|Release: 9/7/2017||Download: Enhanced | MP3|
|Run Time: 34 min||Subscribe: Enhanced | MP3 | RSS|
|Fuji Flush is a wonderfully simple card game.
Your goal is to flush all the number cards from your hand, one card at a time. There are lots of low cards in the deck and fewer high cards.
The higher number you play, the more likely you are to flush it BUT here’s the twist. If two players play the same number, they are added together. This means low cards can often band together to beat high ones.
It’s a game about strength in numbers. And the more people you play with, the more fun the game becomes.
Designer: Friedemann Friese Artist: Harald Lieske
Publisher: 2F Spiele, Stronghold Games
3-8 players 10-20 min ages 7+ MSRP $14.95
Music credits include:
|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: Adam Daulton Art: Chris Byer, Jaqui Davis
Publisher: Action Phase Games
2-4 players 15-30 min. ages 10+ MSRP $20
It’s a little known fact that animals make the best ninjas. In fact, there’s a secret camp where they go to train. Whether you’re a hamster, a camel, a sloth or a platypus, Sensei Saru can teach you to master the arts of the shadow warrior.
Today, the Sensei has a special challenge for all his students. Each animal clan will enter the arena and face each other in a grand melee. You must use your skills combined with the opportunities you find in the arena to remain standing while others fall.
Do this and Sensei Saru will name your clan to be his personal apprentices, and the best students at Ninja Camp!
The Ninja Camp is a card game. There are 80 cards in total.
There are 8 clan cards. These represent the different animal students attending Ninja Camp. Each player will play animals from a clan and each animal has a special ability you’ll be able to use once per game. The artwork is ridiculously charming and you may want to take a minute to let everyone look through the cards and decide which one they like best.
The main deck is made up of Skill cards, Walls and Traps. These cards will be laid out in a grid to form the training ground, the arena where your animals will compete for the Sensei.
Skill cards will make up the bulk of the arena. Each card describes a specific ninja move and shows the point value of the card.
Each player will also start with two basic skill cards to begin the game : Evade and Sprint.
Last but not least, each player has four wooden ninja meeples (ninjeeples!) These nifty little guys represent your animal clan and will move about the arena as you play cards.
You’ll take turns placing 3 of your ninjeeples into the training ground one by one, making sure each one is on a different Skill card. No ninjas allowed on the walls !
Ninja Camp is played over a series of turns. On your turn, you will either play a Skill card from your hand OR you will use your animal clan’s special ability. Your card or your clan ability will enable you to move one of your ninjas on the board.
Each clan has a very cool and very powerful special ability, BUT… you can only use your clan’s ability once per game. Once you have used it, flip your clan card over. Here are some examples.
Most turns you’ll be playing a Skill card from your hand.
Each Skill card describes a specific way you must move one of your ninjas on the board. You must be able to follow the movement instructions on the card in order to play it.
Here are the 7 different skills ninjas use to move in the arena:
Evade – move 3 spaces in any direction
Stealth – move 2 spaces and claim the first card your ninja steps onto.
Dodge – move 1 or 2 spaces, including diagonal
Sprint – move in a straight line until you reach an edge, wall, hole or another ninja.
Ambush – move straight until you land on an opponent’s ninja. Push that ninja one space back.
Leap – move over a hole in the arena and land on the next card after the hole.
Shadow – copies the skill of the last card played.
There are a few general guidelines that apply unless a Skill specifically allows you to break the rules: no diagonal moves, no passing through other meeples (yours or another player’s), and no passing through or landing on the same space.
One of the key challenges in the game is deciding what card to play and what ninja to move. But there’s another factor you have to consider on every turn and this factor is….
When you move your ninja, you collect the card where your ninja began its move and add it to your hand.
This means you will have more options available in your hand of Skill cards as the game moves along.
Suddenly, the choice of which card to play and which ninja to move may be determined by what card you want to pick up OR what card you want to land on! You may move a ninja because you really need the Leap card where it currently resides. Or you may move a ninja because you want to finish your move on an Sprint card, so you can pick it up later on in the game or simply prevent others from getting to it.
