It Beats Watching The TV

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Quackers International

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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Sometimes, you just know.
Such an occurrence transpired when an unexpected knock on the door brought a cardboard box contained within a cardboard box that when (both) opened was found to be a harbinger of happiness. Boardgames are like that occasionally.
Whilst everyone (especially this author) has been swept along with Wolfgang Warsch’s wonderful award nominee small box games The Mind and That's Pretty Clever it’s worth remembering that he did actually win with something more traditional that hasn’t quite garnered the same attention. Maybe that’s because I’ve not been plugged in to the scene in the same way that I used to or maybe that’s because it’s only been auf Deutsch.
That’s about to change though.
Although this particular (ridiculously cheap) copy is all German that’s nothing that a crib sheet or a little bit of pasting up couldn’t solve.
The components are nice, the art is comedically appropriate, the rules are quickly digested and before you know it you’re underway and chucking ingredients into your cauldron.
And that’s when something magical happens.



Sometimes, you just know.
Such an occurrence bubbles up the first time that you’re on the brink of boiling over your cauldron. Ingredient chits are pulled from bags by players (simultaneously) one at a time, with each one being placed on the spiral in the concoction a number of spaces equal to the number printed on them and the colours of them may trigger a special effect as well. The white ones though, they are the unwanted, horrible little explosive buggers, wingless flies found squished into the currant bun. As soon as they total more than seven the whole mixture spoils and spills over, meaning that you must forgo either points or buying more ingredients this round. Pull prodigiously though and you’re going to get both, plus maybe even more from the bonus dice that is awarded to the player who’s gone furthest on the track.
Pushing your luck is such a brilliantly compelling mechanism. It’s almost primal. The urge for just one more is irresistible. And it’ll trip you up.
And that is what’s magical.
Luck? Randomness? Sure, you call it that if you want. Disparage the design to soothe your seething. Diddums. It was your damn fault. All yours. Own that error. Curse that cock up. No one made you do it. You always know how many white chits, and of what value, are left in your bag. You didn’t have to dip into the bag again. But you did, you couldn’t resist could you?
And now you’ve lost tempo. You’ve lost points or forgone the buying of new chits. And now you will want to push it a bit further in the next round...




Sometimes, you just know.
Such an occurrence arose when we finished our first play, totalled up the points, marvelled at how close it had ultimately ended up and then looked at each other; and we just grinned.
Boardgames can do that, occasionally.


This Kennerspiel award winning box of fun is about to go international with North American and European English language editions due in the next month or so. I suggest you give it a go, in fact I’d suggest that you’d be quackers not to.



*EDIT* we played this a further two times this evening, with different books and then with the reverse side of the cauldrons. Makes it even more fun and increases the interesting interactions between the chits. This game is a real cracker!
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Mon Oct 1, 2018 6:15 am
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You Know What I Did Last Summer?

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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(BGG’s outage yesterday appeared to break this post that was initially published just before the site went down, so let’s try again...!)

Billy’s birthday lunch. Clockwise from left, my lovely Mother-in-law Lyn, Charlie, Billy.


A week into September, and with the heat of summer beginning to drain from the land, I sit here pondering over the three (mostly) sweltering months that have passed since I last checked in with you.

It was a summer when football didn’t quite come home, it more swung by like an old lover for a few weeks of fun and then departed again, but with no bitterness or recriminations this time, instead a warm smile and just a slight sadness in the heart. We experienced the climactic week of the tournament whilst on holiday in Devon, during the heatwave where the air was still, the sea shone like glass and there was little need to do anything other than to meander from shaded rooftop garden to beer garden to beach to bed. It was glorious.

Holidays. Clockwise from top left; Ilfracombe harbour with Damien Hirst statue, a light snack, the dog going for his morning “walk”, our amazing rooftop garden for the week.


There have been birthdays and there have been parties. There have been weddings and there have been many glasses raised. There have been exams and there have apprehensive waits for results. There has been fun and there has been laughter. There have been friends and there has always been family. There have been growings up and there will soon be movings out. There have been proud parents and there have been special sons.
There has been much time together and yet there will always be too little time together.

