Thursday, April 30, 2009

Renovating Your Zoo(loretto)

I've been in a conversation over on BGG about the expansions for Zooloretto... just thought I'd post my thoughts here as well. I divided them into three categories: expansions I've played, expansions I own & expansions I don't own.


  • Three Extra Enclosures - this is 3 two-space pens specific to zebra, flamingo & elephant. They are available for purchase from the center of the board for $2. I'd combine 'em w/the Savings Book and/or the Petting Zoo.
  • The Petting Zoo - the OP is right... probably the best simple expansion out there. The trade-off between cash & victory points is really nice.
  • Polar Bear/Gorilla - I like these better now that I have 2 of them and it's not simply a crapshoot to see who gets the special power first. I also own King K, which offers a 3rd choice. All of these are single tiles which add a special power to your zoo - they are claimed by finishing your 6 space pen.
  • Three Additional Buildings - we used these once & I wasn't overwhelmed by what they did or didn't do. Had to look up the rules on them a number of times.
  • The Savings Book - an exercise in delayed gratification... makes money less tight later in the game, which is a good thing when using some of the other expansions.
  • Zooloretto XXL - have only played once w/2 players. Adds the ability to "clear" 2 of your complete pens for lower points (ship them off to another zoo) and refill them. I'm not sure the extra time is worth the trade-off... however, the Aquaretto XXL expansion is very cool (included in the same box). I want to try this one some more.
  • Zooloretto Exotic - have played twice now and really enjoyed it both times. It makes the end game dynamics very different as players have more tiles to avoid and scoring considerations to worry about.


  • King K - see notes on Polar Bear above
  • Building Sites - introduces an element of "take that" to the game that I don't like... probably won't ever use them.
  • Mission Cards - Looking forward to trying these... but only good with experienced players.


  • The Reindeer - was a Christmas card giveaway postcard... a single tile like the Polar Bear & the Gorilla. You can print a copy from

If I was going to rank the expansions in "need to own" order, here's how I'd go:

  • Polar Bear expansion pack (includes the Polar Bear, Petting Zoos, Building Sites, 3 Extra Enclosures & 3 Additional Buildings) - online cost: around $7
  • Gorilla expansion pack (includes the Gorilla, Savings Books, Mission Cards & 2 expansions for Aquaretto) - online cost: around $7
  • Zooloretto Exotic - online cost: around $19
  • Zooloretto XXL - online cost: around $22
  • King K & the Reindeer (both giveaway postcards you can print'n'play)

In fact, you can print-n-play most of the small expansions from Michael Schlacht's website, I just like having the nice professionally printed pieces for my set.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Clash of the Tokens

Actually got this recommendation from the people who are working on the documentary Under the Boardwalk: A Monopoly Documentary... you can buy a print of this directly from the artist (John Tebeau) on Etsy. ($23 shipped... yeah, I want one for my game room... or my office!)

Five & Dime 2008: Joining the "In" Crowd

These are games that have appeared on the Five & Dime lists before... and have risen in overall playing percentages.

Gamepercentage gain from 2007
Race for the Galaxy+41.03%
Galaxy Trucker+10.60%
Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries+8.39%
Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization+6.28%
10 Days/Europa Tour+6.14%
Time's Up/Celebrities+5.07%
Power Grid/Funkenschlag+4.97%

There are two main reasons that games appear on this list:
  1. They were reprinted and/or had another game added to their franchise this year (Time's Up, Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, Through the Ages).
  2. They were "Essen"/end of the year games... they were released late in 2006 and were only played 5+ times by a couple of folks in 2006 (Agricola, Pandemic, Race for the Galaxy, Kingsburg, Galaxy Trucker, Brass, Oregon, Airships, Jamaica).

