Monday 29 September 2014

Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisition

A somewhat suitable substitute for when you tire of playing The Resistance: Avalon (if such a thing were possible), although with too many horror themes for my liking.

Name: Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisition (2013)

Designer: Dan Hoffman

Publisher: Bezier Games

Players: 3 to 12

Age: 7+ according to the box but I strongly disagree. The game has too much of a horror theme and the mechanics are too clunky for a kid to fully understand.

Time to play: 30 to 45 minutes

Price Range (AUD): $18 to $40. Latter end is a ridiculous sum to fork out as it is a small box.

Availability: Available online, and perhaps in some hobby game stores.

  • Mafia/Hidden Identities/Deduction/Mystery/Whodunnit?
  • Bluffing

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

7.2 out of 10. (Good - See my Rating Scale)

The general premise of this game is that your group is sitting on a panel of Inquisitors who must try to uncover who amongst a group of 12 village residents are werewolves. However the problem is that, even amongst our panel of Inquisitors, there are hidden werewolves amongst us! This is quite a good theme for a game and I do like this. Inquisitors get to use different powers to help their respective team achieve their cause.

The primary mechanic of this game is voting as the group as a whole decides by majority which person in the village dies. You won't have much information at the start but certain cards help you to figure out where the werewolves are (such as the Seer, which lets you look at the identity of one of the residents). As the village itself consists of a group of 12 cards turned face down in front of the Inquisitors, this obviates the need for player elimination which is the norm for all other Werewolf titles - meaning that none of the Inquisitors die (a good thing, in my opinion).

Another aspect of this game that I quite like is that, if you are bad, keeping your identity secret isn't the most important thing: what does matter though is that you protect the werewolves. Hence, it isn't the end of the world if you choose to reveal yourself because you can always use that to your advantage. In fact, one of my friends Shaun is very good at this approach. As a revealed werewolf, you can cause others to think that an innocent person is bad by pretending to be friends with them or talking to them; you might also be able to double-bluff by telling the truth about what a card is after using the Seer or Apprentice Seer (and because people think you are bad, they think the card is bad and hence vote to kill it).

What I don't like about this game is that the mechanics are a bit clunky (in terms of taking a power and then voting) and people who are used to playing The Resistance: Avalon might not be used to playing a game like this. Sometimes, depending on how the powers are selected and the situation, it does feel like you are helpless and can't do much to help your team - but that feeling I suspect is deliberate and true to the Werewolf genre of games. The game also favours the werewolves if games involving more players, as the werewolves have more opportunities to sacrifice their identity to critically stop the villagers from winning. A lot of the powers are sometimes not useful but, at times, a lot of teamwork is required to coordinate the use of powers to stop the Werewolves from winning (for example, by using the Mayor and giving the leadership to the right person). Furthermore, the night-time phase might be a bit strange for some as it involves players "pretending" to shuffle cards and passing them around after pausing for a few moments (an artificial phase of the game designed to give the werewoles a free kill but NOT designed for people to figure out who the werwolf is - see below rules for a better understanding of what I mean).

Thus, whilst Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisition is a good mafia game, it isn't as clean or elegant as a game like The Resistance: Avalon but it does have its quirks that make it a genuine and viable alternative. I also find the horror theme a bit distasteful, and the images depicted may affect the weak-minded and I don't think it's a game that should capture the imagination of kids (contrary to the recommended age).

The Good:
  • Revealing your identity as a werewolf/bad guy is not fatal, and may actually help your team's cause depending upon what you do with it. This is a relatively interesting and different mechanic, much like Saboteur.
  • Different powers to choose from
  • Real teamwork required to win -  tension is palpable
  • Games can be tightly won
  • That feeling of helplessness - some people may enjoy the theme of it
  • No player elimination

The Bad:
  • If you don't like horror - like me - you will probably find this game a bit distasteful. It is not wise to expose yourself to such images as it might affect you mentally and/or spiritually. However, if you just treat this as a game and pay little attention to the images, this might be OK (still risky though, in my opinion).
  • Perhaps too easy for the werewolves to win if playing with a large group of people (say with 9 people - as there are 4 werewolves)
  • Rules may be a bit harder to grasp ("clunky") when you are trying to explain to people whose "foundation" is The Resistance: Avalon, but if you are patient enough, this game can be somewhat rewarding
  • Hence, arguably not as elegant as The Resistance: Avalon.

What makes this game fun? 
Trying to convince others that "this card is definitely a werewolf"  is one of the highlights of this game - sometimes people believe you; and sometimes, for good reason too, others don't. This aspect of the game - deceitful and psychological bluffing - can be quite fun.

