Wednesday, 21 March 2012

You'll never catch me alive, copper!

18. Scotland Yard

by Manfred Burggraf, Dorothy Garrels, Wolf Hoermann, Fritz Ifland, Werner Scheerer and Werner Schlegel

Players: 3 - 6
Ages: 10+
Time: 45+ minutes
Type of game: Deductive / Hidden Movement

Reccomended?: Yes

"Chase me! Chase me!" I called as I ran, laughing through the streets of London. Jumping onto buses, using the tube to cover long distances and using taxis to get myself lost in the back streets.
Meanwhile, my opponents did their best to figure out where I was, aided by my odd need to reveal my position every 5 moves or so.

Scotland Yard is a 1 versus many game. One person plays the mysterious Mister X whilst the other players are the police trying to track X down.

The police move openly. I can always see where the are and plan my moves as X secretly. They also start with a limited supply of tickets for the various transport types which, when they use them, become part of my supply widening my options as theirs decrease.

X moves secretly. He'll start in the open and then, as soon as his first move is decided, will disappear leaving just the ticket that he used to make the journey behind as a clue to where he could have gone.X writes his destination and covers it with the ticket he used to get there. Using a black ticket? That'll get you on anything obscuring your possible destination even further.

Like most good co-op games this is difficult for the many and to really be sure of winning would involve some clever mapping. This kind of shenanigans while making an interesting logic problem would also be quite a fun sucker. Which would make the game a puzzle rather than a game.

The other issue with this is, as it's one versus many rather than many versus the game it feels unbalanced. You don't mind losing to the game, but losing continually to whoever has the role of Mr X makes it way less enjoyable.

I'd read a lot of good things about this game on BGG but, ultimately, it's not for me. While I'd still recommend it this ones destined for eBay.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

5 in 4

Pop quiz, hot shot! You've got 5 two-player games and an afternoon to kill. What do you do? What do you do?

The answer? Go and visit David Q. Smith of Mondo Comico fame and play the heck out of them. So here are 5 games we played in (just under) 4 hours.

13. Star System

by Walter Obert
Players: 2
Ages: 9+
Time: 30+ minutes
Type of game: Deductive Card Game
Recommended?: No

 A Cluedo/Guess Who? type game. Be the first to work out which 5 of 20 stars are featured in your opponents movie. Although why he's trying to keep it a secret is beyond me. Not my favourite hidden information game which is why it's now on the shelf of Mondo waiting to be sold!

14. Lord of the Rings: The Duel

by Peter Neugebauer

Players: 2
Ages: 10+
Time: 45+ minutes
Type of game: Hand management
Recommended?: Yes

The fight between Gandalf and the Balrog played out with cards. Exactly turn you must play a card. You shall not pass! Ahahahahahaha! How funny I am.

This is fantastically over produced with Gandalf and Balrog represented by odd little wooden pieces and a lovely cardboard bridge is included to walk them on to represent who has the upper hand at any one time.

Each card has four slots on each side. An filled slot is an attack, an empty one is not. Your opponent plays a card and them you must answer it. Any filled slots that are unanswered by another filled slot means 1 damage to the opponent.

You will play with every card in the deck during the game so you need to make sure you don't use all your best cards up-front.

15. Pick & Pack

by Simon Hunt

Players: 2
Ages: 8+
Time: 20+ minutes
Type of game: Light Abstract Strategy
Recommended?: Yes
A fun little apple collection game where you and your opponent operate a claw grabber like in those fairground machines that contain awful stuffed toys that you can never win because the machine is fixed (or for readers in Japan - UFO Grabbers that contain cool toys and actually give you a very good chance of winning.)

The twist is that one of you controls the horizontal movement on their go as the other moves vertical on theirs. So you've got to try and get something good while denying them on their turn. Or... do you set them up with something so appealing that they'll set you up for an even better tile on your next go.

Beyond the core tiles you have action tiles that can be triggered by landing on an empty space. These can increase the value of your apples or decrease the value of your opponents allowing you to pip them to the top spot.

I've run out of apple gags now.

16. Strike Dice

by Michael Andresakis and Alexander Argyropoulos

Players: 2-4
Ages: 8+
Time: 20+ minutes
Type of game: Random Abstract Strategy
Recommended?: No


Full disclosure: I play-tested this game and helped to re-write the rules (as in, make them clearer not change them).

That said, despite being emotionally invested in this and having real respect for the visual attention that these guys have given Strike Dice and their other game, Eragra, I struggle to say many positive things about this game.

An abstract strategy game with pawns of random strength. This unbalances the game so much that it becomes way more about luck than strategy.

The rules are still wilfully obtuse and over-written making a relatively basic game seem complicated and deep at first glance.

Good luck to them but I won't be keeping it.

17. Stratego: Star Wars

by Jacques Johan Mogendorff / Uncredited
Players: 2
Ages: 8+
Time: 30+ minutes
Type of game: Secret movement
Recommended?: No

Classic Stratego with a twist of Star Wars Episodes 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6. That's what happens when you make a game midway through a prequel trilogy.