Wedding! Clockwise from top left; niece Poppy recommending some excellent local produce, Mrs B and her sisters Claire and Gilly, Charlie and partner Ellie, Mrs B and a half drunk fool.


There have been games.
Quite a lot of games in fact. And not many of them have been new either. Which is kind of interesting. I’m finding that I’m really enjoying playing games again. And again. Freed from my earlier desires to graze far and wide on cardboard I’m rediscovering the joy that come from repeating experiences. And then there is further joy when those experiences are, sometimes slightly, sometimes markedly, different from before.



Something which I have written about earlier this year has been how I’ve been selling games and using (some of) those funds to purchase expansions for games we enjoy. This has certainly aided the number of plays and the enthusiasm we have for these evergreen titles. Viticulture is enormously improved by the Tuscany expansion. What was a very simple worker placement game with a frustrating narrowing of useful actions to take as the game progressed now blossoms into a wider, more satisfying and asymmetrical (via the structures cards) decision space. I genuinely see no reason to ever play this without all parts of the expansion in the future. We’ve long since owned Pandemic and the On The Brink expansion but a reasonably priced copy of In The Lab came my way and boy, oh boy does this change the way you play the game. It’s not essential but it is an excellent alternative, giving you a new laboratory board to place and move cubes about on. Finding a cure for each disease is now a multi step process that takes extra actions and places greater demands on your teamwork and decision making. Superb.
Experimental Meds, and in particular the new roles, makes Pandemic the Cure a good deal more fun for us, and the mutation dice add an extra layer of enjoyable frustration. The Hot Zone dice less so, more like a couple of layers of frustration without the enjoyment. It’s far from bad, it’s just that Pandemic, to our minds, has always kept the fun and the challenge in balance, but these dice tip the scales a little too far into the challenge side for our tastes.
The Castles of Burgundy was something of a bolt from the blue as Mrs B, long ambivalent towards its charms, suggested we play it some more. And even more surprisingly she seems to have warmed to the dice and the chits. Must have been the weather.



The table hogging buffet Feast (for Odin) made a reappearance after a year away and I left it set up for a few days, partly due to laziness and partly to aid some exploration of the underpinning of the game mechanisms by the solo challenges (available around these parts if you look). Much like a big summer barbecue there’s a initially bewildering amount of options and the whole thing looks like a mess of flavours that don’t really go together. The entire smorgasbord is actually much more subtle and interconnected than it appears after a just a few plays. Once you have grasped that there are actually only a few ways to score (big) points but all of them come with an (increasing) amount of risk/ reward you begin to understand the engine building that is required. Early on you find that your boards and raids spit out not quite as helpful as you’d wish Tetris pieces but there is an enormous amount of customisation that can undertaken by a player. This game is actually a reigning in of Uwe’s sandbox experiment rather than the apogee of it that it initially appears to the casual eye. I’m now very curious to see what the Norwegians expansion brings to the heaving table.



I’d not travelled back out to Mars for a similar amount of time, but a serendipitous alignment of celestial proportions across three gaming events with different groups across the space of a single week meant an equivalent number of plays. Each of them was an utter joy with different and unexpected paths taken by me, but remarkably all ending up with victory. I was especially proud of the one where I managed to claim all three milestones despite me pointing out to the table that they really should be trying to stop me doing so. They all regretted concentrating so much on making their card engines purr that they let me claim large clumps of the map. A supremely satisfying game is further improved by adding in the (arguably should’ve been included in the base game) Prelude cards. Giving players more opportunity to set up, jump start and fine tune their corporations not only makes for more differentiation and fun but very welcomely lops a half hour off of the play time.

