Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Game of Marbles (Abalone)

Normally this would be a small flavor text involving either the setting of the game, or some joke about the mechanics.  However, I've decided to forego that and just introduce you to this game, with a pronunciation so unusual it makes me glad I just have to type it.  So, ladies, gentlemen, and everyone else, I introduce to you a game I became skilled at over the summer: Abalone. 

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Abalone is a marble based game for 2 players published by Abalone Games in 1987.  Each turn, a player moves a set of up to 3 marbles to push the opponents off the board.

GAMEPLAY:  Each turn, a player may move 1, 2, or 3 marbles.  They may either push them in a line, or move any in a columnt sideways, keeping them together.  Players may also push opponents marbles, but only if there are more of the players marbles pushing.  Players cannot push equal or superior number.

WINNING:  When a marble is pushed off the board, it is captured.  When a player has captured 6 Marbles, the player wins.

CONCLUSION:  Normally, I like to review games that at least look or feel different than your typical roll and push or high strategy Chess like games.  Abalone easily feels like it could be a game from the early years of human history, like Chess or Go.  It creates a simple premise with no chance for luck, only pure skill and strategy.  In terms of difficulty, I would put it a lot lighter than Chess or Go, but it's definitely more difficult than any variation of Checkers or Chinese Checkers I've played.  Now, due to the game feeling like a strategy game, I say that this should be in every household, as even kids can learn it, and it isn't difficult to learn, but can provide both children and parents an enjoyable game. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Attack of the Kaiju (King of New York)

New York City is a nice place to live, except for the shootings, the muggings, and of course the weekly attacks by giant mutated beasts.  But, that's the price you pay for seeing firsthand who will be the true King of New York.

BACKGROUND:  King of New York is a game for 2-6 players designed by Richard Garfield and published by IELLO, in which the players take the role of giant Godzilla like monsters and robots, wrecking the city of Tokyo in quest for total domination.

GAMEPLAY:  Players begin in various districts with 20 max health and 0 Victory Points (VP), and roll the special black dice up to 3 times, with each one providing various effects once resolved:

  • Star:  3 Stars grants you the special Superstar card, which grants you a VP and any future Stars granting you VP as well.
  • Claw:  Deal 1 damage for each claw to the Monster in the Manhattan District, or if in Manhattan, deal 1 damage for each claw to each other Monster not in Manhattan.  If a monster is attacked in Manhattan, they may move out anytime this is rolled, but will still take the damage.
  • Lightning Bolt:  Gain an energy token.
  • Heart:  If not in Manhattan, heal 1 point for each Heart
  • Building:  Deal damage to Building Tiles or any Military Units not revealed this turn, and gain the effect of the Destroyed Tile, which is flipped, or the Unit, which is placed in front of you.  Damage is healed once the turn ends.
  • Skull:  1 Skull rolled deals to you per Unit on your Borough.  2 Skulls deals damage to all monsters from Units to each monster in your Borough.  3 or more Skulls deals damage to all Monsters for each Unit in their Borough, and you gain the Statue of Liberty card and 3 VP.

MANHATTAN:  Once the dice are resolved, if there is no Monster in the Manhattan Borough when playing with 4 or fewer players, or there is only 1 there with 5 or 6 players, the turn player moves there, gaining a VP and other effects as long as they stay there.  Otherwise the player may move into any other Borough with 1 or less Monsters there.  Then the player may buy any of the 3 available cards, or pay 2 Energy to discard and deal new cards out.

WINNING:  Players win by either dropping all the other monsters health to 0, or gaining 20 VP.

CONCLUSION:  When I first played King of Tokyo, I had a hard time understanding or enjoying the game initially.  I am thankful to say that King of New York was a lot easier to understand, mostly.  Richard Garfield seems to understand how to take weird ideas and make them interesting.  The inclusion of multiple locations and the special cards balances out the game a little better than before.  Now, there are a couple minor gripes I have with the game, such as the forced movement.  Even though it helps with balancing issues, it is really easy to accidentally die from attacks that aren't your fault.  Still, the game is enjoyable, if a little frustrating.  I'd say give it a chance

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Finding Your Own Way (The aMAZEing Labyrinth)

It's been 3 days since I first found myself in this strange place.  I can't seem to find a direct exit to this place, but something strange keeps happening.  Well, 2 things, actually.  First is that after trying to make a map, the walls are shifting.  Walls would appear behind me where I had just been.  The other thing is that there are strange items on the ground.  Most seem normal, but when I got close to one, a blue beetle, it glowed and changed into a card with a book on it.  This Labyrinth is frustrating and maybe I can find some way out someday...

