In Bullfrogs players take command of their frog forces in a battle for supreme power and control of the pond! Bullfrogs is a tactical area-control game with a constantly changing game surface. So how does one control an army of frog forces and reign over the pond? Glad you asked; let's jump in!Read More
You're at the doctor's office. Or the DMV. (Shudder...) Or in line at at amusement park. Or waiting to buy tickets to a Radiohead concert. You're bored. You don't have a surface to play a game. But you have the sudden urge to battle it out for pirate-like supremacy of the air. What will you do?! I have just the thing...
Oddball Aeronauts is a 2-player card game where you're trying to force your opponent to discard all of his or her cards. It's for ages 9 and up (which seems about right), and plays in about 15 minutes.
Note: We were sent prototype copies of the game. The quality and exact component list may change before publication.
Cards... That's it. No tokens. No nothing. Just cards. The cards are broken into two types:
Faction Cards - There are 2 decks of 24 cards per Faction. These cards have 3 skills listed on them - Sailing, Guns, and Boarding. Each of those skills has a primary "Skill Level" and a "Skill Bonus." We'll tell you a little more about that in a minute. These cards also have Special Abilities that will either affect this turn, or the next turn.
Event Cards - There are a total of six Events in the game, but with rule updates only three of them will come out in the game play. These Events come into play from one player's deck but affect the whole game and both players have to deal with its effect.
Give each player a Faction deck, and randomly shuffle three Event cards into one of the decks. Players then hold their deck face-up towards them so they can see what is now the top card's face. The rules say to play Rock-Paper-Scissors to determine the starting player--the starting player is the one who loses. And you're ready to go.
The game is played in rounds, and each round is essentially a portion of a battle between two rival Factions.
Before we go into how the game actually works, there are some interesting concepts and actual physical mechanics that should be noted and understood. As you probably noticed, the entire deck is being held by each player at this point. The goal of the game is to get the other player to discard all of their cards. It's a war of attrition. When a player discards a card they turn the card face down and puts it at the bottom of the deck. Once one player gets to his or her first face down card, they've exhausted their deck--and lose. Certain abilities and round results will allow players to recover a card, and in this instance players search down in their deck to the first face down card and then turn it face up, thus keeping more cards in the game. Some have an ability to add a bonus in the next round after it's discarded. They've printed this bonus on the back of the card in the top corner, so in this instance the card is discarded and then pushed up to reveal that bonus for use in the current round. There are also some abilities that take effect that round, and use the same mechanism to reveal the ability to your opponent by pushing the card up, without revealing the face to them.
The rounds are broken down into 5 phases:
1. Events -- If the player with the Event cards has an Event in their top three cards, it's brought out and dealt with. Or continues its effect on the round.
2. Announce Skill -- At this point each player will fan out their top 3 cards, and determine which skill they will use--Sailing, Guns, or Boarding. You're allowed to look past your top 3 cards to see what is coming up next, but you can only use up to your top 3 cards. Once both players have decided what skill they will use, they announce it and the next phase commences.
3. Play Cards -- Like we just said, you can choose to play up to 3 of your top cards. By playing more than one card you are supporting the top card in the fight. So you'll be using the top card's "Skill Level"--which is the big number on the top for that skill--but for the cards below it you'll be using their "Skill Bonus" value--which is the smaller number on the bottom of that skill. You also can only use the special ability of the top card. Once both players have decided how many cards they will play, the lead player--the one who lost Rock-Paper-Scissors--will count to three and each player will hold up X number of fingers: X being the number of cards they intend to play.
4. Winner of the Round -- Players reveal the cards they are playing, and show the total of their Skill, by adding up Skill Level, Skill Bonus and any Special Ability Bonuses that may be applied, and the player with the highest level of Skill wins the round. If there should be a draw, then no one wins and the cards are discarded.
5. Win Result --After one player is declared the winner of the round, both players discard any cards they played, and then you resolve the results. If the winning player used Sailing, they recover 2 cards. If they used Guns, the loser discards 2 additional cards. And if they used Boarding, the winner recovers 1 card and the loser discards 1 additional card.
The winning player starts the next round as the Lead player and you do the whole thing over again.
After all of the effects have been resolved, if a player has no more active (face up) cards, they lose; if both players have no more active cards, it's a tie!
Firestone--What a terrific idea! I have no idea if someone's already thought about making a game that needs no surface to play, but who cares? It's great. I'll definitely be grabbing this game on trips and hikes and any travel I have to do.
Jeremiah--Yeah, I'm sure there are a few micro games out there that don't use a playing surface, but this is much more than a micro game, and I love the idea. You could easily play this on a table and lay down the cards you're playing for a round. But I love the thought that went into making it work without a playing surface. I played this with a friend while we were sitting on my couch. That's just cool.
Firestone--Yes, steampunk is all the rage now, so there's a part of me that wants to avoid everything steampunky, just on general principle. But I can't help myself! The artwork is really cool and evocative. The characters are interesting, and I'm kind of a sucker for anthropomorphic animals... Let's make this into a kick-butt cartoon!
Jeremiah--Yeah, I'm okay with the Steampunk movement for now. It's creative and imaginative, and it's just cool to look at; this game is no different. Steampunk is very much the Japanese Animation of this generation. I remember when Akira hit these shores; it was unlike anything anyone had ever seen and it blew up from there. Steampunk is riding that wave; I'm sure it will settle before long, but its carved out its niche and I'm sure it's here to stay. Lucky for us it doesn't involve sparkling vampires or any other lameness...
Firestone--With a box that small I wasn't expecting to be thinking too much, but there are definite, actual decisions to be made. Interesting decisions. You're always having to look at the next few cards and try to figure out the best way to play them, and when to tiptoe, and when to bum-rush.
Jeremiah--I totally agree. With not needing a playing surface, and holding all of your cards, I was really thinking along the lines of a streamlined micro game. But it's really not. Is it a 3-hour Euro? No. But the fact that you can plan ahead, and potentially throw a round so you can maneuver a card into a position to really slam your opponent hard in the next round, is a great mechanism, and adds a ton of strategic decisions to make. None of them are too deep that you get analysis paralysis, but enough to make the game really interesting and fun.
