|Release: 5/28/2018||Download: Enhanced | MP3|
|Run Time: 80 min||Subscribe: Enhanced | MP3 | RSS|
|Your team of spies intercepts a secret transmission… 3 words… a code tied to a sequence of numbers. There it is again! Another transmission, but this time with 3 new words.
Can you decipher these words into the proper sequence when the pressure is on? Remember, the other team is listening and trying to unravel your words and your seuqence at the same time!
Decrypto is a wonderful call-and-response party game where the challenge is to come up with clues that are just enough left of center to keep the other team from connecting the dots AND not so crazy that you fool your own team in the process.
The more clues you give, the harder this becomes and the more laughs you’ll have. And that’s a sequence that spells Major Fun!
Listen in for a full review and discussion.
Designer: Thomas Dagenais-Lespérance
Artist: Fabien Fulchiron, NILS, Manuel Sanchez
3-8 players 15-45 min ages 12+ MSRP $20
For info on the Game Sommelier segment featured on the show, check out the show notes at The Spiel!
|Release: 5/10//2018||Download: Enhanced | MP3|
|Run Time: 104 min||Subscribe: Enhanced | MP3 | RSS|
|High atop a mountain in his castle, Professor Evil uses his time machine to rob the world of priceless antiques: the Mona Lisa, the Rosetta Stone, even Excalibur. He revels in his private gallery, the most secure one-person museum in the universe… his very own Citadel of Time.
Your small group of adventurers has been sent to sneak in to the Citadel and rescue at least four treasures before they are locked away. You must work your way past traps and locked doors and avoid Professor Evil himself as he wanders through the castle.
Whether you play Destiny Bradshaw, Mistress of Randomness, or Edward Wire, Lord of the Gears, the clock is ticking and time is not your friend. Get in and get the treasures before they are lost forever!
Professor Evil & The Citadel of Time feels like a game from a bygone era mixed with the care and thought of modern design. It’s charming, engaging, great for players young and old, and sure to provide many hours of Major Fun.
Designer: Matthew Dunstan, Brett J. Gilbert
Publisher: Fun Forge, Passport Game Studio
2-4 players 30-45 min ages 8+ MSRP $30
Crowdsourced playlists for board games!
For info on the Truckloads of Goober segment featured on the show, check out the show notes at The Spiel!
Music credits include:
|Release: 11/21/2017||Download: Enhanced | MP3|
|Run Time: 60 min||Subscribe: Enhanced | MP3 | RSS|
|The party game Codenames took the game playing world by storm in 2015. Teams compete to find the secret names of their agents using a grid of word cards and two simple clues: a word and a number. It’s engaging, creative and loads of fun.
Duet offers us a tense two player transformation of the original. You and your partner must contact 15 agents using a grid of word cards and a very limited number of clues. The big problem is each of you only know half the agents in play!
More puzzle than party, Codenames Duet offers a totally different challenge and experience through the same basic set of rules. By all rights, Duet is a game that should not work. Reimagining a lively party game as a thoughtful deductive puzzle for two is a huge leap. And yet Duet sings in harmony with its older cousin – a familiar melody but clearly its own tune.
Listen in to discover why we celebrate this remarkable and resilient game design, in all its forms, as Major Fun!
Designer: Vlaada Chvatil, Scott Eaton
Publisher: Czech Games Edition
2 players 15-30 min ages 12+ MSRP $19.95
Music credits include:
|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
Designer: Matt Leacock Publisher: Peaceable Kingdom
2-4 players 20 min ages 7+ MSRP $20
Music credits include:
Designer: Reiner Knizia Artist: Andreas Resch
Publisher: Pegasus Spiele 1-6 players 15-20 min. ages 5+ MSRP $24
Charlie and Carlotta are mice who live in the walls of the Smith family’s house. They are preparing for a big dinner party for all their friends and they need your help to gather groceries. The Smith’s pantry is full of delicious food: bread, carrots, cucumbers, fish and, of course, CHEESE! By rolling dice everyone will collect these tasty morsels but your team must be quick! The Smiths have a mean black cat who prowls through the house. If you take too long, the cat will catch you red-handed and the meal will be ruined.
Mmm comes with a nicely illustrated, double sided game board. One side is for younger or less experienced players. The other provides a greater challenge once you are more familiar with the game.
