Seven fruits, seven feathers. The birds are playing a colorful game. When a red apple is eaten, a feather turns red. Eat a lime, a feather turns green. Can you be the first bird to collect all the colors and display them in your pretty plumage?
Aves is a card capturing / set collecting game with roots in the classics. It shares common ancestry with games like Gin Rummy and Scopa. It is also a game of simple, subtle, and sneaky strategies . Tune in to learn why we think Aves is a wonderfully accessible invitation to a lighter and brighter kind of fun.
This show also marks the 400th review episode of The Spiel!!
To celebrate, we invited Spielers from around the world to host seven different segments that have been part of the program over the past 16 years. This super sized show is filled with fan favorites, lots of laughs, and a ridiculous amount of board game hijinx. We hope you have as much fun listening as we did putting it together.
D: Chris Handy A: Clau Souza P: Perplext 1-8 players 20-30 min ages 10+ MSRP $30 Time to Teach/Learn: 4-5 minutes
It’s going to be a great day at the track. Whether you’re here to bet on your favorite, cheer on the horse you own, or enjoy a mint julep in the stands, the excitement and anticipation builds as the field thunders around the last turn, headed for the home stretch!
Long Shot: The Dice Game is a roll-and-move-and-write game.
Each roll, a horse will gallop toward the finish line, dragging others along for the ride.
Each roll, you will have a chance to shape the outcome of the race and your fortunes with a variety of special actions: betting or buying horses, concessions, or equipment.
Will you play it safe to insure a solid payout or press your luck to cash in? Collect the most money to walk away the talk of the track.
The focal point of the game are the eight chunky wooden horses moving around the race track board. The horses are brightly colored and numbered and feature charming illustrations giving each horse character.
The race track board is an oval with 15 spaces. The last four spaces are a lighter shade indicating the No Bet Zone.
There are 24 horse cards, 3 sets of 8 different horses. Each horse in a set is color coded and numbered to match the wooden tokens. The horse cards have very clever names, a special ability, a purchase cost, a listing for the odds on the horse, and a row along the bottom edge of the card with a numbered space for each horse in the race. Some spaces will be blank and some will already have an X.
It wouldn’t be a dice game without dice, right? There are two dice in the game: a movement die and a horse die The green movement die is six sided and is numbered 1-3 (1-2-2-2-3-3). The horse die is eight sided. Each die face represents one of the horses in the race and is numbered 1-8. The die face is also color coded to match the horse cards and tokens.
Everything in the game synchs up visually. So, for instance, the #4 horse is pink. Its wooden token and horse card are pink and the #4 side of the horse die is also pink.
This extends to the individual player boards as well. This is where you will keep track of your bets and purchases and also tally your bonuses and money. Again, you will see the eight horses, in matching number and colors. There are spaces to track your bets, helmets, and jerseys for each horse. There’s also a concession stand grid. It is a 4×4 grid with two colored dots for each horse in the race. There are also 3 horseshoes you can use if the dice don’t cooperate as much as you’d like.
The player boards and horse cards are all coated so they can be written on with dry erase markers. As the game unfolds, you will be marking off spaces, and keeping track of your investments. There are 8 nice markers included as well as a nifty eraser shaped like a jockey’s helmet.
Last but not least is a separate board for the solitaire edition, and a deck of 8 starting cards.
To play, select a set of 8 horses (numbered 1-8) and arrange them near the race track. Place the 8 horse tokens on the start line on the board. Each player takes a personal board, and starts with 12 dollars (recorded on the board).
Each player then draws a card from the start deck. This start card gives each player a free bet on two horses and shows a few spaces to mark off on the concession grid. This way each player begins with different interests and some skin in the game.
The youngest player rolls the dice on the first turn… and we’re off!
Long Shot is a roll-and-move-and-write game. There are three parts to a turn. Roll dice. Move horses. Then players get one action based on the dice rolled, writing the result of this action on their boards. The game continues in this pattern until three horses finish the race. When the race is done, tally your money from all sources and the player who earned the most wins the game.
