Squirrel

Disclaimer: Please note that I was sent a copy of this game for review purposes.  All views on the game are my own however.

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Squirrel is a family game for two players in which you are trying to collect the most acorns!  It was designed by Tom Sudall with help from Catriona Ross and published by Format 15.  The game was funded on the crowd funding site Kickstarter and is currently in production.  The game is for 2 players aged 4 and over.

How to Play

Setup

  • Shuffle all 18 cards and deal them face down showing their green sides into nine piles of 2 cards each.
  • These should be arranged into a 3 by 3 grid square between the two players.
  • Starting with the person who did not deal the cards place your squirrel piece onto any unoccupied leaf pile.

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Game-play

On a players turn they must hop their squirrel onto any adjacent but unoccupied leaf pile. This movement can be horizontally, diagonally or vertically as long as the leaf pile is adjacent to them.  They must then take one card from the top of any other adjacent unoccupied leaf pile.    You must then choose one card to drop if you have more than three cards in your hand or you have made a gap in the grid.  The card dropped in this way is placed brown side up on top of any unoccupied leaf pile or in the gap in the grid you have just made.  You must fill any gaps in the grid as a priority.  If your squirrel is standing on a dropped acorn then you may take one card at random from the other players hand rather than selecting from a leaf pile.  You are also allowed to pick up previously dropped brown cards.

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The game ends when all the leaf piles are topped by a brown card.  Players then add up the number of acorns they have in their hand and the player with the most is the winner of the game!

Final Thoughts

Squirrel is beautifully handcrafted game! It is clear that a lot of thought, care and effort has gone into making this game.  The cards and box are all completely hand made to a great standard.  The card stock is also of really good quality and I love the elegant simplicity of the leaf artwork.

This game can definitely be described as pocket size which is fantastic for portability.  It doesn’t take up too much table space either.  Both of these things has made it one that we have taken out with us to restaurants because it’s light to carry and you can play it even on quite small tables!

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The gameplay and rules are very straightforward and it plays really quickly which definitely makes it an easy game to teach and play.  As a family we have found it impossible to have just one game of Squirrel we always end up playing three or four games one after the other!  It’s also the kind of game that my children can play against each other and have a lot of fun.  It works best as a children’s game I think but one that is fun for the adults too!

There is some luck involved as you would expect given that you are moving and choosing cards randomly but there is also some good choices to be made.  For example if you have managed to collect a good hand with many acorns then you probably want to quickly cover as many leaf piles as possible to bring on the end of the game sooner.  If however you don’t have many acorns then you might want to slow this process by getting in the way or uncovering green leaves or you could even drop an acorn card in order to try and steal some of your opponents cards!

I think that Squirrel is a beautiful game aesthetically and I think it really works as a lightweight family game that everyone could play.   If this style of game appeals to you I definitely recommend you take a look at it!

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My thoughts on the UK Games Expo 2019

Hall 1 at UKGE 2019

Overall thoughts on the Expo!

We had another wonderful weekend at the UK Games Expo! This was our third year of attending the Expo and it definitely did not disappoint.  If you are unfamiliar this is the UK’s largest expo for hobby games.  It features many different board and card games as well as role-playing games.  It is held at the NEC in Birmingham usually on the first weekend in June, although next year I understand it will be held on the 29th to the 31st of May.  I believe that they choose the date so it coincides with the school half-term holidays which definitely makes it much easier to attend as a family.  This year they have estimated that around 25,704 unique visitors attended with 45,097 repeat visitors across the weekend so that gives you some idea of the scale of it!

We decided to travel up from London on the Thursday before the Expo opens and one useful feature is that you’re able to collect your pre-booked Expo tickets on the Thursday.  This we find useful as it avoids some queuing on the Friday, although I have to say that the queues didn’t look to be an issue at all when we arrived at the opening time on Friday morning!  Car parking at the Expo is very easy, again you can pre-book this online in advance if you wish to or just pay as you are leaving.  There is a shuttle bus from the car parks which is really good especially if you have young children who get tired easily!  We arrived just before the Expo opened most days and joined the queue of people waiting to enter.  As soon as the doors opened everyone makes their way into the Expo at a very steady pace.  At no time was I worried about my children being separated from me in any kind of rush.  Once we were inside people quickly dissipated and it didn’t feel crowded at all.

Our first port of call most days was the children’s role-playing area, as this is a firm favourite with my children.  Here you can book an hour’s time slot for one of the five different role play sessions.  We tend to book a slot in the afternoon as they’re usually a little tired and an hour’s sit down and an engaging game really helps!  I really can’t recommend these enough, the people who run them are fantastic!  This year my children tried the space one on the Friday and didn’t stop talking about it for some time afterwards!  It is worth noting that these sessions do get booked up fairly quickly so it is probably worth booking a session early in the day.

Out biggest disappointment this year was that we didn’t have time to go into the Family Gaming area as we couldn’t attend all weekend unfortunately and there were so many stalls we wanted to visit!  If you do get a chance to take a look at this area however I would definitely recommend it as there are so many games to try.  We did however just about manage to get round the whole Expo and play a lot of new to us games.  More on those later!

If you’re new to gaming and even if you’re not the Expo gives you such a wonderful opportunity to try games.  There were so many of the biggest companies in the board gaming hobby present and many stands had multiple tables to sit and play games at.  There are also a wonderful selection of smaller companies demonstrating a huge variety of different types of games!  You can easily move from one stall to another stall trying games as you go.  I had a few games that I really wanted to try at the Expo and we got to play them all.  All of the stall holders we met and spoke to were so friendly with both myself and my children.  The children absolutely loved all the free stickers, pens and posters they were kindly given! They were even given a free sample book to try which they really enjoyed reading when we got home.

Overall the UK Games Expo is a wonderful family day out which I would definitely recommend to you if you have not been before!

Talking of games here is a summary of all the games we played over the weekend. I have divided these into games that should be available for purchase now and those that are coming soon!

Games Currently Available

These are games that should be available to buy from games stores at the moment.

One Key

One Key was designed by a group of designers called L’Atelier and published by Libellud. It plays 2-6 players aged 8 and over.

In One Key you are unsurprisingly trying to establish which one of the clue cards is the one key you need.  One player takes the role of the leader who chooses a clue card to be the key.  This is placed in the centre of the table with 10 other clue cards.  Every round the other players will be eliminating clue cards, 1 in the first round, 2 in the second, 3 in the third and lastly 4 in the final round.  This should leave one final clue card remaining which should be the key, if at any point the other players eliminate the one key then the game is over and the players have lost.  Every round the leader will be able to provide clues to the players to help them choose which cards to eliminate.

Whilst the other players are deciding which cards to eliminate the leader will be preparing the next set of clues.  The leader takes three clue cards from the clue deck and decides whether each of them is similar to the key, nothing like the key or somewhere in the middle.  They then mark these decisions with tokens.  At the start of each round the other players can choose one of these clue cards and reveal the token.  This gives them a little information on which to base their eliminations.

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Overall I really enjoyed playing One Key, I played as the leader and the kids were trying to figure out my clues.  It played quite quickly once we understood what we were doing.  As the clue giver I found it tricky at first to choose which category it fell into but no more so than I do for other similar games such as Mysterium.  I thought the artwork on the clue cards was really lovely, it’s very quirky and fun.  Overall this was one which we all enjoyed and would happily play again!

Prairie of Beetles

Prairie of Beetles was designed by Ming Zhe Chen and published by MOZI Game. It plays 1-4 players aged 8 and over.

This is a speed matching style game where you are trying to match either the shape of the beetle or the colour of the beetle.  If when a card is revealed you notice that it matches the colour of a previous beetle you will touch the card that has been on the table the longest and one of the net cards.  If it has the same shape then you will again touch the oldest card and one of the cage cards.  When touching the cards it is important not to cross your arms over each other.  If you are correct then you collect that beetle card and the person with the most cards at the end of the game is the winner.

Prairie of Beetles

This is a rather charming little matching game!  I like the twist of having to try and think about both the shape and the colour and which of the cards to touch. It makes the game that more challenging than a standard matching game which I think is a really good thing.  Having such fun and lovely artwork on the cards really does help too!  We only got the chance to have a brief taster of this game but it is one that I’d like to have another chance to play and one that I would recommend taking a look at.

Mini Garden

Mini Garden was designed by An-Ping Liu and published by MOZI Game. It plays 1-4 players aged 8 and over.

In Mini Garden you are trying to make a mini garden to match a customers specification.  At the beginning of the game you roll all 5 dice and these represent the number of flowers of that colour you will need to have in your garden.  To make the garden you will be overlaying the flower cards covering up flowers you don’t need so that you exactly match the required number of flowers.  For example in the picture below the players are trying to have four purple flowers, three yellow flowers, six blue flowers, six white flowers and four red flowers (You can’t quite see that in this picture!).

