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Sunday morning started off with so many productive plans. Let’s go to the gym, get on top of the laundry, I’m going to mow the lawn today. After a lazy lie in, Sunday ended up with my wife and I sitting in our pyjamas playing games on the kitchen table, and I couldn’t be happier. What better way to spend a day off than to play boardgames with your best friend? Sunday marked the end of a week off for me and work has been particularly difficult over the last few weeks, so it was nice to just forget about everything and just play some great games with my favourite human.
Kerala: The Way of the Elephant
This has been a great addition from my collection, Kerala is simple, strategic and satisfying to play. Designed by Kirsten Hiese and published by KOSMOS, Annabelle and I first came across this game at last year’s UK Games Expo. We were drawn in by the colours and the chunky wooden elephant pieces, and ended up buying the game after seeing how Kerala plays. Essentially players build up a tableau of cardboard tiles which are pulled out of a bag randomly each turn. Players place the new tile on a space next to one of their two elephant tiles, or on top of a previously placed tile; once a new tile has been placed the elephant is moved on top of the new tile. Players must try to maximise the amount of points scored in their tableau while adhering to having only one group of each colour, or two groups of their player colour. Any tiles that do not conform with this rule make you lose points at the end of the game. I tried to focus on scoring the five point tiles, while Annabelle just went for a riskier larger more spread out tableau. Despite getting a minor penalty for some rogue tiles at the end of the game, she beat me pretty comfortably. This is the first time that I’ve played Kerala as a two player game and I was impressed with how well the game played, and how little down time there is between turns.
Annabelle 82 - 67 Allen
Meeple Circus is one of those games that I kept seeing pop up here on the Geek and through Instagram, and every time I saw it I wanted to buy it just a little more. Matagot have a habit of making games with great aesthetics that are usually excellent to play too. Designed by Cédric Millet, Meeple Circus sees players build up a group of circus performers and attempt to balance, stack and maneuver them in each of the game’s three rounds to score the most amount of ‘applause’ (points) as possible. With each round players will gain more performers, allowing for more opportunities to score points with bigger more high risk moves. The game has a companion app that acts as a game timer, playing frantic circus music as the players arrange their performers for the current round. I thought that I was pretty good at dexterity games, but I was terrible at Meeple Circus. Not that it detracted from how much I enjoyed the game, I thought that it was great and I can’t wait to play it again. Annabelle managed to score more than me in each of the three rounds to beat me for the second time that afternoon. This game really lived up to its expectations.
Annabelle 62 - 51 Allen
The third game of the evening was a game that I’ve had in my collection for a little while but haven’t had the chance to try yet. Annabelle and I are both big fans of the first game, Kingdomino, so we couldn’t wait to play the newest chapter in the series. Designed by Bruno Cathala and published by Blue Orange Games, Queendomino can be played either as an expansion to Kingdomino or as a stand alone game; when played as an expansion it allows four players to play a 7x7 grid, which I think is the best way to play. Essentially Queendomino takes the basic rules of the first game and adds a few layers of complexity, and extra board and extra pieces. When I first saw pictures of the game I thought that it was going to be much more complex than it actually was, in reality Queendomino is quite straightforward. The red spaces allow players to purchase towns which are displayed on a central board as single space tiles available to all players in exchange for money. Knights are used to raise a player’s money equal to the amount of spaces of a single colour that they are placed in, and towers allow the player with majority to take control of the Queen, who grants an extra crown in one region of the game at the end. Both knights and towers are given away with certain city tiles. Annabelle and I agreed straight away that this was an excellent game, and that we would probably be seeing a lot of it over the next few months. Annabelle went heavily for the city tiles and ended up scoring huge amounts of points for choosing this strategy at the end of the game and won yet again. That makes three losses out of three for me, but I still enjoyed the games. It just makes me want to play again to get my revenge. Thanks for reading, please let me know what you like to play with your better half in the comments section below.
Annabelle 174 - 147 Allen
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Tue Jun 12, 2018 11:24 pm
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UK Games Expo 2018 - Convention Report
Last weekend saw the return of the UK Games Expo, which is the largest board game convention in the UK. This year it was bigger than ever, expanding to two halls at the Birmingham NEC as well as the nearby Hilton hotel. Annabelle and I attended for the press event, which this year had a day all to itself on Thursday, then we were joined by our friend Charlotte to attend the convention on Saturday. I will try to cover as many of the games that we managed to have a look at over the course of the weekend, though some of them are yet to be listed on the BGG catalogue (I’ve written such games in bold). I’ve enjoyed every UKGE that I’ve been to so far, and this year was no exception. It was great to catch up with some of my favourite designers, and people from the board game community; anyway here is most of what we came across over the course of the weekend. I’ve mixed together the games that we saw at the press event and games that we saw at the convention itself.
The first person that I wanted to see at the UK Games Expo was Gavin Birnbaum of Cubiko Games. He designs the most interesting games often with an emphasis on dexterity, and hand makes all of them out of chunky wood. One of his games called Carreau has probably been the game that I have played most over the last year or so. I was eager to see what Gavin had at his stand this year, I knew that I had seen a prototype the previous year of a game called Wrecking Cube. We ended up playing a round of that which was very fun, and we bought one of the five copies that Gavin had made for the convention. We also tried one of his new prototypes called Paras, which was an unusual little dexterity war game and very enjoyable to play. I think that I know what I want to pick up from Gavin Next year now.
I'm a big fan of this publisher so it was great to see them at the convention. Oink Games is a Japanese publisher that releases bizarre games in tiny boxes. I grabbed Deep Sea Adventure off them a couple of years back at the Essen Spiele and loved it. It’s amazing how much game there is in these tiny boxes. This year they were promoting Troika and Startups from the same designer Jun Sasaki. Both games looked equally unusual, but I'm sure that they played well.
Kris Gould of Wattsalpoag Games returned to the convention with his new game Echidna Shuffle, which was actually being released on the first day of UKGE. Echidna Shuffle is a charming pick up and deliver game with some beautiful chunky plastic components. Unfortunately the game sold out so quickly that I didn't manage to grab myself a copy. Room 17 Games had their new game which is about to be Kickstarted this summer called Miremarsh. I'm usually a little put off by miniatures, but the way in which the game played intrigued me, with all players controlling a set of expendable goblins and trying to pass a series of tests to with the game. The presentation looked outstanding, Room 17 did a great job with both the artwork and the miniatures which are all unique in the game.
It's always nice to see what HABA are releasing next. They have a habit of designing excellent children's games that adults can enjoy equally. This year we took a look at a sequel to Rhino Hero called Rhino Hero: Super Battle, which is much bigger than the original game and harder because you have to hand little monkeys off the sides of the cards. Another game that we liked the look of was Burg Kletterfrosch, in which players must use two strings to traverse a ball into the correct lot on the board, occasionally two players will have to take a string each and balance the control of the frog between themselves. It's great to see that HABA are still making beautiful creative games, one day when I have children I’m going to fill my house with their products.
One of my favourite Game publishers is Pegasus Spiele from Germany, who returned to the convention with some excellent games on offer. First up was the Istanbul: Big Box which contains the base game, along with Istanbul: Mocha & Baksheesh and Istanbul: Letters & Seals. We ended up seeing the Big Box all over the convention at different shops so I think that it was pretty popular amongst attendees. They also had a spin off dice game that was promoted as more of a family-weight game than the original called Istanbul: The Dice Game. This one looked really interesting, retaining much of the symbolism and mechanisms from the base game.
Pegasus also had Reiner Knizia's new title Axio, which appears to be related to his classic abstract game Ingenious; That one is a must buy for me. They also had a new speedy card game called Nimble with some gorgeous artwork. And finally the hilariously titled Memoarrr!, a memory game with some interesting mechanisms and gameplay; this is one that I would like to try at some point in the future, controversially I still enjoy a good game of Memory.
We looked at two of Gamewright's titles that were being demoed at the Coiledspring Games booth. Annabelle was drawn in by the little dog miniatures in Cha-Cha Chihuahua: The Game of Dancing Doggies, a great looking colourful family game in which players are trying to attract as many Chihuahuas as possible to their dance floor. They also had Tiki Topple, which is actually 10 years old now but I hadn't seen the game before; I quite liked the theme and the colourful components.
