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!

text-the components

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.

text-the mechanics

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.

text-apart

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

text-the concept

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

text-the components

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.

text-the mechanics

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.

text-apart

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: 5/6/2018    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.

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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!

***

Music credits include:

Gower Flotsam in Bordeaux   |  by Mabon  |  the song

Flotsam  |  by The Fogcutters  |  the song

***

Illusion

Illusion

NSV|  Pandasaurus  |  BGG

Designer: Wolfgang Warsch
Publisher: NSV, Pandasaurus
2-4 players 20 minutes ages 8+
MSRP $15

text-the concept

Illusion asks the simple question: Can you trust your eyes? All you need to do is put cards in order, from low to high, based on just one color. Everything is right before you— if you can believe what you see.

Illusion takes child like concepts of shape and color, more and less, and turns them into Major Fun for everyone at the table.

Illusion has players ranking cards with abstract shapes, based on which card has more of one particular color. Each following player must either accept the order as correct, or challenge the existing order.

text-the components

Illusion uses 110 cards. 12 cards make up the arrow deck, with 3 in each of the four colors(red, green, yellow, and blue). In addition, there are 98 color cards. These each have an abstract pattern on the front, using the four colors. The backs all state the ratio of each color on the card, ranked in percentages.

text-the mechanics

Shuffle the 12 arrow cards and flip one face up. This card will indicate which color matters for each player this round. The 98 color cards are shuffled, and the deck is placed face up. Now the top card of the color deck is placed in line with the arrow card. 

After choosing a starting player, that person takes the next card from the color deck. Without looking at the back, the start player must order the two cards from lower to higher based on the arrow color.

Now, you, as the next player, have a decision to make. Are the two cards in the correct order, from least to most of the color in question? If you think they are, then it’s your turn to add another card to the queue. Ignoring the three other colors, where does the new card fit in? Least? Most? Middle?

On the other hand, you may decide the cards aren’t ordered correctly. You then question the validity of the entire row. Flip over all the color cards. On the back of each card are the percentage of the color in question. Did you guess correctly?

If you did, you receive the arrow card as a reward. It counts as one point to your score. The goal is to score 3 points, or to have the most points if you play through all 12 arrow cards.

However, if the row was in correct order, the previous player gets the point.  Then, discard all the color cards, and begin a new round. In either case, the player who was awarded the card is the new start player.

text-apart

1). Illusion asks you to consider math differently. Typically, math is all about formulas and numbers and ratios. I give you a certain amount of info, and you apply the theorems to find the exact answer. And, that’s just about as fun as that sounds.

Forget that. Illusion demands you use your eyes, your gut, your feelings, to determine if this card has more red than another. The exact numbers are hidden. You need to go on your instincts. The game even uses terms like trust and believe.

2). Illusion asks you to question what art is. The color cards are computer generated. Squiggles, lines, geometric shapes, and the occasional letter or number. Is this art? Strictly speaking, no. And yet, there’s a subtle beauty in every color card. Aside from serving a mathematical function, each one stands as a small piece of art, conforming to the demands of the game.

And, as you judge each card for its value, the simple beauty of the shapes and colors takes hold. You are taking in art and evaluating it, not only for its beauty, but also for its conformation to the rules of math.

3): Illusion is tricky without being overly complex. Those little triangles of green might add up to more than that big splotch on the other card. It’s magic is more slight-of-hand than make-an-elephant-disappear.  It’s charm is simple, subtle, and impishly deceiving.

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Illusion challenges your brains in a different way. Illusion is smart, without being smarter than its audience. And this makes it easily accessible to most ages.  But even though you’ll be thinking or seeing in new ways, Illusion never forgets that the end goal is fun.

Illusion is, as its name suggests, illusory. It poses a simple question—More, or Less? But the complexity which results from that question poses a challenge for young and old.

And that challenge is most certainly Major Fun.

Written by: Doug Richardson

Just One

Release: 3/4/2018    Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Run Time: 73 min    Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Just One is a cooperative party game. A stack of 13 cards stands between everyone playing and perfection. Each round clues will be given and a guess will be made in hopes of finding the magic word for the round. But in each case, whether you’re a clue giver or word guesser you get JUST ONE.

The tension in the game comes from each player’s imagination and trying not to get in synch with anyone else at the table. Can you use your powers of inference, using your knowledge of the word and the knowledge of the people at the table to figure out what path they might be on so you can avoid it and find one of your own?

And by shifting the competition away from each other to a question of how well can we all do, it celebrates the joy of playing over the joy of winning. It’s not even funny how Major Fun that is.

Listen in for a full review and discussion.

