Lowell Kempf(Gnomekin)United States
Okay. Last two Roll and Writes in this collection.
No grid this time. The playing area is scattered with dice faces, vegetables and rotten tomatoes. You roll six dice at a time. You then pair dice up and draw lines in between dice faces that match those dice. You’re trying to box in vegetables for points but not rotten tomatoes that will cost you points.
If you’ve played Raging Bulls, it all makes sense.
And while Raging Bulls is a stronger than Vegetable, Vegetable is still very solid.
The game lasts nine rounds and you will be drawing three lines per round. (And yes, the lines have to be straight and not touch anything between their two points) That’s not nearly enough lines to box in everything. You also get to change a die six times during the game so there’s some dice manipulation.
In other words, you have to make real choices, the decision tree is wide for a game of this weight, and there aren’t obvious best choices.
I don’t know how vegetable might work in the classroom. Drawing lines isn’t that hard a concept to teach. But I’m sure you’d get a wide variety of finished player sheets!
I have been struggling to succinctly describe Hello Autumn. Which is hilarious because it’s one of those game where one glance at the player sheet explains the game perfectly.
The sheet has fifteen leaves on it. Each one has a one of three different colors/symbols, along with two different scoring conditions. One will be either even or odd. The other will be a number greater than seven through nine.
Each turn, you roll four dice and put the results into a math chart. Row of four values, add each values that is next to each other to get three values. Which the chart assigns to a specific symbol/color. I’ve done a poor job explaining it but, again, the actual player sheet makes it easy to understand.
You assign each number to a leaf with a matching symbol/color. You get a point for each scoring condition, up to two points per leaf. Five round and most points wins.
I initially was annoyed that the game rewarded rolling high numbers. Then, I decided that it wasn’t a game about optimization but one about damage control. Then it clicked.
Honestly, I think Hello Autumn might be frustrating for kids in a class room. You aren’t always rewarded for making smart decisions but hurt less by making them. But I think it would work well for more dedicated gamers.
These were interesting games to wrap up my examination of the Roll and Writes from the collection. On the one hand, they don’t feel ideal for the classroom, particularly Hello Autumn. On the other hand, these are the games that I would recommend to seasoned gamers the most. They lack obvious, easy choices, which makes them more interesting.
At some point, I’ll probably look at the other games. Roll and Writes are just ones I could easily solitaire, which made them easy to check out.
I partially got the collection because I thought they might come in handy as a substitute teacher. But I don’t think they will. I’m not going to be with any group long enough to properly teach the games. And, while there are kids who would love them, there are kids in every group that would fight having to learn them.
Still, I am glad the collection exists and that I got it.
I'm a gamer. I love me some games and I like to ramble about games and gaming. So, more than anything else, this blog is a place for me to keep track of my ramblings. If anyone finds this helpful or even (good heavens) insightful, so much the better.
Archive for Reviews
04 Mar 2022
- [+] Dice rolls
Ukiyo is an 18-card tile laying game that brings absolutely nothing new to the table but it packages all its familiar ideas really well. More than that, it has both a solid multi-player and solitaire mode.
It’s actually a 16-card micro game since two of the cards are player aids. The actual cards you play with each have a two by three grid of symbols and a goal. (The four symbols are origami crane, cherry blossom, butterfly and acorn. Ukiyo has an aesthetic and it sticks to it)
The goals are different patterns, ranging from just having the entire grid full to having a three by three square of acorns. They are numbered and the higher the number, the harder the goal. Which serves as a tie breaker in the multiplayer mode.
In either mode, the placement rules are the same. The symbols have to be within a six by six grid. Beyond that, cards can overlap and cover each other up all you want.
In multiplayer mode, everyone gets a hand of cards with the size of the hand depending on the number of players. Your last card, instead of being played, is your goal. (If no one fulfills their goal, you then place that card to try and make your goal)
I first came across the mechanic, that your last card serves as your winning condition, in HUE from Pack O Games. I really like it. It helps remove any player order bias and makes games more tense.
For solitaire the play, Ukiyo has twenty sets of three to four goals, broken down into blocks of difficulty. You take those cards out, shuffle the rest and then play one card at time, trying to end up with a grid that fulfills all of the goals.
