Loonacy from Looney Labs- A Review

Loonacy from Looney Labs- A Review

Loonacy is a fast-paced, matching, party-ish game from those loonatics over at Looney Labs. You know the ones I'm talking about--the folks who brought us Fluxx, Fluxx the Board Game, and a bunch of other wacky games they claim you can teach in one sentence. So what's so loony about Loonacy? Can you teach the game in one, single, solitary, individual sentence? Only one way to find out...

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A Review of Jungle Speed

By Firestone Remember the classic youth group game Spoons? What's it known for? Bloodshed... Well if you like Spoons, you'll probably like Jungle Speed—which plays up to 10 people. Once it's out of the now-unnecessary box, it's a simple cloth bag, a set of rules, a deck of 80 square cards, and a plastic "totem." The goal is simple: Get rid of all of your cards. Like Spot It!—which we reviewed a few weeks ago—there are a few variants that mess around with how you deal out cards and how the game is played and so forth. In the basic game, you place the totem in the middle of the table, shuffle the 80 cards, and deal them out as evenly as possible to everyone playing. In turn, players flip over the top card of their stacks—using only one hand—to create a face-up discard pile. The cards feature various designs of various colors. Whenever a just-flipped card matches the design—not the color—of another card on the table, those players are now in a duel! Both players try to be the first one to grab the Totem. The loser takes the winner's cards, their own discard pile, and any cards that might be in the middle of the table (from other card effects I'll get to), and place them face-down under their draw stack. Play continues as before, with the loser of the duel starting.

The insidious thing (and I mean that in a good way), is that the designs look VERY similar. So often people will incorrectly grab the Totem—and in that case they have to take all of the face-up cards on the table. That's the same penalty you take if you accidentally drop the Totem as you're trying to grab it. There are a few special cards, such as one with a bunch of arrows pointing in, and everyone is basically in a duel as soon as that comes up, with the winner placing his or her discards in the middle of the table under the Totem. There's also one that changes what triggers a duel to matching colors, rather then designs—so one more chance for you to accidentally grab the Totem and mess yourself up.

That's basically it. So let's talk about the Totem. It's just a plastic piece that you grab. You're not worshiping it or praying to it or anything else related to the traditional Totem you think of in other religious traditions. Since it's just a name, if you felt strongly about it, you could easily change the name of your Totem. Call it the banana, or the grabby stick or the whatever.

Bottom line: It's not the best party game I've played, and it's certainly not the worst. But it's a fun, party game that everyone can play, and would be great for a group of teenagers.

Thanks for reading!

A Double-Take Review: Ruse

- by Firestone and Jeremiah Earlier in the week we were both sent advanced copies of Bonsai Games' latest endeavor, Ruse—they're Kickstarting the game in collaboration with Game Salute's Springboard program. So today we're both giving our thoughts on the game in this Double-Take review of the steampunk, who-dun-it.

The game takes place in the very steampunky Victorian city of St. Sebastian. A murder has taken place, and the players spend the entire game pointing fingers, placing blame, and weaving convincing tales so as to prove their innocence, and find the true killer.

The Game Play—The actual game itself is quite simple. The deck is based on a traditional 4-suited deck of cards. Two suits are accusations (split into 3 types: motive, method, and opportunity), and two suits are alibis. Each player chooses a character card,  is dealt five cards and the game begins. On their turn players draw a card and then performs one of the following actions: Play an accusation, provide an alibi, or simply discard. If a player cannot provide an alibi, once per game they can turn their character card over to a portrait that has pretty shifty eyes, and simply cover up an accusation... If you have a number 9 accusation in front of you, the only thing that can get rid of it is the 9 card from one of the two alibi suits. So hand management is fairly important here. Do I save that alibi for myself? Which card should I discard? They might want that one! But if I put that accusation on top, they'll just draw it right away and play it on me... The game is full of interesting decisions on how to manage your hand and discards.

End Game—The game ends when you've figured out "who-dun-it," and that happens when, at the end of a player's turn, that player has one of each accusation type played on them, and can no longer provide an alibi for any of them. That player is then given the spotlight to tell their tale, and why they had no choice but to do the dastardly deed.

Our thoughts:

Jeremiah—The mechanics of the game are ultra streamlined—they seem well-thought-out and tested. When I read the instructions, I thought for sure it was going to be a pile-on-the-weakest-player situation, and it almost never got to that.

