Anaxi

Anaxi   Funnybone Toys  |  BGG  |  Amazon

Designer: ??   Publisher: Funnybone Toys  2-6 players  20 min. ages 8+  MSRP $21.99

text-the concept

Anaxi is a party game. Anaxi is a word game. In fact, it’s both. Because Anaxi lives in the overlapping area between these two types of games.

In practice, Anaxi celebrates the venerable Venn diagram by making the diagrams into engines for fun. Using circular see-through word cards, players construct a mini-Venn diagram and then each player races to write down words that fit within each overlapping area of the cards. The player with the highest score after five rounds wins the game.

text-the components

Anaxi is a card game but the cards are not typical in any way. There are 75 word cards in the deck. They are circular (3.5” in diameter), made of flexible plastic and half of each card is transparent. The deck is split into three colors: 25 blue, 25 red and 25 orange cards.

anaxi-decks-2

Within the colored section of each card is a single word – an adjective. These adjectives run the gamut from square to spicy or fluffy to damp.

anaxi-cards

There are also two base cards (an extra in case you lose one). You’ll build the Venn diagram on top of this base card when each game round begins.

anaxi-base

There’s a 1-minute sand timer included and an answer pad.

anaxi-pad

Setup for the game is really simple. Separate the deck into three 25 card decks by color. Place the base card centrally located where everyone can see it and make sure everyone has a sheet from the answer pad and a pen or pencil. Now you’re ready to play Anaxi!

anaxi-setup-2

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There are five rounds in the game. Each round a dealer selects one card from each of the three decks and places them around the base card. The base card has colored and numbered areas so you can see how and where to line up the three cards. The basic idea is that the see through area of the card will face inward toward the base card, allowing players to see how the three word cards overlap. There are four overlapping areas. One area between each word and one combined area where all three words overlap together in the middle.

Here’s an example layout: Round – Cold – Sweet

anaxi-example

Once the cards are in place, the dealer will turn over the sand timer and the round begins!

Each player looks at the four overlapping areas on the base card. Can you think of something that is round and sweet? Then write those words in column 3 on your sheet. Can you think of things that are cold and round? Write those in column 1. How about cold sweet? Column 2 for those. Last of all, what about things that are all three: round, cold and sweet? All those answers go in column 4.

Once the timer runs out, players score points for each answer on their sheets that is unique and fits the words. Columns 1-3 score 1 point for each unique answer. Column 4, the answer that combines all three word, scores 3 points per unique answer.

After round one, it’s lather, rinse and repeat. Three new words, flip the timer and go! The player with the highest score after five rounds wins the game.

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Sometimes games that rely on creativity can fall flat because they don’t offer enough inspiration or choices. Especially when placed under time pressure, players can freeze up or just give up because they feel frustrated.

That’s pretty much the opposite of fun.

Not so with Anaxi. There are four different ways you can see the words each round and that means you have lots of fuel for inspiration and imagination each round.

The timer does go fast, so you shouldn’t expect to write a novel’s worth of answers under each column but you’ll be surprised how some words connect immediately and others leave you scratching your head. Try it. Set a timer and give the three words from the example above a go. Don’t peek below at my answers! (listed at the bottom of the review)

How did you do?

Anaxi also encourages and awards creativity and imaginative answers. You are not limited to one word or simple answers to fit the words. For Column 4 in the earlier example (things that are cold, round and sweet) I could have written: a frozen ice cream cake for my cat’s 9th birthday. Major Fun games can and should put you in this playful mindset and Anaxi excels in this regard.

Major Fun games are also flexible enough to allow variants or adjustments. We found it fun to let the dealer select the word cards rather than from a random draw from each deck. Chance can produce some fun results, but it was equally fun to see what crazy combinations each player came up with.

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Even though Anaxi is a light hearted game suitable for parties and word-nerds alike, the inspiration for the game comes from several philosophers.

The most obvious is John Venn whose diagrams gave visual form to overlapping ideas.

The less obvious connection reaches back to ancient Greece. Anaxi owes its name to the Greek philosopher Anaximander, the father of Cosmology. He wrote about the boundless material of the universe being transformed into all the aspects of the world around us and then returning to this primordial form. How does this relate? Each round, players take basic words and combine them into new forms. The cards return to the decks and can take totally new definitions each round of the game.

