Bohemian Villages, Imhotep, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Kingdom Builder and Cacao - The Chocolate Expansion

The quiz picture this time is a bit of a rarity now but is certainly a lot of fun to play and has been down the club at least once and after taking it to Beer & Pretzels more than one person was on the internet trying to track down a copy.

The last quiz picture was of Verzauberte Eulen a nice low level game where the owls swap heads, this will come to the club at some point when I am looking for a light evening of gaming, my version is the Haba edition it is part of their green box range aimed at older children and therefore highly suitable for adults.

I have tried to catch-up by doing weekly reports but this has failed due to very busy weekends so this is a double report and I will start with the session 2 weeks ago. Table 1 started the evening with Imhotep which BQ explains :-

BQ > A nice design from Phil Walker-Harding, creator of Archaeology, Cacao and (whisper it!) Sushi Go! As a builder of ancient Egyptian monuments, you get a bunch of chunky wood cubes in your colour, representing stone construction blocks, and you have to ship them to one of five construction sites, using four ships taken from a group of eight. The ships have from 1-4 spaces on them (there's 2x4 space ships, 3x3, 2x2 and 1x1). Each space can hold one stone block. The subset of ships you will use in each round is determined by means of a "round card" which is revealed at the start of the round. When a ship sails, the blocks are offloaded in order from the front to the back of the ship, and placed on the site according to certain placement rules. Each site has a different benefit: most score points in different ways - the Temple has a line of five spaces which are filled from front to back, and once all are filled, a second storey is built on top of the first. At the end of each round players get a point for each block of their colour that can be seen from above - so blocks on the bottom storey, once covered, don't score any more, etc. The Pyramid scores points printed on a small grid corresponding to the spaces where the blocks can be placed, fills from top left to bottom right in columns, and scores immediately (and only when) the blocks are placed.

The Obelisks have a stack of blocks per player, and score only at game end, points being allocated based on tallest to shortest tower. The Burial Chamber is a grid of spaces, with three rows and many columns. It too is filled left to right in columns, and scores - again at game end only - for orthogonally connected groups of blocks. Finally, the market allows you to take special cards, 1 per block you deliver: the blue ones I mentioned above, red ones that give you an immediate bonus block placement, green ones that give end of game scoring bonuses, and purple ones that are set-collecting cards, with game end points for your set. Once all the ships have docked, the round is over, Temple scoring happens, a new round card is revealed, the Market cards are refreshed, and the next round starts...unless there's no more round cards, in which case you're done, so you score the game-end stuff, and see who's won.

It's deceptively simple, but with many interesting decisions. There's LOTS of player interaction - sailing a ship with all the other players blocks somewhere you KNOW they don't want to go is mean, but rather satisfying smile emoticon . Since there's four ships, but five sites, one site ends up with no ship in each round, so focusing on one site may risk you being cut out by the other players when they realise what you're doing. The blue cards can give you a little edge when you need it, but they need to be timed carefully. It's all a bit of a balancing act, and a rather enjoyable one, for me.

Table 2 started with Condottiere an interesting game that now comes in a much smaller box than the original and the cards are now normal sized. The game has a small board showing areas of Italy, a player wins if they control 5 areas or 3 adjacent areas (in a 4+ player game). A hand of cards is dealt out to all players and in a turn they play a single card or pass, once passed a player is out of that round, a round is a battle for a single nominated area and a round ends when all players have passed.

 The board at the end of the game where the Red player was dealt a hand of 10's, 2 players could not compete so dropped out leaving 1 player to try and stop the onslaught, he failed and Red won.

The board at the end of the game where the Red player was dealt a hand of 10's, 2 players could not compete so dropped out leaving 1 player to try and stop the onslaught, he failed and Red won.

Most of the cards are mercenary cards of various strengths, however there are power cards which can be used for various effects (generally affecting the strengths of card already played) whoever has the highest strength showing at the end of a round wins the area. The nice twist is that no-one replenishes their hand and the cards that players are left with they use for the next round, this continues until at the end of a round all but 1 player has zero cards at which point new cards are dealt out. There is a lot of trying to achieve the most with the minimal, the power cards create interesting battles, you also have to make decisions on when to commit to a battle, waste your cards too early and you will not be able to play in future battles, save them and you may not get to play them before the next batch are dealt out.

