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Subject: Father Geek's Review of Perfect Stride rss

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Cyrus Kirby
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The Basics:
o Ages 8 and up
o Plays 2 to 4
o About 45 minutes to complete (play time is adjustable)

Geek Skills:
o Counting & Math
o Logical & Critical Decision Making
o Reading
o Strategy & Tactics
o Risk vs. Rewards

Learning Curve:
o Child – Moderate
o Adult – Moderate

Theme & Narrative:
o You and your horse must gallop ahead of your fellow riders towards imposing jumps and obstacles while racing as quickly as you can to the finish line!

Endorsements:
o Father geek approved!
o Child geek approved!

Overview

In Perfect Stride, players take on the role of a horse jockey and must use their wit and skills to navigate an unknown course filled with obstacles of mixed difficulty, all the while pushing their horse to be the lead. Perfect Stride is more than just a race; it’s an obstacle course. The players must navigate it to the best of their ability, balancing luck and strategy in order to beat out the other players and be the very first to cross the finish line. From the very start, it is a close race and victory is never certain.

The game is comprised entirely of cards and a single small wooden pawn. In total, there are 7 different groups of cards. These include, Horse, Event, Jump, Skill, Ribbon, Pace, and the Finish Line card. The cards are of high quality and colorful. The text is very easy to read and the use of card symbols is kept to a minimum to make it easy to know what the card is saying without the need to pause the game and go read additional rules. Four summary rule cards are also provided for quick reference if needed. The wooden pawn identifies the player who is the Lead Rider.

To set up the game, all of the cards are separated into their different decks. Each player is dealt 3 Horse cards and must select one. This horse will be the player’s partner in the game. Each horse has a specialty that makes it unique and might provide the player with a slight advantage during the race. Once each player selects a horse, the Horse cards are collected and placed back in the box. They will not be used for the duration of the game.

Next, each player is dealt 3 skill cards at random. These represent the player’s initial skills. In addition, each player receives four Pace cards which represent the speed in which the player can push their horse. The Pace cards, from the slowest pace to the fastest, are Walk, Trot, Canter, and Gallop.

Next, 10 jump cards (or less if the game length needs to be shortened) are placed face down in a row and the Finish Line card placed at the end. The Skill and Event card decks are placed within easy reach of all players, and Ribbon cards, ranging from 1 to 4 (depending on the number of players) are placed in a sequential stack under each Jump and the Finish Line card. For example, if playing a 3 player game, each jump would have a single 3 Ribbon, a 2 Ribbon, and a 1 Ribbon. All the remaining Ribbon cards are placed in the box except a number of 1 Ribbon cards equal to the number of jumps. These Ribbon cards are placed in easy reach of all players.

To determine who goes first, a set of Pace cards are dealt face down to each player. The player with the fastest Pace card is given the Lead Rider pawn. You are now ready to play the game!

Each player has one and only one chance to clear each jump. Each jump has a difficulty number that must be matched with an equal or higher number of effort, which is provided by the Skill cards and possibly the Horse (if the horse’s abilities match the jump type). In addition, an Event card is played on the player’s turn that might or might not reduce the difficulty of the jump. In fact, the event might make the jump all the more difficult!

I will not go into the great detail regarding the card symbols other than to state that they are very limited in the number used. This is a real plus for two very important reasons. First, by reducing the number of information symbols, the game is slim, trim and can be played quickly. Second, while lack of rules might imply simplicity, it also creates a higher level of difficulty because it greatly reduces the number of ways a character can succeed. Therefore, on a player’s turn, the only symbols they need to read are the difficulty value of the jump, the effort value of their Skill cards, any effects from the Event card, and the horse’s ability that might assist them in the jump.

At the beginning of each round (or “jump”), all the players select one of their Pace cards and place it face down in front of them. They are then all revealed. The player with the fastest Pace card is automatically the Lead Rider. Turn order than goes from the fastest to slowest horse.

