Nov 282016
 

design1

A few nights ago Luca was hanging out in the office with me while I played a video game. She asked to borrow my dice and started writing something. About an hour later, she had a game idea. Neat! The next morning we brought it out on the table and put in a few hours of development time. Then a bunch of play testing. Now we have a fairly decent little game that actually works!

We’re tentatively calling it Candy Crash even though that’s too close to some other game you might know. We need a new title for starters. We’d also love as many people as possible to give the game a spin and let us know what you think. We’re on the first draft of the rules and aren’t too worried about spelling/grammar but are interested in rules clarifications and simplifications.

The PnP is available as a PDF here!

In Candy Crash, each player takes on the roll of a teen, working a job such as lawn mowing or a paper route. They’re all saving up to buy the best candy on the street at the local candy shop. Every turn, each player does their job and earns one coin. If they do an excellent job, they may earn a tip and start taking home some of that delicious candy!

This print and play features the rules, and all of the cards you’ll need. Just print this out along with the cards! If you’d prefer to just print out the cards, that’s fine too. You’ll also need to have 20 six-sided dice (5 for each player) and something to represent the coins. We’ve used paper clips but you can use pennies, M&Ms or anything else you have handy!

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

Nov 022016
 

ur

Note: Universal Rule is on Kickstarter now through November 12!

4X – eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate. These are games that I really love! You get out there, build an empire, try to take out the other players while also finding new things and managing resources. I love them on computers, I love them in cardboard and really I only have one problem with this genre as a whole. It takes to darned long to play these games! I wish I still had hours to dedicated to them (and sometimes I make the time) but most often I just don’t. Then along came Universal Rule.

Universal Rule plays with 2-5 people, in about 45 minutes for ages 12+. It’s designed by Chip Beauvais and published by Button Shy Games. And it does all this with eighteen freaking cards as part of the Button Shy Games’ wallet series. I’ve played the prototype and pre-Kickstarter print and play versions. There may be some changes to the production version of the game.

Editor’s Note: Button Shy Games are the publishers of my game Ninja – Silent but Deadly.

How to play

In Universal Rule, players are competing to colonize new worlds, exploit them for money or military power and by either cunning or force be the first player to reach the winning number of victory points. 15 points for three players, 13 for four players and 11 for five players.

To start off, there are 17 Planet cards and 1 Universal Rule card. The Universal Rule card is put aside and the 17 planet cards shuffled. Each player is dealt three Planet cards and will choose two to start the game with. The remaining cards, including those discarded by the players are then shuffled into the main deck.

Players will have to provide their own money counters (called Credits) for this game. There’s a hard limit of 25 credits per player. This can be taken care of by providing 1 dime, 2 nickels and 8 pennies per player. Or use something else. I prefer original M&M’s as you can eat them at game’s end.

Each of the 17 different planet cards have an ability that can be used when they are colonized (when they are played to the table). They also have a cost in credits (gold number), a military power (red number, which includes their fleet) and an income (green number) which shows how many credits they could potentially generate. Every non-upgraded planet is also worth 1 victory point, as shown by the star just under the name. When upgraded, the number of stars increases, increasing the total victory points that planet is worth. In addition to this, each Planet card can be rotated 180 degrees to be upgraded – offering generally larger numbers. There’s a cost to upgrading though. From these planet cards each player can determine everything they need to know about their galactic empire. The first player to reach or exceed the winning victory point number on their turn immediately declares themselves the winner.

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On a player’s turn, they can select one of five different actions. Other players can also follow all but one of these actions, for a cost. In a neat twist to other games that feature a similar role mechanic, the role doesn’t vanish when it’s selected (so that other players can also select it) and the players themselves determine the cost of following. To follow, the player sets the cost at a minimum of 1 and a maximum of however many planets they currently have colonized. They set this before they themselves take their action.  If a player decides not to follow, they take 1 credit from the bank. And what are these actions?

Explore: Here players can pay one credit to the bank and choose to draw a card (if any are available) from the deck and add it to their hand. You have a hard limit of 3 cards for your hand.

