Hammer Time

Hammer Time

HABA USA  |  BGG 

Designer: Shaun Graham, Scott Huntington
Artist:
Natalie Behle
Publisher: HABA
2-4 players 15 minutes ages 5+ MSRP $25
Time to teach & learn: 2-3 minutes

text-the concept

Sparkle mountain stands before you, its caverns filled with glittering gems. You and your crew of gnomes are ready to fill your wagons with riches, tapping rubies, diamonds, and emeralds loose from the walls with your trusty hammer. There’s just one problem. Dragomir the Dragon sleeps under the mountain. Make too much noise and he will chase you away!

text-the components

Hammer Time is a sparkly sight to behold. 90 brightly colored gemstones in 6 different colors will be strewn across the game board. The game board is very unconventional; it’s the bottom of the box turned over, so it forms a mini-table. There’s a large mousepad-like sticker illustrated with cavern walls and Dragomir the Dragon sleeping in the corner. You will permanently attach this to the box bottom.

It’s no surprise the chunky wooden hammer is the star of the show.

There are two types of cards in the game: task cards (which can provide a bonus gem) and wagon cards (each player has four).

Finally, there’s a color die used for the Master variant of the game.

To play, spread out the gems on the box. Each player shuffles their wagon cards and flips one face up. It’s hammer time!

text-the mechanics

Hammer Time is a game about knocking gems off a box with a hammer. The first player to fill four wagon cards with gems wins the game.

On your turn, you will take the hammer and tap along any side of the box. You can knock gently or with great gusto BUT the goal is to tap just hard enough to knock the right combination of gems off the edge of the box.

If you knock even one gem off the box, stop hammering! Your turn is over.

Count the gems you knocked off. If there are 8 or less gems, great! Compare the gems to your wagon card. Each wagon card has a specific combination of colored gems. If any of the gems you knocked off match your wagon card, place them on the card. Diamonds are wild. When the wagon card is full, set it aside, flip over a new wagon card, and return the gems to the board.

If you knock off nine or more gems, watch out! You made too much noise with your hammering! Dragomir wakes up and all the gems are returned to the board.

While hammering a box might sound easy, it is tricky to find just the right touch. Tap too light one turn and the next you will send half the gems flying!

Task cards provide another incentive. After knocking off gems, check the task card to see if you complete it. A task could ask for a certain number of gems or a certain type of gem. If you fulfill this requirement, you complete the task. This task card can be used as a wild gem to fill any spot in a wagon.

You can only fill one wagon and one task per turn.

Once you’ve collected the gems you can, return uncollected gems to the board and pass the hammer to the next player.

The first player to fill all four wagons walks away from Sparkle Mountain, the richest gnome in the realm!

text-apart

The Master variant to Hammer Time adds another layer of craziness. Each turn a die is rolled and the player will have to hammer the box in a wacky way.

You might have to hammer with your eyes shut, or use your fist instead of the hammer at all. You might even have to lay your head on the table as you hammer. Each turn builds to another fun crescendo with the roll of the die, followed by laughs and groans based on the result.

text-final

It’s dangerous describing a game that operates on this level of playfulness. It can easily kill the fun. It’s like over-explaining a joke.

Hammer Time is a reminder that the simplest kind of fun can often be the most lasting.

The pleasure that comes from whacking the side of a box and seeing what happens, unlocks a joy that we can all share regardless of age or experience.

The brilliance of Hammer Time is that is doesn’t try to cover up this experience with too many rules. It embraces the core element (the hammering!) and celebrates it. Win or lose, the real pleasure comes from playing. That is the heart and soul of Major Fun.

***

Written by: Stephen Conway

Flapjack Flipout

Flapjack Flipout

Mind The Gap Studios  |  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: Peter Newland
Artist:
Thea Baldwin
Publisher: Mind the Gap Studios
2-4 players 15-30 minutes ages 8+ MSRP $30
Time to teach & learn: 3 minutes

text-the concept

The morning rush is on! The griddle is hot and the batter is ready. Don your apron and join the crowd of short order cooks in the kitchen. Sling the most pancakes and complete three orders to become the Champion of Breakfasts!

text-the components

Flapjack Flipout is a mini-diner in a box. 

There are 50 large cardboard flapjacks in many different varieties: chocolate chip, blueberry, apple, pumpkin, plain, plus a daily special, and even a moldy one. The front side of each pancake shows its flavor, while the back side of each pancake is the same. 

The deck of order cards looks like pages from a receipt book from any greasy spoon restaurant. Order cards list the number and type of pancakes wanted by a customer.

The most eye-catching element of the game are its six large wooden griddles. This is the skillet you will use to flip your flapjacks as you play.

Last but not least, every diner needs a bell, so we know when an order is complete.

To play, everyone grabs a griddle. Spread the flapjacks around the table, face down. Shuffle the order cards and place the bell where everyone can reach it. Now you’re ready to start flipping!

text-the mechanics

Flapjack Flipout is a frenetic race to flip and collect the right combination of pancakes to fill the current order. 

Each round starts when a new order card is revealed and read out loud to all players. 

