Board Gaming Etiquette 101

Last week I made a video on polite things to do whilst playing games, which was actually more like things not to do, and what I personally can’t stand! It was supposed to be tongue in cheek, but I do stand by my points, and some of the feedback I got from this on my channel and on Instagram was relieving- I am not alone, or completely mad. So if you want to see me and my funny little face having a good old fashioned moan, please have a look…

 

 

Dream Home, Klemens Kalicki

Dream Home (aka Domek)

Designer: Klemens Kalicki

Publisher: Rebel Games/Asmodee NA

Plays: 2-4

Duration: Around 20/30 minutes

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‘She lives in a house, a very big house in the country…’

Dream Home is a game I was looking forward to for some time and I was so excited when it was eventually released in the UK last month. If you saw my unboxing video you would of seen how genuinely excited I was to receive it, and how much I loved the art and the components. It really appeals to the side of me that loves all things twee and colourful, but being a board gamer whose preferences lean toward heavy and strategic games I was slightly concerned it would be a tad too light for me.

Well let me start by saying this is definitely not the case; I have been shockingly bad at it so far, which I think is a good thing. Because I clearly need to hone my set collection, memory and house building skills! The game play itself is actually dead simple, very straightforward to pick up, but (much like in real life) creating your Dream Home is not as easy as it sounds.

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The marketplace

Players have their own little house board (which is adorable obviously) with slots to fill with cards. These cards are for offer on the central marketplace, where players have four pairs choose from, or may take the space with one card only to become start player. Which, trust me, you will be wanting very badly at some point. The cards consist of rooms, décor and helpers such as architects, who will give you special abilities and bonuses. There are also roof cards of various colours. Each turn you choose a pair and place the cards on your board. You must place both cards each turn, and if they cannot be legally placed they are laid faced down as empty rooms, scoring you…nothing. So that’s to be avoided at all costs! There are some simple rues about where you place your cards, such as you cannot build above empty rooms, you can only use certain cards for the lower ground floor (e.g.- the ‘wine cellar’) and you maximize points when more than one type of room is adjacent to another, e.g. – a living room on it’s own will score you one point, but when next to a second; four points, a third; nine points. That’s a grand living room right there. When you pick up roof cards they are placed faced down at the bottom of your board, and aren’t to be neglected- a set of four will score you three end of game points, a set of the four of the same colour, a whopping eight points. It’s very easy to forget which colours are in your facedown pile, so good memory is key in this game. Décor can be purchased and placed only if you have the room it belongs with on your board already. You must also have a kitchen, bedroom and two bathrooms on the upper floors of the house for end of game scoring.

The game lasts 12 short rounds, and plays in 20-30 minutes depending on number of players. End scoring is based on points for rooms, décor, functionality, roof, and any bonuses you may have picked up during the game.

So what seemed like a simple and cute game of playing house is actually a bit of a mind boggling, cutthroat, nail biter, especially when it comes to choosing your cards each turn. You might desperately desire a games room (if only!) you might fancy the ‘handyman’ card that will allow you to swap two rooms at the end of the game (so you can possibly undo a bad decision you made earlier on) or you might just really really want a canopy bed, especially if you picked up ‘helper’ card who will give you double points for your décor tokens.

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I found Dream Home to be great fun, surprisingly difficult, and cleverly designed to be easy enough for new comers to pick up, but with enough crunch to satisfy the more seasoned board gamer. There may not be any heavy strategy, but it certainly gives you plenty to think about and an interesting variety of decisions.  There’s not a huge amount of of player interaction perhaps, it would of been fun to see some stuff that could mean bartering for each others cards, or auctioning off furniture or something, but well I guess that could be expansion territory? I think something that increases interaction with other players would be fantastic, because it does feel like a bit of a multiplayer solitaire, but you know that’s not necessarily a bad thing either as that’s something I rather enjoy as many other gamers do.

I wholeheartedly recommend Dream Home as a family game, a lightweight game with some teeth and especially as a decent set collection game.

 

Terraforming Mars, Jacob Fryxelius

Finally, I have a chance to review Terraforming Mars. Well I say review; I am a reviewer in a very casual sense. I play games that I mainly buy myself and I know I’ll like, so it’s rare that I’m ever going to pan anything. This year I think there have been two games that I’ve had to hold my hands up and say ‘look, I made a mistake’ and I think I’ve made that pretty clear in my past posts (namely A Study In Emerald and Tiffin). I’ve never been mean or negative, but I have to say when I’m genuinely baffled, frustrated or disappointed. My reviewing ‘style’ is usually to chat about the game, basic game play and what I thought. So that clears up my ‘reviewing’ style.

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I didn’t think I’d be disappointed with Terraforming Mars. When you’re on a tight budget you kind of have to vet the games out fully to make sure it’s not going to be a colossal waste of money and time. Made that mistake and never again as far as I’m concerned. Of course it’s bound to happen again at some point because sometimes you just don’t know if you’ll be into the vibe until you play. Anyway, there is so much out there on Terraforming Mars that I think it would be very tedious to give you a full break down of the game play as I’ve done in the past. I kind of reserve that now for games I don’t see getting a lot of attention, like maybe a game that’s not had a lot of coverage or I think deserves like a full work up, rules and all. But Terraforming Mars is not one of those games. It seems that it’s a very enthusiastic thumbs up from everyone and a lot of videos and blog coverage. So I just want to focus on two things; is it worth the hype and what do I like about it?