BACKGROUND:  The aMAZEing Labyrinth, also known as Labyrinth, is a board and tile game for 2-4 players and was published by Ravensburger Spieleverlag GmbH.

GAMEPLAY:  Each player is dealt a portion of a deck which consists of various spots located on the Maze board.  Each turn, a player takes the unused Maze tile and pushes a row or column of movable pieces (indicated by arrows) that was not directly opposite of the previous player.  Then the player may move their colored pawn anywhere along a connecting path from their location.  If a pawn ever gets pushed off, they move automatically to the new piece that was placed.

WINNING:  Once a player has landed on the tile image that matches the top card of their deck, they reveal it and draw another one.  Once a player has flipped all their cards, they must return to their starting spot in the corner to win.

CONCLUSION:  Labyrinth is a game with a simple premise that has a decent amount of fun.  However, it can easily be frustrating to due to the level of randomness present.  Because both the tiles and the cards dealt are random, you can easily get frustrated by other players locking you off on one side of the board, especially with 4 players.  This can intensified if your tile is located on the other side.  This is a game that can be simply fun or simply frustrating, depending on your enjoyment.  I'd say play this with a couple friends if you love mazes or brain teasers, otherwise don't bother getting lost in this game.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Terrorizing the Countryside (Dragon's Hoard)

You wake up groggy, hungry, and warm in your little cave.  To your left is the gold you've captured, to the right is the sheep you left for breakfast.  As you munch on your favorite snack, you get to contemplating.  As nice as the gold is, you aren't seen as much of a dragon yet.  So, with steel resolve, you vow to kidnap a princess today, knight or no knight.  Besides, you should get something for allowing that wizard for building his tower above you.  You stretch your massive body, and unfurl you wings, flying off for your next prize in your Dragon's Horde.

BACKGROUND:  Dragon Horde is a card game for 2-4 players, published by Mortensen Games.  You take the role of a dragon, devouring sheep and collecting treasure while fighting knights.  Rules change depending on the number of the players, so we're assuming a 3 player game.

GAMEPLAY:  Each player takes a hand of four double sided cards, and on their turn takes three cards from the Field of four sheep cards.  Players then have an action phase, which they play an action card, and a treasure phase, where players may play either a Lair or a Treasure.

TREASURE:  Lairs can be played for free in place of a Treasure, and can store Treasure cards for points.  Treasure cards must be played by discarding the matching colors of sheep on the left side from your hand, located on the back of the cards.

WINNING:  When a player plays their 10th treasure, then the game continues until the player with who started would play, in which the game ends.  The player with the most points wins.

CONCLUSION:  Dragon Horde is a nice little game with a real solid level of strategy behind it.  Really, they could have just had treasure and sheep, and I think it would have been a fine game, with a level of gathering appropriate treasure for your Dragon, but adding Action cards adds a level of manipulation to the game it needed.  I also love the fact that there are uses for both sides of a card.  Most card games will only use one side, with the other for hiding the card from players, which is fine and necessary for a lot of games, but adding a use for both sides is, well, unusual and pretty smart.  I see a lot of ways to simplify and push this kind of game out the door, but done in this fashion is clever and keeps the game interesting. 
However, I do have a couple minor gripes.  First, Lairs.  The rules, at least in the version I played, doesn't specify if all Treasure goes into the Lair, or only the Treasure played after the Lair.  In addition, the player to start doesn't get to play when the game ends unless they end it.  While that gives every player an equal amount of turns, it does spring it on that player, giving them no chance to react at the end.  Still, for all my gripes, this is still a really solid game that isn't hard for kids or adults to learn, and is fun for both groups.