This one actually has a necklace

April 21, 2015 2 comments

Miss B has decided that we should play through the pile of Lego games that we have accumulated over the last couple of years and then write a post comparing them, and I think that is a most excellent idea. We have played some of them, but a couple of them have remained in shrinkwrap, so I’m well up for trying them out. I guess what we’ll do is give a load of them a go and write regular reports as seems appropriate, then at some point we’ll have an overview post. A few days ago we had a go at Frog Rush, which we covered ages ago, but now we have tried the new-to-us Ramses Pyramid.

Nearly to the top, we've avoided the mummies, and blue gets a burst of speed.

Nearly to the top, we’ve avoided the mummies, and blue gets a burst of speed.

So this is a game designed by the ultra-prolific Reiner Knizia, known for some of the most subtle and elegant games out there, as well as for banging out simple little games for the toy market. I was under no illusions that this would be the next Tigris & Euphrates or Modern Art, but who cares: this is Lego. With these games you get to build the board, and if the game is a real stinker, you still have a pile of Lego for the collection. As a result, Miss B and I had a nice pre-bedtime activity together of constructing a really cool pyramid with layers that could easily be removed and replaced with different orientation. Neat.

The next evening we got to actually play the game. The idea is that your adventurer runs around the base of the pyramid collecting gems and getting information about the location of additional gems in secret “temples” (effectively little cases that you can’t see into), then climbs the steps of the pyramid, dodging mummies that cascade down causing chaos, and then confront Ramses, the king of the mummies, to claim his crown. Each step on each side of the pyramid has a coloured gem on it, and you can only climb to that step if you are holding, or can remember the location of a matching gem.

This is all pretty cute, but turns out to be pretty trivial. Even the memory aspect of the game doesn’t really amount to much. But we had fun playing it, and it wasn’t as fiddly as some of the other Lego games we’ve come across. And it looks totally awesome, with great design from the Lego construction side of things. I mean, the way the layers of the pyramid move is stunning.

I think that, when playing through the rest of the Lego games, what I’m looking forward to the most is the building. We have one more of the big box games, and that should be fun to construct, and I’m sure there’ll be some amusement from the others too.

The verdict from Miss B (aged 8¼): “I like the way that there’s secret temples and that you don’t have green and purples apart from in the temples. I also like the way the pyramid turns, and the little brown bits mark where the gems should go. I also kind of like the scorpion in the entrance. I give it a 99.9%”

The game: Ramses Pyramid (Lego), 2 to 4 players aged 8+.

I’m by the city gates! Oh, wait, there are two gates.

April 10, 2015 3 comments

Moving all the games down to the new “games cupboard” (as it has become known) has unearthed some old boxes containing games that haven’t been played for a very long time, if at all. One of these is Cathedral, which I showed to Miss B and she instantly wanted to give it a go. It was probably due to the pieces being reasonably nice models of buildings in assorted shapes.

When you're building a city this cool, everyone is a winner.

When you’re building a city this cool, everyone is a winner.

The game is one of those ones where you place different shaped pieces on to a grid with the intent of preventing your opponent from being able to place all of their pieces. In Cathedral, any empty areas your pieces completely surround (or are bounded by your buildings and the city walls) come under your sole control and your opponent cannot place there, and if you surround an area containing one (and only one) of the opponent’s pieces, you give that piece back to the opponent and then take control. It’s quite neat and is basically about trying to gain control of a decent sized area so you can place your remaining pieces, while preventing your opponent from doing the same.

Of course, one of the first thoughts that came to mind was wondering if the cars from Rush Hour would fit on the grid. We didn’t check this out, but probably should.

Miss B got her head around the rules very quickly and, after we finished one game, she insisted we played another. Then a couple more. She was soon spotting some good moves on her own and was giving me a run for my money. Out of our four games I was definitely the winner, but she beat me on one round and came close on a couple of the others.

To be honest, I was expecting this to be a game that we would be getting rid of as it had been gathering dust for so long, but given the way this play session went, I’m sure we’ll be keeping it for the foreseeable future.

The verdict from Miss B (aged 8¼): “It was a very good game but not quite good enough to be favourite. I give it a 9.9 out of 10. :) I like the way the Cathedral works because it is clever about the way it can never be exactly in the middle and the way the buildings fit together so well.”

The game: Cathedral (Mattel), 2 players aged 10+.

Categories: Games Tags: , ,

Our month in gaming: March

April 8, 2015 4 comments

Oh dear, this is all getting a bit late isn’t it? More than a week into April and still no monthly report. Well, things have been a bit chaotic lately; the extension to our house that I mentioned a few months back has now been completed and so we have been spending a lot of time assembling new furniture, moving stuff around, and so on. There is still a fair bit to do, but we are getting there. And on the plus side, the board games collection now has a new home.

Still a work in progress, but we now have somewhere new to store the games.  Soon it'll be somewhere we can play them too!

Still a work in progress, but we now have somewhere new to store the games. Soon it’ll be somewhere we can play them too!

Compared with the last couple of months, March was fairly light on the gaming, but we still managed to have 19 plays of 15 distinct titles, which is the same number of plays as March last year (and one fewer title).