Jeremiah--If there was one thing I would add to this game components-wise, it would be something like three stones/tokens for each player. So instead of counting to three and sticking up your fingers, you would reach into your pocket and pull out a number of stones to reveal how many cards you're playing that round. It seems piratey to reveal stones in your hand, and wouldn't clutter up your non-existent playing area. But the fingers work fine.
Firestone--I've played this with adults, and they all thought it was clever and fun. Not super deep, but who wants to play Tigris & Euphrates at the doctor's office? I also played with my 9-year-old, and he loved it, once we got past the rules, which were a little hard for him to grasp at first. But as he was making his way through his deck, he kept seeing the next picture and saying, "Oh cool!" or "Aww....look at that one, Dad!" And then I'd have to remind him that he probably shouldn't show me his cards...
Jeremiah--I haven't played this one with either of my boys. My oldest could probably grasp it, and it would be good to work his math skills. Thematically and visually though I can't imagine many people that wouldn't think it's cool, including kids. The cards are just really cool to look at--very richly designed!
Firestone--I hope they come out with expansion cards, and maybe a way to customize your deck a little. It doesn't need that, but it would be fun, and give it some legs for the long-haul.
Jeremiah--I kind of don't want to see deck customization in this game; I feel like it could get unbalanced really easily, or just convoluted too much from what it is. It's a quick-playing game that you can throw in your pocket, laptop bag, etc. I'm sure there will be an expansion or two down the line--more events most likely--or maybe even another two decks that bring out more Factions. If there was a way to bring more than 2 players into the game, I'd be all for that, as long as it wouldn't break the game, because I really like it the way it is.
Firestone Final Verdict--oddball Aeronauts is a unique game. The footprint, artwork, and gameplay all combine to make a game I'm happy to play wherever I am. Even the DMV! I would say put this on the table, but it doesn't need a table! That's awesome!
Jeremiah Final Verdict--We totally agree on this one. oddball Aeronauts packs a lot of fun and strategy into about 15 minutes of gameplay. The unique mechanics and card design/layout seamlessly serve the purpose of the game, and don't come off as gimmicky at all. This a great play-it-anywhere game and yes, it doesn't need a table so, just go play it already!
oddball Aeronauts is on Kickstarter right now! They've got a little less than three weeks to go, but they're nearly funded! Yay!
We'd like to thank Maverick:Muse for providing preview copies of oddball Aeronauts. This in no way affected our opinions, and this was not a paid preview.
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"A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys. Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys. One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more, and Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar." - Peter, Paul & Mary
Over the past several weeks, we've seen an influx of 2-player games come our way, and today's review is yet another one. Draco Magi is a 2-player battle as the Gold and Green factions seek to claim the recently vacated throne, and become the Dragon King... errr... that is, Draco Magi. Let's take a look!
We should state that the images we've included, and the copies we're reviewing, are prototypes and may not be indicative of the final product that is released.
Cards, cards, everywhere! Here's the breakdown of the cards that come with the game:
Battlefield Cards--16 double-sided cards that serve as the battlefields where your dragons will duke it out, and feature a location name, some modifiers that affect the dragons you send there, and a colored jewel. Each side of the card is different, which gives you twice as much bang for your buck, and extra replayability.
Dragon Cards--There are two identical decks of 26 Dragon Cards, one Gold and one Green. There are 5 attributes to take note of on the Dragon Cards: Defense value, Ranged Attack value, Melee Attack value, Special abilities, and finally the Dragon's Type, which is anything from its color, to its "metallic" type.
Battle Cards--Two decks of 20 Battle Cards. Again, each player has an identical deck. These cards are broken into two sections: The top section is the Ranged Attack section, with a Defense value and an Attack value, and the bottom section is the Melee Attack/Defense section.
Advanced Battle Cards - This is a single deck of 18 that players add to their individual Battle decks as the game progresses.
First Player Token--We didn't get one in our prototype, so we just grabbed whatever and imagined it was something dragony or kingy or dragon kingy. But the game will come with one.
Setup is fairly easy and quick. Each player takes their Dragon and Battle Cards and sets them in different piles. Then shuffle the Advanced Battle Cards and draft them: Each player is dealt three, they keep one, give one to their opponent, and the third is shuffled back into the Advanced Deck. The cards the players drafted are shuffled into their respective Battle Decks. The Battlefield Cards are shuffled, and three are dealt out from the bottom of the deck. Each time a new Battlefield Card id dealt out, it's from the bottom of the deck so the next location(s) are hidden from both players. The Gold Dragon faction gets the First Player token, and each player draws 8 Dragon Cards and the game begins.
The game is played in 5 rounds.
Set Battlefield Phase--Which you already did during the setup, but in subsequent rounds you'll deal out enough cards to have 3 battlefields in play.
Placement Phase--This is where the game starts to get interesting. Players will--in turn and starting with the first player--place one Dragon Card on a battlefield. There can be no more than 3 of a player's Dragon Cards on a battlefield, and each dragon played is placed on top of a player's previously played dragon. If a player places a Dragon Card with a Ranged Attack value and there is an opponent's dragon on that battlefield, then the Ranged Attack is resolved. Ranged attacks are resolved by looking at the number next to the placed dragon's flame icon, and the defending player's top dragon's Shield/Defense value. Players then draw and flip over the respective number of Battle Cards from their own Battle Deck. The attacking player counts up the number of successes (starburst symbols) in the Ranged Attack section of the cards drawn, and the defending player does the same for the Defense section of their cards. If the attacker has more bursts than the defender, the defender loses his or her top dragon. If the defender has at least the same or more bursts, they defend and their dragon stays in play. This placement phase continues, and players place and resolve Ranged Attacks until players are either out of cards in their hand, or there are 3 dragons on each player's side of the battlefield.
Melee Phase--The First Player gets the party started by picking a battlefield, and the battle begins. Here's how melee battles work. Each player adds up their Melee Attack value for that Battlefield by adding together the numbers listed on all of their dragons' claw icons, and then draws that number of Battle Cards from their Battle Deck--remembering to check for Battlefield or dragon special abilities that can affect that number! Once cards are drawn, again beginning with the first player, attacks are made, this time using the melee section of the battle cards. So the attacking player makes an attack with a Claw or Bite card, and then the defending player must defend those attacks with the same type of card. Each of these cards have a "combo" icon that allows you to attack with multiple cards as long as the icons on the cards match. For each attack card that can't be defended, a dragon on that battlefield is defeated and discarded.
