Inkognito – To be republished

Inkognito was a deduction game originally released in 1988, where each player aims to find which other player (its a 4 player game, though there was a 3 player option) is their fellow secret agent and complete a mission. Each player had a secret identity, attribute and mission, and through investigating the player pawns you found out who was who and aimed to as a pair, complete the mission – you both had to agree on the solution, or lose!

I won’t review it here (see a review on BGG) but it was a nice game with a big plastic head that had 10 coloured balls in used as a randomiser. Well I now find out its to be republished by Ares Games. It’s to be an improved version, so I wonder how they will improve it? Will it be just the big head guy being replaced by a digital device?

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Pheonicia – getting the rules right

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Pheonicia is a boardgame where the rules aren’t as clear as they could be. There are many boardgames that suffer a similar failing, so it isn’t a unique failing, but could be one reason why its on the danger (of being disposed of) list at Beyond Monopoly games club. It is a good game, but as I only play it every few months, when I can get people interested in trying it out, I tend to skim through the rules to recap whilst I explain them. I did this again, when I played on Saturday, but the next day I decided to see if anyone had done a player aid to help quick refresh set-up when I discovered something, a rule I’d missed. I saw a posting on the BGG forum about converting cards to coins, which confused me until I read further and then went and got the rules – I had been omitting using the ability to swap coins to card and vice versa.


In stage 1c, you can exchange one card for coins, before applying treasury limits. This would only be useful if you had improved storage to store them. This is only useful because of what you can do in step 2c, namely turn four discs into a card. This is the rule I’d missed! Its a gamble to try and turn a 4 card into a 5 or 6, but it does mean you are not able to use the income to buy tools or train workers. However it is also useful for those not cashing in a card in 1c when a player without improved storage gets income to take them above 3. Normally people will train workers or buy farming tools just to avoid losing them on treasury limits (in 2d), but now this shouldn’t be needed.

Moral of the story – read rules if you haven’t played a boardgame in a while (even if its afterwards, lol, as hopefully it’ll lodge in your brain until next play – which should be at the next BM! York.

All Too Quiet

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This blog has been very quiet, apologies, but it sort of fell off the radar as I was in a new relationship. Still, it’s still here so I can always post again.

I’ve been introducing Michelle to boardgames, although a regular Scrabble player, she hadn’t heard of any of the games I play. The game that has been a big success in Ticket To Ride and we play several games in an evening. I had owned the standard game and 1910 expansion, but none of the others. As we’d played a lot of games on the US map, I decided to buy the India-Switzerland map collection in May – specifically for the 2-player Switzerland map.

The Switzerland map gives some changes to the rules, especially changing how locomotive cards are used. Rather than they simply being a wild-card as in the standard game, they now are only used for tunnel routes. To compensate for this change you now can pick up a locomotive just like any other card (i.e. one of two choices when picked from the face up cards). This change has caused me a frustrated latter game in many plays because you have no wild cards for non-tunnel routes meaning that you can spend a lot of time collecting cards to get the right colour. That said, its just a matter of changing game-play. The number of tickets held is crucial in determining the winner, more so than the standard map where completing longer intercity links can compensate very well for going for less tickets.

Definitely a collection worth buying – even though I haven’t played the India side yet, so lots more play left in the game.

More Gaming Bargains to come @theworks

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There has been quite a bit of chatter on the BoardGameGeek forum about the boardgames that appeared in many branches of The Works last week. Some speculated that the number of copies in each branch probably meant they’d acquired a few pallets of games, others wondered if it was a one off or regular event. One BGG member managed to find out the buyer for The Works and got people to send positive feedback. Laura Lemmon, the buyer concerned, has sent out an email to those who contacted her about more boardgames to come!

Dear Valued Customer

Thank you to you all for your positive responses to our recent trial of Strategy games here at The Works. I am now fully acquainted with the board game geek website, and thank you all for your information!
We value your feedback greatly in order to buy the best possible ranges for our customers and as a result I have some news that will excite you!

The names below are all new and popular strategy games that we have bought to be delivered into our warehouse next week so they should hit stores in the next two weeks. If, however, you are unable to find any at your local Works please have a look at our website.

