Rather pleasantly, we got sent a free copy of a game called Plyt for us to check out. Miss B was excited about the prospect as it is a game about maths, something she enjoys at school, and the last maths based game we tried out (City of Zombies) went down very well.
Unlike City of Zombies, Plyt is a traditional competitive game, where everyone is trying to be the first to move their pawn around a spiral track to the winner’s space in the middle. On your turn you roll a bunch of twelve-sided dice and have the time provided by a 30-second sand timer to multiply the numbers on the dice. If you do it correctly in the time (you’ll probably need a calculator for checking — luckily Miss B has one in the shape of a frog which she relished using), you move forward a number of spaces equal to the number on the differently coloured die. If this moves you onto a space with a Plyt logo on it, you draw a “chance” card, which may be to the advantage or disadvantage of yourself or an opponent.
That’s about it.
To be frank, I was a little disappointed when I opened the box and seeing it was nothing cleverer than rolling dice and doing sums, with no chrome other than the unimaginatively named “chance” cards. Even the rules to set up balance between players are presented as optional rules that you should negotiate before you start. This is clearly not a game created by someone embedded in the modern gaming hobby.
But it works. Make some reasonably intelligent choices with the balancing rules and go for it, and we at least had a good time with the game. Miss B was rolling two dice each time, which meant she got most of the calculations right but had trouble with some of the times-tableses, while I was rolling four dice and revealing that my mental arithmetic skills could seriously do with improving. I got beaten quite spectacularly.
And then the game got a real thumbs up from Miss B: she wanted to play again, suggesting that I might like to use fewer dice to make it easier for myself (stubbornly, I refused). She beat me a second time (though it was much closer) and asked for a third game. It was, however, time for dinner, so we had to stop there.
Incidentally, I’d like to give kudos for the excellent decision to provide a little dish for rolling dice into. This makes things so much easier and almost avoids having dice landing on the floor or knocking pieces off the floor.
So, while I am not overwhelmed by Plyt as a game, it has some things to recommend it, and Miss B is extremely keen. So it’s certainly going to get played again.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 7): “It was a very good game. I really liked the chance cards idea because they move you up or down a level and other stuff you weren’t expecting so you don’t know what’s going to happen to you and your opponents. I like the game overall. I think it was a good idea to make it about maths because I’m really good at it.”
The game: Plyt (Talkplaces), 2 to 6 players aged 4+.
Okay, I know this is the second day in a row I have just posted a link, and that this is even to the same site as the first, but GeekDad has a sort of follow-on article to the last one, which I think is even better. This time we have 10 Tips for Teaching Younger Gamers More Complex Games, which includes a load of good stuff, some of which I already do with Miss B. I’ve heard about the idea of swapping sides on demand but have never had the guts to try it. Maybe I can offer that as an option to Miss B at some time, though I suspect she might look on it as cheating and refuse. We’ll see…
I nicked the title from the article, by the way, which you’ll see if you click through, but it’s a good one. Especially seeing as how many age recommendations are just to avoid spending lots of cash on product testing to ensure suitability for children.
Yup, I can pretty much go along with that. I’d also add (an extension to their number 10, really) that playing games with Miss B has helped me learn a lot about what makes her tick.
Many years ago I got introduced to Mystic Wood, which was a really cute game where you get to be a knight on a quest and explore a forest by flipping large, randomly arranged tiles representing paths and glades within the wood and drawing cards to see what you encountered on your journey. It had most of the good elements of Talisman, and played in a fraction of the time. Plus it was so big you generally had to play on the floor, and my friend, whose game it was, had blinged his set by replacing the uninspiring pawns with painted up 15mm wargames miniatures of mounted knights.
Anyway, I’ve had an eye open for this long out of print game ever since (and more recently I thought it might be something Miss B would enjoy), until over the Christmas holidays I found a second hand copy in good condition in a shop in Oxford, so bought it right away.
We got to play the game a few days later, spreading it out on the sitting room floor and, at Miss B’s suggestion, using miniatures from Runebound to represent our characters.
The game plays as quickly and easily as I remember, and although there are times when you miss a turn or have nothing to do but trudge across the map or roll a die to escape captivity, turns generally take so little time that it doesn’t matter too much. We did implement a house rule or two to reduce some of the duller “miss turns” effects, but there aren’t many of those. Probably our biggest problem was when one magical effect rotated half of the map tiles, meaning that our previous routes around were no longer possible, causing some very minor frustration for a while until Miss B found a way to start getting herself teleported around.
There is another potential problem in that the quests of the knights can be scuppered by the others. For instance, Miss B was on a quest to find the Prince, but I located him first and could, possibly, have persuaded him to come along with me, meaning that Miss B would have had to catch me and joust in order to steal the Prince from me. This isn’t really a problem as such, but we chose to sidestep this by deliberately evading the objects of each others’ quests. Maybe next time we will play the game a bit more as intended.
