Crazier Eights Second Edition Review

3Overview:

This game was very interesting to play, we had a few bumps in the begining getting a handle on the rules and that slowed the speed of the play time. Once we grasped the rules and the game speed was much better and the game itself became a lot of fun.

Appearance/Aesthetics:

The cards were beautifully made nice and thick, sturdy. The graphics are wonderful with lots of detail and colors.

Playing the Game:

When we started playing this at first the instructions were a bit confusing. Once we figured it out then it was fast pasted a fun to play. We did notice that if you play with more then 2 people the game flowed better.

Final Thoughts:

I think this game has a great protential to be the next family favorite! It is easy enough to play with the whole family. I love the improved graphics, easy to read instruction on the cards and just the overall concept. I would take a look at the instructions since they were a bit confusing but other then that I really like this version. Crazier Eights Second edition is now on Kickstarter go check it out!

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hex6d Game Review

1Overview:

I think this game will quickly be a favorite of the family. It has the feel of the classic Parcheesi but with a modern twist! It was fast paced and easy to learn great fun for the whole family!

Appearance/Aesthetics:

The layout is nice the tiles fit together easily. I like the thickness of the tiles you can tell it is well made. The box that the package came in was sturdy.

90dad270aae0cc62133636e7d4f45e99_originalPlaying the Game:

Once the tiles are laid out, you place your players in the center then you are dealt 3 cards each. You then pull a card from the deck and move your piece the number of spaces for that card. The goal is to land your game piece on the spot that matches your three cards.

Final Thoughts:

We played this game multiple times and with every play it gotten better and better. It is very quick to play and keeps the kids on their toes! It was a big hit at my house for family game night and I even had my grandkids want to take turns taking it home to play.

By |March 30th, 2015|Review|Comments Off on hex6d Game Review

Stipulations – Is X-Ray Vision Worth It If It Only Works On Your Parents?

Image Credit: Black Light Games

 

A Review of Stipulations
Published by Black Light Games
Designed by Dustin Bluhm, PhD

Plays with 4-8 players
Variable playing time (depends on what the players want)

The game is currently seeking funding via Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/814885430/stipulations-party-game-let-your-negativity-shine

The Kickstarter campaign is scheduled to end on March 4, 2015.

“Your imagination and creativity are the only limits on how you can ruin players’ announced superpowers, lifetime supplies, occupations, and fulfilled dreams. Your friend got a job as a motivational speaker? You can add “with an extreme stutter” or “who lives in a van down by the river.” Another friend has retractable claws? Stipulate them with “you constantly use furniture as a scratching post” or “they only come out when wiping in the bathroom.” Earn points for coming up with the best and funniest stipulations to win the game!”

 
Stipulations Overview

In Stipulations, players provide creative answers to disrupt the prompt, “I think it would be awesome to be/have/achieve X”, where X is a superpower, occupation, lifetime stock of goods, or dream. One player selects a prompt from a card; the rest of the players answer the prompt.

 

Image Credit: Black Light Games

For example, in one of our games we played with the prompt “I think it would be awesome to be able to have an unlimited supply of ice-cream.” The winning disruption, or stipulation, was “But the ice-cream is stored in war-torn Iraq in a region that only has power for 4 hours each day.” In another example, we played with the prompt “I think it would be awesome to be able to communicate with animals.” The winner was the stipulation “And now you are stunned to learn all mammals, reptiles, insects, and birds are constantly plotting to kill you.” Prompts are provided in a deck of 80 cards, each with 4 options. For an additional $6 added to your pledge, you will receive an additional 27 cards with NSFW (Not Safe For Work, or adult-humor) prompts.

 

Image Credit: Black Light Games

 
The player providing the prompt picks the stipulation they liked the best and award the prompt card to the author as a point. Whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins. The Black Light Games website offers several suggestions for varying the game. For example, in the scenario Closing Arguments, players get to read their stipulations out loud and defend them. Or, in the scenario Bonus Me, the prompt provider also reads a bonus opportunity card to the players before or after they submit their answers, like “Award this card to the player who wrote the most offensive stipulation” or “Award this card to the runner up”.

