Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Don't Lose Your Head (Guillotine)

The French Revolution was a huge, life-changing event for the people of Paris, and beyond.  In fact, it became such a significant event, that it has been a part of some famous works.  A Tale of Two Cities, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and all the way down to Assassins Creed!  Though not Les Miserable, wrong century.  Still, with movies, books, and even video games using the F.R. as a theme, it was only a matter of time that the Guillotine would drop, and a tabletop game would get the treatment.

GAME DESCRIPTION: Guillotine is a card game for 2-5 players, and was originally published by Wizards of the Coast.  Taking place during the French Revolution, players slowly kill off French nobles and others.

SET-UP: Shuffle and deal 5 Action each player, then shuffle and lay out 12 of the Noble cards in a line.  The far right one is considered the first, or front of the line.  Finally, randomly decide the first player.

EXECUTION:  Each turn consists of 3 phases.  First, the turn player may play 1 action card, or skip this step.  Action cards can alter the Noble line order, increase points, or even end the day.  Then, the player collects the Noble card at the front of the line.   Finally, if an action card was played, the player draws up to 5 cards to end their turn.

WINNING:  Once the day ends, by either killing all the Nobles in the line or by playing an Action like the Scarlet Pimpernel, players put all their dead Nobles off together, draw back up to 5 cards, and deal 12 new Nobles.  The game ends after 3 rounds, and players tally up their score.  The winner is the one who scored the most.

CONCLUSION:  Guillotine is a simple game to understand how to play, but surprisingly deep in its mechanics.  It's a fun game you can pull out and just get into with most people.  However, it can take up a decent amount of room, if the Action cards go that way.  That being said, it's a fine game with a strong theme for its mechanics, and a fairly straightforward play.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

They'll Never Stop The Simpsons (The Simpsons: Loser Takes All)

The Simpsons, a brief history:  The series began on a small, budding channel called Fox.  The Tracey Ulman show wanted short animated sketches between commercials and the actual show, so after finding Matt Groenings work, they hired him.  The rest, as they say, is history. As of this review, 630 episodes aired or plan to air, with more likely coming.  With several Bart based Video games, and merchandise to fill the Grand Canyon, The Simpsons have become a legacy in our time.  But this week: LOSER Takes All!

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Loser Takes All is a game published by RoseArt for 2-6 players.  The objective is to end the game with the lowest score possible, giving away tokens and money to ensure you are the "loser".

SET-UP:  Each player starts with 10 Junk Food tokens 20 Simpsons Money.  Each player takes a Simpsons token and the 5 Character cards associated with that token.  Place your Character cards face-up in front of you, and place your token anywhere on the board.  The youngest player begins.

MOVING:  During their turn, the player spins the spinner and moves according to the directions.  If a number is rolled, the player may move any combination vertically and horizontally, but they may only make one direction change per turn, and they may NOT backtrack onto any previous space.

SPACES:  There ares several different kinds of spaces, including:

  • Event:  Follow the instructions on the board.
  • Hazard:  Marked with a Radiation symbol, these are generally negative.
  • Question:  May also be marked with a Question Mark.
QUESTIONS:  When a player lands on a Question space, they draw a Question List card and choose a player.  The turn player reads either the first or next question in the List out loud, and writes their answer down on a piece of paper, then the chosen player responds with the answer they think the turn player wrote down.  If the answers are closely matching, the chosen player flips 1 of their Character cards face-down.  If the answers are different, the turn player flips their Character card face-down.  The turn then ends.

WINNING:  Once a player has flipped all 5 of their Character cards face-down, the game ends.  Each player scores 1 point for each Simpsons Money bill and Junk Food token they collected, 3 points for each of that players character-card still face up, and if any player is located anywhere in the bottom row of the board at the end of the game, they add 5 points to their final score.  The player with the lowest score wins!

CONCLUSION:  Loser Takes All is a pretty mediocre game, very cut and dry, simple, by the books board game for the most part.  It takes no risks and no solid mechanics from its theme.  There are 2 things which really stand out, however.  Being able to move any direction on the board is intriguing, and makes for some possibly interesting strategy, if there was any real strategy here.  The other is the questions.  This could be a decent ice-breaker game at a Con or a get together with a new group.  But these alone can't save the game from being a pretty generic, non-Simpsony Simpsons game.  Try it out if you'd like, but there are more interesting Ice-Breaker games, and more interesting games in general.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tic Tac Chess (Tak: A Beautiful Game)

Chess, Shogi, Go, Stratego, all games that predate the 20th century, and have established their place in the world as strong, deep games with long lasting replayability.  However, what would require a new game like these to come into this world, one that makes people stop and think, "This game is a lot more complex than I first thought"?  We will find out the answer to this question together in Tak: A Beautiful Game.