Since each shuffle creates a new puzzle, there’s a lot of replay value built in. And the brutal level puzzles are actually brutal.
As I said at the start, Ukiyo doesn’t break any new ground. But implementation counts more than innovation (Is the game actually fun to play?) and Ukiyo does a great job there. It’s easy to understand but still challenging with a solid decision tree and plenty of replay value.
Some micro games feel like bigger games in little packaging. Not Ukiyo. It feels like an 18-card game. But it’s a really good one.
- [+] Dice rolls
Yup. Still working my way through these. Looking at them as a gamer and as a substitute teacher.
Despite the obvious reference to Minecraft, this is another game about drawing shapes on grids. Which is a great genre so that’s not a knock.
You have six numbered 4x4 grids that have gems and holes scattered on them. You have six numbered shapes.
Block Craft lasts eight turns. Each turn, you roll one die. You can either chose a grid that matches that number and draw any two of the shapes on it OR you can pick a shape that matches the number and draw it on two different grids.
You get points for covering up gems, ‘mining’ then. You get bonus points for collecting every gem of a type across the six grids and for collecting every gem on a grid. There’s also a bonus for not covering any holes.
But it f you cover three or more holes in a grid, you’ve destabilized it, collapsing it. You can’t draw on it and you lose any points you’d have gotten from it.
I have to admit that I like Block Craft. The decision space is wide open. You have a lot of options and it is fun.
That said, I can see students being confused by having that many choices. I also wonder if the broad decision tree makes it too easy to do well
Seriously, there couldn’t have been a better name than Words?
Words is an acrostic word game. That’s where you have words interconnected like in a crossword puzzle or Scrabble.
The player sheet is a grid with some letters already filled in and some filled in spaces. You have six categories: names, animals, food, items, colors and wild. Roll the die to get the category and write in a word.
You don’t have to make it an acrostic but you get extra points if you do. You lose three points if you can’t write in a word but it honestly takes some bad play to do that. Ten turns and you’re done.
It’s an okay word game. If you like word games, it’s a good little filler. But, as long as I’m working with kids who can spell, Words is really promising. It’s clearly educational and acrostics are a concept that should be familiar and easy to pick up.
One thing that I really like about both Block Craft and Words is that they have broad decision trees. I play them with a room full of people, kids or otherwise, every sheet is going to look different.
- [+] Dice rolls
There are games that I play online and really enjoy but really wonder if I’d enjoy them in analog, having to actually do all the busy work with the pieces. Loco Momo is definitely one of those games.
The theme of Loco Momo is that forest animals have found a magic camera and are competing to take the best picture. The practice is you are trying to collect and sort tiles.
I’m not going to lie, I think there’s a real disconnect between the theme and the actual game. I mean, honestly either seating arrangements for a forest animal picnic or a theme about a zoology study would make more sense.
There’s a forest board where the tiles wait to get colllected and everyone has a picture boards where you place the tile you collect. The tiles come in five different flavors of animals and four different flavors of backgrounds.
The forest board has four quadrants, each with space for four tiles. Each turn, the active player activates a tile. They all have a different movement, including standing still. You collect all the tiles that match the background of the tile you activated.
The picture board has five rows of fives and you place tiles right to left. Different combinations of tiles in different spaces are worth points and one wrong tile in the wrong space naturally reduces the point value.
Refill the forest board and it’s the next turn. Six rounds and the game is done. Most points wins.
I’m of two minds of Loco Momo. On the one hand, luck entirely determines what moves you can even make. And your best move is usually going to be obvious. Go for the move that gets you the most tiles unless you are looking for specific tiles (the f they are even available) There are decisions but they aren’t hard decisions.
On the other hand, I keep playing it on Board
Game Arena. I am engaged by the little puzzles that emerge and trying to solve them. So, I enjoy Loco Momo.
But… an online game takes five minutes at best and all the housecleaning is done automatically. I’m not sure I’d enjoy the game as much in person. (Of course, the online game doesn’t have the expansions that apparently exist)
I’ve enjoyed what I’ve gotten out of Loco Momo but I don’t know if I want more.
