Dixit is one of the games that Miss B spends a lot of time enthusing about, but we very rarely get to play. If we have a decent number of players available, we are more likely to play Apples to Apples, which is always a lot of fun, while Dixit, while excellent in concept, can be quite stressful as it is based on some pretty intense psychology which Miss B (and many adults, it must be said) can struggle with.
Anyway, S was away on a business trip recently and came back bearing Dixit Jinx, which comes in a pleasingly small and portable box. Inside there are a pile of double sided cards with a different image on each side; unlike the surreal illustrations in Dixit itself, these images are mostly just abstract patterns or look like extreme close-ups of some stylised pop art image. Dixit Jinx and its elder sibling play very differently, though there is just enough similarity to justify the name connection.
You lay nine of these cards in a three-by-three square in the middle of the table and one of the players uses a second set of cards (which show locations within the square) to select a card. The active player then gives some sort of a clue (usually just a word or two) and the other players have to put their finger onto the card that they think matches the clue, with only one person allowed to point at each card. Whoever guesses right keeps the card as a prize. If nobody guesses correctly, the active player is penalised a card.
Miss B, by the way, wanted the title of this post to be “Jinx!” because that is what you are meant to shout if two people point at the same card at the same time — whoever shouts first wins the right to point at the card alone.
So while Miss B claims to prefer the original Dixit game, this one certainly flows a lot easier, despite the occasional bit of “I meant to point at that one!” frustration. Apart from the odd moment like that (this is probably not a game to play too close to bed time!), it’s enjoyable and certainly easier to get to the table than its elder sibling, largely due to the fact that it really does take about 15 minutes, as stated on the box, and it does work pretty well with just the three of us playing.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 7): “I’d say that the original is actually better because it is a 10 out of 10 but this game a 9 out of 10.”
The game: Dixit Jinx (Asmodee), 3 to 6 players aged 8+.
Monster Café was Miss B’s Christmas present to me, so we were pretty keen to give it a go — although we had to play a bit more on other occasions before Miss B was happy to let me publish a post on it.
The game is actually quite a lot like Coloretto. This, I think, is a good thing as Coloretto is one of my favourite games and one Miss B loves to play too. Basically you have cards representing tables with icky food on (the sort of thing monsters like to eat) and play monsters around the tables. At some point you can choose a table and take the meal and any monsters sitting there into your scoring pile, and sit out the rest of the round. Then you do it again a few times. At the end, you score points for monsters you have claimed if you also have some food they like, and negative points for monsters who have nothing to eat.
What stops this being just a themed up Coloretto clone (which, given the monster art and nice tin it comes in, would be fine anyway) is the element of chaos introduced by the dreaded lemon sorbets. Yup, monsters hate lemon sorbets and so, if you draw a card with one on, some of your monsters run away and you won’t score them. This isn’t always bad, but it makes for a lot of laughter when I manage to draw almost all of them, meaning that my score was pitiful.
We got on well with this game, enjoying the ickyness of some of the dishes being served. It’s clearly not Miss B’s favourite, but it’s another good offering from Gamewright that’ll stay on the shelf in the living room where we keep our selection of casual play games that are played most often.
Just for reference, though, Miss B is not sure she wants to give detailed verdicts for the time being, so until further notice she will just be rating games out of 10. Seems fair to me.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 7): “I’d give it an 8 out of 10.”
The game: Monster Café (Gamewright), 2 to 4 players aged 8+.
This is a little different as this time we’re going to talk about two games at once. Why? Well, Jazz: The Singing Game and Them’s Fightin’ Words! arrived together on the same day, are from the same (small, British) publisher, and are, at heart, basically the same game. As a result, Miss B and I figured that we could discuss them both in one post.
I also mentioned Them’s Fightin’ Words when it was running on Kickstarter, so I figured it would be good to report and let you know that the product was delivered. A little late, but still pretty quickly after the end of the Kickstarter.