In March we didn’t play anything more than twice, and the doubles were Backgammon, “Coin Football” (an old game I learnt at primary school using three coins on a table that I taught to Miss B), Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck, and Hey That’s My Fish! (the digital version).

So the leaderboard for the year has Yardmaster Express ahead with a solid 10 plays, followed by Rhino Hero and Dobble on 6, and Apples to Apples on 5.

We made some progress on the 10-by-10 challenge, but we have some games falling a little behind schedule. That said, we have 9 months left, so if everything gets one more play per month we will have aced it. 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 2
Empire Express 3
Apples to Apples 5
Piece o’ Cake 1
Gubs 3
Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck 3
Dungeon Roll 2
Timeline 4
Backgammon 4
Categories: Musings Tags:

How can Death be an “easy” problem?

March 14, 2015 2 comments

After the sad news of the death of Terry Pratchett this week, it seemed only right and proper to play a game based on his work. Miss B has read one of his novels, The Wee Free Men (one I haven’t yet read), and so has been introduced to the character of Tiffany Aching and the environs of Lancre, so was interested in playing The Witches, a game which features Tiffany and other trainee witches trying to deal with enough problems to keep their homes from descending into chaos.

Tiffany appears to have found something a bit scary in Lancre Caves, so decides that discretion is the better part of valour.

Tiffany appears to have found something a bit scary in Lancre Caves, so decides that discretion is the better part of valour.

There are a number of interesting things about The Witches. One, which probably won’t surprise Discworld afficionados, is that all of the player controlled characters are female. It’s sad that this is worth remarking on, but this game is unique within my collection in this respect. Another is that, while there are bad guys to defeat, most of the challenges are mundane things like dealing with a farmer’s sick pig, or helping with a pregnancy. Also that you have to be really careful in using magical powers for fear of the cackles that lead you into darkness and becoming like Black Aliss, but take comfort that having a cup of tea with your fellow witches can help you keep the darkness at bay.

This is basically an adventure game where you wander about and deal with challenges around the board (which increase in number each turn if you aren’t quick in dealing with them), but designer Martin Wallace has done a lovely job in making the game feel like its source material. The detail is all neatly abstracted away, so to deal with a problem you just roll a couple of dice, then choose to either run away or play cards to help yourself, then roll a couple more dice to finish off. It’s really simple once you’ve done it once or twice (though I found it took a little while to explain everything before we started), and when you get going the game flows really well.

Miss B got the hang of the game right away and was soon off solving problems. This is one of those games where we naturally start building a narrative around our characters as the game develops. Miss B’s version of Tiffany Aching turned out to be a natural at comforting folk grieving for their deceased relatives, while my Petulia Gristle, in addition to being a dab hand at curing sick pigs, also had a real knack for fixing broken arms. And when you manage to get help from the older witches, particularly when you manage to get three of them at once (the unstoppable Power of Three) the results are really satisfying. B was frustrated for a while by the perception that I was getting more luck than her, but in the end, while I dealt with more problems overall, she managed to solve trickier ones and we ended up in a tie for points, broken by the fact that I had fewer cackle tokens and won by the slimmest of margins.

The general opinion in the gaming world seems to be that this is a bit disappointing as a game, being not very challenging. I’d say that it is no less challenging (in terms of strategy and skill) than most other adventure games I have tried, and out-charms just about anything. I like The Witches a great deal and hope to play it a lot more. It seems to me like a nice way to go about remembering the late Sir Terry.

The verdict from Miss B (aged nearly 8¼): “It was really good but I found it frustrating at times. It’s good fun. I think it was coincidence, but I was Tiffany Aching, who started with an invisibility tile and I was the only one who drew invisibility cards! I give it a 9 out of 10.”

The game: The Witches (Mayfair Games), 1 to 4 players aged 13+.

Our month in gaming: February

March 2, 2015 10 comments

February was another good month for our game playing, comfortably beating the statistics for February last year, and not far off the dizzying heights of the 2013 figures. During the last month, we played 24 different games (exactly the same as January), for a total of 32 plays (down from January’s incredible 45).

One day's worth of games from the 28th February.

One day’s worth of games from the 28th February.

The month was helped along by a good few plays during the half-term holidays, and then February being finished off at a gaming weekend with some old friends at a holiday home in beautiful rural Shropshire, where we all played an obscene number of games for a couple of days. Actually Miss B played a few games that didn’t make it into the statistics due to me not being involved.

Another high point was that Miss B was given Maths homework over half-term to create a board game to help with learning times-tables, and she ended up producing a nice dexterity game where you flick a disk and play cards to complete multiplication problems. I’ll see if I can get her to write something about her game for the blog.

Our multiple plays for February were Apples to Apples, Multiflication (Miss B’s maths homework game), One Night Ultimate Werewolf (actually played in a big group this time), Tooth Fairies (my entry for a 24-hour game design competition), and Yardmaster Express, all with 2 plays each, and Loopin’ Louie (a gift from a friend) beating them all with 4 plays.

Which all means that for the year so far, our top game is Yardmaster Express with 9 plays, followed by Rhino Hero with 6, Dobble with 5, and Loopin’ Louie and Apples to Apples with 4 a piece.