A grumpy* middle aged me with new purchase


Whilst Nusfjord certainly doesn’t qualify as “new” around these pages it most assuredly is to me. This is quite evidently not part of Uwe’s sandbox experiment, instead coming off like a melding of Agricola All Creatures Big & Small (the amount of worker placement options) with the abilities (immediate, ongoing and endgame) of Glass Road’s building tiles. The three entwined game currencies of wood, fish and gold intersect pleasingly and create obvious bottlenecks that players will fight for position over, with certain buildings (especially the C deck ones that are kept hidden for a while) allowing unexpected legs up and leapfrogs to occur. The game has a very satisfying feel in a pretty short space of time. I love it, and have already played it ten times is less than a week (several of them solo admittedly). Mrs B is, unfortunately, a bit of a cold fish on it after her only play. But she’ll warm I am sure, Glass Road had a similar effect at the outset. I think it’s an excellent game and one I also think may become a regular at games night simply down to the agreeable play time.

*my dour demeanour due to having a bad knee, having driven Charlie to Bristol and back the day before to sort his accommodation for University, having shelled out a large sum of money for said living quarters, then taken him that day to Oxford to buy him new clothes for the wedding pictured above. So, to cheer myself up...., I walked in a sulk across the city centre and bought a new game, this further punishing both my knee and my wallet.

Nusfjord - I was very pleased with this score at the time. I have slightly bettered it since. Not broken 40 as of yet though.


And so as the nights begin to noticeably draw in, and the shades of the season turn towards the browns, the navies, the bottle greens, the ones that suit me in short; I find myself looking forward with no little amount of apprehension and a slight shiver at the changes soon to come but still with the warm glow of the great summer that was. I hope that you too are well, and I shan’t leave it quite so long to check in with you again.
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Tue Sep 11, 2018 6:17 am
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BIGCOB littlecob?

Stuart Burnham
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Abingdon
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The Castles of Burgundy, the Feldian tipping point, before it was lots of penalties and tight decisions, and since it has been all sorts of point explosions and multiplayer solitaire. Clearly there are a great many who adore BIGCOB, residing at no.11 in the BGG ranking at the time of writing, despite it being 7 years old, plain looking, not containing oodles of fancy components nor being a Kickstarter game that cost the purchaser £100 and the recipient of “campaign” (marketing manipulation) urges to “make sure you rate this a 10 on BGG to help with the hotness rating and push us towards those stretch goal unlocks” (I don’t doubt that Gloomhaven is a good game but it, and all others that have encouraged such an approach and all who have themselves rated something before even playing it once, should be fucking ashamed for helping to turn a pretty democratic way of ranking games into a free for all cash generating aid. Pardon me, I digress)

I enjoy BIGCOB. I like the quiet puzzle and the gentle competition for tiles, the challenge of making the best of the dice rolls and I find the absence of direct conflict to be very agreeable in this. It makes it a good game to play in an evening and is, I find, an ideal game for two. This is probably why it has become such a favourite couples game for many and why it is thought of and rated so fondly.
So why don’t I play it more often?



I attempted to address that the other evening, upon noticing that it hadn’t been played for about a year and wondering if I should just sell it on (answer; no, with it being available for £20 new it’s not worth getting rid of to make about half that) I sat down at the kitchen table on a warm evening with Mrs B, the dog lying just outside the open patio doors catching the last of the day’s sun - an ideal way to pass 90 minutes or so (yeah, Mrs B likes to “think”...) I think I needn’t go into how the game plays for any reading this but I wound up winning fairly comfortably after denying Mrs B the tiles she needed to complete the large 8 space city on her board. And as I began packing the thing away into the little coloured bags that I bought (cheap ones on EBay rather than pricey “official” ones on BGG) Mrs B politely but pointedly asked; “why did you just make me play a game that I can’t stand?

Ah. It seems that around 12 months is the length of time that it takes me to forget that she doesn’t enjoy the game. That’s a shame. Being a good gamer/ consumer and all that I naturally immediately turned my thoughts to how I could potentially overcome this issue by buying another game.
Say hello to littlecob.



