Tag Archives: Zooloretto

26th July 2016

To celebrate Codenames winning the Spiel des Jahres Award, this week it was our “Feature Game”.   Although the game seems to be very, very popular, it definitely has the “Marmite Factor” amongst our group.  It also really needs a group of a reasonable size.  Since it is relatively quick, even the most reluctant agreed to give it a go, especially as Cerise had made it for the first time in ages and it was a game she had really enjoyed last time we played it.  It was also Turquoise’s first visit, so a team game seemed a good way of starting.  The idea of the game is that there are two rival teams of Spies, each with a leader or Spymaster.  The Spies are trying to locate their Agents, but these are only known by their Codenames, and only the Spymasters have the key to who is on which team.  The Codenames are laid out on the table in a five by five array where everyone can see them together with some innocent bystanders and an Assassin.  The Spymasters then take it in turns to give clues to their team so that the Spies can identify their own team’s Agents by pointing at them.

Codenames
– Image by boardGOATS

Clues are of the form “word; number”, where “word” is a clue that connects several cards and “Number” is the number of connected cards.  For example, the clue “bird; three” might connect “sparrow”, “beak” and “Naomi Campbell”.  The team then discuss the clue and point to code cards, one at a time.  If they get it wrong, their turn ends straight away, so ideally they should start with the answers they think are most obvious.  If the Codename corresponds to one of their agents, then the team can guess again, and keep trying until they have exhausted their theoretical maximum number cards that match the clue (three in the example).  Importantly, the only measure of “correct” is whether the Codename is one of the Agents, the agent chosen does not actually have to match the current clue.  So, a team who can’t make sense of a clue or identify all the Codenames may decide point to a Codename that matches a clue given earlier in the game.  For this reason, when a team get all their theoretical maximum number of Codenames for that turn right, they also get one extra chance.

Codenames
– Image by boardGOATS

So, the trick is for the leader to come up with clues that cover multiple correct answers so that the rest of the team can identify the complete set before the opposition identify all theirs. Unfortunately, we had a particularly unconnected set of words and two Spymasters, Blue and Burgundy, who were particularly useless at this sort of thing.  Consequently there were lots of clues like “continent; one”, and when Blue got adventurous and went for “music; two” she totally confused her team and was perilously close to a hint that could lead to the Assassin (Codename “Snowman”) and bring the game to an abrupt end.  “Zooloretto; two” also fell on stony ground since nobody on Blue’s team had actually played it (where everyone in Burgundy’s team had).  The game remained finely balanced as Blue continued to try to give slightly more adventurous clues which her team didn’t always get, while Burgundy played safe with smaller clues that his team understood.

Codenames
– Image by boardGOATS

It all came to a head when, with only two Agents left to find, Burgundy decided to be adventurous and gave the clue “film; two”.  His team quickly got one of them, “Alien”, but the second was more tricky.  Green thought it was probably “forest” (as in “The Forest Moon of Endor”), but could also be several other things.  Cerise, on the opposite team leant a hand and suggested that it could be “wind” as in “Gone with the…”  or maybe “snowman”.  Meanwhile, Burgundy remained stony-faced, in what were very trying circumstances.  Eventually the team ignored Cerise (who had managed to suggest both the correct answer and the Assassin), which gave Blue and her team one last chance.  With only one Agent left to guess, there was only a short pause before they finished the game.  There was a big sigh of relief all round as everyone was put out of their misery, particularly Blue and Burgundy who had found the whole clue-giving experience very stressful indeed.  Unquestionably, with the right crowd Codenames could be great fun, but sadly, we just aren’t it, so it is unlikely to get another outing in the near future – definitely not our group’s Spiel des Jahres this year.

Codenames
– Image by boardGOATS

With that over, we decided to split into two groups.  Black and Purple were keen to give Imhotep a try (one of the other Spiel des Jahres Award nominees), as they had wanted to play it at the UK Games Expo, but it had been constantly booked out of the games library.  Burgundy had played it (also at Expo, with Blue and Pink), had enjoyed it and was happy to give it another go, so Green made up a group of four.  As well as being the key protagonist in the film, “The Mummy”, Imhotep was also a priest and a great architect.  So in this game, players take the role of builders in Egypt who are trying to emulate Imhotep.  The premise of the game is very simple.  On their turn, the active player chooses one of four actions:  procure new stones; load stones on a boat; sail a boat to a monument; or play an action card.  Players can only store a maximum of five stones and when they procure stones they can collect a maximum of three.  Stones are loaded onto ships one at a time, but which of the five possible destinations the boats end up at and the order they are unloaded in is vital, so timing and planning is everything.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

Admittedly the lovely big wooden blocks make this game feel like a “junior” board game, but Imhotep is anything but.  It is one of those games that is easy to learn but difficult to master. Although players have a range of options, trying to decide which one is best depends on what has already transpired, what opponents do and how the game will develop.  What makes it particularly tricky is that the best plans in the world can be crushed by opponents with one small action: when they take a boat to the “wrong place”.  It turns out the cubes are large for a good reason:  stacking cubes is a key part of the game and anything smaller would make a very wobbly obelisk.  There are four ships and five building locations, so one doesn’t get visited and the round ends when all four boats have sailed.  There are six rounds in total with points scored in different ways for the different buildings; the player with the most points at the end is declared the best builder in Egypt.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

Once everything was set up, the game got under way, but then almost stalled. Nobody had any idea what should be a good opening gambit.  Placing a cube on a ship was the easy choice, but which ship and in which position?  After some head scratching, everyone began placing cubes on boats, making plans where wanted the ships should go, waiting for them to be full, when suddenly, Purple jumped the gun and sent the first boat on its way.  She chose a boat with one cube of each of her competitors and sent it build an Obelisk, catching everyone by surprise.  It wasn’t a particularly bad place to go, but the obelisk doesn’t score until the end and since the highest scores are for the tallest towers, it might not actually be the most efficient use of a cube, especially so early in the game.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

The rest of the first round continued to be a lesson in frustration as each of the other boats ended up somewhere other than where players had planned. The next boat went to the Burial Chambers (another scoring at the end of the game), the third to the Wall (scored at the end of the round, but only one point per cube) and the last went to the Market to get cards. As Green was first on the boat he had the first choice of the cards available and based on that first boat he chose the card that gave him an extra point for every 3 cubes in the Obelisk (any three cubes, not just his own).  Now no-one other than Green wanted a boat to go to the Obelisk.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

The second round began a little more cautiously.  Everyone had a better idea of how the round would go and began placing their cubes in particular positions on the ships.  The game continued to frustrate everyone as the ships just wouldn’t go where players wanted them to go.  This is frustration is similar to that in Zooloretto where players place animals on trucks, but have to wait until the next turn to collect them, if someone else hasn’t got there first, of course.  In Imhotep, it was usually pretty obvious where players wanted the boat to go, so someone else almost always got there first to send it somewhere else!