Colonize: Take a card from your hand and place it on the table. Pay the cost as indicated on the card and that planet is now colonized and in play. If you can afford the more expensive, upgraded side of the planet, you can put a planet directly into play, already upgraded. Other players may follow and pay your follow cost to you, and the cost of colonizing their planet to the bank.

Upgrade: Pay the difference in their planets initial colonize cost and the upgraded cost, then flip their planet card 180 degrees. They now use the upgraded military power and income numbers. When following, other players pay the follow cost in addition to the planet’s upgrade cost. You cannot downgrade a planet.

Produce: The player takes the credits generated by all of the planets colonized and in play. If other players choose to follow this action, they gain their planetary income before they must pay the follow cost – so it is possible to follow this action if you have no cash on hand to start with.

Attack: The one action that cannot be followed. Players select one of their planets to attack with. Let’s go more in depth with this action as combat involves all of the players.

The player doing the attacking picks another player’s planet to attack and then selects one of their planets to lead the attack. Those planet’s military value is where this attack will start. The winner is the one with the most military value, defenders winning all ties. Now comes the neat bit. Each player, starting with the attacker and going in turn order, can add their fleet and as many cards from their hands as they would like to add. To add cards, it’s always the fleet value of that card (signified by the little wings on the Military Power icon) and each card is played face down.

Next, players can add funds to the battle. Each player takes tokens into their hand equal to the number of fleets they possess on planets that aren’t currently the attacking planet or the defending planet. They secretly separate these tokens into funds they want to spend (their right hand) and funds they don’t want to spend (their left hand). Those numbers can be zero.

Now the reveal! At the same time (count to three) all players will reveal their credit support and also point to the player they are supporting – either the defender or the attacker. Now it’s time to total up and see who won. The attack value is the attacking planet’s military power plus all coins revealed by those siding with the attacker plus the fleet value of all cards contributed (played face down above).

The defense value is calculated the same way – the defending planet’s military power plus all coins revealed by those siding with the defender plus the fleet value of all cards contributed.

In this example, almost all of the other players, including my own daughter are siding with my attacker.

In this example, almost all of the other players, including my own daughter are siding with my attacker.

If the attack was successful, the defending planet is downgraded. If it can’t be downgraded, it’s destroyed (and added back into the main deck). The player who contributed the most (in coins, cards and planet’s military power) then takes the Universal Rule card, which is worth 6 victory points. If unsuccessful, each player that supported the defender and contributed at least 1 credit or played 1 card gets a free Explore action, in turn order. If the attacker had the Universal Rule card, it’s returned to the center of the table. Either way, all coins spent in an attack go to the bank and all cards played are discarded to the main deck.

And that is the game – play continues around the table until someone hits or exceeds the vp total needed to win. Quite a bit going on for a little game like this!

Why you should play

4x games can be a bit on the complicated side. While that’s certainly ameliorated by having only 18 cards in play, Universal Rule is not a simple little card game. There’s a lot going on here! Thankfully the graphic design choices put everything you’ll ever need about each world right on the card. That makes playing this game a lot simpler when everything you could possibly want to know is right in front of you on the table or in your hand. I love that this game turns an hours long 4x experience into less than an hour play time even with five players! I still feel like I’ve gotten my 4x experience in as well, which is gratifying.

I love the inclusion of following on other players actions (or at least earning a credit) as it keeps all of the players, even in a five player game, on their toes and thinking during each player’s turn. Everyone’s engaged – and if there’s combat? Woo boy, then everyone’s really engaged.

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Metal tokens do not come with this game.

There are a lot of interesting, sometimes stressful decisions to be made at any point in the game as well. The need to explore to have more cards (and potential colonized worlds) in your hand balances with the need to actually get some planets on the table and generate income. Do you add these worlds to your budding empire? Save the cards so you can properly defend or attack another player? Maybe you just need to expand your base so you can generate more cash. More cash means the ability to follow more often, so you can get more done! But then that depletes your ability to add money into an attack and grab the Universal Rule card for six victory points!