Picking up cards from the arena also means that the board will have gaps or holes. This will make movement more difficult or downright impossible as the board continues to shrink turn after turn. It’s inevitable that your ninjas will come to a point where they are trapped in a small area of the board. The trick in Ninja Camp is to keep as many ninja active as long as possible so they can collect more cards.
When you cannot move any ninjas (or you choose not to move) you pass and play will continue without you. When all players pass, the game ends and we’re ready to score.
The cards you collect and/or play during the game determine your score. If you were unlucky and collected any traps, they count as negative points. You also get points for the cards your ninjas rest on at the end of the game.
This scoring system also adds a simple but nifty level to each choice you make in the game.
It might seem obvious that you want to head for the highest point value Skill cards as often as you can. And this does make them juicy targets. But there’s just one problem. The higher point value Skill cards are also the more difficult cards to use in the game because their movement rules are more restrictive. So you might end up landing on a big point Skill card but find it very hard to move from it. Most often, the player whose ninjas remain active and agile wins, not the player who focuses solely on big point cards.
A game of Ninja Camp feels like a sparring match. You act, your opponents react. It’s a dance of move and counter move on a rapidly shrinking board.
The beauty and fun of Ninja Camp comes from its simplicity and economy. Now, I don’t mean economy in terms of its price (though it is a great deal at $20). I mean economy of language in its rules.
So often games that offer challenging strategy on this level require a much more complex set of rules.
There are seven basic moves in the game and after using or seeing these moves used a couple times, it will be easy for most players to remember each one.
This means you don’t spend time fighting the rules ; you spend your time looking for the best possible option based on the choices available. No one wants to be mired in a laundry list of exceptions and rules to remember.
By keeping the rules so streamlined, designer Adam Daulton allows a wide range of players to dive into the game really quickly and gives each player a chance to discover the fun and challenge that comes from deciding what to play and who to move and trying not to get your ninjas trapped.
For this reason Ninja Camp makes a great game for both kids and families while providing a wonderful challenge for more experienced gamers as well.
The charming variety of animals and the random arena also gives Ninja Camp great staying power since it will be a different experience every time you play.
Ninja Camp finds depth through simplicity. That’s the kind of wonderful surprise that makes it Major Fun. And it’s a reason you might want to step into this arena and go toe to toe with the next clan of hamsters you meet!
|Release Date: 5/15/2017||Download: Enhanced | MP3|
|Running Time: 43 min||Subscribe: Enhanced | MP3 | RSS|
There’s trouble brewing in the small town of Forgerville. The night before the new abstract art exhibition at the museum, all the paintings have gone missing!
Luckily the museum employees have a plan. Overnight, they will paint furiously and replace the paintings with abstract works of their own.
Picassimo is a party game where players create, disassemble and reassemble works of art. You’ll use a 6 part canvas to create your drawing and then mix up some of the parts and present your masterpiece to the other players, your critics. They must then try to guess the subject of your artwork, even though the pieces are out of order, by mentally reassembling the parts.
Best of all, you really don’t have to be an expert artist to do well at Picassimo. That’s because Picassimo allows you to look at each work of art and draw each work of art in a new way.
That’s what we call innovation. And it’s also what we call Major Fun!
Listen in to learn all about the game and discover whether Picassimo should be hanging in your gallery at home.
3-6 players 30 min. ages 8+ MSRP $45
Music credits include:
Designer: Scott Almes Art: Mr. Cuddington Publisher: APE Games
2-5 players 60 min. ages 10+ MSRP $50
There’s little doubt today’s world is dino-crazy. Few things fire our imagination like seeing the bones of these massive reptilian beasts that once ruled the Earth. And yet this was not always the case. Dinosaurs became part of popular culture due to the Great Dinosaur Rush over 120 years ago!
In the late 1800s, rival paleontologists scrambled to be the first to discover and promote new species of dinosaurs. They often stooped to devious and underhanded means to compete with and embarrass anyone who happened to get in the way. This Wild West approach to science left a black mark on American paleontology but this race for bones led to the discoveries of over 142 species of dinosaurs in a just a few year’s time! The flood of new bones to museums sparked public interest and the dino-craze that still rages on today!
In The Great Dinosaur Rush, each player is a famous fossil hunter from this era in history. Over three rounds you will search the American prairie for bones and use them to build the best dinosaurs and place them in museums. But beware, your opponents may try to sabotage your efforts along the way! You may need to play a little dirty to win, but if you gain too much notoriety, you could lose everything!
