Tag Archives: Wingspan

Golden GOAT Award Winners – 2022

As usual, the boardGOATS met just before Christmas for a party and to decide the winners of the GOAT Awards.  After pizza and crackers and the usual mayhem, the group voted for two awards:  the Golden GOAT for our favourite game and the “GOAT Poo” award for our least favourite.  Everyone had the usual three points to hand out for the Golden GOAT Award (plus a bonus if wearing Festive Attire), though a maximum of two points could be given to any individual game.  Everyone could also nominate up to two individual games for the GOAT Poo Prize.

Dice Hospital
– Image by boardGOATS

This year, there were a few games that received the unofficial “Marmite Award”, that is to say they received nominations for both the Golden GOAT and the GOAT Poo prizes.  These included Dice Hospital, Azul, Modern Art and Viticulture.  For the GOAT Poo Prize itself, there were several games that received two or three nominations, but the clear winner was Villainous – The Worst takes it All which received six nominations—quite an achievement since only five people played it and one of those wasn’t present for the vote!  Villainous is a beautiful, asymmetric card game, but one that we struggled with for several reasons, not least the fact that players had to work out how to play their own character, and we were playing it with five people which is two or three more than it needs.

Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes it All
– Image by boardGOATS

Nominations for Moment of the Year included two epic games, one of Viticulture and the other of Tapestry.  The latter nomination included the citation:  “I thought I was doing well until Ivory lapped me… twice!”  Pine also recalled Lilac nobbling him in Turf Horse RacingThe most poignant moment however, with hindsight, was last year’s UnChristmas Dinner, which was the last meeting attended by Burgundy, who very sadly, suddenly passed away just a few days later.  We all still miss him, but the fact we were joined by Jade and Plum and their partners this year is his legacy, and one we think he would have been proud of.

Mike Parker
– Image by
Pushpendra Rishi

And that just left the Golden GOAT Award for the best game of the year.  Previous winners including Wingspan, Altiplano and 6 Nimmt! were ruled out, but there were plenty of options remaining.  Lots of games received three nominations including Endeavor, Cascadia, Old London Bridge, Splendor, Tapestry and Die Wandelnden Türme  But this year, the clear winner was Everdell. This card-driven game was only played for the first time a few weeks ago, but it is planned to play it again soon with one of the expansions being the “Feature Game” early in the new year.

Golden GOAT - 2022
– Image by boardGOATS

29th November 2022

Although the numbers were severely dented by holidays, work commitments and norovirus, there were still nine of us, and although everyone was late, timings were perfect and the whole group arrived within moments of each other.  There was the usual chatter, as people bought drinks and shared stories of the week, then everyone finally settled down to play some games.  The “Feature Game” was the shiny new Asia expansion to one of our favourite games, the multi-award-winning bird-themed card game, Wingspan.  But first we had to decide who was playing what.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Like last time (when there were also nine people), splitting the group into two or three was quite challenging, but eventually, we decided to go with two tables with Blue, Plum, Black and Ivory playing Wingspan with Pink and Pine leading the rest in a game of Downforce. Downforce has three parts:  a car auction, a race, and betting on the race which occurs during the game.  Downforce has had a couple of outings in the last year, and after last time we played, we concluded that the betting skewed the game a little.  Essentially, when the first car crosses the first betting line which triggers players to place their bets, if several people bet on the same car that tends to lead to a runaway leader.

Downforce
– Image by boardGOATS

After a little research, we found an alternative, “Odds Betting” variant that we thought might be worth a try and Pink was keen to give it a go.  This scheme rewards riskier bets because a player’s winnings depends on the position of the car at the point in the race when the bet is made.  Thus, if a player bets on the leading car at the first betting line and it comes in first, they will win three million dollars ($3,000,000 × 1), however, if they bet on the last car and it defies the odds, they will take eighteen million dollars ($3,000,000 × 6).  Even if that last car comes in third, anyone betting on it will take six million dollars ($1,000,000 × 6)—twice that of betting on the leader if it wins.

Downforce
– Image by boardGOATS

The track chosen was Switchback Pass from the Danger Circuit expansion.  The race began and as the cars weaved around the track, players tried to muscle past each other.  Purple made good use of her power, “Tough” (from the Danger Circuit expansion).  This allowed her to move an extra two spaces every time she finished her move on a space adjacent to a “rumble strip” and she used that a lot, an awful lot.  This was in contrast to Pink who didn’t use his “Determined” power at all.  Despite using her power a lot, sadly, Purple wasn’t able to capitalise on it.  “Ambitious” Lemon was the first to cross the line, shortly followed by “Unpredictable” Orange.  However, the winner is the player with the most cash including income from bets, and in this case, that was Orange who had backed himself from the start.

Downforce: Danger Circuit
– Image by boardGOATS

The consensus was that the “Odds Betting” variant was a definite improvement on the rules as written, though they made things significantly more complicated.  As a result, they weren’t considered a perfect fix.  There are other options still to try though:  the “Simple Odds Betting” variant (where players only bet on the winner with the takings based on position at the time of the bet); the “All Bets are Off” variant (where the betting rules are as written but each player must bet on three different cars, none of which are owned by that player), and the “Three Bets” Variant (which just increases the number of cars everyone has an interest in).

Downforce: Danger Circuit
– Image by boardGOATS

While the race was ongoing, the next table were playing Wingspan.  This is one of the most popular games within the group, so we were keen to give the brand new Asia expansion an outing.  The basic game is simple enough:  on their turn, players either play a bird card in one of the three habitats, or activate one of those habitats and all the birds in it.  The three habitats are Woodland, Grassland and Wetland giving food, eggs and bird cards respectively.  Food and eggs are necessary for playing bird cards, as well as eggs being worth points in their own right at the end of the game.  The European and Oceania expansions both added more cards and the latter also added nectar as a food source.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Wingspan: Asia is a standalone two-player game that can also be added to the base game as providing new bird and goal cards.  It also adds a new “flock” mode for playing with six or more players, but with only four players this time, the group decided to make the most of the Asia expansion.  So Ivory, Plum and Black started by removing all the other expansion bird cards from the deck and shuffling in the new ones while Blue sorted out all the other bits needed to play.  That all took longer than expected, but with everyone knowing the game well, there was no need to revise the rules before the game, with just a few edge cases that were checked during play.

Wingspan: Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory started the fastest, with more birds in his reserve than anyone else by the end of the first round.  The goal at the end of that round was the rather cool “most birds facing right”, and although Ivory won it, everyone else was close behind.  That wasn’t the case in the later rounds though, with somebody struggling to get points in each case, but Ivory taking the top bonus in every round.  Some of the new birds offered a bit more, in particular, those that allowed players to cache food, but gave them a wider choice of options.  Some allowed players to choose which food, and there was another that gave the option of caching food or tucking cards.