Mini Garden

I am, as some of you might be aware, a fan of puzzle-like games and this one I really liked.  It is one of those games which has really straight forward rules and game play but that really gets your brain working!  Watching my children turning the cards in different directions and trying different overlapping positions you could absolutely see how it was making them really think! The artwork is really lovely too and the game is very portable which is fantastic.  If you get a chance and you love puzzle games do take a look at this one.  I am regretting not picking up a copy whilst I had the chance to be honest.

Wibbell ++

Wibbell++ was designed by Bez Shahriari, David Brain, Andrew Dennison, Paul Mansfield, Aaron Reading, Lewis Shaw, Tom Coldron and Ian Vincent. It was published by Stuff By Bez and it plays 2-10 players aged 10 and over.

It is very hard to give a short overview to Wibbell ++ as it isn’t simply one game but in fact many different games that use the same cards. We picked up a copy of Wibbell ++ last year at the expo after trying and really enjoying some of the games.  This year we got to try out a new game that is coming soon which we all really enjoyed.  I think it may be a new favourite of ours! I will be writing a review of this one in more detail soon but it is definitely one I would recommend taking a look at!

Wibbell++

Frozen Noggin

Frozen Noggin was published by HIT Games. It plays 2-5 players aged 6 and over.

In this game you are trying not to be the last person to get rid of all their cards because if you are you become the Frozen Noggin and you lose!  At the start of the game each player is dealt 3 face down cards and 3 cards face up on top of those and then 3 cards for your hand.  You are allowed to exchange the cards in your hand for those face up in front of you but you are not allowed to look at the face-down cards.  Most of the cards represent different ski slopes from the nursery slopes (1) to heli skiing (10) however there are also trump cards which can cause players to miss turns, clear all the cards from the stack or force the next player to play either a high or low card.

On a players turn they will play either a card with the same value as previously played or a higher card or a trump card.  If on your turn you can’t play any cards then you must pick up all of the current stack.  Players will be taking cards from the deck to maintain a hand size of three until the deck runs out.  When you run out of cards in your hand you then start to play the cards you have face up in front of you.  When these too have been played then you play your face-down cards blindly only seeing what they are as you play them.  The winners are those players who play all of their cards and the loser is the player who is left with cards at the end of the game.

Frozen Noggin

Sometimes it’s hard to describe why you enjoy a game other than to say it is simply fun! Frozen Noggin is such a game.  My children had a great time playing this game and may have found it hilarious when I became the Frozen Noggin!  We played both the base game and also one of the variants that they had at the Expo.  This is definitely the sort of game that you could teach to anyone and indeed one that my children can just play against each other!  It isn’t a deeply strategic game with masses of tactics to it but it is most definitely fun.  It is testament to how fun it was that we picked up a copy to bring home with us.  It is a light and simple card game which might not be for everyone but if you’re looking for something to play with all the family it’s worth taking a look at.    

Zombie Kidz Evolution

Zombie Kidz Evolution was designed by Annick Lobet and published by Le Scorpion Masqué. It plays 2-4 players aged 7 and over.

This is a very unusual game as it changes the more you play it.  We have only played the most basic version of the game so far.  Each time you play the game you add a sticker to the tracker in your game book, at certain intervals on this track you are allowed to open envelopes. These will change things within the game. I haven’t yet opened any envelopes so I can’t comment on what these add and even if I had opened one I wouldn’t want to spoil the contents for you anyway!  My understanding is that they might change the zombies or the player characters but as I said I don’t really know.

The base game is very straightforward in it you are trying to kick the Zombies out of your school and lock the gates so no more can enter.  On a players turn they must firstly roll a coloured die to determine if a new Zombie spawns and if so in what coloured room it arrives.  After rolling the dice they are then able to move one space and perform an action such as kicking out zombies or locking a gate.  A player is able to remove up to two zombies at a time.  Locking a gate requires two players to be in the same space next to the gate, they then high-five to lock it and place a lock token on the gate.  The only other rule is that if there are 3 zombies in a room at any one time this room is now blocked and cannot be entered any more.

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We all really enjoyed this game so much so that we have subsequently picked up a copy of it to play at home.  The game play is very straight forward but you really do need to work together otherwise you can quickly become overwhelmed by zombies!  The idea of playing a few games in order to open envelopes to add to the gameplay is really clever.  We have played a similar game with the children before and they love the anticipation of seeing what might be coming next. It keeps the gameplay fresh and interesting.  Another lovely addition are the trophies, these are achievements that you can unlock for example by winning a game at all player counts, or by having no zombies in your pool at the end of the game.  I liked how these add challenge to the game and also if you complete a set these trophies count towards your main game tracker!  It is also worth noting that the game plays really quickly, it states 5-15 minutes on the box and that feels fairly accurate to me!  Overall this is a fast, easy to learn game with a lot of hopefully exciting things to uncover as we play it!

Monster Match

Monster Match was designed by Ken Gruhl and Quentin Weir and published by North Star Games. It plays 2-6 players aged 6 and over.

Monster Match is a speed matching game where you are trying to match the number of eyes, arms or legs to the monsters on the table. In a slight twist from other matching games there maybe more than one correct answer on the table at any one time.  Taking it in turns players roll two dice, one die has numbers on it and the other die as either arms, legs or eyes on it.  As quickly as you can you must find the matching monster and claim it, because there can be more than one correct answer and more than one player may end up claiming a monster card.  At the end of the game you add up the number of donuts that are on the monster cards you claimed. The player with the most is the winner of the game.

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Monster Match is a decidedly fun and frantic game.  I absolutely love the monster artwork on the cards and the case is another wonderful touch.  I really liked having multiple cards which could be the correct answer as it keeps the players searching for longer and also stops one player just running away with the game.  Having those same cards with different numbers of donuts means that whilst you might find it first you might not necessarily have found the best card!  Overall I was impressed by Monster Match perhaps more so than I might have thought at first glance. It is one to take a look at if you get the chance.

Interaction

Interaction was designed by Reinhard Kern, Gertrude Kurzmann and Manfred Lamplmair and published by Rudy Games. It plays 2-9 players aged 8 and over.

Interaction is a party game which uses an app to generate and sometimes run different challenges.  The challenges fall into 5 categories Games, Knowledge, Social, Action and Creativity.  On your turn you roll a die and move your teams pawn around the outside track this determines the type of challenge you will face.  Similarly on the board you will move your scoring tracker as you win the different challenges.  All of the challenges are generated by the app itself.  To give you some examples we had some where we were playing games on the app against each other, we had physical challenges against each other, there were maths questions and we even had to guess each others answers to a quiz.  As you play you can gain cards these can be used for a number of different things including making a challenge more easy for you or more harder for another player.

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Overall Interaction was a mixed success for us, my daughter really liked it, my son not so much and whilst I enjoyed most of the game there were some elements of it that I wasn’t so keen on.  Firstly I want to mention that it is a very interesting concept, I liked the merging of digital gameplay with the social element of a board game.  The interaction between the two elements felt very smooth.  I also really liked all of the mini games that we played on the tablet they were a lot of fun!  One of the other elements I loved was the idea of asking all the players questions at the beginning of the game about a range of subjects and then challenging other players to guess their answers during the game.  That was something I had not come across before and it was really fun watching my daughter trying to guess my answers! For me the element that I wasn’t so keen on was the physical challenges, perhaps in part because we were trying the game in a non-home environment but also because I am generally not a fan of that kind of challenge.

I really liked how you gained cards when you did well at the challenges but also when you did badly! Choosing when and how to play those cards also added a different dimension to the game which I liked.  Overall I think the link between the digital components and the physical game itself works really well.  Whilst clearly it is not a fit for my family I would still suggest taking a look at the game if my description has caught your interest.

Wing It

Wing It was published by Flying Leap Games it plays 4-7 players aged 12 and over.

In this game players are competing to be the best story teller!   One player takes the role of the judge and that player draws a challenge card and reads it to the other players.  The other players have a hand of 5 cards which represent objects that they can use to overcome the challenge.  From these 5 cards they choose 3 cards and then create a story including these elements to explain how they overcame the challenge.  The judge then chooses their favourite answer who wins that round.  Play continues until everyone has been the judge twice or someone has 3 challenge cards.

