Monday, November 30, 2009

Heroscape For Beginners (and Robo)

I received a very kind comment from Robo (another gamer dad) about Attacktix and A&A Minis (haven't tried those - with all of the systems I currently collect, a collectible minis game would be like putting a black hole directly into my wallet)... and about his plans to get into Heroscape this next year.

Well, as someone who has been into Heroscape from the beginning, I figured I would suggest a potential order of acquisition and a pair of hints about being sucked into this obsession. We'll start with the hints...
  • First, all the signs are good for continued support of the game & system by Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro... with a new Master Set coming out early next year and two more waves of figures definite, you should be able to feed your addiction for a long time to come.
  • Second, you need to know two web addresses: Heroscapers.com (a fan-run site... they have the most extensive collection of commentary, rulings, variants & maps for Heroscape out there) and Heroscape.com (the official site of the game).
OK, with those out of the way, let's get to the buying! Heroscape has been packaged in (primarily) three different formats:
  • Master Sets (which contain a decent amount of terrain as well as a variety of figures)
  • Large Expansion Sets (which focus on larger figures or specialized terrain)
  • Waves (which are sets of 4 figure packs, sometimes tied together thematically)

There are 3 Master Sets:

  • Rise of the Valkryie - this was the first set & probably the most important one for you to own. It contains a CHUNK of terrain as well as an interesting mix of characters.
  • Swarm of the Marro - this was the second set... it's not as vital as Rise (#1) but still has some good stuff in it - not the least of which is the amazing Marro Hive. This would be my second purchase if I was jumping into the game.
  • Marvel Heroscape - unless you want to play Heroscape with Marvel characters, I don't recommend this set. There is very little terrain & the villians vs heroes battles don't have much oomph to them - their range & movement is such that there's nowhere to hide and you just end up dicing it out. (Note: my son & I had a great time fighting a monster battle of Marvels vs Heroscapes... but that's not quite the same thing.) It doesn't look like they will be doing a 2nd Marvel set, either - sigh.

There is a fourth Master set on the way - Battle for the Underdark - which is tied to the current D&D universe but will be fully compatible with Heroscape. (Word on the street is that the next two Waves will also be D&D connected.) I don't mind as long as support for the game continues - bring on the Dora the Explorer & Diego Heroscape figs if that will keep it going!

There are 8 Large Expansion Sets... we'll start with the three that contain large characters: Orm's Return, Raknar's Vision & Acquilla Alliance. The reason I don't break them out is that they all contain 5 large figures (some of them 2 space figures) and are roughly equal in value. If you feel a need to give every faction (Heroscape divides the different characters into six different factions) a dragon (or dragon-ish) mini, then you'll want all three of these. I wouldn't start by buying these... but part of the joy of Heroscape is playing with the big figures against squads of smaller figs.

The 5 Large Expansion Sets that are terrain-based are:

  • Road to the Forgotten Forest - this one has trees, roads & a bridge. You need at least one if not two of these.
  • Volcarren Wasteland - this one adds lava & volcanic rock... and while it's nice to look at, we haven't found much use for it in game terms. Don't worry about getting this one.
  • Thaelenk Tundra - this one adds snow & ice & some cool-looking "glacier" pieces... I have one of these & wish I had two.
  • Fortress of the Archkyrie - this one gives you a bunch of pieces to build a castle with... one of these is nice (two would be better) but I'd put this farther down my list after getting more characters/squads.
  • Ticalla Jungle - this one adds palm trees & jungle bushes... I bought two and have used them a good bit, as they add some interesting cover issues to the game.

To sum up, you need at least one of Forgotten Forest, Tundra & Jungle... with plans to get Fortress & more terrain down the line.

Now we move onto the Waves... since each wave has 4 packs, I'll try to specify which ones I like & don't like in each set, then give you a buy/don't bother list at the end. Also, each Wave has at least one pack of "heroes" (individual figures) which is pretty much a guaranteed buy each time.

  • Wave One (Malliddon's Prophecy) - All three of the squad packs (Snipers/Vipers, Orc Gruts & Romans) work better if you have two of each pack. (Hey - no one said that this was going to be a cheap obsession, right?!)
  • Wave Two (Utgar's Rage) - the Minions of Utgar aren't all that great... and the Marro Drones that they're packaged w/really need 3 sets (seriously!) to be worth using, so you can wait on that pack. The other two packs are good to go out of the box (Swog Rider/Knights and Wolves/Massachusets Line).
  • Wave Three (Jandar's Oath) - the biggest problem here is that the Gorillanators (how cool are heavily armed gorillas!?) don't really shine until the addition of the Nakita Agents in Wave 6. Otherwise, a fine set of squad packs.
  • Wave Four (Zanafor's Discovery) - there were two packs of heroes this time... and another group (the Gladiatrons) who need a pack from another Wave (the Blastatrons from Wave 5) to work well. The Arnoc Vipers are cool but are paired with the Sacred Band - sigh. I'd buy the hero packs & wait on the squads here.
  • Wave Five (Thora's Vengeance) - a solid set of squads & heroes... we don't use the gladiators much, but they look really good.
  • Wave Six (Dawn of Darkness) - Zombies are here... and you may want two of them. (Can't skimp on the zombies, right?!) You don't need two of anything else... but this could well be one of my favorite waves.
  • Wave Seven (Fields of Valor) - The Ashigaru Spearman & Yari need Kato Katsuro (a hero from Wave 8) to work well... but are very effective with him. The Vampire clan (found in one squad pack + the hero pack) is fun to play with. I love the Templar Cavalry, but their use has to be confined to certain boards with large open spaces.
  • Wave Eight (Defenders of Kinsland) - Finally the Elves become a group worth putting together, thanks to the addition of a number of elf heroes... but overall you need to purchase Waves 7 & 8 together.
  • Wave Nine (Blackmoon Siege) - a great wave - I wouldn't miss out on any of these packs.
  • Wave Ten (Valkrill's Gambit) - the Heroes of Renown pack has two heroes & one squad that were only available through cons and/or special purchase previously - and the Warriors of Feldspar are repaints of the Yeti & Lava guys to make them (respectively) Sasquatch & Granite guys. The other two packs are reprints of earlier packs that are hard to find.

