Tuesday 27 January 2015

Asian Cup 2015 Final!!!

South Korea vs Australia, the dream rematch has actually come to fruition.

South Korea's 2-0 scoreline against Iraq flattered them; their defence and goalkeeper were very shaky. Had Iraq's strikers been 1 class above, those chances would have been put away and the contest could have easily gone to penalties. That being said, I am not of the view that Australia could necessarily have done any better - arguably. Still, Korea are a formidable threat. They will have plenty of fans on their side cheering them on.

Australia's 2-0 scoreline was unusual in that it saw 2 early goals within the first 15 minutes, both by defenders. I thought Sainsbury and Spiranovic (as well as the whole backline) played surprisingly well in terms of their defending against the dangerous Ahmed Khalil, Omar Abdulrahman and Ali Mabkhout (one or the other - I didn't actually take notice how many times each were stopped). However it appears to be the case, again, that Australia are over-reliant on static play or set pieces against tougher opposition. Their execution, possession and build up play was not as convincing in the second-half (but they had a few good chances on goal).

The Socceroos' game against South Korea will be markedly different because they are quality opponents. Australia may be able to score goals against lesser ranked sides but they have yet to prove they can score (and defend) comfortably against tournament favourites.



Penalty Shootout............

I am admittedly quite biased, wearing these green and gold goggles of mine, but I think Australia will win this one ever so slightly because of a few factors:

1) Home turf advantage
2) Revenge mentality for the group stage loss against South Korea (this could easily backfire - causing us to make risky plays for the sake of scoring a goal)
3) Attacking mentality (and the ball possession and passing/setup that comes with it)
4) Tim Cahill

Two Main Critical Factors that are AGAINST Australia:
1) Arguable, actual or perceived inability to score from open play against the big guns, in pressure games or those with better defence, in the absence of Tim Cahill not firing.
2) 'Dreaming defence' in critical moments for big matches, particularly against stronger teams.

If the positives can outweigh the negatives, the Socceroos should be able to pull home, but I can't say for certain as those negatives are quite significant. I believe they can win; this is their best chance to win an Asian Cup.

I'm looking forward to watching the game live at the stadium (the risk of buying tickets early paid off, phew!).

Andre Lim

Saturday 24 January 2015

'IQ Brain Train' Game

It isn't for everyone but, if you like puzzles, problem-solving or brain-teasers, and don't mind a one-off challenge (ie. ZERO replay value), you might enjoy this.

However, be prepared for plenty of misses - whilst a few of the riddles and puzzles are good, some of the others are fairly stupid.

Name:  IQ Brain Train Game (2011?, according to the © symbol on the tin)

Designer: Unknown?

Publisher: The Lagoon Group

Players: 1+, supposedly.

Age: 8+
Arguably it's a game suited more towards teenagers, but if you are a riddle fanatic, age isn't a barrier.

Time to play: As long or as short as you want. Less than 5 minutes to an hour?

Price Range (AUD)$13 to $20 approx. The lower end of the price range is arguably reasonable, but that being said not everyone will think it's worth it to pay $13 for 2 decks of cards in a metal tin - especially since they will probably only ever be used once. Therefore this isn't exactly money that is well spent.

Availability: Quite widely available online; I found this copy at the ABC Shop.

  • IQ/Psychometric testing
  • Solo?
  • General-ability 

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

5.0+/- out of 10. (Passes, but actual taste may vary depending on the person - See my Rating Scale)

Quite honestly, if you enjoy riddles (and don't mind revisiting some common classics, slightly altered) this isn't necessarily a bad game at all to pick up. My sister and I went through the deck just trying to solve the puzzles, and even for young adults such as ourselves, some of the riddles weren't so straight forward. We have encountered a fair share of riddles; whilst some of the riddles we already knew, there were a few that we had to think twice about. Many questions in the pack are not riddles at all but just problem-solving maths questions - some tricky, and some not so. The majority of questions are think-outside-the-box type of questions. The variety of questions offered in the deck is quite decent.

However, if you were expecting something of a real challenge or wanted to play something for a group of people, this isn't exactly what I would purchase. That being said, it depends on your group of friends and the age group you are catering for - young teenagers who like a bit of a brain challenge would probably enjoy this the most.

