Felicitously, at a recent fête our family found for few funds a fully functional copy of the fast, fun and furious game Fast Flowing Forest Fellers, which was fabricated by the fabulous Friedemann Friese for five or fewer folk.
Alliteration-R-us. I’m sure there are some of you out there who could do better.
Of course, that pretty much covers the review right there, but I’ll go into a little more detail anyway…
Basically this is a race between a bunch of lumberjacks riding logs down a river. You control two or three lumberjacks each (depending on the number of players) and have a deck of cards, each of which allow you to move one of your people a number of spaces, jostling others as you go. The first player to get their whole team past the finish line is the winner.
I’m not sure how a lumberjack riding a log can navigate upstream, mind you, but I’m happy to gloss over that. It doesn’t seem to bother Miss B.
I really rather like this and it is certainly worth the small sum we paid at the school fête (which was rather higher than the stupid asking price). It takes moments to explain and is, for the most part, very intuitive to play. It’s a fun race game with plenty of opportunity to stuff your opposition by shoving them into adverse currents. And it comes with a heap of different boards (some more conducive to stuffage than others), which you pick two of to construct a course for the race meaning that there is plenty of variety to be had.
Miss B got the hang of how the game works almost instantly and liked the fact that there are both boy and girl lumberjacks, which is certainly a good touch. There was a point in our game, though, when Miss B was getting a little frustrated by a current heading in the wrong direction which she kept getting stuck in, but after she got one of my lumberjacks with the same trick, things brightened up significantly.
I’m looking forward to trying this with more players, as that should add to the chaos. A lot of the game seems to be about the jostling; you can make more of your moves by having your lumberjacks push one another along as well as barging the opposition out of the way. Yup, I’m hoping for some more plays of this.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 6¼-odd): “After we played Fast Flowing Forest Fellers I made a giant race track out of all the boards and loads of logs on it just as if a game was going on. If I had to rate it, it would be 8 out of 10. Not the best of games but I’m happy to play it if Mummy or Daddy wants to.”
The game: Fast Flowing Forest Fellers (Rio Grande), 2 to 5 players aged 8+.
Close on the heels of Rune Age, we have finally had a play of a game set in the same world, which I’ve been wanting to play for some time now: Runebound. This is a fantasy adventure game, where heroes wander the land fighting bad guys and trying to be the first to defeat the Big Bad. It is often spoken of in similar terms to Talisman, though it is clearly less on rails and attempts to introduce a narrative which develops through play.
There is a good selection of characters to choose from and Miss B chose the all-rounder Red Scorpion, who seems to go into battle wearing a +1 bikini of somehow-not-freezing-to-death. The rules are pretty straightforward, using a novel dice system for movement around the map and dice-plus-modifiers versus a target number for combat and other skill checks. Miss B mostly got her head around this, but needed constant reminders of what was going on in combat. She was, however, getting really into the decisions of what type of attack to launch each combat round and clearly enjoyed all the dice rolling.
The real juice of the game happens when you move onto a space with an adventure token. You then draw a card of the appropriate colour (the adventures are colour coded according to difficulty so you can choose how much risk you want to take), which might be an interesting encounter, a world-affecting event, or a combat challenge which needs to be defeated (actually, you keep drawing and resolving cards until you reach a combat challenge). I rather like the event system as the cards do steadily develop a plot, making it feel that things are happening in a world that is heading towards a terrible cataclysm.
I knew Runebound was likely to take a long time to play, so we had ensured that we had the whole afternoon available, had taken a “shorter game” option which meant that our characters would gain experience more quickly (though next time we’ll go even further with this — and I think starting with more gold should help make for a quicker start), and we’d decided that we’d finish when someone gained one dragon rune, instead of the rulebook-mandated three (or the defeat of the boss). In the event it still took well over three hours and we only just managed to get things rounded off by dinner time. Towards the end, Miss B got a bit of an injection of chutzpah and dove into the red (most difficult) adventure deck, which nearly ended up very badly. But thanks to judicious use of her Rule 17b counters (if you don’t know about that, Google is your friend) she managed to get through and defeat a dragon to gain the first of the dragon runes, which we ruled to be a victory for her.
Given the length of the game, we scheduled a tea-and-snack break to allow us some time to recharge, but I was slightly surprised that this was the only break we needed (other than a few short toilet trips). The game held Miss B’s attention throughout and, although there were a few moments of frustration due to bad die rolls, etc., some Rule 17b counters dealt with that and all went well overall. I don’t think we’ll be playing this very often in the near future, purely because of the length of the game, but we definitely will when the time is available.