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Yes. Yes it is. It’s a very clever game with what seems like infinite ability to replay at this point. In a two player game it seems that there are cards constantly coming up that you didn’t see the first two times you played, so I can imagine that with two player plus this would happen all the more. The cards represent so many things you can do to steam ahead, and I love the way they work together. Admittedly in my first game I was just buying what I thought looked good, but by the second I was more switched on as to what I was doing and employed a good amount of strategy into what I bought and why. The cards thematically link in different ways so for example you may want to go down the plant life route or the city building route to head up the score track and generate lots of ‘credits’ (the game currency). The cards synchronise by the ‘tags’, and you can use these cards to generate credits and build up a storage of titanium, steel heat etc and use these as payment for other cards. You can build on plant life and animal cards which will score you tons of points.You can be an amazing scientist. You can be a top biologist. It’s a good idea to get cards with end of game bonuses, and please, whatever you do, try to remember everything. I really thought I had the last game in the bag, I was ahead on the terraforming track, I was set to win some ‘awards’ but I forgot that land tiles on the board will score you end of game points, and I made a bad bet on an award at the last minute, not foreseeing that actually my opponent was going to end the game before I could fully achieve it. So I lost, and not by too much which was really frustrating. That’s the thing with this game, you have lots to think about and work at, but you need to remember that it’s all going to come together at the end.

I like the way you have to work with your opponents somewhat to bring the game to a close, and you have to do this by meeting the three end trigger conditions; all sea tiles placed and oxygen/heat leveled up. It takes a surprisingly long time in a two-player game, around 2/2.5 hours. But you know it’s a good game when the time has flown by and you feel like you’ve only been playing ten minutes.

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Overall, it’s fun, it’s challenging, it’s a bit of a brain burner, but not hard to pick up and learn. It’s having the full mental capacity to see it through that’s the tricky part.

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As an aside, it is a gorgeous game; beautiful big board, clear and concise cards, some with realistic photographic print, some illustrated. Shiny and transparent cubes which I love to look at (however I think my criticism would be that they are slippery little devils and a bit fiddly to handle) I would also say that I was mildly disappointed that with all the other very obvious effort put into the game I wish the player mats had been solid cardboard and not thick card, which is prone to warping. But you know when that’s your only real complaint, and it’s nothing to do with the game play, it has to be overlooked to an extent. So yes, if you have to pre-order and wait a while, or pay a little over the odds for it, I say do it. It’s worth it.

My last comment, a genuine thought and something that has been really bothering me….did the designer start this design before The Martian or was it inspired by the film? I would ask him, but I’m too embarrassed.

To find out more about the game play, rules and full details, go to the BGG page and follow all the links.

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Luchador! Mexican Wrestling Dice, Mark Rivera

Following on from my last post, I am going to be talking a little bit about Luchador! Mexican Wrestling Dice. As I mentioned in my unboxing video I’m not particularly clued up on wrestling these days, in any way, shape or form. I was attracted to the fun theme, the cool components and what I describe (I’m not sure if anyone else would describe) as kitsch. So I was pretty pleased to receive a copy to review.

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I played it a few times on the weekend, and I had a lot of fun with it. You choose to play as one of the many bizarrely cool characters (complete with awesome costumes of my dreams,) and each comes with its own stand up and ability card. You have a whole bunch of lovely coloured dice depicting various symbols, which a first I was unsure if I’d remember, but it all became clear as we started playing.

 In a two-player game you roll your own set of dice each round to initiate the fight. You then have the green dice that represent the moves you can make when you hit an ‘attack’ or ‘counter’ roll. There’s yellow dice for ‘pinning’ moves, and the black/gold dice that can be used to trigger the character’s special moves. So each round you and your opponent(s) roll at the same time, see what’s been rolled and whether you’re blocking, countering, attacking or pinning. Following on from this you roll your green dice to see what moves you can make and how much damage they shell out to your opponent- this information is clearly laid out on the character card. A separate player card depicts how much damage you can take. When you fall below a certain level you are ‘pin-able’. This means when you roll a ‘pin’ symbol during the initial fighting phase you go on to roll your yellow dice to discover the outcome of the ‘pinning’ move. You can roll your player dice up to three times to see if you can escape the pin, but much like in real life this could spell a K.O if you’re unlucky. The black dice come into play when you trade two of your original ‘hit’ rolls to use these bad boys, and depending which symbol you roll you may be able to make a special character move, all of which deliver an almighty blow. You can either lose the game by falling all the way down the damage track, or you can be K.O’d by a pin.

