February 28, 2014

Jungle Elves 2nd Summoner Review

This is a quick review of the new 2nd Summoner for Jungle Elves

Just this past week in the Makati Gaming Group, Nicco and I tried out the new 2nd Summoners. Both of us were able to play the Jungle Elves and this gave me a chance to see how they play. 

The Jungle Elves introduced a new mechanic in Summoner Wars - POISON
It is an interesting mechanic that seeks to counter using heavy champions and encourage common play. Think of the possibilities if Mighty Krung has 2 Poison markers, he now only hits on 5-6! All it takes is 2 hits from your common hunters.


These guys have range, are cheap and effective threats to big guys due to poison. Every chance of weakening those big champions is going to make a huge impact on the battlefield as it decreases your opponent's chance to hit from 66% to 50% with one poison marker and 33% with 2 poison markers.

More than that though are the great events of Nikuya Na. He has a lot of events that quickly boost your unit's stats that make for good aggressive play.
These two cards give you movement and attack at a time where your opponent won't see it coming. Having faced the Jungle Elves twice already, I was surprised when Nicco pulled this combo out against me (this led to a bloodbath!). I got out of that horrible turn with wounds on my summoner and a wiped out army.  

One of the things that I noticed when Nicco played Jungle Elves is that he had to aggressively use his summoner and place him in the middle of the board because his events only work on units within 2 spaces of Nikuya Na. Nikuya Na has range plus 7 life which allows for breathing room to go on the offensive.

However the biggest weapon of the Jungle Elves is a big Kitty!
Miti Kyru is the big bodyguard of Nikuya Na. They work well together because Miti Kyru allows Nikuya to be placed in another space, which effectively extends the threat range of the summoner. Remember that Miti Kyru can attack first, move and mount up Nikuya Na to a better position in order to attack or escape. 

Overall the new Jungle Elves combine both offense and defense while being aggressive. They have a great champion in Miti Kyru and have hunters to poison and weaken the big bruisers of the enemy. 

We will end this review right here as we have not played enough yet to discuss the other units, plus we'll let you explore first and try them out!

Buy your Nikuya Na Jungle Elves pack here!

February 24, 2014

Summoner Wars - after 3 years!

 

 

3 years ago the first Gaming Library Game of the Year award was given to Summoner Wars. This was attributed to the game's ability to be simple and quick yet competitive and deep in strategy and tactics aside from the fact that it is easy on the wallet for an expandable tactics game.

 

 

After two years, Summoner Wars has been over taken with some of the newer games like King of Tokyo and is now head to head with Netrunner. 

 

While I enjoy the occasional King of Tokyo, The Resistance and Love Letter, I miss the deeper level of tactics and strategy that I'm used to when playing more competitive games. I'm also at a point where I cannot spend too much time and money because I'm currently running companies with a very lean structure. The problem now becomes apparent. How can I have the fun of deck building and conceptualizing strategies on my own and testing them against others, while fitting it to my gaming schedule?

 

This is how I got back to enjoying Summoner Wars. It fits the bill in terms of time and effort (and so much more cash!). I just got my new second summoners featuring the Cloaks and I'm thrilled to try them out while deck building at the same time. 

 

But for those who don't know anything about the game yet, a one-liner would be "Chess + Magic" best of both worlds combined! It is a very affordable card game with simple rules yet is still deep enough for constant competitive play.

 

Here's the official description of the game : Summoner Wars is the exciting card game of fantastic battlefield combat that puts you in the grandiose role of a Summoner. Strategy shapes the composition of each deck of cards and how they are used. Tactics determine the effectiveness of those cards in battle. Call walls of stone to protect you in combat and serve as magic portals for you to summon your warriors. Call your forces forth and send them in a surging wave against your enemy. Cast spells that bolster your forces and cut down those who would oppose you. - from PHG website

 

 

We've taught it to 8 year old students, both male and female, and after 2 turns they quickly get a grasp already of how to play it. They've joined tournaments and even won! Check out this write up by Gavin and Adrian.

