Our month in gaming: June

July 1, 2015 6 comments

After the awesome gaming in May, June was still good, with 34 plays of 19 different games. That sounds like a lot more multiple plays than usual (and, to be fair, it was better than many months in that respect) but the figures were rather skewed by the fact that 9 of the plays were of the little tin of dice that is “6”. Apart from that we had 3 plays of Dobble, taking us up to our scheduled 10 for the year (I’m sure there will be more!), and 2 each for Backgammon, Dino Hunt Dice, EcoFluxx, Loopin’ Louie, and a prototype of a game I threw together for a contest on BoardGameGeek.

Nice to get the "special" chess set out once in a while.

Nice to get the “special” Chess set out once in a while.

EcoFluxx’s plays were both in a coffee shop while we were out and about, as it happened to be the game that I had thrown in the bag, “just in case” (I usually have a game or two with me).

We had a few games too thanks to a visit from one of Miss B’s school friends, who went on to rule the roost at Loopin’ Louie, which is always good for a laugh.

Oh, and Miss B has been reading her Chess book a bit lately, so we got a chess set out for a play. We settled on me having a 2 rook handicap, which wasn’t enough to make it too difficult for me, but she’s definitely getting a lot better at spotting threats and possible attacks on her own, so I’m looking forward to that handicap getting reduced very soon.

So, for the year to date, Yardmaster Express still maintains its position at the front with 13 plays, despite not coming out during June. But the chasing group is getting close, with Dobble and newcomer “6” coming up fast on 10 plays, and Backgammon only just behind on 9. Loopin’ Louie is now alongside Timeline on 7, with Apples to Apples, Gubs and Rhino Hero on 6 plays. We should get a few more games to at least 10 plays thanks to the 10×10 challenge, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if either Yardmaster Express or “6” took the crown despite not being on the list due to their fast, multiple-play appeal.

And thinking of the 10×10 challenge, we fell behind a bit in June, with only four of the games played during the month, but being half way through the year we have got through more than half of the necessary plays, so there is definitely hope. Our current status is:

Game Plays so far
Dobble 10
Plyt 4
Love Letter 4
Empire Express 4
Apples to Apples 6
Piece o’ Cake 3
Gubs 6
Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck 5
Dungeon Roll 3
Timeline 7
Backgammon 9

It’s nice to have one of the games complete and another really close. We just need to bring up some of those laggards…

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Oh, I can’t push that one

June 29, 2015 Leave a comment

I remember being given Cambio by some friends as a Christmas present many years ago. It was a really nice object to receive, being a load of large wooden cubes with designs printed on the faces, with a wooden board/frame on which to arrange them. We played the game a few times that Christmas, but unfortunately it has remained on the shelf for most of the time since. Until Miss B got onto her current interest in abstract strategy games, so it came out again…

Cambio

In a neat move, the squares capture two corners at once.

So Cambio is one of those games that can be loosely described as turbo-charged tic-tac-toe. Play is on a five-by-five grid and you slide cubes with your personal symbol uppermost in on one side of the board, pushing another cube out of the other side, but with the restriction that the cube coming out may not show your opponent’s symbol. The first player to get a five-in-a-row is the winner.

That’s all there is to the standard two-player game (though there are alternative rules that allow more players), and the strategy basically involves taking control of corners as quickly as you can. It all works well and is a nice twist on an old standard. And those cubes are a pleasure to play with. This sort of game can be really made by good quality components, as we know from playing those jumbo games at UK Games Expo, or playing chess with large, weighted pieces.

Miss B found the game straightforward to learn and play, but occasionally forgot the rule about not pushing your opponent’s symbol off the board. Given that there are up to six different symbols cluttering up the board to start with, it is easy to overlook this and plan an illegal move. Still, that only happened a few times and we had fun playing. I’m not sure this will get played as often as some other games (and actually, right now, I think the big buzz is exploring the sheer range of options in this style), but it has been a modest success. As always, though, I’ll leave the last (ish) word to Miss B…

The verdict from Miss B (aged nearly 8½): “It’s not my favourite abstract strategy game and I’d give it about 97%. For my opinion I wouldn’t play it as much as the other games but I’m still happy to play it a few times.”

The game: Cambio (Lagoon Games), 2 to 5 players aged 9+.