Now the frenzied flipping begins! Take a face down flapjack and place it on your griddle.The goal is to flip the pancake over to reveal its flavor. It may take a few tries… ok, maybe more than a few (and a lot of laughing), but you’ll cheer when you stick the landing each time.

Once you reveal the flavor of the flapjack, you will place it on the table in front of you FACE DOWN. When you think you have flipped the correct number and type of pancakes to fill the order, ring the bell. Flip over pancakes from your face down stacks to reveal the right combination for the order.

If you’re correct, you earn the order card. If there’s a mix-up and you reveal an incorrect combination, play continues for the others, but you are out for the round.

The first player to collect three order cards wins the game.

text-apart

Many games combine pattern matching with dexterity. And for good reason. It’s a tried and true combination – like peanut butter and chocolate. In fact this duo is so successful, very few games in this genre vary from the formula.

Flapjack Flipout adds a third ingredient to the mix: memory. Suddenly the game is not just about a player’s talent slinging cardboard. A player must also devise a simple system to organize their pancakes, since all successfully flipped flapjacks will end up face down on the table.

This trio of elements creates a wonderful tension between the need to go fast while flipping and a need to go slow enough to remember what type of pancakes you flipped and where you put them.

Memory serves as a clever catch up mechanism as well. If you did not win the last round, you may save the pancakes you flipped. When the next round begins, you may already have some or even all the flapjacks needed to fill the order… if only you can remember where you put them.

“Take your time,” the game says, “but hurry!”

text-final

Flapjack Flipout is quick, challenging, hilarious, and accessible to players of almost any age and experience level. And like any good diner whose cooks can whip up a custom order, you can tweak the game to suit many different players.You can up the difficulty by adding moldy pancakes and daily specials, or dial the game back for younger players by separating the dexterity and memory elements. There are even rules for team play – one player flipping two griddles at once, the other loading each one. You may be starving by the time you finish playing, but there’s no doubt Flapjack Flipout offers up a full menu of Major Fun. 

***

Written by: Stephen Conway

Yura Yura Penguin

Yura Yura Penguin

Official Site |  BGG  | Buy

Designer: Ryoko Yabuchi
Artist: Ryoko Yabuchi

Publisher: Ryoko Yabuchi
2-6 players 10-15 minutes ages 7+ MSRP $28
Time to teach & learn: 2-3 minutes

text-the concept

An iceberg has melted and a whole village of penguins needs a new home! Can you stack together enough ice to build them a place to stay? The wind (or other players…) might make it wobble, so it will take a steady hand to find the right balance to place each level and find a perfect spot for each bird.

Yura Yura Penguin is a charming and clever card-based dexterity game where players build an uneven tower higher and higher, placing blocks of ice and penguins on different levels. Be the first to play all your ice cards and avoid making the tower topple to win the game.

text-the components

Every part of Yura Yura Penguin greets you with a sense of artistic and whimsical beauty. The box sparkles, the rulebook has cartoon penguins to guide you through the instructions. And the pieces you play with… they practically beg you to set the game up. 

There are 48 round ice cards, each one flecked with sparkly reflective bits.  The cards come in three colors: white, light blue and dark blue. Each card has an icon in the center, describing it’s action. There are a few tri-colored Aurora cards which serve as wild cards and contain special icons. The back of each card has a lovely stylized illustration of ocean waves. 

There are 14 cardstock icebergs. The icebergs are scored so they can be folded to form a u-shape. They are flat along their base and jagged along the top.

There are 18 jewel-like ice crystals, large translucent and faceted. They come in three colors that match the colors of the ice cards.

Last but not least are the adorable wooden penguins. The base game comes with four lovely basic birds.

I would highly encourage you to seek out the deluxe version which features 13 additional different painted penguins! These birdies are beyond cute. Each one depicts a different shape, size, or species of penguin.

You’ll find tiny white flippered penguins, banded and crested ones, ones with brush tails or yellow eyes, emperors and babies, and one giant (now extinct)!

In addition to the rulebook, there’s a wonderfully detailed booklet allowing you to get to know each species as well as general information about penguins.

To set up, spread out the ice cards face down in a rough circle to form “the sea.” Each player draws a hand of cards from the sea based on the number of people playing.  A thick coaster-like start card is placed in the middle of the sea to form the foundation of the iceberg tower you’re going to build. Keep the penguins and ice crystals handy, because now you’re ready to play!

text-the mechanics

Yura Yura Penguin is a card stacking dexterity game with a dash of strategy and an emphasis on balance.

Players take turns in clockwise order, taking an action and then playing a card, creating a gloriously teetering tower of ice. 

On your turn you will look at the icon on the card played prior to you. The icon shown gives you a set of instructions to follow. This is your action for the turn. Some icons make you build the tower higher. Others make you place items in the tower (an ice crystal or two,  maybe even a penguin). Special icons on the tri-colored Aurora cards add an Uno element to the game, forcing you to draw cards, reverse the order of play or skip a turn.

When building higher, you stack a u-shaped iceberg card to form a new level.

