John Pappas

I'm John ~ a short, mustachioed Library Director of a small branch library outside of Philly. I'm a father, geek, librarian and zen practitioner. I wear glasses, play board games and tend to read pretty much anything that comes across my desk. I organize and host three gaming groups at my library ~ The Golden Gamers (65+), Tabletop Gaming at the Library, and a Game Design Guild. The name of this column "Roll for Fire" comes from my love of Flash Point: Fire Rescue [ and cooperative games in general] and the desire I have to watch it all burn down.

Kanagawa

 Board and Card Games, Reviews  Comments Off on Kanagawa
Jan 032017
 

Welcome to the beautiful prefecture of Kanagawa (BGG, Amazon)! You are all students at Katsushika Hokusai’s art school and hope to create your own masterwork through the teachings of the great master himself. The publisher of Kanagawa, Iello, provides some of the best art direction in the board game industry. Iello games look and feel polished and refined and Kanagawa did not disappoint. Everything about the game fits into the theme and looks gorgeous. The artwork on the cards is interesting and flows well so that it does seem that you are creating a large art scroll. The gameboard is a bamboo mat which unrolls in front of you for your lessons. This elegant touch feels perfect – I love it. The paintbrush tokens are these neat little miniatures when they could have just been little cardboard tokens. Iello makes me feel all warm inside.

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Three columns of cards in a three player game. Some cards are placed face-up and some face-down (the red squares).

The card drafting and tableau building mechanisms are very similar to those I discussed in Dream Home by Asmodee. In both games you are drawing one column of cards and adding them to your personal tableau. In Dream Home you are choosing two cards (one room and one improvement card) or one room card and the first player token. Kanagawa is slightly more complex with an added element of press-your-luck. Lesson cards are placed in rows to help students develop their studios or their prints. At first only one row of cards is dealt on to the board equal to the number of players. Players can take a card or pass and wait for a second row and take a column of two cards or pass and wait again to get three cards. In the end you can get more cards but you run the risk of other players snagging cards you really need.

The lesson cards are delightful. I love multi-use cards. I absolutely adore multi-use cards when they are intuitively designed with clear iconography. The iconography is practically flawless and can be picked up and understood quickly. You barely need to examine the cards closely before knowing what they can do. Besides, I would much rather spend that time enjoying the amazing water-color artwork. 

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Jade Mosch did the water-color artwork on the cards.

The core of the decision space is after you choose your cards. Once cards are drafted, you can add them to your print to expand your painting and score points or you can add them into your Studio to help you gain the skills needed to add to your painting. It is here that Kanagawa felt nicely streamlined. There are no wasted actions. Sometimes when you draw cards in games like this you end up with cards you can’t afford to use or don’t have the requisite abilities to use causing you to discard. This causes frustration in younger players (and honestly, it bugs me as well). In Kanagawa you can always add cards to your studio to gain more skills. It is always an options and adding to your studio provides more options during later turns. There is a slight difficulty with the game here. Let’s compare to Dream Home again. In Dream Home you choose a column and then place a card. Since the cards in Kanagawa have multiple uses and you can have up to three of them to place during your turn, there tends to be a bit of analysis before the next player can take their cards. It slows the flow of the game down. Nothing dramatic but it isn’t as snappy as Dream Home.

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Some artwork and barely functioning studio.

You earn points at the end of the game primarily from Diploma tiles which have their own press your luck element to them. There are usually a few different tiles for each scoring element (number of buildings, tree, portraits, animals, number of identical landscapes, and number of brushes/arrows in your studio) increasing in points and number of elements to earn the diploma. For example you can earn the 3 point yellow diploma tile if you have 2 different buildings. Or you can wait to earn 4 points and a storm token with 3 different buildings. Or earn 7 points and the Assistant pawn if you have 4 different buildings. When you reach an objective (2, 3, or 4 buildings) you are required to announce it and then decide whether you take the diploma tile or wait to earn the next. If you wait then you can never go back and take the earlier tile. There are lots of them diploma tiles (a total of 19 of the seven colors) and you can never have more than one of the same color. You also earn points by having a long stretch of one season in your print and by scoring bonus points on some lesson cards. 

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The Diploma tiles are not that confusing but they do slow down the flow of the game.

Overall the game is gorgeous and the artwork beautiful. The gameplay is a rung above Dream Home in complexity so if you like the card drafting in Dream Home (and I do!) but feel like you need just a bit more decision space (like I do!), then Kanagawa is a great choice. Tableau building games provide a strong feeling of creation and accomplishment that really shines in Kanagawa. There are other amazingly fun tableau builders that are too dry but with solid mechanics (San Juan), can be too cut-throat for some families (Citadels) or too complex for beginning gamers (7 Wonders, Eminent Domain) and Kanagawa fits in nicely where those games fall short. It is great family (or library) fare, with attractive and accessible art, and satisfying after the first play. The only difficulty in teaching the game was explaining the diploma tiles and dealing with the large amount of them. It may take a few plays (or at least some time examining each tile) to really understand each one. The shear number can be potentially overwhelming for younger players but not necessarily intimidating or off-putting. Just take the time to explain each one when you get a chance throughout the game.   

About John Pappas

I'm John ~ a short, mustachioed Library Director of a small branch library outside of Philly. I'm a father, geek, librarian and zen practitioner. I wear glasses, play board games and tend to read pretty much anything that comes across my desk. I organize and host three gaming groups at my library ~ The Golden Gamers (65+), Tabletop Gaming at the Library, and a Game Design Guild. The name of this column "Roll for Fire" comes from my love of Flash Point: Fire Rescue [ and cooperative games in general] and the desire I have to watch it all burn down.

Best Board Games of 2016

 Board and Card Games  Comments Off on Best Board Games of 2016
Dec 182016
 

This was an amazing year in board games with many games popping up perfect for your personal library. As I stated in 2015, it is nearly impossible to play and review even a large portion of all of the game that comes out in a year. And it is even harder to be able to recommend them to libraries when that audience is so diverse and community so varied. That said, I think I limited it to eight games that will certainly make a wonderful addition to your personal collection.

I try to recommend games with a small learning curve so most of these games are perfect for a budding library collection (Dream Home, Happy Salmon) and if I do include more complex game, they are worth the extra time it takes to learn and will be a better addition to an already established collection (Terraforming Mars, Beyond Baker Street).

Some games just barely missed the cut. Scythe contained too many components for inclusion and those minis go missing too quickly to keep up. The Grizzled: At Your Orders is an expansion and is mandatory (the base game was included in my 2015 list). Great Western Trail looks amazing but I couldn’t get a copy and thus never made it to my table. A Feast For Odin is just too complex.

