5211

Release: 10/14/2019    Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Run Time: 79 min    Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

5211 is a press-your-luck card game with deep roots in casual classics. On one level, it’s a kissing cousin to stud poker.Cards are selected by each player in secret and then played out: first  2, then 1, then 1. Then we score. Only cards in the majority color score… as long as the total isn’t pushed too high!

If everyone can plays nice, all have the potential to benefit. But, the minute you get too greedy, you’re likely to get bit and another color will score.

5211 has two lives. One as a modern game that can be as thinky as you want it to be. One as a bridge for social interaction, inspired by card nights with family and friends from days gone by.

Listen in to discover how a game so simple in design but rich in its strategy and tactics can be a source of joy for all. We think anyone can play and find Major Fun in 5211.

5211

Next Move  |  BGG 

Designer: Tsuyoshi Hashiguchi   

Publisher: Next Move, Ghenos

Artist: Chris Quilliams

2-5 players  20-30 min.   ages 8+   MSRP $13

Time to teach/learn: 5 minutes

For info on the other segments featured on the show, check out the show notes at The Spiel!

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Music credits include:

Five Colors   by Sam Phillips  |  the song

Five Colours in Her Hair  by McFly  |  the song

 ***

Fantasy Ranch

Fantasy Ranch

Fantasy Board Games LLC|  BGG

Designer: Keisha & Anastasia Swanlund
Publisher: Fantasy Board Games LLC
2 – 4 players 15 – 75 minutes ages 5+
MSRP $40

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You started when you were young. Riding the trails, corralling horses through the wilderness, guiding them through shows and into camp to add to your herd.

Next, you bought a barn and a small patch of land – just enough for a few horses. Can you make your ranch into the talk of the town? With a lot of hard work and planning (and a little luck), folks will flock from miles away to admire the ranch and the beautiful show horses you’ve raised.

Fantasy Ranch is a collection of six horse-themed games enjoyable by a wonderfully wide range of players, whether you’re a greenhorn or a grizzled ranch hand.

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The production quality of Fantasy Ranch is top-notch. There is a double-sided main board along with dice and tokens. There are also six double-sided ranch boards. Each player receives a player aid/ranch mat with photos from an actual horse ranch.

Two elements will most likely produce oohs and ahhs when revealed: the horse cards and horse figures.

There are 57 small wooden horse figures in five different colors and patterns. They are ridiculously charming.

The 57 horse cards, each feature a lovely photograph and game icons representing the horse’s abilities and talents.

All these elements combine to create a beautiful tableau as the game unfolds. Don’t be surprised if someone stops the game to take a pic or two of their ranch.

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There are two basic game modes: Trail Ride and Fantasy Ranch. Each of these modes has a beginner, intermediate, and advanced set of rules, each one building intuitively on knowledge and experience from the prior.

Trail Ride has a roll-and-move mechanism at its core. You will move along paths to reach a camp space at the end. However, the goal of the game is to collect horses that will increase your score. There are spaces to buy and sell horses along the way. There are terrain features which may make moving more difficult. And there are show spaces along the paths that could allow you to collect resources and additional horses. As you move through the levels of Trail Ride, you unlock new ways of scoring your herd, providing some strategic decisions about which horses to collect.

Fantasy Ranch is played over five rounds. Each round, players will select one action: buy horses, buy new locations on their ranch board, or collect six resources. At the end of a round, a horse show is held. Players will enter a horse in the competition, rolling dice based on the talents of each horse. Collect horses and build ranch locations that provide trophies to score points.

There are many gamerly elements added as you progress from level to level, including twist of fate cards that provide secret ways for you to score, hired hands that provide a temporary ability or bonus, and a deck of horse show cards that make the competitions change from game to game. There’s even an area control element added at the highest level, where control of ranch boards can shift from player to player depending on the size of your herd.

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Passion sets Fantasy Ranch apart. This game is the brainchild of two horse-crazy sisters, Keshia and Antastasia Swanlund. Their passion seeps into every aspect of the game, from the information on the horse cards to the detailed ranch profiles and the actual equestrian sponsors whose products are included on the board and cards. This isn’t crass commercialism; it demonstrates their deep connection to the subject which enhances the enjoyment of the game. You can’t fake this level of love and attention to detail. And you don’t have to be a horse nut like them to be pulled into the experience. If anything, their passion may inspire you to want to learn more about horses!