Let’s look at each part of the turn at little closer.
Every turn begins with the active player rolling the movement and horse dice. The horse rolled will move 1-3 spaces based on the result on the movement die. But we’re not done moving horses yet! Consult the horse card for the horse that just moved. Remember at the bottom of each horse card is a row showing a space for each horse in the race. If that horse’s space is marked with an X, that horse gets a bonus move, galloping forward one space. So each and every turn the main horse will move and one or more horses may get a bonus move based on which horses are marked off on the bottom of the card.
That’s 2/3rds of the turn right there. Roll dice. Move horses.
The turn ends with a fun choice for each player. Based on the horse rolled, each player in turn order will get to perform an action. The actions are listed on the player boards: Bet, Helmet, Jersey, Concession, or Buy a Horse.
If you choose Bet, you write down a $1-3 bet on the horse that was rolled. Erase the money from your bank total and add it to any existing bet. The odds for each horse are listed on the board and will multiply your bet based on whether the horse finishes first, second, or third. If your horse makes it to the No Bet Zone, you get your money back.
If you choose the helmet action, you mark off the helmet space on your board for the horse that was rolled. Once you have a helmet for a horse, you may place future bets on that horse even if it is in the No Bet Zone. This means as the horse is getting ever closer to winning, you might be able to sneak in a big bet at the end.
If you choose the Jersey action, you mark off the jersey space on your board for the horse that was rolled. Then, you immediately select one of the horse cards and mark off a space at the bottom of the card corresponding to the horse that was rolled. In addition, you get to mark off ANY space on the horse card that was rolled. This means you are increasing the chances of several horses getting a bonus move.
For example, let’s say I have a big bet on horse 6. I might choose the jersey action when someone rolls horse 6 during the game so I can mark off the 6 space on horse number 8. Now every time horse 8 moves, horse 6 will get a bonus move thanks to my jersey.
If I choose to Buy a horse, I can buy the horse that was rolled. Each horse has a price listed. Deduct that price from your bank on your board and take the horse card and place it in front of you. Why buy? Two reasons. First, you get prize money if your horse finishes first, second, or third ($35 win, $25 place, or $15 show).
Second, each horse has a special ability you can now use. The abilities are usually keyed to a specific action and vary widely.
For instance, if you buy Cook the Books, it will cost you $8. Pricey! BUT, when you take the bet action, you can place a FREE $1 bet on ANY horse instead of placing a regular bet on the horse that was rolled. If you buy Nitro Nellie, when you take the jersey action, that horse immediately gets a bonus move.
Even if your horse doesn’t finish the race, its ability may make it worth the investment!
The last action is the concession stand. This is the grid of colored number dots corresponding to the horses in the race. If you choose the concession action, mark off a colored dot on the grid corresponding to the horse rolled. If you complete a row or a column in the grid, you immediately get a bonus. The bonuses are listed in a grid below the concessions area on the player board. You could get $7, you could move horses forward or backward on the track, you can put in a free bet, or a free helmet, or jersey action. You can even buy a horse for free! Every time you complete a row or column, you get a new bonus. So, with some simple strategerie in selecting which dots to mark off, you can set yourself up to cash in several times.
Last but not least are the horseshoes. Each player has three and they are wild. Normally, during the action part of the turn, everyone must use the horse number that was rolled UNLESS you decide to mark off a horseshoe on your board. Then, you can take an action based on a horse of your choice. If the #7 horse was rolled and you really really needed horse #3 to complete a row on the concession grid, you could spend a wild and make the #7 into a #3 this turn.