Then the player who just defended gets to attack, and this goes back and forth until only one person has dragons left on the Battlefield--or both players run out of battle cards. The player with more dragons wins the Battlefield, and its all-important gem. If the players run out of battle cards and there are an equal number of dragons on both sides, it's a tie and all of those dragons stay there, along with the Battlefield, until the next round. Once a Battlefield is resolved, the second player chooses the next Battlefield and it's Game On once again.
Draw Phase--After all three Battlefields have been resolved, each player draws one Advanced Battle card, and shuffles it and all of their Battle cards in the draw pile, discard pile, and any left in hand to re-form their battle deck. You can choose to discard or keep any Dragon cards that may be left in your hand, and then draw back up to 8 Dragon cards and return to the Set Battlefields phase.
Game End--The game ends immediately when one player wins enough battlefields to collect 3 gems of the same color, 3 gems of different colors, or 4 gems of any combination.
Jeremiah--Finally! A game that's clever, but not too clever for its own good! I can't really remark on component quality at this time, since we have prototypes, and the quality, art, graphic design, etc., will vary once the retail version hits the shelves. Robert Burke has been in contact with us, and some of the concerns I did have about iconography and fonts and such are being resolved, which is great news. The overall look and artwork, though, is amazing! The dragons look super awesome, the Battlefield artwork is really spiffy too! I can't wait to see the cards in their full splendor!
Firestone--Yeah, the art on those dragons is just terrific. They're colorful and evocative, and each one is unique. It probably wasn't cheap, but that was money well spent!
Jeremiah--I was really impressed with the way this game brings two unique and completely different styles of battle to the table, using the same set of cards. The battles interlock well enough to not make it feel completely disjointed from the game, but are still unique and have their own strategies. The dragons' abilities play well into the battle systems, also. Some are better at Melee while others better at Ranged attacks. It's slick and streamlined. I'm a fan of both battle systems.
Firestone--Really what this all reminded me of was Blue Moon. You're both competing for the same "thing," and playing cards to jockey for position to win that thing. It works really well.
Jeremiah--My first thoughts on resolving battles--especially Ranged--were, "Oh, no. It's down to a card pull, or luck of the draw." But this game is super balanced. There were plenty of battles where I thought I was going to blow away my opponent, and barely squeaked out a victory--or even lost--and vice versa. Every game I've played has come down to some pretty epic battles that decided the game one way or the other. I haven't seen a game that was completely lopsided.
Firestone--There's definitely some luck in the cards, though. For one battle, both of my Flight cards were drawn out during the Ranged attack. Well, that made it really hard to win that Battlefield--and, indeed, I lost it. I'm okay with the luck here, though. It feels about right for the weight of the game, and rarely feels punishing.
Jeremiah--I liked the function of the Advanced Battle cards. As the game moves along, there's a little more variation given to each player. So while you know the majority of your opponent's Battle Deck, there are still a few surprises along the way. Again, nothing that really throws the balance of the game, but enough to make the choices you make during melee battles just a little more precarious.
Firestone--One of the best things about the game was the "small" decision to let people add one Advanced Battle card to their decks at the end of a round. (There are a couple of other ways to get the cards, too.) That inserts some "fun stuff" into the game, but it also pushes it toward the End Game. Adding those cards makes it so most games of Draco Magi are going to go three or four rounds, which keeps it from overstaying its welcome.
Jeremiah's Final Verdict--I really had a lot of fun with this game. It plays right around 30 minutes, and packs a lot of punch for a relatively small number of cards and components. Every card played in the game requires a strategic decision, and these decisions then ripple through the upcoming phases. This is a really fun game, and I suggest you Put This on Your Table!
Firestone Final Verdict--There's a good amount of game in this set of cards. It's fun, and clever, and cheap, and plays quickly. And that art! I also really like their Kickstarter strategy, which is just: "Give us $15 and you get this game." No exclusives. No convoluted tiers. Just the game, and some stretch goals that everyone gets. Bravo. You should go back this game, and then Put It on Your Table!
We'd like to thank Robert Burke Games for supplying us with prototype review copies of Draco Magi. This in no way affected our opinions.
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You're an emu rancher, and your neighbor just decided to get into the business, too. Why didn't he choose to raise ostriches or kiwis? I don't know; you'll have to ask him. So each of the two players in the game is trying to create the most profitable emu ranch.
Emu Rancher is for two players, ages 8 and up, and it takes about 20 minutes to play.
For the Basic Game you have:
- 24 two-color, numbered Emu cards—numbered 2 to 9
- 6 single-color Egg cards
- 6 single-color Feather cards
For the Advanced Game you also have:
- 4 three-color Wild cards
- 1 Buyout card
First you'll choose a number of rounds to play—the game suggests an even number is best. Then, depending on whether you're playing the Basic or Advanced Game, shuffle all of the appropriate cards together and deal six cards to each player. Put the rest of the cards aside as a draw pile. Randomly choose a starting player, which will alternate for each round you play.
On your turn you will do two things.
1) Play a card.
2) Draw a card.
When you play a card you have a few choices.
You can start a new emu pen. You can start with an Egg card—in which case you'll be adding higher number to the pen. Or you can start with a Feather card—in which case you'll be adding lower numbers to the pen. Each Egg and Feather card is one color, so if you start a pen with those colors, that's the color of the pen. If you start it with an Emu card, you will eventually choose the color of the pen. That's because each Emu card has two colors on it. The number's always the same, but it might be a green 2 on the top, and a blue 2 on the bottom. The colors don't match, either, so the green 9 has yellow on the other side. And the green 5 has purple on the other side. At any rate, if you start with an Emu card, you don't have to "pick" the color until you play your second card, which will be one of the two colors on the first card, and will necessarily choose the color of the pen.
You have to follow the preceding numbers in the pen—going either higher or lower, depending on which card you used to start it. You can skip numbers—and, indeed, will probably need to since the other player might play the number you need into his pen!
You can play to an existing pen. That's just what it sounds like: play a card to a pen you've already started.
You can discard. Maybe you don't have anything you want to play. Or you're stalling. Whatever the reason, you can always choose to discard a card to the top of the discard pile, rather than play one to a pen.