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I want to close by emphasizing the amazingly flexible game experience Fantasy Ranch provides in a single box. Name another game that can accommodate players from ages 5 through adult, giving each player along this spectrum an opportunity for a fun and challenging experience. You can tailor the game you want to play based on the players you have at the table on any given day or night. This is a rare and noteworthy achievement, and just one among many reasons you will rustle up a herd of Major Fun each time you play.

Written by: Stephen Conway

Special Note:

This review appears in the Fall 2019 issue of Casual Game Insider Magazine.

CGI publishes a wonderful selection of articles and reviews on a quarterly basis.  In 2019, a Major Fun review will be featured in the next several issues.

The Spiel, Major Fun and CGI share a common goal: opening doors to the wider world of play. We hope this cross promotion will invite more people into the game community.

Dekalko

Release: 9/16/2019    Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Run Time: 68 min    Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Dekalko is a drawing game that is not a drawing game.

Everyone must get others to guess a picture without seeing the picture itself. How you get there requires a quick hand, a pen, and almost no artistic skill.

That’s because Dekalko is a tracing game! The lines are right there for you to draw. Which ones are important? Which ones can you leave out?

And that’s where the magic of the game begins. You don’t have to draw like a professional artist to learn how to see like one.

Listen in to explore the game and learn how Dekalko takes a possible point of stress and turns it into an opportunity for Major Fun.

Dekalko

Happy Baobab  |  BGG 

Designer: Sébastian Decád, Roberto Fraga   

Publisher: Happy Baobab

Artist: Ian Parovel

3-6 players  30 min.   ages 8+   MSRP 25 EUR

Time to teach/learn: 5 minutes

For info on the other segments featured on the show, check out the show notes at The Spiel!

***

Music credits include:

Trace of You  |  by Jimmy Rogers   |  the song

Lipstick Traces  |  by Benny Spellman  |  the song

***

Order of Invention

Order of Invention

Breaking Games|  BGG

Designer: Tim W.K. Brown
Publisher: Breaking Games
2 or more players 15 minutes ages 8+
MSRP $20

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Bubble Wrap… Instant Coffee… Processed Cheese… The Zamboni

Do you know which came first? Can you put these inventions in the right order? The name of the game says it all.

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There are 80 large and wonderfully illustrated invention cards.

The front of each card is red and shows the invention. The back of each card is blue and contains the year of the invention and some fun facts about it. The range of years spans from the 1890’s to the 1970’s.

Each player or team gets a set of player chips numbered first, second, third, and fourth.

A bank of scoring tokens will be used after each round.

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Each round, four inventions will be on display, red side face up.

Your task is to place your first chip on the invention that was invented the earliest, following on in numerical order until you place your fourth chip on the invention you think was invented most recently.

Once all chips are placed, flip the cards to reveal the years for each invention and wait for the chorus of cheers and moans.

Now we score.

I like to put the cards in chronological order before revealing the chips to see who scores. It builds a bit more tension and prompts some discussion as you see the small timeline you’ve created this round.

Any player or team that has a numbered chip on an invention in the correct order earns a scoring token worth 1 point. If you’re wrong, sorry! Better luck on the next one.

If you’re feeling frisky, on the next rounds you can bet your scoring tokens in addition to your player chips. But don’t get too cocky. If you’re wrong, you lose those points!

The player or team with the most points after five rounds wins.

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There are no lack of games, especially in the party game arena, that ask players to think about time and chronology.

Familiarity and context set Order of Invention apart from the crowd.

The inventions in the game are small and often eclectic things we know. They are not monumental items, but each in their own way has had some impact on the world. This is history on a small scale – a relatable scale, because the inventions are familiar.

The game asks us to place four items in context with each other.

Processed cheese must be before bubble wrap, right? And the Zamboni must come later since its a gas powered vehicle but later than bubble wrap? And what about instant coffee? Didnt the astronauts drink that?