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

The unusual scoring of the Pyramid (not steadily increasing or decreasing points) meant that everyone tried to position themselves carefully for that optimum high scoring space, but no-one ever managed to get the boat set up quite how they wanted.  As a result, again no boat went to the pyramid.  The obelisks grew, and the pattern of the Burial Chamber was going in Black and Burgundy’s favour and the Wall scored a few more points, mostly for Purple. The Wall was beginning to show its strength as a cube placed there can score round after round until it is covered – potentially scoring well.  The market cards were dolled out, with Burgundy and Black both taking a blue extra action cards for later use. Green wasn’t sure what to take and ended up with a purple end game scoring card which would only come into it’s own if he could collect a few more.  In the third round the pyramid finally got started, in Black’s favour. The game continued in much the same way, individual plans were more and more obvious and as a result became harder and harder to fulfil.  The trouble was, in taking an action to scupper someone else it often helped a different player or upset their own plans.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

By the end of the game nobody was sure who the winner was going to be.   Before adding all the end-game scores, Burgundy was ahead of Black and Purple, with Green trailing behind.  Everyone had managed a couple of areas in the Burial Chamber, but despite best efforts to scupper him, Burgundy still had the largest area.  The Obelisks had become a fraught battle field at the end.  Black had thrown down the gauntlet to take a boat there which only had two of his cubes and pushed him into the lead, but in the penultimate round Green had sailed a sneaky little single cube boat which made his tower equal.  By making sure that he placed a cube in any boat that Black had used, Green then ensuring that he would at least share the Obelisk spoils. The presence of a single cube boat in that last round, was interesting, but no-one wanted to use it as it was guaranteed that the cube would get taken to the least useful dock, so in the end the Obelisk scores for first and second place were shared between Black and Green with Purple and Burgundy sharing the scores for third and fourth place.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

With Black now several points ahead, Burgundy and Green were vying for second with only the the green and purple end-game scoring cards left, though only Black and Green had any.  Black scored points for every three cubes in the burial chamber, which extended his lead and now looked unassailable.  Green got his Obelisk cubes score, which proved to be the same as Black took for the burial chamber, but with three purple cards giving him another six points he leap-frogged over Black to win by one point.  It was an incredibly close game which suggests that where cubes go may not matter as much as it feels like it should.  On one hand, this seems like a good thing as it relieves the pressure of all those boats going to the “wrong place”, but on the other hand it may suggest the game is a little too balanced making strategy play is less important, which would be a great shame.  Everyone really enjoyed it, however, and would definitely play it again especially as it plays quickly and the alternative tile options look as though they would add variety and new challenges to the game keeping it fresh.  For our group, from the nominations list, this would definitely have been our choice of Spiel des Jahres.

Colt Express
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Meanwhile, everyone else was engaged in a brutal game of Colt Express, the worthy winner of last year’s Spiel des Jahres.  This is a programming game, where players take it in turns to choose the cards to they will play, but only action them after everyone has chosen.  Since everyone then takes it in turns to carry out their actions, the game is full of unforeseen consequences.  The game has a Western theme and is played on a fabulous three-dimensional train.  The idea is that each player is a bandit attacking the train trying to move about to pick up cash and jewels while avoiding the Marshall and shooting each other.  Although we’ve played this a few times, we had a couple of people who hadn’t played it before so we had a quick run-down of the rules first.  Each player starts with the same deck of action cards and six bullet cards.  A round card dictates how many cards will be played and how (face up or down; in pairs or singly) and players each shuffle their action deck and draw six cards.

Colt Express
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Players then take it in turns to play the action cards.  At the beginning of a round everyone can see where everyone else is and it is easy to choose which card to play and predict its outcome.  Before long, however, things begin to become unpredictable and by the time players have to choose a second card it is highly likely that plans will have gone awry, though of course, nobody know this yet.  Once the cards have all been played, the pile of cards is turned over and the cards are actioned in the order that they were played.  It is only at this point that people realise the mistakes they’ve unwittingly made, shooting nobody or the wrong person, trying to pick up jewels that aren’t there or finding they’ve got nowhere to go because the Marshal is in the way and has screwed up their plans.  As the game progresses, things get worse too since shooting someone involves passing them a bullet card.  This is added to their action deck, but is a dead card and gives no possible actions.  Multiple bullet cards means the chance of drawing them increases making the action cards drawn all the more precious and adding pressure to make the maximum use of them.

Colt Express
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Colt Express is a light, fun game and inevitably, someone gets picked on.  This time Blue was the victim (playing the character Django).  Magenta (playing the innocent looking Belle) started using Blue for target practice, but Cerise (Doc) was very quick to join in the fun.  Blue did her best to escape and briefly managed to grab the $1,000 strongbox (gold bar in our version of the game) before Magenta biffed her soundly on the nose and nabbed it.  Meanwhile, Cerise and Turquoise were doing an excellent job of gathering up the loot and robbing the passengers blind, before they decided to try to empty their revolvers.  Obviously, this was mostly at Blue’s expense and with so many bullet cards she struggled to do anything, but that didn’t put people off of course.  Before long even the Marshall was getting in on the act and, much to her disgust, Blue finished the game with more bullets than action cards and no money or gems at all.

Colt Express
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

For everyone else, however, the game was quite close.  Magenta had managed to hang onto the gold bar (aka strongbox) and one gem, but it wasn’t enough to compete with Turquoise and Cerise.  Turquoise had picked up a massive five money purses while Cerise added the Sharp Shooter bonus to her one gem and single purse.  Much to our surprise, both totalled $1,850 which meant we had to check the rules for a tie-breaker.  It turned out this was the number of bullets received, which meant that even though she was a long way from competing, Blue had an influence on the result.  As well as being a bullet-magnet, Blue had just about managed to fire a couple of shots in return.  Cerise had been one of the main attackers, so she had caught a few of Blue’s bullets as well as a couple of Magenta’s.  Since Turquoise had rarely fired at anyone, she had picked up just two bullets and with it, her second win of the evening, with Cerise getting her comeuppance.