The game comes with a bag of 210 wooden dinosaur bones. The bones come in five different colors, each color representing a different part of a dinosaur’s skeleton. Some will go on the board and the rest go in a drawstring bag.
There’s a game board representing the dig sites where you will discover the bones and several museum score tracks.
Each player has a screen (which you will use when building your dinos) plus a wooden paleontologist meeple and some scoring cubes.
There’s a bag of 45 notoriety tokens. The tokens are numbered 1-3. When you do underhanded things, you’ll have to draw from this bag.
There are 15 paleontologist cards, each one representing an actual fossil hunter of the era, complete with a small bio.
Last but not least are the 21 Dinosaur Bonus Cards. These cards show a specific layout of bones to create named dinosaurs. Some you may know and love and many you may not.
The game is played over the course of three turns. Each turn you has three parts: field, build and exhibit.
The field phase has the most parts and is the real meat of the game.
In the field phase, players collect bones, move their paleontologist on the board, adjust the museum score track and then take an action. Some of these actions are normal and some are notorious. If you take a notorious action, you will have to draw from the dreaded notoreity bag which can hurt your chances at winning.
Let’s look at each part in a little more detail.
You collect bones based on where your paleontologist is on the board. On the first turn, each space has three bones. Empty spaces will fill in with two on turn two and one on the last turn of the game, meaning you’ll collect the most bones early in the game and the least bones later on.
You move your paleontologist in a straight line as far as you want. You can pass other players but not tar pits. Remember, wherever you land, you’ll be picking up bones there to start your next turn.
On the board there are five museum scoring tracks. Each one corresponds to a different aspect of the dinosaur you’re going to build: size, height, length, ferocity, uniqueness. You choose one track and move its score cube up or down. This is your chance to improve or diminish the scoring potential for one particular aspect.
So after collecting, moving and adjusting the museum track you have one final choice to make: what action do you want to take?
There are three normal and three notorious actions from which to choose.
Normal actions go like this.
Publicize: You can move a score cube on one museum track up or down again.
Donate: You can get rid of three bones to score points or get rid of a notoriety token.
Research: You can draw an extra dinosaur bonus card.
Notorious actions go like this.
Sabotage: You can draw and place a notoriety token on the board. Anyone who moves through this space will have to pick it up.
Dynamite: You get rid of the three bones on the space where you stand and then draw three new bones from the bag and keep them.
Steal: You can steal a bone from a space adjacent to the one where you stand, including a space with an opponent.
Notorious actions come with a catch, though. You must draw a notoriety token from the bag. The tokens are numbered 1-3. Keep your tokens secret. They will either help you or really hurt you when it comes time to score at the end of the game. Playing a little dirty is ok, as long as the other players are dirtier than you!
It might seem like a lot to take in the first turn but each part flows nicely to the next. There’s a nice aid with the actions on your player screen so you can see all your options at a glance.
Even better, there’s a family version of the game included that ignores notoreity altogether, so you can ease yourself into the game if the many actions seem too much at first.
Players will repeat the field phase three times each turn and then move on to Build and Exhibit, which brings us to….
All the decisions you take in the field phase, to acquire bones, to move and position the museum track – all the actions you take are driven by one goal: build the best dinosaur you can!
Now this isnt some theoretical task. You actually get to take the bones you collect and physically build a dinosaur behind your screen!!
Remember the colored bones correspond to particular parts, so each dino must have a head, a neck, a spine, ribs, two limbs and might even have some unique features. There’s a helpful chart on each player screen outlining the various requirements for building your dino.
The important thing to remember is that within these general guidelines, the sky’s the limit. You can arrange the bones to make your own personal dinosaur any way you can imagine.
Dinosaurs like these!
Behold the Dogosaurus. Notice the spiked tail and horns. A reptilian cousin to man’s best friend?
Next up is the Squareadactyl. Graceful wings lifted this gentle square headed beast into the clouds.
The mighty Triangasaurus Rex hopped like a kangaroo on its massive hind legs and attacked with the massive triangular cudgel on its tail.
And last but not least is the Overbitetrodon. Its massive head and bottome jawis held up by an ultra-strong neck. It feeds itself using arms on its head and twin tails.