There are dozens more worth discussing and recommending to you, and I hope that this shortened list serves as a good representation for what 2016 has offered.

The Strategy Game: Terraforming Mars

(BGG, Amazon) After the success of The Martian, expect a whole glut of mars-themed board games next year and a whole bunch of red boxes in the future. At quick glance you have Surviving Mars, First Martians, Martians: A Story of Civilization and a reprint of Mission: Red Planet. So, you know what you have to do.

The goal of Terraforming Mars is simple: make Mars habitable for colonization and exploitation. Getting it done, however, is far from easy. The entire game unfolds over generations as futuristic mega-corporations battle to change Mars from a red planet to a greenish blue one. This is accomplished by building cities, encouraging vegetation and creating water. To make the planet habitable and end the game three things must happen: atmospheric oxygen rises to 14%, the temperature rises to 8 degrees Celsius (that’s correct, in this game you are encouraging global warming) and the oceans are filled.

This game is a chunky engine-builder and full of strategic potential. Unlike many science-fiction themed games, Terraforming Mars focuses on scientific accuracy, attention to detail and technical consistency. You know that part of The Right Stuff where all the engineers are struggling to brainstorm how to make a new thing with a box of old things? It’s like that mixed writ large and combined with the Weyland-Yutani Corps (“Building Better Worlds”) from Aliens. You have hundreds of years to introduce moss, melt icecaps and crash meteors into Mars before it is any good to humanity.

Fair warning though, it is also really, really, really ugly. The artwork is inconsistent and the graphic design is unfortunate. So, if you are looking to “wow” patrons into gaming at first glance, this isn’t the best pick. But if you want to bulk up your collection with a thematic thinker and encourage your patrons to grow, then give Terraforming Mars a chance.

Terraforming Mars has great gameplay and lots of strategic potential to bulk up a collection. It is an amazing game that rewards repeated play. It is best to pair it with, obviously, The Martian by Andy Weir.

The Party Game: Happy Salmon

(BGG, Amazon) Stop reading right here and go buy this silly, ridiculous real-time game for your library—you won’t regret it. Happy Salmon is one of those games that children will love, adults will pretend they don’t like (but actually do) and can be just as much fun to watch to play.

The game is snappy and fast and, honestly, it takes longer to read the tiny rulebook than to play one full game.The goal is simple: get rid of all your cards. You place the pile of 12 cards facedown in front of you. Everyone flips over the first card. There are four types: High 5, Pound It, Switcheroo and Happy Salmon. Once you see your card, you yell out the title of the card until you find someone yelling the same thing, make eye contact and perform the action on the card. Once you do that, you discard that card and go to the next one. Three to six people will be giving each other high fives, bumping fists, trading places at the table and doing the happy salmon (grab each other’s wrist and slap your hand against each other’s forearm).

Listen. It comes in a pouch shaped like a SALMON. It’s simple, silly and hilarious. You can at least do a round or two at the start of departmental meetings with this game and consider it money well spent. Pair this game with Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss and Salmon Fishing in Yemen by Paul Torday.

The Tiny Box Big Game: Kodama: The Tree Spirits

(BGG, Amazon) Invoking images of Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, Daniel Solis’s Kodama: The Tree Spirits is a masterfully designed card game in a small box and it will totally enchant you upon first play.

In Kodama, you tend to the homes of the tiny bobble-headed spirits who inhabit your forest. To appease these helpful spirits, you need to tend to their tree according to their exact, and maybe strange, specifications. Their happiness and your success depends one how many caterpillars, fireflies, flowers, mushrooms, are at home in your tree and how many clouds or stars can be seen from their branches. You compete against other players to grow the best trees for your new tree-dwelling buddies. Happy Spirits keep a Happy Forest!

The true beauty of Kodama is the ability to grow your tree. Each player starts with an oversized trunk card and then each card they choose throughout the game is a branch extending from the trunk. The result, at the end of three seasons, is an massive splay of cards representing the tree you created. Everything from the whimsical art to the simple gameplay makes this a perfect game for families. They even included additional cards specifically designed for younger players.

Kodama is adorable, family friendly and best of all, lets you create something satisfying at the end of your game. In Kodama, it is a large, branching and likely lopsided, tree. Games like these leave you satisfied, win or lose, because you created something. Pair it with anything from Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.

The Dexterity Game: Ice Cool

(BGG, Amazon) In Ice Cool, you are all students at a penguin high school. Get it? High School. Ice Cool. Penguins? Right? A little word play and I’m yours forever. Remember that. Anyway.

One player is the hall monitor and the rest of the players are students. The students are trying to collect three fish located throughout the school, and the hall monitor is trying to catch the students and collect their student IDs. As players meet their goals, they draw cards with points on them. At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins.

Each penguin is kind of like a Weeble. They weeble and they wobble but they don’t fall down. When players want to move their penguin across the board, they flick them. The students just need to go through the doors to the rooms where the fish are and the hall monitor needs to flick themselves into the students. A round ends when either a student collects all their fish or the hall monitor has collected all students’ IDs. At the start of a new round, a different player becomes the hall monitor and you begin again until everyone has had a chance to be the hall monitor. You tally the points on the cards collected through the game and the player with the most wins.

Fun, loud and nicely contained in a box that doubles as the game board. If you want to drum up interest in your board game collection, get a family or two playing this game out in the open and it will definitely draw a crowd. Pair this with reruns of Saved By the Bell.

The Two Player Game: Tides of Madness

(BGG, Amazon) There is plenty of bite in this delightful card drafting game for two players with only 18 cards, a handful of tokens and stunning artwork.

Generally, games with heavy themes (horror, science-fiction, fantasy) have not circulated well at the library but small, simple, light games with heavy themes that it can be demoed at a service point may just work. Tides of Madness offer a tense 20-minute duel where you score points by collecting sets while drafting cards back and forth. At the end of the round you tally any madness tokens you may have accumulated, choose to keep one card for the next round and discard another out of the game. You’ll need to anticipate which cards your opponent needs and obfuscate which ones you are looking for while keeping an eye on the madness tokens. They can accumulate, and if you delve too deeply into the arcane, you may lose your sanity and the game.

Only 18 cards in a quick, snappy drafting game, and totally tense! Tides of Madness is to two people what Love Letter is to four. Pair with The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins.

The Editor’s Choice: Kanagawa

(BGG, Amazon) Dear Reader, if you have not been introduced yet, let me introduce you to Iello. Iello games have, bar none, the best art direction in games today. Every game in their catalog looks like it couldn’t possibly belong anywhere else and every game is aimed straight to the heart of the family gaming market.