The board is has two basic areas: a grid with illustrations of the food found in the pantry and a hallway showing the location of the cat. The five different types of food are depicted in the grid, some items of food take up as few as two grid squares while others may take up 3 or 4 squares. The hallway has ten spaces that lead to the pantry door.
The mean black cat has a wooden token which will go on the board and will move up the hall as the game winds forward.
There are three wooden dice. Each die has 6 different faces: One face for each type of food and one face with a big X.
Last but not least there are 56 round mouse tokens. These tokens will be placed on the grid as you play.
Mmm! is a cooperative game where players work together to cover every food item displayed in the pantry with a mouse token before the mean black cat reaches the door.
Each player gets a turn and on that turn you begin by rolling the three wooden dice.
As mentioned earlier, the dice have faces that correspond to the five different types of food, plus an X.
After this roll, you look at the results and must place at least one die on the board on a space that matches the food symbol you rolled. (For example, I rolled a carrot, so I can place that die on a carrot space on the board). The X side is bad luck. It cannot be placed on the board.
Now, you have a choice to make. You can reroll any remaining dice OR you can stop and gather food.
Rerolling has its risks and rewards. After each reroll, you must be able to place at least one die on the board. If you cannot, then the mean black cat moves forward one space in the hallway on the board! If the cat reaches the pantry space on the board, everyone loses.
Gathering food happens once you decide to stop rolling. Replace each die on the board with a mouse token, the tokens cover up grid spaces and parts of different food items in the pantry.
After placing your mouse tokens, look at the board and check to see if you were able to cover up the last space of a food item in the pantry. If you did, great! Your team will celebrate. If you did not cover the last space of a food item, then the mean black cat will move forward one space toward the pantry door.
After that, pass the dice to the next player and continue until one of two things happens:
- Your team covers the entire board with mouse tokens. Huzzah! You’ve gathered all the food for the dinner party and your team wins the game!
2. The mean black cat reaches the pantry door and catches you stealing food. The dinner party is ruined and you’ll have to try again.
For a cooperative game that can easily accommodate very young players, there’s a surprising puzzle element that is engaging and fun for players of all ages. The press your luck element encourages players to try and cover more spaces each turn, since each player is under pressure to cover a food item on his or her turn to prevent the cat from moving. Covering up the small 2 space food items may seem like an easy way to avoid the cat penalty BUT if your team covers up all the small food items early, the cat may rocket forward later in the game since it will take longer to cover up food items that take up 3 and 4 spaces. Weighing all the options with the team before placing dice or deciding to reroll is a really fun, important and necessary part of the game.
The other element that really makes Mmm stand out is its variable difficulty levels. These variations come in two different forms. An additional rule twist and a more difficult board layout.
In the basic version of the game, you may place dice on matching spaces anywhere on the board. In the advanced version, all dice placed must be in the same row or column as the first die placed on the board. This one twist changes the strategy and decisions you make on every turn and makes for even more interesting discussions. It adds another layer to the puzzle that makes the game more fun by making it more challenging.
The back side of the board also offers more challenges by having a single 2 space food items of each type and adding a 5 space food item for each type. This means it will take a team effort to cover the 5 space food items without making the mean black cat rocket forward on the board.
There are very few games I can think of that scale up or down so well according to the age or experience level of the players at the table.
It should come as no surprise the good Doctor, renowned designer Reiner Knizia, has found a way to strike such a fun balance between randomness and strategy. I really enjoy the cooperative puzzle solving aspects of Mmm and how they are balanced by elements of chance.
Each turn the dice rolls can help or hinder your team’s chances of success.
But the discussions and decisions you make as a team – when to reroll, when to gather food and where to place your dice – are equally important. Too much luck and players would feel like they have little real control over the outcome. Too little and the game becomes a dry intellectual exercise with less room for teamwork or discussion.
Mmm offers a fun to players from 5 to 95. Better still, the game allows you to dial in the kind of fun you want to have with the game. The basic game offers more randomness, the advanced more challenge and forethought. This allows the game to speak to a wide audience.
Flexibility and teamwork combined with a dice based puzzle suitable for almost any age. That is most definitely a recipe for Major Fun!
|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.