- 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 (Photos courtesy of my mum, Joanne)

The aim of the game depends on who you are:

  1. If you are a Villager (Good guy) you are trying to kill all the werewolves in the village in front of you (see below).
  2. If you are a Werewolf (Bad guy) you are trying to keep the werewolves alive. You win if the number of werewolves is greater than the number of civilians/residents in the village 


The first step is to give everyone their identity cards. These must never be revealed to anyone (unless you use the Mason power - which is only introduced in more advanced play)

The game will tell you the distribution of werewolves and villagers depending on the size of your group as shown below:

Table as provided by the Rules booklet

For example, in a 7 player game there are 4 Villagers (Good guys) and 3 Werewolves (Bad guys):

Someone is given the Grand Inquisitor [GI] token, which is a red-figure. This designates who gets to go first and is quite important to either team. The GI token will be passed on to the next player in a clockwise (or anti-clockwise order - why don't you decide as a group!) after each Day Phase, whatever your group decides.

In addition, everyone will receive 2 black voting cubes.

Huts and Village

The game asks that you set up the game like so (this is the default setup - but you can change this as there are other characters you can play with):

On the left are 12 Hut cards in a grid of 4 columns of 3.

On the right are 12 Character cards arranged in the same formation whose identity is secret. They constitute the Village in which there are 4 Werewolves (in the default game).

In the middle are voting cubes. Surrounding all of this are the 7 Identity or Inquisitor cards placed face down. Notice that everyone has taken 2 voting cubes as well.

Explanation of Village and 'Power' Cards

In the above picture, each Character card on the right corresponds to a Hut (or what I call a "Power") card on the left. If a Character in the village dies, its associated Hut card will 'die' too.

Hut cards are cards let you perform a special power during daytime.

I won't show you all the cards but here are some examples:

Top row = Hut cards
Bottom row = Character cards that form part of the Village. The character cards also show its associated hut card on the bottom left corner of the card.
If you take a look at the left side in the above picture, you'll see the Bodyguard Hut in the top row and beneath it, its associated Bodyguard character. The powers of the characters here are briefly outlined:

  • Bodyguard: Protect any person in the village from being the subject of votes in the Day phase.
  • Hunter: Take 3 votes from the supply and put them on any resident in the village.
  • Seer (one of the most powerful characters in the game): Look at an unseen card/resident in the village.
  • Mayor: Give someone (including yourself) the Grand Inquisitor token.

  • Apprentice Seer: Pay 1 vote to the supply to look at an unseen card in the village.
  • Prince: Take 4 votes from the supply
  • Werewolf/Villager: Take 2 votes; Keep 1 for yourself and place 1 on any character card in the village. It is a bit confusing, but this hut is used for both the villager and werewolf character. If you play the default game, there are 4 werewolves in the game that the Villager Inquisitors need to kill.
  • Witch: Move all votes from one card in the village to another.

First Night - werewolves figure out who is on their team

A designated person (the Grand Inquisitor or someone who doesn't mind speaking) will ask everyone to close their eyes, then ask the werewolves to open their eyes to look for other werewolves on their team. After enough time has passed, everyone will close their eyes again.

From now on, the game will follow two distinct phases: Day Time and Night Time

Day Time

These are my custom rules here.

Perform an Action

Starting with the Grand Inquisitor, everyone performs ONE of these two actions:
  • Pick a Hut/Power card OR 
  • Take 2 votes
[The original game rules say that everyone should always take a Hut/Power card (until there are none left) and then decide whether to use its power OR take 2 votes. I don't like this rule because it makes the game too 'easy' in the sense that players do not need to forego taking 2 votes in order to stop someone else from using the power (ie. you can still stop someone else from using the card AND get your two votes)]

Day Time Voting phase 

Then when everyone has selected their action, starting with the (possibly new) GI, everyone MUST, unless they have no votes, place one vote on a card they want to "lynch" or kill if they have votes.

Votes stay on forever unless they are selected by the GI during the night time phase or are the subject of another power.

Night Time (My custom rules here again)

This phase is designed for the werewolves to kill a victim.

Now, the GI selects one column of cards that contains at least two cards. The votes on these cards are placed back in the supply.

Everyone now closes their eyes. The cards are passed around from one person to another with their eyes closed, with each person taking counting to 3 or 4 before passing it to the next player. Everyone should take roughly the same time and everyone should make shuffling noises.

If you are a werewolf you are allowed to open your eyes and change the order of the cards during night time. The character to be killed will be placed on the bottom of the deck.

If you are a villager you must NEVER open your eyes and you must NEVER actually shuffle the  order of the cards.