The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game is another entry in the (wonderful) Roll & Write style of games. As you have probably read before we love these type of games, particularly the “pure” number category ones, but it’s always interesting to see one where a big box game has been shrunk and adapted to a sheet of paper and a few dice. (I’ve recently laminated sheets from all of our R&W games and purchased some dry wipe markers, makes everything much better).

littlecob does a very good job of feeling similar to it’s parent game. The scoring is mostly through completing areas of hexes, with a little bit to be gained from shipping and being the first to finish the entirety of one type of land. There are no end game scoring tiles (the yellows in BIGCOB) and this is a much more straightforward affair than La Granja: No Siesta (an excellent R&W distillation of a big farming Euro). I actually find it very satisfying that in contrast to many in the genre there is no “active player” who chooses their dice first and then all others get a free choice from the remainder, in this all dice are available to all players, an elegant way of retaining the open and gentle feel of BIGCOB.

This “feel factor” is also present in the way that the hexes are marked off. There are six types of land and each has a colour that relates to one of the sides of the colour dice (well who’da thunk it?) and there are restrictions to marking off in each. Three types are grouped by specific numbers (wanting 1s & 2s/ 3s & 4s/ 5s & 6s), the cities want all different numbers (nice echoing), the animals want all the same numbers (nice echoing) and the castles want the same number as one that is in an adjacent hex. Completing a region gains a bonus (change a number, change a colour, take another turn, gain a good, ship a good for points/silver, double your points for the region) in addition to the points earned for the size of the region.
The game length is varied by the hourglass die, which means that the game lasts between 15 and 30 rolls (average is around 23) and this die also triggers shipping when the double hourglass appears. There are four different “boards” included on the paper sheets and the whole package “feels” very faithful to BIGCOB.

I’ve played it 10 times (it only takes 15-20 minutes) in the past week or so, about half with Mrs B and the rest using the neat solo rules, and am really enjoying it. There’s a bit more there to give it something over the straightforward number category R&W titles but it is still very much in that vein. You simply roll some dice and check off some numbers, nothing extra nor extraneous, and that is perfect for the type of title. Well worth the admission (about £10 plus postage from Germany/ France).
Mrs B “quite likes” it. Some progress then...



As we’re playing so many little dice games these days I took it upon myself to make the nice tray pictured above, using a deep picture frame from Hobbycraft (£3) and a sheet of sticky backed felt (£1, same shop) in about 20 minutes. I’m quite pleased with it!

So, what to do about BIGCOB then?
Well, last night Billy mentioned that he really likes the game and so me and him sat at the kitchen table on a cold evening, the dog looking mournfully through the closed patio doors at the last of the day’s rain as (not so) young Bill squeaked out a narrow victory, an ideal way to spend 45 minutes whilst dinner was cooking (yeah, Billy likes to “get on with it”...)

Room for both BIGCOB and littlecob then. I just need to remember who likes what!
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Sat Apr 28, 2018 8:45 am
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When Life Gets a Bit Heavier, The Games Get a Bit Lighter

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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How is it the end of March already?
It just seems to have been one thing after another after another and, before you know it, a quarter of the year has gone!
With that in mind, and with me having a few days off work, it seems an appropriate sort of stage to take stock of the games I've played so far this year.

As the title implies it's been a bit (but only a bit) tougher recently and that has had an interesting effect on my gaming. I've found myself not able or even interested in playing anything above 'medium-light' complexity and that has, actually, been really enjoyable rather than a source of frustration.



Azul has been played quite a lot, and with a variety of players. Interestingly, given that it's such a light and straightforward game, I've found myself having to correct players who've made rules errors initially and have continued to play "wrong".
There've been those who've ended the round after all tiles have been taken from the discs (leaving any left in the centre!) and then those who've allowed tiles taken to be split across multiple rows on your board, and some who've disobeyed the "only one tile of each type per row/ column" when playing on the reverse of the board! Tut, tut, people!
Needless to say all who've been re-educated have discovered that the game has a bit more bite than they initially thought...
It's superb and I love it. I imagine that it'll get 30+ plays before the year is out as it's an ideal evening game and also (despite the above evidence to the contrary) simple for new players to learn in the groups that I frequent.