Ice crystals placed in the tower are placed on the 2nd highest tier with the least number of crystals. This can be a tricky little puzzle to tease out.

Penguins placed in the tower are always placed on the 2nd highest platform. 

Note you’re never adding pieces on the topmost level of the tower, always the 2nd highest level or lower.

If all the pieces have already been placed in the tower, then your job gets even more challenging. You will have to take an existing piece from the tower and move it to a higher position!

Once you have followed the instructions on the prior card, it’s time to place a card from your hand onto the tower. The new card you play must match either the color or the icon on the prior card.

So if the prior card played was dark blue with an iceberg icon, I would first place a new iceberg card on the tower and then have my choice to play a dark blue card or a card with an iceberg icon on top of the iceberg to form a new level to the tower.

The card you select is always played to the top level of the tower. 

It could happen that you do not have a card that matches the color or icon of the previous card. In this case, you’ll draw a card from the sea. If that card plays, great. If not, add that card to your hand and your turn is over.

The goal in Yura Yura Penguin is to play all the cards in your hand. The first player to accomplish this wins OR… if one player causes the iceberg to break or fall the game ends immediately.

Now, let’s be serious. The joy and the fun at the heart of the game comes from building the ice tower higher and higher, only to see it come crashing down. 

Each card you add to the tower can and often will make it more wobbly. And each card you play will dictate a set of instructions for the next player. As the tower starts to sway a little more, maybe you decide to play a card with a penguin icon, forcing the next player to place a wooden bird on a higher level, tipping the balance even more. 

If you manage to rid yourself of all your cards to claim victory, you will probably get a polite round of applause.

BUT you’re even more likely to receive cheers and high fives from bringing the tower down. It’s a special kind of game that finds a way to celebrate defeat as much or more than victory.

What the game really builds toward is an explosion of laughter and delight as one too many cards or birds or ice crystals causes the tower to collapse in a heap.

If only a few small pieces take a tumble, or even a single card falls from the tower on your turn, you are allowed to try and recover and rebuild. But if even two cards fall free, the iceberg is considered broken, and the game ends.

text-apart

The basic game offers a wonderful experience to players who are young and young at heart. The deluxe edition of Yura Yura Penguin, however, makes the game remarkable in ways that are not only about adding fancier components.

The 13 new penguin tokens change the game in dramatic and devilishly fun ways. Instead of the generic penguins, players can agree on a specific set to use for the game OR each player can select a penguin of their own to try and move up through the tower.

My personal favorite, though, adds a delicious element of brinksmanship to each penguin card played. When you are forced to place a penguin in the tower, the player prior to you gets to select any penguin from the supply for you to place! 

Now you might take it easy on someone, giving them a reasonable sized penguin to add to the tower, hoping they will do the same for you later. BUT as the cards stack higher and higher, the GIANT wooden penguin always looms as a threat. And in most games it will be a matter of when and not if this chunky fellow finds a spot to roost adding even more tension and fun to see if the tower will hold.

If this was not enough, the deluxe edition includes a wooden polar bear token that adds yet another way to play. When one of two polar bear cards is added to the tower, the rules of the game change completely.

The polar bear will be placed on the top level of the ice tower and from this point forward all cards and tokens in the game are played on the top level of the tower for the rest of the game. Suddenly the tower builds out instead of up and gets very crowded! You will have to learn an entirely new set of skills to do well and keep the tower from falling.

The flexible and expandable rules provided by the deluxe edition nudge us to see the true fun of the Yura Yura Penguin comes from the many different ways we can enjoy and create a more thrilling wobbly tower.

text-final

From engaging gameplay to the look and feel of the cards and tokens, there is a quiet and remarkable artful attention to every aspect of the Yura Yura Penguin. Each of these many small decisions has an important impact on the game. Even the title helps set the scene. Yura Yura is a word in Japanese that describes the sound of something swaying in the wind and waves.

Collectively the result of these small but artful decisions is an invitation to play that is nearly impossible to refuse. There’s a fun world waiting for you inside this small box – a simple promise to make but never an easy one to fulfill. 

Simple joys like this are often the best and most lasting, i think, because we can lose ourselves in them over and over, regardless of age. 

That is what Yura Yura Penguin provides – an open door to Major Fun.

***

Written by: Stephen Conway

Cupcake Academy

Cupcake Academy

Blue Orange Games |  BGG 

Designer: Erwan Morin
Artist: Stephane Escapa

Publisher: Blue Orange Games 
2-4 players 10 minutes ages 8+ MSRP $22
Time to teach & learn: 3 minutes

text-the concept

Seven minutes separate you and your team of pastry chefs from enrolling at the world famous Cupcake Academy. How many assignments can you complete, exchanging and stacking colored cups on plates, readying them for the kitchen?  Be quick, but be careful. The judges are very picky, so each order has to be just right for everyone to move on. Complete all the assignments before time is up and you’ll enjoy the sweet taste of victory!

text-the components

The components in Cupcake Academy are colorful and charming and help set the mood. 

There are 20 hard plastic cupcake cups in five different sizes and bright colors. The cups nest nicely into each other whether right side up or upside down.