The heart of fun comes from the conversations these items spur on between us.

And that dialogue is inspired by the fact that the items are part of our lives. We can place the inventions in our own frame of reference, in our own context, first. And that allows us to enjoy the game in a way that’s markedly different than games that focus on big historical events or famous people or inventions.

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Order of Invention is most certainly Major Fun for groups of almost any size and players of all ages. But it can also be a blast with just two. Not many games can span that range and hold up well in both situations.

The subtle but important choice to focus on the eclectic flotsam and jetsam of our modern world makes the game shine. And, win or lose, it will bring players back to the table wondering what crazy mix of items you’ll get each time you play.

Written by: Stephen Conway

Special Note:

This review appears in the Summer 2019 issue of Casual Game Insider Magazine.

CGI publishes a wonderful selection of articles and reviews on a quarterly basis.  In 2019, a Major Fun review will be featured in the next several issues.

The Spiel, Major Fun and CGI share a common goal: opening doors to the wider world of play. We hope this cross promotion will invite more people into the game community.

Troika

Troika

Oink Games|  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: Jun Sasaki
Publisher: Oink Games
2-5 20 minutes ages 7+
MSRP $20

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In Troika, You are a fortune seeker, hoping to cash in on a recent discovery. On a distant planet, scientists have found a type of stone, which when combined properly, can yield great riches.

You’ve traveled to the planet, but now you’ve been told that getting these gems won’t be enough. You must also gather the right kind of stones to provide enough fuel to get you back to Earth. Gems and fuel. Anything less and your mission will be judged a failure.

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As with all Oink Games, the fun in Troika is packed into a small, portable box.

Troika comes with 49 Stone tiles. The tiles are numbered from 1 to 15. Each number is represented three times(three ‘5’ tiles, three ‘6’ tiles, etc.) except for the ‘7’ tile, which has exactly seven copies. The tiles show their number on one side only, with a dark blue reverse.

The game also comes with 20 scoring chips in denominations of 2, 1, and -1.

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In Troika, each adventurer must gather sets of exactly 3 stones to combine as either gems or fuel. Gems will give you the riches you desire. But without fuel, you aren’t leaving the planet to enjoy life back on Earth.

A set of three consecutively numbered stones (4,5,6, for example) become a gem. To make fuel, you must collect three of the same number.  You put your sets together at the end of a round, so plan carefully what you keep.

To begin a round, turn all the Stone tiles face down in the center of the table. Give them a good shuffle, and each player takes one tile at random. This tile goes face down in front of the player in their Hand.  

Now, from the remaining tiles, turn one tile face up for all to see. Choose a starting player, and begin your adventure.

Each player’s turn starts exactly the same: Turn face up one of the Stone tiles in the center of the table. Now the player has two choices: Take a tile from the center of the table(face up or face down) or return a tile they’ve previously collected back to the center area.

If you take a face up tile, it goes in front of you, and is visible for all to see. This area is your Container.  

If you take a face down tile, it goes into your Hand, and is kept secret from the other players. But you can hold no more than three tiles in your hand. If your hand is full, you can’t choose this option.

The other choice is to return a tile back to the middle. If you do this, a face up tile goes back face up. A tile from your Hand goes back face down. To understand why you’d choose this option, you need to know how a hand scores.

Remember, you are collecting sets of three.  Three ‘7’s, for example, will complete a fuel set. A fuel set counts 0 value toward your overall score for the round. But fail to collect a fuel set, and you will lose the round.

A gem set is made of exactly three tiles in consecutive order. A set with a 3, 4, 5 or an 11, 12, 13, for example. A gem set is worth whatever is the last digit in the set. Three points for a 3, or eight points for an 8. Five points for a 15. Zero points for a 10.

But each tile which doesn’t fit into either a fuel set or a gem set is considered Trash, and will cost you one point from your score. This means sometimes the correct decision on your turn is to take out the trash by returning a tile to the middle of the table.

Play continues around the table, with each player on their turn first turning up a tile in the center, and then either taking, or putting back a tile.