In the end, Miss B won easily, with me stuck trying to get past a nasty monster that was blocking off a whole section of the wood while I tried to complete a side quest. It probably took us a little over an hour of actual playing time (we paused mid-game due to a visitor arriving), and felt fun and engaging throughout. Hopefully this will come out a few more times in the next few months. I’m definitely happy with this find.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 7): “I think it was really good, I would give it a 9 out of 10. I give it a 9 because there is a bit that could be improved. I’d give it a 10 if it didn’t have the mystic objects like mystic horn and mystic fog. If I compared it out of Runebound and Talisman it would be good if you mixed them together. Out of the three, I’d think the best would be Runebound because you get special abilities and some of the quests you get are special so I’m always really lucky because I usually get a card that says that if I defeat it then I can defeat another card that has a word saying Ferrox. The card was Mistress of the Ferrox.”
The game: Mystic Wood (Ariel), 2 to 4 players aged 9+.
Abstract games are not really for everyone but, then again, games with prominent themes can put off as many people as they attract. Quirkle seems to have found a place in the world, though, as an abstract game that finds its way into mainstream retailers as a “family strategy game” and is also enjoyed by many hobby gamers. Basically it just involves scoring points by making rows of colours and shapes by placing chunky tiles into a growing cluster on the table (or floor). If you want to see it played, Qwirkle recently featured on Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop show.
We’ve played a couple of games of Qwirkle so far, and I expect we’ll play it some more. Miss B enjoyed the games in retrospect, but during play things got a little… fraught. I think the problem is that Miss B has got to grips with the game enough to know that she is trying to find the best score she can for her plays, but hasn’t developed the instinct for actually seeing good moves. This is the sort of skill that gets learned with repeated plays, but for the moment her turns take a very long time, and often result in her needing some help to spot her best options. She is also having difficulty seeing how you can score “round corners” while only placing tiles in a straight line. This can all lead to frustration and a game that takes far longer than it should.
I’d say we are in a tricky situation at the moment. If Miss B thought about games less, she could probably just play tiles where they look nice and have a good time. If she knew the game better then she’d be able to make stronger plays without help (at the moment she is reluctant to accept help as she seems to feel that she should be able to “get it” herself). All we need here is practice. I think the game is good enough, though, that it is probably worth persevering.
It has occurred to me that if I remove half of the tiles of each type from the game we should have a much quicker game that could work well for training purposes, although we’ll have a lower chance of getting the bonus “qwirkle” plays where you get six tiles in a row.
One serious problem with the game, by the way, is the colours on the tiles. The whole thing looks and feels lovely but in less than perfect lighting conditions sometimes it is hard to tell some of the colours apart, even for people with normally no colour vision problems. Unfortunate. I’ve heard of some people writing on the tiles to help with colour differentiation.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 7): “It’s good, but it’s really, really tricky. My favourite bit when I played it was when I got 18 points doing a qwirkle.”
The game: Qwirkle (The Green Board Game Co): 2 to 4 players aged 6+.
Happy new year, one and all! I hope 2014 brings lots of joy and excitement for you.
The end of 2013 was a little light on gaming for us as there was a lot of other stuff going on, but we managed to get in 9 plays of 7 different games. The only games played more than once were the Crazy Creatures of Doctor Doom and Eco Fluxx, both of which had two plays in one sitting.
So that concludes our year of gaming and so it is time to sum up what we got up to throughout the year.
Completely dispensing with the traditional reverse order listing and going straight to the top, I can confirm that Love Letter was our most played game of the year, with 22 plays. I also played this a good number of times with groups not including Miss B, so in terms of number of plays this has been an astonishingly good value purchase. On time spent playing it probably wins too, as our games usually take about 20 to 30 minutes, so great value for a less-than-£10 game.
The runner up was Sleeping Queens with 19 plays; I have a hunch that it would have been the most played game of 2012 if we had been keeping track. Recently though, Miss B seems to have outgrown it a bit, though the game comes out very occasionally and is enjoyed when that happens.
The other games that got into double figure numbers of plays were quite a way behind the leaders, but were Dobble (impressive as we only got that in September, though it usually gets played more than once in a sitting), Goblins Drool Fairies Rule, Gubs, and Hey That’s My Fish (the digital version, on my phone).
I’d like to give a few honourable mentions, too.
Fluxx would have also been in double figures (though not catching the leaders) if I had bundled Family Fluxx, Eco Fluxx and vanilla Fluxx as one game. Miss B definitely likes these games.
Apples to Apples is almost always played when we have a decent sized family gathering, which is not often, but the game is definitely one Miss B really looks forward to, and always makes her laugh a lot.
Runebound is definitely a favourite, though it is such a long game that we only played it a couple of times through the year. I expect next year will be much the same.
Finally, a couple of traditional games that we played quite a few times were pick-up-sticks (aka Mikado), a dexterity game that Miss B really enjoys, and what I have been labelling “Micky Mouse” whist, a simplified whist game that has gradually mutated into a 7-card-hand version of German Whist, one of my favourite two-player card games.
So, there we have it, another year of gaming and a lot of games played. I make it a total of 326 plays of 112 different games, which is kind of epic. This year I think I’d like to get more deeply into some games, so we can maybe have a bigger list of games getting into double figures play-wise. But, when it comes down to it, it’s Miss B’s choice. Luckily, though, she is still keen to keep going with this blog and wants us to record plays for this year. So in 12 months’ time it should be interesting to compare the statistics.
Here we go…