of the game players score from a smorgasbord of opportunities.  There are points for filling all seven hexagons in one of the coloured groups; for filling all the orange hexes in the central area; for connecting pairs of pre-printed numbers, and any left over, unused special actions.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

Additionally, every round a player picks two numbers and one is written in a box in the top row in the bottom left corner with the other written in the bottom row.  At the end of the game, a “straight” starting from three, score points equating to the highest number in the straight.  In other words, a set of two threes, a five, a four, a six, and a couple of eights would score six points.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

Explained, the game sounds extremely complex, however the scoring is outlined on the sheet and in practice, it is actually quite easy to play, though challenging to play well.  That said, it is very different to any of the other games we’ve played and nobody really had much idea how it would pan out.  There are two different boards and with different layouts.  We started with the slightly more challenging, “seven dice” board, but only realised we were using eight dice after we’d already started, and that probably made it quite a bit easier.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

With only seven rounds, the game rocked along quite quickly and was over in about twenty-five minutes.  Some people did better than others, but it was tight at the top with Green and Ivory tied for first place with sixty-seven and Burgundy just two points behind.  Everyone had really enjoyed it though, and we were all very keen to play the second, “Eight Dice” layout.  This layout is nominally the easier of the two, though we didn’t realise that before we started otherwise we’d have played it first.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

It has a larger central area, though, and is played over one extra round.  Some of the scoring is also very slightly different, which some people didn’t notice until the end when they came to calculating their score which led to quite a lot of recalculations.  Burgundy was third again, and Blue took second with fifty-seven.  Although Pink was insistent that because he was unable use a single die in the final round, he had a “moral score” of seventy-three his total of fifty stands.  That left Ivory the winner for the second time with a score of sixty-one.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

HexRoller is a really quick little game, and even playing it twice, there was still time for something else.  As we had struggled a little with Tiny Towns last time, we had planned to give it another go, this time with a new set of buildings.  The idea of the game is clever but quite simple:  players place resources on the spaces on their four-by-four town grid, and then, when the have the right resources in the the correct arrangement, they can replace them with a building.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Different buildings are built from different combinations of resources in different arrangements and, ultimately give different numbers of points.  We play using the Town Hall Variant where two resources are drawn at random, and then players choose their own for every third.  So, the key to the game is careful planning, but also  keeping options open in case the required resources don’t come up.  And luck also helps of course.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

This time we drew buildings from the alternative cards adding the Granary, Millstone, Bakery, Trading Post, Cloister and Almshouse to the Cottage.  These change the game considerably.  For example, the Granary feeds eight cottages (rather than the four of the Farm we used last time), but they must be in the eight surrounding spaces.  Similarly, the Millstone is worth two points if next to a red or yellow building (in this case a Granary and the Bakery), rather than a single point for each adjacent cottage.  The resources always take up more space than the buildings though and if players aren’t careful they can easily end up building on a space that makes it impossible to work with what’s left.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Several players including Green, Blue and Pink picked up on the fact that the Cloister had the potential to be highly lucrative, scoring one point for each cloister in a corner.  Blue explained (several times) that this meant that two Cloisters both in corners would score two points each, whereas if one were in a corner and the other were not they would score one point each.  Pink decided that they were too difficult to build to get the most from them as they required four different resources, but Purple, Blue, Green and Lime were braver and decided to give it a go.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Pink and Burgundy went heavily for Almshouses.  The larger the number of these, the more points they score, but while an odd number of these scores positively, an even number scores negatively.  So this strategy was not without risk, although as players are not obliged to build buildings, they could always wait, and only build when they know they have a second ready to go.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime was the first to be unable to do anything.  One of the down sides of playing games like this remotely is that players can’t watch what other players are doing, so as players dropped out, nobody else knew how they had done until the scores started to come in.  This time there was quite a spread with scores covering a range of nearly fifty points from minus fifteen upwards.  Burgundy had managed to avoid the pitfalls of the Almshouse and finished with twenty-eight points.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue, however, had made the Cloister strategy work building a total of six, including one in each corner.  It was at this point that Green realised he could have built another two Cloisters, but had thought they wouldn’t score.  Worse, he hadn’t realised the empty spaces would score negatively, leaving him some eight points worse off.  He insisted that he wouldn’t concede, that there should be a recount as the rules hadn’t been clear, and that a lawsuit would clear it up…

