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Subject: Louie: The Untold Story (upgraded from 9/10 to 10/10) rss

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Christopher Rao
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Q:When I say "lawyer" what pops into your head? A:Someone who designs games about penguins." - Dormammu
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So there we were, fresh off Advanced Civilization and Die Macher but still feeling somehow unsatisfied. Should we start off a quick month of Empires in Arms or just go back to our wives and children?

It was then that a buddy (I'll call him "Curt," because that's his name) entranced us with a tale of liberation and freedom that he'd heard at the Gathering. A tale of war. The little-known tale, in fact, of WW I - era schizophrenic Liechtensteinian pilot Louis von Tiltalot. An unstable man from a small country in a big war, Louie unhatched a secret German plot to poison the hearty Liechtensteinians through rudimentary biological warfare - poisoned chicken feed:

Louie valiantly leapt into his plane (actually his brother-in-law's plane, but why quibble?) and single-handedly liberated the virus-laden chickens before they could be eaten by an unsuspecting populace.

Like many heroes, Louie was misunderstood in his native land. After overcoming his own disabilities and many obstacles - including several giant brightly colored catapults manipulated by German sympathizers in the countryside - he was nicknamed "Loopin'" by the very countrymen he saved (either because of his flying maneuvers or his mental instability, no one knows for sure). Unfortunately, there is no definitive photo of Louie, because he was also a master of disguise. Here are five different portraits taken of Louie in various costume:

But, said the teller of this tale, someone had a actually made a game chronicling the aviation exploits of this forgotten hero. Slowly he pulled the box out, as we cheered. Oh yes we did. Needless to say, we were all impressed by the innovation and historical realism of World War I airplane/chicken coop combat. Viva Louie!



GAME RULES
Louie runs on 2 AA batteries, and swings off a pivot counter-clockwise in the middle of the board. Players each control a paddle immediately to the left of their "chicken coop," a slotted plastic arm containing 3 plastic chips ("chickens"). The goal is to use your paddle to both protect your own chicken coop and to shoot Louie up and over the paddles of your opponents, making their chickens fly the coop. To make things more entertaining still, Louie pivots on the tower, and can even fly upside down (if you hit the plane just right, on the wheels).

To begin a round, put Louie straight up on top of his tower, then turn the switch on. The tower will then lean in a random direction, and Louie will wreak his havoc from there. A round ends when only one player still has a chicken in his coop. The next round that player starts with one less chicken. The game ends when a player starts the round with only one chicken and wins the round.

One important house rule (that isn't in the official Hasbro rules): If at the beginning of a round Louie immediately drops to take out a chicken token, you can either re-start the round or (and this is easier), just let the player reach his hand in and put the token back in his coop. Remember, if Louie dives just in front of a coop, then bounces and takes out a chicken, that's valid and tough luck for the player. But if the dive is direct, no harm no fowl

A word of warning: The game is well-engineered and hard to break (even for my 2-year old boy!), but the one thing that might really break the game is to turn the motor on and hold the tower (on which Louie rests) to prevent it from turning.

GAME REVIEW CHECKLIST:
1. DEPTH/COMPLEXITY 9/10
"How many and how compelling are the decisions you make per minute second?"

Yeah, you're always engaged, and there are actually quite a few little decisions to make. Do I go for the 90, the 180 or the 270-degree dive? Do I go for the tail, a difficult shot that makes Louie Loop, and thus harder to defend? (Note that if you miss the timing on the tail, Louie will happily take one of your own chickens.)

- Analysis Paralysis/Downtime?
Not applicable. Real time, baby. Real time.

2. MECHANICS 10/10
"How intuitive, elegant and flowing are the moves that bring your tactics to life?"
People talk about how light Louie is, about how you shouldn't take it too seriously, etc. etc. But Louie's little secret is that it's really hard. Even after playing 20 or 30 times, getting the knack of the 180-degree shot (the most difficult in the game, IMO) is really tough. I've never seen anyone consistently make even the 90-degree shots, even after many plays. Yeah, I'm sure there are fast-twitch genetic freaks out there who can do it; I just haven't seen them.

The come-from-behind mechanic is beautiful and simple. The handicap of widening paddles lets you equalize when playing with kids. And most brilliantly, you can keep playing even when you've lost your chickens.

3. INTERACTION 9/10
"To what degree does it facilitate a rich social experience?"
I've enjoyed this with hard-core gamers (who really do play Empires in Arms, my eurogamer group, a camping trip with lots of kids and adults, and at a convention of computer gamers. There's always been laughter, always been interest. Always been fun.

4. ORIGINALITY 8/10
"How fresh and unique are the strategy, mechanics and theme?"
There are many dexterity games, including several for kids. It's the execution of Louie that sets it apart. It's just hard to get it right. That said, I don't know another game quite like it, so I give it an 8 on this. Just because I can.

- What's the freshest part of the game?
Allowing a player to keep playing even when he's lost a round. Not only is this fun, but it also has a real tactical element. For example, let's say that I'm eliminated and there are 3 players left, 1 with 3 tokens remaining, 1 with 2 tokens, and 1 with just a single token. To even things out, I want the player with the most remaining tokens to win, but under no circumstances can I let the player with just 1 token win - or he has won the game.

So now I have to decide what shots I think I can make. If the player on the verge of winning is to my right I can go for the kill, or I can just knock it over him, depriving him of a chance to even hit the plane. Or, if he's immediately across from me and I don't think I can make the 180-degree shot, I can simply let the plane go by so that the player to my left has a smooth 90-degree shot.

Oh, and let's not forget the ever-popular 360-degree shot. This is best when it's down to two players 180 degrees from each other, who can't seem to hit the side of a barn, till one takes himself out.