The special powers, unique military and credit values and the differing victory point values (once upgraded) of each planet mean that even after many plays of this game there’s still a good deal of replayability built right in.

Really, the most telling thing I can say about Universal Rule is that five minutes after getting soundly thumped in my first game I was thinking about different paths I could have taken and itching to get another play in as soon as possible. Chip and Button Shy Games have really hit this one out of the park – this could be the most game I’ve ever seen squeezed onto 18 cards. I’m saying that as someone who loves to play and collect tiny games. The ability to sit down and pull a legitimate 4x game out of my pocket, and I mean literally out of my jean’s pocket, is pretty amazing. Yes, you do have to add your own counters for the in-game cash, but that’s a trivial thing. A bag of M&M’s costs about eighty cents and two rolls of pennies costs exactly one dollar and each are just as portable as the game itself.

Universal Rule is currently on Kickstarter and can be had for $10. This is Button Shy’s 21st project on Kickstarter and they have a very solid track record of delivering good games on time.

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About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

Oct 242016
 

help-me-post

Help Me! published by Libellud, designed by Dong-Hwa Kim for 2 players, ages 8+ and plays in literally five minutes.

Here we have a charming little game first published waaaay back in 2011. It’s a strictly two player affair that features cool illustrations of nature spirits and a simple tile placement/stacking mechanic. It’s actually quite fun and can be found for relatively cheap.

How to play

Here I’m going to indulge myself and copy directly from the instructions for once so you can get the whole of this game in a simple sentence. Score more points than your opponent by placing your creatures on top of stacks of tiles which will be made during the game. That… is a pretty easy to learn game, right? Lets look a bit deeper. If you want to skip the how’s and get to the why’s – head on down to the Why you should play section.

The game consists of 30 Avatar tiles, each featuring one of six creatures. Each creature has five of their own tiles, numbered 1-5. There are also six Creature tiles. The Avatar tiles are shuffled about and laid out in a five by six tile rectangle. The six Creature tiles are shuffled and two dealt to each player, who keeps them secret from their opponent. The remaining two creature tiles are not to be looked at for the rest of play. Now you’ve set up the game!

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Each player, on their turn, must move an Avatar tile or a stack of Avatar tiles according to the following rules:

A tile or stack of tiles can be moved to a space to the right, left, above or below of its starting position, but cannot move diagonally. Tiles (or stacks) must move onto an adjacent tile or stack. When you’re moving a stack (that is more than 1) of Avatar tiles, you must move the whole thing – it cannot be split. Once a player has made their single move, it’s their opponent’s turn. Now you know the rules! The game is over when no more Avatar tiles can be moved. Let’s get on to scoring.

At the end of the game, players reveal who their two Creatures are (on their Creature tiles) and score up stacks. Any single Avatar tiles are claimed by the player who owns that Creature tile. Any stacks of Avatars belong wholly to the player who claims the Avatar tile on top. A stack is worth the number of tiles in it (so three tiles = 3 points). A tile by itself, regardless of the number on it is worth 1 point. Now here comes the bit that slightly harder to follow. A tile is worth the number of points printed on it if and only if these conditions are met: It can’t be on the top of a stack, it must be the same creature that is on the top of the stack and it must match one of the two creatures that the player owns.

That’s the game, the first one should take you about ten minutes and each game after that perhaps four or five minutes with an extra minute for scoring.

Why you should play

help-me-1First and I think most important, this game is straight up, simple, easy to learn, hard master fun. Well, not terribly hard to master but still a heck of a lot of fun. It plays in about the same time as a hand of Love Letter but feels like a complete game.

While game play itself is simple, pick up a tile or stack of tiles. move them up/down/left/right, the scoring is where your strategy comes to the front. To score more points, you must ensure your higher point tiles are in a stack of other tiles with that same creature on the top of the stack. You can spend a few moves getting a decent stack of tiles together only to have your opponent move an unrelated creature to the top and strand those tiles so no more can be moved on them. If you’re not careful it can be a little frustrating  – the good news is that a whole game lasts just five minutes, so your chance for revenge won’t be far off.