You certainly don’t need to know any of these details to have fun with Anaxi but I am glad they took the time to include it.

My one and only quibble with the game is the lack of credit for the game design. Every game has a designer even if the game was developed in-house by the fine folks at Funnybone Toys. Credit should be given where it is due and it is a shame this information is still not standard among all publishers.

But let’s not stray too far from the mark here.

Anaxi is a fast fun mash-up of word and party game genres. It’s enjoyable by players young and old and certainly overlaps with the two words that matter most to us: Major Fun.

***

Here’s what I came up with for the example listed above:

Column 1 (round & cold): curling stone, hailstone, snowball, snow tire

Column 2: (cold & sweet): ice cream, frozen yogurt

Column 3: (round & sweet): gumball, bon bon, mint, hard candy

Column 4: (round, sweet, and cold): a single scoop of ice cream

Animals on Board

Animals on Board   Stronghold Games  |  Eggertspiele   |  BGG

Designer: Ralf zur Linde & Wolfgang Senter   Artist: Alexander Jung

Publisher: Stronghold Games, Eggertspiele  2-4 players  30 min.  ages 8+  MSRP $29.95

text-the concept

You and your friends have heard a big flood is coming and so, naturally each of you has decided to build an ark in order to save as many animals as you can.

Only problem is some guy named Noah got started way before you and he is claiming pairs of animals to take with him. In fact, he’s made it illegal for anyone else to take pairs of animals with them.

Since Noah is kind of a jerk, when the flood comes and the arks depart, you want to have herds of animals on board!

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There are 60 animal tiles in the game with 12 different species numbered 1-5. Each animal tile is unique. As the number on the tile gets bigger, the animals on the tiles get bigger as well. Alexander Jung’s artwork is ridiculously charming and fun. If you like this game, I encourage you to check out Beasty Bar, another fine game featuring Alexander’s art.

There are 20 food crate tiles that serve as a form of currency in the gameanimals-on-board-crates

There’s a starting player flag.

animals-on-board-first-player

Most notable and most important, each player gets a 3-D ark! They are made from sturdy cardboard and they function as a two level tile rack. The arks come unassembled when you buy the game, so you have a fun side project putting them together before you play the first time.

animals-on-board-4aAlong with each ark is a small flag which can be placed into the ark when you are out during a game round.animals-on-board-flag

To play, you’ll mix up all the animal tiles and form them into draw stacks. Each player will take a food crate tile and an ark and break flag. Then everyone draws three random tiles from the stacks and places these animals into his or her ark and we’re ready to go!

text-the mechanics

Animals on board is a split or choose game. If you don’t know what that means, you will in just a minute!

Each round a large set of animal tiles will be placed in the center of the table. Players will take turns either dividing this set in to smaller groups or taking one of these group of tiles and adding them to their arks.

The game ends at the end of a round when one person has collected 10 animals into his or her ark.

Now let’s dive into this split or choose thing.

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Depending on the number of players a certain number of animal tiles will be placed face up in the middle of the table each round PLUS one face down animal tile.

On your turn you can SPLIT this group into a smaller sets OR you can CHOOSE a group to take.

If you choose SPLIT as your action for your turn, you select a group of tiles and make it into two groups of tiles. The groups you make do not have to have the same number of tiles but each group has to have at least one tile.

At first there will be only one big group to split but as each round progresses there will be several and these groups can and will be of different sizes.

After splitting a group, you get to take one food crate from the supply.

On your turn if you take the CHOOSE action, you select a group of animal tiles and place them in your ark. However, you must pay 1 food crate for every tile in the group you choose! If you don’t have enough food crates for a larger group, you will not be able to take that group.

Once you select the CHOOSE action, place the break flag in your ark to indicate you are out for the rest of the round.

So there you have it: SPLIT or CHOOSE. Divide the tiles into groups and get a food token. Or take a group and pay food tokens for each tile in the group. Once each player has CHOSEN in a given game round, the round will end, another set of tiles will be flipped over and it’s lather, rinse and repeat until one player collects at least 10 animals onto his or her ark.

Split-and-choose games offer an incredibly simple set of rules that makes them easy to teach and learn. In the case of Animals on Board this simple set of choices also provides for some really fun decisions once you know how to score!

