The Great Dinosaur Rush

The Great Dinosaur Rush   APE Games  |  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: Scott Almes   Art: Mr. Cuddington   Publisher: APE Games
2-5 players  60 min. ages 10+  MSRP $50

text-the concept

There’s little doubt today’s world is dino-crazy. Few things fire our imagination like seeing the bones of these massive reptilian beasts that once ruled the Earth. And yet this was not always the case. Dinosaurs became part of popular culture due to the Great Dinosaur Rush over 120 years ago!

In the late 1800s, rival paleontologists scrambled to be the first to discover and promote new species of dinosaurs. They often stooped to devious and underhanded means to compete with and embarrass anyone who happened to get in the way. This Wild West approach to science left a black mark on American paleontology but this race for bones led to the discoveries of over 142 species of dinosaurs in a just a few year’s time! The flood of new bones to museums sparked public interest and the dino-craze that still rages on today!

In The Great Dinosaur Rush, each player is a famous fossil hunter from this era in history. Over three rounds you will search the American prairie for bones and use them to build the best dinosaurs and place them in museums. But beware, your opponents may try to sabotage your efforts along the way! You may need to play a little dirty to win, but if you gain too much notoriety, you could lose everything!

text-the components

The game comes with a bag of 210 wooden dinosaur bones. The bones come in five different colors, each color representing a different part of a dinosaur’s skeleton. Some will go on the board and the rest go in a drawstring bag.

There’s a game board representing the dig sites where you will discover the bones and several museum score tracks.

Each player has a screen (which you will use when building your dinos) plus a wooden paleontologist meeple and some scoring cubes.

There’s a bag of 45 notoriety tokens. The tokens are numbered 1-3. When you do underhanded things, you’ll have to draw from this bag.

There are 15 paleontologist cards, each one representing an actual fossil hunter of the era, complete with a small bio.

Last but not least are the 21 Dinosaur Bonus Cards. These cards show a specific layout of bones to create named dinosaurs. Some you may know and love and many you may not.

text-the mechanics

The game is played over the course of three turns. Each turn you has three parts: field, build and exhibit.

The field phase has the most parts and is the real meat of the game.

In the field phase, players collect bones, move their paleontologist on the board, adjust the museum score track and then take an action. Some of these actions are normal and some are notorious. If you take a notorious action, you will have to draw from the dreaded notoreity bag which can hurt your chances at winning.

Let’s look at each part in a little more detail.

You collect bones based on where your paleontologist is on the board. On the first turn, each space has three bones. Empty spaces will fill in with two on turn two and one on the last turn of the game, meaning you’ll collect the most bones early in the game and the least bones later on.

You move your paleontologist in a straight line as far as you want. You can pass other players but not tar pits. Remember, wherever you land, you’ll be picking up bones there to start your next turn.

On the board there are five museum scoring tracks. Each one corresponds to a different aspect of the dinosaur you’re going to build: size, height, length, ferocity, uniqueness. You choose one track and move its score cube up or down. This is your chance to improve or diminish the scoring potential for one particular aspect.

So after collecting, moving and adjusting the museum track you have one final choice to make: what action do you want to take?

There are three normal and three notorious actions from which to choose.

Normal actions go like this.

Publicize: You can move a score cube on one museum track up or down again.

Donate: You can get rid of three bones to score points or get rid of a notoriety token.

Research: You can draw an extra dinosaur bonus card.

Notorious actions go like this.

Sabotage: You can draw and place a notoriety token on the board. Anyone who moves through this space will have to pick it up.

Dynamite: You get rid of the three bones on the space where you stand and then draw three new bones from the bag and keep them.

Steal: You can steal a bone from a space adjacent to the one where you stand, including a space with an opponent.

Notorious actions come with a catch, though. You must draw a notoriety token from the bag. The tokens are numbered 1-3. Keep your tokens secret. They will either help you or really hurt you when it comes time to score at the end of the game. Playing a little dirty is ok, as long as the other players are dirtier than you!

It might seem like a lot to take in the first turn but each part flows nicely to the next. There’s a nice aid with the actions on your player screen so you can see all your options at a glance.