 

If you think it isn't deep enough then you might want to check out the fact that there are now over 300 possible match-ups! As there are already 24 Summoners out already (but you only really need two to play =D) Each Summoner brings with him/her a plethora of strategies and play style that just keeps the game fresh and interesting.

 

There's also a group now on facebook that regularly talks about the game : Click here

 

I personally have all Summoners (mainly because I am biased towards the game) but have three separate groups for them.

 

1.) Go To Decks - always have with me

2.) For Flavor decks - will bring out from time to time for experimentation and surprise games

3.) Will not use - these are the decks that I will use once or twice only for personal reasons. Usually because they do not fit my play style.

 

If you're having thoughts on which decks to get I highly recommend getting the Master Set first then checking out this Buyer's Guide by PHG.

 

If you want to learn Summoner Wars then I highly recommend joining the groups and the new guy night event!

 

 

Venue: Plaza 1 Cafe

Date : February 26 Wednesday 730pm

Mechanics : Bring a friend and we'll demo Summoner Wars for free! plus you get a free promo card from Plaidhatgames :)

 

See you there!

 

 

September 25, 2013

Unboxing : Star Wars LCG Core set

Unboxed : Star Wars LCG Core set

As you may know it is actually a little late to do an unboxing of Star Wars LCG given that it has been in the market for months now. But for the past few weeks, I have been bitten by the Star Wars bug plus the competitive drive to play a card game. I was initially going through the list ( Netrunner, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings) and finally settled on Star Wars as the game is picking up steam and there's news that it will soon be playable under a COOPERATIVE mode. How cool is that?

Anyway what's also cool about Star Wars LCG is that you can get these cool Limited edition Slave Leia card sleeves (see the ones at the lower right hand corner). They look great and fit right into the cards. If you want to get them you can simply click here.

Going into the components:

The Star Wars: The Card Game Core Set contains everything two players need to begin battling for the fate of the galaxy: 
  • 240 Cards (117 light side, 117 dark side, and 6 Force cards) 
  • 1 Death Star dial 
  • Nearly 100 damage, shield, and focus tokens 
  • 1 Balance of the Force token 
  • Rulebook
  • *Assembling the DEATH STAR!!!

    The rulebook in my opinion is well written and executed very well for easy reading. The pictures there for visual presentation and really help out for those who have not yet started into the game. The starting decks are also laid out so you can quickly get into the game. 

    The special thing though about Star Wars LCG is that you deck build based on a set of cards together with objectives. This makes it a lot easier while not downplaying the customization aspect. More on this when I get to the full review.
                                                  * Yoda, Luke and Obi-wan represent the light force (Jedi faction)

    The cards are top notch and the art is something that you would expect from a great company like Fantasy Flight games. I'm really excited to try out the starter Jedi faction tonight at the Weekly Wednesday Game Night in Makati at Plaza 1 Cafe Gamboa st. =D

    Well there you have it. I'll have more pictures for you guys when I test it out tonight! 

    As a backdrop - getting into LCGs isn't as expensive as people think. If you have a friend you each get 1 core set each and split the contents between the two of you. Every month force packs or expansion packs will come out and each of them will come in fixed contents! Meaning you already know which cards the pack will contain =D No more hunting for those uber-rare cards or dealing with scalpers. The game know becomes more of skill and not just an arms race. 

    If you want to get into the Star Wars LCG with me. You can get them here:
    Star Wars LCG Core Set. - 1,750php per core set
    Star Wars LCG Duo Bundle Promo - 3,200php only for 2 core sets!
    Till tomorrow!

    September 17, 2013

    Summoner Wars Strategy Article - Cloaks

    With the upcoming Summoner Wars tournament this September 28, I've decided to do a few short strategy/review articles to help the new players out and to try to give people on the fence about this great game another perspective.

    First we have the Cloaks. For the purposes of this article, I will only be tackling the base deck of the faction for simplicity purposes at the same time it fits right into the format of the upcoming tournament.

    This is the description taken from the Plaidhatgames official website.

    Cloaks Faction

    They are a nomadic nation of outcasts, driven into hiding and driven for revenge. The Cloaks launch hit- and-run attacks against those factions whose ambitions they disagree with, and then scavenge what supplies they can from their victories.

