Friday, September 14, 2018

Can you Think Fast? 5 Second Rule Might Be For You

I'll be honest: 5 Second Rule is not my favorite. It is, however, a favorite with some of our crew, especially the next generation, and so I'm giving you a heads-up. If you're looking for a great group game, this could be it.

Here's my problem: to be good at 5 Second Rule you need to think fast, and I don't do that. Never have. I'm a ponderer, but there's no time for that in this game. You've got five seconds to name three things on the given topic, or you're done. The card and the timer move to the next player, around the circle, until someone succeeds. That person gets to keep the card, and play continues. At the end of three rounds, the person with the most cards wins.

It's simple, and that's one thing that makes for a great group game. Another--anyone can join in. We've had kids as young as nine playing alongside grandparents in their eighties. Also, it's funny. You never know what the mouth will blurt out when the brain is still grinding its wheels. And the timer makes a weird, dying-duck noise that always gets laughs. Lastly, it can be surprising--like the time this non-gambler shocked everyone by spouting off three Poker hands before even taking a breath.

Like I said, surprising, and, yes, fun. It might not be my favorite, but it could be yours.

# Players . . . 3 or more
Ages 10 and up (so says the box)
Game time . . . . . . . . 20-30 minutes
Set up . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 seconds
Luck  vs Strategy (It's more about what you know and how fast you can get it out)
*Interplay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9.5
Visual Appeal . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Component Quality . .. . . . . 8
*Replayability . . . . . . . . . . . 8

*See "How we Rate" for a definition.

Monday, March 26, 2018

No Bull--Istanbul is a Great Game

A good Euro-game can take you places, and Istanbul is a good Euro game. As you play, it’s easy to imagine yourself a wealthy merchant bustling through the crowded bazaar of Istanbul. You have assistants who follow in your wake, and you leave them behind to finish up your purchases. Your assistants are so invaluable to you that you can’t really do a thing without them. And so, with no cell phones, it’s often necessary to meet at the village fountain to regroup.

Here you are with your assistants.

And here, at the fountain, regrouped and
 ready to roll. 

Your goal is to acquire more stuff, rubies especially, but there are other merchants there, pursuing those same ends. You'll have to hurry to get the best deals before your competitors snatch them up.

Your cart will be useful in your quest. With it, you keep track of your goods and the rubies you've bought. And, it's expandable. You can pay the wainwright to make it even bigger.  

The cart is one of the more clever ways we've seen to track resources in a game. And it's just one of several cool components in Istanbul. All of these cool components add to the immersive feel of the game, as does the lushly illustrated board.

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The board is made up of sturdy tiles that can be moved around to create various different layouts, a nice feature that adds to replayability. There's also a 2-4 player variant of the game, which increases replayability as well.

With all of these good things going for it, Istanbul can't help but be a pleasure to play. Even one of our next generation likes it, and she's not a game-lover.  

If there's any caveat, it's that you'll need some extra time for setup. But even that is forgivable. It's a bazaar, after all, and bazaars should be a bit of a chore to put up. Even in that way, this game is immersive.

I’d like to go to the real city, someday, and visit a bazaar there. But I doubt I'd still find carts in use and rubies for sale. I’ll have to settle for this game, then. It’s almost as good as a plane ticket there, with the added bonus of a trip back in time.

# Players . . . 2-5
Ages 14 and up (so says the box. I'd say 12, maybe lower depending on the kid)
Game time . . . . . . . .40-50 minutes
Set up . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 minutes
Luck . . . . . . . . ..8 . Strategy
*Interplay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Visual Appeal . . . . . . . . . . . . 9.5
Component Quality . .. . . . . 9
*Replayability . . . . . . . . . . . 8.5

*See "How we Rate" for a definition.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Sushi Go!

Guest post by Melodie L. 

Sushi Go! is a fun, fast card game that is great for the whole family.  Younger kids can do just as well as the more mature players.  Each player is dealt 8 cards.  The players simultaneously choose a card to play down in front of them.  All players pass their remaining cards to the player on their left.  All players then look at their new cards, choose one to play down then pass their cards again.  This continues until all players have only one card passed to them, that card may or may not help them in the end.  Points are scored by the combination of the cards each player has in front of them.  On each card is listed the combination needed to receive points.  Some cards need to be paired, some need three.  Some cards can be played down by themselves but are worth more points if played in conjunction with a "wasabi" card.  This game is played in three rounds.  Points are tallied and written down at the end of each round.  Only "pudding" cards can be kept from round to round and for sure you want to have some "pudding" at the end of the game.  This has been a surprisingly fun game for our family.

# Players . . . 2-5
Game time . . . . . . . . 15 minutes
Set up . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 minutes
Luck . . .4 . . . .  . . . . . Strategy
*Interplay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Visual Appeal . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Component Quality . .. . . . . 9

*Replayability . . . . . . . . . . . 8

*See "How we Rate" for a definition.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

China: Grab it if you can Find it

 China has gone out of print. For that reason, I hesitated to write about it, but I learned a few things from it. Maybe you will, too.

The first lesson is this: don't judge a game until you've played it.

