Where do I start? OK, a few weeks ago, we went to the UK Games Expo, and one of my plans in attending was to pay more attention to smaller game producers. In a conversation with an Internet-acquaintance (hi Colin!), I got tipped off about a little strategy game called Mijnlieff, produced by a guy with a stall in the corner. I tried that game, liked it and bought a copy, but that is not what this post is about (though hopefully we’ll have a write-up of Mijnlieff later). It turns out that this stall was being shared by three designers, who were all peddling their wares, and one of their wares was a little tin containing a bunch of dice and rules for six games. They were selling it for £6 and the whole thing was called, simply, 6. (As an aside, it is impossible to find using the search tools on BoardGameGeek, so treasure that link I just gave you!)
I had a demo of one of the games in the tin at the Expo, which was enough to convince me to part with some cash, then when we got home I tried out another with Miss B. Since then, 6 has been our most played game (or set of games — difficult to know how to phrase this), and we have now tried all six sets of rules.
What is nice here is that, in six dice games, not one of them is like either Yahtzee or Pass the Pigs. Three of the games have elements of dexterity. One has a bidding stage where you find who is willing to take the biggest risk in order to earn the right to take a turn. One has next to no skill, but great excitement and tension. There is even a neat spin on rock-paper-scissors, where there is more information to go on when deciding your play. And in keeping with the design efficiency here, there are two games where the rule cards themselves are used as components.
Miss B took to the games very quickly. We have developed a little ritual to go through where we select one of the rules cards to use and someone reads out the list of dice that are required for that game (while the other lines them up), and then runs through the rules, which fit, for each game, on the two sides of a small card. Then we are off. None of the games are complicated, but they all have their own flavour and appeal.
Before we go on to Miss B’s verdict, I’ll just summarise my thoughts, which probably won’t be a surprise by now: you should go and buy this game (and you can do so here). OK, so many gamers would probably have everything they need to play these games in their stock, but it’s not much money, you are supporting some very creative game designers, all the games are fun (in different ways) and if you don’t like any of them, you still have a nice little tin with a pile of nice red dice in it. For me, this was the best money I spent at the Expo, and I don’t doubt that we’ll be racking up quite a few more plays of these games.
The verdict from Miss B (aged nearly 8½): “I would like to try Triangles with more than 2 players because it’s not very good with about 2. But apart from that 6 is a very good game to play. Wrestle was quite clever because you get people into a hold and they need to get you into a hold to get out of your hold. Foiled is a bit like fencing, and to play it is like a very fancy rock-paper-scissors. Dicey Winks is quite fun to play because you’re flicking dice even though it’s hard to get to the target. Airstrike you try and bomb the dice so they get the number you want. But I think Dicey Winks is my favourite, followed closely by Wrestle. I’d give it 99% out of all the 6 games.”
The game: 6 (Too Much Games), 2 or more players.
We seem to be going through a dice game phase at the moment, having played several different ones over the last few weeks. One of these is the new acquisition, Dino Hunt Dice, which I actually bought partly to top up an online games order to a free shipping level.
The game is actually almost identical to the better-known Zombie Dice, being a very simple, push-your-luck game where you roll three dice at a time (there are three types of dice, representing different danger levels — the T-rex die is most dangerous, while the mild mannered apatosaurus is only likely to stomp you by accident), hoping to roll dinosaurs but not stompy-feet. You accumulate the stomps and if you get three of them you score nothing and your turn is over. Dinosaurs score points, and after each roll you can choose whether to roll another three dice (putting aside dinos and stomps and replacing them with fresh dice) or stop and record your score.
So, simple rules and dice with dinosaurs on (apart from the ones I’ve already mentioned there are tricerotops too), so what’s not to like?
Miss B is getting pretty good with push-your-luck games nowadays. When things go wrong for her, she generally rolls with it rather than getting upset as she used to. I think it helps when she sees me having horrible runs of bad luck too. In our latest game I hit the end-game target score, leaving her with seven points needed to draw even, which is a tough target. She had a great spell of luck and quickly bagged six dinosaurs, which would normally be a good time to bank, but as this was her last turn she had to push on, and proceeded to make the worst possible roll, getting horribly stomped whilst within a hair’s breadth of a heroic comeback. We both groaned, then high-fived, and then moved on to something else. I’m very proud of her, especially at times like that.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 7¾): “Hello! It was a very good game. It was a bit annoying when I rolled a six for the end but got three stomps. Bye. P.S. It was nine out of ten. The end. By me.”
The game: Dino Hunt Dice (Steve Jackson Games), 2 to 8 players aged 6+.
We have just received a package of stuff from Kickstarter projects, including a new dice game called Dragon Slayer. It has some quite groovy custom dice, and right now the combination of dragons and dice is too much for Miss B to resist, so we managed to give it a go before the packaging had reached the recycling bin.
