Wednesday 25 February 2015

Video Game Music: Crash Bandicoot

It's been a productive month - I've managed to get out a few lists that I've been meaning to get out in Video Game Music. Unfortunately I've yet to touch upon any Final Fantasy games - chiefly out of procrastination because I know that that will take a lot of effort as there are MANY themes I wish to discuss!!

However, here is something arguably just as good:

Mark Mothersbaugh is one of my favourite composers - it, therefore, is only fitting that he composed most of the music in one of my all-time favourite franchises in Crash Bandicoot. In terms of quality, (in this series and not just Crash Bandicoot I), Mark's work is consistent, excellent and always has the ability to enhance the theme and environment in each level of Crash's adventures.

This soundtrack to the first game is glittering with gems and, unlike many albums to video games, most of the tracks (as opposed to only a handful of them) are really cool to listen to. It is quite difficult to spot a bad track. But here is where I must just choose a few..

Favourite Music [Ranked List]:

Taken from here.

1) Heavy Machinery: This is definitely my favourite level music. The chaotic yet rhythmic sounds in this piece mimic the livelihood and mechanical aura of an engine room. I can't get enough of its qwerky and funky tune: You think of steam blowing, pistons pumping, gears moving and electrical gizmos all "pulling their weight" for the greater mechanical whole. There is also something slightly eccentric underlying all of this, which is probably why I like it so much. Mothersbaugh takes his time to build up the tune with jibs and jabs of what I can only describe as a mechatronic spectacle.

2) The Great Hall (Alternate Ending music): This is a very suitable theme for ending credits (and it is used as such in the game from memory). The tune provides great closure to the game yet, strangely and perhaps contradictorily at the same time, the music somehow also hints at the start of another adventure. The melody is upbeat, light-hearted and we are given the impression that all our heroes (and reformed villains) can go on to live happily ever after without a care in the world. This cheery mood and positive vibes are such that they could even be described as bordering on absurd, wacky or overly optimistic. A great theme.
The Great Hall: A level (and alternate escape/ending with Tawna) only properly accessible if you collected all the white gems to every level - no easy task as you had to get.

3) Ripper Roo Boss: A frenzied and crazy melody. The almost too jovial and happy-go-lucky tune, coupled with the rhythmic beat that alludes to the tonnes of TNT that Ripper Roo is detonating in this boss level, makes for a maddening and psychotic encounter. The music encapsulates the loopy personality of Ripper Roo very well - almost as if there isn't a care in his world as he sets off those bombs.

Taken from here.

4) Pinstripe Boss : A set of sinister beats and xylophone notes, especially coupled with the interruption of that frightful and heart-sinking piano, makes for a cool boss showdown with Pinstripe Potoroo.

5) The Lost City, Sunset Vista: Theme to a couple of Koala Kong's levels. Fantastic music and build up - the steady native drumming, African xylophone-like sounds and gonging coupled with the indigenous, probably South American, noises is conducive to a level that makes players very nervous about their prospects of survival in this tropical/runic level.

6) Crash Bandicoot Main Theme (Map Theme/N Sanity Beach): A sense of tropical adventure coupled with some cheery charm, here's a world map and menu theme fitting for those ready for a journey around the Wumpa Islands.

Taken from here.

7) Hog Wild, Whole Hog: The sheer madness of riding on a hog - of all creatures - through these levels is encapsulated very well by this looney and almost western rodeo-like happy-go-lucky melody. The sudden "springs" and strange "bursts" of noises reflect the obstacles that suddenly "pop" out at you in this level.

8) Koala Kong Boss; Deep bass lines coupled with a serious mood make for music fit for a tricky showdown in this volcanic duel.

9) Dr. Neo Cortex: Almost a bit too slow but a very cool build up to the 32 seconds mark, where things start getting epic. Fitting boss finale music.


Toxic Waste: Fitting tense music to a very tricky level - those bouncing barrels are a killer to dodge as you can't perceive their depth! <--- have a look at how good this guy is.

Generator Room: A strange, ambient and "floaty" piece of music intertwined with a bit of electric guitar. Have a listen to see what you think.

Road to Nowhere, The High Road: Tip-toeing through half-broken planks on a bridge that barely holds your weight? Sounds about right.

The Great Gate, Native Fortress: More tribal rite of passage music? Excellent.

Upstream, The Creek: Encapsulates the atmospheric and calm walk through a somewhat perilous stream very well.

Papu Papu Boss: Music to the easiest boss of the game. A surprising variety of jazz, romping and rhythmic music (I've never stayed long enough in the level to hear that part!) is incorporated into the tribal fanfare.

More to come...

Andre Lim

Sunday 22 February 2015

Video Game Music: Street Fighter IV

The cover of Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition - the one I have. It is superceded by Ultra Street Fighter IV.

Street Fighter has been with me since I was a kid. My earliest memory was of my dad taking me to the "penny arcade" where I would watch other older kids, or adults, play various versions of the franchise on the joystick pad. To this day, the use of super powers and special moves never ceases to amaze me.

Obtained from here.
Zangief v Ryu never gets old

In particular, the fact that each fighter has their own unique fighting ability - and must often adapt to the style of the opposition - is quite unique. I especially enjoy watching players use their super powers to great effect in close contests (or where someone is coming back from behind to win).