Or, maybe, at the start of your turn, you might shout out, “Troika” to escape the planet.

You may only declare Troika if:

  • you have at least 5 face up tiles in front of you (your container),
  • you already have a fuel set (a set of 3 matching numbered tiles)
  • you have no Trash tiles (extra tiles that don’t make gems or fuel) in your hand or container.

If you declare “Troika,” you will stop playing for the round. Your turn is skipped, and you hide their tiles from others until round end.

The first player to declare “Troika” will have five points added to the value of their hand at round end. Be careful, though! If you shout “Troika” without meeting the requirements, you automatically lose the round.

The round ends when all tiles in the center of the table have been turned face up, or when all players except one have declared Troika. Now, players assemble their sets for scoring.

Add the values of the last digits of any gem sets you’ve collected (you might have more than one!).Subtract one point for each junk tile. Add five points if you were the first to declare Troika. A fuel set scores 0.

Players now compare their totals.  Highest total gets a 2 point score chip. Second highest receives a 1 point chip. Nothing for anyone else. EXCEPT… if you failed to get both a fuel set and a gem set, you get a minus 1 chip.

Set up for another round and play 3 total. Highest total score on your chips is the boldest and best adventurer!

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Troika offers a twist on the classic genre of set collection. Here, you must collect two sets of opposing natures. You will find the interests of amassing three consecutive numbers and three alike numbers bumping heads regularly. Especially when you figure in the intent of others at the table.

Trying to use 3 tens as a fuel set?  Just wait until Aunt Sylvia grabs one of them to go with the eleven and twelve she has as a gem set. Now, your tens are trash. You’d better make other plans.

Of course, you can see to a degree what others are collecting. But some tiles are in the player’s hands and not open knowledge. You’ve got to watch carefully what others take, and try to infer what else they might hold in their hands.

The fact that the game has  of all the numbers, but seven 7s is clever.  Sevens seem like an easy source of fuel. Just get three of them. BUT… of course, everyone wants sevens for that reason. AND… the the most valuable gem set you can make is the 7-8-9 (nine points!). Don’t expect the sevens to just build up on the table, waiting for you to grab them.

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Troika packs a delicious tension into every game. You must turn up one tile on your turn. Since the round ends when all the tiles are face up, the clock is always ticking. The only thing you can do to hold off time is return a face down tile from your hand to the pool.

And adding to the tension is the allure of “Troika” itself. By shouting it out first, you are staking claim to a perfect hand and its reward of a five point bonus. But will that be enough? Maybe another player will complete two gem sets and surpass your total, even with the bonus points. It’s a gamble, but it may be just enough to put you first.

With Troika, Oink Games enters the arena of other games in the Rummy family. The appeal is the same as any other classic Rummy game: collect sets to outscore your opponent. But here the clock is ticking from the very start, and the fun is compacted into a quick, but challenging experience.

Troika stands as a classic with a whimsical Oink twist. A twist that carries over to the tiles themselves. They are septagons.

Written by: Doug Richardson

Tiny Towns

Tiny Towns

AEG  |  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: Peter McPherson
Publisher: AEG
1-6 players 30-45 minutes ages 12+
MSRP $40

text-the concept

You are the mayor of a tiny town in the forest, where the smaller creatures of the woods have created a civilization hidden away from predators. This new land is small and the resources are scarce–you take what you can get, and never say ‘no’ to building materials. Cleverly plan and construct a thriving town, and don’t let it fill up with wasted resources!

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Each player receives a player board, which represents their tiny town. The board is a 4×4 grid, on which resources will be placed, and buildings constructed. In addition, players also receive two Monument cards, and a single wooden monument piece.

Five different colored cubes represent the resources: Wood, Wheat, Brick, Glass, and Stone. The colors are nicely contrasted in brown, yellow, red, teal and gray.

Each game of Tiny Towns features the Cottage (your creatures need a place to live!). In addition, 6 other buildings may be built. These public buildings are selected randomly from game to game. For each type of building, one card out of four is chosen to be featured in each game. Each building will present slightly different challenges, and offer different scoring possibilities.

