Word Slam

Release: 10/17/2017    Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Run Time: 50 min    Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Word Slam is a team-based word guessing game.

One teammate provides clues in the form of word cards on a rack.

Can your team guess the target word first?

Now this might sound like many other party games BUT… Word Slam does something different. Something noteworthy. Something ridiculously simple and ridiculously fun.

Word Slam forces each team to use a fixed set of words as clues.

The challenge and the joy in the game comes from the very clever omissions from the decks of words you use as clues. The word you want is never there, so the game pushes you to be creative with the words provided. To find freedom inside the limitations imposed.

This simple twist – limiting the language you can use to communicate with your team makes Word Slam both frustrating and fun, because, in a very real way, the fun comes from the frustration.

Listen in to learn more about the game and why we think it is unequivocally Major Fun!

Word Slam

Thames & KOSMOS  |  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: Inka & Markus Brand

Publisher: Thames & KOSMOS

3-99 players  45 min   ages 12+   MSRP $39.95

Music credits include:

Boy Meets Goy   by Benny Goodman   |   the song

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Boom Blast Stix

Boom Blast Stix   Official Site  |  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: uncredited   
Publisher: Moose Toys
2+ players  5-10 min. ages 6+  MSRP $15

text-the concept

Boom Blast Stix is a spring loaded trap. 32 springs and 32 traps to be precise. Your goal is to set one of these mini traps, place it on the pedestal and hope you don’t set the pile of springs sproinging off in every direction!

text-the components

The game comes in a large plastic tube used to store the 32 plastic stix, ingeniously engineered little yellow springs.

Each of the stix is a triangular spring. There’s a flat tab one side which makes it easy to hold. The other two sides are sort of like a ball and socket joint. There’s a nubby round end and a hollowed out end sort of like a glove. To set the spring, you bend the nubby round end so that it fits into the glove with a satisfying little click.

The lid to the tube is a red pedestal, the actual playing surface for the game. The top of the lid is concave, so the stix will nestle down into it as the first few are placed. If you want some height, you can leave the lid on and play on top of the tube. You can also take the lid off and place it directly on the table.

Scatter the springs around the table so everyone has some within easy reach, place the pedestal (high or low) on the table and you’re ready to play !

It’s worth noting that very young kids should only play Boom Blast Stix with supervision. The springs are not dangerous so long as you stay a reasonable distance from the pedestal as you are placing the springs. The stix will click and pop when they go off and fly around which will cause a great commotion but their bark is much worse than their bite.

text-the mechanics

There are two easy steps to Boom Blast Stix.

Step one : pick a stix from the pile and set the spring.

Step two : gently place your stix on the red pedestal.

Now what you want to happen is… nothing. As long as the pile of stix doesn’t explode, you heave a sigh of relief and it’s the next player’s turn.

If the stack of stix explodes. BOOOM! The springs wil go flying in every direction with shouts and screams and laughs soon to follow.

If for some reason you knock any stix off without making everything explode, you have to replace the stix you dislodged, making it even more likely you’ll be the one to set off the springs !

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Two things set Boom Blast Stix apart. One is obvious. One not so much.

The obvious thing is the stix, the springs themselves. They are wonderfully engineered to feel balanced and they snap together with a very satisfying feeling and click that makes them seem like they will hold on for a good while. Notice I said seem… because the truth is sometimes you can just look at or barely breathe on a spring and… SPROING it will go off ! The whole game is built around these springs and if they were not fun to set and set off, the whole game would crash and burn. These little gems are fun to set and sproing even when you’re not playing the game. I may have spent as much time flipping and dropping the springs just for fun as I have actually playing the game.

The non obvious thing is this. Boom Blast Stix reminds us that losing is actually winning with some games. Technically, you lose if you detonate the pile, but, really, who are we kidding? The whole hope of the group is to see the pile of stix go off. So, really, you’ve just giving everyone what they want – an excuse to laugh and shout… and a reason to set it up and try again. You want to keep going as long as you can, of course, and the tension mounts the more stix there are in the stack. But the person who triggers the explosion is the one who gets to experience the heart and soul of the game. You don’t feel like the loser of anything. You gain. Everyone does. A scream, A raucous laugh. A smile. A dive for cover. And most important – a memory of that crazy moment that could last far beyond the game or even the night.

It sounds a little dippy I know, but trust me, Major Fun knows about such things. Boom Blast Stix reminds us that losing can sometimes be the best way to win when you really know how to play.

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Dumb fun can be the absolute best kind of fun. And that’s the kind of fun you find in Boom Blast Stix.

