Wednesday, September 20, 2017

For Your Eyes Only (Codenames)

Agents, important information has come up.  Traditional contact with the Agency has been compromised, as have multiple forms of our backup.  Our solution is this: Codenames.  All agents are now assigned an innocent, everyday word, listed alongside this message, and it is your job to confirm when a Spymaster comes calling.  But be careful, as there has been at least one assassination attempt on our agents lives.  In addition, there is a rival agency across the pond following the same protocol.  Good luck, and remember your Codenames.  Also, eat this message.

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Codenames is a word based games published by Czech Games Edition for 2-8 players.  Players must attempt to find and contact their "Agents" by guessing words correctly.

SET-UP:  Players split into teams of 2.  The "Spymaster" for both teams sit at one end of the table with the rest of the players, or "Agents" on the other side.  Deal out a set of single word cards in a 5 x 5 grid.  The Spymasters place a Key card, the one marked with red, black, white and black squares, so that side faces them and the back faces the Agents.  The key has lights around the grid to determine who goes first.

CLUES:  Each team is either Red or Blue.  During the Spymaster's turn, they give a one word clue that matches word(s) on the board, and a number equal to the number of words that match the clue.  A player may also give 0 or Unlimited as a number.  They cannot say anything else, and must try not to give any other kind of help.  A clue may also not be any word actually on the table.  Spelling the clue, letters, numbers, and parts of compound words that are not on the table are all valid clues.  You may also choose to allow or block proper nouns, acronyms/abbreviations, homonyms, rhymes, etc.

GUESSING:  Once the clues have been given, that team must choose 1 word at a time that matches the clue.  Once a team's Agents have chosen a clue, The Spymaster compares it to the Key, top left to their top left word according to their perspective.  If the Agents guess a word that matches their teams color, the Spymaster places an agent card over that word, and guessing continues until they run out of guesses, or choose either the opposing teams card, an innocent bystander (Grey on the key), or the Assassin (Black).  Agents may also get 1 more guess if they so choose, i.e., in the middle of the game the Spymaster may give 2, but the Agents know a word from a previous clue, so they may have 3 guesses.

END:  A team wins when they have successfully covered all of their words with agent cards. If any player has chosen the Assassin, they lose automatically.

CONCLUSION:  Codenames is a fairly fun, but rather difficult game.  However, the difficulty lies not in the game itself, but rather the players.  The layout is simple, and easy enough to understand so long as you have basic reading comprehension skills.  The difficulty comes more from knowing the clue giver than knowing the words.  Obviously, this is not a game for those where reading is difficult, but it could help those learning to read, and an easy work-around would be to give that team enough people to read off the available clues.  All in all, a pretty solid game with solid mechanics, and it's easy to see why there's a Disney and a Marvel variation, as well as other variations with more rules

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Last Chip Remaining (LCR)

It's the final showdown.  Uncle Jimmy has been sheriff for too long in these here parts, and you're the only one who can take him down a peg or three.  You lock eyes, and your hand hovers above your weapon of choice.  You grab it, and roll.  R, no!  You pass your last chip to Jimmy, and curse the heavens silently how LCR has betrayed you again.

GAME DESCRIPTION:  LCR, or Left Right Center is a simple dice game published by George & Company for 3 or more players.  It is a pure luck game, with the goal to be the only one left with any chips.

SET-UP/GAMEPLAY:  Each player begins with 3 Chips.  The starting player rolls the dice.  If R or L is rolled, the player passes chip(s) to the right or left, respectively, equal to the number of R's or L's rolled.  If C is rolled, it is placed into the center pot.  Dot's rolled have no effect.  Play then passes to the next player.

WINNING:  A player may only roll an amount of dice equal to the number of chips they possess.  A player incapable of rolling may still come back into the game if a player passes a chip to them.  The winner is the last player with any chips left.

CONCLUSION:  LCR is that game you play with your in-laws when they come down for Christmas who play more traditional games, or are too young for complex games.  It's alright if you want to spend a few minutes talking with people as a way to keep your hands busy. Otherwise, this is not a fun game.  It is a time waster, nothing more.  There is no strategy, no skill, nothing to put yourself into the game. If that's what your looking for, this does it well.  Otherwise, you can pass on this without missing on much.