    The Cloaks rely on stealth and espionage to win their battles. Cloaks players know how to find the weaknesses in their opponent’s defenses and exploit them, cheating opponents of their best cards. Thieves force opponents to discard cards, and spies and assassinations keep enemy factions from using cards at ideal times.

    Overall Strategy:
    Adaptability, Cunning/ Deceit, Assassination - AC/DC
    The whole strategy of Cloaks relies on their Summoner - Vlox. Their units are weak in terms of firepower especially their commons (all 1 Attack Value) thus Vlox will be relied on heavily for much needed attack power.

    Let's check out his card:
    Adaptability - Vlox can copy any ability of any Cloak unit on the battlefield while retaining his 2 attack power. This means he can do a lot of things that will enable to you to adapt and take advantage of any situation. Most of the time, the power here is not on the battlefield itself but on the mind games you can play on your opponent. How can you predict someone who can change abilities every turn? 

    Cunning - Vlox's cunning ability comes from these two units.
    One of the things I learned is that you lack firepower you need to have two things - SPEED and FIRST STRIKE advantage. The first strike essentially allows you the chance to double your attack power (because you attack twice first if your opponent is still alive) and Speed allows you to keep moving for those first strikes or escape routes. The gunner allows Vlox to move 5 SPACES! That essentially raises Vlox's threat to the whole board!

    What's more is that you can combo this with other setup plays like in the next cunning unit below.
     + 

    This allows Vlox the ability to move 5 spaces also while getting the opportunity to steal a card from your opponent's hand at the end of the turn. Note you can still attack before making the escape. Hit N Run!

    Deceit - The deceit strategy of the Cloaks is making sure that you limit your opponent's attack retaliation by constantly moving. Thereby deceiving your opponent into making wrong positioning mistakes. Here's the champion unit that you will really need.
    His Bio from PHG website perfectly describes this : "During the good times the man called Scam was a dashing stage performer. He would wow audiences with simple tricks of dexterity using his innate magical abilities. But that was a lifetime ago. Scam still uses magic, but now his tricks get him lined up for the perfect shot, or help him escape afterwards. Unlike many of the Cloaks, Scam isn't fueled by anger or revenge - right now war just pays better."

    Scam + Vlox allows you multiple options. Keep attacking and keep moving while taking advantage that both units are ranged! This means that only ranged units can catch up to them and you can even line them up to make sure you hide behind a wall or another common unit. This is the best end game of the Cloaks Faction.
    Assasination - This is my personal favorite style of play and I often use this very early on in the game. 
    Scrappers are the backbone of this strategy:
    I love their description on the PHG website : Scrappers are anywhere and everywhere at once. Masters of the shadows and adept at using decoys, one can never be too sure where Scrappers will appear in a fight. Numerous warriors have descended upon a lone rogue in the night, only to find themselves overrun by superior numbers.
     

    The Scrappers are instant teleportation devices provided they hit their opponent and that it is still alive. This allows Vlox to jump from one place or another to do instant swarms! If an opponent is tough the principle is to do multiple blows. I usually use this to get Vlox into a spot where he can attack the summoner. Take note, Vlox can still do range attacks, so taking potshots is still a viable option.

    Scrappers then are also an escape route. Try hit a weak common in a safe spot so that Vlox can get out of a tricky situation!

    Overall keep those in mind! Cloaks are basically the toolbox deck in Summoner Wars. They have a lot more things to offer and it is up to your creativity and imagination to take advantage of them. 

    Well that's it! I'm keeping it short and simple as I don't want to giveaway all of my tricks. But I do hope I got you interested in Summoner Wars and the Cloaks specifically.
    If you want to get the Cloaks or any other Summoner Wars Faction pack you can ge them at the link below:
    Till the next one!