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The scoring system is what really makes Animals on Board shine. It will help guide every decision you make.

As mentioned in the story of the game, Noah has all claims on pairs of animals. So your goal is to assemble herds of animals or individual animals on your ark. At the end of the game, any pairs of animals in your ark will be discarded and will not score at all!animals-on-board-pair-of-turtlesAny single animals in your ark will score the number on the tile. A panda with a 3 is worth 3.

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A herd is a group of 3 or more tiles in your ark. Each tile in a herd in worth 5 points!!

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If you have any food crates left, each one is also worth a point.

So, your goal when splitting and choosing animals from the table is to try and create herds of 3 or more animals and avoid being stuck with pairs or low value single animals.

Of course everyone is watching as you choose your sets so it becomes clear what animals you are interested in, making it difficult to assemble big herds, since you may end up having to take a group with animals you dont necessarily want or risk someone else choosing that group before you.

The face down tile becomes a really interesting element of the game now that we know the scoring system as well. You may want to include it in a set you know someone else wants so they have to take a chance at getting an animal that will mess them up and create a pair. OR you might be tempted to take the face down tile in a group if you are watching closely and are waiting for particular tiles that have yet to surface.

Split and choose combined with trying to avoid pairs of animals makes the game engaging, thoughtful and fun!

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Animals on Board is a sneaky game. I don’t mean when you play, you are sneaky. I mean that the game sneaks up on you. The simple rules make it one you can enjoy with kids and family or friends but the scoring rules add depth and strategy that is such a wonderful surprise. You may have to split groups more often than you might like just to build up your food crates so you have more options when it comes time to choose. There’s even a bluffing element since each player starts with three random tiles and if you take the face down tile, it can be a challenge to be sure what animals each player might be collecting.

You know the rules so quickly, so easily, you might be tempted to see it as too simple or a game only for young kids. But that’s where the game sneaks up on you! There will be several light bulb moments when you realize there’s more going on each turn than you realized, IF you pay attention. I love it when a game like Animals on Board sneaks up on me like this. The gameplay is as charming as the animals on the tiles you collect. No need to wait for the next flood. Give it a try and I think you’ll discover it is Major Fun!

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Rollers

Release Date: 11/2016 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:    min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Rollers is a press-your-luck dice game inspired by darts.

Yes, you heard me correctly… darts! Players try to open and close 5 numbered columns on their number boards. When a number is opened and closed, others will pay you chips each time you roll this number for the rest of the round!

Sound familiar? If you’ve ever played the dart game, Cricket, you’ll see how Rollers is a clever re-imagining of this pub classic, and playable by people of all ages.

Best of all, even if you’ve never thrown a dart in your life, you’ll have no problem understanding why Rollers is Major Fun!

Rollers

USAopoly  |  BGG  |  Target

Designer: unknown  Publisher: USAopoly

2-5 players  15-30 min.  ages 8+  MSRP $19.95

Music credits include:

Roller   by April Wine   |   the song

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Team Play

Release Date: 10/2016 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:  39  min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Team Play is game that draws deep from the well of classic card games. With hints of Rummy, Pinochle and even a little Euchre, anyone familiar with these classics will feel like you almost already know how to play.

You and your partner have goal cards you hope to achieve to score points. The goals ask you to collect sets of cards based on the colort or number, or both. There’s also a public goal that any team can try to accomplish.

The trick and twist to Team Play is that you can help your partner by passing cards each turn. If you pay close attention to the cards everyone is collecting, you’ll have a good idea of what cards could help or hurt your chances of success.

Tune in to learn why we think Team Play is a modern classic and most assuredly… Major Fun!

Team Play

Schmidt Spiele  |  BGG  |  Amazon

Designer: Johannes Schmidauer-Konig  Publisher: Schmidt Spiele

3-6 players  30 min.  ages 8+  MSRP $9

Music credits include:

The A-Team  by The Ukuleles  |  the song

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3 Wishes

Mmm!   Strawberry Studio  |  Passport Game Studios  |  BGG

Designer: Chris Castagnetto   Artist: Magdalena Markowska

Publisher: Strawberry Studio, Passport Game Studio  3-5 players  5 min.  ages 8+  MSRP $10

text-the concept

A very particular genie is looking for just the right person worthy of three wishes. Anyone can make three greedy wishes. In order to gain this genie’s favor, you need to find the right kind of wishes to wish for! The first player to collect a wish for a superpower, a wish for world harmony and a wish for a gift will win the game.