In Kanagawa, it is 1840 and you are a student in Master Hokusai’s painting school. Your goal is to earn different diploma tiles representing your many artistic successes at the school. To achieve this you will need to expand your studio, learn new techniques and create an epic masterpiece of your favorite subjects (a combination of flora, fauna, architecture and notables) across the Japanese countryside. But you are still in school and your master will be offering many lessons to a select few represented by tiles placed on a rattan central board. You can take a tile quickly or wait until later to get more, but if you wait too long another student may grab your slot, leaving you with whatever is left over. You add tiles to your print (your painting gets longer) or to your studio (your skills improve and you are able to paint different subjects).

Rattan. Game. Board. It rolls up when you are done. I’m flabbergasted and completely in love with this. Best paired with The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima.

The Cooperative Game: Beyond Baker Street

(BGG, Amazon) A spiritual successor to the cooperative card game Hanabi, Beyond Baker Street from publisher Z-Man Games has two to four detectives working together to solve a mystery before that insufferable show-off Sherlock does.

Players have three leads to work on in order to solve the mystery—Subject, Motive and Opportunity. Each player has a handful of clues, witnesses and evidence. What makes the game a challenge is that players are unable to look at their own cards and instead have their cards facing out towards the rest of the players. Cooperation is elementary as players provide clues to each other in order to place the correct cards in the correct places before Sherlock solves the case. On your turn you can provide a hint to another player about what is in their hand, play a card on a lead, confirm a lead, discard a card or eliminate a lead. There is more to the game but if you are familiar with Hanabi (which uses the same cards facing outwards mechanism), then Beyond Baker Street will be quick to pick up. If you are not familiar, it will take five minutes to read the rules and you will be right as rain to play.

Beyond Baker Street adds some added thematic elements including different cases to increase the challenge and character cards that provide special abilities, which make this a nice upgrade to Hanabi or a great starting point into cooperative games. Best paired with Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz.

The Family Game: Dream Home

This game is so adorable I just want to hug it. Look at all those happy people on the box top! The future has so much potential.

(BGG, Amazon) In Dream Home you are building your perfect house, and also a better house than everyone else. Each player gets an empty house tableau with 12 room spaces in it; five on the second floor, five on the first and two in the basement. Players get to choose from a pair of cards with one room and one resource (helpers, handy-persons, architects, tools, etc.) to use in building their home. The room gets placed according to some simple rules, and the resource can be used immediately or later to score more points. You can expand rooms for more points (a playroom is nice but a huge playroom is even better), add decor to provide the perfect finishing touch for a room and get bonus points for functionality.

There is very little room for improvement in this light family game. It is a complete joy to play with people of all ages that plays in 30 minutes. Perfect after-dinner game in your newly remodeled kitchen. Best paired with A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia McAlester.

About John Pappas

I'm John ~ a short, mustachioed Library Director of a small branch library outside of Philly. I'm a father, geek, librarian and zen practitioner. I wear glasses, play board games and tend to read pretty much anything that comes across my desk. I organize and host three gaming groups at my library ~ The Golden Gamers (65+), Tabletop Gaming at the Library, and a Game Design Guild. The name of this column "Roll for Fire" comes from my love of Flash Point: Fire Rescue [ and cooperative games in general] and the desire I have to watch it all burn down.

Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space

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Nov 242016
 

Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space is a minimalist game of bluffing and secrecy set on the damaged research ship — the SELVA. All systems are down and the entire ship is dark. Captain and crew are trying to make their way to escape pods and an unknown, alien virus is transforming the crew into blood-thirsty monsters. If you are human you quietly and swiftly try to make your way to the escape pods and hope they work. If you are an alien, you quietly make your way towards the humans and hope they are tasty. Rather than utilizing a central board like Scotland Yard, Letters from Whitechapel, or Fury of Dracula, Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space has each player marking their movement on a personal map sheet which remains hidden from the other players. Players use a dry erase marker to record their movement, location, and any additional information they can glean from the others in 40 rounds.

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There are several map sheets to choose from, each featuring a specific zone of the SELVA. Each map is made up of different numbered hexagonal sectors. At the start of the game, each player agrees to the same map (since your personal map is secret, it is important that everyone starts on the same page). Each zone has a specific name such as Galilei — The Research Zone — and come in varying sizes, layouts, for recommended player counts and levels of experience. After a map is chosen, a number of character cards equal to the number of players are drawn and secretly dealt to each player. For even numbers of players, half of these should be alien cards and the other half should be human cards. For odd numbers of players, you add an extra alien. Each character card (both alien and human) has a unique ability.

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Characters: Red for Aliens and Blue for Humans

Payers take turns moving from one sector to another and recording their movement on their sheet. Humans start from a different sector than aliens and attempt to move to the escape pod sector[s]. Aliens start moving towards where they think the humans are currently located. Aliens can move one or two sectors (three after an alien successfully devours their first human) and humans can only move one unless aided by certain cards. When players move into a dangerous sector (colored grey on the map) they draw a card. There are different types of dangerous sector cards. Some require a player announce their location, some require you bluff and announce any location, some allow you to remain silent, and some are items that can be used by humans immediately or later in the game. Regardless of species, all cards drawn are kept in front of the players and remain secret. Since aliens can’t use items, only humans should be looking at their cards occasionally. Humans, remember your cards. Aliens, pretend to reference your cards at all times just to blend in.

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Item cards plus a dangerous sector card in red

At the end of their aliens can declare an attack on anyone else in the sector. Players, either human or alien, in that sector must announce their presence and promptly die and reveal their character. When humans are killed they respawn as aliens from the alien starting sector and begin to hunt. When aliens are killed they are eliminated from the game and either start making snacks, mixing drinks, or picking the next game to play. To counteract this, human players can utilize items any time during their turn. Items can help them attack, teleport, defend against attack, or force other players to announce their location.

The game ends after 40 rounds, when all humans escape, all humans are eaten, or some combination of the above. The aliens win if they can kill all the humans remaining on the station. Any human killed by an alien loses and any human who escapes wins.

Escape from the Aliens of Outer Space is a mixed bag of a game. Let’s start with the unsatisfying ending of the game. As an example of a satisfying ending, take the hidden movement game Letters from Whitechapel. Jack can win if he escapes detection for the game and the constables win if they can locate Jack. The endgame rewards cunning and secrecy for Jack and rewards teamwork, communication, and cooperation in the constables. Either way it is certainly satisfying. The ending of Escape from the Aliens of Outer Space is a weird “every person for themselves” for the humans and a secretive game of teamwork for the aliens. However, with no central board to work from it is difficult for the aliens to subtly communicate with each other to determine who is an alien and a lone human survivor can’t really celebrate since what feels like a cooperative (humans surviving versus aliens hunting) game was really a competitive (get outta my way, this is my escape pod!) one.

