Billabong Boardgamers

Billabong Boardgamers - May 18th, 1999

Present: Dey, Roger, Janet, Doug, David

Previous session report

Roger Smith writes:

A cold night at Billabong, particularly as we didn't know how to turn the heater on! The turnout of five people was an all time low for Amaroo, nevertheless we managed to keep ourselves entertained over the next few hours.


Dey: 114
Doug: 72
Janet: 66
Roger: 60

We started with a couple of rounds of this non-intuitive trick taking game. I must admit I still have no idea how to play this (as is reflected in my score). Dey comments "I think I was just lucky".

Doug (who wasn't sure who was report writer this week so wrote one anyway) writes:

Roger, Dey, Janet and Doug were arrived early and started a four player game David & Goliath to fill in time for the late arrivals. Doug requested it as he had never played it in anger, his only experience being one 'learner' hand several months back.

It's an interesting twist on the trick taking genre, with the lowest card taking the highest card, while the highest card takes the crumbs. The object is to collect high point value cards in any suits you can, however if you collect above 2 cards in a suit you do NOT score the pip value of the card, instead you score a single point for each card.

>From my (Doug's) perspective this threatened to blow one hemisphere of my brain, as I struggled through three hands until David turned up. Scores after three hands.


Roger: 10 + 7 = 17
Doug: 6 + 9 = 15
Janet: 5 + 3 = 8
Dey: 2 + 5 = 7
David: 2 + 4 = 6

After some discussion the magic words "Reiner Knizia" helped us decide on the next game to play. This little game is an English edition, published by Gibson's and imported by Board Not Bored Games. Although this was Doug's copy, I think only David had played before.

The game is played in two parts. Firstly there is a betting round. A card is turned up for each of the seven horses that will be racing. This card shows how that horse is likely to perform in the race. Four symbols on the card (horse head, horseshoe, cap and boot) match those on a d6, with the horse head appearing twice. Next to each symbol is the amount of spaces on the 40 space race track that the horse can be moved if that symbol is rolled. Some horses will move steadily but conservatively (these might be a 5 or 6 against every symbol for such a horse) while others might be more of a wild card capable of great bursts of speed balanced out by slow patches (say a 12 against one of the symbols and a 1 against another). Each player places three bets, one of which is a double value bet (shades of Members Only). All of a player's bets must be placed on different horses. Bets are placed in turn on each horse before the card for the next horse is turned up.

The race commences by a player rolling the die and choosing which horse to move. Generally this will be one of the horses that player has invested in, but it may also make sense to defer moving a horse you have an interest in the hope that another player will move it on a better roll later in the turn. It might also make sense to nobble another horse by moving it a low number of spaces. After that horse has moved, its card is turned face down. After all horses are moved, cards are turned face up again and a new round or movement starts. It takes around three rounds to complete a race. The race ends when the first horse crosses the line. 1st, 2nd and 3rd places pay off. If only one or two players have bet on a horse, bonus multipliers are applied to the score.

I really enjoyed this game. It reminded me of Honeybears, both in the look of the board, and in the fact that players don't solely "own" any particular horse. There was certainly a reasonable amount of tension and a lot of "encouragement" given to players to move particular horses. I'm not sure how much skill there really is to the movement: I suspect that the placement of bets may be the critical factor. Does anyone else have any thoughts?

Janet commented (and I agree) that the colours were a bit confusing. The plastic horse didn't quite match the card which didn't quite match the betting square on the board. I also had trouble remembering which bet chips (another six colours here) belonged to the other players (let alone to myself). Some mats such as provided in the Rio Grande Medici would be a great help here.

Doug writes:

I had been bringing this along to Billabong for several weeks trying to sneak it into the play rotation. It is one of two sports games Reiner Knizia has published by Gibson's Games (the other he did was Formula Motor Racing). I've played a few of these Gibson's Sports games (Golf, Formula Motor Racing, Armchair Cricket) and found them to be rather good. Therefore I was delighted to get a chance to finally play this one.