Firestone—Our game got to that a little. Two of the four suits are for accusations, and in our 4-player game, three people had one of those suits in front of them, and I had the other. I think because I was all alone in that suit, it made it easier for me to be a target. I don't blame them; they smelled blood in the water and came after me. Surprisingly, I was able to fend them off and not lose.

Jeremiah—The game takes its charm because of the storytelling aspect, and the steampunk world it is set in. The meat of the game lies in the fact that instead of just simply trying to play 3 accusations in front of someone, the whole time players are telling a tale of lies and deception while trying to pin the crime on everyone but themselves.

Firestone—That was my group's favorite part. There was a lot of smiling at the table as someone would happen to pull just the alibi they needed for an accusation in front of them, and they could dramatically say, "Ahhh! You may have thought I was the last person to be seen with the victim [throws down just-drawn alibi], but in fact, she was seen alive afterwards, so it couldn't have been me!" Truth be told, there were a few cards our group thought didn't make a whole lot of sense. For instance, I'd been Exposed As a Fraud, and then later I played the alibi Sold Out. I have no idea how selling out was an alibi for being exposed as a fraud—and I certainly didn't have a chance to think of it in the middle of the game. So I just kind of awkwardly played it down, read the card, and we moved on.

Jeremiah—The art is super cool, I'm a fan of the steampunk look in a lot of things. It brings back fond memories of the old Max Fleischer Superman cartoons in that retro future-y Magnetic Telescope kind of way.

Firestone—Love the art. I was a fan of steampunk before it got popular—anyone else love Tim Powers' The Anubis Gates? Awesome book! Anyway, the art is great, and goes a long way to keeping the morbid theme from being too dark.

Final Thoughts -

Jeremiah—This is a game where the players truly make it or break it. It's a great game for those who are creative souls but maybe aren't hard core gamers yet. Even with the potentially dark subject matter of the game, it never got too creepy to me. Even the opportunity card "Victim's Medium" was played off as cheesy, with the medium character obviously wearing a false nose. We had some really good laughs, coupled with pretty tense moments during the games we played. It's a game that does what it set out to do very well!

Firestone—As I said, my group of hardcore gamers liked the storytelling aspect a lot. And while there are some interesting decisions to be made, they felt it was a little light for their taste. But I'm SURE I'll be bringing this out with my family over the upcoming holidays. It's light enough that it won't put them off with heavy rules, but still full of decisions and luck and fun and storytelling and creativity. My biggest concern is that—with only two accusations and two matching alibis—stories will quickly start to look just like they did last game. Still, this is a fun game for families and nongamers (and the occasional filler for gamer-groups).

Thanks to Bonsai Games and Game Salute for sending review copies, and thank you for reading!

4 Score and 8 Bits Ago - A Pixel Lincoln Review

- by Jeremiah A few weeks ago we interviewed Jason Tagmire, the mastermind behind the eagerly awaited Pixel Lincoln, the sidescrolling, deck-builder of presidential proportions. Shortly after the interview we were sent a prototype copy of the game to review, so here it is, our review of Pixel Lincoln.

The Setup - The setup of the game is unlike most deckbuilders. Instead of simply creating a pool of cards that you'll choose from, you're also deciding which baddies you'll face. The game consists of two levels, each level consists of a deck of cards that includes items, secret items, enemies, characters, checkpoints, a mini boss, and a boss. Once you've compiled your two levels the decks are set to the right and the first five cards are revealed making a row from left to right. Players then choose which level they will start on by placing their Lincoln meeple to the left of the first card of the level. Players are then given a starting deck of 10 cards (five starting movements, and five starting weapons), and a player # card with 2 life cards that are placed underneath it; then each person shuffles their decks, draw 5 cards from it, and the game begins.

Game Play - On a turn players decide whether to use their cards in one of two ways: by equipping them, or using them for money. If the card is equipped, the player gains the attack power, the action/movement, or special ability of the card. If they choose to spend money, they gain the money value of the card. By spending money you can collect a card in your level that is a movement or item/weapon and add it to your deck. By equipping weapons or movements you can defeat or jump over enemies as you move through the level. Defeating an enemy places that card in a score pile, and usually triggers a favorable action for the player who defeated it... Usually. Players move along the level, and as soon as one player's Lincoln makes it to the level's draw deck, any cards that are behind all of the players in that level are discarded. The leftover cards are moved back, and more cards are then revealed. This accurately and nostalgically represents the side-scrolling of those great video games we grew up with.