Our 10-by-10 challenge wasn’t progressed as much in February as it was in January, but we still notched up a good few plays and, given the fantastic start we had in the first month, I think we are still well on track. I’ll round off with our current status (as of the end of 28th February) for the 10-by-10 challenge. Note that, as per the rules of the hardcore challenge, we have nominated 11 games, of which we have to complete at least 10 plays of 10 of them…

Game Plays so far
Dobble 5
Plyt 2
Love Letter 2
Empire Express 3
Apples to Apples 4
Piece o’ Cake 1
Gubs 2
Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck 1
Dungeon Roll 2
Timeline 3
Backgammon 2
Categories: Musings Tags:

My ones are better because they can swim

February 21, 2015 7 comments

A couple of years ago I was introduced to Cartagena at a small games convention, and since then it has sat on my wishlist as a neat and fun little game that I’ve wanted to pick up at some point. Then a couple of weeks ago, a friend announced a bunch of games he was selling off, which included Cartagena, so I happily relieved him of part of his burden.

A blue pirate is about to make it to freedom...

A blue pirate is about to make it to freedom…

The game of Cartagena is inspired by the story of a group of 17th Century pirates escaping from imprisonment, and has players controlling teams of pirates travelling down a twisting passageway, trying to be the first to get their whole team onto the escape boat at the end. This involves playing cards to move one of your pirates onto the next empty space marked with an icon matching the image on the card, or moving backwards to draw cards. This results in pirates leapfrogging each other forwards in sudden lurches, then staggering backwards as if, in a rum-fuelled haze, they have forgotten where they are going and what they are meant to be doing. This can get really quite tactical, but is very quick and easy to learn.

I got in a bit of trouble over this game, as the first couple of times I played it, Miss B came in on me mid-game with other people, and she missed out on the opportunity to play herself. I got growled at a bit, because the game looks very nice and seems (and is) fun, so I promised to play with her at the next convenient opportunity.

That opportunity arrived just a couple of days later and, thanks to Miss B having seen the game in action already, I didn’t have anything to explain to her and we were playing as soon as she had arranged the board pieces into a pleasing looking route.

While the rules are extremely simple, the tactics are a little less obvious, but Miss B managed to avoid a few pitfalls that she had observed previously. In mid-game she decided that, instead of running through a passageway, the pirates were travelling down a waterlogged gutter (or something) so her pirates, being clearly superior to mine, should lie down so that they could swim. In the end, it turned out that my pirates, staying on their feet, were able to get to the boat first, and win the game, but Miss B was only a little behind.

From my experience so far, I think the game really needs more than two players, but is still fun with two. I think next time we may experiment with having a “robot” player (draw a random card and move the hindmost robot pirate according to it), which should make for more opportunity to take advantage of the whole leapfrogging thing.

Anyway, this is a game that has gone down well so far, and works well as a filler for adults, so I’m very happy to have it in the collection.

The verdict from Miss B (aged 8): “Very good. My pirate got stuck in the gutter/passage/not-very-secret passage/secret passage. 9½/10.”

The game: Cartagena (Winning Moves), 2 to 5 players aged 8+.

Little Gamers Guild

Our month in gaming: January

February 1, 2015 3 comments

So, it’s 2015 and Miss B and I have committed to the 10-by-10 gaming challenge where we try to play at least ten games at least ten times each, and I will be reporting monthly on our play as I have done for the last couple of years. Last January we played 16 games (12 unique), and the year before it was 20 games (14 unique), so how has 2015 shaped up so far?100_1814

Well, all I can say is WOW! In January we played a stonking 45 games, of 24 different games, making it our most gamey month since I started recording our plays (though in February 2013 we played 25 different titles). A lot of this was down to our plays of games in the 10-by-10 challenge, but clearly there were plenty of other games, most notably the new Yardmaster Express, which is quick and fun, so we’ve played that really quite a lot.

Our top games for the month were Yardmaster Express (7 plays), Rhino Hero (5 plays), Dobble (5 plays) and Timeline (3 plays), with Apples to Apples, Captain Clueless, Empire Express, Gubs, and The Hare and The Tortoise each being played twice.

It’s far too early to be saying anything about what will happen over the rest of the year, but we’ve made a good start on our challenge, and I’m looking forward to a good year of gaming.

Just for good measure, here is our current status (as of the end of 31st January) on our 10-by-10 challenge. Note that, as per the rules of the hardcore challenge, we have nominated 11 games, of which we have to complete at least 10 plays of 10 of them…

Game Plays so far
Dobble 5
Plyt 1
Love Letter 1
Empire Express 2
Apples to Apples 2
Piece o’ Cake 1
Gubs 2
Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck 1
Dungeon Roll 1
Timeline 3
Backgammon 1

Hmm, I’ve noticed recently that, for some reason, I habitually refer to Piece of cake by its English, even though we have the German version of the game (Aber Bitte Mit Sahne), while I refer to Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck by its German name. I don’t know why — maybe it’s because of the version I first played of each game. Go figure.

Categories: Musings Tags:
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