Cologne on Board (16/08/14)

Well, I went quiet for a while on here, so I guess I’d better resolve that. I went on holiday for a couple of weeks, and one of those weeks was in Cologne where I went to a games night! (The first was in Brighton, unfortunately I’ve left it a bit too long to remember things for a writeup, but we played Lost Legacy, Arctic Scavengers and the DC Deck-building Game at the event).

Cologne on Board

In August, I went on holiday with Grace to Cologne, as a last opportunity to be with her before she disapears off to China for her year there for University. Seeing as we were going to Germany, I figured we absolutely had to play games somewhere, and on the evening we arrived (After a ridiculous amount of drama just getting to the hotel) we went to a board games evening with a group I found on called Cologne on Board.

It was a little intimidating to be honest, to walk into a bar full of people speaking another language, but when we (Alright fine, Grace) got the courage to say hi it was reassuring that many seemed comfortable with English (As the meetup page implied, as it was largely written in English). It’s perhaps a little rude to expect people to speak our language in another country, but I’m not going to complain that I’m conventiently from a country whom’s language is learned to a strong level in many places!

— Bluff —

We had a brief interlude away before even playing a game, as post-flight we were just plain hungry, then headed back and got invited to join into a game running of ‘Bluff’, which seemed to involve lots of dice and a party-like atmosphere, which is to say something of an ice-breaker!

Each player in Bluff has a plastic cup and a set of dice (5 to begin with), this is shaken and put down onto the table at the start of a game, and each player can look at the dice under their cup only. Then, players take turns to move a spare dice around a track with steadily increasing values to say ‘I think theres’ 4 dice showing 3’s’ then perhaps ‘Well I think there’s 6!’. Eventually, the value a player says gets ridiculous enough for a player to call the previous players bluff, at which point all players uncover their dice and they are checked for if there was more or less – If there’s more, the player that called the bluff loses the difference in dice, if there’s less, the ‘bluffer’ loses the difference, and if its’ dead on, all players but the bluffer lose a dice. Dice have no 6 (Well, some did…but that’s just because the owners copy had some extra dice in to squeeze in an additional player), instead having a star side which counts as any number for counting up (Or for the spaces that’re on the board for ‘X stars’).

This was all very simple to pick up, and while I’m always skeptical of games where it can feel like luck that lets someone win, we all had a ton of fun with the game and played a few times. The first time around I got eliminated insanely fast, although I forget if I was calling other players bluffs or they were calling me! I think the winner of this one was (Feck…I forgot the guys name, i’ll go with KBG-Guy 2), although it was close between him and KBG-Guy 1 (Confused by my naming? They both worked for Korea Board Games apparently as I’ll mention more below, KBG-Guy 1 was actually called ‘Yense’ but I don’t know the correct spelling :S – KBG-Guy 1 was also the guy that taught us Bluff and was a very charismatic chap and good at keeping people interesting while teaching ^^.

The next game I fared considerably better, lasting in while others got eliminated ahead of me, I seemed to do a lot better at giving the player to my left (Which is to say…Grace) a hard time making the decision on increasing the bet or calling my bluff. I forget who won this game (And the next, should have kept notes!) but it was fun to stay in a while! The last game we played of bluff we did after rearranging seats a bit to put the decisions on different people (Rearranging seats was a good call..I got a nice sofa-seat instead of a bar stool ^^), and for some reason is the game I recall the least, perhaps because I’d started on beers by this point ^^.

— Abraca… What? —

I think that this was the next one up! In any case it was a cool one to get to try, because this was a prototype game! In Abraca… What? players act as incompetant wizards (Or they forgot for magical reasons or something) who can’t remember how to cast their spells, but are competing to increase their standing in the wizards tower. Players spells are represented by a pool of tokens, numbered 1-8, with as many tiles as the number on them of each, and each being a spell that gets more powerful the lower the number (So the ‘1’ is very powerful but there’s only 1 of them ^^). BUT! these tokens are face-down on the table, and when players draw them into their ‘hand’ (5 to begin) they keep them facing away so they don’t know what they have, but others do, hanabi style.

In a round, players take turns to declare a spell (By number or name). If they have the spell, another player reveals that stone for them and places it onto the game-board to show that its’ been used, the effect takes place (Usually damaging other players, but there’s healing potions and other effects too), and a new stone is drawn from the pool. Placing onto the game-board has the effect that throughout a round the information players have becomes more complete and they can more confidenly work out what tiles they have. 4 tiles are kept hidden throughout them, preventing full information from occuring. If a player fails a spell, they lose one health (Everyone starts on 6, tracked with a 6-sided dice), if they succeed, then they may cast again, but can only pick the same or a higher number – this can occur multiple times.

