Favor of the Pharaoh

Release Date: 5/2/2016 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:   48 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Roll like an Egyptian!

Favor of the Pharaoh is a recipe filling roll-and-keep dice game based on an earlier title: To Court the King. Starting as a lowly peasant, you rise through the ranks of ancient Egyptian society by rolling increasingly difficult combinations to gain abilities, bonuses, and special dice. When the final round begins, the player who rolls the most dice with the highest matching number will gain the Favor of the Pharaoh!

This is the first game to merit BOTH the Major Fun and Spiel of Approval awards! The basic game is easy to learn and adaptable for younger or less experienced players. Double sided level bars allow for more strategic and thoughtful play. Put simply, you can tailor the game to fit almost any group at your table. Familiar yet fresh, Favor of the Pharaoh is a worthy recipient of both honors and, perhaps, a spot on your game shelf, too.

Favor of the Pharaoh

Official Site  |  BGG  |  Amazon 

Designer: Tom Lehmann  Publisher: Bezier Games

2-4 players  45 min.  ages 12+  MSRP $59.99 

Special edition also available with 64 additional dice: $79.95

Music credits include:

Walk Like an Egyptian  by The Cleverlys  |  the song

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Dr. Eureka

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Dr. Eureka   Blue Orange  |  BGG  |  Amazon  

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Designer: Roberto Fraga   Publisher: Blue Orange  2-4 players 10 min  ages 6+   $20

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The lab is a hectic place and Doctor Eureka needs the help of his trusty assistants to complete his experiments. One by one new recipes for amazing formulas come from Doctor Eureka and its up to you to mix the right molecules in three different test tubes as fast as you can. The first player to mix five formulas will earn a seat along side the good doctor as one of the best and brightest scientists.

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If you’re mixing molecules, you have to have the right equipment. Each player has 3 clear plastic test tubes. Placed in the tubes are two colored plastic balls, the molecules: two purple, two orange, and two green. The balls are made so they *just* barely fit inside the test tubes.

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In addition to your lab equipment there are 54 formula cards which have different recipes on each one. There’s also a sand timer.

TO begin, each player will arrange their molecules in their tubes so that each one has two balls of the same color: so 2 purple, 2 orange, and 2 green.  Shuffle the formula cards and you’re ready to play Dr Eureka!

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Dr. Eureka is a simultaneous pattern matching game. To begin a round, flip over the top card from the formula deck and place it on the table where everyone can see it easily. Flip the timer and start mixing!  The card will show three test tubes with a specific pattern of molecules. 

One tube might have an orange in the bottom, then a purple and then a green. The next tube is orange purple and the last tube has a single green molecule.

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Your job is to match this pattern on the card by pouring the molecules from tube to tube. First player to make the match declares Eureka and wins the card.

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There are some devilishly fun restrictions and rules that govern how you can mix your molecules.

First and most obvious is that you are not allowed to touch the balls directly. This means your main mixing method will be to pick up the tubes and pour the molecules from tube to tube.

Second, no spilling is allowed. If you pour any balls out onto the table, you’ve ruined this batch and are out for the round.

Third, each tube must match the pattern on the card BUT that’s not all.  The tubes must be placed on the table so they match the pattern as well. So the balls have to be in the right order and the tubes have to be in the right sequence.

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Last of all (and this one is tricky!) you are allowed to flip any of your tubes upside down to make them match the pattern. Remember, no spilling is allowed! So if you try to flip your tube and the balls drop out, you’re done.

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So the art and science of Dr Eureka comes down to a clever mix of speed and caution. You have to finish first but only the player who can match the pattern without dropping any balls will win the card.

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Dr Eureka straddles the line between puzzle and game. You can play the game simply as a mental challenge; and it is a wonderful little brain teaser. It reminds me of the slide puzzles I used to play with at my grandparent’s house.

But the real fun begins when you add time pressure and other players. You can help but laugh and lose yourself in the game as you watch or hear your fellow players struggling to match the pattern right along side you. Go too fast and you’re sure to pour balls all over the place. Mix too deliberately and someone else will match the card and snatch the card before you.

The game is a great value as well.It’s rare these days to find a game with this many unique components at such an affordable price. The full retail price is $20. The 12 large test tubes and 24 colored balls are very sturdy and will last a lifetime.