Add to that the gorgeous artwork, small size and equally small price tag (most retailers should have it for under $10) and you’ve got a great two player game that you can kill fifteen minutes with in a best of three series.

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

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.

Oct 032016
 

karmaka

Alas, I am once again forced to play another game with stunning artwork and quality components. I must have done something right in a past life. Here you’ll find a quick to set up, fairly easy to play card game that features some neat mechanics.

Karmaka is a card game for 2-4 players, by Hemisphere Games and takes about 30-60 minutes to play.

How to Play

This is a brief summary of the rules – it’s entirely possible that I’ll miss a few of the once-case rules or whatnot.

Shuffle the deck of 64 cards. Place the Karmic Ladder in the center of the table and drop your player tokens smack dab on the Dung Beetle. Yup, the Dung Beetle. Now you create the ‘Well’ (main deck of cards) with those 64 game cards. From this well of cards you’ll deal four cards to each player which becomes their hand, and 2 cards face down which becomes their starting deck.

On your turn, you’ll draw one card from your deck (if available), and play one card from your hand. You can play these cards in one of three ways.

  1. To your Deeds.
  2. To your Future Life.
  3. For it’s Ability.

That’s it! That’s your turn. Players keep doing this until they die. No, seriously. It’s okay though, with Karmaka, you’ll be reincarnated in a turn. Now let’s get into the meat of the game.

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If you play a card to your Deed’s pile, you’ll be doing it for the score. Each card is worth 1, 2 or 3 points. If, when you run out of cards to play and you shuffle off this mortal coil you have enough points (4, 5, 6 or 7) you can reincarnate at the next level of being.  Levels proceed as follows: Dung Beetles, Snakes, Wolves, Apes and finally, transcendence and the win. If you die without having enough points to move upwards, you’ll receive a Karmic Ring which is worth 1 point when scoring.

There is a trick though, there are four colors – red, green blue and ‘mosaic’ (wild). You must pull your score only from one color in your Deeds pile, adding any Mosaic cards to that color.

That’s the Deeds pile. There’s also your Future Life pile. You may play cards face down towards your Future life. When you run out of cards to draw and play, you’ll reincarnate – whether you have enough points or not to proceed to the next level, your Future Life deck will become your new hand. If there are less than six cards, you also draw cards from the well, face down into a new draw deck until your hand and your deck equals six cards. If you have six or more cards, you’ve got yourself a big hand.

Then you can play cards for their Abilities. Each card has an ability on it They may allow you to add extra cards to your hand, or Ruin one of your opponents Deeds (put it in the discard pile) or even peruse the discard pile to add cards to your hands. There are quite a few abilities but as with all things karmic, what comes around, goes around. If you play a card for it’s ability it goes into the Ruins pile (again, the discard pile). Here’s the catch though, your opponent may choose to snatch that card from the ruins and place it into their Future Life pile, to use against you.

That’s the game. When you have not more cards to draw or play, you die and are reincarnated. You score your deeds and move up the Karmic Ladder or grab a Karmic Ring if you can’t move up. Then you take your Future Life pile as your new hand, draw so you have at six cards if you have fewer and go around again. There are a few extra rules and play variants for 3-4 players.

Why you should play

Simple on it’s surface, Karmaka actually has a lot going on. You don’t want to extend your life too long by building up your hand to a massive size through your Future Life deck. You have to be careful what you play in your Deeds pile as other players can do things to this – and to your hand as well. Trying to time when you’ll die and reincarnate is fairly important, as well as holding on to that one card you want to play when your opponent dies and essentially misses a turn.

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Our first play through was fairly simple – build up a good Deeds pile, throw a card you don’t care about it on top (the order doesn’t change) so that if you get attacked it’ll hit a card you don’t mind losing and then pop off to reincarnate and do it again. Towards the end though, when trying to scrape up the 7 points to transcend and win, we realized that you can do a lot in the earlier game to set yourself up for the later game.