Finally, there are two figures that were released only at the summer conventions (Master Win Choo & Agent Skahen) that are difficult/impossible to find. There were also five "flagbearers" sold in individual boxes (along with a bag of faction dice) through Toys-R-Expensive that are now out of print. None of these are essential, though I will admit that the faction dice are pretty cool.

So, to sum up your buying list (with pricing & links from Wargamers HQ, who have done a great job in the past for me):

  1. Buy Rise of the Valkryie ($30)
  2. Buy Swarm of the Marro ($30)
  3. Buy at least one Road to the Forgotten Forest ($18)

You've now spent roughly $70 and you've got enough to play a number of very enjoyable games of Heroscape. From there, do your reading (see the links above) and buy more terrain & figures. Anticipate tossing down $40 every 8 months or so for the newest wave or expansion.

And have fun!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Habalicious: The "Experts" Chime In

Well, it's the Christmas shopping season & I know that regular readers of my blog realize that I will personally egg the houses of those folks who give their children Candyland or Chutes & Ladders for Christmas. So I thought I'd recommend some great Haba games for you to purchase.

Then I decided you've probably heard enough from me about kid games over the last 18 months... and the plan to bring in some guest experts was born!

Expert #1 is Braeden Jackson... my first born son. He had four years before his brother arrived in the world (plus a couple of years while Collin was too small to game) to be indoctrinated into the world of gaming. His tastes at eight and a half years run to Pandemic, Battle Masters, Star Wars: Epic Duels, Battle Ball, Heroscape & Battlelore. (Are you detecting a theme?)

What follows are his Top Ten Haba Games, complete with comments about what he likes best about the games. (The games w/links lead you to maukilo.com, who has an excellent selection of Haba games)
  1. Casino Hot Dog - "The poop chip!"
  2. Hungry Wolves - "Awesome... making noises & running around the table."
  3. Turtle Twiddle - "The soccer game is my favorite."
  4. Fleet Fins - "I like the SPEED."
  5. At Full Throttle - "Very quick."
  6. Castle Knights - "The pictures are funny."
  7. Tolle Torte - "It's almost exactly like Fleet Fins except the stuff is moving."
  8. The Suitcase Detectives - "I like being the crook & hiding the stuff."
  9. Maus nach haus (Hula Hippos) - "The aim & luck part..."
  10. Karambolage - "I like the aiming." (He's actually pretty good at this.)
Expert #2, Collin Jackson, is 4 years old. He wants to play the same games his big brother does... but his attention span is a bit shorter (read: normal). His imagination runs wild - he loves to get out games & use the pieces to make up stories. His favorite new game is Can You See What I See?

What follows are his Top Ten Haba Games, complete with comments about what he likes best about the games.
  1. Drops & Co. - "I like that you have to get rid of all the candy."
  2. Maus nach Haus - "I like that there is a hippo one now."
  3. Fleet Fins - "I like that there's really scary teeth guys on the fish."
  4. Marrakesh - "I like that it's really fun & really, really want to get the spices."
  5. Cheese Snatching - "I like it because you're the same guy running away from the cat. You don't get any cheese if he catches you."
  6. Chicken Squabble - "I really like to win because I won last night."
  7. Animal Upon Animal - "I like the new animals (in the expansion) - they are all good."
  8. Orchard: the Card Game - "I really like that you don't want the raven... you really want fruit."
  9. Charly at the Zoo - "I really like that he gets to sleep but I don't win very much."
  10. Little Thunder Witch - "I really would like to win."
You may have noticed that the only repeated game (Fleet Fins) is now out of print... sigh. It's not impossible to find, though... I tracked down a copy this morning at FunAgain Games. Maus nach haus is published in the USA by Gamewright as Hula Hippos. Karambolage is supposed to be coming back in at Fair Play Games. Marrakesh is tougher to locate... but Game Surplus comes through again!

