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+.
Continuing my spell of catching up on recently introduced games we finally come to Frog Juice, another one of those cute card games from Gamewright. Seriously those people at Gamewright should be given medals: while there are some weaker parts of the range, they still manage to put out some pretty decent games which are head and shoulders above the run-of-the-mill stuff that is usually peddled as kids’ games, and (and here is the really great bit) they are available in mainstream toy shops. These guys rock.
Anyway, Frog Juice is a game about collecting magical ingredients, casting spells and doing sums. Due to the mathematical element I would compare it to Sleeping Queens, but here the sums are a bit more integrated into the theme as they are about trading spell ingredients (the value of ingredients on one side of a trade must add up to the value of the card on the other side). Frog Juice is also a little more complicated than Sleeping Queens, but the only time this game us trouble was on the first play, and the issue we had was on Miss B’s understanding of the scoring.
All in all this was a good find for us. I don’t think it runs quite as smoothly as Sleeping Queens, but seems a little more interesting and looks set for plenty more plays. I’m looking forward to trying it with more than two players some time as that could get nicely chaotic.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 6½): “I think that Frog Juice is a pretty weird game because of the powers, spells, witches and cats. I think it’s got to be a 10 out of 10, but the first time I played it I got really annoyed so then I would have given it a 7.”
The game: Frog Juice (Gamewright), 2 to 4 players aged 8+.
I must admit that when I first heard of Gubs, I thought it looked cute, but didn’t think it would be a hit in our house as it is a lightweight card game with loads of chaotic attacking other players, stealing or destroying their resources. Boy was I wrong. The description I’ve just given is about right but the “take that!” aspect of the game turned out to not be a problem.
This game is basically about trying to have the most gubs (cute little bug-like critters) under your control at the end of the game. This involves playing gub cards in front of you, protecting them with barricades (like mushrooms), luring your opponents’ gubs to your side with shiny things or trapping them in soap bubbles or with shiny rings (which they feel compelled to hold on to), or use a number of dirty tricks to tip the balance in your favour.
One disadvantage of the game is that there is a fair bit of text on some of the cards and you need to figure out how and when to play them. Miss B was soon taking this in her stride, though, and revelling in wiping out my barricades and luring my poor, hapless gubs over to her side.
Gubs is really a very chaotic game, with massive swings happening in play, occasionally due to random events that you really can’t do much about and which could mean that you lose all your cards and have to miss your turn. But, you know what?, we don’t care. There have been a couple of occasions when Miss B’s lower lip has quivered at the way things have gone, but that has never lasted more than a moment and often another turnaround has happened soon afterwards. She keeps coming back for more and over the last couple of weeks this has been, by some margin, our most played game.
The verdict from Miss B (aged nearly 6½): “Gubs is 10 out of 10 or 15 out of 15. It is one of my favourite games now. I like the cricket song and how lures, super lures and traps work. I also like the speech marks on the cards.”
The game: Gubs (Gamewright), 2 to 6 players aged 10+.
Castle Keep is another game from Gamewright, who make a pretty impressive range of games for kids/families which are often available in high street toy shops, which has to be a good thing. This one has been on my radar for a while, but we have only just got hold of a copy and played it.
So the game is about trying to lay tiles to complete construction of a castle in a 3-by-3 grid, with towers in the corners, walls connecting the towers, and a keep in the middle. The trick is that tiles come in three colours, and the walls and towers are each in one of three shapes, and you have to match adjacent colours and shapes to each other. You can also knock down sections of an opponent’s castle by playing a matching tile onto them.
Miss B is not generally a fan of direct conflict in games, so we played a game where we were just racing to build a castle. It took a couple of turns to fully get to grips with the shape matching (round towers match with wavy walls, diamond towers to zigzag walls, and square towers to straight walls) but then we were off in full flow with Miss B winning, before insisting that I took some extra turns to make sure I could finish my own castle.
We discussed introducing the attack rules for a second game and Miss B decided to keep them out. Then a few turns in, she spotted that she could knock half of my castle down in one go, developed a twinkle in her eye and announced that she had changed her mind and that it would be OK to do attacks.