Image Credit: Black Light Games

 
Components

  • Deck of 80 Stipulations cards
  • Deck of 27 NSFW cards (for a $6 add-on to your pledge)
  • Deck of 24 Bonus opportunity cards
  • 8 small dry-erase boards
  • 8 dry-erase markers
  • 90-second sand timer (only if the $16,000 stretch goal is reached)
  • Game rules

 

Image Credit: Black Light Games

The gaming components are very similar to those of Say Anything. The deck of cards I received was professionally printed, featuring bright colors and an easily readable font. The cost of the components is $25 via the Kickstarter campaign (with free U.S. Shipping and variable international shipping). Additional copies are slightly less expensive. For those simply interested in the cards, a partial print-and-play set is available on the Black Light Games website (http://www.blacklightgames.net/) and the full print-and-play is available for $6 via the Kickstarter campaign.

 
Did I Like This Game?

I always appreciate it when a game offers players the opportunity to be creative and create their own jokes. I think games like Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity offer a little room for creativity, but not enough since the answers are provided by the designers and available from a limited hand selection. Stipulations is more like Say Anything, the party game by North Star Games where players answer prompts, combined with the intelligent debating style of Larceny, the party game by Waning Gibbous Games where players have to find ways to use random items to overcome random obstacles in a heist. When you give people room to be creative, entertaining and surprising things usually happen.

I also like that Stipulations is really easy to explain. Since the rules are brief – namely that stipulations must be relevant to the prompt and stipulations can’t be reused – the game is supereasy to teach and learn.

Finally, the game seems to adapt pretty well to different groups, including children and adults. If you have an imagination, you can play Stipulations. The obvious downside to the freeform answer format is that players who are not very creative will not enjoy this game, as they will struggle to find good answers. However, there is no correct/incorrect playlength, so the game could end at any point – once around the table, or first to 2 points, or whenever we get sick of playing are all reasonable ways to end the game quickly.

In short, I enjoyed Stipulations and my friends did as well. I would recommend Stipulations to any group of imaginative players looking for a fun and flexible party game.

By |February 17th, 2015|Review|Comments Off on Stipulations – Is X-Ray Vision Worth It If It Only Works On Your Parents?

A Review of Hunny Hunters – Grizzly Bears Collect Honey

Image credit: ShroomLab Games

 

A Review of Hunny Hunters
Published by ShroomLab Games
Designed by Albert Ma

Plays with 2-5 people
30 minutes playing time

The game is currently seeking funding via Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/769420439/hunny-hunters-a-card-and-tile-game-of-memory-and-d

The Kickstarter campaign is scheduled to end on December 22, 2014.

“The yellowing leaves are starting to fall on the forest floor. Autumn is upon us. This must be the time!! For honey!!! Hungry bears are using all the tricks up their sleeves to get their paws on their favourite food before they are confined to the winter slumber. However, the challenge is on! Not only do they face a formidable enemy – the belligerent bees who will defend their hard-earned reserve at whatever cost, they are also competing against each other as the honey is dwindling fast and no more….. So what is gonna happen?”

Hunny Hunters is essentially a twist on the classic game Memory. The game features a bunch of face-down tiles laid out in a grid (5×5 or 6×6,, depending on the number of players).

HunnyHuntersTiles

Image credit: Shroom Lab Games

Players may take 1 of the following actions per turn:

1. Discard 1 or 2 cards, then draw back up to 4 cards.
2. Discard 1 card, collect a tile (without looking at it), then draw back up to 4 cards.
3. Play a card, carry out the effect of the card, and then draw back up to 4 cards.


Image credit: ShroomLab Games

There are 7 different types of cards, with functions ranging from “exchange the position of any two tiles in the game” to “steal a card at random from another player”. The most prevalent card, the Honeyologist, allows players to peek at one of the public tiles and decide whether to collect it or put it back. When the deck of cards runs out, the game ends.

Each player has a scoreboard that accommodates up to 6 tiles. Captured tiles are placed on the scoreboard in order from left to right. Honey pots are worth 2 points each, with the potential for bonuses if they are placed in the 4th, 5th, or 6th slot on the scoreboard, while bees are -1 point and wasps are -2 points.


Image credit: ShroomLab Games

Theme
The theme of Hunny Hunters – bears trying to get honey – is cute. The Bipolar Bear card could have been better named though, in my opinion. I don’t really get why stealing cards from opponents is bipolar, and I think it’s a minor jab against the bipolar community by associating stealing with bipolar disorder.

Price
The game is selling for £18 ≈ $28 ≈ €22.5 on the Kickstarter page. The price includes worldwide shipping.

Quality & Artwork
The components have not yet been finalized, so I cannot comment.

