Saturday 25 January 2014

Banana Matcho

A rather crazy, senseless and absurd game that has a tendency to cause laughter and frantic panic.

Name: Banana Matcho (2012)

Publisher: Zoch Verlag (This, along with Geistesblitz, is an example of why they are my favourite publisher)

Players: 2 to 6.

Age: 6+

Time to play: 20 to 30 minutes (very fast)

Price Range (AUD): $25.20 to $47.05. $25 to 30 is about right.

Availability: A bit niche and kind of rare but can be found online.

  • Crazy/Chaotic
  • Dice-Rolling
  • Kids

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

6.1+* out of 10. (Alright, can get better depending on the group - See my Rating Scale)

This is a simplistic but crazy (fun) game. The gameplay and turn order could be slightly improved but I always have a good laugh when playing it.

Basically only two people at a time roll dice. One person rolls the Yellow Banana "Matcho" dice and the other person rolls 6 Fruit Dice. Everyone else watches (which can be boring for some groups; or entertaining for others). The person rolling the yellow dice has to roll 3 monkey heads before the other person rolls a point-winning combination with the Fruit Dice (See Rules & Instructions for more info).

Whoever gets there first must squeeze the banana before the other player does to receive points (yes, that's right, the banana).

The frustration, tension and humour as each player tries to roll their desired combination (before the other does) is pretty funny and exciting.

*July and September 2014: Revised down from 8.1. When I first reviewed this game I gave it an 8.1. This was dreadfully misconceived. I have since changed my mind; it's theoretically a good game but its main and critical drawback is its "spectator effect". Everyone else watching the madness unfold as two people roll may be funny at first but this humour can only last for so long. It isn't an entirely replayable game. But it has its moments and can be funny with the right group. Just not necessarily fun with every group and every single time.

The Good:
  • Crazy kind of fun
  • Short and sweet
  • Extremely easy to play 
  • Very quick
  • Dice-rolling (Yahtzee style) is inherently fun
  • Squeezable banana makes for a novelty

The Bad:
  • Like La Boca, the game can have a "spectator" period where a few people aren't playing - but this isn't really a problem as people have a good laugh anyway watching others roll their dice.
  • You always "battle" the same people, unless you choose to mix it up via custom rules.
  • Replay value is arguably minimal - you can only roll and watch other people roll for so long
  • Can be a frustrating game for some, especially when you can't roll the dice you want. But that is part of the fun and ridiculousness

What makes this game fun? 

The best part of this game is watching people roll blanks as they desperately try to roll their desired dice combination. You should give this game a shot if you like pushing your luck with dice but in a frenzied environment.

- This concludes the basic overview of the game.
If you are interested in reading about the components & rules to the game, please read on -

Rules & Components

This is how the game board is usually set up

Note that the starting pieces should be on the Start icon rather than on the first square!
One person gets the 3 Yellow Matcho Dice;
Another person gets the 6 Fruit Dice

A banana is placed in the middle between the above two people.

Now, the person holding the Yellow Matcho Dice has to try to roll THREE Monkey heads (each yellow dice has 2 monkey heads, on opposing sides)

The person holding the fruit dice has to try to roll ANY given fruit combination as stated on the bottom of the board below

Top row: 3 of a kind yields 2 points; 5 of a kind; 4 of a kind and 2 of a kind; 3 lots of 2 of a kind;
Bottom row: 4 of a kind; 6 of a kind; 2 lots of 3 of a kind; 1 of Every fruit yields 12 points
Three monkey heads gets 1 point.

The dice-rolling is pretty much based off the game Yahtzee (similar to King of Tokyo and Dice Town except with unlimited rolls).

HOWEVER, once you are happy with what you have you must SQUEEZE THE BANANA before your opponent squeezes it.

So the Yellow Matcho dice roller must roll 3 monkeys before they can squeeze the banana and the Fruit dice roller must roll any given combination above before squeezing the banana. If the banana is squeezed prematurely (ie. there isn't any combination as above), the rolling just continues.

Whoever (correctly) squeezes the banana first gets all the points and the other player gets nothing.


So to give you an example:

The Green Player is the Yellow Matcho dice roller.
The Blue Player is the Fruit dice roller.

If this is Green's first roll

They can choose to keep one of the monkey heads like so and roll the rest:

If this is what Green got on their second roll...

They can choose to keep the other monkey head and roll the last dice.

Once three monkey heads are rolled (and this can take a while!) the player must then SQUEEZE THE BANANA before the other player does! If Green squeezes the banana first, they get one point (and importantly this stops Blue from getting high-scoring points)

(Meanwhile, while the Green player is rolling the Yellow Matcho dice, Blue is rolling the fruit dice at the same time)

If this was Blue's first roll:

Blue could keep the two coconuts and roll the rest like so:

On Blue's second roll they get this result:

Blue can then choose to keep everything except for the banana.

Blue will keep rolling the last dice until Blue gets another orange fruit - hence achieving 3 lots of 2 pairs which = 5 points.