The real problem of IQ Brain Train is that the 'game' doesn't have any replay value or longevity because once you know the riddles you can't ever play the game again unless you happen to forget: this is the main reason why I would score a pass to this game. But do bear in mind that some of its content is nonetheless quite interesting and has some depth to a certain extent. This is probably why I would score IQ Brain Train slightly higher than Top Trumps, even though Top Trumps is more of a game than this but the difference is only marginal in my view.

Another major problem of IQ Brain Train is that some of the riddles offer really silly answers. Of course the answers are plausible explanations, but it would be far-fetched to expect an intelligent or rational person to think of that kind of answer (not because they lack any IQ or can't 'think outside the box' but because the answer is just too ridiculous or absurd). I was about to give an example but I shouldn't spoil it for those intending to purchase this game.

However, despite this let down, some of the riddles are in fact quite interesting, and in fact, a couple of the riddles made me laugh because it made me realise how silly I was for not thinking of that answer. Make no mistake about it, there are a handful of good riddles in this tin box. I have provided a few examples (without answers) in the pictures below.

In summary, if you'd like a solo challenge or want to share this with a couple of nerdy friends who like solving puzzles, please do give this a go - it really isn't that bad if you are that type of person (and in that respect, if you fit that mould, then age probably doesn't matter). But remember: it will only last a couple of plays at most. My score above reflects what I think most people (the typical consumer) would think of this game.

The Good:
  • Wide array of puzzles and riddles including brain teasers and mathematics questions. I found one of the algebraic questions quite challenging, and it certainly took me back to my high school days. Some of the brain teasers are quite interesting. But this must be qualified: see the negative points, especially those in red, below. 
  • About 115+ cards in total - each containing at least one puzzle to solve.
  • Suited for kids, teenagers or young adults who don't mind solving general-ability style problems - but age doesn't matter if you enjoy riddles.
  • I suppose it's a good tool to teach kids how to solve problems
  • Kind of cool to show your friends a card with a riddle on it (again if you are into that sort of thing)
  • Some of the answers are quite hilarious and they make you feel silly for not thinking outside the box

The Bad:
  • Poor replay value - not really a game. This is its main flaw.
  • Team play could theoretically work, but it does seem a bit strange to consider this as a team game - it feels more like you are asking everyone riddles.
  • Avoid if you don't like IQ puzzles obviously!
  • Some of the riddles are quite silly in the sense that they have answers that aren't logical or convincing; many of these answers are just simply disappointing and make little sense to a reasonable adult mind.  
  • Hits and misses - you'll have to sift through the cards to find the good ones.
  • Some riddles provided are merely reincarnations of existing or well-known classics.

What makes this game fun? 
If you are looking for a one-off challenge to test your brain and your nerdy friends, give this a shot. It isn't too bad if you are the type.

- 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)

There isn't much to show here.

Here is what the inside of the box looks like.

Here are what some of the cards - and arguably, some of the better riddles - look like:

Incidentally the top left riddle was the one I struggled with a lot - it involves some not-so-straightforward simultaneous equation solving.

Solo Play - Time Limits

If you play Solo, you must solve the puzzle in as many minutes as the number stated on the top of the card. So if the puzzle's rating is 3 Points you need to solve the problem in 3 minutes; if you don't you only score half the points (no matter how much you go over the time limit by).

Answers to the riddles are on the back of the cards. Some cards have bonus questions which can only be answered if you answer the initial question within the time limit. Correctly answered bonus questions award the player with 2 points.

Or you can just ignore all of this, like I did, and do your own thing....

Team Puzzling

The same timer guidelines apply as Solo Play but anyone can join in on the question asked.

Asian Cup 2015: Semi-Final Predictions

What a crazy round of football.

I'm actually really glad that two of my predictions fell over, putting the whole tournament into utter disarray. It's upsets as big as these that make a fool out of everyone (pundits, expert football commentators, myself etc) and remind you that no game is a 'safe game'.

That being said there have been fears that this Asian Cup could be riddled with match fixing, which is entirely possible because Asian countries are well known for such practices.