Devir had some of their new titles on display at the press event on Thursday. It's not a publisher that I am usually familiar with but their games seemed to be quite eye-catching. We first looked at 1,2,3! Now you see me..., a little card game with plenty of animeeples in, then we took a look Dungeon Raiders which had some great artwork. Neither game was particularly new, but they were both new to me and both looked interesting enough to at least try out.
CMON Limited is a publisher that I often shy away from, because miniatures are not something that I tend to crave in my board games; however the two games that they were promoting at this year's UK Games Expo looked amazing. Dragon Castle takes mechanisms from the solitaire game that people play with Mahjong tiles and turns it into a competitive set collection game. I could see myself really enjoying this one with my family. They were also displaying Way of the Panda which has some excellent miniatures but from a gameplay point of view probably isn't for me. Then again I said that about Blood Rage and I was dead wrong.
It felt like we had to queue forever to get into the Bring and Buy, but it was worth it. We found some great games but I'll list those a little later in this post. We sat down and chilled out for a while, and tried some of the simpler games that we had bought. I grabbed a copy of Tri 3D which looked better than it actually played, but I'd be willing to try it again with two players instead of three. Annabelle and Charlotte had a few games of our newly acquired copy of Pylos. I used some of this time to catch up with Ryan Hough and to look at his Unpublished Prototype. I've been chatting with Ryan for over a year now through Facebook but this was the first time that I had met him in person. He is the admin for a great community on Facebook called Abstract Nation. His Prototype had some gorgeous looking 3D printed pieces, and a clean minimal rule set. Essentially each players pieces can stack into each other, which determines how many spaces they can move, plus the game has two win conditions. I'd love to play this at some point in the future, it certainly piqued my interest.
Every year the UK Games Expo hosts tournaments for one game or another. This year it appeared that the main games being played were Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game and Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game, both from Fantasy Flight Games. I admire the commitment that people have to these games but tournament play really isn't something that I've ever wanted to participate in myself. The same goes for all the LARPing and Cosplay stuff too dotted around the convention.
Dice Hospital caught my eye. I like the hospital theme partly because I work in one, and partly thanks to the old PC game Theme Hospital. Dice Hospital is a gorgeous looking worker placement game with some great artwork; I'd love to add this one to my collection one day. We were drawn in by the artwork for a little card game called Gobblin' Goblins, the first game for a new publisher called Toon Hammer. The game seems like a nice family weight set collection game,one that I wouldn't mind trying at some point. A little while ago I played a great card driven war game called Quartermaster General, which I felt handled asymmetry really well. This year I came across a new version called Quartermaster General: The Cold War, which covers what I feel is the most interesting war, if you can call it that. The game looks fantastic, I'd love to give that one a try.
Since the last time that we attended the convention, Annabelle and I managed to get our hands on a copy of Beasts of Balance, and excellent iPad driven stacking game with some bizarre components. This year we got a chance to see some of the new creatures in the Beasts of Balance: Battles expansion, which also adds a bunch of cards to the game. The publisher Sensible Object also had their second game on display called When in Rome, which is an Amazon Alexa driven trivia game. It would appear that they are going to stick to technology integration with their titles, which is great. I'm interested to see what they experiment with next.
This year Brain Games expanded upon their ICECOOL range, first with ICECOOL2 which can either be played as a stand-alone game or combined with the first Ice Cool to make a larger more diverse game; and secondly Pyramid of Pengqueen which is a kind of one versus many maze game with some interesting magnet based mechanisms. I was fortunate enough to try the latter game and it was great fun, I hope that they continue to publish games under this franchise, who doesn’t love penguins? Another title that Brain Games were promoting this year is Pikoko by Adam Porter, a trick taking game in which you can only see your opponents cards. This one really caught my eye and became the first new game that I played at this year’s expo, it was one of the most unusual card games that I’ve played but one that I'm sure will be making many appearances at my games nights this year. It was a very enjoyable experience.
It wouldn't be the UK Games Expo without the amazing Bez, who is always a joy to be around. I recently backed their Kickstarter for Kitty Cataclysm, which I had the privilege of playing at this year's Airecon in Yorkshire. Bez had a new game to show me this time called +, which was a beautifully simple speedy card game. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that Reiner Knizia had designed a new party game called Clickbait, and in true Big Potato Games fashion, it comes in a great looking but awkwardly shaped package. I can see this one being pretty fun to play once it hits the market, I know that I would like a copy.
Last year we seen a new collectable card game by the name of Lightseekers with some interesting mechanisms and integration with augmented reality when played with the digital version of the game as the cards could be scanned with a smartphone. This year the game returned with a Warhammer theming under the name of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar - Champions. There is certainly a lot of lore to draw from in the Warhammer universe so this can only be a good thing.Charlotte and I got sucked into playing a game called Pixit from H. P. Gibson & Sons. Players use a set of identical dice to build the pixelated images on the games cards. I didn't look at the games rules but it seemed like there must be some kind of speed element. Space Cowboys had a prototype for a game called Orbis which I feel is likely to be a big hit when it gets released. It's one of those super simple eurogames with plenty of options for strategy, and an element of tableau building which I enjoy. I'll have to keep my eye out for this one in the near future.
We spotted a gorgeous looking party game at the Asmodee stand by the name of TAGS. The game is a silly fast paced word game and looks like it accommodates team play really well. It's nice to see a publisher putting so much effort into the presentation of a party game for a change. YAY Games games were back again this year. They managed to win 'best abstract game' last year with Ominoes, and this year they returned with another game from the series called Ominoes Hieroglyphics, which uses some of the same symbols but plays more as a tile laying game. I loved the original game so I would be willing to try the new one.
There's a publisher that my wife and I really like called Strawberry Studio, who make small simple card driven games. Last year we picked up a copy of Strawberry Ninja, a great co-op or solo game; this year we wanted to get their new game called Scare It!. We were fortunate enough to have a demo of the game and it was great fun to play. I'm looking forward to seeing what these guys do next. At this year's Airecon, our favourite game of the convention was Backpacks & Blisters (second edition), an interesting card driven game set in the lake district. When we visited the Ragnar Brothers we were given a Backpacks and Blisters tea towel containing the games board as it's design, great stuff! Annabelle wanted some kind of nautical game due to her pirate roots, so we also picked up a copy of Niña & Pinta which deals also with parallel universes, somehow. I can't wait to give this one a try.
At the press preview Coiledspring Games had some great games on display. We were first drawn in by SOS Dino, a cooperative family game with some great dinosaur miniatures. Players must work together to save four dinosaurs from four active volcanoes. They also had expansions for one of my favourite releases of the last few years, Kingdomino. The first can be played as a stand alone game called Queendomino, which has been described as a gamer's version of the original game adding more complexity; and they had the new expansion Kingdomino: Age of Giants which adds some big chunky giants to the game. I didn't get a chance to see how the second expansion works but I'm pretty sure that I will end up adding it to my collection eventually, I adore the base game.
Repos Production had some interesting stuff on display this year. I'm a big 7 Wonders fan, so it was great to see the new large expansion with some little plastic boats called 7 Wonders: Armada. They're hoping to have this one available for Essen this year so keep an eye out. There were a few new family party games with Concept Kids: Animals and a prototype for Just One. They had a party game that revolves around dreams called When I Dream that looked like great fun, they had it set up on a bunch of beds in the main hall, very creative.
I came across a charming self published game called Hidden Hoard, which really looks great considering the fact there isn’t a big publisher behind it. The game is a fairly simple family weight game in which players battle it out to deduct what the hidden location is for that round. In addition the game’s board is huge and covered with all kinds of cryptic codes and symbols. There is actually a set of coordinates to figure out on the game’s board itself and a prize of £10,000 for the first person to solve it. What a great way to draw attention to your new game. KOSMOS had two new EXIT: Das Spiel games at the UKGE this year which was a pleasant surprise. I have played every game from the series so far (that has been released in English) and wasn't expecting the new wave of games to be released until the end of June. The first is Exit: The Game – The Sunken Treasure, the second and more difficult of the two is Exit: The Game – Dead Man on the Orient Express. I was also fortunate enough to get my hands on the promo game Exit: Das Spiel – Das Geheimnis der Premiere, which was given away at conventions at around the time of the original release a few years ago.