    March 20, 2013

    Mage Wars Review by Charles Tan

    By Charles Tan

     

    Mage Wars Quick Review

     

    It's difficult to talk about Mage Wars without referencing one of the most important tabletop games from the 1990s, Magic: The Gathering, which gave birth to the Collectible Card Game (CCG) genre. At the core of both games is the theme of players taking on the role of mages who build up mana to cast spells and win in a duel. Rather than simply hurling Fireballs or Lightning Bolts at the opponent, a common (but not exclusive) way to win the game is to summon creatures to overwhelm your enemy.

    There's a lot of similarities between Mage Wars and Magic: The Gathering, to the point where the elevator pitch might have been the board game equivalent of the latter, but that's not quite an accurate description. There's spatial tactics involved in Mage Wars for example, and perhaps one of the bulkiest components is its indispensable 4x3 board which tracks the movement of your mage and their corresponding spells (be it creatures, enchantments, conjurations, etc.). Perhaps the strongest selling point of Mage Wars is how it recreates the idea of a mage rifling through their spellbook: every round, each player goes through their spellbook (a four-card binder that comes with the base game) to select two spells which they can cast that turn. This simple premise not only reinforces the theme in a tactile way, but turns Magic: The Gathering's concept of a "deck" upon its head: luck stops being a factor in determining what your options are, and because of the two-card limit, provides players with avenues for bluffing and anticipating their opponent's actions.

     

    While not revolutionary, Mage Wars builds upon the games that came before it to the point that it's not easily pigeonholed when it comes to its classification. It can be compared to Living Card Games (LCGs) for example, as deck building is vital and the fixed card sets is part of the product package. On the other hand, it also relies on components found in a lot of board games, such as tokens, counters, score trackers, and the physical game board. The game itself isn't wholly turn-based, as there are decisions which are taken simultaneously, and the design decision to alternate between phases (as opposed to the entire turn) ensures that there's never a dragging moment for either player.

    At the heart of Mage Wars is this two-player game which values strategy and remains faithful to its theme. While that description seems to applicable to a lot of successful tabletop games, few games are as convicing that you are an actual mage, whether it's the pre-game setup of determining your spells, or rifling through your spellbook during an actual game.

    February 18, 2013

    A Quick Review of Escape: The Curse of the Temple

    Escape: The Cure of the Temple is a game for one to five players published by Queen Games via Kickstarter in 2012.  It is a fast-paced cooperative game that plays in ten minutes or less (excluding set-up).  As with all my other reviews, this review will not strive to cover all the rules.  If you prefer a more in-depth intensive rule walkthrough, I suggest you take the time to look elsewhere.

    COMPONENTS:
    The game comes with a bunch of tiles that represent the growing/changing map within the temple, a bunch of crystal tokens, a rulebook, a ton of dice (each player gets a certain number), a music CD, a bunch of cards and five wooden figures that represent the adventurers.  

    The dice are of very good quality... hefty, and the images are engraved on the dice to help (but not totally prevent) wear and tear.  The crystals are the usual translucent green crystals found in other games, and the tiles are thick and of decent quality.  The cards are average, and the wooden figures are... well... wooden figures (not much I can really say about that).  The rulebook is written quite well leaving few (if any) ambiguities.  The CD includes two soundtracks to play the game to, and an audio file which explains the rules.  Having the audio on the CD explain the rules is a nice touch by the way, as it ensures uniformity in explanations and helps ensure that players thoroughly understand what they have to do during the game.  While you may have to fill in a blank or two along the way, it still serves its purpose quite well.

    Overall, the components are of above average quality... what you'd come to expect from Queen Games.

    GAMEPLAY:
    Gameplay is simple.  So is set-up.  First you lay out the starting tile where all the adventurers begin their respective turns.  Then you lay out a couple more tiles in accordance to the game's instructions.  You also bring out a certain number of crystals, depending on the difficulty level you want to play.  Hand each player five dice, start the soundtrack, and you are ready to begin.

    The soundtrack ensures that each game will not take more than ten minutes... possibly less if you are all extremely unlucky (I've never seen it happen).

    A quick word regarding the dice, which is the meat of the game.  Each dice has certain symbols that'll help you depending on what you need to do.  Some symbols help you "discover" gems, some symbols help you reveal new tiles, some symbols allow you to enter a room, and so on.  There's also a symbol which "locks" your dice, leaving you unable to roll 'em... as well as a symbol that helps you "unlock" dice.