It’s closer, but it’s not high enough!

June 21, 2015 5 comments

Where do I start? OK, a few weeks ago, we went to the UK Games Expo, and one of my plans in attending was to pay more attention to smaller game producers. In a conversation with an Internet-acquaintance (hi Colin!), I got tipped off about a little strategy game called Mijnlieff, produced by a guy with a stall in the corner. I tried that game, liked it and bought a copy, but that is not what this post is about (though hopefully we’ll have a write-up of Mijnlieff later). It turns out that this stall was being shared by three designers, who were all peddling their wares, and one of their wares was a little tin containing a bunch of dice and rules for six games. They were selling it for £6 and the whole thing was called, simply, 6. (As an aside, it is impossible to find using the search tools on BoardGameGeek, so treasure that link I just gave you!)

Ready, aim, flick!

Ready, aim, flick!

I had a demo of one of the games in the tin at the Expo, which was enough to convince me to part with some cash, then when we got home I tried out another with Miss B. Since then, 6 has been our most played game (or set of games — difficult to know how to phrase this), and we have now tried all six sets of rules.

What is nice here is that, in six dice games, not one of them is like either Yahtzee or Pass the Pigs. Three of the games have elements of dexterity. One has a bidding stage where you find who is willing to take the biggest risk in order to earn the right to take a turn. One has next to no skill, but great excitement and tension. There is even a neat spin on rock-paper-scissors, where there is more information to go on when deciding your play. And in keeping with the design efficiency here, there are two games where the rule cards themselves are used as components.

Miss B took to the games very quickly. We have developed a little ritual to go through where we select one of the rules cards to use and someone reads out the list of dice that are required for that game (while the other lines them up), and then runs through the rules, which fit, for each game, on the two sides of a small card. Then we are off. None of the games are complicated, but they all have their own flavour and appeal.

Before we go on to Miss B’s verdict, I’ll just summarise my thoughts, which probably won’t be a surprise by now: you should go and buy this game (and you can do so here). OK, so many gamers would probably have everything they need to play these games in their stock, but it’s not much money, you are supporting some very creative game designers, all the games are fun (in different ways) and if you don’t like any of them, you still have a nice little tin with a pile of nice red dice in it. For me, this was the best money I spent at the Expo, and I don’t doubt that we’ll be racking up quite a few more plays of these games.

The verdict from Miss B (aged nearly 8½): “I would like to try Triangles with more than 2 players because it’s not very good with about 2. But apart from that 6 is a very good game to play. Wrestle was quite clever because you get people into a hold and they need to get you into a hold to get out of your hold. Foiled is a bit like fencing, and to play it is like a very fancy rock-paper-scissors. Dicey Winks is quite fun to play because you’re flicking dice even though it’s hard to get to the target. Airstrike you try and bomb the dice so they get the number you want. But I think Dicey Winks is my favourite, followed closely by Wrestle. I’d give it 99% out of all the 6 games.”

The game: 6 (Too Much Games), 2 or more players.

Our month in gaming: May

June 2, 2015 3 comments

May was a good game for games, and finished off with a bang as we went to UK Games Expo, where Miss B spent her usual couple of hours playing roleplaying games in the family zone, and also spent some time exploring a few of the games available in the family games library provided by Imagination Gaming.

Miss B thinking hard about her next move in the Peter Pan inspired RPG for kids.

Miss B thinking hard about her next move in the Peter Pan inspired RPG for kids.

So how good was the month? Well, we managed an impressive 40 plays together, from a total of 29 different titles, which is the best score for variety that we have ever recorded. We even did well in the 10×10 challenge — but more on that later.

We played Balanx and Yardmaster Express 3 times each, with Backgammon, Ingenious, Lift Off!, Pick-Up Sticks, Plyt, Quoridor, and Timeline (the General Interest set) each getting 2 plays a piece.

So for the annual totals, that reinforces Yardmaster Express in its strong lead, now amassing 13 plays, well ahead of Backgammon and Dobble on 7, and Apples to Apples, Rhino Hero and Timeline played 6 times. Still a long way to go, but I’m sure Yardmaster Express will get at least a few more plays this year, so it’s looking unlikely that it will get caught, but you never know.