This all sounds like a lot of dice rolling, and well, it is! The clue is kind if in the title. I know from my previous videos I’ve mentioned I don’t like dice rolling too much. Let’s say for movement in a dungeon crawler, a game that lasts for an hour or more, for me it’s quite tedious. I guess that’s why I’m not a huge fan of dungeon crawling games. I also don’t like dice rolling when I’m playing a game I’ve put my heart, soul and best strategy into- and then it’s going to come crashing down with a bad roll. That bothers me. A game like this, and, for example Marvel Dicemasters, I have enjoyed the dice rolling aspect because they’re not meant to be anything more that some lighthearted fun. I played this 5 times in a row because it was short and sweet and I wanted to keep on trying ‘just one more gaaaaame!’ I do have horrible luck, so of course I was getting K.O’d all over the place.

With the right people and setting it’s a lot of harmless fun, the symbols don’t take long to figure out, so when you’re away you can just keep on playing until you’re all wrestled out. The rather fetching cardboard ring and gorgeous stand ups didn’t serve much of a function in our two-player game. You can just as easily roll onto one of the boards provided or the table. So I guess it depends on how much you want to get into and play with it. I can imagine for a wrestling fanatic or for younger players this would just be a lot of fun. But again, as with Codinca, you can pretty much bag it up with the dice and cards and take it anywhere if you enjoy the game but don’t want to ham it up too much.

So that’s Luchador! Again, this perhaps it isn’t one I’d play every weekend, but it will be fun to take away somewhere or play when I need a game related break from gaming (if you know what I mean?) and when I play with newcomers that aren’t full time hardcore board gamers. I was really happy with it.

If you want to know more, please see here for more info or pay a visit to the Backspindle website.

 

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Not included in the game, but sent to me as a meeple lover, sorry but how cute???

Codinca: Leonard Boyd, David Brashaw

Last week two lovely games were kindly sent to me courtesy of the guys at Backspindle, a designer/publisher group from Northern Ireland. Those games were Codinca, an abstract puzzle game for 2-4 players and Luchador! Mexican Wrestling Dice, a 2-6 player family dice game. Interestingly they also publish two other games based on the works Terry Pratchett, so if that floats your boat and you want to check it out, i’ve linked to their website above.

I unboxed the games for my You Tube channel; I couldn’t possibly resist, because I love ‘unboxings’ and they looked full of delicious components for me to marvel at. I’m pleased to say I was genuinely happy and surprised at the excellent quality of both games. Codinca has a smooth matte finish box that opens up like a little treasure trove (very in-keeping with the theme of the game) and has thick coloured tiles with various patterns etched into the surface. Luchador! is all heavy cardboard, large-scale character cards and chunky fat dice in an array of pretty colours. We also have an actual wrestling ring with springy rope and stand up figures with plastic bases, which I found quite novel and fun.

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However, this short review will focus on Codinca. It’s straightforward to play, the rules are dead simple, and like other abstract games I’ve played it’s a little bit mind bending, but in a pleasant way and if you want to win a fair amount of strategy is required. In a two-player game you start with four ‘key’ cards that detail the formations you need to make with your tiles in order to ‘unlock’ the treasure and score the card. You also have three ‘spirit’ cards, which will allow you to rotate and shift the tiles around, but these are one use only- so play them carefully! The tiles are laid out as shown on the inside of the box, you pick a colour that represents an element (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) and those are your player tiles to manipulate during the game. Then you’re all set.

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What commences is a game of back-and-forth turns between players, where you can flip and switch two tiles each turn. You can do this on any two tiles except the last one that was flipped or switched by another player. It’s difficult. I started by thinking ‘oh this is going to be easy’… but I was wrong. Never underestimate your opponent’s power to mess up your treasure hunting plans; one excellent move for them could spell disaster for you. Also never underestimate a certain kind of opponents power to be an ass just for the sake of it. Because you both have the same kind of formations to make, once it becomes clear what you’re trying to achieve then you leave yourself open to be messed with. I learnt this the hard way on my first game, so on the second I made sure to bluff a little bit and take my opponent by surprise at the last minute. I was also pleased with the clever use of my spirit card, which really saved the game for me at one point when I used it to shift one row along to pop the last tile into the next row and score my key card. I gave myself a pat on the back for that one. Once you ‘win’ one of your treasure cards you have to end your turn, and the player who scores all four of their key cards first is the winner.

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Like many puzzle games I always think how clever they are, such simple rules, so little to set up, not much to the game in a psychical sense, yet so clever. I also found that Codinca (much like the other two abstract games in my collection) was so chilled to play. There’s no need for too much interaction, (except for the occasional eye roll from me) you don’t have to verbalise too much (but I won’t repeat what I did say at a couple of points) and you just kind of switch off, focus on the pieces and play. It’s a really nice feeling. Despite what I’ve said (that’s just gaming banter in my house) it wasn’t particularly vicious, but I guess it depends on your personal playing style.

I always love how games like this (along with certain card games, and other puzzle games) are very compact and transportable. When I play them I always think of going on holiday, going for a drink somewhere, playing it on a lounge floor by the warm glow of a fire…in my dreams, of course, not in reality.

Codinca, like my other abstracts, may not be a game I’d play every night, it may not be one I’d overplay just in case it got stale, and y’know sometimes I have to be in the mood for a puzzle game. But as abstract puzzle games go, it’s a damn good one and i’m just a little bit chuffed to have it in my collection.

More info here

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