Then, assuming Blue squeezed the banana BEFORE Green squeezed it (because Green was too slow and did not get 3 monkeys) Blue will move up the board 5 points and Green will get zero points as bbelow.

(Note that the 3rd player, Yellow, is a spectator)

Next Round

The Dice are then passed clock-wise or whichever way you want (so long as this is consistent throughout the game - or maybe you could have your own custom rules).

So for example on the next round Blue will get the Yellow Matcho Dice and the Yellow player will get the Fruit Dice; meanwhile, Green is the spectator.

The dice are then rolled in the same manner as I outlined above

This continues until someone reaches 30 points!

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Absolute Balderdash

What I would call a modern classic (in a similar league to Scattergories), essentially being a convenient repackaging of the old parlour game Dictionary.

Special thanks goes to...

Uel, Shannelle and Lael for giving this to me for Christmas last year. I was thinking of buying it but you three beat me to it! :)

Cheers also to Carina for giving us a good laugh with her story of Fuddy Duddy Buddy which I am sure Diana, Vanessa and myself will not forget....

Name: Absolute Balderdash (1993, but the original Balderdash was published in 1984)

Differences in Edition: The "Absolute Balderdash" edition increased the categories of the original 1984 Balderdash game by establishing Words, People, Initials, Movies, Dates as its five categories. Apparently "Absolute Balderdash" is also known as "Beyond Balderdash".

The Australian edition is different to the UK edition in that the former has Dates rather than Law as a category.

However I am told that any copy of "Balderdash" (without the "Absolute") that was printed from 2003 onwards by Mattel should be exactly the same in content as "Absolute Balderdash" - but I can't say for sure as I've only played the Ventura Games Edition. 

Publisher: Ventura Games

Players: 2+, but ideally suited to a crowd. Should have at least 5 people.

Age: 10+

Time to play: 40 minutes to a good hour++ if you truly wish to play an unabridged version of the game

Price Range (AUD): $35 to $84. Average price is about $35 to $45.

You don't really need to buy the game if you have a good informational resource - you'll need to come up with your own dates, words, people, initials and movies (which could be annoying - essentially you're buying the convenience of having these categories already set up for you)

Availability: Mainstream and widely available online. Also in game stores or department stores, given its notoriety and success.

  • General Knowledge/Trivia/Creativity
  • Party
  • Bluffing
  • Word Game

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

7.8* out of 10. (Great! - See my Rating Scale)

I really enjoy playing this game with creative, humourous and easygoing people.

Essentially the game is all about fooling other people into believing you know (and tricking them into picking your description of):
  • the definition of a particular word
  • the significance of a particular date
  • what someone is famous for
  • what particular initials stand for
  • what a particular movie is about
[See Rules & Components section below]

The excitement of writing a creative answer, coupled with the thrill of 'getting away with it' as each answer is read out makes for a fun and exciting atmosphere especially suited to those who enjoy a good laugh. The prospect of conning people into picking your answer is also particularly fascinating.

However, not everyone will enjoy this game - especially those who aren't feeling particularly creative or in the mood for fooling other people. The game is also at the mercy of people's messy handwriting - if answers are not written legibly, the person reading out the answers will struggle/hesitate to read the answers fluently, thus arousing suspicions that that answer is fake.

Also, there are plenty of other opportunities to be cunning. The person reading out the answers can deliberately stumble or hesitate when reading out a correct answer (in order to trick people into thinking that it's a fake answer); people can also vote for their own answer to trick others into voting for theirs. But if you don't like these aspects of the game you probably didn't like the concept of the game in the first place - which means the game isn't for you!

* September 2014: Slight adjustment to score

The Good:
  • Opportunity to exert creativity and bluffing skills
  • Often creates a good atmosphere and great laughs
  • True crowd pleaser
  • Easy to explain and set-up
The Bad:
  • Not a good idea to play with people with bad handwriting and/or grammar problems
  • Requires a creative and easygoing group who don't mind writing - often depends on the mood of people too. If people are not creative, this game will fail badly (kind of like Dixit)
  • Some people may not enjoy the fact that there is scope for being cunning, but this isn't really a problem with the right people
  • Perhaps slightly time consuming as it's a written game - may require lots of paper and writing equipment.
  • Pencil and paper must be used - some may find this a burden

What makes this game fun? 

If you want a good laugh and enjoy the idea of bluffing people with your "fake knowledge" [or if you don't mind entertaining the notion of "pretending to know the answers to things" in a party environment] you should give this classic a go.

** After numerous replays, I have increased my rating.

- This concludes the basic overview of the game.
If you are interested in reading about the components & rules to the game, please read on -

Rules & Components

Everyone gets some paper. You can roll a dice to decide who goes first but you can decide this another way. For scoring, you can use the board and pawns provided in the game but that doesn't really matter either - see below.

One of the many cards that comes with the game.

Each turn, someone gets to pick a card such as the one above (this person who picked the card is known as "the Balderdasher"). Then they choose a category.

