Pictures

Pictures

  PD Verlag  |  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: Daniela and Christian Stöhr
Publisher: PD Verlag, Rio Grande Games  
3-5 players 20-30 minutes ages 8+
MSRP $
45
Time to teach & learn: 5 minutes

text-the concept

A game of Pictures starts with a simple premise: you don’t have to be the next Van Gogh or Kahlo to discover there’s a little artistry in each of us.

There’s no drawing or painting involved. Instead, you’ll use blocks and rocks and sticks and symbols and shoelaces and tiny colored cubes to create your version of a picture. Will others be able to find your picture when it’s hanging in a gallery with others?

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At first glance, Pictures might look like someone has emptied the random contents of a desk drawer into the box. There are five sets of art objects:

       6 chunky wooden blocks in different shapes

       24 colored wooden cubes with a frame card

       19 icon cards

       a long shoelace and a short shoelace

       and a set of 4 sticks and 4 rocks (yes, actual rocks)

Along with this odd assortment, you’ll find a deck of 91 picture cards and a set of coordinate tokens with a drawstring bag. The picture cards run the gamut – animals, landscapes, objects, vehicles, wide vistas and close-ups.

To play, deal out 16 picture cards in a four by four grid. Place coordinate tokens along the rows and columns. Each player selects one of the sets of art materials and we’re ready to begin!

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Each turn has two phases in Pictures – a creating phase and a guessing phase.

The creation phase begins with each player selecting a coordinate token from the bag. This token identifies which picture in the grid is yours. Keep this secret from everyone else.

Now, you’re set. Try your best to make a representation of your picture using the art materials at your disposal. There are no restrictions on how you may use the materials with two exceptions:

  •  With the colored cubes, all the cubes must fit within the frame,   meaning you may only use 9 of the 24 cubes in your picture.
  •  With the icon cards, you may only use 2-5 cards to represent your picture.

There’s no formal time limit to the creation phase. And don’t stress out if you need a moment to come up with a plan. This is not a game about making masterpieces. It’s a game about doing the best you can with what you’re given.

When all the creations are ready, the guessing phase begins. Look at all the other creations and note down on your scoresheet the picture coordinates that you think match each one. One by one, the artist will reveal the correct match. If you guessed correctly, you score a point and the artist scores one point for each correct guess.

Next round, shift each set of art materials to the another player. Play until each person has had a chance to use each set of materials. High score wins the game.

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Freedom and variety set Pictures apart.

You have the freedom to envision and use the materials in a variety of ways. With the blocks, you could stack them or arrange them in a diorama. With the shoelaces, you can create squiggly line drawings. The rocks and sticks could be a combination of any of these methods or something else entirely.

Your freedom extends to another important decision each round. You must decide what parts of the picture are the most important to depict. Given the crazy materials and their limited quantity, there’s no possible way for you to include every detail in any picture you see. Therefore, you have to make important decisions about what to include and what to leave out.

Each picture may have a focal piece but when put in context with the other pictures in the grid, that one item alone may not set it apart. So, the trick in Pictures is often deciding what smaller details to include.

Some rounds the picture and the materials may come together and an idea just leaps out at you. Others, you may be left laughing and scratching your head on what to do. You may develop favorites or grudges against certain sets of materials. But don’t worry. Any sets you struggle with initially, you can learn new methods by seeing how others use them.

This convergence of freedom and variety insures that every round of the game will be new and different. And because every round is so quick, each combination of picture and materials seems like an opportunity for fun, not an obstacle to it.

We certainly love the game as presented but we have added an extra layer of variety and freedom to our house rules that you might want to try as well. Instead of leaving the same cards in the grid each round, any card that was used is replaced. This means the grid of pictures changes each turn and prevents copycat artists from re-using the same depiction on a later round.

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Pictures encourages creativity in unexpected ways. There’s no expectation of mastery and therefore no pressure to perform on a sophisticated level. Pictures may not include any paint brushes but it is a game about broad strokes. Can you, with the most basic of materials, somehow, some way, get people to see a more complex picture? The tools are simple. The gameplay is constantly challenging. And the fun and laughs that Pictures creates is pure Major Fun.