Designer: Kane Klenko Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
Music credits include:
Through careful and cunning tilting and twisting of the SmartThing and your personal bodies, you do what you can to keep the cursor aligned with the apparently endless parade of circles and almost-circles that appear to float around the ball. Do well enough, and you will both, ensemble, level up.
Watch, for example, this:[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/95726417[/vimeo]
It’s a unique game, an “invitation to the dance” if there ever was one. There are subtleties and complexities, o yes. For example, the almost-circles written about above: well, once you get your cursor into one of them you have to then turn your Thing so that it is aligned with the opening of the aforesaid almost-circle – causing you to initiate yet another kind of dance-like movement.
But, for me, given my ever-sharpening focus on the play/love connection, Bounden is a lesson in love.
It’s all about sharing control.
As far as the game goes, it really doesn’t matter what you do with your bodies. It’s all about keeping the stream of circles and near-circles centered on the cross-hair-cursor in the middle of the screen. And to do that, it doesn’t really help if you’re the “better” player, or if you have a more intuitive, shall we say, “grasp” on the game and how to tilt the Thing. All that really matters is how you and your partner play together, understand together, move together, help each other, teach each other, give each other control. Which seems to me what love is, what playing together is, what makes this game so praiseworthy, so valuable, so fun, so profoundly challenging.
It’s an important game, evolution-of-gaming-wise-speaking. It’s a first: cooperative, musical, artistic even. But for couples, even long-married couples, it’s a lesson in love, and the importance – the crucial importance – of playfulness. Holding on, yes, but letting go, too.
As you no doubt know, Rory’s Story Cubes® has achieved that most coveted of all Major Fun awards, the Major Fun Keeper! In their ceaseless attempts to make a good thing better, Gamewright has recently introduced what they are calling the Story Cubes Mix: small sets of three cubes each, each with their own theme. Currently, there are: Clues (mystery detective images), Prehistoria (dinosaurs and their ilk), and Enchanted (fairy tale). Each box and set of cubes is a different color – making it easier to sort one set out from the other, when so moved. Though, in truth, mixing them together stimulates even more creativity. It is my great pleasure to inform you that each of these has received a Major Fun award.
They are each very affordable, each wealthy enough with iconic imagery to engage the story-telling heart and direct it towards a different world. And, when used to supplement any of the existing Story Cube sets, each takes the story a different way, each serving to add yet more to the mix of inspiration for aspiring story-makers.
And for those who have not yet purchased the basic Story Cube set, try using a Mix to supplement your next story-reading. Take any book that you and your kids like to read together, and, at mutually agreed upon moments, roll a cube or two or three, interpret the symbols, and add them to the story. It’s a whole new way to read together.
And then there’s Rory’s Story Cubes® Max, the original Story Cubes made larger. Mixing a Mix with the Max (excuse me, I couldn’t help myself) makes a mix even that much easier to unmix – should the need arise.
Each of the various instantiations of Rory’s Story Cubes complement and extend the value of the others. The Max set invites those of us who don’t see as clearly as we think. It’s size and heft is even more inviting – especially for adult and group play.
The invitation to creative, story-telling fun just keeps getting majorer and majorer.
Robot Turtles: Adventure Quests is a separate adventure pack that can be added to ThinkFun’s Robot Turtles (it is not a stand alone game) or you can by and Adventure Bundle that combines the basic Robot Turtels and Adventure Quests. You can check out our review of Robot Turtles here.
Because Robot Turtles is a programming game, it makes sense that the game will evolve over time. The basic game is already designed with a leveling system in mind and the Adventure Quests pack builds seamlessly with the original.
Adventure Quests adds a few things to the mix. The game comes with a booklet that contains several board configurations (quests) that the turtles must navigate. There are more gems and there are “Frog Favorite” cards which are sequences of moves that can be “programmed” to the function card. In many ways these are pre-set functions. They can be especially useful if you have children who are having trouble creating their own functions.
There are many ways to play with these functions. You can have a single function that all players use. You can have players choose a function for each adventure. You can have multiple functions available that players can use only once.
What is important is that the young programmers see how commands can be strung together to work efficiently, effectively, and creatively so they will get better at creating their own.