And if you’ve done a great job collecting the right bones, you may even be able to build one of the dinos depicted on your bonus cards. These will score extra points.
I cannot adequately express how fun it is to be in charge of creating your own dinosaur each turn. You must use all the bones you collect so you may have to get creative with extra long tails or a giant head or a really really long set of arms. It’s a bit like a puzzle but it’s a puzzle that you can form and reform until you find the shape that pleases you best and (you hope!) will score you the most points. Best yet, you keep the bones you dug up on previous turns, so as the game moves forward, you’ll build bigger and bigger dinosaurs.
And honestly, regardless of your ultimate scoring potential, so much of the joy of the game comes from putting your dino together in a way that will cause the others to laugh and marvel when they see your creation!
When everyone is ready, you reveal your dinos and move on to the Exhibit, the last phase of each turn. Look back to the museum tracks and score based on the position of the cubes on each track.
Who has the largest dino? (the most ribs)
Who has the tallest dino? (neck plus the longest limb)
Who has the longest dino? (tail plus spine)
Who has the most ferocious dino? (head plus shortest limb)
Who has the most rare dino (most unique bones).
First second and third places score, so even if you’re not the longest or tallest, you can still rack up points. If you’re able to build any of your special dino cards, show them and score those points too.
So there’s planning during the field phase, the joy and strategy of making dinos in the build phase, and then the payoff with scoring points in the exhibit phase. Each turn ends with its own payoff which makes each turn almost feel like a game in and of itself.
At game’s end the high score wins the game BUT…
Remember those Notoriety tokens? The player with the most notoriety has to SUBTRACT his or her total notoriety taken throughout the game from his or her final score. Other players get to ADD their notoriety to their scores! This means if you play too nicely, you may miss out on a bunch of points and if you play too dirty, you run the risk of a huge negative at the end of the game. The trick is to be a little mean but not so mean you cost yourself the game. It’s a terriffic challenge – very cleverly implemented but easy to understand.
The Great Dinosaur Rush is certainly at the higher end of the complexity scale when it comes to Major Fun but it is a worth recipient of both honors due to the inclusion of the family rules and the outrageous amount of fun and freedom players have in creating new dinosaurs every turn.
As a Spiel of Approval winner, the game provides great payoff for strategic thinking and the notoriety mechanics give each decision several layers to think through. There’s also a great deal of effort to bring the actual history of the period into the game. Each paleontologist not only has a short biography but they each have a special power that is in synch with the person’s story as well.
For instance, you can play as Mary Anning a noted fossil hunter who discovered one of the first and most complete pterodactyls. She was the inspiration for the tongue twister “She sells seashells down by the seashore. ” Since she was such a prolific fossil hunter, her ability allows her to draw three bones from the bag and place them in her space on the board if that space is empty.
Or you could play as Barnum “Mr. Bones” Brown. He was the cheif fossil hunter for the American Museum of Natural History. His preferred method of searching for fossils was dynamiting fields and picking through the rubble. Naturally, his ability involves dynamite. If you take the dynamtie action, you get to draw an extra bone from the bag.
I love games that can be appreciated by many different players on many different levels. The Great Dinosaur Rush is a wonderful example of a game that strikes a fantastic and fun balance between strategy and accessibility.
Plus, did I mention you get to build dinosaurs every turn?
Easy to see why this game has won our hearts. Give it a go and I think there’s a good chance it might stomp and roar its way into your heart, too.
Designer: Alvin Sanico Graphic Design: Alvin Sanico, Michael Graham, Scott Kim Publisher: INversion Games 1-6 players 10-20 min. ages 10+ MSRP $9.99
Double Play is a set of word games a fun twist, literally. Every letter card in the deck is actually two different letters, depending on the direction you play the card!
Double Play is a deck of Versatileletter cards. What the heck is a Versatileletter, you ask ? It’s a specially designed font that represents two different letters, depending on the orientation of the card.
That means an upside down t can be an f. A d can be a p.
An h can be a y. Or an s can be a v.
Like Scrabble, each letter is assigned a value. But because each card is two letters, the value of the card also changes based on how you play it.
There are four games included in Double Play:
Finders Stealers: A race to find the longest word from face up letters on the table (2 per player).