Table 1 moved on to Histrio  which BQ describes :-

BQ > Histrio's got a rather odd theme, I think. In a strange, cartoonish fantasy land inhabited by anthropomorphic animals, you are trying to put on two plays for the King's annual drama festival. To do that, over the course of two "seasons" you'll need to send emissaries to the eight cities of the land, where they will try to recruit actors and acrobats, and solicit money from patrons of the arts, so you can put on a play at the end of the season. Trouble is, if two players visit a city at the same time, things go a bit wrong. And to complicate things further, at the end of the season, the king will either be in the mood for tragedy or comedy. Your play will be mostly one or the other. Woe betide you if you misjudge what he's feeling...

 the cities with cards waiting to be taken

the cities with cards waiting to be taken

The bits in this game are very pretty: There's a little theatre stage with a rotating backdrop, plastic miniature fantasy airships (called "Caravels") which represent your emissaries, tiny cockerels as theatre managers, and nice plastic coins. Each player gets a set of eight "travel cards" numbered 1 - 8, one for each of the cities, a set of the Caravels and three of the cockerel "managers" in their colour. There's a long, thin mini-board representing the eight cities, again numbered 1 - 8, and a deck of "encounter" cards, which are shuffled and one card placed beneath each of the cities. There are three kinds of these cards: actors, acrobats, and patrons of the theatre. Each player starts with 3 coins - and coins are the victory points in this game. There's also a deck of "secret request" cards which can give you points at the end of each "season". In each turn, each player selects one of the travel cards they have left in their hand and plays that card face down on the table. When all have chosen, the cards are revealed, and each player places a caravel underneath the city they chose. The cities are then resolved from left to right, and players gain all cards and their benefits from the city they chose, if, and only if, they're alone there. The three kinds of card that players can get have different effects: Patron cards just yield the coins printed on them. Acrobats are placed in front of the player and have special powers (like like enabling you to block other players from a specific city for one turn; or take the cards from a city where you're not alone) that can be used once per season. Finally, Actors have experience values of 1 - 5, and enable the players to put on their plays for the season. They're either comedians (gold) or tragedians (red), and each may give a special benefit - less-experienced actors give better benefits. The player may choose send one of the actor cards just acquired to the discard pile to influence the king's mood, and all other actors are placed in front of the player as part of their "troupe" for this season's play. If more than one player chose the same city, it's bad news: all the encounter cards are discarded, and any actors in the pile influence the kings mood according to their experience and type. In compensation the affected players get a "secret request" card each. The king's mood is very important, and, sadly, he's a right moody old blighter: his mood changes like the wind, because actor cards get discarded quite a bit. When this happens, the needle above the king's mood dial on top of the theatre moves, one segment per experience level of the actor discarded, in the direction of the actor's speciality, comedy or tragedy - thus, if a combination of tragedians and comedians is discarded the needle moves the net amount in favour of the higher total minus the lower - so, if there's a 3 tragedian and a 1 comedian being discarded, say, the needle moves 2 points towards the tragedy side. The mood indicator has two halves, one for each mood, and if the needle traverses from one half to the other, another fun thing happens. The back of the theatre has a backdrop on a spindle, showing a comedy or tragedy performance. At the start of the game when you flip the coin to show which mood the king is initially in, you spin the backdrop to the appropriate performance. If the king's mood changes to the other kind during the game, the backdrop is spun round, knocking off any managers present on the stage, which return to their owners.

 One players acting line

One players acting line

Once all cities are resolved, a new turn begins. A card is added to each city from the encounter deck (in this way, cities can build up a few cards, making them more appealing), and it's the next turn, unless the encounter deck's run out, in which case it's the end of the season, and a scoring takes place, based on the king's mood: if your troupe of actors better matches how he's feeling you get many more coins. You can also then play one special request card at this time, which gives bonus coins based on a condition (like "10 coins if your troupe doesn't match the kings mood", or "5 coins if you only have actors of 4 or 5 value"). If it's the end of the first season, you set up for the second season similar to at the start and do it all again. If it's the end of the second season, you see who has the most coins, and they win. Histrio is light and for a family game, there's a fair amount to think about. Second guessing other players is never easy, but you've got to try, because you REALLY don't want to be in the same city as someone else too often. It also goes way quicker than I thought it would, partly, I think, because of the simultaneous card-play.