Anyone who has been to a board game convention will know that it’s one of the best places to add new games to your collection. You can buy directly from publishers, from vendors or from the bring and buy section. Here’s what the three of us walked away with:
Samarkand: Routes to Riches - An odd looking strategy game that uses camel meeple.
World Monuments - An abstract-ish building game with chunky wooden pieces.
Quads - An older game from my favourite designer Kris Burm.
Pyramid of Pengqueen - A one versus many treasure hunt game with a magnetic board.
Hidden Hoard - A family game that doubles up as an actual treasure hunt for £10,000.
Pikoko - An excellent trick taking game with a clever twist.
Exit: The Game – The Sunken Treasure - One of the newer Exit games, apparently a fairly easy one to complete.
Exit: The Game – Dead Man on the Orient Express - Another new Exit game, this time a much more difficult one.
Exit: Das Spiel – Das Geheimnis der Premiere - This was actually a promo to celebrate the release of the original Exit games.
Orc-lympics - Another title from Brain Games, this one is a drafting card game.
Nimble - A speedy card game with some excellent artwork.
Sticky Chameleons - A family game that uses weird sticky tongues. Sounds gross. Niña & Pinta - A nautical game from the Ragnar Brothers for my wife.
Scare It! - The newest game from Strawberry Studio, very enjoyable to play.
Central Market - A colourful and simple looking card game.
Tri 3D - A multi-tiered abstract game that cost £1.75, can’t argue with that price.
Sandcastles - A light and simple card game with a great theme.
Lightseekers - An intro deck for a CCG. Looks like it hase some interesting mechanisms.
Wrecking cube - One of five prototypes for a new game designed by the amazing Gavin Birnbaum.
Loony Quest - I tried this one at Essen a few years ago, it’s a great little game.
TRIUMPH - An old fantastically ugly looking abstract.
Quarto - A classic abstract game, I’ve been after a copy of this for years.
Pylos - Another classic abstract. I’ve only ever played a giant version of this game.
7 Wonders CN Tower Promo - An alternative artwork card for Palace, containing the Canadian National Tower.
7 Wonders Duel: Stonehenge - I was given eight of these in a pack from Repos Production, some of which I’ll be giving away here on my blog.
When I Dream: Bonus Cards - Some more juicy promo cards.
… and this is what our good friend Charlotte picked up from the convention:
Magic Maze - After playing the game, this was not what I expected it to be. Very enjoyable co-op party game.
Istanbul - One of my all time favourite eurogames.
Istanbul: Letters & Seals - The second main expansion, one that I do not own.
Ominoes - This is a game that I enjoyed at this year’s Airecon.
Backpacks and Blisters Promo Dishcloth - You didn’t misread that, Charlotte was given a dishcloth with the design from the game’s board.
Exit: The Game – The Forgotten Island - Charlotte found an unplayed copy of the game in the bring and buy, great find!
Exit: The Game – The Sunken Treasure - Like us Charlotte bought one of the newer Exit games.
7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon - The expansion to the greatest game ever made.
Carcassonne catapault Carcassonne: Expansion 7 – The Catapult - Probably the silliest expansion for Carcassonne.
Our favourite game from UK Games Expo - Pikoko
Congratulations to Pikoko by Adam Porter. This great little trick taking game is fun to play, feels original and looks phenomenal on the table. Players can only see the cards in other player’s hands, and gamble on how many ‘tricks’ they believe each player will win on a given round, include themselves. The game has a good degree of psychology and behaviour involved, and won ‘best new card game’ at UKGE this year; well deserved in my opinion. Thank you for reading!
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Fields of Green
I enjoyed a rare week off from work last week and luckily my wife was off work too, here’s a little bit of what I got up to. I was joined by my best men (I decided that it would be better to have two at my wedding), Matt and Chris for a couple of games on Wednesday afternoon. When I first learned about Fields of Green, the game was described as a reimplementation of Among the Stars; which piqued my interest because Among the Stars is in my top 10 games of all time. Today was my first time playing it, and although many of the rules were the same it doesn’t feel much like a reimplementation. The addition of a harvest phase to the game means that players have to have a working engine at the end of every round, taking into account food, water and money supplies. In addition the game punishes you for not being able to afford harvest costs by turning the cards face down and making you spend a card later on to turn back face up. This was our first play of the game and it made a great first impression with everyone at the table. Matt had a lot of Constructions on the table and had found ways of gaining points for them, Chris had a little engine going throughout the game that was churning out victory points, and I focussed on getting cash then adding buildings towards the end game managing a fairly narrow victory by the end. This is definitely one that I’d like to play again very soon.
1st - Allen 54
2nd - Matt 51
3rd - Chris 30
Next up we played the amazing looking Photosynthesis by Blue Orange Games, which has to be one of the most interesting eurogames on the market. I would go as far to say that with the absence of random chance the game feels more like an abstract game, especially when played as a two player game. Players each have a colour of tree, and must grow their trees to their full height and harvest them to score points. The trees on the board collect sunlight which can be spent to take the various actions in the game, and as play continues players will have an opportunity to grow their trees to collect more light. The trees cast shadows around the game board and can prevent other trees from collecting light. Players will get the majority of their points from growing their trees to the maximum size and harvesting them for points; so they must strike a balance between having trees on the board to gather light, and removing them to gain points. It was a tight game, with everyone trying to block the light from each other’s trees, but in the end I managed to score some late points to win the game. This has been a great addition to my collection this year.
1st - Allen 97
2nd - Chris 77
3rd - Matt 57
We decided to finish Wednesday afternoon off with something simple, and NMBR9 is about as simple as it gets. Players must stack a set of pixelated shapes representing the numbers one through nine in the order dictated by a set of cards. At the end of the game the shapes are worth their numerical value multiplied by their level on the stack. The shapes are awkward to stack, but really satisfying when you manage to do it effectively. I love these kinds of shape and geometry games where you have to conceptualise abstract shapes in your head, but I did pretty badly in this one never quite getting the pieces to fit. Matt on the other hand played very well, getting some of the higher numbers several levels up in the stack winning by a big margin in the end. A great afternoon with two great chaps, always nice to see these two dapper gents.
1st - Matt 160
2nd - Chris 144
3rd - Allen 135
Friday now, and my wife and I sat down to a game of Five Tribes, one of my favourite Bruno Cathala games. This takes the central mechanism from Mancala and adds some eurogame elements, such as set collection, end game bonuses and the ability to set up elaborate combos. This is a great game, though it it can suffer from a bit of analysis paralysis due to the amount of moves available to players each turn. I think that the game plays well with two, though it’s probably at its best with three or four. Annabelle found a way to make her yellow meeple worth extra points and finished the game with loads of spices. I tried to focus on keeping hold of money and picked up a genie that increased the value of my white meeple. In the end Annabelle won her first game of five tribes with a pretty comfortable margin. I should really invest in some of the expansions to this game.
Annabelle 257 - 219 Allen
Next up, one of my favourite games from the Continuo series, Rhombo Continuo. Our dinner was almost cooked so we thought that this would be a good way to fill the time. Players take turns in adding one of the games tiles to the tableau, and score points for each coloured region that is extended equal to the number of triangles in that region. It’s one of those simple and relaxing games that you can play in any situation. The rhombuses can make the shape of the playing area quite bizarre and disorientating, but this only adds to the enjoyment of the game for me. My wife and I were neck and neck all the way through, but she pulled off some big moves late in the game to win her second game of the evening.
Annabelle 410 - 399 Allen
7 Wonders Duel
For the last game of the evening, I finally got my wife to try my favourite game. I was always reluctant to get her to play 7 Wonders Duel, because the game doesn’t really accommodate different skill and experience levels very well; it’s quite easy for a new player to be beaten and feel quite disheartened by the game. Annabelle decided to try and go for a science victory, which is an approach that you don’t often see in this game because it can be quite difficult to pull off. She ended up being one science symbol away from winning, but I held her off until the last card had been played and the game went to points. Even then I only won by five points. I think that given a few more games Annabelle might pull me apart in this game at some point in the future. Hopefully we’ll play the game again soon.