Assyria £7.99
Burger Joint £7.99
Lucky Loop £7.99
Change Horses £7.99
Click Clack Game £7.99
Ys £7.99
Enuk £7.99
Ystari Expansion Box £2.99
Alhambra Treasure Chamber £4.99
Lord of the Rings: the Dual £7.99
Alhambra Power of Sultan £4.99
Notre Dame £7.99
Aqua Romana £7.99
Ponte De Diavolo £7.99
Airships £7.99
Amyitis £7.99
Eketorp £7.99
Ming Dynasty Game £7.99
Highlands Clan Game £7.99
Oregon £7.99
Montego Bay £7.99

This list obviously includes the games that have already appeared, and on the whole sold out, in stores already, but it does contain a more and mean that its a good time to stock up on cheap games for presents etc. The beauty of this is that there may be some games that you’ve liked the sound of but didn’t think it was worth a punt on spending 20-odd or 30-odd quid on, but at eight quid you can’t go wrong. Well, you probably should be aware that all though there are a few gems there (like those that sold out on the day they hit the shelf) there are lots of less well known games, that have lower ranking on the geek, but that doesn’t make them bad games, just less popular. I shall be buying several, as even if you only play them very occasionally, or just a few times you can’t say you overpaid for them.  If there are games on that list that you haven’t heard of then maybe its time to visit BoardGameGeek and type them in the search area?

Bargain boardgames in the UK

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Those of you interested in picking up boardgames for a bargain price probably know about T K Maxx and their sporadically stocking of Queen Games boardgames. Well now there is another chain store to check – The Works has just started a promotion on several boardgames, available at £7.99 each. There are several flavours of Scene-it that you might expect in a UK “games sale” from a non-boardgame chain but there is also

  • Albion
  • Batavia
  • Cir-Kis
  • Cuba
  • Eketorp
  • Highland Clans
  • Ming Dynasty
  • Montego Bay
  • Notra Dame
  • Royal Palace

Plus others. Not sure if its a one off or regular promotion.

games display

Games display at The Works

Badgers Everywhere!

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On the news the other day in the UK was a proposal for a cull in the badger population. This is an issue with two strong sides, on one side the farmers wanting to eliminate TB in cattle, and the other who want to preserve the ‘cute’ badger (is the badger the “British Panda”?).

This reminded me of a video I saw years ago, where it showed field over-run with badgers (link below). I went to find the video again and found there is an updated one with a field over-run with baby badgers. Oh the horror!
(here’s a link to the original video from 2003)

Anything goes in Chinatown

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I played Chinatown last night and came 2nd in a four player game, and although I thought I did okay at the time would probably have done better had I known all the ins and outs – there would have been less “oh you can do that” moments!

Chinatown is a negotiation game played over six rounds where the goal is to end up with the most money. The game comes with a large board depicting Chinatown consisting of 85 plot spaces, numbered plot cards, building tiles, and colour markers for each player. Each round has four phases: “draw”, “negotiation”, “build”, and “income”. In the draw phase you draw plot cards (then discard two of them) and building tiles. You place markers of your colours on the board corresponding to the cards you kept and place the building tiles in front of you. Next comes the negotiation phase and the source of many of my “oh you can do that” moments. Literally everything is up for trade – your counters on the plots, the building tiles in front of you, and your money. In the build phase you may place any building tiles you have on the board spaces where you have your counters. The building tiles are sets of 3, 4, 5, or 6 (there are 3 more tiles than needed for the full set in the game), and you want to place tiles from the same set together (A building is a set of the same type tiles placed orthogonally adjacent to each other with no roads in between) . In the income phase you get paid for the buildings on the board you own depending on their size. A single tile gets you $10K, and two orthogonally connected nets $20k, but larger collections net you more than $10k per tile! You also get a bonus if the building is complete. So if your size 3 building is comprised of Laundry tiles (that are 4 to be complete) you get $30K, but if they were Tea Shop tiles (that need 3 to be complete) you’d get $40k. The income increases greater on larger buildings (a size 5 “incomplete six-type” nets $80k, but a complete five-type nets $110k).

Chinatown is an enjoyable game. Last night the rules were explained to me and seemed fairly straight forward. In the first round I negotiated swapping buildings for buildings and sites for sites, and in the second I realised you could interchange these or add as sweeteners – “I’ll offer you $20K for that Dim Sum” or “swap that marker with that and I’ll give you this tea shop tile”. Then in the third round I realised you could simply buy a plot marker off someone. If I was explaining it to someone else I would really emphasize that everything is negotiable – you can swap similar (e.g. plot markers), swap different (marked spaces for tiles), or simply buy something outright – or any combination. 3-way deals can be quite good too. The game had some sweet moments, like when I agreed a marker swap with Hugo that included buying a tile from Hugo for $50k that gained me the $50k back in come that turn (and as it was turn three I had 3 more incomes at the increased level too). In the end I came a very credible second with $350k, only a few thousand (I think $20k) behind first place and over $100K in front of 3rd place.

Islas Canarias

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A boardgame about the Canary Islands? Ooo sounds intriguing, and as a gamer who does holiday there, I was intrigued as to whether it would possibly make an apt travel game? After all it can be fun playing boardgames in their themed locations: Carcassonne, Alhambra, and Puerto Rico are games that people have done (see boardgamegeek for photographic evidence).

