Village

Easy if you know it 

Easy if you know it 

The quiz picture this time is of a magical game from way back

The last quiz picture was of The Settlers of Catan Card Game

Concordia board towards end of the game

Concordia board towards end of the game

Snatch an interesting take on word games

Snatch an interesting take on word games

The spotlight is on Village which won the 2012 Kennerspiele prize and a well deserved winner it was, it now sits at 100 on boardgamegeek and is ranked at 73 of their strategy games so I was surprised to find that we had not played it at the club before, sadly it had been so long since I last played it that I had forgotten the rules so it took a little longer than normal for us to get started whilst I refreshed my aging brain with the rules. In the game each player runs a small farmstead through several generations (up to 4) and uses the members of their family (workers) to go into the town (the main board) to advance the player on the score track, but this is not a worker placement game despite placing workers. There are two very neat mechanisms in the game that make it intriguing to play (the use of “time” and cube collecting instead of worker placement as the driving mechanism) and with several routes to victory there is always lots you want to do.

Our board at the beginning of the game, we are light on black cubes as I did the cubes set-up incorrectly.

Our board at the beginning of the game, we are light on black cubes as I did the cubes set-up incorrectly.

The aim of the game is to gain victory points which are given for various acts but essentially is notoriety for good work for the village the majority of which are gained at the games end, the main board is split into 7 zones each of which has a different function and a number of coloured cubes are placed on them at the start of each round, these are pulled from a bag and the number is dictated by the number of players. Then in player order everybody takes a turn going round the table, on a turn a player must take a cube from an area and then may perform the function of that zone, play continues until there are no more cubes left on the board at which point the round is immediately over the village church functions are administered to, new cubes are put out and a new round starts.

The board before set-up

The board before set-up

So the different zones (in brief) are the Church Archway where you can get a new family member (effectively marriage followed very rapidly by offspring but only 1 per cube action); Collect Wheat, you can only collect wheat if you have a worker still on your farm, the amount of wheat increases if you have a horse or an ox; then there is the artisans zone where you can collect an ox, a horse, a plough, a wagon or a parchment scroll, these are used in some of the other zones, however they cost cubes and “time” you may also turn your wheat into gold; the Town Hall where through promotion you can gain cubes and artisan products but this also costs cubes and “time”; the Market Place where you can trade your artisan products for victory points; the Countryside where you go travelling which costs a wagon, cubes and “time” for small in-game rewards and finally the Church where for cubes or “time” you can send a worker to be trained for the priesthood. The Travelling, Church, Town Hall and the Artisan area all require the use (placement) of a worker of which you only get 4 at the beginning of the game, the Travelling, Church and Town hall all give game end victory points depending on your presence at the end of the game.

The travelling section of the board, the first journey is using a wagon, 2 time and either 2 pink or 2 brown cubes.

The travelling section of the board, the first journey is using a wagon, 2 time and either 2 pink or 2 brown cubes.

I have mentioned “time” having to be spent for the majority of your actions, this is kept track of around the edge of your farm board and every time a player completes a lap with their time marker they MUST lose one of their workers to the graveyard initially this must be one of your level 1 (starting) workers, once all the level 1 workers are lost you must move on to your level 2 workers, similarly when using the Church Archway action you must collect a level 2 first and cannot move on to level 3 unless you have already collected all your level 2 workers. When a worker must be placed in the graveyard you decide which of your level 1 workers must go, it need not be the one that was doing the action at the time of the loss (and even though a loss is triggered this is dealt with at the end of the action so you still get the action even if you remove the one that just triggered the loss). There is the Town Book this is split up into 5 areas (Church, Travelling, Artisan, Town Hall and Farm) when a worker is removed from a zone it will fill one of the slots in the book for that zone and his deeds for the village will be recorded for posterity (and end of game victory points) however if all the slots for that zone have already been taken the villager is sent to a paupers grave, the game end is triggered by no spaces in the book or the paupers graveyard. you can manipulate time to cause an early demise, such as training a worker to make a Plough which costs 6 time, or you can be frugal by choosing actions which use little or no time such as wheat collecting.

