Sunday, February 12, 2017

True Story

True story: I play, teach and demonstrate games as a hobby, so I am very familiar with the challenges of trying to teach a game to a bunch of rowdy party gamers. Sometimes it seems everyone is either talking, tipsy, or glued to their phone. So I greatly appreciate games with well-written and simple rules. TRUE STORY is one such game, you can explain it in under one minute and even the most obnoxious partier will understand it. And even enjoy it, because this is a game of talking about yourself - or imagining yourself as other than you are. And getting to know your fellow players in the process.

The game works similarly to the old game "Two lies and a truth" (also known as two truths and a lie). It's a storytelling game of perception and deception. Simply draw a card from the deck, the card will have a prompt on it like "Party" or "Scary" or "Kiss." These are the jumping off points for your memory or your creative fiction. It might seem difficult to make something up on the spot, but you will find it's easier than you expect. If you're stuck, you can always take a true event and change it up. After your story is told, your fellow players must guess if your story is true or false. Fool at least half of them and you win the card. Collect three cards and you win the game! But if you have made merry with friends and learned some unbelievable true things about them, you are all winners. (In the base rules, you take a drink when you get fooled or fail to fool enough people. Alternative rules for teetotalers are available online).

I'm excited about True Story. Other than Malarky, there are not a lot of storytelling bluffing games out there. This is a good one, and I am pleased to see they're doing well on Kickstarter. Please consider backing them and making True Story a reality!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

No Blank Left Behind

I'm a big fan of North Star Games' "Say Anything," and I back when I first started playing it I proposed to the president of the company that they release an adult version (the back of the box hinted at a version for adults, displaying the questions "If I could have a BIG anything, what would it be?") He told me a chap named Russell Weiser had already made his own set of X-rated questions and run a big event at Origins game fair with 100 people playing at once. Unfortunately I missed that event, but now Wayne Lucas and Despicable Games have finally come up with a game that allows players to invent their own scandalous answers to probing questions.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you....

No _____ Left Behind!

NBLB jailbreaks players from the cardstock prison of Cards Against Humanity, brainlessly choosing one of a handful of cards with someone else's jokes on them. Every game is different and the PLAYERS bring the funny!  I heartily endorse this.

In any game like this, the components and game play are straightforward, it's the content that sets it apart.  And NBLB shines in this area, with cards that inspire humor and creativity that runs the gamut from clever to ribald.  Here's an example from a recent session:

My intimate partner just wrote me a performance review.  What did it say?

"An enthusiastic self-starter who finishes quickly without the need for direction or interaction."

No Blank Left Behind is a simple adult party game that succeeds at what it sets out to do: be a laugh generator for unbuttoned players above 18 years of age. Check it out on Kickstarter.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Daedalus Sentence

In the year 2083, an alien race known as the Loctae descended on planet Earth, killing billions and capturing and containing the few million that remained. The survivors were sent to locations throughout the galaxy, to work as slaves or as subjects for genetic experiments. The most infamous of these locations, known as the Hive, is a Loctae space station orbiting Ganymede.... 

So begins the game experience The Daedalus Sentence, a cooperative game of planning, adaptation and escape for one to four players.  The big draw of the game is the rotating board that the players explore and reveal, that shifts and moves every turn such that players need to predict where things will end up so they can navigate the prison and not get trapped behind a wall or grabbed by one of the monsters or guards and thrown back in their cell. If that happens, another player will need to return to the central area and rescue you.  Here we see three players imprisoned as the bad guys patrol the station:

My players can be tough to impress, but they all really liked The Daedalus Sentence.  What I liked best about it was the sort of "fun house" atmosphere it creates as you strive to reach the airlock at the edge of the station and escape. There's a feeling of a crazy shifting perspective as the rings move and your situation changes.  The walls that stopped you in the mid-game could save you in the end game since they stop the monsters as well. The puzzle-like gameplay is well suited to a co-op game and the random room selection and abilities keep things interesting. Some rooms let you exert control over the movement of the station or the monsters. You'll definitely need to work as a team to win, and there are many ways to ramp up the difficulty as you get better at the game.

The Daedalus Sentence is an intriguing and enjoyable co-op board game experience - definitely worth a look if you like this kind of game. You can learn more here.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Cheer Up

CHEER UP, a party game by Chris Rio, has launched on Kickstarter!  I tried this one out with my crack (and I mean crack) team of play testers, and they all enjoyed the game - a worthy way to begin or end a game night, said they.  In our game the humor was more of the "what a clever/appropriate/ironic/gross combination of cards" variety, rather than loud laughter provocation.

The game - like all party games these days it seems - is a reaction to Cards Against Humanity, but it trumps its predecessor by allowing players to construct a multi-faceted response to a prompt on a card using a set of cards chosen from multiple options - rather than simply choosing one card in response - which is, like, SO 1999. In addition, there are cards that add to the wacky fun by making players speak in a funny accent, stick out their tongue etc - to spice things up further.