Semi-Final Predictions: Tragic Romantic

Semi-finals, courtesy of Wikipedia again
I have to confess that I can see nothing but an Australia-South Korea rematch, so my predictions are tainted with this bias. But I do want to discuss 2 topics in brief.

Upset possibilities: very real

If the upset is to happen, I reckon it would be in the first semi-final because South Korea were not entirely convincing against Uzbekistan. Iraq, of course, specialise in being underdogs given their victory at the 2007 Asian Cup against all odds.

South Korea will also be very familiar with this matchup, and can probably remember the smell of defeat in Malaysia 7.5 years ago....

2007 Asian Cup - thanks to Wikipedia

Tim Cahill

Courtesy of news.com.au at this hyperlink:

An upset could easily happen in the second semi-final too, because when it comes to scoring critical goals in tense matches (when chasing, trailing, or looking for the winner), Australia is a one-man team in the legendary Tim Cahill who seems to almost always produce when it matters the most. Of course Australia is not a literal one-man team in terms of defending, dribbling, passing, marking or setting up plays.

However, when it comes down to the crunch time, and a goal is desperately needed, no one can deny that Tim Cahill time and time again has to come to the rescue of the Socceroos. Even in the Kuwait match, it took a Cahill equaliser to steady the team's nerves. For the sake of Australian football and the qualification campaign for the FIFA World Cup 2018, I honestly hope this pattern changes for this semi-final.

Perhaps Australia need to win this Asian Cup now while they still have their talisman around with them. Furthermore, with Japan knocked out, it is obvious for everyone to see that this opportunity cannot be wasted.


Semi-final #1:
1-1 Penalty Shootout, South Korea to win.

Semi-final #2:
2-1 Australia, Australia to concede early.

What a reaction

More to come...

Andre Lim

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Snow Tails

A mad sled race through the Arctic circle.
Watch out for that tree!! (The huskies are difficult to control...)

Thank you to Sean for recommending this game to me in 2013 when I told him I wanted to get the ancient racing game Hare & Tortoise (1974), the first winner of the Spiel Des Jahres (1979). That game is even more 'mathsy' than Snow Tails, though I've still not played it yet.

Name:  Snow Tails (2008)

Designer: Lamont Brothers (Gordon and Fraser)

Publisher: Asmodee amongst others

Players: 2 to 5

Age: 10+

Time to play: Approximately 45+/- mins. Can be a drawn out game with everyone strategising and calculating speeds.

Price Range (AUD): About $55 + Shipping, making for a total of about $70 to $75? I see one site selling it for $120. All of these prices are ridiculous. I got mine for $60 in October 2013, which, in hindsight, was still somewhat expensive.

Availability: Definitely can be located online but there aren't as many listings for the game as I thought there would be. Should be in a few hobby stores but it could be on the backorder.

  • Racing!
  • Card management

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

7.6 out of 10. (Somewhat Great, interesting idea - See my Rating Scale)

I had a difficult time deciding a score for Snow Tails, but on balance, my conclusion is that it passes the "Great" game rank because of its interesting sled mechanics and the tension associated with overtaking your rivals.

Players race their sleds through a FULLY CUSTOMISABLE track, taking care not to collide with other sleds and the sides of the track! In certain situations, caution must be exercised when entering corners - if the player speeds over the speed limit designated for that corner, they will incur damage to their sled, which limits their hand size, hence reducing their future movement options. These perils of travel mentioned above, coupled with its competitive nature and sheer variety of tracks offered by the generous Lamont brothers, makes Snow Tails a great game.

My only complaint is the rather huge 'luck' factor (present in all card games of course) that makes it difficult for even a skilled gamer to negotiate - for example if your sled is stuck in a tight corner and is blocked by trees and other racers, sometimes you will inevitably be forced to take damage because your cards are just not right for the situation. But that's just a facet of the game you're going to have to deal with. This situation becomes even more annoying and unfair if you are coming last, and, if that portion of the track is congested, everyone else is blocking your way [see the example below under the heading 'Calculations of Speed and Drift, with an example']. Though the game does award a bonus/benefit directly proportionate to your position in the race, this is largely unhelpful in these aforementioned bottleneck scenarios.