Written by: Stephen Conway

Wordsmith

Wordsmith

HeidelBÄR Games |  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: Bill Eberle, Peter Olotka, Greg Olotka
Publisher: HeidelBÄR Games  
1-4 players 20-30 minutes ages 10+
MSRP $30

Time to teach & learn: 5 minutes

text-the concept

Writers have talent – stringing words together, making them sing. But Wordsmiths? Their skills are more rare and special. They build each letter in every word from the ground up, one piece at a time.

From an assortment of basic shapes, can you assemble letters from a template and then use those letters to build words? Be quick and dig deep into your vocabulary to score big. Wordsmith gives new meaning to word play!

text-the components

Wordsmith comes with 120 colorful plastic letter pieces. These are the literal building blocks you will use to create your words. They are divided into four types: long sticks are red, short sticks are yellow, half circles are blue and mini-Us are green.

There are four dice with sides matching the colors of the pieces and a scorepad.

Wordsmith uses the game box in fun and interesting ways. Instead of a game board, there is a plastic insert with sections for each letter piece and a resting area for each die. Even the sides of the game box are crucial to the game as each side contains an A-Z construction blueprint, so every player has a reference to consult.

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The goal in Wordsmith is to assemble the pieces you have available into letters and then use those letters to form words. Each round, you will be asked to build six words, then score. After three rounds, the player with the highest score wins.

When building, everyone works from a common set of blueprints. Want to build an E? You’ll need one red long stick and three yellow short sticks. Need an R? Put together one green mini-U, a red long stick and a yellow short stick. Every letter you make must conform to these construction guidelines.

Dice are used to determine the starting set of pieces held in common by all players. Roll each die twice to generate a pool of 8 letter pieces.

Once everyone has their initial pieces, play is freeform. Ready, set, go!

Once the game begins, however, you can add pieces to your supply by rolling your die. At any point, you may roll it and add a piece to your supply that matches the face you rolled. Note: the star face is wild and any piece may be taken.

When you have assembled a word, call it out and show it to all. Others will quickly check your work. If it is spelled correctly and is a valid word, wahoo! Write it on your scorepad. Unlike many word games, limited punctuation is allowed. The yellow short sticks can serve as apostrophes or hyphens.

Any leftover pieces you didn’t use are discarded back to the box and you must fill in a space on your scorepad for every piece discarded. This makes Wordsmith a puzzle game, a word game, AND an efficiency game!

Sure, you can roll the die to amass a huge stockpile of pieces, BUT there could be dangerous consequences to that decision. The first six pieces you discard won’t hurt you. But after that, every piece discarded will cost you one point when scoring.

Continue building words from your supply of pieces until one player reaches six words. Score one point per letter in each word you build. You also score one point for each unmarked discard space.

Begin the next round with a new set of common pieces and build away!

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Flexibility sets Wordsmith apart. The base game described above is wonderful, challenging, quick, and fun. Included with the rules are several variants that are every bit as good and allow the game to adapt to the experience level or play style of many different groups.

You can play silently, where no one calls out their words. At the end of the round, scoresheets are checked and illegal words won’t count. This makes the game less raucous and more thoughtful.

You can play without time pressure, allowing players to claim and complete all six words each round. This encourages longer words and higher scores.

You can play with a variable set of letter pieces for each player.

You can add a special 6-letter word for each round and spell this word out vertically along your scorepad so one letter lines up with each row. The word you build for that row must contain that specific letter in order to score.

And the list goes on!

Wordsmith practically begs for your own variations. Here are some we’ve had fun with:

     each word built must fit a certain theme

     each player gets a limited number of dice rolls

     your next word must begin with the last letter of the prior word

Wordsmith wants you to play with it. It entices you to explore the basic system of rules and see them as building blocks, just like the letter pieces!

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Wordsmith is an extremely clever mash up of spatial puzzle, time pressure, and classic word game. It comes to us from the team who also designed Cosmic Encounter, Dune, and Hoax in the 1980s. These games were groundbreaking then and have influenced several generations of designers since. It’s no exaggeration to say their imagination and innovation laid the groundwork for the board game renaissance we all enjoy today. It’s wonderful and encouraging to see this team is at it again, breathing life and energy into the word game genre.

