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.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

It's Still Good, It's Still Good (5 Second Rule)

It's your turn in the Hot Seat, Brian.  The crowd is all looking at you, and the clock is ticking.  How could 5 seconds take this long?  You can't name 3 types of pasta.  Sure, Spaghetti was easy, and you just ate Penne last night, so that was nice.  3 seconds, you're stuck.  2, and you decide to go for the big biscuit risk.  1, and you shout out "Macaroni!"  And THUNK, time is up.'s good!  You have successfully scored a point in 5 Second Rule!  If only this was a game show.

GAME DESCRIPTION:  5 Second Rule is a high speed card game published by  Broadway Toys LTD for 3 or more players.  Players take turns trying to list a certain amount of objects before time runs out.

SET-UP:  Set the 5 Second timer in the middle, next to the card box in easy reach of everyone.  Determine the amount of rounds each player gets.  For larger groups, the recommendation is 2 or 3 rounds for each player, but you may go longer.

HOT SEAT:  The first player in the "Hot Seat", which is generally the owner, begins the game.  The player left of the Hot Seat reads the card. All cards require the Hot Seat player to name 3 specific types of things, like Soups or Months.  Once the card is read, flip the timer, and the Hot Seat player begins to list things.  Wrong or false answers cost nothing but time, so it's good to make sure you're right.  Any unsure answers are determined by all the players.

SCORING:  If the player manages to guess 3 things correctly, they are given 1 point, indicated by placing the card in front of the player. The player to the right is in the Hot Seat.  However, if they guess wrong, the next player has that same category, but cannot use any words the previous player(s) have already said.  If every player has attempted the clue, and it returns to the original Hot Seat player, they automatically get the point, and a new clue is read to the next player.

WINNING:  Once all the players have gone through the rounds, the player with the highest score wins.  In the event of a tie, all tied players have one more round, with the oldest being the first player in the Hot Seat.  The first player to score that point wins.

CONCLUSION:  5 Second Rule's name is indicative of the style of game you're going to expect; it's loud, it's quick, and it's deceptively difficult.  It can be a lot harder to name 3 kinds of picnic foods than you'd expect, and famous people with specific names?  Good luck with that one.  Such as Snake Oil or Last Word, this is more of an ice-breaker game, or a party game with a group you don't know well, or just something to chill with in between more complex games.  Still, it has it's charm, and can still be fun not knowing how other people are going to guess.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Based on a Fake Product (Snake Oil)

Say, son, you look mighty down in the dumps.  Well, Doc Connor can cure what ails ya.  If you be pirate, caveman, or ninja, look no further than Doc Connor Miracle Snake Oil.  Don't you believe those naysayers, this Snake Oil is top of the line, honest-to-goodness guaranteed to bring your mood from down in the dumps to up to cloud nine.  Buy 2, get 1 free!  It's Doc Connor's Miracle Snake Oil, good to last 50 years on your shelf, but you'll never see it there that long!

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Snake Oil is a card game published by Hasbro and Snake Oil, LLC. for 3 to 10 players.  The game consists of pitching "real" products to various players and attempting for their product to be the most convincing to buy.

SET-UP:  Each player is dealt a hand of 6 cards.  Then, select a player to be the customer this round.  That player draws a green Customer card, and chooses from the front or back which character they are playing this turn.

SELLING:  Once the Customer has been chosen, players take 2 words from their hand to make a product that the Customer would find helpful or compelling to buy.  Players may pitch in any order, but all players must pitch something.  If any pitch takes longer than 30 seconds, the Customer may cut them short.

WINNING:  Once all pitches are made, the Customer chooses the best product, and gives the winning player the Customer card.  The next player to the left of the first Customer becomes the Customer for the next round, and game continues until everyone has become the Customer once.  The winner is the player with the most Customer cards.  In case of a tie, a non-tied player is the Customer, and only the tied players play one more round.

CONCLUSION:  Snake Oil is a party game like Apples to Apples, Joking Hazard, or Cards Against Humanity.  The biggest difference for Snake Oil is that the players always know who the other players are.  This, however, never proves to be a problem unlike the other games, as personality and wit are just as important here as in the other games, they're just used differently.  If your group tends to be the kind that plays "optimally", with every person scoring evenly and fairly, this might be a pass.  But, if you are someone who loves these types of games, Snake Oil definitely has the right charm for you. Just, maybe play longer than one round with a small group.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Earth, the Final Frontier (Naturally Disastrous)

Game provided free by publisher
For years, man has attempted to contact the stars, to see if there was truly life on others planets.  Well, no one figured that life would be so far away, nor that when we could reach them, we'd have wrecked our own planet, allowing those from other worlds to scavenge our planet.  It's more than a natural disaster or alien invasion we need to contend with, it's both.  Time runs out, and it becomes Naturally Disastrous. 

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Naturally Disastrous is a tile based board game published by Silver Lake Games for 1-6 players.  Players are aliens who have crash landed on a disaster riddled earth, and must attempt to contact their mother ship.

SET-UP:  Shuffle the large map tiles, arranged 3 by 3.  Take the 4 Communicator Arrays and shuffle them face-down with 11 of the Discoverable Item tokens.  Starting with the owner, each player takes 1 alien, and rolls the 10 & 8 sided die, or D10 & D8, to place all the Item tokens face-down, and their alien character figures.   The "Natives", (Guard, Secret Agent, Mad Scientist, and Sniper) go into their appropriate places.  Then, choose a player to start.

DISASTERS:  The players turn begins with a Naturally Disasterous action.  The player rolls the D10, then applies the appropriate effect.  These can be anything from flooding, earthquakes, volcanoes, to giving any character a movement, to being moved or potentially taking damage.  Note that no player may ever move onto a tile with an Earthquake counter.