About these groovy dice… Well, there are four sets of them, one set including axes and shields on the faces, for attacking and defending, and the others being a set in each of red, green and blue, made up of a die for the head, wings and tail of the dragons, along with some mountain sides, which are useless. All the dice also have one or more “fire breath” sides, which you don’t want to roll unless you also get shields. These dice look great, and each colour of dragon also has its own distinct design, which is a nice touch.
The idea is that you choose one of the dragons to hunt (the red is most dangerous but scores most points, while the blue is easiest but lower scoring), take the three corresponding dice and roll them with your own warrior dice. The aim is to roll all three parts of the dragon plus an axe with which to slay it. If you roll more fire breath faces than shields, you lose some of your warrior dice, and then you get a chance to reroll any dice that aren’t dragon parts or lost. If you complete the required set, you get the option to either score up your kills or try hunting another dragon (without any dice you lost in the fires).
Oh, and each player has one “challenge” token, which they can play to force another player to push on when they were wanting to stop. The challenged player can refuse and score reduced points for the round, or accept and get extra points if successful. The challenger gets points if the challenge is refused or failed.
That’s it. The game is played up to 40 points, may the best dragon hunter win!
We haven’t really played this enough yet for me to get a real feel for it, but I do quite like it so far, plus the game has a very different feel to the other dice games we have, which is definitely in its favour. That, plus the lovely dragony dice has really won me over, despite the fact that luck of the dice can make for enormous swings in the game — we have had a couple of rounds where one of us just wipes out instantly by rolling a vast quantity of fire attacks, and several others where a dragon is simply defeated with the first roll. Playing with adults, the challenge tokens would be far more of a thing than they were for us, and would add a nice extra layer onto the game, but it’s still going to be mostly about rolling lovely dice.
What matters, though, is what Miss B thought. As always, we finish with her thoughts, but as we were playing she said that she hoped we would tie at the end because the tie-breaker is to play another round, and she wanted to keep playing.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 7¾): “Very good game. I like the names (Camicaze and Hiccup). Ten out of ten.”
The game: Dragon Slayer (Indie Boards & Cards), 2 to 6 players aged 14+.
A few days ago we received our Kickstarted copy of Flippin’ Fruit, a cute little dice game with the lovely gimmick of having cute anthropomorphised fruit depicted on the sides of a bunch of twelve-sided dice. When I saw pictures of the early mock-ups in a thread on BoardGameGeek, I have to admit that this was a case of me yelling “where do I send my money?!” at the computer.
Luckily, the designer went on to run a Kickstarter project, which was successfully funded, and ended up delivering the product within a month of its expected date which, if you are used to Kickstarter, is a pretty impressive feat.
Even more luckily, the game is pretty good. I’ll admit that I would have loved to see the dice being a little larger, but they are great as they are, and given the price and that this is a guy doing a small-scale project at a very reasonable price, I’m very happy with what came out of it. If you had been following the project, you would see how much love and time went into it. The guy even varnished all the dice himself to make them last longer!
Anyway, the game basically involves the usual routine of rolling the dice and then having a limited number of rerolls to hopefully be able to make a set of fruit. If you get an appropriate set you can trade them for cards which score you points — and some of these cards can be stolen away by other players. Plus you can also miss out on some of your rerolls in order to pick up “fruit basket” cards, which can be used to change die rolls or do dirty tricks, adding some luck-mitigation to the game, which is always nice to see.
We’ve played the game a couple of times now and had fun with it. Twelve sided dice can be pretty unpredictable, but there are generally quite a few choices for scoring and once you have some fruit basket cards, the game feels like you are actually making decisions, which is great. A good sign is that Miss B requested that we play again before she gave her verdict, and that we got to do the replay the very next day.
Lately we seem to have been going through a bit of a spell of dice games, and this is a nice addition to the collection. (Incidentally, as this was done on a small production run, it may be hard to get hold of, but it may be worth checking out the Flippin’ Fruit website as there may be some stock available after they have fulfilled all the Kickstarter copies.
The verdict from Miss B (aged nearly 7½): “I’d give it 10 out of 10. I think it’s a very good game because of the fruit baskets. I like the idea of rotten tomatoes. :)”
The game: Flippin’ Fruit (Andrew & Stephanie Platt), 2 to 4 players aged 8+.
Dungeon Roll is a dice game about rolling dice in order to explore a dungeon, pretty much doing what it says on the tin.
Speaking of the tin, it’s worth noting the packaging. Dungeon Roll comes in a box shaped like a treasure chest, with a hinged lid. In fact, thanks to a friend (hi, Greg!) we have the special Kickstarter edition that is done up like a Mimic, a D&D monster that can take deceptive shapes, often like a treasure chest that attacks unwary adventurers. The box is actually used in the game: when you win treasure, you randomly draw counters from the chest, which is a lovely touch.
