Friday, April 3, 2015

Wordariffic

Wordariffic, by Gorilla Games, plays like "Speed Quiddler" with a dash of Snake Oil - players make words under time pressure, then "pitch" them to a different "Judge" each turn. (The pitching is not necessary if it's clear how your word relates to the theme of the turn. And the rules don't mention pitching, but to me it follows naturally, a la "Apples to Apples".) 


Each player gets 11 cards in their hand.  Before the timer starts, a die roll and a randomly drawn card determine what the "theme" for that turn will be. Each card has a letter on it and also a list of words starting with that letter - so the roll of a 10-sided die indicates which of the 10 words will be used.  As an example, one card with an "E" has the words 
  1. Error
  2. Escape
  3. Either
  4. Etch
  5. Euphemism
  6. Ever
  7. Equator
  8. Elevator
  9. Endow
  10. Envelope
One "O" card features:
  1. Once
  2. Occupy
  3. Ogre
  4. OK
  5. Oath
  6. Oops
  7. Owe
  8. Or
  9. Object
  10. Oblong
The speed and the theme word make the game unique and separate from games like Scrabble and Quiddler which give you lots of time to make a long word.  Here the real goal is to make a relevant word, so it fires up different parts of your brain.  One area of your brain is just stringing letters together, another is trying to tie those strings of letters to "oblong."

There's a modicum of strategy in this word game.  You need to play to your strengths - are you good at making really long words (regardless of the theme) or are you good at coming up with words that are so cleverly tied to the theme, that the Judge will find them irresistible?  Play to your Judge (it pays to know who you're making a word for.) You score 1 point for longest word and 3 points for getting chosen as "best" - most thematic/preferred by the Judge.  If you're REALLY good, create the longest word AND make it thematic, and you'll clean up with four points!  Players are awarded points in the form of small plastic chips.

I liked how the cards cleverly combine the letters (for building words) and the theme words (for determining what the theme will be each turn.)  The design is elegant.  I also like how up to eight people can play. This is good for the larger game nights.

Wordariffic is a fast and fun game of words, and will be enjoyed by players who like making words - and making their case!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Bad Decisions

Bad Decisions is a new game on Kickstarter (ending soon!), created by a mother and sons team called Diamond Dust Dreams.  This is their second game, the first being a game called "Kitsune: of Foxes & Fools."

The idea behind Bad Decisions is, each turn a judge (called the "Bard") draws a card which provides a framework for a story, then the other players choose cards from their hand to fill in the blanks, and the Bard picks the story he or she likes best.  It plays very much like a mashup of a PG-13 version of Cards Against Humanity combined with Mad Libs.  Here's an example of a Story card:


Today we find (fool) involved in (crisis)  Find out who (bad decision) and why, after the break.

Each player has five of each of the three other card types in hand.  How would you play  this one if you had these cards?:

fool cards:
a bickering, opinionated lawmaker
that raging comic book nerd
your least favorite person
a playboy Arab prince
an enraged naked woman

crisis cards:
not getting the best seat at the movies
a burglar attempting to sell stolen items back to her victims
the return of Halley's comet
hearing a dissenting opinion
pet feces on a child's grave

bad decision cards:
leapt into the tiger pit
promised to lead a military coup
spanked a bear
confiscated a doll's miniature toy gun
literally chased an ambulance


You might present the following:

Today we find (an enraged naked woman) involved in (not getting the best seat at the movies)  Find out who (spanked a bear) and why, after the break.

As you can see, the cards range from the innocuous to the inane to the outrageous to the disturbing.  You can make the cards go together well or go for random crazy combinations.  In the example above, the woman is enraged because she didn't get a good seat, and the nudity becomes a bizarre side note.  

The standard game calls for the Bard to collect all the combos and read each one, but I liked the variant in which each player performs (reads out loud) the story they created, acting like a TV news personality.  If necessary, perhaps one could tweak the language just a bit to make it flow better.  I'd read mine like this:

Tonight on News 5!  An enraged naked woman left out in the cold! She didn't get the best seat at  the movies.  Find out who spanked a bear - and why - after the break!

For added fun, add a random set of cards and see what happens, as in the CAH variant.

Bad Decisions is a worthy successor in the line of "everybody submits cards and the judge chooses" games.  I advise you to check it out on Kickstarter.  Film at eleven!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Go Hunt: A children's game for playful adults

Take the childhood card game "Go Fish" and infuse it with a good amount of double-entendre silliness, and you have Go Hunt, a naughty little number that will have you giggling.

