If you like Jenga then try Click Clack Lumberjack

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If you like Jenga then try Click Clack Lumberjack especially if you have young children.

Originally published in Korea as Tok Tok Woodman, Click Clack Lumberjack, now in its third edition, is a unique dexterity game (sorry folks, no worker placement here) for 2-7 players, ages 5 and up from Mayday Games. I play this regularly with my 5 year old girl. So much so, that it has become my daughter’s “go-to- game” for the month; maybe even the next few months or at least until I can find something to replace it.

The game is made up of nine plastic tree centers or “cores” stacked up on top of a tree stump. Slid around into the edge of each core are 4 pieces of bark. The object is to use the included plastic axe and tap the cores to free the bark for one point each. You only get two chops per turn. But be careful! If a tree core falls off the tree stump you lose 5 points! If your bark has a sticker of a grub on it (my daughter calls them scrubs) you get an extra turn! Once all the bark is off the tree, whether center pieces remain or not, the game is over. You tally the points, whoever has the most points wins.

Simple. Easy. Peasy.

Jenga is all well and good but it is an abstract tower of wood and not very thematic. Click Clack Lumberjack looks like a big tree (even if it is made of plastic and not wood) and it’s fun to try to chop the tree to get the bark off. Plus, when the pieces fall they make a god-awful racket which kids love! Many games aimed at young children are usually dexterity-based games with simple rules and game play. Click Clack Lumberjack is no different. I see no reason why a 4 year old or even a 3 year old wouldn’t have a blast playing this game. If you have young meeples at home, go out and chop, err, pick up this great little game.

Jeff Rhind re-entered the hobby board gaming life about a year ago and has been slowly brainwashing luring his 5 year old daughter into the hobby as well. He currently writes a blog called Gaming with his Girl on boardgamegeek where he discusses children’s games and various other game life rants. You can also follow him on Twitter @jeffrhind

A Closer Look at What You Like

By Benjamin Marshalkowski

A lot of blogs (and gamers) like to give suggestions based on games you enjoy. “You like Pandemic?” they might say. “Then you’ll love Forbidden Island!” And this might be a good fit for you. After all, it’s by the same designer, and has many similar mechanics, including co-op, race-against-time, and different starting roles. But, if what you like about Pandemic is its theme of handling a present-day disaster, and you didn’t really care for the racing against time, then Forbidden Island may not be for you. You might do better with Flash Point: Fire Rescue. With that in mind, today, I’d like to recommend a few games based not just on what games you like, but what you like (and dislike) about them.

For the sharpshooters

If you like the interaction of Bang!, but don’t love the hidden roles, try Cash ‘n Guns.

Bang! is a terrific party game for 4-7 players (the more the better), but the hidden role mechanic (a la Werewolf or The Resistance) can stress some people out. There’s nothing worse than being a deputy and getting mistakenly killed by your own sheriff after all. Cash ‘n Guns eliminates the secret team play with an every-man-for-himself cash grab and Mexican standoff.

The most important thing to understand about Cash ‘n Guns is that every player gets a foam gun. If that doesn’t sell you, please sit back and really evaluate your definition of fun. Every round, players compete over a pile of money in the middle of the table. You do this by choosing whether you are actually shooting or just bluffing, then everyone simultaneously points their guns at each other. Now, every person gets to choose if they will stay in this round, or back out. If you back out, you’re out of the round, but if you stay in and anyone aiming at you stays in, you might get shot (in which case you’re also out of the round).

Any players still in after all the shots are resolved attempt to split as much of the pot as can be split evenly. Anything that can’t be split evenly (which could be the whole pot) rolls over to the next round. After 8 rounds, the player with the most money wins.

There are variants that add informants and expansions that add Yakuza, but even the base game has plenty of high-stakes interaction and bluffing for an exciting game. You’ll have to stare down your opponents and determine who really is out gunning for you and who you’re outgunning. Cash ‘n Guns is tough to find, but according to a recent tweet, Asmodee is working on a second edition of the game, so keep an eye out for it!

For the day traders

If you like the market management of Power Grid, but don’t love how the auctions and network building slow things down, try Wealth of Nations.

Power Grid is one of the games that got me back into board gaming as a college student. I love the game, but there is definitely something that slows up around the auctions and when people need to claim new cities. In addition, there’s a real art to managing the resource market. I once won a game by buying up a resource before another player could use it, even though he had more cities. Actually, I didn’t do that, but he pointed out that I could have. Not that I’m bitter.

Anyway, Wealth of Nations is a quasi-abstract game—more of a visual representation of several nations’ economies. Players build and claim tiles to produce resources, which in turn feed their economic engines. Meanwhile, each resource has its own market with scaling buy and sell costs. The trick is that you can never sell a resource to the market for as much as it costs to buy it. However, there is always a middle ground where another player might trade you the resource. Players can try to deplete a market or oversaturate it to affect prices. You can also take out loans for a quick infusion of cash, or build banks that produce no useful commodities except for cash.

The game is admittedly abstracted, with hexagonal tiles producing goods and wooden cubes abounding, but once you wrap your head around Wealth of Nations, you’d be amazed at how you can alter the economy in much more blatant ways than most games. And because all of the numbers are integrated into the graphic design, you don’t have the map searching you find in Power Grid.

Wrapping Up

Now, obviously these recommendations fall into pretty specific subsets. If you find you just generally like Bang! or Power Grid, and you’re not sure why, you may still really enjoy Cash ‘n Guns and Wealth of Nations. This isn’t meant to be a prohibitive list, but rather to help reinforce a recommendation. If either of the bolded descriptions above sound like your thoughts, I’d highly recommend the games I’ve described.

(All images courtesy of BoardGameGeek.com)

BIO

Benjamin Marshalkowski is a game designer and blogger when he isn’t working as a copywriter. He is a member of the Game Makers Guild in Boston, MA, with a few designs under his belt, though none have been released to the public yet. He enjoys 4X games, worker placement games, and games with buckets of dice. He currently has a 3-13 record in Love Letter against his wife, Cecilia. You can read about his design efforts and thoughts on other games at boardgameben.com.