 Part of the board showing a 3 point citadel with crags, flowers and a forest nearby

Part of the board showing a 3 point citadel with crags, flowers and a forest nearby

Table 2 next played Kingdom Builder quite a quick route-laying game. The board depicts various areas of land (flowers, woods, plains, desert, crags, mountains and water) in patches of hexagons of various sizes there is also a deck of cards and each card will show one of the terrains (except mountain and water). At the start of the game three game-end scoring criteria are revealed from another deck of cards and then play begins. On a turn a player turns over a card from the top of the deck and then places 3 of their pieces in the terrain revealed, there are additional rules governing placement but on the whole you are trying to achieve points based on the victory point cards, there are also cities dotted around the board which either provide 3 points for reaching them or bonus action chits.

 Players houses/settlements on part of the board at the end of the game.

Players houses/settlements on part of the board at the end of the game.

The game is about deciding which victory points to chase and picking up the correct bonus tokens to help you achieve them. There is (to my mind) a large luck element in the card drawing, not wishing to take away from the tactical aspect of placement and early decision making but to have your plans scuppered by a random card draw puts a dampener on an otherwise fine game, you could argue that you should plan for the bad draws but the game does not last that long and it is possible to play a game drawing lots of a particular terrain and not see one card of another (for me it was 5 or more flower cards and only 1 crags card for the whole game), however other than this it is a good quick game and one I will happily play.

Table 3 started with Traders of Osaka, however the game was not completed as they were only 2 players and we split and had a mix-up of players.

Table 1 finished with Archaeology: The New Expedition

 Hyperborea being played 3-player

Hyperborea being played 3-player

Table 2 played Hyperborea, not a game I have played yet and so have no information on. They then finished with Cockroach Poker.

The last game on Table 3 was Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Game, I am not normally keen to play this type of game but this one has a nice (although not perfect) balance and plays in about an hour. One player is the side of evil controlling several characters (in our case The Master and his minions) whilst the remaining players control the good guys (Buffy, Willow, Xander and Oz). There are goals for both sides (normally either Killing or siring Buffy for the evil player whilst the good players usually have to defeat the evil leader). 

 Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike is attacking Willow but Oz is on his way.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike is attacking Willow but Oz is on his way.

A round consists of the evil player rolling a die to see how many of their pieces they can move then the good characters each take a turn, on a turn a player moves a piece and can undertake actions which can be power cards and/or collect a power card (provided they ended a turn on a relevant coloured spot) exchange cards with another character (good guys) or attack another character which then ends that characters turn. Attacks are boosted with weapon cards and friend cards (good guys) or power cards in the case of an evil character attacking, dice are rolled and results applied. The cards all add flavour and it is possible for the good guys to be sired into vampires and swap sides, it is a fun game not to be taken too seriously, if you have knowledge and a liking of the series I would say give this game a try it provides an interesting diversion from the worker placement/resource management/deck building style of games.

The last session also had three tables running. Table 1 started the session with Bohemian Villages BQ reports :-

BQ > Bohemian Villages is a dice-based worker placement game: there's a number of large tiles with villages printed on them, consisting of groups of various buildings, with a number shown next to each building. On your turn, you roll four dice and use them to create one or two "totals", with at least two dice per total - so 2 groups of 2 dice, or 1 group of 3 dice (but the spare single die is then unusable) or even 1 group of 4 dice. You *must* use at least one dice "total", but you don't *have* to create/use a second one out of what you rolled. You then place one worker per total used on a building that corresponds to the number rolled, in one of the villages.

 Some of the villages in Bohemian Villages

Some of the villages in Bohemian Villages

So a 5 and 3 would mean you get to place a worker on an "8" value building, which is a Farm. Depending on the building, when you place workers you may get money immediately as a one-off; or you may get a token (flour from the Flour Mill, for example) which you will cash in for money once all of that building type is occupied (and you get all those workers back if that happens); or you may get a chance for a regular income each turn; or you may get a lot of money at the end of the game if certain conditions are met. You can also kick other players out of some of the buildings under certain circumstances, and there's some re-roll tokens you can buy by sacrificing dice. You do this until someone has no-one left to place at the start of their turn, score the end-game type buildings and the most money wins.

