A few days ago we received our Kickstarted copy of Flippin’ Fruit, a cute little dice game with the lovely gimmick of having cute anthropomorphised fruit depicted on the sides of a bunch of twelve-sided dice. When I saw pictures of the early mock-ups in a thread on BoardGameGeek, I have to admit that this was a case of me yelling “where do I send my money?!” at the computer.
Luckily, the designer went on to run a Kickstarter project, which was successfully funded, and ended up delivering the product within a month of its expected date which, if you are used to Kickstarter, is a pretty impressive feat.
Even more luckily, the game is pretty good. I’ll admit that I would have loved to see the dice being a little larger, but they are great as they are, and given the price and that this is a guy doing a small-scale project at a very reasonable price, I’m very happy with what came out of it. If you had been following the project, you would see how much love and time went into it. The guy even varnished all the dice himself to make them last longer!
Anyway, the game basically involves the usual routine of rolling the dice and then having a limited number of rerolls to hopefully be able to make a set of fruit. If you get an appropriate set you can trade them for cards which score you points — and some of these cards can be stolen away by other players. Plus you can also miss out on some of your rerolls in order to pick up “fruit basket” cards, which can be used to change die rolls or do dirty tricks, adding some luck-mitigation to the game, which is always nice to see.
We’ve played the game a couple of times now and had fun with it. Twelve sided dice can be pretty unpredictable, but there are generally quite a few choices for scoring and once you have some fruit basket cards, the game feels like you are actually making decisions, which is great. A good sign is that Miss B requested that we play again before she gave her verdict, and that we got to do the replay the very next day.
Lately we seem to have been going through a bit of a spell of dice games, and this is a nice addition to the collection. (Incidentally, as this was done on a small production run, it may be hard to get hold of, but it may be worth checking out the Flippin’ Fruit website as there may be some stock available after they have fulfilled all the Kickstarter copies.
The verdict from Miss B (aged nearly 7½): “I’d give it 10 out of 10. I think it’s a very good game because of the fruit baskets. I like the idea of rotten tomatoes. :)”
The game: Flippin’ Fruit (Andrew & Stephanie Platt), 2 to 4 players aged 8+.
Miss B’s school runs a chess club that is open to pupils of year 2 (thats six and seven year olds), and this has been something she has been looking forward to joining since she started at the school. Well, Miss B is currently in year 2, so signed up and has been going along each week. Usually she loses, sometimes only narrowly, but she gets the occasional win, and she always enjoys taking part.
A couple of weeks ago, she brought home an invitation to take part in a local chess tournament for primary school aged kids. At her request, I sent off the entry form, and today the day of the event arrived. We turned up nice and early at the venue, her being very excited and me being more nervous than I would admit to her.
I learnt to play chess when I was fairly young, and got to be okay at it, but never joined a chess club or took part in any tournaments or other organised play. It was just a game to play casually but try to get better at. As a result, I had absolutely no idea what to expect from a tournament, but figured she was used to losing so how bad can it be?
The tournament had over 40 kids in attendance, divided into 5 age classes, and the event was run over five rounds as a Swiss format competition. I had heard about Swiss tournaments, but didn’t know what they were, so spent a few minutes reading the page on Wikipedia, and then explaining how it all works to one of the other parents who were hanging around.
Once each game was started, the parents were ejected from the playing rooms, starting a period of tense waiting. Miss B was delighted to win her first match, but went on to lose her other four. She took all this extremely well until the very last match, when she felt that one of the adults in the room was helping her opponent at the very end. I’m sure this wasn’t as bad as she perceived it (and it sounded like she was losing anyway — and even winning this match would not have put her in the prizes) but it did sour the experience for her. Another downer was when she found out that a couple of her class mates (one of whom is actually older than her by a few months) were competing in the lower age group. I have no idea what happened there. Probably some mix up with the paperwork. A big cuddle was needed at the end.
So it was all a pretty intense day, with 5 matches played over a four hour period, and it is not surprising that everyone was a bit frayed at the end. Still, Miss B says she wants to go back next year and see if she can do better. I couldn’t be more proud of her.