The game play is familiar - each player is dealt a hand of cards and must ask other players for cards of a certain type, in attempt to make pairs or four-sets (players decide ahead of time whether to play for sets of two or four.)  Memory will play an important role as the play passes around the circle and it's your turn to ask for cards.  Here's the kicker: instead of asking for "sevens" or "aces", you are asking for various types of animals, such as a deer with a magnificent set of antlers ("Claudia, would you show me your 'Nice Rack'?) or a rotund dachshund (Bob, do you have a 'Fat Weiner'?) I know it sounds ridiculously immature, but you have to experience this if you have a play group with adults with a relaxed or puckish sense of humor.  My friends who haven't played it yet will pick it up and start laughing just looking through the cards.

A couple of minor quibbles - as with any humor-based card game, once you've seen all the cards, the surprise aspect of the humor will be gone,  And some of the slang is a bit different from what I am familiar with, though it's easy to get the gist.  But with the right crowd, this game will shine.  It's ideal for any sort of singles or get-to-know you event with fun, easy-going folks.  As the images are of real animals (sometimes with cartoonish touches) and there's nothing R-rated in the imagery, it could, theoretically, be played by children, but it really shouldn't be.

The deck doubles as a standard deck of cards, so you can play any standard card game with it. You can learn more and purchase the game at www.gohuntcards.com.

If I may make a request, I'd love to see some friends from the world of birds in the next printing - perhaps from the Sulidae family ("boobies") or the Paridae family ("tits").  Or perhaps some crustaceans ("Do you have Crabs?")  You get the picture.



Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Film Review: The Next Great American Game

The Next Great American Game is a new documentary film released last month by Douglas Morse (previously interviewed on this blog.)  The film tells the tale of Randall Hoyt, an aspiring game designer who has hit the game convention circuit with the dream of getting his game published.

The game, Turnpike, is a beautifully produced (Hoyt is a graphic designer by trade) effort that looks like a finished product, not a rough prototype.  But the mechanism is too random for gamer geeks and the theme is troublesome for some of the publishers he meets.  We all spend too much of our time in traffic already, they say - why would we want to spend our free time simulating that situation?

The film documents Hoyt's trial by fire as he plunges in without preparation - if he'd read the books about game design, he'd know it's a cardinal sin to present your game as the "Next" anything, or to say your friends and family all love it, etc.  These statements simply mark you as a newbie.  Yet Hoyt refers to his game as "The Next Great American Game" repeatedly, almost like a mantra.  Well-meaning - and sometimes blunt - game industry folks quickly set him straight.

The middle act of the film shows Hoyt first resisting, then taking some of the advice he's received.  He reveals his re-themed version of the game to Frank DiLorenzo, president of R&R games - the new version has a fantasy theme, where drivers are wizards wielding arcane magics to influence the cars on the road.  "Is THIS something your company would publish?" he asks. DiLorenzo is understandably noncommittal.  "We want to publish it if it's a 'Game You Want to Play'," he says, citing his company's tagline. In other words - the proof is in the playing.

Still, the change seems like one in the right direction, and shows Hoyt is on a development path.  Sticking to your original vision is fine, but as another industry expert Mike Gray notes, could mean you end up with a basement full of unsold games.

As one who's followed the industry for some time, and has worked on games as a hobby, I was fascinated by The Next Great American Game.  I found it to be more tightly plotted than Going Cardboard, the other documentary about the board game industry that came out a couple of years ago - here, the industry is more of a setting than a subject, and the film is tightly edited to focus on the one character.

I invite anyone who's interested in the process of designing and licensing board games to give this film a viewing.  It's the next great American boardgame documentary.  Learn more at www.tabletopmovie.com.

image provided by Douglas Morse
The intense Mr. Hoyt and his creation

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Qetchup: the healthy-eating Qard game for Qids

To be honest, I had no expectations about Qetchup, the card game from WebCracker Inc that involves playing cards in front of you (onto your "plate") to build a healthy meal.  I surely appreciated the message of the game, but wasn't sure how younger players (the target audience) would react.  I'm pleased to report that there was a healthy level of interest in the game.

I gathered one nine-year-old and two other grownups to try out the game, and read through the instructions before we started.  The game has a new edition coming out and I used the new rules along with the older cards (the new edition will feature refreshed artwork along with the new, clearer rules.)  Each game turn plays in three simple steps:

1. If  you wish, you may draw a card.  It's often smart to not draw a card unless there's a certain one you need - since you can't win until you've played or discarded all the cards in your hand.

2. In step two you can either play or discard a card.  You can play some healthy food in front of you, or some junk food in front of another player if you think they might be about to win.  In order to win, you must have one of each of the food groups represented on your "plate", have no junk food in front of you, and have no cards left in your hand.