Being a cult fighting game, the music of Street Fighter has its history and many of the theme songs are steeped in modern antiquity - much of the character's themes in Street Fighter IV, for example, are reused themes that have been polished or recycled from older editions of the theme.

I will endeavour to list my favourite Street Fighter IV [including Super Street Fighter: Arcade Edition] music below, and give a brief description of them where I can.

Please bear in mind that I do NOT condone, endorse or support any of the comments, links to other videos or YouTube channels from the videos hyperlinked on this page or on any page of my site.

I only link these videos for convenience so that you can find the music - I do not enjoy the rubbish put up by certain other people (in particular offensive comments or hate speech etc) and I also do NOT support the bootlegging or copyright infringement of any music.

Favourite Music 
(Ranked List, click on the hyperlinks to listen to the music):

1) Training Stage: By far the best song in Street Fighter IV.

This theme has a great "elite" feel to it, in the sense that it gives everyone the false impression/fantasy that they have a fighting chance of beating the world's best. It is difficult to put this theme into words.

It is almost like the music encapsulates a mesmerising warm up match between two pros who can't wait to show off their skills to one another, and the climax just keeps building as they showcase an increasing amount of unbelievable moves and "special weapons".

Viper taking on Blanka in the Training Stage level.

The best part definitely comes at 1:40 where the music goes up a notch - the best way I can put it is by repeating what one YouTube comment said: "the song of the top level Street Fighter players".

2) Super Street Fighter IV: Main Menu Screen Type B: What an opening. I believe this theme comes out after you exit arcade/training/versus mode to come back to the menu. It has this awesome build up at the beginning (a rhythm/beat that repeats all the way through) that makes you feel like you are on the verge of participating in the fight of your life. Riveting stuff.

3) Guile's Theme: This theme needs no introduction as it has even achieved cult meme status. When you hear it, you do feel like you can achieve anything with this music blasting away in the background - no matter how much the odds are stacked against you. Electric/synth guitar coupled with rock beats gives this classic theme the kick and passion it deserves.

4) Zangief's Theme: A smooth jazz-like rendition of Zangief's theme, with buzzy beats, bass notes and highs that seem totally at odds with the menacing figure of Zangief. I really like this jovial theme and particularly like the way the theme builds around the upbeat and melodic chorus. It probably reflects Zangief's fighting style of constantly using "footsies" and jumps to dodge projectiles, and eventually slowly creeping up on the opponent to deal massive punishment (as represented by the chorus).

5) Festival at the Old Temple: A mix of oriental, almost frantic, fiddling coupled with a modern beat creates a superb melody. Consequently, this is my favourite stage, after Training Stage, to battle to (with Snow Rail Yard coming after this stage)! It makes for great environmental music in the context of the hustle and bustle of the filled streets and market stalls  seen in the background. 
By the way, the above video is one of my favourite battles to watch, a great matchup between arguably the best Dhalsim in Japan and a good Abel player. The festival theme also enhances the excitement =)

Zangief v Zangief at Snowy Rail Yard - taken from here.

6) Snowy Rail Yard (Russia) Theme: The dance-beat intertwined with the Russian folk melody makes for a very cool theme that gives Zangief the homeground advantage he deserves. Not quite as inspirational as Guile's theme though, but very cool. The theme makes playing this level quite fun - but I still like Festival at the Old Temple better.

7) Dhalsim's Theme: The serenity and peacefulness of Oriental India is brought to the foreground in this piece. There is sense of mystery about this theme, though it is not in the dark sense - to the contrary the music is very bright and majestic, almost as if it is hinting at Dhalsim's jaw-dropping fighting ability.

Supposedly that's Bruce Lee on the right, with Fei Long in his alternate costume on the left.

8) Fei Long's Theme: There is almost a sense of tragedy embedded within or underlying this theme. And it makes sense. Because the character Fei Long is actually a tribute to the great martial artist Bruce Lee. Hence while the music does make you feel pumped up and ready for a desperate challenge, there is this undertone of great loss and sorrow. A fitting tribute for a famous martial artist.

9) Balrog's Theme: The phrase I am thinking of is "Scat singing" although this may not be the best way to describe the verballing going on here. The music itself provides a nice disco rhythm, but it feels too strange to be Balrog's theme. This theme gives Balrog a bit of swagger, style and rhythm whereas Balrog to me feels like more of a ruffian and gangster who just enjoys punching people up. When I play Street Fighter, I tend to use Balrog or Deejay as I find it easiest controlling them.

Notable Music:

I don't own a copy of Ultra Street Fighter IV (I may well do in the near future) but one nifty theme I'd like to point out in that latest edition is the Mad Gear Hideout Stage which I am told is also played in Street Fighter x Tekken. It sounds like a frantic temple scramble.


Andre Lim

Saturday 21 February 2015

Video Game Music: Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

Sly Cooper is probably the lesser known counterpart of Crash Bandicoot. The first game, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, came out in late 2002.