The book with game end points for members in the book shown at the bottom

The book with game end points for members in the book shown at the bottom

At the end of the round church administration is undertaken, first off anyone who added a worker to be trained for priesthood can pay 1 gold to have that worker instantly promoted to the church, any not paid for go into a bag with 4 dummy trainees and are drawn randomly until the total of all trainee promotions drawn or paid for is 4, at which point anyone can pay wheat to gain further promotion for any of their pieces in the church, the player with the most church members gets 2 points, rank within the church being the tie breaker.

A player board showing 1st and 2nd generation pawns, the "time" marker (currently at the bottom), some cubes and 3 artisan products.

A player board showing 1st and 2nd generation pawns, the "time" marker (currently at the bottom), some cubes and 3 artisan products.

Gold accrued in the game from the Mill (wheat into gold) can be used for Church training, a wild cube, traded for 3 VP’s in the Town Hall or is 1 VP at the games end. There is one exception to the taking of a cube on your turn and that is you may visit the well and pay in 3 cubes of identical colour instead to take an action of your choice and you may choose a spot where there are no cubes to be taken. Amongst the resource cubes there will be some black cubes, these reflect illness and cost a player 2 additional time to the action they are taking.

Overall there is a lot to take in initially however after the first round the game mechanics become second nature and the players can concentrate on tactics and making sound choices for gaining the most victory points, the game does reward good planning and clever use of the cubes, one player set up shop in the Town Hall and collected artisan products to sell at market, another player concentrated on travelling, the game is big enough that you there are lots of choices, and no one choice of actions is any better than any other it is the overall economy with which you play that will decide the winner. After the game one of the players went and bought their won copy and I do not think you can get a better endorsement of a good game than that.

Century : Spice Road and Magic Maze

The quiz picture is I think a bit easy but may catch a few of you out.

The last quiz picture was of Bauernschlau  an area control game with a small memory element, it does not quite get the play I hoped it would but it is still a nice game and was a 1991 nominee for “Spiel des Jahres”.

A Player board in Helios which uses various methods for collecting victory points, a lovely game.

A Player board in Helios which uses various methods for collecting victory points, a lovely game.

Louix XIV an excellent resource and territory control game

Louix XIV an excellent resource and territory control game

Above and Below player board for the yellow player who seems to be struggling for goods (the main way to get victory points).

Above and Below player board for the yellow player who seems to be struggling for goods (the main way to get victory points).

The spotlight is on Magic Maze a new release from Ghenos Games, Pegasus Spiele & Sit Down!. The box contains lots of tiles with a 4 x 4 grid thereon, each square may be blank, contain a board element or be completely blocked, there are also quite a few walls drawn on all the tiles between the squares so that when tiles are laid together they form a maze. It is a co-operative game where the players are trying to maneuvre four coloured pawns around the board onto colour specific target spaces (there is only one for each pawn), once all four pawns are on their targets the players then try to manouvre all the pawns off the board through colour specific doors.

The start tile is in the middle, the exit door on the far right is for the green player

The start tile is in the middle, the exit door on the far right is for the green player

So far a very simple idea but what makes it fun is that each player in the game will get dealt a random tile which will have one or more basic manouvres on it (dependent on the number of players) from Move North, Move South, Move East, Move West, Use Escalator, Use Teleport, Explore, a player may move any pawn at any time in the game (there are no turns) but may only use the manouvres they have on their card, what adds a layer of difficulty and much frustration is that the game is played against a 3-minute egg timer and once the game is under way no one is allowed to speak, make a noise, give a non-verbal indication or make any attempt to communicate with the others in any way, however there is a giant red pawn which anyone may place in front of someone if they believe that person should be making a move, it is surprising how expressive the placement of that pawn can be, from slamming it down to repeatedly place it in front of someone with the rapidity of a woodpecker.