Colt Express
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor lacxox

With it nearing “pumpkin time” for Magenta and Turquoise, there was just time for one last quick game and, almost inevitably, that was 6 Nimmt!.  How this game is still interesting for our group, is a bit of a mystery.  It is short, everyone is always happy to play it and, since it has such a small footprint, it gets brought every week which means it is there when the occasion is right, the mystery though is why people haven’t got bored when other games have long since fallen off the radar.  This time Purple started badly picking up twenty Nimmts in the first round while Turquoise began with a clean sheet.  Burgundy started well with just two Nimmts, but since he always has one good round and one bad, everyone was just waiting for him to start collecting cards in the second round.  Magenta and Blue both had consistently low scores, but they weren’t low enough, and while Purple also made a virtue of consistency, that’s not so good when the scores are both high.  Sadly, Turquoise was forced to pick up a couple of high-scoring of cards while Burgundy, very unusually managed to string two good rounds together.  With a clear round for his second, Burgundy took the game with a total of just two Nimmts, beating Turquoise into second place.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

With Cerise, Magenta and Turquoise heading off, that left a short hour for something else.  Black was keen to play Isle of Skye, the winner of this year’s Kennerspiel des Jahres, but Green somehow hadn’t played it and we debated whether it would overrun.  Before long we’d prevaricated enough to definitely rule it out due to lack of time and we started hunting round for something else.  In the end we settled on The Game, a nice little cooperative card game that was nominated for last year’s Spiel des Jahres.  We played this quite a bit for a while, but somehow it has fallen out of favour a little of late, but for no very good reason.  The rules are simple: on their turn, the active player lays a minimum of two cards on any of the four piles following the appropriate trend – two piles must always increase, two decrease; the exception to this is if you can play a card where the interval is exactly ten in the wrong direction (known as “The Backwards Rule”).  Players can talk about anything so long as there is no specific number information given and the aim is to cooperatively get rid of all ninety-eight cards by playing them on to the four piles.

The Game
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

The Game started badly and then it got worse.  Before long we were wondering whether we were even going to get through the deck.  Our excuse was that the game is harder with five, but that may or may not actually be the case.  Eventually, we finally managed to exhaust the draw deck, leaving just the cards in hand, but it was inevitable that we weren’t going to be able to place every card as several players had lots of very low cards in a run.  In the end we finished with eight unplayable cards.  We felt we might have been able to place a couple more with a bit more planning, discussion and thought at the end, but everyone was tired and it was home time, so our collective competitive streak had deserted us.  Maybe it will come back for next time…

The Game
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Prize-winning games can be a little bit hit and miss and depend strongly on the group too.

8th September 2015

We were late starting and, since we were expecting more, we decided to split into two groups and play something quick and light to start.  By coincidence, both groups began with cooperative card games.  Green, Grey and Cerise started with Hanabi – winner of the Spiel des Jahres a few years ago.  At the time we played it quite a bit, but Grey and Cerise had never been involved.  The idea of the game is very simple:  collectively, the players have to lay five cards in each of five colour-suits in numerical order.  The catch is that players are unable to see their own cards and instead turn their hand round so everyone else can see it.  As a group they then have to use deduction to work out which cards to play and in what order.

Hanabi
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

On their turn, a player can do one of three things, play a card, give a clue or discard a card.  The number of clues is finite, though discarding cards buys extras.  When a card is played, the player doesn’t have to know what it is they are playing, so long as it can be added to one of the suits.  If it can’t, the group lose one of their three lives.  We have never been able to successfully complete the challenge of laying all twenty-five cards, so the group score is the sum of the highest card placed in each suit, or current maximum being twenty.   As a group we gelled well and through judicious use of efficient clues we were able to get lay all five cards for three colours and three cards for the other two.  This gave a total score of twenty-one, a new club record – definitely deserving of a “Very good! The audience is enthusiastic!”.

Hanabi
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor bovbossi

Meanwhile, Red, Blue, Cyan and Burgundy were playing the altogether less stressful, but equally puzzling, strangely eponymous, The Game.  Similarly, everyone has a hand of cards and they have to be played in numerical order, but in this case every card as to be played on one of four piles, two ascending and two descending.  There are two additional rules:  Players can say anything they want so long as they don’t give specific number information, and if they have a card exactly ten more or less than the top card of the pile they are playing it on, they can ignore the ascending/descending rule.  On their turn, players must play at least two cards before replenishing their hand, but can play as many as they want.

The Game
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

This was nominated for Spiel des Jahres this year and we’ve played it a few times since then.  Our best result was in a two player game a couple of months ago, when we had one solitary remaining card, however, we felt at the time that it might have been slightly easier with just two as you can plan better.  This time, it seemed were were doomed from the start with first Red, then Blue having nothing but really, really low cards and no-where to play them.  We managed to survive that though, and with a couple of really effective uses of the “Backwards Rule”, we managed to exhaust the draw deck.  Blue checked out first, quickly followed by Cyan and Burgundy leaving Red to play her last few cards and close out our first victory.  Next time we will have to play with one less card in hand…

The Game
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor joeincolorado

The games finished pretty much simultaneously and then a great debate began as to what to play next and how to split the group given that there were people who didn’t want to stay late.  Green proposed Eketorp, but this is one of Blue’s least favourite games, so she was looking for an alternative when Grey asked whether we had anything that would play everyone.  Blue mentioned Bohnanza, but although Red’s eyes lit up and Cerise looked interested, this time Green was not keen.  Grey wanted to play something with “fighting” and eventually, Green and Grey got fed up with the discussion and decided to play a head-to-head game of Carcassonne.

Carcassonne
– Image by BGG contributor ldaponte

Carcassonne is probably one of the best known of the modern, Euro-games, and is often considered to be “nice” – this is not true when it is played with just two however.  The idea of the game is that players take it in turns to draw and place tiles on an ever-growing map.  They can then add a meeple to any features on that tile before scoring any features that have been completed as a result of placing it.  Players have a finite number of meeples and, with two players, muscling in on someone else’s city is just as effective as building one yourself, making it very definitely, “nasty”.  And so it proved.  Playing with the first expansion, Inns & Cathedrals, Grey started with a few meeples on roads while Green placed a couple of early farmers. Green then took an early lead by completing a city with a cathedral, but then seemed to stutter. Grey continued to plug away eventually catching and passing Green nearly lapping him.  Green was hoping to reap the rewards of the early farmers, but with his last two tiles Grey placed a cheeky farmer and then joined it to the big field.  This cancelled out the huge farm bonus and put the game beyond doubt by sharing Green’s massive thirty-three point farm, finishing forty-one points ahead.

Carcassonne
– Image by BGG contributor Hayzuss

On the other table, discussion had finally ceased an everyone had settled down to one of our current favourite filler games, 6 Nimmt!, another “laying cards in the right order” game.  Somehow, this is a really confusing game, but it is this feeling that you sometimes have control but not being sure why that makes it so compelling.  The game is played with a deck of cards numbered from two to one hundred and four, each of which features a number of “Bulls Heads” (mostly just one, but some have as many as seven).  The idea is that everyone then simultaneously chooses and reveals a card from their hand.  Then, starting with the player who played the lowest card, players add their cards to the four rows on the table.