The building cards show a pattern of colored resources which must be matched to place a building. In addition, how each building will score at game’s end is spelled out in text at the bottom.

Every one of the seven public buildings are represented by wooden building pieces. These are a different color and shape, making them easy to differentiate from one another.

 In addition, players also receive two Monument cards, and a single wooden monument piece. You’ll choose one of these two private building cards to keep, discarding the other. Only you may build this unique structure during the game.

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Tiny Towns is a game in which players use pattern recognition to build buildings and score points. Each building scores victory points in a unique way, and requires a different grouping of resources.

On a turn, one player will be the Master Builder. This player selects one of the five resources, which all players must add to their boards. Once placed, a cube cannot be moved. Then the next player in turn order becomes Master Builder, and all players must add the resource they select to their personal boards.

At any time a player has the required cubes to match either a public or private building, he or she may build.. First all the cubes used are returned to the supply, then the building is placed on one of the spaces which yielded the cubes.

For example: The Cottage requires a pattern of cubes with a teal cube at its center, flanked by a red cube on the left, and yellow cube on the right, but turned 90 degrees. Once this little triangle of three pieces is complete, remove the cubes, and place a cottage in one of the three spaces. Now your critters have a place to call home!

But a place to live is worthless without a source of food.  One of four food buildings (Farm, Granary, Greenhouse, or Orchard) will supply your cottages. Cottages which are fed will score 3 points apiece. Otherwise, they score zero.

Say the Farm is in your game. It’ll feed four Cottages. If you built a fifth Cottage, you’ll need to have a second Farm to feed all five. Other food buildings will feed cottages based on how close they are to the Cottages. And each food building requires a different pattern of cubes in order to be built.

Other types of buildings play off of their location in your town to score points, or what other buildings you’ve erected nearby. The Tavern simply gives points based on how many you’ve built. One Tavern will get you 2 points, but five Taverns yield 20. The Feast Hall will yield 2 points each. But if you build more of them than your right hand neighbor does, they increase to 3 apiece..

And Commercial buildings (Bank, Factory, Trading Post, Warehouse) allow flexibility. Essentially, these allow a player to embargo a type of resource. If any player names that color of cube, the buildings owner gets to choose an alternate resource.

Remember that buildings may never be moved. And a cube may only be committed to building a single building. Planning your Tiny Town is very important. Each decision on where to place a cube is important, as resources block spaces until they can be converted into a single building, freeing up space again. Leaving a single stranded cube can put a serious crimp in your game.

Eventually, the time will come when you can no longer place a cube or construct a new building. Your game is over. But other players may continue choosing cubes until they also can’t build or place another cube.

Then all players remove all unused cubes from their town, and score positive points based on their buildings and monument. But each empty space will cost one point off your final score–you wasted resources! The player with the most points wins.

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Tiny Towns offers ease of play married to strategic depth. The few rules in the game offer a low barrier to entry. Within minutes almost anyone can be building and enjoying the game. What will surprise most gamers is the amount of strategic depth Tiny Towns offers. At first, building your town seems simple, almost child’s play. But the challenge of how to maximise your scoring, given the resources you are handed, is one that gamers will find intriguing.

The Monument Cards provide for a wide variety of decisions and strategies. Games like Tiny Towns could fall into the trap of “Everyone does the same thing”. After all, each player takes the same resource on a turn and has the same set of basic buildings they may construct. But the monument cards offer players an individual goal which allows everyone to strike out on their own path from the start. Some incentivise you to build more of a certain type of building. Others require a different pattern to score well. Monument cards give each player’s game a distinct feel.

Tiny Towns might be compared to Bingo. But it’s a game of Bingo where on your turn you decide which resource gets called. By doing so, you not only improve your position, but also have a deep impact on everyone else’s game. By paying attention to other player’s games, you might stitch them up, and seal a victory for yourself.

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Tiny Towns offers players tremendous value on many levels. The artwork is sweet and fun to look at. The wooden building pieces are pleasing to place and admire. And the number of cards offers tremendous replayability, guaranteeing that virtually no two games of Tiny Towns will ever be the same experience. Not counting the Monument cards, there are over 4,000 different initial setups for Tiny Towns. That’s enough to bring puzzle game fans back to the table time after time.