The verdict from Miss B (aged nearly 6): “I won two games of Castle Keep. It was really fun and we took a few photos. In the first game we didn’t do attacking. In the second game we played a bit and then we decided that we’d do attacking. The best bet about the game was doing the attacking and building the walls. And I would really like to play it again.”
The game: Castle Keep (Gamewright), 2 to 4 players aged 8+.
Here we have another diversion from the normal run of things around here. Despite the fact that she is getting really good at a number of serious adult-type games, I have to remember that Miss B is still only five and does still like kiddie stuff too. On a recent shopping trip her eye was caught by Take the Cake so I agreed to buy it for her.
This is very definitely a kids’ game. You shake little wooden sprinkles out of a cake-shaped shaker and if any match the shape and colour of the spaces on the cupcake cards in the middle of the table, they get placed onto those cakes. If you fill up all the spaces on a cake card, you get to take the cake.
There’s not much else to say about the game really. It works well and is actually a bit of fun. There is actually a tiny amount of strategy involved in how you allocate the sprinkles to cakes, but other than that… Well, Miss B enjoyed it and wants to play it with her friends, and I was content to have a play as part of an afternoon of playing a few different games. Not a bad investment, I think.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 5½): “I liked collecting the different shapes and finding the cakes to put them on. I think my friends would like it.”
The game: Take the Cake (Gamewright), 2 to 4 players aged 4+.
I must admit I was a little skeptical about Sleeping Queens, as it looked very much a kid’s game, but it had been recommended (thanks, Sam!) and I’d seen some positive comments online, so why not give it a go? This comes from the Gamewright stable (along with one of our favourites, Loot) and was, apparently, designed by a six-year-old girl (amusing when the box says it’s for ages 8+). Actually, the game smacks of having been built from a standard playing card deck (or two) and then enhanced with some extra cards later.
So, you play kings to wake up queens and if you wake enough queens you win. Knights and potions can deprive an opponent of awake queens, but can be countered by dragons and magic wands respectively. Jesters have random effects and the rest of the deck is padded out by number cards which have no effect other than in helping with the randomness of the jesters. Except you can discard multiple number cards if you can make matching pairs or (and here is the educational bit) you can make 3 or more cards into an addition equation, for example, if you have a 2, a 3 and a 5 then 2+3=5, so you can discard them and draw replacement cards.
This whole maths thing is pretty pointless but, at the stage Miss B is at, she absolutely loved it and got a real sense of achievement when she figured out a sum. The rest of the game was pretty enjoyable too, helped along by the pictures on the cards. Sleeping Queens is good, but for me it falls into the “definitely a kids’ game” category as I can’t see many adults choosing to play it in the absence of children (as they might for, say, Ghost Party). That said, I’m happy playing it occasionally and Miss B loves it, so I expect we’ll be playing this quite a lot.
The verdict from Miss B. (aged nearly 5½): “Good. Just good.”
The game: Sleeping Queens (Gamewright), 2 to 5 players, aged 8+.
Miss B thoroughly enjoyed laying the tiles out to make the board. In fact, it occurs to me that there is some good opportunity to allow for creativity and let her put the map together however she wants instead of using the regulation layout. Maybe next time. The four treasures have a great look and feel to them and the illustrations on the tiles were a great topic of conversation, so even before starting play we were on to a winner.
I’m not sure Miss B really got to grips with the game mechanics, but the nature of the game (fully cooperative, with all cards visible on the table) meant that I could advise as much as she liked, which in general meant that I would suggest a couple of things to do and she would choose one of them. She was playing the pilot character and loved the idea of being able to fly anywhere and give people rides — this was helped by the fact that she ended up getting all the helicopter lift cards. The only simplification we made was to allow cards to be traded anywhere, not just when pieces were in the same location.
I really like what I have seen of this game so far. It’s a lot of fun as a sort of semi-roleplay game, though I’m sure it would get a lot better with four players. Miss B certainly seemed to like it, so we’ll be playing again. So, over to management for the official word…
The verdict from Miss B (aged 4½): “This game was excellent because both of us won the game. My favourite bit was how the island sinked and I loved it because we escaped on a helicopter.”
The game: Forbidden Island (Gamewright), 2 to 4 players, aged 10+.