Smash Up is a card game that, over the last year or so, seems to have carved quite a niche as a comparatively quick and light card game of smacking your opponents with strange card combinations. The idea is that each player picks two decks of cards, each representing a faction much loved by geeks, like dinosaurs, pirates or ninjas, and shuffles them together in order to do battle in an entirely trivial war with the other players. And so you can have Ninja Robots versus Zombie Pirates if you like.
Some combinations are better than others, but to be honest I haven’t yet played the game enough to have got my head around the best options. I’m sure that will come soon enough.
What is important, however, is that this purchase was made at Eclectic Games in Reading, where Miss B spotted the ludicrously silly box and pretty much decided straight away that she wanted it. Yup, she chose it and this is where her taste is heading. Whatever happened to Sleeping Queens?!
The rules are pretty simple. You play up to one action and one minion each turn; minions get played on bases; when enough power points (from minions) are stacked on a base, the base breaks and people score victory points. Well, that’s the basics, but most cards have some effect which twists stuff around a bit (or a lot), so it can be possible to play several minions and actions.
I like this game, and it very much looks like Miss B does too. However there are a couple of drawbacks. The first is common to many card games where the cards are text-heavy and have assorted weird effects: basically, until you know the game well, an enormous amount of your turn can be spent staring at your cards and wondering which could combo with the other stuff you have available, and with Miss B this can add quite a bit of time to a play. In our second game, Miss B was playing with Zombie Wizards, which is a pretty epic combination which often allows you to do an awful lot of stuff each turn, which made for a pretty long game as she figured out what to do. That said, she was figuring most of it out herself and playing some pretty decent combos from time to time.
This problem will, of course, reduce with time and more plays as we both get used to what is on the cards and in the decks.
My second issue is possibly a bigger one, and is basically the amount of calculation required to see if a base breaks. Most of a time this isn’t a big deal: your minions add up to 12 power, mine to 7, the break point of the base is 18, so boom! Once in a while, though, you get situations where you have Armoured Stegs (which have higher power on other players’ turns) and War Raptors (tougher when teamed up with other Raptors) on one side and a heap of Microbots (some of which do weird increasing of their power when en masse) on the other, all making for a lot of adding up to be done each turn. It’s not a deal breaker for us, but even though Miss B is pretty good with numbers, I need to help out quite a lot with this.
I think this one’s a keeper though.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 6¾): “I think this is a really fun game, but if you’re new to it I think it gets a bit tiring. I think Zombies and Wizards are a really good combination because you can get really long turns and if they’re together you can get the dead wizards rising again.”
The game: Smash Up (AEG), 2 to 4 players aged 12+.
In the latest in my occasional series of posts on stuff found on Kickstarter, here’s City of Zombies, which takes this obsession the world seems to have with zombies right now to a whole new level of cute.
Actually, the deal with this is that it is being pitched as an educational game, but it looks like it is educational in a similar way to, say, Sleeping Queens, where there is a fun game there and kids get to practice their maths skills as part of playing. This is great to see in a world where most producers of educational games fixate on some technical aspect of education like the Key Stage 1 history curriculum or, as we saw at UK Games Expo, on logic puzzles aimed at revision for the 11+ exam.
Anyway, there’s zombies, there’s dice rolling, there’s really cute art (and optional less-cute art), and there’s what looks like simple but fun gameplay, so if that appeals, take a look and decide for yourself.
As always, be careful on Kickstarter, but from my point of view I like the look of this and it’s good to see a project based close to where I live!
A few days ago I stumbled across another gaming/parenting blog, Board Games with the Family. It’s written by a nice guy called Neil, who seems to be doing what I am doing: trying to share the joy of boardgames with his offspring and sharing some of the results with the rest of it. So far the posts have been musings on various aspects of gaming from the amount of control you have in games to dealing with tantrums. Well worth a look.
I have a stock of game parts, some purchased as such and others scavenged from old board games, that I use occasionally for either prototyping new games or enhancing existing ones. Miss B gets her own ideas from looking at some of this kit. And so this evening we played “Space Race”, a game of travelling from planet to planet collecting stuff.
The board was made of a freeform arrangement of MDF discs that represented planets and were added to as needed when we explored beyond the existing play area. We used little plastic spacecraft for playing pieces and moved them the number of planets shown by a die roll. On arrival at a planet we pulled a number of tiddlywinks from a bag, the colour of the counters indicating whether they were money, water, food or fire. It turns out that the money or fire could be traded for wood, which were worth 1 victory point each, and a combination of a water and a food could be traded for a special cone which was two victory points.
We were to fly around the planets collecting goods and victory points, then come back to the starting point, Earth, at which point victory points would be totted up and recorded. We would then do the whole thing again and whoever had the most points after two rounds would be the winner.
There were also a few other rules that I didn’t understand, including one that involved a giant that took over Earth causing both of us to lose victory points.
Actually, I was quite impressed with this game, despite the fact that it occasionally felt a bit like a boardgame version of Calvinball. That said, Miss B is now experimenting, on a basic level, with the classic Eurogame mechanisms of collecting and exchanging resources. She was very pleased with how things went and couldn’t think of anything that needed improving.
Now I think about it, the whole approach of thinking up rules as they are needed is a very effective way of developing early game prototypes. I should pay more attention to Miss B’s methodologies. As always, she is teaching me at least as much as I am teaching her.
Dobble is basically a super-charged game of snap where you have to do a little more cognitive gymnastics to spot the matches. The game comes with a stack of 55 circular cards, each with eight symbols on them, including things like an igloo, a pair of lips, a clover leaf, and a purple cat. What is clever is that if you take any two cards from the deck there will always be exactly one matching symbol between them. The game comes with five sets of rules to choose from, all of which are variations on trying to spot the matches between cards before your opponents.
We came across the game at the UK Games Expo in May, and since then Miss B has been occasionally asking me to get a copy. I’m not sure why it took me so long, but at last we now have our own Dobble set.
So far we have had several games using two different sets of rules: The Well (the first person to get rid of a pile of cards wins) and The Towering Inferno (the person to acquire the biggest pile of cards wins) and we’ve had a lot of fun with it. We really must try roping S in on a game some time. So far I have won every game (ending up with my brain hurting a bit), but it’s getting closer and it won’t be long before Miss B gets to beat me fair and square.
This is also one of those games that you don’t seem to play one game of. Each game only takes a few minutes, so it is natural to go straight on and play another right away using a different set of rules.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 6¾): “It’s a really good game especially because you don’t know what card is coming next unless you look. But that’s cheating. I’d say it’s 9 out of 10.”
The game: Dobble (Asmodee), 2 to 8 players aged 6+.
September was about our quietest month of gaming this year, with only 20 plays of 15 different games. Still not bad, mind. January had the same number of plays but one fewer distinct games.
The first weekend of the month was where a lot of the gaming happened as we got together with two different family groups for gaming sessions and had a lot of fun playing assorted games. We did pretty well for new games, introducing Cloud 9, King of Tokyo (we don’t own this one but got to play someone else’s) and Rock, Paper, Scissors, Bang! Plus we had the (re) introduction of Dobble, which we had tried out at UK Games Expo in May, and which became the month’s most played game, with three plays.
For the third consecutive month we had no plays of long-time favourite Sleeping Queens (though I can’t believe that it has been consigned to history) and for the first month since we aquired a copy we had no plays of Love Letter.
Across the year, though, we are still seeing Love Letter as the top game with 19 plays, closely followed by Sleeping Queens. Only three more months to go…
Edit: Oops, I miscounted and didn’t record a game of Timeline from earlier in the month. That takes us up to 21 plays and 16 distinct games.