Learning
The game is fairly easy to learn and teach. In my experience though there was a real need for card reference sheets, and these were not included in the game. The cards have titles but not descriptions of what the cards do. The designer thinks the artwork provides enough clarification as to what the cards do, but my friends and I all had a hard time remembering what cards do. For example, the My Bearfoot card shows a bear punting a bee hive …. which was supposed to represent returning one of your own tiles back to the public region? None of us were going to remember that.

Weight
Hunny Hunters has a 30 minute runtime. In my experience, the game lasted from 20-30 minutes. It is a light filler, not a standalone strategic experience.

Luck
I suppose there is some luck involved in the game – a player could be unfortunate enough to find only bees and wasp tiles instead of honeypots, for example – but even that information is useful.

Interaction
There is some interaction in Hunny Hunters. Players will play cards that allow them to swap or steal tiles and cards.

Waiting & Length
Since each player can only take 1 action on their turn, downtime is fairly minimal. There are a lot of cards in the deck though, and all of the cards have to run out of rhe game to end, so the game seems to take a while.

Replayability
Since the hand of cards you have changes constantly and the board setup will be different every time, there is enough replayability in Hunny Hunters that the game won’t feel stale after multiple plays.

Other Notes
I did not play this game with children, but I imagine Hunny Hunters would be popular with the younger crowd.

Hunny Hunters is not for you if you find memory games frustrating.

Hunny Hunters is billed by the designer as “A Card and Tile Game of Memory and Deception”. In my opinion, this is a game of memory, but not deception. The designer is very enthusiastic about the deception part, with lots of mentions of trickery and bluffing and poker-like aspects, but I really disagree. The only cards that really offer bluffing opportunities is the Barely Miss It – when a player is collecting a tile, you can choose to take the tile instead – and the Big Bad Bear – you can steal a tile from another player. But there are only 4 Barely Miss It cards and 4 Big Bad Bear cards in the deck, and the game is so long that even if a player obtains a bee or wasp tile via these cards, there’s plenty of time to get rid of the bad tile, so the bluffing component is super-minimal.

By |November 29th, 2014|Review|1 Comment

Mighty Heroes and The Monster Zone Review

photo-mainThe basic goal of Mighty Heroes and the Monster Zone is to move your Hero over the board game while trying to stop or slow down your opponents with special effect and strength modifiers.

You have 4 factions, Spies, Ninjas, Robots and Pirates and each player has the control of one of these factions with 8 cards or more. In order to move about the board you will need to attack your other opponents, fight monsters or if you are luck move without anyone opposing you. Special FX cards are used to help you advance or to slow you down. Make it to the wormhole first and you win!

When I pulled this game out of the box I was pretty impressed with the design and the quality of the prototype. The board was thick enough the cards beautifully designed and the miniatures looked as if they were hand painted. I am excited to see the finished product!

By |November 9th, 2014|Review|1 Comment

Monster Mansion Mini-Review

Monster Mansion was an exciting experience from the moment it arrived in the mail. I get a lot of Kickstarter prototypes and you learn not to expect much from the packaging and component quality – it’s a prototype after all. However, from the moment I opened Monster Mansion I knew this wasn’t the typical prototype printed on a home computer. Designer Payton Lee of ChanceGamer took the time to package the game up in a “mini-box” featuring the game’s artwork. Inside the box I found a wax-sealed letter inviting me to visit the mansion. It was obvious a lot of time and attention to detail had been spent which makes me all the more confident to recommend Monster Mansion to you. I expect the final version of the game will be produced with the same care.

The theme of Monster Mansion at first didn’t excite me terribly. When I saw the room tiles and character standups I immediately wondered if Monster Mansion was just a re-hash of Betrayal at House on a Hill or similar games. This concern was quickly laid to rest however once I read through the rules and began playing the game. Although Monster Mansion borrows heavily from a variety of existing great games it packages those elements up into its own unique experience that was fun and engaging.

Overview

Monster Mansion is a co-op game. Players represent adventurers who are attempting to escape from the dungeon of a monster-filled mansion. Each player has a unique ability and statistics. The game is played in real time. Throughout the game players will alternate turns as they attempt to move through the dungeon (at first) and then the mansion (later) to reach the exit – all before the timer counts down to zero forever trapping them inside. To complicate matters (in larger games with more players) the game isn’t fully cooperative. Among the players are one or more hidden assassins whose goal is to identify and kill the VIP (one of the other players). The hidden role aspect adds an extra element of fun – to escape the mansion you must work together with the other players, but can you really trust them?

