Broom Service: The Card Game

IMG_4084

I actually made a video on Broom Service: The Card game that I decided not to publish. I don’t know, it’s the second time I’ve tried making a video and I don’t think it’s for me. I feel like I need another person to interact with and bounce off. Me in a room talking to a camera just doesn’t work. It’s not even a vanity thing, I know I have a weird wonky face and it doesn’t bother me (anymore!) but staring at myself as I speak is just too strange and watching it back over and over to edit is worse. So until I find a video buddy (and possibly someone who is an editing whizz) I think I’ll concentrate on my written posts. 

So Broom Service: The Card Game. I bought this game for a modest £8.99 last week, I do love those low price points! I very much enjoy the board game and thought this would be a nice addition to it. I haven’t played the card game yet but I have used the mini expansion for the board game that comes with it.

My first thought was concerning the box and card sizes. It’s a small box but has quite a lot of room inside. But the cards are tiiiiiny, like mini cards. Which isn’t a problem really, I just wondered why they didn’t make the box smaller or the cards bigger? Or maybe even sold them in a Love Letter style pouch with an emblem on the front or something, that would of been cute. But larger cards would of been nice because the artwork is so lovely. Anyway I’m sure they had their reasons for producing it how they did so fair enough!

IMG_4086

IMG_4087

The witches

This 3-6 player card game takes the ‘cowardly/brave’ element of the board game as it’s core mechanic. We have factions of witches such as Sun, Night, Fire, Meadow and so forth and each has a corresponding colour. Played over 4 rounds each player takes a turn placing one of the cards from their hand in the ‘cowardly’ or ‘brave’ position. When the next player takes their turn and if they have the same card as the one previously played they can use their card brave and cancel the previous one played, taking it out of the round. Or you can play cowardly and no one can stop you. So what’s the difference? Well if you play cowardly you’ll score at the end of the game for your potion points, but as there is only one potion on the cowardly side of the card you’re not going to score very big. The brave side has more potions and special potion symbols but if you play too many brave cards you run the risk of having the next player cancel them. The end scoring is based on how many sets of coloured potions you have, how many ‘brave’ potions you have accumulated and if you have met any of the task cards throughout the game. The task cards can be taken by a player at the end of a round if during that round you met the conditions on the task card e.g- 3 purple potions, 4 yellow.

IMG_4088

Task card

It looks like you will have to play carefully in Broom Service card game, keep an eye on how many cards are in the particular witchy faction you are playing and how many are already on the table. It looks to be a tricky one and I’m really looking forward to playing it in full.

So aside from this there is the mini expansion for the board game and this gives you 16 extra cards. You can pick up one of these when you choose to play cowardly and each card has an objective you can meet to gain extra points, like trading in potions for points. If you don’t meet the objective you can still get a point for the unused cards. So they’re worth having, and add an extra something to an already pretty tough game.

IMG_4090

Expansion

I love Broom Service, I think this card game looks like a lot of fun. Nothing amazing maybe, after all it just a set collection/press your luck mini game, but for a low price point and a little expansion included what’s not to like? I also really admire the cute artwork in this game. I just wish that they’d made the cards bigger. Or put an insert in the box. Damn those production costs hey?
More info can be found here.

Escape From The Aliens In Outer Space

FullSizeRender-1

I was looking forward to this for some time and having heard mixed opinions (along the lines of ‘brilliant, love this game’ to ‘doesn’t work very well in practice’) I was curious to try it myself and wanted the re print with the matte finish book-like box, the map/log manuals and wipe clean markers. It has a great design, the minimal art work is very fitting and the creatures are pretty horrible, it really does have that ‘Alien’/space horror feel. But is it any good? I won’t beat around the bush, yes, yes it is. In my opinion.

FullSizeRender-2

Let’s start with the setting. You’re on a research mission in deep space. The bad news is that your craft has been badly damaged. You’ve been plunged into darkness. The worse news is that an alien plague has got on board and it’s going to creep about and pick you off one by one and transform you into a flesh eating monster too. Run.