It is truly a game for all ages. I’ve played with 6 year olds and 69 year olds and the joy of shouting Eureka ahead of everyone else is universal. You can easily add more or less time to each round to adjust to the skill level of players at the table. And if you want even more challenge you can try the advanced mode where players bid to solve each formula in a certain number of moves.

Simple joys are often the best. Dr Eureka champions this concept in so many ways. The game is engaging, fast and fun. The rules are so intuitive, you almost know how to play simply by setting the game up. And yet the challenge and enjoyment you’ll get after dozens of games won’t diminish. Playing well requires creativity and quick thinking – there’s an art and a science to it – making the most efficient moves while refining your pouring techniques.  You don’t have to hold a higher degree to understand why Dr Eureka is Major Fun.

New York 1901

Release Date: 4/1/2016 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:   50 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Steel giants rise high into the clouds. In New York 1901, you play an up-and-coming real estate developer trying to make your name by building the greatest array of skyscrapers the world has ever seen.

You do this by claiming lots and placing Tetris-like tiles on the board, scoring points for building and upgrading your properties, having the most buildings along key streets in Manhattan and, if you plan well, you may also score bonus points for a secret goal at the end of the game.

More brainy than zany, New York 1901 allows players to shape the city according to their grand plan from a deceptively simple series of choices. Tune in to learn more about the game and why it deserves the award.

New York 1901    Official Site  |  BGG  |  Amazon 

Designer: Chenier LaSalle  Publisher: Blue Orange Games
2-4 players 45 min  ages 8+  MSRP $49.99

Music credits include:

Empire State Human  by The Human League  |  the song 

Fuse

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Release Date: 3/7/2016 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:   45 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Red alert! Dozens of bombs are hidden across the decks of your ship. Can your team find defuse them all before time runs out?

Fuse is a 10 minute cooperative dice game. Bomb cards have a recipe of numbers and/or colors needed to defuse them. The team must roll and negotiate to collect dice in order to fill each bomb’s recipe and move on to defuse all the bomb cards in the deck before time runs out.

Fuse is easy to learn, fast to play, hard to win and amazingly addictive. That is a winning recipe for Major Fun! Tune in to learn more about Fuse and why it deserves the award.

Fuse    Official Site  |  BGG  |  FUSE App (Android) | (iOS)

Designer: Kane Klenko  Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
1-5 pl 15 min  ages 6+  MSRP $30.00

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Music credits include:

Spaceship Superstar  by Prism  |  the song 

Strike

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Sometimes the simplest things in life are the most fun, or, in the case of Strike, Major Fun!

Strike   Ravensburger  |  BGG  |  Amazon  

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Designer: Dieter Nüßle   Publisher: Ravensburger     2-5 players    15 min    ages 8+

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Strike is a game about throwing dice into a box. When I said simple, I really wasn’t kidding! I know it sounds a little dippy, but Strike manages to take something as basic as gravity and turn it into an enjoyable, compelling and addictive experience for players of all ages.

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The Strike box is the dice arena. Picture a mini Roman colosseum inside the box. Small spectators could sit around the tiered levels, watching dice hurtle down to the battleground, a small oval foam mat (6″ long and 4.5″ wide). The mat is just rubbery enough to make the dice bounce around more than you’d like.

Strike also comes with 31 custom dice. The dice are 16mm (5/8″); they are black with white ink. Each die has conventional pips 2-3-4-5-6 with one custom face a big white X in place of the 1. The dice are nice and hefty and big enough for even small hands to pick up and throw.

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The goal of the game is to be the last player with dice remaining. Setup is super easy. Divide up the dice evenly depending on the number of players and throw one die into the arena. If the starting die comes up on the X face, roll again until you get a number face. Now you’re ready to roll your way to victory!

On your turn, you start by pitching one of your dice into the arena. You’ll have a great deal of fun learning how best to pitch dice into the arena to get the results you want. Several things can happen after the die leaves your hand.

The die could land in the arena & make a match with one or more numbered dice.

The die could land in the arena & not match any dice.

OR The die could bounce out of the arena.

If the die you roll matches one or more dice already in the arena. Great! You get to remove all the matching number dice and keep them. Your turn is now over.

If the die you roll does not make a match, then you have a choice to make. You can end your turn, letting the next player go OR you can choose to roll another die into the arena. As long as you do not make a match, you can keep throwing dice… as long as you have dice to throw! If you run out, you’re out of the game, so there’s a nice press-your-luck element to this decision. The more non-matching dice in the arena, the greater your chances of making a match but the more dice you throw, the more dice you risk losing if they don’t match.