As always, the interesting games here are the ones that can not be explained by these reasons:

  • Tichu, which continues a steadily growing reign as "king of the gamer card games".
  • Through the Ages, which did get a new edition but moreover got some real exposure and increased the fan base.
  • Power Grid continues to do well... it doesn't seem to be slumping much after 5+ years.
  • ".
  • And I'm loath to explain the growth of 10 Days... though we did play USA at least 5 times last year.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Maintaining Radio Silence

Haven't been blogging lately - not Five & Dime, not pictures of the boys, not odd & whimsical musings on faith & life. I'll explain:

We have two kids playing tee-ball & rookie baseball.

There... those of you who are parents know just how amazing it is that I managed to get even these few lines typed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Save Chuck!

Viva BuyMoria!Link

Linda Holmes, one of my favorite bloggers on the planet, just wrote about the fight to keep our much-beloved Chuck around for a third season over on Monkey See. From there, I followed a link to Maureen Ryan's blog for her pleas to get involved in the campaign to get a Nerd Third.

I've pretty kept out of the fights to keep shows alive... but in this case I'm making an exception. Shari & I both enjoy this show (which makes it pretty unusual & wonderful) and it needs to live!

So, here's what you can do:
  • Watch Monday night for the season finale (8 pm East & West Coast)
  • Write NBC (Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC, at this address: 3000 W. Alameda, Burbank, CA 91523. Write to NBC's president of prime-time programming, Angela Bromstad, at 100 Universal City Plaza. Bldg 1320, 4th Floor, Universal City, CA 91608.)
  • E-mail NBC (start here and choose "Chuck" as the show you want to comment on).
  • Anything else you can think of!
Look, this isn't going to change the world. It's certainly not as important as people having their lives changed by Jesus Christ or making wise financial decisions or even eating more healthy foods. But do it anyway.

A special treat - here's a great fan-made recap video that will get you up to last Monday night...

...and then you can watch the episode from last Monday on Hulu. And you'll be good to go for the finale on Monday the 27th!

Five & Dime 2008: Lo, How The Mighty Have Fallen

These are games that have appeared on the Five & Dime lists before... and have fallen in overall playing percentages.
Gamepercentage loss from 2007
Hey! That's My Fish/Pingvinas-14.23%
Notre Dame-12.86%
No Thanks/Geschenkt-9.52%
Blue Moon City-9.15%
Thurn and Taxis-8.39%
To Court A King-7.83%
Ingenious/Einfach Genial-7.70%
For Sale-7.45%

Once again, this is the list I'm most accurate at predicting: I called the two of the top three games to appear here. (Yspahan & Battlelore). I thought Notre Dame would be #1 (which it wasn't) but I was close. OTOH, I thought San Juan would be here (it missed the list by ONE position) and I couldn't have predicted that my personal dislike of Hey! That's My Fish would finally start to spread.

Predictions: Agricola will be here next year (in the #1 spot), as will Stone Age, In The Year of the Dragon & Hanging Gardens.

Return of the Greatest Hits

Usually, I've tried to do this post on April 1st, the actual anniversary of the blog. (BTW, it's 4 years old.) Didn't actually make that date this year... in fact, I missed it by 20 days. (That's what we in the blogging business call "a wide margin of error.") Anyway, we've had four years now of deep thoughts, random musings, adorable pictures of my two sons, and just a wee bit of discussion of games.

Those of you who follow this blog realize that I did a post very much like this last year and the year before that... which, frankly, I copied & pasted to provide the meat of this post. However, I've added the last year (2008-2009) of "highlight" posts down at the bottom of the list.

In honor of this momentous occasion, I've picked a post (or two or three) from each month that I think is a "highlight" (you are welcome to disagree - but you'll be wrong with a capital "Wr").

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

#16: Hüpf Hüpf Hurra!