At the end of your turn, you'll draw one card, either from the top of the draw pile or the top of the discard pile.
Once all of the cards have been drawn from the draw pile, each player plays out the rest of his or her hand to already existing pens—you can't start a new pen. Then you score.
Each pen costs 18 points right off the top—emu pens are expensive! So you immediately remove any Wild or Emu cards adding up to at least 18 points—and you can't make change! Any cards above the 18 are profit! Egg and Feather cards can't be used to pay for the pen, but they do each add 5 points to the score of the pen. If your pen was not profitable, then you subtract 5 points for each Egg and Feather card...
If you're playing with the Buyout card (Firestone says don't, and Jeremiah is fine with it), then the lucky recipient can eliminate one unprofitable pen.
Then you just add up all of the pen scores and record the score for the round. Once you've played the predetermined number of rounds, the person with the highest score is the most awesome at giant, flightless bird ranching!
Firestone—If this game sounds a lot like Lost Cities, that's because it is. Now that's not to say this game is a rip-off; I don't believe it is. The fact that there are two colors on the emu cards actually makes this game more challenging than Lost Cities, IMO. There's only one of each color, and it's on the other side of another color, so it's more restrictive.
This is mitigated somewhat by the Wild cards of the Advanced Game. I will always choose to play with those, as they give me just a little bit of breathing room—otherwise the game is too claustrophobic.
Jeremiah—I myself haven't played a lot of Lost Cities. Regardless, I thought the game play and learning curve of Emu Ranchers was just right for a shared-deck game. Having dual colors on the cards did make for some interesting strategic decision-making, as well as a couple double-checks as to what your opponent is up to before discarding a card to try and get something better.
The "advanced" mode to me seemed like a no-brainer; I don't ever see myself removing cards from the game, not even the Buyout card. I like the press-your-luck aspect it brought to the game. I felt empowered to go ahead and start that next pen, knowing full well I didn't yet have enough cards to make a profit on it, and that the Buyout card could already be in my opponent's hand. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained... It didn't always work out for me, but it was fun trying.
Firestone—I really dislike the Buyout card. There's only one in the deck, so one person is automatically going to have an advantage over the other, and it's just the luck of the draw. That's just awful. But it's easy to take out, so YOU SHOULD DO THAT.
Jeremiah—I know the designers/developers took great care in completing the graphic design and artwork of the game. They gave each emu a unique personality and expression to make all of the cards interesting and thematically fun, which in turn makes it a great family/kids game as well. That was a nice touch for a game that mechanically could have been easily abstracted to numbers and suits/colors.
Firestone—Totally agree. A great deal of this game's charm comes simply from the engaging artwork. My son wasn't sure he wanted to try a game about emu ranching, but once I showed him the artwork, he was sold.
Firestone's Final Verdict—This was a good little card game that I've played a number of times with my 9-year-old. It has interesting decisions. It's affordable. It's portable. And the cute artwork adds to the charm. Put it on the table!
Jeremiah's Final Verdict—I agree, it's a fun game that is about as portable as you can get, but still packs a lot of fun gameplay into a small package. Young kids will enjoy this one, and with its varying game length it makes a nice and interesting fun quick filler for gamers at a game night. You should totally...Put this on your table!
The game is currently on Kickstarter, and you can get your own copy for a mere $15, shipped. We'd like to thank AppSauce for providing review copies of the game. This in no way affected our opinions of the game.
Thanks for reading!
There have been some famous Dukes over the years. First we've got John Wayne—an iconic and larger-than-life figure. Then we have the Dukes of Hazzard. I can't overstate the influence that show had on me as a kid—there's nothing I looked forward to more during the week than Friday night with The Dukes. Now there's a new Duke on the scene—a board game from Catalyst Game Labs. Can it possibly live up to history's Dukes? Let's find out!Read More
By Firestone A few months back I reviewed Zertz, which is part of Project Gipf—a group of highly regarded abstract games by designer Kris Burn. In today's review we set our sights on perhaps the most accessible game in this series: Yinsh.
Be the first player to collect three Rings from the board.
5 white bakelite Rings
5 black bakelite Rings
51 round bakelite Markers, that each fit inside of the rings—with white on one side and black on the other.
1 Game board
Each person places his or her five rings on any intersection of the board—only one ring can ever occupy an intersection.
The board consists of a hexagonal grid, with lines intersecting with one another. On your turn you do one thing: Place a round Marker into one of your Rings with your color (black or white) facing up, and then move the Ring along any line you're connected to for as long as you'd like, or until you hit another Ring, or until you pass over any Markers—at which point you place the Ring on the next intersection after the last Marker you pass over. Every marker you passed over is now flipped to its opposite side—black to white and white to black. This is not optional.
Once there are five Markers of a color in a row on the board, that player removes a Ring from the board and places it on the space provided along that player's edge. Once you've managed to remove three Rings, you win.
And that's it!
I'm not a huge fan of abstracts, but for some reason these games in Project Gipf just grab me. They have simple rules, but deep gameplay. They have beautiful bits. They each feel different. And finally, I'm terrible at them.
Yinsh is the game I pull out when someone wants to play an abstract from my collection—well, Yinsh or Ingenious...but we're talking about Yinsh today! My 9-year-old played this when he was 8, and had no problem picking it up and doing well.
One of my favorite things about this is how the game balances itself with a sort of catch-up mechanism. When you remove a Ring, you're one step closer to winning, but you're also now more restricted in your options on the board, because you have fewer pieces to work with. Now, of course, this doesn't always mean the person behind will now catch up, but it makes it slightly easier to do so, and I like that.
There are also subtle ways to mess with your opponent. You can "trap" his Rings by placing your Rings where he wants to go, or make it so his only move with a Ring will benefit you by flipping Markers to your side.
The Final Verdict
One of the barriers to abstracts is that they often seem daunting to new players, Someone new to Yinsh might not dominate right away, but something about the gameplay, aesthetics, and simple rules makes this a great entry point for someone new to abstracts. And as someone who's not new to them, I still really enjoy this too. It's a great addition to Project Gipf, and any collection.
Thanks for reading!
We adore chaos because we love to produce order." ~M.C. Escher Looney Labs has turned their hit card game into a board game. Is it as chaotic as the card game? Is it completely different? Will Firestone actually like this game?! Let's find out!