    The game is played in real-time, with all players rolling dice and taking their actions simultaneously.  You need to roll the right symbols if you want to enter a room, and/or if you're at an open doorway, you can roll to reveal the next tile in the stack and add it to that doorway. Some rooms contain a combination of symbols, and if you roll enough red or blue symbols, you "discover" magic gems, moving them from a separate gem pile onto that tile.

    Once the exit tile is revealed, players can try to escape the temple by running to that tile, then rolling a number of key symbols equivalent to the gems that haven't been removed from the gem pile.  So the more gems you find, the easier it is to escape the temple in the end. When a player escapes, he gives one die to a player of his choice.  If all the players escape before the third countdown (determined by the soundtrack), everyone wins; if not, everyone loses (even those who escaped).

    FINAL THOUGHTS:
    Escape: The Curse of the Temple is a fun and quick filler that can help set the mood for game nights/days/weekends.  It is a cross between a party game and an adventure game and a dice rolling game, which in my opinion makes it an excellent game to play with casual or non-gamers.

    For hardcore gamers though, if you usually play with a group that's devoted to playing heavier/meatier games... then I suggest you pick up something else.

    All-in-all, a great addition to the ever growing list of cooperative games.

    January 01, 2013

    A Quick Review of Yomi (Mano Y Mano)

    First off, no, I didn't mistype Mano Y Mano... I really did mean hand AND hand.  So no grammatical scrutiny please.

    Yomi is a two player fighting game in card form published by Sirlin Games.  It blends together elements of rock-paper-scissors with poker to produce a game that oddly enough, boils down the basic elements of what a fighting game is... outguessing/outsmarting your opponent.

    COMPONENTS:
    The first complete edition package comes with ten decks of cards representing the ten characters the players can choose from, a full colored rulebook/FAQ, player mats and plastic stones that serve as life markers.

    The cards are supposedly made extra sturdy (I won't use all the technical terms used to describe these cards) but for me, the quality is still not on par with your regular Bicycle deck.  Still better than the quality of alot of cards used in the board game market, but for the price, I was expecting alot more... and so it would seem were alot of players as there's alot of talk on how to sleeve and store the cards.

    The player mats I find to be of good quality though.  Not too thick yet not too flimsy.  Heavy enough to stay in place but light enough to pack away easily.  The player markers were "meh" at best, but serviceable.

    Overall component quality is a bit above average, and not quite worth the entry price.  On the flip side, this is more than made up for by the gameplay which is...

    GAMEPLAY:
    The basic premise of the game is simple... beat the other guy/gal to a bloody pulp before they can do the same to you.  Its how you go about doing this that makes the game quite interesting.

    To those who may have read my reviews before, you know that I only explain the rules using broad strokes and don't really cover the nitty-gritty of every little detail and go about answering every minute question.  If that's what you were looking for, move on... you're not gonna find it here.  I also don't do reviews loaded with pictures, as I'm not really doing a slideshow.

    Anyway, on your turn, the first thing you do is either play an ability (if you can) or draw a card (after playing an ability if applicable).  Afterwards, you both place down a card in front of you.  This activates one of four basic things your character can do.  Attack, block, dodge or throw.  Attack beats throws, throws beats block/dodge and block/dodge beats attack.  This is the rock-paper-scissors part of the game and where alot of people complain about luck creeping in.  But its also the mechanic which enforces poker-like workings in this game as you try to read your opponent and figure out a rhythm to his game style or trying to ascertain what card he'll play next.  Adding further complications to the "reading" of players is that each character plays very differently from the next.

    After the cards are revealed and the winner determined, he/she is then allowed to perform a combo (if applicable) after the losing side lays down a "bluff" card.  Damage is then applied accordingly and you can now power-up, exchanging pairs, three-of-a-kinds, or four-of-a-kinds for aces in your deck or discard pile.  

    Rinse and repeat until one side is utterly decimated.

