Rick BaptistUnited States
Yesterday I had the chance to go to the Orange County Board Gamers monthly event at the Duck Club, which was at one time literally a hangout for hunters to go and share stories about shooting ducks. That we are playing board games in such a setting, in a beautiful building surrounded by gorgeous foliage and such, pleases me. I guess playing with some good people also made it fun. And hey, I got to play lots of new games. Eventually, that dumb dirty thumb of mine started flipping and flopping around, and here's the result of that.
Now, if you know me, my gaming tastes does not usually include card games. Give me a board and I'm happy. But when James pulled out 23 and likened it to No Thanks!, my curiosity got the best of me. And it got a big fat thumbs up!
23 is played with a deck of cards numbered 1 to 23, with one "1" card, two "2" cards, and three each of the cards 3-23.. You are then given three green tokens, nine cards, and the game begins. The object is for the group of players to lay down cards starting at one, and work your way up chronologically to 23, ultimately desiring to run out of cards. Sounds boring so far. Well, it's not, because you have some options! First of all, you can lay down doubles or triples of a number if you have it. Also, if a 15 is laid down and you have a 17 and you want to play it, you have to take a purple token. Purple tokens are minus one (like No Thanks!) In the above example, if you had an 18 you could lay it down for two purple tokens, etc. And if you had a big gap, say 15 is showing and you have a 20, you can choose to pass by just taking one token. Okay, where's the fun still? All this gets tied together because of those three green tokens in front of you. Eventually, you're going to get to the point where you all most likely have cards that have been missed along the way. On your turn, you have the option of spending those green tokens to move back through time.
Let's say I have two 15s in my hand that have been skipped by. The pot is at 20. I can spend one green token to move the count back to 15, thereby getting both 15s out of my hand. Of course, if you save these green tokens they are worth +2 in the end to your score, which is a pretty big deal. But any cards left in your hand at the end of the game are -1 each, so it's something to consider if you have a lot of cards. Plus, you get a three-point bonus if you run out of cards by the end! So losing cards is key. Now piggy-backing off the above example, the pot is now at 15. To my left, James has three 13s he wants to desperately get rid of! So he uses his green chip to go back to 13. David is in luck, because he had one 14 that he didn't want to use a chip to go back in time to get rid of, but now can. Ralph is not in luck, as his lowest card is 23, so he takes a minus chip. Now it's back to me again, and lo and behold I had a 14 that I figured I couldn't get rid of!
Turns are fast and there's a lot of tension and wishing going on. The biggest part of the game is trying to gauge when to use your green chips, because no one likes spending points -- but to try and get rid of all your cards for the three-point bonus it's just too enticing. And of course you constantly are desiring for others to use theirs so you don't have to use your own! I've only played two plays of 23 so far, but I'm going to rate it higher than No Thanks! for now. Lord knows that I find No Thanks! tense, as I won the 7 Wonders: Leaders expansion by winning the No Thanks! tournament at Strategicon last year, but I like the game of 23 a bit more. You must try it out! Amigo has a hit with this one and I hope it gets over to the States soon.
(this was posted as a Review on the BGG 23 page, as I saw there wasn't any yet!)
I'm going to clarify something right from the start: I LIKE THIS GAME. In fact, I like it a lot! But the thumb up/thumb down rating is mostly because you can't find it to buy it, and even if you did you'd have to pay an arm and a leg. For some ungodly reason, this game hasn't been picked up by a major publisher. With all the utter garbage that we get subjected to through the years, I HAVEN'T THE FAINTEST why this game hasn't been picked up and distributed. Anyway, I'm not going to give a full-scale review here because there's already been one done, but you really need to go check this game out and start preaching for it to become available again.
Maybe it's the name? The theme? David & Hannibal, the two guys I played it with, likened it to 7 Wonders as a meatier alternative, and I have to agree there are certainly similarities in theme and game length. But I feel that it stands apart quite well. In Peloponnes, you are building your own civilization (yay!) and dealing with the disasters that are sure to befall it (boo!) There is a bit of In the Year of the Dragon here as you're managing your resources and bidding on tiles to try to avoid these horrible plagues and famines around the corner. It's a bidding game, but it didn't seem as overwhelming as most bidding games do the first time (in fact, our teacher came in last). Scoring was a cinch and it wrapped up in 45 minutes or less. Fantastic game.
Seriously! Again, this is a two-thumb up game and needs to be widely distributed. Slap a name on there people can pronounce and you have a winner. Wish I had my own game company so I could do it! Please go check it out and if you've played it, let me know what you think. I'd be curious to know what you all thought of it, because without David introducing it and trusting his game acumen, I would never have given it a second look.
Sometimes I really don't like this section, because I really like the theme, the art, and the company that makes Bears! I even like writing the name Bears! because I like writing lower-case letters after exclamation points. And it looks funny because every time I write the name of the game everyone thinks I'm really excited about it. Bears!
Joking aside, I thought I would like this little filler created by the wife of the designer of Castle Panic, a game our family loves. It's a real-time game, which I have discussed in this blog in the past and I enjoy that mechanic. It's dice-rolling as well, which I overall enjoy. Here's the game: Roll your five dice and the 20 in the middle at the same time. Quickly choose which ones match up with the ones you have to score points. Reroll your own if needed. When all tents or all bears are left, the round ends and you score. There are combos you need to land for positive or negative points. That's it. Let me comment on the game -- the game, itself, is fine. It works, it was fun on the first few rolls. After playing an entire game of 10 minutes, though, I thoroughly doubt I would ever want to pick it up again. This is unfortunate, but true! Even with an exclamation! There's just nothing pulling me back to it.
And the crazy part is, it's marketed with children in mind, but I've never seen a real-time game go over well with children. Adults just have quicker reactions. If you leave the kids to fend for themselves, as long as they're all around the same grade level, sure, it would work. But that's a small window. And that's assuming the kids would play it again, too. So I'm sorry, Bears!, but my love of sticking two punctuations together didn't save you. But a neat idea that perhaps just needed to be fleshed out a bit more.
(I don't usually do this, but I posted this as a Review in the Bears! forum as well. All the reviews there were mostly positive and so I felt I had to dampen the enthusiasm a bit...)
Lots of fun in store for this little blog in the future. I've been enjoying the 'thumb' series and writing about games in general. Planning for my birthday gameday is coming along very well and after putting in some considerable work, I've been collecting sponsors for the event. You can see the progress of the event at the website at rickcon.webs.com. I am blown away at the friendliness and generosity of the board game industry as a whole and I encourage you to check out the Sponsors page and support them by any means necessary. Their willingness to contribute to a small event like this says a lot about them.
See you next time!