Allen 57 - 52 Annabelle
On Saturday we ended up relaxing in my parents garden with a glass of bubbly after watching the Grand National (a famous annual horse race here in the UK). We ended up trying The Mind for the first time, which I was eager to player after seeing it on both Stuart and Steph’s blog here on the Geek. Essentially this is small a cooperative card game in which players all have cards in their hand and must collaboratively play them in the correct order without verbally communication what is on their cards. The deck is made up of the numbers one through one hundred, and players get cards equal to the number of rounds they have played. So players have one cards in the first round, two in the second and so on. The game sounds simple, but there is a nuance to timing your moves and reading each other’s body language that makes The Mind a really entertaining game. We ended up playing two rounds, getting to round five in both games. The game had some funny moments when a few players had cards that were close to each other and started to panic play them at speed. We ended up playing two games and getting no further than level five each time. A great way to end a great week off. Thanks for reading!
Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:54 pm
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I am this week’s Geek of the Week!
Thank you for putting me forward for this Stuart! I’ll be over here on this thread answering questions if you’re interested. Thanks to everyone who has read my blog over the last few years.
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Just to give you a heads up, this blog post is going to be a little bit all over the place. I’ve been ill recently due to asthma complications and have decided to amalgamate what was going to be two blog posts. It covers the long Easter Weekend and one other night at the end of the following week. I had some great times with my family and played a lot of games, so bear with me as this may end up being a pretty long blog post. The long Easter weekend started on the Thursday evening for us as my wife and I celebrated two years since first meeting. We went to our favourite restaurant Next Door in Frodsham for some amazing food and cocktails and we had a great night. I can’t stress enough how much better my life is since I met my Annabelle, though if you’ve been following my blog over the last few years you might have noticed that. She’s made me happier than I ever could have imagined being. Thursday was also our last day of work for a little while so it was a relief to be able to relax a let go for few days.
On Friday we set off for Cumbria for the annual Easter family holiday. Every year my family get a pair of static caravans somewhere in glorious England, last year it was Yorkshire and this year it’s the Lake District, next to Lake Windermere to be specific. Our holidays tend to revolve around three main activities; rambling, boozing and gaming, usually in that order. We have a lot of family from the Isle of Man who join us, so it’s great to get together and have a laugh. After some frantic packing, Annabelle and I set off on what ended up being a four hour drive due to accidents on the motorway, roadworks, and every man and his dog wanting to head to the Lakes for the long Easter weekend.
Upon arriving at the caravans my youngest cousin Sophie was very eager to show me the game that she designed as a school project called Scars and Broomsticks, using characters from the Harry Potter universe as pawns. It was heartwarming to see how much effort she had put into her game and her enthusiasm to get people to play it. The game was basically Snakes and Ladders with the addition of ‘Wand’ spaces to roll an extra turn. There’s no choice or agency to a game like this, but kids seem to enjoy the swings of luck that come with every roll of the die; we played a round and my wife ended up the winner while I sat in last place. Sophie is a big fan of gymnastics, so I thought that it would be apt to bring my copy of Fantastic Gymnastics to play with her. I see this as really more of a toy than a game, but it’s fun to play with all the same. I somehow managed to get the gymnast to land perfectly on my first attempt making me look like I know what I’m doing, which ended up being his only landing after several members of my family had a go. I really don’t see the point in playing this game using a point system, if you manage one successful landing in the game then that is a pretty big achievement in itself.
Every year I buy my Isle of Man family a new game for Christmas, this year they got it a little bit later. I gave them a copy of the amazing Catch the Moon, a simple stacking dexterity game using rickety ladders stacked on top of one and other as its core mechanism. We played a five player game which ended up going to a tie breaker for all but one player, Auntie Karen, as she had caused the stack to fall more than the other players; then we collectively managed to use every ladder in the game meaning that everyone but Karen won. I’ve played this a few times and I’ve never seen that don’t before. Next up was one of my favourite family weight games called Engel und Bengel, where each player has an allocated number of dice and must roll and place them on a variety of rows across a series of randomised cards. Some rows make you gain points and some rows make you lose them, and players must allocate at least one die if possible on each turn. The game has lots of twists and turns, and really got all of the players engaged, laughing and shouting. Hana ended up winning by a pretty comfortable margin, much to her delight. The six of us went on to play Cubiko by the amazing Gavin Birnbaum. We had all had a little bit to drink at this point so playing a game that uses throwing a bouncy ball seemed like the best idea at the time. Players are trying to bounce the ball into one of the 3x3 grid spaces to place one of their coloured cubes, with a view to either get three in a row or three in one space. Each combination is worth a set number of points and the first team to ten points is the winner. We played the game in three pairs as the game usually caps out at four players and it ended up being very close with every team effectively one move from winning, but my step dad and I got a fluke last throw to win the game.
As our first evening was nearing an end and everyone left awake was rather pissed we attempted to play Cockroach Poker, which didn’t work amazingly well. I underestimated how easy it would be to teach this to five other people how to play this game when everyone had consumed as much alcohol as me. People were playing the cards face up, trying to give cards back to players who knew what they were, and after a few rounds we gave up and balanced some wooden shapes in Bausack instead. We stuck to the Tower of Babel game mode in which every player contributes to a single tower, aiming not to be the person to knock the tower over. It was great fun, and as could be expected the game degenerated to everyone throwing the games pieces at each other and into each other’s drinks; this was a good sign for everyone at the table to call it a night and retire to bed.
Saturday morning started with a ramble along Ullswater Lake heading up a path towards Aira Force Waterfall. There were 13 people in our group ranging from primary school age to post 70, and the path was quite vertical at times so we took our time; I was glad as I felt a little bit rough from the night before too. The waterfall was mind blowing, well worth the difficult hike to get there. We stopped for a little while and ate some lunch before the much easier walk down the hill, along with plenty of other visitors to the Lake District. The weather changed six or seven times while we were out so everyone was soaked by the time they got back to the car. We headed back to the caravan through what had become a snow laden mountain road in the few hours that we’d been away to celebrate my cousin Daniel’s 12th Birthday.
We got back to the caravan and played a game brought by my Isle of Man family. Obama Llama is a party game in which players either mime or describe a rhyming phrase containing a famous person’s name and some kind of action, such as Tom Cruise wearing platform shoes, or George Clooney pulling a mooney. The game had some really funny moments but I didn’t know a lot of the famous people and neither did the older players, which did get in the way a little. Daniel’s team ended up winning thanks to his impressive acting skills, then we celebrated his birthday and ate a lot of food and started drinking. There was less focus on gaming on the second night because I think that everyone was still quite tired from the day’s long walk. After the kids had gone to bed most of the adults went to the pub on the campsite for a few beers and to watch the Joshua vs Parker boxing match.
We returned to our caravan after watching the boxing and thought it best to squeeze in a game of two before sleeping. We started with Beasts of Balance, an app driven dexterity game that sees players balancing plastic shapes on a large plinth in order to manipulate an environment full of animals on your iPad screen. Players scan the piece that they want to play on the plinth which is connected to the iPad, then add it to the stack, adding animals to the habitat then crossing them and migrating them to make new creatures on the screen. This game can be really engrossing in the right group, and my family we’re hooked. We ended up playing a few rounds and doing pretty well, I think we even ended up breaking the high score at one point. We were down to four players for the next game so another Cubiko game hit the table, this time it was Carreau which is a game that gives everyone a little catapult to play with, again this was a wise decision after a few drinks. Players use their catapults to project their coloured dice at the board with a view to getting it the closest to the bouncy ball at the centre of the board, essentially the game is Boules but with catapults instead of boredom. My step dad is very good at this game and ended up winning pretty quickly, but Carreau still had everyone laughing and enjoying themselves.
My step dad Dave and I were now the last two people left awake, which gave us our only chance of the holiday to play some two player abstract games. First up was YINSH from the GIPF Project series of games, which seems like a simple five in a row game but has tons of choices and strategy. We ended up having a very close game, at one point both players had scored two rows and were looking to score a third to win; I ended up finding the winning move more because of an oversight from Dave than because of my own strategy. Growing up I watched Dave play a lot of Chess, so I thought that I would introduce him my favourite twist on the game from my Pyramid Arcade set called Martian Chess. This is about as counter-intuitive as Chess variations go because you control every piece that is on your side of the board at all times, meaning that if you take an enemy piece you are also giving away control of one of your own pieces. The game has three sizes of piece, each can move in a different way and is worth a different number of points when taken. Dave thought that the game was hilarious because he just couldn’t keep up with losing and gaining control of the games pieces, which didn’t stop it from being a close game but I ended up winning by a mere 14 points to 12 in the end.