    COMPARING IT TO OTHER SIMILAR GAMES:
    I'm happy to say that this game scratches an itch that I never knew I had.  It is quite unique while still being fairly balanced.  So, I'm sorry to say that I have yet to play a game that's similar to Yomi (not to say that one doesn't exist, merely that I have yet to play it).

    FINAL THOUGHTS:
    Yomi is a GREAT, GREAT two-player game that deserves a place in most gamers' collection if you can look post the steep suggested retail price.  If you're willing to put in the time, the patience and lots and lots of practice, the game will reward you accordingly.  Get it, play it and love it... before its all gone. 

    January 01, 2013

    A Quick Review of Pizza Theory

    Pizza Theory is a three player game (the two player version is a shadow of what the potential of the three player game shows) published by Gryphon Games in 2012 via Kickstarter.  A game lasts around ten to twenty minutes, but don't let the short play time deceive you, as this "pizza" can really fill you up.

    Pizza Theory is an abstract game that makes use of a theme wherein the players are trying to top a pizza with their own toppings.  It has no randomness and has simple turn actions, but the result of each round is unpredictable since each player has his/her own idea as to how to maximize their toppings on each section of the pie.  

    I'll be doing something slightly different in this series of reviews, as instead of writing on how it compares to similar games in its genre, I'll replace that section with my five year-old daughter's thoughts on why she likes a certain game (paraphrased of course).  It'll be written in a short Q & A style.

    COMPONENTS:
    The game comes with a pizza board that's riddled with slight indentations that help keep the toppings in place once you place them.  It also comes with cardboard topping tokens in three player colors, and three wooden sticks and three wooden dice in three player colors.  It comes with an insert that snugly fits every component, and of course, a rulebook.

    The cardboard components, which include the tokens and the pizza board are of very thick cardboard stock.  They're very sturdy and solid, which assures that it'll stand up to A LOT of plays.  The art is colorful and fun... makes the pizza looks slightly realistic.  The rulebook is very well written, and all it'll take is one read for you to figure out how to teach and play this abstract game.

    Overall, high quality components for a fair price.  If you got the game via Kickstarter, then it'll also include the 'Anchovy Expansion', the quality of which is equal to the base game's components.  Two thumbs up.

    GAMEPLAY:
    Setting up the game is a breeze.  Each player receives sixteen topping cardboard tokens of their respective colors and a wooden stick (also of their own color).  At the start of the game, the board is laid down in the middle of the three players, the first player is randomly determined, and each player lays down two of their toppings on their respective section (depending on whether they're the first, second or last player).  That's it, you're ready to begin.

    On a player's turn, he/she will do three things.  The first thing is to place another topping of their color on the board.  The only restriction is it can't be beside a topping of their own color (i.e. green can't be beside green and so on).  After the first player lays down his/her topping, the second player does the same, then the third player does the same as well.

    The second thing a player does is to choose a number from their six sided dice.  This determined where they'll lay down their wooden stick or "slicer".  They reveal their chosen numbers simultaneously and then lay down their wooden sticks.  Pictured below is a game that's just finished, but it gives you a general idea of how the wooden sticks and topping get laid down.

    After everything has been laid down, the third and final thing that the players do is to check each slice.  If a single player holds majority in a slice, then he/she removes the other players' toppings and replaces them with his/her own.  If two players are tied for majority, and there's a third player's topping in the slice, then the third player's topping is removed but it is not replaced with another player's topping.  If you're on your own on a slice, or there is no majority, then nothing happens.

    There's also a safety rule which dictates that if you only have one topping on EVERY SLICE of pizza, then ALL your toppings cannot be removed/replaced.

    That's it.  The game ends when a player has laid down all sixteen of his/her toppings.  In the picture above, the "white" player has just won.

    Q & A W/ MY DAUGHTER:
    Q: Why do you like this game Kashieu (pronounced cashew)?
    A: I like how the pizza slowly forms and comes together... and I like the red toppings, specially the pepperoni, that's why I always play red Daddy!

    Q: What do you think of the components?
    A: They're really nice daddy.  I like how colorful everything is.  The pepperoni looks yummy!  Can you make me pizza later?

