While I write here mostly about new games we play, a lot of what we play is return trade. Well, it would be crazy to only play new stuff, right? So as we have been writing this blog for over two years now, perhaps it would be a good time to start revisiting some of those games we covered in the early days and seeing how things have changed.
Anyhoo, Heave Ho! was the first game we covered in this blog. It hasn’t been played an enormous amount over the last couple of years but it does come out for play once in a while (twice so far this year by my reckoning). When I last wrote about it we were playing a very cut-back version of the game with one shared deck of cards containing no action cards. Plus initially we weren’t using the “robust dames”, which are a suit of wild cards. We now use the full rules except for the “team building” step, which involves a race to sort through your half of the cards to pick the best cards for yourself.
So this is still a game that provides us with some good fun. The main part of the game is adjusting the strengths of two teams and playing a “Heave Ho!” card when your team has the highest total strength as you then pull the barrel (yeah, I know…) a number of spaces towards your side equal to the difference between the teams. This involves constant adding and subtracting of numbers and two years ago this took quite a long time, meaning that we only played one round in a sitting. Nowadays, Miss B is getting very into the idea of maths and is getting much quicker at this so we usually play to the recommended best-of-five.
I reckon this game is more of a winner than it was when we first played it, and the anticipation of possibly getting a “monstrous” card when Nessie is in play (you can make her eat her own team!) is something that keeps Miss B coming back for more.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 6¼-odd): “I like it more when we play it with the writing cards. It makes it a lot easier but you just need to be careful when you play it. You’ve got to at least know your maths and reading to be able to play Heave Ho!”
The game: Heave Ho! (Kosmos), 2 players, age 10+.
A recent acquisition, Hellas is the most “wargamey” game I have yet played with Miss B. It’s part of the Kosmos range of 2-player games and features exploring the world by drawing and placing nice looking hexagon tiles which feature sea and islands, and using your Greeks and ships (represented by nice-ish models, though the Greeks fall over a lot) to expand and conquer your opponent. You can also invoke the help of the gods (by playing cards) which will allow bonuses, extra moves and so on.
We didn’t manage to finish the game, unfortunately. We were both within a couple of points of winning but the process of warfare proved to be rather less than fun for Miss B. I’m sure there are options for house ruling ourselves a new game based on Hellas that would be more fun, but I expect that won’t happen for the time being. The voyaging and exploring parts of the game were just fine, but the combat was definitely not.
This is probably our real failure. I picked up the game because I like the concept of Hellenic-era island-hopping war and it looked like it would tick some boxes for me. I hoped Miss B would get on with it, but figured that it should be at least a decent addition to the collection for me. This was definitely a risky exercise as we haven’t played games with quite such direct fighting between players before (wait, no, correction: apart from Magic) and, based on this, we’ll probably mostly avoid that for a bit longer. That said, I think I saw enough of the game to decide that it was a reasonable purchase for myself. I’m looking forward to some adult play on this one.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 5½): “It was a bit too fiddly and I didn’t like how it worked out.”
The game: Hellas (Kosmos/Rio Grande), 2 players aged 12+.
You remember a couple of posts back I mentioned the range of Kosmos two-player games, well, this is another one. Kahuna is a cute little strategy game based on building magical bridges in a South Sea archipelago. It’s a decent little game and Miss B requested to play it right after our couple of games of Clans, as previously reported.
This was another game that went remarkably well given that it is actually a pretty abstract strategy game where you need to be working on a big picture as well as dealing with the little details. Miss B did get fixated for several turns on the possibility of removing a particular bridge, if only she could get hold of the right card to go with the one she had in hand. I needed to look at her hands and make suggestions on quite a few occasions, particularly when the board had got very full later in the game.
While we had fun with this (and finished with me only one point ahead), I think we probably won’t be playing this as much as some of the other games we’ve tried recently. In a year or two, I think Miss B will get a lot more out of it. But we’ll just have to see how we do on requests to play. I may well be surprised — as I often am!
The verdict from Miss B (aged 5½): “It was good because I liked it being close.”
The game: Kahuna (Kosmos), 2 players aged 10+.
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+.
I’ve had Heave Ho! on the shelf for a few years now, and it’s been played a few times. It’s not a bad little lightweight 2-player game which has a lot of luck, but it has cartoon Scotsmen pulling on a rope and a Nessie card, so what’s not to like? I’m not going to review the game here (and I don’t think it’s available any more, anyway), but I’m sure you can find a review out there if you look. Here, for example.
So stripping down to the very basics, we played with just the male tugger cards, no dames or actions. We also just played with a single stack of cards using a “draw a card then play it” rule. This worked well and Miss B quickly got used to playing cards onto the matching colour stack and (mostly) giving herself the good cards and me the bad ones. Though a couple of times she took a shine to a particular card and decided she really wanted it, even though it would be better to give it to me.
Of course, playing a “Heave Ho!” card is quite an event, involving shouting out excitedly before a lengthy exercise of counting up the scores on each side (Miss B is currently learning some adding and subtracting and enthusiastically — and usually accurately — employs fingers to help), deciding which side has the best score, and moving the barrel accordingly.
Miss B won, without me even helping it along (something I don’t generally like to do).
At the end of the game, we looked at the cards that were left out and I agreed that next time we would use the ladies as well. It’ll be quite some time before we introduce the action cards, but we’ll probably soon try with a hand of cards rather than just one at a time. We’ll probably stick to just one round at a time for now.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 4¼): “I liked the best bit because I winned. You losed because your team didn’t pull hard enough.” Proving that you’re never too young to gloat.
The game: Heave Ho! (Kosmos), 2 players, age 10+.