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You low-down bip bap scoodily doop varmint… yeah!

November 27, 2013 6 comments

This is a little different as this time we’re going to talk about two games at once. Why? Well, Jazz: The Singing Game and Them’s Fightin’ Words! arrived together on the same day, are from the same (small, British) publisher, and are, at heart, basically the same game. As a result, Miss B and I figured that we could discuss them both in one post.

Too cool for cards, daddy-o.

Too cool for cards, daddy-o.

I also mentioned Them’s Fightin’ Words when it was running on Kickstarter, so I figured it would be good to report and let you know that the product was delivered. A little late, but still pretty quickly after the end of the Kickstarter.

So, you may remember playing a game as a kid (or, more recently, with the kids) where you build a list and have to remember all the items on that list.

“I went on holiday and I packed a toothbrush.”

“I went on holiday and I packed a toothbrush and a comb.”

“I went on holiday and I packed a toothbrush, a comb and a cuddly hippopotamus.”

…and so on until someone loses track.

Well, both of these games are built on that foundation, with a different theme and slightly different scoring mechanisms in each.

In Jazz, you take it in turns to play cards bearing nonsense scat words and try to remember everything played so far (“Bip doop badda bop scoodily yeah!”), if you fail, you take the pile of played cards and play restarts. Whoever has the fewest cards when all the cards run out wins. Plus you can play “extended solo” cards to get out of trouble and reset the pile.

Don't you point that cotton pickin' camera at me, you hay baylin' cowpoke!

Don’t you point that cotton pickin’ camera at me, you hay baylin’ cowpoke!

In Them’s Fightin’ Words! the cards have parts of a Wild West insult which steadily gets longer and more ludicrous (“You dirty, milk drinkin’, dung smellin’, son of a milk drinkin’ snake oil salesman!”). This time there is no get out of jail free card, and anyone who goes wrong three times is out of the game.

The important thing with games like these is to accessorise so, for our plays, we both wore sunglasses or cowboy hats as appropriate to the theme.

We played Jazz first and it went well with lots of smiles, though at a couple of points Miss B got frustrated by the ever-growing list of nonsense to remember. The Extended Solo cards in this game are a serious boon, though, allowing you to take a break when things are getting really tough. Maybe they make it too easy for adult play, but you can easily remove them if you prefer.

The next day we tried Them’s Fightin’ Words. Whereas Jazz has you choosing a card from your hand, TFW just has you flipping a card from your deck on each turn, which leaves you feeling that you don’t have any choices to make. But on the other hand, Miss B just found the game hysterically funny. This did mean that the game got louder and shriller as we progressed (especially when we started calling each other a low-down biscuit) but rarely have we had as much laughter in a game. In fact, where we usually end up shortening games, this time we extended play by going to six points instead of three.

We’re really happy with these games, and I look forward to using them as a filler with adult players (especially late night, with booze involved). I don’t think we really need to have both in the collection, but we will keep them just for the fun value. All very silly.

The verdict from Miss B (aged nearly 7): “I liked wearing my sunglasses indoors.  That was silly as well, but not quite as silly as Them’s Fightin’ words! This time I gave it an 18 out of 20.”

The game: Jazz the Singing Game (7/5 games), 1 to 10 players aged 8+.

The other verdict from Miss B (aged nearly 7): “It was a really good game because it was really funny.  I really liked the Cow Pie card. Here’s an example of what it could have been: You son of a milk drinkin’, dung smellin’, namby pamby, lily livered cow pie!  I give it a 20 out of 20.”

The other game: Them’s Fightin’ Words (7/5 Games), 2 to 6 players aged 8+.

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Just outside Meeptropolis…

November 22, 2013 Comments off

A good friend of ours recently gave Miss B a card saying that he wanted to buy us a game as a present but didn’t know what to get, so here was some money for Miss B to spend as she saw fit. Thankyou, G. That was a wonderful gift.

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Can’t see who was getting to the crime there, but I think it was a team effort.

Anyway, the next weekend we took a trip to Reading to visit Eclectic Games, which we knew would have a great selection to choose from, and Miss B spent a while caught up in option paralysis. There were a number of games that caught her eye and her imagination, including a fun looking one about witches racing on electric sweepers (having upgraded from broomsticks) and another on mixing peppers to prepare the perfect salsa. In the end, a combination of cover artwork and a daft background story on the back of the box resulted in our purchase of Mutant Meeples. (What’s a meeple? Here is an answer.)

