Archive for own board games

Junta

Posted in Board Game Reviews with tags , on April 21, 2012 by Danny_Noe

2 to 7 players

ages 12 and up

2 to 4 hours playtime

When I was a kid, I had a fair share of board games, ranging from common ones like The Game of Life and Mouse Trap, to lesser known ones like Goosebumps: Terror In The Graveyard and Goofy Golf Machine. I honestly don’t remember a whole lot about some of them. My sister and I played a lot of Life, but I never really got into the rules to the other ones. I just liked setting up the pieces and making my own game with them. That’s sort of what sparked me to start making my own board games as a kid. The one I can remember the best was a vampire hunting game where you would adventure through a forest, a swamp, and a bridge (that actually elevated) and finally you would arrive at Dracula’s castle. I remember a break-away bookshelf I made out of cardboard and tape, and behind it was a weapon or power-up that you used to kill Dracula. Aside from that, I don’t remember much of it, and as time passed my board game collection got sold off via garage sales and my board game creating would lie dormant.

Jump ahead several years later, and I pick up my first board game to my brand new collection, and re-spark my enjoyment of designing board games. That game is known simply as Junta, and we’re going to find out if it’s good enough to add to your own collection.

The Pieces

I know that they’ve made newer versions to this game, but as far as the 1985 release of it goes, the pieces aren’t terribly impressive, but they get the job done. All of the playing pieces are cardboard tokens you punch out of a template, and even the money and playing cards came on sheets with perforated edges and you would have to carefully separate them. This could prove frustrating, as one little mistake could accidentally tear one of the cards or play moneys. The tokens consist of various military pieces, your player location and control pieces, pieces that keep track of what’s going on in the game, and a large amount of red pieces that you place on the board depending on the cards you play. The cards are very interesting. As you rarely have what you want in your hand, you often have to negotiate with other players to get a hand that benefits you. These cards are how you get more votes in elections, recruit fighting units to your side, assassinate other players, gain extra money, and so on. There’s also the cabinet cards, but these don’t go into the deck; these keep track of which players control which armies on the board and what kind of special actions they might get. The play money is fairly simple; it’s not only used to win the game, but it’s also used to keep track of game-end, so there’s a rather interesting twist on it. Along with all these pieces, you get some dice for fighting and determining certain actions, and the playing board that is mainly used during a military coup. Again, these pieces aren’t entirely interesting to look at, but they get the job done and I’m pretty sure the newer editions offer prettier pieces.

The Rulebook

If there’s one board game to start off a collection with for it’s intuitive and well thought out rule book, this is definitely not it. I mean, my goodness I thought I would never learn how to play this game. The rules are scattered all over, and the designers seem to take it on faith that you’re somewhat familiar with other board game mechanics already. One of the main difficulties with trying to figure out the rules, is that with most board games you can set everything up and have a “mock session” in which you play two or more players and have hands-on practice with how the game works. With Junta, the game’s mechanics rely heavily on subterfuge and guile, so each player will rarely know the other player’s intent until it’s too late. Trying to set up a mock session and pretend that you don’t know what your own next moves or intentions are is kind of hard to emulate, so getting to know the political part of the game is tricky. The military part on the other hand, is a little bit easier as this follows a rather standard move-troops, attack, next-player’s-turn routine. They even spend two pages explaining their own mock battle to try to show you how some of the parts work in Junta. Ultimately though, the only way you’re going to get even an understandable grasp with this game is by gathering up several friends and playing a few matches. Another thing that kind of bothers me about it is that it requires at least four people to have a normal game, and seven to have a really enjoyable one, but this is just a personal complaint. Honestly, it should act as a motivator to get some sort of board game club going so I can try out the new games that I buy.

The Mechanics

The whole goal of this game is to have the most money in your Swiss bank account by the end of the game. The player elected El Presidente hands out the budget to the players each round, and the players then come to an agreement of some sort about said budget, and then try to sneak off to the bank to deposit the money. This whole portion of the game is the political part, and requires the use of your own personal negotiating skills to do well in. Earlier I mentioned getting cards from other players so you have a beneficially hand is crucial in this game, and this is the part where you can trade those cards. If a player becomes unhappy with the way the current El Presidente is running the budget, he can either try and have him assassinated, or start up a full scale coup in the city streets. This leads the game into the second half of the mechanics, which is the military part mentioned earlier. Players will either side with the current government, or join the side of the rebels, and then each side dukes it out. If the rebels win, then they can instate a new Presidente and oust the old one. The way that each of these parts requires a firm amount of negotiating between the players, and doesn’t require knowledge of a whole lot of arbitrary numbers or trading in objects for victory points, and it makes it very tense. You know that each players ultimate goal is to get a bunch of money into their bank account, but depending on the person, their approaches could each be different. One could use direct and brute force to push his way into power, ruling with an iron fist, while another player could work in the shadows and try to get the players to turn on one another, while he casually slips by their radar and onward towards the bank. It creates a very uncertain atmosphere and you start getting very suspicious of your own friends. I enjoy how one of the tips in the back of the book on how to be a better player is to write “It’s only a game” 100 times on a piece of paper, while another one is to read “The Prince” by Machiavelli. There’s even a sort of house rule the store owner told my friends and I about where if someone leaves money unattended and not in their Swiss bank account, it can be subject to theft by the other players. It’s some of the most unique mechanics I’ve ever seen used in a game, and it’s very well utilized.