On the player’s turn, they complete the steps in the following order:

1. If the Lead Rider, reveal the Jump for this round

2. Draw a number of skill cards noted by the played Pace card

3. Reveal the Event card

4. Play as many Skill cards as necessary to provide an effort value higher than or equal to the jump difficulty value

5. Use a single Skill card function or Horse Care that will add a one time special bonus

6. Collect a Ribbon card if successfully cleared the jump

7. Discard down to five Skill cards at the end of the round

The Ribbon cards are awarded to the players as they complete the jump. If the player does not complete the jump, they are not awarded any Ribbon cards whatsoever. The Ribbon card the players are awarded is determined by the order in which the player’s successfully completed the jump. The first player gets the most points, the second gets the next, and so on until all the players have collected a Ribbon card or have failed to complete the jump. At the end of the round, the player who is the Lead Rider gets an additional Ribbon worth 1 point.

The only other three rules I want to point out is Horse Care, Skill functions, and the shifting of the Pace cards.

The Horse Care cards are special Skill cards that can be “equipped” on a horse. These allow the player to do a one time special action, but they can only be played on the following round on which they were equipped. In addition, only one Horse Care card can be equipped at a time. This means the player’s have to do some serious thinking regarding what they should equip or not for future use.

Skill functions provide the player with a one time special activation of an ability granted by that Skill if it matches the jump type. These are much like Horse Care but are dependent on the jump type and sometimes the player’s current position in the race.

The Pace cards, used to determine the number of Skill cards drawn this round as well as turn order, are not placed back in the player’s Pace deck after they are used. Rather, the played Pace cards are passed to the left of each player. This adds two additional layers of difficulty. First, the player looses the Pace card they just used. Second, the Pace card they receive as a replacement might be a redundant or slower Pace card, which means the player is immediately limited and must consider carefully what they want to do for the next round or risk falling behind in points.

The game continues until all the jumps have been turned over and every player has had a chance to complete them. The very last part is a true race in regards to speed. Each player places one of their Pace cards out in front of them and then they are all revealed. The player with the fastest card finishes first, followed by the second, and so on. Ribbon cards are awarded to the players in the same way as the Ribbon cards under the jumps.

After all the player’s have crossed the finish line, the players count up the points on their Ribbon cards. The player with the most points wins and has a Mint Julep.

If it is not obvious, this race is not about speed. It is about management. Management over the player’s cards, management over what cards they pass to the other players, and management over positioning. And the best thing is, it is not a daunting task. The rules are streamlined, clear, and fun. Nothing feels out of place or unnecessary. And yet, it is real challenge to keep ahead of all the other players. This keeps the tension level high, the game well balanced, and continued building excitement as the race draws to a close.

Read the rules in more detail, including the “Basic” rules that make the game simpler and easier for your little geeks. There is quite a bit I didn’t cover and is worth reading about. Specifically, the card symbols and how they work together. There are also a number of videos available that walk the viewer through the game. I believe you will find the rules to be well written, easily understood, and to the point.

Final Word

I have always instructed my little geeks, in one way or another, to “never judge a book by it’s cover”. This is the most simplistic of lessons but also one of the hardest to follow, even for adults. It’s in our nature to automatically prejudge the value of something or someone based on our initial experiences and impressions. This is why, sadly, first impressions are so very important and can make all the difference. In the first couple of moments we are introduced to someone or a new idea, a judgement call is made. This judgement call is based on what we think from only seconds of input from our five senses and from memories. Depending on our impressions, it might take a good long while to change our opinions about something. Eating Sardines, for example…

I must humbly admit that I sometimes find myself not practicing what I preach to my little geeks. Yes, it is true, I am a hypocrite. But before you throw stones at me, allow me to explain.

I was passed Perfect Stride and asked if I would play it and then write a review. I must honestly tell you that the box and the game description did not fill me with excitement. What was this game about? Horses and butterflies? I am a “hardcore gamer!” I can play 8+ hours of a single game and still want more. I have so many hours of playing games under my belt that is makes my brain hurt trying to add them up. More importantly, I’m a guy! A dude! Why would I be even remotely interested in a game that looks like it was designed for girls? I LOVE BATTLEMECHS!