So, you may remember playing a game as a kid (or, more recently, with the kids) where you build a list and have to remember all the items on that list.
“I went on holiday and I packed a toothbrush.”
“I went on holiday and I packed a toothbrush and a comb.”
“I went on holiday and I packed a toothbrush, a comb and a cuddly hippopotamus.”
…and so on until someone loses track.
Well, both of these games are built on that foundation, with a different theme and slightly different scoring mechanisms in each.
In Jazz, you take it in turns to play cards bearing nonsense scat words and try to remember everything played so far (“Bip doop badda bop scoodily yeah!”), if you fail, you take the pile of played cards and play restarts. Whoever has the fewest cards when all the cards run out wins. Plus you can play “extended solo” cards to get out of trouble and reset the pile.
In Them’s Fightin’ Words! the cards have parts of a Wild West insult which steadily gets longer and more ludicrous (“You dirty, milk drinkin’, dung smellin’, son of a milk drinkin’ snake oil salesman!”). This time there is no get out of jail free card, and anyone who goes wrong three times is out of the game.
The important thing with games like these is to accessorise so, for our plays, we both wore sunglasses or cowboy hats as appropriate to the theme.
We played Jazz first and it went well with lots of smiles, though at a couple of points Miss B got frustrated by the ever-growing list of nonsense to remember. The Extended Solo cards in this game are a serious boon, though, allowing you to take a break when things are getting really tough. Maybe they make it too easy for adult play, but you can easily remove them if you prefer.
The next day we tried Them’s Fightin’ Words. Whereas Jazz has you choosing a card from your hand, TFW just has you flipping a card from your deck on each turn, which leaves you feeling that you don’t have any choices to make. But on the other hand, Miss B just found the game hysterically funny. This did mean that the game got louder and shriller as we progressed (especially when we started calling each other a low-down biscuit) but rarely have we had as much laughter in a game. In fact, where we usually end up shortening games, this time we extended play by going to six points instead of three.
We’re really happy with these games, and I look forward to using them as a filler with adult players (especially late night, with booze involved). I don’t think we really need to have both in the collection, but we will keep them just for the fun value. All very silly.
The verdict from Miss B (aged nearly 7): “I liked wearing my sunglasses indoors. That was silly as well, but not quite as silly as Them’s Fightin’ words! This time I gave it an 18 out of 20.”
The game: Jazz the Singing Game (7/5 games), 1 to 10 players aged 8+.
The other verdict from Miss B (aged nearly 7): “It was a really good game because it was really funny. I really liked the Cow Pie card. Here’s an example of what it could have been: You son of a milk drinkin’, dung smellin’, namby pamby, lily livered cow pie! I give it a 20 out of 20.”
The other game: Them’s Fightin’ Words (7/5 Games), 2 to 6 players aged 8+.
I mentioned City of Zombies in a post a week or so back as a Kickstarter project that I liked the look of. Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news.
I’ll start with the bad. After rather underwhelming support on Kickstarter Matt, the creator of the game, has decided to cancel the funding as it was looking like it would fall far short of its goal. As far as I can make out, and this is purely my guesswork, the problem was partly to do with not getting a publicity machine mobilised in time (a common failing) and partly that the comparatively small scale of the project meant a price per unit that US-based potential backers (a sizeable part of the potential market) didn’t like the look of, particularly when considering international shipping (personally, I think it looks pretty reasonable from where I sit!).
The good news, however, is very good. Matt has figured out a way to go ahead with the project anyway and fund it himself. He has been schmoozing with assorted people and keeps on pushing, so the game will be seeing the light of day, and this looks like it will be in the next month or so as production is under way.
Anyway, Miss B and I met up with Matt at the wonderful Thirsty Meeples boardgame café in Oxford, where he has been running fairly regular demos, and we got to try out the game for ourselves.