The next day we had a bit of a lazy morning and a few games of Tumblin-Dice while we ate breakfast. I’ve been after a copy of this game for years and was fortunate enough to find a copy at this years AireCon, along with a bunch of custom dice already in the box. Today the family set out for more walking, this time we did a route near to Coniston Lake which wasn’t quite as vertical as the one from the previous day, followed by lunch and a boat ride up and down Coniston Lake. It was rather cold by this point so we wrapped up and enjoyed the scenery.
My Isle of Man family ensure that we all go egg rolling on each Easter Sunday. I don’t quite know where the tradition comes from but essentially people decorate a hard boiled egg, go to the top of a hill and throw said egg down the hill. Then they collect the eggs and repeat, this continues until the eggs are broken. It’s a bizarre tradition but always a good laugh with my family, I tried my best to hit Annabelle with an egg but she was just too nimble. Once all the eggs had broken and we had cleaned up after ourselves we returned back to the caravans for more games and more booze.
Once we returned from our walk the younger kids were eager to play another one of my games, so Cubiko hit the table once more. I paired an adult with each of the younger children and we played another six player game using three pairs. The kids loved playing this one because it was so simple and quick, I paired up with my youngest cousin Sophie who ended up being much better than I at getting the bouncy ball on to the board. In the end Annabelle and Daniel scored a diagonal row to win the game and we moved on to the next game. After enjoying it so much the other day my family asked to play Engel und Bengel again, and this time my grandparents joined in. This has been a bit of a hidden gem of a game for me, one that I got cheap on a geek auction on BGG and haven’t seen anywhere else since. The game was filled with hilarity as my grandad got all of the luck and my nan getting nothing but unlucky rolls. Grandad ended up winning and my nan came last, much to his delight.
The children had now gone to bed and we squeezed in two last games before calling it a night. We started with Go Cuckoo! by HABA - Habermaaß GmbH, a simple dexterity game that sees players build a nest out of coloured sticks and attempt to balanced heavy eggs in it during its construction. Once a player has placed all of their eggs on the nest, they get an opportunity to place a large wooden bird on top to win the game. The nest ended up being built in a sturdy way and held most of the game’s eggs in place by the end, I managed to place the bird and win what ended up being a fairly short game. We finished the night and the weekends gaming with a small push your luck dice game called Trophy Buck. Players take turns to take three random dice from the bag and roll them, then they can either keep the points they have or roll again for more. If a player ‘startles’ three different buck dice then they have bust and score no points points for the round. The game is light hearted and easy enough to teach. Dave managed a good run using nearly all of the game’s dice and ended up winning quite comfortably. Another great Easter weekend with my lovely family.
Peaky Blinders and Board Game Night
Fast forward now to a week or so later as Annabelle and I had my parents over for food and gaming. We gave them tickets to a Peaky Blinders afternoon drinking event at the Wirral distillery in Spital, my parents like the TV show and my step dad was an extra in it at one point. We added a few Gins to our collection while we were at the distillery, it seemed rude not to; though I was having to keep my own alcohol consumption to a minimum due to being on antibiotics and steroids for my asthma. We dropped my parents off for a few hours and they seemed to enjoy themselves, I can’t help but feel like there was a bit of role reversal as I collected two tipsy parents and brought them home for tea.
As my gorgeous wife prepared our Katsu Curry, my parents and I started the evening with a few three player games. We started with a game that I picked up at this year’s AireCon called Ominoes, a very enjoyable family weight dice rolling abstract game. Players roll a die, take an action associated with the outcome then add the die to the board; players are trying to group their own dice faces together on the board while trying to prevent the other players from doing the same. We had a pretty close game with all of the players needing one more group to win the game, and in the end Dave managed to score the neutral colour to win. Next up was Red7 by the amazing Carl Chudyk, this was very popular a few years ago but seems to have dissapeared from a lot of people’s games nights, it’s still a great game in my opinion though. Red7 is simple, players must be winning at the end of every turn by playing cards in to their tableau, by changing the rules of the game, or by doing both. We played the variant that makes the game go on over a number of rounds, and after an unusually long and close game Dave again came out on top. We squeezed in one last game before food was ready, a light hearted rug placement game by Dominique Ehrhard called Marrakech. This game sees players manipulating a central character called Assam around the board using a die and leaving their coloured rugs along his path, should a player land on your coloured rug then they pay you coins equal to the number of spaces covered with rugs. It’s a fairly simple game but still has plenty of strategy involved. Dave trapped me into a corner filled with his rugs and made me pay him ten coins, eventually leading him to his third straight win of the night.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
After we had finished eating we moved on to the main games of the night. My family and I have been working our way through the EXIT: Das Spiel series of games, which work kind of like a room escape game but with more imaginative puzzles to solve and some good solid themes. The series also won the coveted Kennerspiel des Jahres last year, well deserved in my opinion even if you can only play each game the one time. I’m not going to go into too much detail about these games because I would hate to ruin them for you, but we ended up playing both Exit: The Game – The Secret Lab and Exit: The Game – The Pharaoh's Tomb back to back, the latter being my new favourite in the series. They both took a little over an hour to play and we were awarded seven stars for the first game and six for the second, so we did pretty well. All four of us managed to solve at least one puzzle in each game, as was our experience of the other games in the series. I’m looking forward to playing the rest of the Exit games with my family, they’ve really become amongst my favourite series of games.
I’ve really been enjoying my Cubiko games recently, so Carreau hit the table again. This game is getting to a point where it is starting to make a regular appearance at most of my gaming nights. As with the game described earlier Dave excelled at the game and after everyone had a few points on their board he managed to knock the ball off the board gaining three points, enough to win the game. We moved on to one of the stupidest games in my collection. Make 'n' Break contains 10 coloured wooden blocks, a timer and a set of cards showing positions for the blocks. Players must frantically build the arrangements on the cards to see how many they can build in the time limit. What makes the game so funny is that some of the arrangements are simple and some are ridiculous and almost unnachievable. Our game was noisy and full of laughter, somehow I managed to win the game quite comfortably. I’m pretty sure that we made a few new scars on my gaming table in the process.
Going from one silly game to another now as we played a very filthy game of Tapple. Players have a category and must give an answer relating to one of the remaining letters removing it from future answers, then press the button to restart the 10 second timer again. We played with some of the suggested questions from the game but mostly using questions from our imagination, which usually give the best answers. After some pretty shocking answers to the question “name something that is wet,” we moved on to our final game of the evening. I’ve played a lot of Cubiko games over the last week or so, consequently it seemed appropriate to end the evening with a game of JamSumo. The game is split into two types of rounds, Jam rounds where players try to flick their dice through the central hole; and Sumo rounds where players are trying to knock each others dice off the board. Players over-estimated how well Dave was doing and targeted him, allowing my mum to swan in to take the win. It was another great night with some of my favourite people. If you have made it this far through this long blog post, thank you for reading!
Glass Bead Board Games
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On Saturday, my wife and I drove up to the Harrogate convention centre along with our good friend Charlotte to attend AireCon 2018. This is a three day board game convention with support from CGE, Travelling Man (a chain of FLGS across the north of England) and the UK Games Expo. The event is a little smaller than the UK Games Expo, and has more of an emphasis on not just exhibitors but sitting down and playing games courtesy of the extensive Travelling Man library. There was also a large bring and buy section, a family gaming zone and an area for RPG gamers. We found the atmosphere of the event to be very friendly and welcoming, with lots of people buying and playing games. It was a fun weekend, here’s a little bit of what we got up to while we were at the convention.
The first stand that we came across was Asmodee, who had several games out for people to try. One of their representatives told me about Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, which is a cooperative deckbuilding game in which players play through seven different campaigns, each related to a different book from the Harry Potter series. It looked quite interesting, reminding me a little bit of Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game, and the presentation of the game looks superb. I used to play a lot of deckbuilding games but I haven’t picked one up in a while, maybe this will engage me in the genre again. Next up they had the newest game from the Civilization series called Sid Meier's Civilization: A New Dawn. It’s not the kind of board game that I would typically play, though I have enjoyed the PC series in the past, but they’ve done a great job of making the game look more appealing. Asmodee also had Azul on display which I was hoping to try, but the demo copy got a lot of attention and I didn’t get a chance to try it. I think that I’ll just end up grabbing that one at some point, it’s definitely my kind of game.