Even better, there’s a family version of the game included that ignores notoreity altogether, so you can ease yourself into the game if the many actions seem too much at first.

Players will repeat the field phase three times each turn and then move on to Build and Exhibit, which brings us to….

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All the decisions you take in the field phase, to acquire bones, to move and position the museum track – all the actions you take are driven by one goal: build the best dinosaur you can!

Now this isnt some theoretical task. You actually get to take the bones you collect and physically build a dinosaur behind your screen!!

Remember the colored bones correspond to particular parts, so each dino must have a head, a neck, a spine, ribs, two limbs and might even have some unique features. There’s a helpful chart on each player screen outlining the various requirements for building your dino.

The important thing to remember is that within these general guidelines, the sky’s the limit. You can arrange the bones to make your own personal dinosaur any way you can imagine.

Dinosaurs like these!

Behold the Dogosaurus. Notice the spiked tail and horns. A reptilian cousin to man’s best friend?

Next up is the Squareadactyl. Graceful wings lifted this gentle square headed beast into the clouds.

The mighty Triangasaurus Rex hopped like a kangaroo on its massive hind legs and attacked with the massive triangular cudgel on its tail.

And last but not least is the Overbitetrodon. Its massive head and bottome jawis held up by an ultra-strong neck. It feeds itself using arms on its head and twin tails.

And if you’ve done a great job collecting the right bones, you may even be able to build one of the dinos depicted on your bonus cards. These will score extra points.

I cannot adequately express how fun it is to be in charge of creating your own dinosaur each turn. You must use all the bones you collect so you may have to get creative with extra long tails or a giant head or a really really long set of arms. It’s a bit like a puzzle but it’s a puzzle that you can form and reform until you find the shape that pleases you best and (you hope!) will score you the most points. Best yet, you keep the bones you dug up on previous turns, so as the game moves forward, you’ll build bigger and bigger dinosaurs.

And honestly, regardless of your ultimate scoring potential, so much of the joy of the game comes from putting your dino together in a way that will cause the others to laugh and marvel when they see your creation!

When everyone is ready, you reveal your dinos and move on to the Exhibit, the last phase of each turn. Look back to the museum tracks and score based on the position of the cubes on each track.

Who has the largest dino? (the most ribs)

Who has the tallest dino? (neck plus the longest limb)

Who has the longest dino? (tail plus spine)

Who has the most ferocious dino? (head plus shortest limb)

Who has the most rare dino (most unique bones).

First second and third places score, so even if you’re not the longest or tallest, you can still rack up points. If you’re able to build any of your special dino cards, show them and score those points too.

So there’s planning during the field phase, the joy and strategy of making dinos in the build phase, and then the payoff with scoring points in the exhibit phase. Each turn ends with its own payoff which makes each turn almost feel like a game in and of itself.

At game’s end the high score wins the game BUT…

Remember those Notoriety tokens? The player with the most notoriety has to SUBTRACT his or her total notoriety taken throughout the game from his or her final score. Other players get to ADD their notoriety to their scores! This means if you play too nicely, you may miss out on a bunch of points and if you play too dirty, you run the risk of a huge negative at the end of the game. The trick is to be a little mean but not so mean you cost yourself the game. It’s a terriffic challenge – very cleverly implemented but easy to understand.

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The Great Dinosaur Rush is certainly at the higher end of the complexity scale when it comes to Major Fun but it is a worth recipient of both honors due to the inclusion of the family rules and the outrageous amount of fun and freedom players have in creating new dinosaurs every turn.

As a Spiel of Approval winner, the game provides great payoff for strategic thinking and the notoriety mechanics give each decision several layers to think through. There’s also a great deal of effort to bring the actual history of the period into the game. Each paleontologist not only has a short biography but they each have a special power that is in synch with the person’s story as well.

For instance, you can play as Mary Anning a noted fossil hunter who discovered one of the first and most complete pterodactyls. She was the inspiration for the tongue twister “She sells seashells down by the seashore. ” Since she was such a prolific fossil hunter, her ability allows her to draw three bones from the bag and place them in her space on the board if that space is empty.

