Codenames: Duet

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!

Codenames: Duet

Czech Games Edition  |  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: Vlaada Chvatil, Scott Eaton

Publisher: Czech Games Edition

2 players  15-30 min   ages 12+   MSRP $19.95

Music credits include:

Hard Day’s Night   by Banda Plastica   |   the song

Tijuana Sound Machine  by Nortec Collective  |  the song

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The Great Dinosaur Rush

The Great Dinosaur Rush   APE Games  |  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: Scott Almes   Art: Mr. Cuddington   Publisher: APE Games
2-5 players  60 min. ages 10+  MSRP $50

text-the concept

There’s little doubt today’s world is dino-crazy. Few things fire our imagination like seeing the bones of these massive reptilian beasts that once ruled the Earth. And yet this was not always the case. Dinosaurs became part of popular culture due to the Great Dinosaur Rush over 120 years ago!

In the late 1800s, rival paleontologists scrambled to be the first to discover and promote new species of dinosaurs. They often stooped to devious and underhanded means to compete with and embarrass anyone who happened to get in the way. This Wild West approach to science left a black mark on American paleontology but this race for bones led to the discoveries of over 142 species of dinosaurs in a just a few year’s time! The flood of new bones to museums sparked public interest and the dino-craze that still rages on today!

In The Great Dinosaur Rush, each player is a famous fossil hunter from this era in history. Over three rounds you will search the American prairie for bones and use them to build the best dinosaurs and place them in museums. But beware, your opponents may try to sabotage your efforts along the way! You may need to play a little dirty to win, but if you gain too much notoriety, you could lose everything!

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The game comes with a bag of 210 wooden dinosaur bones. The bones come in five different colors, each color representing a different part of a dinosaur’s skeleton. Some will go on the board and the rest go in a drawstring bag.

There’s a game board representing the dig sites where you will discover the bones and several museum score tracks.

Each player has a screen (which you will use when building your dinos) plus a wooden paleontologist meeple and some scoring cubes.

There’s a bag of 45 notoriety tokens. The tokens are numbered 1-3. When you do underhanded things, you’ll have to draw from this bag.

There are 15 paleontologist cards, each one representing an actual fossil hunter of the era, complete with a small bio.

Last but not least are the 21 Dinosaur Bonus Cards. These cards show a specific layout of bones to create named dinosaurs. Some you may know and love and many you may not.

text-the mechanics

The game is played over the course of three turns. Each turn you has three parts: field, build and exhibit.

The field phase has the most parts and is the real meat of the game.

In the field phase, players collect bones, move their paleontologist on the board, adjust the museum score track and then take an action. Some of these actions are normal and some are notorious. If you take a notorious action, you will have to draw from the dreaded notoreity bag which can hurt your chances at winning.

Let’s look at each part in a little more detail.

You collect bones based on where your paleontologist is on the board. On the first turn, each space has three bones. Empty spaces will fill in with two on turn two and one on the last turn of the game, meaning you’ll collect the most bones early in the game and the least bones later on.

You move your paleontologist in a straight line as far as you want. You can pass other players but not tar pits. Remember, wherever you land, you’ll be picking up bones there to start your next turn.

On the board there are five museum scoring tracks. Each one corresponds to a different aspect of the dinosaur you’re going to build: size, height, length, ferocity, uniqueness. You choose one track and move its score cube up or down. This is your chance to improve or diminish the scoring potential for one particular aspect.

So after collecting, moving and adjusting the museum track you have one final choice to make: what action do you want to take?

There are three normal and three notorious actions from which to choose.

Normal actions go like this.

Publicize: You can move a score cube on one museum track up or down again.

Donate: You can get rid of three bones to score points or get rid of a notoriety token.

Research: You can draw an extra dinosaur bonus card.

Notorious actions go like this.

Sabotage: You can draw and place a notoriety token on the board. Anyone who moves through this space will have to pick it up.

Dynamite: You get rid of the three bones on the space where you stand and then draw three new bones from the bag and keep them.

Steal: You can steal a bone from a space adjacent to the one where you stand, including a space with an opponent.

Notorious actions come with a catch, though. You must draw a notoriety token from the bag. The tokens are numbered 1-3. Keep your tokens secret. They will either help you or really hurt you when it comes time to score at the end of the game. Playing a little dirty is ok, as long as the other players are dirtier than you!

It might seem like a lot to take in the first turn but each part flows nicely to the next. There’s a nice aid with the actions on your player screen so you can see all your options at a glance.

Even better, there’s a family version of the game included that ignores notoreity altogether, so you can ease yourself into the game if the many actions seem too much at first.

Players will repeat the field phase three times each turn and then move on to Build and Exhibit, which brings us to….