At last year’s UK Games Expo I missed out on the chance to try Ominoes from YAY Games, which ended up winning the award for best abstract game at the convention. This time I tried the game along with Charlotte and two other people from the expo and ended up buying a copy. It was a close game, but Charlotte pulled off a good combo to win the game eventually. Ominoes is a dice driven abstract game with some area control and a bit of luck too, I think that it could be played well with less experienced gamers because the luck element could balance out the skill differences. The next game we ended up looking at is not a new game, but one that draws me in every time that I see it; The Great Fire of London 1666 is a big sprawling eurogame from Richard Denning, who is also of the the director and organiser of the UK Games Expo. It has an enormous board and hundreds of pieces, I’ve liked the look of this one for a while and I’m pretty sure that I’ll add it to my collection eventually.
Over the years I’ve tried a few games from Ragnar Brothers and have enjoyed a lot of their designs. This year they were promoting Backpacks & Blisters (second edition), which is a re-design of a game originally designed in 1993. The theme of this game really drew me in, which is rambling in England’s Lake District and admiring the beauty of the region. It sounded pretty abstract but it has some really interesting card driven mechanisms and some amazing artwork of the various sights of the Lake District; it’s a part of the country that both my wife and I have a strong connection to. Charlotte ended up picking up a copy of the game and was eager to give it a play. We also got a chance to see a prototype of their new Roman themed game by the name of Quantum Romanum which looked interesting too, hopefully we will see a more completed version at this year’s UK Games Expo. Next up I had another chance to see Softwar from Ben Green, a neon abstract game that uses dice as pawns. I originally looked at this game at last years UK Games Expo, and the design has come along since then; you should see this appearing on Kickstarter later this year. I’m interested in this game so I’ll let you all know when the crowdfunding campaign begins.
Next we ran into Behrooz Shahriari, aka Bez, at her table. She was inviting as many people as possible to come and draw a cat on a piece of card to stick on the wall, and by the end of the convention the wall was completely covered in cats. This was in aid of Bez’s new game design called Kitty Cataclysm, which we were fortunate to all sit down and play. The game was an enjoyable hand management game with a strong social element and no shortage of cat puns, we all loved it. I bagged a few high scoring cards early in the game and ended up winning fairly comfortably. The game is currently available to back on Kickstarter so please click the link below if you are interested. Bez was also promoting her word game system by the name of Wibbell++, as well as Yogi which is a reimplementation of In a Bind published by Gigamic. We had a great time at your table Bez, looking forward to seeing you again at the UK Games Expo later this year.
Czech Games Edition were demoing a few of their titles, including a prototype for a new edition of Vlaada Chvátil’s drawing and guessing party game Pictomania. I didn’t get a chance to try the new version but I have seen the old one play and it’s a hilarious game. You have to simultaneously draw a picture and guess what other people are drawing, and the game rewards players that take their actions quickly. After the huge success of Codenames I’m eager to try some more of Chvatil’s party games. I also had a chance to try a new abstract game due to be Kickstarted called Thieves, a two player game that sees players coordinating four pawns in an effort to take a coin from the centre of the board and maneuver it to their side of the board to win the game. What made this game interesting is that the game’s movement reminded me of Backgammon, in that players roll two dice out of a little cup each turn, the difference being that the two dice had colours on each face showing the direction by which pieces can be moved that turn. I played a game with one of the people representing the game and ended up winning after a fairly long round.
And finally we had a look at Room 17 Games’s stand and being drawn in by an interesting looking dexterity game. Flicky Spaceships plays exactly as you would imagine it to, flick your little plastic spaceship then collect whatever resource you land on. The resources are then spent upgrading your spaceship and gaining points. The game is active on Kickstarter, so if you’re interested click the link below for more details. We also took a brief look at Museum Rush which is a card driven museum heist game with some great artwork, this one will be Kickstarted a little later this year. The last of the exhibitors that we looked at was Four Elements, which looks kind of like a colourful Carrom variant. Each player plays as a different element and must build a wall out of their pieces to protect their ‘Lord.’ Players then take turns to flick a disk at each other’s pieces in an effort to knock the ‘Lord’ off the table. The game seemed pretty simple and fun, I don’t know if I’d play it over Carrom but I liked it nonetheless. It might be a good way to engage younger players towards games like Carrom.
The Open Gaming Area
After checking out the exhibitors we were eager to sit down and play a few games. Travelling Man had brought a fairly extensive catalogue of games to play, so we started off with a game of Colt Express. This one got a lot of buzz a few years ago, winning the Spiel Des Jahres in 2015. The game has an interesting programmed movement mechanism where players play a series of action cards, some face up and some face down, and have them resolve in order. Sometimes a player can unexpectedly move you from a space early on in a round and mess up the actions that you have chosen to take. Annabelle and Charlotte took great pleasure in shooting the crap out of me and punching me from one cart to another, and Annabelle ended up winning the game by a country mile. I liked the game, but I think that it might be at it’s best with five or six players to add a greater degree of interaction between players.
I’ve seen quite a lot of people playing Celestia here on the Geek, and we were fortunate enough to buy a copy on sale from one of the vendors. Celestia is essentially a push your luck game in which players gamble on the likelihood of other players passing a series of challenges. Like with Colt Express, the game is probably better with bigger numbers but we enjoyed it anyway, so much that Charlotte ended up going and buying a copy for herself. We played two games, the first one I won and the second Charlotte won. Annabelle was intrigued by the people on the next table playing a round of Tsuro, so I got a copy from the Travelling Man library and taught the others how to play. This is a game that I have never owned, but have ended up playing a few times over the years. Players have tiles that extend the lines on the board and must use those lines to maneuver their piece around without falling off the side; while trying to make the other players either move off the side of the board or move into each other. Charlotte was the first to be eliminated and it was pretty close between Annabelle and I, but in the end I was forced to fall off the side of the board and lose the game.
After The Convention
It was getting late, so we headed back to Charlotte’s house for a curry, a few drinks and a few more games. I was eager to play my new copy of Tumblin-Dice Medium after wanting the game for quite a while now. The second hand copy had a bunch of extra dice, including D10s and D20s in each player colour. We ended up playing three games and all won a single round. The game was as fun as I thought it would be, I’m so glad that I managed to find a copy. Next up we played a quick round of Battle Sheep, which wasn’t a new game, but one that I’m enjoying quite a lot at the moment. I got quite lucky early in the game, splitting my pieces fairly evenly around the board, and managed to split my whole stack into single spaces. Annabelle was shortly behind me and Charlotte behind her, after having a small stack blocked off early in the game.
Next up was an abstract game called Callisto which is an improved version of an earlier game called Callisto: The Game. The main change is that the playing area can be modified depending on the number of people playing the game, and that each player has less pieces to play. This is essentially a polyominoes game with an area control element, the game is a bit kinder than others in this genre. I managed to play all of my pieces to win the game. I love this new edition of the game, definitely one that I will be adding to my collection at this year’s UK Games Expo. The last game of the evening turned out to be the best that we had played all night, Annabelle was having a post-curry sleep so Charlotte and I decided to play a two player game of Backpacks & Blisters (second edition). The game sees players trying to scale the various peaks and sights of beauty across England’s Lake District, by playing cards and equipment, and being careful when to eat your chocolate. The game was easy to learn and flowed really well. I ended up taking advantage of the various bus routes to score big and won the game narrowly.
Anyone who has been to a board game convention will know that it’s one of the best places to add new games to your collection. You can buy directly from publishers, from vendors or from the bring and buy section. Here’s what the three of us walked away with.
Celestia and Celestia: A Little Help - An interesting little push-your-luck game, along with an expansion that adds a little more interaction.
Cockroach Salad - Another party game from the makers of Cockroach Poker.
Codinca - An abstract code building game that I first played at last year’s UK Games Expo.
Evolution: The Beginning - A simpler game from the Evolution series of games.
Fleet - My wife loves boats, so any game with a boat in tends to catch her eye.
Highland Clans - An odd little eurogame set in Scotland.
Jin Li - I don’t really know what this is, but it’s from nestorgames and it was only a fiver from the bring and buy.