Wingspan: Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

Although some of the bonus cards were the same as those in the base game and the other expansions, there were also new ones.  There was one that rewarded having different nest types in the trees. Ivory and Plum both got cards that gave points for playing birds in a given habitat that increased or decreased in value.  Although these were a bit different and added variety, they didn’t fundamentally change the game. As Black pointed out, sometimes the bonuses are a bit too difficult and the other ways of accumulating points much easier.  They are good to give a steer at the start of the game though, when the range of options can be overwhelming.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

With eggs worth one point each, the final turns involved the usual round of egg-laying.  It felt like it was less of a frenzy than it sometimes is, probably because everyone had other things that they felt they needed to do that were more important.  Towards the end of the game, Plum also picked up a couple of extra goal cards, but had to choose between them.  Both gave points for having birds that increased or decreased in value in a Wetland or Woodland—she went for the Wetland as at least the values were increasing, decreasing values was not ideal at that stage of the game.  Black also picked up a couple of extra goal cards during the game, but from Blue’s perspective, Ivory was where he always was, out in front with a formidable lead.

Wingspan: Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

That was not quite how it turned out in practice, however.  Ivory said he thought Black might have it, and ultimately he was proved right.  The differences in the scores were not quite as anybody expected however.  As the scores came in, it became clear that Ivory had a lot of end of round bonus points (twenty-two in fact) and Black had a lot of points from the bonus cards (fourteen) while Blue had the most from her birds (thirty-eight) and Plum had the most cached food (nine).  Of course it is the total that counts, and in the event, Black was some way ahead of the rest with a total of seventy-seven points.

Wingspan: Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

It was much closer for second than anyone expected as Blue had made an extremely slow start, but Ivory’s total of seventy-two pipped her by a single point.  Everyone had enjoyed the game, but then we always do enjoy Wingspan.  The Asia expansion didn’t change things very much, though it did feel a little different, mainly because of the new goal cards (e.g. the cards that reward placing birds in order of points and for playing birds with different types of nests).  These were the biggest difference, though some of the bird card caching options were a little more flexible and players seemed to like that too.  It is unlikely we’ll play Asia in quite this “Asia strong” way again as it will get mixed in with the other expansions, but it was a good way to introduce it to the group.

Wingspan: Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

Downforce never takes very long to play and the other group were still only half-way through Wingspan, but rather than something longer, the racing group decided to play something lighter and eventually settled on No Thanks!.  This is a very simple game, but always a lot of fun.  Players take it in turns to either take the card on display, or pay a chip to pass the problem on to the next player.  At the end of the game, players sum up the total of their cards and subtract the number of chips they have left and the player with the lowest total is the winner.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

The catch is that if a player has a run of cards only the lowest counts, but some of the cards have been removed…  This time, that rule was really critical.  Lemon managed to collect cards thirty-two to thirty-five, but unfortunately, that still gave her lots of points.  Orange did a bit better with his run from twenty-four to twenty-seven finishing with just thirteen points.  Sadly however, Pine did slightly better and finished with an excellent eight.  Points in the second game were much higher—Lemon’s twenty-six points gave her second place, but Pink just nicked it with twenty-three.  And as Wingspan had finally finished, that was it for the night.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Playing an expansion without other expansions makes its features more obvious.

Next Meeting, 29th November 2022

Our next meeting will be Tuesday 29th November 2022.  As usual, we will start playing shorter games from 7.30pm as people arrive, until 8pm when we will start something a little longer.

This week, the “Feature Game” will be the Asia expansion to the multi-award-winning bird-themed card game, Wingspan.  This latest expansion introduces new cards and a “flock” mode for playing with six or more players.

Wingspan: Asia
– Image from stonemaiergames.com

Speaking of birds…

Jeff and Joe were chatting about their favourite songs.  Joe was really into modern stuff, but Jeff said he preferred eighties music.  Then Joe asked Jeff what his favourite song was.

Jeff answered, “Wake me up before you Dodo…”

Essen 2022

Known to gamers worldwide simply as “SPIEL” or “Essen”, the Internationale Spieltage, the annual German games fair is the largest in Europe and arguably the world.  The fair is of particular significance as many new releases are scheduled to coincide with the event just in time for Christmas sales.  In 2020, like many other events, SPIEL was cancelled.  The online event that replaced it was not as successful, and in 2021 there was a return to the in person fair albeit with restrictions and much smaller than that in 2019.  Today is the first day of this year’s SPIEL which runs from Thursday to Sunday every October.

Essen 2022
– Image from spiel-messe.com

Although many of the Covid restrictions have been lifted, medical grade surgical masks covering mouth and nose are still mandatory for all visitors and exhibitors.  So while SPIEL will likely be larger this year than last, it probably won’t reach pre-pandemic proportions.  The maths trade is back though, a crazy event where hundreds of people agree multiple trades and sales online in advance and then all meet up at 3pm and try to find the people they have made contracts with and make the exchanges.  Remarkably, it works, and very well too, with some people selling hundreds of euros worth of games through this means.

Essen Maths Trade
– Image by Friedhelm Merz Verlag

Despite the number of people involved, the exchanges only take a few minutes and it is usually almost all over in half an hour making it a surprisingly efficient way of making space for the new arrivals.  In addition to the Maths Trade, there will be the usual exhibitors showcasing their wares.  The Spiel des Jahres and Deutscher Spiele Preis winners will also all be available and there will also be lots of games making their SPIEL debut.  These include Uwe Rossenburg’s latest game, Atiwa, and the top of “The Essen Hotness” games:  Tiletum, Revive, Woodcraft, Lacrimosa and Hamlet: The Village Building Game.  Games like Flamecraft, Turing Machine and War of the Ring: The Card Game will be for sale too.

Atiwa
– Image by BGG contributor W Eric Martin

There will be re-implementations, like Richard Breese’s reworking of his 1998 game, Keydom’s Dragons (formerly Keydom), Clever 4Ever (extending Ganz Schön Clever), Skymines (a redevelopment of Mombasa), Amsterdam (formerly Macao) and of course, Ticket to Ride (San Francisco).  Expansions will also be on show for games like The Red Cathedral (Contractors), Galaxy Trucker (Keep on Trucking), Meadow (Downstream), Sagrada (The Great Facades – Glory) and two of our favourites, Viticulture (World) and Wingspan (Asia).  Sadly, no-one from boardGOATS will be there to see them though; maybe next year…

Wingspan: Asia
– Image from stonemaiergames.com

Deutscher Spiele Preis – 2022

The Deutscher Spiele Preis awards recognise the “Best Children’s Game” and a top ten list of the “Best Family and Adult Games”, the results of an open vote by games clubs, gamers and people in the industry.  They are awarded annually at the Internationale Spieltage in Essen and the winners are announced in advance.  As annual awards, the games named in the Deutscher Spiele Pris lists often intersect with the winners and nominees of Spiel des Jahres Award, but in many other ways, the awards differ.

Deutscher Spiele Pries 2022
– Image from
spiel-messe.com

The Spiel des Jahres winners are chosen by a committee with a list of strict criteria whereas the Deutscher Spiele Preis is more a list of the most popular games of the preceding year.  As such, games that are not eligible for the any of the Spiel des Jahres Awards often feature in the top ten list of “Best Family and Adult Games”.  For example, games that were considered at the time to be too complex or aggressive for the Spiel des Jahres awards have ranked number one in the Deutscher Spiele Preis list.  These include Tigris & Euphrates (1998), Puerto Rico (2002), Louis XIV (2005), Caylus (2006), The Pillars of the Earth (2007), Agricola (2008), Terra Mystica (2013), Russian Railroads (2014), Voyages of Marco Polo (2015), Mombasa (2016) and Terraforming Mars (2017).