When the cards come full circle back to the GI, everyone can open their eyes. The first (and second card, if applicable) is safe and not revealed. The bottom card is killed.


Three turns have just elapsed, starting with the GI (who has the red token)

1) It is the GI's turn. In what is a very common turn, the GI picks the Seer and looks at the top left card in the village. It is turned over horizontally which means it can never be looked at by the Seer or Apprentice Seer again, until the columns are reset by the GI for the night phase.

The GI claims it is a Werewolf and should be killed.

2) The player to the left of the Seer takes the Apprentice Seer, who pays 1 cube to look at the top right card. She claims that it is a "Good" card.

3) The next player (on the far left) uses the Prince to take 4 votes.

4) The next player believes what the Seer says and uses the Hunter card to place 3 cubes on the card the Seer said was a Werewolf.

5) The next player (on the far right) gives themselves the GI token using the Mayor.
6) The next player (bottom right corner) claims they are confused and takes two votes.

7) The last player (to the right of the Seer) uses the Bodyguard to protect the character viewed by the Apprentice Seer, because he believes what the Apprentice Seer says. No one may vote on this card during the voting phase

Voting phase begins

Everyone places a vote on a card of their choice. It looks like the top left card has the most votes so it is revealed:

It's a werewolf! Was the player who used the Seer actually a werewolf who was merely telling the truth to gain the trust of everyone (in order to set up a backstab move later on in the game)? Unlikely, but possible.

The Werewolf Character card and Hut card are now removed from the game.

Example continued: Night time

The new GI (the player to the right on the above pictures) chooses the 2nd column. The GI picks them up and asks everyone to close their eyes.

One by one they count to 4 and pass the cards around, making shuffling noises. The werewolves get to rearrange the cards and look at them. The werewolves place the character they want to kill on the bottom of the cards. No one else gets to change the order or look at them.

These cards are passed around and they make a full circle. The GI has the cards back now and asks everyone to open their eyes.

The GI places the top card down - this is safe.

The GI places the second card down, this is also safe.

The GI reveals the last card - it is the Hunter and has been killed by the werewolves!

The Hunter character and the Hunter power are removed from the game.

All the power cards now go back to the middle. It is Day time again.

This repeats until someone wins. Be warned: mass arguments can ensue at any moment of the game now.

Thursday 25 September 2014


A relatively unknown gem that has players claiming ownership of criminals in gaol...before they break out of prison!

Many thanks to Sean for giving this game to me as a present.

Name: Gauner (released in 2012 as "Pets" by Swan Panasia Co Ltd - I'm reviewing the 2013 German 2nd edition named Gauner)

Meaning in German: Gauner directly translates to "Crooks". A very appropriate name.

Other name/version: Pets.

Judging by its name and cover art, Pets is a somewhat bizzare Chinese version of Gauner apparently with the same rules but with a theme that is less attractive than that offered by Gauner: animals. It plays up to 5 players and its rules are similar (except, according to BoardGameGeek, players choose one of three options - which includes a new option of playing a card into the rows - rather than doing all three options as in Gauner)

Designer: Florian Racky

Publisher: Nürnberger-Spielkarten-Verlag GmbH (NSV)

Players: 2 to 4, but 5 using special rules in Pets

Age: 10+

Time to play: 20-30 minutes

Price Range (AUD):  $14...possibly up to $30? when one includes shipping?

Availability: Rare - hard to find even amongst hobby game stores and online. Even ordering directly from NSV seems to not be possible as, from my understanding, they don't ship outside of Germany.

Trivia/Random: I Google translated the NSV description of Gauner and this is what ensued:
More and more tough guys and little girl walk in the slammer. How well do just that to the members of their own gang reliance and the next outbreak is only a matter of time.Each player collects hardworking helpers. When the time is right, they are played. And if the bars are then blown up, is only once cashed properly. The simple procedure and the clever crooks rating make a real treat for all card game lovers. cards Size: 59 x 91 mm  
Rogue is for 2-4 players aged from 8 to 100 years.

  • Family
  • Card
  • Claiming ownership

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

7.5+ out of 10. (Great, given what it is: a quick card game - See my Rating Scale)

In this game, players try to claim ownership of as many different types, and numbers of, criminals as possible. This is because the more types of criminals you claim, the higher your score multiplier is. For example, if you own 3 different colours of criminals your score is the number of criminals you own in gaol x 3.

To better appreciate why this game is fun you'll probably need to see the rules below. In a nutshell, players try accumulate criminal cards in their hands (these are used to claim ownership of criminals) and send criminals to gaol (which is done to gather points).