Drops & Co. and Tolle Torte, OTOH, are both OOP and very difficult to locate. Good luck!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Prayer

This is from the liturgy at the Easton Community Thanksgiving Service... my church is incredibly not liturgical (the whole written prayer is so NOT Baptist) but this was incredibly meaningful to me. (I meant to post this yesterday but the activities of the day got in the way.)

O God, when we have food, help us to remember the hungry. When we have work, help us to remember the jobless. When we have a home, help us to remember those who have no home at all. When we are without pain, help us to remember those who suffer. And remembering, help us to destroy our complacency, bestir our compassion, and be concerned enough to help. Remind us, at all times, that all we have is a gift from You to be used for Your glory. Guide us to attend to Your children who cry out for what we take for granted.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Golden Geek Awards 2009: Fluff Daddy Does Commentary

The Golden Geek Awards were just announced last weekend during BGG.con... these are "game of the year" awards voted on by the folks who frequent Board Game Geek. What follows is my commentary on the awards (and some of the nominees).

Game of the Year and Card Game:
Dominion
  • A very interesting deck-building card game that frankly lost a lot of points with me for how long it takes to set up & put away (sorting & re-sorting cards) and for the constant shuffling that really requires you spend a small fortune to put plastic card sleeves on the game. That said, Dominion is a BLAST to play online where the computer does the set-up, shuffling & score-keeping for you.
  • For Card Game, I'd probably have chosen Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm or Witch's Brew. For Game of the Year, I'd have to go with Pandemic.

Gamer's Game: Le Havre

  • This probably violates some kind of Geek law... but I haven't played Le Havre yet. I'm not against the game, or the theme... and I'm a huge fan of the designer. I just look at it set up at various cons & game nights and think to myself, "I'm not sure I want to get into that."
  • Of the nominees, I'd much prefered to see Endeavor or Space Alert win. (And don't give me any grief about Space Alert not being a "gamer's game" - YOU try teaching it to a bunch of non-gamers.)

Family Game: Pandemic

  • In a category filled with great games, it's nice to see them pick the one that is original, fun & appealing to a wide variety of folks. Pandemic is great - and made even better by the addition of the expansion, Pandemic: On The Brink... which won Best Expansion, naturally.
  • If Pandemic was put on the injured reserve list & couldn't play, I'd go with Fast Flowing Forest Fellers or Snow Tails - both splendid racing games.

2-Player Game and Best Artwork & Presentation: Space Hulk (3rd Edition)

  • A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I owned Space Hulk (the 1st edition) and played it. A lot. I never painted the minis (discretion is the better part of valor and/or I flunked out of kindergarden art) but that didn't lessen the fun we had with it. Eventually, though, the amount of cash I could score by selling it & the one expansion I had (about $400) outweighed how little I was playing it, and it went bye-bye thanks to eBay. Can't ever see myself plunking down $100 to own it again... esp. since one of the guys in my group so kindly opened his wallet and purchased it (thanks, Will!).
  • My dark horse (in other words: NOT going to win) favorite for 2 player games was Shanghaien... and as pretty as Space Hulk is (or can be in the right hands), Dixit or Tales of the Arabian Nights are much more stunning straight out of the box. (For that matter, Timber Tom is breathtaking, but never got a wide enough release to be considered.)

Wargame: Combat Commander: Pacific

  • I used to be a pretty serious wargamer back in the day (Squad Leader, Wooden Ships & Iron Men, Third Reich, Air Assault on Crete, etc.) but those days are pretty far gone. That said, I think is probably a pretty good pick and I'm looking forward to one of the guys in my group who's a major GMT nut (hi, Mike!) teaching me the system.
  • The games I've played from the nominees aren't "wargames" in the strictest sense of the term. However, I voted for Small World here because I really do enjoy it.

Party Game: Time's Up! Deluxe

  • I know it's considered cool in some circles now to trash R&R Games and Peter Sarrett for releasing a commercial version of the public domain game, Celebrities. I will not join in - because Peter took a good game and made it great by not simply picking an interesting set of names but also by tweaking the deck so that similar names/occupations/backgrounds appear... thus making for sweet, sweet confusion & much fun. Time's Up is "da bomb."
  • The nomination list for this category was as if the collective minds of the Geek had been smoking dope: Two thirds of the list aren't even really party games! Of the ones that actually are "party" games, I was partial to Dixit. (Hint: a game isn't a party game just because it can seat 6-8 players.)

Children's Game: Sorry! Sliders

  • I really like Sorry! Sliders (played it this weekend, in fact) but I've become concerned that the scoring system coupled with the "death corners" means that the game can completely bog down if you're playing defensively.
  • Just because gamer kids from gamer families can play the game does NOT make it a children's game: Aquaretto, Dixit, FITS, and Pack & Stack all spring to mind. I think the hands-down winner should have been Fluch der Mumie (noting that I haven't yet been able to try Das Magische Labyrinth or Zoowaboo.)

Print & Play: Dune Express

  • Commenting on this one is pretty well pointless, as I seldom play Print'n'Play games. I have not played Dune Express.
  • The one I wanted to win was Roll Through The Ages: The Late Bronze Age, which is an excellent PnP expansion for a great dice game.