I must admit that I wasn’t entirely convinced for some reason, but the game is based on Ricochet Robots, which I played a couple of times many years ago and remember enjoying, and the rules for the day were that Miss B would choose, so we handed over the money and headed for home where we spent a little while applying the provided super hero stickers to the various coloured meeples.

So, Mutant Meeples is basically a competitive puzzle solving game. There are a bunch of the titular Mutant Meeples (who all have super powers) on the board and a “crime” randomly takes place somewhere. Players have to figure out how few moves they need to move a meeple to the crime and save the day. Once one player has stated their required moves, a sand timer is turned over to give a short period for another player to come up with a better move; when the time runs out, the winning bidder makes the move.

The trouble comes from the fact that the meeples are all super fast but can only stop by running into something (either a wall or another meeple) so often you need to position one meeple for another to run into and bounce off. Add to that the meeples each having individual powers to modify their movement and there’s quite a bit to think about.

Oh, and once you have made a meeple reach a crime, that meeple joins your team and for some reason won’t help you any more. Thematically it doesn’t make sense, but what it means in gameplay terms is that when you start doing well, the game gets harder for you, which is an excellent balancing mechanism.

Playing the game was pretty hard going at first as Miss B was really struggling to see what she needed to do, and she was insisting that she wanted to play with the full adult rules and not get any sort of head start or advantage. Despite feeling enormous frustration, Miss B battled on with the game, though she needed a couple of time-outs in order to keep herself together. I took my time over puzzle solving and managed to drop some hints to her as well as getting her to accept two turns of the timer to give her a bit more thinking time. Then I made a howling mistake and miscounted a move. This cheered the proceedings up a little, though Miss B expressed her annoyance at me being rubbish at the game.

Then I made another mistake. Please believe me that these were genuine mistakes and I really wasn’t trying to give her an advantage. This of course corresponded with a couple of rounds where Miss B was able to solve the puzzle all on her own, so she ended up with a comfortable victory.

Miss B is still not good at spotting solutions that require moving multiple meeples, but she’s steadily getting better at it and combined with my generally addled brain this is going to be a game where she regularly gives me trouble, I think. It’s going to remain hard for her for a while, but she seems keen to play more.

The title for this post was Miss B’s idea, by the way.

The verdict from Miss B (aged 6¾-and-a-bit): “I liked the contents because of the meeples on the camping trip and they got attacked by radioactive butterflies and the name Meeptropolis. I laughed at the idea. At first I got really upset because it was a bit frustrating but as I got the hang of it Daddy started miscounting. I was usually double counting to make sure that I would get the right amount of spaces away. I’d give it 10 out of 10.”

The game: Mutant Meeples (Pegasus Spiele), 2 to 7 players aged 8+.

I think they met at the Forgotten University

November 18, 2013 8 comments

A week or two back, a cousin drew my attention to Lords of War, which is a card game about fantasy races beating the living snot out of each other. My cousin says he plays this a load with his son, who is a couple of years older than Miss B, and he thought we might be interested in it.

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The commander of the Elves surveys the battlefield in order to decide where to deploy her War Tiger (which looks uncannily like Battle Cat).

The game comes as packs containing two decks of cards and a playmat, the first to be released being Orcs versus Dwarves. Knowing how much Miss B likes elves, I went and bought a copy of the Elves versus Lizardmen set.

The game basically involves taking it in turns to place cards, which represent the troops in your army, onto a gridded playmat in such a way (usually) that they are attacking an enemy card. Attacks are basically indicated by numbers and arrows pointing out of the edges of the cards so, for example, if your card had an arrow and the number 2 pointing out of the top right corner of a card, then that card will launch a strength 2 attack in that diagonal direction once it is in play. Each card also has a defence strength, and once attack points exceeding the defence are brought to bear on a card, that card is destroyed. Some cards have ranged attacks which complicate things a little, but it remains a simple slug-a-thon where the aim is to destroy a certain number of the enemy troops. We halved the number of kills required in order to have a quicker game.

Once in play, cards don’t move around; they just sit there, attacking anything that gets put in their way. However, it is possible to take a card back into your hand if it is not currently engaged in combat.

The game played pretty quickly for us, our first game taking a little over half an hour, which I thought was pretty impressive. Miss B got to grips with most of the game very quickly, helped by the fact that the attacks are easily visualised thanks to the arrows. Only the ranged attacks caused confusion and I’m still not sure Miss B has really got her head around it, but I’m sure she will.

Of course, a bonus for morale came from the fact that after I had an early lead, Miss B managed to catch up and even figured out quite a neat manoeuvre to beat me with by taking one of her stronger cards back into her hand in order to redeploy it for a killer blow.