Can I just say that Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus is a fantastic platformer that I'd highly recommend to anyone who was (and is) a fan of Crash Bandicoot. It will feel a bit strange at first but you will likely get into it. Whilst I have not finished the Sly Collection yet, I think I enjoy the series a whole lot more than Crash Bandicoot because of its unique artwork, intimate band of characters and general narrative and theme.

What makes the first game exciting is the Fiendish Five itself, the five bosses of the game, who each have their cool level and theme going on.

I don't have much favourite music to offer here but I will point out some notable pieces along the way.

All music here, I am told, is composed by Ashif Hakik who did a great job.

Favourite music, in ranked order: 
[Click on hyperlink in title to listen to song on YouTube]

1) Bentley Comes Through: "I'm the best! No code can stand before me!!"

This is the level where Bentley has to break the code to save Sly in the gas chamber. Importantly, it's also a significant, and kind of random, level because it is the first time the player controls Bentley (a computer geek not used to action) in the Sly series - hence Bentley comes through!!!

The Sly Collection HD version sounds better I think but this is all I could find.

This was a difficult level.
Picture courtesy of

2) Last Call/ Day At The Races/ Muggshot Battle: This is the boss theme to the second boss in Sly Cooper and the music to the race levels.

3) Two to Tango: After about thirty + seconds, if you listen carefully this has a similar if not the same background rhythm as Last Call. This is the level in the second world of the game (Sunset Snake Eyes - Casino World) where Carmelita Fox tries to shoot you as you complete the level. This theme has a great entry.

Notable music (unranked):

Police HQ/Hideout: This sounds a lot better in the game than it does here because it blends with the environment quite well.

This plays when you decide which world/episode/member of the Fiendish Five you want to visit. It has this ominous feel, especially as the game progresses. When you reach World 3, you get a sneak peak at World 4's design and the figure of Panda Fu looks very imposing indeed as this theme plays in the background. When you reach World 4 and get a sniff of World 5 at the Hideout, Clockwerk's figure looks equally as formidable.

A Strange Reunion/Final Battle: Clockwerk's boss theme. This was quite an epic fight because of the way Clockwerk (stylised: СLФСКWeЯК) had been introduced - as a jealous, angry, spiteful owl seeking vengeance on the Cooper family. So  ruthless and evil villain he is, that he turned his organic body parts into robotic pieces so that he would stand the test of time and live to defeat all the Cooper family.

A Deadly Dance (Mz. Ruby boss battle): Aside the horrible voice acting, this boss battle was notable for being rhythmic in the sense that the player had to press buttons at the right timing, in tune with the music, to beat the boss. It was the most difficult boss behind Clockwerk.

The notable part of the song starts at 2:48.

Crazy level.
Taken from here:

Piranha Lake/Down Home Cooking: Hill billy madness. This is played in a level where roosters appear with bombs. Enough said.

Murray's Big Gamble: Murray is the joker hippopotamus who runs around like a madman on certain levels, whilst Sly tries to protect him by shooting enemies that try to approach him.

Murray is a hilarious character's_Big_Gamble
A Perilous Ascent: Panda Fu's overworld level theme. Very atmospheric. Even if you didn't play this game you can clearly tell it's set in the mountains in some Oriental region.

Of course, I have probably missed something here but I reserve the right to come back and change anything here =)


Andre Lim

Friday 13 February 2015

Asian Cup 2015; Russia 2018 Qualifiers and Cricket World Cup Reflections

My "chief photographer", yes, my mum, has gone overseas so I have been limited to 3 board/party/card game reviews per month [compare this tally with last year where I averaged about 5 games per month]. Hopefully I can speed this up when she gets back, but to be honest, I'm not really in a hurry as my collection growth has slowed down considerably (especially as I now know what kinds of games I am after).

In the meantime, I would like to spend a bit of time on a few miscellaneous things. First, I will revisit the Asian Cup 2015 and the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers (by upcoming I mean in about 4 months' time). But I will also hopefully get atop other things that I've been meaning to get on to, particularly video game music.

Goal Asia's Asian Cup 2015 Team of the Tournament

I actually think that, bar the defence, this is actually a solid team on the world stage. It's not a great team, but it is competitive. seems to have just picked players who made it to the Semi-final, which is not really a fair criteria.

Here's a small list of some notable players I think deserve to be in the picture, or at least sitting on the bench:

- Ahmed Khalil (UAE)

Khalil always seemed to be dangerous in the games he played. But to be fair, the 3 strikers depicted above are probably a class above Khalil. He would be a good bench player I think.

- Keisuke Honda (Japan)

Honda played fairly well this tournament - he had a few misses in the group matches but apart from that and his penalty shootout miss (a different proposition to a normal penalty) he did quite well. He might arguably be a better fit than Ki, but I suppose Ki is there because he is more of a central midfielder who marshalls the ball into the right areas (ie, he isn't completely attacking minded - he gives the team its stability and heartbeat).

- Reza Ghoochannejhad (Iran)

I really like Ghoochannejhad. I think he's more of an impact player, one who can make that critical goal happen when you need it the most - he demonstrated this in the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers and this Asian Cup, scoring last-minute goals at least twice.