NATIVES:  Once the Disasters apply, the Natives then apply their Aggressive Action, their Move, or Rest if they are Knocked Out, or KO.  All Natives are KO if they take any damage.

  • The Sniper shoots and deals 1 wound to any Alien 2 non-diagonal spaces away.  If there are no Aliens to shoot, he moves to the nearest Alien.
  • The Secret Agent moves to the nearest Item Token, and moves with it to the Vault. 
  • The Mad Scientist moves to the nearest Alien, and suffers 1 wound when on a space with an Alien.  When he is on a space with a Alien that was KO for any reason, that player flips their board over and is now Mutated. 
  • The Guard does not move, but remains on the Vault.  Instead, if an Alien lands on the Vault, they must skirmish with all Natives or Mutated Aliens there, with the Guard being last.  If the Guard is KO, he doesn't recover until all Aliens are off or a Native lands onto the Vault, in which case he recovers immediately. 
MUTATION:  When a player becomes Mutated, their goals change.  They now lose their regular turn, and only gain one Action immediately either before or after the Mad Scientist does.  They may now Skirmish, i.e. attack any Alien, and conduct their action according to their card.

ALIEN:  After the Disasters and the Natives move, the player may take their turn.  The Alien may conduct up to 3 actions per turn, and may follow any action according to their card.  These actions allow the Alien to move, attack, reveal or pick up items beneath them, rest to heal 1 wound or recover from being KO, or conduct their special action.  If an Alien is KO, they must Rest to heal 1 wound.

SKIRMISH:  Whenever an Alien lands on a space with either a Native or a Mutated Alien, a Skirmish occurs.  The player to the right conducts the Skirmish for Natives.  Roll the D8 for Aliens, and the D10 for Mutated Aliens and Natives.  If the Alien landed on the space, they get +3 to their roll, otherwise the results are shown on the die.  The lowest number suffers 1 wound, and a tie inflicts 1 wound to both parties.  Then, after the Alien has inflicted or suffered 1 wound, and is not KO, they may fight again, or retreat to an adjacent square.

Art by Gil Geolingo

ENDING:  Players win when all 4 Communicator Arrays are discovered and placed face-up on the 4 farthest corners of the map.  Players can also lose by not being able to place anymore of any kind of Disaster Tokens, or if the Vault contains more than half of the Discoverable Items.  If a player is Mutated, the Mutated Aliens win when everyone else loses, and loses when everyone else wins.

CONCLUSION:  Naturally Disastrous is a good indicator of the level of difficulty you will experience.  Yet, just like in Forbidden Island, this can be a good thing.  As a co-operative game, you want to have a level of challenge from the game.  Too easy, and it's boring.  Too hard, and it's frustrating and not compelling to come back to.  I can say that Naturally Disastrous never felt like my losses were unfair or unbalanced, they generally felt like my fault.  The Aliens could be a little more memorable in their design, but the art for the rest of the game is pretty good.  If you like a good challenge and a perchance for Player vs the Game, you may want to keep this one in mind.

AFTERTHOUGHTS:  Now, normally I don't like to review the physical aspects of a game, but this does bear mentioning.  First off, the instructions.  While the instructions themselves are well thought out and explained, there are two problems I have with them.  First, the formatting makes it hard to read through and pick out what I need when I need it immediately.  Second, the Lightning Storm and Gas Pocket Disaster are flipped then what is indicated on the board.  My advice, follow the rules.
The second thing is that my review copy did come incorrect.  I received a copy to review along with my local game store.  I did not receive Natives, but instead different characters, while he received his store copies correctly.  Fortunately, I was able to contact the creator and get it fixed immediately.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

See? Saw! (Kilter)

Ah, to be a child again.  Climbing on the jungle gym, swinging on the aptly named swing sets, and sliding for hours on end at the school's playground.  There was nothing quite like it.  The best, however, was the seesaw.  Up, and down.  It fascinated the little mind, how could just a simple piece of wood and a block on the bottom make such a neat toy?  But, as you got bigger, it became simpler, easier to understand, and age threw life into a Kilter, one most struggle to overcome.

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Kilter, also known as KIPP X outside of the US, is a dexterity based game for 2-4 players published by SimplyFun. Players attempt to place cubes of various sizes onto a 4 armed seesaw without knocking any others off.

SET-UP:  If there are 3 or 4 players, each player gets 3 large Red Cubes, 4 Blue Cubes, 5 Yellow Cubes, and 6 small Green Cubes. If there are only 2 players, both players get 4 Red Cubes, 6 Blue Cubes, 8 Yellow Cubes, and 10 Green Cubes.  Place the Seesaw in the center, where everyone can reach.

PLACEMENT:  Each turn, a players places Cubes onto any arm of the Seesaw that is not touching the ground.  Players may only place 1 Cube at a time, but they continue placing cubes on their turn until either that arm falls to the ground, or any amount of Cubes are knocked off.  That player then takes any Cubes not on the seesaw, and the next player goes.  Cubes may be stacked on top of any other Cubes.

WINNING:  Once a player has finished placing all of their Cubes both from their starting pile, and any knocked over, that person is wins.

CONCLUSION:  Kilter is pretty unique in the tabletop and board game world.  With most games relying on pawns or dice or cards, Kilter has you rely on your dexterity and placement skills.  The most obvious comparison would be something like Jenga, and it's pretty clear why.  This is a solid game, with clean, simple rules and ease of access to understand.  Anyone can pick it up and learn it, and most people should.  Kilter is simply fun.