Apotheca is one of those games I acquired from a small, indie game publisher via Kickstarter, which sat on the shelf for a couple of months before we got around to playing it. It is essentially a lightweight abstract game but, boy, is it beautifully produced or what?
So basically this is a game where you win points by getting three potions of the same colour into a row on a four-by-four grid. On your turn, you either add face-down potions to the board, turn potions face up and earn yourself gems, use gems to hire apothecaries (gain cards that grant special abilities), or use the apothecaries you have hired to move potions about — and they all have different movement options available. When you have managed to make three rows of three, you win, but the twist is that when you score a row of potions, it means you lose access to the ability of one of your apothecaries.
That’s about it.
Over the last couple of years, Miss B has been getting pretty keen on abstract games, and regularly beats me in games like Balanx or Mijnlieff, and also really likes games with great artwork, so this was one I was keen to try with her. Eventually the right moment came along, I suggested Apotheca, she took a look, and readily agreed. So far we have played a few games and she has won all but one of them, and she is keen to play it pretty much any time now, so I think this is a game that we might actually get past that sought-after ten play mark, and reasonably quickly too.
I’ve not yet played Apotheca with adults, but it does have a reasonable solo play mode, which is nice. It also has a variant for two teams of two, and an asymmetric version where one player is the “Master”, who is pitted against a team of up to three apprentices. We’ve not tried either of these modes, but they look fun and I’m hoping to give them a go some time. In general, I’m very pleased with this purchase, despite the fact that it could have been made so much smaller and cheaper; I’m kind of glad it wasn’t, as the game as it is is such a lovely object. But my opinion doesn’t matter in this blog. It’s all over to the boss…
The verdict from Miss B (aged 9½): “Apotheca is a brilliant game. I like that you are collecting potions for your apothecary. I would give it a 95% rating.”
The game: Apotheca (Knapsack Games), 1 to 4 players aged 13+.
One of the game designers at the London playtesting meetups that I attend when I can created a little game called In a Bind, which she Kickstarted a while back, then I ended up playing at a games day earlier this year, and buying a copy at UK Games Expo. It is, for me, one of those little games that just needed to be in the collection as it is small, fun, and takes about 5 seconds to teach to just about anyone. Miss B was more than happy to give it a go when we got our own copy.
I have heard In a Bind described as “Twister the card game”, which isn’t too far off the mark. It comprises a deck of cards, each of which has an instruction, like “This card on left shoulder”, or “Right pinky pointing down”, and when it is your turn, you draw a card, read it out loud, and then comply, while still complying with instructions from previous turns. If you can’t follow an instruction, or stop doing one later on, you are out of the game. That’s it.
Miss B immediately took to the game, and has wanted to play it over and over again. In fact, I’m pretty sure she has played it a load more than me, as she has played it with her friends, relatives, and anyone else who will give her the time, even after I have run out of the necessary energy. There is actually a junior version of the game available now, which I believe loses a few harder cards, but includes some other twists like cards which require you to make an animal noise when anyone draws a card, and other such daftness. We’ll have to pick up a copy of that when the opportunity arises.
Officially the game is for 3 or more players, but it works just great for 2, and Miss B even enjoys it as a solo challenge, where you just draw cards and try to beat your personal best. The biggest problem with this (other than that a codger like me can end up with a cricked neck) is that the cards can end up getting a bit battered from the inevitable mistreatment, but frankly I don’t care. This is a game that may get destroyed by play, but I’ll be more than happy shelling out for a replacement later on, if necessary.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 9½): “In a Bind is a really fun game to play, though it can sometimes get quite uncomfortable! I would rate it a 10/10 because it is really funny to watch and play.”
The game: In a Bind (Stuff By Bez), 3 to 10 players, aged 13+.
July was another pretty quiet month from a gaming point of view, with 14 plays of 10 unique titles. Oddly, only one of the games we played got played more than once, and the beneficiary of this attention was BraveRats, with 5 plays, which it now occurs to me we haven’t yet done a write-up of, so I’ll have to have a word with Miss B for an official verdict. This is a game that we love playing on trips to coffee shops, as it is quick, takes up little space, and Miss B somehow manages to beat me almost every time.
We had a really nice afternoon one Sunday when another family came around for an afternoon of gaming, which meant we got to play a few great games, including Tokaido and Scotland Yard.
So, for the year, BraveRats has edged into the lead with 11 plays, just a nose ahead of Push It, with 10 plays, and a gap before 6, which has had 7 plays.
We’re into the summer holidays now and Miss B has got into the idea of having another TAG Award contest, so I think we will be having a go at doing that over the next few weeks, plus we are building up a list of “we should really write that up” games, so hopefully we’ll have a bit more content coming really soon. Watch this space. 🙂