As for the 10×10 challenge, we played all of our nominated 11 games at least once, and as you can see from the above, we played three of the games twice, meaning that our chart is looking pretty good now:

Game Plays so far
Dobble 7
Plyt 4
Love Letter 4
Empire Express 4
Apples to Apples 6
Piece o’ Cake 3
Gubs 5
Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck 5
Dungeon Roll 3
Timeline 6
Backgammon 7

So that means that for our lowest scoring games we still only need to average one play per month and we’ll get there. And we even have two games that only need three plays each to complete. I’m feeling a lot more confident about this than I was last month, but we’ll have to wait and see how things pan out.

Categories: Musings Tags:

You don’t need to press it down because there are more on your side

May 27, 2015 Leave a comment

Now we have a games room with most of the board game collection visible on shelves, Miss B has been asking me about various boxes that she hasn’t seen before. So I’ve been telling her about each of them, and usually showing here the boxes and contents, and some of them she has wanted to play. Interestingly, and against my expectations, the games Miss B has shown the most interest in have been what could be described as abstract strategy games. If you haven’t come across the term, an abstract strategy game is one where there is little or no theme, and the game is all about pitting your wits against an opponent (and it is most often one opponent), usually with little or no randomness in the game. So Chess, Go and Draughts would be firmly in this grouping, and there are thousands of other more modern titles alongside them, a few of which we have played and written about on this blog.

Early in the game, but Miss B already has a couple of her black marbles home.

Early in the game, but Miss B already has a couple of her black marbles home.

So one of the first of this new group of games is called Balanx, which is based on the classics Halma or Chinese Chequers, where you have to shift your pieces across the board to the place where your opponent starts. All very straightforward but for Balanx’s novel gimmick, which is that each player’s pieces are large marbles which rest in slots in the plastic board. That’s not the actual gimmick, which is that the board has a pair of feet under its centre line, meaning that the whole thing can be made to rock backwards and forwards. When it is your turn, you push down your side of the board, meaning that some of the balls roll in their slots towards you and change the configuration of the board from what your opponent was working with.

What this means is that this is a simple game that uses some clever design, combined with basic physics to add a nice mental agility requirement as you try to figure out what the board will look like on your opponent’s turn and whether you will be setting them up with a great move. Our first game was a little confused, but then Miss B really seemed to click with it, and now we have played three games I think that this is one that will be a real challenge for me to keep up with her. Plus she is itching to play more similar games, so I expect you’ll be seeing more write-ups of abstract games over the next month or two.

The verdict from Miss B (aged nearly 8½): “I think it’s clever how the moves you can make are different depending on which way up the board is. I give it a 9.1 out of 10 and I think it’s a pretty good game. I would recommend playing it for people who like abstract strategy games.”

The game: Balanx (Fun Connection), 2 players aged 8+.

If you move the moon backwards you can go back in time!

May 5, 2015 4 comments

So far this year we have received a few games from Kickstarter projects, the most recent of which is Lift Off! Get Me Off This Planet!, created by Ed Baraf, who you may remember from his guest post on this blog last year.

Getting close to the end. Another blue alien is about to make a run for it.

Getting close to the end. Another blue alien is about to make a run for it.

First off, I have to say that this is a charmingly presented game, with first rate components (like the ultra-cute “alieneeples” and the chunky, interchangeable jigsaw-connecting board elements) and a nice premise: the aliens are trapped on a planet that is a few days from exploding, and they need help to escape to safety.

Gameplay revolves around collecting resources (of two types) and moving your aliens to “lift-off points” where they can pay resources to escape through mechanics that vary from point to point. For instance, there is the rocket ship which can carry up to 6 aliens and if enough resources have been amassed when it is a full moon (there is a moon that orbits the board, partly acting as a timer and partly affecting the mechanics of some of the lift-off points) the rocket takes off, saving all the aliens onboard. Alternatively you could go to the bonfire and throw fuel on the fire in order to roll a die and, if you get lucky, a passing spaceship may notice the flames and rescue everyone gathered there. The game comes with a heap of different lift-off points that you can choose in order to have a huge variety of board configurations, and even special cards that allow the lift-off points to change during play (we haven’t tried using those yet).