So, how does the game work? Well, basically this is a cooperative game where cards representing the cutest zombies imaginable (a set of cards with less cute artwork is also provided as an option) appear at one end of the board and then relentlessly bear down on your barricades at the other until either they completely overrun you or a set number of turns elapse and you are rescued. You get rid of zombies by rolling three dice and doing bits of arithmetic to combine the numbers on the dice to match numbers on the zombie cards.
Yes, it’s actually a maths game and a lot of the sales pitch is towards schools. In fact, there isn’t really that much of a game there. It’s mostly about solving a puzzle. But that is actually fine: it’s charming, cute, and quite a lot of fun, taking you on a bit of a roller coaster ride as things look hopeless for a while, then you get a lucky break and clear the barricades only to have a new wave of the undead coming and crushing you again.
There are a lot of optional rules, most of which just add extra chaos, but some do add more genuine decision making to the mix, like hero abilities which need to be used at the most critical moment — but when is that? You can also ramp up the difficulty with special zombies or dial it back to make it easier for players who can only work with addition and subtraction.
If you are interested, check out the City of Zombies website, where you can find out more and order a copy of the game. I’ve ordered one and we’re really looking forward to playing it some more.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 6¾): “City of Zombies is a good game. I’d give it 9 out of 10. I think you should be able to split up the numbers but that would make it an easier game. The pictures are cute on the Chibis but they are scary on the Walkers.”
The game: City of Zombies (ThinkNoodle), 1 to ? players aged 8+.
I have been hearing about 7 Wonders for some time now. It won the prestigious Kennerspiel des Jahres award a couple of years ago along with more other honours than you could shake a stick at, and is known for its scalability: it takes about the same amount of time to play as a two-player game as it does with seven.
So how does it achieve this? Well, the main mechanic is card drafting. Everyone has a hand of cards. Everyone chooses one to keep and play in front of them, then passes the rest to the next player, in turn receiving a new hand from another player. The cards all interact to allow you to build a civilisation with advances in things like trade, science, religion and warfare plus, of course, building one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
So, despite having heard a lot about this game I had never got around to trying it until we had a friend visiting, who brought around his copy for us to try. It turns out the game is not complicated, but there are quite a few icons and interactions between cards to learn about. But Miss B and I just waded in after a quick explanation and learnt the game as we went along. It all went reasonably well and we managed to both build a pretty decent civilisation (though experienced players may differ!) and finish our respective wonders.
There are pretty tricky decisions to make all the time in this game, but it’s nice that you are continually making progress and improving the tableau of cards in front of you. Even if you can’t do anything with the cards you hold, you can remove something that someone else might want and gain some gold into the bargain. Miss B was, by the end, recognising cards that other people might want and trying to frustrate them. This is something that makes 7 Wonders both fun and agonising!
Unfortunately we didn’t have time for a second game, but I suspect it would have gone really well. Both Miss B and I really enjoyed playing and would certainly have another go if given the opportunity. 7 Wonders is definitely high on my wish list, but there is a lot to be said for not having some of the games we really like as it means we can look forward to playing them when we see friends who have them.
The verdict from Miss B (aged nearly 6½): “7 Wonders is 9½ out of 10. I’m saying that because it’s not got enough detail in it. I like the pictures, I like how it works, I just think you should have -2 counters as well.”
The game: 7 Wonders (Asmodee), 2 to 7 players, aged 10+.
A few weeks ago we had a visit from the cousins-in-law, or whatever they might be best described as, and they brought along a copy of Doctor Who: the Card Game as Miss B is starting to become something of a Who fan and the cousin-in-law (in-law?) actually runs the company that publishes the game. So, in the interests of propriety, I should now declare a possible conflict of interest: we got a free copy and the publisher is family. Make of that what you will.
Actually, I must admit I was a little nervous of this game as it has received very mixed reviews. But we set up a four player game (though in this case, Miss B and I acted together as a single player) and off we went.