Or you could play as Barnum “Mr. Bones” Brown. He was the cheif fossil hunter for the American Museum of Natural History. His preferred method of searching for fossils was dynamiting fields and picking through the rubble. Naturally, his ability involves dynamite. If you take the dynamtie action, you get to draw an extra bone from the bag.

I love games that can be appreciated by many different players on many different levels. The Great Dinosaur Rush is a wonderful example of a game that strikes a fantastic and fun balance between strategy and accessibility.

Plus, did I mention you get to build dinosaurs every turn?

Easy to see why this game has won our hearts. Give it a go and I think there’s a good chance it might stomp and roar its way into your heart, too.

***

Kingdomino

Release Date: 4/17/2017 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time: 43 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Being King is a tough job, especially when your subjects need more land. Some like the forest, others the desert, some even like the swamp. And it’s your job to make sure they all have a place in your realm. To do this, you’ll expand out from your castle, laying dominoes of different types of land, hoping to create the highest scoring tabletop kingdom.

Kingdomino mixes the time tested classic tile laying game with several simple, clever modern twists. Easy enough for kids and families to learn quickly but deep enough to provide a fun challenge every time you play.

That’s a surefire recipe for Major Fun!

Listen in to our full review of the game and discover why Kingdomino might deserve an honored place on your shelf, too.

Kingdomino

Blue Orange Games  |  BGG  |  Amazon

Designer: Bruno Cathala

Publisher: Blue Orange

2-4 players  15-20 min.  ages 8+  MSRP $20

Music credits include:

Domino by Roy Orbison  |  the song

Falling Like Dominoes   by Donald Byrd   |  the song

***

Double Play

Double Play   INversion Games  |  BGG  |  Amazon

Designer: Alvin Sanico   Graphic Design: Alvin Sanico, Michael Graham, Scott Kim  Publisher: INversion Games  1-6 players  10-20 min. ages 10+  MSRP $9.99

text-the concept

Double Play is a set of word games a fun twist, literally. Every letter card in the deck is actually two different letters, depending on the direction you play the card!

text-the components

Double Play is a deck of Versatileletter cards. What the heck is a Versatileletter, you ask ? It’s a specially designed font that represents two different letters, depending on the orientation of the card.

That means an upside down t can be an f.   A d can be a p.

  

An h can be a y. Or an s can be a v.

 

Like Scrabble, each letter is assigned a value. But because each card is two letters, the value of the card also changes based on how you play it.

Every card back contains the entire alphabet, so if when you’re learning to decipher the letters, you always have a guide handy

text-the mechanics

There are four games included in Double Play:

Finders Stealers: A race to find the longest word from face up letters on the table (2 per player).

Solitaire Dare: Just like it sounds, lay out letter cards in columns and try to form words to play every card in each column.

The Final Word: A 2 player game where players take turns playing cards from a common hand, but only the last word played each round will score.

These first three games can be interesting and fun but the fourth game, Word Wars 1-2-3, is the reason Double Play is Major Fun.

There are 3 rounds in Word Wars 1-2-3. Each round you get a hand of 10 cards.

Your job is to form 3 words using all 10 cards. You’re looking for the three highest scoring words you can find.

Pro tip: you may want some scratch paper handy for each player to write out various words you find and the score for each word! I’d also recommend setting a timer (5 minutes to start; once you’re comfortable, reduce the time to 3 minutes a round).

Once each player has found his or her three words, you’ll compare your results.

I dealt myself a hand of 10, set the timer for 3 minutes.

Here’s your hand. See if you can beat me!

Here’s what I came up with. la (3) cuff (12) yuck (15)

First, compare Word 1, your lowest scoring word. The player with the higher value, scores 1 point.

Next, compare Word 2, the middle scoring word. The player with the higher value scores 2 points.

Finally, compare Word 3, your highest scoring word. The player with the higher value scores 3 pts.

If you make a clean sweep in a round you get a bonus of 4 extra points.

After 3 rounds of play, the player with the highest score wins!