What you play to your Future Life pile can be critical, as is snatching up nasty (or highly beneficial) cards your opponent plays for their Abilities. But don’t just grab every single card they play, when they play it – it may be worth it let that card get buried in the Ruins, hopefully never to be seen again.

Later plays actually slowed down by five or ten minutes as we gave some though to what may happen in our next life.

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The components, though simple – a few cardboard punch outs, wooden player tokens, a small player board and cards, are all of very high quality. Wonderful, moody art makes every card something to look at. The cards aren’t linen finished but are decently thick and shuffle well.

Personally, I think this game plays best with 2 players. The 3-4 player game works and is certainly playable and enjoyable but as a two player, thinky card game Karmaka shines. This is another game that’s found a home on my shelf and I’ll certainly be playing more of it.

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

Sep 252016
 

wokbox

Hailing from a centuries old tradition of cooking inspired dexterity card games, Wok on Fire is quite the little gem. That first bit isn’t true either but I’ve always wanted to write something like that. Here, you have a game that’s just 58 cards in size, including the player aid/scoring cards. Set for 2-4 players, the game takes less than 20 minutes to play and is good for people aged 8+.

The premise is this: All players are chefs, laboring over a fiery hot wok. With our spatulas we compete with each other to stir-fry, pick and plate the choicest ingredients. Our goals are to make the most complete and desirable meals – failing that we’ll settle for some great meats or collections of memorable spices. Worst case scenario, we end up scooping gobs of green peppers and broccoli – the stuff of nightmares for kids around the world.

How to play

Setup is pretty darned easy. There are 50 ingredients cards. Shuffle them all together. There are four Spatula cards – each player gets one, those not in use go back into the box. There are also four Player Aid cards – one goes in front of each player. If there are less than four players, the player aid cards are still used – as these define the edges of the shared Wok. Other objects (the edge of a round table, a few game boxes or in on memorable case, my cat) can also be used to define the limits of the Wok. This is important during game play.

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One player takes 24 of the 50 cards in the deck and spreads them around the play area (your Wok) face down. The other 26 cards are placed to the side as your supply of ingredients. Then play begins.

Each player will have three phases per turn. Stir Fry, Pick and Chop. In the Stir Fry phase, you take your Spatula cards an flip over at least one card in the Wok. Do this twice. Cards must actually be flipped to qualify as really being stir fried. This should expose a bunch of cards (or hide others).

In the second phase, the Picking phase, you must pick one ingredient, and may pick up to two (depending on what’s visible or not). Certain ingredients, like Chicken or Green Peppers allow you to pick all of the face up versions of that card, for better (chicken) or worse (green pepper).

In the Chopping phase, players take the supply deck and ‘chop’ two more ingredients into the Wok, by flipping the top card off of the deck with a downward, chopping motion and saying “Ha!” (At least, that’s how we do it).

The Picking phase is really the only phase of the three that doesn’t involve some dexterity. Flipping can take skill, particularly if you’re trying to hide less savory ingredients and reveal more desirable cards. Chopping can be interesting as well – you can cover up existing ingredients causing your opponents to try and Stir Fry them back into view. Cards must have a least one corner and the center image visible for you to pick them. Unless it’s Chicken – you can always make a guess that something is chicken. If you’re right, you get a tasty meat ingredient. If you’re wrong, back in the wok the card goes.

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Ingredients stir fried or chopped out of the Wok remain outside the Wok until the next player’s turn, where they are chopped back in. A practice I don’t encourage while actually cooking.

What’s the purpose of all this – besides making a delicious cardboard meal? Why – the card combos of course! At the end of the game players will arrange their cards into the most favorable combinations with full meals scoring tons of points and combos of meats, spices and sets of ingredients scoring points based on the number and variety of cards. Get to many of the less desirable ingredients and you’ll be subtracting points too.

Play continues until the Supply deck is empty and then players pull out calculators or napkins and start working out their score.

Photo credit: Natasha Tadisch

Photo credit: Natasha Tadisch

Why you should play

Wok on Fire is a very quick, fairly easy game to play provided you have the space to flick around a bunch of cards. The game itself is quite fun and is reminiscent of Sushi Go but with a dexterity component. It can be fairly quick but doesn’t involve a lot of players getting in each other’s way – speed isn’t an issue so much as accuracy is.