The main tension and fun to this game is the fact that there is a very delicate balance between collecting certain types of criminals in your hand and sending those types of criminals to gaol; do too much of the latter, and you won't have any cards to claim the criminals in gaol (but there will be lots of points up for grabs). However, do too much of the former and there will be hardly any points in gaol but you will have definite ownership of that type of criminal. Added to that dilemma is the fact that your claims can also be ousted by new claims made by other players. You are also constantly watching out for the actions of your opponents, and trying to make sure your actions do not benefit them.

Inside the box - cool colours and artwork

The game is interesting because some criminals are more 'valuable' than others in that they are rarer and there are less of them present, such as the grey or green crooks where there are only 6 and 9 of them respectively in the whole deck.

The upside of collecting rarer crooks is that a player is readily able to secure a free multiplier by collecting and playing fewer cards than one normally would need to collect (as against collecting the more common crooks). However, since these crooks are rare in quantity they will net you less points in gaol. Conversely, the blonde and orange crooks are plentiful in supply (with 24 and 21 in the deck respectively), thus giving you more opportunities to score in gaol; but the downside is that everyone will be contesting their ownership due to their large quantity. Then there are the crooks that give you another sort of dilemma as they are neither here nor there - they are not too rare but not too common either.

I think this game plays extremely well given, firstly, its size and, secondly, its aim to be a quick card game. It has an interesting mechanic of claiming ownership of criminals and there is plenty of tension involved to keep everyone on their toes as you must make your claims before the gaol fills up completely. Its artwork is also fantastic and has a smooth classic feel to it. The only negative of this game I would say is that it goes by incredibly quickly and the scoring rounds occur rather too soon as gaol does fill up faster than you think it will, particularly with more players. It's quite a satisfying game and somewhat replayable as it has a unique feel to it - but given that it is a minor card game, it can only do so much for you. Nonetheless it's a great game.

The Good:
  • Beautiful artwork - the colours used are distinct and have a glossy finish
  • Interesting theme and concept, especially with regards to the notion of "claiming" crooks or claiming the right to score off a certain type of crook. The German rules suggest that you are taking ownership of the crooks before they escape prison.
  • Quick and fun gameplay
  • Tense matches - games are closely contested
  • Relatively replayable to a certain degree
  • Some degree of strategy and tension - to claim or not to claim - to hoard or not to hoard??
The Bad:
  • Obviously a lot of it comes down to luck and the cards distributed/drawn
  • When you play with large numbers of people, gameplay (in particular, the scoring round) goes by too quickly such that there is little room for strategy - perhaps change this by using alternate rules for a 4 player game or customize rules as you see fit
  • Artificial/arbitrary scoring round - it happens too quickly
  • Perhaps this idea of collecting groups seems a bit artificial - but it is a necessary (and fun) gameplay mechanism

What makes this game fun? 

Quick, take ownership of the crooks before they escape prison! The theme of the game itself sounds quite interesting.

- 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 (Photos courtesy of my mum, Joanne)

Set up involves randomly distributing cards into 3 rows of 10:

Random setup

Before you can play you need to be familiar with a few gameplay concepts:

Groups: A group is defined as 1 or more (up to 10) cards of the same type that are horizontally adjacent to each other. For example, in the picture above, the 4 Yellow cards in the top left are one group; and so are the two Orange cards next to those 4 Yellow cards; and so is the lone Purple card on the middle far left.

Quantities/Rarity: The number on the bottom of each card tells you the number of that coloured-crook that exists in the entire deck. So for example, there are 24 "Blondies" and 15 Purple Crooks in the whole deck.

Turn Structure

On your turn you perform three actions one after the other:

1. Accumulate criminals in your hand: Pick a group on the extreme left end or the extreme right end of any row to take into your hand. Thus, there are usually 6 options to choose from (3 rows x 2 ends). This action does not directly give you points but it does give you the opportunity to bid for ownership of crooks in gaol later on.

For example, here, I have picked the Group of 4 Blondies here.

2. Send the group of criminals immediately adjacent to the group just taken by you to gaol: this is fundamental as criminals in gaol are worth points (thus, be careful not to give your opponents too many points). However, the catch is this: if they are not claimed, you cannot score points off them

Here, the Group of 2 Orange Crooks (which was next to the 4 Blondies) gets placed in gaol. The gaol is next to the draw deck.
3. (Optionally) play criminals accumulated from your hand to claim the right to score from that type of criminal.

Note that, on future turns, your claim can be ousted. To oust a claim, the claim must be beaten by at least 1 card.

For example, if you played 4 Blondie cards on this turn to claim the Blondie criminal, your opponent could simply oust this by playing 5 Blondie cards on their turn, making your claim to the Blondie criminal void and useless.