Everyone else then writes down the following, depending on what the category selected is:
  • (In the case of a word) the meaning of the word
  • (In the case of a person) what that person is famous for
  • (In the case of initials) what they stand for
  • (In the case of a movie) what the movie is about
  • (In the case of a date) what happened on that date    
Note that the person who wrote their answer must also write down their name next to their answer.

Whilst everyone is writing their answers, the Balderdasher writes down the REAL answer onto their piece of paper (as stated on the back of the card).

All answers get handed to the person who picked the card. 

3 points is awarded to anyone who submitted a definition that was very close or similar to the real answer - and that definition is taken out before the answers are read out. [otherwise it might become really obvious as to what the real answer is]

The Balderdasher then reads out all the answers one by one (as many times as they like I guess by custom rules). People vote for which answers they think is the REAL answer.


For every vote that a FAKE answer received, the person who wrote that answer gets as many points as votes. Ie. the fake answerer gets 1 point per vote their answer received.

If no one chose the correct answer the Balderdasher gets 3 points.

If any persons picked the REAL answer they receive 2 points.

And then..

The process is repeated [a new person becomes the Balderdasher] until someone reaches the end of the board (you move people's pawns up in direct correlation to their score). 

Like I said above, you don't need to use the board or that victory condition - you can track the score manually by pen and paper and you can agree to preset a random point tally needed for victory.

Thursday 16 January 2014

La Boca

As colourful and intriguing as the Argentinian neighbourhood it is named after.

Name: La Boca (2013)

Publisher: Z-MAN games, but KOSMOS looks after it in Europe.

Players: 3 to 6.

Age: 13+

Time to play: 40 minutes - the gameplay actually doesn't take too long but sometimes fiddling around with players (changing seats) might take some time

Price Range (AUD): $44.95 to $55(?). It's a very recent title so that might lead to price inflation.

Availability: I struggled to find this online (in more than one location) but it does exist. I am, however, unsure if you can it find in local shops.

  • Puzzle/Abstract
  • Cooperative/Partnerships
  • Some element of speed/dexterity involved

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

7.2+* out of 10. (Good to Great - See my Rating Scale)

This is a great partnership game where you take turns trying to solve a puzzle with EVERYONE.

That is to say, everyone partners up with everyone twice during this game. The person who cooperates best with everyone wins (as measured through points which, in turn, are dictated by how fast each pair finishes their respective puzzle).

Essentially the unique mechanic behind this game is that each partner sees only one out of two sides of the same puzzle and they must try to assemble their side of the puzzle without tarnishing their partner's side of the puzzle; in other words, each must do what they can to maintain or facilitate their partner's side of the puzzle whilst keeping theirs correct.

I think this game is pretty cool and it's one of my sister's favourites.

*27 July 2014: Reduced from 8.05. The only criticism of this game, and it's a big one, is its spectator effect: that is to say, only two people play the game at any given moment and the rest just watch. However, of course, the spectator period isn't really for that long and it can still be fun watching everyone play (especially when they mess up!). The other thing is that the game itself doesn't have enough meat in it for it to be fully replayable. It's much better when played in a small group, say of 3 to 4.

The Good:
  • Cooperative and partnership skills put to the test
  • Easy to explain and play (perhaps only slightly cumbersome gameplay as people need to move around when changing partners)
  • Mentally challenging puzzles based on 3-Dimensional objects and assorting them into patterns
  • Can increase the difficulty level if you and your friends want a harder challenge
  • The fact that there are lots of puzzles and that each puzzle can be played from a different perspective gives this game some considerable replay value

The Bad:
  • Partnering with everyone can make the game a bit slow between intervals as you constantly have to change seats!!
  • There will be many moments in the game where you are just sitting back and watching two people play (you could try to assist, jeer or stay quiet) - not everyone likes this but I can assure you that these moments don't last too long
  • Counting scores is a bit clumsy as by game's end everyone's tokens will be everywhere as everyone will have swapped seats multiple times.

What makes this game fun? 

If you enjoy the idea of cooperating with many different types of people, with the ultimate goal of solving various mind-bending puzzles (as fast as you can!) this is a good game to pick up. It's also a solid game in general to try as it features pretty cool gameplay.

- This concludes the basic overview of the game.
If you are interested in reading about the components & rules to the game, please read on -

Rules & Components

This game is pretty easy to explain (compared to Can't Stop for example, which I thought was a nightmare to explain.)

Everyone gets one large token of their colour and (Number of players playing less 1) small tokens of their colour.

For example, the below picture shows the set up for Yellow if it was a 4 player game.

Small tokens are placed face down like follows:

These tokens are nothing special; they are just there to establish who will be partnering who.

For example, if Yellow flips over their small token and it reveals Purple, then Yellow and Purple will partner each other this round:

Yellow is partnering Purple
Partners then face each other on opposite ends of the game board. Someone puts a card into the card slot and someone else (or one of the partners) pushes the start button on the timer.

Now, each side of the card will display a particular orientation of blocks in which the partner sitting on that side will be trying to fulfil. Note that you must always look at the blocks at eye-level.

Partners cannot leave vertical gaps between blocks (holes between blocks or "hanging blocks") but I believe you can leave horizontal gaps.