Wing It

It is important to note that we didn’t play a full game of Wing It and therefore I can only briefly comment on this one.  I will say however say that I thoroughly enjoyed our brief taste of the game.  I really enjoyed reading through some of the completely crazy situations that were on the cards.  I don’t remember exactly what was written on the card we had but I believe we had to explain how we were going to win a race.  Equally I can’t remember exactly the story I told but it definitely featured riding a pickle eating dinosaur.  The pairing of such elaborate and yet crazy challenges with a completely odd set of objects is what makes this game work so well.  Hopefully my short description will help you decide if Wing It is for you. It definitely made us all laugh!

Adventure Island

Adventure Island was designed by Michael Palm and Lukas Zach and published by Pegasus Spiele. It plays 2-5 players aged 10 and over.

Adventure Island is a cooperative exploration game.  The exploratory nature of this game is going to be make it hard to describe too much as I really don’t want to spoil any of the story for you!  

The game is driven by story cards which you reveal as you progress through the game.  These cards contain different choices that you can make sometimes they might require you to make a check against one of your chosen characters abilities.  These checks are taken by rolling the number of dice specified by your ability for example in the photograph below you would be rolling two dice for a skill check or three for a strength check.  It is worth noting that you do have opportunities to gain re-rolls as you play through the game.  Depending on the story-line you might be required to gather food, collect resources or undergo a physical challenge.  As you carry out different tasks you may become fatigued this will lessen your ability to perform other actions and ultimately if not managed it will kill you thus ending the game.

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We all really enjoyed Adventure Island so much so that we actually picked up a copy at the Expo.  I really like exploration games with a good story and it was really nice to find one aimed at the family market.  At the Expo we played through a prequel to the main story contained in the box but we all really loved how the story progressed.  The rules are easy to understand which means you can just focus on making those tough choices as to where to go and what to do!  If you like exploration games I would definitely recommend this one!  

Fabulantica

Fabulantica was designed by Marco Teubner and published by Pegasus Spiele. It plays 2-5 players aged 6 and over.

In Fabulantica you are trying to find where all your friends are hiding.  At the start of the game each player is dealt three cards these are the friends you are searching for.  Players also receive a hand of movement cards these relate to the different types of paths available in the game.  There are desert, rocky, woodland and water pathways on the board and there is also a flying carpet which can be used to get around quickly.  On a players turn they can play as many movement cards as they like.  When they stop at a castle they may look underneath it to see if that is where their friend is hiding.  If they are there then you flip that card to it’s coin side.  When you have found all three coins you will win the game!

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We all had a lot of fun playing this game racing across the board to try and find the people we were hunting for.  We found that the memory element didn’t come into play as much in our game because we just didn’t find each others people as we explored.  I suspect that would change quite a bit at higher player counts.  I really liked the movement cards as it requires you to plan ahead where you are moving to, as my son found out when he got himself stuck in a corner without any cards to get out!  Overall this is a great game for children, one that is easy to learn, fun to play and yet has some good choices!

Farm Rescue

Farm Rescue was designed by Harris Tsagas and published by Brain Games. It plays 1-5 players aged 4 and over.

Farm Rescue is a rather lovely memory game, in it all the players are working together to try and help the farmer catch the wolf before the wolf runs away!  On their turn a player will roll the two dice, one die has the different colours on it and the other the different animals.  Both dice also have one side which is a wild, i.e. can be used for any animal or any colour depending on the die.  If a player rolls a red horse then they must find that coloured animal and turn it upside down.  If that animal is already face down the player must remember, with the help of the other players, whereabouts it is in the grid.  If they choose correctly where a face down animal is they can move the farmer on one space. If however they guess incorrectly they will move the wolf on one space.  If the wolf reaches the end before the farmer catches him then the players will lose.  If the farmer catches the wolf they win!

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I was very impressed by this game. I really liked how easy it would be to teach to very young children and yet it is still a challenging memory game.  The cooperative nature means that it is easy for the other players to support those who need help. In our case my children helping me with my terrible memory!  The components are really well made and will stand up well to use with small children.  I can definitely recommend this one if you are looking for a game to play with young children.

Honga

Honga was designed by Günter Burkhardt and published by HABA. It plays 2-5 players aged 8 and over.

In Honga you are trying to demonstrate to your clan that you have what it takes to be the new leader.  You can do this in a variety of different ways for example by trading with other clans, worshipping the gods or attracting mammoths!  You have to be careful however because if you don’t keep Honga, the local saber-toothed tiger happy he will come and steal your food!

On a player’s turn they will place an action selection card on one of the designated spaces on the board.  The number of hand symbols that are facing towards that action determines how many actions you may perform in that space.  If you do not put at least one hand towards the centre where Honga lives then he moves onto your player board and next round he will start eating your food!

I’m not going to explain all of the different actions that are available on the board but I will say that there are many different choices and many different paths to victory that are available to you!

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I was really impressed by Honga it is a fantastic family game.  Trying to decide which way to rotate and place your action card is really tricky as all of the spaces offer great benefits.  I loved that there was so many great places you could choose from on the board too, my son spent quite a bit of time climbing the mountain, my daughter was keen on the mammoths and I spent my time trading with the other clans.  The game is also beautifully made with fantastic artwork and lovely wooden pieces.  I probably don’t need to say it but this game has shot to the top of my wishlist and it is one that I would definitely recommend you take a look at!

Quirk! Monsters

Quirk! Monsters was designed by Emma May and published by Emmerse Studios. It plays 2-6 players aged 5 and over.

When my kids saw the sign for Quirk they ran over straight away!  We currently own and absolutely love Quirk! Legends.  This game is without a doubt the most played game in my house.  The children play it against each other all the time.

In Quirk! you are trying to collect sets of three cards for example three zombies as pictured below.  The player who collects the most sets or Quirks as they’re called is the winner of the game.  On a players turn they can ask another player if they have a particular card but the only way you can ask is by making the noise that you think that creature might make.  If they have any of that type of card then they must then pass them all to you. If not then you get to draw a card from the deck and it is the next players turn.  When you have a full quirk you place it down in front of you.  There are however other cards in the deck, ones that enable you to steal another players quirk, there are also cards which can block this and there are yet other cards which can make another player miss their turn.

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My kids really enjoyed giving Quirk! Monsters a go at the Expo and it was brilliant to watch their enthusiasm as they attempted to make the different sound effects!  If you have young children then I can definitely recommend any of the Quirk! games although personally I think Quirk! Legends or Quirk! Monsters are the most fun!

Games on Kickstarter right now

These are games that you should be able to find on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter at the moment!

Sensor Ghosts

Sensor Ghosts was designed by Janice Turner and Stu Turner and will be published by Wren Games. It plays 1-2 players aged 8 and over.  It is currently funded on kickstarter at the time of writing this and you can find the kickstarter page here but look quickly as it is due to finish very soon!

We had a brief game of Sensor Ghosts mostly because we lost rather quickly!  This game continues the story started in Assembly which is made by the same designers.  It is however a completely stand alone game.  In this game you are trying to navigate your newly assembled ship safely back to earth avoiding crashing into moons and asteroids along the way.  This is a cooperative game so you need to be playing cards together to steer your ship and scan for possible dangers ahead.

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As I mentioned we only played this game for a short while before we crashed so it is hard for me to comment too much on the gameplay.  I will say that our first impressions were really positive.  I would have loved to have more time to play again as I think I would really enjoy this one just as I really enjoy playing Assembly.

Games coming soon

These are games that are not currently released or seeking crowdfunding at the moment.

Obscurio

Obscurio was designed by a group of designers called L’Atelier and will be published by Libellud. It plays 2-8 players aged 10 and over.

In Obscurio one player takes the role of a magical grimoire which is trying to escape a magical library with some adventurers.  The remaining players are those adventurers however the owner of the library, a sorcerer, is trying to prevent you from leaving.  Players need to make their way through the library finding the correct door to escape through each time until they finally escape the whole library! There is a problem however as one of the players is in fact a traitor and they will be trying to confuse the other players.

The player who takes the role of the grimoire draws a card which will become the exit.  They will then use two pointers to indicate something on the grimoire cards which are linked in some way to that exit card.  The traitor then secretly adds two cards which they think match the clues on the grimoire and then these three cards are mixed with 3 random cards to become the different exits.

Each player will choose separately the exit card they believe to be correct after discussing it with the other players.  If a player chooses the wrong door they will receive a confusion token.  Each game has only a certain number of these tokens and when they are all used up the game is over and the players have lost.  As long as one player has the correct exit card chosen you all move onto the next room.

Players are not limited in how long it takes them to choose the card they believe is the exit however if they take too long then the sorcerer has time to place traps for the next round.  Traps can take the form of a sheet which you place over a grimoire card to mask all the colours on that card or one that partially covers part of the card.  There are also other traps which change the amount of time available for decisions or that mean that each possible exit is drawn one at a time with players making choices as they go.

