I came across a lovely fella called Ed Baraf when he was running a Kickstarter for a rather cool looking game about rescuing very cute aliens from an exploding planet (take a look here) earlier this year. Not long after the project finished, he started running a series of short video reviews for boardgames, intending them to be a little like the pitches that you might give to your friends at a games night when trying to persuade them to play something.
So this developed a little and Ed ended up inviting pretty much anyone out there who fancied a go to join in and provide a guest review for his channel. Against my better judgement, having never done this sort of thing before, I put myself forward and, a little to my surprise, Ed accepted my offer and sent me a load of really helpful advice on recording my video.
And so, as of today, I am a YouTube game reviewer of sorts. You can now go and see my review of Tsuro and hopefully see some of why I like the game so much. While you are there, I would strongly recommend looking at some of the other reviews on Ed’s review playlist, which includes some really illustrious company amongst the guests (boy do I feel out of my depth!). The reviews are mostly between two and five minutes and are a great way to get a feel for what people like about the games being covered.
Coup is a game I have played a few times in the past, but only recently got my own set. It is a game of bluffing and deception and I wasn’t going to suggest it to Miss B, but she got hold of the box and was very taken with the artwork (particularly that there were so many female characters, once you had looked at all the bonus alternate art cards) so wanted to play. The game isn’t really aimed at being a two-player game, but it does work as such, so we gave it a go.
So, a brief outline of how the game works… There are five different characters in the game, each of which allows you an action and/or a way of blocking another player’s action, and three copies of each card in the slim deck. For instance, the Duke is good at getting money and at stopping other people getting money, the Assassin can be paid to do a hit, and the Contessa can foil the Assassin’s plans. Each player is dealt two cards (which may, on occasion, be identical) and these are placed face down in front of the player, who may look at them at any time. Players take it in turn to use their character’s actions (and the characters can change in play) to gain money and attack other players. If you are successfully attacked by an assassination or an expensive, but unblockable, coup, you lose one of your cards. Lose both cards and you’re out.
That’s the basics apart from one small detail, which is that you can lie about the cards you have and can attempt an action that you don’t really have available. Anyone can then call your bluff, and if they are correct, you lose a card, but if you weren’t bluffing after all, they lose a card instead. So if I use the Captain to steal your money and you don’t have a card that can block it, you have to decide whether to challenge me and say that you don’t think I really have a Captain, to claim that you do actually have a blocking card and hope nobody challenges you, or just suck it up and hand over the money.
Coup is really a game for more players, but Miss B and I have now played it a few times, mostly with just the two of us, and it worked OK. In fact, Miss B really enjoyed it. Played with her, the game feels a little like Love Letter with additional, explicit fibbing — with more people you can kind of build up a bit of a picture of what people are doing, but with two there is rather more guesswork. But that is fine, and it turns out that she is better at it than I expected. Disturbingly so, it turns out.
Being a game of bluffing made me a bit nervous about playing Coup with Miss B. Is playing this teaching her to be a better liar? Is it confusing her about ethics? It’s difficult to know, really. She definitely seems to understand that it is OK to tell fibs in a game like this, but not in real life, but whether it is giving her better skills in the art of deception… Well, maybe it is, and I’m going to need to learn her tells and pay more attention. Playing games like this with her may help me in that respect. I’m seriously torn, but playing Coup with her is a lot of fun, so I’m going to roll with it and I’ll have to live with the results.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 7¾): “I really like the idea that you should not have to be the right character to play the same action. I think it’s a really good bluffing game and I recommend it. At first Daddy thought that I wouldn’t like it because there was lots of bluffing but I insisted on playing it, so we did and I really liked it. So I’d give it 9 out of 10.”
The game: Coup (Indie Boards and Cards), 2 to 10 players aged 10+.
As I commented in the last post, we have been playing quite a few dice games lately. In October, 10 of the games we played involved dice in some form, and of those, 5 of them had dice as the central feature, rather than just using them for movement or conflict resolution; I’m including Plyt in this as the game is entirely rolling dice and then multiplying the numbers.
So, over the month we player 24 games, spread across 17 different titles, so another good month by the standards of this year. Several games got played more than once: Appletters, Dino Hunt Dice, and Hobbit Tales all played twice, and Coup and Dragon Slayer played three times each. That’s also some write-ups I owe you, and hopefully I’ll get some more done over the next few weeks.
For the year overall, we still have no clear leader, with Plyt having now caught up with Love Letter on eight plays, Apples to Apples just behind on seven, Dobble on six, and Chess, Dungeon Roll and Gubs with a respectable five plays a piece. Right now, we could even gain a brand new entry that could storm through and steal the crown by the end of the year…
We seem to be going through a dice game phase at the moment, having played several different ones over the last few weeks. One of these is the new acquisition, Dino Hunt Dice, which I actually bought partly to top up an online games order to a free shipping level.
The game is actually almost identical to the better-known Zombie Dice, being a very simple, push-your-luck game where you roll three dice at a time (there are three types of dice, representing different danger levels — the T-rex die is most dangerous, while the mild mannered apatosaurus is only likely to stomp you by accident), hoping to roll dinosaurs but not stompy-feet. You accumulate the stomps and if you get three of them you score nothing and your turn is over. Dinosaurs score points, and after each roll you can choose whether to roll another three dice (putting aside dinos and stomps and replacing them with fresh dice) or stop and record your score.
So, simple rules and dice with dinosaurs on (apart from the ones I’ve already mentioned there are tricerotops too), so what’s not to like?