- [+] Dice rolls
Okay. I meant to type these little mini-reviews out in quick order. But I got distracted by other stuff I wanted to write.
Anyway, I’m sometimes a substitute teacher and I approached these games as possible classroom exercises. I almost always have acccess to the syllabus so it will never happen but that’s where I’m coming from.
Seal has you creating a path for a baby seal across a grid of ocean bubbles, getting points for catching fish and saving tangled seals while losing points from anemone and sharks.
So, you’re drawing a line on a grid.
You roll one die. Each die has three possible line shapes, which include jumping over spaces. In the regular game, you cross off a shape once you use it. In theory (and it’s very unlikely) the game could end in four turns if you rolled the same number four times.
There’s a simpler version where you don’t cross off shapes. In the classroom, I’m more likely to teach it that way. Not to make it simpler but to encourage kids to make different lines, to make the decision tree bigger.
Honestly, Seal has a strong one-more-time feel. It is simple but it’s fun to explore the possible paths. I don’t know how much replay it has but it works for short term play.
You roll a die to determine which four-square shape you ‘drop’ down into a grid. If you’ve played Tetris, you know how it works. You get points (or lose them) by covering up symbols on the board, so it’s a bit like Reiner Knizia’s FITS in that regard.
Tetri Go is terribly simple but still offers a decent decision tree. It’s honestly one of too choices for the classroom because the core concepts of the game are going to be ones that kids already know but there is still room to think.
It’s also a game I’ve taken to playing if I want to get in a quick analog game in a few minutes. It only last eight turns and you need make up your mind what you’re going for in the first turn or two but I’ve had fun. 13 Sheep is honestly better but it’s nice to have another game in that niche.
- [+] Dice rolls
When I was trying out Waffle Hassle, the thought that kept going through my brain was that this was a game that designed to be played on a airplane tray.
Waffle Hassle is an 18-Card micro game that’s all about stacking waffle cards with different toppings on top of each other. There’s a two-player mode and a solitaire mode and the two are pretty different.
In the two-player mode, each player has a hidden objective card. Solitaire just has you trying to get at least two of each topping on the final board. Oh and the two-player mode has you swap hands at the end of each round. (Which is honestly the most interesting element of the game)
Either way you play the game, you use four of the cards to form a two-by-two grid that make up the entire playing area of the game. Here’s the telephone booth, here are the knives, go.
I have only played the solitaire version of the game. There are things that I like about Waffle Hassle. And there are some real concerns as well.
Okay. Let’s the the positives out of the way. While we live in an age of micro-games and an increased interest in In Hand games, I do like the minimal footprint of Waffle Hassle. If you have any kind of table space, it will work. And the solitaire game has a surprisingly strong ‘one more time’ effect.
Here’s the biggest problem. The alingment of the fronts and the backs of some of the cards in the files I bought is off. That means that those cards are effectively marked, which would quickly become a big deal in a two-player game. And I am doing my best not to remember cards for the solitaire game.
Now, even for someone like me who isn’t super craft for computer savvy, I can come up with workarounds to solve this. I can just use a solid pattern for the backs and problem is solved. However, I do like how the backs form a grid that is the same size as the symbols on the front of the card. And, let’s be honest, this is a legitimate production issue.
I am also concerned about how the small pool of cards will affect long term replay value. Four of the cards are hidden objectives, leaving 14 cards that you actually play with. And four of them become the board. I think there will reach a point in which you know the deck well enough that it won’t be as interesting. I bought the files for Ukiyo at the same sale and that is a tile-laying micro game that I can already tell will have a lot more long term value in it.
All that said, I am enjoying my time with Waffle Hassle. I bought the files on sale and I am definitely going to get my money’s worth out of them. It’s got problems but it is engaging.
- [+] Dice rolls
As I’ve written before, I backed and received Radoslaw Ignatow’s Creative Kid bundle last year. It consists of fourteen games but my personal focus is on the eight Roll and Writes. That’s because that’s what I’m going to play on my own and that’s what I’m mostly likely to use in the classroom.
(Honestly, I don’t think I’ll be running any of these games in the classroom but I can dream. And watch me be wrong about what games would work or get played )
These are short and simple games. I wanted a happy medium between spending a blog each on them and giving them one paragraph so I’m reviewing them two at a time, in the order I tried them.