Innovative: Space Alert

  • A real-time cooperative game with enough soundtracks to keep it replayable that morphs the whole Robo-Rally programmed movement mechanic into a Keystone Kops-like ballet of death on a slow-moving recon spaceship... yep, Space Alert deserves this award.
  • Other notable games that could have won if Space Alert was sucked into a black hole include Pandemic, Powerboats, Roll Through The Ages & Timber Tom. (Tales of the Arabian Nights was innovative 24 years ago, thanks.)

Queen: A Night At The Television Set

Thanks to Chris Lohroff for pointing this out. It's an act of sheer genius, on par with this...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Kid Game Reviews: Animal Upon Animal: The Duel

Animal Upon Animal - The Duel
  • designer: Klaus Miltenberger & Udo Peise
  • publisher: Haba
  • date: 2008
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/6.04
  • age: 5+
  • # of players: 2
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $12.59 (maukilo.com)
I first saw Animal Upon Animal being played at Kublacon (a gaming convention in the San Francisco area) by four very excited adults... and over the next 10 minutes or so, the game (and the exuberant players) attracted a crowd of people. It would have #101 on the Kid Games 100... and if I were to re-do the list today, it would probably be there.

Animal Upon Animal - The Duel is a two-player version of the aforementioned Animal Upon Animal... with some similarities & some significant changes. First, the similarities:
  • cool wooden animal pieces... this time around it's an octopus, a goose, a lioness & a squirrel.
  • they're both stacking games
  • all players have an identical set of pieces to begin the game
  • dice determine how to place the pieces
  • they're made by Haba (ok, that one's painfully obvious)

And the differences:

  • The Duel is a race game - the two players both build in real-time, seeing which one can complete their assignment first.
  • the big alligator is AWOL - you simply use any flat surface (which makes this a great restaurant game)
  • there are two dice (of different sizes) rather than one

Game play is very simple - each player rolls one of the dice. The big die shows what animal has to go on the bottom of the stack & the small die shows which animal goes on the top. Question marks are "wild cards" (so to speak) and matching dice mean you can put the indicated animal at the top or the bottom.

As soon as the objective is clear, players begin building as fast as they can. No animal can touch more than 2 other animals & (just like the original game) they must be on their narrow sides. The first one to finish gets a gold coin (aka "wooden token"). The first player to accumulate 3 gold coins wins the game.

The stacking is trickier than with the original game - the octopus in particular can be difficult to get into position. And, of course, some combos are harder than others... it all depends on the dice.

I think the age number from Haba will work fine on a kid vs. kid level - but more than the original game, this game will reward better fine motor skills (aka "age"). When playing with adults, you could easily handicap it by requiring the older player to get more coins in order to win.

A number of folks over on Boardgamegeek have bought two copies of this to act as "Animal Upon Animal - The Expansion"... which is very cool if not a little pricey. Jeff Goris made some really good suggestions on how to use a single copy to expand the game in a discussion over there that is worth reading.

Do I like The Duel more/better than the original game? No. Have we had fun with it & am I glad I own it? Yes.

Visual Learners

At some point in my education (probably seminary), I was given WAY too much information about learning styles. Some of us are "reading-writing preference learners" (that would be me, btw); other are "tactile" or "kinesthetic learners" (that would be my wife.) A few are "auditory learners" (probably no one in my congregation, he sez grinning) and finally there are the "visual learners." (With this paragraph, I'm reminded of Craig Ferguson's wee "Scottish finger rabbits" - if anyone can give us a link to the clip, I'd love to find it.)

For the visual learners in the audience, here are a couple of websites I've happened upon recently.

Cake Wrecks came up thanks to a conversation at a party on Saturday night (Happy Birthday once again, Lydia - 30 is the new 29!) which started being about spell-checking emails, then morphed into the TV shows ACE OF CAKES and CAKE BOSS... and finally led us to this completely gonzo website/blog. Be warned, some of the humor is a adult-edged... but the just plain WRONG things that are done in the name of cake decorating are absolutely hysterical.

A good place to start is
Cupcake Cakes: Always Wrecktastic. Always. From there, you can move on to the right-hand sidebar menu, which contains a list of fan favorites & "classic" posts, including the pictured Naked Mohawk-Baby Carrot Jockeys, I Want Sprinkles, and The First Censored Cake Wreck. The last of these is wrong on SO many levels that it must be seen to be believed.

I heard about My Parents Were Awesome on NPR a few weeks ago... and instead of being a fount of laughter (for that, go directly to Cake Wrecks; do not pass Go; do not collect $200), it's a sweet trip down memory lane. I find myself looking at the pictures and wondering about the stories behind them.

Basically, the creator of the website just has folks sending pictures (and stories) about their parents when they were young. As he says, "Before the fanny packs and Andrea Bocelli concerts, your parents (and grandparents) were once free-wheeling, fashion-forward, and super awesome." It's nifty stuff.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Translation Party! - The Game Quiz (Answers)

If you want to play, go to the original post before reading the answers.