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3 Wishes is a micro game. It comes with 18 wish cards, 10 wooden cubes and player reference cards.

The wish cards come in three categories: superpowers like

3wishes-superpowers-cards-500px

world harmony like

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and gifts like

3wishes-gifts-cards-500px

An icon in the upper right corner of the card defines each type. The illustrations and title also make it clear into which category each wish fits. As you can see, the artwork by Magdalena Markowska is whimsical, charming and engaging. Each card also has a number value.

Wooden cubes are used to keep score if you want to play multiple games in a single sitting. Since the game is so quick, don’t be surprised if you end up using them!

text-the mechanics

3 Wishes is a deduction and bluffing game that plays in about 5 minutes.

The goal of the game is to declare the end of the game and have one of each type of wish card in front of you. If more than one player accomplishes this, the player with the highest total sum on all his or her wish cards is the winner.

3wishes-winning-cards

Each player is dealt 3 cards face down to begin and may only look at one of them. Two cards are dealt to the center of the table. One is left out of the game.

On your turn you get to do two actions. You can do the same action twice or you can do two different actions.

You have three actions to choose from: peek, swap, and shuffle. You basically know the rules for each action just from their names.

Peek means you can peek at a face down card. This card could be your own, could be your opponent’s or could be one of the cards in the middle.

Swap means you can swap two face down cards. One of these cards could be your own but you could also swap cards between two opponents or with the cards in the middle.

Shuffle means you can pick up your three face down cards, mix them up and place them back on the table. After that, you can look at one.

You want to use these actions to manipulate the face down cards so that you end up with one of each type of wish in front of you.

You know one of your cards to begin the game. You can peek to learn the others but remember someone could swap and immediately take them away.

You might swap because you know you have two of the same type of wish and need to get rid of one.

You might shuffle because through others peeking and swapping, everyone knows your cards.

After everyone has had three turns, instead of taking a normal turn, you can declare the end of the game if you think you have three different wish cards in front of you. Everyone reveals their cards. If one player has three different wishes, he or she is the winner! If multiple players have 3 different wishes, add up the numbers on the wish cards and the highest total wins.

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Two things stand out to me about 3 Wishes: the special wish cards and playing the players instead of the game.

There are three special wish cards that can have a tremendous impact on how each game goes.

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Two special cards double your winning total. This means you stand a much better chance of winning if more than one person collects three different types of wishes. If by skill or by chance you manage to collect BOTH doubler cards, you automatically win if you have three different types of wishes at the end of the game.

The Time Travel card counts as a wish BUT if you end up with this card at the end of the game, you cannot win! Of course, this means the time travel card is a hot potato and no one wants to hold onto it. But it also means spotting someone trying actively to get rid of a certain card can be easy if you watch closely.3wishes-special-time-travel

Collectively, the special cards add an extra level of focus to the game for each player. You need to pay attention not just to the icon on the wish cards but you need to watch out for the special wishes because they can really help or hurt your chances of winning.

I also really enjoy the fact that 3 Wishes introduces the concept of playing the players as much as the cards.

What does this mean? In many card games, especially classic gambling games like poker, doing well is determined as much by a player’s skill at reading the other player’s actions at the table as it is having an amazing hand. Playing the players means carefully observing what other players do on their turns because this gives you a wealth of information without ever seeing their cards. Through deduction and inference you can start to know what cards people want or dont want and this information can help you decide what actions to take and how to play.

Now you don’t have to play 3 Wishes with this level of forethought or attention, but I love that this element is always there and because the game rules are so simple, you have the time to pay attention and watch others closely.

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Major Fun games often have a timeless or ageless quality to them. This is certainly true of 3 Wishes. It is a lovely quick game that will appeal to players of all ages and experience levels.

It’s tempting to say 3 Wishes shines the most because of its simplicity. But I think the beauty of 3 Wishes is in its elegance. 3 wishes, 3 types of wishes, 3 actions, declare the end any time after 3 turns. This elegance makes the game easy to learn but there are fun and challenging, even thoughtful moments packed into this tiny set of cards that everyone can enjoy. Thats a game whose gifts keep will keep on giving, with or without a magic lamp!