AFTERTHOUGHTS:  There are variations of this game.  One is called Last Chip Standing, which plays the exact same but has a cowboy theme.  If you really want this game for a stocking stuffer or an in-law speaking piece, I'd recommend LCS.  There is  Last Chip Standing: Devil's Luck, which I have not played, but has more effects depending on what you roll.  The game doesn't change from being pure luck, but it does seem a little more something like Cthulhu Dice or Zombie Dice.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Math-ominios (Quartile)

You are in for a treat tonight.  Oh, that music you're hearing is just a selection of blues music from the great Fats Domino.  There's pizza in the kitchen, "freshly" delivered from Domino's.  And in the living room, we have the game once the other 2 are here.  That's right, if you couldn't tell from my oh so subtle hints, we're playing...Quartile.  Did that throw you off?  You'll see soon enough, my friend...

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Quartile is a tile based game published by SimplyFun for 2 to 4 players.  Just like most domino based games, the goal is to score high by placing tiles around the board in clever ways.

SET-UP:  Shuffle the tiles in the Quarry, or the pool of tiles, face-down.  Each player draws 4 tiles, and places 1 starting tile in the middle of the table, away from the Quarry face-down.  Each player places 1 tile from their hand face-down, then reveals it.  The player with the lowest number starts.  Flip the starting tile face-up, and return the tiles to the owners hands.

PLACEMENT:  Each turn, a player must play a tile from their hand face-up next to at least 1 tile that is already on the table, and in a way that both pips on the tiles add up to the center number on the tile being laid down.

SCORING:  Once the objectives for placement have been met, the player then scores the number in the center of the recently placed tile times the number of sides that have been fulfilled.  For example, a player will always score the number x1 on the first 2 turns, as there is no way to score multiple sides.  However, if there is a tile played with the pips on the side and top both adding with the tiles they are touching. they will score the center number x2.

WINNING:  Once all tiles have been placed, add up each players total, with the winner being the player who scored the most.

CONCLUSION:  It's a variation on Domino's, pure and simple.  Sure, it's interesting, and different strategy's are used to play better, but it's Domino's.  If you don't like Domino's, you aren't going to like this one.  If you do, then you'll probably like this version.  If you haven't ever played Domino's, the only thing I can say is to give it a try before you play Quartile.  I wish I had some deep profound thing to say, but it's Domino's, and that's it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Tricks, Tips, and Tools of the Game (The Fox in the Forest)

Everyone remember their favourite fairy tales.  Snow White, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, The Turnip Princess.  Oh, that one's not a classic?  It was discovered recently?  You'd never know.  I mean, with how many people tell their kids bedtime stories, stuff like Goodnight Moon might as well be a fairy tale now.  So, I present to you one of my new favourite fairy tales: The Fox in the Forest.  Once Upon a Time...

GAME DESCRIPTION:  The Fox in the Forest is a card game published by Foxtrot Games for 2 players.  Players attempt to take a number of "Tricks" over the course of the game.

SET-UP:  Each player is dealt a hand of 13 cards from the 33 card deck, with the 7 remaining being the Draw pile.  Take the top card of the pile and place it face up as the Decree card.  The player who didn't deal is the Leader, and begins by playing a card from their hand.

TRICKS:  Tricks are when both players have played a card.  The Leader starts by playing any card in their hand, and the following player must play a card that matches the Leader's suit, appropriately called the Lead Suit.  If there is no matching suit, they may play any other card.  The tricks are given first to the player with the highest card that matches the Decree card's suit, then the player with highest number in the Lead Suit if the first rule doesn't apply.

ABILITIES:  All odd numbered cards will have special abilities.  Some, like 3 and 5, are activated immediately after played.  Others, like 1, are activated after the end of the Trick.  And even others, like 7, apply later.  Luckily, the Appendix has rulings in common situations.

SCORING:  Once a Trick has been played, it is placed face-down so that both players may know how many tricks have been played, but not the number played in each Trick.  Players continue playing Tricks until all 13 cards have been played in their hands.  Then, players score according to the number of 7's and the number of Tricks taken.  If a player managed to get 10 or more Tricks, they get 0 points for being too greedy!  If they got 0-3 or 7-9 Tricks, they get the maximum 6 for being humble or victorious!  Any other number of Tricks are scored appropriately, and the player is "defeated".  Once either player score 21 or more points, they win!

CONCLUSION:  The Fox in the Forest is a fun, quirky, Hearts-light game that can help pass by the time if you can find only one other player who likes games like Hearts and Pinochle.  The problem is that usually, whenever I can find 1 player, I can generally find 2 more who would enjoy, or at least be willing, trick taking games.  Still, the fairy-tale theme is nice, the scoring system is great for punishing players who would generally play "Shoot the Moon" style tactics, and the abilities are an interesting way to change the game.  This is a somewhat niche game, as I'm sure a fair amount are people aren't going to enjoy this game that enjoy games like Spades.  Still, if there's a chance you do, the Fox in the Forest may be a nice, different game for you to enjoy.