Let’s recap. Roll dice. The horse rolled moves based on the movement die and any horse listed on the bottom of its card with a mark gets a bonus move. Then each player gets to do an action based on the horse that was rolled. You can bet on the horse, give its jockey a helmet allowing you to bet on it in the No Bet Zone. Give the jockey a jersey allowing you to increase the chance of that horse getting a bonus move. You can buy the horse, allowing you to cash in if it finishes well AND you get a special ability. And last but not least you can cross off that horse’s number in the concession stand, trying to complete rows or columns for big bonuses.
When three horses finish, the race is done. Tally your money from prize winnings and bets. There’s a $5 bonus for each horse with a jersey and helmet marked off on your board. Add in any remaining cash in your bank and the player with the most money wins the game.
Long Shot is incredibly flexible. It can accommodate big groups or small without the game bogging down. Switch out different sets of horses (or mix and match) and the game feels fresh and different each time. And for a dice game, there are so many ways to mitigate your luck and change the outcome of the race.
The bonus move mechanism is a lovely stroke of genius in this regard. Even when one horse goes on a long streak of rolls, it will pull along several other horses in its wake.
Long Shot feels like a series of mini-games when you’re in the thick of it. Do I want to focus on buying horses and cashing in on their abilities? Do I want to focus on concessions and grab bonuses? Do I want to bet high and try to use the jerseys and helmets to move my favorite horses ahead?
In any given race you may not be able to focus on every one of these mini-games, but that’s ok. The game goes so quickly, there’s plenty of incentive to set up another race and try something different next time.
Speaking of pacing, every race seems to build to an exciting crescendo not just based on which horse will win or lose, but who will swoop in with a brilliant (or lucky!) roll allowing them to buy or bet or gain a bonus to collect a princely sum. Even when the odds are long, no one is ever truly out of contention until the third horse crosses the finish line.
There’s also a solitaire version allowing players to pit their talents against the infamous Roland Wright.
And if this wasn’t enough, there’s a deck of track events that add yet another layer of opportunities or obstacles to every decision and every race.
Long Shot gives players a snap shot experience of a day at the races. It isn’t trying to be a simulation of realistic horse racing. The emphasis is on casual play and invites everyone to join the fun.*
It banks on some of the most basic elements all game players know. Roll and move. Then roll and write. The actions are not overwhelming to understand or use. They are presented buffet style; you can pick and choose which ones to pursue – and the next race, you can go back and fill your plate in an entirely different way.
The game has nuance without being overly thinky. And that is a great because it allows Long Shot to focus on a casual, exciting, and unpredictable gameplay.
This makes Long Shot itself a long shot – that rare find – a game that can point so many to Major Fun and in so many different ways.
*Publisher and Designer Chris Handy has intuitive grasp of casual play. Just take gander at any of the titles in his gum-pack sized games and you’ll see how open and inviting the entire series is to players of all sorts. Major Fun is like a rainbow colored bit of silly string that unites them all.
The best way to travel is boomerang style. Pick a place to start and go! The farther you wander, the better the trip. Grab a bus, or train, a plane, a bike, or a boat to see and do as much as you can before your vacation ends. Spot native animals, collect souvenirs, hike the great outdoors, and experience fine dining. And don’t forget to take some great pictures along the way!
Boomerang is a draft-and-write card game. Pick a location card, mark sites you visit on your map, and pass your hand to the next player. Try to build the best trip over a series of seven cards balancing multiple ways to score with each new destination
The Boomerang family of games covers Australia, Europe, and the United States.Each game provides a common core of rules with surprising and fun continental differences.
Tune in to explore the game and learn how the entire series earns BOTH awards!
D: Laurent Escoffier A: Simon Douchy P: Blue Orange 2-4 players 15 min ages 8+ MSRP $28 Time to Teach/Learn: 3 minutes
Once home to a single very shy sea monster, Block Ness is now teeming with long bodied serpents! Each one is looking to stretch out and claim as much of the lake as it can. By twisting your monster’s undulating body over and around the others, can you create the longest serpent from head to tail?