Each player has a set of three personal plate tiles. This is where you’ll stack your cups. The team also shares one large plate tile. This is where you’ll swap cups.

A deck of 60 assignment cards will define your challenges each game. The assignment cards are color coded for two, three, or four players.

A seven minute sand timer drives Cupcake Academy and keeps players on their toes.

To play, shuffle and create a stack of assignment cards based on the number of players. Each player arranges their cups in a single stack on their center personal plate. Place the shared plate within each reach of everyone. When the team is ready, flip the timer, the first assignment card, and the game begins!

text-the mechanics

Cupcake Academy is a cooperative stacking and pattern matching game driven by logic. The goal is to complete all the assignment cards within the allotted time.

An assignment card shows a specific arrangement of cups for each player. The color and size of the cups shown is important. 

The position of the cups on the plates, though, doesn’t matter. So, if I need to have my big green cup on a plate, it doesn’t matter which one of my plates it is on.

In order to complete an assignment, every player must create a layout with the right number and color of cups to match the goal. The shared plate must also be empty.

When complete, flip the next assignment and continue until you complete the stack of assignment cards or run out of time. If you finish all the cards, huzzah! Your group becomes the next class of students at the Cupcake Academy. If you run out of time, not to worry, there’s always next semester (or the next game).

text-apart

A collective logic puzzle is the sweet gooey center of Cupcake Academy.

On the surface, the goal to be accomplished seems so simple. What could be hard about placing the right color and size cup on a plate?

First, remember each player has five cups to begin the round, nested like Russian dolls, with the large pink cup covering the rest. Using only one hand for the whole game, you’ll be unstacking and restacking your cups to try and match the pattern.

If the assignment shown asks for you to have a blue cup and an orange cup showing on your plates, the remainder of your cups are going to have to go somewhere else. This means you are going to have to hide the others by nesting them OR send your cups along to another player. But here’s the thing…

The chefs running the Academy are a tricksy bunch. You cannot simply give or take cups from another player’s plate. You must use the shared plate to transfer cups AND, to make matters worse, there can only be one cup on the shared plate at a time.

The challenge and fun of Cupcake Academy comes from learning when and how to unstack and restack your cups so that you can keep the ones you need, hide others underneath, and send the rest on to your teammates.

You need to understand your own needs, but the game forces you to look at the whole assignment, to factor in the needs of your teammates, too. Together, you have to puzzle out how to pass cups in the right order via the shared plate so that everyone can create the right combination.

Communication is key to success and will almost certainly create hilarious moments of failure, too. It’s almost inevitable that at some point your team will have to scramble to undo an entire chain of swapped cups in order to fix a problem in the pattern.

text-final

Cupcake Academy is a series of interconnected puzzles that blossom into a  fun and challenging game. Time pressure and teamwork create a sometimes thoughtful and sometimes frantic experience that requires focus and contributions from everyone. The better you communicate, the more you’ll accomplish. 

Cupcake Academy is a surprising and wonderful blend. It manages to evoke the old world charm of a slide puzzle (shift pieces, make a pattern) while drawing inspiration from video game culture.  What was once a solitaire experience is now gamified – a layered puzzle with multi-player co-op mode unlocked. It even comes with a checklist of achievements you can unlock as you ramp up the difficulty of the game.

Cupcake Academy can speak to a lot of people, spanning generations. It’s a mash-up of thinky and dexterity elements that feels fresh and different. It is clever enough to engage the brain but hectic enough to unlock the simple magic of Major Fun.

***

Written by: Stephen Conway

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.

text-apart

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!

text-final

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.

Maki Stack

Release: 10/2/2018    Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Run Time: 89 min    Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Mom told you, don’t play with your food.

Maki Stack says forget that.

Sushi isn’t just delicious ; it’s fun to build towers with it, too!

Using your fingers like chopsticks, listen close and see if you can stack your wooden maki faster than the other team.

Then try it blindfolded!

So much Major Fun packed into a simple set of blocks and cards.

Listen in for a full review and discussion.

Maki Stack

BGG  |  Blue Orange  |  Buy

Designer: Jeff Lai

Artist: Stéphane Escapa

Publisher: Blue Orange

2-6 players  10-15 minutes   ages 7+   MSRP $25

For info on the Game Night Grab Bag segments featured on the show, check out the show notes at The Spiel!

***

Music credits include:

Black Room  by Jun Mayuzumi   |   the song

Ye Ye  by Shuri Eiko   |   the song

***

Drop It

Drop It   Kosmos  |  Kosmos & Thames  | BGG  |  Buy

Designer: Bernhard Lach, Uwe Rapp
Publisher: Kosmos, Thames & Kosmos
2-4 players 20 minutes ages 8+
MSRP $30

text-the concept

The name says it all. Gravity is your friend and enemy in this game. Take turns dropping wooden pieces between two clear panes. Some areas you want to avoid; others, you’ll cash in for big points. The player best able to bend the laws of physics to his or her service will win the game.

text-the components

Even from across the room, Drop It makes an impression.

It becomes a beautiful mosaic of shapes and colors as you play. The main component of the game is a vertical game board which stands over 12” tall.