Another aspect of the game that people might not like is the adding up and subtracting that goes with it - there's a lot of that because on each turn you are constantly monitoring and calculating your speed. In addition to that, the cards you play will influence to what degree your sled will navigate left and right (this is called Drift, which is a critical skill required to dodge other sleds and players).

If you can deal with those complaints, you have a nice (but perhaps stretched out) game waiting in store for you.

The Good:
  • Wide variety of tracks to assemble and customise!!
  • Interesting racing mechanics, particularly with adjusting the speed of your huskies as well as other features such as needing to slow down at corners and trailing racers getting a boost in speed if they play a certain combo
  • Strategic planning and foresight required, to an extent.
  • Related to the above, the concept of drift is interesting and critical to navigating around trees, corners and even cunning (or clueless!) drivers blocking your way.
  • Does feel a lot like a simulated race albeit in delayed stages. The nature of the game being played in turns does seem to detract from the live/real-time nature of an actual race, but perhaps that can't be helped since this is a game? Formula D is arguably no different, except in a different context. [I've played Formula D and it isn't bad - I can't make up my mind as to whether I really like that game]

The Bad:
  • Mathsy or mathematical to a degree for those who hate that sort of thing: you constantly have to calculate speed and plan your movement to avoid obstacles and opponents.
  • Easy to crash if your hand is bad - luck based (as are all card games)
  • Person in poll position or the lane in "first place" tends to have an unfair advantage on tricky tracks which can't be made up for with the bonus for racers that are trailing, particularly with areas where space is confined and congested.

What makes this game fun? 
Skilfully navigating your way through a tricky obstacle course by adjusting your speed and drift, whilst trying to beat your rivals to the finish line makes for an interesting challenge.

- 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)

Inside the Box

This game provides LOTS of racing track tiles for you to customise a long or short race. However some of the tiles are slightly repetitive - I wish they gave a bit more variety.


You can setup the track however you like. For example this is what a short/medium race might look like:

A forest of pine trees (uncompleted - just to show you the board) followed by a bend and a narrow corridor.

Everyone gets a board resembling a sled being pulled by a pair huskies and a their personal deck of cards matching their colour. This is Black's setup:

You will note that everyone starts off with 2 huskies each with an equal speed of 3. Furthermore, your brake speed is also set at 3 (at the bottom).

Everyone draws 5 cards from the deck.

How a Turn works
Play starts with the 'leader', the person in the number 1 lane to the far right (in the above setup, this is Green).

On your turn you do 3 actions:

1) Play 1 to 3 cards: The cards played must be of the same value. For example, you could play a lone 4; double 3's or triple 1's. You MUST play at least 1 card on your turn.

A maximum of up to two cards can played on the sled and one card  can be discarded (in addition to the two cards played on the sled, or, alternatively) to change the brake speed

See directly below for an example

2) Move sled: Once you play the cards you calculate two things:

Speed, which is the same thing as the number of spaces moved
Drift, which is the number of times your sled moves left or right.

You move accordingly.

3) Draw back your hand size to 5 cards

Calculations of Speed and Drift, with an example

Speed = The summed value of all the cards less the brake speed. This will tell you how many 'squares' your sled will move

Drift = The difference between one husky's speed value in relation to the other. The sled will move in the direction of the husky that is travelling FASTER (the one that has the higher speed value).

[I am told by Hari and Nimalan that this Drift calculation does not make sense from a Physics point of view - it should be the opposite in real life, apparently, not that I can really envisage it in my head. If this is true I can only say that the current rule as it stands is better because it is less confusing to the average person!]


Suppose that it is Black's turn and this is the situation:

As you can see the above path is fraught with difficulty and danger! The whole roadway is blocked with trees and, to make things worse, the Red, Green and Blue racers are blocking important spots!

However Black is slightly fortunate and has the perfect response:

Black plays two Fives; One on the right husky and she discards the other to change her Brake speed to 5.

Total Speed = 3 + 5 - 5 (brake speed) = 3. This means Black will move a total of 3 squares.