It’s a visceral reaction, almost instinctual when we encounter it. It takes no forethought or strategy to recognize. It simply is. We all have this ability as children and as adults it can easily get lost or obscured by the pressures and stresses of the daily world and routine. What makes Boom Blast Stix unequivocally Major Fun is the fact that it can trigger or even reawaken that innate sense of mindless fun present in every one of us. We don’t have to question it – simply give into the moment and enjoy what it offers – that small moment of risk and joy we all know, we all remember and we all cherish.

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Fuji Flush

Release: 9/7/2017    Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Run Time: 34 min    Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Fuji Flush is a wonderfully simple card game.

Your goal is to flush all the number cards from your hand, one card at a time. There are lots of low cards in the deck and fewer high cards.

The higher number you play, the more likely you are to flush it BUT here’s the twist. If two players play the same number, they are added together. This means low cards can often band together to beat high ones.

It’s a game about strength in numbers. And the more people you play with, the more fun the game becomes.

Fuji Flush

Stronghold Games  |  2F Spiele  |  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: Friedemann Friese  Artist: Harald Lieske

Publisher: 2F Spiele, Stronghold Games

3-8 players  10-20 min   ages 7+   MSRP $14.95

Music credits include:

Free Fallin’       The Almost  |  the song

Farrah Fawcett Hair    Capital Cities  |  the song

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Twangled

Twangled    Mindware   |  Buy

Designer: uncredited   
Publisher: Mindware
4-8 players  5-15 min. ages 6+  MSRP $25

To those of us who like party games, especially party games that make people laugh, in particular party games like Knots, have we got a game for you!

It’s called Twangled. It would remind you mightily of the traditional, classic, puzzling, physical and often hilarious game Knots if it weren’t for: a set of eight elastic bands, in four different colors, with a loop at each end; and a spinner you kick. Which, aside from reading the rules and playing the game itself, is how you know that it’s not Knots. No. Not knots at all.I explicate by cleverly quoting the rules thus: “Players grab a colored band – making sure that at least one band of each color is taken before doubling up any colors. Players stand in a circle facing inward – making sure not to stand next to someone with the same band color. Place the kick spinner in the center of Get Twangled! Determine a player to go first. On your turn, kick the spinner and perform the action as indicated without letting go of the bands. For example, if a player spins ‘Under Green,; that player must move his or her entire body underneath a green band. The player may have to do other necessary moves to get under the green band, such as step over a yellow band. If using more than one of a band color, you must perform your action on the band furthest from you. Once a player has completed the action, play passes to the person on the left, who then kicks the spinner and performs his or her required action. Now it is time to get unTwangled. Without ever letting go of the bands, players work together to figure out how to return to the starting formation. Communication is key as players direct each other to move over and under bands.”

On the other hand, you don’t really need to know the rules to figure out how to play. It’s just about intuitive. And the parts that aren’t don’t matter. And if you know how to play Knots, you already know more than enough to figure the rest out.

Much of the not-Knots quality of the game can be traced to the stretchiness of the bands, which can be compared to and contrasted with the unstretchiness of the human arm. And then there’s the spinner, which is not part of the traditional game of Knots and yet functions admirably well as a novel device for causing people to become Twangled, in deed. Speaking of whom, Twangle is designed to be played by four to eight players, ages six to decrepit.

Yet another surprising and oft-delightful differentiation caused by the stretchiness factor: the aftergame. So hilariously logical is this aftergame that I fear I would spoil it should I say more. I suppose, if you don’t discover the hilarious logic of the aftergame yourself, you could write and ask us. To give you fair warning, it’s an undocumented feature that apparently appears serendipitously. I shall say no more other than: Major Fun. In deed!

Mole Rats in Space

Release: 8/15/2017    Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Run Time: 38 min    Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

It might come as a suprise to learn that mole rats make perfect astronauts.

Or maybe we should call them ratstronauts?

Their skin can’t feel pain. They can lower their metabolism and breathing. They’re resistant to cancer and can even survive without oxygen for a time.

You and your fellow players are mole rats living on a space station in a galaxy far far away.

Suddenly, the alarm blares… INTRUDER ALERT! The station is being overrun by intergalactic snakes!!

It’s up to your team to gather the right emergency supplies and find a way to the last escape pod before time runs out. Just don’t forget the duct tape!

Listen in to discover why we think this cooperative game is great for kids and adults and is most definitely… Major Fun!

