Introducing Worm Up!
In terms of game development and design, there are a number of target markets and demographics that can be particularly difficult to satisfy. Among the more challenging of propositions must be the well-executed design a successful family game. How do you create a game which proves accessible and fun for children, while at the same time ensures that the parents who also have to play these games don’t want to put a bullet in their own skull after a round or two? Another and perhaps equally demanding challenge for game designers is the creation of a good racing game, which comes with additional design goals. How do you go about creating a game that provides a genuine sense of competition and interaction, and yet is fun to play? Worm Up! - an Alex Randolph game that’s been around for a while in various editions and iterations and has now been recently re-released - manages to do a fine job of meeting both these criteria. What to know more? – well then read on!
The box for Worm Up is rather compact and unassuming, although it has been durably constructed and colourfully illustrated. One nice thing about the box is that it hasn’t been oversized and, as a result, not only do the components fit snugly inside, but the game is eminently portable as well. There is definitely something positive to be said about a good family game that can easily be tucked into a purse or children’s back-pack!
So what's the game about? The back of the box tells us just about everything we need to know!
And here's our first look at what's inside.
Here’s what you’ll find inside the box:
● 45 worm `segments'
● 5 dice
● 4 starting/finishing line posts
● 1 finish line marker
● rules booklet
A few words about the quality and function of each of these components:
Each player gets 7 of these segments in their player colour - these will first be used to form and subsequently to move that player's worm. The tokens have been made of wood and are brightly and pleasantly coloured. They are also of a functional size for picking up and moving. Just like real worms, these worms are going to be doing a lot of slithering, as they try to be the first to move to the finish line!
Finish Line & Posts
Every race needs a start and a finish! Two of the four black posts that come with the game will be used to set out a starting line, while the remaining two posts will be placed in the holes that have been cut in the finish line marker. This creates a kind of moveable finish line that can be manipulated over the course of the game – more on that below.
There are five wooden dice, one for each player in the colour matching their worm. But these are not your every-day dice! In the first place they are over-sized – but in a good way. Secondly, they have been numbered: 4, 5, 6, 7 and X – with one blank side remaining. You are going to use these dice to secretly bid the distance you hope to make your worm travel during a given round. You’ll do this be secretly selecting and then revealing a particular face of the die – with the X-face operating as a kind of wild card.
The game comes with a small rule-book that has been well written and clearly laid out. The rules to the game are very straightforward and you be able to be up and running in matter of a few minutes, even if you've never seen the game before.
Overall, the components for this game have been well designed and prove to be both attractive and functional. Again, everything fits nicely inside the box and this allows for a convenient degree of portability as well. You don’t need a lot of space and the game doesn’t take long to play – so everything actually comes together quite nicely.
Each player chooses a colour and gets the wooden worm segments in that colour, along with a matching die.
Now you need to prepare the race course. Begin by setting out your starting and finishing lines on any flat surface that you have handy. To do this set two of the four black posts six-to-eight inches apart in order to form the starting line. Next, set the finish line marker approximately two feet away from the start line (you could shorten or lengthen that distance depending on how long a game you want to play) and set the two remaining posts inside the holes on the finish line.
Line up your worm segments behind the starting line so that the first segment of your worm is right on the starting line and each remaining segment of your worm touches the one in front of it. You are now ready to race!
Flow of Play
As noted above, each player has a die with faces numbered 4, 5, 6, 7 and X. In each round of the game players will secretly select one of these values on their dice, and then simultaneously reveal them.
Then, beginning with the player who bid the lowest value, players will advance their worm toward the finish line the number of segments that they bid on their die. In order to move your worm, you take the last segment in your worm and move it up to the front of your worm – repeating this action until the worm has advanced the number of segments that you bid on your die. Several things need to be noted about worm movement. In the first place, worms may bend in any direction – and as part of this they may move in a fashion that blocks another player’s advancement. So you can be nasty, but there are limits to your nastiness - worms may never touch each other and they may never split as a result of movement. Finally, worms may move backwards if they find themselves unable to advance forwards.