You don’t have to be an English major to love Wordsmith. It’s as much a game to challenge your quick handed assembly skills as your vocabulary. And if you hit a roadblock with one version of the game, there are many paths to Major Fun to find instead.

Written by: Stephen Conway

Point Salad

Point Salad

AEG |  BGG | Buy

Designer: Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, Shawn Stankwich
Publisher: AEG   Art: Dylan Mangini
2-6 players 15-30 minutes ages 8+
MSRP $20

Time to teach & learn: 3 minutes

text-the concept

It’s dinnertime! What do we have to eat?

Let’s see…. lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, onion, carrots, and cabbage.

Salad. We have salad.

Salad? What’s the point? That’s it! Let’s have a Point Salad!

There are all kinds of veggie cards available to you. Who can assemble them into the tastiest meal?

text-the components

Point Salad has 108 cards, depicting one of the six salad ingredients on one side: lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, onions, carrots, and cabbage. On the back side of each card is a unique scoring ability, which you will use to make your salad stand out from the rest. The corners of the point scoring side also show which salad ingredient is on its reverse.

text-the mechanics

Point Salad is a card drafting game in which players assemble salad ingredients and point cards  to score as much as possible, in as many ways as possible.

Shuffle the deck, and divide the cards into three piles, points side up. From the three piles, flip out two cards each, veggie side up. This will form the six card Veggie Market.

On your turn you will take cards and place them in front of you. You will either:

Take two cards from the Veggie Market  OR

Take one point card from the top of one of the three decks

Additionally, once per turn, you may take a free action. You may flip over any point card to its veggie side. Note that you may never flip a card from its veggie side to its point side.

Why flip? Well, maybe that point card isn’t working out for you. Maybe the card is more valuable as a veggie. Or perhaps, by flipping the card you can keep an opponent from scoring a point card of his own.

After you’ve taken your turn, turn over cards from the decks to fill any holes in the Veggie Market. If a deck runs out of cards, cut the biggest remaining deck in half, and slide the bottom half over to fill in.

The game continues, each player collecting salad cards or point cards, until all the cards have been drafted.

You’ll  consider all the veggies you’ve collected in your salad to see how many different ways they might help you score. Each salad card is used to score each point card.

Point cards present a huge variety of scoring opportunities. Some will award points for a specific veggies. Some ask you to collect one type of veggie, but penalize for others. Some ask you to compare with other players. Do you have the most or least of a veggie?

Here’s an example!

If the veggie and point cards above make up your salad at the game end, you would score:

  • 6 points (3 cabbage x 2 points)
  • 15 points (3 sets of lettuce + cabbage).
  • 4 points  (3 lettuce x 3, minus 5 points for onions)
  • 8 points (One set of 3 onions).
  • 15 points  (5 onions x 3, no peppers)
  • 10 points if you had the most lettuce, or tied for the most.

Your salad would score 48 points!

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Most games start with a clear cut goal for all players. Be the first across the finish line, or the first to score 100 points. The players all share the same goal from the beginning. This is true of Point Salad: to win, you must outscore your opponents.

Some games alter this formula by adding a slight twist in the form of variable scoring goals. Player A might score more points than anyone for his donkeys, while Player B will profit if they concentrate on cows.  Whether a player chooses these goals, or has them assigned, the goals are just variations on a theme.

Point Salad blows all this up from the start. You know you need to build a salad. And you know you need to score points. How you accomplish this is all up to you.

Need direction? Grab a promising looking point card, and start taking veggies which fit that goal. Later in the game, maybe you’ll find a complementary point card which works with what you’ve already assembled.

Or maybe, you just start taking salad cards. After all, you get twice as many cards per turn than point cards. Why not pick some veggies, and wait to see what point cards fit? There’s no hurry. You might not even take a point card until the game is half over.

The point is, in Point Salad there is no scripted play. The choices are all up to the players from Turn One. Although you’re all using the same ingredients (the cards), each player’s salad will be unique . The 108 different scoring cards provide an almost infinite variety, ensuring that no two games are ever likely to feature the same paths to victory.