Japanese defenders?
The Japanese defended well this tournament bar that one goal conceded. I think that deserves a big mention, although some would argue that they had the easiest group. Therefore, I would suggest that one or two of their defenders could take the place of those mentioned here - but that is debatable and I don't really want to get into that as I am not overly familiar with them. However I will state quite clearly that I think Cha Du-Ri deserves his spot.

FIFA Asian Rankings: February 2015

A look at the rankings of the Asian teams post-Asian Cup 2015 reveals some interesting concepts.

Taken from FIFA website

1. Australia jumped a massive 37 places. This was, at least by my quick count, the second biggest move behind Equatorial Guinea, who jumped 69 places after their Africa Cup of Nations performance.

2. It will be extremely important for Australia to stay in the top 4 in Asia [currently Iran, South Korea, Japan, Oz] over the next 2-3 years during the World Cup Qualifying Campaign for Russia 2018.

This is because Round 3 of the World Cup Qualifying Campaign for Asia will involve the Top 2 teams in Asia being seeded into a "Pot A" and the next 2 teams are seeded into Pot B. 1 Team is picked from each pot.

So long as Australia are in the top 4 teams, they will only have to play 1 of those 4 teams. It would be disastrous having to play 2 of 4 strong teams (eg. Iran and Japan) if Australia were ranked 5th in Asia or lower. It is, of course, better to be in Pot A as Pot A has a chance of drawing a "weaker strong" team in Pot B. This assumes that between Iran, Japan and South Korea there is a weak link - it is arguable that South Korea is that weak link in terms of consistently producing strong performances.

(Of course, the above thoughts assume that the same format as previous years will still hold for these upcoming World Cup Qualifiers)

It seems unlikely that the traditional top 3 of Iran, South Korea and Japan will be overthrown.

3. If you think about it, interestingly, Japan and Iran didn't lose any games (in normal or extra time) at the Asian Cup 2015that's why their rankings are still so high. They each won 3 Group games and drew their knockout game - hence why they still have so many points (you still get points for losing a penalty shootout as it's still considered a draw).

4. On that note, Japan only conceded one goal in the whole tournament - yet they got knocked out almost solely because of that one goal. Amazing.

5. For the time being, in terms of the second round of World Cup Qualification for the AFC, all that matters is that Australia are in the top 10 teams in Asia (as there are 5 Pots, each with 10 teams - being in the 1st pot of 10 means you avoid the other strong guns which is critical as only 1 team per group qualifies automatically). This looks unlikely to change before the draw for the second round of qualifying on 11 April 2015. Jordan is currently sitting at number 10.

However, in the long-term, these overall rankings are likely to shift over the next two years as the AFC Qualifiers heat up. Despite their current rankings, I would really like to see UAE, Uzbekistan or China scrape through to the World Cup (not at Australia's expense).

6. Speaking of underdogs and upsets, I do sincerely hope that some "Asian minnows", especially those playing in the first round of World Cup Qualifying, can break out from that status. For example, how long do India or China have to wait before they can claim the powerhouse titles they so arguably "deserve" (based on population)?

ICC Cricket World Cup 2015

Australia's time to shine again as they are co-hosts?

Not that I am a betting person, but here's the order of odds to win Cricket World Cup (just to give you an idea of who is strong and who isn't as evaluated by the bookmakers before the tournament kicks off): 


Australia $2
South Africa $3
NZ $5
England $10

India $9/10/11
Sri Lanka $11
Pakistan $18
West Indies $25 

Bangladesh $100
Zimbabwe and Ireland $500
Afghanistan $1000
Scotland $2000
UAE $3000
NZ look like decent value for money, being joint hosts and a dark horse of sorts.

Oddschecker tells me that the most popular bets are:

South Africa (about 40% of all bets)
Australia (about 20%)
NZ (15%)
UAE (10%)

England (5%)


I can't believe that 10% of all bets so far have been on the UAE LOL.

As my dad says, if you bet $1 on the UAE, Scotland or Afghanistan, you may as well just give it to charity. That may be true but I do recall the odds of Costa Rica topping their difficult World Cup 2014 Group being quite high ($70 or so?) but I suppose that was a much easier feat compared to winning the whole thing.

That's all for the time being. Hopefully I'll get Word on the Street, a fantastic game, out in a week or two.

Andre Lim

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Potato Man

Potato man!

With a name and cover like that, what else is there to say to get you interested?

Zoch advertises this game as follows: "Following an old proverb often the dumbest farmers have the biggest potatoes. Superhero “Potato Man”, however, decided to end this inequality. Starched like a potato he brakes away from the rest of the field to save the most enslaved conks. Therefore, tasty little potatoes are the most treasured in this trick-taking game..."

Name: Potato Man (2013)

Designer: Victor Boden

Publisher: Zoch-Verlag

Players: 2 to 5

Age: 10+

Time to play: 40 mins

Price Range (AUD): $20 to $30 (Lower end of this price range is slightly high - but alright)

Availability: Not exactly rare but somewhat hard to find - can certainly be found online with a bit of searching.