Edited to add: I’ve figured out what happened in the age group. The mix up with the paperwork was my fault, so I owe Miss B a huge apology for accidentally entering her into a higher age group. Oops.
Dungeon Roll is a dice game about rolling dice in order to explore a dungeon, pretty much doing what it says on the tin.
Speaking of the tin, it’s worth noting the packaging. Dungeon Roll comes in a box shaped like a treasure chest, with a hinged lid. In fact, thanks to a friend (hi, Greg!) we have the special Kickstarter edition that is done up like a Mimic, a D&D monster that can take deceptive shapes, often like a treasure chest that attacks unwary adventurers. The box is actually used in the game: when you win treasure, you randomly draw counters from the chest, which is a lovely touch.
So we have had the game for quite a while but, despite playing it a few times myself, I never got around to introducing it to Miss B until now.
The game is a push-your-luck dice rolling fest with some lovely custom dice. Some of the dice are used to roll and find out which characters are in your adventuring party (fighters, thieves, clerics, that sort of stuff), then another player rolls the black dungeon dice to see what obstacles (and treasures) you encounter. You then allocate your adventurers to deal with the dungeon dice before deciding if you will continue to the next level, where even more dungeon dice will be rolled.
All this is pretty good fun, but what makes the game is that everyone has a unique character taken from a small bundle of cards that came with the game. There are eight in the base game, plus an additional promo card that came with the Kickstarter set, and we also have an unopened booster pack of further characters that we will open as and when we get bored of the original set. Each character has a couple of abilities that can really shape how you approach the game and, while they don’t introduce any deep strategy, they do make you think a bit about how and when to use them. Plus, after you have earned some experience in the game you can flip the cards to get an advanced version of the character with even cooler powers. Miss B and I were delighted to find that four of the nine characters that we have are female. And it’s not “princess” or “witch” characters: the females include the Paladin and the Necromancer. This sort of thing is sure to make Miss B a happy girl.
In play we had a ball. The whole thing of having the active player doing their thing while another player rolls the dungeon dice is a stroke of genius. It means that at any given time you have two players involved in the game play, and with two players that means all the game, all the time, which deals with a common problem of dice games (and not just dice games, if truth be told) where everyone just twiddles their thumbs waiting for their turn.
There are plenty of subtleties about using abilities and treasures effectively, but I pointed out options to Miss B and she decided what she would do, steadily getting her head around the game. Frustrations were surprisingly few, and it must me said that the joy of rolling fistfuls of these gorgeous, colourful dice (they really are great) more than made up for any disappointments that did occur.
We both like this game, and I think we’ll have fun working our way through the various characters.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 7¼): “I especially liked the Paladin because you can discard one treasure to defeat all monsters, open all chests, quaff all potions and discard all dice in the Dragon’s Lair, and just for one treasure, so that’s really good. I think the Knight (Dragon Slayer), Necromancer (Occultist), Enchantress (Beguiler), and Half Goblin (Chieftain) all look really good and I’m probably going to ask most of the time to play the game to try out all of them. I think it’s 10 out of 10 and I can’t think of anything else to say about it (LOL).”
The game: Dungeon Roll (Tasty Minstrel Games), 1 to 4 players aged 8+.
April was a very quiet month from a gaming point of view, though rather more exciting as regards life in general, including two weddings (one local, one in Scotland) and Miss B discovering Harry Potter and Narnia.
We played a total of 11 games, of 9 different titles, several of which were new to us. The only games we played more than once were Love Letter and Chess. Miss B has been going to her school Chess club this year and recently found out that there is a Chess tournament for kids coming up that she wants to take part in (everyone gets a certificate, which is a major attraction) so she wants to get a bit of extra practice. She hasn’t asked to play Chess with me for quite some time, so this is a pleasant development. We’re still working on an appropriate level of handicap though.
So that leaves our most played games so far this year being a tie between Dobble, Love Letter and Plyt, with five plays a piece. This time last year, Sleeping Queens was the top, but we had just acquired Love Letter and were playing it to death.
This year, I think it is looking best for Dobble or Love Letter (and I won’t rule out Plyt, even though I doubt it will get played more than once or twice a month), but if current interests continue, we may see a lot more plays of Chess getting logged.