Mole Rats in Space

Peaceable Kingdom  |  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: Matt Leacock  Publisher: Peaceable Kingdom

2-4 players  20 min   ages 7+   MSRP $20

Music credits include:

Mr Spaceman    The Byrds |  the song 

Space Funk    The Baker Brothers  |  the song  

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Beasts of Balance

Beasts of Balance   Sensible Object  |  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: George Buckenham, Alex Fleetwood  
Art: T. Burrell-Saward, L. McCarthy, C. Shaw
Publisher: Sensible Object
1-5 players  15-30 min. ages 7+  MSRP $99

text-the concept

Beasts of Balance allows players to build and destroy a new world each time you play. Using wonderful and whimsical three dimensional animals, you populate your world by stacking each one on a platform called a plinth, hoping to create new hybrids, score points and keep each creature from going extinct.

Beasts of Balance is a playful hybrid. It combines the simple almost primal act of stacking with technological elements that enhance and expand gameplay in fun and unexpected ways.

text-the components

The game comes with a lovely assortment of chunky three dimensional pieces representing animals, forces of nature and artifacts.

The animals include : a bear, a shark, an octopus, a warthog, a toucan, and an eagle. These are the literal building blocks of life for your new world.

The forces of nature are : fire, water, earth and air. Each has a specific shape and color and each element combines with the others to form ten different shapes/pieces.

The artifacts are four different shapes, some simple, some complex, and each will have its own effect on the game.

All these pieces will be balanced upon the plinth, a circular platform with a special symbol printed on one side.

Now all these things come in the box, but in order to play, there’s one additional thing not included in the box you’ll need… an app ! It’s free to download and it’s not a gimmick. It’s essential to gameplay and is available on all major mobile and tablet platforms.

To set up, put the plinth in a place where everyone can reach it easily and spread out the pieces. Start the app and you are ready to play!

text-the mechanics

One one level, Beasts of burden can be described in a single, simple sentence : Stack pieces on the plinth to score points until the stack falls down.

At its heart, this is the entire game. You select a piece, any piece, and place it on the plinth, hoping not to bring the whole thing crashing down. On this level, this is a game you’ve probably played a hundred times before.

And yet…

With the addition of technology, Beasts of Balance delivers a richly thematic experience that is packed with fun discoveries and meaningful decisions.

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It’s these technological enhancments that we should explore because they make Beasts of Balance both innovative and unique. The these tech twists come in several flavors.

Since Beasts of Balance uses an app to guide you through the game, it will come as no surprise that learning and playing the game feels like playing a video game. Rather than read rules, launch the app and simply follow the instructions. It will guide you through a typical turn which goes like this:

Select a piece, identify the piece to the plinth, and then place the piece on the plinth.

Each piece has a special symbol printed on it. Find this side of the piece and place it against the matching symbol on the plinth and watch what happens. Voilà ! Like magic, the app now displays a picture of the piece you have selected. The app and the plinth can keep track of what pieces are part of the world you create as long as you identify each piece to the plinth. The app will even remind you if you forget!

Once placed on the plinth, the world you build isnt just on the plinth. It’s on the screen, too. The animal or element or artifact will have an impact on the world depicted on the screen.

The bear will appear on land. The shark in the sea and so on. Elemental pieces will grant bonuses to creatures aligned with that element.

But here’s the thing… I’m not going to tell you what all the pieces do! Because the game itself leaves these wonderful discoveries to the players AS YOU PLAY! You might select a piece the first few times you play just so you can learn what effect it has on the game. Each one interacts with the app in ways that will leave you smiling and provide even greater challenges and decisions once you understand how they interact.

Without giving away some of the small mysteries you get to experience in the game, I will say that animals can evolve into wild and wonderful creatures as your world gets bigger and each animal is constantly at risk of extinction. As you play and learn, each piece you play will begin to suggest possible courses of action and each will have consequences on your world.

Eventually, inevitably, your world will come crashing down. But this is not immediately the end of the game. The app reacts with a volcano on the verge of eruption.

Since it knows what pieces should be part of your world, if collectively everyone can place all the fallen pieces back onto the plinth before the volcano blows, the game will continue. If not, kerblooey! Game over. Check out your score if you want. Reset the app and you’re ready to go again.

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Here’s the beauty behind Beasts of Balance. Score really doesn’t matter. You play this game for the joy and the fun of seeing how each world will turn on both on the screen and on the plinth. The games you remember will most likely not be because you score a bunch of points, but because somehow you managed to balance the massive eagle on top of 11 other precariously perched pieces. Or the crazy hybrid animal you created, the majestic and saved to your menagerie even though your world crumbled after just a few turns. Or the game where everyone scrambled to get 8 pieces back onto the plinth just before the volcano exploded!