We very much enjoyed this aspect of the game. Scoring is a little fiddly though, as you look at the image above. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but we weren’t expecting as complicated a schema as there is. What we found was that in our first few games, scoring took almost as long as the actual game itself. In later games however, we realized why the scoring is they way it is, and this is important. You can actually employ a good deal of strategy in your Stir Fry and Chop phases keeping the scoring in mind. Suddenly our games were a bit slower – more in line with the 20 minutes listed on the box.

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We’d carefully flip in just the right way, and happily chop cards face down over important ingredients we knew our opponents could really use. So yes, the scoring can be a little bit of work at first but after a few plays, the end game is a presence throughout the actual game – directing us to try and aim better and make smarter choices in picking cards.

The one real complaint I have about this game is the box. It looks great, colorful and fun. It took us about five minutes of wrangling to get the darned thing open though. The top fits so snugly over the bottom that gravity just can’t do it’s thing. Forcing the box made me wary that I’d rip a corner (I didn’t) but it’s a tight fit. It’s getting better with repeated openings. Other than this issue, the game is well made, with nice linen finished cards and a neat take out menu/rule book.

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If you’d like to add an additional challenge, I can suggest adding a cat into the mix while playing on a bed, as we did.

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

Feb 182016
 

TotalCon begins this TODAY!  If you haven’t pre-registered don’t worry. You can get your ticket on site. There are heaps of games, events, panels, and fun to be had.

This year I will be in attendance with Troll in the Corner owner & Indie Talks host Ben Gerber. Ben, as a Guest of Honor, is running a few events and is also sitting on a slew of panels. Be sure to look at Ben’s Schedule to see what he is doing.

If you are coming to TotalCon this year, I’d love to meet you.  Below you can find my public con schedule.  Just look for the tall guy wearing either a black or gray Wargaming Recon t-shirt. If you like us on Facebook you will be able to see a photo of me during the con to make it easier for you to find me.

Friday February 21

1-3pm Arrival/Stairs of the Immortal: Duke Crestfaul and the Lightess/Small Board and Card Games: Big Fun!

Hoping to arrive for 1pm.  If I make it in time and if there is still space I’m hoping to play either in Guest of Honor Jay Libby’s Stairs of the Immortal RPG or Guest of Honor Ben Gerber’s Small Board and Card Games event.  Don’t play many RPGs so it’d be nice to try something different and although I own a copy of Love Letter I’ve never played it.  No matter what happens it is sure to be fun.

3-5pm Meander

This is a great time to visit the vendor room and then walk around taking photos.  There’ll be a lot of people playing games and fun stuff happening.

5pm Dinner

I’ll be dining in Pike’s Peak with Guest of Honor Ben Gerber. If you see us don’t be shy, feel free to come up and say hi!

6-7pm Perusing the Con

There are numerous events I need to pop by. You can find me visiting:
Guest of Honor Peter “Blix” Bryant’s Blixapalooza in the lobby.

7-11pm Convoy to Malta

Convoy to Malta is a War at Sea event (GMed by Dan Eustace) in the minis room.  Dan has taken the standard War at Sea game as created by Wizards of the Coast and he’s enhanced it with resources, info, and ideas from the excellent Axis & Allies ForuMINI online community.  Dan’s events are always a blast.  If you’re not playing in anything at 7pm you should try to get into the game.

11pm Podcast the Day’s Events

When I return to my hotel room I am recording my thoughts on the day.  With luck I may even be able to edit and release the recordings from the con, for your listening pleasure.  This will most likely be a LIVE recording you can watch on YOUTUBE!  Should warn if you watch the live recording I may be imbibing alcoholic beverages so it will be for mature audiences only.  The actual podcast episode will be safe for all per usual.

Saturday February 22nd

9am Breakfast

A guy has to eat. The hotel serves a good breakfast buffet. This is a good way to meet other gamers and catch up.  Feel free to have breakfast with me if you’d like (everyone pays their own way).