Those where the thoughts running through my head, just based on my first impressions of looking at the box and reading the back description. I grudgingly accepted the request and put the game on my “need to play” shelf and then promptly forgot about it. There the game stayed until I remembered my promise some weeks later. I opened up the box on a Saturday morning, drinking coffee, watching my little geeks rip apart my living room, not at all looking forward to the chore of learning this new game and teaching it.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, geeks and geeketts, I was overjoyed with what I found in the box! This was not a fluffy offering meant to pander to the interests of young girls and pass itself off as a “game”. NO! Perfect Stride has depth, strategy, tactics, risk and reward. In short, this game has real “meat” to it, and I was hungry for more.

I devoured the rules, learning the subtle mechanics and the intrinsic way in which the game evenly and smoothly flowed. It became obvious that this was a creation of passion, heavily themed and rich with narrative that unfolded itself in front of the players as they became the characters of the story. I cannot believe that I let this gem waste away, collecting dust on my shelf. I had fallen pray to the two very things I hate the most: hypocrisy and elitism.

I have since redeemed myself. I learned to play and taught the game. A wonderful experience was had by all. I also wrote a special note of thanks to the game designers telling them how much I enjoyed their game. Most importantly, I took stock of my attitude towards games and chastised myself for being so close minded. Foolishly, I had almost done myself and my little geeks a great disservice.

Perfect Stride is a fantastic and wonderful game. There is more than enough in the box to entertain the elitist gamer in your family and the non-gamer alike. Children will be drawn to the colorful artwork and adults will be pleasantly surprised by the game’s depth and challenge. This game was designed by individuals who put a great deal of themselves into it and it shows. There is careful thought and attention to detail that makes the game shine. I have played other horse-based games before, but never has any grabbed my attention and imagination so strongly. I can honestly say I look forward to my next Perfect Stride game and I will be introducing it to my weekly game group. I will be teased and mocked, I am certain, but I will calmly set up the game, explain the rules and say with a knowing smile…

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

Respectfully submitted by Father Geek
fathergeek.com
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Simon Woodward
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Thanks for reviewing this! I really wanted to get a good horse game to play with my daughter, and I was recommended this one via The Dice Tower guild. But the price was a bit steep, especially figuring in the cost of postage to New Zealand, it was going to come to about $40 US in total. Any news on international distribution yet?
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Cyrus Kirby
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manukajoe wrote:
Any news on international distribution yet?


My crystal balls reveals nothing!

Why not send the publishers an email and ask?
 
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Simon Woodward
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I have been in contact with them, and suggested some distributors in Australia and NZ. And I suggested they send a review copy to Tom V.

Edit: It was in mid January.
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Cyrus Kirby
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manukajoe wrote:
I have been in contact with them, and suggested some distributors in Australia and NZ. And I suggested they send a review copy to Tom V.


Outstanding work, Mr. Woodward!
 
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Jeff Timothy
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fathergeek wrote:
manukajoe wrote:
I have been in contact with them, and suggested some distributors in Australia and NZ. And I suggested they send a review copy to Tom V.


Outstanding work, Mr. Woodward!


Hey everyone,

First thing's first, Fathergeek, awesome review of Perfect Stride, thorough and thoughtful. You really hit the nail on the head with your thoughts on how the game plays out and the intention to make it accessible to younger players without alienating older players and gamers through over simplification. Reading your review honestly felt a bit like someone crawled inside my head and spent an evening in the cellar reading old dusty and cracked scrolls filled with faded notes written by candle light (sorry I'm a fan of LOTR, couldn't help it). I cannot take all credit of course, the game had two designers.

I can't say one way or another but Kay has spoken to Tom V. You will of course find out if anything comes of it! (If you'd like the Dice Tower to do a review, by all means help encourage them in any legal and considerate means you see fit.) I've listened to all of his podcasts and he's an amazing guy so don't hound him.

Regarding distribution. Kay is the managing director for Funleague and I can't speak for her. She has received questions asking about locally availability. I think that right now, purchasing in the USA and Canada is the easiest and most economical method. If and when she has more to share she'll speak up.

