Isle of Skye, Caverna and Bang!

The quiz this week is from my personal archives. Over 25 years old and like many of that time it lacks the complexities of the modern game, however behind the simplicity of its rules lies a nifty little game, playing in an hour it is a game worthy of being in any collection.

Last weeks quiz was Ballast by Gigamic, they have some lovely 2 player games Pylos, Quarto and Batik to name a few. When I selected the picture I was actually after Hamsterrolle by Zoch but I have mislaid it for the moment.

The summer is nearly over and numbers increased at the club sufficiently to have 3 tables running, the warm up game was BANG! The Dice Game, I last played the card version when it was first released, I enjoyed it but ended up with a German edition which other people shied away from so never got to play it again. The dice version was a pleasant revisit and I enjoyed the game so much that it is now on my wish list.

 My character card, role playing your character is great fun and adds greatly to the game.

My character card, role playing your character is great fun and adds greatly to the game.

There are 3 teams, The first A Sheriff with some deputies, the second some outlaws and the last is the renegades, however with the exception of the Sheriff all other players roles are secret. Depending on your team there are different aims, the outlaws win if they kill the sheriff, the renegades win if they are the last survivors, the sheriff and deputies win if the sheriff is the last one alive(the deputies do not have to survive but it helps if the deputies do not end up shooting one another). On a turn you roll the dice which have various faces, with arrows you take potential hits from Indians, gunfire you get to shoot neighbouring players, gatling gun you get to shoot everyone, explosives you take a hit and with a beer you can heal anyone 1 point. This is a game where it is very hard to stay alive and as roles are secret you have to deduce players roles on how they interact with the sheriff and each other.

 My card indicating I was assisting the Sheriff, if you look carefully you can see all the holes the other Deputy Sheriff put in me, finishing me off.

My card indicating I was assisting the Sheriff, if you look carefully you can see all the holes the other Deputy Sheriff put in me, finishing me off.

Our game was a lot of fun, most injuries were caused by the Indians, something I managed to avoid by limiting my re-rolls, however one of the outlaws was so full of arrows he resembled a porcupine and was then finished off by the sheriff, in the meantime I suddenly found myself being peppered with bullets by anyone who could reach me and was eventually finished off by my fellow deputy! By this point most players were at only 1 or 2 life including the sheriff who was finished off in a hail of bullets by the remaining outlaw. A great fun game and the elimination factor was not too great an issue.

Splitting into three groups my table chose Caverna: The Cave Farmers. There were mixed views when it was initially released, was it an Agricola variant or something completely different? The odd thing was that initial players of the game gave both opinions as feedback. It certainly draws on some of the mechanisms from Agricola but there is also much to recognise from another Uwe Rosenburg game All Creatures Great and Small, nevertheless it is sufficiently different from both to be a great game and is well deserving of its 3rd place ranking of all boardgames on the geek.

 The gameboard showing some of the animals used in the game and some worker placement spaces

The gameboard showing some of the animals used in the game and some worker placement spaces

There is not enough room here to explain the game in any depth, it took half an hour to explain the rules over the table, but I will say it is a worker placement resource gathering game. You start off with a cave, 2 workers and plenty of room to spread, you use the workers to gather food, farm animals, and basic resources to expand your farming area or expand your cave by mining for ore or rubies or chiselling out caverns to expand into various types of chambers or rooms which enhance your basic abilities.

 Player board in early stages of game, with some sheep in a pasture, 2 pigs in a cave and wheat and vegetables planted in fields

Player board in early stages of game, with some sheep in a pasture, 2 pigs in a cave and wheat and vegetables planted in fields

The game is smooth and resources are tight, but you are never squeezed (unlike Agricola) and there is always something you can do. Victory points mainly come from large quantities of animals and the rooms you have in your cave complex. One of our number took an early lead in development of her farm and then proceeded to give the rest of us a masterclass on how to play, everyone enjoyed it and I look forward to playing it again.

Table 2 started the evening with Alien Frontiers, this worker placement game is based around colonising areas of a planet, the winner is the player who has the most victory points at the point when any player places their last colony. Control of planetary areas gains small advantages (as well as the majority of the victory points) as does collecting alien artifacts.