I've been rounding up Memoir '44 expansions (just the Overlord and a couple of Battle Maps left, although I'm only interested at "sensible" prices, I'm not a completionist) and have played several games with sons Charlie and Billy. I'm toying with the idea of some annotated and illustrated battle reports for the game. If and when I get around to that I'll post a link here. Suffice to say we love the system and it's such a delight when I get home from work occasionally and find that Charlie has set up a scenario ready for us to play after dinner. We've kind of flitted between the various theatres so far because it's such a treat to have access to all these different units and extra rules but we're hoping to settle down into a campaign soon (a PDF of the first campaign book professionally printed by Mrs B at her work is just begging to be started).



Ah, Viticulture Essential Edition, a game I bought, enjoyed, but sold on after Mrs B had one play and said she didn't like it. Last year I played it again with a friend and found myself being won over again. And it has made into that rarest of categories in a collection "games you sold and then repurchased".
This time round it's been joined by Tuscany Essential Edition and Viticulture: Moor Visitors Expansion. I've enjoyed it at 2 with Mrs B, I've loved it at 4 in games groups and I've even enjoyed (and won!) playing it solo.
It is a light and straightforward worker placement game and it does have a little too much "luck of the draw" with the visitor cards for some people's taste but, at the moment, this is *exactly* the type of game I'm looking for.

(This past week at Games for a Laugh I played and loved (and subsequently ordered) Raiders of the North Sea, which also fits perfectly into this strata of gaming.)



Caverna: The Cave Farmers was a Sunday afternoon affair for Mrs B and me a while ago, and this illustrates perfectly where my gaming head is at the moment; I haven't played a single game of Agricola (possibly my favourite game) this year, not even on my iPad, I've just not felt like that much of a challenge. I know that 'Gric is far from the heaviest of games and I know the game pretty darn well, but it's just not what I'm craving at the moment. Nevertheless, there was a little itch and so we played it's slightly simpler, stupider, younger brother. And it was a little bit too much, you know? A little bit too long, a little too much to consider, not enough reward for the effort in all honesty. But we still like the game a lot, it's just not where we want to game at the moment, let alone climb a few more rungs up the complexity ladder!

I picked up (via an auction on this site) a copy of Jambo, which is one of those 2 player only Kosmos titles that, whilst not being what people term a "grail game" for me, has certainly been something that I've had a little candle lit for. And....it's fun. Nothing amazing, but we liked it, certainly enough to keep it and say "oooh, let's play that again" (we haven't, yet!) every now and then. Two player games, or games that are fun at two, that are 30-45 minutes long are absolutely ideal for the meat of our gaming fare at the moment.

Given all the Azul love we've had I went and pulled an older Kiesling title out from the loft, Sanssouci, which does feel very much a forerunner of the flavour du jour. It has a couple of steps too many for it to be as brilliant as Azul (the card and tile draws which, whilst adding some desired restrictions, can be frustrating) but it is quite a tight and fun little game. We've only ever played this as a couple but I'd been keen to try it with a full table and see how it goes.

There's also been a few games of Ticket to Ride which is, genuinely, one of my all time favourites. An especially pleasing play was one where Charlie's girlfriend joined us for her first go at a "modern" game and a full table of five on the original USA map was an absolute delight. I came spectacularly last, but it was probably the most fun I've ever had in my many plays of the game!



The biggest surprise of the year so far has been T.I.M.E Stories. I thought I might not enjoy it, Mrs B thought it looked "sterile" and Billy has been thoroughly "teenage" of late, so it was with not a little trepidation that we embarked on the first mission a few weeks ago.
And we all loved it. L.O.V.E.D.it!
We made two "runs" that first afternoon and then had to wait until the following weekend to go again (successfully as it turned out) but it was deliciously agonising trying to remember what we'd learned the previous week (we had decided against taking notes).