Some of the movement tiles used in our game

Some of the movement tiles used in our game

Yet another complication is that new tiles may only be placed by the player with the explorer icon and only if there is a pawn on its own colour explorer icon on the board and as pawns cannot pass through one another it is often awkward even from the very start to get the other pawns out of the way so that the correct pawn can get to the explorer space, and as one of the target icons or exit icons is often on the last tile in the deck it is important to explore as quickly as possible. Remember the 3-minute timer? It is possible to extend exploring time by moving any pawn onto an egg-timer element on one of the boards but as these are all one time use only, time can run out and in fact the egg timer is often forgotten as players try to keep pace with making their moves as quickly as possible.

An example of the problems that can arise, Orange is needed to explore the South doorway and is waiting for a move along the escalator to the door to its North. Green is waiting for purple to move so that it can explore the North west door. yellow needs to move East than an escalator to explore further.

An example of the problems that can arise, Orange is needed to explore the South doorway and is waiting for a move along the escalator to the door to its North. Green is waiting for purple to move so that it can explore the North west door. yellow needs to move East than an escalator to explore further.

We played the introductory game which was completed fairly easily then we went into the first and simplest scenario and ran out of time, with seven of us and 4 pawns moving in different directions it was chaos and with everyone concentrating on the pawns the egg-timer was forgotten, everybody wanted to try it again so we did and this time crushed it, what was fascinating was the run for the exit which was done one pawn at a time micromanaged with four different hands hovering within a few inches of it the whole journey until it was off the board.

As it has received a number of accolades from various corners of the board gaming community I was glad to play Century: Spice Road to see if it lived up to everyones high praise. In the box you get 4 small plastic bowls containing 4 different colour cubes (Yellow being the easiest to come by then increasing in rank to Red, Green and Brown) – these are finite for the game but playing 4 player we did not come close to running out of any particular colour, the other contents are 2 decks of cards, one pile being victory point cards the other being “merchant” cards, as with a lot of games at the moment this is a (yawn) deck building game, each players deck being a number of “merchants” cards, these cards either give you cubes or allow you to exchange cubes thus slowly by playing your “merchant” cards you can increase your holding.

The cute (but light) bowls which tend to move around each time you dip into them for cubes

The cute (but light) bowls which tend to move around each time you dip into them for cubes

On a turn you have 4 options, 1) play a “merchant” card from your hand into your own discard pile, 2) take a card from the “merchant” card line, the first is free however you must put a cube on each card you pass over to take a card further up the line, 3) collect a victory point card paying the costs shown and 4) you may pick up your discard pile to have a full hand again. The rules are that simple and are on one piece of paper, it is refreshing to find a game with a good clean mechanism that has the rules on one sheet; so many games these days come with both a rules manual and a glossary booklet.

Top row is the victory point cards, bottom row is the merchant cards, all currently showing some sort of trade.

Top row is the victory point cards, bottom row is the merchant cards, all currently showing some sort of trade.

So how does it play? It is smooth, clean and quick, there is only a little interaction in that you need to keep an eye on other players cubes to ensure someone else does not take the victory point card you are going for, other than that the game is easy and an ideal gateway game with very little downtime, each player is designing their own cube engine which no-one else can interfere with so on a turn you should already have decided what you will be doing next. I have heard this game compared with Splendor, they are two separate games, the mechanisms are not alike and there is room in most collections for them both and I would say that I would happily play Splendor as readily as I would play Spice Road again. In fact it has more in common with the great Sid Sacksons’ Bazaar  (aka BierBörse) than Splendor however the deck-building mechanism makes Spice road a much faster game.

Each player has a caravan card to store their cubes on, each caravan has a limit of 10 cubes

Each player has a caravan card to store their cubes on, each caravan has a limit of 10 cubes

So does it live up to the hype? Yes it does and I highly recommend you give it a go, though it is not in any way a replacement for Splendor.