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

Of all these great games, only Terraforming Mars even received a nomination for the Kennerpiel des Jahres award (though Agricola did receive a special “Complex Game Award”).  In contrast, over the last few years, there has been much more overlap with games like Azul (2018), Wingspan (2019) and The Crew (2020) all ranking highest in the Deutscher Spiele Preis list and winning either the Spiel or Kennerspiel des Jahres award.  Further, all the other winners of both awards including MicroMacro, Cartographers, Paleo, Lost Ruins of Arnak have featured high on the Deutscher Spiele Preis list and/or received Spiel/Kennerspiel des Jahres nominations.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

This year, while there is still a lot of overlap between the lists, the top ranked game on the Deutscher Spiele Preis list is a bit of a throwback, being too complex even for the Connoisseur or Kennerspiel des Jahres award.  The Deutscher Spiele Preis winner, Ark Nova has been extremely popular amongst gamers creating a lot of “buzz”, so it is no surprise that it did well.  The strategy revolves round building card combinations and the theme, zoo building is very appealing—everyone loves animals.

The full Deutscher Spiele Preis list is:

  1. Ark Nova
  2. Cascadia (Spiel des Jahres Award Winner)
  3. Dune: Imperium (Kennerspiel des Jahres Award Nomination)
  4. Living Forest (Kennerspiel des Jahres Award Winner)
  5. The Red Cathedral
  6. Witchstone
  7. Beyond the Sun
  8. SCOUT (Spiel des Jahres Award Nomination)
  9. Golem
  10. Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition
Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

6th September 2022

Plum and Pine were the first to arrive, shortly followed by Blue with Orange and Lemon.  With nobody eating, the group were in a position to start thinking about games straight away.  Plum had offered to lead Wingspan, with Lime in mind as he had recently acquired a copy of Wingspan and was keen to give it another go.  Pine commented that although he loves birds, he’d never really got on with the game-play of Wingspan so, sadly he’d prefer to play something else.  The “Feature Game” was to be Project L, a sort of Tetris-like, engine-building game and it sounded much more his thing.

Project L
– Image by boardGOATS

So, Plum took herself off to the other side of the pub to set up Wingspan with the European expansion.  The European expansion adds more cards including end of round cards, but doesn’t add any extra mechanisms (like the Oceania expansion), so it was felt that including it wouldn’t cause too much confusion.  As the others rolled up, there was much surprise as Teal and Ivory said they would rather give Project L a go.  Then Pine changed his mind and joined Wingspan (along with Purple and Lime), allowing Black to play the “Feature Game” as he had played Wingspan recently at Burgundy’s Birthday Event.  That left six to play Project L: Orange, Lemon, Blue, Ivory, Teal and Black.

Project L
– Image by boardGOATS

Project L is a very simple game:  players start with two small plastic pieces and use them to complete Puzzles winning more pieces enabling them to complete more complex Puzzles and thus build an engine.  On their turn the active player can do three actions from a list of five things:  upgrade a piece to a larger one, take a Puzzle from the display, recycle the Puzzle display, place a piece in a Puzzle they own, or place one piece in each of their Puzzles (or in as many different Puzzles as they can).  This last, “Master Action” can only be carried out once per turn, and is clearly very powerful once players can get it going, however, to make it work they need lots of Puzzles and lots of pieces.

Project L
– Image by boardGOATS

With six, to reduce the amount of down time there is the “Line Clear Variant” available.  In the normal game, there are two rows of four Puzzles, one of White backed Puzzles and one of slightly more advanced and therefore more rewarding, Black backed Puzzles.  In addition to winning pieces for completing Puzzles, players can also get  points—the player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.  The game end is triggered when the draw deck of Black backed Puzzles is exhausted at which point the round is then finished and one more, final, round is played.  In the Ticket to Ride: Switzerland, there are two rows of each colour, each containing three Puzzles.  One pair of Black and White Puzzle rows are marked with a dark stone and the other pair with a colourless stone.

Project L
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea of the Line Clear Variant is that two players play simultaneously with the active players marked by a dark and a colourless stone that are passed round.  When it is their turn, players can only recycle or take Puzzles from the rows that match the colour of their their stone.  Ivory was picked as the start player (he drew the player aid marked with the start player symbol) and he began with the dark stone, so Orange, sitting opposite, started with the light stone.  Everyone began a little tentatively, but before long players were filling their Puzzles with gay abandon.  The game end is slightly less clear with the Line Clear Variant.  Still triggered by exhausting the Black Puzzle Deck, the game continues until the first player has been passed both of the markers again, in any order).

Project L
– Image by boardGOATS

The Black Puzzles ran out quite quickly—Project L really is just a “Filler Game“, but players still had to finish things off.  The start player was Ivory, which meant that Orange was a little caught out.  Once the game has finished, everyone can place any pieces they have left, but at the cost of a point for each one.  Orange was unlucky, and unable to complete any of his remaining Puzzles, neither could could Lemon.  Teal had managed to finish off all his Puzzles in his last turn, but everyone else placed three of their pieces to finish things off.  It was quite close for a first game:  Blue finished with eighteen points, but Ivory and Black tied with fifteen apiece with Ivory sneaking second place on the tie breaker (the player with the most completed Puzzles).

Project L
– Image by boardGOATS

A lot of the comment was about how nicely produced the game is and it had been enjoyable to play too although not very memorable.  It was time to move on to something else though and with six, the obvious and usual choice would be Bohnanza, but Ivory had other ideas and suggested New York Slice.  This is a reimplementation of …aber bitte mit Sahne which we played recently, but with a pizza theme instead of a cake theme.  In both games, the idea is that one player makes the cake (or pizza) and divides it up into segments equal to the number of players, then players take it in turns to choose one of the segments.

New York Slice
– Image by boardGOATS

When a player takes a segment, they can either eat slices or store them for later.  Those they will eat are worth points at the end of the game with the number dependent on the number of blobs of cream (or pepperoni slices) on top.  The pieces players keep are scored depending on who has the most of each type at the end of the game.  Each piece of cake (or pizza) has a number on it which tells players the number of that type in the game and also what the player with the most will score at the end of the game.  There are a few things that are different about New York Slice, however, which make it a little more competitive and slightly more of a “Gamers’ Game”.

New York Slice
– Image by boardGOATS

Firstly, in the case of a tie for who has the most pieces of a type of pizza, in …aber bitte mit Sahne all players score points whereas in New York Slice nobody gets anything.  Secondly, some of the pizza slices have anchovies on them and any of these that are visible at the end of the game are worth minus one (because everyone hates anchovies on pizzas right?  Well, everyone except Teal it seems…).  Probably the biggest change though, is that in New York Slice, each pizza is served with a Special—a bonus tile with rule-breaking powers.  In most cases, these are added to one of the segments for players to choose. They can be enticing and helpful, or they can be unhelpful and make players’ lives more difficult.

New York Slice
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory cut the first pizza, leaving Blue to be the first to choose.  The first Special was “Cut in Line”, which Blue took straight away and then promptly forgot about it until the final round.  Ivory went into battle for mushroom pizza, but lost out to Teal.  The front-runner looked to be Black who stored the most BBQ and veggie pizza slices, largely thanks to his “Supersize Combos” Special which meant his two half slices became two whole slices of each type.  That only gave him joint second however, with Lemon who turned out to be quite the carnivore and finished with the most beef and meat feast pizzas.