I'd wondered about playing this with just Mrs B but having played with three (and there's no way Bill isn't getting in on the action again) I've zero interest in doing so and, in fact, I think it's probably even better with a full four at the table. The key to the entire experience is the telling of what you see at your location (card) - you are not supposed to read the text verbatim but it is vital that you describe what you "see" as there are a lot of visual clues. I can totally understand that this would be a source of major frustration for some, as the person who "sees" the card might not understand that something could be important or link to something "seen" elsewhere but, for us at least, this was the best part of the game. And when we'd completed the mission, going back through the deck and looking at the cards we hadn't seen (individually, I think we went everywhere) was a brilliant, revelatory, debriefing session that was as much fun as the game itself.
An absolute treat, and it's just as well that I'd snaffled up most of the expansions over the last year when I'd seen them pop up for £10 here and there!

Aside from all the above there's been, naturally, plenty of others but I didn't take pictures and I may (no promises!) write about some of them soon.
Hope you're doing well and that, hemisphere permitting, you're looking forward to some warmer, milder weather coming as much as I am!
See you around.
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Fri Mar 23, 2018 12:09 pm
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Flow my Tears, the Blogwriter Said

Stuart Burnham
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Abingdon
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Ah, the light Civ game; something of a holy grail genre it seems. There is such a desire amongst many of us to find something that encompasses the entire breadth of human history with a variety of options and great strategic depth, but that will play in ninety minutes or less. Not asking much is it?

The Flow of History is a sixty to ninety minute card game that sees players build a little tableau of coloured cards that represent military, government, structures, scienctific knowledge, wonders, leaders, etc - all that you'd expect. There are symbols that power up actions and (may) grant end game victory points. There are abilities on the cards in addition to these symbols which you can enact on a turn, or grant ongoing benefits. Newly acquired cards of the same colour must cover up (the top part of) the card currently on display however, so the power and powers of different players shift as the game progresses; warmongers may suddenly become pacifists and great in game benefits may need to be covered to enable some decent scoring later on.

These cards are acquired through an interesting bidding system - you place resource tokens on a card in the display that you wish to take, but then you have to wait until it is your turn again before you can complete the transaction. In the intervening time your opponents can "snipe" it away however, paying you the bid that you had placed on it and allowing you to take more from the supply (there is a simple formula to determine how many, and you can power it up via cards). This means you might place a bid on a card that someone else wants in the hope that they'll snipe you, allowing you to net the funds you need to get a card you really want later.



This great bidding system highlighted the biggest flaw in the game for me however. It's not, by any stretch, a two player game. In fact the box clearly states that it's for 3-5. But there was a two player variant using a dummy "banker" that you both control which quickly became official and was incorporated into the TMG version that was Kickstarted last year. That I backed. And then picked the original up cheap on a Facebook group, you know, as you do...
You see not only is the short playing time light Civ game a general gamer's grail, but something that uses cards with powers and upgrades and plays well with two is a bit of a personal one for me.
Despite what Rahdo and many others have said to the positive I found this game deeply uninteresting with just Mrs B and I playing. She really did not care for it either. And, barring a few exceptions (see trick takers), a game that doesn't play well at two really shouldn't have a place in my collection - the opportunities to play with more will be too infrequent, even belonging to an active games group. I've no doubt that this would be a fun and interactive light civ game with three or more but the two player experience is, in my opinion, rank bad (not only the banker, but there are a multitude of "attack all" cards that are neutered by only having one person to target) and the "plays with two as well" is simply slapped on to aid sales. A shame.
And so I shed a tear and will be selling on this, and my KS new edition when it arrives.


(Bonus points awarded to anyone who's read the book I'm referring to in the post title.)

...2...
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Sun Jan 7, 2018 6:20 am
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Grab That Cash With Both Hands and Make a Stash

Stuart Burnham
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Abingdon
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You can't really get more Knizia than a game where you use currency to acquire the same currency and/ or other currency for victory points which is equal to the value of the currency, less 100, unless you've got more than 200 in which case it's the full face value, and then 100 bonus points per set of 20's and 30's in the same currency.