The Game evokes moments of joy and fun that would be impossible without the harmony the game creates between the physical and digital worlds. It is interactive in the truest sense. You interact with the pieces, the tech and each other as you play. Winning and losing is secondary to the process of play. And each time you play, you’re likely to learn some new wrinkle or new path yet to be explored.

Given the quality of the components and the app (and the development that went into both), I don’t think Beasts of Balance is overpriced, but at $100, the price will certainly be a barrier to entry for some, if not many. I think Sensible Object, the publisher, made the right choice by not skimping on any aspect of the game. It does limit the market for the game, of course, but the result is a game that feels truly innovative and feels like it has stayed very true to the original creative vision behind the game. If you have the extra income, you’ll be happy with your investment. If the game is beyond your budget, seek it out at a game store or convention so you can get a chance to give it a go.

Beasts of Balance presents players with a shining example of a game that embraces the spirit of playfulness. This same joyful impulse lives at the core of any game worthy of being called Major Fun.

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Tricky Trunks

Release: 6/13/2017    Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Run Time: 40 min    Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Life in the herd can get boring when you’re a young elephant. To pass the time, the little ones invent games to play. First they gather a bunch of colorful balls. Next they race to see who can pick them up BUT here’s the challenge:

You must pick up the balls according to a certain pattern and..

NO HANDS ALLOWED!!

You can only use your kooky plastic elephant trunk to pick up the balls!

Listen in to discover why we think Tricky Trunks is a joy to play. It’s Hungry Hungry Hippos for the 21st century. And is most emphatically Major Fun!

Tricky Trunks

Blue Orange  |  BGG  |  Amazon

Designer: Brian Weinstock  Publisher: Blue Orange

2-4 players  10 min   ages 5+   MSRP $25

Music credits include:

Baby Elephant Walk  The Miniature Men  |  the song

Baby Elephant Walk  Dave Grusin  |  the song

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Ninja Camp

Ninja Camp   Action Phase Games  |  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: Adam Daulton   Art: Chris Byer, Jaqui Davis
Publisher: Action Phase Games
2-4 players  15-30 min. ages 10+  MSRP $20

text-the concept

It’s a little known fact that animals make the best ninjas. In fact, there’s a secret camp where they go to train. Whether you’re a hamster, a camel, a sloth or a platypus, Sensei Saru can teach you to master the arts of the shadow warrior.

Today, the Sensei has a special challenge for all his students. Each animal clan will enter the arena and face each other in a grand melee. You must use your skills combined with the opportunities you find in the arena to remain standing while others fall.

Do this and Sensei Saru will name your clan to be his personal apprentices, and the best students at Ninja Camp!

text-the components

The Ninja Camp is a card game. There are 80 cards in total.

There are 8 clan cards. These represent the different animal students attending Ninja Camp. Each player will play animals from a clan and each animal has a special ability you’ll be able to use once per game. The artwork is ridiculously charming and you may want to take a minute to let everyone look through the cards and decide which one they like best.

The main deck is made up of Skill cards, Walls and Traps. These cards will be laid out in a grid to form the training ground, the arena where your animals will compete for the Sensei.

Skill cards will make up the bulk of the arena. Each card describes a specific ninja move and shows the point value of the card.

Each player will also start with two basic skill cards to begin the game : Evade and Sprint.

Last but not least, each player has four wooden ninja meeples (ninjeeples!) These nifty little guys represent your animal clan and will move about the arena as you play cards.

You’ll take turns placing 3 of your ninjeeples into the training ground one by one, making sure each one is on a different Skill card. No ninjas allowed on the walls !

text-the mechanics

Ninja Camp is played over a series of turns. On your turn, you will either play a Skill card from your hand OR you will use your animal clan’s special ability. Your card or your clan ability will enable you to move one of your ninjas on the board.

Each clan has a very cool and very powerful special ability, BUT… you can only use your clan’s ability once per game. Once you have used it, flip your clan card over. Here are some examples.

Most turns you’ll be playing a Skill card from your hand.

Each Skill card describes a specific way you must move one of your ninjas on the board. You must be able to follow the movement instructions on the card in order to play it.

Here are the 7 different skills ninjas use to move in the arena:

Evade – move 3 spaces in any direction

Stealth – move 2 spaces and claim the first card your ninja steps onto.

Dodge – move 1 or 2 spaces, including diagonal

Sprint – move in a straight line until you reach an edge, wall, hole or another ninja.