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The innovative graphic design in Double Play is the heart and soul of the game. Without this fun twist, it would be like a thousand other word games under the sun. But this letter system will turn some of your assumptions about word games on their heads.

Unlike a traditional word game, Double Play avoids the bad mix of letters problem that has plagued many a Scrabble player through the decades. You don’t have to raise your fist and curse the spelling gods for giving you a hand that spells A-E-I-I-O-O-U because in Double Play that hand would also be

E-A-L-L-C-C-N. The dreaded Q-W-G-C-H-L-T is also P-M-K-O-Y-I-F. Or ANY combination of the two sets of letters! You may not find a 10 letter word in every hand or every round you play, but there is an amazing variety available in every hand. It’s up to you to find it!

Word Wars 1-2-3 takes full advantage of this variety and gives each player a fun word puzzle to solve each round. Especially if you add in a little time pressure, once you are familiar with the letter system, you’ll see how the deck and the rules connect to give you the sense that there’s always a better word just waiting to be discovered.

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The designer of Double Play offers up a creative set of cards and a clever set of games but perhaps best of all, the designer encourages players to use the cards to find other ways to play. The wacky letter cards certainly entice you to try classic word games (try a crossword style game, building the board with cards) or even tweak the games they provide.

After a few games of Word Wars 1-2-3, we found it was even more fun to make each of our 3 words using the entire hand of 10 cards for all three words. This encourages finding longer and higher scoring words and can result in even more fun discoveries hidden in your hand.

Using the same hand above and three minutes, here are the 3 words I found with the Major Fun variant.

Knot (10) yuck (15) toughen (15)

See how you do using the same hand, using all 10 letters to form three words.

Double Play encourages players to be playful with the game itself. You can use the cards to find new ways to have fun. That’s a concept that’s woven into the fabric of Major Fun.

For its value, versatility and fun, any lover of word games will find lots of reasons to love Double Play.

And if traditional word games have left you frustrated, Double Play’s new twist gives you plenty of reasons to give it a try.

***

Tak: A Beautiful Game

Release Date: 3/13/2017 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:  51 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

“No one wins a dance. Why would I want to win anything other than a beautiful game?”

– Bredon  The Wise Man’s Fear  by Patrick Rothfuss

Tak comes to us from two beautiful and beautifully different minds.

First from writer Patrick Rothfuss. In his epic fantasy series The Kingkiller Chronicles, Kvothe, the protagonist, learns the game of Tak from a courtier named Bredon. The game becomes the basis for their friendship and the foundation for understanding Bredon’s worldview.

Second from game designer James Ernest. Inspired by the novels, James brought Tak from the page to reality. But creating a game that is supposed to be on par with the likes of Chess or Go is no small task!

And yet Tak is just that. A game that feels universal, simple, elegant and accessible. A game that you can play anywhere and with anyone. A game that is beautiful because HOW you play matters as much as winning or losing.

And a game that is worthy both the Major Fun and Spiel of Approval Award!

Listen in to explore Tak – it’s backstory, the game itself, and why we think it deserves an honored place on your table, too.

Tak: A Beautiful Game

Cheapass Games  |  BGG  |  Worldbuilders

Designer: James Ernest & Patrick Rothfuss

Publisher: Cheapass Games

2 players  15-20 min.  ages 8+  MSRP $9,$55,$90

Music credits include:

Tinker, Tanner   by bluedanbob   |  the song

The Name of the Wind   by Ken Bonfield  |  the song 

***

Imagine

Imagine   Gamewright  |  BGG  |  Amazon

Designer: Shotaro Nakashima   Publisher: Gamewright, Cocktail, Moonster
3-8 players  20 min. ages 10+  MSRP $15.00

text-the concept

Imagine is a party game where players use the language of symbols to communicate. Dozens of transparent cards with simple icons will cover the table. You will select and combine these cards, hoping someone in the group can solve your enigma using the clues you provide. The key ingredient is, of course, imagination!

text-the components

Imagine comes with 65 double sided enigma cards. Each card has 8 different categories with typical party game tropes like people, places, objects, colors, phrases and so on.