Total Drift = 5-3 = 2 to the right (since the right husky is moving faster).

Thus Black, currently coming last, makes an incredible move to tie it up with first place.

Black's sled moves diagonally to the right twice (this is the consequence of Drift) and then 1 space forward to make a total of three moves.

Speed Limits and Crashing

If you crash into an obstacle (tree or sled) or the side of the track, you must take a dent card. This reduces the size of your hand by 1 permanently!

For each unit of speed you are over the speed limit (which occurs during each turn of the bend), you must take 1 dent card.

Hence if  the speed limit was 3 and you were doing a speed of 5, you'd take 5-3 = 2 dent cards.

Bonus sled movement for balanced sleds

There is a special rule that says if your huskies are travelling at the same speed, your sled gets an optional bonus speed equal to whatever your position in the race is.

Thus, this bonus is most effective if you are coming last in 5th place as you get a +5 movement. It is less effective (but still useful and important) if you are coming first.

You either take ALL or NONE of the bonus - you can't take it partially.

Example of Bonus sled movement

In this below scenario Red is coming 4th.

Blue is 1st as they are closest to the inside corner of the turn in question - Black is second; Third is Green

He has to be careful of the speed limit of 3 - if he goes over the speed limit he will take dent cards which will handicap or incapacitate him for the rest of the race (as he'll have less cards to draw from).

This is his current sled situation:

Luckily he has a great hand to cover this. He plays triple 1 like so:

Total Speed = 1 + 1 - 1 = 1

However, he gets a bonus of + 4 since he is coming 4th

Therefore Red's Total Speed = 1 + 4 = 5

He moves up 5 squares accordingly like so, taking out first decisively (for now):


Winning is not just whoever crossed the line first; it is whoever passes the finishing line by the furthest distance on the same round of turns as the first person who finished first.

For example, assume that in a five-player game the turn order is A, B, C, D and E in that order.

B crosses the line first. C and E are unable to cross the line on their turns but D crosses the line. Racer A does not take another turn as her turn already occurred in the same round of turns as when B crossed the line (ABCDE in that order).

Therefore whoever between B and D is furthest across from the finishing line wins.

If there are ties then whoever finishes closer to the chequered flag wins.

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Asian Cup 2015 - Knockout Stage Predictions

What an interesting statistic this tournament has produced: the most number of consecutive wins at a football tournament (Regional or World Cup). The record is ongoing, currently sitting at 24 games in a row (ie. all matches in the Group Stage) ending without a draw! It has comfortably displaced the old record of 18 games in a row set at the 1930 World Cup in Uruguay.

I should note that I have watched most of the teams play and I think the quality of football hasn't really been that great, with only the favourites (and those who have progressed to the knockout stages) standing out - something so obvious it probably goes without saying.

The Draw as it stands

Looks like I got 2 out of 4 Groups correct in my predictions whilst in the other 2 I failed to see China taking the place of Saudi Arabia (Group B) and the UAE taking the place of Qatar (Group C)

Knockout Stage Predictions:

South Korea v Uzbekistan (22 Jan, 6.30pm AEDT)

Should be a close match, given that Uzbekistan breathed down the neck of the Koreans in the previous World Cup Qualification campaign. South Korea should take it based on experience and form but I would love to see an upset here.

Prediction: South Korea 2-1, though I would like Uzbekistan to win.

[As a sidenote, in one sense, it's a real shame that the Socceroos couldn't secure a draw in their final group match to top Group A. I am sure that the tournament organisers assumed that the Socceroos would top their group, hence arranging for the Winner of Group A to play at Melbourne and, should they get that far, Sydney twice. This would surely have generated a lot of interest and hype, and therefore ticket sales (I assume that the stadia are larger in Melbourne and Sydney), if the home team was playing but alas South Korea stole the show. I read that many Socceroos fans are selling their tickets to this Quarterfinal!]

Iran vs Iraq  (23 Jan, 5.30pm AEDT)

Iran have a good record against their neighbour rivals so should take this one out. They have a good defensive lineup too.