For example, this is the view of a completed puzzle from one end:

What it looks like from one perspective: notice the timer embedded on the right and the card placed into the slot on the left. Middle part of the board is for placing blocks.

Notice that the blocks in the middle as viewed face-on horizontally match the conditions on the card on the left.

And this is the view from the other end of the board:

Two sides to every tale: what it looks like from the other side

Partners are allowed to communicate with each other so long as they do not look at the other side of the card (ie. they can't look at the side of the card facing away from them that their partner can see).

For example in the above example, one partner could ask "Do you see any green?" and the other partner could reply "No, so let's hide it.", resulting in the puzzle looking something like this from above:

Green block "hidden" away. Note that the timer can't be turned off (but even if it runs out of battery you can probably find your own timer)

Checking and Counting Points

When both partners agree that their sides are complete, they both must yell finish. When this is done, the timer is stopped.

One or two of the other players should check to see if the respective sides of the card have indeed been fulfilled by each partner. If something is wrong, each partner gets zero points (or alternatively, as, a custom rule, the timer must start again and time added on equating roughly to how long the break was)

If the players are correct, they are awarded points depending on how fast they finished the puzzle (a table is provided with the game). For example, they both get 10 points each for a time of 15 seconds or less; but they will get zero points if they take longer than 2 minutes.

Once the round ends:

Then the next person (clockwise direction perhaps) flips over a small tile to see who they partner next. The above steps are repeated until all tiles are flipped (so that everyone has partnered everyone else twice)

Whoever has the highest score wins.

Harder version

A harder version is available if you use the red block and the darker-shaded cards as below. These are usually, but not always, more challenging than the base set:

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Can't Stop

Only for the most die hard dice-rolling fans who love to push their luck.

Name: Can't Stop (1980)

Version: Gryphon English Edition. Since this is an old game it has been republished numerous times. The supposed story goes that the game was so unpopular commercially (perhaps I know why - see below) that it became out of print, but a later revival brought it back to life.

Publisher: Gryphon Games

Designer: Sid Sackson

Players: 2 to 4.

Age: 9+

Time to play: The box says 30 to 40 minutes but from my experience it can take A LOT LONGER than that!

Price Range (AUD): $39.95 to $159. Average price about $45 to $50.

I think the price isn't worth it to be frank, given that you could buy some other great games (unless you really really enjoy risk-taking or dice-rolling games). I saw that an older version can be shipped for $159 but that truly is a ridiculous price.

Availability: Quite widely available online; I'm unsure if you can it find in local shops.

  • Dice-Rolling
  • Push Your Luck (Heavy risk-taking)
  • Family

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

6.25+* out of 10. (Alright - See my Rating Scale)

In theory, this is supposed to be a good dice game that works on a great risk-taking mechanic.

However it is heavily spoilt by the factor of playing time [and I accept that I may be giving too much weight to this criticism but, honestly, it really does bring this game to its knees]; from my experience, the game can simply take far too long to finish especially if everyone chooses to be heavy risk takers. Perhaps it's just the people I play with!

However, you can increase the speed of gameplay by using Sid Sackson's "Variant 4" in his rules - which allows players to jump over other player's traffic cones. This should, theoretically, reduce the length of time taken up to play the game and probably makes for a better experience!! 

*If you play with this rule, I would give the game something closer to a 6.4, and perhaps, but maybe not quite, a 6.5

Unless you are a dice enthusiast, I wouldn't recommend trying this game if you are looking for something relatively short (especially if you hate repetitive gameplay and aren't the patient type). However, if you are adventurous and would like to see an interesting game mechanic, I would recommend that you give this game a go at least once. Especially if you like a mildly tense game.

That being said, at a conceptual level the game is highly interesting.

In short, the game provides a dilemma, and either choice you make has both benefits and disadvantages. After rolling dice for one or two rolls, you have one of two options:

1) Continue to roll dice. The game (and your opponents) will 'force' (still your choice of course) or peer-pressure you into CONTINUING to roll dice. This option helps you to advance further in the game, possibly achieving victory quicker OR

2) You can choose to SAVE your progress after making some grounds. This option is the conservative approach and helps you "steadily" get to victory, but will be a lot slower.

The tension of the game is that if you choose Option 1 (ie. continue rolling) you may lose ALL your progress if the dice you roll isn't what you need it to be (see rules below for a better idea). That's right, so whilst you could win the game quicker via option 1 you could lose EVERYTHING you rolled on that turn!

To say this another way, if you keep doing Option 1 too many times and fail repeatedly (thus no or little ground is made), there is the possibility that those who have chosen Option 2 will gradually and slowly make their way to victory before you. But, again, those who choose Option 2 too much may lose out to someone who is willing to take more risks, as those taking Option 2 proceed at a much slower (but safer) pace.