Miss B is getting pretty good with push-your-luck games nowadays. When things go wrong for her, she generally rolls with it rather than getting upset as she used to. I think it helps when she sees me having horrible runs of bad luck too. In our latest game I hit the end-game target score, leaving her with seven points needed to draw even, which is a tough target. She had a great spell of luck and quickly bagged six dinosaurs, which would normally be a good time to bank, but as this was her last turn she had to push on, and proceeded to make the worst possible roll, getting horribly stomped whilst within a hair’s breadth of a heroic comeback. We both groaned, then high-fived, and then moved on to something else. I’m very proud of her, especially at times like that.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 7¾): “Hello! It was a very good game. It was a bit annoying when I rolled a six for the end but got three stomps. Bye. P.S. It was nine out of ten. The end. By me.”
The game: Dino Hunt Dice (Steve Jackson Games), 2 to 8 players aged 6+.
Miss B came home from school with a game that she had bought at a bring & buy stall set up to raise money for plants to grow on the school grounds. She had bought it with her own money, so it was only fair to play it with her.
The game is Sshh! Don’t Wake Dad!, and it is a basic roll-the-dice, move-the-dobber game with a gimmick. The gimmick is a model of “Dad” asleep in a bed, making snoring noises thanks to a bit of electronics, and at various times you have to press the alarm clock button next to him a number of times. If this makes him sit up, you have to go back to bed (back to the start).
If I were to describe this from the standpoint of a gamer, I would not be complimentary. There are actually no decisions to be made, so at some level this is the same as Snakes & Ladders; you just help the game play itself. However, there is actually real tension as you press the button, hoping that Dad won’t wake up, each player has a hand of cards making them immune to certain hazards (but if you fall foul of a hazard you claim the matching card, so you will be safe from it next time), and two of the faces of the die have a star which moves you to one space ahead of the leader, thus helping to move the game towards a conclusion.
I’m never going to chose to play this one, but it was surprisingly good fun to play with Miss B, so if she requests it, then no problem. And she loves it for what it is, and recognises that it is definitely a game for kids.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 7¾): “It was really fun and it’s a bit of a shock when Dad wakes up because he just sits up suddenly. I’d give it ten out of ten because it’s probably the best kids’ game I’ve come across.”
The game: Sshh! Don’t Wake Dad! (Tomy), 2 to 4 players aged 4+.
We have just received a package of stuff from Kickstarter projects, including a new dice game called Dragon Slayer. It has some quite groovy custom dice, and right now the combination of dragons and dice is too much for Miss B to resist, so we managed to give it a go before the packaging had reached the recycling bin.
About these groovy dice… Well, there are four sets of them, one set including axes and shields on the faces, for attacking and defending, and the others being a set in each of red, green and blue, made up of a die for the head, wings and tail of the dragons, along with some mountain sides, which are useless. All the dice also have one or more “fire breath” sides, which you don’t want to roll unless you also get shields. These dice look great, and each colour of dragon also has its own distinct design, which is a nice touch.
The idea is that you choose one of the dragons to hunt (the red is most dangerous but scores most points, while the blue is easiest but lower scoring), take the three corresponding dice and roll them with your own warrior dice. The aim is to roll all three parts of the dragon plus an axe with which to slay it. If you roll more fire breath faces than shields, you lose some of your warrior dice, and then you get a chance to reroll any dice that aren’t dragon parts or lost. If you complete the required set, you get the option to either score up your kills or try hunting another dragon (without any dice you lost in the fires).
Oh, and each player has one “challenge” token, which they can play to force another player to push on when they were wanting to stop. The challenged player can refuse and score reduced points for the round, or accept and get extra points if successful. The challenger gets points if the challenge is refused or failed.
That’s it. The game is played up to 40 points, may the best dragon hunter win!
We haven’t really played this enough yet for me to get a real feel for it, but I do quite like it so far, plus the game has a very different feel to the other dice games we have, which is definitely in its favour. That, plus the lovely dragony dice has really won me over, despite the fact that luck of the dice can make for enormous swings in the game — we have had a couple of rounds where one of us just wipes out instantly by rolling a vast quantity of fire attacks, and several others where a dragon is simply defeated with the first roll. Playing with adults, the challenge tokens would be far more of a thing than they were for us, and would add a nice extra layer onto the game, but it’s still going to be mostly about rolling lovely dice.
What matters, though, is what Miss B thought. As always, we finish with her thoughts, but as we were playing she said that she hoped we would tie at the end because the tie-breaker is to play another round, and she wanted to keep playing.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 7¾): “Very good game. I like the names (Camicaze and Hiccup). Ten out of ten.”
The game: Dragon Slayer (Indie Boards & Cards), 2 to 6 players aged 14+.
September was a bit of a bumper month for gaming, helped along by a trip to the Thirsty Meeples boardgame cafe as well as a games morning visit from a couple of our local friends.
So, what was the score? Well, not our best monthly score for this year, but very close, and better than this time last year: 23 plays of 17 distinct games. That means a few games being played more than once. First of these was Piece o’ Cake, with 4 plays, followed by Miss B’s homebrew Tumbling Towers with 3 (different rules each time, but that’s the nature of game development!), and Appletters with 2 plays (I’ll see if I can get a verdict and write-up for this soon). Other plays of note were Dragonlance (written up last week), the bonkers Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs, and wooden-porcuhog-stacking game Prickly Pile-Up (which we played 5 times in 10 minutes, which I’m actually counting as a single play).
So, for the year that leaves Love Letter just in the lead with 8 plays, closely followed by Plyt with 7, and Dobble and Apples to Apples just behind with 6. It really is all to play for. As we don’t have a clear leader and we are likely to have a few more play sessions with larger groups before the end of the year, it’s seriously possible that Apples to Apples might get ahead, but I really can’t tell at the moment. We’ll see in just a few months…