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A sector map with starting locations for Aliens and Humans and the numbered escape pods in the back.

A better role for dispatched aliens could have been designed. When humans die they are respawned as aliens. But aliens killed by aliens result in having a player potentially removed from the game early on. This is, in my opinion, a design flaw. Granted, Escape from the Aliens of Outer Space should only last 30-45 minutes but if one person is removed early it ruins their experience of the game and then makes it much harder for the Aliens to win. I prefer to have an attacked alien revealed as an alien. This makes the game difficult for these two aliens (now revealed to everyone else — location and identity) without removing one from the game. Any way to keep people playing should be the goal of the design, unless the game is specifically a player elimination game which doesn’t seem to be the intent of Escape from the Aliens of Outer Space.

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Here you record your movements for 40 rounds and a kindly reminder for all to the items

That small design flaw aside, the game is certainly tense and if you place a strict time limit on movement, the game can move quickly (to meet the 30-45 minute time expectation on the box rather than the 45-60 minutes it takes with larger groups) and the experience can be memorable. But, like any hidden role game, it depends on the group. Some games can be horrendously silent and slow. Others can be rousingly thematic and exciting. If you want to play this game and have a positive experience you need to seriously read your game group well. And despite the simplicity of gameplay, it is not a gateway game.

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Hilariously, not all of the escape pods actually are functioning…because everything wasn’t bad enough already.

Bookkeeping can also be a challenge. Unlike Letters from Whitechapel where only Jack is required to keep a careful log of movements, in Escape each player needs to be meticulous in their records and also able to keep an eye on where everyone else is potentially located. In the wrong hands this game looks like a large and boring rendition of Battleship with announced coordinates and a quick jot of a note. To be fair, in the right hands you feel like you’ve been transported to the set of Alien. The game really is only worth a play at higher player counts and thus the downtime can be excruciating. That said, there are eight maps to choose from so you can customize your game experience to your group by using a larger or smaller map. This plus your ability to go online and use the map editor (http://www.eftaios.com/mapeditor.html) provides a ton of variability.

This game could have gone a route to be bigger and more component heavy, especially in a market that rewards miniatures and intense components. It could have had a central board and more planning. However, it minimizes the overhead to maximize the immersive experience — you are alone and in the dark trying to get out or to hunt. This does place the onus solely on the player to provide the atmosphere. My recommendation is that if your group loves Letters from Whitechapel, lives and breathes Battlestar Galactica, and washes it down with The Resistance, then you have a winner here. Escape from the Aliens of Outer Space sits nicely in the realm of hidden movement and hidden role games, providing a large depth of immersion for a game that is so very easy to learn that exceeds at higher player counts for a true experience game.

About John Pappas

I'm John ~ a short, mustachioed Library Director of a small branch library outside of Philly. I'm a father, geek, librarian and zen practitioner. I wear glasses, play board games and tend to read pretty much anything that comes across my desk. I organize and host three gaming groups at my library ~ The Golden Gamers (65+), Tabletop Gaming at the Library, and a Game Design Guild. The name of this column "Roll for Fire" comes from my love of Flash Point: Fire Rescue [ and cooperative games in general] and the desire I have to watch it all burn down.

Celestia

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Nov 202016
 

In Celestia (Amazon, BGG), you and your crew of adventures are aboard an aircraft traveling through the cloud cities of Celestia. Your goal is to collect the treasures from each city which grow in grandeur the further you travel. The group is a discordant bunch and you were unable to choose just one person to be in charge so you will each take turns being captain. It won’t be an easy journey. You will be hampered by fog, lightning, birds, pirates, and, probably, each other. But if you play your cards right and push your luck just far enough, you will fly away as the richest of your crew.

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The game begins with all the players placing their pawns in the three dimensional cardboard airship. Each of the nine cities are set up from lowest to highest with the airship placed at the lowest city. Treasure cards are placed next to their corresponding city. Each player gets six-eight cards and the first captain is chosen. The captain rolls two to four dice (depending upon the next city up from where the airship is docked) to determine what difficulties the crew will face. Then the rest of the crew determine (clockwise from the captain) whether they wish to get off at their current city (I will leave) or to stay in the ship to travel to the next city (I will stay) and more precious cargo. Any crew who decide to disembark will remove their pawn from the ship and take a treasure card from the city’s deck. The worth of the treasure card varies at each location and increases the further you travel (although some special items can only be had at the earliest cities). After the crew is done at the current location, the captain plays the cards needed to overcome the obstacles. If the captain is successful, the remaining crew in the ship move forward and the player to the left becomes the new captain. This continues until a captain is unable to overcome the obstacles in their way, the ship crashes, everyone starts at the beginning, and draws up one equipment card.

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This is a retheme of Cloud 9 (1999) and maintains the light, interactive push-your-luck mechanic of the original with much upgraded art and components. The decisions and card play are simple so this is a great filler or ender. Basically, if you are the captain, only you know if you can overcome the difficulties so you need to bluff the other players to either stay on board or get off as quickly as possible. If you are the crew you need to read these bluffs and disembark at the right time or play the right cards to influence the result. Some cards can do more than just avoid hazards, these cards have additional powers such as a Turbo Card which acts as a wild card to overcome any hazard, a Jetpack which lets someone jump off right before the ship crashes, some allow for rerolls, others force players off the ship.

Celestia’s strength lies within it’s simplicity and its beauty — it is cute and colorful but not glaring. It is quick to set-up, simple to learn, and provides just enough interaction and take-that to make it interesting without getting too mean. The artwork and production quality are both wonderful — it has a nice, gentle, “around the world in 80 days,” whimsical, steam-punk vibe to it that isn’t too over-the-top or off putting. It plays best at higher player counts and still comes in at 30 minutes with 6 people playing. This game encourages surprises, bluffing, and explosive moments of laughter (when certain cards are played).

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While most press-your-luck games tend towards the abstract (King of Tokyo notwithstanding), Celestia does a great job with theming such a simple game. Player interaction isn’t intense and even being booted off the ship still allows you to pick up a treasure. There is also a surprising amount of table talk. The crew will berate the captain and the captain will bluster or sweat to bluff out the crew. It allows for plenty of supplemental interaction which doesn’t necessarily pertain to the game but certainly adds to the experience.