Just One

Repos BGG  |  Buy

Designers: Ludovic Roudy, Bruno Sautter

Artist: Eric Azagury

Publisher: Repos Production

3-7 players  20 minutes   ages 8+   MSRP $25

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

***

Music credits include:

Just One of Those Things  |  the song
performed by Ella Fitzgerald written by Cole Porter
A Day in the Life  |  the song
performed by Manhattan Jazz Quintet  written by The Beatles
Just a Bum  |  the song
performed and written by Greg Brown

***

Reef


Reef

Next Move Games|  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: Emerson Matsuuchi
Publisher: Next Move Games
2-4 players 30 minutes ages 8+
MSRP $40

text-the concept

In Reef, players explore the fragile beauty of nature’s coral reefs. Each player controls one tiny bit of ocean, adding bright coral pieces to their real estate. Choose carefully which coral to add, and Neptune will reward you with his approval. Can you create a masterpiece of the sea?

text-the components

The first thing you notice when you open Reef is the 112 chunky pieces. Evenly divided between four colors: green, yellow, purple, and orange-red. Big and tactile, each color is formed in a distinct shape, but also stacks well with any other color.

From these pieces you will build your own coral reef. Your challenge is to look ahead and build in a way which meets the demands of the cards you choose. Do so, and you’ll claim mastery of an undersea kingdom!

In addition to the pieces, there are 88 point tokens in various denominations, a deck of 60 cards, and 4 player boards.

Each player takes one of each color reef piece, three 1-point tokens, and two cards at random from the deck. Then, on your player board arrange the pieces, one on each of the four center spaces.

text-the mechanics

Reef is a game of pattern building and recognition. Using cards you’ll gather colorful pieces to build your reef, hoping to stack them into the right configurations to score.

A turn in Reef is simple. You either draw one of the face up cards from the display, or you play a card from your hand.

If you draw a card, you may take any one of the three face up cards for free. The top card of the deck is also available, but at a cost. You must pay a 1-point token to take this card, putting the token on the lowest point value card in the row.

Playing a card from your hand allows you to grow your reef. First, take the two pieces depicted on the top of the card into your stock. Now add these two to your player board, placing them either on an open space, or on top of other pieces already in your reef, regardless of color. The only restriction is that no stack may ever exceed four pieces high.

After, score the pattern at the bottom of the card. If the pattern doesn’t match your board, it scores no points. For every match, take the number of points shown on the card.

For example, a card might show an example of three red pieces arranged at a right angle(or an ‘L’ shape). Below this might be a number 4. For each separate instance this pattern appears on your board, you score four points. Keep in mind that the only pieces which count are the ones atop each stack.

A pattern might also show a specific number, such as a yellow piece with a number 2. Here, the only stacks which can be considered for scoring are those which are two high, and whose top piece is yellow.

Once you draw a card, or play a card, the next player in clockwise order will take a turn. The game continues in this manner until at least one set of pieces, or the draw deck runs out.

At the end of the game, you score the cards left in your hand, if any. But, if there are multiple matches on a card, only one match will score. Add up all the point tokens you’ve collected, and the player with the highest total wins!

text-apart

I will emphasize three elements of game play which make Reef a new classic among abstract games. All three allow players to learn and enjoy facets of more complex games without becoming bogged down in tedious study.

1).The ease of entry. The 8+ age suggestion seems right, but even a seven year old could play this game. The big chunky pieces even invite them to play. Maybe they won’t win. But teach it to a nine year old, and watch them run the table.

2).The dread, delicious ending. Of course, you want to go into the final scoring with cards in hand. But so often cards will score multiple times before the end, and only once after. Which cards do you try to get played before the game ends?

3).The smooth introduction of strategy game elements to casual gaming. Without even realizing it, players step into a world familiar to strategy gamers. Concepts such as hand management, chaining of actions, and pattern recognition.

The finest of all abstract games, Chess and Go, use these last two elements in deep ways. Masters of either game spend entire lifetimes exploring those depths. Reef allows us all to play with these elements, and begin to explore. Reef makes the deep simple and enjoyable.

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Next Move was founded on the idea of introducing simple, but engaging, abstract games to the public. Starting with the hugely popular Azul(a Spiel of Approval winner in 2018), and now with Reef, they’ve managed to bring games with wide appeal more directly into public view. By doing so, they serve us all by helping to expand our hobby.

Some have criticized Reef for its pieces being less impressive than Azul’s patterned tiles. I think this misses the fact that Reef aims to attract a slightly younger audience. Reef’s pieces are fun to look at and fun to play with. Of course the underlying game is compelling in its own right, but the three dimensional reef pieces enhance our enjoyment of the game.

In the end, what we can ask from games is that they allow us to explore a path to fun, and to let us ask our common question: “What would it be like if?” Reef invites us all to build an underwater kingdom. Few of us will ever even visit a coral reef, but here we can grasp the pieces of our choosing and build a tabletop empire of coral.

Whether you are seven or seventy, the ease of play, coupled with the challenge and joy of creating an undersea landscape, makes Reef worthy of the Major Fun Award.

Piepmatz

Release: 2/18/2018    Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Run Time: 74 min    Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

A flock of little songbirds gather at the feeder to eat. One by one, different birds hop on the perch and carry away their meals, large and small. Can you gather the best collection of bird and seed cards as the feeder empties while avoiding greedy squirrels and angry crows?