I got China on a whim, a bargain too good to pass up. But when I received it and skimmed through the blurb on the box, I thought, meh, not my idea of a good time. The weirdly written text spoke of domination and territory take over and sounded much too confrontational for my taste (and too much like Risk). So I shoved it into the closet and it stayed there, unplayed, for six months. Finally, we broke it out, figured it out, and found it surprisingly entertaining. It's more strategic than in-your-face and the drawing of cards adds a fun luck factor, too. At 45 minutes, it's a fast, filler game that plays up to five.

And that leads to the second lesson:  Good things can come in strange packages.

The box is slim, as if there's nothing in there, the name unhelpful, the instructions translated by someone with only an academic knowledge of English, and yet, we would recommend this game. The problem now will be finding it. If, by chance,  you do, snatch it up.

# Players . . . 3-5
Ages 12 and up (so says the box. I'd say 10)
Game time . . . . . . . .45 minutes
Set up . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 minutes
Luck . . . . . . . . 7. . . Strategy
*Interplay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Visual Appeal . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Component Quality . .. . . . . 7
*Replayability . . . . . . . . . . . 8

*See "How we Rate" for a definition.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


I've had my eye on the Alhambra Big box for a while. Here's why:
  • Up to six People can play it. 
  • The original won the Spiel des Jahres, which is usually the sign of a stellar game. 
  • Expansions mean that people have clamored for more, and with the Big Box, I could get them all at once. 
Still, I've hesitated to buy it. I wanted to be sure we would like it before making the investment. And also, the box won't fit into our overfull game closet. What to do? Borrow from a friend. Now, thanks to one who has a whole wall of shelves dedicated to games, we've had the chance to take Alhambra for a test run.  

So what is an Alhambra, anyway? Located in Grenada, Spain, it's a palace, fortress, and a small city combined.  The game takes you back to the middle ages when Alhambra was under construction and tradesmen came from various locations to help in its construction. All want to be paid in their own currency, of course, so varied currencies are represented by different colored cards. With your money you purchase tiles illustrated as gardens, chambers, towers, and more, and place them in front of you as you build your own Alhambra.

If you think of this game as a cross between Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne, you'll get a feel for what it's like. There's less interplay than Carcassonne because you're building your own creation and it seemed more luck-based because of the cards. It would be a great family game because it's easy to pick up and it plays six.

Now, we just need a bigger closet.

# Players . . . 2-6
Ages 8 and up
Game time . . . . . . . .45- 60 minutes
Set up . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 minutes
Luck . . . . . . 5. . . . . Strategy
*Interplay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Visual Appeal . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Component Quality . .. . . . . 8
*Replayability . . . . . . . . . . . 8

*See "How we Rate" for a definition.

Monday, December 21, 2015


Guest post by Jennie B. 

Fascinated with magic spells and special powers my kids enjoy the simple game of Grimoire. A Grimoire is a book of spells and each player is given one at the beginning of the game. There are numbers on the board that allow the game to go up to 15 rounds. You can end the game there and tally points, or you can continue until someone reaches either 10 treasure cards or 10 companion cards.

To begin the game a certain number of cards are laid out to draw. Each player chooses a spell. Based on the chosen spell, the order of players for that round is determined. This means that in each round the order the players go in could be totally different. If you were to go first you would cast your spell, draw a card, and then decide if there are any cards you want to play. The object of the game is to get the most VP points. 

To earn VP points there are coins you can collect, cards with people who help you receive VP points, spells that give you VP points, and junk items cards that you can collect to earn more VP points. 

The most confusing part of this game is determining the order at the beginning of each round. There are spells that reverse the order so that makes it even more unpredictable. After that the game flows easily and it runs quick. It usually takes 30 minutes to complete a game. 

Our kids enjoy the spell aspect of this game, and I enjoy how short it lasts. We play it occasionally, but it isn't necessarily a game we think about when we have people over to play. When we do pull it out, however, we remember how enjoyable it is.

# Players..................2-5
Game Time..............30 Minutes
Set up.......................10 Minutes
Visual Appeal.............8

Friday, December 18, 2015

Kingdom Builder

Guest post by Janice H. 

Kingdom Builder is an area control game for 2-4 players. It is the 2012 Spiel des Jahres winner and a favorite in our family!

You start the game picking the variable elements of the game. We choose these items blindly.
• There are connectable board quadrants showing five different terrain types. You pick four boards, decide how to orient them and then connect these at the beginning of the game to make your kingdom.
• Each board contains a different type of Location Tile you will be playing with. These tiles give optional extra actions each turn. The Location Tiles – only two of them each – are put on the Location Hexes, which are scattered across the four board segments.
• You also pick three Kingdom Builder cards, which represent various trades found within a kingdom. These determine how you score a particular game. For instance, if you get Fisherman, every settlement built next to water scores one gold (point) at the end of the game.

Then the strategy begins! On your turn, each player draws a card showing what terrain type (for instance, grass) they must build on that turn. They then place three settlements wherever they would like on the board (on grass) in a way that will give them the most points at the end of the game. If you are one of the first two people to build next to a Location Hex, you get the corresponding Location Tile.

But wait! You must build next to an existing settlement of yours, if at all possible! This adds an incredible amount of fun – and angst! – to the game. Once learned, it is a simple and quick game to play. It falls in the category of a Strategic-But-Doesn’t-Take-Forever-To-Play-Game. If you get tired of the base game, there are expansions which add complexity to the scoring of the game, allows a fifth player, and adds additional Location Tiles. The variety of the game – it is different every time! – and the right mix of chance and strategy make this a fun game to play!