Hüpf Hüpf Hurra! (Hop Hop Hooray!)
  • designer: Heinz Meister
  • publisher: Ravensburger
  • date: 2007
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 2571/6.46
  • age: 6+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $20.37 (Amazon)
Back in the day, I had the opportunity to play Tupperware's only original game, Bounce-It-In, thanks to Frank Branham. (Tuppertoys also made plastic poker chips. My father-in-law, a poker fan, owned a set & complained that they didn't "clink", which is evidently a major component of enjoying poker chips.) In the game, you bounce plastic balls into a 5x5 grid of holes. There are three sets of rules included: two which give various scoring values for the different holes & one that simply requires you to get five balls in a row (of any color). It's the "5 in a row" game that appealed to me enough (we played non-stop for 30 min. with each game taking about 5 minutes to play - it was like eating potato chips) to put it on my wishlist & eventually acquire my own copy.

Meanwhile, Haba released one of their small rectangle box games, Rein damit!, which used a cardboard frame & wooden rings to make a 4x4 grid into which you bounced small foam balls. This time, you scored by picking up a small animal token (using an included dart-like plunger device) - 3 sets of three tokens won you the game. (BTW, the English name is "Spot on!" so you don't have to worry about your kids learning to curse unless you decide to teach them yourself.)

Both of the games have some neat ideas but suffer from some problems... as written, the rules to Bounce-It-In can make the game last way past its welcome (we don't allow players back in after they've been knocked out, which cures that.) It's also tough to get a complete copy - I actually have 1 and 1/2 copies. Rein damit! is really cute (the animal art is great) but the board is prone to being bumped and the dart-plunger really requires an older sibling or parent to operate it. It also can bog down a bit as players can use empty rings to steal tokens ad infinitum.

But Heinz Meister, the designer of Rein damit!, managed to take some of the basic ideas from these two games and mold them into a game that's been a hit with kids, families, adults & gamers (yes, I made "adults" and "gamers" two separate categories - sue me) over & over again.

The theme is not welded to the mechanic but you are hopping (bouncing the balls) into the pond (the game box which doubles as the board), so I can buy the whole frog milieu. By getting three frogs (marbles) in a row, you receive a kiss from the frog princess (scoring token). If you manage to get 3 of the same color in a row, you get two kisses. Make multipile lines in one hop? You get as many kisses as you make lines. Note, however, that only sets of 3 count; it doesn't help to make a line of 4 or 5 frogs.

And that's pretty much it. Players take turns bouncing marbles into the box, scoring points, and generally have a grand old time hooting & hollering at each other. You get three tries per turn to "land" a marble... 3 strikes & it's the next players turn. When the kisses run out (there are 40 of them in the game) the player with the most kisses wins.

There are a couple of nice physical design ideas that make the game even more enjoyable. The pond grid is set into plastic insert with sloped sides... so it's possible to bounce a marble and make it roll around the sloped side into position on the other side of the board. As well, the grid that the marbles sit in does not hold the marbles "locked" in position - if hit with sufficient force, marbles already in place can move.

One of the variables that you bring to the game is where you play it. When played on a standard Costco plastic 6 ft table, you've got to give the marbles a pretty serious throw to get the right bounce. On a wooden veneer table, they're pretty "live" - we've been known to play a time or two throwing marbles from behind our chairs for long-range and/or multiple bounces. I've even played this on our entry hall floor with my boys, which is marble tile. Now that is some serious bouncing.

While you can't predict exactly where your marble is going, with practice you can definitely improve your ability to score. At the same time, luck does play a large role, which makes this very enjoyable for mixed age groups to play.

My only complaint about the game is the lily pad rings provided to corral your marbles. They aren't thick enough to hold them in place unless you are very careful. My plan is to buy some of those little non-skid feet for them, which should make them high enough AND keep them from drifting around the table.

I also think that the suggested age on this is way too high. With appropriate adult supervision (so no one is eating the marbles), my 3 year old was able to play & enjoy the game.

Five & Dime 2008: Fresh Faces

These are games that appeared on the Five & Dime lists for the first time... in some cases, they may be older games that just hadn't reached a particular play threshold.