  • Novelty 
  • Trick-taking and Trumps (Compare with Sticheln and Diamonds)
  • Card
  • Random

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

6.4+/- out of 10. (An alright and somewhat interesting but unusual trick-taking game - See my Rating Scale)

If you enjoy trick-taking games like Bridge, Hearts, 500, Spades etc (as I very much do) - you may be interested in this game. But the key word is may. I honestly can't guarantee it, because the game itself is a bit strange. I do quite like its novelty and what it aims to do but I feel like Potato Man falls short in a couple of important respects.

Potato Man has an interesting concept. There are 4 suits or colours. Each colour has a specified range of values. For example, the Red suit has the highest range with values 5 to 18. Thus, the Red Suit contains the most powerful cards. The Yellow suit on the other hand has the lowest range of values, from 1 to 13. The Blue and Green Suits are somewhere in-between. The higher the number, the stronger the card. A value of 7 for example will beat a value of 6.

Now, Potato Man rewards players for winning tricks with suits that are 'harder to win with'. Thus, winning a trick with the Yellow suit is quite hard as the values in that suit are low and tend to be dominated by other suits.

For example, if you win a trick with the Yellow suit you get 4 points. If you win a trick with the strongest suit, the Red suit, you only get 1 point.

Essentially, the game does not reward you well when you are expected to win. In this respect, Potato Man does offer a degree of strategy that will keep lovers of trick-taking games interested for a while as the aim is to try to win tricks with lower-ranked or weaker suits. This is a fantastic concept. There is also another layer of strategy because a player who scores the 4th trick (and above) of a certain colour will obtain 5 points per trick in that colour. Thus, you can use the high values of the red suit to your advantage late in the game. This will be elucidated further in the rules below.

The other interesting facet of Potato Man is the Potato Man card itself. The values 16 to 18 in  the Red suit have a picture of Evil Potato. The values of 1 to 3 in the Yellow Suit are Potato Man. The extra rule is a David and Goliath rule in that Potato Man always beats Evil Potato. Therefore, some crazy things can happen where, even if you possess a really low number in the Yellow suit (values 1 to 3), you can still play it down beat the Red Suit. This makes owners of high values in the Red suit think twice about playing Evil Potato (See below rules).

The main thing about Potato Man I don't quite like is the fact that, more often than not, those last in the turn order will generally be forced into playing a particular colour of card. This is a direct consequence of a rule that says that, in a 4-player game, a player may not play a colour that has already been played. It many cases there seems to be very little strategy for those who are sitting furthest away from the player leading a suit. This is the main gripe I have with this game. It does to a large extent ruin the strategic depth proffered by the rules I have already described above as if you are the 3rd last, 4th last, or last player, you have increasingly less choices [especially given the random distribution of cards].

In fact, it is also possible for the game to end early: say Red, Green and Yellow have been played and it is the 4th player's turn. If the 4th player does not have a Blue card, the game ends prematurely. This puts a sour taste in my mouth. I think, perhaps, the game should have included more cards if they really wanted to pursue this one-colour-per-player rule.

Overall, Potato Man had the potential to be a decent, if not good trick-taking game but I am not so sure it meets that cut in its present state. I have not given a lot of thought as to how the game's designers could have remedied the game but perhaps I will leave that for another day.

The Good:
  • Interesting game mechanics of scoring more points if you win tricks with "bad" or "weaker" suits.
  • Novel concept of Yellow Potato Man (who has the lowest values in the game) being able to beat Red Evil Potato (who has the highest values in the game). This reminds me of the trick-taking and trump card game David and Goliath.
  • Funny cards - somewhat interesting artwork
  • Different and somewhat unique twist to trick-taking games.

The Bad:
  • The one-colour-per-player rule (for 5-players one colour is allowed to be repeated) I personally dislike. It can make the game significantly shorter and it reduces the options of the last player significantly. These are the main gripes I have with this game.
  • Do not get if you do not like trick-taking games.
  • Even lovers of trick-taking games may only be interested for a short time (arguably)

What makes this game fun? 
The novel idea of Potato Man defeating Evil Potato, couples with some interesting gameplay concepts of scoring points off the 'weaker' suits, makes for a somewhat interesting 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)

[I assume people know what tricks are when I explain this game - perhaps I will write up a separate post dealing with the basics of trick-taking games another time]

For simplicity's sake, I will explain how a 4-player game works.

There are two different types of cards.

The whole deck of 52 potato cards gets distributed to everyone equally. You can of course play with different numbers of people, and the rules explain how the cards are distributed in those situations.

Potato Sack Point Cards ('Potato Sacks'): Collecting them is the way to score points

Meanwhile, the point (potato sack) cards should be laid out for everyone to see.
Each pile contains 3 cards only, so they are in limited supply.

Notice that, in the top left corner, the Red potato sack card only gives 1 Point or 1 Potato Sack.

Notice also that the Yellow potato sack, in the bottom left corner, gives a massive 4 Points or 4 Potato Sacks.

Ignore the Golden Potato Sacks (in the middle) for the time being.

Why the colours have different numbers of sacks

There is a reason for this. Notice that on the corners of each of the sack cards above there is a range of numbers. Red has the highest range (5-18) whilst Yellow has the lowest (1-13).

These numbers reflect the values on the cards for each of the Colours. As you would expect, the higher the value of a card is, the stronger the card is, irrespective of Colour.