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The term Point Salad is a nerdy joke among gamers. Any game which offers a large variety of ways in which to score points is dubbed a “point salad” game. Think of a point salad game like a giant salad bar. You load your plate with whatever you need to score points.

Here, the designers have run amok with this idea, and produced a game with a previously unfathomable number of ways to score. Point Salad invites us to the biggest salad bar ever. All the salad basics are represented by the veggie cards.The point cards represent every conceivable garnish and dressing you could ever ask for.

When everything you do scores points, playing a run of the mill point salad style game could seem a mechanical exercise, robbed of all joy.  It could even be overwhelming . Too much of a good thing is just too much.  And this could lead to paralysis.

But Point Salad makes this trick work.

How? Simplicity.

Point Salad concentrates on the basics. Take two salad cards or take a point card. That’s the game! Play so simple, kids can compete, and have fun. Yet within this simple structure a world of possibilities opens up, presenting even hardcore gamers with engaging challenges.  We think that Point Salad proves that playing with your food can be Major Fun.

Written by: Doug Richardson

Medium

Release: 03/02/2020    Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Run Time: 33 min    Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

How psychic are you? Medium will put you to the test.

Your goal is to create a telepathic bond, a Vulcan mind meld with your partners in the game.

From two words selected, can we come up with a word that connects them on the count of 3-2-1.

The instruments of the game are simple. Just cards and a box. But the game can take you to undiscovered places with each new set of players.

Medium cultivates mystery and magic and feels like a game that would be at home in any Victorian parlour.

Listen in to learn how it conjures Major Fun every time you play!

Medium

Official Site  |  BGG 

Designer: Danielle Deley, Lindsey Sherwood, Nathan Thornton

Publisher: Greater Than Games, Stormchaser Games

Artist: Sarah Kelley

2-8 players  15-30 min.   ages 10+   MSRP $20

Time to teach/learn: 3 minutes

For info on the other segments featured on the show, check out the show notes at The Spiel!

***

Music credits include:

Blondi  | Vilperin Perikunta  | the song

If You Could Read My Mind | Lullaby Players |  the song

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Wandersong

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Slide Quest

Slide Quest

Blue Orange Games|  BGG

Designer: Jean-François Rochas, Nicolas Bourgoin
Publisher: Blue Orange   Art: Stéphane Escapa
1-4 players 15-30 minutes ages 7+
MSRP $23

Time to teach & learn: 5 minutes

text-the concept

Your kingdom has problems. From the coast, to the mountains, to the castle at the center of the realm, villains have taken over! It’s up to you and your team to guide one brave night along a perilous path to reclaim the land for your king!

Slide Quest is a cooperative dexterity game that draws equal parts  inspiration from video games and a wooden toy from a bygone era.

text-the components

Slide Quest uses the game box in a fun way – as a point of balance for four plastic lever arms. You place one arm in a notch along each edge, sort of like a teeter-totter. The arms that extend into the box are used to hold up the maps representing different areas of the kingdom: the coast, the mountains, the castle grounds and the castle itself.

When each lever is depressed, the map will float, suspended above the box. This is the game board!

Each of the twenty map boards shows a path for the knight and a variety of obstacles: holes, stones, arches, fences, even sticks of dynamite. These obstacles are represented by 3-D tokens you’ll place on the map.

There are also guard and villain tokens you’ll have to defeat!

Our hero in Slide Quest is a big blue knight figure with a ball bearing instead of feet, so he will roll around the board. There’s also a life level meter with a marker that sets the difficulty and  tracks your successes or failures on each map.

text-the mechanics

The goal in Slide Quest is to guide the knight across each map along a path, avoiding obstacles and defeating enemies along the way.

You chose a realm (five map boards in total) and the game will end if you manage to maneuver the knight through all five boards.

You do this as a team. You play together, each person controlling one of the lever arms along the side of the box. This causes the map board to tilt to and fro, making the knight slide around the board.

It takes coordination and communication between everyone to keep the knight on the path.  And each level presents a new set of challenges. Sometimes the game is about finesse, sliding through arches or carefully avoiding sticks of dynamite. Other times, it’s a game of combat, pushing enemies into pits. The game can go from tense and delicate to loud and frenetic, all after one wrong flick of the wrist!