Game score percentage
Dominion 850 59.63%
Stone Age 290 24.22%
In the Year of the Dragon 145 14.91%
Hanging Gardens 140 12.42%
Ticket to Ride: The Card Game 135 11.80%
Sorry! Sliders 130 11.80%
Le Havre 105 9.32%
Risk Express 75 4.97%
Tribune: Primus Inter Pares 65 6.21%
Ghost Stories 60 6.21%
Cheeky Monkey 60 4.35%
Space Alert 50 4.97%
Sushizok im Gockelwok 40 4.35%
Snow Tails 40 3.11%
Shadow Hunters 35 3.11%

Tied at 3.11% (less than 35 "score"): Tinner's Trail, Wasabi

A couple of short comments... the number of Essen games that reach this list is increasing - probably due to the speed w/which Essen releases are reaching the United States and the increased international scope of the Five & Dime lists. For those who wonder, I don't count prototype plays for figuring out whether or not a game belongs on the "Fresh Faces" list, only published plays.

Plans of Mice & Men...

...often get sidelined. (Well, that's sort of what Robert Burns said.)

I'm headed out to get the compressor on my car's air conditioner fixed, so the Five & Dime list wil have to wait. See you back here tomorrow, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Five & Dime 2008: Wide Angle Lens (Four Year Pix)

These graphs cover 2008 (top bar) through 2005 (bottom bar). The bar is the percentage of players reporting who played the game 5+ times in the given year. The games here first appeared on the Five & Dime lists in 2005.

Ca$h N Gun$
Diamant/Incan Gold
Pickomino/Heckmeck im Brautweck
Railroad Tycoon/Rails of Europe
Shadows Over Camelot
That's Life/Verflixxt
Ticket to Ride: Europe
Vegas Showdown
Wits & Wagers

Five & Dime 2008: Wide Angle Lens (Five Year Pix)

These graphs cover 2008 (top bar) through 2004 (bottom bar). The bar is the percentage of players reporting who played the game 5+ times in the given year. The games here first appeared on the Five & Dime lists in 2004.

Blue Moon
Ingenious/Einfach Genial
Memoir '44
No Thanks/Geschenkt
San Juan
St. Petersburg
Ticket To Ride (does not include Marklin or Europe)

Five & Dime 2008: Wide Angle Lens (Six Year Pix)

These graphs cover 2008 (top bar) through 2003 (bottom bar). The bar is the percentage of players reporting who played the game 5+ times in the given year. The games here first appeared on the Five & Dime lists in 2003.

10 Days in the _____/Europa Tour
Age of Steam
Balloon Cup
Fearsome Floors
Gulo Gulo
Hey! That's My Fish/Pingvinas
King's Breakfast
Paris Paris

Five & Dime 2008: Wide Angle Lens (Seven Year Pix)

These graphs cover 2008 (top bar) through 2002 (bottom bar). The bar is the percentage of players reporting who played the game 5+ times in the given year. The games here first appeared on the Five & Dime lists in 2002.

Alles im Eimer/The Bucket King
Bang! (includes expansions)
Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation
Power Grid (includes Funkenschlag & expansions)
Puerto Rico
Street Soccer
TransAmerica (includes TransEuropa)
Trendy (includes Crazy Race)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Five & Dime 2008: Wide Angle Lens (Eight Year Pix)

These graphs cover 2008 (top bar) through 2001 (bottom bar). The bar is the percentage of players reporting who played the game 5+ times in the given year. The games here first appeared on the Five & Dime lists in 2001.

Catch Phrase
Hick Hack im Gackelwack/Pick Picknic
Royal Turf/Winner's Circle
San Marco
Traumfabrik/Hollywood Blockbuster
Wyatt Earp

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Five & Dime 2008: Wide Angle Lens (Nine Year Pix)

These graphs cover 2008 (top bar) through 2000 (bottom bar). The bar is the percentage of players reporting who played the game 5+ times in the given year. The games here first appeared on the Five & Dime lists in 2000.

Battle Cry (AH)
Carcassonne (includes expansions but not stand-alone "cousins")
Cartagena (includes Cartagena 2)
Lord of the Rings (includes expansions)
Princes of Florence
Taj Mahal
Web of Power (includes China)