The mansion is made out if six randomized face-down tiles (3 for the dungeon and 3 for the mansion) plus a starting room, an exit, and a set of stairs (between the mansion and dungeon) which serves as a “save point”. On a player’s turn he or she draws an encounter card and resolves it’s effects. Then that player may take a single action. Turns move quickly (particularly under the pressure of the timer), and there are things you may do outside your turn (such as buying or selling of items) that ensure the game has little to no downtime.

The encounter cards represent the strange environment of the mansion that you encounter as you travel along your way (traps, finding a coin, pausing for healing, etc.). Most encounter cards have one-off effects – you draw the card, carry out the effect, and then discard it. However, some encounter cards represent vicious monsters. Monsters are placed in front of your character and hang around until they are attacked and killed. Monsters either inhibit your character’s abilities or deal damage each turn. They are attached to your character – not the room  – so as you move through the mansion they follow you. This leads to some difficult decision making: should you press forward in hopes of reaching the exit before the monsters bring you down? or stop and fight off the monsters so you can advance unencumbered? To make matters worse some monsters can only be defeated with the help of other players.

After resolving your encounter card you may take one of three basic actions: Heal, fight, or move forward. Combat resolution is a simple deterministic system – you assign your damage to a monster chasing your or a fellow adventurer in the same room. This makes it easy for you to quickly assess the state of the game and weigh your options. While there are only six rooms in the mansion progressing from start to exit can be more challenging than it would initially appear. Room tiles are revealed as players enter them and many have nasty effects (ie. dumping you back to a lower level of the mansion, killing the first player who leaves, etc.). Many room effects can be avoided by passing a skill check with the roll of a die. Death isn’t permanent – if your character dies you are sent back to the starting room or the stairs (if you are lucky enough to have made it that far).

Victory is achieved for the players if they all collectively escape the mansion before the timer expires. Alternately, the assassins can claim victory by killing the VIP. Half the fun is trying to figure out the identity of each player – and some of the in-game items and objectives give you hints in this direction.

Summary

We had a lot of fun with Monster Mansion. We played a seven player game  with a mix of adult gaming buddies and my older children. The timer, theme, and simplicity of the mechanisms kept the kids involved while the co-petitive strategy element kept the adults interested as well. Honestly, there aren’t many games which can span this age/maturity gap well – I was surprisingly impressed.

Monster Mansion isn’t ashamed to borrow mechanics from other games: you will find elements of Betrayal at House on the Hill, Battlestar Galactica, and Escape: Curse of the Temple in here (among others). However, the game blends these elements together well to form a unique play experience. The gameplay is on the lighter side and is easy for most anyone to pick up. However it still incorporates enough strategy and action to keep seasoned gamers involved. Also, unlike many experience games it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome – game length is fixed and varies only according to the number of players. The artwork and thematic flavor of the game is lighthearted and a bit humorous.

Monster Mansion is funding on Kickstarter now. As of the time of this post the project has about a week to go and has already well surpassed its $18,000 goal.

 

By |November 4th, 2014|Review|Comments Off on Monster Mansion Mini-Review

Spell Stealers Review

Spell_Stealers_boxInitially, as with any game, learning the dice, what they mean and how to use them effectively was a bit challenging but once I did understand it all came together wonderfully.

 The object of Spell Stealers is to be the first person to reach the magic spell inside the temple. The twist is that along the way your opponents can steal your points. You roll the dice and advance by collecting artifacts if the colors on the dice match. When your dice match you collect the points but unlike other dice games instead of it being the end of your turn you can choose to take a chance and roll again to collect more points BUT if your dice don’t match on the next roll you lose all the artifacts and can’t advance. Now here is the fun part! Your opponent can steal your points by rolling more than you on their dice and advancing by that number, however, should they roll less they go back by that amount.

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Spell Stealers is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter and is not a published product yet so I was playing on a prototype. The cards, dice and game pieces are well made, but I would like to see higher quality components (such as the thicker gameboard). With that being said the  final version of the game the steal tokens will be twice as thick and the gameboard will be 25% thicker than the prototype.

I absolutely love this game! Spell Stealers is great for playing with the family, kids always the risk takers make the game not only interesting but FUN FUN FUN!!!!! This one will soon be a favorite on Family Game Night.

By |October 30th, 2014|Review|1 Comment

Mutation – A 3D Board Gaming System

A Review of Mutation
Published by White Golf LLC
Designed by Mark White

Number of players: Varies
Playing time: Varies

“Mutation is more than a single game; it is a little game system.”