New York Slice
– Image by boardGOATS

The winner, however, and by a single point, was Blue who picked up a lot of anchovies along with her “You Like Anchovies” Special and coupled that with winning the most lucrative pizza (pepperoni).  Full of pizza, Teal and Ivory decided it was time, leaving Black and Blue with Orange and Lime and a decision to make as to what to play next.  With Wingspan something over half-way through, they were looking for something substantial to play, but not too long.  Blue’s suggestion was Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska, the Poland map for Ticket to Ride.  This was one that nobody around the table had played before though it had been played in the group two and a half years ago, shortly after it was released at Essen.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

The Poland map works in much the same way as all the Ticket to Ride games; players collect coloured train cards and spend them to place plastic train pieces on the central map scoring points for placing trains, but also completing the route “Ticket” cards that they chose at the start of the game and maybe later too.  In addition to the usual rules, the base game maps all have a little something extra.  As well as the usual city locations, the Poland map also has countries, but unlike the Swiss map, these are not simply locations to connect to.  Instead when a player connects two countries, they collect one Country Card corresponding to each.  These are worth points at the end of the game.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

When a third country is added to the “network”, the player again collects Country Cards, one for each country in the network. When Blue explained the rules, Black commented that that aspect was interesting and he was curious to see how it affected the game.  Blue started and was followed by Orange, Lemon and then Black.  Black started by collecting more Tickets—this was a tactic that was discussed briefly at Burgundy’s Birthday Memorial event.  Black had commented then that this was the way all the best players did it.  The idea is that by collecting Tickets early, players are best placed to make the most efficient use of their trains and know what coloured cards they might need.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

However, it is a bit of a “Go Big or Go Home” strategy because if something critical goes wrong early, the player could get left with an armful of unfulfilled Tickets leaving them with lots of negative points.  And with the Poland map, this was far from impossible as it turned out to be quite a scrap for the centre of the board.  Lemon asked what she should do when someone had just taken a track she wanted, clearly meaning Orange who had just nabbed a critical route from Bydgoszcz to Płock.  “Kill them,” was the instant reply to much hilarity.  Lemon commented that she would get her revenge, though it was unclear whether that was planned for the game or sometime later…

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, Blue claimed the first Country Cards, connecting Belarus to Germany.  When she added Russia and Lithuania, it was clear how these could add significant points to a player’s tally.  Further, the repeated nature of collecting Country Cards each time the network grew provided a good source of points of a similar magnitude to those gained from Tickets, but without the associated jeopardy.  The Country Cards are stacked in descending order of value so that the ones earnt early in the game are worth more, but although the value decreases, as more countries are added to  player’s network more tickets are picked up.  As a result, value of each additional card pick up (and therefore each country when added) remains fairly constant depending on how many players are fighting for Country Cards.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Blue stole a bit of an early march on the Country Cards in the north, while Black acquired loads of Tickets and Orange got in everyone’s way.  While Blue’s primary route was in the north running east-west, Black and Orange focused on north-south and Lemon had two separate smaller networks which she unfortunately failed to connect together.  As everyone else saw how lucrative Country Cards could be, they joined in, connecting countries to the south.  Lemon pointed out the route they had taken from Ukraine through south Poland to Warsaw where they got a flight to the UK.  It was about then that the pub became an attraction in itself when one of the locals pointed out that the lease was for sale once more.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

The game came to a slightly sudden end when Lemon ran out of trains—the Poland map is played with just thirty-five trains per player instead of the more usual forty-five.  Actual game play time isn’t much shorter than usual because, like the India map, there are fewer longer routes so players have to take more turns placing trains.  At the end of the game though, it was close with Lemon in the lead thanks largely to the fact she had concentrated on the lucrative long routes where possible.  Orange and Black had completed a lot of Tickets though, and when they were added on together with the Country Cards, they tied for second place with eighty-two points.  The winner was Blue, however, thanks to the huge pile of Country Cards.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, over the other side of the room, Plum, Pine, Lime and Purple were playing Wingspan with Blue’s pimped out set.  Wingspan is a beautiful bird-themed game where players are collecting birds in three different habitats.  On their turn, they can “plant” a bird card in one of these habitats, or activate one of the three habitats to collect food, lay eggs or collect more cards.  The clever part of the game is that when players activate a habitat, they also activate any birds within that habitat—in this way, the game is card driven. Played over four rounds, there are bonus points at the end of each round (dependent on tiles drawn at the start of the game).  Otherwise, players score for birds, eggs, tucked cards, and personal bonus cards at the end of the game.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Players start with eight actions in the first round, but that decreases by one each round as the game progresses.  However, because players add birds to their habitats during the game, although they get fewer turns in later rounds, they are actually doing more things in each turn as they are activating more cards.  In Blue’s pimped out copy, she had replaced the wooden action cubes with little fluffy birds which are cute, but led to some initial confusion with the phrase “playing a bird” meaning variously take an action (playing a fluffy little bird) or play a bird card into a habitat.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, everyone was slow to start—the start is almost always slow in Wingspan as players need cards to play and food so they can pay the cost, but this time it was especially true as players found their feet.  Lime began with a woodland bird that gave an extra food after re-setting the bird-feeder, which really helped him out throughout the game.  He also had a once-between-turns card which was triggered when another player tucked a card.   Since Purple had a bird with a tucking action, that looked like a good call.  Considerable merriment was derived from the tucking action:  who was tucking the most, watching out for people tucking etc..  Unfortunately however, Purple’s action required the tucked card to be taken from Purple’s hand so she often passed up the chance meaning she was not the most prolific tucker…

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Plum’s first two were wetland birds with one-off powers.  As her bonus card rewarded her for having cards left in hand at the end of the game, the fact these early birds increased her card drawing powers from the very start meant they could help towards that too.  Pine’s bonus card rewarded him for having birds with geographical names which he pretty much had in his starting hand. Lime’s bonus was for birds with tucked cards, but he only realised later that it meant multiple birds with tucked cards not the number of cards tucked.  He was able to pick up another bonus card later in the game, which worked slightly better for him though.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine’s bird hunting for rodents largely went hungry in the early part of the game, though it did better in the later rounds.  Plum, instead of sharing her latest kitty pictures, mimicked her favourite kitty behaviour, and watched hawk-like for a successful hunt to trigger once-between-turns action.   She had a killer “three birds in one go move” set up ready to go—two birds both with a “play a second bird in the grasslands” action.  Although she was a little disappointed to have been unable to deploy it in time for the worms they ate to count towards the second round goal of most eaten worms.  This increased her egg laying power though and the final third bird allowed her to a sacrifice an egg for two new bird cards ensuring she achieved her bonus in the final round.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

With the game finally coming to an end, all that was left was the scores.  Plum and Lime took the most points for their birds while Purple and Pine had the most eggs.  While everything else was fairly close, Lime had his nose in front in most areas and this showed in the final scores which were moderately spread out.  Lime’s score of eighty-seven points was some ten points ahead of Plum in second, who was similarly ahead of Pine.  As always with Wingspan, it had been fun, though it had sadly confirmed to Pine that while he adores the theme, the game play just isn’t for him.  And on that sad note, with everyone else also finished, it was time for home.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Everyone loves Pizza.