Fluxx: The Board Game is for 2-4 players, ages 8 and up, and takes 15-30 minutes to play.
12 wooden playing pieces in four different colors: 3 yellow cubes, 3 green cylinders, 3 red pawns, and 3 blue person-shaped pieces.
8 orange pegs
Tiles and pegboards
1 deck of cards
Place a peg into the leftmost peg on each of the rules on the Rules pegboard, and into the 3 spot on the Win pegboard.
Place the Start tile in the center of the table, mix up the other tiles, and create a 3 x 3 square of tiles around that center Start tile.
Pick player colors, place all used pieces on the Start tile, and give each player the card that corresponds to his or her color.
Look through the deck and find the first five Goal cards and place them in a pile faceup on the Win pegboard.
Shuffle the cards and deal three to each player.
Before the game begins, everyone gets one free rule change. You can move any peg one space to the right (or up if you're moving the peg on the Win pegboard. You can move any peg, even if it's been moved by someone else, but you can never undo or reverse another player's move.
Randomly determine a start player. On a player's turn, you'll just look at the Rules pegboard and do what it says. You'll be drawing 1-4 cards, depending on where the peg is. You'll be playing 1-4 cards, depending on where the peg is. You'll be moving 2-5 spaces, depending on where the peg is. And you'll have a hand limit of none, 3, 2, or 1 cards, depending on where the peg is.
You can play cards and make moves in any order you want, and can even alternate between them.
There are blue Action cards that make something happen. They might let you trade hands with another player, or force everyone to trade colors. There are yellow New Rule cards, that change the rules somehow. They might tell you exactly how to change a peg, or give you options on what to move. Green Leaper cards have one of the pictures from the tiles on them, and you just jump a piece to that space. Purple Goal cards are played onto the top of the Goal pile, so that becomes the current Goal.
The Start tile has four arrows leading out of it, and you can only leave using one of those arrows. You'll be moving and playing cards and trying to match the Goal card currently on the top of the Win board.
Most spaces have a picture of one thing on them: chocolate, sun, music, brain. Each space can only hold one piece. If you move onto a space with another piece, you bump it to an adjacent unoccupied space (other than the one you just came from).
Each tile has one octagon space, which can hold any number of players. There are also two Portal spaces. As soon as someone moves onto one of the Portals, that person is immediately transported to the other Portal space.
There are also Special Move rules. One allows you to rotate a tile as one of your moves. One lets you pick up a tile and move it to another space—as long as you keep the orientation the same and as long as it's still connected to the rest of the tiles. And finally, the Wraparound rule lets you move off of one edge of the board and wraparound to the other. You can even cross gaps left over from uprooting a tile this way.
Any time (even on another player's turn) that you have pieces on spaces that match the current goal, you take that card. And as soon as someone has a number of Goal cards matching the current win level on the Win board, that person...wins!
The Verdict and Recommendations
Firestone—It's no secret that I don't really like Fluxx. It's way WAY too chaotic for me. I'll play with my family, but I wouldn't call it my favorite family game by a long shot. But Looney Labs wanted me to play this anyway, because it was more strategic, they said. I was skeptical but open-minded. Well they were absolutely right.
Rather than being based completely on the luck of the draw, Fluxx: The Board Game feels more like a puzzle: Each turn is a little puzzle to solve. Sure, there are still cards to draw and luck there, but there's also more stuff you can do to affect your position. How can I get myself onto those two spaces using the rules, cards, and movement available to me? While there's still some chaos and luck, I felt as though I had more control than I EVER had in the card game.
Jeremiah—I, on the other hand, am a huge fan of Fluxx! Fluxx, if nothing else, is unique compared to anything else you will play—I love the way the game wreaks havoc with the players, causing them to readjust constantly. No, it's not very strategic—at times—but there's something about seeing the agony on your friend's face when they realize they HAVE to play a card that causes you to win!
Fluxx the board game captures a lot of the original feel of the card game but does a great job of creating a new experience for fans of the game and newcomers!
Firestone—The pieces are a mix of good and bad. The pegboards and tiles are all nice and thick, but the pegs are too long. So when the pegs are in, the boards won't sit flat on the table, and if you push the board down flat onto the table, some of the pegs pop out. The wooden pieces are nice and chunky, and the cards are all adequate—though very, very thin.
Jeremiah—I'm also not a fan of some of the components. Yeah the tiles are thick and sturdy, and the cards are good quality. But I wasn't a fan of the pegboard system, either. I love its function! Just not its form. One of the peg holes is a little loose, too, causing the peg to fall out. Maybe it's the Euro gamer in me, but I'd just rather have had a tracker token on a track for the rules.
Firestone—Yeah, even my wife, who isn't a gamer at all, asked, "Why didn't they just have wooden cubes that you move on a board to keep track of this?"
UPDATE: Amber from Looney Labs has contacted us to let us know that they have a solution: pieces you stick to the bottom of the pegboards to raise them up high enough for the pegs to fit fully in. Contact customer-support [at] looneylabs.com. Thanks Looney Labs!
One other small complaint is that they chose the vanilla Fluxx as the theme. I completely understand why they did it, since it's their flagship product, and the one most people will be familiar with. But it's also kinda...boring. A cookie. A sun. A glass of milk. A piece of pizza. Andrew Looney. Meh... I would have been all over a Star Fluxx: The Board Game. Maybe that's in the works, but asking people to buy multiple versions of a $10 card game is one thing. Asking them to buy multiple versions of a $30 board game is very much another... But that's just a personal preference.
Jeremiah—I was totally fine with the original Fluxx theme; it sets up the base for the offshoot of the franchise. I, of course, have no way of knowing Looney Labs' plans for the future, but I could see them selling expansion packs instead new complete versions. Swap out the tiles and the cards and you're set—you don't need new player tokens and rule boards etc. Of course, Zombie and Pirate Fluxx would make for some cooler meeple options!
I'm pretty impressed with the great synergy between the board/tiles, cards and rule trackers! The cards still have their Fluxxy charm, and the board adds some great decision-making moments as well.
Firestone—Yeah, but the decisions aren't overwhelming. I could see someone prone to analysis paralysis getting overwhelmed by all of the choices as they puzzle through things. But it probably won't be a problem for most people.