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

As in Pennsylvania, however, nobody listened to the litigant.  It was getting late though, so Lime, Lilac and Ivory left everyone else to play For Sale.  This is a great game for six players and the rendering of Board Game Arena is really good, making it really quick and fun to play.  The game itself comes in two parts:  buying properties and then selling them—the player who finishes with the most money wins.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone starts with $14,000 dollars and the bid must increase by at least $1,000 each time with players who pass taking the lowest numbered property available and getting half their stake returned.  There are two ways to play this, with the money returned rounded up or down – this time we chose to give every player the maximum amount of money with their returns rounded up.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, all the high cards came out in the final round.  This meant Burgundy paid just $1,000 for his castle (number twenty-eight) and Purple paid just $2,000 for the sky-scraper (number twenty-nine), although Green still paid $7,000 for the most valuable property (the space station).  As a result, most people had acquired some nice properties for a very good price.

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

It was a three-way tie between Black, Burgundy and Green for the player who managed to sell their properties for the most money, with all three taking $48,000.  However, it is the total, including any money left from the starting funds.  In this, Pink and Blue had only spent $3,000 so had $11,000 left.  This enabled Blue to just beat Burgundy into second place and take victory with $53,000.  At this point, Pine, who had been unable to join in earlier as he was staying with his poorly mother.  Inevitably, the game of choice with seven, was 6 Nimmt!

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

6 Nimmt! is one of the group’s favourite games, and we really enjoy the additional madness that the “Professional Variant” gives.  In the original game, players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and then, starting with the lowest value card, cards are added in order to one of the four rows of cards on the table.  Each card is added to the row that finishes with the highest number that is lower than the number on the card.  Placing the sixth card instead causes the player to take the five cards into their scoring pile.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The “Professional Variant” allows players to add cards to the other end of the rows, as long as the difference is smaller.  This has the effect of making otherwise be “safe” plays, decidedly “unsafe”, and makes low value cards much more interesting to play.  It can have far more catastrophic effects on the game though, and this time was one of those games.

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

Purple was the first to pick up cards, immediately followed by Green.  It wasn’t long before others joined in the race to the bottom.  Purple was leading the pack, though when Burgundy picked up seventeen nimmts, shortly followed by another fifteen and several other smaller totals, he overtook her, finishing with a magnificent minus forty-two!  The winner was largely incidental, but was Blue, who had only picked up fifteen in the whole game some twenty less than Pine, who always does well in this game, in second place.

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

With that over, Green and Pink signed off, leaving five to continue, and the game of choice was Coloretto.  This is a very simple set collecting game, that we played from time to time when we were at the Jockey, but has become one of our staples this year.  The game is so simple and plays very quickly: players take a card from the deck and add it to a truck, or they take a truck and sit out until the end of the round.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Players score points for their sets, with the three most lucrative sets scoring positively and any others scoring negatively.  Last time we played, we used the “Difficult” scoring, but that hadn’t been as interesting as, say, the “Professional Variant” for 6 Nimmt!, so this time  we used the standard scoring, according to the Triangular Number Series.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

With everyone very familiar with the game, it is often quite close and this was one of those games.  Indeed Pine and Black tied for second place with twenty-five points, but were beaten by Burgundy who finished just two points clear.  There was just time for one more game, and Sushi Go! has become one of our recent favourites in such circumstances, as it plays very quickly and the rendering on Board Game Arena is really good, though it would be really nice if they could add some of the extra options available in Sushi Go Party!.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

As it is, we played with the Soy Sauce mini expansion.  The game is very simple and we find that a little bit of Soy does add a little extra flavour.  The game is one of card drafting and set collecting, with players choosing one card from their hand to keep, passing the rest on.  Some cards score for sets of two or three (Tempura and Sashimi), while the Nigiri score more if played after Wasabi for example.  Soy goes well with everything, so scores if the player also has the most variety on their plate at the end of the round.

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

The game changers Maki Rolls and the Puddings which give points for the player with the most at the end of the round and game respectively.  The Puddings can be the real game-changers though as the player with the most gets six points and the player with the fewest loses six points.  In a close game that can make all the difference.