The mechanics of the game are very simple, but a bit weird as you play cards from your hand until you have three left, then pass these last three to your right. All a bit odd, but it means sometimes you end up trying to make sure that you don’t pass anything too good to the player sitting next to you. Each player controls both bad guys (enemies) and goodies (defenders) and the idea is to have control, by whichever means, of location cards which give you victory points at game end. I think this arrangement might disconnect some people from the theme, but we actually had a lot of fun with it. Miss B loved spouting trivia about various monsters that she had read about in her Doctor Who annual.
We have now played a second time, this time with three players and Miss B taking part in her own right. There are quite a lot of cards to play through, so we set the game length to be a little shorter by putting the end of game card higher in the deck than usual. The game played really smoothly and had some nice ebb and flow of play until, in the closing phase of play Miss B suddenly started attacking all over the place and ended up with a nice victory.
Unfortunately this game requires three players, which means it’s likely to not get as much play as we’d like. That said, I have an idea for how to play with two, so I think we’ll give that a go some time soon. Plus S quite likes the game, so three player games may happen from time to time.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 6): “It was cool how you could play two monsters on the same thing because if there’s one defender there, there’s a good chance the enemies could defeat them. I liked it and I really want to play it again so it’ll be one of the top ones on the game chart. This was my first time on my own but I won because in the last round I got the Weeping Angels and the Beast and I played both the Angels and the Beast on Daddy and he got no points for the ones I attacked because the defenders were too weak for the monsters. I thought that was really cool.”
The game: Doctor Who The Card Game (Cubicle 7), 3 to 4 players aged 13+.
Over the last couple of years or so, there seem to have been a few space empire building card games released, probably the top rated of these being the trio of Race for the Galaxy, Eminent Domain, and Core Worlds. We finally have a copy of one of these, Eminent Domain, and Miss B was good enough to play with me as we learned how it works.
Eminent Domain is a deck building game like Dominion, but in most senses completely unlike Dominion. The main part of your turn is that you choose one “role” from a selection of six (Survey, Warfare, Colonise, Produce, Trade, or Research), and doing so adds a card for that role to your deck, effectively making you better at that role in future. Furthermore, when you choose a role, the other players have the option of playing cards to also follow that role (sometimes with reduced effectiveness). There’s a little other stuff like special technology cards, but this is the real core of the game. You earn victory points for controlling planets and having certain technologies at the end of the game, and for trading resources during the game. There is also no direct conflict between players during the game, which suits us fine.
The two of us followed very basic but very different strategies: I colonised a few worlds and then started producing and trading resources, while Miss B spent her efforts surveying new worlds and sending waves of invading spacecraft to subjugate the indigenous populations (she loved arranging the plastic spaceships that represent military resources into formations). Who knew she was such a warmonger?
The game took a lot longer than the advertised 45 minutes. Something closer to 2 hours this time. I don’t think future plays will be as long, but this game will be a major undertaking for a little while. Part of the problem this time was Miss B getting the hang of the difference between taking an action (which is a minor effect related to the roles, which other players are not permitted to follow) and selecting a role (which can be followed). This is a little weird at first, but we both got the hang of it eventually.
Something to note here is that Miss B played with her hand open most of the time, which meant that I could help her if necessary, but I also generally had a good idea of what cards she had available. This could be a problem in a “proper” adult game as knowing what cards another player holds may affect your role selection, but when playing with Miss B I did my best to not take advantage of this knowledge.
When the game was finally over, we counted up the victory (sorry, influence) points and found that it was close. Miss B had won by just a few points and was appropriately delighted. No, I didn’t deliberately throw the game. My excuse is that I was just learning the game, and I’m sticking with that. 🙂
So, I like the game and Miss B seemed to get on well with it. I think this will be high up on the playlist for when we want to spend over an hour on a game.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 6): “When I win the first time I play a game, I call it a really good game.”
The game: Eminent Domain (Tasty Minstrel Games), 2 to 4 players aged 10+.