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/markwhite/mutation-a-new-3d-board-game

The campaign ends Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 11:39 a.m. EST

 

I came home one weekend to find a box from White Golf LLC at my door. I hadn’t ordered anything recently and had never heard of White Golf LLC, so I had no idea what was inside. Once opened, I found an odd, multicolored toy, a mini soccer ball covered with the names of nucleic acids, and a note from a Mark White saying the owner of todayinboardgames.com thought I would enjoy reviewing his latest creation.


Image credit: Mark White

The toy turned out to be Mutation, a 3D board gaming system comprised of brightly-colored triangles and circles arranged in a sphere and 8 movable pieces. The sphere provides the game board and the movable pieces, 4 of which are black and 4 of which are white, with each piece resting on a red, yellow, green, or blue base, provide the elements players can use to create and play games.

DSC05085

The game did not come with instructions; rather, I was directed to the website http://www.white-golf.net/ to learn about 3 invented games, and receive encouragement to invent my own games using the Mutation system.

Examples of the invented games:

Basic:
Each player chooses a color (white or black) and starts the game with their pieces grouped together on the sphere. The first player to form a tetrahedron (a four-sided 3D object – basically a pyramid), moving one piece at a time, wins.

Block Out:
Each player chooses a color (white or black) and starts the game with their pieces arranged in a tetrahedron. There are 3 winning positions for each piece. The first player to move all 4 of their pieces into a winning position, moving one piece at a time, wins.

Match Up:
Each player chooses 2 base colors (like red & yellow versus green & blue) and starts the game with their pairs on opposite sides of the sphere. The first player to put 2 pieces of the same base color adjacent to each other on the sphere (like the White-with-Red-base next to the Black-with-Red-base), moving one piece at a time, wins.

DSC05093

Mutation is an update of the game Code World, which also consisted of a round gameboard and movable game pieces, but it was too expensive to make and the designer wanted to simplify the design.


Image credit: Mark White

The first batch of Mutation consisted of 300 units, called “T1 Samples”. The game designer is now seeking funding on Kickstarter to create a second batch.

 

Thoughts on Mutation

Portable: One of the nice things about Mutation is that you don’t need a table to play. Since the game board and its pieces are essentially a handheld object, Mutation can be taken anywhere.

Bright colors: The bright colors are a selling point to kids, as they will find Mutation’s circus-like shapes and colors attention-grabbing. It’s almost impossible not to notice the unit and then pick it up and play with it. On the downside, some adults will be turned off by the color scheme, as it seems very much geared towards kids.

Sturdy: I’ve fiddled and fussed with my Mutation copy for a while, incessantly moving the pieces back and forth over the board, to no negative effect. The pieces glide nicely and snap into place at the pentagon intersections.

Overly simple games: The games that I have played on the Mutation unit are very simple and don’t last longer than 3-5 minutes. I have spent far more time playing with the pieces on the unit than playing games with the unit. The games are also not that complicated, and more suitable for kids than adults.

Risky investment: The Early Bird copies of Mutation are selling for $20 each on Kickstarter. Considering the problems described on the Kickstarter page and that the unit is comprised of half a pound of plastic and 200 parts, I am worried about the publisher’s ability to meet demand in a reasonable amount of time.

DSC05096

 

As for the 7” soccer ball, I learned it wasn’t meant as an accessory for Mutation games. Instead, the soccer balls (also available as part of the Kickstarter) are meant to educate consumers about the structure of amino acids – amino acids, like Mutation, are comprised of tetrahedrons and dodecahedrons.

 

Overall

Mutation is a showy and eye-catching toy for kids or distraction for adults. The gameplay that it provides is not on the level of popular abstract games, like Othello or checkers, in terms of complexity and length. I don’t know how much enjoyment a kid will get from the system; I personally found it satisfying as a desk accessory like a slinky or a stress ball. But perhaps those who are very hands-on and tactile-oriented will get enjoyment from Mutation.

By |October 13th, 2014|Review|1 Comment

Board Game Media Circus #1

I’m going to be trying out something new with this article, based off of a weekly sports article in my reading bin by Richard Deitsch over at Sports Illustrated who does a sports based media version.

Because like they say: “Who reviews the reviewers?”or something like that I think…

This article is geared towards a loosely mottled collection of topics including review of big trends, noteworthy contributions, news, and just plain interesting quality work from the past week or so in the world of board gaming and its enveloping media coverage. I hope to be able to do this on a somewhat regular basis even though I know that people have an oversaturation of information out there clogging up their feeds, but I hope to be able to highlight the bigger (or smaller and perhaps overlooked) comings and goings of the community and provide some color commentary to go along with it.