Junk Art and Tammany Hall

Not sure if I have done this before but the quiz picture is of the first game I ever bought at Essen.

The last quiz picture was of a Reed Bunting, not the most tuneful of birds but you should see it flitting about if you take a walk along reeded coastal shores.

Only one week since the last report, however we have also had a Saturday session which is also listed below.

Darjeeling which is a set collecting game but has a nice couple of twists to it.

Darjeeling which is a set collecting game but has a nice couple of twists to it.

New England early in the game

New England early in the game

Flamme Rouge cyclist in rouge

Flamme Rouge cyclist in rouge

Kanagawa an interesting set collecting game

Kanagawa an interesting set collecting game

A mini spotlight on Junk Art, in this game there are 4 sets of wooden bits each set of a different colour, there is also a card for each piece in the game. There are several rounds in the game and each round is different but generally consists of choosing cards from a small hand, selecting the piece shown on it and building it on a tower, either your own or a central communal tower. This is a fun game and a steady hand and a firm table is required, as you can see from these pictures there are a wide variety of structures that can be built.

Just some of the many towers we built on Junk Art

Just some of the many towers we built on Junk Art

With so many games played on Saturday it was hard to pick a spotlight game but I think it has to be Tammany Hall which we played on Saturday near the end of the session. The game was originally released in 2007 under the Stratamax label which was the last time I played it, there have been several versions released since then the latest in 2014 but little has changed from its earliest edition other than the artwork and a couple of additions to the board to make 5 of the areas more attractive.

1st edition box (not the one we played)

1st edition box (not the one we played)

The gameboard consists of 15 wards and the players are seeking victory points through control of these wards and their citizens through four terms of government, the game lasts 16 rounds and there is a scoring and election every fourth round. The set up consists of placing a random citizen in each of the wards on the board, these are represented by cubes of four different colours each representing a different immigrant nationality.

Red controls wards 15, 17, 8 and 10 thus gaining 4 points

Red controls wards 15, 17, 8 and 10 thus gaining 4 points

On a turn a player has two choices, they can either send out 2 campaign workers of their colour by placing them on one or two different wards or they may place a single campaign worker and then place a citizen of any nationality and take a political favour chip of that citizens colour. After four rounds of placement an election takes place, each ward is taken in turn and assessed, if it is contested (that is more than one player has a campaign worker there) players tally the strength of their campaign they secretly hold in their hand any number of political favour chips they wish (provided that nationality is represented in the ward), these are revealed and added to the number of campaign workers in that ward, the highest total wins and all campign workers bar one of the winning players are removed, all used political favour chips are lost. This is continued through all wards, at the end everyone gets victory points equal to the number of wards they control. Players next tally the number of citizens of each nationality in the wards they control, the players with the most of each gain three political favour chits of that nation.

Tammany Hall first edition lacking the bonuses from wards 1,2, 4, 7 and 14

Tammany Hall first edition lacking the bonuses from wards 1,2, 4, 7 and 14

The player with the most wards becomes Mayor collects 3 bonus points and dishes out a job to each of the other players, each job has special abilities which can be used throughout the next term and consist of removing or moving citizens, collecting political favours or removing campaign workers. After the first scoring players may smear other candidates, this has the effect of removing campaign workers from the ward however each player may only do this three times in the game and if not used and the correct time can be countered by the affected player.

Tammany Hall, The nearest ward is being contested by Yellow brown and Black, political favour chits will probably decide the result, 

Tammany Hall, The nearest ward is being contested by Yellow brown and Black, political favour chits will probably decide the result, 

This is an excellent game and well deserving of its 7.3 geek rating, our experience bore out how good a game it is with no one player dominating and cool steady play rewarding those looking for small gradual gains, play itself is very simple and the rules very clear. I do count myself extremely fortunate with the group of players at my table as this is not my type of game at all, play sometimes needs to be aggressive and it is quite possible for several players to gang up and completely nullify one player (not something I appreciate in a game), fortunately this did not occur and I was left with happy memories. The game was won by the best player who did some excellent moves in the last round to secure dominance of 2 nationalities and more areas than any other player.