FullSizeRender-3

So how do you play? Well despite the slightly intimidating rule book (symbols everywhere…brain melting) it’s actually pretty straightforward. It’s bluffing/hidden movement basically. You randomly determine in secret who is playing the alien and who is the human. Each come with a special ability (optional) and you choose which map to play on (there’s a recommended beginners map and they all state the number of players they’re best used with). From here on you decide where to move on your map to escape the alien or hunt the human. The white sectors are silent sectors, so you can announce you’re located in a silent sector but don’t have to draw a card. Then there’s the grey ‘dangerous sectors’ where you randomly draw a card from the main deck. Green cards mean you have to declare a sector but not necessarily the one where you’re in, red cards means you have to be truthful about where you are. So there’s a fair amount of bluffing here. Which for some reason took me a while to get the hang of but when I did, I realised I’m actually pretty good at it! So you move around your map trying to get to an escape pod. If the alien player or players find you then they can attack and kill you! Then it’s ‘game over man, game over!’ So a pretty abrupt ending. You can also randomly draw ‘action’ cards from the deck instead of a noise card, you can keep these to yourself and play them on any turn once. This is also optional!
A few points:
  • The maps matter. I was playing a two player game with the starter map which is actually recommended for 4-8 players. The first two times I played I died within about three minutes (but was also not bluffing very well) and as soon as we started playing with the 2-8 player maps the game went on (for about 10 minutes) and was a lot tougher.
  • It works as a two player. This was a concern I had but it still works really nicely. Only with two players you both know who you are so there’s really no secret there and also a couple of cards that would be cool you aren’t able to use, like ‘mutate’ so you can change into an alien secretly and trick your opponents. It would also last longer with more players, so I really want to try it with 2+ to see how it differs.
  • I’d recommend playing with the character ability and events. It means there’s more going on, more options and you can (try) to get smart. For example one action card means that the human player can attack an alien. So I deliberately tried to trick my alien opponent by bluffing as to my whereabouts and was secretly following where I thought he was to kill him. Then I played the card at the wrong time and promptly died. Not so smart. But it was a fun way to play. Maybe next time!
  • It can be over pretty quickly. If you play with 2-3 players it’s more of a filler game.
  • I’ve never played a game that involves mapping and writing and I really enjoyed this aspect. But as much as I liked the laminated maps I found the pens to be fiddly. Also hiding your manual from the other player whilst writing and trying not to smudge your ink is tricky. Give me a mini pencil any day!
  • You have to announce ‘silent sector’ ‘dangerous sector’ ‘noise detected in sector X’ every single turn. After saying the phrases in various theatrical tones, like the whisper, the Dalek, the generic ship computer voice, it got a little annoying. It’s a small criticism, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment!
Overall I’d give it a 8/10. It’s a good game, fun with two, probably a ‘bigger’ game if played in a group, and with the lights down and some atmospheric music it’s even better. Maybe not worth paying over the odds for but definitely worth the RRP (£25-£30 depending on where you shop.) More Info

Ravenous River, Isaac Shalev

IMG_0932

When I read the description of this game I immediately thought of the logic puzzle about the chicken, fox and grain (and my favourite episode of The Office ‘Training Day’). In the past I’ve been pretty useless at logic puzzles so I thought this would be challenging. And if all else failed I could just enjoy the lovely animal illustrations by Felicia Cano!

As it turns out Ravenous River isn’t so much of a logic puzzle as a mini strategic bluffing game. In Ravenous River you choose (in secret) two ‘Totem’ Animals and find a way to get them into a position where they won’t be eaten by the other creatures. You need to ensure that your animal is not on the bank, the boat or ‘home’ with another animal that’s directly  above it on the predatory chain. You can discard action cards to place an animal or use the action card ability to move the animals or boats. It’s as simple as that and as tricky. In a short time frame you’re attempting to foresee all the outcomes, assess whose going to eat who, figure out your opponents Totems and bluff your own. If you can crack that last part then you might receive a VP for surviving, gain an additional VP for eating a creature and if it’s a creature whose already eaten you can nab that VP from your opponent too. If that makes sense? It will when you play it!