Ambush – move straight until you land on an opponent’s ninja. Push that ninja one space back.

Leap – move over a hole in the arena and land on the next card after the hole.

Shadow – copies the skill of the last card played.

There are a few general guidelines that apply unless a Skill specifically allows you to break the rules: no diagonal moves, no passing through other meeples (yours or another player’s), and no passing through or landing on the same space.

One of the key challenges in the game is deciding what card to play and what ninja to move. But there’s another factor you have to consider on every turn and this factor is….

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When you move your ninja, you collect the card where your ninja began its move and add it to your hand.

This means you will have more options available in your hand of Skill cards as the game moves along.

Suddenly, the choice of which card to play and which ninja to move may be determined by what card you want to pick up OR what card you want to land on! You may move a ninja because you really need the Leap card where it currently resides. Or you may move a ninja because you want to finish your move on an Sprint card, so you can pick it up later on in the game or simply prevent others from getting to it.

Picking up cards from the arena also means that the board will have gaps or holes. This will make movement more difficult or downright impossible as the board continues to shrink turn after turn. It’s inevitable that your ninjas will come to a point where they are trapped in a small area of the board. The trick in Ninja Camp is to keep as many ninja active as long as possible so they can collect more cards.

When you cannot move any ninjas (or you choose not to move) you pass and play will continue without you. When all players pass, the game ends and we’re ready to score.

The cards you collect and/or play during the game determine your score. If you were unlucky and collected any traps, they count as negative points. You also get points for the cards your ninjas rest on at the end of the game.

This scoring system also adds a simple but nifty level to each choice you make in the game.

It might seem obvious that you want to head for the highest point value Skill cards as often as you can. And this does make them juicy targets. But there’s just one problem. The higher point value Skill cards are also the more difficult cards to use in the game because their movement rules are more restrictive. So you might end up landing on a big point Skill card but find it very hard to move from it. Most often, the player whose ninjas remain active and agile wins, not the player who focuses solely on big point cards.

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A game of Ninja Camp feels like a sparring match. You act, your opponents react. It’s a dance of move and counter move on a rapidly shrinking board.

The beauty and fun of Ninja Camp comes from its simplicity and economy. Now, I don’t mean economy in terms of its price (though it is a great deal at $20). I mean economy of language in its rules.

So often games that offer challenging strategy on this level require a much more complex set of rules.

There are seven basic moves in the game and after using or seeing these moves used a couple times, it will be easy for most players to remember each one.

This means you don’t spend time fighting the rules ; you spend your time looking for the best possible option based on the choices available. No one wants to be mired in a laundry list of exceptions and rules to remember.

By keeping the rules so streamlined, designer Adam Daulton allows a wide range of players to dive into the game really quickly and gives each player a chance to discover the fun and challenge that comes from deciding what to play and who to move and trying not to get your ninjas trapped.

For this reason Ninja Camp makes a great game for both kids and families while providing a wonderful challenge for more experienced gamers as well.

The charming variety of animals and the random arena also gives Ninja Camp great staying power since it will be a different experience every time you play.

Ninja Camp finds depth through simplicity. That’s the kind of wonderful surprise that makes it Major Fun. And it’s a reason you might want to step into this arena and go toe to toe with the next clan of hamsters you meet!

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Picassimo

Release Date: 5/15/2017 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time: 43 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

There’s trouble brewing in the small town of Forgerville. The night before the new abstract art exhibition at the museum, all the paintings have gone missing! 

Luckily the museum employees have a plan. Overnight, they will paint furiously and replace the paintings with abstract works of their own.

Picassimo is a party game where players create, disassemble and reassemble works of art. You’ll use a 6 part canvas to create your drawing and then mix up some of the parts and present your masterpiece to the other players, your critics. They must then try to guess the subject of your artwork, even though the pieces are out of order, by mentally reassembling the parts.  

Best of all, you really don’t have to be an expert artist to do well at Picassimo. That’s because Picassimo allows you to look at each work of art and draw each work of art in a new way.

That’s what we call innovation. And it’s also what we call Major Fun!

Listen in to learn all about the game and discover whether Picassimo should be hanging in your gallery at home.

Picassimo

HABA  |  BGG  |  Amazon

Designer: Carlo Rossi   Publisher: HABA  |  HABA USA

3-6 players  30 min.  ages 8+  MSRP $45

Music credits include:

Theme from Picasso Summer  by Nelson Riddle  |  the song

Picasso’s Last Words   by Paul & Linda McCartney   |  the song

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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.

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