Several details also need to be noted about the bidding and advancement process. In the first place, if any players bid the same number then all of those bids are invalidated and those players may not advance their worm this turn! This adds a great deal to the suspense and surprise as movement bids are revealed! Further, if you bid the X-value on your die, and no other player makes that bid, then you will be able to advance your worm any number of segments you choose – providing that that number has not been bid by another player. In addition, if you make a successful X bid, then you will also have the ability to rotate the finish line. To move the finish line, place your finger on one of the two posts to keep it stationary and then move the second post – essentially use the stationary post as an axis around which the finish line can be rotated into a position that is most advantageous to you, i.e. closer to your racing worm, or further away from your opponents'!
Finally, once made, successful bids cannot be repeated until on the next turn. That means if you have just moved your worm forward 5 segments, on the next turn you can't bid 5 again. This rule only applies in the case of successful bids - so if two players bid 7 and cancel each other out, they are free to bid 7 again the next time.
End of Game
The game ends immediately when one player’s worm touches the finish line. Yep, what you see here is overkill - consider it the worm version of a lap of honour!
How does it compare with the original edition?
If you are familiar with the history of Worm Up, you will already know that several mechanisms have been employed to carry out the bidding portion of the game. Alex Randolph's original edition was published in German under the name Wurmeln, and this also featured dice for the simultaneous selection. For some time the game appeared with a caravan racing theme, under the name Blazing Camels ("Kameltreiber" or "Knudde Kamelen"). The current edition produced by Gryphon Games is very close to the English edition of Worm Up that first appeared in 2008, although you can distinguish the original edition (2008) from the new edition (2011) by some minor changes to the cover and back of the box.
Most of the differences between these two English versions of the game are cosmetic, such as slight changes in the worm colour, as is evident in this comparison photo:
The biggest change had to do with the way that the simultaneous selection mechanic was implemented. The original English edition (2008) had players use cardboard chits marked with the relevant bidding values. The advantage of these chits was that you always knew which bids were successful in the previous round, and thus could anticipate what other players would not be bidding. The disadvantage was that they were somewhat fiddly to hold and manage - my personal preference would have been to see nicely decorated cards used for this purpose in place of the cardboard chits (and you could even use some regular playing cards if you were desperate to try this method). The advantage of dice is that it eliminates the need to manage a hand full of fiddly chits, although it does requires players to remember the value of successful bids from the previous turn. There are pros and cons to both the chits and the dice, and inquiries with the publisher suggest that both forms of the game are available, so you may even be able to choose your own preferred method for handling this. Either way it doesn't have a big impact on gameplay or take away from the fun of the game, and certainly the oversized dice of the new edition are very attractive and there's much to be said for removing fiddliness in a game designed to be enjoyed by children.
What do we think?
Worm Up is fun and it’s quick – two qualities which are of inestimable value in a family game that needs to appeal to both children and parents. Parents can quite easily tailor the length of the game by adjusting the length of the race track – and so it’s easy to slip in a quick game before bed time. It’s always fun to try and cut off the next person’s worm – only to find yourself stalled for a turn by bidding the same number as another player, while watching the player you blocked in wriggle out from behind you – literally in this case! The simultaneous selection means that you need to try to read the other players and anticipate what they might choose, and can result in frustration or triumph - and because it's a light hearted game that's over in short order, even the frustration creates laughs all round. Kids will enjoy both the bidding mechanic as well as moving their worm segments. And the theme of worm racing is for some reason quite humorous and endearing. It's particularly well suited to groups with younger children, but the quick game time has also enabled this to work when we've pulled it out for a laugh with adults too. Either way it's really all about the fun, and Worm Up offers fun for both adults and kids, and competition will be fierce and fair even between people of different ages. The easily accessible racing theme and cute components go a long way to making the game marketable for almost any group that is willing to entertain the idea of 10-15 minutes of light-hearted fun.
So is Worm Up! a game for you? This is one of those small fillers that's cheap, quick, and fun, and so it's really hard not to like it, given the value it offers. For a small box, there's quite a bit of fun to be had with this wacky racing themed game, and the new edition just keeps these worms slithering in the right direction!
Credits: This review is a collaborative effort between EndersGame and jtemple.
The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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Good review as always Ender, but unfortunately not a great game. There's little advantage in moving the finish line and blocking someone completely takes them out of the race making it too cutthroat for most children. Someone suggested using other components forming an obstacle course which may just redeem the game. Otherwise... it's a bit poor.
We take several quarters and place them in the field of play. The obatacles make the game more interesting.
Also moving the finish line can be big. It can keep a player from victiry. We play that you have to cross the the bottom of the finish line. From the bottom.