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:

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