Translation Party! Game Quiz (Answers)
  1. Get - ACQUIRE
  2. Bad touch - A TOUCH OF EVIL
  3. Hooks and crooks - BY HOOK OR BY CROOK
  4. Manic Channel - CANAL MANIA
  5. Chikinchachacha - CHICKEN CHA CHA CHA
  6. Cause of the Universe - COSMIC ENCOUNTER
  7. Drop: Dark Tour - DESCENT: JOURNEYS IN THE DARK
  8. Banihamu the needs of the Devil - DEVIL BUNNY NEEDS A HAM
  9. Foreign - DIPLOMACY
  10. Town dying - DICE TOWN
  11. Control: conspiracy - DOMINION: INTRIGUE
  12. Erugurande - EL GRANDE
  13. Social - HIGH SOCIETY
  14. Hyundai - MODERN ART
  15. Mutation: Castle Siege - MUTANT CHRONICLES: SIEGE OF THE CITADEL
  16. The plot of the Queen - QUEEN'S GAMBIT
  17. Gyarakushiresu - RACE FOR THE GALAXY
  18. Role, through the Middle Ages - ROLL THROUGH THE AGES
  19. Snow Fairy - SNOW TAILS
  20. Warning capacity - SPACE ALERT
  21. Neolithic - STONE AGE
  22. Iron flow - TIDE OF IRON
  23. The Night of Power - TWILIGHT IMPERIUM
  24. Crucible - WITCH OF SALEM
  25. Bet wisdom - WITS AND WAGERS

Friday, November 20, 2009

Viva Buymoria

Not only is CHUCK coming back early (January 10th!) but NBC has ordered 6 more episodes (for a total of 19). For more details, check out the video below and The Ausiello Files blog over on Entertainment Weekly's website.

I could not be happier right now.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Translation Party! - The Game Quiz

Thanks to Wei-Hwa, I started playing around with Translation Party!... and came up with a way to entertain ourselves while all the BGG.con folks are gone.

Here's what he said about it:
For translation back-and-forth fun, http://translationparty.com/ is strangely addictive. You put in a phrase and it puts it back-and-forth into Google Translate to Japanese and back, until it "stabilizies."

I once put in a bunch of different quotes and created an "identify the original quotes" puzzle: http://onigame.livejournal.com/43395.html
I really liked his puzzle... and got inspired to create one of my own!

Translation Party! Game Quiz

Figure out the names of these "translated" games.
  1. Get
  2. Bad touch
  3. Hooks and crooks
  4. Manic Channel
  5. Chikinchachacha
  6. Cause of the Universe
  7. Drop: Dark Tour
  8. Banihamu the needs of the Devil
  9. Foreign
  10. Town dying
  11. Control: conspiracy
  12. Erugurande
  13. Social
  14. Hyundai
  15. Mutation: Castle Siege
  16. The plot of the Queen
  17. Gyarakushiresu
  18. Role, through the Middle Ages
  19. Snow Fairy
  20. Warning capacity
  21. Neolithic
  22. Iron flow
  23. The Night of Power
  24. Crucible
  25. Bet wisdom

Here's the clues:

  • The answers are in alphabetical order.
  • The really difficult one is NOT an obscure game.
  • There is one game that is listed by the least common name out of multiple editions... sorry.
  • The number of words is not necessarily equivalent to the number of words in the original game name.

I'll post the answers tomorrow in a separate thread. Good luck!

Kid Games Review: Hungry Wolves

Hungry Wolves (Würfelwölfe)
  • designer: Marco Teubner
  • publisher: Haba
  • date: 2009
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/7.50
  • age: 5+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $12.59 (maukilo.com)
One of my favorite Haba games from 2008 was the delightful push-your-luck dice game, Cheese Snatching, which was part of the "Bring-Along" line from Haba. ("Bring-Along" is Haba-ese for "small yellow box that's slightly larger than a paperback book.") So when I saw that Haba was doing another dice game, I was very excited.

Hungry Wolves isn't a push-your-luck game, however... it's a real-time race, complete with player making animal noises & rushing about the room like, well, hungry wolves. It's also an absolute blast to play.

Each player gets a single custom die & a wooden dog. The board is put together (it's a 4 piece puzzle - it's not daunting, ok? My 4 year old can do it) and the dogs are placed on the track at an equal distance from each other. (A nice touch from the folks at Haba: the board is double sided. One side is for 2 players & the other side is for 3-4 players.) The sheep counters are placed next to the board... or, if you're the Jackson family, they're placed on the sheep pictures on the board, because that's the way Collin likes it.

At an agreed-upon signal (you can yell "Go!" or shake your fists a la Rock/Paper/Scissors while saying "Woof! Woof! Woof!"), all the players begin rolling their dice & doing the appropriate action:
  • If a player rolls a dog, he says "Woof!" and moves his dog one space forward.
  • If a player rolls a sheep, he says "Baa!" and does not move.
  • If a player rolls a wolf, he runs around the table. (Or, if space is tight, he stands up & spins around.)

Players roll & do their various actions simultaneously... and as quickly as possible. There are no turns, per se... as fast as you can roll, make animal noises & do whatever you're supposed to do, you can roll again.

