Favor of the Pharaoh

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

Roll like an Egyptian!

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

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

Favor of the Pharaoh

Official Site  |  BGG  |  Amazon 

Designer: Tom Lehmann  Publisher: Bezier Games

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

Special edition also available with 64 additional dice: $79.95

Music credits include:

Walk Like an Egyptian  by The Cleverlys  |  the song

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Dr. Eureka

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Dr. Eureka   Blue Orange  |  BGG  |  Amazon  

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

text-the concept

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

text-the components

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foooty

(I think Foooty might be pronounced “fooo-tee” to distinguish it from “footy” the game. Though you could certainly play footy, the game, with your Foooty. But Foooty is so much more.)

It’s made of a thing that looks like this.

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Ten things, actually. Which you can cunningly assemble to look like this:

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by doing this (but probably not as quickly as depicted):

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You can also make a minor myriad other things with your Foooty components, such as a football-shaped Foooty, a Frisbee-shaped Foooty, 5 little juggling Foooties, or Foootie lamps:

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It’s not exactly available right now. But, if what I see from the burgeoning success of their Kickstarter is any indication (which it most definitely is), it should be available by June.

I have one. If you are feeling impatient and supportive, a $17 donation to their Kickstarter will get you one too, probably by sometime in June.

New York 1901

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

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

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

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

New York 1901    Official Site  |  BGG  |  Amazon 

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

Music credits include:

Empire State Human  by The Human League  |  the song 

Fuse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Music credits include:

Spaceship Superstar  by Prism  |  the song 

Strike

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

Strike   Ravensburger  |  BGG  |  Amazon  

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

text-the concept

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OR The die could bounce out of the arena.

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

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

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

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

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

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Two things: the X and The Clean Sweep.

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

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

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

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

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

Pingo Pingo

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

Space penguins guard The Golden Pineapple on a mysterious island.

You had me at space penguins… 🙂

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

Pingo Pingo    Iello  |  BGG  |  Designer’s web site

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

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Music credits include:

The Penguin  by Raymond Scott  |  the song

CoCoCross

CoCoCross

So, what, you ask, is a “Rolling Block Brainteaser”? It’s a puzzle in which you roll a block, obviously, from block-face to block-face, across and around a grid. The block and grid are designed with raised ridges and grooves so that each face of the block fits snugly within the grid. The object: to roll the block, vertically or horizontally and always landing flat on your the face, from the designated start position to the designated finish position in no more than the indicated number of rolls. There are 24, two-sided puzzle cards, making 48 different levels of inexorably increasing difficulty.

There are two different blocks – one is shaped like a brick, the other like an arch. The arch-shaped block is chock full of more complex implications, and is used only with the second half of the puzzle deck. Its shape is different enough to make the more advanced puzzles feel almost like an entirely different set of challenges, even though the movement principles are the same.

Like many of the best of such puzzles, CoCoCross is a model for how to structure a good learning experience. Puzzle by puzzle you learn more about the kind of thinking you need to do to figure things out. When you graduate to the advanced level, you apply everything you learned in the first to a whole new set of challenges.

puzzlesThe design of the package is especially appealing. The transparent grid forms the lid of the container in which the cards and puzzle pieces are housed. Because there are only two pieces, aside from the cards, it is wonderfully easy to keep track of everything. And it’s small enough (less than 4×5 inches) to take with you everywhere – in the car, the plane, to the beach and beyond.

In sum, it’s a model of good design and good fun. It’s compact enough to be endearingly convenient, complex enough to stimulate curiosity and invite you to exercise your logical and mathematical skills, varied enough to offer surprise after surprise, and fun enough to make you want to play and play until you master every one of the 48 challenges.

In sum: major fun.

 

Buy the Rights

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Of all the vast multitude of party games spawned by the success of Apples to Apples (not that this game is a variant or rip-off of any other game, but that it uses a similar, as we say in the game biz, “mechanic” – you got lots of cards [400], and the game is all about being creative and clever enough to convince the person acting in a judge-like position [only here it’s a Producer] that your way of interpreting the card(s) is the most reasonable, or laughable), Buy the Rights is the funniest and funnest. And, it’s definitely not Apples to Apples.

The idea here is to come up with a pitch for a new movie. You know those new movie pitches and how crazy pressured it can get when people try convince a movie producer to invest millions of dollars in a maybe two-minute plot-sketch. And you can imagine how hilarious it can get when you’re doing it all for the fun of it. But you can’t imagine just how majorly fun it can be when someone makes a really good, easy to learn party game out of it.

party-wordYou get this big box of cards, as illustrated. There are four decks, each a different color (there’s a fifth that I’ll tell you about later), each separated by a divider. Each player takes three cards from each deck (so it’s not, like, totally random – I mean, like, you always have a choice, which is totally brilliant because otherwise it would be totally random and not so much fun – the very kind of insight that comes only with repeated and committed play testing). The reason I mention the divider is because it makes it feel like the box is like a drawer in a card file cabinet. And you know how your fingers kind of walk through the cards as you hunt for the right one? Well, that’s kind of what you can do. And it feels, well, near, you know, organized or something. And because of it, you don’t have to shuffle and deal out cards to the players – you just pass the box, and everyone picks their cards – one from each different color deck. I know, I know, that really isn’t what makes the game so fun, but it contributes to what makes it so good.

There are four main decks: Genre, Hero Descriptor, Hero, and Plot. And each player takes one of each. Here, let me completely randomly pick a hand:

Genre: Film Noir

Hero Discriptor: Evil

Hero: Hipsters

Plot: Discovering the existence of Bigfoot during a camping trip.

It’s night. Foggy. Cold. And the chill goes deep. This bunch of kids, see, bad kids, always smoking stuff and doing mean things to plants, just for fun, see, decide to go off into the woods spend the night tearing the heads off of baby flowers – know what I mean? Teens. All cool and just not nice, see. And all of a sudden the fog clears, and in front of them, looking most genuinely angry, none other than the legendary Bigfoot! It’s “The Revenge of Bigfoot!” or is it “Bigfoot Finds Love”?

And then there are the money cards (in denominations of $5, $10 and $20 million) that the producer uses to fund the winning pitches – dividing the prize so she can acknowledge the comparative brilliance of each pitch. Which gives her just the discretion she needs to keep everyone on the conceptual edge. And a list of variations, just to get you started with the craziness.

I can tell you’re just itching to start playing (maybe it was the poison ivy), and I can guarantee that you’ll be coming up with even wackier ideas every time you play. It’s in the cards.

Buy the Rights was designed by Tommy and Riley Day, and Chad and Michelle Yadon. It’s designed for 4-10 movie-watching, party-going, fun-loving players who can devote an hour or a half to plain, crazy laughter.

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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