After galloping a couple of races we came to the conclusion that this one also is quite good, and a nice addition the Gibson's sports line. As with each new Knizia I play, I see links to other games (I'll list them here). Players take on the role of gamblers (Grand National Derby) at the races, and are given three betting chips each. Two of them are single bets, while a large chip is a double bet (Members Only).

There are seven horses running the race, and players earn points for betting on horses that finish in the top three places. Cards are revealed and placed against each horse until each horse has a card, and the race is ready to begin. The cards have four ratings - horse ability (constant, from 1 to 7, depending on the horse), jockey ability, horse shoes and boots! No idea how these last two ratings impact a horse race, but we are talking Knizia here...

As a card is placed against a horse, all players in turn are given the chance to position one betting chip against that horse. You are thus given a chance to assess the ratings (higher the better) and thus make a bet if you think the horse has a chance. If others bet on the horse, you can be assured they will be helping get that horse to the front, and that has a big impact on whether you bet, or not. However, there is a carrot for not backing a horse others have backed, as winnings are tripled or doubled if you are the only one, or one of two, gamblers to back a horse.

The race is simple, quick, yet rather tricky. Players in turn roll a special die that has a distribution of horse head - horse head - horse head - boots - horse shoe - jockey. The players may then use that result to advance a horse a number of spaces matching the horses rating with the die roll. Once a horse has moved, it's card is turned face down until all other horses have moved. Cards are then flipped face up and all horses are moved again.

The race continues until a horse has crossed the line, 41 spaces down the track. Bets are paid out for the first three horses as a 4/2/1 spread, doubled for double bets and again for single or paired backing of a horse.

I found this game to be rather good. The rotation of the turns means you will have good, and then poor, chances to influence the race as the number of face up horse cards differs from turn to turn. There is lots of scope to nobble other players, but advancing their horses a small amount and thus ensuring it won't be moved far THAT turn. The end of the races was rather exciting as the front runners all had chances to get over the line.

I'm a bit hazy on race specifics, however Mosstown Boy was a strong performer in both races, winning one and getting a second in the next race. Silver Blaze (paying homage to Conan Doyle?) won the second race...betting points totalled across the two races were.

Doug's rating: 7 - not a bad game at all - recommended. The only downside is it takes a race or two to match up the rather pastel card colours with the strong plastic horse colours. The name of the horse gives a further clue (Raven Beauty = Black, etc).

David writes:

I'm a bit of fan of this one, too (despite my poor performance this time). It also reminded a little of Honey Bears, another fun little filler from the amazing Mr Knizia. I think the skill in the game is in judging the odds of each horse's movement (the 1 in 2 odds for the horse head movement versus the 1 in 6 odds for each of Boot, Racing Cap & Horseshoe) and balancing that against how many players also are backing that horse, and what other horses they are backing (and the odds for those, etc etc). This actually determines the REAL odds of a horse using its optimum movement. It's not easy, but it's fun. I agree about the colours, but I think the mnemonics are really quite simple, and easy to get used to (Imperial Purple for the Roman one, Black for Raven whatever, Blue for the Lagoon one, etc etc).


Janet: 89
Doug: 47
Dey: 38
David: 37
Roger: 34

This was David's first play of ML&T, suggested as a contrast to David & Goliath. With five players (this was the first time we had played with an odd number of players), the player who plays the highest trump in the trick (the card led defines the trump) chooses three cards as profit, while the player who played the lowest non-trump card receives the remaining two cards. You don't have to follow suit. The object is to collect cards in only two of the four suits. Cards in the other two suits become a trash pile (a la Schnšppchen Jagd). Scoring is done by multiplying the number of cards for each of the two suits you are collecting by each other then dividing this by the number of cards in your trash pile, rounding down.

There is a real Knizian twist to this game. When taking your "profits" you often have to decide how much to help yourself as opposed to how much to nobble the other winner of the trick. Taking the cards you want may well leave the other player with exactly the cards they want (which is exactly what that player would have been aiming to achieve). However if you choose to nobble the other winner, this usually involves some self-sacrifice.