3b. (Compulsory - but must happen after, not before, Step 3) Draw a new card in the spot where all the action above has occurred

Scoring Rounds 

There are 3 scoring rounds in total. A scoring round is triggered when the gaol fills up with either 2 types of criminals having at least 6 cards OR 6 types of criminals having at least 2 cards.

Your score is equal to the number of criminals you own in gaol (which is determined by the criminals you have claimed by playing down cards of that type onto the table) multiplied by your multiplier. Your multiplier is equal to the number of types of criminals you own.

For example, suppose these are the different types of criminals that were claimed at the time of a scoring round in a two-player game:

Left has claimed three different types of criminals (Yellow, Green and Orange). Thus Left's multiplier is x3. The quantity of the cards used to claim the criminal does not affect the quantity of scoring directly; it merely dictates who claims ownership of that criminal type (by observing whoever has the most of that colour).

So Left was more than welcome to use 1 Green card to claim the Green crook and 7 Blondie cards to claim the Blondie crook (for no one else could beat these claims, no matter how big or small they were).

Right has claimed 2 different types of criminals (Purple and Grey). Thus Right's multiplier is x2.

Suppose this is the state of the gaol (6 types of criminals having at least 2 cards each):

Thus, Left's score would be (5 Yellow + 4 Orange + 0 Green = number of criminals Left owns in gaol) x 3 = 27

Right's Score would be (2 Purple + 2 Grey = number of criminals Right owns in gaol) x 2 = 8

Whoever has the most points at the end of the third scoring round wins.

Friday 19 September 2014

The Three Little Pigs

A somewhat worthy manifestation of the eponymous fairy tale, it's the game that Baba Yaga should have aspired to.

Get ready to defend against the huffing and puffing of the big bad wolf...

Book/Game I of the Iello Tales and Games Book Series.

Name: The Three Little Pigs (2013)

Designer: Laurent Pouchain

Publisher: IELLO - the same people who did King of Tokyo

Players: 2 to 5

Age: 7+

Time to play: 20 minutes or so

Price Range (AUD): $30 to $50ish, the latter end of the scale if ordering online (with shipping included). Probably not worth the price, but it still looks cool on your shelf as it resembles a book.

Availability: Mainly online and in some hobby game stores

  • Dice-rolling
  • Kids
  • Purchasing
  • Thematic value - reference to Three Little Pigs

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

6.5+/- out of 10. (Barely borderline decent but, putting myself in the perspective of a kid, it might actually be thought of as a good game. It's basically a watered-down version of King of Tokyo minus the 'killing other players' which means it is basically a variation of the classic Yahtzee - See my Rating Scale)

As I mentioned in my introduction, this game captures the spirit of the fairytale quite well. Players roll 5 dice three times to purchase parts of a house (doors, windows and roofs). They do this by collecting symbols of the same type: the number of same symbols collected dictates the quality of the house part purchased. For example, to purchase a brick (the strongest) house part, 4 symbols of the same type must be rolled. Similarly 3 of a kind nets you wood; 2 of a kind nets you straw.

These materials actually make a difference to the defence of your house - when the wolf comes to blow down your house, for example, brick house parts have a 5 out of 6 chance of withstanding a wolf attack whereas straw house parts have a 50% chance of being destroyed. This phase of the game manifests in the form of blowing a spinner to determine which part of your opponent's house gets blown away (see rules for a better idea).

The thing about this game though is that it doesn't really have too much substance to it: but that's probably because its designer didn't intend it to be that way, given that it seems to be aimed at kids. Sure, it allows players to build houses in defiance of the big bad wolf (as the fairy tale tells us about)...but that's pretty much it. In my opinion, removing this novelty, theme and cuteness, there's no real kick to it that makes you want to come back for more.

Not a bad game at all, but not something I would necessarily pursue often. Most of its good marks comes from its thematic value and how it tells the classic fairytale quite well.

The Good:
  • Game fits the theme and story of the Three Little Pigs quite well
  • Novel concept of protecting the pigs from the wolf does play out in the game - especially with regards to building out of brick rather than straw or hay!
  • Comes with the actual story, just like Baba Yaga
  • Cool book-themed box
  • Admittedly quite cute, so probably works well with kids. Kids would probably like this a whole lot more. Do I rate the game highly from a child's perspective? Arguably but it can't on just theme alone. For example, when I scored Igloo Pop with a decent score this was predominantly because of its unique gameplay - it being a kids game was a subsidiary point.