When one of the dogs catches up to another dog, the player yells "Stop!" and the round ends. The player who ended the round gets a sheep token and the game is reset for another round of controlled mayhem. The first player to get three sheep tokens wins the game.

It is as loud & crazy as you can imagine... and kids as young as 4 can easily join in the fun. What's unusual with Hungry Wolves is that it works as well with 2 players as it does with 3 or 4 - typically, raucous "run around the table" games don't work as well with smaller numbers of players.

As always, games like this come with the standard "don't play in a room full of collectible knickknacks or valuable electronics" warning. Of course, I think that's a feature, not a bug.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Kid Games Review: At Full Throttle

At Full Throttle
  • designer: Robert Fraga
  • publisher: Haba
  • date: 2009
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/6.43
  • age: 5+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $8.99 (maukilo.com)
Robert Fraga, the designer of At Full Throttle, is the Genius of Real-Time Gaming. He's the mad scientist behind Treasure, Ready, Go!, Dancing Eggs, Squad Seven & Trotofant. (For the non-gamers in the audience, "real time" games are those in which players are racing against each other simaltaneously. A common real-time game that a lot of non-gamers know is Double Solitaire, also known as Dutch Blitz or Ligretto.)

This time around, Mr. Fraga manages to wring an excellent little game from 14 cards, a color die & six tiny wooden cars. (There are actually 2 different fourteen card decks in the game - but you only use one at at time.) The colors on the die match the color of the six cars... and the pictures of the cars on each of the cards. Every card has 3 pairs of cars attached by squiggly lines that cross each other.

For each round, three cards (or more, if you're playing with the difficulty ramped up) are turned face up, then the color die is rolled. Starting on the leftmost card, players find the car that matches the color die & trace the line (mentally!) to the next car. Once they've found that car, they jump to the next card & trace the path from that car to the next car. Repeat that one more time... but when a player finds to the final car, he grabs the corresponding wooden car from the middle of the table.

The player who is correct gets one of the track cards to show that he has won a round... then you deal three new cards, roll the die & you're off to the races again. The first player to win three rounds wins the game.

Following a dashed line isn't difficult... or at least it shouldn't be difficult. But the time pressure & the competition conspire against my brain and I jump lines or mistake colors or just basically have a couple of synapses blow out, thus giving my son the opening he needs to beat me.

Once you've mastered the basic skills needed to play the game, you can move up to the second deck of cards, where the lines are MUCH more twisty. You can also play with longer races (more cards in the tableau).

The age recommendation (5+) seems spot on - my 4 year old thinks the cars look cool but otherwise doesn't enjoy this, while my 8 year old enjoys beating his old man and chortling about it. I especially like how portable it is - it's in a smaller box to start with & could easily be transferred to a baggie to make a great "waiting somewhere" game.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Origins Project

Ancient Text. Present Context. Future Textures.

“For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God…” (Acts 5:38-39 NIV)

Our Passions: Jesus, Humanity, and Innovation

  • Jesus: Jesus and the inspired Scriptures are our guide for everything we do.
  • Humanity: God's extreme love for people infuses this mission with urgency.
  • Innovation: Creativity will be normative for our mission.
First major Origins event - Los Angeles, July 22-24 2010
We have a date for our first major Origins event. It will be in Los Angeles on July 22-24, 2010. We will be announcing more details, but this will be an event that will be more of a festival than a "conference". It will have times of teaching, sharing, art, film, music, spoken word, poetry, think tanks, creating and dreaming together about the mission of Jesus and how we can be fully engaged in the world for the sake of others. We will be sharing more in the months ahead, but wanted to announce the date and place. (information from the Origins newsletter)
I've had the privilege over the years to know & learn from the folks & the churches at the heart of this community - and they mean what they say. I can't recommend connecting into this highly enough - check out The Origins Project.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Morning Download

Need to be working - have a sermon to write on generosity as well as small group curriculum to pick & leaders to recruit - but I need to download some random thoughts/observations from my brain to "clear the tracks" before any of that can happen.
  • I'm concerned that the whole Hidden Immunity Idol thing may have gone completely off the tracks (game-wise) on Survivor... but I can't argue that it's bad television. Thursday night's Tribal Council was a hoot & a half.
  • Don't want to spoil The Amazing Race for you - but travel & stress are not bringing out the best in Sam & Dave. This has been a great season, BTW - we're going into the final four with only one team (the aforementioned brothers) that I don't particularly like.
  • Speaking of the The Amazing Race, Linda Holmes (formerly known as "Miss Alli" over on TWOP) is recapping this season on her blog, Things What Things. (It's a "thank you" to folks who donated generously to an education website.) She is still the best recapper around.
  • My life is not just TV... though watching the Green Bay/Cowboys game did occupy a chunk of my time yesterday. Watching it also caused me to wonder if there was a rip in the fabric of time & space - the 2- 6 Titans smacked down the Bills while the 6-2 Cowboys rolled over & played dead for the Cheeseheads.
  • Braeden & I got in the next battle in our Battle Masters campaign. Braeden managed to finally kill my Ogre Champion, but I still won the battle and am left once again with 7 elite squads. With the score 2-0, the next battle has a "fog of war" start which should be interesting.
  • Shari & I saw The Time Traveler's Wife at the $3 movie theater on Saturday night. (Thank you once again to Anna & Chris for letting the boys have a sleepover with Canaan.) The movie raises more questions that it answers... and, like all time travel stories, has some pretty big plot holes. Still, the premise is interesting enough for Shari & I both to want to read the book.
  • Yet another quote for the National Outreach Convention: "Maturity is not based on age or experience but on the willingness to obey Jesus." (paraphrased from Eric Michael Bryant)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kid Game Review: Can You See What I See?

