Ulm, Colony and The Cottage Garden

 Lovely artwork

Lovely artwork

The quiz picture this week is from a game released at Spiel this year (should be a gimme)

The last quiz picture was correctly identified as Haru Ichiban a nice 2-player game.

Thanks to the arrival of “spiel” releases this week several very new games hit the tables, with a large number of “Deck-building” games at the fair it was difficult to find something that stood out and Colony from Bezier Games had a hint of a difference from the norm. The box contains a lot of cards, some dice (in 2 shades), some tokens and the rules. The set-up gives each player 4 cards and 3 dice which they roll, one of their cards is a warehouse where you keep your dice, laid out on the table are 6 standard card sets which are placed out for every game and 7 sets of action cards (from a choice of 28), the number of cards in each of these sets is equal to the number of players. Each card has several pieces of information, first is its background colour which shows what type of card it is (e.g. defensive, production, aggression), its name, the cost to purchase, how many victory points the card is worth (shown by a number of red tabs) and finally the action you can do with it, all cards can be flipped to an “upgraded” side which generally has better versions of the basic action.

 A players set-up position before rolling first dice

A players set-up position before rolling first dice

 The top row is the basic sets used in every game, the bottom row is the additional sets for this game (missing 1 stack)

The top row is the basic sets used in every game, the bottom row is the additional sets for this game (missing 1 stack)

A turn consists of rolling three dice, you take one the following 2 players also get a choice of what you leave then you may action all your cards ONCE after which you can store unused dice for the following turn. Actions include collecting dice which are “unstable” (and cannot be stored between turns) at the basic level or “stable” at the upgraded level, using dice to upgrade cards in your possession or building cards where the values on the dice shown must equal that as shown as the cards purchase price, other actions include trading with other players taking dice from them or shielding yourself from other players attacks.

 My set up mid-game scoring 7 points

My set up mid-game scoring 7 points

On the whole the game was a slow build up, build 1 thing a turn and gain 1 point a turn, the game only accelerates over the last couple of rounds where if you have built wisely you should have the edge over the other players, I liked the game but could not help draw parallels with Machi Koro, I have played Colony solo, with 2 players and with 3 players it works quite nicely with all these numbers although it would not be my first choice of game to play solo.

 Ticket to Ride India where the idea is to make big loops

Ticket to Ride India where the idea is to make big loops

Table 2 played Ticket to Ride – India which has been covered before followed by Chinatown, originally a 1999 alea game they played the newer version by Z-Man, then they did Cockroach Soup and finally Takenoko both of which have also been covered before.

 Chinatown from above

Chinatown from above

 Takenoko about 1/4 into the game

Takenoko about 1/4 into the game

Table 3 played Ulm described here by BQ

BQ > Ulm was one of the best I've played in a while. Aside from the pretty little 3D Ulm Cathedral model, there's a rather neat mechanism at the core of the game. The game board shows medieval Ulm, and next to the afore-mentioned cathedral is the "Cathedral Area", a 3x3 grid which is filled with action tiles at the start of the game. Each tile shows one of the five different actions available to players, and on your turn you take a new (random) tile from a bag and slide it into the start of one of the rows or columns, which of course displaces the tile at the other end. You then take (in any order) the actions shown on the three tiles still in the chosen row/column (i.e. not the displaced tile). Now, you can't choose a row/column that already has a displaced tile at one end, so eventually the choices get limited, but don't worry, because one of the tile actions is to clear the displaced tiles off one side of the grid - the player who does this takes the tiles, because they can be used to pay for special cards (that give immediate benefits or end-game score), and acquiring those cards is another one of the five tile actions.

 Some of the special cards

Some of the special cards

The third tile action is money, which gives you one coin from the bank, and coins are generally used for the fourth tile action, placing "seals" (no, not the furry aquatic mammal, or the singer of "A Kiss From a Rose", but the ones you use to authenticate documents). Running along the bottom of the board is the River Danube, and players each have a little barge, which start at one end of the Danube and progress along a track of spaces from left to right during the game (and guess what? Moving your barge one space is the fifth available tile action!). Progressing the barge does two things: first, the barge track spaces show minus victory points at the starting point (-11), and progressively increasing points as you go towards the other end (up to +11), so moving the barge effectively gives you points. Secondly, as the barge travels along the Danube it passes through different "quarters", each conferring a different benefit to a player who places a seal there with a seal action - things like acquiring additional money; getting a "descendant" tile that gives you a special power for the rest of the game; hunting through the card discard pile for the card of your choice; or acquiring the coat of arms for a "quarter", which will give points on acquisition, and also (if it's a gold coat of arms) points every time anyone places a seal in the corresponding quarter.

 The Ulm board during play

The Ulm board during play

There's some other stuff: "Ulm Sparrows" which give points at game end, but can be used to swap out tiles from an area called the "loading docks" which has a small selection replenished each time a tile is taken from there; and there's some set collecting with the cards, if you use them for end-game scoring. Each time a round starts you place a "tower tile" in the 3D cathedral and once 10 tiles are in there, the game ends, and you add up points from cards, and Ulm Sparrows, and determine the winner. I really liked this: the tile pushing thing is neat, there's lots of random setup elements to increase long-term playability, there's a number of interlocking ways to get points, and once the core rule elements are grasped it all ticks along nicely. I will say that though those core rules are pretty simple, there's some complexity around how the various card/desendent tile/coat of arms stuff works that made the rules explanation a bit tricksy my first time out, but now it's embedded, I think I (and the poor folks I'm explaining to) would have an easier time of it.

 I believe this was the winning hand in Dragonwood

I believe this was the winning hand in Dragonwood

Table 1 played Dragonwood (covered before) and Shithead a public Domain card game played with a standard deck. Whilst Table 3 finished with World's Fair 1893.

Another new game for my table was Cottage Garden by Uwe Rosenberg, each player gets a “garden” in which they have two plots each of which is a 10 x 10 square grid, each square is either blank (the majority) or contains a plant pot or a cloche. In the centre of the table is a 4x4 grid each square set up with a bed of plants in various shapes of between 1 and 6 squares, at the side of the board is placed a circle of the remaining pieces which are used to fill the central board as it empties.

 The central board, emptying quickly, when the die reaches the bottom row it will refill empty spaces from the path of tiles at the side of the board

The central board, emptying quickly, when the die reaches the bottom row it will refill empty spaces from the path of tiles at the side of the board

On a turn a player either takes one piece from the display in the row or column that the gardener (a dice) is in or takes a single plant pot, this must be immediately placed in one of their plots. The idea is to cover over all the blank spaces with the flower beds leaving just cloches and pots, when a plot is complete (no blanks at all) it is immediately scored, 2 pts / cloche and 1 pt / pot.

 My two plots with the right hand plot one space from completion - at the moment it scores 7 orange points and 2 blue points

My two plots with the right hand plot one space from completion - at the moment it scores 7 orange points and 2 blue points

You have a total of 6 scoring tokens and manipulating them to maximise your score takes a little fore-thought as does collecting kittens to use as fillers for the single spaces. The similarities to his 2014 release patchwork cannot be ignored however this to my mind is a simpler game, you can plan a little ahead but there is not a lot of control in the game, overall it is a light game, if you are just after a game to play 2 player then Patchwork gives you a lot more control and is a far more tactical game where planning 3 or 4 turns ahead are rewarded.

Table 1 joined my table and we played Bohemian Villages and Midnight Party, both are excellent light end of evening games and have been described before.

Finally a mention of our satellite group in Gloucester who played Telestrations a light drawing game, Room 25 a co-operative traitor game and Exploding Kittens a fun card game none of which I have experienced.