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All the decisions you take in the field phase, to acquire bones, to move and position the museum track – all the actions you take are driven by one goal: build the best dinosaur you can!

Now this isnt some theoretical task. You actually get to take the bones you collect and physically build a dinosaur behind your screen!!

Remember the colored bones correspond to particular parts, so each dino must have a head, a neck, a spine, ribs, two limbs and might even have some unique features. There’s a helpful chart on each player screen outlining the various requirements for building your dino.

The important thing to remember is that within these general guidelines, the sky’s the limit. You can arrange the bones to make your own personal dinosaur any way you can imagine.

Dinosaurs like these!

Behold the Dogosaurus. Notice the spiked tail and horns. A reptilian cousin to man’s best friend?

Next up is the Squareadactyl. Graceful wings lifted this gentle square headed beast into the clouds.

The mighty Triangasaurus Rex hopped like a kangaroo on its massive hind legs and attacked with the massive triangular cudgel on its tail.

And last but not least is the Overbitetrodon. Its massive head and bottome jawis held up by an ultra-strong neck. It feeds itself using arms on its head and twin tails.

And if you’ve done a great job collecting the right bones, you may even be able to build one of the dinos depicted on your bonus cards. These will score extra points.

I cannot adequately express how fun it is to be in charge of creating your own dinosaur each turn. You must use all the bones you collect so you may have to get creative with extra long tails or a giant head or a really really long set of arms. It’s a bit like a puzzle but it’s a puzzle that you can form and reform until you find the shape that pleases you best and (you hope!) will score you the most points. Best yet, you keep the bones you dug up on previous turns, so as the game moves forward, you’ll build bigger and bigger dinosaurs.

And honestly, regardless of your ultimate scoring potential, so much of the joy of the game comes from putting your dino together in a way that will cause the others to laugh and marvel when they see your creation!

When everyone is ready, you reveal your dinos and move on to the Exhibit, the last phase of each turn. Look back to the museum tracks and score based on the position of the cubes on each track.

Who has the largest dino? (the most ribs)

Who has the tallest dino? (neck plus the longest limb)

Who has the longest dino? (tail plus spine)

Who has the most ferocious dino? (head plus shortest limb)

Who has the most rare dino (most unique bones).

First second and third places score, so even if you’re not the longest or tallest, you can still rack up points. If you’re able to build any of your special dino cards, show them and score those points too.

So there’s planning during the field phase, the joy and strategy of making dinos in the build phase, and then the payoff with scoring points in the exhibit phase. Each turn ends with its own payoff which makes each turn almost feel like a game in and of itself.

At game’s end the high score wins the game BUT…

Remember those Notoriety tokens? The player with the most notoriety has to SUBTRACT his or her total notoriety taken throughout the game from his or her final score. Other players get to ADD their notoriety to their scores! This means if you play too nicely, you may miss out on a bunch of points and if you play too dirty, you run the risk of a huge negative at the end of the game. The trick is to be a little mean but not so mean you cost yourself the game. It’s a terriffic challenge – very cleverly implemented but easy to understand.

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The Great Dinosaur Rush is certainly at the higher end of the complexity scale when it comes to Major Fun but it is a worth recipient of both honors due to the inclusion of the family rules and the outrageous amount of fun and freedom players have in creating new dinosaurs every turn.

As a Spiel of Approval winner, the game provides great payoff for strategic thinking and the notoriety mechanics give each decision several layers to think through. There’s also a great deal of effort to bring the actual history of the period into the game. Each paleontologist not only has a short biography but they each have a special power that is in synch with the person’s story as well.

For instance, you can play as Mary Anning a noted fossil hunter who discovered one of the first and most complete pterodactyls. She was the inspiration for the tongue twister “She sells seashells down by the seashore. ” Since she was such a prolific fossil hunter, her ability allows her to draw three bones from the bag and place them in her space on the board if that space is empty.

Or you could play as Barnum “Mr. Bones” Brown. He was the cheif fossil hunter for the American Museum of Natural History. His preferred method of searching for fossils was dynamiting fields and picking through the rubble. Naturally, his ability involves dynamite. If you take the dynamtie action, you get to draw an extra bone from the bag.

I love games that can be appreciated by many different players on many different levels. The Great Dinosaur Rush is a wonderful example of a game that strikes a fantastic and fun balance between strategy and accessibility.

Plus, did I mention you get to build dinosaurs every turn?

Easy to see why this game has won our hearts. Give it a go and I think there’s a good chance it might stomp and roar its way into your heart, too.

***

Double Play

Double Play   INversion Games  |  BGG  |  Amazon

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

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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!