    Q: Did you find it hard to understand how to play the game?
    A: No, it was very easy to understand, but I have a hard time figuring out where to place my toppings and slicer sometimes... specially against Mommy.  Mommy is very good isn't she Daddy?  She always beats us!

    Q: Does the game frustrate you?
    A: Sometimes, because I want to win and Mommy keeps removing my toppings!

    FINAL THOUGHTS:
    Pizza Theory is a good abstract game, and although my daughter still often makes tactical mistakes and sometimes confuses where it's advantageous to slice the pizza, she enjoys it very much and has seen marked improvement each time we've played.  I'm surprised how quickly she's been able to pick-up the gist of how to play an abstract game.  The components are beautiful and, in my opinion at least, kid-friendly.

    My son likes sitting down and playing the game with us as well, mostly because he loves pizza and he likes how the game looks.  At three, he still has a hard time understanding what to do, nevermind the strategy.

    Kashieu gives this game her seal of approval, and I imagine she'll only like it even more as her understanding of how to play and how to win deepens.  For me... it's an okay game, but I think this is mainly because I'm not really a fan of abstract games.  I won't hesitate to play it when my daughter asks me to play, but it's not something that I'd pull out the shelf every time I have a gaming group over.

    December 13, 2012

    A Quick Review of The Ladybugs' Costume Party

    The Ladybugs' Costume Party (or Maskenball der Käfer) is a game for two to five players published by Selecta Spiel.  It is a cooperative family/children's game that helps enhance your child's memory and puzzle solving skills.  The box states that its for ages four and up, but I'm fairly certain a child can play this as early as three years of age.

    A game runs around fifteen to twenty minutes regardless of the number of players.  

    COMPONENTS:
    As with all Selecta Spiel publications, the components of this game are stunning.  The game includes a multilingual rulebook and language independent components.  

    In the box you'll find a handful of yellow wooden ants, eight wooden ladybugs with magnetic "noses", a spinner, alot of wooden cylinders that fit on the back of the ladybugs, and a colorful and sturdy game board.  

    My daughter, Kashieu, loved the components at first sight.  I've barely opened the rulebook and she's already bugging me to teach her how to play the game.  I cannot say enough how akin to "toys" the components of Selecta Spiel games are.  Great, great components... well worth the price tag.

    GAMEPLAY:
    Setting up the game takes a little patience.  You have to fit each ladybug with five tiny wooden cylinders of the same color, and lay them atop the corresponding colored petal.  This is the one part of the game that I find a tad fiddly... the initial placement and future relocations of the colored wooden cylinder (more on that later).

    Every player takes turns in spinning the spinner on the board. If the spinner end up pointing to one of the eight ladybugs sitting on the petals, the player then moves that ladybug to visit the other ladybugs. 

    As I stated above, each ladybug has a magnet in its "nose"; if the visiting ladybug "likes" the ladybug, they then swap "spots" (each ladybug has five wooden cylinders of one color), and she continues on to visit other ladybugs.  If the ladybugs do not like each other, the turn is over. Once a ladybug has five spots of different colors, she is ready for the party and removed from the flower and placed on the leaf on the bottom of the board, signifying that that ladybug is ready to go to the party (pictured below).  Since it is a cooperative game, all the players win if all of the ladybugs are ready.

    But how do you know that the ladybugs like/dislike each other?  Ah... there's the beauty of this game.  Since each ladybug has a magnet for a nose, if the ladybugs "kiss" then they like each other and can happily swap spots (wooden cylinders).  If they don't like each other, they literally turn away from each other, signifying their dislike.

    But if the spinner points to one of the smaller leaves in between the colored petals, then the player doesn't get to move any of the ladybugs, but instead must take an ant from the pool and place it along the side of the board. If all seven of the ants are on the board the players lose the game.  

    The rules are very simple, the gameplay very basic.  Is the game luck dependent?  Yes, very much so.  Does my daughter care?  No.  She loves it.

