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Lightsabres, Daleks and a lot of dice

May 29, 2013 Comments off

This last weekend saw our first ever family trip up to UK Games Expo at the NEC, just outside Birmingham. None of us really knew what to expect, but we made a day trip for the Sunday of the two-and-a-bit day long event.

Miss B, in her tiger disguise, was very pleased to run into Catwoman and Batman.

Miss B, in her tiger disguise, was very pleased to run into Catwoman and Batman.

The event was actually at a Hilton hotel, and we were initially pleased with:

  1. the ease of access and (free) parking,
  2. the weather (I don’t think the organisers can take credit for that) during the short walk from the carpark to the venue,
  3. the fact that there was no queue at all to get in and the folks at the admin desk were absolutely awesome.

That makes for us all being in good moods right away, so we started exploring. We found two large halls full of traders and demonstrations alongside the family zone, and these are the areas we spent most of our time. Also around the place were a bring & buy room, several rooms for tournaments and general gaming, a room for prototype games, a room selling passable food at far better prices than the hotel’s own facilities, and some other stuff too. The whole place was pretty busy, but in general didn’t feel really crowded.

That dragon never knew what hit it!

That troll never knew what hit it!

We were also pleasantly surprised by the number of families we saw around the place with kids of all ages. This is clearly an event a lot of folk feel comfortable bringing their offspring to. I’m sure this is helped in no small part by the family zone, a decent sized area where there was someone doing face painting (always a winner with Miss B), a giant Ticket To Ride set was ready for play, and an impressive games library was available (with people on hand to explain the rules) for play on the many tables in the area. Great stuff.

Much of Miss B’s afternoon was spent in the family zone where she got her face painted (as a tiger) and got herself signed up for a kids’ roleplaying adventure called “The Dwarf, The Wizard and the Wardrobe”, which involved saving everyone’s summer holidays from the Forces of Evil. It was, apparently, so good that she went back and played the same scenario again shortly afterwards.

All in all we reckon this was a great day out. I didn’t try out very many games, but I did buy several, so expect some posts about them soon. We’re already talking about how we’d improve on the experience for next year (bringing a picnic is actually one of the thoughts), so it looks like we have a date booked for this time next year…

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Categories: Events Tags: , ,

Ready, steady, croak!

May 21, 2013 2 comments

This week Miss B decided that she wanted to create a new game. She decided that it should be about frogs and should be a sort of race game. The next thing I knew she was industriously colouring in bits of paper, cutting up bits of card, and sticking things to other things.

The green frog is definitely doing better at the moment, but the red frog has a heap of bonus counters just out of view...

The green frog is definitely doing better at the moment, but the red frog has a heap of bonus counters just out of view…

By bedtime she had created two small game boards, coloured blue to represent ponds. Each pond had a start space and five numbered lily pads.

The next day we played the prototype. I found some little Lego frogs (from the Frog Rush game) to use as playing pieces and provided (on request) some counters for keeping score and a die. She explained that the game is a race where you each have your own board and you have to roll the number of the next lily pad to move onto it. If you roll a 6 you reroll and use the new result. When you land on the 2, 3 or 4 you get to turn over one of the bonus chits she had made and if it has a number on it you get that many counters as bonus points. The game ends when someone lands on pad 5, at which point your score is the number of the lily pad you are on plus your bonus points.

Of course, this was just an exercise in repeatedly rolling a die until you finally get the result you want. Miss B was fine with that but she felt that the “reroll on a 6” rule was a bit lacking, so she resolved to do something about it.

We took a break, during which she got out some pens and scrounged some blank cards from my prototyping stash and set to work. Half an hour later she had a small pile of cards with “Hop!” (which she had chosen for the game’s name) written on the back and various numbers written on the front. Some also had rain clouds drawn on the front. The numbers, apparently indicated something special that should happen, like moving to the next space or having another go. At my suggestion Miss B added the relevant instructions to the cards as we went along. It also turned out that the rain cloud indicated that you should lose one of your scoring counters. In order to add choice, we had three of the cards each at a time, which lay face down on the table and when we rolled a 6 we chose one to turn over.

This is choice for a six-year-old.

Our second game went much the same way as the first but was slowed down quite a lot by Miss B having to write on the cards. She seemed more satisfied with the experience though and found an old ice cream tub to use as a box to store her game in, writing up a label for the top, which read: “Hop!” a dice game by a 6 year old girl called B—-.