6 Nimmt
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Each card must be added to the row which has the highest card that is lower than the one to be played, i.e. if rows end with ten, twenty, thirty and forty, then card thirty-five should be added to the row containing number thirty.  If the card played would be the sixth card in that row, then the player “wins” all the cards and the played card becomes the first card in the new row.  The winner is the player with the fewest “Bulls Heads” or “Nimmts” at the end of the game.  We generally play the game in two rounds with half the cards dealt out at the start of the first round and the rest for the second.

6 Nimmt
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

With two players new to the game, chaos was inevitable, however, it was Blue who ended most out of synch, collecting twenty-four Nimmts in the first round, and Burgundy who managed to keep it together and escape without picking up a single card.  Roles were reversed in the second round with Blue winning with just six Nimmts while Burgundy picked up thirty-two!  Overall though, it was consistency that won through for Red who finished with a total of nineteen, five ahead of Cyan in second place.

Coloretto
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Carcassonne was still going on the next table, so Cerise mugged Grey for the house keys and headed off with Red and Cyan, leaving Burgundy and Blue to play a quick game of Coloretto.  This push-your-luck set-collecting game has had a few outings recently, and although three or four are much better numbers, we feel it plays surprisingly well with just two.  The idea is very simple, either you draw a coloured chameleon card and add it to a truck, or take a truck.  Players score positively for three sets and negatively for the rest, so the idea is to try to load trucks with coloured cards you want.  This time Blue started badly and from there it just got worse, finishing with Burgundy giving her a comprehensive thrashing, winning by more than twenty points.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor jsper

Carcassonne and Coloretto finished together and Burgundy, Green and Blue decided there was time to give Port Royal another go.  We played it about a month ago, when it took a surprisingly long time for a quick filler, everyone said they’d like to try it again, and Green worked out a strategy based on Expedition cards that he was keen to try.  In summary, the game is played in turns with the active player turning over cards.  They can keep turning over cards until either they choose to stop or they draw a second ship card that they cannot repel.  Assuming they choose to stop, they can then take a ship card or buy a character card before the remaining cards are offered round the table with players paying the active player one doubloon if they choose to buy/take a card.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Last time we had found some issues with the rules which we had not really been able to resolve.  The question was, since the Admiral allows a player to take two cards, does that mean they apply the Jester/Governor special powers twice?  On reflection, after the last game we had felt that the way we played (by a strict reading of the rules) was incorrect as it meant the combination was exceptionally powerful.  So for our second try we didn’t allow this and subsequent checking online appears to suggest that we played the way the designer intended this time.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Another question we’d had was, could a player repel a card if it was the first of a colour to be drawn, or is it only the second card that can be repelled?  Strict reading of the rules appeared to allow this, so this time we played this way.  Blue was the main beneficiary of this rules “change”, as she quickly added not one, but two Admiral cards to her earlier Sailor.  The ability to repel cards before it was essential makes it much more likely that a player is going to be able to draw five cards without going bust.  Since this gave Blue four doubloons every time, it meant she was never short of cash to buy the high value cards. Meanwhile, Green struggled to get his strategy to work with three (partly due to the lack of Expeditions) and Burgundy, who had wiped the floor with everyone else last time round, couldn’t get the cards he needed to get going quickly (not helped by the fact that he initially didn’t use the full power of his Jester).

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

This time with just three it was a much, much quicker game and it played quite differently.  In the first couple of hands almost all the tax cards came out giving everyone extra money and it wasn’t until near the end that any of the mission cards were drawn.  It quickly seemed like Blue had the game in the bag although in the event, it wasn’t quite that cut and dried.  Blue brought the game to an end, but Green and Burgundy couldn’t quite get the cards they needed.  The game finished with Blue winning by five points and Burgundy taking second place on a tie-break.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

Since Port Royal had played so quickly, we decided to give Zooloretto: The Dice Game a quick go.  This is a game that we’ve got out a couple of times, but then decided not to play because other people have arrived.  It was a while since we’d actually played it so we had to have a quick read through of the rules.  Each player rolls two dice, and like Coloretto or Zooloretto, they then place these on the trucks.  Alternatively, players can take a truck and tick off animals on their score sheet.  Bonuses are awarded for being the first player to complete an animal collection, but if the maximum is exceeded, then players lose points.  The game ends when one player has completed four of their animal collections and have only one space left in the last enclosure.

Zooloretto: The Dice Game
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Burgundy started off well, with Blue and Green struggling to get any really helpful dice.  Burgundy both completed most sets first and also brought the game to a close, so the writing was on the wall:  he finished six points clear.  It was only when we were scoring, however, that we realised that Green hadn’t quite understood – he’d been going for lions assuming the bonus was lots more as you needed more of them to get the set.  Oops; blame the person explaining the rules…

Zooloretto: The Dice Game
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Learning Outcome:  We like deep games, but little games can be a lot of fun too.

21st April 2015

While Blue attacked her pizza, Red, Green, Burgundy, Black and Purple attacked a quick game of Coloretto.  This is a great little little set collecting game that forms the basis of the well-known boardgame, Zooloretto.  The idea of Coloretto is that players take it in turns to either draw a chameleon card and place it on a truck, or take a truck (after which they are out for the rest of the round).  Each truck can hold a maximum of three chameleons and the round continues until every player has taken a truck.  The chameleon cards come in seven different colours and players are collecting sets which score according to the triangular number sequence (one point for the first card, three points for two cards, six points for three cards etc.).

Coloretto
– Image by BGG contributor SergioMR

The clever part is that each player can only score three sets as positive, all the others are negative, and the highest score wins.  Thus, there is an element of push your luck and players can make life difficult for each other by putting cards a cards someone wants with cards they don’t want.  As usual, the game came down to a choice between taking the one or two safe wanted cards and waiting to see if a useful third card might be added to the set.  With a five player game, however, there was always a high risk that someone else would take it, so Burgundy started off very cautiously and managed to quickly collect a lot of red chameleons and a few two point bonus cards making him the obvious front-runner.  Green had also started out going for reds, but quickly realised he would have to broaden his horizons.  Meanwhile, Red, who was new to the game began to realise what cards people might want and how to cause them problems.  It was purple however, who finished with her nose in front with final total of thirty-one, thanks to the large number of cards she had managed to accrue.

