It was a few months back that Miss B and I were talking about old puzzle games, and I explained the concept of Mastermind to her. In case you don’t know, this is the game where one “player” sets a sequence of four coloured pegs and the other has to guess what the sequence is; on each guess, the code setter has to reveal how many pegs are fully correct and how many are the correct colour but incorrectly placed. With this information (and a little luck) the guesser should be able to figure out the sequence.
At the beginning of this month Miss B found a Mastermind set in a charity shop and waved it in front of me, making a hopeful face as she did so. I took the hint and, as the set looked to be complete and in decent condition we made the purchase.
Since then we have had several plays, each comprising one go at guessing each, and we score according to the number of guesses taken so we end up with a winner each time. Miss B has clearly taken to this game in quite a serious way and so far she has won more games than I have. It’s fascinating to hear her talking through her logic when she is starting to get enough information to solve the puzzle and eliminating options to deduce a solution.
It must be something like thirty years since I last played Mastermind, so I was a little nervous about the prospect, but we’ve been getting on great with it. This is a game (it’s really a moderated puzzle, but we play it like a game) that Miss B is currently really enthusiastic about, and the set we have is good for travelling with, so I expect it will see a fair bit of use over the coming months. I think it’s doing my addled brain some good too.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 9¼): “Mastermind is a brilliant game because of how clever you have to be to work it out. I will rate it 99% for how clever it is for such a simple game!”
The game: Mastermind (Parker Brothers), 2 players aged 8+.
We’re back! Miss B has had a bit of a spell of providing verdicts for games, so you should see a few new posts over the next mumblemumble period of time. First up we have a lovely looking game about making mosaic floors in the Taj Mahal called Maharani. We’ve had the game for a while, and Miss B spent a happy time a year or two back just playing with it and making patterns with the tiles, but we have only just got around to playing it.
This is a game that is pretty much a classic Euro-style game where you are mostly working on your own project, and you can get in the way of other players, taking a tile or blocking off a space they wanted, but they will usually have other good options and can just get on with their life after a mild bit of fist shaking. And it’s all about earning points in ways that don’t really make a lot of thematic sense, but that’s OK because you are building something that looks nice using colourful tiles and little wooden workers.
In the case of Maharani, most of your turns are spent placing tiles onto the large floor plan, selecting your tiles from a rotisserie selection in the middle, and sometimes you also get to place workers on the new tiles. You earn points for having groups of tiles of the same colour and for having workers standing near each other (which requires different colour tiles because reasons), and then when each quarter of the floor is complete, you score bonus points according to the number of workers you have in the area.
It all sounds a bit dry, and maybe it is, but the components are so nice, and there is really something special about painting the board in those bright colours as you go. Miss B missed a couple of rules when I was explaining them, which was all sorted a couple of turns in, and then things flowed very well. It took us about an hour to play, and I think Miss B was getting a little bored towards the end when there were only a few tiles left and a handful of places to put them, so it was just a matter of figuring out the moves that eke the most points out of the last few turns. But the scoring of the last two quarters of the board towards the end lifted things up and made things more exciting.
To be honest, I love this sort of game, so it was great to get to play it with Miss B, even though it didn’t really fire her up. Hopefully a rematch will happen one day, though.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 9¼): “The game isn’t my absolute favourite of all time but I think I would give it a 10 out of 10 for presentation. For the actual game itself I would give it about 7 out of 10.”
The game: Maharani (Queen Games), 2 to 4 players aged 8+.
March’s gaming was dominated by the big gaming weekend I wrote about last week, where Miss B and I got to play loads of games, not all together. We also got a little more play in over the Easter weekend, when we were visited by assorted members of S’s family, some of whom joined us for a play or two.
The headline numbers are that we had an impressive 31 plays, so an average of one play of something per day, and these plays were of 18 distinct titles.
We had multiple plays of quite a few games: 6, BraveRats and Spyfall had three plays each, and Codenames, Love Letter, Odin’s Ravens, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Pick Up Sticks, Push It, and Tem-Purr-A with two plays a piece. Of these, Odin’s Ravens was new to us, and was a gift that I am extremely happy with, and Tem-Purr-A was a game owned by Miss B’s aunt and uncle, which turned out to be a lot of fun, and I may have to get a copy of for myself.
One particular play I was really happy with was when Miss B came down to see me and ask if she could play Citadels with me. We haven’t played this for ages and it’s one of my favourite games, so how could I turn down such a request? It was also the first time in ages that she has initiated a game play. These things make me smile.
So for our yearly running totals we now have Push It going into the lead on seven plays, followed by 6 and Wetland with five plays a piece. There are several games on three plays, and another nine months to go, so we’ll just have to see how things develop.
This is a post that I was meaning to write up a fortnight ago, as it was then that we had a family trip away for a gaming weekend. The event was a repeat of one from February last year (which I don’t think I wrote up for this blog) and was what has been dubbed “Big Barn Con”, a private mini-convention organised by a group of friends. We hired a large holiday cottage in the wilds of Shropshire, shared the catering duties between us, and then spent the weekend playing lots of games.