The Good:
  • Plenty of thrill and risk-taking, with potentially large payoffs
  • Good tension between being conservative and going "all-out"
  • Minor degree of strategic decision making

The Bad:
  • Can take a very very long time to finish (unless you use Sackson's Variant 4 in the rules - where players must jump over other players' markers - highly recommended unless you don't mind playing a long game)
  • Repetitive gameplay and little variety to turn order
  • Little to no skill involved. 
  • Not a game to play if you want to be making highly strategic decisions

What makes this game fun? 

If you like the thrill of taking chances, and don't mind repeatedly doing what is essentially the same thing over and over again (which isn't everyone's liking), you should give this game a go.

- This concludes the basic overview of the game.
If you are interested in reading about the components & rules to the game, please read on -

Rules & Components

Everyone gets 11 traffic cones of their colour.

The overall aim of the game is to reach the end of 3 columns on the below game board before anyone else does.

On your turn you will firstly have to decide which 3 numbers on the game board you want to progress in, which is in turn based on what you roll.

To do this, you are given 4 dice to roll and 3 "temporary" white traffic cones as below. You must always pair the dice together so that they add up to two numbers.

White temporary traffic cones and 4 dice

Suppose that this was Green's first roll. Green can choose to pair two dice together to make different numbers.

For example, Combining 5 and 2 gives Green 7. This automatically means that the other pair of dice (1 and 4) adds up to 5.

However, Green could choose instead to combine 5 and 1 to give 6, leaving the other pair to be 6 (4 + 2) as well.

Or perhaps Green might fancy 5 and 4 together (producing 9) as well as 1 and 2 together (producing 3).

It's up to Green. So suppose Green chooses to keep 5 and 7.

Green would then place their white cones on the board as below, representing progress in the 5 and 7 columns:

Notice that the 7 column is the longest - this is because 7 is statistically speaking, the most likely outcome when you roll two dice. The columns get gradually shorter as you reach 12 and 2 in their respective directions, reflecting the fact that it's less likely for someone to roll numbers closer to 12 and 2

Then Green must roll the dice again to choose their 3rd number (and final white traffic cone). [Note that choosing 3 numbers may sometimes take longer than 2 or 3 rolls if the two combinations of dice keep producing the same number]

Suppose Green then rolls this:

This is quite a good second roll. Green chooses to pair the two 5's and to pair the 4 and 3, producing 10 (5+5) and 7 (4+3).

10 is a new number and 7 is a number Green has already picked with their white cone.

Thus, Green gets to move their white cone up 1 space for the 7 column and place a new white cone at the foot of the 10 column as below:

(Note that if the second roll produces two different numbers not already taken up by a white cone, Green must pick only 1 of the numbers.

For example if {5, 5, 5, 3} was rolled, then, because Green has already selected 5 and 7 for their white cones to go on, Green would have to choose between the 10 [5+5] or the 8 [5+3] for their last white cone as Green only has a maximum of 3 white cones)

New cone in the 10 column; 7 column cone moves up another space.

All 3 white cones have now been placed.

At this stage, Green can choose to save their progress OR keep rolling. If Green chooses to keep rolling then IF he/she does NOT get the same 3 numbers on the board (5, 7, and 10) Green will LOSE ALL PROGRESS FOR THAT TURN ONLY.

I'll show you what I mean.


Suppose Green opts to continue and they get this roll below:

That's a pretty good roll as it equates to two 7's (6+1 and 4+3).

Green then moves their white cone in the 7 column up two spaces again and then OPTS to STOP and SAVE. When Green saves Green gets to put their coloured (green) traffic cones like so:

I do not show the white cones in this picture, but Green has moved the white traffic cone in the 7 column up two spaces. Green then opts to STOP and SAVE so the white traffic cone markers are replaced with green traffic cone markers, representing and 'saving' Green's progress.

From now on, if Green ever secures 5, 7 or 10 through dice-rolls and then loses all their progress for any of those numbered columns, Green can be assured that not all their progress is lost and they may restart from those given green "checkpoints" on the board

Thus, this ends Green's turn and next time, if Green ever rolls a 5, 7 or 10, they can start off where they stopped by placing a white cone on top of their existing green markers (see very last picture "A note on future rolls/turns"). This is a pretty conservative approach and usually my friends and I never stop this early.

However, suppose that Green gets ambitious and decided NOT to save their progress and continued to roll to improve the position of the white markers. Green then received this roll:

This is a horrible roll. None of the numbers equate to 5, 7 or 10.

Green then would lose all their progress if they didn't opt to save.

However, there is a very real possibility that Green would have continued to roll 5's 7's or 10's and continued moving up the white cones in those respective columns. It is up to Green when they want to stop.

Hence you can now see why the name of this game is called Can't Stop - as the person rolling often has the temptation to keep on rolling to see how far they can go.

When it is another colour's turn, they (eg. Blue) can of course choose to land their white cones (and save their progress) on top of cones of other colours.

However, to speed up the game (it can take a long time to reach the end of the columns), it is recommended that you play Sackson's "Variant 4" in his rules, which says that players' cones must jump over cones of another colour. This means that it may be advantageous to roll numbers where other colours are already existing as you can skip over other people's checkpoints.


