Please note that the pictures included are from BGG; my photography skills can't generate such nice pictures...
Designed by Jürgen P. Grunau and published by Kosmos.
Just4Fun hadn't received a lot of attention in the gamer community when it was chosen as a Spiel des Jahres nominee in 2006. While this rescued the game from complete BGG obscurity, the game is still not well known; with a two year headstart it has less than 40 ratings more than Blox, a 2008 SdJ nominee that Grunau also contributed to and which also has never seen an English release.
Given the lack of an English release, and the abstract nature of the game, I didn't encounter the game until the summer of 2007. And the game caught a big break; there weren't English rules in the box. So I dusted off the remains of my high school German vocabulary, and worked my way through the rules. Amazingly enough, I was able to do so - we played the game exactly correctly. While I found the game somewhat interesting and clever, what really made the game stand out for me was the fact that the rules were so clear and simple that my very limited German was enough to work my way through them - the only game I've ever been able to do this with.
How simple? There's a board with 36 spaces numbered 1 through 36, in a semi-random pattern. Each space has an area for each player to mark, and a central area for a player who has locked in the space. Players have a hand of four cards, numbered 1-19 (but heavier on the 1-12 cards). On a turn, a player chooses place to play using the sum of one or more cards from their hand. If a player falls two or more pieces behind the leader on a space, she is locked out; if a player gains a lead of two pieces on every other player, she locks in the space and owns it for the remainder of the game. The first person to have four spaces in a row - either locked or simply with one more piece than any other player - wins; if twenty turns have passed without anyone winning, the player owning the most total spaces is the winner.
Besides my own positive reaction to the game because I could manage the German rules, Just4Fun has been well received by gamers I've introduced it to - as well as non-gamers, since the game is extremely accessible and offers the feeling of progress, even if one doesn't win. I played the game with my nephews (ages 11 and 10) this summer, and they wanted to keep playing it as many times as I was up for; a whole game is done in 20 minutes or so.
The production of Just4Fun definitely adds to the fun. Every player has pieces in a different color, all molded with a smiling face on top. The cards and board, while not exceptional, are of typical Kosmos quality. The game was original published (along with Portrait, another game from Grunau) in Spielbox 2 / 2005; as can be seen in the following picture, the game doesn't have the same visual impact using simple wooden discs.
There is an excellent analysis of the odds of being able to play on any particular space here on BGG, at http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/312469. I wondered if the layout of the board might have been based upon these percentages, but they clearly aren't; there's one legal row of four (starting 36-25-29-31) with an average opportunity to play of less than 21%, and another (17-20-9-14) with an average opportunity to play greater than 46%. While I can picture an intentionally unbalanced board, there's neither rhyme nor reason to the patterns.
Just4Fun is unlikely to revolutionize anyone's game playing habits, it is an enjoyable game, and an easy one to introduce to non-gamers who're open to Racko or Connect Four. It's a good game for kids - second graders should be able to handle the math with no difficulty. Overall, I would recommend the game - and it's just the kind of game the Spiel des Jahres award was meant to recognize.
BGG.CON! BGG.CON SPRING! BGG@SEA!
Agreed...it's a great game, and in-stock at GameSurplus.
- Last edited Fri Aug 22, 2008 8:17 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Fri Aug 22, 2008 8:17 pm
Good to know someone actually read my article - thanks.
I've only played online, at yucata.de (probably another reason J4F has been "rescued from obscurity"), and I usually try to play with a random setup, as is an option on that site. Gives me a little more peace of mind that the playing field is level. A nice option to have.