 The game board showing previous ship (dice) placements

The game board showing previous ship (dice) placements

The game revolves around rolling dice (spaceships) and placing them in various areas of space to undertake actions, lucky rolling does help but is no guarantee of a win. Placement of the dice does depend on what numbers you roll and there is always something you can do although it may not be the area you really want, in addition other players ships (dice) already on the board may block what you want to do as there are a limited number of berths (spaces) for the ships.

 Alien artefact cards

Alien artefact cards

The game is smooth and everything fits together nicely and although I am not a fan of area control games this is one of the nicer ones.

Table 2 next played Keyflower a British game by designers Richard Breese and Sebastian Bleasedale, this is another worker placement game, however the players workers are obtained from a common pool. The idea of the game is to have the most points by the end of the game, these are obtained from tiles gathered during the game and become part of your own village.

 Player 4's village slowly expands

Player 4's village slowly expands

Players start the game with a random selection of workers of 3 different colours and these are used for bidding or for activating a tile for its benefits. The twist in this game is that once a colour is used on a tile for bidding or use, all future bids or use of the tile must be made with the same colour workers.

 From the left :- Stacks of cards for later in the game, Turn order cards (SE player has bid 1 red for first place next turn), incoming boats with more citizens, tiles out for bidding for this turn.

From the left :- Stacks of cards for later in the game, Turn order cards (SE player has bid 1 red for first place next turn), incoming boats with more citizens, tiles out for bidding for this turn.

The game plays very well but close management of your worker pool is important; workers used for successful bids are lost but workers used in your own village (no matter who placed them) become your workers for the next round.

Table 3 started the evening with Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King, a very new tile laying game with plenty of player interaction (unless you play it 2 player). The game revolves around four scoring tiles which are drawn from a pool at the games start, these set the goals for the whole game, after each round a different selection of these tiles are scored (e.g. round 1 tile A is scored whereas round 5 tiles A,C & D are scored).

 The scoreboard with the scoring tiles displayed for this game

The scoreboard with the scoring tiles displayed for this game

A Tile may have many features, including mountains, pastures, sea and roads traversing it, other icons may also be present, highland cattle, sheep, boats, lighthouses, farmsteads, brochs and barrels of whiskey. Each player has their own island which they try to expand with the best tiles for scoring.

 The middle tile is to be discarded, 8 cash is required for another player to buy the tile on the left

The middle tile is to be discarded, 8 cash is required for another player to buy the tile on the left

On a turn all the players take 3 random tiles which are displayed in front of a screen, then behind the screen they choose one to discard and set a price for the other two, all screens are lifted simultaneously and once round the table only each player gets to purchase a tile from another player at the set price or pass, once everyone has had an option to purchase or pass, players must buy any tiles they have still in front of them for the price they set paying the money to the bank.

 A players village layout

A players village layout

Any tiles a player sold gets them money from the purchasing player they also get their own money back. Now players attach the tiles to their own village, the land must tessellate but roads do not have to but it helps a lot if they do, finally after everyone has placed their tiles scoring takes place.I am still not sure about this one, playing this two player neither of us were able to buy each others tiles, so it then came down to luck of the draw; multi-player is quite a bit different but if you draw bad tiles I get the feeling that cash-flow may become a problem, more plays are required before I make a decision about this one however because of the trading I am sure this will be a favourite with other players.

Table 3’s next game was Oregon, I have covered this one before and this is its 3rd appearance at the club. I have never really got on with Oregon my feeling is that there is a little too much luck, it is equally likely though that I am not finding the correct tactics. The winner of this game was also the well deserved winner of Skye.

The last game on the table for the evening was Love Letter: Batman, I do not know anything about this one other than it is another version of Love Letter of which there are a lot of different versions now, many of them “fan based”. The batman issue must be a lot of fun because there was a heck of a lot of laughter coming from the table during the game.

 The character Poison Ivy as portrayed by Uma Thurman in "Batman and Robin", here with a Love Letter power

The character Poison Ivy as portrayed by Uma Thurman in "Batman and Robin", here with a Love Letter power