Remember the name of the game is Strike. It’s totally legal to try and strike other dice when you throw your die into the arena to make a different combination of numbers pop up.

Last of all, your die could bounce out of the arena. I know it seems unlikely, but that pesky foam mat is bouncier than you think! If this happens, the die is removed from the game. This is bad, because, remember, you want to be the last player with dice left. The good news is, this doesn’t necessarily end your turn. Just like rolling a non matching die, you can choose to throw another die if you want or you can end your turn.

Play continues in this fashion: a player throws a die, makes a match, removes matching dice and ends his or her turn OR a player throws a die, does not make a match and decides to throw another die or ends his or her turn.

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Two things: the X and The Clean Sweep.

Let’s talk about the X first. Remember every die has an X on one face. If you throw a die and it comes up X, you lose the die. It is removed from the game. Same goes for any other dice you might knock around in the arena and flip to the X. They are removed as well. This means every time you pitch a die into the arena you are at risk of losing it! It also means games of Strike go quickly because many dice will be taken out of circulation as Xs come up throughout the course of the game.

Aside from the simple joy of chucking dice, the Clean Sweep is probably my favorite part of Strike. Eventually in most games, you will reach a point where one player rolls and makes a match will all the remaining dice in the arena. This means all the dice will be removed from the arena making it a… Clean Sweep! Instead of rolling a single die like a regular turn, the next player must roll ALL HIS OR HER DICE into the arena. All the normal rules apply. If you make any matches, you get to remove these dice and keep them. Any non matching dice stay. Any Xs are removed from the game.

The Clean Sweep adds an extra level of tension and drama and fun to every game. When one die remains in the arena, the roller will be calling for a Clean Sweep and next player will be rooting for no matches. And when it happens, a cheer (followed by a groan) will almost always rise up from the table. The Clean Sweep is also a great equalizer in the game. Even if you build up a large pile of dice, one Clean Sweep will force you to roll all your dice at once. If many of them come up Xs or without a match, that pile will go away in a hurry!

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Strike may be stupid fun, but it’s also Major Fun. And I don’t mean stupid in an insulting way. By all rights, chucking dice into a box lid should barely qualify as a game, but Strike manages to take this stupidly simple, lovely idea and craft it into an experience that is a joy to play no matter your age. I’ve introduced Strike to dozens and dozens of players from ages 6 to 66 and the universal reaction has been “Let’s play again.” This is the cornerstone for any game worthy of the Major Fun Award.

In a day and age where even games for families and children grow increasingly complex, it’s a pleasure to find in Strike a game that celebrates simplicity as a basic expression of playfulness and joy.

Pingo Pingo

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Release Date: 2/1/2016 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:   39 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Space penguins guard The Golden Pineapple on a mysterious island.

You had me at space penguins… 🙂

Pingo Pingo is a wacky game driven by a 15 minute soundtrack. Using a deck of cards and your trusty rubber dart gun, you must face traps, cross rope bridges, avoid angry polar bears and hordes of pengiuns to collect the most treasure and escape before time runs out. Tune in to find out why Pingo Pingo is… Major Fun!

Pingo Pingo    Iello  |  BGG  |  Designer’s web site

Designer: Roberto Fraga  Publisher: Iello  2-5 pl 15 min  ages 6+

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Music credits include:

The Penguin  by Raymond Scott  |  the song

Rolling America

Rolling America

At Major Fun, we love games that can accommodate everyone. Big groups, tiny families, and everything in between. Games that can be played solo as well. Rolling America fits that bill, and when we find a game that we love and it can be enjoyed by any number of players, that’s something special.

To be clear, Rolling America probably can’t accommodate the entire set of positive whole numbers (citation needed). It’s mainly a problem of seating arrangements when you get above 8 or 10. Definitely when you get into numbers that are best expressed in powers of 10.

What it CAN do is keep your brain buzzing along at a healthy clip while place numbers on an abstract rendition of the United States.

To play the game you will need the 7 dice (in a bag) and the maps provided by the good people at Gamewright. The map of the United States is divided into blocky representations of the 50 states. These are then colored by region, roughly: northeast (purple), Atlantic (red), south (yellow), north (blue), southwest (green), and west (orange). Each player gets a map and the dice are shared.