So, we’ll see how this develops. Will Miss B evolve the game any further? We’ll just have to see…

Categories: Making Games Tags: ,

Nessie’s the best!

May 19, 2013 Comments off

While I write here mostly about new games we play, a lot of what we play is return trade. Well, it would be crazy to only play new stuff, right? So as we have been writing this blog for over two years now, perhaps it would be a good time to start revisiting some of those games we covered in the early days and seeing how things have changed.

The Glenfiddich clan are about to find themselves on the wrong side of a "Weakness Rules" card.  Again.

The Glenfiddich clan are about to find themselves on the wrong side of a “Weakness Rules” card. Again.

Anyhoo, Heave Ho! was the first game we covered in this blog. It hasn’t been played an enormous amount over the last couple of years but it does come out for play once in a while (twice so far this year by my reckoning). When I last wrote about it we were playing a very cut-back version of the game with one shared deck of cards containing no action cards. Plus initially we weren’t using the “robust dames”, which are a suit of wild cards. We now use the full rules except for the “team building” step, which involves a race to sort through your half of the cards to pick the best cards for yourself.

So this is still a game that provides us with some good fun. The main part of the game is adjusting the strengths of two teams and playing a “Heave Ho!” card when your team has the highest total strength as you then pull the barrel (yeah, I know…) a number of spaces towards your side equal to the difference between the teams. This involves constant adding and subtracting of numbers and two years ago this took quite a long time, meaning that we only played one round in a sitting. Nowadays, Miss B is getting very into the idea of maths and is getting much quicker at this so we usually play to the recommended best-of-five.

I reckon this game is more of a winner than it was when we first played it, and the anticipation of possibly getting a “monstrous” card when Nessie is in play (you can make her eat her own team!) is something that keeps Miss B coming back for more.

The verdict from Miss B (aged 6¼-odd): “I like it more when we play it with the writing cards. It makes it a lot easier but you just need to be careful when you play it. You’ve got to at least know your maths and reading to be able to play Heave Ho!”

The game: Heave Ho! (Kosmos), 2 players, age 10+.

I’m a lumberjack and I’m okay…

May 14, 2013 Comments off

Felicitously, at a recent fête our family found for few funds a fully functional copy of the fast, fun and furious game Fast Flowing Forest Fellers, which was fabricated by the fabulous Friedemann Friese for five or fewer folk.

The female blue lumberjack safely negotiates a log while the other competitors jostle for position in the narrows.

The female blue lumberjack safely negotiates a log while the other competitors jostle for position in the narrows.

Alliteration-R-us. I’m sure there are some of you out there who could do better.

Of course, that pretty much covers the review right there, but I’ll go into a little more detail anyway…

Basically this is a race between a bunch of lumberjacks riding logs down a river. You control two or three lumberjacks each (depending on the number of players) and have a deck of cards, each of which allow you to move one of your people a number of spaces, jostling others as you go. The first player to get their whole team past the finish line is the winner.

I’m not sure how a lumberjack riding a log can navigate upstream, mind you, but I’m happy to gloss over that. It doesn’t seem to bother Miss B.

I really rather like this and it is certainly worth the small sum we paid at the school fête (which was rather higher than the stupid asking price). It takes moments to explain and is, for the most part, very intuitive to play. It’s a fun race game with plenty of opportunity to stuff your opposition by shoving them into adverse currents. And it comes with a heap of different boards (some more conducive to stuffage than others), which you pick two of to construct a course for the race meaning that there is plenty of variety to be had.

Miss B got the hang of how the game works almost instantly and liked the fact that there are both boy and girl lumberjacks, which is certainly a good touch. There was a point in our game, though, when Miss B was getting a little frustrated by a current heading in the wrong direction which she kept getting stuck in, but after she got one of my lumberjacks with the same trick, things brightened up significantly.

I’m looking forward to trying this with more players, as that should add to the chaos. A lot of the game seems to be about the jostling; you can make more of your moves by having your lumberjacks push one another along as well as barging the opposition out of the way. Yup, I’m hoping for some more plays of this.

The verdict from Miss B (aged 6¼-odd): “After we played Fast Flowing Forest Fellers I made a giant race track out of all the boards and loads of logs on it just as if a game was going on. If I had to rate it, it would be 8 out of 10. Not the best of games but I’m happy to play it if Mummy or Daddy wants to.”