A round ends when a player is eliminated, or a player manages to cast all 5 spells hence leaving his hand empty, or the pool in the centre becomes empty. Scoring then occurs, with all surviving players gaining 1 floor in the tower (1 point, 8 is overall victory) – If a player was eliminated, the eliminating player gains 1 floor (Unless they self-eliminated), if they cast all spells they gain 1 floor, and also they gain 1 for any ‘secret’ stones they have obtained (Happens through the ‘4’ spell).

This was a really intriguing idea for a game, essentially replacing the clue giving method of gaining information of hanabi with a deduction mechanic, whereby you can guess at what your tiles are simply because others aren’t using those spells, and because each time you fail a cast you know you don’t have that spell for your next turn.

We played a couple of rounds, the first had 2/4 get eliminated (They got eliminated on the same turn through the powerful ‘1’ spell) giving KBG-1 2 points and me 1, the rest I’m hazy on, as I was thinking so much about the information involved and just enjoying the game for the sake of the game.

I’m looking forward to its’ release and hope to pick it up, and hope the one negative I was finding with it was just a circumstance of the night (That the 8 points is a bit too much, we stopped early as tiredness/alcohol was limiting peoples attention span for it). We’ll see when I get it, and to be fair I can always alter the win level when I teach it ^^.

— Lost Legacy – The Starship–

Next up I thought it would be cool to teach a game rather than learn one, so I suggested Lost Legacy which I’d bought along (Yay for travel-size games =P). This is a 16 card deduction game by the designer of, and with some similarities to, Love Letter. Lost Legacy is a touch heavier however and has a fun ‘investigation’ phase at the end of a round rather than the straight highest card reveal.

The objective in the game is to find the ‘Lost Legacy’ card, in my copy being ‘The Starship’ (But the game will have multiple versions, each with a cross-compatible set of cards and a Lost Legacy with a new name, although as I understand they’ll function the same ‘You may not discard this card’ being its’ only effect). However when you find it you don’t immediatey win, having to instead pick out its’ location during the investigation phase as mentioned below.

Gameplay is fairly simple, players have one card hands dealt at the start of the round, then take turns to draw a card then play a card (Hence returning to 1 in hand). Each card has some effect, although in Lost Legacy (Unlike Love Letter) some cards have no effect for being played, being a reactionary matter instead (E.g. ‘If a player looks at your hand while you have this card, you are eliminated’). Some cards may involve ‘the ruins’, which is a pile of face-down cards separate to the deck that starts with 1 card entered blind and can have up to 3 over the course of a round (With the games aim being to find the Lost Legacy, its’ important to try and know if its’ in the ruins or a player hand, and if in the ruins, where in the ruins). The round ends when the deck is exhausted (Although that player finishes their play first).

With the main part of the round ended (Unless all but one player gets eliminated, in which case the survivor would immediately win) the investigation phase begins. One player will call out numbers 1 through 8, and any player matching a number as its’ called gets to reveal as such, then say where they think the ‘Lost Legacy’ card is (Their hand, Another players hand, or ‘the ruins’), the card at that location is revealed, and if the player was correct they win the round, otherwise they are out and the numbers continue to be called. As a result even if a player has the Lost Legacy sitting in their hand (Which is a ‘5’ I should really mention!) players that have kept ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’ or ‘4’ cards could snatch victory from their grasp if they correctly deduce its’ location.

Well…that was a horrific attempt at explaining, sorry about that. I forget how our game went, but I don’t think I did too well at explaining which led to a few mistakes. I think people found it interesting though, and I hope that someone at the group picks up a copy sometime from my influence ^^.

— Kings Pouch —

Oh my, what an unfortunate name for a game! Prototype the second here, which was probably not the wisest last game of the evening being a worker-placement style game with possibly a few too many methods of getting victory points! I’m not sure how much I should talk about this seeing as there’s not much information for it on boardgamegeek…but I’m going to rely on the tiny numbers that read this blog to deal with that ^^. (Edit – Just going to mention that this one was taught by KBG-2, who seemed a little less steady teaching in English, which was actually quite a good experience ^^).