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About John Pappas

I'm John ~ a short, mustachioed Library Director of a small branch library outside of Philly. I'm a father, geek, librarian and zen practitioner. I wear glasses, play board games and tend to read pretty much anything that comes across my desk. I organize and host three gaming groups at my library ~ The Golden Gamers (65+), Tabletop Gaming at the Library, and a Game Design Guild. The name of this column "Roll for Fire" comes from my love of Flash Point: Fire Rescue [ and cooperative games in general] and the desire I have to watch it all burn down.

Dreamwell

 Board and Card Games, Reviews  Comments Off on Dreamwell
Nov 062016
 

In Dreamwell (Amazon, BBG), you are in a strange world where children wander while they sleep. You are searching for your friends — the dreamkin — who are lost in this realm. While you search for these lost souls, you will navigate strange terrains, enlist the aid of fantastic creatures, avoid the dreaded Nightmare, and keep an eye on the other denizens of the Dreamwell . In strictly game terms Dreamwell is an abstract game where players, through careful hand management and grid movement/manipulation, will score points (rescue souls) in order to win.

To set up, each player takes two standees of their color and one marker. The board is set up by randomly placing 16 tiles in a 4×4 grid. The tiles can be in any orientation and in an advanced variant they can be flipped to a “dark” side as well. A market of four cards is opened at the top of the grid and each player is dealt out a starting hand of two cards. This is your dreamscape to explore and search for the souls of children lost in the land of dream. Each tile has doors located on the edges or corners which allow for easier movement, a creature in the foreground,  and a terrain in the background. The goal is to meet the requirements of cards (one terrain and two creatures) in order to play them for instant bonuses, game long abilities, and points. On their turn players can take three actions:

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Move

Each player starts off the board with two standees in their color to move around the board. When using an action to move, players are limited to only one tile (adjacent or diagonally) and can only move if in the direction of a door. However, if they move through connecting door on the other tile they get an additional free movement action. In this way, with properly connected tiles, players can move the length of the grid easily.

Rotate a Tile

In order to line up doors, a player can rotate any tile. They don’t have to occupy the tile to rotate it so they can make traveling more difficult for other players if they wish.

Play a Friend Card

Each friend card has three requirements (two creatures and a terrain). If these requirements are met (their standee occupies tiles with corresponding creatures and terrain), that card can be played. Each card will provide a score plus a benefit which is resolved immediately or a game-long bonus ability.

Draw a Friend Card

Take a friend card from the market or draw one off the top of the deck.  

Refresh the Friends Card Display

Discard the market of friend cards and deal out four new ones.

(Advanced) Flip a Tile

If you are choosing to play the advanced variant, you can flip any tile from light to dark or dark to light.

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And that is about it. You are moving your standees around the board in order to line up the requirements to play friend cards and score points. The gameplay is simple and like any abstract game, your are rewarded when planning a few moves ahead. Lining up doors can move you long distances and chaining the right cards can gain you immediate bonuses or game-long abilities. 

The artwork is an immediate draw to the game but, while delightfully surreal, the terrains aren’t distinct enough from each other and often I found myself having to move the standee to see the terrain or move several tiles in order to rotate/flip one. Along with Kodoma: The Tree Spirits, Action Phase Games is certainly on point with art direction. However, unlike Kodoma where the art was added to an already stellar design by Daniel Solis; in Dreamwell, it feels as if they wanted to build a game around the artwork (Edit: Upon review this is actually the case according to the artist’s blog…which is kinda awesome). And they certainly succeeded. Tara McPherson is amazing, more games need to be made based on her artwork, and I have since made a pin of my favorite creature, the Skullflower. Given the choice between Dreamwell with Tara’s artwork and Little’s solid design and some cat/bear/baby-related thing coming out of The Oatmeal, I’ll take Dreamwell in a heartbeat.

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The gameplay is abstract so if you enjoy …and then, we held hands or other abstract games with card play, then this is probably your game. While the theme in the description of the game is engaging, it barely relates to the actual mechanics. Which is a shame if you like a game to be immersive. If you like abstracts though, this isn’t an issue. You are each a person exploring this world but you have two standees (where your divided soul is represented by balloons?) and also you are competing over the rescue of souls? There is an amazing cooperative game in there somewhere. Even providing the names of the friends, creatures, and locations, didn’t help (although I really appreciated it).

A modular board ensures that the game will benefit with repeated play and the card play is engaging. When you have a good feel of the cards, you can start chaining them together and the game can really move forward quickly.

There is very little player interaction. While flipping or rotating a tile may slow down an opponent, the fact everyone has two standees means that you have quite a bit of freedom of movement across the board. Again, this isn’t a criticism and if you enjoy the solitary feeling of Splendor or Dominion, then this could be the type of game you prefer. But if you are looking for interaction, other than standees getting in your way, everyone else may as well not be there.

Bottom Line: Great artwork, and accessible gameplay makes this an enticing game for new players. Lack of player interaction and strategy may not attract experienced players for more than a couple plays. But if you have some friends or family who need a second step game or want to step out of Dixit into something just as strange, then Dreamwell will suit your needs.

About John Pappas

I'm John ~ a short, mustachioed Library Director of a small branch library outside of Philly. I'm a father, geek, librarian and zen practitioner. I wear glasses, play board games and tend to read pretty much anything that comes across my desk. I organize and host three gaming groups at my library ~ The Golden Gamers (65+), Tabletop Gaming at the Library, and a Game Design Guild. The name of this column "Roll for Fire" comes from my love of Flash Point: Fire Rescue [ and cooperative games in general] and the desire I have to watch it all burn down.

The Ravens of Thri Sahashri

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Oct 082016
 

“Trapped in the prison of her own mind, Ren has only one chance at survival; her psychic friend Feth must reach into her unconscious to help guide her home. One player controls the deck of memories, while the other can communicate only through the placement of cards. Only by working together can they save Ren before the Ravens come to feast on her heartbreak and devour her memories whole.” The Ravens of Thri Sahashri is a tarot-sized, 2 player, cooperative card game with some legacy elements thrown in for added spice. In the game you alternate between playing the psychic Feth and the terminally unconscious Ren. Feth will build a tableau of cards for Ren to choose from and, communicating only through card play, will help guide each other through hidden and relived memories.

The Game

In The Ravens of Thri Sahashri one player takes the role of Ren, young girl in a coma and the other player takes the role of Feth, a young psychic with the ability to reach deep inside her subconscious and bring her back. This interaction between the two players centers around the Feth player setting an array of cards out for the Ren player to have the best chance at completing sets of cards.