Rotating around the table, players draw two dice from the bag and roll them. They must write the number on one of the states that match the color of the dice. For example, if you roll a red 2 and a blue 5 then everyone must write the number 2 in one of the red states and the number 5 in one of the blue states. Which state, is up to each player as long as they follow the game’s basic rules, the most important being that neighboring states must have consecutive numbers. So if Ohio is number 3, Pennsylvania can be 2 or 4 but not anything else.

After the first two dice are rolled and recorded, two more are drawn from the bag. When six of the seven dice have been rolled, all the dice go back in the bag and the players record that one round is over. At the end of 8 rounds you will tally up your score.

“But wait!!” you cry before I can reveal how you win. “You said there are 6 colored regions but there are 7 dice!! What’s up with that?”

Major Fun AwardI’m glad you asked. The seventh dice is clear and is a wild die, meaning you can put that number in any color you want. I should also say that as you fill in the map you are going to run in to problems: chiefly that it is impossible to follow the consecutive rule all the time. In order to deal with this, the game has included a clever “cheating” mechanic—a way to break the rules (for a limited number of times). You get three Color Changes which let you make a colored dice wild. You get three Guards which let you put a number down illegally (not consecutive). Finally you get three Dupes that allow you to use a number on one of the dice twice. On the map are boxes that you use to mark off these special occasions.

If you are ever stuck with a number that you cannot legally place, you have to cross out one of the states in that color. The winner is the player at the end of 8 rounds who has the fewest number of Xs on the map.

And getting stuck is a big part of the game. Early in the game, when the map is wide open, it seems like you will breeze right through, but in only a few rounds you notice that your regions are filling up and you have blank Indiana but it is sandwiched between an Illinois 2 and an Ohio 6.

We loved the building tension and complexity. We also loved how everyone took their turn together. It was fascinating to see what other people came up with using the same numbers that I had. It’s strategically deep and very challenging. And Major Fun.

1+ players. Ages 8+

Rolling America was designed by Hisashi Hiyashi and is © 2015 by Gamewright Games.

Mad City

Mad City - Mayfair

Mad City is one of those rare tiling games where you can’t take your sweet time about placing your tiles. The game assigns you the role of a city planner who must arrange a 3×3 grid of tiles in order to make the most money—but you have less than a minute to do so. Needless to say, things can get messy.

Before I go on I need to recognize that there are A LOT of pieces in this game. When you open it up you have a lot of die-cut tokens to punch out. These will make quite a pile on your game table. Keep in mind that there are several ways to play the game. The first time you play you should play the Base Game (which is what we did) in which case you won’t need most of the tiles. You will only need your score board, the bag, the timer, and the 54 city tiles. And the park tree.

Everyone starts by drawing 9 city tiles from the bag and placing them in a face-down pile. When everyone has a pile of nine city tiles, they pass them to the player on the left. Someone says go and flips the timer. Players now have ONE MINUTE to arrange their city tiles into a 3×3 grid that will earn them maximum points.

The city tiles can have a variety of colored zones: residential (yellow), industrial (red), urban (blue), lakes (teal), and parks (green). Yellow, red, and blue zones will usually have buildings in them. There are also roads that can divide up tiles. In your one minute of frantic planning, you are trying to arrange your tiles to match up (as best you can) the roads and colored zones. Scoring is based on how many buildings of the same color you can bunch up or how many road segments you can connect.

At the end of the minute, everyone stops work. If a player has not created a 3×3 grid, that player shuffles any tiles not in the grid and fills in the grid at random. Then everyone looks at their city and scores each colored zone based on a chart provided on each score board. I won’t go into each colored zone in detail, but suffice it to say that the more buildings you have connected in a colored district the higher will be your score. There are points for the longest road.

There are also points for parks and lakes but those only go to one player. During the minute of play, anyone can grab the Park Tree. That player gets to score any parks and lakes BUT once that person grabs the tree he or she cannot do any more work on their city. Once you grab the tree, you can’t touch your city tiles until it’s time to score. In general, you want to make a decent city and then grab the tree. Think of parks and lakes as bonus points.

There is a lot going on in that one minute. It is hard to focus when everyone is busy trying to fit their pieces into a grid, and everyone would like to grab the tree but not too soon! The first person to 150 points wins.

Major Fun AwardOnce you get some play time in with the base game, you can check out the Standard Game. This introduces a much different way to score and it uses most of the tokens that you punched out when you first unwrapped the game. There are also more things to grab (like the Park Tree). In this game, the first to 100 points wins. You also have to pay much closer attention to the colors you are arranging.