So we have had the game for quite a while but, despite playing it a few times myself, I never got around to introducing it to Miss B until now.
The game is a push-your-luck dice rolling fest with some lovely custom dice. Some of the dice are used to roll and find out which characters are in your adventuring party (fighters, thieves, clerics, that sort of stuff), then another player rolls the black dungeon dice to see what obstacles (and treasures) you encounter. You then allocate your adventurers to deal with the dungeon dice before deciding if you will continue to the next level, where even more dungeon dice will be rolled.
All this is pretty good fun, but what makes the game is that everyone has a unique character taken from a small bundle of cards that came with the game. There are eight in the base game, plus an additional promo card that came with the Kickstarter set, and we also have an unopened booster pack of further characters that we will open as and when we get bored of the original set. Each character has a couple of abilities that can really shape how you approach the game and, while they don’t introduce any deep strategy, they do make you think a bit about how and when to use them. Plus, after you have earned some experience in the game you can flip the cards to get an advanced version of the character with even cooler powers. Miss B and I were delighted to find that four of the nine characters that we have are female. And it’s not “princess” or “witch” characters: the females include the Paladin and the Necromancer. This sort of thing is sure to make Miss B a happy girl.
In play we had a ball. The whole thing of having the active player doing their thing while another player rolls the dungeon dice is a stroke of genius. It means that at any given time you have two players involved in the game play, and with two players that means all the game, all the time, which deals with a common problem of dice games (and not just dice games, if truth be told) where everyone just twiddles their thumbs waiting for their turn.
There are plenty of subtleties about using abilities and treasures effectively, but I pointed out options to Miss B and she decided what she would do, steadily getting her head around the game. Frustrations were surprisingly few, and it must me said that the joy of rolling fistfuls of these gorgeous, colourful dice (they really are great) more than made up for any disappointments that did occur.
We both like this game, and I think we’ll have fun working our way through the various characters.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 7¼): “I especially liked the Paladin because you can discard one treasure to defeat all monsters, open all chests, quaff all potions and discard all dice in the Dragon’s Lair, and just for one treasure, so that’s really good. I think the Knight (Dragon Slayer), Necromancer (Occultist), Enchantress (Beguiler), and Half Goblin (Chieftain) all look really good and I’m probably going to ask most of the time to play the game to try out all of them. I think it’s 10 out of 10 and I can’t think of anything else to say about it (LOL).”
The game: Dungeon Roll (Tasty Minstrel Games), 1 to 4 players aged 8+.
Rather pleasantly, we got sent a free copy of a game called Plyt for us to check out. Miss B was excited about the prospect as it is a game about maths, something she enjoys at school, and the last maths based game we tried out (City of Zombies) went down very well.
Unlike City of Zombies, Plyt is a traditional competitive game, where everyone is trying to be the first to move their pawn around a spiral track to the winner’s space in the middle. On your turn you roll a bunch of twelve-sided dice and have the time provided by a 30-second sand timer to multiply the numbers on the dice. If you do it correctly in the time (you’ll probably need a calculator for checking — luckily Miss B has one in the shape of a frog which she relished using), you move forward a number of spaces equal to the number on the differently coloured die. If this moves you onto a space with a Plyt logo on it, you draw a “chance” card, which may be to the advantage or disadvantage of yourself or an opponent.
That’s about it.
To be frank, I was a little disappointed when I opened the box and seeing it was nothing cleverer than rolling dice and doing sums, with no chrome other than the unimaginatively named “chance” cards. Even the rules to set up balance between players are presented as optional rules that you should negotiate before you start. This is clearly not a game created by someone embedded in the modern gaming hobby.
But it works. Make some reasonably intelligent choices with the balancing rules and go for it, and we at least had a good time with the game. Miss B was rolling two dice each time, which meant she got most of the calculations right but had trouble with some of the times-tableses, while I was rolling four dice and revealing that my mental arithmetic skills could seriously do with improving. I got beaten quite spectacularly.
And then the game got a real thumbs up from Miss B: she wanted to play again, suggesting that I might like to use fewer dice to make it easier for myself (stubbornly, I refused). She beat me a second time (though it was much closer) and asked for a third game. It was, however, time for dinner, so we had to stop there.
Incidentally, I’d like to give kudos for the excellent decision to provide a little dish for rolling dice into. This makes things so much easier and almost avoids having dice landing on the floor or knocking pieces off the floor.
So, while I am not overwhelmed by Plyt as a game, it has some things to recommend it, and Miss B is extremely keen. So it’s certainly going to get played again.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 7): “It was a very good game. I really liked the chance cards idea because they move you up or down a level and other stuff you weren’t expecting so you don’t know what’s going to happen to you and your opponents. I like the game overall. I think it was a good idea to make it about maths because I’m really good at it.”
The game: Plyt (Talkplaces), 2 to 6 players aged 4+.
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+.