I believe that worldwide distribution is an issue that all independent game companies face. If only we had transporters the world would be a much smaller place.

~Jeff.
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Simon Woodward
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Thanks Jeff.
 
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Jeff Timothy
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manukajoe wrote:
Thanks Jeff.


No problem.
You know, I've always wanted to visit NZ. I would of course never admit in public to wanting to visit EVERY shooting location for LOTR, ah well, guess I just did. (I'd drive my wife crazy dragging her all over the place to look at mounds of nondescript landscape. But it would be fun!) I think I would bring along my copy of Perfect Stride too...
 
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Simon Woodward
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JeffTimothy wrote:
manukajoe wrote:
Thanks Jeff.


No problem.
You know, I've always wanted to visit NZ. I would of course never admit in public to wanting to visit EVERY shooting location for LOTR, ah well, guess I just did. (I'd drive my wife crazy dragging her all over the place to look at mounds of nondescript landscape. But it would be fun!) I think I would bring along my copy of Perfect Stride too...


Actually my gaming club meets in Hobbiton!

http://www.matamatanz.co.nz/home
 
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manukajoe wrote:
I have been in contact with them, and suggested some distributors in Australia and NZ. And I suggested they send a review copy to Tom V.

Edit: It was in mid January.


UPDATE::: Tom obviously received a review copy, because he briefly mentioned playing it in Episode 203 of The Dice Tower podcast. He was moderately pleased with the game, but not effusive. Maybe a video review will follow!?
 
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Jeff Timothy
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I've heard rumors of a video review...through the grapevine.

Oh one more thing... There are new instructional videos posted on PerfectStride.net. Please check them out and give your feedback. (Better yet, post something here in BGG!)

Cheers!
 
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Hahaha this is interesting to read: I have just come here after watching Toms video review released today, and found the website, wondered about shipping to New Zealand as my wife *loves* horses, thought about pros and cons of shipping costs, checked out a review... and turns out this has all been chewed on over here! Any news on distribution?
 
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Jeff Timothy
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Alas, no new news on distribution. Must be a regular challenge for you NZ'ers. I guess if you were to find enough people to buy the game you could always try to split the shipping. Know anyone traveling to/from North America? Have them bring back a few copies for you?

Kay contacted Pixel Park (who is one of the only distributors we know of in NZ) with info about the game and our interested in the NZ market but we didn't hear back from them. SOOOOO, please all you New Zealanders who are interested in buying the game should contact them and plead and beg for them to carry it. Once they have it, it'll open the game up to all the NZ Perfect Stride starved family gamers! I might add that you would also be the first country outside of North America to have the game.

~Jeff.

P.S. I have to give a shout-out to Tom Vasel for an awesome video review over at The Dice Tower. Even though he's a hard-core gamer he gave it a great review as a family game and he liked the strategy aspect. He only had a limited time for the review so there were a couple things he left to be discovered about the game which was great. (If you wanna know more check out the links in the BGG game listing) Oh and the horse head mask freaked me out a bit.
 
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I believe Pixel Park has been quite busy tidying up after the bad earthquakes in Christchurch in the last few months. Also, it may be that they only import through a few large distributors; but it's worth a try.

He may want to wait and see if there's a good response from BGG before committing, at present there are only 10 owners and 2 comments on this game. But Tom's video (with the creepy horse head - straight out of the Godfather I guess) will see some sales I would think.
 
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Jeff Timothy
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manukajoe wrote:
I believe Pixel Park has been quite busy tidying up after the bad earthquakes in Christchurch in the last few months. Also, it may be that they only import through a few large distributors; but it's worth a try.

He may want to wait and see if there's a good response from BGG before committing, at present there are only 10 owners and 2 comments on this game. But Tom's video (with the creepy horse head - straight out of the Godfather I guess) will see some sales I would think.


I didn't realize they were right in Christchurch. blush "/* Jeff places idiot cap firmly on head"

I agree with you though that they may choose to import through a few large distributors. It's probably the best way for them to keep the per unit costs down by importing large varieties of product all at once.
 
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