And in comparison with Talisman? I’d definitely prefer Runebound. I think Miss B is torn, though likes the characters in Runebound more.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 6¼): “It was quite scary when I just did one purple card and then went straight on to the red. Green is the easiest level, yellow is next, next is purple, and the winning cards are the reds. You need to collect three runes which are in the red cards but we only did one this time because we were running out of time. I really liked this game because you have different skills and everyone’s different and when I played it I was Red Scorpion. She’s called this because she’s red and she’s got a scorpion on her arm. And Red Scorpion can change a wound into an exhaustion once a turn.”
The game: Runebound (Fantasy Flight Games), 1 to 6 players aged 14+.
I’ve been meaning to acquire a copy of Ticket to Ride for years now. It has developed a reputation as one of the all-purpose games for introducing friends to “proper” boardgames, while also being fun for more experienced gamers. And, increasingly, it is showing up in more mainstream shops (I saw copies in Waterstones this week) as well as the hobby game shops.
Anyway, having bought a copy as a post-Christmas treat, Miss B and I settled down to play. The rules don’t take very long to explain, even to a six-year-old who wants to take photographs of everything with her new camera, and after a few turns the only help I needed to give was occasionally reminding her where a particular city is.
It must be said that I reckon Ticket to Ride is a really good game. New players can get going very quickly, it is easy to see what you need to do in the game, there is a fair bit of randomness, but planning, thinking ahead and trying to work out what other players are up to all pay off and increase your chances of winning. I feel rather sorry that it has taken me so long to get around to playing it. If you want to see what the game is like in play, there was a great Tabletop episode that should give you an idea.
As usual I used my “play like a muggle” strategy, which basically involves not trying to directly stuff Miss B any more than necessary. In other words, I tried to make a good route, connect the destinations on my ticket and generally get the best score I could, rather than trying to reduce hers. As a result of this, I got utterly hosed. Miss B quickly connected all her ticketed destinations, then even chose to draw extra tickets and thus ended up getting bonuses for a couple more routes. I managed to get the longest route but it was not enough to catch up with our little rail baron. High-fives all round.
That was a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to some more plays in future, hopefully roping S in to play too. Meanwhile, Miss B has been going on about wanting to have a British version of the game so it can be “Ticket to Ryde”. To be fair, though, I compulsively make the same joke when we visit the Isle of Wight, so we can’t really blame her.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 6): “Tickit to ride was 10 out of 10 I won, evan though Daddy got the extra pionts!I was red Daddy was green.” (Yes, Miss B typed her own verdict in this time!)
The game: Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder), 2 to 5 players aged 8+.
A couple of months or so back, a conversation with Miss B resulted in her deciding that she wanted to make her own pirate game. We brainstormed a bit and came up with some ideas. There was going to be a board for moving ships around on and finding gold, and you would play cards to make things happen. So we set to making some cards by writing on and illustrating some blank cards.
That was about as far as we got for some time, though Miss B occasionally made a few more cards to add to the set until we had a couple of dozen cards including loads of “sailing” cards for moving your ship, as well as cards for battles, repairs, exploration and going on treasure hunts.
This weekend, however, we finally got a bit further. We drew a load of circles onto a large sheet of paper, with the circles connected with arrows to indicate the prevailing winds. Miss B then illustrated the board by drawing the pirate islands and adding decorative fish and a socktopus (if you need to ask…). We got out some counters, a die and a pile of plastic gold coins, discussed the rules that we would use and gave it a go.
The aim of the game was to collect a certain amount of gold and part way through the game it became apparent that the flow of gold onto the board was way too slow, so we had a bit of a discussion, knocked up a couple of extra cards to improve this, shuffled them into the deck and resumed. A few minutes later Miss B won with me having been unable to collect any gold myself, thus highlighting the dearth of cards allowing you to collect gold. We made another small change to a few cards for use next time, hopefully remedying this.
So far this has been a very positive experience and Miss B is even more enthusiastic about the project than before. At her insistence we spent a little time together afterwards formalising and writing up the rules we had used, which will form a basis for future plays. I think we’ll be making a few more cards and playing a good few more times in the near future.
I feel a little bit sheepish about this one, as Eight-Minute Empire is a recent Kickstarter project that we only got to try out (via a print and play version) in the dying hours of the project, so by the time this post gets out there you’ll have missed the opportunity to back it. Still, in a few months it should be available through some other path.