Mad City can also be played as a solitaire activity. The game comes with three ways to play solo.

All said, Mad City is a fast-paced but strategically engaging game. Each player essentially plays alone except for the times when you are rushing to grab the Park Tree (or one of the other tokens from the more advanced game). Major Fun but definitely not for the weak of heart.

1 – 6 players. Ages 8+

Mad City was designed by Kane Klenko and is © 2014 by Mayfair Games.

Klask

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Note how each player’s hand is under the playing table. That’s because it’s holding on to a pretty strong magnet which, in turn, is holding on to its chosen striker. This is one of your intrinsically fun things – moving things with magnets, trying to knock something into the other guy’s something else.

We’ve seen games kind of like this before. Heavier ones. More, shall we say, aggressively competitive ones. That’s what makes this one different – because it’s none of the above. Sturdy, you bet. Wood. Fully assembled. It’s, like they say in the video, kind of like foosball, kind of like Air Hockey. But sweeter.Each player controls a “striker” that looks like what a pawn might become if it knew about giraffes. The players move their strikers around the board by use of a magnetic piece below the board. There’s a marble, and a goal pit at each end. A sometimes unfortunately shallow pit which is deep enough to hold a marble as well as temporarily incapacitate your playing piece.

dexterity-family-kids-partyThe magnet-connection, so to speak, works brilliantly. It’s “attractive” enough to keep your striker in place as you engage in speedy, yet strategically relevant scurrying from place-to-place. In addition, there are three small white magnets, plastic covered cylinders about as large as a nose-plug for infant swimmers (keep them little ones away from these highly swallowable innovations). These three magnets are positioned along the center line of the playing table. They easily, yay, eagerly adhere to any close-passing playing striker. Should two little magnets find themselves thus attracted, you are, as they say, Klasked.

So, it’s like this: should you get the marble into your opponent’s goal, your opponent is Klasked and you gain a point (which you demonstrate by rolling the checker-like wooden disc (the one you put in that long groove on top of one of the long walls of the game) into to the next available dip. If your opponent’s striker winds up in your opponent’s goal pit, your opponent is Klasked. You get the point. Your opponent restores the magnets, marbles and strikers to their assigned starting positions. And then there’s the consequence for too much enthusiasm which results in striker-loss. Lose your striker, and you are Klasked again.

Simple rules. Fun for many ages. Easy to learn. Deeply absorbing. Based on a Danish pub game. No wonder.

From Marbles the Brain Store

Rory’s Story Cubes – Batman

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Rory’s Story Cubes has been a consistent winner here on Major Fun, and its newest incarnation, Rory’s Story Cubes – Batman, proves just as worthy of recognition as all its previous incarnations – not only because of its design, but also because, for the first time, the game goes beyond its own basic assumptions (all images on the dice must be abstract enough to allow for a wide variety of interpretations), to embrace a well-established story line. And what a story line! Batman! All those years, those characters, those crimes to solve, those bizarre semi-miraculous BatThings to put to use in defense of the good.

So here, for example, are all nine dice, in a row, ready for players to create their story. Hmmm. The first three icons are familiar enough: a timer, Penguin, and money. And then there’s a house. No, a mansion. Must be the Waynes’. So, we begin:

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“In the shadows of Gotham City, time, once again, seems to be running out. The notorious Penguin has been spotted preparing to hatch one of his nefarious plots to defame our hero and his family. He has just learned that a great deal of money is being held at Wayne Manor. His plan, not only to steal the money, but to replace it with counterfeit money laced with a powerful hallucinogen that makes Batman and his cohort talk like penguins…”

family-cooperative-creativeO, well, you get the picture.

The challenge is to use as many of the dice as you can in a story. You can make the story by yourself, with a partner, with everyone playing. If you don’t know what a particular icon stands for (like the next to the last icon – could be popcorn, you know, or, more probably, an explosion), you can make up your own relatively reasonable interpretation, look at the thoughtfully included guide that shows all 54 sides and their meanings, or, well, roll the die again.

The use of such a well-established theme provides a fantasy framework that helps new players get into the game, and players who are familiar with Rory’s cubes find a whole new way to think of the game, and all the other sets of cubes they may be fortunate enough to already own.

The set comes with 9 cubes, instructions, and a Batman-Belt-worthy carrying box, and is recommended for 1 or more creative players, ages 8 and up. Major, as you already probably concluded, fun.

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