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Mmm!

Mmm!   Pegasus Spiele  |  BGG

Designer: Reiner Knizia   Artist: Andreas Resch

Publisher: Pegasus Spiele  1-6 players  15-20 min.  ages 5+  MSRP $24

text-the concept

Charlie and Carlotta are mice who live in the walls of the Smith family’s house. They are preparing for a big dinner party for all their friends and they need your help to gather groceries. The Smith’s pantry is full of delicious food: bread, carrots, cucumbers, fish and, of course, CHEESE! By rolling dice everyone will collect these tasty morsels but your team must be quick! The Smiths have a mean black cat who prowls through the house. If you take too long, the cat will catch you red-handed and the meal will be ruined.

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Mmm comes with a nicely illustrated, double sided game board. One side is for younger or less experienced players. The other provides a greater challenge once you are more familiar with the game.

The board is has two basic areas: a grid with illustrations of the food found in the pantry and a hallway showing the location of the cat. The five different types of food are depicted in the grid, some items of food take up as few as two grid squares while others may take up 3 or 4 squares. The hallway has ten spaces that lead to the pantry door.

The mean black cat has a wooden token which will go on the board and will move up the hall as the game winds forward.

mmm-cat

There are three wooden dice. Each die has 6 different faces: One face for each type of food and one face with a big X.

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Last but not least there are 56 round mouse tokens. These tokens will be placed on the grid as you play.

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Mmm! is a cooperative game where players work together to cover every food item displayed in the pantry with a mouse token before the mean black cat reaches the door.

Each player gets a turn and on that turn you begin by rolling the three wooden dice.

As mentioned earlier, the dice have faces that correspond to the five different types of food, plus an X.

After this roll, you look at the results and must place at least one die on the board on a space that matches the food symbol you rolled. (For example, I rolled a carrot, so I can place that die on a carrot space on the board). The X side is bad luck. It cannot be placed on the board.

Now, you have a choice to make. You can reroll any remaining dice OR you can stop and gather food.

Rerolling has its risks and rewards. After each reroll, you must be able to place at least one die on the board. If you cannot, then the mean black cat moves forward one space in the hallway on the board! If the cat reaches the pantry space on the board, everyone loses.

Gathering food happens once you decide to stop rolling. Replace each die on the board with a mouse token, the tokens cover up grid spaces and parts of different food items in the pantry.

After placing your mouse tokens, look at the board and check to see if you were able to cover up the last space of a food item in the pantry. If you did, great! Your team will celebrate. If you did not cover the last space of a food item, then the mean black cat will move forward one space toward the pantry door.

After that, pass the dice to the next player and continue until one of two things happens:

  1. Your team covers the entire board with mouse tokens. Huzzah! You’ve gathered all the food for the dinner party and your team wins the game!

OR

2.  The mean black cat reaches the pantry door and catches you stealing food. The dinner party is ruined and you’ll have to try again.

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For a cooperative game that can easily accommodate very young players, there’s a surprising puzzle element that is engaging and fun for players of all ages. The press your luck element encourages players to try and cover more spaces each turn, since each player is under pressure to cover a food item on his or her turn to prevent the cat from moving. Covering up the small 2 space food items may seem like an easy way to avoid the cat penalty BUT if your team covers up all the small food items early, the cat may rocket forward later in the game since it will take longer to cover up food items that take up 3 and 4 spaces. Weighing all the options with the team before placing dice or deciding to reroll is a really fun, important and necessary part of the game.

The other element that really makes Mmm stand out is its variable difficulty levels. These variations come in two different forms. An additional rule twist and a more difficult board layout.

In the basic version of the game, you may place dice on matching spaces anywhere on the board. In the advanced version, all dice placed must be in the same row or column as the first die placed on the board. This one twist changes the strategy and decisions you make on every turn and makes for even more interesting discussions. It adds another layer to the puzzle that makes the game more fun by making it more challenging.

The back side of the board also offers more challenges by having a single 2 space food items of each type and adding a 5 space food item for each type. This means it will take a team effort to cover the 5 space food items without making the mean black cat rocket forward on the board.

