The latest in our ongoing series of reports on Lego games is on Magikus, one of the smaller games in the series, which is about collecting ingredients to make a magical potion. The first person to get the full set of four ingredients gets to put them into the little cauldron that comes in the box and, according to Miss B, gets to choose what spell to cast on the losers.
The game is very simple: there is an owl piece, which you position on the edge of the rack of spell ingredients, so it lines up with one of the rows or columns, then you roll a die. If the die shows the colour of an ingredient that is still in the row or column that you chose, you take that ingredient; alternatively a white result on the die allows you to take anything from the row or column, and a black result allows you to steal from another player. If you end up with a set of the four different ingredients, you win!
So that is it. There is a strategy to find here, but it is obvious to most people. I think this has a problem that is common to most of the Lego games: the game design is awesome for younger kids, and not bad for a parent to play with the kids, but the components are just too fiddly for the ideal age range. That said, we had fun with this, and Miss B just loved imagining herself making potions at Hogwarts, even though she got frustrated a couple of times when she forgot to move the owl before moving. (Easy fix: no problem, just move the owl and then roll again.)
Plus, of course, it’s Lego. We now have a bunch of Lego skulls that we can put onto minifigs if we want to!
The verdict from Miss B (aged 9¼): “Very silly. It is a bit more difficult because you have to move first and then roll, which is not what most people would do by natural instinct. I would give it 10/10, but because of the dice rolling flaw I will give it a 9/10.”
The game: Magikus (Lego), 2 to 4 players aged 6+.
You may remember a while ago we had a guest post by game designer, publisher, reviewer and all-round nice guy Edo Baraf. Well, a while after that he ran a Kickstarter project for a storytelling game that he had co-designed, called The Siblings Trouble which is pretty much The Goonies: The Game. The idea is that you and your siblings are having an adventure in some relatively mundane location (the game is subtitled “Backyard Adventures”) which can be the basis of a fantastical story, and our copy turned up earlier this year.
So the basic idea is that you take it in turns to flip over a series of cards, each of which represents a location, monster or event, and you have to incorporate the card into a narrative that you are building. Is that troll really a troll, or is it just the janitor from the abandoned amusement park? You just interpret each card as you wish, and sometimes you need to roll a die to determine what happens next — and, of course, you need to work whatever the outcome of the die roll is into the story.
There are other rules, but I don’t think they really matter. The main thrust of the game is to tell a story of encountering dinosaurs in the forest or renegade robots in the junkyard, where you save the day with a bit of string and a bag of marbles. From that point of view, the game is utterly charming, a charm which is helped greatly by beautiful artwork and excellent production values.
We’ve played the game a handful of times so far, but only with the two of us playing, and thoroughly enjoyed it each time. Hopefully we’ll rope some others in some time and see how it goes with more people. There are a choice of characters to play (with alternate gender and race variants for each), plus four different locations to adventure in, and a way of building an adventure deck to make for a different game each time, so we’ve mixed stuff up a bit each time.
To be honest, I don’t imagine playing The Siblings Trouble in an adults-only group, but to do so is missing the point: this is really a family game, and it’s a good one. But, of course, it’s what Miss B thinks that counts around here…
The verdict from Miss B (aged 9¼): “This game is very interesting, because you can never really predict what is going to happen next. I love the way that you make up the story with only a little bit to guide you. The characters’ powers are especially funny! I will rate it 10/10 because of all the great ideas merged together.”
The game: The Siblings Trouble (Pencil First Games), 2 to 4 players aged 8+.
I’m a bit late again this month, but on the other hand, we’ve just passed five years of this blog. Okay, so the posting frequency has fluctuated a lot, but this counts as a very long term project for me!
So April turned out to be a huge month for gaming for us, with 42 plays of 29 different titles. The last time we played more games than that in a month was January of 2015. Okay, so a lot of those games were quick, small games, but hey, it all counts!
One weekend got a lot of play due to us hosting a gaming afternoon, where the house was overrun by game playing families. Actually, this contributed to Miss B’s personal play count quite significantly, but rather less to mine, and we didn’t play together much. But I was so pleased to see her just piling into games with assorted different people, particularly when I caught her setting up Odin’s Ravens with one of her friends; I just needed to help explain the rules, and they were off.
Top of the heap of games in April was Mastermind, with four plays (we count a play as one guessing game each), followed by Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow, Odin’s Ravens, Highwayman, and BraveRats with three plays, and Push It and Magikus on two each.
That leaves the year-so-far totals with Push It consolidating its lead with nine plays, with BraveRats moving up strongly to six plays, followed by 6, Odin’s Ravens, and Wetland on five plays a piece.
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…