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The Atman. Each card has to have at least one shaded area overlapping another shaded area. Shaded always overlays shaded and unshaded always overlays unshaded.

Each game of Ravens is made up of three “dreams.” At the beginning of the first dream, the player taking the role of Ren, will draw four cards and place them face down in a column in front of her. These are her Heart Cards and only she can see them. Each card has a numeric value of 1-5, one of five colors, and shaded areas (meant to represent the hurdles or blocks to Ren’s memories). Then each round of the dream, the player taking the role of Feth will draw cards from the central deck to build an Atman in the center of the play area. This Atman (or True Self) represents the fragments of the Ren’s memories. Ren can then choose one card from the Atman and place it in next to her heart cards. The hearts cards represent a poem (a dodoitsu — or poem with four lines of 7, 7, 7, 5 syllables). Ren can work to complete one line at a time. Only moving to the next line when the previous one is complete by a set of cards adding up to 7 (or in the case of the last line of the dodoitsu, 5). When Ren chooses a card of the same color as her heart card she may reveal the heart card for Feth to see. This is important information as it helps guide Feth in creating an Atman for Ren to choose from.

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Ren’s Four Heart Cards with one completed line of 7 and another partially completed (but revealed because the same color was pulled from the Atman)

As they work towards completing the poem, ravens begin to emerge from the deck. There are five ravens in the deck (one for each of the five colors of cards — red, blue, yellow, purple, green) and each are hungry enough to devour Ren’s hard earned memories. So, instead of discarding unused cards at the end of a round or dream, cards of a corresponding color to a revealed raven will be placed below the raven — a memory to be devoured at the completion of the dream. To counteract this, Feth can attempt to help Ren relive a memory by combining a block of same-colored cards in the Atman whose value equals 7. When this happens, a raven of the corresponding color is chased away, the cards sent to discard, and Ren reveals any of her heart cards that match that color. This provides Feth with important information about which cards he should add to the Atman and allows Ren some additional help at the end of the game. Those Heart Cards revealed due to a relived memory can be used in the third dream, where Ren needs to complete one line per round or lose the game.

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Feth’s drawn memory cards and two reveled ravens.

Play continues like this for the cycle of the dream. Feth will draw memory cards from the deck and add as many as he can (wants) to the Atman in the center of the play area with the rest being discarded or devoured by Ravens. Ren will then choose one card to add to her evolving poem or to discard. The dream ends once all four lines of the poem are completed and the heart cards revealed match the colors of the cards in the Atman.

At the end of the dream any heart cards revealed due to a relived memory are kept aside in Ren’s score pile. All other cards in the poem, heart and Atman are discarded or devoured by ravens. Any cards devoured by ravens are removed from the game, all revealed ravens remain in play and you deal up a new dream.

During the third and final dream, Ren must complete one line of her poem on every turn or lose. However, she can use the relived memories that Feth revealed in previous dreams to add to her poem and help her out.

Then and only then do you consider yourself victorious. I’m not sure if it is immediately obvious from the description but this game is exceedingly difficult. It is meant to be played in silence without any advance planning or discussion so expect a long line of agonizing defeats before claiming victory. As an added bonus, there are three sealed envelopes which add a legacy element to the game. I have not opened any of these envelopes yet but I understand that they make some minor rules changes and (hopefully) some additional story elements.

The Review

In playing “Ravens” two games immediately come to mind — Hanabi and …and then, we held hands. Similar to Hanabi, the core of this game is using your partner’s tells to help guide your actions through the game. So, in this sense, both games provide a puzzle to be worked out through non-verbal communication and empathy.  

In …and then, we held hands, players also were meant to remain silent while they played. However, I’m not a fan of how removing the social element makes any game feel, so I recommend that while all pertinent communication should be through the selection and placement of cards, light conversation and banter is acceptable. The theme of the game is not thick, so don’t worry that talking takes you out of it. In fact, to learn the game, I recommend playing a round (or an entire dream) out loud and allowing your partner to hear how you are planning and thinking and then going into silence. It is like playing a learning game with an open hand.

The card’s artwork is not really my flavor but it is certainly quality and well done. My perfect version of the game would drop the amine style completely and pick up some French surrealism. I feel as if I mention this often but Dixit cards makes every game better. There is a potential story to tell in Ravens and including artwork that allowed for some interpretation could add an extra storytelling element to the game. Imagine if every line in the poem could be interpreted to actually mean something!

The Rub

The Ravens of Thri Sahashri is everything I wanted …and then, we held hands to be, but wasn’t — an experience game which provides an actual experience plus some narrative and story. If you are partnered with a person friendly to gaming or a gamer themselves, then this is an easy purchase. If you are just starting in two-player games or gaming, then perhaps Hanabi is better first step but Ravens should come right after. For a quick 2 player game, it does take up a ridiculous amount of table space.

About John Pappas

I'm John ~ a short, mustachioed Library Director of a small branch library outside of Philly. I'm a father, geek, librarian and zen practitioner. I wear glasses, play board games and tend to read pretty much anything that comes across my desk. I organize and host three gaming groups at my library ~ The Golden Gamers (65+), Tabletop Gaming at the Library, and a Game Design Guild. The name of this column "Roll for Fire" comes from my love of Flash Point: Fire Rescue [ and cooperative games in general] and the desire I have to watch it all burn down.

A Review of City of Iron Second Edition

 Board and Card Games  Comments Off on A Review of City of Iron Second Edition
Jun 212016
 

City of Iron, players lead one of four nations and compete against each other for resources. You may be the hogmen, the weird albino elves, steam-punky humans, or <ahem> toads. But, in order to become an empire, you need to control the means of production. That’s right, you’re socialists and these aren’t your typical resources either: turnips, glow moss, tentacles, silk and bottled demons fuel the people’s developing economy. Comrades, to control the means of production you need to train and develop your civilian populace, recruit a strong military, and create the steam and air ships needed to move into new and unexploited lands. You also need steambots with mustaches. But if you need a quick boost you could always conquer (or re-conquer) an independent capitalist town.

The Game

  • Designer: Ryan Laukat
  • Publisher: Red Raven Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Time: 120 minutes
  • Type: hand management, deck-building, fantasy
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An awkward image of the board showing the resource tracks, the market and some unexplored lands.