Overall

This game is by no means a good one to start a game collection with. I’m not saying it’s a terrible game, in fact it’s one of my favorites, but when trying to understand how board games operate, this one can be a little overwhelming for first-timers. Once you get the hang of it, though, the game is quite enjoyable to be played among friends. I stress “friends”, because if you invite a bunch of people you don’t know too well to play this game, things could feel awkward as Junta requires you to more or less betray everyone and everything you know and love. It encourages you to get someone on your side and help you, just so you can stab them in the back later for the advantage. It’s conniving, it’s dark, it’s sinister, and it’s damn fun once you get the rules down. I highly recommend this game for experienced board game players, but for people who haven’t played too many, I’d definitely recommend something else.

FINAL SCORE: 7/10

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Munchkin

Posted in Board Game Reviews with tags , on April 12, 2012 by Danny_Noe

3 to 6 players

ages 12 and up

about an hour playtime

You and your party are exploring the dank, dark depths of the despicable dungeon. Arriving at a door, you kick it down, revealing on the other side the mighty Jabberwock. Being the learned wizard that you are, you know that you’re no match for such a creature. As you contemplate a daring escape, your stalwart warrior companion offers his aid (for most of the treasure, of course) . You reluctantly accept, only to have the elven cleric summon a wandering monster into the room, doubling the difficulty of the battle. No worries, because you remember a very simply charm spell that can do away with these silly beasts. Now if only you could get this darn chicken off your head. 

It’s not Dungeons and Dragons, but rather the fast-paced, screw-your-buddy card game known as “Munchkin”. Coming in all different styles and genres, Munchkin has been growing more and more in popularity for it’s easy gameplay and tongue-in-cheek humor. So without further to do, let’s take a look at this silly little game.

The Pieces

Within the original Munchkin box, you’ll find two decks of cards, a six-sided dice, and the rulebook. The decks break down into the “Door” deck and the “Treasure” deck. Each one is filled with humorous monsters, silly equipment, ridiculous curses, bizarre potions, and everything in between. Reading the cards alone is an entertaining thing, and the fact that there are dozens of expansions and variants out there, there’s plenty of comical cards to collect. Other than that, though there’s not a lot in the box. It’s kind of a disappointment for someone like me, who loves little game bits and pawns, but given the fact that the game is made to be simple, and the cards are fun on their own, it’s a forgivable oversight. In fact, I think they heard my cries of more bits, as my friend owns the Cthullu version of Munchkin, which features little counters to keep track of points and curses.

The Rulebook

Given that the game is designed to be fast paced, the rules stay pretty light, making them an easy read. I’ve always been fond of Steve Jackson Games for making some simple games with easy-to-read rules, and this one is no exception. My only concern with them is some first timers seem to have a hard time understanding how the door opening phase works. That sounds pretty strange, right? I mean, it should be as easy as opening a door, but I’ve seen people get confused over this phase more than once, so maybe they need to rewrite that part. Having said that, the rules aren’t terribly confusing in any way and you’ll be able to start playing in no time.

The Mechanics

The idea of the game is that each player takes turns kicking down doors inside of a dungeon, uncovering monsters, curses, new classes and races, and so on. Once they’ve destroyed some monsters, they level up and collect treasure so they can fight some of the harder creatures. The first player to reach level 20 wins the game. What I love most is the player interaction; while someone is taking their turn, all the other players have a chance to play cards from their hand to strengthen the monsters, add more monsters, help the player fighting the monster, or just kill everything in the room. The current player even has the opportunity to ask someone for help if the fight proves to be too much for them. This is where negotiations play a fun role, as the helping player can demand for some of the treasure, and elves can even snag an extra level if they help. The game is playing at the old Dungeons and Dragons theme; players get classes, races, and genders throughout the game. At the start, everyone is a level 1 human, and their gender is whatever their gender is in real life. All of these can be altered by collecting new class cards (warrior, cleric, thief, wizard, etc.), new race cards (elf, dwarf, halfing, and so on), and they’ve even added a curse card that changes your gender (in the game). All of these not only add to the absurdity, but each race and class offer new skills and strategies for winning the game. All-in-all the mechanics are pretty solid.

