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Views & Reviews with Ender

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A New Series of Family Games: an overview and links to reviews

Ender Wiggins
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Since the end of last year, Gryphon Games has been putting out a new series of titles geared towards the family market, and the games are ones that tend to be more substantial than the ones in their bookshelf series, without becoming heavy-weights. They've given it the stunningly creative title: the Gryphon Family Games series. Ok, maybe not quite so creative. But that doesn't mean that the games aren't much good. They are all quite different, but none of them feels like a traditional euro, and they all have something unique to offer. Here's an overview of the three games in the series so far, starting with the newest game - which I happen to think is the best of the bunch.

Pastiche (2011)

The most recent game in this series is Pastiche, which was released in the last month. Designed by Sean D. MacDonald, it is a wonderfully themed and beautifully produced gateway style game for 2-4 players about mixing colours to re-create famous paintings. It's gorgeously produced with stunning components, and is an outstanding family game that has proven very accessible, by offering relatively straight forward game-play without sacrificing a high fun factor or meaningful decisions. The game has an intriguing mix of various mechanics, among them being: tile placement, set collection, trading, and hand management.

The basic concept is that players must place hex tiles which feature dabs of colours, and depending on how these hexes are placed adjacent to existing hexes, new colours will be created. Through careful hex placement and trading, players must try to acquire the colours needed to complete commissions for famous paintings. Each of these `commission cards' is a quality and thick tile featuring a well-known artistic work, beautifully reproduced. It looks fantastic, and the mechanics mesh quite well with the theme.

Pastiche is intended to be family friendly, and it has the right mix of ingredients to be a successful gateway game, and I can even see potential for it to get nominated for gaming industry awards. We've played it about a dozen times, and continue to be impressed, despite it not being a heavy game. Here's the comprehensive pictorial review that I just posted in the last day:

Want to learn more? See my full review on Pastiche: mb A work of art in every respect, and the ideal family or gateway game

Bridgetown Races (2010)

Bridgetown Races requires players to use different methods of transport to navigate the city of Portland, Oregon, in an attempt to cross as many bridges as possible. Think capture the flag, but in an urban setting, and using bicycles, buses, taxis, streetcars, and more.

It isn't the kind of game that will appeal to everyone, but it's a good family type game that even offers enough challenge to satisfy gamers, especially those who enjoy games which involve logistics and puzzling out an optimal route (think Elfenland). In the process, there's a high degree of interaction. For Portland people it is a must-have simply because of the theme, and because it's not an inherently bad game by any means.

Bridgetown Races isn't going to supplant popular euros in the BGG Top 100 any time soon, but there's enough here that's different from the usual to make it worth a few plays, and it's perhaps designer Carey Grayson's best effort thus far. As an added bonus, it also plays quite well with just two players.

Want to learn more? See my full review on Bridgetown Races: mb Anybody Up For A Game of Urban Capture the Flag?

Charon Inc (2010)

The first in the series was Charon Inc., which is a reference to one of the moons of the planet (?) Pluto. In the game, players assume the role of CEOs (here's hoping that the corner office and six-figure salary will be included in a later expansion) of a space-age mining corporations that are leading the rush to colonize and mine the moon Charon. As a player, your job is to lay claim to the various mining regions of the moon and, utilizing the resources you collect, construct various buildings that will ultimately earn you victory points at the conclusion of the game.

The components are quite nice, and there's some interesting area control mechanics, combined with a choice of special abilities players can compete for each round. The heart of the game is about placing flags to stake your claim in areas on Charon, which in turn will get you the gems (minerals) needed to complete various point-scoring buildings - represented in the game by cards. The theme is arguably pasted on, but using flags for the claim-staking area control mechanic does give the game a certain charm.

Charon Inc is not something for the AP-prone, and won't suit the tastes of every group, but there are certainly going to be gamers who really enjoy this style of game. Also be aware that the game will feel quite different depending on the number of players (2-5).

Want to learn more? See my full review on Charon Inc: mb Is Pluto a planet, do meeples have souls, and other existential questions about this new Essen release

Of all the games in the series, I believe that the newest release Pastiche is easily the strongest entry, on the levels of theme, components, and gameplay - so if you want to get acquainted with this series, that's a good place to start.

Join the discussion: Have you played any of these titles, and if so, what did you think? If you haven't played any of these titles, then which one looks the most appealing to you based on the above, and why?
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