The latest in our ongoing series of reports on Lego games is on Magikus, one of the smaller games in the series, which is about collecting ingredients to make a magical potion. The first person to get the full set of four ingredients gets to put them into the little cauldron that comes in the box and, according to Miss B, gets to choose what spell to cast on the losers.
The game is very simple: there is an owl piece, which you position on the edge of the rack of spell ingredients, so it lines up with one of the rows or columns, then you roll a die. If the die shows the colour of an ingredient that is still in the row or column that you chose, you take that ingredient; alternatively a white result on the die allows you to take anything from the row or column, and a black result allows you to steal from another player. If you end up with a set of the four different ingredients, you win!
So that is it. There is a strategy to find here, but it is obvious to most people. I think this has a problem that is common to most of the Lego games: the game design is awesome for younger kids, and not bad for a parent to play with the kids, but the components are just too fiddly for the ideal age range. That said, we had fun with this, and Miss B just loved imagining herself making potions at Hogwarts, even though she got frustrated a couple of times when she forgot to move the owl before moving. (Easy fix: no problem, just move the owl and then roll again.)
Plus, of course, it’s Lego. We now have a bunch of Lego skulls that we can put onto minifigs if we want to! 🙂
The verdict from Miss B (aged 9¼): “Very silly. It is a bit more difficult because you have to move first and then roll, which is not what most people would do by natural instinct. I would give it 10/10, but because of the dice rolling flaw I will give it a 9/10.”
The game: Magikus (Lego), 2 to 4 players aged 6+.
We haven’t been writing up new games very much lately, largely because we just haven’t been playing that many new-to-us games of late. But now we have cracked open another of the pile of Lego games that we have lying about the place. This time, we have Lava Dragon, a game that involves knights, a dragon and, yes, some lava.
Our copy of the game got picked up from a charity shop recently, and the parts were mostly assembled, so we didn’t have the fun of building the whole assembly, but we did spend a little while checking that everything was set up right. It mostly was.
This is one of the smaller Lego games, with a small “board” being a pyramid-shaped mountain, and you move your knight figure up the steps on it trying to get to the top first. Die rolls may make lava move around, potentially blocking your way, and there is an optional rule (which we didn’t use) where the knights can get knocked off the mountain when eruptions occur. The distinctive Lego die in this case starts off with little on it, but gradually changes, so on most turns you get to add a little square onto the side you rolled, meaning you get more movement the next time that side is rolled. And you sometimes get to move on other players’ turns. This part is really quite cool, and means that the game speeds up as it goes along.
Like most of the Lego games, though, this is really not very much of a game. I quite enjoyed it though, and Miss B demanded a second game straight after we finished our first. The attraction of a Lego dragon is not to be underestimated. And the way the die is used in this game is, I think, the most interesting variant I have seen yet and one which makes proper use of its Legoness.
We still have a few more of the Lego games to go…
The verdict from Miss B (aged 8¾): “Brilliant! 100% I like the dragon, the dragon is cute. This is the best Lego game I’ve played so far. I recommend it a lot. :)”
The game: Lava Dragon (Lego), 2 to 4 players aged 7+.
Miss B has decided that we should play through the pile of Lego games that we have accumulated over the last couple of years and then write a post comparing them, and I think that is a most excellent idea. We have played some of them, but a couple of them have remained in shrinkwrap, so I’m well up for trying them out. I guess what we’ll do is give a load of them a go and write regular reports as seems appropriate, then at some point we’ll have an overview post. A few days ago we had a go at Frog Rush, which we covered ages ago, but now we have tried the new-to-us Ramses Pyramid.
So this is a game designed by the ultra-prolific Reiner Knizia, known for some of the most subtle and elegant games out there, as well as for banging out simple little games for the toy market. I was under no illusions that this would be the next Tigris & Euphrates or Modern Art, but who cares: this is Lego. With these games you get to build the board, and if the game is a real stinker, you still have a pile of Lego for the collection. As a result, Miss B and I had a nice pre-bedtime activity together of constructing a really cool pyramid with layers that could easily be removed and replaced with different orientation. Neat.