There are very few games I can think of that scale up or down so well according to the age or experience level of the players at the table.

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It should come as no surprise the good Doctor, renowned designer Reiner Knizia, has found a way to strike such a fun balance between randomness and strategy.  I really enjoy the cooperative puzzle solving aspects of Mmm and how they are balanced by elements of chance.

Each turn the dice rolls can help or hinder your team’s chances of success.

But the discussions and decisions you make as a team – when to reroll, when to gather food and where to place your dice – are equally important. Too much luck and players would feel like they have little real control over the outcome. Too little and the game becomes a dry intellectual exercise with less room for teamwork or discussion.

Mmm offers a fun to players from 5 to 95. Better still, the game allows you to dial in the kind of fun you want to have with the game. The basic game offers more randomness, the advanced more challenge and forethought. This allows the game to speak to a wide audience.

Flexibility and teamwork combined with a dice based puzzle suitable for almost any age. That is most definitely a recipe for Major Fun!

Chronicler

Release Date: 9/6/2016 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:   43 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Chronicler is a small game with large aspirations.  With less than 100 cards, Chronicler explores the march of technology through time. You’ll be telling the story of your civilization through the tools you choose to build… in 20 minutes or less

Now, this isn’t a civilization building game in the long line of a complicated titles that gamers know and love. This is a civ builder kids and families can learn and enjoy. You’re not going to find historical depth in this level of game but it doesnt pretend to offer it. Instead you hit fast forward on the time machine. Plant the seed for your culture with a single card and see how your tech tree grows.

Tune in to learn what we love about Chronicler and why it deserves the Major Fun Award.

Chronicler

Deinko  |  BGG  |  Funagain

Designer: GB Kim  Publisher: Deinko

2-4 players  20 min.  ages 10+  MSRP $25

Music credits include:

Bidin’ My Time   by Sarah Vaughn   |  the song

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Ice Cool

Ice Cool   Brain Games  |  BGG

Designer: Brian Gomez

Publisher: Brain Games  2-4 players  20 min.  ages 6+  MSRP $39.99

text-the concept

Young penguins can be troublemakers, especially if they’re hungry. You and your classmates have decided to sneak out of class to grab an early snack. You’ve hidden some fish around the school and there’s only one thing standing between you and these tasty morsels… the hall monitor! If you’re quick, you’ll be able to scoot through the halls and grab your fish before getting caught. If not, you’ll be stuck in detention…. again!

Ice Cool is a dexterity game where players will take turns flicking their penguins through a 3 dimensional school trying to either catch fish or catch the students skipping class.

You’ll each take turns playing one of the young student penguins (the Runners) and the Hall Monitor (the Catcher) and at the end of the game the player with the most points wins. 

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ice-cool-3-500px

The minute you open the box, you’ll see this is a game very different from most others. There are multiple open faced box bottoms inside the main box bottom, nested together like Russian Matryoshka dolls. There are five boxes in total: four rectangular rooms and one square room. Each room is numbered and has doorways cut out along at least two sides. You will assemble these boxes to create the game board – a three dimensional school for the penguins!

There are several wooden fish tokens in the game. Each player gets 3 in their chosen color. The remaining plain wood fish are used to hold the board together sort of like clothes pins. Once assembled, the board is really quite sturdy and can be rotated or slid along the table so players can line up their shots.

There’s a deck of cards which are score cards. If you snag a fish or grab a student in the halls, you’ll get to draw one of these. They are numbered 1-3.

Each penguin has a colored ID card (which can be confiscated if you are caught) and a roly-poly plastic penguin figurine which you will flick around the school.

ice-cool-penguin-1

These penguins are very similar to the figures used in Subbuteo, a flicking soccer game that has been a part of millions of children’s lives since 1947. The penguins have a rounded base that is weighted and tapered bodies with a round head. The penguin will sit flat on the board but with even the slightest nudge, it will weeble and wobble back and forth.

Once the school is setup, you will place your fish over the marked doorways, shuffle the score cards and you’re ready to play!

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Each player in Ice Cool will get to play in two different ways: as the runner and as the catcher.

ice-cool-1a-500px

As the runner you will start in the classroom and try to flick your penguin through the doorways containing your colored fish. For each doorway you go through, you will collect your fish and a score card. If you can collect all three of your fish, the round will end.

