So Miss B was in the “spare” room (which is largely taken up with games, so isn’t very spare) looking at the shelves of boxes and commenting on a few games that she’d like to play again, some she really didn’t fancy, and asking me about a few she didn’t know about. One of this latter category was Dragonlance, a big box boardgame TSR made in the late 80’s based on the popular D&D scenarios and novels.
I played this game a couple of times, many years ago and thought it was OK, and then found a copy of it in a charity shop a few years back, so added it to the collection. To be frank, it still looks pretty cool when set up on the table, even if it is almost impossible to get the gates and walls to fit together properly. I mean, when you have everything in play you have 30 dragon miniatures (in 6 colours) to fly around the place, how cool is that? The altitude of the dragons also come into play, and this is represented by a stack of disks that elevate the figures, and combat causes losers to fall towards the ground. And on the subject of combat, it generally strongly favours the attacker, who gets bonuses for swooping in at speed rather than just taking pot shots. Movement is, unfortunately, based on a die roll, but at least if you get unlucky and roll low you get to draw magic cards which can give all sorts of nice bonuses to compensate you for the lousy moves.
So far, so fantastic. Unfortunately, the stacks of disks with dragons balanced on top can be really precarious and there can be a lot of accidental knockings-over, particularly when you have a functionally one-armed seven-year-old and a shaky-handed klutz like me. Still, we muddled on through.
The game we played just used the basic rules and one set of dragons each. The rules suggest that in a two-player game you could play two, or even three colours each, which I think we will do next time as our game was over quite quickly without much battling and too much manoeuvring space. Miss B had a shockingly bad start, movement-wise, but then managed to draw a couple of magic cards which helped her get to the Dragonlance rather easily and then out again with some neat tricks, after which I was unable to catch her.
We had a great time with this. The game has amazing visual appeal and is quite a lot of fun to play, despite its flaws. We’ll probably be giving it another go soonish, using more dragons but almost certainly sticking to the basic rules. There are advanced rules that add all sorts of extra tactical factors but, frankly, who needs them?
The verdict from Miss B (aged nearly 7¾): “Very exciting adventure game. I WON! One of my dragons kept falling over. Daddy drew a magic card but it was, ‘bronze dragons immune’, so VICTORY!”
The game: Dragonlance (TSR), 2 to 6 players aged 10+.
It has been some time since I’ve written up a new game. We have actually played several new (to us) games over the last couple of months, but with most of them we just haven’t got to the point where Miss B wants to give a verdict. We do have one now, though: Piece o’ Cake.
I had heard of the game a couple of years or so ago, but we only got to try it out during a visit to the Thirsty Meeples boardgame cafe in Oxford. Everyone enjoyed the game and I totally fell in love with its elegance. Unfortunately it is out of print (at least in English), but a couple of days later I managed to find someone selling a copy of the German version (called “…aber bitte mit Sahne”) through the BoardGameGeek marketplace. The game is completely language independent (apart from the rules, which are downloadable) so we are now the proud owners of this little gem, which we have played a few times since.
So, I may have given the impression that I like the game, but how does it work?
Well, basically, Piece o’ Cake is a game about sharing pieces of cake. Each round one player lays out a cake which comprises slices of different varieties: chocolate, strawberry, gooseberry, and so on. There are 11 slices laid out each time, and the player whose turn it is divides the cake into portions, one per player in the game. Each portion can have one or more slices in it and due to 11 being a prime number, there will always be at least one portion of a different size to the others, which is a neat touch. Each player chooses a portion to take, with the player who chose the splits taking last. For each slice taken, each player chooses to either eat it (which will score points equal to the number of dollops of cream on it) or keep it (which scores more points for the player with the most uneaten slices of each type of cake).
That’s pretty much it other than a rule where you can pass your turn in order to just eat a load of cake you had previously been keeping. You go through all this process five times and then count up the scores. The game is actually really mathematical, with a bit of push-your-luck and psychology thrown in, but it plays so easily that most people don’t notice, and just have fun sharing out slices of cake.