Therefore, in the Red Suit, there are 14 cards where each card has a value (occurring only once) from 5 to 18. In the Blue Suit there are 13 cards with each card possessing a value (occurring only once) from 4 to 16. Therefore the Yellow suit is the weakest suit because its value range is only from 1 to 13.

Therefore it can be seen that the Red Suit is the most powerful suit and, on average, more tricks should be won with the Red Suit as it contains the higher numbers

Bigger expectation = Less Reward
[If you are expected to win, you won't score as much]

If you win a trick with a Red card, you will only get 1 Potato Sack because you used the most powerful suit to win the trick - and thus your reward is lower because you are expected to win that trick.

Conversely, if you win a trick with a Yellow card - the weakest suit - your reward is higher with 4 Potato Sacks because you are not expected to win that trick with such low values - and arguably more strategy is required to do so.

In clockwise order, Red gives 1 Sack; Blue gives 2 Sacks; Green gives 3 Sacks; Yellow gives 4 sacks.

Gameplay Rules with Example

Randomly decide the starting player. That player may lead with any card.

The only rule that must be followed from now on is this: On any given trick, each colour may only be played once.

When all cards are played for that trick one potato sack card is distributed to the winner. Whoever won that trick also leads the next trick.

In the below example, the Left player leads with Blue 5

The Top player now has a choice of playing Yellow, Red or Green. She opts to play Yellow 6.

Right now plays Red 15.

The Bottom player has no choice but to play Green, so he chooses to play Green 9.

15 > 9 > 6 > 5 so Red wins - He gets 1 Red Potato Sack point card; a just reward for using the strongest suit.

In cases of a tie, the person who plays the tied card last wins.

Therefore, in this example below, assuming Green went first, Yellow would win as Yellow played their 12 card later than Green. Yellow gets a Potato Sack Point card - worth 4 points as Yellow is the weakest suit.

Special Rules

Special Rule #1: Potato man ALWAYS beats Evil Potato.

This is an interesting twist. Potato Man exists in the Yellow Suit as numbers 1, 2 and 3. Under normal circumstances, given the usual rule above of higher values being stronger, there is no way a value of 1 could win.

However, so long as an Evil Potato (a Red 16, 17 or 18) is played on that trick, Potato Man always wins the trick.

Special Rule #2: When a pile of Potato Sack Point cards runs out, then a Golden Potato sack point card is awarded instead.

So if any of the piles of potato sacks is depleted for a given colour, a Golden Potato Sack Card is awarded for winning a trick of that colour (which gives 5 potato sacks!)

Special Rule Example

In this example below the Evil Potato 18 and Potato Man 1 have been played.

This means the Left player wins. However, all the Yellow Potato Sack Cards have run out. Therefore, Left receives a Golden Potato Sack worth 5 points.

Therefore, whilst the Red Suit only produces 1 Point per Red Potato Sack Point Card, if you keep your higher Red cards for late in the game, you could score some massive points (assuming you aren't thwarted by Potato Man!). Same strategy works for the Blue Suit too, which is the second lowest-scoring suit.

Sunday 1 February 2015


Yet another party game featuring the age-old concept of 'communicating by drawing' [see Telestrations (12 Player Party Pack) et al.]

Except this time the challenge became a lot harder because everything is pixellated.

Name: Pix

Designer: Laurent Escoffier and David Franck

Publisher: Game Works amongst others

Players: 4 to 9

Age: 8+ apparently.

Time to play: 30 mins, though this is customisable.

Price Range (AUD): $50 to $60 approximately. I got mine for $43.50

Availability: Limited availability online as far as I can see - I can only see Amazon selling it at this stage.

  • Party
  • 'Drawing' or Illustrating
  • Communication
  • Pattern recognition
  • Hard/Challenging

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

7.25+/- out of 10. (Good; Great if you thrive on its difficulty - See my Rating Scale)

The creators of Pix certainly had the right idea; unfortunately they seem to have 'accidentally' made the game quite hard (or was this intentional?). Therefore, I would not exactly classify Pix as a pure Party game, at least not as that term often connotes in the context of labelling a game under a certain genre. Nonetheless, I do quite like this game as I enjoy the challenge it offers, but my rating above reflects what I suspect the masses would think of this game. It can still make for a great Party game for those who have that creative mindset and aren't going to be fussed with a relatively difficult (and competitive) challenge.

In Pix, players must try to communicate a word by an image - this of course is a very familiar concept, except this time they can only use a limited amount of pixels (including a red pixel and a red arrow) to draw the word in question, which makes the game really hard. What makes the game even harder is the fact that the pixels cannot be rotated - they must be placed in a square grid and cannot be moved outside this grid (of course you can alter this rule to make it easier).

Competitive play is an interesting dynamic because Pix places places people into groups, and people within each group compete to draw words with as few pixels as possible (as whoever draws it with less pixels gets to show their drawing first, and hence, gets the first opportunity to score points). The constitution of each group rotates every round so there are plenty of opportunities for different player interactions.