The Bad:
  • It's basically a watered-down King of Tokyo with less substance and no killing (a Yahtzee variation). The dice-rolling mechanic for purchasing parts of the house is good, but somehow it's still not that great or satisfying.
  • Hence, from the above, little replay value - there isn't too much meat to it. This is the main reason why I haven't given it a decent score. But be careful though: that doesn't mean it is a bad game.
  • Rules concerning building of houses are slightly superficial and unnecessarily cumbersome (see below rules)

What makes this game fun? 
If you really like the story of the Three Little Pigs, and want to see it incorporated into an actual game, give this a go as it does it quite well.

- 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 (Photos courtesy of my mum, Joanne)

Here's what you get inside the box: a spinning wheel; house part tiles; dice and some cards that are used in a special game (which I have not explored here but I think they give bonus points to whoever has the most houses with flower pots or those who have the most completed houses etc):

You set up the game like this - all these house parts are for up for sale.
From left to right they are, as you might have guessed: Brick, Wood and Straw.

Dice Rolling - helps you buy materials

Dice rolling works in much the same way as it does in King of Tokyo .

You must roll the dice 3 times - and you can choose to keep or re-roll any of the dice you like (even those that have been kept on a previous turn).

4 symbols of the same kind (ie. 4 doors, 4 windows or 4 roofs) will buy a brick house part.
3 of a kind and 2 of a kind will net you wood and straw respectively.

If you rolled 5 symbols of the same kind, you could choose to mix and match house parts by say, purchasing 1 straw piece and 1 wood piece.

Note that the dice with black drawings are those that have 1 wolf symbol on them - if you roll a wolf symbol you can no longer re-roll that die. If you roll 2 wolf symbols over the course of your turn you must play the part of the wolf and choose a house to blow down (see below rules).

Special rules with building houses:

  • Houses must be built with a door or a window first
  • You can make as many houses as you want and, indeed, you can mix and match pieces of different materials. Eg. Brick windows, straw door.
  • Once you put a roof over a house, it is complete, even if it has no door (silly rule I think).
  • Completed houses cannot receive more pieces.
  • Uncompleted houses get no points.
Example - Dice rolling

For example, suppose this was your first roll:

If that were so you could purchase a wooden door and a straw roof. Let's say you want to roll for something better:

If you were greedy you could roll the two roofs again. However, here above, one of them turns into a wolf die. Once you roll a wolf, you'll never be able to roll that die again.

On your next re-roll you roll a 4th door. This means you can buy a brick door as shown.

Two or more wolf dice: Wolf blows the house down

If the above was your roll, you would immediately have to pick an opponent's house that you want to destroy. Then you'd have to blow the wolf spinner.

For example, suppose you picked Bob's house to blow down. He's done well so far with these two houses shown below. You choose to pick the left house, as it gives you a guarantee that some part of the house will be damaged as he has all material types there.

Note the door on the right house has 2 flower pots - this is worth 2 extra points

Suppose you blew the spinner and it landed on straw (50% chance)

This is what would happen to Bob's house on the left:

As you can see, this is a pretty cool element to the game. The only problem is that it's rare for 2+ wolf dice to be rolled AND it is hard to get the precise material you want, particularly brick (but alas, that is the whole idea of the game).

Scoring and Winning

The game ends when a certain number of stacks of house parts are depleted. For a 2 player game, this is 2 player stacks. For a 5 player game, this is 5 stacks depleted. The same pattern follows for every other number of players.

Your score is determined by the number of pig symbols you have - as you might have noticed, all the brick house parts have the most pig symbols (4) and straw has the least (2).

However, you only score pig symbols for completed houses - that is, those houses with a roof.

  • Houses with no roofs are discarded and give you 0 points

The rules also say you get 1 bonus point for each flower pot present in a completed house. You also get a bonus point for each house you have completed.

Monday 15 September 2014

Baba Yaga (2nd in the IELLO Book Series 'Tales and Games')

An impossibly difficult dexterity and memorisation game - that doesn't mean it isn't fun though with the right group of people...but you'd be hard pressed to find that group of people.

Part II of the Iello Tales and Games Book Series.

Name: Baba Yaga (2013) [not to be confused with the other Baba Yaga game of 2010]

Designer: Jérémie Caplanne

Publisher: IELLO - the same people who did King of Tokyo

Players: 2 to 5

Age: Game box says 6+ but I highly doubt this. I played this with my group, all of us young adults, and we struggled very badly. It was a very difficult game!

Time to play: Apparently 15 minutes

Price Range (AUD): $32 to $52 - more around the $30 mark.