Overall

The standard game alone offers hours and hours of fun and laughs for you and your friends, but there are so many different versions out there that you can choose to play as super heroes instead, or old cowboys, or even ninjas! There’s even a “Munchkin Blender” variant that allows you to combine all these different versions to create one very off-the-wall game. If you’re looking for a serious adventure through perilous caverns and dangerous locals, go pick up DnD or Pathfinder. If you’re looking for a silly, enjoyable night, then pick up Munchkin and have fun slaying the beasts while stabbing your friends in the back and snatching up all their precious treasure.

FINAL SCORE: 9/10

Angry Birds: On Thin Ice

Posted in Board Game Reviews with tags , on March 25, 2012 by Danny_Noe

2 to 4 players

ages 5 and up

approx. 30-45 minutes playtime

Angry Birds has become one of the most well known apps on smart-phones, and it was only a matter of time before they moved from the digital medium to the top of the table. Few things are more entertaining and more charming than launching those little, colorful birds at an assortment of rickety castles, but is that same charm and fun translated well enough to make for a fun evening? Well let’s crack this egg open and find out.

The Pieces

Inside the box you have your arrangement of different castle pieces, from wooden planks to ice pieces that snap together, two different angry birds: The pudgy red one, and the scrawny yellow one, three pigs and two helmets that snap on and off of the piggies, the slingshot tool you use to load up your birds, four decks of challenge cards with varying difficulties, a deck of bonus points cards, and lastly you have the spring loaded T.N.T. box. While the bird and pig pieces look nice, and the T.N.T. box is a neat feature, the castle pieces can be a pain sometimes. They’re designed so when you launch a bird at them, they’re more likely to fall apart, but when you have to actually build the castle, it becomes frustrating. The ice pieces that snap together don’t always stay together as you’re constructing your castle, and some parts just don’t want to stack at all. This is a problem if you’re building some of the more complicated castles, for they’ll keep falling down on you while you set them up. I think they could have done a little better on them.

The Rulebook

This has “Party Game” written all over it. The rules are simple enough to follow, but some of the choices they made are less than innovative. They tell you to fire at a minimum of 1-foot away from the castle, but the only thing they provide in terms of a ruler is mentioning the longer wooden pieces are “about 3 inches in length”. Granted, you can just go get a ruler and measure that way, but it really wouldn’t have been that hard to package a foot-long piece of string with the games for convenience. Also, there’s no say on mulligans in the rulebook, and if you play the game for the first time, you’re going to miss a lot. I recommend making some house rules as you go, just to move the game along.

Mechanics

Well, if you’ve ever played Angry Birds before, you know the drill: launch the birds and knock down all the piggies. This idea sounds fine, but once you spend the time to set up a castle, just to have the other person miss their 1-3 shots with the less than accurate slingshot, and then move on to the next castle, you realize that there’s some bugs in the system. Granted, you’re not expected to hit the castle every time, but if there’s a long string of missing, then it slowly starts to get boring and frustrating. I wound up setting house rules to where you still get points if you knock some pigs off, and that greatly sped up the gameplay.

Overall

This is one of a few different version of an Angry Bird tabletop game, and I hope the other ones refine the rules a little bit. Granted, it’s not a terrible game to play, but it’s not a terribly fun game to play either. The novelty of the Angry Birds franchise slowly loses its luster after a few rounds of this game. If your friend owns this game, I recommend giving it a try just for the novelty factor, but I wouldn’t recommend purchasing this game.

FINAL SCORE: 5/10

Sidenote

I understand that these types of games are marketed towards children, but even kids have better board game options out there.

The Red Dragon Inn

Posted in Board Game Reviews with tags , on March 19, 2012 by Danny_Noe

2 to 4 players

ages 13 and up

30 to 60 minutes playtime

After a long and arduous adventure of dungeon delving, our heroes have made it out of the dank depths and back into town, where they seek to spend their newly acquired fortune on drinks, gambling, and dames. And what better place to do all of this, then at The Red Dragon Inn?

Pieces

The core game has four custom decks based on each of the characters. There’s the warrior, who has mostly offensive cards, then the Cleric, who has mostly defensive cards, the thief, who’s good at cheating and stealing (of course), and finally, the wizard, who must use his cunning and his hairball familiar in order to win. Each of the cards have their own enjoyable humor, and most of the titles consist of a phrase (such as the “I Don’t Think So!” cards, and the “What’s That Up Your Sleeve?” card) that are fun to shout out loud as the players try and screw their buddies over. Along with these character cards, there’s also the “Drink Deck”, which consists of various beverages, ranging from coffee, which gets you less drunk, to Dragon Breath Ale, which could leave you passed out on the floor. Also with the game is some simple cardboard coins, four play-mats for each player to keep track of his alcohol intake, fortitude, draw pile, discard pile, and the drinks he has, and lastly the game has colored beads to place on your play-mat. Should the beads ever meet, it means that player’s alcohol level has passed his fortitude, and in turn he is out of the game.