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I played this one with the kids and we all really enjoyed it!  I should say that I am a fan of Mysterium and to a lesser extend Dixit which also use cards with this style of artwork.  For me I love that thrill of trying to get inside someone’s head as they are giving clues or trying to figure out how to convey something to the other players.  I think if you like Mysterium and Dixit you will probably enjoy this game too. I certainly did.  That aside I think I should mention how gorgeous this game looks on the table. I am not sure that my pictures do it justice!  The detail on the grimoire in particular is amazing.

I really liked the addition of the traitor as it places an additional challenge on the grimoire player. The more obvious your clue the easier it is for them to add something similar.  It also changes the other players decisions as you’re always trying to work out if someone is trying to lead you astray, or is that person with the most confusion tokens a bad guesser or are they trying to make you lose!

I also really enjoyed the traps and the fact that there was a good variety of different effects from them.  Having to add the layer which blocks the colours makes it much more challenging to give clues for example.

Overall I really enjoyed this one and would definitely recommend you taking a look at it.  I believe it is available for pre-order in the UK at the moment with a possible release of September 2019.

Griffmas

Griffmas was designed by HIT Games and will be going to kickstarter.

This is a charming Christmas themed card game where you are trying to be the best at decorating the Christmas Tree.  Each player will be attempting to collect sets of Christmas decorations or presents and place them on the tree or under the tree.  When you place something you collect the reward token, I believe these will be coins with different values in the finished version.  The player who collects the most reward tokens will win the game.

This is a very straightforward game which can be easily played by young children and their families at Christmas.  We had a lot of fun trying out this game and will be taking a look at it when it comes on to kickstarter.

Valley of the Vikings

Valley of the Vikings was designed by Marie Fort and Wilfried Fort and will be published by HABA. It plays 2-4 players aged 6 and over. This game has not yet been released in English but I believe it will be towards the end of this year.

Valley of the Vikings is a competitive game where you are trying to collect the most treasure.  Each player chooses a colour and takes the matching ship.  On your turn you roll a wooden ball towards the different coloured barrels in the centre of the table.  You must then move all of the tokens which match the toppled barrels one space down the track on the side of the board, hopping over other tokens if they are in the way.  The track contains a number of slots which confer different benefits for example some give you the specified number of coins and other ones enable you to take coins from another players ship.  The next player can choose where to place the barrels before taking their turn, this means you can try and place barrels you don’t want to knock over to the side for example.

Players keep taking it in turns to roll the ball until one player’s token drops of the end of the track.  At this point everyone takes the benefit of the slot their token is in except for the player who was eliminated from the track who receives no benefit.  Play then continues from where the tokens currently are.  You keep rolling and moving tokens in this way until there are no more coins in the bank, you then count up how many coins you have to determine a winner.

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Our opinions on this game did differ between the family, my son for example really enjoyed the game however my daughter, my husband and myself were not so keen.  This game is really easy to learn and play, other than some slight dexterity around bowling the ball.  It also has some tactics to it especially around where to place the barrels and which vikings to move on the docks.  I think this game will appeal to a lot of people I personally didn’t enjoy it because I found it a little too mean.  I’m generally not a huge fan of games with too much direct conflict and neither is my daughter.  I suspect if that isn’t an issue for you then you may well really love this game.

Final Thoughts

We played some wonderfully fun games at the Expo this year and met some really lovely people too.  If you are looking for a fun and different weekend or even a day trip I would definitely recommend you come and take a look at the Expo next year.  You don’t need to be the biggest board game fan either to attend however you might leave being rather converted!

I hope you enjoyed reading about the Expo and the games we played as ever if you have any questions please do let me know!

 

 

 

 

January Gaming!

I have decided to try and write a monthly catch all blog post on all the games we played in that particular month. This will include games that I have played with my children but also all other games that I have played such as those with other members of my family or with friends.  So without further ado here is what my January Gaming looked like!

Games I played with my children!

Dinosaur Tea Party

This is probably my most played game of January so far.  The children adore it and it is so much fun to play.  The easiest way I can describe it, is that it is a much better version of Guess Who, if you have played that game.  In the game you play dinosaurs who are attending a tea party at Dinoton Abbey the only trouble is that you have forgotten the names of your fellow dinosaurs!

In Dinosaur Tea Party you are trying to establish which dinosaur the other players are.  On your turn you can ask another player about the traits their dinosaur has, or what they are currently doing or even the colour of the room that they are in.  For example you could ask if they are currently eating or if they are wearing a hat.  That player must answer truthfully (although there are some exceptions) and place a token in front of them to match their answer.  There are however three dinosaurs (chosen randomly at the start of the game) who answer differently; there is one that always lies, there is one who always says no and lastly one who switches answers each time.

Once you think you may know another persons dinosaur you can on your turn use that name to see if you are correct.  If you are correct then you receive a sugar lump, the first player with four of these will win the game.  If your dinosaur is guessed by another player you simply draw another one and continue playing.

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I really love playing this game with my children.  The artwork is just delightful and really conveys the fun theme.  We always put on our best silly accents as the game is set in Dinoton Abbey after all.  The game itself has straightforward rules but it really tests your deduction skills.  I love the twist of some of the dinosaurs having different ways of answering it really changes your thinking.  Overall this is a really fun family game that I would definitely recommend.

My First Stone Age

In My First Stone Age you are competing to be the first player to build three huts in your village.  You are moving around the board collecting the resources you need in order to purchase different huts, so for example one hut might need one fish, one berry and one horn to build.  Surrounding the board are tokens which are placed facedown these have die faces on them or pictures of locations on the board. On your turn you will flip one of these to move directly to that location or count spaces to reach a location.  This brings an element of memory to the game as you need to try and remember where the different tokens are located.

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I have talked about My First Stone Age before so I won’t say too much more about it.  Other than to add that we have had a lot of fun over the years playing this game.  I think my two are now getting a little too old for it, that said we still had a lot of fun playing it. Sometimes it is good to pull out something that is familiar and just enjoy it!

Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle

In this game you play as either Hermione, Neville, Ron or Harry and work together to defeat Voldemort.  The game contains 7 boxes one for each of the books in the series.  You start with a deck of cards which can be used to gain influence and Lightning Bolts. Lightning bolts are used to do damage to the villains and influence is used to purchase more cards for your deck.  The villains will also be attacking you directly and through effects caused by dark art cards which must be drawn at the beginning of your round.  If you manage to defeat all the villains you will win the game however if they corrupt all your current locations you lose.

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I can’t speak highly enough of this game, even if you aren’t a particular fan of the books the game plays really well.   Game 1 is relatively straightforward and is clearly designed to teach you how to play this deck-building style of game.  Each new box you open adds something to the game, always new locations, villains and cards for your deck but also many other new things which I won’t spoil for you.   We have just completed Game 6 after two attempts and we’re really excited to be trying Game 7 next.  This game has got better and better each time we have played it.  I highly recommend it if you are looking for a fun family game to play especially if you have any Harry Potter fans in your house!

Across Africa

I won’t talk too much about this game as I have written a review of it which you can find here.  That aside this is another game which I think my two are getting a bit old for now.

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We had a great time playing this one possibly because we hadn’t played it in a long time.  I think because it is a cooperative game you aren’t as concerned about the roll and move aspect of the game.  We spent a lot of time laughing about our terrible dice rolls, although in this game slower is usually better which is just as well!  Overall I would still recommend this if you are looking for an easy to play cooperative game.  It definitely helps that the artwork is really charming and theme is a fun one.

Moneybags

This is a difficult one for me as I am not a big fan of this game however this game has been fantastic at helping my children learn about money.  I think this one will be leaving our collection now as this time we played it they breezed through it all.

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In this game you are earning money by carrying out different chores such as hanging out the washing.  The game comes with a dial to spin which indicates how you must collect your money for example it might say I have to collect my 25p by not using any 20p pieces.  This encourages you to think about all the different coins.  In addition there is a space for exchanging your money for a higher denomination which means you are forced to add up all your money.  Overall I would only recommend this game if you want your children to practice with money.

Games played with friends or at the gaming club.

The Reckoners

This game is based on a series of books written by Brandon Sanderson. The story is that 10 years ago there was a mysterious event which gave several people extraordinary powers these people became known as epics unfortunately it also turned out that they were all evil. A group of ordinary humans have banded together to try and bring down these epics and their leader Steelheart.  In the game you play as those humans working together to defeat the epics and save the city.