Being a print and play game we had some work to do before we could play, so while I assembled and laminated the board and scavenged counters and wooden cubes from other games, Miss B stuffed the cards (and some other cards to give them some bulk) into sleeves. As this wasn’t too much preparation and didn’t take too long, it all went well and added something of a sense of real ownership to the game.
This is a simple area control game with a bit of card set collection thrown in for good measure and it is, I must say, a cracking little game. According to the designer it’s playable in about eight minutes (hence the title). That’s possible, I guess: even given that it was our first game and playing with Miss B always takes longer than the box predicts, we still managed to play in about half an hour. That alone makes this solid gold in my books. Miss B took to it very quickly (correctly predicting a couple of rules before I had explained them) and we both had a great time playing.
Of course, this being a print and play prototype, not everything was perfect. Probably our biggest issue was that the cards were slightly too large for the board so they didn’t properly line up with the cost markers on the board. I assume the final version should be tidying up this sort of thing.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 5¾): “It was hard moving the cards so we could have just put it in a line across the table and then shuffled it up each time. I thought that collecting carrots was really fun because I could have said that I was hungry and I wanted a carrot as a joke. I liked the rubies because one ruby was one point, two rubies were two points, three rubies were three points and four rubies were five points. And I got up to three points for the rubies. It was a very close game. Daddy got 18 and I got 17.” (Hmm, these dictations are rambling sometimes, but Miss B is starting to get into having opinions, which is really cool.)
The game: Eight-Minute Empire (Red Raven Games), 2 to 4 players aged 8+ (I think).
Café International is quite an interesting tile placement game where you score points by arranging people at restaurant tables according to a few simple placement and scoring rules. The tiles depict cheesily stereotyped (some would say offensively so) men and women from various nations (plus a continent, in the case of Africa), but ignore all that and you have a pretty neat abstract game which I’ve really enjoyed playing in the past.
Miss B spotted the box on the shelf and asked to play it. I couldn’t think of a good reason not to, so a short while later we were setting up on the dining table.
The game is fairly intuitive to play, though some of the subtleties of scoring can be a bit tricky (like what happens when you place a person at two tables). Miss B also obsessed a bit about the bar and the negative scores to be had for late arrivals.
In the early stages of the game it can be quite tricky as you have a lot of space and arranging people so that they have a dining companion can sometimes be awkward. Towards the end, there are only a few seats left at tables and you will inevitably end up with some unplacable tiles, which can get frustrating too.
All in all, I think that the mechanic works well, but the game is a little too big and long to work well for Miss B. A cut down version with easier scoring might work very well indeed.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 5¾): “Cafe International wasn’t so good because it could have had all the countries scoring four points instead of eight if the tables were full up in the right country. And if you’re at the bar in the minuses it could have been just in ones not twos.”
The game: Café International (Mattel), 2 to 4 players aged 10+.
So we finally got around to playing one of the old German classics, Heimlich & Co., which is one of those ludicrously simple games that relies entirely on your ability to bluff the other players. And rather good it is, too. However, I’m always a bit nervous about playing games that involve having to keep secrets with Miss B, as it’s not something that comes naturally to a five-year-old.
…And so it turned out to be. We got a couple of turns into the game and hit the first round of scoring when Miss B inadvertently said “..and I score five”, instantly blowing the secret out of the water. That was not good for morale, so we agreed to start the game again now we had had a practice run and knew what it was all about. Good. That worked.
We got quite a bit further in the next game before things went wrong. Again the identity of Miss B’s agent slipped out, but this time she was quite a long way ahead of me and I managed to convince her that it was OK and we’d carry on and see if she could guess what my colour was.
From here on my play style got a bit cavalier, but by now the aim of the game was to finish with both of us managing to smile, rather than for us to have a good gaming contest. We just about succeeded on this front.
I still think this is a very good game (and I love that the pieces are so huge and chunky), but it’s not one that we’ll be playing together for a while, and it provides an object lesson to us. While Miss B has shown herself to be very capable of keeping a secret in a game (remember Lords of Waterdeep?), where the secret keeping is almost the entire game, the pressure is just too much. Maybe we’ll try again in a couple of years or so.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 5¾): “I’m very sad that I gave my secret away.”
The game: Heimlich & Co. (Ravensburger), 2 to 7 players aged 8+.