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Tak is a 2 player board game published by Cheapass Games, originally concieved by Pat Rothfuss in "The Wise Man's Fear", and created by James Earnest.  Players take turns creating roads and walls using simple pieces.

SET-UP:  First, determine the size of the board used, from 3x3 to 6x6, and 8x8.  Take the appropriate number of pieces, or Stones. Capstones are used only in boards 5x5 or larger.  Finally, choose a player to start at random.  That player takes 1 of their opponents pieces and places it.  The 2nd player does the same to the 1st player.

STONES:  The object of the game is to create a road from one side of the board to the other.  Players take turns doing one of two actions: Place or Move.  A player may place any Stone on any empty location on the board.  If the Stone is flat, it is part of a road.  If it is standing, it is a Wall.  Walls cannot be stacked on, do not count as part of a road, but may move.

MOVE:  Instead of placing, a player may instead move any Stone or stack of Stones 1 row horizontally or vertically onto a flat stone or an empty space, and continue moving down that row as long as the player leaves at least one stone along each space.  There is no limit to how tall the stack may be, but a player may only move a stack if their colored stone is on top, and only up to a number of pieces equal to the size of the board (in a 3x3 game, a player may move 3 stones maximum).

CAPSTONES:  In larger games, Capstones may also be used.  Capstones may be placed onto any empty space, just like ordinary stones. They may count as part of the road, and may not be stacked on.  A Capstone may move onto a Wall, and turn that Wall into a Road.  However, the Capstone must move alone to convert a Wall into a Road.

WINNING:  There are two ways to end a game.  The first is if either player creates an unbroken path using no diagonals from any end of the board to the other, that player wins.  The second ending is if either players run out of pieces, in which case the last player who played ends their turn, and the other player wins.

CONCLUSION:  As many might be aware, Tak was adapted from a novel, The Wise Man's Fear, as an equivalent to older games like Chess and Go.  It is my opinion that this game surpasses that expectation.  It feels like a game that would be re-discovered in modern times.  But as a game, it is simple in theory, deeply complex in practice.  Every move has you thinking about varying possibilities.  Honestly, I would love to see technology advance to a point where computers can play this exceptionally well.  If you love games like Chess, but maybe found it a bit hard to remember all the pieces movements, or you just want a change, I recommend this game heartily.

AFTERTHOUGHTS:  2 Afterthoughts this week.  First, I was introduced to this game by my neighbor, and it would go amiss if I did not properly cite him.  Thank you Steve Johnson.  And if you are ever passing through Cedar City, Utah, feel free to check out his new store Noggin Games.  2nd, thank you to @robespierrette for a pointing out a couple rules I got wrong or failed to notice.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Sleepin' With the Fishes (Family Business)

So, ya wanna join our family, eh?  It's gonna take a lot more than a nice suit and a tough-guy attitude.  Ya gotta trim the fat, let go of those who can't support the family.  But ya gotta protect the Family's reputation, and make sure none of 'em go down.  It's just Family Business, see?

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Family Business is a card game published by Mayfair Games for 2-6 players.  Each player controls a Mafia Family using their influence in the law in order to keep their Family alive while eliminating the other families.

SET-UP:  Each player places their Family cards face-up in front, and is dealt 5 cards face-down for their hand, and must keep 5 cards in their hand.  Leave the box lid face-up, an empty space next to it at least 5 cards long.  Dealer starts the game.

TURNS:  On their turn, a player first draws a card, and either plays a card or discards by announcing "Pass".  There are 3 cards you can play.  An Attack card has a red border, and can be used to either place a Family Member card in the Hit List, or start a Mob War.  Green bordered Rescue cards can be used to remove or replace a Family Member from the Hit List back to the player, or end a Mob War.  Blue border cards are Counters, and can be used to prevent various cards.  If a Counter card is played, the player then takes the next turn.

MOB WAR:  If there are ever 6 or more Family Members in the list, or 6 or fewer Family Members in play, a Mob War starts.  At the end of each turn during a Mob War, Kill the Family Member at the front of the list, closest to the lid, by placing them in the lid to the RIP side.

WINNING:  Once all of a players' Family Members are Killed, the player is eliminated, and discards all their cards. Once only 1 player has a Family Member left in play, either in the Hit List or in front of the player, that player wins.

CONCLUSION:  Family Business is a lot of fun, and plays in a simple, easy to learn way.  However, it is just as cutthroat as you would expect from a Mafia game.  This is a game you'll want to play with close friends, or are willing to just accept defeat from other players. There's not much to say other than it's simple, pretty quick, and a lot of fun.