Prediction: Iran 1-0

China vs Australia (22 Jan, 9.30pm AEDT)

Not an easy match for the Socceroos. I think Australia will be hurting from the last match; we will want to make quick amends after our loss to South Korea.

In terms of setting up goals, Australia played quite well against South Korea. However in terms of their man-marking for the conceded goal and their execution/finishing of chances, they were left wanting. Australia's defence was always going to be the problem. I expect slight improvements in these areas to be enough for Australia to scrape past China.

Prediction: Australia 2-1, with the Socceroos to concede an early goal?

TV ratings should soar for obvious reasons?

Japan vs UAE (23 Jan, 8.30pm AEDT)

Japan should edge the UAE comfortably given the talent in their squad, even though UAE likes to play forward through Omar Abdulrahman.

Prediction: Japan 2-0

All my choices, as you can see, have unashamedly been very safe and predictable: I look forward to being wrong.

More to come...

Andre Lim

Monday 12 January 2015

Forbidden Desert

Pandemic's cousin, with a couple of smart variations.

At a conceptual level, more or less the same thing though.

Name: Forbidden Desert (2013)

Designer: Matt Leacock (Same creator as Pandemic)

Publisher: Gamewright, amongst others

Players: 2 to 5

Age: 10+

Time to play: 45 minutes or so

Price Range (AUD): $40 to $50 (with one even selling for $80 including shipping but clearly that's not worth it). I got mine for $27 sometime in July of 2013.

Availability: Quite widely available online and should be in many hobby game stores.

  • Cooperative/Teamwork
  • Survival
  • More 'Family' than most?

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

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

The basic premise here is that your group's plane has just crash landed and you are all stranded in the middle of the desert - to escape you will need to find all 4 pieces to a 'legendary flying machine' scattered throughout the sands before you run out of water.

In summary this is a nice cooperative game to have in one's collection - but the important question is this: Should you buy this game if you already own Pandemic?

I think the answer is a tentative "Yes, maybe, if you are a keen collector; but no if you aren't a huge fan of cooperative games."

To be honest, the only real attraction to Forbidden Desert are its interesting components, the nifty sandstorm mechanic, and the added action of excavating or flipping tiles (much like Forbidden Island, I am told - a game I did not get because I heard it was somewhat similar to and a simplified version of Pandemic).  The sandstorm mechanic is pretty ingenious, in that it causes the whole landscape to change (including tiles that your characters are standing on!) constantly on each turn. This is what makes the game interesting and unpredictable. Apart from what I have mentioned above, it retains essentially the same cooperative flavour as Pandemic, except I would say the latter is a lot more serious in tone, feel and theme. I think I slightly prefer Pandemic over the novelty this game has to offer.

However, I would not rate one more highly than the other - they are mostly the same to me. Again, like most cooperative games, this one also suffers from that problem when playing with lots of people, namely, that it feels like only 1 or 2 dominant people are doing all the talking and everyone else (or at least those too timid or polite to voice their opinions) is just following along. Obviously this isn't true of every game or group, but for that reason, it does tend to make a better 2 to 3 player game.

I enjoy the artwork this game has to offer, particularly with its desert theme and the plane's physical components provided. The downside though is that I feel that this game may be a bit too simplistic or childish in theme to those who are after something more sinister; so perhaps on that basis this is a good game for a relaxed atmosphere or a family occasion. That being said, the game is incredibly difficult and quite hard to win if you don't plan your actions well as a group.

The Good:
  • Unique sandstorm mechanic, involving the movement and reshuffling of tiles which changes the whole landscape over which the players move. I really like this concept and I think it makes the game great.
  • Like Pandemic, some cool characters with unique abilities - but not as abundant or diverse as that of Pandemic.
  • Interesting theme, feel and artwork but I think I prefer Pandemic's theme of saving the world from a disease
  • Components are cool (see below) - airplane parts are provided with the game that can be assembled onto an actual aircraft-like device. 
  • Game operates on a life system in which players lose life (ie. water levels) when the sun beats down and the idea of clipping or marking these levels is also pretty interesting.
  • Challenging and hard to win, requires cooperative effort - even at lower difficulty levels