 

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In The Reckoners you are investigating the epics to discover their weaknesses and then taking them down!  You do this by simultaneously rolling dice and assigning them to different purposes.  Each player can roll their dice up to three times selecting the dice that they wish to keep every time to a minimum of one.  In turn the players will then use those dice for many different actions.  The epics will be hunting the players base and also attacking the population of the city itself.  You win the game if you manage to defeat Steelheart but you lose if the cities population is reduced to nothing.

This is a fantastic game almost certainly one of my all time favourite games. I absolutely love the puzzle that this game presents me with. Trying to work out what you need to do this round and then trying to work out what to do with the dice you’ve actually rolled that round is such a satisfying challenge.  It always feels challenging and we have definitely lost more than we have won but I still love it.  The game has been beautifully crafted too with incredible components from the trays to the dice it all looks amazing.  It is the gameplay though that draws me back though every time.  I definitely recommend giving this game a try I love it!

Gizmos

If you had told me a few years ago that I would be playing a game with filing in it and enjoying it I would have laughed at you.  Yet here I am writing about Gizmos!  The theme of this one is pretty thin but apparently you are building a gadget for the science fair and the person who’s engine works the best will win the game.

The game is played by selecting (picking) marbles from the dispenser and using them to purchase cards on the table. The cards add different abilities to your engine for example one card might state that if I picked a yellow marble I can also take one at random from inside the dispenser. Another might allow me to convert a red marble to any other marble of my choosing.  The game continues in this way with each player adding more and more cards to there engine until one player has either 16 cards in total or 3 of the level 3 cards built into their engine.  When that happens the game ends and players add up their victory points and the player with the most wins.

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I have a weakness for engine-building games like this one.  There is something so fun about building up the combos especially towards the end when everything starts to really ramp up.  I’m not that good at this one but I still love to play it.

Aeons End Legacy

In the original game Aeon’s End you took the role of Breach Mages who defended the city of Gravehold from the forces of The Nameless. In the legacy version you play apprentices learning how to be Breach Mages.  You work your way through the legacy story and your character will change as you play.  I can’t explain too much about this because I really don’t want to spoil the game experience for anyone.  If you have played Aeon’s End before then the main gameplay mechanics will be very familiar to you.  Ultimately this game is a deck building game you will use different gems in your hand to purchase more powerful gems, spells and relics to add to your deck.  You will be attacking The Nameless with spells and attempting to protect your city from them.

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We’ve played through 5 chapters so far and I am really enjoying this one.  I am enjoying the twists of the main story and some of the mechanics around The Nameless lead to some agonising choices.  It is hard to say too much for fear of spoilers but I can say that it hasn’t disappointed. This game has always given me that sensation of it being impossible to win right up until the end when sometimes it all comes together and you win!  We have only lost two games in total but have felt like we were going to lose them all.  If you have played Aeon’s End and are looking for more then I think you would enjoy this one but equally if you have never played it then this is a great starting point.  Overall I am loving playing through this story and I am really keen to see what happens next!

Arkham Horror (Third edition)

In this game each player takes the role of an investigator and are trying to save the town of Arkham from the Ancient Ones.  The theme of this game comes from the books of H.P. Lovecraft.  Players will need to collect clues as to what the cultists of the Ancient Ones are up to, battle terrifying monsters, collect useful equipment and aid their allies in order to win. Each round players can choose from a number of actions such as battling monsters or cleaning away corruption.  Then players must survive the monsters attacks, encounter different places and people in their search for clues.

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I have always loved the Cthulhu Mythos so it comes as no surprise that I also love this game.  This game feels like a very interesting combination of other games in this genre such as Mansions of Madness, the original Arkham Horror and Arkham Horror the Card Game.  It also has one mechanism which feels a little like the outbreak mechanic in Pandemic if you have played that game. I recognise that to some that whole paragraph may have meant very little but i felt it was worth drawing those comparisons for those of you who have played those games before.

I love the tension in this game and it is definitely not easy to win. Well for us anyway! I have only played twice so far and we have lost both times!

Assembly

This is a fun little puzzle like card game for one to two players. This was my first play of the game which I played solo whilst my husband was away.  It is worth noting that Assembly is a cooperative game if you play at the full player count of two.

In this game you are trying to escape an orbital platform after a virus has broken out killing all but you and your fellow players. The computer has however undocked all the spaceships so the only way to return to earth is to complete the assembly of an unfinished spaceship.  You are therefore trying to place the completed room modules in the correct bays so that the spaceship can be assembled.

You do this by using cards in your hand to move the modules to the correct bays by rotating them or swapping them directly with another module.  Once in the correct bays you can use another card to lock them into place.  You only have so many chances to get them into the correct position before time runs out, this is determined by how many times you are allowed to go through the whole card deck.  The game setup will vary every time you play and there are malfunction cards which you can add to change up the game and in addition different role cards with special abilities to chose from.

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We were first drawn to this game after spotting it at the UK Games Expo last year.  I love games that have a puzzle like feel to them and this one definitely does.  It also helps that it comes in a small box for easy transportation and is quick and fun to play.  I haven’t as yet tried out all the different elements of the game however, having only tried it’s most basic form.  Even then as I understand it I should have flipped the cards over once they were locked in place (Oops!).  I’m looking forward to giving it another try with the malfunctions included to see how I fare!

Quacks of Quedlinburg

I attended for the first time a games club close to where I live and had the chance to play some interesting new to me games.  The first one I played was the Quacks of Quedlinburg which is fabulous name for a game!  In this game you are playing quack doctors who are making their own secret potions however some of the ingredients are very unstable so you must be very careful not to explode your potions.

This game can best be described as a bag-building press your-luck style game. What this means is that you are purchasing ingredients to place into your bag and drawing them out from the bag as you add them to your potion.  The white starting ingredients (sorry I have completely forgotten their name!) are very volatile however and if you place too many into your potion it will explode! You place ingredients into your potion starting from your start location (the tear drop piece) or a rat token if you have one. The rat token is a catch up mechanic for all players who have fallen behind the leading player.  Each potion ingredient that you place on the board has a number on it this is the number of spaces you count on from the previously placed ingredient.  Each of the coloured ingredients have their own special power, some for example will move further if other ingredients are in front of them and another enables you to draw some from the bag and choose which one to play. There are I believe four different options to choose from for all of the different ingredients leading to many different ways to play.  In addition the player boards are double-sided with the other side having yet another different way to play.

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We ended up playing this game twice in a row, the second game being considerably faster than the first.  I really enjoyed this game especially the tension when deciding whether or not to continue pulling tokens from the bag.  I really liked that you could easily change up the different ingredient powers which meant that you could try different ideas as to the best combinations each time you played.  If you are the type to be frustrated by randomness this is probably not the game for you.  I had such a good time playing this game and it’s one I think I am going to try and pick up as I think my family will love it too!

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition

Railroad Ink was another game I got to try at the game club it is a roll and write style game in which you are trying to build networks of Railways and Roads.  On each players turn a set of four dice are rolled these show different shaped pieces of railways or roads.  All players must then draw these routes onto their player board.  The game is played over seven rounds and by the end you are aiming to have all your railways and roads closed off.  In addition to the dice results you can also add three of the special routes shown along the top of the board during the game but only a maximum of one per round.

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As you can see from the picture I didn’t do so well at my first go but i liked the puzzle of trying to decide where to place my pieces. I also made a few rules errors too so it’s probably best you don’t follow my terrible example! All that aside I did really enjoy this one and would happily play it again.

 

If you’ve read this far then thank you! I hope you enjoyed reading about the games I played this month. If you have any comments or feedback I’d love to hear from you!

Snitch

Disclaimer: Please note that I was sent a copy of this prototype game for review purposes.  All views on the game are my own however.

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Snitch is a card game in which you are trying to make the most money by completing heists, but be careful because someone might Snitch on you! It was designed by Slight Games and illustrated by Cristian Hosu.  The game was recently funded on the crowd funding site Kickstarter and is still available for pre-order there at the time of this being published.  You can find the link here if you are interested! The game is for 3-5 players aged 8 and over.

How to Play

Setup

  • Deal each player 3 Snitch cards and then place the remaining Snitch cards back in the box.
  • Shuffle all the Specialist cards and deal each player 7 cards.
  • Place the remaining Specialist cards face down in the middle of the table.
  • Give each player 3 silver loot tokens.
  • Place the remaining loot tokens within easy reach of all players.

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Game-play

The game is played over 8 rounds.  In each round the first player will decide how difficult the heist will be, this is done by choosing a number between 2 and the number of players. For example in a four player game the difficulty could be either 2, 3 or 4.  This is the number of specialist cards that are placed face up in the centre of the table which in turn are the cards required to be played in order for the heist to be successful.