The board is two panes of clear plastic with a gap wide enough to accommodate the 36 colorful wooden player pieces. Slanted lines separate the plastic panes into distinct areas (drop zones) and each drop zone has a semi-opaque dot. There are additional slots on the sides and at the bottom for double sided landing zone boards.

Each player begins with 9 wooden pieces in bright primary colors: 3 circles, 2 squares, 2 diamonds and 2 triangles.

There’s also a score board and markers for each player color.

text-the mechanics

Pick a piece and drop it into the game board. If all goes well, that piece will score. That’s what you’ll do each turn. Do this alternating between each player until all pieces have been played and the player with the highest score wins.

It’s hard to overstate the simple joy of watching the pieces drop into the board and cause others to slide and shift (sometimes even vault!) to new locations in ways you might not expect. There will be a lot of laughs as the board builds in new and crazy ways.

And on one level Drop It really is that simple.

BUT…

Deciding which piece to select and where to drop it is heart of the game.

There are some basic restrictions that will determine whether or not the piece you drop will score points.

Your piece cannot come to rest on a piece with the same shape. So no squares touching other squares.

Your piece cannot come to rest on a piece with your color. So, if you’re blue, no blue pieces touching other blue pieces.

Also, as you stack pieces higher and higher, no piece can extend above the edge of the board.

Any time a piece you drop breaks one of these rules, tough luck! That piece will not score points.

If you manage to avoid these restrictions, then your piece will score points based on the highest drop zone it lands in. The lowest zone is 1 point, the next is 2 points and so on until you get to 8 points at the top. This means if most of a piece is in the 5 point zone but a small corner of your piece is poking over into the six point zone, you score 6 points.

There’s also a bonus dot in each drop zone. If any part of your piece overlaps with a dot you score bonus points. The dots come in three sizes: large medium and small. Large dots are 1 point, medium 2 points and small dots are worth 3.

The shape and color restrictions make Drop It a vertical logic puzzle. There’s a meaningful decision to make not just a feat of dexterity to perform.

text-apart

The side and bottom landing zone boards really make Drop It shine.

In addition to the basic restrictions, which apply anywhere, the bottom edge and sides of the board now have restrictions based on the landing zone boards you agreed to use at the beginning of the game.

The landing zones make edges off limits based on specific shape and color.

One bottom landing zone board, for instance, is divided equally between the four shapes in the game. If I drop a circle piece and it lands so it touches the circle landing zone… wah wah! No points for me.

Same goes for the sides. If your piece slides over to touch the landing zone side with a forbidden color or shape, no points for you.

This means on any given turn you have to consider what shape and color piece can land on any other already in play AND what shape and color piece can land against the edge of the board.

Each turn provides players with a chance to make a meaningful strategic decision. And this is the wonderful surprise waiting for you in the game.

text-final

The simple joys of playing with gravity paired with puzzle logic makes Drop It a rewarding surprise full of many different flavors of Major Fun.

There are rules and variants to dial down the challenge for younger players and for more experienced droppers, the landing zone boards could be mixed and matched to create even more challenging restrictions.

The game gives on many levels – from the tactile joy of manipulating the pieces and watching them tumble and click into place – to the satisfaction and mischeivous glee of selecting the perfect piece to avoid any restrictions AND make life a little bit more challenging for your opponents.

Perhaps we should turn to Sir Isaac Newton since we’re talking about a game with gravity.

He said:

“Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.”

Drop It needs no embellishment. Its simple truth comes from a set of basic wooden shapes and a small set of restrictions. And within that simplicity we find layers and levels of fun that are rewarding in unexpected ways. What more could you ask of any game that’s Major Fun?

***

 

Boom, Bang, Gold!

Boom, Bang, Gold!   HABA  |  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: Alexandre Emerit
Artist: Timo Grubing
Publisher: HABA
2-4 players 20 minutes ages 7+
MSRP $30

text-the concept

Things have never been the same since they found gold in the old mine at the edge of this frontier town. Prospectors, hunters, even the undertaker and the cook at the hotel are trying to get in on the action by tossing sticks of dynamite down the mine shaft and sifting through the rubble. Be careful, though, there are critters – bats, rats, snakes, and ghosts – lurking around and looking to cause trouble. When the dust settles, can you avoid the sheriff and collect the most gold in a day?

text-the components

Boom, Bang, Gold! has some outstanding and unique components. The box bottom is the gold mine. Inside the bottom of the box is a cardstock floor insert to make it springy.

There are 160 round tokens. Some have gold, some have fool’s gold, a few have critters, a few have tools, but MOST of the tokens are just rubble. Over half, in fact, (82) have rubble printed on both sides.

There are four characters in the game. Each character has a cool 3D treasure chest where you will bank your gold. Each character also has a flat shelf where you will place the gold and tools you collect during the game.

Hank the Hat, a Prospector,

Alma Anderson, hotel cook,

Tombstone Tony, the undertaker,

and Rattlesnake Ruby, a hunter.