The variety of words offered is quite good and the game even provides a pile of words that is the 'harder' deck. On this note, whilst this variety is great, the main problem with this game though is the fact that there is only so much one can do with 20 black pixels and 1 red pixel and arrow [the amount each player receives].  For example, trying to convey the words 'pneumatic drill', 'balcony' or 'bulldozer' with a mere 22 magnetic square pixels (which can only ever be organised in a grid formation) is a challenge for even the best of us - not to say it isn't possible of course. 22 sounds like a lot of pixels but this very point is illustrated by the examples given on the side of the game's box - many of these drawings have been done with much more than 22 pixels.

In summary, the game is often, but not always (depending on the word selected), incredibly difficult; it not only requires a creative drawer who is able to place square pixels in such as way so as to cater to the imaginations of the audience, but it also requires a creative audience who can recognise certain patterns which may not be immediately familiar. Indeed many of these finalised patterns come off as 'blocks' or masses of images that are completely unrecognisable. The 30-second timer also creates difficulties for guessers and drawers alike, but this rule can of course, be waived and replaced.

Nonetheless I think Pix is a good, and with the right group possibly even great, game; However for the reasons given above, it could have been better and, in my view, just misses out on attracting the general public.

The Good:
  • Creative game - find different ways of communicating an image to people, based on your audience
  • Very challenging, if you are into that sort of thing
  • Wide variety of words to 'draw'
  • Great risk-reward dynamic; draw your word with less pixels to reveal your picture first (and hence, get the first chance to beat your opponents to a victory point) but risk the audience not being able to guess your word! And if they can't guess your word, the audience will be able to remember what you drew and compare it to your opponents' later revealed drawings, which is likely to help your opponents even more
  • Player interactivity - players rotate around in different groups
  • Different interpretations and drawings depending on who you play with (like many games, but especially this type of game)

The Bad:
  • Quite a difficult game to play - requires both the drawer and audience to be flexible, imaginative and to think outside the box. There is only so much you can do with 22 pixels as many of the shapes drawn are only recognisable as blobs at best. This is the game's main problem.
  • Reiteration of the above point but the number of pixels given doesn't at times justify the interesting words provided by the game - it simply isn't possible to do a good job for some of these words (arguably - unless you are super talented)

What makes this game fun? 
Treat yourself to a challenge - are you good enough to communicate a word to someone using only a handful of magnetic pixels?

- 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 inside of the box looks like this:

It contains a timer; a set of black victory cubes (kind of useless); 9 magnetic boards; 3 decks of cards with words on them; lots of magnetic pixels (underneath)

(Note that the sides of the box itself have some pretty cool pixellated drawings - celebrities from movies? - for you to guess from!)

Unpacking the box will let you see these:


Give everyone 20 black pixels; a red pixel and a red arrow.

Depending on the number of people playing, here's how you set up the game.

Everyone has to sit in a circle, with the coloured magnetic boards distributed like so:

How you setup your group, depending on numbers: 4 to 9 players (as stated in the rulebook)

Gameplay (Best to just view the example below)

Please note that if you are a member of a group, you are competing against members of that group.

Each group shares a card: Each group takes ONE CARD and ONE card only per GROUP. Thus, this card is shared around. Each card has two words written on it so you will need to decide, quietly ('top one or bottom one') which word will be drawn.

Drawing: Then, all players will begin drawing their group word immediately.

  • Black and red pixels must be placed to fit the square boxes exactly on the grid lines - they cannot be oriented so as to fit outside the grid.
  • The only thing that can be tilted is the red arrow.

Whoever finishes their drawing first says FINISHED and turns the timer over. From this point onwards, all players have 30 seconds left to finish their drawings.

Revealing drawings and guessing:

When the time is up, each group takes its turn to reveal their drawings, individually. Whoever in that group has drawn their allocated word with the fewest amount of pixels reveals their drawing first.
  • The black pixels are worth 1 pixel each; whereas the red pixel is worth 4 and the red arrow is worth 2. 

The timer is flipped over at that instant as well. Everyone not in that group now has 30 seconds to try to guess what the word is from the drawing.

If no one can guess the word, the drawing that was just viewed is placed face down (unseen from all players) and then the person with the next fewest pixels gets to reveal their drawing. Again everyone has 30 seconds to guess what the word is. This continues until no one can guess the last person's drawing. If no one can guess the last person's drawing, then all drawings are revealed simultaneously and a clue (written in red on the card) is read out.

  • If the word is guessed before the red clue is read out, the guesser and the relevant drawer get 1 point each. 
  • If the word is guessed once the red clue is read out, then only the guesser receives 1 point.


For example, in a 9 player game, the two members of the grey team, A and B, decide to draw the word Snail.

Player A finishes his drawing first so the timer is flipped over and all other players (not just Player B but Players C, D, E, F, G, H, I from the other groups) have 30 seconds to finish her drawing.

Both players discuss how many pixels they used for their their drawing. Player A says he used 7 pixels (5 black + 1 red arrow, as below). Player B says she used 22 pixels (20 black + 1 red arrow). Both did not use their red pixel.

Thus, as he drew with the least amount of pixels, Player A reveals his board (but not the card - this is kept secret) to everyone first:

Drawing the word snail - the card isn't revealed to everyone, this is just a general picture

Everyone has 30 seconds to guess the word; yes and no answers can be provided by the drawer but nothing more (I think - totally customisable if you want).