Table presence is a relatively new term in the world of games. Think curb appeal when you hear realtors talk about houses and you get the idea. Block Ness has table presence. It will grab your eye from across the room!
The game is played in the box which represents the lake.The thick lake board has a grid pattern of holes punched into it and these holes will be filled by very large and colorful segments of sea monsters.
Each player has ten different arching segments with pegs that fit snugly into the holes in the board. Some segments arch high while others are low. Some are long and others are short. Each player also has a serpent head and tail piece which can be attached to the top of any body segment.
While playing, the game board will look like a tangled mess of serpent segments with monsters’ bodies intertwined.
To set up, each player snaps their starting serpent segment into the center of the lake board and places the head on one end and the tail on the other.
The goal in Block Ness is to create the longest serpent you can on the board before you run out of space in the lake. When playing with four players you use the entire lake board. When playing with two or three players, you use a smaller portion of the lake.
Each turn, in clockwise order, players will select and place a new serpent segment to extend either the head or the tail of their beast. The holes in the lake board are arrayed in such a way that there are six legal spaces where you can add a new piece. One directly in front or behind your serpent and two to each side at the front or back. Diagonal placement is not allowed. After the new segment has been added, you will move the tail to the new end of the creature or the head to the new beginning.
Play continues in this fashion with each serpent taking up more space. When no more pieces can be played, the game ends and the player who has placed the most serpent pieces on the board wins. In the case of a tie, the player whose serpent head is the tallest is the winner.
Block Ness asks its players to think in multiple directions at once because the lake is so small. Even after the first turn, it will be clear just how fast this lake is going to fill up.
You have to think about how to fold your serpent back against itself and how to extend each arching piece over yourself or others to find open water for your next move. You may never go under other pieces, even your own, and your piece may never pass over the head or tail of an opponent’s serpent.
As the game winds forward, you may only have a few starting spaces open because other serpents have slithered up next to you. And you have to keep a close eye on the length of each piece to insure each end of the segment you want to place has a open hole to land in.
Think sideways. Think up and down. Think head and tail. The challenge and fun in Block Ness comes from keeping your options open as long as you can in as many directions as possible.
Block Ness is fast and wonderfully tense. It might seem simple, but there is subtle depth in action. A good abstract strategy game presents each turn as mini-puzzle a player must unravel. Small victories linked together help you create a strategy and push your opponent to do the same. Each small puzzle you solve links to the next in a very visual way. Nessie herself remains a mystery, but in Block Ness, we can witness Major Fun made manifest, rising from the waves of its cardboard lake.
D: uncredited A: Kevin Hill, Ryan Noonan P: Big G Creative 2-4 players ages 6+ MSRP $20
Time to Teach/Learn: 2 minutes
You are a chipmunk. And you are one crafty little bugger! In your spare time you play a bluffing game with your friends. Deep in the forest, you take turns hiding acorns under some logs, and, one by one, you and your pals get a chance to search. You might scare up a single nut or you could hit the motherlode. Any nuts you find get crammed into your chubby little cheeks! Do your best to avoid coming up empty or, even worse, finding a bad nut! With a little luck, your cheeks will be the chunkiest. You might look silly, but you won’t mind at all, because you’ll be crowned the Hide n’ Cheek Champion!
No matter how many games you may own, it is a safe bet you probably don’t have any games with four flexible smiling chipmunk masks. The masks are adjustable for heads and faces large and small. The cheeks on each mask have a stretchy fabric pouch.
There are 40 plastic acorns (36 good ones and 4 bad ones) and 4 hollow logs – small plastic cups with wood grain texture.
To play, each player will don a chipmunk mask, gather all the nuts into a pile and get ready to laugh.