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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.

Every card back contains the entire alphabet, so if when you’re learning to decipher the letters, you always have a guide handy

text-the mechanics

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!

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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.

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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.

***

Tak: A Beautiful Game

Release Date: 3/13/2017 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:  51 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

“No one wins a dance. Why would I want to win anything other than a beautiful game?”

– Bredon  The Wise Man’s Fear  by Patrick Rothfuss

Tak comes to us from two beautiful and beautifully different minds.

First from writer Patrick Rothfuss. In his epic fantasy series The Kingkiller Chronicles, Kvothe, the protagonist, learns the game of Tak from a courtier named Bredon. The game becomes the basis for their friendship and the foundation for understanding Bredon’s worldview.

Second from game designer James Ernest. Inspired by the novels, James brought Tak from the page to reality. But creating a game that is supposed to be on par with the likes of Chess or Go is no small task!

And yet Tak is just that. A game that feels universal, simple, elegant and accessible. A game that you can play anywhere and with anyone. A game that is beautiful because HOW you play matters as much as winning or losing.

And a game that is worthy both the Major Fun and Spiel of Approval Award!

Listen in to explore Tak – it’s backstory, the game itself, and why we think it deserves an honored place on your table, too.

Tak: A Beautiful Game

Cheapass Games  |  BGG  |  Worldbuilders

Designer: James Ernest & Patrick Rothfuss

Publisher: Cheapass Games

2 players  15-20 min.  ages 8+  MSRP $9,$55,$90

Music credits include:

Tinker, Tanner   by bluedanbob   |  the song

The Name of the Wind   by Ken Bonfield  |  the song 

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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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Karuba

Release Date: 8/1/2016 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:   35 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Karuba is an island with hidden treasures. Your goal is to lead your team of adventurers through the jungle along the smartest route to riches. Each turn you have a  choice: place a tile to create a path to the treasure temples OR discard the tile and move one your team’s pawns along the path. You might even run across some gold or diamonds along the way.

Deceptively simple, Karuba uses a bingo like system to offer players a wonderful strategic puzzle for players young and old.

Tune in to learn the mysteries of Karuba why we think it deserves the Major Fun Award!

Karuba

HABA  |  BGG

Designer: Rudiger Dorn  Publisher: HABA 

2-4 players  20 min.  ages 8+  MSRP $35

Music credits include:

Der Lowe schlaft heut nacht   by Henri Salvador |  the song

Jungle Rock   by Hank Mizell  |  the song

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Too Many Cinderellas

Too Many Cinderellas   Grail Games  |  BGG  |  Amazon  

Designer: Nobutake Dogen, Nao Shimamura 

Publisher: Grail Games, Taikikennai Games  2-4 players 10 min  ages 10+   $12.95

text-the concept

Prince Charming has met and lost is soulmate: Cinderella. While he searches high and low using a forgotten shoe, you and your fellow players have a different plan… to convince the prince to marry a Cinderella of your choosing! In order to do this, you will play rumor cards limiting the traits the Prince should focus on in his search. You hope, in the end, your Cinderella will stand out among the rest and the Prince will marry the person (or cat) you chose for him.

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Too Many Cinderellas is a very compact game. It comes with 18 Cinderella cards, 9 wooden yes/no tokens and 9 plastic diamonds. The cards feature whimsical art by Hinami Tsukuda.

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At its heart, Too Many Cinderellas is a light-hearted logic game. Each player is dealt four cards. Two cards will be played as rumors and two cards will be kept in-hand as possible Cinderellas for the Prince to marry.

Rumors create the logic puzzle at the core of the game. In order to understand them, we need to take a closer look at the cards.

Each card has a split identity – it can be a rumor OR it can be a Cinderella – a possible Cinderella for the Prince.

The main portion of the card shows an illustration of the Cinderella and characteristics that define this person. A Cinderella can be young or teenaged or an adult or a senior, for instance. A Cinderella could have brown hair or blonde or black. A Cinderella might wear glasses or like rice or be royalty. 

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A Cinderella doesn’t even have to be a woman. Cinderella could be a man… or even a cat!

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There are easy to understand icons along the side of each card that describe each Cinderella’s defining traits.

Remember, though, each card has a second identity or use – as a rumor. At the bottom of each card is a thought bubble containing a simple sentence. This sentence is the rumor and will begin to define who Cinderella isn’t. So a rumor might say Cinderella is not a senior OR Cinderella is does not like rice OR Cinderella does not have brown hair.

So, now that you see how the cards are put together, the game goes like this.

Each player, one at a time, will offer up a card as a rumor to the group by playing it to the table. The group will then vote on whether this rumor is true or not. Players will secretly choose a yes or no token and then everyone will reveal their vote. If all vote YES, the rumor is true and will help define who Cinderella is not.

