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Subject: Gaming with my Girls - Part IV: Livingstone rss

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Brian Homan
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The fourth in a series of reviews regarding games we play in our family, why we love them, and what you should know before purchasing the games for your family. We have three girls (12, 10 and 7 as of this writing) who have very different personalities and very different tastes, so finding games that work for all of them is challenging. In my first three reviews, we looked at games that all of us enjoy. Today we're going to review a game that we're pretty evenly divided on: Livingstone

The premise of this game is that you are following in the footsteps of David Livingstone on his way to discovering Victoria Falls. Each round the steamboat at the bottom of the board moves one space closer to the Falls, and when it reaches the falls, that signifies the last round. So how is it played? I'm glad you asked...

At the start of a round the start player will roll two dice for every person playing the game. Each player will then select one die in turn until all players have one. Then another round of selection occurs, and another and another until all of the dice are taken. In theory, this should only take two rounds, but in each successive round the number of pips showing on the die you take must be greater than the number of pips showing on the die you took in the previous round. In this case, one player could end up with one die and another could end up with three! You have to be strategic in the choosing as well because the number of pips on the die indicate how powerful of an action you can take. For each die you have, you can take one action. The actions are as follows:

1. Take a card - You trade one die for one card regardless of the number of pips showing. Cards have various functions from getting gems or gold to allowing free placement of tents (cost or location) to allowing the player to sell gems for points and money. there are a couple other functions, but you get the basic idea.

2. Take money - You take coins equal in value to the number of pips showing.

3. Explore the mine - You take a number of gems out of the mine equal to the number of pips showing. Black gems are just dirt and are worthless. Clear gems are worth 1 coin, blue gems are worth 3 coins and red gems are worth five. Gems may be exchanged for coins only after you have pulled out as many gems as the pips on the die specify. Gems may also be saved to trade in for points (one per gem, regardless of color) at the end of the game. Be careful, though! If the white stone is drawn out of the mine, then all set aside gems and rocks are taken back into the mine (refilling the bag). This includes all gems that were already traded for coins, but not those that players were saving for points at the end of the game. If the mine collapse card comes up while you have gems saved up in front of you, you will lose those and they will be put back in the bag.

4. Create a camp - Place a camp on a space on the grid who's horizontal row corresponds to the die that you are using and who's column corresponds to where the steamboat is currently located. This costs the player an amount of coins equal to whatever amount the steamboat is currently sitting on. In the beginning of the game camps are cheap, but get progressively more expensive as you go. Players who place a tent in a space already occupied by another player must pay an additional coin to that player to also place in that spot. The player who created the camp then scores the number of victory points indicated for that row at the end of the round. This is the primary way of getting victory points.

Once a player has performed an action, they may choose to place money in their treasure chest to send back to the royal crown for financing this journey. The importance of this will become clear in a moment.

At the end of the game, bonus points are awarded to the players with the most camps in each row. The first row offers a bonus of 12 points, the second a bonus of ten points, etc. The number of bonus points obtained at the end of the game is in inverse relationship to the number of points you would get immediately when placing a tent in that row during game play. Placing a tent in row one immediately gets you 1 point. Having the most tents in row one at the end of the game gets you 12 points. Conversely, playing a tent in row six immediately gets you six points, but having the most tents in that row at the end of the game only gets you 2 points.

Once bonus points are awarded and all of each players saved gems are turned into points, players then reveal how much money they have sent back to the crown. The player who sent back the least amount cannot win and is out of the running, even if the have the most points! (This happens to me all the time!) The remaining players then compare scores to determine a winner.

So what's so great about this game?
It's really quite fun (for the right crowd). Die selection, action selection, encampment placement and the amount of money to send back to the crown all make for some very interesting decisions. Seeing who gets knocked out of the running at the end can be pretty funny too, even if it's you.
arrrh This game requires balance. If you push too hard for the points, but don't send enough money to the crown, then you'll get nothing for your efforts in the end. If you send too much to the crown, you won't have enough money to build camps for points in the final turns.
surprise The mine collapse. You've worked hard the whole game to save up gems, not trading them for coins like those other fools, so you can get the most points at the end. Then, all of a sudden, the guy to your left pulls the mine collapse card and you lose them all! It's definitely a push your luck play.
cool It's a good family game. Generally, I'd say there's something here for everyone. Digging out gems, making camps and making donations are all enjoyable parts of this game.
It's clever. The meshing of the mechanisms works quite well for the most part, and game play is quite fun if you know what you're doing.
kiss The components are top notch, especially the gems and the treasure chests. Very appealing to young and old alike.
The cost. Retail on this is $40, but you can find it new for around $20 online. That's a pretty good deal for what you get here. I wouldn't pay more than $25 + shipping, though.