The Rules

You are representing one of four nations (The City-State of Arc, Cresaria, The Hog Republic, and the Toads of Om). Each nation has two decks from which you can gain the expertise of your populace: The Military and the Citizenry. Each deck has its own particular strength and when played together in your hand it helps formulate your overall strategy to gain economic control and influence over the land. This influence is primarily determined by your ability to gain an advantage over 10 different resources and goods which come out through three building decks. Deck A has mostly turnips, moss, mutant sheep, and ore. Deck B has mostly tentacles, salt, bottled demons, and factory parts (Gods Alive! I love this deck). Deck C has mostly buildings which provide influence for other resources plus silk and crystals. As rounds progress, these decks will populate the market and be available for purchase.

Each player starts with their home territory and a district which can support five building cards. In order to expand and grow, players can explore new lands which will provide room for more building cards or attack and conquer the nearby “free towns” for resources and income. Each explored territory will provide an additional bonus condition that, when met, will provide additional influence at game’s end. Each free town will supply resources but control of those town could be wrested from you by competing nations.

At the end of day, you build both your decks with experts, draw them into your hand and play them to allow you to explore new territories, purchase buildings, conquer towns, and occasionally take free actions. All in order to gain precious, precious resources and goods which provide influence and income. Much Euro.   

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Your capital district is looking nice. It only holds five building cards so make them count.

The game is seven turns long, each with four phases which correspond to the four seasons (it gave me Viticulture flashbacks…).

Spring (Bid)

It is the Spring, love is in the air and players bid for turn order. It may cost you some money to guarantee you first go, or you can hang behind to watch your loved ones frolic.

Summer (Actions)

It is the Summer, no vacation for us, players can do one action in turn order for a total of three actions (this does not count any Free Actions). Their options for state-sanctioned enjoyment are to

  • Build by purchasing an available building card from the market. This building gets placed in one of your cities only if you have room in your city and if the city has the requisite land type (grassland, forest, sea, mountains, desert, tropical, and … flying island?). Each starting city can accommodate five buildings. Certain cards can increase this capacity through the addition of districts or players can explore and found new cities.  
  • Store Building Cards in their hands and pay for them later.
  • Draw a Card from their military or citizen deck and place the card into their hand.
  • They can Research (pay four coins for one science token). Science is a form of currency for certain building cards and expert actions.
  • Play a card from their hand for an Expert Action detailed on the card. When playing a card for an Expert Action, they may need to play additional cards as a Skills payment for the action. There are three skills represented by icons of each of the cards. Distance is represented by a green compass rose. Red Guns represents offensive ability and a blue Hammer to represent…ingenuity? Engineering? Communisms? It really isn’t clear but just take for granted that some actions requires a payment of cards in order to activate that action. Expert Actions can be free actions which allow you to take a Free Action by playing that card without it counting towards one of your three actions for the turn. Some actions are Reactions which contain bonuses or actions which are only applied when certain conditions are met.
  • Players can Tax and gain one coin.
  • And they can Attack a Town. During the initial set-up there are three stacks of unconquered towns. Each requires a certain amount of Guns and Distance to conquer. The player will play a certain amount of cards to equal the amount of icons necessary to conquer a town and then take the card into their tableau and gain the resources displayed. Each town has an unconquered and conquered side. Each town starts out unconquered and once a player takes that town it gets flipped over to its conquered side. Which means that the town can still be taken by another player through the Attack Town action but it is more difficult due to your increased military presence in the town.

Important Note: When playing a card for it’s icon (hammer, gun or compass) it can only be played for one of those icons. The free market is not encouraged.

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I’ve got my eyes on the turnip farms of Hogtown. Easy pickings.

Autumn (Collect)

It is Autumn, like the leaves from dying trees, discard and rake away the first four remaining buildings in the market. Slide everything to the left and draw up new buildings, filling the slots available according to how many players are playing. On the 3rd, 5th and 7th rounds, players will score influence from the goods tracks and from building cards in play. Players collect income, science, and bonuses from building cards in play, town conquered, and bonuses from the goods track. Lastly players will draw up new military and civilian cards into their hands. This is done according to the citizen and military icons present on building cards and district cards in play.

Winter (Hire)

It is Winter. Players purchase new citizen and military cards to place directly into their hands. It is about as fun as staring into a blizzard. Players can take forever to slowly drift through their decks, read the effects, check the prices, etc. etc. etc. This is the one phase that I wish desperately could go faster. It is done simultaneously but even then, there will likely be one person agonizing over a purchase, window shopping through the deck, or stopping to build a mechanical snowman. Every other phase in the game is snappy and quick so it is especially frustrating that this phase goes so slowly. After each player makes their decisions about which cards to purchase, they put them face down in front of them. Once everyone is decided, they flip and pay the necessary coin and science.

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Just a couple potential civilian hires. Nice clear iconography plus anthropomorphic animals to boot.

The Rub

Theme and artwork is classic Lauket.

If you have seen any games by Ryan Lauket you will not be disappointed. The card and board artwork is gorgeous and varied. I’m a huge fan of how he decided to differentiate between the citizen and military expert cards. The background of the citizen cards has a bright blue gorgeous sky while the military background is sulfuric and yellowed. It is simple and subtle and a testimony to how much thought Ryan puts into the aesthetic of the game. There are anthropomorphic hogs, lizards, plus airships and people riding snails. Everything is perfect and amazing. The board is a massive improvement on the first edition and I love the flexibility in placing the building card market on or off the board. The roundels (sic) for tracking resources are nice but don’t leave enough room for all four cubes if you are playing the full player count. It is a tiny complaint and barely worth mentioning.

Gameplay is simple to learn but too tight for new players.

The game provides some variety in how you attempt to win but despite several paths to victory, the gameplay is so tight that if you try to switch strategy partway through the game you are doomed. With only seven rounds and three actions each round, you need to make sure each action counts towards your strategy. For example, deciding to explore and discover a new land can take four actions and three rounds to achieve. When moving forward is that time consuming, one misstep can tank it (or if someone else grabs it before you). This can lead to a tense and pleasurable experience if you are playing with experienced players. But will be constricting to new players or those still exploring what a strategy. It also means that individuals with a couple of games under their belt have a huge advantage over new players making this a poor gateway game. At the end of the day, this is a game about efficiency and doing the most with the limited amount of actions you have available and prior knowledge of the decks is pivotal. It also makes the free actions provided by some of the expert cards exceedingly valuable.

Another success in hybrid games.