Availability: Mainly online and some hobby game stores

  • Dexterity
  • Memorisation
  • Thematic

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

5.0+/- of 10. (Barely passes as a game, but can actually be fun depending on your group's attitude towards games - See my Rating Scale)

This is a frustratingly difficult game that requires both an excellent and fast memory as well as quick hand-eye motor skills. Whether you like this game or not will depend on your philosophy of games: Is a game meant to be challenging? Even to the point of tears? Is it meant to be relaxing? How many times should you play a game before you overcome its learning curve? Should the learning curve be steep? How skilled do you need to be?

I suspect though that the vast majority of people, who ought be classified as 'casual gamers', are not looking for an extreme challenge. Thus they will probably not like this game because it is ridiculously difficult. [My view? I think I'm the type who is up for anything - a crazy impossible challenge sometimes can be refreshing; but at the same time, playing a game that will be loved by everyone is a rewarding experience as well. But obviously not everyone is like me.]

As for this game, its learning curve is incredibly steep, to the point of it being almost vertical (slight exaggeration).

What happens in this game is that while one player [the active player] is searching for their ingredients, the other players are, one-by-one, quickly moving a figurine of Baba Yaga up and down a flight path [see the Rules for a better idea]. This serves two purposes: 1) to annoy/distract the active player on their turn and 2) to give the active player a time limit because it is only when Baba Yaga makes the full return trip that the active player's turn is over. The idea, in theory, is a good one and is quite novel. However, the whole problem with the game lies with Purpose #2 because this game mechanic barely gives the active player a few seconds to perform their turn.

I distinctly remember that, whenever it was my turn to collect ingredients, I would be overwhelmed by panic and frustration as there was never enough time to match the tiles in the game and I would always get confused by which tiles to flip over. Others found the experience to be similar - their turn was over before they even knew it.

Having regard to not only the intention the designers had for the game but also for what the game purports to offer in that respective genre of games, I think that Top Trumps is actually a better game than Baba Yaga. Even though gameplay is simplistic in Top Trumps, that game is intended to be that way because its main focus is on collecting cards pertaining to a person's interest. On the other hand, Baba Yaga is intended to be a dexterity game for children: but given how difficult the game is for adults, I'm not satisfied that it has fulfilled this aim - indeed, some critics of the game might even say it has failed miserably, but I am choosing to be a bit generous by scoring this a bare 5 out of 10. [I will note though that, arguably, when playing with kids, the active player may have more time to perform their turn as their opponents could be slower with moving Baba Yaga down the flight path]

The Good:
  • As with its predecessor The Three Little Pigs, Cool-looking game packaging that looks like a book
  • Strong emphasis on storytelling - game comes with a story
  • Kids are likely to like this more (?)
  • If you love a ridiculously difficult challenge, you'll probably like this game
  • I suppose that once you get the hang of the symbols on the tiles the game could be playable - but how long are you willing to wait?
  • A somewhat novel game

The Bad:
  • Incredibly difficult game - you must be able to memorise the pictures of all the tiles and know what symbols you are looking for in a very short space of time. Very steep learning curve!
  • Not many components given what you pay for it
  • Arguable replay value - how frustrated will you be?

What makes this game fun? 
If you hate impossibly difficult tasks, it's not a fun game. Otherwise....

- 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 (Photos courtesy of my mum, Joanne)

The game is set up like so:

There lies a sea of 16 forest tiles, through which the middle cuts across Baba Yaga's two flight paths (vertical and horizontal).

A card is flipped over by the active player.

This indicates the ingredients that must be collected by the player. 3 of the 4 ingredients must be collected on "easy" or "normal" mode - 4 out of 4 are to be collected for "hard" mode. So on the above card, a frog's leg, a lamp, a bottle of snake oil and a spider's web must be collected.

However, as you might have noticed, the ingredient symbols on the card don't match with the symbols on the tiles to be collected; rather, the tiles as shown above ("forest side up") give an indirect clue about the ingredient on the back of the tile. Eg. A bush with a snake on it would give you the snake oil.

The active player must, using one hand only, flip over the tiles one at a time - if the player flips over the wrong ingredient it must be flipped back before another tile can be flipped over. All the correct ingredients as stated on the card must be flipped over.

While the active player is flipping over ingredients, all other players (in clockwise order) move Baba Yaga one tile at a time from one end of the flight path to the other...and back again. The player on the left of the active player can decide Baba Yaga's starting position. This is somewhat novel at first but quickly wears off when you realise how you are making life impossibly difficult for your opponent (though, some may find this fun).

Baba Yaga in the middle of the flight path, whilst the active player is turning over the tiles

By the time the Baba Yaga figurine is returned to its starting position, the active player's turn is over (and this happens REAL FAST!!).