Pits, explosions, enemies, even just falling over can cost you lives. Run out of lives and you’ll have to start all over.

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Slide Quest is a creative union of low and high tech game elements.

On the low tech side, Slide Quest is a modern cousin to a classic toy from the 1940s: Labyrinth. Labyrinth is a solitaire dexterity puzzle where one player uses rotating knobs to tilt a wooden maze trying to guide a ball to the finish line. It’s engaging and can be peaceful and frustrating in equal measure!

Slide Quest captures the essence of the original. By making it a cooperative experience, the game changes its focus from the ball to the players around the box. It’s this collective sense of accomplishment or abject failure that makes the game so fun!

On the high tech side, Slide Quest is built around a video game framework. There are five levels to beat. The levels build in difficulty and end with a boss battle. You lose lives when you fail and if you lose too many, you start over from the beginning. You can even play the game in campaign mode, trying to defeat all twenty in one go!

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These high and low tech elements are a language that any modern game player understands on an almost instinctual level. Through them, Slide Quest speaks to a very wide audience of players. There are no barriers to laughter and teamwork in Slide Quest, only more bridges to Major Fun.

Written by: Stephen Conway

Special Note:

This review appears in the Spring 2020 issue of Casual Game Insider Magazine.

CGI publishes a wonderful selection of articles and reviews on a quarterly basis.  In 2020, a Major Fun review will be featured in each issue!

The Spiel, Major Fun and CGI share a common goal: opening doors to the wider world of play. We hope this cross promotion will invite more people into the game community.

Short List 2019

We play hundreds of different games every year. Each one is given due consideration for The Major Fun Award and The Spiel of Approval.

Inevitably, there are games that might not fit all of the award criteria, but are games we really enjoy nonetheless.

These games make our Short List.

They might not have made the final cut, but any game on our Short List is one we think is engaging and fun.

Read on to explore the list.

I bet you’ll find at least a couple you’ll be itching to try!

Explore The Short List for the Spiel of Approval here.

Bugs on Rugs BGG  |  KTBG

LLAMA  BGG  |  Amigo

Noctiluca      BGG  |  Z-Man

Someone Has Died      BGG  |  Gather Round Games

Claim    BGG White Goblin

Most Wanted BGG  |  North Star Games

The Bears & The Bees BGG  |  Grandpa Beck’s

Railroad Ink    BGG  |  Horrible Games

Walking In Burano    BGG  |  Emperor S4  |  AEG

Shōbu

Shōbu

Smirk & Laughter Games|  BGG

Designer: Manolis Vranas, Jamie Sajdak
Publisher: Smirk & Laughter Games
2 players 20 minutes ages 8+
MSRP $ 30

text-the concept

Light and dark. Connection and separation. Peace and aggression. Shōbu is a game of balance… until it isn’t. Using a series of mirrored moves your goal is to push four of your opponent’s stones off a single game board.You started when you were young. Riding the trails, corralling horses through the wilderness, guiding them through shows and into camp to add to your herd.

text-the components

Shōbu is a beautiful game and most certainly evokes a sense of the classic game Go.

There are four lovely wooden boards: two dark and two light. Each board has a raised four by four grid. 

Each player has a set of sixteen stones: light or dark. These look like smooth river rocks. 

Boards are arranged in a square with dark on the left and light on the right. A small piece of cotton rope is placed between the boards to delineate the home area for each player (the two closest boards). 

Place stones on the bottom row of each board so they are facing each other and you’re ready to play Shōbu!

text-the mechanics

A turn in Shōbu has two parts: a passive move and an aggressive move. 

Your first move is passive and must be on one of your two home boards (the ones closest to you). Pick a stone and move it. This stone could move one or two spaces in any direction. 

BUT…

Because this move is passive, it cannot interact with any other pieces on the board. No pushing; no jumping. The passive move, in other words, must be unobstructed from start to finish.