Even if like me this is not your type of game I strongly recommend you give it a try, if you get the right crowd it will be an excellent experience.

Remember Remember 3rd June 2017

The break in the Blog has been due to a short holiday and lots of stuff to do at home, so the quiz picture is a little different this time. I was hoping to link this to a game but sadly I cannot think of any, cryptic answers please to this bird which is fairly common in reed and sedge beds in Kent, the answer will be given next week. 

The last quiz picture was Glastonbury the multiple player version of Kupferkessel (Copper Kettle) an excellent 2 player game.

The 3rd June 2017 we have hired the room at the Style and Winch PH in Maidstone for all-day gaming so if you are a reader of this Blog why not call in and play a game with us, unlike all the boardgame cafes there is no table fee just buy a drink at the bar on your way through, just introduce yourself to the chap in the Yellow MAB polo shirt or the guy with the magnificent whiskers and we will get you playing.

Over the last two sessions the following games have been played.

Two weeks ago

Table 1 - Zooloretto: The Dice Game, Kanagawa, Neuroshima Hex!, Fox and Geese, 7 Wonders Duel

Table 2 - Jórvík, Port Royal, Incan Gold

Table 3 - Port Royal, Bohemian Villages, If Wishes Were Fishes!

Last week

Table 1 - Panamax, Jaipur

Table 2 - Golden Horn: Von Venedig nach Konstantinopel, Imhotep, Pyramids

Table 3 - Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King, Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space, Celestia

Kingfisher - a heavily cropped picture as it was at a distance

Kingfisher - a heavily cropped picture as it was at a distance

I would normally go into a couple of games to give you an idea of what we played, however this time will be a quick diversion to what can be found in Norfolk. Half of these pictures were taken at RSPB Titchwell Marsh which I cannot recommend enough, not only a nice reserve with more species than I have ever seen at Dungeness but very friendly and helpful staff.

There were lots of ducklings and goslings about most prettier than this chap a young Grey Lag Goose. 

There were lots of ducklings and goslings about most prettier than this chap a young Grey Lag Goose. 

A rare spot in Kent (though they have appeared at Oare Marshes on the odd occasion), a Bearded Reedling (aka Bearded Tit), it is a gorgeous bird.

A rare spot in Kent (though they have appeared at Oare Marshes on the odd occasion), a Bearded Reedling (aka Bearded Tit), it is a gorgeous bird.

A Common bird on the Medway is an Oystercatcher (this one was at Snettisham Marshes)

A Common bird on the Medway is an Oystercatcher (this one was at Snettisham Marshes)

Another nicely coloured bird the Linnet was at one time kept as caged birds for their song.

Another nicely coloured bird the Linnet was at one time kept as caged birds for their song.

A Black Tailed Godwit, one of the larger waders you can see along British coastlines

A Black Tailed Godwit, one of the larger waders you can see along British coastlines

A Common Tern hunting at RSPB Titchwell Marsh, we also saw Little Terns and the reserve claims to have Sandwich Terns (but not seen by us) 

A Common Tern hunting at RSPB Titchwell Marsh, we also saw Little Terns and the reserve claims to have Sandwich Terns (but not seen by us) 

Probably one we all know the Jay is the prettiest of our Corvids (Crows)

Probably one we all know the Jay is the prettiest of our Corvids (Crows)

They are not all birds there were plenty of butterflies although most were Red Admirals with a few Whites and Blues. There were also a few Odonata about (but not many) this one was taken at RSPB Lakenheath Fen Nature Reserve

There are 52 different species of Dragonfly and Damselfly shown on the British Dragonfly Society website, this Dragonfly is a Scarce Chaser.

There are 52 different species of Dragonfly and Damselfly shown on the British Dragonfly Society website, this Dragonfly is a Scarce Chaser.