Money! is a slightly odd bidding game but a very intriguing and (possibly) unique one. 2 sets of 4 cards are flipped face up and players then form bids from 1 up to however many they currently hold before all revealing at once. The highest bidding player then gets first choice and swaps their bid for either of the 2 sets OR for another player's bid (or just takes the bid back into hand and does nothing). This then goes around the table in descending bid order until everyone has taken a turn. Refill the pair of 4 card offers and keep going until the deck runs out.

Essentially this is a hand filtering set collection game with a lot of open information, if you can keep track of what others are picking up and collecting. Getting high cards of a currency you are not collecting is great for forming a high bid but then once used an opponent could pick up to use to get them over the 200 point threshold, which is a huge deal. Collecting the three 20's and/ or 30's in each currency is nice for a 100 point bonus but if that's all you are trying for you run the big risk of being left on a small score or maybe even 0 points for that currency (if you only get 2 of each). That there are only 9 cards in each currency (3x20, 3x30 and 1 each of the 40,50,60) make it fairly easy to track what players are picking up, even if only roughly. The hidden information is in the starting 6 cards that a player has, and what is yet to be revealed from the deck. A few 10 value coin cards round out the deck, along with a 0 value "bluff" card for each player. You need to pay attention and you need to be a little clever and able to calculate costs and benefits on the hoof.

It's not really much to look at but is a very solid little card game that we all enjoyed playing at home. Mrs B was sure that I was winning, I was convinced she was and yet Billy had almost doubled our scores! (The rules suggest playing 3 games and aggregating the scores for fairness.)
I could see it being a bit of a problem if playing with someone prone to AP but if you like playing quick and sharp then this is a winner.
It's also pretty cheap and easy to track down an old copy.
Money; It's a gas!

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Wed Jan 3, 2018 6:25 am
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Lazy Days

Stuart Burnham
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Abingdon
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The single game that I was given as a Christmas gift (I'm not counting Very British Problems as an actual "game"), the most popular indeed Azul, made it to the coffee table for Mrs B and I to fiddle about with the other day. After just a single play of it a couple of months back I was fairly confident that it would be one of the very best of the 2017 crop of games and to be honest I'm not sure that anything (certainly of the Essen releases) is actually better than it (although Calimala is also excellent).
Playing at 2 is supposed to be quite vicious but this game was relatively serene, although I perhaps should've noticed Mrs B quietly gathering all 5 of a single colour and done something about it, with the associated bonus enabling her to win handily!



We also managed a play of London (Second Edition) as well, with Mrs B again winning handsomely, having built plenty of point scoring cards that rocketed her past me in the final reckoning. I was trying to build a nice clean city and focused on removing poverty, but ultimately I still ended up with a single cube more than she did so that didn't work out! I'm not sure how to do well at this game yet, but I'm pretty sure that it could do with a variant for 2 players, removing some of deck perhaps, as it does play for longer than it feels fun - we actually played some in the evening and came back and finished it off the following lunchtime.



In the evening (the day having been spent sampling the delights of us getting a Netflix account), and with extra family in attendance, we had a play of Wits & Wagers, which is indeed the perfect group quiz game. "Some" of us managed to end up with a zero score, and indeed "some" of us never even managed to bet on a single correct answer all game...doh!

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Thu Dec 28, 2017 8:32 am
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That Sinking Feeling

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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I managed to get a couple of games in on Boxing Day, in amongst all the TV watching, lounging around and "just getting a snack from the fridge" activities. Deep Sea Adventure was one of them, which was perfect as it requires very little thought and fits on a side table meaning you don't have to leave the armchair to play it.

The game has been around for a couple of years now but I'd never played it and is one of those Japanese games that comes in a tiny little box with minimial components. The game is a very simple push your luck/ roll & move affair and so is ideal for a filler, playing with non gamers or, in our case, when no one can really be bothered to do anything but everyone feels like they should play something - to keep dad from moaning, mostly...