The second move is aggressive and is inextricably tied to the first. Your aggressive move must be on the opposite color board (if your passive move was on the dark board, your aggressive move must be on a light board – including your opponent’s). Pick a stone and move it. 

BUT…

This move must mirror the direction and number of spaces of your passive move. And because this move is aggressive, your stone is allowed to push a single stone of your opponent. Two stones blocks pushing. And you can never push your own. 

That’s it. Start with a passive move each turn on one board. Mirror that move next with an aggressive move, hoping over time to push four opponent’s stones from a single board.

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Connection and backwards thinking set Shōbu apart. 

No piece in the game exists in isolation. Each of your stones is tethered to every other stone with an invisible thread. The better you can visualize this web of connections, the more clearly you will see opportunities and dangers on each board. 

Because of these connections, Shōbu asks you to think backward on every turn. In order to know the effect you want to create on the board, you start by planning your aggressive move, your last move, first. 

Look for a place where you might have the advantage. Find a place where you can push an opponent’s stone off the board. Once found, can you find its passive mirror move on the opposite color home board?

Moments of joy in Shōbu come from winding backward from your aggressive end goal to find a passive stone with clear path.

But be careful! Joy can turn to sorrow quickly if you don’t take the time to also think backward through your opponent’s next move.  A careless aggressive move might leave you open to being pushed around.

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There are many flavors of fun. Some are obvious, wild, and boisterous. Others are more subtle but no less meaningful. Shōbu shows us play can be an act of serenity. Its simplicity opens a door to so many and gives players the space they need to explore the richness and depth hidden within the game. With its beautiful shifting stones connected by invisible tethers, Shōbu offers us a calm, thoughtful engaging form of fun. And that makes it worth of both our awards!

Written by: Stephen Conway

Special Note:

This review appears in the Winter 2019 issue of Casual Game Insider Magazine.

CGI publishes a wonderful selection of articles and reviews on a quarterly basis.  In 2019, a Major Fun review will be featured in each issue!

The Spiel, Major Fun and CGI share a common goal: opening doors to the wider world of play. We hope this cross promotion will invite more people into the game community.

5211

Release: 10/14/2019    Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Run Time: 79 min    Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

5211 is a press-your-luck card game with deep roots in casual classics. On one level, it’s a kissing cousin to stud poker.Cards are selected by each player in secret and then played out: first  2, then 1, then 1. Then we score. Only cards in the majority color score… as long as the total isn’t pushed too high!

If everyone can plays nice, all have the potential to benefit. But, the minute you get too greedy, you’re likely to get bit and another color will score.

5211 has two lives. One as a modern game that can be as thinky as you want it to be. One as a bridge for social interaction, inspired by card nights with family and friends from days gone by.

Listen in to discover how a game so simple in design but rich in its strategy and tactics can be a source of joy for all. We think anyone can play and find Major Fun in 5211.

5211

Next Move  |  BGG 

Designer: Tsuyoshi Hashiguchi   

Publisher: Next Move, Ghenos

Artist: Chris Quilliams

2-5 players  20-30 min.   ages 8+   MSRP $13

Time to teach/learn: 5 minutes

For info on the other segments featured on the show, check out the show notes at The Spiel!

***

Music credits include:

Five Colors   by Sam Phillips  |  the song

Five Colours in Her Hair  by McFly  |  the song

 ***

Fantasy Ranch

Fantasy Ranch

Fantasy Board Games LLC|  BGG

Designer: Keisha & Anastasia Swanlund
Publisher: Fantasy Board Games LLC
2 – 4 players 15 – 75 minutes ages 5+
MSRP $40

text-the concept

You started when you were young. Riding the trails, corralling horses through the wilderness, guiding them through shows and into camp to add to your herd.

Next, you bought a barn and a small patch of land – just enough for a few horses. Can you make your ranch into the talk of the town? With a lot of hard work and planning (and a little luck), folks will flock from miles away to admire the ranch and the beautiful show horses you’ve raised.

Fantasy Ranch is a collection of six horse-themed games enjoyable by a wonderfully wide range of players, whether you’re a greenhorn or a grizzled ranch hand.