  • designer: Brian S. Spence, Garrett J. Donner & Michael S. Steer
  • publisher: Gamewright
  • date: 2009
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/6.83
  • age: 4+
  • # of players: 2-6
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $14.07 (Amazon)
Good games for younger kids are hard to come by. Most of them are simple memory variants or spin'n'move (or roll'n'move) games, gussied up with some kind of licensed tie-in.I'm happy that while Can You See What I See? is a licensed tie-in (to the book series by Walter Wick), it doesn't feel like standard kid game fare. At the same time, it's simple enough for small kids to join in & play right along with everyone else at the table.

The game is easy to learn. Each player is dealt 10 "Keep Me" cards, each of which have 4-5 overlapping objects pictured on them. (With two players, each player gets 12 "Keep Me" cards.) Then you turn over the top tile in the "Find Me" deck, which has one object on it. Players who have that object on one or more of their "Keep Me" cards get to discard them. The first player to discard all of their cards wins.

I know what you're thinking... I can hear your thoughts shooting through the Internet. (Either that, or I left a podcast running on my iTunes.) Seriously, I know that doesn't sound like much. But my 4 year old son asks for it on a regular basis... and my wife & I actually enjoy playing it with him.

I have some theories about why this works as well as it does:
  • It is really well-made. Games published here in the USA (esp. those for kids) tend to be made out of flimsy cardboard & cheap cardstock. The cards & tiles here are thick and beautifully printed.
  • It is not terribly difficult to find the various objects... but does require a little bit of work from younger players. The designers have wisely calibrated that difficulty so that kids have the joy of discovery without the frustration of not being able to play well.
  • Honestly, it's a Bingo variant... and, though Bingo is barely a game, it's easy to enjoy the tension of "will the number I need be drawn next?" That's the heart of Can You See What I See?
  • Another excellent bit of design - the game is short enough to invite multiple plays in one sitting.
The game also includes a set of advanced rules, in which player have hands of tiles and claim cards from a central tableau. There's a little more "game" with these rules, but I think the game really shines with the base game & younger players.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Chaos Army Is On the March!

I recently traded Martin Wallace's Mordred (not a bad game, mind you, but one I wasn't playing much) for a copy of Stephen Baker's Battle Masters... which has some flaws (the insanely random nature of the card draw/order system, for example) but is an absolute hoot to play. The huge plastic battle map and the truckload of plastic miniatures & flags make it a major "toy soldier" experience. (This is, BTW, the second time I've owned Battle Masters - I sold my original copy some years back because it was so hard to transport. Dumb, Mark, very dumb.)

You may be unaware of the designer, Stephen Baker - but he's become a hero of mine... this is one of the main guys behind Heroscape as well as Battle Ball, Risk - Lord of the Rings & Die Schlacht der Dinosaurier (The Battle of the Dinosaur Riders). If you love plastic miniature combat games, this is your guy.

Of course, Braeden (my 8 year old) instantly fell in love - we played a couple of games to get the hang of it and then we began the campaign. The first battle was actually fought to a stalemate - Braeden managed to kill all of my figures but my Ogre Champion before the aforementioned Ogre finished off his troops. However, the Ogre can't occupy the tower, which is the winning condition for the battle, so we declared it a draw.

We fought the second battle tonight, with his forces of good (the Imperial Army) attempting to contain my Chaos Army (led by the now-elite Ogre Champion) behind the river. A well-placed shot from the Mighty Cannon took out my Chaos Knights... but the Ogre did his work, cutting a big enough hole in the defenses to allow me to win the battle with seven units surviving & obtaining elite status.

The next battle is the free-for-all "no one starts on the board" massacre... this will cut into the advantage of my elite units if they get left off board for too long.
As things stand, I'm winning the campaign 1-0. (Each of the first 3 battles are worth 1 point, the 4th battle is worth 3 pts & the last battle 5 pts.) I'll keep y'all posted.

Final note: there are two expansions for Battle Masters that I just found out about (thanks to Boardgamegeek): Imperial Lords & Chaos Warband. They were only published in Europe... so finding them is going to be a real challenge. Any help from my loyal readers is highly appreciated.

Have A Merry Christmas & A Haba New Year!

It's the time of year again - when the thoughts of children everywhere turn to what games they'll be getting under the tree.

OK, maybe not. And chances are pretty good that if they're getting games, it'll be Candyland (shudder, wince, groan) or Chutes & Ladders (a perfect game, btw, if you want to teach your child about predestination and/or the futility of meaningful choices in the face of the all-powerful hand of Fate.)