Jeremiah Final Thoughts—As a fan of Fluxx, I have to say, while I was excited about FtBG I was slightly nervous that it might be an obligatory attempt to cash in on the reputation of its successor. All of the fears have been put to bed soundly! This game is fun! It is very puzzle-like, and the way it allows players to shift and change the playing surface makes it very replayable. Fluxx: The Board Game is the M. C. Escher of board games. Put this game on your table!
Firestone Final Thoughts—Aside from the terrible pegboard implementation, I like this game a lot. It's very light, and unlikely to make it past a couple of plays with my regular game group. But my family and I really like this, and I actually think it's a great nongamer game. I agree with Jeremiah: Put this game on the table!
Thanks so much for reading! And if you want, you can watch the video review, too!
Today we're taking a look at Incredbrawl, the slick-looking family/casual/gamer card game from Vision 3 Games. In Incredibrawl each player (2-4) is given an identical deck of cards featuring characters from three different types: Natural, Physical, and Energy. They then duke it out in a battle for ultimate glory (or at least 10 glory, the game's VP system) to see who comes out on top of this Incredibrawl!
Let's take a look at the nuts and bolts.
Well, we received prototype copies of the game, but this is the list given in the manual:
- 120 Character Cards (30 per player, matching sets)
- 40 Power-Up Cards (10 per player, matching sets)
- 10 Location Cards
- 4 Rules Reference Cards
- 1 Sheet of Glory Tokens
- 1 Coin
- 1 First Player Token
The game is played in one of three different Modes: Family, Casual, or Gamer. As you probably guessed, they each vary in difficulty and have different things added or subtracted, depending on what version you're playing.
The game setup (for Casual Mode) looks like this: Each player gets a set of cards (leave the Power-Up cards out), then you place the Grassy Meadow location card in the center of the table (leaving the rest of the locations out), and then give each player one Glory token to begin the game with. Players shuffle their cards, and draw a hand of 5 cards. Then, it's go time!
So here's a quick rundown of the Casual mode, and then we'll touch on the other modes as well. The basic brawl/battle engine is pretty much a Rock, Paper, Scissors type of mechanic: Physical (Purple Sword icon) beats Natural (Green Grass icon), Natural beats Energy (Blue Lightning Blot icon), and Energy beats Physical. Each character also has a power level, which is used for breaking ties; if there is still a tie, then players play an actual game of Rock, Paper, Scissors to determine who wins the brawl.
A turn looks like this: Players select their characters, place them by the current location (which is always the Grassy Meadow in this mode) and then they have it out. In a 2-player game players reveal at the same time, activate any "P" (Play) abilities, determine a winner, trigger any "W" or "L" (Win or Lose) abilities on the involved characters, and then the winner collects 1 glory token from the pool.
In a 4-player game the brawl goes in two rounds, with the winners of each across-the-table brawl facing each other to determine the winner of the overall brawl. And in a 3-player game there is an odd person out who goes up against the winner of the first two.
The Abilities—This is where a good portion of the strategy lies for the game. Some cards actually give you some decent bonuses for losing the brawl you play them in, so you may intentionally be throwing them into the fray in hopes that they get taken down (of course, it is quite possible that they can win due to their power type and what your opponents have played!). While others trigger an ability when they are played (whether you win or not!). For instance, the Roboshark causes each other player to randomly discard one card. The Low Blow card triggers if you lose, and if you discard your hand, the winner of the brawl loses two Glory.
The End Game—The game ends when a player reaches 10 Glory—even if it's mid-brawl; if they have 10 Glory tokens, it's game over, man! The game also ends if a player runs out of draw cards and can't draw another card at the end of his or her turn—again, the player with the most Glory is declared the winner!
The game comes with three different Modes. The one we've described so far is the Casual Mode.
Family Mode—Family Mode is the same as Casual mode, except you use no card abilities, and players start the game with zero Glory (instead of 1 as in Casual mode). This is a stripped-down version, perfect for playing with kiddos, until they get up to speed.
Gamer Mode—Gamer mode has several variants, including using all of the location cards (which give certain power types extra abilities/bonuses, as in the game Smash Up) and shuffling in your Power-Up cards, which again give you further ways to defeat your foes; these can be played at a time during a brawl, as specified on each card.
Jeremiah—I think the first thing that stood out to me was the artwork—oh my! It has awesome, well-done, stylized graphics that are just super easy on the eyes! The aesthetics of the game (even with the prototypes we received) are very clean, and very slick!
Firestone—Yeah, the artwork is great. Colorful, fun, and creative. My kids saw it and immediately wanted to play. My gamer friends liked the artwork, too.
Jeremiah—I've mostly played the Casual mode, and the Family mode with my boys, but have had a hard time getting this one on the table with my gamer friends. I think once they realized that at its core it's a Rock, Paper, Scissors type of game they're just not excited. Even though the abilities, power-ups, and locations add some needed depth, up to this point it's been a hard sell for them.
Firestone—Well I did play the Gamer Mode with gamers, and...we didn't like it at all. I seriously applaud the guys from Vision 3 for trying to create a game that can appeal to the spectrum of gamers, but it just doesn't work here, IMO. You can add all the bells and whistles and variants you want, but at the end of the day it's still a Rock, Paper, Scissors mechanism at heart, and that just doesn't cut it with gamers—at least not the gamers in my group.
Jeremiah—My boys, on the other hand, HAVE NOT STOPPED ASKING TO PLAY THIS GAME! They think it's the bees-knees (actually they've never used or heard that term); we started playing it in Family Mode and moved up to Casual Mode. They handle it well in Casual Mode, although the youngest doesn't really read (he's only 4) so he plays a W, L, or P and then hopes it does something cool for him.
Firestone—Same here: The boys (8 and 5) love this game. Like you, my youngest doesn't know exactly what he's playing—he just wants to play a pirate or a yeti or an alien or whatever! Of course, because the game is so chaotic and luck-based, it really doesn't matter if that's how he plays—he's able to hold his own when his blindly chosen card beats his older brother's carefully chosen card. So what the gamers hated is a boon for the family!
