NORIS SPIELE have many fine games available on the European boardgames market. Two of these I discovered at Essen in October and would like to introduce you to them here and now.
The first of these was CUCINA CURIOSA and the second one is BUTTONS. This is a Benjamin Schwer game for 2-4 players aged 8+. Like CUCINA CURIOSA games typically last between 20-30 minutes and are easy to play once you have read the rules through. The rules booklet is in four languages, German, French, English and Italian. Once again the Editorial is by a gentleman named Markus Müller (game editor for both of these games), the same person who came to our rescue on www.boardgamegeek.com with the basic rules for Cucina Curiosa. Like the Kitchen game I was lucky enough to be taught how to play BUTTONS by Noris Spiele's own Gabrielle Rosshirt.
BUTTONS: You Need To Play It To Love It!
A Game for 2-4 players aged 8+ Played in 20-30 minutes.
There are just three pages of rules and these are interspersed with examples and illustrations, so once again this is a simply explained game. It is also this simplicity that might put players who don't take the time toi understand the game off from playing it. My experience has shown me several times that the name of a game and the box art can kill a game before it has had a chance to blossom and shine. CUCINA CURIOSA for example sounds interesting (as well as sounds like a Harry Potter spell) whereas BUTTONS doesn't quite grab the subconscious of the games player or the imagination of the XBox player. It is all a matter of concept, getting players to your game. In today's world the only buttons younger players are interested in are those on XBox ONE or PS4 controllers, so getting these potential players interested in what appears to be a mundane board game is a formidable challenge. The game is actually truly good but its name is uninspiring, you need to play it to love it.
Players each have a personal game board that is marked into a grid. Each square of the grid shows a different coloured button, Red, Yellow, Green or Blue and along the top and down one side are shown the faces of six-sided dice, blank to six up and blank to six down which creates a 6x6 36-square grid. There are four of these personal boards, each with a different grid on either side, thus making 8 possible grids. The components are, the four personal boards, 5 white d6, 1 black d6, 4 button cards, a bag of yellow (wooden) stars and a bag of clear plastic buttons.
The game is played in turns, with the first to play being the player who has been dealt the Red Button card. On their turn a player may either Roll the Dice or Opt Out. The Opting Out option can only be taken if you have at least one button already on your personal board. You would normally opt out if you think you are likely to roll the dice and not be able to place a Button on your board; it's rather like a game of dare.
To begin with, at the start of the game, the first player will roll all six dice; later on this number may be reduced. The dice are important and specific to the game as one of the Black die has Gold numbering as does the White die, the other four Black dice are regular d6's with White numbering. So having rolled the dice the player displays them so that the White die is to the left of the row and the others are placed in descending order, obviously placing like numbers next to each other. The player whose turn it is regards all six dice and if they decide to place a Button on their board they must use the White die plus any one of the Black dice. They place the button where the numbers intersect using the column of White dice on the board for the White die and the row of Black dice on the board for the chosen Black die.
The other players can now, in order, decide if they also want to place a Button. If they do they have to use the White die in combination with the Black die that has the Gold numbering, that is both dice with Gold numbers only. So far this sounds like child's play but there is a catch, of course. When placing Buttons you may never place one directly next (orthogonally) to another Button although diagonal placing is okay. Buttons may also not be placed onto other Buttons nor onto spaces with Stars. If the player who rolled the dice cannot now lay a Button legally on their board then they have gambled and lost and must remove all Butrtons from their board. If this happens you take one of the Black dice and place it on your board (top left Blank space) where it remains for the rest of the Round - you and this die are now out of the Round. Players Opting Out also remove one of the Black dice from play for the remainder of the Round. Play continues until all players have a Black die on their Depot (that's the Blank space) either from Opting Out (sensible option) or from losing a gamble.
Players who Opt Out in good time, that is before they gamble and lose, gain 1 Star. Stars are also gained for covering 3 of the same coloured Buttons printed on the board with the plastic clear Button pieces. You also gain a Star if 3 of the Buttons covered on the board match the symbol (colour) of your Button card. Players who gambled and lost score no Stars. The game is won by the first person to either gain 12 Stars on their board or who create a vertical or horizontal (ie orthogonal) row/column of Stars on their board. Five Stars in a Row beats 12 Stars in a tied situation.
The options for 3 or 2 players only change the number of Button cards dealt at the beginning of the game, 2 each for 2 players and 1 each for 3 with one not being used and the First Player (Red) Button card always being one of the three.
NORIS SPIELE publish many good, fun games. CUCINA CURIOSA (which still sounds to me like a Harry Potter spell) and BUTTONS being two of the most recent to join the NORIS range of family fun. Both of these are very good for family gamers and can be played by kids on their own, Mums, Dads with children aged 8 or higher, and fairly serious board games players who like a bit of fun as well as a bit of a challenge. Both games are also much more challenging than they first appear to be.