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The production quality of Fantasy Ranch is top-notch. There is a double-sided main board along with dice and tokens. There are also six double-sided ranch boards. Each player receives a player aid/ranch mat with photos from an actual horse ranch.

Two elements will most likely produce oohs and ahhs when revealed: the horse cards and horse figures.

There are 57 small wooden horse figures in five different colors and patterns. They are ridiculously charming.

The 57 horse cards, each feature a lovely photograph and game icons representing the horse’s abilities and talents.

All these elements combine to create a beautiful tableau as the game unfolds. Don’t be surprised if someone stops the game to take a pic or two of their ranch.

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There are two basic game modes: Trail Ride and Fantasy Ranch. Each of these modes has a beginner, intermediate, and advanced set of rules, each one building intuitively on knowledge and experience from the prior.

Trail Ride has a roll-and-move mechanism at its core. You will move along paths to reach a camp space at the end. However, the goal of the game is to collect horses that will increase your score. There are spaces to buy and sell horses along the way. There are terrain features which may make moving more difficult. And there are show spaces along the paths that could allow you to collect resources and additional horses. As you move through the levels of Trail Ride, you unlock new ways of scoring your herd, providing some strategic decisions about which horses to collect.

Fantasy Ranch is played over five rounds. Each round, players will select one action: buy horses, buy new locations on their ranch board, or collect six resources. At the end of a round, a horse show is held. Players will enter a horse in the competition, rolling dice based on the talents of each horse. Collect horses and build ranch locations that provide trophies to score points.

There are many gamerly elements added as you progress from level to level, including twist of fate cards that provide secret ways for you to score, hired hands that provide a temporary ability or bonus, and a deck of horse show cards that make the competitions change from game to game. There’s even an area control element added at the highest level, where control of ranch boards can shift from player to player depending on the size of your herd.

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Passion sets Fantasy Ranch apart. This game is the brainchild of two horse-crazy sisters, Keshia and Antastasia Swanlund. Their passion seeps into every aspect of the game, from the information on the horse cards to the detailed ranch profiles and the actual equestrian sponsors whose products are included on the board and cards. This isn’t crass commercialism; it demonstrates their deep connection to the subject which enhances the enjoyment of the game. You can’t fake this level of love and attention to detail. And you don’t have to be a horse nut like them to be pulled into the experience. If anything, their passion may inspire you to want to learn more about horses!

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I want to close by emphasizing the amazingly flexible game experience Fantasy Ranch provides in a single box. Name another game that can accommodate players from ages 5 through adult, giving each player along this spectrum an opportunity for a fun and challenging experience. You can tailor the game you want to play based on the players you have at the table on any given day or night. This is a rare and noteworthy achievement, and just one among many reasons you will rustle up a herd of Major Fun each time you play.

Written by: Stephen Conway

Special Note:

This review appears in the Fall 2019 issue of Casual Game Insider Magazine.

CGI publishes a wonderful selection of articles and reviews on a quarterly basis.  In 2019, a Major Fun review will be featured in the next several issues.

The Spiel, Major Fun and CGI share a common goal: opening doors to the wider world of play. We hope this cross promotion will invite more people into the game community.

Dekalko

Release: 9/16/2019    Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Run Time: 68 min    Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Dekalko is a drawing game that is not a drawing game.

Everyone must get others to guess a picture without seeing the picture itself. How you get there requires a quick hand, a pen, and almost no artistic skill.

That’s because Dekalko is a tracing game! The lines are right there for you to draw. Which ones are important? Which ones can you leave out?

And that’s where the magic of the game begins. You don’t have to draw like a professional artist to learn how to see like one.

Listen in to explore the game and learn how Dekalko takes a possible point of stress and turns it into an opportunity for Major Fun.

Dekalko

Happy Baobab  |  BGG 

Designer: Sébastian Decád, Roberto Fraga   

Publisher: Happy Baobab

Artist: Ian Parovel

3-6 players  30 min.   ages 8+   MSRP 25 EUR

Time to teach/learn: 5 minutes

For info on the other segments featured on the show, check out the show notes at The Spiel!

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Music credits include:

Trace of You  |  by Jimmy Rogers   |  the song

Lipstick Traces  |  by Benny Spellman  |  the song

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