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

This time, Blue and Pine took an early lead at the end of the first round while the others built up their Pudding supply for the end of the game.  Black took the lead after the second round though.  Burgundy put in a storming final round taking the six points for the most desserts, but with a three-way tie for the fewest, the negative points were split between Blue, Pine and Black.  Burgundy didn’t quite catch the leaders though, and he finished two points behind Pine and Black, who tied for first place.  And, well fed, it was time for bed.

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

Learning Outcome:  Listening to the rules explanation usually gets you more points.

Deutscher Spiele Preis 2020 – Time to Vote

Although the convention season has been severely disrupted this year, the awards are carrying on as usual.  The best known of these is probably the Spiel des Jahres: this year’s nominations were announced earlier this week.  The Deutscher Spiele Preis, or German Game Prize, is slightly less well known, but arguably better reflects the slightly more advanced, “Gamers Games”, with the results usually more in line with Kennerspiel des Jahres category rather than the family Spiel des Jahres award, or “Red Pöppel”.  Recent winners of the Deutscher Spiele Preis include Wingspan, Azul, Terraforming Mars, Mombasa, and The Voyages of Marco Polo.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The Deutscher Spiele Preis (which is awarded at the Internationale Spieltage, in Essen), is selected by a general vote which is open to anyone, players, journalists and dealers alike.  The incoming votes are evaluated by an independent institute and only votes with details of the full name and address are valid (any duplicates are removed).   All votes are treated the same with games placed first receiving five points, those placed second receiving four, and so on.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

Only new games from the previous year are included in the ranking, so this year that’s games released since May 2019.  Thus anything new at Essen last year or the Spielwarenmesse (Nürnberg) this year, is eligible.  This includes:  Alubari, Maracaibo, Point Salad, Tiny Towns, Isle of Cats, Wavelength, Jaws, In the Hall of the Mountain King, Azul: Summer Pavilion, Fast Sloths, or any of the games nominees or recommended for the Spiel/Kennerspiel des Jahres awards.

Deutscher Spiele Pries 2020
– Image from spiel-messe.com

Voting is open until 31st July; it’s not necessary to submit a full list, so why not take the opportunity to vote for your favourite release of the year?

Spiel des Jahres Nominations 2020

This year, many things are different: the UK Games Expo was postponed and then cancelled and today it was announced that Essen has gone the same way.  The most prestigious awards in board gaming, the Spiel des Jahres are not unaffected either.  The Jury met online and likely some struggled to play the games; the award parties will probably also be affected.

Spiel des Jahres Committee 2020
– Image from SpieldesJahres on twitter.com

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

  • Spiel des Jahres
    Spiel des Jahres 2019My City by Reiner Knizia
    Nova Luna by Uwe Rosenberg and Corné van Moorsel
    Pictures by Daniela and Christian Stöhr

In previous years the group has picked out the eventual winner well in advance even of the nominations, however, last year the games generally seemed to be light, almost party games.  These are not our usual faire, and in recent years, the Kennerpiel des Jahres has been a better fit.  The Kennerspiel nominees are not especially complex games, but are typically a step up from the light family games that are now being nominated for the “Red Poppel”.

– Image by from spiel-des-jahres.de

Last year the winner of the Kennerspiel award was Wingspan which also picked up our own “Golden GOAT” Award at our Un-Christmas Dinner.  With all that has been going on, however, we are unfamiliar with almost all the nominees this time round and likely won’t get the chance to play any of them until after the winners have been announced (20th July in Berlin for the Kennerpiel and Spiel des Jahres Awards; 15th June in Hamburg for the Kinderspiel des Jahres).

Golden GOAT - 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

 

Boardgames in the News: Gaming at a Distance

With so many people tucked up at home there has been some debate as to whether this will encourage people to play games more.  Among gamers, there has been a lot of discussion about solo games where players compete against the game, but this loses the social aspect.  Online gaming is also an option; this can enable playing with real people, but loses the tactile element of gaming that so many people love.  In most cases though, people are not “home alone”, they are with family, so perhaps this is an opportunity to play games with them?