 And repeated plays offer the chance to explore two rules variants. The Cavern variant allows you to twice a game set aside cubes which others have chosen that don’t fit your game.The Town Hall variant offers a deck of cards which reveal one random resource that players must use. After every two random resources, each player adds a resource of their choosing to their own town. The town Hall deck also offers a way to play Tiny Towns solitaire.

Tiny Towns appeals to those who like city building games such as 7 Wonders or Alhambra. It scratches the itch of those who enjoy puzzle-like games such as Sagrada or Take It Easy!  And it offers a bridge between the interests of casual and more serious gamers, where both can meet and play. As such, Tiny Towns also spans the gap between The Spiel of Approval and Major Fun Awards, making it a worthy resident of both camps.

In Tiny Towns you build a small town for small critters in a small amount of time. But don’t be fooled: inside this little game AEG has packed great value and variety for a small price.

Written by: Doug Richardson

Wombattle

Wombattle

A-Games|  BGG

Designer: Andrea Szilágyi, Judit Maróthy
Publisher: A-Games
3-10 players 30 minutes ages 10+
MSRP $30

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Somewhere in the universe, wombats gather in parties to find a champion. All creatures are welcome, facing challenges ridiculous and sublime. In fact every time they play, the challenges will change since the players themselves shape them.  A word, a memory, a drawing, a gesture, even a song could be the key to unlock the heart of the judge.

Wombattle is a whacktastic party game driven by an unexpected dexterity element and whimsically weird art

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There are two key elements to Wombattle: the throwing board and wombat cards

The throwing board is actually the game box with an insert covered with colored holes. The lid of the box is nested vertically behind and serves as a backboard/backstop.

The 16 double sided wombat cards will inspire each challenge during the game.

Each card depicts a wombat and other friendly animals engaged in various activities. The wombat might be doing mundane tasks like grocery shopping and hanging pictures. Then again, the wombat might be cliff diving or landing on the moon. Packed with little details, each card has a Richard Scarry-esque quality to it, inviting the viewer to look again to discover new parts of the scene. It’s impossible to overstate the how the whimsy and charm of the artwork helps create the world of the game.

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Each round in Wombattle, players will face a challenge set by the judge (a fellow player). The shape of the challenge is set by a feat of dexterity, a wombat card, and the imagination of the judge

The feat of dexterity determines the category for the round. The judge bounces a marble off the backstop and into the grid on the throwing board. The hole where the marble comes to rest has a color and the color of the hole determines the category: Arts, Movement, Bravery, and Me-me-me.

Once you have the category, the judge selects a wombat card. The wombat card and the category will now combine in the mind of the judge to create a challenge.

The judge presents the card to the group and, based on the category and some aspect of the scene shown on the card, crafts a challenge that connects the two.

Each player will do his or her best to face the challenge and the judge will select a winner. That player will place an obstacle cone in the throwing board.

Then the players vote for the solution they enjoyed the most. These votes will be tallied at the end.

The game continues with a new  player serving as judge each round until one player has placed all his or her obstacle tokens into the board.

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The general insanity and collective sense of fun Wombattle creates makes the game a wonderful experience.

The categories themselves are a mix of standard party game fare (drawing or gestures) and elements that are fresh. Bravery? Come up with something memorable or daring. Me-me-me? A challenge that relates to the judge in some way.

Players themselves set the boundaries of the game from round to round; it’s a negotiation, a dance that creates a safe space for everyone to have fun. It’s an unexpected and wonderful risk – to leave so much room in the game for players to explore and define the limits of the game.

And in some ways, this makes Wombattle more activity than game. 

But that’s ok.

Wombattle is focused on fun, first and forever. It’s an arena for laughter and silliness.

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Wombattle embodies an essential element that inspires the Major Fun Award: the simple joy of play. This joy is open to everyone. Any time, anywhere. Wombattle gives us permission to be playful. And it deflects attention away from winning. If you’re playing to win Wombattle, you should be playing a different game. Wombattle is a vehicle for laughter and fun and a reminder to not take yourself or the game too seriously.