Piepmatz is a beautiful and beautifully simple card game for players of all ages. It’s easy to learn but provides an enjoyable, ever-changing puzzle to sort out each turn.

It takes creative vision to find a game in something so seemingly ordinary. That vision is a sure path to Major Fun.

Listen in for a full review and discussion.

Piepmatz

Lookout  |  BGG

Designers: Ben Pinchback, Matt Riddle

Artist: Klemenz Franz, Mike Langman

Publisher: Lookout Games

2-4 players  20-30 minutes   ages 10+   MSRP $15

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:

The Birds   by  Ottorino Respighi  |  music

Space Oddity  by David Bowie (Antonin Charvat)  |  music

Ancestral Plane  L. Goransson

(Uzowuru & Kleinman Remix) | music

Birds on a Wire  by Jarbas Agnelli  | music

Grantchester Meadows  by Pink Floyd  |  music

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Monster Crunch

Monster Crunch

Big G Creative |  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: Forrest-Pruzan Creative
Publisher: Big G Creative
2-5 players 20 minutes ages 9+
MSRP $20

text-the concept

It’s Saturday morning. You and your monster friends are bored and hungry. There’s only one way to settle this: make breakfast into a battle. Get your bowl and spoon and ice cold milk ready to go. Crack open your box of sugary cereal cards and play as many as you can over the course of three hands. The monster who munches the most cereal wins and walks away the champion of breakfast!

text-the components

There are 180 very colorful cereal cards, divided into five 36 card decks. Each deck looks like a box of cereal with a classic General Mills monster: Boo Berry, Count Chocula, Frankenberry, Fruit Brute, and Fruity Yummy Mummy. Each deck has 3 cards numbered 1 through 12.

Each player starts with one of these decks, a matching bowl and a tile that explains your monster’s special powers.

The bright and attractive artwork draws you into the game. And there’s an undeniable nostalgia factor in play as well. If you’re of a certain age, the game will almost instantly pull you into pleasant memories of hours spent staring at these characters at the kitchen table with cartoons blaring in the background

text-the mechanics

Monster Crunch draws its inspiration from a style of classic card game called a ladder game. Why ladder? Each round, you must play a card (or a set of cards) that increase in value – up and up like rungs on a ladder. Each round ends when you get to the top of the ladder because everyone else cannot or does not want to play.

Ladder games are a very popular genre both in Asia and in the West and there are many different variations all played with a standard deck of cards. Zheng Shangyou is the most famous in China. In the West, it’s President. And many modern card games have introduced their own spin on this classic: The Great Dalmuti, Gang of Four, Lexio, and Tichu just to name a few.

Enter Monster Crunch, adding its own voice to this chorus.

The game is played in three hands of 12 cards. On your turn you will play a single card to your bowl to stay in for the round or you will pass. The card you play must be equal to or higher than the previous card played (climbing the ladder). If I play a 3 to my bowl, then you must play a  3 or higher to your bowl or you must pass.

Eventually, as the numbers go higher and higher, you will be forced to pass. When you do, you will bank all the cards you played to your bowl. These cards will form your score for the game. You’ll also get a milk token when you pass if you’re not the last player in the round. Rounds continue until one player gets rid of all his or her cards. The player that ends the hand will score 12 points (1 point for each card). The other players will score any cards banked during the hand.

Most points after three hands wins the game.

text-apart

Monster Crunch adds two fun twists to the ladder genre: milk tokens and monster abilities.

Normally, each round you may only play a single card to your bowl and this card must be equal to or higher than the previous card played. For each milk token you spend, you may play an additional card to your bowl. The additional card can match the card you play OR the be the next consecutive number. If I play a 7 and add a milk token, I can play another 7 or an 8.

In both cases, whenever you use milk tokens, you add up all the cards played to form a single number. If I played the 7-8 with my milk token, the number for the next player is 15!

With milk tokens, you can create a numbers that are higher than the highest numbered card in the deck! Milk tokens give you a new way to see every hand you play. They add an element of flexibility and strategy that’s simple to understand but fun to manage

Each monster also has two special powers to use during the game. Yummy Mummy can swap a card from its hand with one in the score pile. Count Chocula can reverse the rules for a round so that players must play cards equal to or lower than the previous card.

Each power can have a significant impact on a particular round, so the trick is knowing when to make best use of them as the game moves forward.

text-final

Monster Crunch provides a wonderful introduction to the ladder game genre. It is innovative but ridiculously accessible. Play a card equal or higher than the last one – there’s the essence of the game. Monster Crunch gives players permission to bend or break this basic rule. Deciding when and how to play outside the normal rules makes the game more rewarding and more fun every time you play.

The draw of nostalgia and its bright and happy art is powerful and compelling but without a  rock solid game beneath, Monster Crunch would get soggy and dissolve like cereal left sitting too long in milk.

Lucky for us, Monster Crunch packs a one-two punch filled with Major Fun.

Special Note:

This review appears in the Winter 2018/19 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.

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