A note on future rolls/turns

Green may of course pursue other numbers in other columns (that's why everyone gets 11 traffic cones, 1 for each of the 11 columns).

Green's next turn. {3, 4, 5, 1} was rolled. Green places white cones on the new 6 column and on the already saved progress cone for the 7 column. Green then has to roll the dice again to decide the last white cone's position. After placing the three white cones, if Green stuffs up and none of the white column numbers come up, Green's progress with the 7 column is not lost but stays.

For example, if on the next turn, Green's 4 dice were {3, 4, 5, 1} as above, then Green could choose to place a temporary marker on the bottom of the 6 (5+1) column [a new number for Green, as Green has no saved progress there] and one on the existing green marker on the 7 (3+4) column.

Then Green may put a temporary marker on one last number for their next roll of dice, which can of course include the 5 or 10.

If Green loses all their progress by not rolling any of those numbers where their white cones have been placed, Green does not need to restart the 7 column from the beginning but can restart from where that permanent green marker is.

Saturday 11 January 2014

Say Anything

A genuine crowd-pleaser and social lubricant. Best played with good friends.

Name: Say Anything (2008)

Version: There's a Say Anything (Family Edition) [blue box] but it plays less people (ie. 3 to 6). I'd recommend this original version instead [pink box, as above] as it plays two more people which makes a real difference.

Publisher: North Star Games

Players: 3 to 8. Very strange with 3 people, barely playable with 4. 5+ is ideal, the larger the better.

Age: 8+

Time to play: Can be quick but probably around 20 to 30 minutes.

Price Range (AUD): $28.50 to $70 (if shipped online). $28.50 is quite a good price. Anything over $35 is probably too much.

You could play this game without buying it but it would be quite hard - the components make it a lot easier to manage.

Availability: Quite widely available online and in some local shops.

  • Party
  • Pseudo-Trivia/General Knowledge (if any, very mild)
  • Family
  • "Getting to know you"

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

8.25* out of 10. (Great - See my Rating Scale)

I think this is an almost essential party game that plays very well with large groups. It's a shame that the game can't accommodate more people, but I suppose that playing time would become a bit long-winded if that were the case. I have experienced this game with 'teams' but it gets a little strange as you have to decide what two people simultaneously like.

Basically the game involves guessing what people like by betting on a range of answers written. In short, someone asks a question and everyone else has to write answers down based on what they think the asker would like - then everyone bets on an answer they think the asker would choose (see "Rules & Components" section below).

Whilst this may sound a bit cheesy, regardless of whether you play with new acquaintances or close friends, you will find yourself learning more about the people you play with (and vice versa). This can act as a very useful icebreaker in certain situations.

Some, however, may feel that the game is a bit too awkward to play with complete strangers: either because they may feel that the questions asked are a bit too personal OR they may simply feel awkward about not knowing enough about the stranger in question. But in any case, it's very unlikely that you'll be playing with a group of complete strangers and even if that is the case, not everyone thinks this is a problem. If you play with a sizeable group of friends, especially close friends, the game is even more fun.

Note that one of the downfalls of this game is that the questions are quite limited - the cards supplied may ask a question that belongs to a particular niche for which no one even knows how to answer (Eg. A made up example: "What's the best song of the 70's" - some young people would have no idea). It's usually best to choose an open-ended or broad question. But if you aren't happy you can always make up your own questions.

*August 2014: Improved from 8.05 to 8.25 - it's such a flexible and easy-to-learn party game. How could I not improve its score?

The Good:
  • Great for large crowds
  • Very easy to play, explain and set up
  • Quick gameplay
  • Usually different each time you play it
  • Game encourages crazy, creative and fun answers that will make people laugh (subject to the kind of group you play with)
  • Generally a broad range of questions to ask

The Bad:
  • Many of the questions are too restrictive and closed - sometimes you may have to invent your own questions or sift through multiple cards before you are happy with the question you chose
  • Some people don't like playing this game with strangers or people they don't know well
  • You will need some tissues to wipe off answers
  • Dry board markers supplied tend to run out quickly from my experience

What makes this game fun? 

If you enjoy a game that provides a good laugh and has the added bonus of getting to know your friends better, give this a go.

- This concludes the basic overview of the game.
If you are interested in reading about the components & rules to the game, please read on -

Rules & Components

This game is very easy to explain.

Everyone gets a whiteboard of their colour and two betting tokens of their colour.

Nominate a person to go first.

They draw a card from the deck shown above and pick one of five questions to ask. If they aren't happy with the questions on that card they may keep drawing from the deck until they find a good one, or they can make one up.

Then, everyone else writes down an answer that they think the asker would pick. They reveal it openly to everyone.

If two or more answers are the same, the person who wrote it first keeps theirs and the runners-up have to change it.

The asker then secretly picks an answer using a special dial (no one is allowed to bet/vote until the answer is picked)

Everyone then votes/places their bets - they may hedge their bets (1 bet each on two answers, or they may commit two bets on an answer). The answer is revealed and the score is tallied.