As the Catcher, you dont care about doorways or fish. You care about catching the other penguins! You will flick your penguin through the school hoping to make contact with each penguin running around the halls.

Runners always start in the classroom on a red dot for their first turn. The Catcher starts in the kitchen anywhere he or she wants. Players take turns one at a time, flicking trying to achieive their individual goals.  Each room has a red line marking the playable area. If you get too far into a corner, you can pull your penguin out into the room in order to make your next move.

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Now Ice Cool is already visually amazing and the challenge of flicking around this 3d school is inherently and addictively fun. You can flick your penguin in straight lines and with the right angle you can even get your penguin to bend around corners or through doors.

BUT there’s another element that literally and figuratively vaults Ice Cool into another stratosphere of fun. You can make your penguin do jumps! That’s right, if you aim high on the penguin (around the shoulders)  the little guys will jump into the air, meaning you can hop over walls or even across the school in a single move. It sounds preposterous and it may take a few practice flicks (be careful not to flick too hard!) but within half a dozen tries your penguins will be airborn! Not bad for a bunch of flightless birds. 🙂

This element is a game changer. It changes your strategy and allows you to look at the board in entirely new ways. This makes Ice Cool very different from almost any other flicking game that comes to mind.

But mostly, it’s just crazy fun trying to make your penguins fly….

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Simple joys are often the best when it comes to Major Fun and Ice Cool is a champion in this regard. The pieces cry out to be flicked and you’ll start flicking them through doors and over walls just for fun as you are setting up the game. In other words, you almost instinctively know how to play just by opening the box! The game has sense enough celebrate these simple pleasures and not bury them under overly complicated rules. Anyone with working fingers can play and enjoy Ice Cool and will instantly know that it is absolutely… Major Fun!

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Happy Salmon

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The game is called Happy Salmon. You might wonder why this particular salmon is so happy. After all, salmon have a hard life with the, you know, swimming up river and the jumping and the bears and the dying. Could it be so happy because it won a Major Fun award? Or is it because it knows how happy it will make the people who get to play it?

This is one smug salmon. And deservedly so. The game is quick (takes maybe a couple minutes to play). It’s easy to learn. It gets everybody moving. Everybody involved. And, best of all, it makes people laugh.

You could think of it as a card game – that’s because it’s played with a special deck of cards. But it’s really a people game.

It goes like this:

There are six sets of 12 cards, each a different color. First, give one set to each of 3-6 players who are at least six years old. There are four different cards: Happy Salmon, High 5, Switcheroo and Pound It! Each card has an associated action. Your objective is to be the first to get rid of all your cards. You can only do that if you can find someone who’s playing the same kind of card. You can tell, because that person is either trying to get you to High Five or to Fist Bump (Pound) or change places (Switcheroo) or Happy Salmon (put your wrist along the other player’s wrist and wiggle your hand in a salmon-fin-like manner).

You’ll probably play many rounds of the game before you put it back in its neat, salmony zipper pouch. And next time you play, you might want to try the completely silent variation (though it is likely that the laughter will escape you).

Luckily, there are two great videos showing the game in action. First, here’s one with kids playing:

And now, one for the growns:

O, the fun! O, the sheer Majorness of the fun!!

Designed by Ken Gruhl and Quentin Weir, from Northstar Games.

Karuba

Release Date: 8/1/2016 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:   35 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Karuba is an island with hidden treasures. Your goal is to lead your team of adventurers through the jungle along the smartest route to riches. Each turn you have a  choice: place a tile to create a path to the treasure temples OR discard the tile and move one your team’s pawns along the path. You might even run across some gold or diamonds along the way.

Deceptively simple, Karuba uses a bingo like system to offer players a wonderful strategic puzzle for players young and old.

Tune in to learn the mysteries of Karuba why we think it deserves the Major Fun Award!

Karuba

HABA  |  BGG

Designer: Rudiger Dorn  Publisher: HABA 

2-4 players  20 min.  ages 8+  MSRP $35

Music credits include:

Der Lowe schlaft heut nacht   by Henri Salvador |  the song

Jungle Rock   by Hank Mizell  |  the song

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