We’ve played a couple of games so far, once with just Miss B and I, and once with S also joining in. I have to say that it was more fun with three players than two. That is not to say we didn’t enjoy the game for two (we did), but with more people the bigger lift-off points trigger more, and there is fun to be had by trying to freeload off someone else’s efforts to escape, and you end up with temporary alliances as you try to launch the rocket ship, etc. The game flows well, though we found Miss B spent quite a lot of time thinking about her moves, which slowed things down a lot — though this was the case for many of our games that we now play far more quickly, so I’m sure this will speed up too.

There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of strategy in the game (at least using the set-up that we used), but there is a little, and to be fair this is a game pitched mostly as a family game, and I think it hits that really nicely. We also found that in our plays, particularly late in the game, there were periods where turns were largely fishing for the “right” cards, and sometimes not bothering to move your aliens, though after a little while you got to make a couple of cool moves and launch some aliens, which made it all worthwhile. There some suggested variant rules to turn the game into fully cooperative, partner-based, or more cut-throat modes, which is nice to see. All in all, I rather like this as an addition to our collection, which we all enjoy, and I think we’ll be introducing it to people outside the family.

While I’m here, by the way, I’d like to draw your attention to Ed’s latest project, The Siblings Trouble, which is on Kickstarter now and only has a few days left to run if you want to get on board. It’s a lightweight storytelling game (kids having adventures in their backyards) with gorgeous artwork and it ran the gauntlet of the Tabletop Deathmatch, so you can watch that if you want an idea of what industry experts thought of the game as it was last summer. I’ve backed this one and have confidence in Ed producing a quality product again, but you’ll have to make your own mind up, of course.

Anyway, back to Lift Off!…

The verdict from Miss B (aged 8¼): “If you had a bit more things to do than just move around 2 spaces to get to a lift off point, and then collect up cards to move off the space, I’d think that it would be a 9.9.9 out of 10, but at the moment it’s 9.6. I like the cute little alien meeples. So like I said, 9.6 out of 10.”

The game: Lift Off! Get Me Off This Planet! (Pencil First Games), 2 to 5 players aged 8+.

Our month in gaming: April

May 3, 2015 2 comments

April picked up a little from a gaming point of view, and we managed to have 25 plays of 17 different titles; and this is a heap more than the handful we managed to play in April of last year. Having the new games room means that most of the game collection is in sight and we’ve started getting into games that have been languishing for a long time, as you will have seen from the recent posts on Cathedral and Ramses Pyramid. The shelves have not been augmented by the addition of a table, so we can now play there without having to clear the dining table, which feels like an amazing level of luxury.

Runebound is a big event game for us and it's great to be able to leave it set up and play over two days.

Runebound is a big event game for us and it’s great to be able to leave it set up and play over two days.

The top game of the month was newcomer Cathedral, with a beefy 4 plays, followed by a bunch of games with two plays each: Dominoes, Frog Rush, Goblins Drool Fairies Rule, Monster Cafe, and Prickly Pile-Up. The big gaming event of the month, though, was a play of Runebound, which Miss B absolutely loves but can take several hours to play (even using the high speed rules that we opt for), so it doesn’t often come out. This play was a special to inaugurate the new gaming table and we were able to leave the game set up overnight for completion the next day.

For the year as a whole we don’t see a lot of change, with Yardmaster Express still on 10, followed by Rhino Hero and Dobble on 6 plays a piece. The 5-play group has expanded now though, with Loopin’ Louie and Backgammon joining Apples to Apples. If we progress more on our 10×10 challenge, though, we should see some of these games steadily climbing.

And thinking of which, we have made a little progress on our 10×10 challenge, but the rate of ticking off plays is still well off the pace set at the start of the year. We have added another five plays to the tally though. Miss B’s interest in this seems to be picking up again though, and she seems keen to get at least one play of all the games logged in May. We’ll see if that has worked out in a month’s time.

The current number of plays for each of our 11 games (10 plus an alternate, remember) are as follows…

Game Plays so far
Dobble 6
Plyt 2
Love Letter 3
Empire Express 3
Apples to Apples 5
Piece o’ Cake 2
Gubs 4
Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck 4
Dungeon Roll 2
Timeline 4
Backgammon 5

I’m very surprised Plyt has fallen behind there, but with 8 months to go, it is still very possible to average a play per month for this and the other tail-enders and complete the challenge on time.

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