Ryan hit peak “hybrid” with the fusion of storytelling with euro-styled gameplay in Above and Below. In City of Iron the seeds to that game are apparent with it’s own hybrid style of play with hand management along with economic warfare and exploration. Players have three main options: develop their lands and cities, explore new lands to develop, and/or conquer established towns (either off the board or in another player’s tableau). Similar to the mechanic in Above and Below, where players can barter with each other to gain resources, the option to attack other players is rarely used in a game session but when it does it can blow the game up (in a good way). Players are given a wide choice of how they want to play the game and even during the friendliest games you know that some of your tableau is not completely safe. It reminded me a bit of the Air Strike option in The Manhattan Project. It rarely gets used but you know it is there and people keep preparing for it in a cold war sort of arms race but when it hits…everyone is on their feet. It as successful in City of Iron and some ability to strengthen your defenses more may make it more palatable.

Interesting deck-building component but heavy on the AP

Let’s clear the air here. Deck-building is not a favorite mechanism of mine. I don’t like Dominion or Trains. I can enjoy A Few Acres of Snow about once a year. City of Iron’s deck-building component is interesting in that you have two different decks to develop. This begs the question – If I don’t like a single deck deck-building game, would a duel deck be any better? The answer is yes and no. Since City of Iron isn’t solely a deck-building game and has more mechanisms to offer, I don’t mind it too much. It is slimmed down but with everyone purchasing new cards from their own personal deck, it can gum up the game. The process of purchasing cards, plus the ability to discard cards in a preferred order, and the two separate decks (civilian and military) slows everything down and with the other seasons moving so quickly, the flow of the game is disrupted once you hit the Winter Phase. If you are an experienced player and know the basic layout of the deck, it doesn’t take too long but new players are ground to a halt.

The Bottomline

City of Iron is a graphically engaging, tight, and unforgiving hand management, city building game that provides multiple paths to victory and just enough asymmetry to make the factions approachable once you learn the basics. It shines after a few plays once everyone understands the components of the decks. The artwork is (unsurprisingly) inspiring. If you have the patience and a group sold on Above and Below, then City of Iron will bring you joy. 

About John Pappas

I'm John ~ a short, mustachioed Library Director of a small branch library outside of Philly. I'm a father, geek, librarian and zen practitioner. I wear glasses, play board games and tend to read pretty much anything that comes across my desk. I organize and host three gaming groups at my library ~ The Golden Gamers (65+), Tabletop Gaming at the Library, and a Game Design Guild. The name of this column "Roll for Fire" comes from my love of Flash Point: Fire Rescue [ and cooperative games in general] and the desire I have to watch it all burn down.

A review of Knit Wit

 Board and Card Games, Reviews  Comments Off on A review of Knit Wit
Apr 302016
 

Historically, modern board gamers tend to turn up their collective noses up at party games, considering them less a game and more an activity beginning and ending on a whim or laugh or pulled groin. Any modern board game entries into the party game space are usually dominated with social deduction games (generally clones of The Resistance or Werewolf) and Apples-to-Apples knockoffs — All of which focus on deceitful or outrageous antics of the players involved. This is fine, but that also tends to make the sphere of play centered on extroverts. So, it is refreshing that simple(ish) word games such Vlaada Chvátil’s Codenames (2015), Alexandr Ushan’s Spyfall (2014), and Gaëtan Beaujannot and Alain Rivollet’s Concept (2013) are gaining some traction and bringing hobby and casual gamers together. Innovative gameplay plus a variable social aspect makes these games accessible across wide demographics. This, along with the pedigree that veteran game designers such as Leacock and Chvátil bring, is happily breathing new life into the party game space.

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The Game

Knit Wit goes a long way to make itself noticed. The box screams “scrapbooking” more than “boardgaming” with bright colors, a slipcase (sweet gods, all games need a slipcase), and strange retro tarnished appearance. Opening the box evokes a craft box filled with spools, clothespins, strings, cardboard tags and faux blackboard paper. There is undeniably retro charm in the tactile and visual experience. The components are round, chunky,and meant to be touched and picked up. You want to fiddle with the components even before reading the rules. You want to put something together and create. Even the rules are hidden in a hanging pocket as if to encourage exploration of the bits before even thinking about what to do to them. The components and presentation of the components elicit an emotion of childhood glee at exploring these tools. Everything is chunky, colorful, pragmatic and nostalgic — pins, buttons, string, tags. I feel as if I jumped back into time and dove into the junk drawer of my childhood kitchen. A place that always held the promise of exploration, creation, and excitement.

The Rules

The rules are simple. On the table each player lays out loops of string. On each string the players take a randomly selected word tag containing a descriptive word and attach it to the string with a clothespin. From this random placement, a net slowly emerges from each overlapping loop of string. Marking each of these overlapping areas are wooden spools. These spools represent areas are defined by different colored string which consist of one or more descriptive words. The players need to write down as many objects (defined as a person, place, or concept) that fit the descriptors for each section or spool. The more overlapping sections, the more strings attached, the more difficult it is to think up of object which the descriptors adequately describe and the crazier the concepts tend to be.

You need to write your answers down quickly. The first few people to complete their answers get a bonus button. But you also need to be original. Duplicate answers don’t score any points. You need to be creative enough to make something that won’t be duplicated but also isn’t stretching the imagination to be labeled a “knit wit” if someone challenges your answer. The three rounds of play are hectic, loud, and boisterous which is both a blessing and a curse. My issue with many party games is that they align more towards extroverted, knee-jerk personalities and less towards deliberative and introverted personalities. While Codenames can be a relaxed and calm party game (although damned if I don’t play it loud), Knit Wit, much like most knitters, only has one setting — fast and hard. Thus the discussion and, at times, arguments, over answers may be off-putting to some. Knit Wit also plays better as an activity with less focus on the actual points and winning. Placing more emphasis on creating an atmosphere or experience will likely be more enjoyable to casual gamers. If you are looking to win, maybe find something else. If you are looking to laugh and argue, then go with Knit Wit.

The Rub

Knit Wit is a great party game for your personal library collection. The components are simple, sturdy, and easily replaceable. The box is sturdy and eye-catching. The game-play is so simple you could explain it in less than 30 seconds and it is easy to demo at a service point. For a game-night, it may not be the best thing to pull out for veteran gamers (they are probably better served by Codenames or Spyfall) but if you have a family game night or group for seniors, or if your group does not like heavily thematic games, this is an easy pick.

deep-sea-adventure2

About John Pappas

I'm John ~ a short, mustachioed Library Director of a small branch library outside of Philly. I'm a father, geek, librarian and zen practitioner. I wear glasses, play board games and tend to read pretty much anything that comes across my desk. I organize and host three gaming groups at my library ~ The Golden Gamers (65+), Tabletop Gaming at the Library, and a Game Design Guild. The name of this column "Roll for Fire" comes from my love of Flash Point: Fire Rescue [ and cooperative games in general] and the desire I have to watch it all burn down.