Yours and your opponents pieces are hidden from each other until one attacks the other. Then the pieces involved in the combat are revealed to decide the outcome. The loser removes their piece from the board and tries to remember the location and type of piece in order to make a succesful path to the enemies hidden goal piece.

With certain pieces that work against each other best (think you've found a bomb? You need a droid to defuse it) your brain will be twisting and turn to keep track of what's where.

Unless you're me with my limited patience for abstract strategy games in which case you'll kamikaze charge your way to certain doom.

And yet... I think this might stay. David Q. Smith talked very fondly of playing this as a child and a game like this would be good to have in the house when I finally have children. Because surely I'll be able to beat them at it!

I've weirdly forgotten who won what... Perhaps David remembers.

This is how we do it European style

12: Ticket to Ride: Europe

by Alan Moon

Players: 2 - 5
Ages: 8+
Time: 60+ minutes
Type of game: Family / Route building
Reccomended?: Yes

A slightly friendlier Ticket to Ride variant with the addition of stations. These cool little things allow you to ride your opponents train from 1 city to another allowing to complete that difficult journey.

Each station you don't use is worth an extra 4 VP though so you've got think carefully about when and if you should use them.

At the end of the game the player with the longest unbroken route of his own trains gets an additional 10 points.

The board can also look very crowded after a 4 player game as above so, even with the addition of the stations, 5 player games can still get a little nasty!

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Fluxxing Hell! Competition Time!

11. Fluxx

by Andrew & Kristin Looney

Players: 2 - 6
Time: 15 mins -forever
Type of game: Card / Random
Reccomended?: Not really

This is the first of the games that I have played purely to get them out of my collection.

Fluxx is a card game in which you draw a card, play a card and hope to end up with the right cards in front of you to satisfy the goal card that is currently on the table.

The twist is that most of the cards you are playing change the rules of the game until you can end up with something like this.

or this...

Random, fun at times but more often than not it's a game that overstays it's welcome. What should take 15 minutes often can last 40 or 50 minutes which, for a game this random, is not it's ideal length.

So... I'm getting rid of it in my first competition!

In order to win this copy of Fluxx please leave a reply to this post telling me which game I should add to my collection and why?

I will select the winning post at the end of March and contact them for postage details.

This competition is void where prohibited. Prize on offer is my used copy of Fluxx.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Riskier Business - Spoiler free zone

10. Risk: Legacy

by Rob Daviau and Chris Dupuis

Players: 3 - 5
Ages: 13+
Time: 60+ minutes
Type of game: Family / War
Reccomended?: Yeh

Risk: Legacy is somewhat controversial.

After all, here is a game that you destroy over time. You will rip up cards, not remove them and put them in the box. You will write on your board with a regular pen not with a wipe clean pen. You will stick stickers on your board and onto cards that will change the way the game plays. Forever.

Except... This is actually a game that you build over time. Eventually, after 15 games or so, you will have a unique game that provides you with a visual reminder of the skirmishes that have come before. It may not be the most balanced game in the world but you'll take that into account when playing. After all, standard Risk isn't balanced because the world isn't balanced and neither will your new world be.

Playing regular Risk gives you an idea of what to expect here.
The board and the starting rules remain pretty much the same. There's a variance in claiming a card if you successfully conquer a country that adds a little more strategy and should get the game moving faster but, aside from that, so far so similar.
Beyond that base the game very quickly shows some new aspects.

The box

Hidden between the (slightly nerdy) future war cover is a carefully thought out thing of beauty.

The box is sealed with a sticker you must break in order to open it. Not only guaranteeing that nobody has "built" your world before but also reminding you of the permanence of what you are about to start.

Opening like a briefcase, you're greeted by some sealed packages and a sealed board that, again, reminds you that this game is a war. A war that you will fight and, win or lose, you will accept the consequences of your actions.

Sign and be damned!

Beneath the board lie the 5 armies and 2 extra sealed compartments ready to spread fresh havoc in the future.

Hidden beneath the components tray lies the sneakiest component I've ever seen. Do I want to open it? Yes! Will I open it? Maybe...


Gone are the cubes and beads of old school Risk. Here we have 5 different armies. Not only do they look different (which shall I have? The ones riding the bears or the ED209 knock-offs?) but they also play differently. Again, how they play comes down to you.

At the beginning of the 1st game you select an army. You also get a card with 2 distinct power stickers on it. You choose one, stick it to your armies card and throw the other one away. That's it. Gone from the game. Forever. As the game progresses more powers may become available to you making your army pretty unique.
Although you choose an army in that 1st game it doesn't mean you have to use them forever. You can chop and change depending on what's available and how tasty the powers on offer are.


Instead of receiving a random resource card upon conquering a country you can get one if you conquer a country whose card is showing on the resource board. These cards can range in value from 1 to 6 and, providing you have enough, be turned in at the beginning of your turn for more troops. If none of the countries you conquered are on the resource board you get a measly little 1 resource card.

Throughout the game you can add resource stickers to your favourite country cards to make them even more valuable. Beware! If you make it too valuable somebody may decide to destroy it at the end of the game because of the unfair advantage it gives you.