I know none of these were game related but I was short on time and I hope you enjoyed.

Days of Ire: Budapest 1956 and Yamatai

The quiz picture this time is a favourite of mine played 2-player, the artwork on the cards is very nice and the game mechanics mesh well together.

Last time the picture was of the box of Planetarium, played at the club this week.

Last week we played the following games at the club.

Planetarium at game-start. The lines show permitted paths of movement. The iconography can catch people out in their first game, after that it all becomes second nature.

Planetarium at game-start. The lines show permitted paths of movement. The iconography can catch people out in their first game, after that it all becomes second nature.

End of a game of Battle Sheep Red suffered badly by being double teamed early in the game, you can even see some of the sheep crying.

End of a game of Battle Sheep Red suffered badly by being double teamed early in the game, you can even see some of the sheep crying.

Some sort of chart in Santo Domingo

Some sort of chart in Santo Domingo

Die Holde Isolde - looks like a 2-player game

Die Holde Isolde - looks like a 2-player game

Saturday 3rd June 2017 we are holding a special club day at the Style and Winch which gives us a chance to revisit some of our favourites which do not get a look in because of all the new releases. There will also be some of the more fun/party style games available along with some short “gateway” games available if people want to come and try us out, there will no doubt be the odd long game for the hardened gamer too.

The Eurovision Song Contest ate up all my time this week so no actual review just some brief thoughts on Days of Ire: Budapest 1956. This is a historical co-operative game with either a fully co-operative mode or a “conflict” mode where one player represents the Russian side and the others co-operate against them. Playing one of the revolutionaries I found the game a little dull mainly because of the amount of downtime between turns, the Russian player in contrast has quite an exciting time, a round of the game consists of the Russian player playing a number of cards which have effects on the game and gives them action points to then spend on various actions (bringing on more troops, moving, attacking), then the revolutionaries split 4 actions evenly between them, then the Russian player then gets more actions this time with local government forces. So it appeared to me that in a 4 player game the Russian player gets about 8-10 actions whereas the other players get 1 or 2 actions, this was highly disproportionate and I got the impression that it would play a lot better as a 2-player game (I have no idea how the fully co-operative version works).

The photos on the board are locations in Budapest, the red lines depict routes, the standees are the revolutionary players, green are revolutionist characters and the brown pieces are SPA forces.

The photos on the board are locations in Budapest, the red lines depict routes, the standees are the revolutionary players, green are revolutionist characters and the brown pieces are SPA forces.

On the upside this is a very atmospheric game crammed with information about the actual event, we barely scratched the surface of how the game played, some of the cards interact with one another so knowledge of the cards in the headline deck (which is stacked for various events) would be very useful for both sides. The two sides in the conflict seemed well balanced and I am sure with repeated plays hidden depths would be revealed however it is unlikely I would be willing to play the conflict version 4 player again.

Yamatai game set up

Yamatai game set up

BQ gives us a brief insight into Yamataï.  I enjoyed "Yamatai" rather a lot - whilst it had a minor echo of some of Bruno Cathala's other designs such as "Abyss" or Five Tribes" - in that you could recruit characters with a special power, similar to the Lords in "Abyss" or the "Djinns" in Five Tribes - the core of the game was pretty different from either of those games, using strategic placement to create chains of boats through the islands shown on the board, in order to open up opportunities to place buildings on the islands, and acquire the aforementioned characters (called "Specialists").

Yamatai later in the game

Yamatai later in the game

The key mechanism was the use of the "Fleet Tiles", which are chosen by each player at the start of each round, and simultaneously determine player order for the following round, confer a boat or two, and give a unique ability to be used during that round only (such as moving a boat from one spot to another, or giving a discount on building costs). As with Kent's experience of "Days of Ire", I felt like I'd only scratched the surface of the interactions between the various elements, so it's one I'd like to play again soon...  

Yamatai even later in the game

Yamatai even later in the game