Summer is well and truly here and that can mean only one thing… Well, of course it means a lot of things, but one of the things it means is that it is time for the annual TaG Award, that highly sought-after prize for excellence in gaming which changes its name pretty much every year. Last year it was known as the Golden Game Award, and before that it was the Golden Thingummy, but now Miss B has settled on the TaG Award, which seems fitting.
Anyway, the rules are similar to previous years, but with a slight enhancement. The shortlist is made up of two games chosen by Miss B and two games that I choose to round things out a bit. We then play two game-offs, each playing two of the games in one day and selecting one from each game-off to go through to the grand final. The final works in the same way, and results in one game being given the much coveted TaG Award. In previous years, Miss B has had sole discretion in choosing the winners, but this time around she wanted me to have a say, so now we are each scoring the games we play out of ten (based on how much we enjoyed playing on the day) and adding our scores together to get a score out of twenty. In the event of a tie, Miss B has a casting vote.
So, the rules being dealt with, I’ll let Miss B explain her choices for the shortlist…
“I chose Plyt because it is a game that has helped me think harder and quicker in maths. It is also fun and enjoyable.
“I chose Mutant Meeples because it is fun and I like the way that if you do well at it it gets harder for you. It is frustrating and hard, but I liked it as soon as we started playing it.”
Two good choices there. I think an honourable mention has to go to Flippin’ Fruit, which was on the list briefly, but then Miss B changed her mind in favour of Mutant Meeples.
My choices were Gubs, because it is so much fun and we played it quite a lot over the last year, and Darjeeling, which we have only played a couple of times so far, but which has the potential to become a firm favourite.
So, there we have it, four candidates for one of the most prestigious awards that is judged by people living in our house. Watch this space for the competition’s progress over the next few weeks…
There is a game out there called The aMAZEing Labyrinth, which is really neat, involving a maze that constantly changes as tiles are pushed and slid about to open up new passages and close old ones, while players run around this shifting space trying to visit various spaces on the board in order to claim cards. It’s really neat, though you have to be careful as you slide the tiles around, and the game can be very difficult for young’uns, despite it looking like a kids’ game.
We have a copy of a later version of the game, called The Master Labyrinth, which makes the whole thing a bit more complicated. There is a cool bit where you can use magic wands to let you have two turns in a row, but the game’s scoring is more complex and includes a bonus system that can suck all of the fun out of the game if you get unlucky.
Recently, however, I found, in a charity shop, a copy of The Secret Labyrinth, which is another variation of the same theme. This one has a maze made of rotating concentric circles, which is really quite cool, though it doesn’t have the same variability of its square-tile-based siblings.
Play involves turning up a card which indicates a location to reach, you turn the maze elements, and then move your marker to try to reach your target and if you are successful, you keep the card. Collect a set of cards and you win the game.
This is all very nice, but you won’t be able to collect a set of cards without stealing from another player, which you do by landing on their marker and playing rock-paper-scissors. The winner of the RPS match gets to steal items from the loser.
Frankly I think this is not a good way to go; turning a nice (though limited) puzzle game into a player-versus-player battle just seems utterly wrong and destroys the essence of the game. I’m sure I could come up with a more in-character way to play the game without making it so confrontational. Maybe I will try some time as the look of the board is just great (and the mechanics are almost great).
Our play through of Secret Labyrinth was OK, but Miss B found predicting what the maze would do very frustrating and I found myself helping out quite a lot. This is pretty much the way of the more standard versions of Labyrinth for us, though, so wasn’t a surprise. The battling and stealing element definitely didn’t go down well, particularly as the attacker can just as easily end up losing treasure, which is quite a disincentive really.
As an aside, it is very easy to beat a 7-year-old at rock-paper-scissors, so it is probably best to try to play randomly in situations like this.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 7½): “I give it 9 out of 10. I think I game one game 8 out of 10.” (I’m not sure about Miss B’s current grade scale, really — she said she would give this game a low score, which 9 apparently is.)
The game: The Secret Labyrinth (Ravensburger), 2 to 4 players aged 10+.
If there was a gaming theme for June, it was traditional games. Through the month we played Chess, Draughts, Dominoes, Backgammon and Awale (or Oware, or whatever you want to call it — it’s a Mancala variant), the last of which was improvised with an egg box that Miss B acquired, along with some pennies.
This was also a month where, after a few months of being less interested, Miss B was back to being really active in requesting games — though unfortunately this was often near bed time so there was usually only time for something very short.
We also, as I reported a couple of weeks back, played two games that Miss B had invented herself.
So, over the month we played 13 different games for a total of 19 plays. The games we played more than once were Dominoes 4 times, and Darjeeling, Gubs and Pass the Pigs, all twice.
This leaves our leading game for the year so far being Love Letter, with 7 plays, followed by Plyt (which we didn’t play in June) and Dobble with 6 plays and Chess with 5. Any of those could be the top game of the year, but we haven’t had a “play it to death” game so far this year, and if one of those turns up, all bets would be off.