Kreus - A cooperative card game with great artwork from CMON.
Mammut - We we’re both sold on the woolly mammoth meeple in the box.
Meeple Circus - A great looking meeple stacking game by Matagot.
Ominoes - A dice based abstract game that I tried at the convention.
Polarity - A magnet based dexterity game that I’ve wanted for a while.
Robber Knights - An odd looking tile laying game, this one looks pretty interesting.
Those Pesky Garden Gnomes - I have no idea, I think that we bought it because it had a silly name.
Tumblin-Dice Medium - Annabelle spotted this in the bring and buy, I've wanted a copy for ages.
And this is what Charlotte picked up from the convention.
3 Wishes - A small card game from Strawberry Studio.
Backpacks & Blisters (second edition) - Rambling in the Lake District simulator from the Ragnar Brothers.
Callisto - An improved version of Reiner Knizia’s superb abstract game.
Celestia - Purchased shortly after playing our copy.
Design Town - A remade version of Flip City which includes expansions.
Dream Islands - An unusual island hopping game with cool looking meeple.
Hanabi - The small cooperative card game that won the Spiel Des Jahres a few years ago.
ICECOOL - One of my favourite dexterity games.
Kingdomino - The most recent winner of the Spiel Des Jahres.
Our Favourite Game From AireCon 2018 - Backpacks & Blisters (second edition)
Our favourite game of the weekend has to be the new edition of Backpacks and Blisters. The Lake District has a special place for all three of us, and the game has a great balance of strategy and simplicity. I feel like any group could play it and get the same amount of enjoyment, just a shame that I didn’t buy a copy myself. I’ll leave you with a picture of the Geek Refresh Station from the expo toilettes, if only everyone going to the bring and buy had found this! Thanks for reading.
Mon Mar 12, 2018 11:33 pm
Glass Bead Board Games
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Aire Con 2018
This year, in addition to the UK Games Expo I will also be attending a convention over in Yorkshire for the first time. This will be the first board game convention that I’ve been to up in the north, see the map below for the rough location. The convention will have exhibitors from around the world, a Bring and Buy section, a library of games to access (courtesy of the fantastic Travelling Man board game shop) and loads of other stuff.
Times and dates:
Friday 9th March - 13:00 - 23:00
Saturday 10th March 10:00 - 23:00
Sunday 11th March 10:00 - 20:00
Tickets are available here:
Location of the convention:
Harrogate Convention Centre - Hall Q
Let me know if you plan on heading up there, maybe we can catch up and play a few games. I’ll be posting more about the event over the course of the weekend.
Glass Bead Board Games
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Exit: The Game – The Forgotten Island
After trying Exit: The Game – The Abandoned Cabin the other day and loving every minute of it, my parents and my wife were eager to try another game from the series, so we set up a chilli and board game night on Sunday. I was a little dubious about the Exit series winning the Kennerspiel des Jahres when I first heard about it, as each game can only be played a single time (literally once, because the game gets destroyed over the course of one game), and I found the whole ‘room escape’ thing to be a bit gimmicky. We enjoyed this Exit game just as much as the last, though we found this one to be much more challenging. I don’t want to give away too much about the details of the game, because it would be too easy to spoil the game’s twists and turns. We beat it in a little over an hour using a total of three clues, two of which were used on the same puzzle. We’ve ordered a few more games from the series, and plan on playing them all together. If you have doubts about the series like I did, you might be pleasantly surprised if you give one of them a try.
Next up I whipped out my copy of Quoridor the first time in a few years. I used to play this quite regularly as a two player game, but I think that it works fairly well with four players as a light hearted filler game. Quoridor becomes less strategic with more than two players, because it’s so easy to be ganged up on. The game is simple, players are trying to move their pawn from one side of the board to the other, while trying to prevent others from doing so by placing wall pieces on the board. The only rule about placing walls is that you can not make the game impossible for any one person to win. I thought that I was going to win, but I got shafted by the other players, then my mum ended up winning with my wife being one space away from doing the same. This is still a great little game, I think that I appreciated it more because I haven’t played it in a while.
This is the simplest of the three games found in the Pacru series of games, similar in its look to a multiplayer version of the old mobile phone game called Snake (I lost far too much time to Snake when I was a teenager). Players each start with three chevrons of their player colour dotted around the board in set positions, moving one on each turn and placing one of their markers on the new space. Eventually the chevrons will become blocked off at different points in the board, and the person who played the most pieces wins the game. My mum was the first to be blocked off followed by my step dad. My wife and I were pretty close but I ended up lasting a little longer to win the game. It was the first time that I had played the game and I found it to be very fun; maybe the next time I might try Azacru which uses the same rules as Shacru plus a few more.
We had all had a little to drink at this point, which is usually a good time to whip out a Cubiko Games game. Carreau is one of the funniest dexterity games out there, seeing players essentially play the game Boules using tiny wooden catapults to launch coloured dice at a bouncy ball. My parents hadn’t played the game before, so they found the whole ordeal to be absolutely hilarious. It took my mum a good while before any of her coloured dice had actually made it to the board. Dave picked up the rules much more quickly, but it was my wife who ended up scoring her fifth point first to win the game. I can’t wait to add another Cubiko game to my collection this year, I usually end up playing at least one at most games nights.
The last game of the evening was a quick round of Cubiko, another hilarious dexterity game by the publisher of the same name. In this game players take turns to throw a bouncy ball off the table and onto one of the nine raised spaces on the board in an effort to place one of their coloured cubes in the board. This cube can remove other players cubes from the same space, and if a player manages to get three cubes in a row or three in the same space, they win the game. In much the same fashion as the previous game, Cubiko is hilarious, you just can’t help but laugh when you play. Players end up screwing each other over even if they don’t intend on doing so. After a fairly long game, Annabelle managed to get her three cubes in a row diagonally across the board to win yet again. I had an amazing evening, I’ll leave you with a picture of our chilli and booze, thanks for reading.
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Annabelle and I joined our good friend Charlotte in Wakefield for a weekend of gaming, drinks and generally taking it easy. We’ve both had a hectic few weeks, so we’re glad to get away from it all. The first game that we played was a bit of a favourite of mine. Qwirkle was part of Charlotte and Jordan’s collection but they were yet to give it a try, this gave me a chance to teach her how the game works. The game is easy enough to teach, so we got into it very quickly. Annabelle scored a few Qwirkles (meaning that she finished a full set of six tiles) early in the game and stayed ahead right up until close to the end of the game. I was strategic about which tiles I kept back towards the end, allowing me to play them quickly once the tiles were depleted and get the bonus for using all of my tiles first. I ended up winning by 7 with Annabelle just behind and Charlotte shortly behind her. I don’t think that I’ll ever get bored of this charming simple game.
Next up was a fairly new game to my collection, one that I bought for Mrs O’Connor as part of her Christmas present. Go Cuckoo from HABA starts off as a tube full of sticks, coloured on either side with two different colours or two of the same colour. During set up a bunch of eggs are distributed evenly between players, the game sees players collectively building a nest out of sticks and attempt to balance all of their eggs to win. Players will take turn to remove up to three sticks hoping to find one that is the same colour which allows them to place an egg in the nest, then to add the sticks vertically to form the nest. If someone places all of their eggs they get an opportunity to place a large wooden bird on the nest to win the game. Charlotte and I played this one as a two player game and I was absolutely terrible at it. It didn’t take long for me to lose the game, partially due to my shaky hands and partially because Charlotte played so well. This is a great little dexterity game that I will always be willing to play, but doubt that I will never win.
Annabelle and I love Hanabi, but Charlotte hasn’t played the game before. It’s always fun to watch people play this one for the first time, because at first the strategy seems so counterintuitive. Hanabi is a cooperative card game in which players hold their cards backwards, so that they can only see other players cards, and give each other clues as to what is in their hand. Collectively players are trying to play the numbers one through five sequentially across five suits. The clues that you give are very restricted, which leads to some hilarious moments of interaction. I don’t think that I’ve ever played this one without cheating in some way, in Hababi your face says it all. We ended up playing the game twice, in the first game we scored 22 out of a possible 25. Convinced that we could beat the game we set up for a second round, but played badly and scored 16. I think that we were a little bit drunk by this time, so that might have had an impact on our ability to play.