Islas Canarias is a game about the settlement of the Canary Islands – each player takes one island playing board, which are differently shaped but containing the same number of land plot spaces. The boards each contain a set of features adjacent to the landplots: mountain, coast, river, road, village, and a farm, which vary in the number of plots adjacent to it (so an island will have 5 spaces next to one feature and other islands will have 4 or 3), with each island being strong at something. new players seem to want the bigger islands or moan if they’ve got a small island, but each has its strengths.

Look at the islands and you will see each has 5 spaces next to 2 features, 4 next to another 2, and 3 next to the final 2.

There is a deck of settler cards, of which each player starts with a hand of five. Each card depicts a settler with their occupation in Spanish and depicting the colour house they want to live in and a priority preference of where they want to live. On your turn you can do one of two things and then compulsory do a final action – you can either play a settler card to place a house on your island (of the colour stated on the card, and its placed according to the priority depicted on the card e.g. next to the mountain, if there’s no free space there then next to a red house, otherwise …) or pick up three cards; the final action of your turn is to place a card on the settlement ship (so if you start your turn with one card you must choose to pick up to be able to place a card in the ship). At the end of each round the cards placed on the ship by everyone are shuffled and one placed aside (so the card you put in may not come out this time), they are then “settled” according to the priority i.e. given to the player who has most free spaces next to the settlers priority, with ties going down to the next order of priority. Of course you have to place the settler in a highest available space, so meaning you now have less spaces. Your spaces this way can quickly fill, luckily there is a way to free up spaces. Houses are worth 1 point, but if you have 2 houses in the same colour you can exchange these for 1 palace (that has to go on one of the spaces vacated by the houses) worth 3 points (or 2 points if you already have 1 in that colour). You can also upgrade to Town settlements, worth 5 points, by converting 3 houses of that colour. A rule I missed on first couple of plays is you cannot upgrade a palace and a house into a town, which is quite important as it makes you more vulnerable to pirates in the meantime!

So this is a game about using cards to place houses on your island directly and hopefully via the ship (if you have the most favourable space). There is more to this game though in the terms of privileges and pirates. The first player in each colour to build a palace gets the privilege card for that colour (other players may take these later if they get more points in that colour) that gives you a special power. these are

  • Win all ties
  • Draw 5 cards when not building
  • Use houses of different colours when building a palace
  • Build wherever you want
  • Take extra card every turn
  • Protected from pirate attacks

The settler deck consists of 54 settlers and 6 pirates (one in each colour). A player may not play a pirate on their island, but can place it in the ship. When a pirate comes out they attack the owner of that colours privilege, who then has to place a house (of any colour) back into supply (if they have the pirate protection privilege they can determine another player to be attacked). If the privilege isn’t out its the player with most points in that colour with ties meaning all tied players put one house back.

The game carries on until one player reaches 19 points and then the game ends at the end of that round (so it is possible for someone else to win with more points or even the player who reached 19 to then lose points via the pirates!).

This game was described to me by one friend as just a puzzle solving game, but I don’t see it that way. It is about being aware of which features you are strong in each round (to hopefully get settlers via the ship) and deciding when to upgrade to palaces or go for towns. It is quite a short game, playing in about 45 minutes, though this can be longer if players are deliberating far too much each turn. The mechanics are quite simple to pick up but with more to it than a quick filler. Maybe I will take it on holiday next time.

Cartagena Die Goldinsel

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Die Goldinsel (or Cartagena: Die Goldinsel to give its full name) is a boardgame from the Cartagena Series of games. Its a pirate themed game and it doesn’t matter, in my opinion, if you haven’t played the previous games. The description of the game (taken from boardgamegeek as the game itself is in German) is “After escaping the fortress of Cartagena and their return to the Pirates Nest, the pirates’ search for Treasure Island starts. Players are pirate captains and try to get together a new crew of pirates, gather Island cards and acquire digging rights before setting sail to Treasure Island.” and really you could take the theme as just the last sentence.

The game board

Each player has a captain and a ship piece, the captains start at the lighthouse space on Crows Nest Island (CNI) and the ships in the harbour. You each have a set of digging permits (numbered 1-6 with another numbered 7 on the furthest island), of which you start with one, chosen at random, the rest placed at the centre of CNI. There are a set of island cards (one for each of the islands that have treasure on), one of which has been chosen as the Treasure Island, of which each player starts with one and the rest in a pile, and you each get a deck of pirate action cards.