Coloretto
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Although Zooloretto is a more popular game (possibly helped by its cute animal theme), it is arguable that Coloretto is actually a better one.  In Zooloretto, players are building a zoo and instead of simply collecting sets of cards, they are collecting sets of animal tiles and have to place them in pens.  If you can’t place an animal, then it goes into the barn, where others can buy it or, if there space becomes available, it can be recovered and placed in a pen.  The light nature of the game and cute animals make Zooloretto very accessible for families, but there are more bits and it does take longer to play.  There is no question that the tile/card drawing and truck choosing mechanism is very clever and integrates well with the zoo theme, however, Coloretto is a simpler, “purer” game, which is short enough that it doesn’t risk outstaying its welcome.

Zooloretto
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

With the arrival of Grey, and Blue finally finishing her pizza, we decided to split into two groups.  The first played the “Feature Game”, Black Fleet.  This was one of the games brought back from Essen last year and is a beautiful game involving skulduggery on the high seas.  The game is very simple.  Each player commands a merchant vessel and a pirate ship.  Players also have a hand of two “movement” cards and on their turn choose one to play.  Each of these cards has movement values the player’s merchant and pirate ships, but also allows them to move one of the Navy frigates.  As the ships move they can carry out various actions.  For example, before, during, or after its movement, a player can sell their cargo at the indicated price (two or three doubloons per goods cube) at the port if their merchant is in a space adjacent to it.  Alternatively, pirates can steal treasure or bury it safely on an island.  Once per turn, players can spend their gold to activate their bonus cards.  These are cards that are dealt out at the start of the game and once activated, remain active for the rest of the game with the player that has activated all their bonus cards winning.  In the event that more than one player succeeds in activating their bonus cards, then ties are broken by the amount of gold held at the end.

Black Fleet
– Image used with permission of BGG
contributor The_Blue_Meeple

After a short rules explanation, we set our ships afloat, each hoping to get to another port to trade our valuable cubes.  It wasn’t long before the first pirate came relieved a merchant ship of one their goods cubes.  Then, the gloves were off and the game became one of attack and counter attack.  With four pirate ships sailing the seas it was rare that anyone managed to dock into port with any more than two cubes, and sometimes they only had one to sell.  However the two navy ships mostly kept the pirates from burying their loot.  Very soon players were paying for their bonus cards and beefing up their attack or trading capabilities.  Purple was heading down the trading route,  but misreading her cheapest bonus card, she left that to one side and plugged away at getting her more expensive ones.  On a sea so full of marauding pirates (and the occasional back-stabbing navy ship and ruthless merchant), this proved to be a difficult strategy to make work.

Black Fleet
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Grey was trying a more balanced strategy, while Green and Burgundy were making their fleets the menace of the seas.  The game seemed well balanced between Green, Burgundy and Grey until Burgundy turned over his penultimate bonus card and it became clear that he would earn enough on his next turn pay for his last card and finish the game.  Green and Grey did what they could to attack Burgundy to prevent this from happening while also trying to turn over their last cards.  Burgundy duly paid for his final card ending the game and giving Green and Grey one last turn.  Green was able to turn one card over, however, although that would not be enough to tie with Burgundy, it would be enough to tie with Grey if Grey could be prevented from turning over his last card.  Thus, Green abandoned his plans and instead in a ruthless pirate like manner turned the tables on Grey.  This left Grey unable to pay for his final card and with less money remaining than Green, he finished in third place behind Burgundy and Green. As it turned out Grey would not have been able to buy his final card anyhow, which made Green’s last move look particularly vicious, but then if you insist in playing with a poker face, that’s what you get!

Black Fleet
– Image by BGG contributor spielemitkinder

Although none of the players had played it before, on discussion with Blue and Black after the game, it is clear that Black Fleet is a much better game with four than three and everyone was keen to play it again.  However, there was much discussion about the balance of the cards:  since the bonus cards are drawn at random, some combinations end up being well balanced while others are less synergistic.  For example, in this game, the cards definitely made it much harder for Purple to win, but easier for Green.  We’ll have to play it again to see if this is something which detracts from the game, or makes it more of challenge!

Black Fleet
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Meanwhile, Black, Red and Blue tried out a game that was new to the group, K2.  This is a fairly straight forward hand management game, that can get quite brutal as players find the route up the mountain increasingly challenging.  The idea is that each player has two climbers, two tents and a hand of cards.  Simultaneously, everyone chooses which cards they are going to play and then players take it in turns to move their climbers up the mountain.  There are two possible routes which are slightly different lengths and  difficulties.

K2
– Image by BGG contributor Oskarete

Some cards enable players to move along the paths and others help them to increase their levels of acclimatisation.  The acclimatisation cards are essential, because going higher up the mountain, saps your energy.  The weather also plays its part, both making it more difficult to climb and reducing players’ acclimatisation and if a climber’s acclimatisation drops to zero, they die.  As inevitable when playing a new game, an important rule got missed out – in this case, we didn’t realise until we were more than half way through the game that the weather only affected certain parts of the mountain, thus we made it much more difficult for ourselves.  The winner is the player who’s climbers get the furthest up the mountain without dying.

K2
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Blue took the slightly harder eastern ridge while Black and Red took the western pass.  Fortunately, Black started off trying to get one climber to the top, leaving the other safe at the bottom, which meant the western pass didn’t get too congested.  Red and Blue tried to get the two climbers to help each other, but quickly realised the wisdom of Black’s approach as their climbers suffered from exposure, especially Blue’s on the exposed ridge.  Black’s first climber made it to the top, only to find his way down blocked by Red.  This turned out to be fatal as the extreme effort proved too much.  By this time, Blue’s first climber had realised she was in difficulty and headed back to the foothills, just making it in time thanks to a lull in the weather.  Red had also made it as high as she dared having had her route blocked by Black which delayed her progress to the summit.  In the meantime, Black’s well acclimatised second climber had made it to the top and was also heading back down to avoid the same fate as his companion.  Blue’s second climber then made a dash for it and, with the path clear, made it to the peak just as the game drew to a close leaving Blue the winner.  Definitely a game to try again, but perhaps with the correct rules next time…

K2
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mothertruckin

Early starts in the morning left just Blue, Green and Burgundy, and they decided to give Blueprints another outing.  We’ve played this a couple of times at the group and it always goes down well.  Burgundy really struggled this time, but the game began as a closely fought battle between Green and Blue, enhanced by some really unlikely dice draws and rolls.  In the first round, Green took first place in the general classification and an award, while Blue took second and the award for using dice with the same number.  In the second round, positions were reversed with Blue taking first place and an award leaving it all to play for in the final round.  However, Green finished the game three points ahead of Blue who lost out on tie-breakers to both Green and Burgundy in every category in the final round.

Blueprints
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor bkunes

Learning Outcome:  If you manage to get people to believe you are a threat, don’t be surprised when they attack you!