Doggy Race is a mixture of Roll and Move with Set Collection. The game consists of a track made of three different symbols. Each turn, two side are rolled. Each player picks a die and ‘moves’ that many spaces, crossing off the space where you land on so you can keep track of where you are and what spaces you’ve collected.
Each space is worth one to three points and you gain bonus points for collecting X number of symbols and reaching the end point first. (The rules don’t say what happens if there’s a tie for reaching the end point first. I’d houserule that it doesn’t get awarded) Most points wins.
Honestly, Doggy Race is easily the weakest game that I’ve tried. And it all comes down to the fact that the decision tree is very narrow. Unlike many shared-die roll games, I think players will end up with identical boards. Either race for the end or go as slowly as possible to claim the most spaces. I honestly wonder if adding a third die would help to give players more choices to pursue the bonuses.
Doggy Race’s issues come down to the basic issues that come from Roll and Write in general. I can’t see using it for a full classroom but I can see using it for a smaller group of younger students because familiarity with Roll and Write will make it easier to teach.
You use a dice pool to draw animals on a grid, draw fences around them and raise the value of types of animals. At the end of the game, you earn points for fenced in animals and most points wins.
Look, drawing stuff on a grid is a staple of Roll and Writes. And My Farm is one of the simplest ones I’ve seen that uses a dice pool. Heck, as long as you put the same type of animals together in the same pen, it doesn’t matter where you draw things.
As a gamer, there are a lot of similar games mid pick first for my own entertainment or a gamer group’s entertainment, including Ignatow’s earlier Alpakaland.
But, if I have just an hour to teach and I know some students have never seen a dice pool before, My Farm is a game I’d be looking at. These dice are the money you can spend each turn. You can buy farm animals, fences and upgrades. Any questions?
My Farm really fits the mission statement, a game for a classroom or other group setting.
I’ll be honest. These are not the strongest games in the collection. I’ll probably play them recreationally less than the other Roll and Write games in the collection. But they do have their place and uses.
- [+] Dice rolls
I honestly view it as kind of insane on my part but I like to have the first book I read or the first game I play in a new year to be good. It doesn’t have to be the best of the year but I try to avoid garbage.
When I realized I was actively avoiding trying out prototypes and such so they wouldn’t be the first game I learned in 2022, I decided I’d better hurry up and get a game I thought would be good learned. So I learned Dungeon Roll on Board Game Arena.
Short version: it’s not garbage.
Dungeon Roll is a dungeon crawl built around dice. Which tells you absolutely nothing. There are probably, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating, hundreds of games that fit that description. Heck, I could describe Dungeons and Dragons like that.
The core mechanic of Dungeon Roll is that you are managing a pool of white dice while the dungeon is an increasing number of black dice that give you monsters to fight and treasure to loot.
And here is the clever bit: you get a hero card that gives you a couple special powers. More than that, it can get leveled up for better powers. In all honesty, that’s the best part of the game for me. The heroes give you your variety and more interesting decisions.
At first, I thought the game was mindless dice chucking and it was all luck. However, there are some ways you can manage your luck and your dice pool. I do othink bad die rolls can easily override your decisions but I’ve been having enough fun that I don’t care.
It’s really the bells and whistles that will keep me playing Dungeon Roll. The core mechanic isn’t that interesting for me but I want to try out all the hero cards and see what tricks I can pull. The parts are bigger than the sum
Two games that I kept thinking about while learning Dungeon Roll were Balloon Pop and Deep Space D6. I learned both of them the month before so they were fresh on my mind.
A big reason why Balloon Pop comes to my mind is I also just learned it via Board Game Arena. It’s a push your luck game with the twist that every time you reroll, you add a new dice. Which, if I am doing my figuring right, actually decreases the odds of getting what you want. I’ve read about some people who felt Dungeon Roll was too light but it’s a boulder compared to Balloon Pop. Balloon Pop is what you pull out when folks want to play LCR.