End Game - As you hit the three checkpoints in each level, they trigger certain game effects. Each checkpoint allows players a few options, such as drawing an extra card, exiting the level, or culling a card to their score pile. When the second checkpoint is reached, it's replaced with a mini boss, and when the third checkpoint is reached it's replaced by a boss. Defeating the boss on each level ends the game. Players then count their scores.

Winning the Game - Each card has a point value in the lower right-hand corner, as well as a suit along the bottom left. At the end of the game players count up their score from the score pile, as well as their player deck. If they've collected characters along the way, and if they have cards that match the required suits, those characters will also award additional points. This works well because players who don't beat the bosses still have a good fighting chance to win the game!

My Thoughts - What a fun romp! The feeling of actually playing an Old School side-scroller is seamlessly fused with the deck-building mechanics of some of today's great games. Pixel Lincoln manages to bring together some of the best elements of my present day pasttime and my youthful social awkwardness!

The art and universe of the game are unique, original, and full of quirks. It seems completely normal that President Lincoln would be battling puking turtles, luchadors, plague doctors, and laser sharks, with weapons like chicken cannons, sausage link whips, and beardarangs. I mean...why not? The full version of the game includes a level editor, which should be very, very handy. One playthrough we noticed that the two levels weren't very balanced, and if you were stuck in level two, all the good cards were going to the players in level one. I also see a lot of room for expansion in this game; I would love to see more, and different types of, abilities and triggered effects on the enemy cards as they are defeated. At the end of the day, Pixel Lincoln is not the most strategic of card games, which levels the playing field in a way—players are at the mercy of the levels and the cards they have at hand. But it's still fun to play! Here's to hoping you've got enough fire power, because don't look now, that luchador is throwing a hot dog with the works at you!

You can now pre-order your very own copy of Pixel Lincoln right here.

Thanks for reading!

Star Trek Catan & X-Wing Sightings at Target—Plus Clearance Games!

I was in my local Target this weekend, and I noticed both Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game and Star Trek Catan on the shelves. The cost was $39.99 and $49.99 respectively, which seems like a LOT of money for a casual Target shopper to drop on a board game, with no prior knowledge of the games. But I certainly hope they sell well. While I was there, I did find two good games—Jungle Speed and Sorry Sliders—on clearance for $10 each. Jungle Speed is a game of matching patterns on cards, and when that happens you have to grab a "totem" in the middle of the table. It's a fun group game. Sorry Sliders is a dexterity game that's 1,000,000 better than regular, boring Sorry. Your mileage may vary, but if you find yourself in Target, be on the lookout for these games for a terrific price!

Thanks for reading!

A Review of Smash Up!

by Firestone You know what the world needs more of right now? Card games! Okay, Smash Up isn’t a deckbuilder, so I’ll give it a pass. What it is is a fast filler that has lots of room for expansion.

The game comes with eight different “factions”—a set of cards with a theme. There are pirates, ninjas, dinosaurs, aliens, zombies, wizards, tricksters, and robots. Each faction is very thematic and plays very differently. The ninjas can swoop in and exert influence at the last second, while the zombies can take things out of their discard pile. Basic stuff.

But where Smash Up is different is that you mix two of the factions, shuffle them up, and have a different combo each game. So you could have zombie pirates, or trickster dinosaurs, or alien robots. You get the best of each faction! Each faction has Action cards (that let you do cool stuff), and Minion cards (that exert influence and also do cool stuff).

The point of the game is to get to 15 victory points (VPs), and the way you (mostly) do that is by scoring Bases. The game comes with a slew of Bases, each with a unique name and special ability. So on one Base, each Minion there exerts +1 influence, or if you place a Minion on this base you can add another Minion to another base. Each Base has a different trigger number, and once the influence of all Minions there adds up to that trigger number, you score the Base. Generally, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place at a Base score, and the amount depends on the Base.

It's a pretty fun game, and a fast...ish filler with some neat combos. And I see that there’s lots of potential for expansions--and it’s put out by AEG, so YOU BETTER BELIEVE THERE WILL BE EXPANSIONS.

My biggest problem is that there's special text on the bases and all of the cards. So you spend a lot of time reading your own cards, reading your played cards out loud to the rest of the table, and reading other people's cards (and the base cards) already on the table. So what should have been a fast filler can be just a bit too long for what it is.

Also, some VP chits would have been nice.

Still, this is a fun game, and light enough that I could play it with my kids, or a youth group, or some nongamers. Check it out!

Thanks for reading!