As a plus side, I’ll throw a few non-board game related links in at the end to spice it up so we all can feel smarter at the watercooler.

1a. Over at Board Game Geek, the hotness list accurately reflects the chatter than reviewers have been putting out. As of writing this, Plaid Hat Games’ Dead of Winter along with Days of Wonder’s Five Tribes are both in the top seven, and haven’t shown signs of slowing down yet. The impression of the community for the former has been as welcoming as any game of recent promotion or release.

1b. Let’s see how other big name releases, like:

D&D Attack Wing
King of New York
Machi Koro
Sheriff of Nottingham
Castles of a Mad King Ludwig
**insert your suggestion/nomination here fellas and ladies**

…fair in comparison over the course of the next couple months. Like Five Tribes, which may not have received as much fanfare prior to release, it’s always interesting to see what game (i.e. Star Realms, Splenor) relatively unexpectedly captures the community next by storm, regardless the size of the publisher.

1c.The later, Tribes, has some split in opinion, including the maestros over at Shut Up and Sit Down about it’s ability to be more than a…pile of cardboard rainbow emesis strewn about on a table (to paraphrase their thoughts somewhat slightly more eloquently).

1d. Esoteric Order of Gamers: while the name may not portray it’s content or usefulness, the product – concise rules/summary information for tableside use while navigating board games, is quite that. The latest includes the previously mentioned Dead of Winter, as well as the recently resurgent deck building Arctic Scavengers.

2a. The season of the German Grand Slam of Board Gaming, Essen Spiel, is upon us. Spiel, in the town of Essen, Germany, is host to a game fair including previewing, selling, publishers, designers and artists alike. Upwards of 150,000 are expected to wallow in those halls over the 4 day span of October 16-19.

The lucky few among the community are allowing us to live it through their eyes and cardboard hankerings as the rest of us get to salivate over what we’ll likely wait months for instead. The guys over at Board with Life offered up their most anticipated games of the show this year and is worth view if you’re looking for the long story shortened.

2b. If you’re looking for a particular game or are a completionist, check out the list that BGG user W Eric Martin has put together. With 22 pages and 567 items listed so far, it gives you a small glimpse into the enormity it must be if you were there in person to take it all in.

3. One of (my personally) most anticipated games from the early Kickstarter season of 2014, Arcadia Quest, is slowly traversing the pneumatic tube system of life, or postal system as well call it over here. Put out by the folks at Cool Mini Or Not, the Big Guys of Board Gaming (or BGBG as I’ll refer to them) are starting to get it to the table and Rodney (who needs a good nickname) from Watch It Played has his usual high production quality videos up and this one is so large it requires 3 parts to give you all the goodness.

4a. The Lagoon, Land of Druids review by the Tom Vassal of the Dice Tower (another one of the BGBG) is up. And similar to Five Tribes, the consensus is…that there isn’t a consensus. And this is a good thing. Designing your own game is a lot like testing a new idea out.

As noted by the Harvard Business Review:

“The reason testing is so vital is because it minimizes the investment required to eliminate uncertainty. In so doing, you increase the speed of innovation and decrease the cost of failure.”

And isn’t increasing the speed of innovation and minimizing cost of failure exactly what we’re looking to do in the board game world?

4b. The most interesting part, and the part to stimulate the most discussion, is that he doesn’t like it. To put things mildly, without quoting him, he uses the dreaded “H-word”. And as with influential negative reviews comes controversy. As one of the pillars of the community, agree/like it or not, he has a lot of pull for games they review, positively or negatively. That being said, he clearly states that they game itself is well made and does have multiple compliments for it. Check it out for yourself before weighing in with your own opinion.

4c. The negative review aspect of our industry and community is a topic I hope to explore at a later date in a column. If you have any thoughts, feel free to let me know or contact me with them.

5. I ran across these books a developer/designer needs to read, and although it doesn’t hit our usual geographic area of coverage and was done more for the video game medium, I thought the points retain all the same relevancy. I highlight this especially for the game designers among the crowd. It’s a little heavier reading than Jamie Stonemaier’s Kickstarter advise, but the principles behind it are just as important.

6a. In case you’re going through Wh-eaton withdrawal, the latest blog posting from our Tabletop Godfather is sure to cure what ails you. Our celebrity board game enthusiast has put out a partial listing of the games we’re to see played for Tabletop Season 3. The list found here includes Libertalia, Sushi Go, and Tokaido. No word on when we’ll see the life size Rampage game, maybe that should have been one of their funding stretch goals…

Also mum’s the word on what RPG’s we’ll see with the beyond successful Indigogo campaign but here’s the preliminary candidate list.