There’s a pocket watch you’ll use to keep track of turns. And last but not least are four wooden sticks of dynamite, complete with string fuses! Each stick measures 3.5” long. They are hefty, bright, and just plain fun to hold and throw.

Setting up the game is really simple. Place all the tokens in the mine face down and shake them up a bit. Each player grabs a character with treasure chest, a shelf, and a stick of dynamite. Now you’re ready to play!

text-the mechanics

Boom, Bang Gold! is a dexterity game for players with sharp eyes, quick hands, and ears that are always on alert.

There are 12 rounds in the game. Each round begins with the group (or one player) saying “Boom, Bang, Gold!”

Then, immediately and all at once, everyone tosses their dynamite into the mine. The goal is to throw your stick hard enough that it causes the spring loaded floor to bounce and flip over lots of tokens in the mine. You don’t need to be gentle but you don’t want to throw too hard either – no dents in the mine-box (or another player’s noggin!).

Once all the dynamite lands with a clatter and the tokens flip, it’s an all out race to collect gold from the mine. Only a face up gold token, fool’s gold, or tool can be collected onto your shelf, BUT…. There are a few basic rules every prospector must pledge to obey before grabbing their first nugget

You can only use one hand to grab.

You can only grab one token at a time.

You have to place the token you grab onto your shelf before grabbing another one.

First player to touch a token, gets it. 

You cannot turn over tokens in the mine.

 Do NOT collect critter tokens!

(We’ll come back to the critters in a second)

When all face up gold and tool tokens have been collected, we check to see if anyone has collected a tool token. If there are no tool tokens in play, then everyone gets to stash their gold (EVEN the fool’s gold!) in their treasure chest. Each gold nugget in your chest will be worth 1 point at the end of the game.

The mad scramble for tokens as the dynamite bounces into the box is hilarious and frenetic fun. On its own without any other tweaks, this throw and grab routine provides a lot of enjoyment for all ages. But Boom, Bang, Gold! doesn’t stop there…

text-apart

Tools and critters make Boom, Bang, Gold! more than just another knuckle-busting speed game.

There are four types of tool tokens: a pickaxe, a stick of dynamite, a sheriff’s badge and a revolver.

After everyone has caught their breath from a round of grabbing gold, if anyone has a tool, he or she will get a bonus based on which tool was found. If you’re really lucky, you might have found more than one tool, in which case you’d get more than one bonus.

The bonuses are handed out in a particular order which is printed on each character’s treasure chest.

First is the pickaxe. The bonus for the pickaxe is you get to flip over 5 rubble tokens in the mine. If you find any gold, you get to keep it!

Second, is the dynamite. You get to pick up a stick of dynamite and throw it into the mine again, but only you get to pick up gold tokens that flip face up.

Third is the Sheriff’s badge. Other players will groan if you get this one. The Sheriff can tell the difference between real gold and fool’s gold. All other players must put any fool’s gold tokens on their shelves back into the mine. The Sheriff is also a bit corrupt as well. The player who collected the badge get’s to keep the fool’s gold he or she collects.

NOTE: any fool’s gold already in your chest is safe. Only the fool’s gold you just collected this round is at risk of being caught by the Sheriff!

Fourth is the Revolver. You get to challenge another player to a duel. That player selects two gold tokens from his or her shelf and hides either one in each hand or two in one hand and none in the other. Then the owner of the revolver chooses a hand and gets to keep any gold he or she finds.

Each tool adds a fun wrinkle and added level of excitement to the game. And after one round, you’ll have the bonuses memorized, most likely.

The critter tokens, though, really make the game shine.

When flipped over by the dynamite, critter tokens are not collected. Instead, you need to warn your fellow miners about the dangerous critter your character is good at spotting. Alma Anderson is good at finding rats. You’ll see she has rats on her treasure chest.

If you are playing Alma and you see a rat in the mine, call out, “Watch out, a rat!”

All other players must immediately stop collecting tokens, place both hands on their head and shout, “Help!” Since you issued the warning, you may continue to collect tokens while the others are shouting for help.

This adds an extra level of silliness to the game that gets even better when you add the variations listed at the end of the rules.

Instead of a generic “Help!” when a warning is issued, there’s a specific gesture and phrase for each type of critter.

If I shout, “Watch out a bat!” You wave your hands around your head and say, “Go away!”

If I shout, “Watch out, a rat!” You put your hands behind your back and you say, “Squeak!”

If I shout, “Watch out, a snake!” You clap your hands together and you “Hissssss!”

If I shout, “Watch out, a ghost!” You cover your eyes and say, “OoooOOOoooo!”

Suddenly you have to be on the lookout for your own critter, you have to be ready to gesture and say the right thing if someone warns you, AND you have to be focused on collecting gold each round.

It’s hard to overstate the laughs and level of silliness this game can climb to when you play with the critters and all their gestures.

text-final

Boom, Bang, Gold! is a game almost anyone can play and thorougly enjoy. You can start with just throwing dynamite and grabbing gold, add in the tools, then the critters with “Help!” and then critters with gestures and sounds. You can adjust it according to the age or experience of the crowd.