The game: Fast Flowing Forest Fellers (Rio Grande), 2 to 5 players aged 8+.

The Guild of Blades look like bats

May 11, 2013 Comments off

Guilds of Cadwallon is a game that has just been delivered (a month or two late) after a massively successful Kickstarter campaign. There are, I believe, a couple of other Cadwallon games out there, set in a fantasy city with some really rather nice but a bit grotesque artwork. It’s basically about playing cute little agent miniatures to take control of cards that are laid out in a 3×3 grid (or, optionally, larger). You play a few rounds of doing this and then make sets of types of card in order to score points.

The control markers go down for the final round.

The control markers go down for the final round,

The game is basically quite a neat, pretty abstract game, but looks nice and has some nice twiddles with action cards that get mixed in with the regular guild cards, plus has optional contract and condition cards which, respectively, give secret bonuses for certain achievements, and make a global change to the game rules. Good stuff, though we only used the basic rules, without contracts and conditions.

The rules are easy to get your head around and Miss B was soon playing with very little advice from me. She found it a little tricky working when and how to play her action cards, but could easily see what she was trying to achieve and have a reasonable go at doing it. I think that with a couple more plays she will start to see the patterns in the game. With the small grid of cards each turn, options are limited, meaning that it is not hard to play and the games zip along and finish pretty quickly.

All in all I am quite pleased with this and am looking forward to playing some more. I think Miss B is up for it, so fingers crossed.

The verdict from Miss B (aged 6¼-odd): “I was the Guild of Blades and Daddy was the Guild of Goldsmiths. It was quite easy to play. If I had to do a rating it would be 10 out of 10. I liked the different people for the wildcards instead of just the one picture for them. There’s a symbol to remind you that it’s a wildcard.”

The game: Guilds of Cadwallon (Cool Mini or Not), 2 to 4 players aged 8+.

The quest for the 20-point stick

May 6, 2013 Comments off

I sometimes forget to write about the traditional games that we play. One that crops up once in a while is pick-up sticks. You know, the one where you drop a bunch of wooden sticks on the table or floor and score points for picking up sticks without moving any of the others.

The green ones may only be worth two points, but every little helps...

The green ones may only be worth two points, but every little helps…

As with a lot of dexterity games this is not exactly my cup of tea, but mixed in with other games (we’ve just played it alongside draughts and Guilds of Cadwallon — about which, more soon) it’s a fun little diversion.

Actually, I think the main thing to write about here is how much the game relies on fair play. More than just about any other game we have played together, players need honesty, integrity, and willingness to accept what is. The game can so easily descend into “You moved the red one!”, “No I didn’t!”, “Did too!” arguments.

From this standpoint (and many others, of course), I am so proud of Miss B. I very rarely need to point out that she has nudged another stick. Sometimes she just drops a stick back in without me noticing anything awry and tells me that she moved one that she didn’t mean to and that it is my turn.

When that level of sportsmanship is being displayed I am more than happy to play again, even in games that I’m not keen on.

The verdict from Miss B (aged 6¼-odd): “It’s really hard to keep still on other people’s turn. I like the way there’s only one of the black pick-up sticks so that the one that gets it will have a better chance of winning.”

The game: pick-up sticks (traditional).

An April of Games

May 3, 2013 2 comments

My posting has not been exactly prolific over the last month, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been playing games. We actually did very well, with 32 plays, made up of 17 different games.

The most popular game in April was Love Letter, which we only acquired right at the end of March but managed to notch up 7 plays, displacing long-time favourite Sleeping Queens, which we played 5 times. There is certainly some novelty value helping here, but it’s interesting to note that, as it is a longer game, each play of Love Letter was on a different occasion, while we often play multiple games of Sleeping Queens in one sitting.

Other games that had more than one play were Antics (back after a long time languishing on the shelf), Giro Galoppo, and the Android version of Hey, That’s My Fish! (as always).

That leaves us with Sleeping Queens still the most played game of the year (11 plays), but Hey, That’s My Fish! and newcomer Love Letter close behind on 9 plays. Nothing else is particularly close at this point.

It’s interesting to note that we only played one new game in April (aside from a little prototype game that I had knocked up and we were trying), which was Sheepland. And a previous post reveals how well that went!

Categories: Monthly Gaming Tags: