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 !

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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

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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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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!

text-the components

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.

animals-on-board-first-player

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.

animals-on-board-5a

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.

animals-on-board-hippo

A herd is a group of 3 or more tiles in your ark. Each tile in a herd in worth 5 points!!

animals-on-board-herd-of-foxes

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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Rollers

Release Date: 11/2016 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:    min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Rollers is a press-your-luck dice game inspired by darts.

Yes, you heard me correctly… darts! Players try to open and close 5 numbered columns on their number boards. When a number is opened and closed, others will pay you chips each time you roll this number for the rest of the round!

Sound familiar? If you’ve ever played the dart game, Cricket, you’ll see how Rollers is a clever re-imagining of this pub classic, and playable by people of all ages.

Best of all, even if you’ve never thrown a dart in your life, you’ll have no problem understanding why Rollers is Major Fun!

Rollers

USAopoly  |  BGG  |  Target

Designer: unknown  Publisher: USAopoly

2-5 players  15-30 min.  ages 8+  MSRP $19.95

Music credits include:

Roller   by April Wine   |   the song

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3 Wishes

Mmm!   Strawberry Studio  |  Passport Game Studios  |  BGG

Designer: Chris Castagnetto   Artist: Magdalena Markowska

Publisher: Strawberry Studio, Passport Game Studio  3-5 players  5 min.  ages 8+  MSRP $10

text-the concept

A very particular genie is looking for just the right person worthy of three wishes. Anyone can make three greedy wishes. In order to gain this genie’s favor, you need to find the right kind of wishes to wish for! The first player to collect a wish for a superpower, a wish for world harmony and a wish for a gift will win the game.

text-the components

3 Wishes is a micro game. It comes with 18 wish cards, 10 wooden cubes and player reference cards.

The wish cards come in three categories: superpowers like

3wishes-superpowers-cards-500px

world harmony like

3wishes-harmony-cards-500px-2

and gifts like

3wishes-gifts-cards-500px

An icon in the upper right corner of the card defines each type. The illustrations and title also make it clear into which category each wish fits. As you can see, the artwork by Magdalena Markowska is whimsical, charming and engaging. Each card also has a number value.

Wooden cubes are used to keep score if you want to play multiple games in a single sitting. Since the game is so quick, don’t be surprised if you end up using them!

text-the mechanics

3 Wishes is a deduction and bluffing game that plays in about 5 minutes.

The goal of the game is to declare the end of the game and have one of each type of wish card in front of you. If more than one player accomplishes this, the player with the highest total sum on all his or her wish cards is the winner.

3wishes-winning-cards

Each player is dealt 3 cards face down to begin and may only look at one of them. Two cards are dealt to the center of the table. One is left out of the game.

On your turn you get to do two actions. You can do the same action twice or you can do two different actions.

You have three actions to choose from: peek, swap, and shuffle. You basically know the rules for each action just from their names.

Peek means you can peek at a face down card. This card could be your own, could be your opponent’s or could be one of the cards in the middle.

Swap means you can swap two face down cards. One of these cards could be your own but you could also swap cards between two opponents or with the cards in the middle.

Shuffle means you can pick up your three face down cards, mix them up and place them back on the table. After that, you can look at one.

You want to use these actions to manipulate the face down cards so that you end up with one of each type of wish in front of you.

You know one of your cards to begin the game. You can peek to learn the others but remember someone could swap and immediately take them away.

You might swap because you know you have two of the same type of wish and need to get rid of one.

You might shuffle because through others peeking and swapping, everyone knows your cards.

After everyone has had three turns, instead of taking a normal turn, you can declare the end of the game if you think you have three different wish cards in front of you. Everyone reveals their cards. If one player has three different wishes, he or she is the winner! If multiple players have 3 different wishes, add up the numbers on the wish cards and the highest total wins.

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Two things stand out to me about 3 Wishes: the special wish cards and playing the players instead of the game.

There are three special wish cards that can have a tremendous impact on how each game goes.

3wishes-doublers

Two special cards double your winning total. This means you stand a much better chance of winning if more than one person collects three different types of wishes. If by skill or by chance you manage to collect BOTH doubler cards, you automatically win if you have three different types of wishes at the end of the game.

The Time Travel card counts as a wish BUT if you end up with this card at the end of the game, you cannot win! Of course, this means the time travel card is a hot potato and no one wants to hold onto it. But it also means spotting someone trying actively to get rid of a certain card can be easy if you watch closely.3wishes-special-time-travel

Collectively, the special cards add an extra level of focus to the game for each player. You need to pay attention not just to the icon on the wish cards but you need to watch out for the special wishes because they can really help or hurt your chances of winning.

I also really enjoy the fact that 3 Wishes introduces the concept of playing the players as much as the cards.

What does this mean? In many card games, especially classic gambling games like poker, doing well is determined as much by a player’s skill at reading the other player’s actions at the table as it is having an amazing hand. Playing the players means carefully observing what other players do on their turns because this gives you a wealth of information without ever seeing their cards. Through deduction and inference you can start to know what cards people want or dont want and this information can help you decide what actions to take and how to play.

Now you don’t have to play 3 Wishes with this level of forethought or attention, but I love that this element is always there and because the game rules are so simple, you have the time to pay attention and watch others closely.

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Major Fun games often have a timeless or ageless quality to them. This is certainly true of 3 Wishes. It is a lovely quick game that will appeal to players of all ages and experience levels.

It’s tempting to say 3 Wishes shines the most because of its simplicity. But I think the beauty of 3 Wishes is in its elegance. 3 wishes, 3 types of wishes, 3 actions, declare the end any time after 3 turns. This elegance makes the game easy to learn but there are fun and challenging, even thoughtful moments packed into this tiny set of cards that everyone can enjoy. Thats a game whose gifts keep will keep on giving, with or without a magic lamp!

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3wishes-filter

Mmm!

Mmm!   Pegasus Spiele  |  BGG

Designer: Reiner Knizia   Artist: Andreas Resch

Publisher: Pegasus Spiele  1-6 players  15-20 min.  ages 5+  MSRP $24

text-the concept

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.

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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.

mmm-cat

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.

mmm-dice

Last but not least there are 56 round mouse tokens. These tokens will be placed on the grid as you play.

text-the mechanics

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:

  1. 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!

OR

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.

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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.

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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!

Chronicler

Release Date: 9/6/2016 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:   43 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Chronicler is a small game with large aspirations.  With less than 100 cards, Chronicler explores the march of technology through time. You’ll be telling the story of your civilization through the tools you choose to build… in 20 minutes or less

Now, this isn’t a civilization building game in the long line of a complicated titles that gamers know and love. This is a civ builder kids and families can learn and enjoy. You’re not going to find historical depth in this level of game but it doesnt pretend to offer it. Instead you hit fast forward on the time machine. Plant the seed for your culture with a single card and see how your tech tree grows.

Tune in to learn what we love about Chronicler and why it deserves the Major Fun Award.

Chronicler

Deinko  |  BGG  |  Funagain

Designer: GB Kim  Publisher: Deinko

2-4 players  20 min.  ages 10+  MSRP $25

Music credits include:

Bidin’ My Time   by Sarah Vaughn   |  the song

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Ice Cool

Ice Cool   Brain Games  |  BGG

Designer: Brian Gomez

Publisher: Brain Games  2-4 players  20 min.  ages 6+  MSRP $39.99

text-the concept

Young penguins can be troublemakers, especially if they’re hungry. You and your classmates have decided to sneak out of class to grab an early snack. You’ve hidden some fish around the school and there’s only one thing standing between you and these tasty morsels… the hall monitor! If you’re quick, you’ll be able to scoot through the halls and grab your fish before getting caught. If not, you’ll be stuck in detention…. again!

Ice Cool is a dexterity game where players will take turns flicking their penguins through a 3 dimensional school trying to either catch fish or catch the students skipping class.

You’ll each take turns playing one of the young student penguins (the Runners) and the Hall Monitor (the Catcher) and at the end of the game the player with the most points wins. 

text-the components

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The minute you open the box, you’ll see this is a game very different from most others. There are multiple open faced box bottoms inside the main box bottom, nested together like Russian Matryoshka dolls. There are five boxes in total: four rectangular rooms and one square room. Each room is numbered and has doorways cut out along at least two sides. You will assemble these boxes to create the game board – a three dimensional school for the penguins!

There are several wooden fish tokens in the game. Each player gets 3 in their chosen color. The remaining plain wood fish are used to hold the board together sort of like clothes pins. Once assembled, the board is really quite sturdy and can be rotated or slid along the table so players can line up their shots.

There’s a deck of cards which are score cards. If you snag a fish or grab a student in the halls, you’ll get to draw one of these. They are numbered 1-3.

Each penguin has a colored ID card (which can be confiscated if you are caught) and a roly-poly plastic penguin figurine which you will flick around the school.

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These penguins are very similar to the figures used in Subbuteo, a flicking soccer game that has been a part of millions of children’s lives since 1947. The penguins have a rounded base that is weighted and tapered bodies with a round head. The penguin will sit flat on the board but with even the slightest nudge, it will weeble and wobble back and forth.

Once the school is setup, you will place your fish over the marked doorways, shuffle the score cards and you’re ready to play!

text-the mechanics

Each player in Ice Cool will get to play in two different ways: as the runner and as the catcher.

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As the runner you will start in the classroom and try to flick your penguin through the doorways containing your colored fish. For each doorway you go through, you will collect your fish and a score card. If you can collect all three of your fish, the round will end.

As the Catcher, you dont care about doorways or fish. You care about catching the other penguins! You will flick your penguin through the school hoping to make contact with each penguin running around the halls.

Runners always start in the classroom on a red dot for their first turn. The Catcher starts in the kitchen anywhere he or she wants. Players take turns one at a time, flicking trying to achieive their individual goals.  Each room has a red line marking the playable area. If you get too far into a corner, you can pull your penguin out into the room in order to make your next move.

text-apart

Now Ice Cool is already visually amazing and the challenge of flicking around this 3d school is inherently and addictively fun. You can flick your penguin in straight lines and with the right angle you can even get your penguin to bend around corners or through doors.

BUT there’s another element that literally and figuratively vaults Ice Cool into another stratosphere of fun. You can make your penguin do jumps! That’s right, if you aim high on the penguin (around the shoulders)  the little guys will jump into the air, meaning you can hop over walls or even across the school in a single move. It sounds preposterous and it may take a few practice flicks (be careful not to flick too hard!) but within half a dozen tries your penguins will be airborn! Not bad for a bunch of flightless birds. 🙂

This element is a game changer. It changes your strategy and allows you to look at the board in entirely new ways. This makes Ice Cool very different from almost any other flicking game that comes to mind.

But mostly, it’s just crazy fun trying to make your penguins fly….

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Simple joys are often the best when it comes to Major Fun and Ice Cool is a champion in this regard. The pieces cry out to be flicked and you’ll start flicking them through doors and over walls just for fun as you are setting up the game. In other words, you almost instinctively know how to play just by opening the box! The game has sense enough celebrate these simple pleasures and not bury them under overly complicated rules. Anyone with working fingers can play and enjoy Ice Cool and will instantly know that it is absolutely… Major Fun!

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Happy Salmon

happy fish

The game is called Happy Salmon. You might wonder why this particular salmon is so happy. After all, salmon have a hard life with the, you know, swimming up river and the jumping and the bears and the dying. Could it be so happy because it won a Major Fun award? Or is it because it knows how happy it will make the people who get to play it?

This is one smug salmon. And deservedly so. The game is quick (takes maybe a couple minutes to play). It’s easy to learn. It gets everybody moving. Everybody involved. And, best of all, it makes people laugh.

You could think of it as a card game – that’s because it’s played with a special deck of cards. But it’s really a people game.

It goes like this:

There are six sets of 12 cards, each a different color. First, give one set to each of 3-6 players who are at least six years old. There are four different cards: Happy Salmon, High 5, Switcheroo and Pound It! Each card has an associated action. Your objective is to be the first to get rid of all your cards. You can only do that if you can find someone who’s playing the same kind of card. You can tell, because that person is either trying to get you to High Five or to Fist Bump (Pound) or change places (Switcheroo) or Happy Salmon (put your wrist along the other player’s wrist and wiggle your hand in a salmon-fin-like manner).

You’ll probably play many rounds of the game before you put it back in its neat, salmony zipper pouch. And next time you play, you might want to try the completely silent variation (though it is likely that the laughter will escape you).

Luckily, there are two great videos showing the game in action. First, here’s one with kids playing:

And now, one for the growns:

O, the fun! O, the sheer Majorness of the fun!!

Designed by Ken Gruhl and Quentin Weir, from Northstar Games.

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