Solitaire Dare: Just like it sounds, lay out letter cards in columns and try to form words to play every card in each column.
The Final Word: A 2 player game where players take turns playing cards from a common hand, but only the last word played each round will score.
These first three games can be interesting and fun but the fourth game, Word Wars 1-2-3, is the reason Double Play is Major Fun.
There are 3 rounds in Word Wars 1-2-3. Each round you get a hand of 10 cards.
Your job is to form 3 words using all 10 cards. You’re looking for the three highest scoring words you can find.
Pro tip: you may want some scratch paper handy for each player to write out various words you find and the score for each word! I’d also recommend setting a timer (5 minutes to start; once you’re comfortable, reduce the time to 3 minutes a round).
Once each player has found his or her three words, you’ll compare your results.
I dealt myself a hand of 10, set the timer for 3 minutes.
Here’s your hand. See if you can beat me!
Here’s what I came up with. la (3) cuff (12) yuck (15)
First, compare Word 1, your lowest scoring word. The player with the higher value, scores 1 point.
Next, compare Word 2, the middle scoring word. The player with the higher value scores 2 points.
Finally, compare Word 3, your highest scoring word. The player with the higher value scores 3 pts.
If you make a clean sweep in a round you get a bonus of 4 extra points.
After 3 rounds of play, the player with the highest score wins!
The innovative graphic design in Double Play is the heart and soul of the game. Without this fun twist, it would be like a thousand other word games under the sun. But this letter system will turn some of your assumptions about word games on their heads.
Unlike a traditional word game, Double Play avoids the bad mix of letters problem that has plagued many a Scrabble player through the decades. You don’t have to raise your fist and curse the spelling gods for giving you a hand that spells A-E-I-I-O-O-U because in Double Play that hand would also be
E-A-L-L-C-C-N. The dreaded Q-W-G-C-H-L-T is also P-M-K-O-Y-I-F. Or ANY combination of the two sets of letters! You may not find a 10 letter word in every hand or every round you play, but there is an amazing variety available in every hand. It’s up to you to find it!
Word Wars 1-2-3 takes full advantage of this variety and gives each player a fun word puzzle to solve each round. Especially if you add in a little time pressure, once you are familiar with the letter system, you’ll see how the deck and the rules connect to give you the sense that there’s always a better word just waiting to be discovered.
The designer of Double Play offers up a creative set of cards and a clever set of games but perhaps best of all, the designer encourages players to use the cards to find other ways to play. The wacky letter cards certainly entice you to try classic word games (try a crossword style game, building the board with cards) or even tweak the games they provide.
After a few games of Word Wars 1-2-3, we found it was even more fun to make each of our 3 words using the entire hand of 10 cards for all three words. This encourages finding longer and higher scoring words and can result in even more fun discoveries hidden in your hand.
Using the same hand above and three minutes, here are the 3 words I found with the Major Fun variant.
Knot (10) yuck (15) toughen (15)
See how you do using the same hand, using all 10 letters to form three words.
Double Play encourages players to be playful with the game itself. You can use the cards to find new ways to have fun. That’s a concept that’s woven into the fabric of Major Fun.
For its value, versatility and fun, any lover of word games will find lots of reasons to love Double Play.
And if traditional word games have left you frustrated, Double Play’s new twist gives you plenty of reasons to give it a try.
Designer: Shotaro Nakashima Publisher: Gamewright, Cocktail, Moonster
3-8 players 20 min. ages 10+ MSRP $15.00
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!
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 !
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….
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.
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 !
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 !
|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
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:
Designer: Jay Cormier & Sen-Foong Lim Publisher: Pretzel Games
2-6 players 30 min. ages 8+ MSRP $70.00
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.
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 !
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.
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 !
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 Jenga, Super Rhino, Bausack 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.
Designer: Ralf zur Linde & Wolfgang Senter Artist: Alexander Jung
Publisher: Stronghold Games, Eggertspiele 2-4 players 30 min. ages 8+ MSRP $29.95
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!
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’s a starting player flag.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!Any single animals in your ark will score the number on the tile. A panda with a 3 is worth 3.
A herd is a group of 3 or more tiles in your ark. Each tile in a herd in worth 5 points!!
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!
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!