5. AMBIENCE 7 of 10
"How much do the theme, aesthetics and bits add the overall experience?"
So plastics is plastic. And as for theme, well, it's literally pasted-on (with stickers!). The bits are silly, and not terribly attractive to look at, but the thing is - they work. And with dexterity games this is critical.

I own the 2006 German edition. Kevin Wood has done a great job photographing the difference between Classic Louie and New Louie (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/115745), so let me just point out a couple of key differences: Classic Louie is obviously bigger and seems a bit more sturdy, but New Louie is pretty standard. Contrary to several others, I actually prefer New Louie for 3 reasons:

1) If you hit your paddle too hard, you can make your own tokens fall. This doesn't seem to happen much in Classic, and I think it makes the game better and less random when people don't just whack the paddle as hard as they can out of frustration ("Why Louie why? Why did you do that to me?"). Especially with kids.

2) It's smaller. It simply takes up less space on my shelf; and in my bag, when I take Louie out to play.

3) It's a little easier. Still plenty hard. Plenty. But I think the games go a little faster, letting everyone who's waiting and gawking in on the fun. Part of this, most obviously is that because it's smaller, the distances appear to be slightly easier to gauge.

6. AUDIENCE
"Who would love this game?"


Everyone, just about. This is my vote for the most universally appealing game. I would put on my desert island list (if I had one), except - where do you get AA batteries on a desert island

I've seen a thread here of people who say they don't get the hype. Fair enough. Obviously not every game is for every one. The thing I recommend to anyone before dismissing it is to try getting one shot down with consistency. And, I guess, if even that doesn't appeal to you, then go play Caylus!

- Does it hit a sweet spot? Which one?
Yessum. A big, yummy sweet spot. At one of my gaming groups (with about 10-12 people on average), we often just set it up at the beginning of the night. That way, people can get a game in even when they just have 5 or 10 minutes to wait.

- Luck (& Chaos) : Player Control
Amazingly, there's really not much luck and quite a lot of player control - especially as the skill of the players increase. I won't say there's no chaos....

SUMMARY 9/10 10/10
So whatever became of Louis von Tiltalot, the deranged, forgotten hero of Liechtenstein? Years later, when a distant cousin made the arduous journey to Liechtenstein, Louie had long since disappeared with the chickens ... some said to San Francisco where it was rumored he prospered in dry goods. (1 geek gold to the first person who nails this reference )

EDIT: I decided to bump Louie up to a 10. I also demoted Power Grid down to a 9. I've played Louie in so many different groups and situations, and everyone, really everyone, gets into it - even the people who balk at first at even trying it. That makes it my 8th 10, and certainly my lightest (the others are Die Macher, Puerto Rico, Caylus, Imperial, Magic: The Gathering, Catan, and Ticket to Ride).
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Christopher Rao
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Q:When I say "lawyer" what pops into your head? A:Someone who designs games about penguins." - Dormammu
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Re: Topher's review - Louie: The Untold Story (9/10)
Don't know why that happened, but I fixed it, I think. Thanks.

Edit: I just had a thought. I know I didn't post it twice, but I did click the "blog it" box. I wonder if it posted twice b/c of that. Hmmmm....
 
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Tejas Mistry
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Re: Topher's review - Louie: The Untold Story (9/10)
topherr wrote:
he was nicknamed "Loopin'" by the very countrymen he saved (either because of his flying maneuvers or his mental instability


Thats absolutely hilarious!! laugh
 
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ɹǝsɐɹɟ
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Back in the days when there were less maps we played every map back to back
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Ooh a little higher, now a bit to the left, a little more, a little more, just a bit more. Oooh yes, that's the spot!
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Re: Topher's review - Louie: The Untold Story (9/10)
topherr wrote:
I've never seen anyone consistently make even the 90-degree shots, even after many plays. Yeah, I'm sure there are fast-twitch genetic freaks out there who can do it; I just haven't seen them.
Daughter the Elder has got the 90 degree shot pretty much down pat now. I reckon she is on about 90% success rate. At a recent games day I saw her about to play with a bunch of adults and warned them not to sit immediately to her right meeple
 
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Call Me Ishmael
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Re: Topher's review - Louie: The Untold Story (9/10)
Levi Straus
 
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James Smith
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Re: Topher's review - Louie: The Untold Story (9/10)
Great review of a great game. I like your style of writing a review very much, you have a good knack of describing the 'feel' of playing the game and I think that is how a true review should be written. I look forward to reading more of your reviews in the future!
 
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Rob
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You can't rob Peter, Paul and Mary to pay yourself.
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Re: Topher's review - Louie: The Untold Story (9/10)
Added to my wish list. Thanks for a great review!
 
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John Kennard
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Re: Topher's review - Louie: The Untold Story (9/10)
I was introduced to this splendid game by one of our gaming group, who claimed he'd bought it for his grandson. But we know the truth!
I admit to trepidation at first, but agreed to try it anyway - if nothing else, it might be worth getting for my 4yo son.

It's *&@# tricky, isn't it?!?

Brilliant fun. And a great 10-minute filler.

My wife found it in a local shop for £6.50 yesterday. Soon the house will resound to the shrieks of a deranged fighter pilot and imperiled chickens!

PS. It's the end bit of "Unforgiven", although I doubt I'm first to spot it!
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Christopher Rao
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Q:When I say "lawyer" what pops into your head? A:Someone who designs games about penguins." - Dormammu
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Re: Topher's review - Louie: The Untold Story (9/10)
Nope, you're the first, or at least the first to tell me about it.

By the way, I recently bumped it up from a 9 to a 10, and demoted Power Grid from a 10 to a 9. I did it b/c when in comes down to it I actually like Louie a little better, even though I love Power Grid. Apples and Starfruit, I know....

Cheers!
 
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