But, I, Mark Jackson (aka "pastor guy", aka "fluff daddy"), Doer of Good Deeds Where Kid Games Are Concerned, am here to remedy that... thanks to the help of Haba USA and Gamewright. (I apologize for not working Gamewright's name into the title of the post, but [a] it didn't parse very well when I did, and [b] Haba sent me more games.)

Over the next few weeks, I'll be reviewing some of the newest games from both companies... making your Christmas shopping oh so much easier. The posts won't come in any particular ranking or order, but I will use a format similar to the one I used for the Kid Games 100.

As always, your comments & questions are welcome!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank You



Originally uploaded by jjlthree

Your service makes so much possible in my life & in our country.

You are not forgotten.

Monday, November 02, 2009

MIA #1: Cheese Snatching (Kaseklau!)

Cheese Snatching (Kaseklau!)
  • designer: Wolfgang Dirscherl
  • publisher: Haba
  • date: 2008
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/7.25
  • age: 5+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $12.59 (maukilo.com)
And we've reached #1 again - this time of the MIA (missing in action) games from the Kid Games 100. Once again, it's a Haba game (the Kid Games 100 #1 was Kayanak) and once again it has been a rousing success with every group of people I've roped into playing it, regardless of age or gaming background. In fact, I think this would almost have certainly have ended up in the top ten of the Kid Games 100 had I played it before I made the list.

The premise is simple & timeless: it's "Tom & Jerry" meets Can't Stop. In turn, players roll the dice & move the mouse and the cat clockwise. If the mouse ends up on a space without the cat, he can take the top cheese card on the pile. Then comes the big decision: keep scavenging for cheese or keep what you have?

You only get to take the cheese cards into your scoring pile when you end your turn... unless your turn ends by the cat & the mouse ending up on the same space. In that case, you lose all the cheese you collected that turn.

When 3 rooms (spaces) are empty, the game is over. You count up cheese (each card has 1-3 pieces on it) and the person with the most cheese wins.

OK, I'm a little worried that being able to explain the rules in 7 sentences will turn people away from this wonderful little game - but the simplicity is part of what makes it so darn likable. You can teach anyone how to play in less than 30 seconds... and the game takes no more than 10 minutes. It packs a nifty push-your-luck wallop into a very small time frame.

It also is highly portable. The box isn't huge to begin with, but for our last vacation I put the components in a sandwich bag & we played it in airports, on coffee tables & even in the floor of our bedroom.

Finally, the recommended age of 5 is only necessary for counting up score - the actual playing of the game is easy enough that a 3 year old can do it. At roughly $13.00, it'll be one of the best kid gaming investments you're likely to make this year.

MIA #2: Chicken Squabble (Zoff im Huhnerhof)

  • designer: Marco Teubner
  • publisher: Haba
  • date: 2006
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 3349/6.35
  • age: 4+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $35.99 (maukilo.com)
It's a good thing that the crow is warning the chickens about the approach of the fox... otherwise they wouldn't have enough time to dash back to the hen house when he appears. Of course, you'd think the rubber-armed farmhand who's flinging wooden chicken feed at them would figure that out himself, but that's the way it goes in agribusiness.

Zoff im Huhnerhof (literally "Trouble in the Henhouse") brings this whole farming thing down to a very simple level - the individual chicken. Players are hungry hens who venture deep into the pen, hunting for spots where the lowly farmhand has thrown the feed. At the end of the game, the chicken with the most feed amassed wins the game.

So, other than sounding like the least interesting Agricola spin-off expansion ever, why would I put this game near the top of my MIA from the Kid Games 100 list? It really boils down to two things:
  1. It is a gorgeous game - chunky wooden chips, a very responsive farmhand/flinging figure, and an inside-the-box playing area complete with individual "pits" for the feed, a hen house twice as high as the box side & the crow/fox timer built into the side of the board.
  2. It is loads of fun - I happily played 3 games of this (with adults!) in one afternoon at a gaming convention... and with other "important" games calling for my attention. This just has such a high FPM (Fun Per Minute) ratio that I gladly jumped into it again & again.

Each player begins the game with 10 chicken feed - and, in turn, they flick a piece of feed onto/into the game board, both seeding the board for chickens to feed and, by the nature of the space they shoot into, determining how/if their chicken will move & if the crow (game timer) moves forward. Accuracy helps... you need your chicken to fly (so to speak) if they're going to get out to the highly profitable spaces that are seeded before the game with feed before the fox appears.

Wherever a chicken ends their move, they pick up the feed in that space & put it in their supply... the same supply they fling into the pen in order to move. So, a safety tip: you don't want a lot of turns where you aren't moving & picking up feed, because you're spending it regardless.

When the fox appears, the chickens turn & run back to the coop - only now they are in full panic, so they can't stop & pick up feed... so every turn burns feed until the chicken reaches the safety of the coop. Burning feed = bad, btw, since feed = end game score. (I'm so math-y.)

I think the game is playable by 4 year olds (as claimed by the box) but real accuracy won't kick in for a year or two after that. Of course, there are a number of adults who will never grok the Way of Feed-Throwing Farmer... doesn't lower the fun factor of this game one bit.