The Rulebook

The “rulebook” actually consists of a double sided piece of paper, making this quite a light game. The rules themselves are pretty easy to pick up, though there has been some confusion among players during the gambling portions of the game, but with the lightweight rules, this makes for a good party game.

Mechanics

The basic idea of the game is for the players to use their deck of cards to get the other players to either run out of money, or pass out from drinking too much. This can be achieved in various ways, as each deck of cards has their own play style to them. With the light nature of the rulebook, and the playful art on the cards, it makes the experience of eliminating friends fun and enjoyable. Plus, the game can go by so fast, that when a player is booted from the match, he doesn’t have to wait long for the next one.

Overall

If you’re looking for a fun, fast paced party game with enough strategy to it to keep it interesting, this is a good game to get. It even comes with expansions that offer new character decks to keep the experience fresh. And, given the fact that the game revolves around drink cards, this is a very easy game to incorporate alcohol, if you’re into that sort of thing. I honestly can’t think of anything bad about this game. It’s got just the right amount of weight to it to feel like you’re accomplishing something without having to spend the entire night playing it. So round up your party, divvy up the gold, and get ready for one rowdy night at The Red Dragon Inn.

10/10

Last Night On Earth

Posted in Board Game Reviews with tags , on March 12, 2012 by Danny_Noe

2 to 6 players

ages 12 and up

60 to 90 minutes playtime

Are you a fan of old B-movies? What about Zombies? Nothing has more of a staple in the horror industry than a horde of flesh starved corpses shambling through city streets, preying on a small band of survivors who seek to escape from them by any means necessary. Wouldn’t that be fun if there was a board game that captured the campy charm of those old zombie flicks? Well, with “Last Night On Earth”, you may be in luck.

The Pieces

I’m a sucker for modular boards, but I’ll admit that they can be a hassle to set up, especially when you have a lot of people playing with you. Last Night On Earth offers the appeal of a modular board while keeping it simple. There’s the center piece, which is a giant square. Players then choose 4 of 6 L-shaped boards to place on the corners of the center piece, creating a random map that’s quick to put together, so you can get right into the action.

To add even more to the modular nature of the game, players choose from one of the many scenarios to play at the start, and they get to choose four of the heroes to play as (that is, if they’re on the hero team). These scenarios and heroes are so easy to customize, you can even create your own, allowing for the players themselves to be the heroes of the game.

The playing bits are nice too. Along with the hero pawns and the zombie pawns, you also get a handful of tokens that are used in certain situations; whether it’s closing down one of the buildings on the board, creating a new zombie spawn point, or sicking “Old Betsy” on the zombie horde, there’s a bevy of tokens and chits to keep track of it with ease.

The most notable item that comes in the box is the official game soundtrack, equipped with 11 songs. I’ll admit, the songs are a bit goofy and kind of take away from the ominous nature of the game, but the fact that it comes with the game is just kind of cool. I’d recommend playing it once, just to hear the songs, but you’d be better off playing the soundtrack to “Castlevania: Symphony of The Night”.

The Rulebook

The rules themselves can be easy enough to understand how to play, but there are so many minor details that can be overlooked. It seems every time I play the game, I find some new rule wedged in between the other rules. It can be a little frustrating having to learn all the little details, but it doesn’t make the game unplayable.

Mechanics

The players are split into two teams; one team controls the heroes trying to survive, while the other team controls the zombie horde. Each team has significantly different play styles and decks of cards, as the game is tailored in favor of the zombies, which adds to the survivor-horror feel of the game. The hero team spends their time desperately trying to gather as many items they can to benefit them while attempting to thin out the zombie horde, and the zombie team assaults the humans for the chance of a good-old-fashioned brain feast. They even have the incentive of turning some of the hero players into “Zombie Heroes”, which are extra strong zombies who pack more of a wallop. The overall feel of the mechanics is solid and fun, as each side works together to co-ordinate and take out the other side.

Overall

I really enjoy playing this game with friends. It’s fun, easy to set up, and not too complex for the more casual players. The modular board, scenario, and heroes offer up a large amount of replay and customization. My only complaint is the minor rules you may overlook the first few times, but this is by no means a deal breaker at all. If you don’t already own this game, I highly recommend you buy it, round up some friends, and have a wonderful night of brain eating and zombie slaying.

Final Score: 9/10