Jeremiah Final Thoughts—I have to say my initial reaction to the game was a bit along the side of my gamer friends. "Oh... Rock, Paper, Scissors..." But my boys have changed my mind on it; I might not get to play it in Gamer Mode often, but we have a good time playing it in Family and Casual Mode, and it brings them to the game table with excitement, and that's always a good thing!
Firestone Final Thoughts—For me, this is a family game from start to finish. I've got plenty of gamer's games, so I'm totally fine that this is one I'll only bring out with the family.
Put It On the Table—For family game night, or a lighter party/game night. It also could make for a light tournament-style game with a larger group or youth group. There are zombie and a wizard characters in the decks, but they're very cartoonish, and not unsettling in the least.
Put It On the Shelf—When your hardcore gamer friends are coming over. If your group is really okay with chaos and luck—and thinks a game night filled with Munchkin and Fluxx is the height of fun—they may like it. Otherwise, keep it on the shelf.
OVERALL: Put it on the Table!
The game has a little less than a month to go on Kickstarter, and it's 2/3 of the way to its goal. Check it out, and join in to unlock those rewards!
We'd like to thank Vision 3 Games for supplying us with prototype copies of Incredibrawl which in no way influenced our review.
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Is 2013 the year of the tiny card game? I dunno, but we've already seen some corkers in the form of Coup and Hanabi. The guys at Terra Nova Games sent us a preview copy of their new Kickstarter project Guile, and we're here to give you our impressions. Please note: The copies we reviewed were preproduction prototypes. Artwork, rules, and...well, everything might change before the final game is released. This review is based on what we received, with the understanding that tweaks (minor or major) may happen.
8 Knight cards—four of Arthur and four of Mordred
10 Influence cards—three 1's, three 2's, two 3's, and two 4's
1 Cycle card
1 Turn card
3 Victory cards
Decide which player will play Arthur, and which will play Mordred; there's no gameplay difference between the two of them. Just know that if you're the Mordred player, deep down you're a rotten, thieving, low-down scoundrel. Place the Knight cards in a circle on a table—alternating between the two players' Knights. This will create a Round Table—see what they did there?!
Place the Turn card above one of the Knights on the outside of the circle; then place the Cycle card sword-side-up below that same Knight card on the inside of the circle.
Next, shuffled the Influence cards, deal four to each player, and set aside the remaining two unseen. Each person looks at his or her Influence cards, and players simultaneously place one Influence card onto each of their Knight cards, so that there a bit of the Knight card peeking out from under the Influence card.
You'll play at least two, but no more than three, rounds, and each round will consist of eight turns for each player. The player whose Knight is above the Cycle card (in the game, this Knight is called the Knight-Errant) begins. On your turn you can do one of two things:
Look at the Influence card currently on top of the Knight-Errant, and then place it back.
Swap the Influence card currently on top of the Knight-Errant with any other card—without looking at either one.
Then just move the Cycle card one Knight clockwise, and it's now the other player's turn. When the Cycle card gets back around to the Knight under the Turn card, the game is halfway over, and you flip the Cycle card from the sword-only side to the side that shows the sword and some gold. This signifies you're in the second half of this short round.
You continue alternating turns until the Cycle card gets back to the Turn card again, and the round is over. Flip over the Influence cards currently on your Knights and count up Influence. The person with the most wins one of the three Victory cards, and the first person to win three Victory cards wins the game.
One of the 4 cards—and one of the 3 cards—has a dagger stuck into the number. If there's a tie on Influence, the player with the highest card with a dagger in it wins the tie. (The 3 card has a dagger just in case both 4's happen to be the two cards that are out this round.)
If no one has won, you move the Turn card one Knight clockwise and do it all over again—including dealing out all-new Influence cards to each player—but the other player will start this round.
Youth Group Game? Not really! The biggest barrier for this is that it only plays two players. But if you're meeting a student for a soda, and looking for a quick game to play, go for it!
Party Game? Not really! Again, only two players, so unless you're at a party where everyone but you and a friend is playing Apples To Apples for the 1,000th time, this won't really work.
Family Game? Sure! Not the whole family, but we each played this with our oldest sons (7 and 8), and they both liked it.
Gamers' Game? Depends! My group didn't care for it much, but your group might.
Firestone—I'll start with some aesthetic things: I really think the back of the Influence cards should be uniform. It's not that each card back is different, but if you look at the image above, the whole thing tapers toward one end of the card, and the colors alternate. I'm not sure if they're asymmetrical so that people can create some sort of private orientation scheme to keep track of which card is which, but it just seems that on games with trackable information it's almost always better to have the card backs look the same—there's a reason standard card decks have uniform backs.. (Again, these are prototype cards, so that might change before it's final. I hope so!) It's also weird that the darker-colored Knight is the Good Guy, and the bright one is the Bad Guy. But that's not a complaint—it's just odd and surprising.
Jeremiah— The asymmetrical backs didn't bother me so much; I mean, what's to stop your opponent from spinning them and blowing up your foolproof plan anyway? I was a little confused as to the color scheme of the knight cards, These aren't things that "break" the game—as Firestone said, they are aesthetics, and prototype aesthetics at that.
Firestone—I played this with a few gamers, and their reaction was mostly neutral. It's not that they didn't understand it, or want to give it a chance...they just felt there wasn't much there there. I had much better luck getting my 8-year-old to play. He enjoyed it quite a bit—especially after we talked about some things to do to move it beyond just playing Guile as a memory game. Once he started bluffing (which he's hilariously terrible at), he liked it even more. He was able to hold his own, too, because his chaotic, unconventional, 8-year-old gameplay completely threw me off and made it really hard for me to keep track of where my good (and bad) cards were. So often the VP reveal was an utter surprise...
I'm not saying this would only work with kids, or that your game group wouldn't enjoy it. This was just my experience.
Jeremiah— Truthfully I haven't played a ton of these 2-player mini-games; to me it seems that designing a game of this type would be a more difficult task than say a larger board or card game. Everything is so incredibly streamlined that the slightest tweak can destroy the core of the game. That being said, the two actions a player can take are a very precarious balance. The "look at the card on your current knight" action seems to be only useful for about half of a round. If you can remember your first one or two cards, there's no need to look at them. But if you put a lower card on the first one or two and switch them right away, by the time you get a chance to look at the card you switched for, it doesn't matter anyway because you can't do much about it (only switch it with the card on your next knight). I kept hoping for a 3rd turn in a round to make the game go more like this: strike, gather information, then counter-strike. It may just be the "big game" gamer in me...