You get 1 point for each betting token that was placed on the correct answer. The person who wrote the correct answer receives an additional point. You can play for 12 rounds (or more if you want). Highest score wins.


So, for example, if the question is "What is the best thing to eat?", then a range of possible answers might be as below:

The asker then secretly picks their answer on the dial provided, which could be as follows

Asker indicates that "Beef Burger with the lot" is their selected answer

Then everyone bets on the answers as below:

Green decides to go all-out on her own answer
Purple hedges their bets - 1 each on their own and Blue's answer
Blue and Orange go all out on Purple's answer

The scores are tallied as below. Green gets 3 points as she wrote the correct answer (which is worth 1 point) and she receives 1 point each for her 2 tokens, making a total of (1+2=) 3 points. Everyone else gets nothing.

Suppose that the asker actually chose Potato Chips (Purple's answer) instead. Then Purple would get 1 Point for writing the correct answer and 1 Point for betting on their own answer giving a total of 2 Points. Orange and Blue would receive 2 each for their respective bets. Green gets nothing.

Missing Pieces

I've just added a new tab/page on Missing Pieces, which deals with the steps you can take if some of your game components are missing (which can happen more often than you think!)

Thursday 9 January 2014

Dice Town

Yet another brilliant game set in the Wild West (I am thinking of the game Bang!, which I might cover later)

Very cool box art

Name: Dice Town (2009)

Publisher: Matagot

Players: 2 to 5 but an expansion allows for a 6th player. Best with 4+. Okay with 3 players, but rather strange with 2.

Age: 8+

Time to play: With a small group, probably 20-30 minutes, but it can be as long as 60 minutes.

Price Range (AUD): $42.90 to $76. Quite pricey - anything over $55 is way too much

That being said, the components are quite good (you get plastic "bullet" cups and lots of dice - see my "Rules and Components" section below to get a better idea). But it is still on the pricey side.

Availability: Reasonably available online, maybe not locally.

  • Dice Rolling (Yahtzee-style)
  • Simultaneous Action Selection (with mild elements of auction-bidding coupled with Game Theory undertones)
  • Cowboy Western Theme
  • Possibly a Family Game?

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

7.5+* out of 10. (Great - See my Rating Scale)

The competitive (and rather mad) rush as each player quickly attempts to accrue certain dice symbols to perform particular actions makes for a great gaming experience, particularly in an old west setting. All players receive 5 dice. Each dice symbol represents a certain action, and the aim is to accrue the most of a particular type (See Rules for a better overview of the game). For example, if you have the most Green Queens, you get to perform the steal action. Rolling the most Red Kings lets you become the sheriff and you get to decide tiebreakers.

However, there are certain twists and turns in this game. For example, it is actually the best poker hand that nets the most points; doing so rewards you with property cards that actually give you a lot of points. Furthermore, you also get a pretty powerful reward if you deliberately choose (or aim) to not win anything (eg. securing your property cards so that no one can steal them!).

There is also a certain excitement and unpredictability to this game as each person (almost) blindly "bids" their dice to obtain a reward of their choice. Some strategic depth exists as well as it pays to keep a close eye on what your opponents are doing.

This is one of my favourite dice games and I would highly recommend it to most people. See the Rules for more information.

*June and August 2014: Revised down from 8.65. Initially I revised this down to 8.55 on the grounds that I just couldn't, on principle, give this a higher or equal score to Tichu. However, upon further reflections, I have problems with giving Dice Town a rating of 8 and above; whilst it's a fantastic game, that little bit of chaos and unaccountability that goes on (especially when it comes to rolling dice and paying cash to re-roll - everything just happens too quickly for you to keep track of what is going on), for me, dampens the light of this game. If you trust everyone to know what they are doing, then this probably isn't a problem for you. Furthermore, some actions in the game don't seem to be that powerful if you play often enough. In a conservative group for example, being Sheriff doesn't really hold that much water (especially since people are unlikely to pay lots of money just to resolve a tiebreaker in their favour, when the prize is relatively insignificant); the same could arguably also be said for the "robbing the bank" action when people don't bother paying too much for re-rolling die. However this is likely to vary depending on who you play it with. An important quality of a game is its accessibility to all types of people and groups. This almost fits the bill. I think games like Las Vegas and Say Anything are significantly better and do meet this requirement.

The Good:
  • Light set-up
  • Good quality components that make for a more thematic Cowboy Western experience (especially the old-style plastic cups)
  • Rolling dice multiple times to bid for certain actions is inherently fun
  • Some strategic depth and fun is derived from trying to guess what your opponents will do with their dice
  • The "Doctor Badluck" feature makes the game very interesting from a strategic point of view; if you end up winning nothing you actually get some powerful rewards! (see Rules section below)

The Bad:
  • Little accountability when it comes to rolling dice as everyone rolls at the same time and it is difficult to check whether people are playing the game correctly - this may annoy some people if they feel that they can't trust people.
  • Might not suit people who don't like frantic gameplay
  • It can take a while to resolve everyone's dice after everyone has rolled it (see Rules section below) but this is probably minimal.

What makes this game fun? 