Over the three rounds players roll 2 dice (numbered 1-3) on their turn and dive deeper down, hoping to pick up treasure tiles (a spread of numbers on the reverse of the space tiles) of a decent value and then get back up before the oxygen runs out. The manual does an amusing job of explaining that "because you are all poor, you've had to rent the cheapest submarine together and share a single oxygen supply." As soon as a player has picked up any treasure then they reduce the oxygen by the number of tiles they have in their possession at the start of their turn, with there only being 25 units to go around. Greed will probably be punished and the first person to bug out and swim back up may decide to pick up more on the way back, so as to further deplete the air (tee-he). Those that drown drop all their finds, which accumulate into valuable piles at the very bottom.
Basically you don't want to dive too deep too early (save that for the final round) and you don't want to pick too much up as it makes you move slower as well as consume more oxygen.

Mrs B and Billy managed to drown themselves on each of the three dives due to a mixture of incompetence and greed, mostly. This super light game is really all centered around the decision point you make about when to swim back up. There are a few wrinkles and variables, most obviously with the dice rolls, but also you can have a little more time than you might think, if others get safely back to the sub and are then not draining the oxygen any longer.
It's not going to trouble any of the classics in the genre I don't think, but it is a pleasant enough little diversion.

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Wed Dec 27, 2017 6:25 am
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Time to get Stuffed

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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Christmas to me means lots of family gatherings with young and old all centered around food and drink. Christmas Eve is always around to Mrs B's parents for (cooked) breakfast (see above) and fresh pyjamas given out to all the kids (even the ones who are coming up 18).
There isn't much room at all for any gaming with all the flat surfaces being taken up with assorted culinary, rather than cardboard, delights.
I can't really get away with just posting images of food being eaten on a boardgame blog now can I?

Can I?








There was a brief moment for Mrs B and I to play Monza with nephew Bertie (3) and niece Poppy (8) which threw up some amusing competitiveness between brother and sister, and even *shock* a smidgen of cheating! Poppy has enjoyed playing games with us before (see post earlier this year about a trip to Thirsty Meeples with her ) and shows great promise as a future gamer; Bertie, a little less so, as the wooden hammer "smash the track!" incident will attest!
We're not making the error of giving games as gifts to family, in my experience that never truly works out, but we're happy to be the Aunty & Uncle that play all the games and always have something to hand if the occasion arises.



Wherever you are, whoever you're with, whatever you're playing, eating, or drinking - I hope that you're having a good time and there's a smile on your face.

Merry Christmas.

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Mon Dec 25, 2017 6:20 am
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Unexpected Delights

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
Abingdon
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Saturday morning began in a usual manner with a few chores to do and errands to run but swiftly took a swerve in direction when an excited Charlie returned home from work about 45 minutes after leaving for it (he'd forgotten that he'd long ago booked the day off). With such an unexpected boon it seemed the ideal opportunity to act impulsively and so we jumped into the car and headed off to the cinema to watch the latest instalment in the Star Wars saga.



First off; £12 a chuffing ticket?! Secondly; what an enjoyable, fun, and unexpected delight the movie was. I'm sure it has been/ will be over analysed by middle aged men who want what is a family movie to be deep and meaningful and clever and artistic and to offer critical justification for their decades long love of what is, in essence, a space opera fairytale; but for these three males aged 42,17&15 to come out of the cinema all feeling like they were 8 years old again and like the child that features in the movie's coda I'd say it did a great job.
There were things that I genuinely didn't expect, plenty of genuine humour - not Gunganesque slapstick or wry over the heads of kids wordplay, some fantastically bad-ass moments that weren't fan service and the whole thing was self referential without being self reverential. The plot could absolutely be summed up as a slow chase movie with plenty of flab that wasn't strictly necessary but it was full of charm and wit and was great family entertainment.
What a lovely way to start the Christmas holidays.

Dog being his usual interested and helpful self


After taking further advantage of having 2 captive helpers present and stocking up on armfuls of booze to fill the wine rack and cupboards we returned home and were joined by Charlie's girlfriend Ellie for the evening and after dishing out gifts (bless her) she was keen to play some games with us and so we had a couple of rounds of Codenames (Mrs B and me were undefeated) and of Skull with plenty of laughs.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

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Sun Dec 24, 2017 7:33 am
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