Miss B was really looking forward to the weekend, largely because she gets to share a room with the daughter of one of my oldest friends, and the two of them get on like a house on fire, which we are all very pleased about.
Games I played with Miss B included Push It, GemPacked Cards, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, and Love Letter, though she played a whole heap of other games when I wasn’t in the group. After a while it became apparent just how many games she was playing. We had a scoring system running where we recorded who came first, second and third in each game and points were awarded for placings, and these were totalled at the end of the weekend.
Anyway, the final scores were announced and… Miss B was the top ranked player! Prizes were awarded and Miss B was delighted to be presented with an electronic dinosaur kit, which she is absolutely delighted with.
So a very successful weekend for Miss B (and for me — I got to play some great games with great people too), so we’ll have to see if we can get another Big Barn Con organised for next year…
And we have received a third reply!
Before we get into that, though, I should probably relate Miss B’s third letter to Consumer Care at Hasbro UK:
“To Hasbro gaming,
“I have sent 2 letters complaining about the Star Wars Monopoly game. And twice, you have given me the same answer. I feel as if you’re not taking me seriously or even not reading my letters. I am NOT happy with the responses I am getting. In letter one I said how I would complain heavily if you didn’t give me a good answer. And I will keep my word.”
Those of the words of a hacked-off Star Wars fan. We sent that off, pretty much expecting to get exactly the same robo-reply as before, and I was preparing myself to escalate the communications somehow.
A short while later, what we received was:
“Thank you for contacting Hasbro UK Ltd.
“We would like to apologise if you feel that our previous responses were not satisfactory.
“As the Monopoly Star Wars game was released before the latest film, Rey was not included as we were unable to release details of key figures.
“Hasbro are producing Rey playing pieces that we will be sending out to all consumers that have purchased the version that did not include her. These will be available in the second half of 2016.
“Thank you for your understanding. We hope you and your family will continue to enjoy our products for many years to come.”
To my mind, this is a huge improvement, even though I really don’t buy the line about not being able to release details of characters, given that Finn and Kylo Ren are in the game; it is clearly just the fact that someone who was calling the shots thought the mix of characters in the set were the ones that would be most marketable. Still, my opinions aren’t important…
Miss B was happy with this reply and, having read that Hasbro are planning to provide Rey figures both in new copies and to existing customers, she figured that they were making a good effort to fix the mistake. She’s not sure if she’ll write again to thank them for the better reply, but I think I’ll encourage this.
And so we bring this little passage of events to what appears to be a close. If anyone from a large corporation happens to be reading this, it looks like the main take-away is that, if you get written to by an annoyed 9-year-old, the best approach is simply to write them a letter that actually addresses their concern at some level. Surely this isn’t rocket science.
But thank you, Hasbro, for getting it right in the end.
February was a very respectable month for gaming. My personal gaming actually featured playing at least one game every day of the month (though a few times it was solo gaming), but this blog isn’t about what I played. Miss B and I together logged a total of 27 plays, taken from 19 different titles. Not up to last year’s level, but not too far off.
The multiple plays for the month were led by Push It, a sort of tabletop bowls or curling, where you are trying to get wooden pucks as close as possible to a jack, which we played five times, over a couple of sessions. Then we had Boggle Flash on three plays; this is a bit of an anomaly here, being an electronic game, but it also feels like playing a physical tabletop game (you are moving things around on the table), just with smart components, so I’m counting it. Finally, last year’s champion, 6, and evergreen Timeline had two plays each. As last year, I’m counting all Timeline plays as the same game, regardless of which sets of cards we use; just for information, these plays were with the General Interest set.
It is, of course, way too early to see any patterns for the year, but I’ll just note that at this point, Push It and Wetland are leading the pack with five plays a piece, and only Tsuro and Welcome to the Dungeon have been played both months so far.
As you may remember, Miss B wrote to Hasbro UK to let them know her opinion (which was not complementary) of the lack of Rey in the new Star Wars Monopoly set, and they sent her a lame non-response that she instinctively screwed up, so annoyed was she. A couple of days later a new letter was on its way to Hasbro to let them know that their response was not up to… well, anything really:
“Dear Hasbro, My last letter Was about your Star Wars Monopoly game. I Was comlaining about Rey + other female characters not being included. You answered my letter by saying you appreciated the chance to assist me. You have not answered my complaint AT ALL. I do not think this is an appropriate reply. Please give another answer.”
Well, a week or so ago (my bad for leaving it a while before writing this update), Miss B received another reply:
“Thank you for contacting Hasbro UK Ltd.
“We appreciate the opportunity to assist you and hope you and your family will enjoy our products for many years to come.”
Just breathe a little…
Yup, this was exactly the same letter as the previous time, only with a different date at the top. To say we are disappointed is definitely an understatement.
Needless to say Miss B has written another letter, which is on its way. We’re expecting the exact same reply again, but they are having another chance to save face. Here goes nothing (but another stamp!).