The Bad:
  • Whilst there are some differences explained above and below, it's not too different from Pandemic in terms of its idea and general cooperative nature
  • Can be really hard to win - requires intense strategy and cooperation right down to the wire. For example, you'll need to not only decide which character roles are appropriate, but arranging the order in which these roles sit is also key to winning (certain character powers work well together, one after the other - ideally you'll want to maximise their usage and efficiency instead of waiting one whole round for it to reach a particular character's turn again)
  • Somewhat childish in nature; nowhere near as serious in its themes as Pandemic. Seems a bit too fanciful to be randomly searching the desert for pieces to a flying machine no one has ever heard of.
  • If you don't like cooperative games don't get this.
  • Perhaps not necessary to get if you already have Pandemic - it's much too similar; Hanabi would be a better option.

What makes this game fun? 
The unpredictable nature of the sandstorm mechanic and a search through the desert for your escape route home makes for a casual (but somewhat enjoyable) cooperative game.

- 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 the inside of the tin box looks like:

Character Cards

Everyone chooses a character card from these below, or they can be dealt randomly:

Everyone also receives a clip, which they attach to their card (as seen on the Explorer card above) to indicate their life points (representing water levels). Everyone starts out with their maximum life points.

The Water Carrier, most notably and logically, has the most lives at 6. The arguably more 'powerful' characters (ie the Climber and Archeologist) have only 4 lives.

Set the difficulty (sand storm) level

The Sand Storm meter decides the difficulty level. It changes depending on whether you are playing with 2 to 5 players.

For example, a 3 player game on Elite difficulty would start off like this:

This meter determines how many Red Sand Storm cards (see below) are drawn at the end of a player's turn, which in turn affects how much sand and the number of times in which the tiles are shifted around.

Set up the tiles/'board'

The tiles are set out at random in a 5x5 grid - with a hole in the middle, used to symbolise the eye of a sand storm.

On the bottom left, right and middle are oasis tiles - 2 of which are real oases and 1 is a mirage/fake. These were randomly placed but I am just pointing them out.

The crash site appears on the top left of the board, in which all players' pawns start from.

Two draw decks should be placed on the side; one a Red sand storm draw deck and the other a Blue equipment/gear draw deck.

Plane Pieces..

..are put to one side. I'll deal with this later.

Draw Decks: Cards

The Blue deck is pretty straightforward. Some tiles, when excavated or flipped over, give you cards with special abilities.

For example, the secret water reserve, on the bottom right corner, gives everyone standing on the same tile as the player who plays the card 2 life points.

The Red Deck has 3 types of cards:

1) Sun Beats Down: which reduces everyone's life by 1, unless you are standing in a tunnel or have a special Blue card that protects you.
2) Storm Picks Up: which increases the meter on the Sand Storm meter, which will cumulatively increase the number of Red Cards that need to be drawn.
3) Wind movement (not shown in picture): I will show these later but these are the cards that increase the amount of sand piled upon tiles and tiles being shifted

Victory Conditions

You win if you locate and collect all 4 necessary plane parts throughout the desert AND find your way to the Launch Pad, which is one of the tiles that needs to be excavated.

You lose if:

1) ANY one of the team members dies of thirst (runs out of water life points)
2) There are no more sand tile markers and one more sand tile marker needs to be added at the end of a turn (see below)

Pile of sand markers

3) You run out of time - after a certain number of turns, which varies depending on the difficulty level and the number of people playing, the sand storm meter reaches the Skull symbol (meaning the storm has proven too strong).

On your turn..

You can perform up to 4 actions on your turn.

Each of these actions may be repeated where possible and done up to 4 times:

1) Move one tile away
Moving is straight forward - in the example below red has taken up 3 actions in her turn by moving 3 tiles away.

2) Excavate or flip over one of the tiles to get a reward or a clue to a part [see below for more info on Excavated Tiles]

For example, red below excavates the tile by flipping it over. It reveals a gear symbol, meaning she can draw from the blue equipment card deck alluded to above.

3) Remove Sand from an adjacent tile or the tile you are standing on:

This is important for two reasons:
a) It prevents one of the losing conditions from coming true where sand tiles run out (as sand removed goes back into the pile) and
b) If a tile is blocked by 2 or more tiles it cannot be travelled over; thus removing sand tiles is key to accessing certain areas of the board.