Remembering Burgundy on his Birthday

Burgundy (also known as Mike Parker) was an Oxfordshire gamer who sadly passed away at the end of December 2021 and is much missed.  He would have been sixty-four on Saturday 27th August and a small group decided that we couldn’t let his birthday pass unmarked.  So, at the South Oxford Crematorium, in Garford (where his ashes had been scattered), six people met to remember him and set light to a 6 Nimmt! card in his honour. The idea was a nice one, however, it turned out that a lighter would have been better than matches in the slight breeze, and 6 Nimmt! cards are not as flammable as we thought:  Burgundy would have been highly amused watching or perhaps he was teasing us by blowing out the flames.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually though, card number sixty-four was successfully burned, or rather charred (or at least most of it was), without doing too much damage to anybody’s fingers or setting fire to the tinder-dry countryside.  From there, the group went to The Fox in Steventon to honour Burgundy’s memory by playing some of his favourite games.  With six, the choices were limited without splitting into two groups, but one of Burgundy’s favourites was Ticket to Ride and the Team Asia expansion allowed everyone to play together.  It was a much tighter game than it had been earlier in the week and everyone played in the “Spirit of Burgundy” with lots of moaning when they picked up a card they didn’t want.  Team Purply-Black ran out the winners, just three points ahead of Team Pinky-Blue (who would have won had Pink let Blue take a chance and draw tickets on her last turn).

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by Lilac

The group were going to squeeze in a quick game of 6 Nimmt! while waiting for food, but the cards (now one short of course) had barely been shuffled when food arrived.  Black, who missed out on on Ham, Egg & Chips at Burgundy’s wake, made up for it this time and then the group had to decide what to play next.  Bohnanza and 6 Nimmt! were options of course, but Green and Black were keen to play something heavier, though that would have meant splitting into two groups which somehow just didn’t seem right.  Concordia was another of Burgundy’s favourites and might have been an option with the Venus expansion, but that was moot as we didn’t have it.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end, the group settled on Wingspan with the European expansion.  Although this only plays five, with two copies the group was able to make it work with an extra player.  This overpowers the “once per turn” (pink) cards, and leads to a lot of down time, but it felt the right thing to do for the occasion.  As a result of the slight unbalancing of the game, Blue got a lot of wheat, Green got an awful lot of worms, Pink and Purple Tucked a lot of cards, and Lilac was left at a bit of a disadvantage as she didn’t get a pink card at all.  Green was the eventual winner by some fifteen points, though it was very close for second with Blue just pipping Purple by a single point.  With the bar closing it was time to go home, but everyone felt that Burgundy would have approved, and would have enjoyed the evening too.

Mike Parker
– Image by Pushpendra Rishi

26th July 2022

Blue and Pink were first to arrive and were just finishing their supper when Ivory joined them soon followed by Pine.  Ivory and Pink were keen to play Ark Nova which is longer than our usual fare and therefore needed a quick and early start.  So, when Black and Purple arrived, they grabbed Black and headed over to the other side of the room.  Everyone else conformed to more typical hesitant behaviour and were a lot slower to get going.  This wasn’t helped by Blue who was explaining how Pink had managed to find the “Only Panda Themed Village in Cornwall” and when Lemon and Orange queried it, she felt the need to find the photos to prove it.

The Lanivet Inn
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, the group split into two with Purple, Blue, Pine and Teal playing the “Feature Game“, the Spiel des Jahres nominee, SCOUT.  Although this has a nominal and very tenuous “circus theme”, it really is well hidden and “pasted on” to what is otherwise a relatively traditional, though clever little Rummy-esque card game with a Bohnanza-type twist—players cannot change the order of the cards in their hand.  The idea is that players have a hand of cards and on their turn takes an action:  they play a run or a meld (set of cards of the same value à la Rummy), or take a card from the active set (the previously played set).  The first of these actions is called “Show” and players can only Show the set they want to play beats the previously played set (called the Active Set).  A set wins if it has more cards or the same number, but a higher value, and a meld always beats a run.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

When Showing, the cards played must be consecutive in the player’s hand, so a player can, for example, take a four, five and six from the beginning, middle or end of their hand.  It must beat the current Active Set, and it then becomes the new Active Set with the old one turned face down and added to its owner’s scoring pile.  In this way, the quality of the the Active Set is ever increasing—this mechanism makes SCOUT a ladder-climbing game, of which Tichu and Haggis are probably the best known.  The problem is that of course it will become progressively difficult to play cards (especially with the consecutive constraint), so players can also use the Scout action and take a card from the Active Set, for which it’s owner gets a Scout token as a reward.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

When Scouting, players can only take a card from the end of the Active Set, ensuring that runs retain their integrity and just become shorter and maybe of lower value.  A card that has been Scouted goes into the player’s hand, anywhere they like, so they can use this to connect two cards in a run, or enhance an already existing meld for example.  The really clever part of the game is that the cards have two values, and which value they take depends on which way up the cards are.  This is clever because it adds just enough flexibility to make the game work, while not making things trivial.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of the game, players are dealt a hand of cards and choose which way up the hand goes—not the individual cards, the whole hand.  From this point on, the hand stays the same way up, but when cards are added to a player’s hand (and only then), the added card can be rotated.  The game ends when either, one player runs out of cards, or when it gets to a player’s turn and they were the last person to Show.  In addition to Scout and Show, once during the game, players can also “Scout & Show” which is often used to bring about or prevent the game coming to an end.  Players then add up the number of scoring cards and tokens and subtract the number of cards in the their hand and the player with the most is the winner.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is one of those games that is a bit odd to understand at first, so Purple (who started), began tentatively, but it wasn’t long before people were Scouting and Showing happily.  There was a bit of confusion when it came to Teal’s turn and he Scouted one of his own cards—a rules check didn’t answer the question of whether he should get a token (we called them Cadbury’s Chocolate Bars because of their colour) or not, so we decided not.  It was only later that we realised that of course players could not Scout from their own set, as a round of Scouting triggers the end of the game.  Pine was the clear winner with fourteen points, more than twice Blue in second, and in spite of forgetting he could Scout & Show which would have given him victory earlier.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

The game can be played in campaign mode where players get scoring tokens and add up the total after several rounds, however, we tend to prefer to play games like this as single, short, one-off games.  And this time, everyone wanted to “do a Lime” and give it a second go now they understood what they were doing.  It was about this time that Pine checked his phone for the first time and reported that the England versus Sweden semi-final in the Women’s European football championships was goalless, but that “Sweden were playing well”.  There was a general slightly pessimistic noise around the table and Teal began the second round.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

A cheer from the bar prompted Pine to check his phone again and everyone relaxed a little when he reported that England had scored their first goal.  This second game of SCOUT was much closer than the first with scores of eleven, twelve, thirteen and fourteen, with Blue the victor, just ahead of Teal.  It had been a lot of fun and everyone really appreciated the cleverness of such a simple little game and found it had really grown on them from the two rounds they’d played.  There were other games people fancied playing, however, so the group moved on to Trek 12: Himalaya, a Roll and Write game we first enjoyed playing a few months ago and was given a “Recommendation” by the Spiel des Jahres Award committee.