I imagine this game will continue to expand for a long time. There are many obstacles and types of actions yet to be incorporated into the game. Some of this will be created by the individual players, but if the Adventure Quests pack is any indication, I imagine there is a great deal more to come from the developers.
This is a great addition to a great game.
Expansion for the basic Robot Turtles games. 2 – 5 players. Ages 4+
Robot Turtles was designed by Dan Shapiro © 2014 by ThinkFun.
Programming is one of those skills that many of my generation and older consider to be about as esoteric as alchemy. Hours of waving your hands over a table. Repeatedly typing thousands of lines of incomprehensible gibberish surrounded by symbols that we just assumed were there to create emoticons. And then… the glorious Technicolor splendor of the electronic universe opens up on our screens.
I for one am thrilled that there are people out there who take the time to program our machines to perform any number of tasks. I don’t think I have much of that kind of creativity, but I recognize it as such. I also recognize that the reasoning and imagination that underlie coding are key components that we all need to develop in order to navigate our digital and analogue worlds. The logic of programming applies to business and creative writing and all the games we play.
In an effort to bring the kind of thinking that programming requires to younger audiences, ThinkFun has provided the world with the fantastic little board game Robot Turtles. The game, designed by Dan Shapiro, was successfully funded on Kickstarter. And when I say successfully I mean funded about 25 times Dan’s initial goal. Seriously. Check it out here.
And deservedly so. Robot Turtles is a great game that does a wonderful job of introducing young players in to the game mechanics. These game mechanics are also the basics of programming. It needs to be said that the game does not involve actually programming a computer. Instead, the game mechanics mimic the skills and reasoning that good programming requires.
The goal of the game is to move your turtle to your target gem. You have cards that you play in sequential order that tell your turtle to turn, move ahead, fire a laser, or repeat a series of actions. Each of these actions is introduced over a set of games that gradually increase the complexity of the tasks. This approach to teaching the game might be a little frustrating to older players but it makes the game accessible to very young children. The youngest players will appreciate just moving the turtle around the board. Once they have mastered basic sequential commands, they can progress on to more complex games. In the parlance of most computer games and role-playing games, they can level-up.
Adults could probably jump in to higher levels without playing the “tutorial” levels but this is designed to teach very young children. The pedagogy is solid and each level is fun.
Another aspect that I only appreciated after playing with my kids was the cooperative nature of the game. It can be competitive but it is not written that way. The game encourages you to play with pairs on each team—a young “Turtle Master” and an older “Turtle Mover.” The younger player chooses the cards and makes the decisions but does not actually move the turtle. That is the job of the “Turtle Mover.” In this way, the younger players get to order around the adults who are supposed to follow the instructions chosen by the kids (and provide entertaining sound effects). I’ve been a teacher for 18 years and it still took me by surprise just how exciting it was for the kids to boss around the adults. My daughter chose the cards and I did just what they told me to do. This was a great simulation of digital programming in which the programmer provides instructions that something else (the computer) has to follow.
The most interesting and complex cards were the function cards. These served as markers representing a set of action cards. The actions would always be carried out in the same way whenever a function card was played. For example, in order to turn around the turtle on the most basic level, a “programmer” would have to play two cards (right turn, right turn). At higher levels, the programmer could place two right turn cards and a function card off to the side. If the turtle ever needed to turn around in the game, the programmer would now only need to play one function card.
The game comes with three kinds of barriers which can impede the turtles. Ice blocks can be melted by a laser. Boxes can be pushed. Stone blocks are permanent. The instructions come with some suggested “maps” but you are encouraged to come up with your own challenges and then figure out how you can overcome them with the fewest moves.
Creativity is highly prized but so is efficiency.
The art and instruction are fantastic. The pacing is great for a very wide range of players, and the game play becomes remarkably robust after only a few instructional levels. This is Major Fun for kids and parents and teachers and anyone (like me) who sees that programming should be taught to everyone—neither for economic reasons nor for purely pragmatic reasons but rather because the skills are intrinsic to our development as a species.
And playing with them is fun.
And our new robot overlords are probably going to feed the programmers who brought them to life before they feed the humanities majors who keep churning out post-singularity dystopian fiction.
So maybe there are some pragmatic reasons…
2 – 5 players. Ages 4+
Robot Turtles was designed by Dan Shapiro © 2014 by ThinkFun.