So what's not so great about this game?
snore Younger players and adults prone to AP may scratch their heads wondering what is the best action to take each turn. If your family is prone to AP, then this will likely not be a good fit for you, as the game length could increase considerably. If playing the game takes longer than 45 min, it will overstay it's welcome quickly.
robot The game play. The choices can feel a bit robotic after a while. If I take a die showing a one, I'll take a card. If the mine is almost empty, I'll use my six to make a camp or just take 6 coins. What makes this game, to me and my seven-year-old, is the mine. The push your luck factor adds a sense of excitement and risk to a game that would otherwise not be so much fun for younger players. The donation of coins to the crown also helps, but the excitement generated by that mechanism is delayed until the very end of the game.
soblue The theme. Sadly, the theme can be a turnoff for some people. This is true for my middle daughter who won't play this game simply because it doesn't look interesting to her. I would say you'd probably have better luck introducing this to boys than you would with girls. Exploration and pressing your luck is something that a lot of boys enjoy, so this might be worth a try with them.
cry It get's overlooked. While this is a very good game in it's own right, there are many more exciting games for varying tastes that will probably edge this one out.
zombie The board size. the publisher went with a two-fold board for this game, which is functional, but quite small when playing with more than 2 or 3 people. A four-fold board would have been preferable.

Abby's (7) opinion: She really enjoys this game and will frequently request it. She loves digging in the mine and donates almost all of her money to the crown (which is why she usually ends up winning) shake. Abby's rating: 8.5

Lindsay's (10) opinion: She doesn't want to play this game because it doesn't seem interesting to her. Lindsay's rating: well, we'll call it a 5 since she won't actually play the game.

Beka's (12) opinion: She likes the game ok, and will play it on occasion, but there are many other games that she enjoys more. Beka's rating: 6.5.

My opinion: This is a good game to play on occasion, and I won't turn it down if suggested. There are just many other games that suit my taste better than this one. My rating: 6.5.

Final opinion: As a family, we rate this about a 6.5. It's fun, and we enjoy playing it occasionally, but it's definitely not a go-to game for us. If you have a family with a lot of boys, this might go over better for you.

I hope this review has been helpful to you! As always, please feel free to leave comments. the more feedback I get, the better these reviews will be.

Thanks!

Edited to fix a rules error that we were playing with. Probably not the first, definitely won't be the last.


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LSU LSU
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Nice review. I look forward to playing games with my kids in the not-to-distant future. One suggestion - include a link to your earlier reviews so interested readers can see them.
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Brian Homan
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LSUtigers wrote:
Nice review. I look forward to playing games with my kids in the not-to-distant future. One suggestion - include a link to your earlier reviews so interested readers can see them.


Thanks for the input! I will actually be putting together a GeekList that will capture all of the reviews in one place. Once I have that set up, I will place a link to to the GeekList in each of the reviews I have written.
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Jason Meyers
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Nice review! Yeah, this game seemed a bit on the drier side for my personal gaming tastes. My kids generally like games with more "action," "narrative," and theme. I showed them the Dice Tower review on it, though, cause I don't want to intentionally steer them away from certain types of games. Alas, my kids share your Lindsay's non-interest with the theme.
 
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Steve Duff
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bmhoman1 wrote:
surprise The mine collapse. Every pull of gems from the bag increases the chances for a mine collapse. Early on it's probably fine to use a 6 to take gems, but as the bag empties out, you'll want to pull less an less gems at a time to ensure you get some money or points out of the deal. It's especially satisfying to watch someone pull three red gems and two blue gems out of the bag and then pull the white gem on their sixth pull, thus losing everything they just got. It's also funny when someone uses a six and gets nothing but dirt.


Hate to tell you, but you're playing incorrectly. The only mine collapse in the game is the Mine Collapse card. *That* can make you lose stones.

The white stone isn't a penalty, it's just a shuffling mechanism. When you draw it, you reload the bag with all the discards. You still get to sell the stones you drew.

The English rules are pretty poorly written, folks who've read the German ones seem to pretty much agree on this. Does White Stone = Mine Collapse Card?
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Brian Homan
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UnknownParkerBrother wrote:
bmhoman1 wrote:
surprise The mine collapse. Every pull of gems from the bag increases the chances for a mine collapse. Early on it's probably fine to use a 6 to take gems, but as the bag empties out, you'll want to pull less an less gems at a time to ensure you get some money or points out of the deal. It's especially satisfying to watch someone pull three red gems and two blue gems out of the bag and then pull the white gem on their sixth pull, thus losing everything they just got. It's also funny when someone uses a six and gets nothing but dirt.


Hate to tell you, but you're playing incorrectly. The only mine collapse in the game is the Mine Collapse card. *That* can make you lose stones.

The white stone isn't a penalty, it's just a shuffling mechanism. When you draw it, you reload the bag with all the discards. You still get to sell the stones you drew.

The English rules are pretty poorly written, folks who've read the German ones seem to pretty much agree on this. Does White Stone = Mine Collapse Card?


Thanks for the info. I will correct the entry tomorrow (it's getting late tonight). I had the pleasure of teaching myself this game from the rules, so I am not too surprised that we might be playing that particular rule incorrectly, but now I'm not sure which way I'd prefer to play.
 
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Brian Homan
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Corrections have been made in the OP. Thanks for the assist!
 
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Brian Homan
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A geeklist has now been created for this series. You can find it here.
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