3. If you meet all those conditions, you win!

There's also one  RESET card that delivers a stunning blow - if it's played on you, you lose all the cards on your plate and all the card in your hand, and get a new starting hand.  Interestingly, you can play this card on yourself if you feel like the combination of cards you currently have is hopeless!  The Reset card got played on our 9-year-old player and I feared there would be tears or frustration, but she took it in stride (with a good-natured offer of reprisal!)

The most strategic cards in the game are the "Q" cards.  These can be used as wild cards to fill out your plate with food groups you may be missing (except for veggies - they're too important to be replaced!), or you can use them to get rid of junk food in front of you, OR you can use them to randomly steal a card from another player's hand.

Although the game is simple enough to be played by kids as young as five years, there's an interesting balance between helping yourself and slowing down others.  The decisions are kid-friendly, yet will keep adults involved as well.  My testing group liked it, and nine-yeear-old Sophie declared it "The BEST game EVER... and it makes me so HUNGRY!!!"

Learn more at www.qetchup.com.


Does your party game group need an INTERVENTION?

INTERVENTION is now on Kickstarter!  http://kck.st/1srQy3k

Intervention is a re-implementation of the party game True Colors, first published back in 1989.  The idea is, a funny question is asked about the people playing, and you vote for the "player most likely to..." while simultaneously guessing what the others will say about you.  It's an interesting social exercise in anticipating how you are perceived, and has potential for humor - and for hurt feelings, if players are sensitive.  The original True Colors featured questionable questions like "Whose body would you most likely recognize in the dark?", but more recent versions (the game is still available to this day!) have succumbed to political correctness, and are more tame.   Collectors still seek out the old version rather than buy the latest one. When I last played the game, a somewhat similar game called Boxers or Briefs was all the rage, and its cards were enjoyed more than True Colors' by my players.

Sensing a desire to return to the True Colors of old - or perhaps just influenced by Cards Against Humanity (the question cards are even white on black!)- Weekend Warriors, LLC has produced an amped-up game you probably won't want to play with your family.  Not only are the questions juicier, but the voting cards make more sense - for predicting how many votes you will receive, gone are the 0. +, and +/- cards of True Colors, and instead are cards that simply say NONE, MOST and SOME - no need to resort to arcane symbols if everybody reads English.  Voting booklets replace the free-floating voting cards of the old game, and make setup a lot easier (no need to sort out the voting cards with all the various colors relating to the various players.  Also, no little colored clothes pins for your players to forget they have on and accidentally wear them home.).

Intervention is a big improvement on its predecessor and the people I played with liked it a lot, and said so repeatedly.  The game will shine with groups of thick-skinned friends who know each other well and have lots of stories to share. I really liked all the game variations that were included in the print and play version.  We opted for the "Quick and Dirty" version (no keeping score) with "Full Frontal Disclosure" (everyone reveals their votes at once, rather than voting by secret ballot.)  The questions are mostly very good, and an improvement on True Colors.  You can see examples of the questions in the Print and Play version available at the web link below.  The finished game is to have more than twice as many questions - the designers are still polishing the content.

Intervention is a game I recommend, and hope to play again soon.  It's the antidote to the boring party game. Check it out at http://www.playintervention.com/ and be sure to pledge in the Kickstarter: http://kck.st/1srQy3k

Displaying intervention-2.png

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Monster Mansion

Monster Mansion, a quick-moving cooperative dungeon romp for two to eight players, is currently on Kickstarter.  The game got fully funded in just two days, but the stretch goals are worth a look, so be sure to check it out and back it if it appeals to your monster-battling side!

The game plays like a better, much streamlined version of Betrayal at House on the Hill; you control a character with unique abilities, strengths and weaknesses, and explore a creepy, fantastical house and its dungeon level, finding fancy gold coins along the way and using them to purchase wondrous items you'll use to help in your battles with legendary creatures.  Much attention was paid to the coins - the ones you use in the game have a nice heavy feel.  The game is quick to learn but requires some real thought on the players' part if they are to win - you'll want to always keep your character's unique traits in mind, and will definitely want to avail yourself of the fancy items you can buy anywhere along the way (you can buy or sell items at any time - even on other players' turns - to keep the game rolling briskly along.  The game rulebook explains that the shop works by magic.)  In our first game, a mystic hourglass granted us five extra minutes of game time, which was crucial and gave us just enough time to escape the Mansion.

Monster Mansion is good fun for most anyone.  I advise you to check it out - IF YOU DARE...