6b. Then again, for those looking for a quick laugh, there’s always this too. “Fat Wheaton Burger?”, though I wonder what “Wil Wheaton Seduction” smells like. Maybe a whiff of Trek with a smidgeon of Eureka?

7a. Sultaniya, a game on more outside of my radar, is up for review over at the League of Nonsensical (but totally sensible) Gamers. You may not agree with their decisions but their process is top notch.

7b. More mainstream pick-up via the AV Club who has their own round-up of action that went on at the recently departed Gen Con, including their list of must see games.

7c. Glad to see between this article and the Grantland spotlight on Diplomacy, that the outside world is starting to pick up on the slow moving, albeit miniature juggernaut of board gaming.

8. An interesting look at life in East Germany thru the eyes of a board game, where money means nothing and still can’t buy me love.

9. “Why I don’t let my kids beat me in board games” and why you should care. Poignant topic as we try to get the next generation indoctrinated interested in them.

10. Kotaku, of the Gawker dojo, has a post about the most satisfying board game feelings/moments, from the classic Americana games to some of the more recent Eurostyle, that’s worth getting nostalgic over.

11. Live in the New York area and have an overflowing closet of games that you don’t want or need? If this sounds like you, then maybe you could consider donating to help support our troops.

Outside, in the non-board game world but still worth taking a look at:

Let me know what you guys think of this article and what you’d like to see more or less of in the future. I left a lot out that could have been in here. And feel free to submit things that you think belong. I’m looking…

Diamonds – An Ordinary Everyday Card Game (Like Hearts and Spades)


Image credit: Stronghold Games

Diamonds
Published by Stronghold Games
Designed by Mike Fitzgerald
Illustrated by William Bricker

Plays with 2-6 people
30 minutes playing time

“Diamonds is a trick-taking card game in which players collect Diamonds — not cards bearing that suit, mind you, but rather actual “Diamond Crystals” (acrylic crystals) included in the game.

What makes the game of Diamonds different from other trick-taking card games is that when you cannot follow suit you get a “Suit Action” based on what suit you do play. Suit Actions are also taken by the winner of each trick, as well as at the end of a full Round of play.

Whoever has the most points in Diamond Crystals at the end of the game wins!”

OVERVIEW

It is curious to me that Diamonds was published by Stronghold Games as a standalone game. Diamonds feels like it would be more at home as an entry inside a volume like Hoyle’s Modern Encyclopedia of Card Games.

GAMEPLAY

The object of Diamonds is to have the most points at the end of the game. Tokens in front of the player’s screen are worth 1 point at the end of the game, while tokens behind the player’s screen are worth 2 points.

10 cards are dealt to each player (regardless of the number of players). Suit must be followed if possible and there is no trump. Only cards that follow the same suit as the card that led the trick are eligible to win the trick. Higher cards win tricks over lower cards.

Cards are passed to the left before the round begins. The dealer decides if 1, 2, or 3 cards will be passed.

Each suit has an assigned action. The winner of the trick gets to take the action assigned to the suit that won the trick, as does any player who plays off-suit during the trick, as does the player at the end of the round who has won the most number of cards in the suit.

Assigned actions:

Diamonds – Take a diamond from the supply and put it behind your screen. (This is the most powerful action; hence why the game is named “Diamonds”.)

Hearts – Take a diamond from the supply and put it in front of your screen.

Spades – Take a diamond from the front of your screen and put it behind your screen.

Clubs – Take a diamond in front of someone else’s screen and put it in front of your screen.

For example:

Player A leads with the 1 of Hearts.

Player B has hearts in their hand and plays the 15 of Hearts.

Player C has no hearts in their hand and plays the 2 of Diamonds. Player C takes a diamond from the supply and puts it behind her screen.

Player D has no hearts in their hand and plays the 3 of Spades. Player D takes a diamond from the front of his screen and puts it behind his screen.

Player B wins the trick, so she takes a diamond from the supply and puts it in front of her screen.

COMPONENTS

The cards of Diamonds utilize Art Deco glam glitz chrome themes, like the artwork of the latest version of “The Great Gatsby”


Image credit: Concept Arts


Image credit: Stronghold Games

While snazzy, the card colors are too similar, especially in dim lighting, and the numbers (1-15) and suit symbols are hard to read when the cards are played on the table.