13th January 2015

With several new people, we started with two sets of parallel games.  The first group began with Zombie Dice, a very quick dice game where players are zombies and the dice are their victims.  On each turn, players first roll three dice:  a brain symbol is worth one point at the end of the round, while footsteps allow that die to be re-rolled.  On the other hand, shotgun blasts are bad, and collecting three ends the players turn and they forfeit any points they’ve collected. After rolling their first three dice, players can then decide if they want to score their current set of brains or whether they fancy pushing their luck by grabbing a new set of three dice and rolling again.

Zombie Dice
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor zombiegod

With Grey taking his first win, Red convinced the group to play one of her favourite games, Walk the Plank!.  This is a very silly game that we’ve played a lot over the last year and everyone seems to enjoy.  There were the usual hoots of delight as kamikaze pirates committed mass suicide and everyone enjoyed it so much, that after Grey had taken his second win, they played it again.

Walk the Plank!
– Image by boardGOATS

While Cerise was chalking up her first victory, the second group were finishing their game of King of Tokyo, the “Feature Game”.  This was a “Black Friday Special” and is another fun dice rolling game.  The idea is that players are mutant monsters, gigantic robots, and strange aliens – all of whom are destroying Tokyo and attacking each other in order to become the one and only King of Tokyo.  Each player has a stand-up monster, a counter and everyone sits round a board depicting Tokyo.  On their turn, players roll the six oversized dice with four possible outcomes: numbers (potentially leading to points), attack (a paw print), healing (a heart) and energy (lightening bolts).  In order to score victory points, the active player must roll at least three of the same number.  Thus, three “twos” will score two points, but each additional “two” will deliver an extra point (so four “twos” would score three points etc.).

King of Tokyo
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Any attacks rolled are delivered to the monster who is currently in Tokyo unless that is the active player, in which case, everyone else receives the damage.  Each player starts with ten lives and each attack die costs one.  Whenever the player in the middle is attacked, they have to take the damage, but can then chose to leave the middle, to be replaced by the player who attacked them.  Moving into Tokyo has its advantages and disadvantages:  players score a point on going in (with two more if they are still there at the start of their next turn) and they can cause everyone else a lot of damage, however, they cannot using healing dice while in Tokyo which makes it risky to stay.

King of Tokyo
– Image by BGG contributor rothkorperation

Finally players can also collect energy tokens which are a sort of currency and allow players to buy cards which give their monster special powers.  The winner must either destroy Tokyo (by collecting twenty victory points), or be the only surviving monster once all the fighting has ended and all the others have died.  Green started off well, with Burgundy and Indigo in hot pursuit.  Blue seemed unable to get anything she wanted, so took great delight in seeing everyone else reduced to a very small number of lives.  Burgundy was two points ahead of Green, but it was Green’s turn and he ended the game with a gambol rolling five “threes” and finish as the King of Tokyo.

King of Tokyo
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor dekedagger

With the end of both games and the arrival of Purple and Black, we had a quick shuffle of seats and Cerise replaced Green to play another game that has been popular recently, Splendor.  This is a simple set collecting game where players collect gems that they can then use to buy cards which in turn allow them to buy more cards which are worth points and help them to collect “nobles” which give even more points.  The game started slowly with all the basic cards gone and nobody looked close to winning.  However, Blue knew she’d done something right when there was a chorus of disappointment from Cerise and Burgundy when she reserved a high scoring opal card, a trick she repeated the following round.  Buying one of the opal cards enabled her to win two nobles giving her nine points in one turn and putting her over the finishing line, with Indigo finishing just one point behind after a last minute surge.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Meanwhile, the other group were playing Stimmt So!.  Although we’ve not played this for a while, we have played the closely related game, Alhambra which uses the same mechanic.  The idea is that players have a choice of actions:  they can buy commodities, or they can go to the bank for money.  There are four different legal tenders and the cost of each commodity must be paid in the specified currency.  When making purchases (of shares in Stimmt So! or of buildings in Alhambra), players can always over-spend, but if they pay the exact amount they can have an extra turn.  Thie extra turn can be used to either buy another item or to take money from the bank.  If they chose to make a second purchase, they can again pay the exact amount and get another turn.  Play continues in this way until the player no-longer qualifies for another turn or all the available stock has been purchased after which, the stock is refilled for the next player.  Thus, the game is a balance between collecting small denominations of the different currencies (which are more versatile) and collecting larger denominations (that are worth more).  The points are awarded at stages during the game to players with the most of each commodity.

Stimmt So!
– Image by boardGOATS

It was a slow start as people built a stock and cash and very few shares were bought. Then, as each person built up a usable amount of money the game took off.  Black quickly took control of the Petrol market with three shares and everyone else built a small portfolio. Grey followed Black’s lead and went for an early lead in Banking.  The first scoring round came along quite quickly and with almost nothing in it and then the game was really afoot.  Purple decided to challenge Black’s dominance in Petrol and Grey added to his Banking stocks.  Airlines, Computing and Entertainment were all hotly contested, but Automobiles remained obstinately absent despite an interim shuffle!  The second scoring came with a range of winners and losers and Black, Grey and Red stretched a small, but significant lead over Yellow and Purple with Green at the back who had been refusing to overpay for anything, plenty of cash, but few shares!  Going into the last round, there were several cards that nobody wanted as they could no longer even share the lead, but eventually people started buying and Automobiles finally made an appearance.  This got the game moving and the final shares came and went in short order.  Black managed to shrug off falling oil prices and finish just ahead of Red, a canny second, demonstrating that not putting all your eggs in one basket can be a good idea.  Grey was not far behind demonstrating that putting all your eggs in one basket is still a not a bad strategy though!

Stimmt So!
– Image by boardGOATS

Splendor finished first, and Indigo was persuaded to play one more game before she had to leave.  As we wanted something fairly quick, we opted for a card game and chose Coloretto.  This is a cute little set-collecting game that inspired, the perhaps better known, Zooloretto.  The aim of the game is to collect sets of cards with the largest three sets scoring positively, and the reset all giving negative scores.  Thus, on their turn, the active player can either draw a coloured chameleon card, or take a “truck” and all the chameleons on it.  If they draw a card, they have to choose which truck to put the chameleon on, trying to make the trucks contain a combination of colours that suit them, but not everyone else.  Alternatively, they can choose take a truck, trying to match the colours on the truck with the sets they already have and  minimise their losses.  This was quite a close game until suddenly, in the final round Indigo drew an orange chameleon which we hadn’t realised had been hitherto missing from the game.  We inevitably blamed the shuffler as all the orange cards turned up together.  Blue managed to avoid picking any up however, and finished just two points ahead of Burgundy.