The game feels complete and full of the most laughs and silliness when you throw all these elements together. By the end, you’ll have players waving and clapping and squeaking and Ooooing… sometimes when they’re supposed to and many times when they’re not.

And winning? Yes, someone will end up with a lot of gold and other’s won’t. But no one will care.

That’s what makes Boom, Bang, Gold! both special and Major Fun.

***

 

Rhino Hero: Super Battle

Rhino Hero: Super Battle   Official Site  |  BGG  

Designer: Scott Frisco, Steven Strumpf
Publisher: HABA
2-4 players  20 min. ages 5+  MSRP $30

text-the concept

The big city can be a dangerous place. It’s a good thing your new high rise apartment building has its own team of superheroes to protect it! Rhino Hero and super friends Giraffe Boy, Big E and Batguin are on patrol as the building goes up, trying to reach the highest floor. Build with a steady hand and roll well in your battles and your hero will fly high!

Rhino Hero: Super Battle is a mega-scale stacking game. Using folded cards, players build a cardstock skyscraper and hope to move their wooden superhero token toward the top of the structure. When two heroes meet on the same level, a dice battle occurs knocking one to a lower floor. The hero at the highest level when the building comes crashing down wins the game.

text-the components

This game has a lot of really fun components! There are 48 wall cards, 24 short and 24 tall ones. These cards are heavy duty cardstock. Each wall folds in half to make an L-shape.

There are 30 floor cards, also heavy duty cardstock. They are slender and rectangular. The front side of each floor has game icons.

There are three square base tiles. You’ll start your building using these.

The four wooden hero tokens are by far the most charming parts of the game.

Four pesky spider monkey tokens will make life difficult for you as you build.

And last but not least, there are 3 dice. Two are used for battles. One used for climbing the building.

The whimsical artwork by Thies Schwartz really helps establish the world of the game. There are animal characters living their wacky lives inside each apartment. The art also has a very nostalgic quality, the style is very reminiscent of art from old Little Golden Books.

To play, lay out the three base tiles together, separate the walls into two stacks and shuffle the floor cards and deal three floors to each player. Then flip three floor cards face up. Each player selects a wooden hero and you’re ready to play!

text-the mechanics

Each turn in the game goes like this: build, climb, battle, draw.

To build, you select one of the floor cards in your hand and play it. Each floor card has icons showing short walls, tall walls and possibly a monkey. Look at the icons on the floor card you play and select those walls from the supply. These are your building supplies for the turn.

Building must go in a specific order: first walls, then the floor, then monkeys. The first few wall cards will be placed on the base tiles. Some part of the wall must touch the yellow circles on the tile. Once you are building on higher floors, you can place your walls wherever you like – just remember you dont want the building to fall on your turn!

Now here’s the tricky part. You must place your floor on top of the walls you just placed. The floor must be flat. No angles or slides allowed! This can be especially tricky if you play a floor card that forces you to place walls of two different sizes. The tall walls are exactly twice the height of the short walls so as the building goes up, you will have opportunities to stack short walls on top of each other to form a level that is even with a tall wall.

If there’s a monkey on your floor, you take a monkey from the supply and hang it from the edge of your floor. There are only 4 monkeys in the game, so as the building goes up, you may have to move a monkey from one floor in the buiilding to a new one.

After building, you climb! Roll the light blue die to see where your hero lands. Based on the roll, move your hero up (or down) that number of floors in the building. Count each distinct level with a floor, then place your hero in the building.

If your hero lands on a level with no other heroes, you draw a replacement floor from the face up floor cards or from the top of the deck.

If your hero lands on a level occupied by another hero, a super battle occurs!

text-apart

These battles give the game an added dimension of strategy, luck and fun.

The crazy building you and your fellow players create will become a sprawling structure which means there may be multiple floors at the same height. Any time you move your hero to a new floor, you want to take a moment to look closely and make sure there are no heros on floors at the same height.

The battle is a simple fast dice-off. The attacker is the new hero just arriving on the level. He or she rolls the red die. The defender rolls the blue die. The high roller stays on the level, the low roller must move down one level. No ties are possible in the game since the dice are not standard. The red die has all even numbers 2-4-6 and the blue die all odds 1-3-5. With those odds, it pays to be the attacker!

The hero that moves down after the battle does another level check. If there’s a hero on this level, you guessed it… another battle occurs! This means a single move by a hero can result in two or three battles as they careen down the building. It also means everyone is invested and involved on every turn, since you never know when you could be called to battle.

When the dust settles one hero will remain higher than any other in the building. That player gets the gold medal. Your outlook on the game changes the minute you get this medal. If another player causes the building to collapse, you win! But beware! If you cause the building to collapse while you have the medal, everyone else wins!

The battles are random, no doubt, but this element gives the game great balance. It’s not just the player who has the steadiest hand who is destined to win like most other stacking games. Your choices of what floor to use and where to build certainly have a big impact on the outcome of the game. But, timing and luck are just as important. You need to work your way to the top before hoping to see the cards come crashing down. And since there are so many battles, almost every game will lead to a sprawling crazy structure as players are forced to build higher and higher.

text-final

HABA’s first title in the series, Super Rhino (inexplicably renamed Rhino Hero in later editions), is simpler. Build a single tower up and up, moving Super Rhino higher and higher, trying to play all your roof cards before the structure falls. It’s an amazing, lovely and much beloved game. I have played it hundreds of times.