There are also 35 tokens you’ll use to keep score.

Most important are the 61 transparent icon cards. Each card depicts a simple shape or icon in one of five colors.

Deal the transparent cards in a circle or spread them out on the table and you’re ready to play !

 

text-the mechanics

One player will be the clue-giver each round. This player will draw an enigma card and either choose a category or randomly determine a category for the round. Before starting, the clue-giver will announce the category.

When the round begins, the clue giver will select one or more transparent cards from the table and use them to try and get the other players to guess the word or phrase selected.

Up to this point, a game of Imagine might sounds like most every other party game you’ve played. The unexpected fun twist to the game is HOW you use these cards to give your clues and that is….

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Because the cards are transparent you can overlap the icons and symbols to create more complicated images or clues. A line and a rectangle and a musical note might become a makeshift guitar.

A zigzag line and a flame might become a lit fuse leading to a circle which could be a bomb.

The game wants you to see each card not only as the icon or symbol on the card BUT as building block, a part of a greater whole. It’s up to you and your imagination to see how you can combine and layer these basic parts to make more and more complex pictures.

Now this layering element on its own would be enough to give Imagine plenty of merit for consideration as a Major Fun game. But Imagine raises the bar even higher by allowing the clue giver to ANIMATE the cards to help the other players guess the right answer.

This means you can use the cards to create mini stories or scenes that don’t just illustrate the clue, the cards can demonstrate it!

You could use a pink spiral card and spin this card over a card depicting a person to demonstrate confusion. You could make the person card stagger and stumble. Suddenly you’ve gone from confusion to drunk. You could even use a makeshift bow launch an arrow. Here’s a video showing how you could animate some of the examples I mention above!

Put simply, being able to manipulate and move the cards to create clues gives Imagine an entirely different feel than almost any other party game of its ilk !

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Imagine owes a debt to its predecessor Concept, a party game that is built around, well, the same concept. (Check out our review of Concept here)

Each game requires its players to use the language of symbols to communicate but each game accomplishes this in vastly different ways. In Concept, players use a massive game board filled with dozens of icons grouped by category. By placing cubes on various icons, players must try and connect the dots between the symbols to arrive at the right clue.

In Imagine, the clue giver connects the symbols and cards literally and can even animate the cards to show motion or interaction with others. The cards, the icons, the symbols are building blocks, instruments, tools to fuel the clue giver’s imagination.

The free form nature of this process gives any player a lot of freedom to explore the game. The limits of the game are not, in fact, the rules but rather your own creativity and imagination.

Concept should be applauded as an innovative achievement in party games, a genre where there have been precious few innovations in the past several decades. That said, the game is so different it can be a challenge to teach and learn.

Imagine is less encumbered with rules and allows players greater freedom to play and create on their own terms. This makes Imagine a go-to game for even the most casual game player. And once you have absorbed the basics of Imagine, it’s an easy step up to Concept if you love this style of game.

Play enough party games and there’s at least one basic idea you’ll come to understand : Party games are never really about who wins or loses. They are about the lasting memories that are born from the laughter and creative energy invested by players at the table.

Play one round of Imagine and you’ll see that the game is a wonderful fun-filled engine for these kinds of moments. And that makes it Major Fun !

***

Hidden Folk

There’s a game coming to a device near you. It’s called Hidden Folks. You’re going to want the biggest monitor you have. Not that you can’t play it on, say, your tablet. Just that you’re going to want to see it large. And, yes, it’s that kind of fun – funny enough, challenging enough, different enough that you might even consider it a good enough reason, if you don’t already have a big screen, to get one.

Let me show you what I mean:

 

I know, I know, but please don’t think Where’s Waldo. Everybody thinks Where’s Waldo. It’s not Where’s Waldo. In fact, there’s no Waldo – there’s critters and thingies and stuff to find, each accompanied by a clever clue. Lands to explore – each land different, with different thingies to look for. There’s pointing and clicking and things to open and close and grow and cut down. You don’t have to find everything to get to the next land, which is both a relief and an invitation to come back and try to find the rest of the stuff. A lot of the strategy is figuring out when to zoom in and when to zoom out. Overview. Then close-up detail. Then overview again. It’s more like what Where’s Waldo would be like if it were designed, from the beginning, to be played on a device, by playfully creative people with a deep appreciation for whimsy.