Cities of Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

The occasional board game column in The Guardian has published a list of twenty family games including some modern family classics like, Ticket to Ride: London, Splendor, Kingdomino, Dobble and (inevitably) Pandemic.  It also includes a few, more recent games, like Wingspan, and Just One, as well as some less well known games like Patchwork Express, Legacy of Dragonholt and Blue Lagoon.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

There has some suggestion that there has been a flurry of buying games to play with their families, but is there any real evidence of this?  Anecdotally, there have been comments that prices of games have increased on Amazon.co.uk which could indicate an increase in sales.  The website camelcamelcamel.co.uk tracks prices on Amazon, and it seems to indicate that prices for many popular light games have increased in the last week.

Ticket to Ride: Europe on camelcamelcamel.co.uk (23/03/20)
– Image by boardGOATS from camelcamelcamel.co.uk

There is another possible reason though: Amazon has suspended warehouse services (storage and shipping) of non-medical supplies and “high-demand” products for third party sellers.  This would have the effect of pushing prices up.  A lot of Friendly Local Games Shops sell online though, and many of these have sales on at the moment, so why not support one of the small businesses that are struggling at the moment, and leave Amazon to deal with toilet rolls and hand sanitiser?

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.

10th December 2019

The evening started with people arriving in festive attire and snow, glitter and other detritus all over the table, as people pulled crackers and party poppers.  While we waited for food everyone amused themselves writing “Secret GOAT Christmas Cards” and contemplating the voting possibilities for the Golden GOAT Awards (by far the most enjoyable poll of the week).  In the interlude between courses, people completed and submitted their voting papers and Blue and Mulberry conducted the count.  As the results came in, it was clear that there was only going to be one winner.

"Un-Christmas Party" 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Key Flow put in a very strong showing to come second, Wingspan, already winner of the Kennerspiel des Jahres and Deutscher Spiele Preis, took the most coveted award of the year, the coveted Golden GOAT.  The GOAT Poo Prize was less clear cut – almost everyone said that for them there wasn’t a stand-out game deserving of the award.  In the end it went to 7 Wonders, which is a bit of a Marmite game among the GOATS – some people are very fond of it, but nearly a third of the group nominated as the least enjoyable game of the year.  Eventually, everyone finished dessert, but everyone was in festive mood and nobody seemed desperate keen on playing anything.

Golden GOAT - 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime threatened to head off without playing anything as he had a long drive in the morning, but after some discussion about perhaps playing the Winter Edition of Carcassonne or repeating the snowy Nordic version of Ticket to Ride that we played last year,  eventually, he joined Mulberry, Blue, Pink and Ivory to play the “Feature Game”, Christmas Penguins.  This is a cute little game, with some interesting ideas, but proved to need more development and more complete, precise rules.  The premise is that players are naughty penguins trying to steal gifts from under the Christmas Tree, while trying to avoid being captured by Santa.

Christmas Penguins
– Image by boardGOATS

The rules for the second edition were only available in German and had been translated by Blue, so some aspects might have been missed, but the idea is that the round is started by Santa who rolls his die and moves accordingly, trying to catch one of the naughty Penguins. Then each Penguin takes their turn trying to get to the Christmas Tree to steal one of the presents under it.  If they manage to steal a pressie, Santa moves the tree to another location.  Penguins cannot pass through a space occupied by another Penguin, instead, playing a sort bumper-car game, they push the occupant onto an adjacent unoccupied space.

Christmas Penguins
– Image by boardGOATS

If a Penguin lands on a space with an Event Stone, by design or because they were pushed onto it, they take the stone and keep it until they need it.  Event Stones come in different colours which have different effects, but these primarily involve swapping places with other characters. To use an Event Stone, the player can call “Stop!” at any time and then carries out the action by spending the stone.  Rolling a one, has the additional effect of invoking the Polar Bear, who moves one space at a time, but if he ends on a space with a Penguin it drops a parcel and runs away to an unoccupied adjacent space.

Christmas Penguins
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the clever ideas is that when Santa captures a Penguin, the owner of the Penguin takes over the role of Santa and the player who had been Santa places their Penguin in Santa’s workshop.  The turn order was a bit of a problem, however, and may have been one of the things that didn’t make it from the German translation, certainly it was one of the things that mean the game didn’t really gel for us.  Another thing that our group found lacking was the fact that there was no mechanism for the Event Stones to return to play, which was a shame; perhaps we would house rule it that every time the Christmas tree was moved a stone would be left in its place.