At the beginning of each game, each player gets a random scar that they can stick to a country on the board should they wish to. At the beginning of the game you will have either a bunker, for better defence, or an ammo shortage to weaken defence. These can sway they tide of battle but, as you only get one each game, need to placed carefully to ensure maximum impact.

The board holds handy reminders of what the scars do and has places for future scars that, presumably, are included in the extra packages.


Event the rule booklet doesn't escape customisation. As you progress through the game you will find stickers to place in the rule booklet that change or add to the established rules.

Win (or live through) a game and you get the chance to add or remove something in the game. This could be as simple as adding a resource sticker to your favourite country...

...or as founding and naming your very own city in your favourite country.


We've opened one envelope so far due to my Risk rubbishness. I'm not telling you what was inside but at least it gave me something to read while the game finished.

I'm 1 game in so far with Risk Legacy with (at least) 6 hidden elements yet to come into play. The shape of the game is yet to be decided and I can't wait to see what it will finally be.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Risky Business

9. Risk: Nostalgia Edition

by Albert Lamorisse and Michael I. Levin

Players: 2 - 6
Ages: 10+
Time: 120+ minutes
Type of game: Family / War
Reccomended?: Meh

The aim of the game is to defeat  destroy decimate your opponents and conquer the world. A bit like Monopoly but with cold steel and warm blood instead of rent extortion and debtors jail.

In this Nostalgia edition, perfectly replicating an olden days game, you have exciting battles between cubes (1 army) and, if you're very lucky, odd-shaped beads (10 armies). If you're very, very sad lucky you can use a Lego Deathstar* (20 armies).

On your turn, you receive some reinforcements (decided by the number of countries and complete continents you hold) turn in some cards for more reinforcements and then attack!

You attack by selecting up to 3 armies from one of your countries and attempting to invade an adjacent country by rolling the same number of dice. Your opponent will choose to roll up to 2 dice (1 per defending army up to a maximum of 2).

You compare the highest and next highest dice in each roll. The aggressor wins if his dice is higher, defender has a home advantage and wins on tie or higher. Extra dice go unanswered and won't affect the combat.

You remove 1 army for each dice that is beaten. If the country is now empty the aggressor must move at least the undefeated armies from this roll in and may bring further armies from that country (leaving at least 1). If the country is still occupied the aggressor can attack again or decide to leave it until another turn.

On your turn you can attack as much or as little as you like. If you capture at least 1 country you will receive a card which you can trade in at the beginning of future turns for more armies.

And that's about it. There is only 1 way to win. Total annihilation of your opponents. Whilst this ensures you won't have any namby pamby ties, it does mean that for a portion of the game some or most of your opponents will be wiped out and start milling around looking for something more interesting to do.

Later editions fixed this problem by adding victory conditions and secret missions.

In the below pictures, I'm black, Louisa is yellow and Luke is red. 2 things have become apparent from my games of Risk:
1) it's a bit samey and long
2) I'm not very good at Risk

Nothing says Global Domination like a cartoon whale in a jaunty hat

Luke's Deathstar marches across the world

Victory! Now let's play something else...

*Lego Deathstar sold separately.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Sabre-toothed Seven

8. Mammut

By Kristian Amundsen Ostby

Players: 2 - 5
Ages: 8+
Time: 30+ minutes
Type of game: Social / Auctionish
Reccomended?: Yes

Seems like life in prehistoric times was a little more straightforward than it is now. You'd go out with your tribe hunting and gathering then split the spoils under the watchful eye of the tribe leader. Everyone shared the work and got their equal share of the spoils. Fair. Y'know, exactly like banking works now.

What if the tribe leader wasn't around and we were left to ourselves to decide how to split it? What's to stop me taking all of it? We need some rules to stop that happening. Let's see... If I have nothing in front of me I can take as much as I want from the central pile or take everything from somebody (who either has been too greedy or has what I want).

Seems fair? That's Mammut.

Here's the 2 boards. The far one acts as storage for the 7 sabre-toothed animals and a reminder of the various scoring options, the other is for keeping track of your score and furs.
You get thin and fat mammoths to mark your journey and another one to keep in front of you to:
A) remind yourself what colour you are
B) remind the other players what colour you are
C) play with
During the game you will find yourself doing mostly C.

Each round you'll upend a bag of tiles and leave them as they fall apart from separating them slightly so you can see what side is up. The first player takes what they want but tries to take little enough so that it's not stolen by another player. In our game 7 was decided as being the amount you could take without being acutes of being too greedy. Which meant we'd take 8-9 to try and push our luck.
With a number of ways to gain points and a couple of ways to lose points, you've got to get a good mix and keep an eye on what your opponents are picking up. But, as the tiles are double-sided you can never be certain of what you're going to get each round. So, although you can decide on a basic strategy you've got to be open to changing it.

Like The Resistance, the bulk of this game happens socially. Yes, you have the tokens in front of you to represent the choices you're taking but it's how you argue the fairness of those choices that really makes the game. That's where the fun of this really comes into play.

Also, there are sabre-toothed hamsters in this game.