Coloretto
– Image by BGG contributor SergioMR

In the meantime, Green, Grey, Black and Purple started a game of Click & Crack.  This is one of last year’s “Essen Specials” and has proven to be a fantastic little filler game.  Each player has two penguin counters.  They take in turns to place them on an ice floe made from twenty-five tiles arranged to form a five by five array.  Each player also has two tiles depicting an arrow.  Once the penguins have been placed, players choose a direction for their arrow tiles and reveal them simultaneously. Then, starting with the first player, each player picks a penguin and applies one of their direction tiles.  They can either move the chosen penguin in the specified direction, or the penguin stamps on the ice and causes the floe to crack in the specified direction.  When a crack has been completed so that it divides the floe into two, the player who played the final crack wins the smaller piece of ice and takes the tiles and any penguins caught on it.  Each floe tile is worth one point at the end of the game and each trapped penguin is worth minus one point.

Click & Crack
– Image by BGG contributor thir_teen_

The game ends when one player has at least seven points, or when the main floe is less than seven tiles in size or if there are three penguins left on the floe.  The game went all Purple’s way.  First she broke off a massive piece of ice and trapped a few penguins in the process.  Then before anyone else could do very much, she broke off another large piece capturing a few more penguins and finished the game with eight points and only Black scoring: a paltry two.

Click & Crack
– Image by BGG contributor smn1337

While the penguins were busy finishing up, Cerise (aided by Burgundy), gave Blue a sound thrashing at Dobble (an old favourite that we’ve not played for ages) before the late night brigade started the last game of the evening, Lancaster.  As it was his new game, Green had been absolutely desperate to play it, so despite the lateness of the hour, we gave it a go.  The game is a worker placement game themed around the House of Lancaster, played over five rounds, each consisting of several phases.  First, players take it in turns to place their knights.  Knights can be placed in the counties, or in the a player’s private castle or they can be sent off to fight against the French.  Knights have a rank (one to four).

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

When knights are placed in the counties, this rank can be augmented by the addition of squires, but once a knight has been placed, it can be usurped by a higher ranking knights (or a knight with sufficient squires to give it a higher rank).  In this case, the knight is returned to the player, but any squires are returned to the supply.  This means that players might be quite cavalier about knights, but tend to be much more parsimonious when assigning squires.  Winning a county enables players to choose either to recruit a noble, or to perform a one off action associated the county, or, alternatively, on payment of three coins, they can do both.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

If they win a war, the knights sent off to fight the French win points, with the largest contributors (highest combined rank) scoring most heavily.  However, they also receive an immediate benefit which can be monetary or in the form squires or nobles etc..  Knights placed within the castle also give a one off benefit, although it is received later.  The knight’s rank is immaterial for castle placements (as they cannot be usurped) and there is no possibility of victory points.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of
BGG contributor kopernikus

Once all the knights have been placed, it is time for Parliament to vote on changes to the laws.  The laws basically provide scoring bonuses and other benefits.  At the start of the game there are three laws in place and three new laws that players will vote on.  These three new laws are considered one at a time and the group votes on whether they should be kept (pushing out one of the old ones) or rejected.  Players get one vote each for each law, but can reinforce their vote with votes provided by nobles (and via other means).  After the voting, the other rewards are handed out:  for occupying the counties, for knights placed in castles and for winning wars.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Although everyone broadly understood what they could do, nobody really fathomed how everything fitted together.  So, different players tried different strategies.  Blue decided that the she couldn’t turn down the thirty-six points awarded at the end of the game for a complete set of nobles, so went for that.  Burgundy was more canny, however, he also went for the nobles, but picked up a lot of them through the one off reward provided by going to war with the French.  This way he also got victory points as he went along.  Green also tried to pick up points in the battles, but focused on trying to build up the strength of his knights and manipulate parliament. Black tried to reinforce his castle to deliver regular rewards with little input, while Purple tried a little bit of everything, just doing as much as she could on each turn.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Burgundy led the charge with Green, Black and Purple close behind.  Since Blue was focusing on collecting her set of nobles, she hardly shifted from zero for the first four rounds.  Going into the final round however, it was suddenly everything to play for.  Everyone had got the hang of how to use their knights and how the laws worked and knew what they wanted in the final round, but that did not mean they were going to get it!  Knights were placed and then unceremoniously stomped on by more powerful knights with several high ranking knights being placed with four or five squires in reinforcement. Blue and Burgundy both picked up their full compliment of nobles (just) and Green was outvoted when he tried to get his preferred law through.  Black scored for his castle and Purple managed to change the law to convert her mass of coins into points so that she scored heavily.  With her full set of nobles, Blue surged forward into second place, just ahead of Purple, but it was all way too little too late; nothing could match Burgundy’s commanding lead and he finished nearly sixteen points clear of the field.  Although there were a number of rules that we played incorrectly and a number of points that need clarifying, it was Burgundy’s superior strategy, played out to perfection that won the game.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Learning Outcome:  We really need to learn how to shuffle.

Spiel des Jahres Nominations – 2014

Every year the a jury of German-speaking board game critics (from Germany, Austria, Switzerland), review games released in Germany in the preceding twelve months and award the best the German Game of the Year, or Spiel des Jahres.  The criteria used include:

  • game concept (originality, playability, game value),
  • design (functionality, workmanship),
  • layout (box, board, rules),
  • rule structure (composition, clearness, comprehensibility).

Last year, the winner was Hanabi, and previous winners include, favourites like Ticket to Ride: Europe, Niagara, Zooloretto, Alhambra, and Carcassonne.  The nominees for this year have just been announced and include (amongst others) Splendor, which we played last time we met.

Spiel des Jahres

28th January 2014

This week was memorable for a number of reasons.  Firstly, the non-playing member of the group, had been to the vet for the first time in about fifteen years and she didn’t like what they did to her (in fairness, she started it by taking a chunk out of the vet, but it is certain both she and the vet won’t forget the day quickly).  Secondly, nearly every current member turned up, the first time this had happened since the fire at the Jockey, and with the added bonus of a new member, we were just a bit pushed for space.  It is a very nice problem to have though, especially since this time last year we were really struggling.

Zooloretto: The Dice Game

People arrived gradually, so we started with our “Feature Game”, the filler Zooloretto:  The Dice Game.  This is closely related to the tile laying game, Zooloretto, which we’ve played before.  Both use the “Coloretto mechanism” which is a variant of the “I divide, you choose” mechanism that children sometimes use when sharing a cake.  Basically, the idea is that players take it in turns to roll dice (or draw tiles or cards depending on the game) and choose which “truck” to place them in.  When they see a truck they like, they can choose to take the contents instead of rolling (then they sit out of the rest of the round).  In the case of the dice version, players are collecting custom animal dice;  the idea is to have as many as possible up to a given limit and exceeding the maximum incurs a penalty.  The first two people to arrive were about half way through when two more turned up and joined in for a second game.