 A sample of the cardboard bits you get in the game

A sample of the cardboard bits you get in the game

I enjoyed the game, but came away with the feeling that I didn't really "get" it, and needed to play a couple more times to make a final verdict. Early on I was placing workers in Farms (which, when you place a worker there, give one coin per worker you already have on a Farm, plus the one you just placed), but I was doing it simply because I was rolling 8's. As I continued to roll dice combos that could be made into *more* 8's, I stuck to farming - it seemed like a good strategy to continue with because that's where I was already invested. No-one else could kick me out - with farms, all of them need to be occupied before you can start dislodging players and my opponents were busy focussing on other buildings - so I ended up doing pretty well. Some of the other buildings, though, seemed harder to get money out of - the token collecting buildings seemed tricky to score well in unless everyone was going for them, for example. I've read on BGG that the strategy does open up after a few plays, so I'll try it again soon...

 One of the villages in a 2 player game

One of the villages in a 2 player game

Me again (KG), I have since played Bohemian Villages 2 player and yes there does seem to be limited strategy, there is a little risk taking and maybe a level of hoping to get the right dice rolls but there is sufficient manipulation given to dice values that you feel in control. I liked it a lot as a fun filler and found it very playable. Table 2 Started with Splendor possibly one of the nicest warm-up games around, they followed this with Innovation which I have briefly touched on before.

 A players collection in Innovation

A players collection in Innovation

On table 3 we started with Russian Railroads which is a lovely game however previous experience of play does help quite a bit, for a first time player there is a lot of rules to cope with and it is the game that for me is the longest to explain taking well over 20 minutes. In short it is a worker placement game with resource management (or collecting) in order to achieve an ever increasing number of victory points.  The dynamics of each game change dependent on the number of players and their chosen strategy, in our game Train and Industry tiles were very difficult to get hold of and brought a halt to my railways for a turn (I missed out on a train) and another players Industry build up.

 This was the second place board near the end of the game.

This was the second place board near the end of the game.

The game played well and smoothly and all players did well with only the level of knowledge of the game separating the players end scores, one sad note was that my reign of wins of RR at the club was brought to an end.

Table 1 moved on to Imhotep which is described above in the first report and then finished the evening with Cacao using the Chocolate expansion. Table 2 then played Beasty Bar, currently my favourite 15 minute filler which has been covered before but briefly each player has an identical stack of cards and each turn plays a card from a hand of four to the end of a queue, each card in the queue is then checked to see if it has an effect on the other cards, when there are five cards in the queue the top two cards go into a scoring pile. At the end of the game the player with the most cards in the score pile wins. The artwork is lovely and the gameplay pleasingly simple.

 Two in the queue at Heavens Gate

Two in the queue at Heavens Gate

The last game on Table 2 was Bohnanza, this interesting card game has been around for a few years and had quite a few spin offs and expansions including “Space Beans” and “La Isla Bohnita”. It is a trading game where you have a hand of cards and each turn you must “plant” one or two cards from the front of your hand into new sets or sets that have already been started in front of you – however you are limited to only 3 sets at a time, you then have 2 cards turned over from the deck to trade – it is this free trading which is the backbone of the game, after the trading session players refill their hand however cards in the hand must always stay in the same order they were picked up thus creating some interesting trading situations as players try to empty their hand of useless cards

Table 3 finished with Machi Koro a nice card and dice game, there is a little strategy to the game but in the end it is the die rolling that will decide the winner and there is not quite enough die rolling to even out periods of good or bad luck, you can manage your luck to a certain degree by the cards you choose to purchase but bad luck is still bad luck. I am happy to say that the player in our game who did not purchase the aggressive cards but stuck to a peaceful expansion of his card deck did win but only thanks to some fortunate die rolling by himself and another player.

 The deluxe version of Machi Koro comes with 2 expansions and a player mat

The deluxe version of Machi Koro comes with 2 expansions and a player mat

Table 1 moved onto Cacao with the Chocolatl expansion:

BQ > There's four modules in the new expansion for this game (which we've covered on the "What We've Played" blog in the past if you're not familiar - go look it up, I'll wait...   ). We used two of them: the Chocolate Kitchen/ Chocolate Market tiles, and the Huts. The former give opportunities to convert cocoa into chocolate (Kitchen tiles), and sell the chocolate for high prices (Market tiles). The latter are a bunch of hut tiles that you have to pay coins for (but don't worry, they're worth the same towards your end-game score as you paid for them) and they all have special powers (like giving more coins at "2" cocoa markets, or adding an extra worker to a 3-worker tile when it's played, or additional . I felt they both added an extra dimension to a game I've played quite a lot, and although I hadn't got bored of it, the new elements certainly add some interesting twists.