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.


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.


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.


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



Sandcastles, Andrew Harman

I spotted Sandcastles  by YAY Games on Twitter and really fancied it, and for a mere £13, I thought why the hell not?  It’s amazing how much fun can be packed into a small box with cards.
If you saw my unboxing video then you may have seen that these cards are more like square tiles and have various graphics depicting buckets, crabs and seagulls. They have different patterns around the outside that are the ‘walls’ and you use these to build and connect your sandcastles. In a two player game you randomly choose ‘objective’ cards that will score you points e.g-  ‘largest’ sandcastle, the ‘tallest’ sandcastle, a sandcastle featuring 4 bucket cards etc. You play by selecting a card each turn, either by drafting from three central cards, or from the draw deck in order to build your castle. Some of these cards are attack cards and these can be used to mess with your opponent, steal their cards and ruin their glorious sandcastle. When an opponent attacks you can play a card back on them to deflect their attempt, e.g – they play a crab to poke your castle, but you reveal a seagull to eat their crab, but they happen to have a bucket to throw at your seagull, so it’s like rock/paper/scissors and really fun!
 You can build several sandcastles at once, but you can only set aside your sandcastle for scoring when it’s been completed and all of your sandcastle walls are joined up and closed off. A two player game finishes when the wave card appears. It took about half an hour to play and I never got bored or found it repetitive. It was really genuinely good fun!
There’s a variant for 3-7 players and for solo play. I’m really looking forward to playing solo, in fact it was the main reason I bought this game as it has a solo option.  Unfortunately spare moments are few and far between, because my current life situation just doesn’t include alone/down time really. I remind myself that it’s not going to last forever and it’s nice to have games with solo play for when the time is right.
Sandcastles is a very good and worthwhile purchase in my opinion, and you can buy directly from the YAY website or from Square Orange. More info on the game here.

Myrmes, Yoann Levat

We played Myrmes about 18 months ago and I had very little recollection of playing it except I was exhausted and felt brain dead at the time as it turned out I was pregnant! So this stayed on the shelf until last weekend and I suggested playing it. So there’s a bit of back story and here are my thoughts.

First off I thought why the hell did I suggest even buying this? I’m pretty much an insect phobic and despite the cute little ants on the box artwork there’s fairly uncute insects inside. Plastic ants that look more like spiders (though the board is really lovely and colourful) and words like larvae, nest, and birthing your ants, bleurgh. I actually made a throw up face at a couple of points. BUT being the responsible adult gamer know that I can be I set aside those feelings, and ended up really enjoying playing the mechanics rather than the theme which to be honest has grown on me, so I’m not a complete twat!

I found it hard to get my head round this one at first. However after a few 40 min games over a couple of days it became a lot clearer and I got on with the basic premise no problem. You can use your turns to make workers, soldiers, eggs and nurses, then go out and lay your pheromone trails or fight other insects. You use your workers as soldiers and you need more soldiers to kill wasps and fight for your opponents space. You need to ‘up’ the quality of your nest to gain further improvements which will help you do bigger and better things and you need to make more nurses to get more done in each round. Lastly you need to get enough food to feed your ant family every year. So this brings me on to the issue of time. It could be the result of a two player game or maybe just not being that good at it at this point, but there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to do anything really worthwhile. I spent a lot of time forsaking the interesting stuff to feed the little bastards! So basically if you balls up in the first couple of ‘seasons’ like I did in my last game and lose initial points, you have to work really hard to claw the game back. Or if you don’t make at least a few nurses in the first rounds then you’ll really struggle to get anything done. It’s hard graft being an ant! I strongly feel that Myrmes could use at least an extra round per year, because you have three years and a spring, summer and autumn in each one, then on winter you don’t get a turn as such because you just feed your colony. There should be at least a round before the final food I think. Also there’s a dice rolling element which tells you what special ability you can use each turn and you can you use your eggs to jiggle this about a bit….but you need your eggs for other things! So there’s not too much control over that part. Last gripe; it’s a bit disappointing that there are no end of turn bonuses because it just kinda ends and you’re like ‘oh is that it?’. But I feel that it’s a good enough game to persist with as every round in this game is challenging and strategic. It’s difficult in a two player game as you’re struggling to fight for space and you’re only allocated a portion of the board in a two player. Which is fine if want to spend your turns using earth cubes to redistribute your ‘pheromone’ trails, as that is where most of your precious points are. But then there’s that time issue again. I’m definitely determined to crack this one, and maybe on another day when my mind feels a bit sharper and my concentration levels are better then I’ll have a eureka moment. So final thought is; I’d recommend Myrmes if you like a challenge! More Info

Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Ted Alspach


Castles of Mad King Ludwig is a good game. It’s good. But it’s not great. We’ve played it a few times since we got it last year and I still couldn’t put my finger on why it just isn’t as good as Suburbia, until I spoke to Jon tonight and came to a conclusion…


I thought I’d like the theme a lot more than I actually do, building the crazy castle, the cute little rooms…the box and the components are lovely and aesthetically it’s a gorgeous game to have in your collection. But nothing about the playing and scoring particularly excites me and that’s probably because, as Jon pointed out, you only get points for joining your tile up to doorways and receive bonus points for connecting to one room, and yeah you get some bonuses for completing rooms, but in my opinion only one of them is worth having, and the end of game extras are just a bit random. Whereas in Suburbia the theme works well for me, it’s a lot smoother and for every turn you get more opportunities to score points because of the hexagonal layout so there’s more to be gained or lost depending on where you place them, so Suburbia is basically more challenging and rewarding. I liked that with Suburbia your town has to make sense and work to win the game and didn’t like the randomness of the mad King’s castle as much.

BUT having said all that Castles isn’t BAD, and maybe if I hadn’t played Suburbia first and loved it I would of liked this more. So yeah, Castles, I wouldn’t dismiss it, and I’d probably play it again, but if you’re going to go for a Ted Alspach this game is definitely the lesser of the two. More Info



Patchwork, Uwe Rosenberg

Patchwork is a smart little game for two players by Uwe Rosenberg who is a very clever chap indeed! So basically you move around the centre board collecting your button income which you use to buy pieces of quilt (beautifully printed decent cardboard quilt) and some have buttons on and that’s your button income. As you choose your pieces you move the marker to the one you want and you can only choose the three in front of wherever the marker is.


You build up your board and try to fit it together like a puzzle and fill up as much space as possible because you lose points at the end for your blank squares. The tough part is utilising your space and competing for the pieces so your plans aren’t scuppered. When you run out of buttons you can skip a turn to move spaces ahead to catch up with your opponent and gain buttons for the number of spaces you moved.

Some turns you can’t afford the pieces and don’t have a button to your name, some turns you’re inundated with buttons and don’t want any of the pieces available because they don’t fit your quilt. All in all good fun, quick and simple, we would call this a filler game, so if we wanted to play a couple of games but didn’t have time for two heavy ones we’d get this little gem out. The only thing is that because we verbalise our moves (we don’t sit in silence and just take turns back and forth because we just don’t!) so we ended up saying the word button so much that it lost all meaning! With the supply and demand of games all over the place I personally don’t think it’s worth paying over the odds for. It’s a great game and worth the correct retail price of £17-£20. A welcome addition to our collection. More Info