4) Pick up a Plane Part - this is part of the Victory Conditions [see below on how to locate Plan Parts]

Moving tiles according to the Wind Cards

After a person does their turn, it is time to draw Sand Storm Cards. I mentioned above that there were 3 types of such cards; I now explain what the Wind Cards do as these are the most common types of Sand Storm Cards drawn.

Suppose this is the first Wind Card drawn:

This means that two tiles must shift downwards towards the hole in the board - the arrow on the card indicates movement towards the sandstorm eye like so:

Sand is also laid on each tile that has been moved.

I won't show you more pictures, but for this particular 3 player game, according to the sand meter above, two more cards are drawn and if they are wind cards, the tiles are moved accordingly.

Then, the next player in order does their turn.

Excavated Tiles

When you excavate a tile, there are a few surprises you can find:

You can receive a clue (top left tile); the Launch Pad (top right tile); a chance to draw from the Blue Gear deck (bottom left and right tiles); and a tunnel (bottom right).

Tunnels are useful as they shield you from the sun and you can travel directly from one tunnel to another.

Of the 3 Oasis tiles, two tiles contain water (which allow all members to immediately replenish 2 water and lets the Water Carrier take water from) and 1 is a mirage with no water.

Locating Plane Parts 

You need to find 2 clues per plane piece that exists, as they provide you with the exact coordinates of where the piece is located. One piece will show you the X-Coordinates; the other will show you the Y-Coordinates.

For example in the above scenario the Red piece would appear there, at the intersection between the imaginary lines given by each of those excavated clue tiles.

Tuesday 6 January 2015

2015 Asian Cup

I take yet another momentary detour and look at the upcoming Asian Cup, due to start this Friday at 8pm.

Here are my tips for the Group Stage:

Group A 
1. South Korea
2. Australia
3. Oman
4. Kuwait

Despite the hype, I think Australia will come second in this group - scraping past Oman. Home ground advantage being the difference and making up for Australia's recent poor form.

Group B 
1. Uzbekistan
2. Saudi Arabia
3. China
4. North Korea

Though, in truth, I would like to see China escape this group, to get the whole of Asia incensed

Group C 
1. Iran
2. Qatar
3. UAE
4. Bahrain

A close battle for 2nd between the UAE and Qatar, with Qatar very recently triumphing in the 2014 Gulf Cup of Nations despite 3 miserly draws in the Group Stage. This very recent tournament experience arguably triumphs over the UAE's higher FIFA ranking (and tournament pot seeding).

However there is the distinct possibility that the UAE didn't field their strongest team so as to not reveal their full hand for the Asian Cup; but this is rather unlikely as I am told that the Gulf Nations take the Gulf Cup of Nations quite seriously.

Group D 
1. Japan
2. Iraq
3. Jordan
4. Palestine

Another close battle for second.

Iraq recently came bottom of its group in its Qualification for the 2014 World Cup with Jordan coming 3rd. However Iraq are previous champions and it must be remembered that Jordan only play very well at home - and they are now away from home (and of course, Iraq is also playing away from home - but arguably I think they will cope better). Notwithstanding this, yet another qualification must be said against Iraq, and that is the fact that, from memory, they are rebuilding their squad with younger players.

Experience to triumph?

Quarter Final Predictions 

I highlight all my predicted winners.

South Korea [Winner Group A] v Saudi Arabia [Runner-up Group B]
Iran [Winner Group C] v Iraq [Runner-up Group D]

Uzbekistan [Winner Group B] v Australia [Runner-up Group A]
Japan [Winner Group D] v Qatar [Runner-up Group C]

Semi-Final Predictions

South Korea v Iran
Australia v Japan
(although Japan isn't as good against physical teams like Australia)

Final Prediction

Iran v Japan

After watching the teams play, and when the actual teams go through to the knockout stages, I will re-do my predictions accordingly :)

I think Australia are a bit overhyped at the moment and, whilst I would very much like them to win, I think we will be caught out at the back conceding too many goals.


Andre Lim