    WHY CHILDREN WOULD LIKE IT:
    As I said, the components come close to being "toys", added to the simplicity of the gameplay make this a game that most children would enjoy.  The cooperative aspect also appeals to my daughter, as we can win together (and also lose together).  She easily grasped the concept of the game, and enjoys puzzling out which ladybug likes which.  She also enjoys sending them all to the party.

    FINAL THOUGHTS:
    You could do worse than choosing The Ladybugs' Costume Party as one of your kids' first games.  It's easy, colorful, beautiful and cooperative (which seems to be at a premium when it comes to children's games).  As I said, the game is very luck dependent, but I really don't mind because my daughter enjoys herself so much every time we play this.  She has even taught her nanny how to play the game, and she has also taught her friends (who come over occasionally) how to play the game as well and her friends have also enjoyed it tremendously.  

    December 13, 2012

    A Quick Review of Famiglia

    Famiglia is one of Friedmann Friese's newer games, and is specially made for two-players.  It's published by 2F-Spiele, and a game lasts roughly fifteen to twenty-five minutes.  It's about building up your gang/mob/mafia so by the end of the game, you can claim that you have the strongest group.  

    Truth be told, I never thought I'd enjoy another Friese game with the exception of Power Grid.  I have tried a handful of his other titles, but all of 'em have fallen short.  Until I tried Famiglia.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

    COMPONENTS:
    The game comes in a small box and is made up entirely of cards.  The cards are of good quality and the artwork is superb (at least for my own personal taste).  I specially like how the background of each card can be combined to form a collage of sorts, depicting a rough neighborhood.

    The rule sheet (it is literally just an actual sheet of rules) is quite adequate and leaves little to be desired.  It has illustrations and examples of play, leaving few questions regarding how to play the game.  Whatever questions you might have after reading the rules are quickly answered after the first couple of turns of playing the game.

    I love how everything can fit in your jacket pocket, making the game very portable and the game itself leaves a very small footprint so you can play it almost anywhere.

    For the cheap price, you get what you pay for.  

    GAMEPLAY:
    The rules are relatively simple.  On your turn you can re-seed the pool if that option is available to you.  Then you can play an accountant, followed by a bruiser/thug.  Then you can claim one mobster from the pool.  Rinse and repeat.  After two rounds (dictated by the draw pile), game ends and the one with the stronger gang (highest score) wins.

    What?  Want me to be more elaborate?  Okay, okay.

    There are four types of cards in the game.  The blue cards are accountants.  Accountants allow you to exchange cards from your hand from your personal discard pile.  The yellow cards are bruisers/thugs.  Bruisers/Thugs allow you to lower the value of the cards in the pool, making it easier to acquire more powerful members.  The green cards are wild cards that allow you to use them in place of other colored cards.  The red cards do jack squat, but they score higher compared to other colored cards of similar value.

    So in a nutshell, you use these powers to try and manipulate your way to acquiring the best gangsters.  The rules are relatively simple, but the layers of strategy contained within the game are satisfyingly stuffing (not too easy, but doesn't burn your brains out too much either).

    COMPARING IT TO GAMES OF SIMILAR VEIN:
    I didn't compare this game to other set collecting game or hand management games because there's just too many to name out there and I've played alot of 'em.

    Its easier to compare it to other two-player card games, if only because I can just compare the "fun factor" the game provided as compared to other games.

    Comparing Famiglia to Battle Line or Lost Cities, I'd say its a tie, but I give Famiglia the VERY slight edge because I like the theme better.  Comparing it to meatier two-player games such as Perry Rhodan or Jambo, I'd still give Famiglia the VERY slight edge because of the portability.  Gameplay wise, they all scratch a very similar itch for me and you really can't go wrong in choosing one over the other.  

    I guess what I'm trying to say despite my incessant ramblings, is that Famiglia can hold its own against other two-player staples.

    FINAL THOUGHTS:
    Famiglia is a good two-player game that you probably won't regret having in your collection.  It is the only Friese game I have liked since Power Grid (though admittedly I have yet to play each and every single one of his games) and for the price, its a steal.  If you like two-player games, and you value portability, do yourself a solid and grab a copy of this game.