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If even one person votes NO, then the rumor is false and will not be considered when the Prince chooses his Cinderella.

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Here’s the rub. You only get one NO vote for the entire game round! Once used, your NO token is placed on the rumor card you quashed. This means you must choose wisely when voting NO or you may end up being forced to vote YES on rumors you don’t want.

This process continues until all players have offered up two rumor cards and each rumor has been put to a vote. One final random rumor is drawn from the deck and added to the table just as if someone had played it. It can be included or dismissed depending on the final vote.

After all rumors have been voted up or down, each player offers their best Cinderella to the Prince, meaning a single Cinderella card that conforms to the restrictions laid out by the rumors. For instance, at the end of a round, the rumors might say: Cinderella is not an adult, is not dark haired and does not like cake. Any Cinderella card in your hand that avoids all these traits could be offered up as a possible match to the Prince. Most times, the Prince will have several Cinderellas from which to choose. In this case, he will select the Cinderella with the lowest value (printed in the upper left corner of the card). So your best hope of making a match for the Prince is to play the lowest value Cinderella card that fits the logic puzzle for the round!

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You can play a single game round in about 5-6 minutes as a stand-alone game or you can earn a diamond each time the Prince selects your Cinderella. First to three wins.

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The big moment in Too Many Cinderellas comes as the logic puzzle is finished each round. This moment is what sets the game apart.

Do you have a Cinderella card that fits with all the restrictions placed by the rumors?

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If one of the true rumors says Cinderella is not an adult and both your remaining Cinderella cards are adults, then you might be out of luck this round. BUT, if you’ve planned wisely, you’ll have to resist the urge to cheer when you make it through the round with a lovely Cinderella card for the Prince to consider.

Your goal is to play rumor cards that do not eliminate your own Cinderella cards from contention AND restrict or eliminate Cinderella cards in other player’s hands. The fact that every card has both a rumor and a potential mate for the Prince makes this process challenging and a lot of fun!

You have one NO, so you can eliminate one horrible rumor that might eliminate many of your Cinderellas. But this NO will only get you so far. The game nudges you strongly to pay attention to what other people are playing and try to make educated guesses about what they might be holding and how they might vote on any given card.

It’s good to look at your cards and have a plan when the round starts but you may have to switch things up if an untimely rumor slips through. In other words, the game mixes long term strategy with strategy of the moment. 

Each round you define Cinderella by omission. We learn what he or she is not, so anyone outside those restrictions is allowed. This is an important and powerful concept and the game manages to teach it in such a simple, fun way.

It’s a simple process to play Too Many Cinderellas but the game offers an engaging and ever-changing puzzle that each player can try to manipulate to his or her advantage. And if you make mistakes, the game is forgiving and short enough you will be eager to jump in again and do better in the next round.

There are a few cards with special actions that allow an extra no token or a no token to be removed and even one to reverse the tie breaker (high card wins instead of low). These special abilities keep the game fresh and allow for the rumors/rules for each game round to change a lot with the play of a single card.

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Too Many Cinderellas proves that logic games do not have to be dry or boring. They can be whimsical and fun. I love the fact that the Prince’s perfect Cinderella could be an elderly gentleman who loves books, a cat with a wig, or a dude in a dress. In fact this sense of whimsy and fun can easily take over the game. I’ve seen groups of players abandon the need to win to make sure that the cat becomes the best Cinderella for the Prince. This might defy conventional logic for some, but it tracks perfectly with the higher logic of fun.

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Side note:  kudos to Grail Games (based in Sydney Australia) for bringing this game to a wider audience. The game was originally published in Japan by Taikikennai Games in a very limited form. Micro games are an increasingly well known genre outside of Japan, based on the wild success of Love Letter and its ilk. I’m glad to see more and more publishers interested in the creative possibilities in this genre, especially when they find gems like this one.

Favor of the Pharaoh

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

Roll like an Egyptian!

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

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

Favor of the Pharaoh

Official Site  |  BGG  |  Amazon 

Designer: Tom Lehmann  Publisher: Bezier Games

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

Special edition also available with 64 additional dice: $79.95

Music credits include:

Walk Like an Egyptian  by The Cleverlys  |  the song

***

Other Links:

Capital Gaming Expo

The Loft

Snakes & Lattes on College

Ottawa Redblacks

New York 1901

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

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

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

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

New York 1901    Official Site  |  BGG  |  Amazon 

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

Music credits include:

Empire State Human  by The Human League  |  the song 

Rolling America

Rolling America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1+ players. Ages 8+

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

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