The safe vault depicted on the player screens, in contrast, doesn’t keep with the Art Deco theme and looks like it belongs in a sterile hospital ward:

                            DiamondsVault

Image credit: Stronghold Games

Instead of something like this:


Image credit: The Bedford of Chicago


Image credit: Rick Lobes

The screens do stand up on their own, which is a big plus.

The acrylic gems are neat. The one point gems are translucent clear while the five point gems are an opaque red. Had I been the designer though, I would have chosen to color the fives translucent blue instead of opaque red, as the Hope Diamond, a diamond which is well-known, is blue, and since I cannot recall any examples of famous red diamonds, I am more likely to associate red diamonds with blood diamonds instead (or rubies, which aren’t diamonds at all).

The game includes player aids, which is a plus, as it’s difficult at the beginning to remember which suit corresponds to which action. However, there are several issues with the images depicted on the card.


Image credit: Stronghold Games

The first issue with the player aid is the use of the open versus closed vault symbols. The front of the player screens depicts an open vault door, while the back of the player screens feature nothing at all. So actions with an open vault door seem like they apply to the front of the screen, while I would infer that images with a closed vault door would apply to the back of the screen. So, the Diamond action looks like I should put a diamond in front of my screen, since the image on the player aid matches the image on the front of the screen. The Heart action looks like I should put diamonds behind my screen, since logically I would expect to see a picture of a closed vault door there (and because the closed symbol implies that my diamonds are safe, which is true only when they are behind the screen) Etc. The artwork on the player aids is backwards.

The second issue with the player aid is that the artwork is misleading. From the illustrations, it looks like a Heart means “Put two gems in front of your vault”, a Space means “Put two gems into your vault” and a Club means “Steam two gems from another player”. Why are two gems depicted in these illustrations if the actions apply only to one gem at a time?

The third issue with the player aids is that the backs of the player aids are identical to the backs of the playing cards. Unfortunately this design choice has resulted in player aids getting shuffled accidentally into the playing deck on several occasions. The illustrator/publisher should have selected different backs for these cards.

CONCLUSIONS

Perfect versus imperfect knowledge: The original rules of Diamonds instruct you to deal out 10 cards to players, and any leftovers are unused and unknown to everyone. Since this deck has 60 cards, this means in a 2 player game there are as many as 40 cards left out of each round. This means players do not know which cards are high and which are low in a round. It could be possible that a 9 of Clubs could be the highest Club in the round, or that all Hearts are out of the game (which would make the Spades cards far less useful). My fellow players and I found these rules very frustrating. Using all cards in the deck in a round is called “The Perfect Diamonds” variant, and it means that the game will last significantly longer and players will clash on which rules they like want to use. I would have preferred the original non-variant rules to include fewer cards for fewer players to make the original game less of a guessing game.

Passing downfalls: In Hearts, you alternate between passing left, passing right, and passing center. Because the number of players in Diamonds is not fixed (the game accommodates 2-6 players), the rules instruct players to pass only left. This rule could result in major imbalances if the skill levels of the players at the table vary significantly.

Medium choices: The most significant choices in Diamonds regard passing cards and selecting cards to lead tricks. But because suit must be followed if possible, and because some actions are dependent upon certain factors (example: If no one has diamonds to steal, it would not be a good decision to play a Club off-suit), some rounds involve very little or obvious choices.

Easy to learn: The scoring and rules of Diamonds are pretty straight-forward, and the player aids help remind players about which suits are associated with which actions.

Variable chatter: Diamonds doesn’t inherently encourage chatter because it involves playing to your own hand instead of attacking your opponents. Some games of mine were nearly entirely silent, and some had player taunts and banter. The amount of trash talking and rowdiness will depend entirely on the group.

RECOMMENDATION

Diamonds differs from a normal deck of playing cards merely by supplementing the deck of cards with acrylic diamond tokens and screens, plus rules and player aid documentation. Granted, the deck’s cards run 1-15 instead of the typical 1-13 (Ace-King), but the additional 8 cards don’t seem to do much other than allow a 6th player to join the game. Considering that any sort of generic tokens could be substituted (like pennies or pebbles) and players could improvise their own screens, in my opinion these extras are not enough to boost the game’s price to $24.95 MSRP. Factor in the inconsistent artwork and the confusing player aids and now the case for buying Diamonds is even less compelling. Just as Spades and Hearts are not packaged as stand-alone games, and even a pinochle deck is only $4, the idea of paying more than $5 for a game that essentially could have sufficed as a listing in a book of card games seems ludicrous.

By |October 5th, 2014|Review|1 Comment