In sum: Hidden Folks is Major Fun

The designers note:

“Hidden Folks is draw by hand, scanned in, placed, layered manually, animated, and scripted. All sounds you’ll hear originate from the developers’ mouths. There are no time limits, no points, just areas with a bunch of folks and objects to be found.”

Such a gentle invitation to point and click your way to significant hours of light, but deep fun. Funny fun. The funny sounds. The funny drawings. Fun so gentle that you can play it with kids. In fact, the kids could even play it by themselves if you’d let them. So inviting that even passing kibitzers will find themselves gleefully included. Playful fun.

Currently, the game has around 15 areas with themes like the camping, the desert, a factory, the suburbs, and many more. “You can expect,” adds the designer, “more areas later.” For sure.

The lead designer of Hidden Folk also happens to be a much-admired friend of mine: Adriaan de Jongh, designer of Bounden (a game I was so fascinated with and by that I wrote three posts about) and Fingle (four posts). Hidden Folk is a big, big game, and required the full engagement of Adriaan, his colleague, Sylvain Tegroeg (and a host of creative others).

Hidden Folks was just made available on this very day! You, lucky folk that you are, can find it on Steam (PC, Mac, Linux) at your local App Store, for iOS, tvOS, and, a bit later (patience playful one) Android.

Game of Trains

Release Date: 2/13/2017 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:  36 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

You are the engineer of a futuristic train and you have a big problem. All of the rail cars attached to your engine are in the wrong order! The cars are arranged from high number to low. You can’t leave the station until all the cars are arranged from low to high. The first engineer to get their train in the proper order will win the Game of Trains!

Game of Trains is a fast fun card game. The artwork speaks to geek culture with tons of nerdy genre references but the game itself is easy enough for your grandma to play and enjoy.

This makes the game accessible to a wide audience.

It also makes the game Major Fun!

Game of Trains

Brain Games  |  Abacusspiele  |  BGG  |  Amazon

Designer: Alexy Konnov, Alexy Paltsev, Anatoly Shklyarov

Publisher: Brain Games, Abacusspiele, dv Giochi, Rebel.pl

2-4 players  20-30 min.  ages 8+  MSRP $14

Music credits include:

The Train   by Buddy Miles   |  the song

Mystery Train   by Little Junior’s Blue Flames   |   the song

***

Junk Art

Junk Art   Pretzel Games  |  BGG  |  Amazon

Designer: Jay Cormier & Sen-Foong Lim   Publisher: Pretzel Games 
2-6 players  30 min. ages 8+  MSRP $70.00

text-the concept

Art doesn’t have to hang on a wall or come in a gold frame. You can take random objects and build them into beautiful structures. Individually some people might see these pieces as junk but together, because of the WAY you put them together, your “junk” is ART !

You and your fellow artists are about to embark on a world tour to showcase your talent and skill and put them to the test, building new beautiful structures in each city you visit. And each city you visit will present new challenges to your creative energies. The player who is able to gather the largest group of fans will walk away known as the best junk artist of his or her time.

text-the components

Junk Art comes with a big ol’ box of junk in the form of weird and wonderfully shaped wooden pieces. There are 60 pieces in total, 15 different shapes in four different colors. There are thin pieces, chunky pieces, pieces with holes or slots, round pieces, flat pieces – a veritable banquet of found objects for your creations.


Each player gets a wooden base on which you will build your art.

There are cards for the cities you will visit

and there are cards representing each wooden piece in the game.

There are tokens representing the fans you gain as you play. Fans = points in the game.

There’s also a mini tape measure you may need to decide whose sculpture is the tallest.