11am Writing for RPGs (Auditorium)

Industry guests discuss the process of writing for a roleplaying game.  The panel is moderated by Jenn Gerber.  Looking forward to learning a lot about the writing process.

Noon-2/3pm Lunch/Family visit

My wife and infant daughter are coming to visit and check out the con.  My wife has never been to TotalCon before and there’s a lot of people who want to meet the baby.

1-5pm Hanghai Hustle

GM Mike Paine is running his Hanghai pulp wargame.  After my family leaves Mike said he’ll make room for me to play even if the game is half over.  Mike is one of the GMs I ALWAYS look for at a gaming convention.  YOU.  NEED.  TO.  PLAY.  THIS.  GAME.

5-7pm Riding the Rocket TSR’s First 5 Years

Guest of Honor Tim Kask discusses the first five years of TSR’s existence covering how they made Dungeons & Dragons and hopefully Chainmail too.

7pm Dinner

Consider this an informal meetup.  Any who wish to can join me for dinner at the hotel restaurant Pike’s Peak.  Everyone pays their own way but we can have a meal and discuss the fun at TotalCon.  If you see me don’t be shy, feel free to come up and say hi!  Please try to connect with me BEFOREHAND so I can be sure everyone is together before going into the restaurant.  Makes it easier on the restaurant staff.

11pm Private Event

I can’t speak about this but please know it has the opportunity to open quite a few doors for Wargaming Recon.

Sunday February 23rd

11am Open Gaming

I’ll be around to game for a bit. Got a game you’d like to play? I’m also bringing some board/card games to play. Maybe I’ll pack X-wing minis too

Noon Adios

Homeward bound.

About Jonathan J. Reinhart

Jonathan J. Reinhart is an editor of Troll in the Corner where he writes about wargaming. Jonathan also is the owner of the Wargaming Recon podcast. He has been gaming with miniatures since 2000 and playing board games from a young age. He's played a myriad of games such as: Warhammer 40k, Warhammer Fantasy, Warmachine, Starship Troopers, Axis & Allies: War at Sea, Flames of War and Warlord Games' Black Powder rules. War at Sea and the Black Powder rules are his current go-to games. Jonathan enjoys casual, fast, fun, and group board games. Sitting Ducks Gallery, Zombie Dice, Guillotine, Pandemic, and Carcassonne rank high on his list. He is a retired local politician with a B.A. in Politics & History, which provides a useful background for historical gaming. A casual World of Warcraft player, he became a Kingslayer as Viktrious the Blood Elf on 4/23/11 and followed that up by slaying Deathwing on 5/9/12.

Feb 022016
 

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Button Shy Games has taken the next step in cardboard ninja evolution and launched Ninja: Silent but Deadly on Kickstarter as part of their line of wallet games! I highly suggest, no, I insist that you check this out! You can own this game for just $8.

Ninjas! Their very name conjures images of black clad, highly trained assassins. Now, the mystique and power can be yours to use as you see fit.

Perfect for a game night, casual party or other social gatherings. Hand out one “You Lose!” card to every player. Each player has until the end of the game session to slip their card somewhere where another player will be forced to find it. Amongst other cards of a game currently in play, in their chips or what have you. Be creative! And don’t get caught! When a ninja card is found by another player, that player is out. The last player standing wins.

 

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This is the simplest game I’ve ever developed. You can teach someone to play it in 30 seconds or less. Interesting enough, this is also one of the must fulfilling and enjoyable games I’ve ever created! I’ve had games of Ninja that have lasted a few minutes and I have on going on three years now. It’s up to you how long you’re going to play and how elaborate you’ll allow yourself and your gaming folks to get!

Button Shy Games have a great, fast 10 day campaign lined up for Ninja with some wonderful stretch goals and the ability to add on other games in their wallet game series.

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If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with the game as it existed in it’s print on demand form. Well now it’s better real, fantastic art by a real artist! Easy to carry around packaging and the ability to print it out right now and see for yourself! Here’s our chance to bring this fun game to life!

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.