Catch the Moon
Saturday started off with a session of bingo and a lot of alcohol, so by the time we played Catch the Moon, we were all somewhat tipsy. I don’t know why I suggest playing dexterity games when I’m drunk, I can’t play them particularly well when I’m sober. Players must add a rickety ladder to the stack each turn in line with an action dictated by the roll of a die, the person who knocks the stack over least over the course of the game is the winner. The game comes with seven tear drops to show when a player has caused the stack to fall, so once the stack has collapsed seven times the game is over. I somehow managed to knock the stack over on most of my turns, so this was a pretty short game. Charlotte played really well, getting through the whole game without knocking the stack over. Annabelle was unlucky, dropping one ladder over the course of the game to come second. A great game, but better played whilst sober.
Annabelle sat the next couple of games out, so Charlotte and I played a few Looney Pyramids games found in Charlotte and Jordan’s copy of Pyramid Arcade. We started with one of my favourites, Twin win, in which players are each given two secret objective cards at the start of the game stating either a nest (three pieces inside one and other) or a tree (three pieces stacked on top of eachother) of each of the five colours used in the game. Players take turns to either manipulate the pieces on the board or swap one of their secret objective cards for another one from the deck. The interesting thing about Twin Win is that if you make it too obvious what you are going for, your opponent can quite easily sabotage your efforts. Instead you have to make it look like you’re going for something else, which is much harder than it sounds. We had a long game, both swapping out objectives at different points in the game. With a bit of luck I managed to make a purple nest to win.
Somehow we ended up playing another dexterity game, albeit a very simple one. Verticality uses Pyramid Arcade’s square playing cards alongside Looney Pyramids to form a tower building game. The roll of a die dictates which of the three sizes of pyramid is used in the round, each player must place three of the matching sized pyramids with their bases touching, followed by one of the square cards. As you play, your tower gets taller and more unstable, especially when players have to add the smallest sized pyramid to the stack. The player who builds their tower the tallest without collapsing is the winner. Unsurprisingly Charlotte was the clear winner, my tower fell after a few turns while Charlotte’s went higher and higher.
The last game from the Pyramid Arcade set that we played was Martian Chess. Now I’m typically not a fan of Chess or it’s many variations, but Martian Chess is such a bizarre and interesting concept. The board is split into two 4x4 halves, one controlled by one player and one controlled by the other. Players move their pieces onto an opponent's piece to capture it in much the same style as Chess, however in doing so the hand control of that piece to their opponent. Pieces come in three sizes, each with a different set of movements and each worth a different amount of points when captured. Charlotte made a few mistakes, giving away some of her Queens for lower scoring pieces and I ended winning comfortably, though we were all quite drunk by this point in the evening. Also it does help if you have played this one before, and Charlotte was new to the game.
Sunday morning now, and before we travelled home to Cheshire we managed to squeeze in a few more games. I used to play Fairy Tale quite a lot a few years ago, but it seemed to fall off my radar as I played other more intricate card drafting games. This is a great little drafting game that comes with a basic and an advanced set of rules, we opted for the basic game due to Charlotte and Annabelle having not played the game before. The game was pretty tight and we all adopted different strategies to gain points. Charlotte focussed on the six point cards, being careful to throw in some unflip cards to keep them active. Annabelle used some symbiotic cards, scoring a pretty hefty combo by the end of the game, and I managed to score six Homesteaders, which are valued equal to the number of cards that you have played. This is a good strategy so long as the other players don’t prevent you from getting more of the same card. I managed a narrow victory of two points much to my wife’s dissaproval.
Kerala: The Way of the Elephant
Finally the last game of the weekend was a game that was new to all of us. I first saw this game at last year’s UK Games Expo, and I was instantly drawn in by the look of the game. Kerala is a tile laying game with an interesting drafting mechanism to distribute the games tiles. Players each start with a single tile with two wooden elephants on it. Each new tile that is added must be played next to an elephant, which is then moved to the new tile. The aim is to group the tiles colours together into single colours, whilst using special tiles to score points. Kerala is a simple enough game to learn with plenty of choices and strategies to maximise points. I focussed on the five point tiles that must be played between two specific colours on the board and ended up winning by a pretty comfortable margin. It was a great weekend, I’ll leave you with a picture of my beverage from the Bingo on Saturday night, thank you for reading, and thank you Charlotte for having us.
Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:05 pm
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It’s beginning to look a lot like Crustmas
As christmas looms closer, Annabelle and I have been catching up with friends and family. On Sunday, our good friends Charlotte and Jordan came down from yorkshire for a board game and pizza night. We exchanged gifts, and like the impatient children that we are opened them straight away. We got them a copy of Honshū, and they gave us Pyramids; both great little games and great gifts. They also treated us to a bottle of Zing 72, which is an interesting looking french gin that uses a blend of traditional gin botanicals six local french herbs. I had a little sample and it tasted amazing. Anyway, onto the games...
As we had bought this game as a gift for Charlotte and Jordan, I thought that we might as well play Honshu to teach them the rules. This is an interesting trick taking game in which players build a surprisingly space consuming map out of cards. Each card is split into six segments and can either overlap or be placed under the cards that have already been played, different elements of the cards score in different ways so players have a choice as to how they prioritise in order to maximise their final score. The cards are also numbered, so during the trick taking phase players place a card in front of them in turn, then the player order changes with the highest number choosing which of the played cards to add to their tableau first. There is a subtle nuisance to manipulating player order to ensure that you get the cards that you want, being the last player to play a card allows you to respond to other players moves and choose exactly what part of the player order you want to end up in. I went a bit crazy building a giant lake and didn’t really achieve much else, Annabelle ignored the lakes and scored well in every other area, winning the first game of the evening comfortably.
1st - Annabelle 69
2nd - Allen 60
3rd - Charlotte 55
4th - Jordan 53
We ate our tasty pizzas after Honshu, then I opted for a bit of after dinner ridiculousness. Fantastic Gymnastics is quite stupid and isn’t really a viable game, but I love it all the same. Players have one button to make the gymnast’s legs tuck in, and one to make him let go of the bar. With some near impossible skill and timing it is possible to make the gymnast rotate around the bar and land perfectly on his feet into one of the scoring zones. After around 20 minutes of trying, none of us were successful. Oh well, on to the next game…
My Kickstarter edition of Carreau arrived from Cubiko Games last week, and I have to say the new edition looks outstanding. I had an early edition with a slightly different design, which was still a great game but the little tweaks in the new edition are well received. The rules to this game are simple, player’s take turns catapulting blank coloured dice at the board, and once each player has had three attempts whichever player is closest to the Cubiko ball scores one point for each closest cube. Should a player knock the ball off the board, they score an immediate three points; first player to score five points wins the game. We ended up playing three games of Carreau back to back, the game definitely has that ‘just one more game’ effect. The first two ended with me knocking the ball off and winning, and the third ended with Annabelle surrounding the ball with all three of her dice to score three points and win. My first impressions of the new edition are very positive, I can see this new edition getting a lot of play in 2018.
And the last game of the evening was our Christmas gift from Charlotte and Jordan. Charlotte took the lead in teaching this interesting little game. Pyramids is a tableau building game with multi use cards from IELLO games; over the course of the game players will use the cards to build a pyramid, an obelisk and a tomb. On each turn a set of two cards are placed in the centre of the table, alongside a set of player order tiles. Players select their player order tiles, which also dictate which actions can be taken on a given turn; the first turn gets the first pick of the cards but take fewer actions that turn. So a balance must be met between taking more actions, or taking the first turn. I found the flow of the game to be very enjoyable, all four of the players at the table had different strategies to score points but we all ended up being four points away from one and other. I scored reasonably well in all domains to win the last game of a great evening. Thanks for everything Charlotte and Jordan, hope you guys have a great christmas.
1st - Allen 66
2nd - Jordan 65
3rd - Annabelle 63
4th - Charlotte 62
And the winner is… INGINIOUS!
I recently asked my readers to think of a names for the gin that I created recently at the Manchester Three Rivers distillery. Congratulations to BGG user Mat Thomsen for his excellent submission:
It's a board game pun
For an abstract game
From the amazing Reiner Knizia
Matt has a gin based cocktail in his username
Mat has won a sample of my InGINios gin, well done to you!
Fri Dec 22, 2017 10:22 am
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