To this end, each player writes down a reward they will give (a high five?, a compliment?, a cookie?, a hug?) and places it in the box. The winner will draw one and the player with the most votes will, too. It might not be a paragon of sophisticated game design but Wombattle is a work of demented genius. It soars because it is a source for the creative semi-structured joy we discover through play.

Written by: Stephen Conway

Special Note:

This review appears in the Spring 2019 issue of Casual Game Insider Magazine.

CGI publishes a wonderful selection of articles and reviews on a quarterly basis.  In 2019, a Major Fun review will be featured in the next several issues.

The Spiel, Major Fun and CGI share a common goal: opening doors to the wider world of play. We hope this cross promotion will invite more people into the game community.

Forbidden Sky

Release: 5/6/2019    Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Run Time: 85 min    Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

First came the island. Your team of adventurers found relics in temples sinking into the sea.

Next was the Desert. Crashed in the wastes, your team rebuilt an ancient flying machine to escape.

And now, high above the clouds, your team discovers an abandoned launch station from a lost space-faring civilization.

There’s just one problem. A deadly storm is coming. Can you rewire the station (creating a real electrical circuit) and gather your team for a rocket launch into the Forbidden Sky?

Forbidden Sky is the third in a trilogy of cooperative games by noted designer Matt Leacock. Each game in the series adds new challenges and levels of complexity to overcome.

Listen in to explore the game and discover why it deserves BOTH awards!

Forbidden Sky

Gamewright  |  BGG  |  Buy

Designers: Matt Leacock

Publisher: Gamewright

2-5 players   1 hour   ages 10+   MSRP $40

For info on the other segments featured on the show, check out the show notes at The Spiel!

***

Music credits include:

Sky Man   |  by Geoff Goddard  |  the song

Big Sky  |  The Kinks  |  the song

Night Sky  |  Chvrches  |  the song

***

Echidna Shuffle

Echidna Shuffle

Wattsalpoag|  BGG

Designer: Kris Gould
Publisher: Wattsalpoag
2-6 players 15-20 minutes ages 6+
MSRP $30

text-the concept

Echidnas, prickly cousins to the platypus, love to roam the forest floor. They often bump into friends along the way as they walk their well worn paths. What the echidnas don’t know is this. The insects of the forest ride them everywhere… like the bus or the subway! Better yet, echidnas are like spiny unaware Uber or Lyft drivers, picking up and dropping off passengers as they shuffle along.

In Echidna Shuffle, each player has three colorful insects they are trying to get home. Can you catch a ride on an echidna and help it shuffle through the forest to your home stumps? The problem is there are so many echidnas around, they often wander off course, especially when you get close to your bug’s home!

text-the components

Echidna Shuffle can easily make a case for being the cutest game in the universe.

One look at the ridiculously adorable echidna figurines and you’ll be smiling. You will want to hold them. And talk to them. And play with them like a long lost pet. OK… maybe that’s just me. But I don’t think so! They are irresistibly cute.

There are also lovely stumps and insect figurines in bright colors: butterflies and ladybugs, ants and bees, grasshoppers and beetles – a group for each player. plus a bug token and a pickup marker.

The game board is big and bright and two sided, each one displaying a different layout of forest paths. There are big arrows indicating the directions of the paths.

Last but not least is the number board and the custom echidna die. It is a 6-sided die, but it is numbered from 2-7 with tiny echinda feet as its pips.

To begin, each player will select a pickup space. This is where all your bugs will catch a ride from the echidnas. The player to your left will get to decide where to place your three stumps. This means your stumps will most likely be annoyingly far away from where your bugs catch a ride

text-the mechanics

Echidna Shuffle is a dice-driven pick-up-and-deliver game. It’s a race between you and your fellow players to see who can get all their bugs delivered safely to their home stumps on the board.

Directly and indirectly, the echidna die drives each turn. On your first turn, you roll the die and based on that roll, you place a matching token on that number on your number board.

Then you get to move the echidnas a number of spaces equal to the number you rolled.