The next evening we got to actually play the game. The idea is that your adventurer runs around the base of the pyramid collecting gems and getting information about the location of additional gems in secret “temples” (effectively little cases that you can’t see into), then climbs the steps of the pyramid, dodging mummies that cascade down causing chaos, and then confront Ramses, the king of the mummies, to claim his crown. Each step on each side of the pyramid has a coloured gem on it, and you can only climb to that step if you are holding, or can remember the location of a matching gem.
This is all pretty cute, but turns out to be pretty trivial. Even the memory aspect of the game doesn’t really amount to much. But we had fun playing it, and it wasn’t as fiddly as some of the other Lego games we’ve come across. And it looks totally awesome, with great design from the Lego construction side of things. I mean, the way the layers of the pyramid move is stunning.
I think that, when playing through the rest of the Lego games, what I’m looking forward to the most is the building. We have one more of the big box games, and that should be fun to construct, and I’m sure there’ll be some amusement from the others too.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 8¼): “I like the way that there’s secret temples and that you don’t have green and purples apart from in the temples. I also like the way the pyramid turns, and the little brown bits mark where the gems should go. I also kind of like the scorpion in the entrance. I give it a 99.9%”
The game: Ramses Pyramid (Lego), 2 to 4 players aged 8+.
It’s been a long time since we last reviewed a game here (or posted at all for that matter), so I’d better bet back on the bicycle, as it were…
Miss B received a couple of new games for Christmas and her birthday, the first of which was Frog Rush, another in the rapidly expanding range of Lego games. This one is a slight reworking of the old Halma or Chinese Chequers games where you aim to get your pieces to a home area across the board and can speed your progress by leapfrogging over other pieces along the way. Frog Rush has the addition of the random element from the special Lego die, a stork which flies around and eats frogs, and the fact that you can modify the board — there are two layouts described in the rulebook.
Overall this played very well and was lots of fun. Or would have been if we weren’t constantly having difficulty with the fiddly nature of the pieces which didn’t work well with either my big, adult fingers or Miss B’s little 5-year-old ones. I’m sure she will get better at this while I will not. This’ll definitely get played again, though it doesn’t have the charm for casual play that Shave a Sheep has. It does, however, have a lot more depth and is a reasonable introduction to more strategic games. Or it would be if the pieces were twice as big (and much more expensive, sadly).
The verdict from Miss B (aged 5): “I liked the frogs and the bird.”
The game: Frog Rush (Lego), 2-4 players aged 7+.
On Fathers’ Day Miss B proudly presented me with a copy of the Lego Shave a Sheep game. Later that day, we opened it up and spend a happy few minutes assembling the pieces, which include a mean but goofy looking wolf and four sheep. Oh, and it has the special Lego die that you stick different colour tiles onto to affect how the game plays. B has a bit of difficulty with some of the fiddlier bits of construction, but was very pleased with the results.
Now, it must be said that this is a game with less than glowing reviews out there (follow the link above and you’ll see some — although alongside that there are positive comments) but this gave us a lot of fun. Play can drag on a bit when someone decides that the best approach is to use the wolf at every opportunity (though this policy didn’t last for ever, thankfully), but making the appropriate noises for the wolf and sheep adds to the fun, the whole thing is cute, the game mechanics are clean and simple, and some decision making is required. All in all, I’d say that Shave a Sheep is absolutely spot on for Miss B right now, and not odious for Mummy and I to play, so win all round really.
The rules also suggest ways to vary the rules, from modifying the die (I do really like the die!) to adding a more significant role for the wolf (who, in the standard rules, just sits there as fun but purely decorative fluff). A few other variations also come to mind, so I’m sure we will be experimenting in future.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 4½): “It was good that there was two winners, I didn’t expect that. I liked building the sheep and shearing the sheep.”
The Game: Shave a Sheep (Lego), 2 to 4 players aged 5+.