Friday, February 8, 2019

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong: You Might Want to Pick up your Phone



"I'm buying this game right now!"

That was the reaction from one of our friends when we took Deception: Murder in Hong Kong to a neighborhood game night. And then she picked up her phone and ordered it on the spot.

Not everyone we've played with has loved this game so much (more on that later), but most agree that it's fast to play, easy to learn, and great for a casual game night.

Here's the low down: There's a bad guy among you, and it's up to the group to figure out who it is. In this respect, Deception is much like Werewolves, The Resistance and Avalon. They each have their own special take on the idea, though, and Deception's is this: not only do you have to figure out who the bad guy is (in this case, it's a murderer), but you also have to point out how they did it and what evidence they left behind.



The clues are right in front of you. Literally.
Players are each dealt a set of four Means of Murder and four Key Evidence cards, which are then placed face up in front of them. The murderer chooses his means and the evidence while everyone else's eyes are closed and then, the game is afoot. The group has three rounds and one guess each to figure out whodunnit and how.




Sound tricky? It is, but there's a useful twist. In Werewolves, the moderator sees all, but can't help. In Deception, that person has a roll in the game. The Forensic Scientist uses clue cards and plastic bullets to point the investigators in the right direction. Or tries to.

During a round, each person has thirty seconds to make their case for who they think did it. This method is, in my opinion, a bit of brilliance on the part of the game makers--the quiet ones can speak up without seeming out of character, and the loud ones have to shut up and listen. If, by the end, the guesses are all used up and none was exactly right, the murderer wins.

So, what's not to love? Well, there is one flaw. It's hard to see the cards everyone has in front of them, especially with a large group. We push our cards in close, and that helps, but a round table might work even better. Clearing wording and graphics would have clarified things, too. 

Despite that drawback, we still recommend this game. And it seems that we're not alone. There are award stickers galore on the box. Clearly, my neighbor isn't the only one who wants to buy this game right now.

# Players . . . 4-12
Ages 14 and up
Game time . . . . . . . . 15-30 minutes
Set up . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 minutes
Luck   . . . . . . . .5 .  . . . Strategy 
*Interplay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Visual Appeal . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Component Quality . .. . . . . 7
*Replayability . . . . . . . . . . . 9


*See "How we Rate" for a definition.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Tournament at Camelot: Trick Taking with Swords



If you were to cross the game we play most often (see this review) with the most loved/hated game in our closet (see this review), you might end up with this game: Tournament at Camelot.

Like Rage, Tournament is a trick-taking game, but with the added mystique of an Arthurian theme. Each player becomes a character of legend and each time you lay down a card you are taking part in a Melee.

Unlike in Rage, though, there's no bidding for tricks. In fact, you hope to avoid taking any. Each card you take is some sort of weapon and it inflicts injury on you. Take too many, and you become weaker and weaker until eventually, you die. And thus, the game ends.
Sound a little morbid? There is Help. After the first Tourney Round, the weakest players receive godsend cards, and these cards can turn the whole of Camelot upside down. In other words, watch out if you're the strong one. You are about to become a target.

 So, what did our crew think of this cross between the games we love and hate? The Mom--who despises the other Camelot--liked this one so much, she went out and bought one for their family. The Saboteur loudly proclaimed, and I quote, "This is the best game ever."

From that, you may gather that if you're squeamish about confrontation, you might not enjoy this game. But everyone's doing it, and it's all in good fun. Mostly.

Also, don't let the box be your guide if you're looking for something fast. Our tournaments took much longer than the advertised 45 minutes. On the plus side, component quality is higher than with most card games because these are large, sturdy, and lavishly illustrated with befitting medieval art.

Turns out that trick-taking and Arthurian legend combine in a crew-pleasing way. Huzzah!



# Players . . . 3-6
Game time . . . . . . . . 45 minutes says the box, but our games have been longer 
Set up . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 minutes
Luck . . . . . . .  .7 . . . . Strategy
*Interplay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Visual Appeal . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Component Quality . .. . . . . 8
*Replayability . . . . . . . . . . . 8.5


*See "How we Rate" for a definition.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Calling all Mystery Lovers: 13 Clues is for You




I read the whole Nancy Drew series when I was in third grade, got hooked on Agatha in high school, fell in love with Cadfael about ten years later, and now, 13 Clues has captured my heart.

Think of 13 Clues as a cross between the board game Clue and the card game Hanabi. As in Clue, you're trying to find out whodunit--the person, location and the weapon used. The twist is that the answers to those questions are found on three cards placed on a screen in front of you. You can't see the cards, but everyone else can. You're trying to solve your own personal mystery before everyone else can solve theirs.




As in Hanabiyou accomplish your task by asking questions of the other players, and often you can glean information from the questions they ask. Small cardboard magnifying glasses are handed back and forth as you go, which means that sometimes, you can ask more than one question on your turn. Interplay is fairly high, then, but you're on your own when it comes to keeping track of the information and deducing its meaning. It truly is like solving a mystery. And it's fun.

My one beef with this game is the component quality. Games with cards always have lower scores in that category, but the wear and tear on cards can often be reduced by placing them in plastic sleeves. This game, however, has flimsy cardstock screens, too, and the card-holding plastic slots are attached by a single strip of glue. We've already had to add tape to one of ours. 

BUT . . . don't let that stop you from trying 13 Clues, especially if you love mysteries--reading them, writing them, or playing them. So why the title? When you've crossed off all the cards you see at the start, you'll have 13 clues left to discover.

Nancy could do it. Cadfael, too. Can you?


# Players . . . 2-6
Ages 8-99
Game time . . . . . . . . 30 minutes
Set up . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 minutes
Luck   . . . . . . . . . 7  . . . Strategy 
*Interplay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Visual Appeal . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Component Quality . .. . . . . 5
*Replayability . . . . . . . . . . . 9


*See "How we Rate" for a definition.

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 mulling things over 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 and on, 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.




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 a 2-4 player variant that also increases replayability.

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.