This additional opportunity for creativity is most welcome.  And this game is worth a look, so check it out now on Kickstarter! 
Cheer Up! The Ultimate Party Game! project video thumbnail

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Watch Ya' Mouth

Watch Ya' Mouth is a game that launched on Kickstarter only a few months ago, but has already spawned multiple imitators - the sincerest form of flattery.  The game is simplicity itself: a stack of cards and 10 plastic mouthguards.  Slip one in your mouth and you have 60 seconds to get your partner or team to guess the wacky phrases on the cards - go through them as fast as you can. Whichever team guesses the most will win, but if you're like my group you won't care who wins because you will literally be falling over laughing, with tears in your eyes from laughing so hard. Too hard to guess?  Use the easy variant that allows charades and pointing to help you out.  Game gets too easy because you get too good at speaking with a mouth opener in your mouth? Go back to the "strictly legit" version and nod or shake your head as the only form of feedback.

This game is a must-buy for anyone who loves silly, ridiculous party games and isn't grossed out by the prospect of putting a plastic item in their mouth (the mouthguards are top-rack dishwasher safe and can also be boiled if you're worried - two members of my test group did go rinse them off first even though they were brand new.) Being adventurous sorts, we launched into the Not Safe For Work expansion pack immediately, and were not disappointed - it's definitely not for kids! We also tried the family-friendly base cards and they were also very funny.  There is just something hilarious about someone talking with their mouth held open, and even better is the super-funny guesses people come out with. We also tried an "all play" version where one person read phrases and everyone else guessed; the first to guess each one would win that card and the reader would score based on all cards guessed in that minute. (This is a good solution if you just can't get someone to put the device in their mouth and they just want to guess.)

Good clean/dirty fun.  Recommended. Learn more at
Box Mockup

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

ADAPT, by Gate Keeper Games, is a tactical and strategic game of battling to be the baddest fish in the sea, for two or three players (expandable to support more players).  As you play you'll accrue Experience Points which you'll spend on new and nifty parts for your fish, to help you survive against the opponents who are looking to do you in. Check out all the neat ways you can customize your fish:

The game will likely draw comparisons to Evolution, a 2014 game that has enjoyed much success, but personally I like ADAPT even better than Evolution.  ADAPT offers a higher level of customization in a way that just makes sense - your player mat features a space for your Body card, surrounded by spaces for a horn, dorsal fin, tail etc, in the appropriate places.  This is the game some of my players were hoping for when they playtested Evolution; a game in which you really feel you are building a beast, not just knee-jerk reacting to what other players are doing. Rather than just choosing from the cards that come into your hand, you're watching what's available and spending accordingly. Rather than just eating, you're evolving in a hierarchical way and taking the battle to the enemy.  I like that the game makes preparation and conflict the centerpiece and does not shy away from player elimination.

ADAPT is a gamer's game, but there's a simplified version to play with "guppies" (kids) that uses fewer slots for adaptations (cards representing specialized parts of your fish).  While there's still a lot to keep track of, this makes it more accessible to younger or newer gamers.

I received a beautifully printed prototype and used my own dice - the finished version will look even better and will come with multiple sets of fish-themed two-toned dice.

I would like to thank the creator of ADAPT for being great to work with during the review process - he really "gets it".  Congratulations on a really neat game and best of luck with the kickstarter!  To all who like games with tactics and customization, with some exciting dice-based combat, I encourage you to check out the campaign and consider pledging today.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Last Spike

Train games are a big deal in the world of board games - the biggest of them all being Ticket to Ride, a board game behemoth of epic proportions. When you bring The Last Spike to the table, it may draw comparisons to TTR, but it's a very different game, and I actually enjoy it more.  Let's take a look.

In The Last Spike, you and the other players are rail barons and land speculators striving to connect cities by rail in the 1800s United States. The ultimate goal is to have a complete route connecting east and west (St. Louis and Sacramento, at the far right and left of the board respectively). The play is interesting because (as in games like Cutthroat Caverns) you are cooperating and competing at the same time.  While you all share the goal of connecting cities, and can all potentially benefit every time a connection is made, there can only be one ultimate winner and sometimes the right move is not to connect.  Not all routes will be completed.

The game is fast to learn, fast to play, and simple enough that almost anyone can enjoy it.  On your turn you have three simple and quick actions: 1) Place a railroad tile and pay for it (the dark squares above) 2) You MAY, but are not required to, purchase a land card (the colorful cards above) 3) Draw a new railroad tile randomly from the supply.  That's all there is to it!  It's a game of simplicity, but with interesting depth. A big part of the game is managing your cash flow (in the early going you'll buy lots of land cards, but they won't pay out for a while, so you'll need to choose carefully.  Also you will need to decide how much to diversify and buy cards for different cities, vs. specializing in a few cities and getting bigger payouts.) This sort of financial thinking is good for kids to learn - really, good for everyone to learn!  In my game I came perilously close to running out of money (and having to sell some of my land deeds for half what I paid for them!) but then the routes started connecting cities and the money started rolling in.  I ended up missing the win by a mere 1000 dollars (one lowest value chip!).  I should have abstained from buying one of the land deeds toward the end of the game- it's not advised to buy one unless you think it will eventually pay out due to a connection.

In conclusion, The Last Spike is a game that will be a hit with families, light strategy gamers, and probably just about anyone.   I recommend it. You may learn more at Columbia Games' web site.