The box, by the way, says that to find out why these armies are fighting you can go to the website. At Miss B’s request we did just that and found that there were background stories about the game world and pages with details about all the characters on the cards. Miss B was very much impressed by this and spent a little while happily finding out about her elves and telling me about them.

To wrap up, I’ll draw your attention to the Kickstarter for the new Templars versus Undead set, which is another stand-alone playset containing two decks that can combine with the existing sets. Maybe worth a look.

The verdict from Miss B (aged 6¾-and-a-bit): “I like the game lots and I’d give it 10 out of 10. At first I thought I was going to lose but then Daddy captured my Bow Maiden which was a big mistake because the turn before that I picked up one of my commanders which could shoot 4’s sideways and he didn’t notice that so once the Bow Maiden was cleared I put my commander right next to Daddy’s general and shot an 8.”

The game: Lords of War, Elves versus Lizardmen (Black Box Games), 2 players aged 12+.

It’s lucky you’ve got the skate board!

November 4, 2013 Comments off

I mentioned City of Zombies in a post a week or so back as a Kickstarter project that I liked the look of. Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news.

I don't often get to be in these pictures, but here we are, trying to save our last survivors.

I don’t often get to be in these pictures, but here we are, trying to save our last group of survivors.

I’ll start with the bad. After rather underwhelming support on Kickstarter Matt, the creator of the game, has decided to cancel the funding as it was looking like it would fall far short of its goal. As far as I can make out, and this is purely my guesswork, the problem was partly to do with not getting a publicity machine mobilised in time (a common failing) and partly that the comparatively small scale of the project meant a price per unit that US-based potential backers (a sizeable part of the potential market) didn’t like the look of, particularly when considering international shipping (personally, I think it looks pretty reasonable from where I sit!).

The good news, however, is very good. Matt has figured out a way to go ahead with the project anyway and fund it himself. He has been schmoozing with assorted people and keeps on pushing, so the game will be seeing the light of day, and this looks like it will be in the next month or so as production is under way.

Anyway, Miss B and I met up with Matt at the wonderful Thirsty Meeples boardgame café in Oxford, where he has been running fairly regular demos, and we got to try out the game for ourselves.

So, how does the game work? Well, basically this is a cooperative game where cards representing the cutest zombies imaginable (a set of cards with less cute artwork is also provided as an option) appear at one end of the board and then relentlessly bear down on your barricades at the other until either they completely overrun you or a set number of turns elapse and you are rescued. You get rid of zombies by rolling three dice and doing bits of arithmetic to combine the numbers on the dice to match numbers on the zombie cards.

Yes, it’s actually a maths game and a lot of the sales pitch is towards schools. In fact, there isn’t really that much of a game there. It’s mostly about solving a puzzle. But that is actually fine: it’s charming, cute, and quite a lot of fun, taking you on a bit of a roller coaster ride as things look hopeless for a while, then you get a lucky break and clear the barricades only to have a new wave of the undead coming and crushing you again.

There are a lot of optional rules, most of which just add extra chaos, but some do add more genuine decision making to the mix, like hero abilities which need to be used at the most critical moment — but when is that?  You can also ramp up the difficulty with special zombies or dial it back to make it easier for players who can only work with addition and subtraction.

If you are interested, check out the City of Zombies website, where you can find out more and order a copy of the game. I’ve ordered one and we’re really looking forward to playing it some more.

The verdict from Miss B (aged 6¾): “City of Zombies is a good game. I’d give it 9 out of 10. I think you should be able to split up the numbers but that would make it an easier game. The pictures are cute on the Chibis but they are scary on the Walkers.”

The game: City of Zombies (ThinkNoodle), 1 to ? players aged 8+.

An October of games

November 2, 2013 Comments off

So, October was another comparatively quiet month, with 19 plays of 16 different games.

Love Letter has made a return to the roster with two plays, while Dobble was the only other game that was played more than once, with three plays.  I was also pleased that Lords of Waterdeep saw its first play for a long time (the first this year) and we finally got around to another go at Smash Up.

Unusually we didn’t play anything new in October other than the Space Race game that Miss B invented.  Still, it is really good to just spend time going back over games we know already.   Though I’m still a little surprised that Sleeping Queens is still out of favour.  It lives in a very visible pile of small games in the living room, several of which get played every month, but it has remained in its box for quite a while.

After tallying the plays from this month, Love Letter’s position as the most played game of the year is starting to look secure as we only have a couple of months left to go.  It is only four plays ahead of Sleeping Queens, but if the recent pattern continues it won’t end up being much of a contest.

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