Assume now that everyone can't guess it; so then Player A hides their drawing

Then it's Player B's turn to reveal her 'more detailed' drawing:

If no one can guess this either, both A and B will reveal their drawing and offer the clue of "shell".

If anyone guesses the word/phrase correctly when the clue is offered, A and B do not score points - the guesser is the only scorer. A or B only get points if the word was guessed when it was their individual turn to reveal their drawing.

Other Example

The game rules other interesting ways to depict an elephant.

Scoring and Winning

The person with the most number of points after 8 or 9 cards have been drawn (or however many you want), wins.

What a night, what a game.

Just came back from the match (not too long ago).

It's certainly a night I won't forget.

Here's a few thoughts...

[I know I have digressed from games over the past month, my main concern, but this will be my last post on this subject for a while]

I honestly thought Australia were going to lose

When South Korea equalised at the last-gasp, there was this sudden fear and dread that overcame me and from thereon in I thought Australia might be fated to lose. Because of these three reasons:

1) We had so many yellow cards, at least 5 by my count. One more mistake from one of these players and we would put South Korea in the driving seat;
2) Our 'recognised' 'forwards', Cahill and Kruse, had been substituted.
3) Now South Korea had all the momentum going into extra time, with Australian spirits deflated after conceding like that - all their efforts over 45 minutes to defend the lead gone down the drain.

How wrong I was - we defended and played better in extra time, thus nullifying factors 1 and 3; and the younger generation stepped up, throughout the whole match, thus nullifying Fear #2.

Credit: SMH
The New Generation Stepped Up, Surprisingly

That Tomi Juric assist to give Australia the win was absolutely mind-blowing. Firstly, how on earth did the whistle not blow (for either team) after he fell over multiple times; and secondly, how the heck did Juric get it past that lone defender on the edge of the goal line?!

What a "Never say die" moment!!

I have this distinct image of the Korean goalkeeper coming out of the box, hands extended, palming Juric's shot to the left (from my point of view in the stands). Some yellow shirt comes in and finishes it off - James Troisi of all people. The crowd goes nuts.

And what about Mass Luongo's goal in normal time; that was something totally unexpected. A few touches and bang, into the goal against the run of play. Strangely, and somewhat paradoxically, that goal almost seemed like it was of a class that neither team possessed nor deserved to have in their favour. It simply didn't belong in this match.

As a general comment, I am quite impressed with Trent Sainsbury and Massimo Luongo, both finds of this tournament. Sainsbury seems to be an all-rounded defender, who can go forward when required and defend well too.

South Korea - 'should have won'?

The South Koreans appeared to have had more chances than Australia and couldn't convert.

Many people will say (and many have always used this expression quite frequently:) "the better team lost today".

I say there is no such thing and that phrase is a total nonsense. The better team is the team that won, barring the scenarios where the referee made bad decisions or there is some illegal activity going on.

Shots on goal, completed passes and possession (even possession in the penalty box) can only get you so far but the team has to make them count - merely having a high percentage of those vital stats (or any other important ones) does NOT make you the 'better' team. Winning, fairly and squarely, even with less opportunities and shots on goal, makes you the better team.

What is a more accurate statement, however, is this: the losing team had the better build-up play and opportunities created, BUT they lacked the quality to finish those chances off. Having a player who can score goals is the difference between 'the better team' and the 'team that could have won'.

Now, interestingly, despite all I have said above with respect to this notion of 'the better team', and this is going to sound contradictory, but Australia really were lucky today. Perhaps, sometimes, luck can be mistaken for fate?

How big was this win?

Arguably it's the Socceroos' biggest ever moment in their 90 year-odd history: the argument being that this is their first major trophy ever (courtesy Mark Bosnich).

True that, but for some reason, qualifying for the World Cup 2006 after not participating at the world's best tournament for many decades - that John Aloisi penalty - still seems higher up than this occasion.

Nonetheless, I leave it at that for the time being. I will not quibble with anyone who thinks this is one of Australia's top 2 or 3 moments in football history. Give me a bit of time and maybe I'll agree that this was the best moment in Australia's history.

Kudos and Massive respect to Korea

I'm still buzzing with excitement. I can't shake it off.

The atmosphere was electric. From the Aussie fans, yes, as expected. BUT the 20,000+ (?) South Korean fans were just as loud as we were (in bursts, when required). Scary stuff.

Truthfully, I feel sorry for South Korea.

If Australia get knocked out in the next Asian Cup 2019 (ie. If we haven't been kicked out of the Asian Football Confederation by the complaining Gulf nations by then - but apparently this is a falsehood given that the AFC President denied the existence of such complaints, and seeing as we have abided by all the rules and you need a resolution by majority of at least 75% to get kicked out), I do hope South Korea can end their trophy drought. I made a lot of South Korean friends when I went to an American international school in China during my primary school days, so I do have a soft spot for them, and their food.

I am appalled by my lack of pictures in this post, but it is late and I value my sleep more. I may add them in retrospectively.

Good night.

Andre Lim

PS. Socceroos win the Asian Cup 2015, 2-1 a.e.t. over South Korea!!! Can you believe it?!