Zooloretto:  The Dice Game

After the second game we had a quick game of “extend the table, rearrange the furniture and hunt for extra chairs” and were just finishing as the last group arrived.  After some discussion, we decided to split the group into two and the first group played Montego Bay.  This is a game that we played last year and all felt that it was quite enjoyable, so we decided to give it another outing.  In summary, players control two figures, a large docker and a small docker who are travelling round the warehouses collecting barrels of rum to place on ships before they sail.  There are two aspects to the game, the first is the priority given to filling boats because, when a boat sails, the player with the largest number of barrels on board scores the most points.  Secondly, everyone chooses how far to move their dockers simultaneously at the start of the round, however, players take their turns in a prearranged order which leads to an interesting juxtaposition of chaos and “double-think”.  In this game, Orange came back from the dead with optimal use of “Lazy Jack” to win by four points.

Montego Bay

Meanwhile, the second group played 7 Wonders, which we played at New Year.  Played in three rounds, this is a card drafting game where players take one card from their hand and then pass the rest on, then repeatedly do the same with the cards they receive until there are none left.  The idea of the game is to build an civilisation and complete their “wonder”.  For the last game there were seven of us and it was over-long and completely disorganised chaos.  This time there was a much more manageable number and it worked much, much better.  One player had played it many times before and it showed in the score with him winning with fifty-two points, five ahead of second place.  The other group were only about halfway through their game though, so that gave an opportunity for a rematch.  Revenge was duly served as the game finished with the winner of the second game fifteen points clear of a tight pack which included the winner of the first game.

7 Wonders

For the last game we got back together as a large group and finished with a game of SaboteurWe played this nearly a year ago, but again didn’t have an optimal number of players.  This time, with more than twice as many, the game played much, much better.  The idea is that players are digging for gold by laying cards to form tunnels.  Everyone is either a “Dwarf” or a “Saboteur” and at the end of the game, points are given to the Dwarves if they extend the tunnel to find the gold, and Saboteurs if they succeed in stalling the Dwarves so much that they fail.  In addition to extending tunnel network, players can also play cards that inhibit the digging ability of others, or alternatively remove an impediment someone else has played.  The first game everyone was watching our “Habitual Saboteur” and waiting for him to do something suspicious, meanwhile, another player moaned about the nature of his hand, and kept discarding cards and everyone else seemed to get on with digging.  The Dwarves were about halfway there when one player declared she was a Saboteur and played a very obstructive card and immediately received a hail-storm of broken tool cards.  It was only after the Dwarves had run out of cards that the “discarder” showed his true colours as a Saboteur and the Habitual Saboteur wasn’t (this time).

Saboteur

In the second round, our Habitual Saboteur made up for his good behaviour in the first round and teamed up with the Saboteur Queen.  It looked like the dwarves might just make it when another Saboteur jumped out of the shadows throwing broken tools at all the Dwarves and putting the gold definitively beyond their reach.  Going into the final round, the Saboteur Queen (who ended up obstructing in all three rounds) had what was thought to be an unassailable lead with six points to a maximum of three elsewhere and a third failure for the Dwarves would have given her a landslide victory.  However, this time she only had the one team-mate which made it much more difficult for her to obstruct the tunnellers and, in due course, it was the Habitual Saboteur (who once again, surprisingly, wasn’t) who laid the final card and found the gold.  He managed to take a total of four points from the last round and just pipped the Saboteur Queen to the win.

Saboteur

Learning Outcome:  Don’t believe anyone when you know there is a Saboteur in your midst!

15th October 2013

We had a change of location for the evening which meant that one of our younger members could join us for the first couple of games of the evening.  So, while we were waiting for people to arrive, we had a couple of quick “warm-up” games of Dobble.  Clearly most of us needed quite a lot of warming up as we seemed to spend a huge amount of time staring blankly at cards, leaving the door open for bit of a white-wash.

Dobble

The next game was our Feature Game, Zooloretto. This is a cute little game based on the same set collecting mechanic as the card game, Coloretto (which we’ve played a few times before).  The idea is that on their turn, players draw an animal tile from a bag and place it on a truck.  There are the same number of trucks as there are players, and each truck will hold a maximum of three tiles.  When a player sees a truck they like, instead of drawing a tile, they can take that truck and add the animals on it to their zoo.  The snag is, only one sort of animal can go in each pen (to prevent a massacre apparently) and each zoo only has three pens, but there are a lot of different animal types!  Any animals that don’t have a pen, have to go into storage in the barn.  Instead of drawing tiles and adding them to a truck, you can also pay money to expand your zoo, or to move animals about or even buy one off another player.  Players score points for full, or very nearly full pens, and negative points for each different animal type in they have in the barn at the end of the game.  So, the trick is to set up a nice full truck with animals on it that only you want an hope nobody else pinches it.  Apart from Blue who finished a long way behind the rest, the game was really quite close, second, third and fourth finished within a point and the winner was only a few points clear.

Zooloretto

We were all quite tired so we decided to go for just one more, familiar game and an early night, so we picked Ticket to Ride.  We’d all played this many times before so we only needed a quick clarification of the specific rules for the Europe version (Only one face up loco? – Yes; Locos can be used anywhere? – Yes!  And don’t forget about stations and tunnels…) and then we were off collecting train cards.  Black was the first person to claim a route and went for the six-card line from Palermo to Smyrna.  Unfortunately, since it was a ferry it needed two locomotive cards so Black had to think again and picked up the train card he needed instead.  Out of fairness, since we hadn’t mentioned ferries in the summary, instead of claiming the route, Green gave Black another chance (which he took).  The rest of us were less sympathetic however and over the next couple of turns, the area around Italy, Greece and the Balkans filled up rapidly and Green, struggled valiantly, but ultimately unsuccessfully to make the connections he needed and ended up resorting to using stations.

Ticket to Ride:  Europe

Meanwhile, Red was trying to get from Erzurum to Købenavn and Blue was trying to get from Edinburgh to Athena via Berlin.  Blue was the first to pick up more tickets, quickly followed by Green and eventually red, however, Black kept on claiming routes and before long was well in the lead with only two trains remaining.  Everyone scrabbled to get as many points as they could from the cards they had in their hand before the final recount and scoring of tickets.  Green (who won Zooloretto) came off worst as not only had he been forced to use stations, he also struggled to complete some of his tickets and was left ruing his kindness early in the game.  Black and Blue tied for the European express bonus given for the longest continuous set of trains and the difference between them came down to tickets which gave Blue the win with 122 points (and made up for her terrible game of Zooloretto!).

Ticket to Ride:  Europe

Learning Outcome:  You can lose spectacularly at one game then win at the next, or vice versa.