Once the specialist cards required for the heist have been revealed all players will then discuss who is contributing the required Specialist cards to the heist before secretly choosing a card.  Then all players will reveal their chosen card simultaneously.

The heist will be successful if all the required Specialist cards have been matched by the players.  The heist will fail if all the Specialist cards are not matched.

If the heist is successful then all players who contributed a Specialist card will gain loot tokens equal to the heist’s difficulty level.  For example if the heist’s difficulty level was 3 then all the players that contributed a Specialist card will gain 3 loot tokens.  A player will gain these loot tokens even if the Specialist card they contributed was not required for the heist to succeed.  Anyone who played a Snitch card however will not gain any loot.

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If however a heist is unsuccessful then any players who contributed a Specialist card (again of any type) will lose one loot token.  Any players who played a Snitch card will split the loot tokens lost by the other players.  You always round up when calculating this, topping up from the supply if necessary.  The minimum amount gained in this way is always one loot token.  It is worth noting however that if everyone plays a snitch no one will get any money!

At the end of the round all played Snitch cards are set aside and all played Specialists cards are placed into a discard pile.  The first player moves on in a clockwise order and a new round begins.

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After the 8 rounds are complete the loot tokens are totted up and the person with the most is the winner of the game!

Final Thoughts

Before I get into my final thoughts it is important that I mention that this game is still in prototype form so it is possible that things will change between now and the final version of the game. I think for example that the loot tokens will be larger in the final version of the game.

I really do like the look of this game, the artwork is fantastic! I love how different all the specialists are and the different colours behind the characters really does make them stand out.

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The game itself is really easy to learn and to play which is fantastic. In our first play we had a few issues with the children learning how to bluff as it was something they weren’t so familiar with.  In fact this game is a great introduction to bluffing games for children as the rules are straightforward.  Certainly it didn’t take long before they were catching us all out!

I should say however that straightforward rules don’t mean that this game doesn’t have interesting choices!  I  really like how the dwindling cards in your hand from round to round makes it harder to fulfil the heist requirements as the game progresses. This in turn makes it harder to judge whether or not the heist might be a success making it more of a challenge to know when to play that card!  It is generally quite profitable to help the heist succeed but if you can time your Snitch card well you can catch everyone else out and rake in the loot!

I really enjoyed playing this game with the children as it provoked a lot of laughter and excited finger pointing.  They seemed to love trying to work out if I was lying about my card choices.  This is definitely one of those games which makes for a really fun and lively game session.  Sometimes we enjoy a game that really makes us think but other times you just want to play something fun.  This is definitely one of the latter!  In addition I think it would also be a great game to teach to people who don’t play games a lot.

Overall I would recommend this game if you’re looking for a fun bluffing game which is quick and easy to play and family friendly!  Thanks for reading my review today. Please do get in touch if you have any comments or questions!

Movable Type

Disclaimer: Please note that I was sent a copy of this game for review purposes.  All views on the game are my own however.

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Movable Type is a card game in which you will be competing to create the best words, it was designed by Robin David and published by Uncanny Cardboard.  It is for 1-6 players aged 8 and over.

How to Play

Set-up

  • Place the five round tracker cards in a stack with the first round card on the top and the final round card on the bottom.
  • Shuffle the letter cards and vowel cards separately into two face down stacks.
  • Shuffle the author cards and deal three of them face-up where all players can clearly see them.

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Game-play

The first 1-4 rounds are played the same way, with a draft phase, a word phase and lastly a score phase.

Draft Phase

Deal two cards from the letter deck and one card from the vowel deck face-up in the centre of the table. These letters can be used by all of the players and are known as common letters.

Each player is then dealt five letter cards.  From these cards the player must choose one card to keep and the remaining cards are passed to the player either to their left or right as indicated by the round tracker card.  This process is then repeated until each player has selected five cards. This process in case it is unfamiliar to you is called card drafting hence the title of the phase.

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Word Phase

In the word phase players attempt to construct their highest scoring word.  Each letter card has it’s own value.  In addition players are allowed to use the common letters in the centre of the table.  It is also worth noting that you can use one letter card to represent two letters if they appear twice in succession within a word. For example one letter ‘o’ card could be used twice to make ‘cool’ but not to make ‘common’.  The rules also state that words should not be proper nouns (names, places) or slang words, although it is worth noting that a variant allows the use of these.

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Score Phase

In the score phase you calculate the value of the words, see if you have met any author challenge cards and contest the validity of played words.  You may only take one author challenge card each round, these are replaced from the stack such that there is always three in play.

Once the scores are calculated these will determine how many letter cards can be claimed by each player.  This varies by player count and what position the players came in the score ranking.  These claimed letters are set aside along with any author cards in a collection that will be used in the final round.

Final Round

In the fifth and final round players do not receive any additional new cards.  Two letter cards and one vowel card will be dealt to the centre of the table as normal however to make the common letters.

Players will then attempt to construct the highest scoring word using all the letters in their collection and any relevant author cards.  The highest scoring word will win the game!

Solo Play

I am not going to explain all of the rules for solo play but I do want to highlight a few.

The way you acquire cards at the start of the round is clever I think. Firstly you receive one card from the vowel deck and one from the letter deck.  You then draw five cards from the letter deck from these you must select one to add to your hand the remainder are discarded. Then you repeat this process with four cards, three cards and two cards keeping one card each time and discarding the remaining cards. Lastly you draw one card and add that to your hand. This leaves you with seven cards in your hand to form your words from.

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When you create a word all unused letter cards are given to the Solo bot card.  Depending on the score of your created word you may be able to remove cards from beneath this card or add letters to your collection.

The main process for adding words to your collection is also interesting.  You place your new word beneath the previous rounds word trying to position it so that your new words letter card scores beat that of your previous words letter cards.  Any letter cards beaten in this way can be added to your final word collection.  For example if I placed an ‘M’ underneath an ‘T’ then because the ‘M’ scores a 4 and the ‘T’ only a 2 I could add the ‘T’ to my collection.

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At the end of the solo game you compare the score of your final word against the total score of the cards underneath the solo bot to determine the winner!

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed playing Movable Type, I have played it several times both by myself and also with my family.  I am not usually someone who plays many card games solo as I prefer the social aspect of board and card games.  So my enjoyment of this one solo took me a little by surprise!

Focusing on the solo play for a moment I found the solo bot card worked very well. I really did have to think about which letter cards I wasn’t going to use in my word carefully so that I didn’t hand too many points away!  The way you choose your letter cards was really interesting and felt challenging.  I also found the process of adding letters to your collection a real puzzle which I loved.  Overall I have really loved my solo plays of this game.  I am a big fan of word game apps and word puzzles and this gave me that feel but with the added bonus of the tactile feel of playing cards!

In addition I have enjoyed playing this with my family, my son in particular really liked it.  From a parental perspective I felt that it was great for encouraging him to think about word construction and his spelling.  Staying on the educational theme for a moment I also found that the author cards were great talking points as well. Both for my children asking about the different authors but also several of the authors were ones that we all weren’t that familiar with.

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I think it is important to mentioned that my daughter struggled to enjoy this game.  I think this was because both of my children are at the cusp of finding it too hard to play, purely from a word construction perspective rather than because of the game-play.  This probably is because at 8 years old they are right on the bottom end of the age range the game is aimed at.  It isn’t a negative for the game overall but is definitely something to bear in mind when considering this game for children.

As I mentioned above I am a fan of word games and I found that this one came across really well. It was very easy to teach and play.  In addition I found the rulebook easy to understand which is always helpful!  I especially liked the card drafting aspect of the game as it really makes you think about which letters you are going to need in order to create a word. Each part of the drafting process created difficult decisions which made for a fantastic puzzle like feel.

In addition I really liked the author cards as they add another element to the game, in deciding whether or not to aim for these. I liked that each one has a different ability be it adding another card to your collection or counting as a letter or group of letters in the final round of the game.

I really liked the way this game looks on the table and I especially liked the design of the letter cards.   I was less keen on the starkness of the author cards to be honest.  I do think that the look of the game might not be to everyone’s tastes but that of course is true for many games!

Overall I have really enjoyed playing Movable Type and I would definitely recommend it to you if you enjoy word games! I hope you’ve enjoyed the review today please do get in contact if you have any questions or comments. Thanks for reading!

Shopping List

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Shopping List is a memory game where you are trying to be the first player to collect everything on your shopping list.  This game is for 2-4 players aged three or over and published by Orchard Toys.

How to Play

Each player chooses a trolley and a shopping list. All the shopping tokens are then placed face down in the middle of the table.

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The youngest player goes first and chooses a token from the centre of the table.  If this token matches an item on their shopping list they may place it in their shopping trolley.  If it does not then it is returned to the table, face down.  Play then continues clockwise until one player has collected all of the items on their shopping list. That player is the winner of the game.