I’ve played this now at all player counts from 2 to 5 (Miss B hasn’t been in on a 5 yet) and have to say that it is weak (though not awful) with 2 players, so I don’t expect I’ll be playing it with Miss B alone all that often, but other than this it is absolutely great. Miss B seems to enjoy puzzling over her decisions and figuring out her best options, and has fun regardless of her end score. And to round off, this was the first game she got out over the weekend when some friends came around to play games with us.
The verdict from Miss B (aged nearly 7¾): “It’s a very good game. I’d recommend this game because it’s very light and easy.”
The game: Piece o’ Cake/…aber bitte mit Sahne (Rio Grande/Winning Moves), 2 to 5 players aged 8+.
Posted by Miss B…
I made this game at after school club as there was a junk modelling table, so I decided that I’d make a balancing game. At first, Daddy thought that it was a pile of rubbish but I explained that it was a game. When I played it before, it was a pretty good game but we had to change it a bit.
A week or so ago, Miss B returned from After School Club bearing a pile of what, to the untrained eye, might have appeared to be a bagful of junk: small boxes, plastic cups, toilet roll tubes, and so on. This stuff all had a purpose, though, and she spent quite a lot of time explaining how all these objects were part of a game which involved stacking the various items on top of each other.
Since then, Miss B has been hard at work developing her idea. She recently broke her writing arm and has it encased in plaster from bicep to hand, which has made everything a lot harder, but some of the development time has been spent painstakingly typing rules into a text editor on my computer.
This evening, though, we had the grand unveiling of the game, Tumbling Towers. The game was set up with an initial base of a cardboard box balanced on top of three toilet roll holders. Players take it in turns to stack seven plastic cups on top of this base, and successfully doing so, with the tower staying for a count of ten, results in scoring one point. Before starting the stack, players roll a die to determine whether or not they have to add an extra bit of card or paper into the tower.
We had a couple of goes at this each and then had a discussion about how to improve things. We agreed that it would be more fun if we took it in turns to add objects to the tower. Miss B had been intending to have a deck of cards indicating what object from her stash should be added to the tower, but hadn’t got around to making them (the broken arm making this difficult) so we came up with a scheme where we put the objects in a row and rolled a die to decide which one was to be used next. We also decided that objects could be stacked on the base any way we liked, as long as the new object didn’t go inside another object.
This proved to be quite a lot of fun. Of course, not all objects are equal and getting a penny or a button made your like a lot easier than if you got a cup or an Altoids tin. I have suggested that this could work really well if we had a selection of different shaped wooden blocks instead. Miss B isn’t sure right now as she likes her box of random junk — and who can blame her?! She says that she would love to get this game published one day. Maybe she will…
Our gaming picked up a little in August, partly due to playing out the TaG Award, but also helped along by a holiday with the in-laws and an afternoon of gaming with some friends from the next town who have a daughter just a little younger than Miss B who also likes board games.
The holiday trip included another version of the Compact Travelling Games Cupboard (of Doom), which crammed a huge amount of games into a comparatively small box. Unfortunately I didn’t think to make a note of the games that were in it, but the selection rivalled the one from last year and, once again, most remained unplayed, but it was great to have the options when the schedule allowed for gaming.
Anyway, the month’s plays including Miss B came to 12 different games, with a total of 16 plays. The games played twice were Mutant Meeples (thanks to the TaG Award proceedings), Apples to Apples (actually played in two completely different groups — aside from Miss B and myself), newcomer Ali, and old favourite that only comes out occasionally, Ghost Party. It was particularly pleasing to have a couple of plays of Apples to Apples as Miss B really loves playing it but it really needs at least four or five people to make it worth playing, so it mostly stays on the shelf.
Summing up the year so far, not much changes, though Love Letter, with 8 plays this year, has edged ahead of Plyt’s 7 due to Plyt missing a month. Dobble is still sitting at 6 plays, followed by Gubs, Chess, and Apples to Apples following with 5 plays each. We’re definitely not playing as many games this year as we did last year, but it’s interesting to note that this year there aren’t any games we keep playing over and over like, in particular, Love Letter and Sleeping Queens last year. It means that it’s going to be very difficult to call what the winner for the year will be.