And at long last, the moment you have both been waiting for. Yes, it’s the final stage of the award so exclusive that most of the designers and publishers nominated have no idea that it even exists. This really is a hipster award. So, without further ado, I give you the final of the 2016 TaG Award, and present the finalists, which have made it through a rigorous and exhausting selection process to get this far: Dragonheart and In A Bind.
We played Dragonheart first. To be fair, Miss B started off with a shocking hand, which I later found out included four of the ship cards, which just isn’t a happy way to get going, take my word for it. It’s the sort of hand I seem to always get when playing the game online. Her fortunes picked up as we went along, but I ended up with a comfortable win in the end.
Then, of course, we came to In A Bind. I removed my glasses (only fair!), we shuffled the cards, and then got going. A couple of minutes later my cards went everywhere and Miss B was giggling at my ineptitude. So we had another game, this time using In A Bind Junior, an alternative set that replaces some of the trickier cards with nutty stuff like making animal noises when someone draws a card, and I managed to get my revenge, so we had to have a decider (best of three), which Miss B won. I consider myself a winner, though, having managed to avoid any cricks or strains from putting myself into awkward positions.
I will now hand you over to our head judge, Miss B, to report on the results of her deliberation…
These are things I think make a good game:
-a bit of a challenge
-a bit of a laugh
And In A Bind has all 3. Dragon heart is a good game and came very close to winning because of the thinking you have to do and neat ideas in it. Overall In A Bind won because of this. 😀
Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the winner of the 2016 TaG Award: In A Bind.
Hot on the heels of the first game-off report, here we have the second. We already know that In A Bind has reached the final, so now we need to find out the second finalist, from the pair of very different card games, Dragonheart and Murder of Crows.
Our first play of this session was Murder of Crows, a game where you are trying to play cards in front of yourself to spell the word “murder”, with different letter cards having special effects when you play them, and the winner being rewarded by getting to read out a short (and bizarre) murder story formed by their cards. This is really neat (and has the mother-in-law seal of approval), and our game followed the usual pattern of stealing cards from each other and good-natured growling. And a win to me!
Dragonheart takes a bit longer to play, but is a really cute card game where you play cards onto spaces on a well thought out board which has a layout that graphically reminds you of the effects of the various cards. Playing the right cards allow you to take other cards off the board to add you your score pile, but then provide opportunities for your opponent. Plays of this game tend to be full of swings and roundabouts as passages of play are profitable for one player for a while before the other gets a period of doing well — though once in a while one player just has a stinker and never seems to get a break. This time we had a pretty close and dynamic game which ended up with Miss B getting a pretty decent win.
So which game will progress to the final. Over to the head judge…
Dragonheart won this time, but this play was also very close. Murder of crows is fun though. I like the way it tells a murder story at the end of the game.
So, the grand final for 2016 will be between In A Bind and Dragonheart. A daft, physical game versus a game of cagey manoeuvring. Should be good…
I’m running massively late with this, but at last I would like to announce the shortlist for this year’s Training a Gamer Award (formerly the Golden Thingummy).
In case you haven’t been reading this blog in previous years, each summer Miss B and I choose a set of four games (Miss B chooses two and I choose two more) that we enjoy and want to play a bit more. These games are paired off so we can have two “game-offs”, playing a pair of games in one session so we can decide which we enjoyed most on that occasion. The winners of each heat become the finalists for one more game-off to decide which will win the prestigious and sought-after TaG Award.
Last year was won by flicktastic dungeon crawler Catacombs. What will get the laurels this year?
Miss B’s first choice was instant, the game of contortions, In a Bind, which she introduces to friends and visitors whenever she can. Her second choice surprised me a little as it is something we haven’t played for quite a long time, but she really fancied breaking out Dragonheart, which we used to play a fair bit a few years ago.
I added recent favourite Apotheca to the list as I think it deserves a few more plays and is probably at its best with two players. My second game is one that we haven’t covered here before, but Miss B did express interest in while we were discussing the award: a cute card game called Murder of Crows.
So we have four contenders, two new and two not so much. Coming soon: the game-offs.
This just in from Miss B: “Tonight the game went really quickly and Daddy won by just one point. Daddy got 40 and I got 39. I thought I’d win though. I had more cards than him but he got the higher number on the cards. I think this was the best game we’ve done so far of Dragonheart and I think it’s the quickest game as well.”
Back in the late 90’s the German game company Kosmos churned out an impressive range of two player games, which was slightly unusual then, and still is. Dragonheart is a more recent addition to that range, which sounded like a good idea to me. The presentation is, as with the other games I have seen from the range, great, with a gorgeous and striking box, and nicely illustrated cards and board, plus a cute dragon miniature figure. Once I’d got past all that it quickly became apparent that the theme (the forces of light and dark doing battle to decide the fate of a petrified dragon) is entirely superficial: you just lay down cards in a kind of serial game of advanced rock-paper-scissors. The rules explained the mechanics just fine but left me with no real feel as to how to approach game play.
Miss B, of course is not worried about such niceties as strategy and quickly embraced the whole concept of playing a fire dragon to grab the treasure, or three huntress cards to shoot down the fire dragon. The pictures provide enough theme for her to start imagining the stories going on behind the game play.
This is a game that actually feels harder to explain than to play. Dragonheart just plays insanely smoothly. Most of the rules, which could easily have involved a lot of referring back to the rulebook, are elegantly represented by arrows and rectangles on the board, so there is actually very little to remember. After the first few turns, Miss B was even starting to remind me of the rules.
Once we had finished our first game, we instantly had to have another go, and since then the game has found its way onto the regular request list, alongside the likes of Sleeping Queens and Coloretto, which is some achievement. More to the point I think that this is one of a handful of games that, in our little household of three of us, would work well as a quick game between any two of us. We’re definitely pleased with this purchase.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 5½): “It was good because I really like dragons. Can we play again?”
The game: Dragonheart (Kosmos), 2 players aged 13+.