IMG_0936

For such a small stature game it’s very clever, with a lot to think about, and that embodies everything I love about small card games. It doesn’t come with a huge amount of cards or pieces (the rules are like ‘if you run out of wooden cubes use something else like Animal Crackers’- that’s the spirit!) but I mean wow this card game cost £7.50, I think that’s the cheapest game I’ve ever bought. A very decent price point for such a lovely smart little game!

I must admit I’ve not been much of a critic recently, but I’m pleased to say that I’ve been happily surprised by the last few games I’ve played. I’ve also been enjoying the uber popular 2013 eurogame Rokoko (even though I’ve lost every game I’ve played so far!) and I still need to play Neanderthal at least one more time before I can write up an accurate post. Thanks for reading! More Info

Le Fantôme de l’Opéra, Bruno Cathala Ludovic Maublanc

 IMG_0700
I coveted Fantome d’le Opera for aaaaaaages. I saw it reviewed and thought it looked cool. That was about 18 months ago, and admittedly my tastes were a bit shallow. Recently I looked at the review again, and even though it wasn’t particularly glowing I thought ‘I still want this dammit!’. It looked to be out of print or at least hard to come by in the UK so my ‘covet-o-meter’ was going mad! After coming into some spare money (tax rebate!) I found it on eBay and decided to go for it. It’s in the same family as Mr Jack, which I’ve never played, and it’s a simple, but kind of tricky hidden movement game.
FullSizeRender
You can choose to play as The Phantom or the other characters who are trying to escape his clutches. You move around the board using the movement ability and conditions on the character cards, to deduce who the Phantom is.  At the bottom of the board we have Carlotta and she moves up the track each round and can be ‘scared’ by The Phantom, and if she reaches the end before you’ve figured it out, you’ve lost! Personally I found playing as the characters and guessing too easy, it’s running away and disguising as The Phantom that is tricky!
 Now, in hindsight, maybe I should of taken heed with the video review I saw. It’s a bit thin. I don’t regret buying it, it’s a great game to have in the collection, and sometimes when the mood takes I could really fancy it. Also it’s worth remembering that since this was released in 2013 gaming has moved on somewhat, with small box games and print and play especially becoming more popular. It comes in a fairly large box (though not huge by any means) and has a nice board, big cardboard cards and chunky tokens. It definitely has an old school feel, which I really like. But because it’s quite ‘big’, you feel that there should be something more substantial to it, especially for a two player only game. But there really isn’t too much going on apart from what it says on the tin. It just seems quite unnecessary to have the board, the heavy cardboard etc, because it’s a filler game basically. It’s over really quickly, even when we house ruled to put the start marker two steps back so it takes a bit longer. I’m sure we never had a 30 minute game as estimated in the game overview. This could be a little card game or a print and play, it could probably be re-released as such, because it’s definitely a fun party or filler game.
Next time I play i’m lighting the candles and putting the soundtrack on! Not the one with Gerard Butler. That was weird. More Info
IMG_0703

Broom Service, Andreas Pelikan Alexander Pfister

IMG_2179

This game was released during my brief hiatus from gaming, so I didn’t  know it existed until recently. When Jon mentioned it I was instantly in love the theme as I’ve had a long term interest in witchcraft since a teenager. Being an 80’s child in the UK I grew up reading The Worst Witch and Puddle Lane and the gorgeous artwork on Broom Service is very reminiscent of that era. It’s also the first ‘pick up and deliver’ game that I have played.

FullSizeRender

It’s super twee and cute and the Meeples have witches hats and it’s pretty much just adorable. So it was a pleasant surprise that this is one hell of a vicious game. Vicious! There’s something about it that is so competitive and infuriating and just makes me go ‘arghhhhhhh!!!’ For me it’s because I have plans and strategy that gets completely screwed every turn, but that’s why this cutesy game is so clever, because you’re having to strategise on different levels. You’re constantly figuring out what your opponent is going to do, what your plan is and what your back up plan is. I love this game, I did want to throttle Jon a couple of times, nothing like a bit of healthy competition and murderous feelings I say!

I really like the dichotomy of the theme with how you play it, and the really good thing is that you can add extra rules and components to the game if you want to make it more challenging…which we do! This was one of the best games we’ve bought in a while and I think everyone needs to don a witches hat and play it. More Info