Trek 12: Himalaya
– Image by boardGOATS

Trek 12 is similar to On Tour which we played several times online, but is a little more complex.  In On Tour, two d10 dice are rolled and players combine them to make a two digit number, so a five and a four can be combined to make a forty-five and a fifty-four, one of which is then written in a location on the map.  Locations are connected by “roads” and players are aiming to make the longest continuous route of numbers that only increase.  Trek 12 does something similar in that two dice are rolled and the numbers combined to give one, but as the sum, difference, or product, alternatively players may choose one single die (either the larger or the smaller).

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

The catch is that each of these operations can only be used just four times each during the game.  The resultant number is then written on the map, but the theme is trekking so chains of ascending or descending numbers represent ropes while groups of the same number represent camps.  Another difference is that in On Tour player can write their numbers anywhere on their map, whereas in Trek 12 numbers have to be added next each other.  This means that it is advisable to start in the centre and work out, advice that Pink eschewed at his cost last time we played.  Scoring is more complex as well, since players score for the highest value in each rope/camp plus one for each other number in the rope/camp with bonuses for the longest rope/largest camp and negative points for any isolated numbers.

Trek 12: Himalaya
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the group  used the Kagkot map, rather than the Dunai map used last time.  Teal, Purple and Pine all started at much the same place putting a five in the middle, but from there things quickly diverged despite the plague of fives that were rolled.  Blue decided to do something different and started with a zero in the middle.  Everyone got themselves into a bit of a tangle, but Purple struggled the most.  Part of the reason might have been distraction caused by the updates on the football as, during the second half of the match, there was a second goal, then a third.  Everyone was still digesting the third which was described as “Outrageous” when a fourth went in just eight minutes later to leave the final score four-nil to England.

Trek 12: Himalaya
– Image by boardGOATS

Teal gambled on getting the high dice rolls he wanted, and jammily got them.  However, the game was won by Blue who put together lots and lots of very short ropes and small camps to give her high base scores, with one long rope to give a decent bonus and a final total just above the target set for the map in campaign mode.  While all this was going on, Lilac and Green were introducing Orange and Lemon to Carcassonne, an older, now classic Euro game that won the Spiel des Jahres award over twenty years ago.  The game is perhaps one of the best known tile-laying games and was the inspiration for the term “Meeple“.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, players draw a tile and add it to the central map.  The tiles feature some combination of Roads, Cloisters, City and Fields.  Once the tile has been placed, the player can then add a single Meeple from their supply to the tile placing it on one of the features so it becomes a Thief, Monk, Knight or Farmer (respectively).  Finally, any features that are completed are scored and the players gets their Meeples back.  In this context, completed means Roads that end with a junction at both ends, Cloisters that are completely surrounded by other tiles, and Cities without gaps where the wall is closed).  Fields or Farms are only scored at the end of the game.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

In this way, players score one point for each tile in a completed Road, nine points for a completed Cloister and two points for each tile in a completed city (plus two for any Pennants).  Although players can’t add a Meeple to a feature that is already occupied, it is possible to end up with shared features.  This happens when two separately owned Roads (say) are joined together.  In this situation, the player with the most Meeples scores the points, or, if there is a tie, both players get the points.  And this is really the crux of the game—players can play nicely or nastily, working together to build big Cities, or muscling in and stealing them from other players just before they score, or even playing tiles to make Features difficult to complete.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, Farms and any still incomplete Features are scored (though they only give only one point for each tile and Pennant in a city and one point for each tile in a Cloister array).  A Farm is a continuous Field, i.e. a green space that a Meeple could “walk” around that might be bordered by Roads, City walls, River or the edge of the map.  Each Farm then scores three points for each City that it “feeds”, i.e. that borders the Farm.  Since Farms can be very high scoring, early Farmers in the right place can be very valuable as they mean other players have to work hard to join fields together if they want to share the points.  On the other hand, an early farmer can be cut off and left scoring very few points.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Additionally, since they are not recovered during the game, Farmers placed early are not scoring points during the game, so part of the skill of the game is timing when to place Farmers to maximise their value.  Scores are kept on a track, and the player with the most points at the end is the winner.  This time, although there were a number of expansions available, with Lemon and Orange were new to the game, the group only added the River expansion, which consists of a small number of tiles played at the start and helps to prevent the formation of one massive Field.  Lilac explained the rules: although it is mostly a simple game, the Farmers always cause a little confusion, in particular where the edges of the Fields were and how you might end up with more than one Farmer in a field.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Lilac placed the second river tile and with little other option available to her placed the first Farmer.  For the next few turns of placing River tiles, the question of when another player could place a farmer was often repeated, until Orange was able to get one with a road and bridge tile.  The River started running along the length of the table, expecting the board to develop more in the that direction than to the edges of the table. Unfortunately, fairly early on the river shifted sideways and the whole board developed across the table rather than along, so they had to shift the tiles a couple of times to make room (this was not meant to be the Discworld!).

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Lilac took an early commanding lead on the score board, with Orange next to start scoring. It seemed to take ages before Lemon got her first points and even longer for Green to get going.  However, Lilac’s lead soon disappeared as Green, Lemon and Orange shared the points for one enormous city—they thought they would never complete it, but with three people after one particular tile, it was almost inevitable really.  Lilac meanwhile was after the single bend road tile to complete a roundabout with her Meeple on it.  Everyone else got that tile, everyone except Lilac of course.  It looked like it would never happen, but in the dying moments of the game, she finally got the tile she needed. It was only worth four points, but it gave her a spare Meeple.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

With the Farmers now understood, with his last tile, Orange was able to complete a City and then place a Meeple on the field part of that tile to be sole farmer for one complete city. It was only three points, but more than the couple he could have scored by using the tile to complete a Road. Having spotted this useful use of a final Meeple, Lemon and then Lilac both did the same.  In the mêlée of farmers, Orange came out on top, managing to knock out Lilac’s and Green’s farmers, and Lemon scored a few too.  The end result was a victory for Orange, a close second for Lemon, with the veterans of Green and Lilac well behind.  Perhaps they did not play quite as aggressively as they could have done, but mostly they just didn’t get the right tiles and were simply out-played.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, Black, Pink and Ivory were playing Ark Nova, but as it was showing no sign of finishing soon, with both Carcassonne and Trek 12 finished, the two groups had a decision to make:  play two games (maybe with a quick game of Musical Chairs first) or play one large game.  Las Vegas was suggested as a possible large game (it plays eight with the Boulevard Expansion), and Living Forest (winner of the Kennerspiel des Jahres this year) was an option if breaking into two groups.  Time marched on, and nobody in the group is very good at decision making and before long it was too late to play Living Forest and Las Vegas can take a while to play.  So in the end, the group decided to introduce Orange and Lemon to an old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Although 6 Nimmt! didn’t win the Spiel des Jahres Award, we certainly think it should have done; it did get a recommendation from the Jury though and of course it won the Golden GOAT in 2020 (a very difficult year for everyone).  Teal had to play taxi for his family, so headed off leaving seven to play.  The game is very simple:  players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and play it face down in front of them.  Once everyone has chosen a card, the cards are revealed and played in order from lowest to highest.  The cards are added to one of the four rows on the table—they are added to the row that ends with the highest number that is lower than the card itself.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