In this game, players use their workers to use various buildings on their personal player board (4 being fixed ‘starting’ buildings and the rest being constructed over the course of the game) to gather resources and spend them to well…make more buildings, as well as to influence nobles and to carry out war over an area control map, all with the aim of having the most victory points at the games end (Which is after the 3 ages, consisting of 5 rounds each, iirc)

Each building has 2 placement spaces which are coloured (Sometimes a space can have 2 colours), the latter only being available if the first is taken. The colouring is to tell players what workers they can use at those locations. Each worker has a colour but also a shape, with the starting workers being blue octagonal prisms, with ‘corrupted officials’ represented with brown octagonal prisms and the 3 ‘special’ cube shaped workers (Soldiers, Merchants and Politicians…or something like that, Red, Yellow and Green respectively) – You have to have the right kind of worker available to use a space.

The reason for those 2 different shapes of workers, is that throughout the game you cycle your workers through a cloth bag in a deck-building style (Worker-Building?), drawing 5 at the end of each turn and refilling the bag with your discard pile when its’ empty (Although I should mention that every time you have to do that refill you are required to add a corrupted official, like it or not). When you draw your workers, you’re allowed to deliberately feel (Yep…you feel around in the kings pouch…that name) to pick whether you get the octagonal or cube workers. This lets you somewhat direct what you’ll have available that round, and has a tinge of a push your luck feel as going for lots of special workers risks you might not have the right spaces to place them (The octagonal workers have generally more spaces matching due to the starting buildings), but could potentially use more powerful actions by doing so.

Each round has 6 buildings drawn and laid out, 2 of each type (Military, Commercial, Political – Though again I may be wrong on the names), which are from, I think, 5 pairs of 2 for that age (i.e. 30 buildings to be seen per age, over 5 rounds). This gives each round slightly different focus as to whether there is buildings you want at that time.

Throughout the game, players take turns where they place all 5 of their workers in their turn onto their board (Which isn’t as painful as it may sound because as all go to your board rather than a group board, its’ more an an action selection style and you can plan ahead as soon as you draw your workers). These are then evaluated, providing money, military power, special workers or straight points – Money and Military are volatile resources, so you have to spent them in the round. Finally in the players turn they can spend the money to buy buildings (Listed on the building is the cost), influence nobles (2 Coins + 1 per other noble you’ve already influenced this age) and use military to capture regions on the area control map (1 + 1/distance from capital + 1/other unit in the target region). (So its’ expensive to push out too far, but you can deny others by doing so. I should also mention that in the centre of the map is ‘the castle’ which provides more points than normal regions).

At the end of each age, a scoring phase occurs. Players score for each region they control on the area map, they also score for any nobles they’ve influenced, and they score if they didn’t tax the people this round (A freely usable action to gain 1 money in a turn). This goes onto the score track, as does in-round scoring when some buildings are used, and when regions are captured. At the end of the game, a final scoring occurs where building scores are added too (I think they go on at the end anyway, might be instant on construction).

Anyway, its’ all very complicated and hard to explain a week after the fact, particularly when we only actually played for 2 ages (It was 2AM by that point ^^). I pretty much entirely eschewed military (I did push out by a whole 1 region, which KBG-1 took out later on and I couldn’t recapture as I never got a military building so couldn’t generate enough military in one round to take it. Instead I went quite the merchantile route, gathering lots of money and using it to influence characters to gain points that way (The pair of princesses in particular, who give 5 points, or 7 points if you control both for a total of 14).

I had thought I was doing fairly well, but ultimately not having a massive constant source of points from the influence map led to my loss, with it being a very powerful engine if all players aren’t involved (i.e. because I didn’t deny the others, they didn’t have to fight over it, while still being able to compete with me for the other things, like the characters you can influence. The teacher of the game, KBG-2, was the winner I believe.

It was a very interesting game to play and had some unique concepts, but I think it’s a big shame that its’ final and going to be released as it currently is. Some of the graphic design was a bit off for example (While it was a print+play quality prototype, the art/design was apparently final as its being printed for Essen 2k14), and I think some effort could have been made to streamline the scoring, but I think it could do well enough anyway and perhaps lead to future games with the worker-building style (Though again with graphical design…lots of reliance on colours, not good for some!).


The evening as a whole was fantastic, and I really enjoyed getting to play somewhere totally different, and play games which are totally different (By virtue of not actually being released yet ^^). Everyone we spoke to were lovely and clearly enthusiastic about the hobby and happy to play whatever game fit with the group at the time (As some were more casual than others).

All in all, it was a great experience, and has me wanting to go back to Germany sometime with a plan of going to the event again (But…Also with an unlimited in-germany rail ticket so I can go around the rest of the country too!). Plus I want to go and look in Spielbrett damnit! (A game store which we tried to go to but was closed earlier than the website suggested…but it looked really cool through the window!).

Thanks to everyone at Cologne-on-board!

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