Final Thoughts

Shopping List is an incredibly simple memory game for children.  It was one of the first games I bought for my children when they were about three years old.  They have really enjoyed playing it and it was great for teaching them about turn taking.  The matching element is very straight forward perfect for a child of that age.  As an adult it isn’t the most exciting game in the world but then that’s fairly normal for a game aged at such young children.

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This game has been really well produced, the artwork is really lovely and the components are great quality especially the thick cardboard pieces.  My children and I have played our copy many times over the years and it is still in great condition. I would definitely recommend this game if you are looking for something to introduce games to young children.

 

 

An Interview with Andy Thomas

I’m delighted to say that I had a chance to chat with Andy Thomas from Mad-Dad Games where I asked him various questions about his favourite games and his new game Hyperleague Racing!

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Hello Andy! Thanks for agreeing to come and talk to us today.  Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

Firstly, thanks for the chance to talk to you today! Me? I am an extremely nerdy father of two equally nerdy girls aged four and six whose day job is working with teenagers aged 16-19 who are not working or engaging in education. My girls and I are currently playing through the Dungeons and Dragons Parker Board Game and loving it. My six year old loves Pokemon and plays the card game regularly with her fairy deck… she smashes my poor Mewtoo theme deck a lot but it’s a great game to help with her numeracy and literacy and we love it. My 4 year old has started to collect now and we are slowly introducing playing the game to her.  

Background wise… (Apart from family monopoly) I started tabletop gaming in the mid to late eighties with Games Workshop games like Warhammer 40’000: Rogue Trader, Chaos Marauders and most of all, Blood bowl! I absolutely loved the fantasy and sci-fi genres and so this idea of buying and painting elves and orcs and having them playing american football against each other was the best thing ever for me!

Somewhere around 1994, a friend told me about ‘The Gathering.’ I listened to him talk about several thousand people dressed as orcs, goblins, elves, dwarves and more and he convinced me to join him on this live role-play adventure! Over time I became more involved in writing storylines and was volunteering more and more. I made friends there that I still count as some of my closest and it gave me a good grounding to take on a project called Shadow Wars (A dystopian future LARP) which in 2016, won ‘Best Medium LARP in the UK’ at the UK LARP Awards.

With Shadow Wars ending in 2017, I wanted to concentrate on doing things with the girls and this is where we started to play games together. From here, I started to write little games for us to play and it spiralled from there!

Where did the inspiration for Hyperleague Racing come from?

Honestly? I wanted to make a game that I could play with my daughter that would challenge her numeracy but also be fun. I initially wrote a dungeon crawler style storytelling game called ‘Heroes of Burnthurst Hall’ and we played that and had good fun. Then one night I read a book with her called ‘The Snoogle Race’ in which a group of alien teenagers steal racing pods and have a race against the martian kids only to be told off by the moon for being loud. This story caught my imagination and it started to develop from there. My absolute favourite games in my teens were cartoon style race games like Crash Team Racing or Mario Kart and between those memories and the Snoogle Race, the idea was born.

I love the sound of  ‘The Snoogle Race’ and it’s really lovely that it was all inspired by your desire to make something for your daughter! I gather from what you have said therefore that the first thing you thought of was the theme rather than the mechanics?

Definitely the theme! When I make anything, I try to imagine the story that sits behind that thing. I try to imagine what the world looks like, who the people are and what their culture is like. I try to think of how the technology works and then the rules sort of fall in to place afterwards.   

I’m a huge fan of good theming in games so that makes a lot of sense to me!  What made you decide to publish Hyperleague Racing?

I wrote this as a game to play with the girls but a few friends helped me to playtest it alongside the girls and they started to fill my head with the idea that it was actually good fun to play and that I should do something with it. Once my wife and daughters were telling me to do it, I had no choice! 

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What has been the hardest part about designing this game for you?

Being just me trying to manage everything. There is so much to do and it’s exhausting to try to get everyone who is doing work towards the project to get it done in the timeframe I need.

I can see why that would be really stressful!  On a different note if you could co-design a game with any current designers who would you choose and why?

This is an easy one! Michael and Jo Lovejoy from Oathsworn miniatures or Mike Hutchinson of Gaslands fame and for the same reasons.

I love playing Burrows and Badgers and Gaslands for pretty much the same reason in that you cannot help but get immersed in the game you are playing. Storytelling moments crop up several times in a game and that attention to narrative play in a small scale skirmish game is frankly wondrous! Also, I can’t mention Burrows and Badgers and not also mention that the model range for it is stunning. The hand sculpted miniatures ooze personality and personally, I can’t look at one without starting to write its back story!

They sound really interesting games I will have to look them up!  What would you say was the first game you remember playing as a child and did you have a favourite game growing up?

Good question! As a child I remember playing monopoly a lot but my absolutely favourite game growing up through my teens was Blood Bowl. I had every team but my absolute favourite was Orcs!

If you could play a game with any famous person, either living or dead, what game would you choose and who would you play it with?

This is a hard question! But I would love to gamemaster a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay campaign or Dungeon and Dragons 3.5ed with Sir Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and the incredible Brian Blessed. I don’t think I need to go in to why!

Not at all, that sounds like an amazing combination one I would love myself!  If you could only play one game for the rest of your life what game would you choose?

I think it would be Burrows and Badgers as the campaign mode is magical.

I’m really going to have to look up that game aren’t I!  Let’s talk about your game again for a moment could you tell us a little about how the game plays?

Players become the pilots in highly customisable intergalactic racing leagues where they fly between race markers while swinging round moons, asteroids, black holes and other space themed terrain while performing a range of tricks and manoeuvres to get ahead or better still, crash their rivals into space junk!

In the standard game, players either play as individual racers of their own design or use one of the pre-generated All-Star racers in ‘all against all’ 2-4 player action. Options exist to also play as a pair of racers racing against other pairs, demolition derby and a fun version affectionately called Puzzle Racer Turbo.

In Championship Mode however, the player takes the role of a fresh faced racer from one of the factions and as the campaign progresses, the pilot gains Championship Points to spend on upgrading their pilot, ship or garage.

Each turn, players activate their racer and make a simple race action followed by up to 3 manoeuvres and then a trick. A typical player turn takes minutes and every action is a balance of risk vs. reward. This creates a straight forward but fast paced balanced game that suits gamers that like a game that can be played quickly as a fun 30 minute blast or by players that want a more tactical game.

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I’m intrigued by the Championship Mode could you tell us how that works in a little more detail?

In Championship Mode you create a new racer by choosing their faction, naming them and writing a short bio for them. The current drafts for the championship sheets are that they will have an outline character on them that you can draw over to create your racer. (A bit like the My Little Pony Storytelling game does I suppose.) After the important stuff is done, you allocate your fresh faced racer with 1 in each stat and then have 2 further stat increases for free. Then you choose a trick and a garage upgrade to start with and you are ready to go! If you (like me) enjoy a random character creation system, I have written random tables to roll on so you can completely generate a character randomly.  

Then comes the races themselves.  Again, there is a table that determines the specific type of race you will be competing in from standard racing to demolition derby to a mode where you are collecting a specific number of race gates and trying to get them back to your start area before your rival racers. In that last mode, crashing means you spill your collected race gates and it’s made even harder by the fact that everyone has rockets installed!

After the race, positioning determines how many championship points you accrue and you can bid these on upping your stats, garage upgrades, making manoeuvres or tricks easier or even just saving them up to go for game bending championship talents such as;

‘All or Nothing!’

Distance:  Self

Requirements:  Factions – Gaia Prime, Undercrypt Alliance

Description:  A racer may attempt up to 4 manoeuvres in the manoeuvre phase instead                            of 3.  This 4th Manoeuvre has a further target number penalty of +1.

In addition to this championship bidding mechanic, there is also a wear and tear mechanic to see if you have have put too much pressure on your racing pod. There is a table that determines what, if any, issues may have arisen from thrashing your racing pod around that is modified by how well you placed and any crashes you suffered! Here is an example of what could come up if you roll low;

2D6 roll Result Description Effect
2-10 Minor repairs Your pit crew can sort that out, no problem! Nothing happens.
11 Gremlins in the cockpit! How on earth did they get in there! At the end of each turn, roll a D6. If the score is a 1 or 2, gain +1 initiative.

Basically, the championship mode was designed to be extremely flexible and highly customisable with enough depth so that each race could potentially have different ways to win. This kind of scenario based campaign system is something I loved from Mordheim, Blood Bowl and the like and I was keen to see if I could make that a reality within Hyperleague Racing. So far, playtesting shows it is working so I hope people really enjoy the scenarios when they see them!

