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BIGCOB littlecob?

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
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The Castles of Burgundy, the Feldian tipping point, before it was lots of penalties and tight decisions, and since it has been all sorts of point explosions and multiplayer solitaire. Clearly there are a great many who adore BIGCOB, residing at no.11 in the BGG ranking at the time of writing, despite it being 7 years old, plain looking, not containing oodles of fancy components nor being a Kickstarter game that cost the purchaser £100 and the recipient of “campaign” (marketing manipulation) urges to “make sure you rate this a 10 on BGG to help with the hotness rating and push us towards those stretch goal unlocks” (I don’t doubt that Gloomhaven is a good game but it, and all others that have encouraged such an approach and all who have themselves rated something before even playing it once, should be fucking ashamed for helping to turn a pretty democratic way of ranking games into a free for all cash generating aid. Pardon me, I digress)

I enjoy BIGCOB. I like the quiet puzzle and the gentle competition for tiles, the challenge of making the best of the dice rolls and I find the absence of direct conflict to be very agreeable in this. It makes it a good game to play in an evening and is, I find, an ideal game for two. This is probably why it has become such a favourite couples game for many and why it is thought of and rated so fondly.
So why don’t I play it more often?

I attempted to address that the other evening, upon noticing that it hadn’t been played for about a year and wondering if I should just sell it on (answer; no, with it being available for £20 new it’s not worth getting rid of to make about half that) I sat down at the kitchen table on a warm evening with Mrs B, the dog lying just outside the open patio doors catching the last of the day’s sun - an ideal way to pass 90 minutes or so (yeah, Mrs B likes to “think”...) I think I needn’t go into how the game plays for any reading this but I wound up winning fairly comfortably after denying Mrs B the tiles she needed to complete the large 8 space city on her board. And as I began packing the thing away into the little coloured bags that I bought (cheap ones on EBay rather than pricey “official” ones on BGG) Mrs B politely but pointedly asked; “why did you just make me play a game that I can’t stand?

Ah. It seems that around 12 months is the length of time that it takes me to forget that she doesn’t enjoy the game. That’s a shame. Being a good gamer/ consumer and all that I naturally immediately turned my thoughts to how I could potentially overcome this issue by buying another game.
Say hello to littlecob.

The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game is another entry in the (wonderful) Roll & Write style of games. As you have probably read before we love these type of games, particularly the “pure” number category ones, but it’s always interesting to see one where a big box game has been shrunk and adapted to a sheet of paper and a few dice. (I’ve recently laminated sheets from all of our R&W games and purchased some dry wipe markers, makes everything much better).

littlecob does a very good job of feeling similar to it’s parent game. The scoring is mostly through completing areas of hexes, with a little bit to be gained from shipping and being the first to finish the entirety of one type of land. There are no end game scoring tiles (the yellows in BIGCOB) and this is a much more straightforward affair than La Granja: No Siesta (an excellent R&W distillation of a big farming Euro). I actually find it very satisfying that in contrast to many in the genre there is no “active player” who chooses their dice first and then all others get a free choice from the remainder, in this all dice are available to all players, an elegant way of retaining the open and gentle feel of BIGCOB.

This “feel factor” is also present in the way that the hexes are marked off. There are six types of land and each has a colour that relates to one of the sides of the colour dice (well who’da thunk it?) and there are restrictions to marking off in each. Three types are grouped by specific numbers (wanting 1s & 2s/ 3s & 4s/ 5s & 6s), the cities want all different numbers (nice echoing), the animals want all the same numbers (nice echoing) and the castles want the same number as one that is in an adjacent hex. Completing a region gains a bonus (change a number, change a colour, take another turn, gain a good, ship a good for points/silver, double your points for the region) in addition to the points earned for the size of the region.
The game length is varied by the hourglass die, which means that the game lasts between 15 and 30 rolls (average is around 23) and this die also triggers shipping when the double hourglass appears. There are four different “boards” included on the paper sheets and the whole package “feels” very faithful to BIGCOB.

I’ve played it 10 times (it only takes 15-20 minutes) in the past week or so, about half with Mrs B and the rest using the neat solo rules, and am really enjoying it. There’s a bit more there to give it something over the straightforward number category R&W titles but it is still very much in that vein. You simply roll some dice and check off some numbers, nothing extra nor extraneous, and that is perfect for the type of title. Well worth the admission (about £10 plus postage from Germany/ France).
Mrs B “quite likes” it. Some progress then...

As we’re playing so many little dice games these days I took it upon myself to make the nice tray pictured above, using a deep picture frame from Hobbycraft (£3) and a sheet of sticky backed felt (£1, same shop) in about 20 minutes. I’m quite pleased with it!

So, what to do about BIGCOB then?
Well, last night Billy mentioned that he really likes the game and so me and him sat at the kitchen table on a cold evening, the dog looking mournfully through the closed patio doors at the last of the day’s rain as (not so) young Bill squeaked out a narrow victory, an ideal way to spend 45 minutes whilst dinner was cooking (yeah, Billy likes to “get on with it”...)

Room for both BIGCOB and littlecob then. I just need to remember who likes what!
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