Firestone—Yeah, the thing I kept thinking in this game is that there's not really time to act on the information you're given. In the early game you know what's out there, so if you have a low card, you'll probably swap it, assuming the one you swap for is more valuable. But if you know the card on turn is a 4...what do you do with it? Bluff with it? Swap it with another of yours? Just feign ignorance and look at it? The early game was full of turns where I didn't want to do anything, and later turns moved too quickly to act. I completely agree with Jeremiah—it seems that adding a third round of play would give me a chance to do something with the info I glean. Maybe that would wreck my ability to track cards, though...I dunno.
Jeremiah— I love that this is a game that is super easy to learn, and teach, because it is so streamlined. This style of game is going to do a lot for the industry in capturing the casual gamer. In the case of Guile the downside is if memory based games aren't your thing, there's not much else to grab onto here. The upside is if you like games with a memory based core mechanic, you're going to LOVE this game!
Firestone Final Verdict—I've enjoyed playing this with my son; I wish I enjoyed playing this with my game group. We love small filler card games, but this one just fell flat for us. It's more than just a memory game, but the meta game aspect isn't given enough time to percolate...
Jeremiah Final Verdict— I'm very happy that games like this are becoming popular. I love simple mechanics, and quick-playing games that cause a lot of tension for the short amount of time you're playing, and Guile certainly delivers that! I'm really rooting for this game; I feel with a few small tweaks the game can move from good to great!
There's only a week left in the Kickstarter campaign, and the game has funded! So you can get in on the fun for only $15—or $20 to get the game and some extras, such as variant cards. (We didn't play with these variants, but they look interesting. The Guinevere one, for instance, changes things if she's on Lancelot at game end. I think cards such as this one could really make the game more interesting. Again, it would be nice to have another round to maneuver her...)
Thanks so much for reading, and joining us in this 1-Year Blogiversary week! Don't forget: We're giving away some cool stuff—including a copy of The Great Heartland Hauling Company tomorrow—and all you've got to do to enter is subscribe via email, over on the right.-------->
Jason Kotarski is a busy guy. He's a husband, and a dad, and a church planter, and a musician, and a game designer. His first published game—The Great Heartland Hauling Company—is a cool pick-up-and-deliver game. He was kind enough to let us interview him, too. He's got a new little 2-player card game in the works, and we're going to give you our impressions of FrogFlip. Components
14 Cards, which include two cards with instructions, four Lily Pad cards, and eight Bug Score cards.
1 Frog Disc, which is a plastic disc with a frog sticker on one side.
Take the four Lily Pad cards and place them equally spaced between the two players. Then shuffle Bug Score cards and place them flower-side-down on the side. Then the youngest player grabs the frog disc and starts.
Each of the Bug Score cards has a number of bugs on it—either one, two, three, or four of them. On their turn, each player will attempt to flip the frog to the Lily Pad card that corresponds to the number of bugs on the top card of the Bug Score stack. So if there are two bugs on the top card, I'm trying to flip the frog onto the Lily Pad card that's two away from me. If I miss, my opponent is trying to flip the frog onto the Lily Pad card that's two away from her.
You flip the frog just as you would with flip a coin.
Your hand can't pass the first Lily Pad card, and if the frog falls off the table, your opponent gets two turns in a row!
The frog only has to touch the Lily Pad card in order to count; you get to take the Bug Score card, and the number of bugs on it is your score. If you manage to get any part of the frog disc to rest on the correct Lily card, you get to take the Bug Score card and flip it onto the flower side—the score is the same, but flowers are tie-breakers.
You continue back and forth until either the deck runs out, or someone claims five of the eight Score cards. Whichever player has the most bugs on their score cards wins, and flowers break ties.
Family? Definitely! It's just the right depth for a quick game with the kids. The only downside is that it's only for two players—though there are rules for a 4-player variant that requires two sets of the game.
Youth group/party game? Probably not! It looks like a kids game, so I don't think teenagers would like this much. And since it's two-players-only, I'm unlikely to even try this at a party.
Gamers game? Mmmmaybe! If your group likes Flowerfall, and other quick-playing, small fillers, this might be a good one to throw into the bin. But I'd probably still just pull out Flowerfall, though...
Firestone—This is yet another example of someone creating a "micro-game"—one that's fully contained in a very small package. I like that trend, as it keeps the price down and the portability high.
Jeremiah - Agreed, the brevity of the game is a highlight too; we can play best of 3, 5, 7, and so on, depending on how close it is to bedtime when we start playing. And my boys can teach it to others (friends, grandparents, etc) without my help. They really like it when that happens!
Firestone—The 5-year-old loves it, and the fact that the frog only has to touch the card means he has a chance. My 8-year-old likes it, but he's sadly getting to the age where he'd rather play deeper stuff. But he does love playing with his younger brother, so we'll see how long that lasts.
Getting that frog where you want it isn't as easy as it sounds! There were plenty of times it would go off in some crazy direction—and I've had years of coin-flipping experience! I think this adds to the fun, though, as it keeps kids competitive with grown-ups, who have obviously inflated opinions of their frog-flipping abilities.
Jeremiah - I feel like we're in the same boat. Frog Flip is definitely going to hit closer to home for the 4 or 5-year-old range; the novelty of the coin flip is still a draw to the older kids. The flipping mechanic seems to level the playing nicely, and the theme ties in perfectly with the game play.
Jeremiah's Final Verdict— This is a fun little game, and it did give me the opportunity to teach my boys how to properly flip a coin. (I guess that's a skill I've neglected to teach them in my parenting.) The boys had fun with it, and like I said, it's a great length for the times we don't have time to play a lengthy game before bedtime. My oldest is advancing into games like Heroclix and Pokemon so I, like Scott, don't know how long this will hold his attention, but it's still right in my youngest's wheelhouse and he loves it!
Jason just announced this week that the game's been picked up by Michael Fox's Sprocket Games. Watch for a Kickstarter campaign in July—and we'll try to get Jason to sit down for another interview. Thanks for reading!
Theology Of Games would like to thank Jason for providing us with review copies of FrogFlip; this in no way affected our opinions of the game.