If the card added would have been the sixth card, instead the player takes the cards in the row and their card becomes the start of the new row.  If the card is lower than all the cards at the end of the rows, instead the player chooses a row and their card replaces that row.  At the end of the game, players sum the total of Bull’s heads or “Nimmts” shown on the cards in their scoring pile and the player with the least is the winner.  There are a hundred and four cards in the deck, and we play a variant where the game is played over two rounds, each with half the cards.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The delicious thing about 6 Nimmt! is that everyone feels that they are in control, until the moment when they aren’t.  Some people argue that it is a random game, but as the same players (like Burgundy) often seem to do well, it can’t be.  That said, and it is especially true for those that often do well (like Burgundy), when it goes wrong it can go catastrophically and spectacularly wrong.  As a result the suspense is murder and the game is loads of fun yet never seems to outstay its welcome.  Orange quickly got to grips with it and clearly quickly appreciated the jeopardy.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time we played without the “Professional Variant” that had become so popular online, partly because it would not be fair on the people new to it, but mostly because everyone was tired and nobody was up to the mathematical gymnastics it required.  This time the first round was unusual, because everyone had similar scores.  Usually, at least one player manages to keep a clean or cleanish sheet and at least one player picks up lots of pretty coloured cards, but the range of scores at half way were between seven and thirteen.  That meant it was all to play for in the second half.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The second half was a little more varied with Green only collecting four Nimmts and Blue and Lilac collecting sixteen, but the net effect largely offset the differences in the first round.  Blue top-scored with twenty-seven, Pine was just behind with twenty-six and Lilac after him with twenty-three (she really is going to have to try harder if she is going to compete with the really high scorers).  The winner though was Purple with fifteen, one Nimmt less than the runner up, Green, in what had been a tight game, but a lot of fun, as always.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Ark Nova was still on-going, so Orange, Lemon and Lilac killed a few minutes with a quick round of Dobble.  This Snap-a-Like game is simple, but a lot of fun.  This time, players started with a single card and called a match with the central pile and grabbed a card.  Despite playing in English which is not his first language, Orange is remarkably good at this game, taking twenty-two cards, beating Lemon into second place.  From there, that side of the room just deteriorated into random chatter about random pub-type things (including the Voice of Jack and the demise of Frosts at Millets) as people ran out of steam and waited for Ark Nova to finish.

Dobble
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time, Black, Pink and Ivory were rapidly running out of time as last orders had been called some time ago.  Ark Nova is a much longer game than we usually play with an advertised playing time of upwards of two hours and reputedly considerably more with inexperienced players and setup time included.  It is all about planning and designing a modern, scientifically managed zoo—when this was first mentioned at the start of the evening, Pine looked all interested in the theme, but was quickly put off when Ivory added it was “a bit like Terraforming Mars with animals”.  That said, although it is quite complex, functionally it is not difficult to play on a turn by turn basis, though there is quite a lot to manage and keep a track of.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, players take one of six possible actions:  activating one of the five action cards (Cards, Build, Animals, Association and Sponsor) with a strength equal to the number above the card, or move a card back to the first space and take a cross token instead.  When activating a card players perform the action based on its power level.  The power level is dictated by its position in the row, with the level one power to the left and the level five to the right.  Once a card has been played, it is moved the first space in the player’s five card row (i.e.to the lowest power position on the left) moving the other cards to the right to replace the card removed, effectively incrementing their power by one.  During the game, players can upgrade and turn over the action cards to a more powerful second side using various bonuses.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

The Cards action is the simplest action, which lets players draw cards from the deck (the number depending on strength) then advance the marker two spaces along the break track which defines when the round ends.  The Build action allows players to pay to construct one building on their zoo map.  Players can build basic enclosures with a size of one to five, but they can also build a petting zoo for animal storage or pavilions and kiosks (which give players appeal and money respectively based on adjacent filled enclosures).  With the upgraded build action, players can build multiple different buildings and have access to the large bird aviary and reptile house which allow the storage of multiple animals.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

There’s no point of having enclosures without animals, and that’s where the animals action comes in:  it allows players to add animals into enclosures in their zoo. Some animals have a special requirement and need a symbol in their tableau and/or the upgraded animal card. Adding an animal to an enclosure has a cost, and then the player turns over the empty enclosure of at least the size needed or places the listed cubes into a special enclosure (an aviary or a reptile house).  The player then adds the animal card to their tableau and resolves the abilities on it and receives ticket sales along with possibly conservation points and reputation.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

The association action allows players to take one task on the association board with different tasks available based on their power level.  This allows people to gain reputation points, acquire a partner zoo they don’t already own, gain a partner university, or support a conservation.  Finally the sponsor action allows players to play exactly one sponsor from their hand which offer ongoing abilities.  They can allow players to place unique tiles in their zoo and offer end game conservation point opportunities. Some Sponsor cards have conditions on their play similar to the animal cards.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

Players take it in turns to take actions, resetting every time a break occurs, until the end game has been triggered.  There are two tracks, Appeal (Tickets) and Conservation that follow the same course, but in opposite directions.  The game end is triggered when one player’s pair of scoring markers cross, after which, everyone gets one more turn and then the end-game cards are scored.  The player with the largest overlap between their Conservation and Appeal values is the winner.  A player’s tokens can meet and pass at any point, but Conservation points are much harder to get than Appeal, so to compensate, each step on the early part of the Conservation track is equivalent to two Tickets on the Appeal track, while each Conservation step is worth three Tickets.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink started hard and fast with a simple animal strategy concentrating on upgrading his action cards to get the more powerful actions and getting extra workers.  In contrast, Ivory and Black started a little slower and focused on getting larger (Size five) pens, like the reptile house and the aviary.  These are more difficult to get, but are also more valuable.  Ivory then added a Stork and a Condor, while Black collected a Horse and engaged the services of a European Hobbit-like Expert.  The game was about half-way through when the other table heard a howl of delight from all three of them:  The Panda card had come out.  From this point forward, Pink’s primary aim was to get the Panda and find it a nice, cosy, bamboo-filled space in his zoo where he could love it and hug it at leisure.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Pink got a lot of Tickets early, his Conservation was very low which made him look like he wasn’t a threat.  Maybe Ivory and Black took their eye off him because of this, as they seemed surprised when Pink suddenly got ten Conservation points very quickly using the Association action which triggered the end of the game quite abruptly.  In a similar way to the recent game of Viticulture where Teal did the same thing, this meant everyone else had to make the best of things.  It was probably for the best, however, as by this time it was a real race against the clock.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end game scoring, Ivory also managed to get his Appeal and Conservation pieces to cross over, but Black was less fortunate finishing with a negative score.  It was close between Pink and Ivory, but Ivory scored more in the end-game scoring and took victory by a single point.  Even though it finished in a bit of a rush, they had all really enjoyed the game; Black commented that rather than being like Terraforming Mars, to him it felt more like Wingspan, which was probably just as well as he’s not very fond of Terraforming Mars.   As they rushed to pack the game away, Pink gave his Panda one last hug before putting him back in the box and going home.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Pink Likes Pandas.