Christmas Penguins
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory started out at Santa and we went at it with a will.  Ivory quickly caught Lime, who looked most unimpressed.  Unfortunately, thereafter, every time Santa caught a Penguin, the upset it caused to the turn order confused everyone.  There was one other aspect of the game that we completely failed to use, which was the rivers—each player can place or remove one river piece per turn.  These cannot be crossed by Penguins, Polar Bears, or even Santa himself and are clearly designed to add an element of strategy to the game.  In practice though we just forgot they existed, only using them very occasionally.

Christmas Penguins
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends when the final parcel is taken from under the tree, in our case, by Blue, which just left the scoring.  Even this was a little more complex than it needed to be: players get one point for each present they’ve stolen and bonus points are awarded in a Point Salad way to the player with the most parcels of each colour and the player with the most different colours.  It is almost as if this game doesn’t know what it is meant to be, silly fun or strategic, which is a great shame because it feels like it should be a good seasonal game. So, over the Christmas period, we’ll have a go at house-ruling it to try to improve it for our group.  This time, in the end, Blue and Ivory got a bit of a lead and Blue eventually put everyone out of their misery.

Christmas Penguins
– Image by boardGOATS

It wasn’t clear how bonus points should be awarded in the event of a tie.  In our first attempt, we decided that bonus points would only go to the person with more than anyone else, but this led to a three-way tie which was about as unsatisfying as the game.  So we decided to try friendly ties, which did at least give us a winner, with Lime just sneaking into the lead.  With that, Lime and Mulberry took themselves off leaving Ivory, Pink and Blue to play Christmas Lights, the game that was going to be the “Feature Game” until Pink had commented that he didn’t like it.

Christmas Lights: A Card Game
– Image by boardGOATS

Christmas Lights is a set collecting card game with a memory element.  The idea is that players have a hand of cards that are “reversed” so players can see everyone else’s hand, but not their own, like Hanabi.  Players are tying to make a string of lights by playing coloured light bulb cards in the correct order to match their cards.  On their turn, the active player first trades a card of their choice with one from any other player.  They then play one card, adding it to their string of lights.  This can be the card they’ve just swapped, or one they’ve had in hand, but if it does not match their pattern card, they must discard it.

Christmas Lights: A Card Game
– Image by boardGOATS

Once they have played a card, the active player then turns over the top two cards and then either adds one to their string, or can trade one of the cards for the one-word answer to a question of their choosing.   With just two players, it feels like the game plays itself, but with three or four players, its sweetspot, there is a more interesting interplay between planning, memory and navigating the event cards which can help or hinder.  This time, Pink was first to complete his first target string, but found it difficult to play the plug card that he needed to connect his first string with his second.  This was made worse by Blue, who stole his once he’d found one, and the fact that he had played a lot of broken bulb cards that needed replacing before he could continue.

Christmas Lights: A Card Game
– Image by boardGOATS

While Pink was struggling to sort out his plug, Ivory and Blue had both caught up and started work on their second string of lights.  With two cards played per turn, it wasn’t long before all three were threatening the end of the game, but Blue got there first, just.  Pink couldn’t quite finish his string and as Ivory had started first, he didn’t get another turn, leaving Blue to take victory without another tie-break.  Meanwhile, on the next table, Green, Black, Purple and Pine were playing a slightly more conventional, tie-break free game in one of our old favourites, Snow Tails.

Snow Tails
– Image by boardGOATS

Snow Tails is a husky sled-racing game where players have a deck of cards from which they draw a hand of five, playing one to three of these each turn so long as the cards played all have the same value.  Each player also has a dog sled with two dogs and a brake.  Forward movement is the sum of the dogs minus the value of the break, with a drift sideways of the difference between the two dog speeds (in the direction of the faster, stronger dog).  Using this, players have to navigate the course avoiding colliding with obstacles including other sleds, saplings and, of course, the wall of the track.