You can move any echidna on the board. You can even move multiple echidnas. No one owns them. So any of the cute little critters are fair game.

If you land an echidna on your pickup marker, then one of your bugs catches a ride! Place it on the echidna’s back. The two pieces connect together beautifully.

But here’s the catch.

There are a LOT of echidnas and only a few open spaces along the forest path! In order to move an echidna, you must follow the arrows along the path AND the echidna must have an open space on which to land.

Echidnas won’t jump over or land on occupied spaces.

If this cardboard forest has a golden rule it’s this: if there’s an echidna in your way, you must shuffle it along to another space.

Thus begins your struggle to keep the flow of echidna traffic moving! In order to move the one echidna you really want to move, you may need to move several others on the board to clear a path.

text-apart

Balance, reluctant kindness and temptation to mischief set Echidna Shuffle apart.

Balance comes in the form of the number board. The echidna die is numbered 2-7. Over the course of two turns you will get to move echidnas a total of 9 spaces, guaranteed. If your first roll is a 7, you mark this with a token on your number board. On your next turn you do not roll the die. Instead, you move the number token down along the arrow to the space with the 2. This means you get to move the echidnas two spaces as though you rolled a 2 this turn. If I roll a 5 on my first turn, I know my next turn I will move 4. A 3 first? Then a 6 next time.

This brings balance to the game since you will never have to worry about always rolling low. A low roll one turn guarantees your next “virtual” roll courtesy of the number board will be high.

Reluctant kindness and temptation to mischief are always present on every turn in Echidna Shuffle. Reluctant kindness comes in the form of moving an echidna with someone else’s bug. It could even mean delivering another player’s bug to one of their home stumps! The board is so tight with traffic that sometimes the only way to help yourself is to help someone else, too!

Temptation to mischief is rooted in the same dilemma. When the echidnas are blocking your best path and you don’t have enough moves to get them out of the way, the temptation is always there to move echidnas with other player’s bugs along a path that might make it harder for them to get home. Sometimes the only way to help yourself is to mess someone else up!

This decision point  – to be kind and/or mischievous is there every turn. And each time the cute little creatures move, some people will cheer while others will moan. This keeps everyone engaged and part of the game.

text-final

On the great board game Venn diagram in sky (it’s a thing, trust me) Echidna Shuffle sits at the intersection of beauty, balance, interaction and simple strategy. Each of these elements provides its own invitation to play.

Beauty in the wonderfully charming pieces.

Balance in the number board equalizing high and low die rolls

Interaction in the fact you will most likely help or cause mischief for other players each time you take a turn

Simple strategy in the surprising level of planning and forethought available to every player.

You can accept any of these invitations. Or all of them. And they all lead to different kinds of fun.

All this in a game clearly geared toward very young players. This is a game for children that can operate on many levels at once.

The kids can fall in love with the beauty and the interaction. The balance and planning may be lost on them, while the parents or older friends or siblings can find fun there too.

There are even variants to explore and plenty of ways you could nudge the game to suit the needs of your group.

Echidna Shuffle is delightful and charming. It is most definitely Major Fun and a great example of what a modern game for kids can and should be.

Written by: Stephen Conway

Flotsam Fight

Release: 4/15/2018    Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Run Time: 56 min    Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

A treasure hunter’s life is never easy. Especially when the ship with your treasure capsizes and all your loot starts to float away!

Flotsam Fight is a card shedding game that plays like an old classic.Your goal is to put as many treasure cards as you can onto lifeboats. The problem is, each treasure will only fit onto certain boats. And when one player finishes loading up, you don’t want to be stuck with an armful of big loot!

Tune in to see why we think Flotsam Fight packs a ton of Major Fun into such a small box.

Flotsam Fight

Oink Games |  BGG |  Buy

Designers: Tomoyuki Maruta

Publisher: Oink Games

2-6 players  30 minutes   ages 8+   MSRP $23

For info on the other segments featured on the show, check out the show notes at The Spiel!

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Music credits include:

Gower Flotsam in Bordeaux   |  by Mabon  |  the song

Flotsam  |  by The Fogcutters  |  the song

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