If you like rolling dice and the idea of "secretly" (kind of, anyway) bidding for certain items and trying to anticipate what other people are going to bid for, then this is a good game for you.

- This concludes the basic overview of the game.
If you are interested in reading about the components & rules to the game, please read on -

Rules & Components
What the board looks like in its totality

Each player receives a cup and 5 "poker" dice as shown below.
The aim of the game is to get as many Victory Points as possible.

(I explain the dice symbols and the actions associated with the symbols here first; I explain dice rolling later)

Dice Symbols

There are 6 symbols on each dice, and each symbol correlates to a certain part of the board.

6 Symbols. From left to right:
The Black Spades represent 9
The Red Hearts represent 10

The Blue dice represents Jack
The Green dice represents Queen

The Red dice represents King
The Solitary Spade represents Ace

I have to now show you how these symbols interact with the game board.

There is a lot going on here so let me split the board in half.

Left half of a prepared board:
From left to right:

Gold Mine (9's)
Bank (10's)
General Store (Jacks)
Saloon (Queens)

As you can see, the dice symbols are imprinted on the board.
This game is all about majorities.

Whoever rolls the MOST....:
  • 9's controls the Gold Mine. You take 1 Gold Nugget (worth 1 Victory Point per Nugget) for each 9 you rolled.
  • 10's robs the Bank. You take all the money in the bank (Above the "Bank" sign). The area below (on the stagecoach) is for all money spent re-rolling dice [see below rules on Rolling Dice] and will be used to re-fill the Bank for the next round.
  • Jacks gets to take cards from the General Store. You take as many cards as Jacks rolled and pick one. These cards give you special abilities and some also give victory points.
  • Queens gets to STEAL cards from other people. You get to look at as many cards as Queens rolled and steal one.

  • Kings gets to become Sheriff. You receive the Sheriff Badge and get to decide TIEBREAKERS (which is actually more useful than you might think - you can receive bribes for deciding a tiebreaker in favour of someone). Eg. if three players have 2 Jacks, you can choose who to favour for the right price.
Extra things to win:
  • Whoever rolls the BEST POKER HAND (Ranking, I think, goes like this: Five of a kind, Quadruples, Full House, Straight, Two Pair, Lone Triple, Lone Pair...) gets a reward from Town Hall and gets to take the bottom Property Card (in the above picture, it's the 5 Victory Point card). These are extremely valuable and will most certainly be a defining factor when deciding who wins. 
  • Note that, if you "win" the right to get property from Town Hall you get to take an additional Property Card for every Ace rolled but only up to a maximum of 3 Property Cards. (So if you had Triple Ace Double Nine, you can only take the 3 Property cards shown above). These property cards are replenished
  • If you win NOTHING you activate Doctor Badluck who gives you rewards based on what you roll (eg. making your Property Cards safe from stealing; taking a General Store card; forcing other players to pay you either $$ or Gold Nuggets)

Game's End

The game ends when all Property Cards are taken or if all Gold Nuggets are taken.

Every $2 held equates to 1 Victory Point.
Every Nugget = 1 Victory Point
If you are Sheriff at Game's End = 5 Victory Points
Certain General Store cards give you Victory Points
Count up all Victory Points on Property Cards.

Winner is the one who has the most Victory Points.

How to roll dice

Everyone gets unlimited rolls but you must adhere to certain rules.

First, roll your dice in your cup by putting all dice in your hand and shaking the cup over your hand. You then "slam" the cup on the table/carpet and peek underneath.

Now, after each roll you may ALWAYS choose to KEEP 1 (and ONLY 1) dice here for FREE.

If you wish to keep any additional dice on top of your free dice, you must pay $1 for each additional dice kept. (I will give you an example below)

You may also RE-ROLL THE WHOLE THING if you aren't happy with your roll but you must pay $1.

For example this could be someone's first roll (Ace, King, Queen, 10, 9):

Let's say I choose to keep the 9 above. I can leave it aside like this for FREE (placing it to the right):

I can now re-roll the remaining 4 dice in my cup. Let's say on my second roll I get three 9's and a Queen.

Now, as stated before, after this roll I can take the first 9 out for free as follows:

However, I am very happy that I rolled 2 extra nines. If I want to keep any extra dice in addition to the free 9 I took outI must pay $1 for every extra dice I want to keep.

So here, because I want to keep two more 9's (in addition to my "free" 9) I pay 2 dollars as above to the stagecoach and keep the two 9's:

(Your paid dollars will be used as the jackpot for the bank the next round, given to whoever rolls the most 10's the next round)

I then re-roll the Queen and the same rules above apply.

Notes on Dice-Rolling

The crazy thing about this game is that EVERYONE rolls at the same time. So it can get quite chaotic. (There is therefore a strategy to looking at what other people roll to see if you should compete with them)

If someone finishes before everyone else, they yell "FINISHED". 

When that person yells everyone gets one last re-roll of their unkept dice and they must stick to that roll whether they like it or not. This is to prevent people from adjusting their dice after looking at what the finished person's dice are.