When I heard HABA was working on a follow up to Super Rhino, I was excited but also a bit worried.

It’s a risk to mess with that level of success. Make too many changes and you’ll lose the essence of the original. Too few changes, and you’ll wonder why they didn’t just do a reprint of the original.

Rhino Hero Super Battle is more ambitious. The scale is grand. And there are certainly more variables to consider on any given turn. But the essence of the original is alive and well.

Will this house of cards stand or fall?

Rhino Hero: Super Battle gives us a second question to ask:

Will my hero climb higher before the building falls?

At its core the game combines King of the Hill with the simple joy of building a crazy house of cards.

Super Battle’s ambition is rewarded with extra layers of tension and laughter.

Bigger than the original? Yep. You betcha. But not better. This isn’t a contest. Rhino Hero: Super Battle offers us a different flavor of Major Fun.

With any luck, you’ll get a chance to assemble your superfriends for a card climbing extravaganza and see for yourself.

December 2017

***

Bonk

Bonk   Official Site  |  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: David Harvey 
Publisher: Competo , Marektoy
2-4 players  10 min. ages 8+  MSRP $60

text-the concept

Bonk is a fast paced game of dexterity and daring feats of physics. Using a rotating wooden slide and a few little metal balls, your team’s goal is to knock a wooden ball from its perch in the center of the board into the opposing team’s goal.

text-the components

Bonk feels like a pub game from a bygone era. The game itself is a beautiful wooden box with four angled areas marked with wooden barriers. Two angled areas at each end point toward a goal, which is a gap containing a small wooden ‘nose’ a small arrow shaped block that will guide the scoring ball to the edge of the board.

Each angled area has a hole in the board. This hole is for the large wooden slide each player will use to play the game. The slides are tall and black and remind me of a part of a roller coaster, the part where you are just coming down the hill and screaming your head off. They also remind me of the big water slides or blanket slides you see at county fairs. The slide has a groove for the metal balls to whizz down and onto the board. The base of the slide is round and there’s a peg that you’ll place into the hole in one of the angled areas so that you can rotate the slide in all directions.

There are 12 metal balls, 6 for each team and one larger wooden ball, the ball you’ll try to hit during the game.

text-the mechanics

Bonk is played over a series of rounds. Each round, you and your teammate slide metal balls down your wooden slides attempting to knock a wooden ball into the goal on the other side of the board. When one team scores, you get a point and reset. The first team to five wins.

To begin, everyone high fives and all balls are left on the edge of the board. Once the high fives are done (some might want to shout BONK !) then the mayhem begins !

Pick up a ball, place it at the top of your slide, rotate your slide to aim, and whoosh let the ball roll down and into play. Hopefully it will knock into the ball but very often you will miss, so it’s lather rinse and repeat. The problem is you have a very limited number of balls, so if you go for the rapid fire approach, you may end up giving all the balls to the other team. If you go to slow, you may lose before you have your first shot lined up. Each round is a bit of glorious controlled chaos that is the essence of silly fun. You might be laughing too much or watching the ball bounce around and even forget to keep shooting.

text-apart

The sheer novelty and creativity of Bonk certainly sets it apart from most games. Not often you get to hone your skills at rolling balls down a slide hoping to nail a target and make it move.

But that’s just the start. There’s one element I have forgotten to mention.

The wooden game board, the playing surface itself is not flat ! It is curved, meaning the board is basically a small hill. The crest of the hill is the center of the board (where the wooden ball starts) so t he board slowly slopes downward toward each team’s goal.

This means the wooden ball just needs the slightest nudge to start rolling downhill toward a goal and the angled beams that defined each players slide area serve a second purpose, they will guide the ball down toward the goal like a funnel.

You might think this means the first team to even touch the ball will score. Not so ! The board is big enough that you have time to react at least once or twice unless the shot has perfect aim.

Bonk is definitely a game where the more your practice and play with the slides, the better you get and the more you’ll see the potential for crazy angled shots.

Without the time pressure the curved board provides, a game round in Bonk could drag on with players chasing the ball from corner to corner without scoring. With the curved board and angled beams toward the goal, each round is a frenzy of activity leaving you wanting to set up and try again.

text-final

Bonk is engaging. Just seeing it on a table makes you want to play.

It just looks fun! And it delivers on that promise again and again.

There’s no barrier to entry with Bonk. Anyone can play. And that unlocks a special kind of fun you can share with everyone. And there certainly are not enough great games that do this.

Just sit down and give it a go. Whether or not you knock the ball around on your first try or your fifteenth, just the act of sending the balls down the slide is reward enough to make you want to keep playing.

This makes Bonk Major Fun of the highest and simplest order. Fun you can share with anyone, any time. The only winning that really matters with Bonk is that you play. You win any time you play, whether you ever score a point.

***

Scroll To Top