Deep Space D6 is another narrative genre game, only this one is science fiction. I think it is more balanced and more immersive than Dungeon Roll. Watching after the health of your space ship give Deep Space D6 a strong focus. The dice change but the ship is constant. Hero cards are a source of special powers in Dungeon Roll but the ship is your character in Dungeon Roll. Of course, Deep Space D6 is solitaire only.
Dungeon Roll isn’t going to be the best game I learn this year. It is pretty light and it has some real flaws. But I am going to keep playing it and having fun with it. So a good start to the year.
- [+] Dice rolls
I’ve been vaguely aware of Deep Space D6 pretty much since it first showed up. I even downloaded the app. But it took trying to play a different dice games for Dicember 2021 for me to actually try it.
So, I decided to look at the tutorial… and then played the game five times in a row.
While the title implies that the game is themed around Star Trek Deep Space 9, it’s really one of the space ship wandering around the universe versions of Star Trek with the serial numbers filed off. And, as a Doctor Who fan who hasn’t watched a lot of Star Trek and thus isn’t the best guy to judge, I feel like it really nails that feel.
The game consists of a spaceship playmat, a stack of encounter cards and some dice. Well, you also have to have some tokens to track hull and shields. Honestly, the spaceship, with its separate hull and shields and stasis beam, is what makes the game a spaceship game and not a dungeon crawl with a different skin.
The dice are the crew and you assign them to different tasks each turn. Each pip is a different kind of crew member. Each one does something different and I think it succeeds in being immersive and thematic.
One thing that makes the game both great and nightmarish is that encounters don’t go away until they are resolved. (Most of them are enemy ships and you resolve them by blowing them away) If the dice don’t let you manage them, you end up fighting an armada while terrible things go wrong on board.
And, yes, the lack of control the dice can give you is the biggest issue with Deep Space D6. You have to manage your hull, your shields, your dice pool and the encounters. If you don’t roll what you need to do at least part of that, you will get buried. I’ve had games last six turns.
There is some dice manipulation… through the commander pip. So you have to roll a specific pip in order to manipulate the dice
That said, after you get an idea how the game works, it seems like you tend to win or lose by the skin of your teeth as opposed to massive swings one way or the other.
In short, I can see why some folks don’t like Deep Space D6 but I’ve been having a barrel of Klingons worth of fun with it. At some point, I want to make the fan expansions and maybe even look into the published version.
- [+] Dice rolls
I decided to celebrate Christmas by playing some Christmas-themed Roll and Writes. The two that I rolled with were The Cuboid’s Proud Christmas and Giftbringer.
(I had planned on also trying out Pohutukawa Christmas but its rules are literally missing step four. I suspect it’s a formatting error but it f you want me to learn a game, there needs to be a basic level of clarity in the roles)
The Cuboid’s Proud Christmas is themed around decorating a Christmas tree. Mechanically, it’s actually all about creating sets of dice. Two twos, three threes, etc., a set for each ornament on the tree.
I like dice manipulation and this game is _nothing_ but dice manipulation. Rerolls, flipping dice, adding or subtracting, etc. Every turn is a puzzle.
I don’t know how well it would do with more than two or three players and I’ll have to play it more to see if it’s balanced. However, I like the moving parts.
When I first looked at Giftbringer, I felt that it looked like a Radoslaw Ignatow design. Then I looked at the designer and felt very observant.
Giftbringer is set in an alternate dimension where the Vikings have gifts instead of pillaging. It uses the Take It Easy paradigm of everyone using the same die rolls on their own board.
Over the course of ten turns, you use a pool of four dice to recruit Vikings (who supply gifts to give and can carry milk and cookies away) and pay for moving across the map to deliver gifts.
Giftbringer is all about managing resources, both the die rolls and your Vikings. There may be an optimal path across the map but the random factor of the dice keeps the game from being solved.
Giftbringer _might_ be simpler than Proud Christmas. It is definitely more intuitive. It’s a game that you can plonk down in front of folks and get the game going in two minutes. And, as a family holiday game, that’s a big plus.
I have heard folks say that free PnP games are a gift to the community and I agree with that. Both Proud Christmas and Giftbringer are definitely gifts and I appreciate both of them.
That said, I will say that I do think that Giftbringer is the stronger, more polished game. I have already started recommending it to folks as a way to celebrate Christmas.
- [+] Dice rolls