I much prefer this game to D&G. Generally I feel much more in control. David's reactions was exactly the opposite. Sitting to my right he commented that I was constantly underbidding him to try and take the second winner position. While this worked, I probably should have been a bit more selective about when I did this as I ended up with a lot of trash this way. In one round I scored 0 (in contrast Janet scored 45 in one round)! The second winner also leads in the next trick. This is a game where leading is just not much fun.

Doug writes:

Another trick taking game that we'd all, apart from David, played before. I must admit I like this one more than David & Goliath - it doesn't seem to bend the brain as much, and for me, a poor card player, that helps me and thus enhances the game.

The quirk in this trick taking game is you do not have to follow suit. The suit lead is trumps, and the highest trump card will win the trick. However the lowest non-trump card played gets in on the booty as well. The trick winner chooses his cards from the trick (three of the five in a five player game) while the loser takes the remaining cards (two in this case). All four colours cannot be present in the trick, and if a player cannot legally play, the hand ends immediately!

The object of the game is to collect as many cards as possible in two of the four suits, while avoiding cards in the other two suits. Trick cards taken are sorted into the four suit piles, and as soon as you've taken a card in each suit, you must immediately declare your "good" suits and "bad suits". At the end of your hand your score is, follow closely here, as follows:

(good suit 1 cards x good suit 2 cards ) / (total bad suit cards).

Wow. So if my good suits are red/blue and bad are green/yellow, and my booty is:

red cards: 4
blue cards: 5
yellow cards: 1
green cards: 2

..then my score is:

(4x5)/(2+1) = 20/3 = 6!

It does sound complex, but is actually quite elegant to play and you can easily tell how well your are doing. Tossing off a nasty colour to a trick to hurt another player does give you a wonderful glow, as well!

Our game saw Roger with a rainbow fixation, as he seemed to have all four colours in his tricks taken pile very early, with some healthy divisors. In fact the quote of the evening came from Roger, as Janet was audibly deliberating whether or not to nobble him, said "yeah right, if you do it I'll score zero, if you don't I MAY score 1". Hilarious, you had to be there...

We played three hands, which took quite a while as there is some down time here as hands, cards and trick piles are examined. Janet basically thrashed us. Doug's rating: 8

David writes:

I enjoyed this, but after all of one playing of MTUT I prefer David & Goliath. D & G just clicked for, but not this. Still, I was feeling a little out of things due to work (once again), and would happily play this one again. Like Alan (not present tonight), I'm a bit of a fan of trick-taking games. I find the seeming endless variety of games designed around trick-taking quite fascinating.


Roger: 44
Dey: 14
Janet: 3
Doug: 0
David: 0

Dey: 18
Janet: 10
Roger: 6
David: -6
Doug: -16

A new game for Dey who comments: "it s..ts on 6 Nimmt". I have to agree with her - there seem to be a lot more choices to make in this game. Frequently in 6 Nimmt there are no choices. I'm not sure how the others feel? I had a dream run through in the first game, playing my red cards early, then managing to pick up the majority of good stacks.

Does anyone actually play this with the cards in a circle? I think you'd need a pretty big table for that...

So good we played it again...

Doug writes:

We played two hands of this to end the evening. David and Dey hadn't played it before, but Roger was keen having played it once and enjoyed it. It's based on the "6 Nimmt" world, where you are trying to avoid bull heads, however here you are trying to pick up green while avoiding red.

This is a more tactical, much less frenetic game, and comparisons between the two shouldn't extend beyond the card design. Whereas a hand of 6 Nimmt may take five minutes, a hand of Hornochsen may take 20 minutes.

David writes:

This was also a first time for me with this game, though I'm very familiar with 6 Nimmt. I suspect this was the game that should have been designed in the first place, as it is definitely the more skilful (although that's no reason why 6 Nimmit shouldn't be more commercially successful! - perhaps it is, I don't know.). Enough waffling.

It's yet another very good filler, to complete a very enjoyable, somewhat chilly, and largely unsuccessful evening of fun fillers.

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