Boardgames in the News: Kickstarter, Blockchain, Discord, Ravensburger, & Gamefound

Crowdfunding is the practice of project funding using a large number of investors, usually with many small financial contributions.  Although it is often thought of as a modern practice, it actually has a long history, with its roots dating back centuries to a time when printing was very expensive and people were encouraged to subscribe or otherwise commit to buying a publication in advance.  In 1697, Dryden’s “Works of Virgil” was published like this, and with staggering parallels to modern crowdfunding, there were two editions, including an “exclusive limited edition”.  Over the last twenty years, however, the practice has become more and more popular with entrepreneurs increasingly put in touch with investors through online platforms like Kickstarter.

ArtistShare Logo
– Image from artistshare.com

The first commercial crowdfunding platform was artistShare in 2001, this was soon followed by IndiGoGo (2008) and in particular Kickstarter (2009), which have had a massive impact on board game production.  In 2016, Gamefound was launched, initially as a “pledge manager” to support crowdfunded board game projects at the fulfillment stage when it is necessary to manage details of large numbers of backers and ensure they are sent the correct “rewards”.  In 2021, however, Gamefound itself moved into crowdfunding, becoming a one-stop crowdfunding shop targeted at board games and board gamers.

Ravensburger Logo
– Image from ravensburger.org

This takes money of course, which is presumably the reason for the recent announcement of an investment by the German toy and games manufacturer, Ravensburger.  Ravensburger are well known in the board game world, in particular for their production of the Alea range of games.  However, they are much more than that, and are one of the biggest jigsaw produces, and indeed were literally the producers of the world’s largest jigsaw in 2016 (though this record has since been broken).  They also acquired the Swedish toy company BRIO in 2015, and as such are one of the world’s largest suppliers of trains too.

Brio Train
– Image from brio.us

The slightly curious aspect of this is that, unlike Queen Games for example, Ravensburger have not hitherto engaged in crowdfunding board games, so it is unclear what is driving Ravensburger’s interest.  It is unquestionably a great move for Gamefound, however, especially at a time when arguably their most significant competitors, Kickstarter, has recently encountered a very negative response to their intention to use Blockchain technology.  According to Kickstarter’s blog:

As a first step, we’re supporting the development of an open source protocol that will essentially create a decentralized version of Kickstarter’s core functionality. This will live on a public blockchain, and be available for collaborators, independent contributors, and even Kickstarter competitors, from all over the world to build upon, connect to, or use. … We’re establishing an independent organization that will kick off the development of the protocol. Kickstarter PBC will provide this new independent organization with some funding, appoint an initial board, and commit to being one of the protocol’s earliest clients, meaning Kickstarter.com will be built on top of the protocol. As a user, the Kickstarter experience you’re familiar with will stay the same. You won’t “see” the protocol, but you will benefit from its improvements.

Blockchain is a data-sharing security technology where blocks of data are encrypted in a way that depends on other blocks in the chain.  Thus, if one of these blocks is illicitly changed, it will (to quote Fleetwood Mac) “Break the Chain”.  With many participants in each chain and the same data being stored multiple times via multiple chains, data integrity is maintained.  The whole procedure is carried out in “The Cloud”, which minimises the infrastructure needed at each step, but the redundancy and nature of repeated complex operations means there is a significant environmental impact.

Kickstarter Logo
– Image from kickstarter.com

Although Blockchain is typically associated with crypto-currencies, Kickstarter have been clear that normal credit/debit cards can still be used for pledges and creators would receive funds in the normal way.  Kickstarter have been clear that they intend to make it “carbon-negative”, but that has not stopped a lot of project creators and backers expressing their concern.  Even the designer of Wingspan and Mariposas, Elizabeth Hargrave, who has not hitherto used Kickstarter to produce one of her games, has commented.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The nature of this concern is not always entirely clear, though the root seems to be the environmental aspect, with many creators additionally concerned that their projects will be tarnished by association.  In November, Discord reportedly abandoned plans to integrate a cryptocurrency wallet on the platform after reports of supporters cancelling their subscriptions.  The development of Gamefound as a crowdfunding platform, however, means that even if Kickstarter continue down this route, game producers will at least have a choice.

Gamefound Logo
– Image from gamefound.com

Boardgames in the News: Games making Cameos on TV

Board games are an integral part of family life and growing up and, as such, they have a long tradition of appearing on TV programs.  For example, Kramer and Newman get wrapped up in a game of Risk in Seinfeld, Scrabble features in the second series of Hamish Macbeth and in The Simpsons, while Stratego was the game Fox Mulder was playing with his sister the night she was abducted in the X-Files.  Often, games are used to highlight something “geeky” or otherwise “cerebral”.  So, Rimmer was known to maintain a “Risk Campaign Diary” and often recounting games turn-by-turn to his crew mates in Red Dwarf, and in Star Trek: Voyager, Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres were shown playing Quarto (though it is probably known by a different name in the twenty-fourth century).

Escape From Colditz
– Image from bbc.co.uk

More exiting games have started to appear on TV recently though.  A few years ago, we commented on how Mage Knight featured in the BBC romantic drama Last Tango in Halifax but that is by no means the only TV program to use a designer board game to create atmosphere.  The BBC has a bit of a penchant for including board games in their programs, and when they do, they often choose games that are outside the mainstream.  For example, in the 1970s police drama, Life on Mars featured people playing Escape from Colditz, and more recently, the second series of Killing Eve showed Villanelle playing Dixit.

Dixit on Killing Eve
– Image from bbc.co.uk

In this case, it is a plot device, as Villanelle’s protagonist is commented, “You are struggling with the rules of Dixit, a simple story telling game for players aged eight and upwards, and yet you claim to have two philosophy degrees.”  The BBC doesn’t have a monopoly on showing modern board games, however.  The Channel 4 program, The IT Crowd regularly featured a stack of games in the background that variously included Memoir ’44, Ticket to Ride, Shadows over Camelot, Mystery of the Abbey and War on Terror, while Settlers of Catan, Talisman, Ticket to Ride, and Race for the Galaxy are all shown on shelves in The Big Bang Theory, highlighting how games are still often seen as something for “geeks”.

Tikal
– Image from youtube.com

The “geeky” angle may be changing though.  The Amazon thriller Reacher shows people playing Settlers of Catan in a safe-house, and there is a game shown in every series of the Canadian thriller, Orphan Black because co-creator John Fawcett is a gamer and the show has a “Board Game Advisor” (games featured include Gloomhaven, Runewars, Agricola, Descent, Dead of Winter and Scythe)Tikal even appeared in Glee during the fifth season where the cast sing, “What does the Fox Say?”  Some of these appearances may be paid product placement, in particular Arkham Horror in Limitless and Race for the Galaxy in Silicon Valley, with Rio Grande Games allegedly having confirmed that they have paid for games to appear in shows.  That is not the reason in all cases though.

Wingspan
– Image from itv.com

Last week, Wingspan appeared in the ITV soap-opera, Coronation Street with people shown reading the rules and references to having played later.  Designer Elizabeth Hargrave confirmed that this was not a case of product placement, commenting that the show got in touch and no money had changed hands.  It is possible that one of the script writers is a fan of modern board games as “Corrie” did something similar just over a year ago with Billy Mayhew shown struggling to fathom the rules to Mysterium shortly after Christmas. With the appearance of modern board games in programs like this, it is clear they are no longer solely the preserve of the “geeky”, though it would probably help if we could get rid of the “frowning over difficult rules” stereotype.

Mysterium
– Image from itv.com