This game is, in part, a memory game – you need to try and look at most of the island cards to find out which aren’t the Treasure Island, because you cannot win unless you have dug on that island! that is quite important. You have a hand of four pirate action cards and can use one to move (you can then optionally use the action element on a second card) and afterwards you draw back up to four. So you start the game moving around CNI which has a circular track comprising of spaces that allow you to: pick an island card; pick up a digging permit; get a pirate crew of the specified colour on that space (your ship can only hold 3 though); or gamble (turn over the top pirate action card of your deck and if it shows a poker symbol get a pirate and a permit!). If you land on same space as another captain and you have a card with a robbery action on you may steal one (or two) of their island cards. So it is a memory game as you won’t hold onto the island cards but need to know what you’ve seen to ensure you cover the Treasure Island in your digs.

In our three player game Mike was first off the island, with all his permits and collecting his seventh. If you’ve seen five island cards, you can place on the other seven. Jon was next off and I was last, mainly because I hadn’t got enough permits by the time Mike set sail. By the time I managed to get five permits, enough I thought to go and get digging, I’d seen eight cards, so it did mean I could concentrate on going to the other four.

To dig on an island you need to move your boat there, play a second card that depicts allowing you to place pirates on the island as your action, place the pirate of the colour specified on the island or any two, and then place one of your digging permits.  Mike had picked up the Relic card that allowed him to use any colour pirate so could happily go digging, Jon had to go back to CNI as Mike had been the only player to pick up a black pirate. When you arrived at an island that already had pirate(s) on (from another player placing their digging permit) if you have a card that allows you to pick up one or two pirates then you can play that and collect pirates. So you can travel to an island one turn place pirate and dig, next turn go to another island and pick up a pirate, etc, so long as you had the cards. It was even possible to leave the island you’d just dug on and go a circular route (cannot use the same lane twice in the same turn) and pick them back up!

When one player has placed their last digging permit, everyone else gets a single go and then scoring happens. Treasure where no one has dug gets removed from the game, and that where only one player has dug gets given to that player. For everywhere else the permits are turned over and the highest value wins it, in case of ties the tying player who placed their permit first wins. The treasure island card is turned over and whoever won on that island takes the bonus 3 gold. Everyone totals their gold (including the value of a relic card if they got one), and of the players who dug on Treasure Island, the one with the highest gold total wins. In our game, Jon had the highest gold but had not dug on the Treasure Island, so I won :-). Not really sure how, though I guess placing less digging permits but of higher value could be it, though that’s highly dependent on what other people place (my 6 went up against Mike’s 7 bonus).

Would you financially support a website?

I’d like to share a worry and concern of mine that I’ve had for a while that I’ve not, until today, done anything about! The concern is what would I do without a web community that I was involved with, or would I be willing to act to prevent its demise – and if so would I need to wait until its imminent demise to act?

I have been involved in board game internet communities for a long time, in fact I was playing Diplomacy electronically before the World Wide Web came into being! Over the years my board gaming interests have widened and so has the websites I’ve been involved with.  I have experienced the rise and fall of many websites, some because the main organisers have lost interest others because the financial burden has been too much. As an end user its not apparent there are costs and the like for that website you depend on, and by the time you find out about difficulties its often too late and people have decided to close down.

I am an avid fan of BoardGameGeek and it is a great resource. I do participate, by submitting images and files, and activity in posting in forums, as without users being active any community is dead! However I have been an active member of many communities that have gone because the financial burden for the organisers has been too great. By the time organisers tell you of the financial plight, it is usually too late – they’ve decided not to continue, so even if money came forward they’d not continue.  So that got me wondering, could I do without the Geek? How many times have I checked for posts on rules queries during games, or printed off player aides before hand? The answer is I couldn’t.

I am not suggesting that BoardGameGeek is any financial difficulty or imminently closing down, but I am asking how important is the site and its continuation to you? They have adverts and a donation mechanism, but it is too easy to think they are fine and not do anything until they ask (by which time it’s too late).

I have, for the last year at least, thought that whilst I feel I am an active member of the site for 5 years, should I be doing more (specifically financially). I guess the BGG admins must be quite aware of the constraints people have as they have a variety of subscription levels: You can give one off donations, and it you give $15 you get a badge under your username, and if you give $25 you get all the adverts disabled for you; or you can donate monthly if you can afford to support the site that way. So I decided to donate enough for a 2011 badge, partly because it shows some outcome of donating, and partly because I can then talk about it!

It is easy to be oblivious to money requests or to the feel that websites should be anything but free, but it really is about your appreciation of BoardGameGeek and how much you want it to continue. I go on the site at least weekly, so isn’t that worth 30 cents a week? To me yes, if I don’t become a Patron in 2012, feel free to harass me :-). Maybe if a few other gamers feel similarly, the site may go to a faster provider