What has been your favourite part about designing Hyperleague Racing so far?

Playtesting games with my six year old daughter because she is hilariously brutal about how the game plays. It’s the head tilt, fake smile and the head shake that absolutely make this the number one part of the project. A close number two was seeing all the parents and children at the recent UK Games Expo enjoying the game so much. You have probably picked up how much I love the idea of gaming with children so seeing them enjoying the game with their parents was huge for me.

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My children definitely enjoyed their playthrough of the game!  I really liked the look of the characters when I saw them at the UK Games Expo but do you have a favourite?

I actually have two favourite All-Star characters. One is ‘Tyg’ from Gaia Prime because she is so mischievous that everytime I see her card I wonder what prank she has pulled this week and Lavender of the Nymari elves because she was, in part, designed by my six year old. When I asked Natasha why the queen of the Nymari would be racing she simply answered with; “she is bored.” That ended up being the basis of her character bio.

That’s such a good story about Lavender and something I could see my daughter saying too!  Could you tell us a little about some of the other characters in the game?

Sure! Each faction within Sector 98 has 2 All-Star characters that can be played straight out of the box. Sector 98 has long since done away with war and all that nonsense and the capital planet is Gaia Prime.  There are 2 All-Stars that hail from Gaia Prime and they are Ty-Gress (or Tyg) and Master Lee-Zard. Master Lee-Zard is a monk like red dragonkin who trains upcoming racers. ‘Tyg’ was an admin assistant in the government building but her mischievous ways soon landed her in hot water that swept her to cart racing and now, The All-Star leagues!

From the Undercrypt Alliance we have Banshee, an ex-cafe owner who has the largest following of any All-Star on the Sectors media stream; Instagroan and Zom-Boy, a former package boy from a small time criminal gang who has since found racing as a way of getting past his nefarious past!

From the robotic Technos Nebula we have ‘Whizz’ and ‘Boost’ who are part of the ‘Wonder-Bots’ race team. Whizz started his life as an executive transport vehicle but has since been repurposed after failing one to many M.O.T’s. ‘Boost’ on the other hand was one of the first bots to develop a sense of competitiveness and is considered by many to be the diva of the All-Star league.

Finally, Queen Lavender of the Nymari has got bored of her stately duties throughout the sector and swapped her throne for a race pod while ‘Ivory’ was once a highly regarding host in one of the most popular holiday destinations for the sector until he spilt hot chocolate over one of the visiting dignitaries! One thing led to another and after a crazy unofficial race where he beat ‘Whizz’ he got given his own race pod!

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All these characters and their full bios are on the website along with their race cards.

Here’s a little spoiler of one of the fluff stories for the rulebook that is work in progress at the minute!

‘Another long day’

The sun rose over the Worlds Spine mountains, projecting hues of reds across the sky and in that moment; the master of the Red Drakon Monastery felt most at peace with himself as the sky and mountains transformed themselves to a near perfect match for his crimson scales. As his body, honed by centuries of training, soaked in the suns last moments he cleared his mind for the task to come.

The young novice known as ‘Tyg’ has caused quite a stir since coming to the monastery. Her playful mischief often putting her at odds with her teachers and other students. That said, the wise master liked her spirit, admired it almost as it seemed that now she was unbound from the rigors of life in the capital city of Gaia Prime she had found herself and had proved far more capable in a racing pod than any in her current peers. It was hard then, that he was about to go to council knowing that the other two masters were pressing for her removal.

Master Lee-Zard closed his eyes and reflected for a second, breathed out and turned to enter the chamber. The fires from the braziers hanging at six points around the room provided enough shadows to highlight the carvings around the walls of this inner sanctum. Each carving depicting another chapter in Gaia Primes long life. Carvings here heralded back to a time of war and dire strife but then also showed how Sector 98 had come together eventually under Gaia Primes banner and the birth of the senate. It was a place of remembrance and reflection and not surprisingly the place where the Masters of the Red Drakon Monastery came to discuss matters of great import.

Soon after Lee-Zard had entered the room, his peers arrived. No ceremony heralded them, and no ego followed them. They entered and all three sat, cross legged in the centre of the room as they had done many times before. Of the two others, Master Sally-Manda spoke first. The colouration of her skin and scales a perfect combination of colours between flaxon yellow, orange fire and crimson red with eyes so dark you could be mistaken for thinking she had replaced them with black holes. Her robes stitched in hues of brown were simple but allowed a freedom of movement and moved with her as if she had been born wearing them.

“She has to leave Lee-Zard. She broke the rules.”

Master Lee-Zard looked at his fellow master, a wry smile hinted upon his face and a softness entered his eyes as he spoke;

“I remember a certain young drakonkin entering my inner chambers to read texts she was not supposed to so I would not be too quick to assign intention of harm where no intention was present. It is my understanding that she wanted to learn about her fellow racers to prepare herself for the next race.”

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Master Allie-Gator, was ready to speak now and held her clawed hand up as she did so. She was some foot taller than the other two and her emerald scales upon dark jade skin had previously caused more than one visitor to the monastery pause for thought at her immense presence. Her piercing yellow eyes giving the threat of what lay underneath her measured demeanour, she turned to face Lee-Zard.

“Convince us that she will not use forbidden Technos vid-units to spy on her peers again? Can you do that? The use of technology is strictly controlled, and this act makes a mockery of how we are trying to teach these racers honour on and off the track.”

Master Lee-Zard smiled again as he spoke. His tone measured and calm, respectful but also assertive.

“She has her own path, that is true enough and it seems that her differences make her a burden to us and what we are teaching but that is not true is it. She is trying to succeed, trying to put a past behind her and in doing so, bring honour to herself and to us. We, and the others before us, have spent a lifetime telling others how to be more like us and perhaps it is time for us to be a bit more like them. This technology exists whether you like it or not and rather than condemning it, perhaps we should understand it and use it improve ourselves further. I know what ‘Tyg’ did needs to be addressed and I am willing to do so, but to remove her from this monastery because of your fear of evolving beyond these walls is no reason to remove her at all.”

After some time where the three masters sat silently. Master Sally-Mander broke the silence as she stood.

“I am not convinced that we are not about to make a mistake but no true advancement was ever gained from not embracing change. You will personally see to her punishment and we should meet again to discuss how this monastery can maintain what it has stood for while also embracing what the Sector has become.”

As the master left the chamber; Master Allie-Gator rose and smiled to Master Lee-Zard knowingly before she walked from the chamber.

Master Lee-Zard stood and took a breath as he was suddenly aware that even though his peers had left, he was not alone.

The young feline known as ‘Tyg’ snuck out from her hiding place from behind a raised dias towards the rear of the chamber. Her blue and red race suit suited her and she looked at Master Lee-Zard with her youthful eyes while beaming from ear to ear.

“You rock!”

Master Lee-Zard sighed…

It was going to be another extremely long day…

I really like how much detail you have gone into with the character backstories and I look forward to reading more about them.  On that note where can we find out more about your current projects and the latest news?

I am rubbish at social media but I’m getting better! You can find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by searching for @maddadandyt. I also have a website that i am trying to make look nice at www.maddadgames.com and a YouTube channel here; https://youtu.be/AISVpvVhUY8 which has ‘how to play the basic game’ videos uploaded to it now!

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That’s fantastic and could you let us all know how we might get hold of a copy of this game in the future!

I am going to Kickstarter on the 20th July but this is really as a way to get the game into local game shops. I love the community of gaming and playing board games is something that should bring people together. I think that local games shops are key to that. The games prototypes are complete but there are several elements that need redesigning so if the Kickstarter is successful then that can start being done and should be done by the end of the year. Realistically, the game should be with people by May 2019 or sooner if everything goes to plan… (goes to plan he says… ) In fact, I spoke to my manufacturing team recently and they seem to think that once the redesigns are done we could have physical copies going out to people within 4-6 weeks. I didn’t want to say that people could have it by Christmas and then fail to deliver so I have planned a good buffer so that the project can be delivered correctly. I would rather do it that way and potentially deliver early than run hopelessly over because I didn’t plan realistically.

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In the meantime, there is a free ‘Print and Play’ version of the game on the website along with all the All-Star racers from the core set. It is likely that I will put some free to play scenarios on the website as well so anyone who wants to can use whatever spaceships they have lying around to play.  

I will have to look out for it on kickstarter then. Thanks again for chatting to me about Hyperleague Racing and I really hope the campaign goes well!

Thank you! This has been great fun!

 

I hope you enjoyed reading Andy’s answers today.  If you have any comments or questions I’d love to hear from you! Thanks for reading!