Snow Tails
– Image by boardGOATS

Corners are also a hazard, and players traveling too fast into them or hitting things they shouldn’t, pick up dent cards.  These are added to the players’ hand and stay there for the rest of the game obstructing their planning and management reducing the number of cards they can draw.  The track is modular and there is a “menu” players can choose from.  This time, Lime, on the next table chose the board layout, and picked one of the two double hairpin tracks, albeit one without the sledge destroying saplings.  It took us a couple of attempts to get the track right though, having to make sure there weren’t two red speed limit lines next to each other and adding a couple of saplings either side of the gorge to make it just a little more interesting.

Snow Tails
– Image by boardGOATS

Using a random selection, Pine was in pole position, followed by Black, then Purple with Green starting last.  There was a nice easy run to the first half bend, but those starting last had to make sure they did not crash into the back of the sledges in front.  Within a couple of turns Green had nudged from last to be alongside Black and on the inside of the track so theoretically in the lead.  Over the next few turns Green and Black vied for the lead while Pine and Purple were scrapping for third.

Snow Tails
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, Green got a good position for the first hairpin and pulled into the lead.  Although could have let the brake off at this point hurtle forward, he decided that the inevitable dents for breaking the speed limit would not be worth it, so instead slammed on the brake. This allowed Black to catch up, but his track position was not so good and soon found himself boxed in on the outside unable to get across the track fast enough, as a result picking up his first dent.  At about the same time, Pine also found himself sliding too wide at the hairpin also taking a dent, while Purple was taking it slow and steady, avoiding damage.

Snow Tails
– Image by boardGOATS

At the front Green used his inside track position to start to pull ahead of Black, and continue round the second hairpin, cutting in tight to the opposite half bend, for an easy dodge through the canyon and round the tree towards the finish line.  Black in second place had to manage his damaged sledge through the last corners, but had a good lead on Pine and Purple and was able to easily slide home in second, taking one of the trees with him to the line.

Snow Tails
– Image by boardGOATS

In the meantime, Pine found himself going too fast into the second hairpin and not only crossed the speed limit line too fast, he also crashed in the same accident black spot that had caused Black problems earlier.  Pine’s sledge was so badly damaged that everyone else took pity on him and allowed him to only take a single dent card, although he insisted he should take the lot.  At this point it looked like an easy third place for Purple, but she suddenly began to struggle as she didn’t have the right cards to do what she needed to do.  As a result she was crawling along so slowly that Pine caught her up. It was looking like it might be rather tight for that third place, until Pine’s impossibly damaged sledge finally got the better of him and Purple crossed the line for third.

Snow Tails
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  GOATS love a good party!

Golden GOAT Award Winners – 2019

The second Golden GOAT Award was announced at the boardGOATS 2019 “Un-Christmas Dinner” on Tuesday.  As last year, we also gave an award acknowledging our least favourite game of the year, known as the “GOAT Poo” prize.  Only games played at a GOATS games night since the 2018 Un-Christmas Dinner could be nominated, and, in a slight change to the rules from last year, everyone had three points to hand out for the Golden GOAT Award (plus a bonus if wearing Festive Attire), and everyone could nominate up to two individual games for the GOAT Poo Prize.

Boom Boom Balloon
– Image by boardGOATS

This year there were a number of popular nominees, including Gingerbread House, Lords of Vegas, Villagers and Tokaido, with Boom Boom Balloon getting several honourable mentions for being very silly, but a lot of fun.  There was some surprise that Terraforming Mars, Keyflower and last year’s Golden GOAT winner, Altiplano, had all not been played (we must make sure we rectify  that next year).  This was perhaps a measure of how strong the field was, and many people commented that there wasn’t a stand-out “bad game” for them.  Tapestry was a strong candidate for the unofficial “GOAT Marmite-factor” Award receiving nominations for both prizes and added controversy, with a suspicion that its nomination for the GOAT Poo Prize was based purely on the appearance of complexity rather than any actual experience.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

The winner of the “GOAT Poo” award was 7 Wonders, with nearly a third of the group nominating it; it is clearly another Marmite game though as there were plenty of people keen to jump to its defense.  The clear winner of the Golden GOAT 2019, however, was Wingspan, with Key Flow an equally clear second (the Silver GOAT perhaps?).  Both are excellent games and very deserving choices; we look forward to playing them more next year.

Golden GOAT - 2019
– Image by boardGOATS