If the active player got all the correct ingredients, they obtain the card. Obtaining a card gives you various rewards such as extending Baba Yaga's flight by one additional tile (which hardly changes anything!) or forcing the active player to play with some kind of handicap.

The aim of the game is to be the first to obtain 3 cards.

Saturday 6 September 2014

Click Clack Lumberjack (Toc Toc Woodman)

Often thought of as a variation of Jenga, this dexterity game can make for an interesting filler...just for laughs.

Looks pretty cool

Name: Click Clack Lumberjack (2008 - first released as Toc Toc Woodman)

Alternate Name: Toc Toc Woodman (the first edition has some slight differences though as it involves rolling numbers to determine which part of the tree you hit)

Expansions: The Golden Axe expansion apparently, amongst other things, gives players the option to choose to hit the tree only once, but whatever falls down is worth double.

Taken from here.

Designer: Justin Oh (You might remember him as the designer of Gemblo Deluxe)

Publisher: Gemblo Inc and Mayday Games

Players: 2 to 7

Age: 5+

Time to play: About 10 minutes, even 1 minute perhaps

Price Range (AUD): $40 to $50. For what it is, this price range is EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE!! (Mainly due to shipping costs)

Availability: Mainly online.

Compare with: Bling Bling Gemstone.

  • Dexterity
  • Family 
  • Kids

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

6.1+ out of 10. (Alright, perhaps a decent filler if played with the right group - See my Rating Scale)

There are some things about this game that I like: First, the game certainly looks nice as it actually resembles a tree when it sits on your table. Second, it's not every day that you wield a fake axe and swing it around, chopping that tree. Therefore, it certainly gets some points for thematic value. Third, there is some degree of skill involved as you try to chip away the bark pieces without removing the core stump pieces.

However, that's as far as I would go. The game, in itself, is an interesting novelty but nothing more. There is no real substantial meat to the game and in that sense, there is very little replayability in my view. However, that does not make it a bad game. Indeed, Click Clack Lumberjack can be quite fun when you and your friends are in the right frame of mind to play it (when you feel up for some open-minded senseless fun). It can also serve a useful purpose as a filler when you've just played a game that is extremely long and you want to take a break.

The price of the game is a real standout - to get it shipped from overseas you'd be paying something in excess of $40 which, in my opinion, is totally expensive. Perhaps this is why I sound a bit negative about this game.

In all fairness, price aside, this game has the potential to be a decent "party" filler, though be careful when playing with lots of people - the tree may be gone before it reaches somebody's turn as it just takes 1 hit for someone to knock the whole tree over!! But at least you'll probably have a good laugh (unless you or your friends are the type who are too serious). However this total collapse is unlikely to happen if everyone isn't clumsy or acting unnecessarily silly.

Obviously, I suspect that the young, or the young at heart, are likely to enjoy this game more.

The Good:
  • Interesting and amusing for a while
  • Actually looks like a tree - which gives it its novelty
  • Some degree of skill involved
  • Easy to explain
  • Quite fun to assemble

The Bad:
  • What's stopping that one clumsy person from knocking down the whole tree? It can ruin the game for everyone!
  • Takes some time to assemble
  • (Small criticism) The game comes in relatively flimsy and hollow box. It could have been packaged a bit better as it's a bit bulky with no actual compartments to put the game pieces in. I remember reading somewhere though that they intended (if they have not already) to release the game in a smaller more compact box.
  • Limited replay value - but who knows, it depends on the group. Many other groups seem to keep playing this game (I can't understand why though to be honest).
  • Probably does not play well with the maximum number of players - the tree may be gone by the time the last person hits it. 

What makes this game fun? 
It's not everyday you get to wield an axe and cut down a tree on your dining table...

- 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 (Photos courtesy of my mum, Joanne)

This is what you get in the box:

The tree stump base goes on the bottom. The tree should be assembled by placing the dark brown bark pieces into the peach (light-tan or light beige?) coloured core pieces like above. These pieces are then stacked together on top of each other.

The finished product becomes this:

In terms of rules, the Back of the Box explains everything:

In summary:

1) Everyone takes 2 hits per turn (you can increase the number of hits for kids or those who need it...)

2) If you get a bark piece to fall off onto the ground you get 1 point; if you knock off the centre piece onto the ground you lose 5 points. Whoever has the most points wins.

So a game may look like this over the course of a few turns:

Grubs add-on:

You can add grubs to the underside of the bark - these grubbed bark pieces are worth 2 points rather over the usual 1. You could make the bottom few layers of the tree contain these grubbed bark to provide a challenge or you could randomly scatter them about if you want to create randomness.