Each round, one player will hide nuts and the others will try to find them. The Finders shut their eyes while the Hider selects three nuts from the pile and decides how to arrange them under the logs. Once the nuts are hidden, the Hider mixes up the logs and presents them to the group. Eyes open, the Finders now, one by one in clockwise order, get a chance to look under a log and see if they find a nut. If a nut is found… wahoo! They take the nut and cram it into one of their cheek pouches. If the log is empty, better luck next time. The next player in order becomes the new Hider and repeats the process, selecting three nuts, hiding them, and the others taking turns searching.
Once per game, instead of selecting three nuts, each Hider can declare a Bad Nut round. Instead of placing three regular nuts, the Hider places a single green Bad Nut under one of the logs. Bad luck for the player who selects the log with the bad nut! They must give the Hider three nuts from their cheek pouches.
When the pile of nuts is gone, the player whose cheeks are cram-packed with the most nuts wins the game.
Without the ridiculous masks, Hide ‘n Cheek would be an amusing diversion at best.
It is physically impossible not to laugh once you see someone wearing a mask. If you ever wondered what you would look like as a demented cartoon animal, this is your chance! The masks are equal parts hilarious and horrifying. It is very very likely once you see the masks, you may feel self conscious and silly about putting one on. And in the era of pandemics, it is worth emphasizing that each and every mask should be sanitized between uses. But here’s the thing…
EVERYONE playing will be wearing the masks. You ALL share the experience of looking and feeling and even sounding ridiculous as you play the game. Crazy chipmunk voices are not only allowed; I say they are encouraged!
The masks are a perfect reminder to not take yourself, or others, or even the game too seriously. Wearing the mask literally conceals your you-ness. But wearing the mask also sets you free. It unites you with the other players. You all look silly. You can’t point and laugh at others without them pointing and laughing at you as your cheeks fill up with acorns.
Any game may gather a group at a table to play, but few can create a truly shared experience that makes winning or losing an afterthought. Hide n’ Cheek celebrates the fun of playing by poking gentle fun at the people playing. “Relax,” it says. “Take a beat. Take a deep breath and laugh at yourself.” Hide n’ Cheek wrestles us to the ground and makes us come to terms with the fact that play is an essentially absurd activity. But not without meaning or value. It is joyful, silly, freeing, and oh so human. A game like Hide N’ Cheek is Major Fun because it reminds us of this simple, noble truth.
Pocket Paragons is a what-beats-what card dueling game. Select a card; play it’s ability and try to anticipate your opponent’s next move. Duel one on one or in teams of three characters.
From Mata the Paladin to Sadoh the Ocean Queen, this is a world of high fantasy and high stakes. Seven cards separate you from glory or defeat.
Pocket Paragons is a duel distilled down to its very essence. A long game might take ten minutes! But don’t be fooled into thinking speed means lack of strategy. There are fun and challenging decisions at the heart of every turn.
Listen in to explore the game and learn how the game earns BOTH our awards.
It’s a hectic night at the Hibachi restaurant. So many hungry people to feed. And so many different dishes! The spatulas are ting -ting-tinging against the hot cooktop and the onion volcanoes are erupting, as shrimp and steak, broccoli and mushrooms and rice fly from plate to bowl. No one leaves here hungry!
Hibachi is a charming dexterity driven set collecting game. Players throw their chef’s coins (hefty poker chips) to gather ingredients and special actions to fill recipes.
Give a listen to learn how Hibachi puts a fresh face on elements of chance and skill. And be ready for a heaping helping of Major Fun!
Ten is a press your luck card game with a twist. The goal is simple: assemble the longest runs of consecutive cards in four colors. How many cards are you willing to draw as you push two different totals closer and closer to ten? Use currency cards to buy from the market or win auctions for wild cards. Be careful, though! If you bust, everyone else may cash in.
Engaging, interactive, and filled with tough decisions, Ten is great for all ages. Listen in to explore the game and discover how Ten delivers on its promise of Major Fun.
ALSO in this episode… a Game Night Grab Bag segment featuring Brenna Noonan and Doug! The challenge: games where you build the board as you play.
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
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.