To begin the game, arrange the entire pile of wooden pieces on the table so everyone can reach them. Each player gets a base. Last of all, select three of the city cards for your tour. From there, you’re ready to play !

text-the mechanics

Junk Art is a dexterity/stacking game. Each round you’ll create a work of art using cards to determine which pieces you use to create your artwork. Each city card provides a goal and rules for the round.

There are some basic stacking rules that always apply. Each piece must be placed on your base and cannot touch the table. You can use two hands to place it. You cant touch the structure itself BUT you can steady the base with one hand and stack with the other. You can nudge pieces around . And if you drop the piece you’re working on, you can try again as long as the whole structure didn’t fall. Any other pieces that fall off during construction, you’ll set aside in a personal pile. Sometimes these pieces may count against you.

At the end of each round, fan tokens will be awarded based on the goals provided by the city. At the end of three rounds, the player with the most fans wins.

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Junk Art is NOT your typical stacking game because Junk Art is really a dozen different games in one box.

Each time you play you will be playing 3 of the games included. Each city card in the game provides its own set of rules and guidelines that will dictate how you play. You will proceed from city to city to city from left to right, playing and scoring by each city’s rules

Here’s a sample of a few different cities and the challenges you could face:

In Tokyo, each player starts with 10 piece cards. You select one card from these 10 put it on top of the deck and then hand it to the next player. That player flips over the card and must place the piece shown in their work of art. Play continues until all cards are played. The goal is to build the tallest work of art.

In Indianapolis, each player gets 10 piece cards. When someone says go, flip over the top card and add that piece to your artwork. Try to get all the pieces on the cards played to your art as fast as you can. The player with the most pieces added to their artwork scores the most fans

In Paris, players build a common artwork on a single base. Each player has 3 piece cards and chooses one to play, adding that piece to the artwork. Play continues with players drawing and placing pieces until junk starts to fall. The minute you knock off three or more pieces, you’re out for the round. The goal is to not get eliminated.

In New York, you select a piece card from one of three face up cards and place that piece on your base. If the piece you play touches a matching shape or color piece, you have to pick another card and place another piece. When you reach the star cards in the deck, the round ends. The goal is to build the tallest work.

There are cities where you play cards like a mini trick taking game to decide who gets what piece. There are cities where you place all the pieces of a single color. There are cities where you must collaborate on a common work.

As you can see, there is an immense variety in gameplay within even a single game of Junk Art.

Each individual city card, complete with rules and goals could have been packaged as a solo game. In addition, the designers provide three blank cards for players to create their own cities and rules to add to the fun.

The variety and replayability of Junk Art sets it apart from every other dexterity/stacking game on the market by a wide margin !

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It is worth noting that Junk Art is a beautiful game. The pieces individually are interesting and pleasing to touch and behold. As you build, the odd shapes provide lots of inspiration for new and different combinations. If you’re going to make a game about creating art, the game itself must embrace a certain artfulness and allow the players to find ways to express it. Pretzel Games deserves very high marks for clearly making this a priority in the production and design of the game’s physical components.

At $70, the game isn’t cheap. Given the quality and number of components I think the game provides good value for the price but this price has the potential to be a real barrier to entry. The game is definitely more fun with more players but I am left to wonder if the game might have been better served as a 4 player game simply to reduce the number of components and the price. Junk Art is worth the investment, don’t get me wrong. The game is ridiculously fun ! My only fear is that it may not be able to reach a wider audience due to the higher pricetag.

Junk Art defied my expectations in the best possible way. I sat down thinking I knew what I was in for…. another stacking game with some small tweak. There are classics like JengaSuper RhinoBausack and Bamboleo but most others in this category are pale imitiations of these classics. It was a wonderful surprise to discover how designers Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim were able to add such a fresh and different voice to the stacking genre by mixing in tried and true game mechanics popular in less action based games. Card drafting, trick taking, even semi-cooperative play make Junk Art special but still super easy to teach and play.

Junk Art as an actual art form is all about remixing found objects to make new and beautiful statements and this game puts that lovely idea into practice. Give Junk Art a try at a party or with your family and you’ll see what I mean. And you’ll know why it is most certainly Major Fun.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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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

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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.

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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.

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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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