Tobago Review – Tropical Treasure Tracking

Ever wanted to hunt for treasure on a cursed mystical island that changes every time you visit? Well, if you’ve read one of my older blog posts, you will know that you can do this with the brilliant cooperative game Forbidden Island. If you like the theme of that one though, and fancy something a bit less cooperative and a bit more competitive, then you should definitely give Tobago a try!

The main idea of Tobago is that you are treasure hunters working together to piece together map fragments to locate and dig for buried treasure, but also make sure you get a bigger share of treasure than the other players.

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The board is a big island, loosely based on the real island of Tobago, made up of different terrain types. The are also randomly placed trees, huts and statues on the board. The map fragments are just cards that give clues to narrow down where treasure may be, e.g. ‘in the largest jungle’ or ‘next to a palm tree’. Each turn you can either move your ATV style playing piece (jeeple?) around the board, or place one of these map cards to reduce the number of possible spaces the treasure could be. If you manage to reduce the possibilities to only one space, then that is where the treasure is and everyone needs to rush there to dig it up!

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Here, the map cards say that the treasure is within two spaces of a statue, in the largest lake, and next to a jungle.  This leaves only one space, so the yellow player is about to start digging for gold!

The treasure is not just won by the player who digs it up though, everyone who contributed a map piece gets a share. Cards with gold coins on them represent the treasure. When these cards finish, that is the end of the game and whoever has the most coins wins.

That is the main game, but there are also a couple of added gameplay wrinkles; there are always up to 4 treasure hunts going on at the same time, some of the treasure may be cursed, which will actually lose you money if collected, and magical amulets appear on the board after every treasure is found which, if collected, can grant the owner extra abilities.

I think that Tobago is a great adventure game for the family, or any other group.  The theme, along with the high quality components, especially the realistic Easter Island style statues, definitely give you that Indiana Jones type vibe while playing.  Another good thing is that the island board is actually modular, in that it is made from three double sided pieces that you fit together jigsaw-style at the start.  Each side gives you a choice of more or less spaces on the board, so you can use this to change the difficulty (more spaces = more places the treasure could be), or just randomly mix them in up to 32 different combinations at the start of the game and play on a different island each time.

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Now that I have an increasing amount of board games in the cupboard, I also have to mention that this game has a very well designed insert inside the box.  There is a little hole for all of the components, and the board slots in nicely in a specially made space to ensure nothing goes astray if transporting it.  I would recommend some small bags for the various treasure marker cubes however, as they can get fiddly to separate each time you play.

Tobago is probably one of the most gamer-y games we have so far, it does have quite a lot of pieces in the box and reading the rules for the first time can be quite daunting, but after one play through it all becomes clear.  We actually even went full board game geek and ordered the game from Germany, the heart of modern ‘Euro gaming’, (as it was slightly cheaper).

So there you have it, another great modern board game to pick up, or at least have a try if you know someone who has it or see it in a board game café!

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5 Console Games that Break From the Norm

Hello again! As established early on in previous blogs, I am a console gamer at heart, even though my interest in board games grows daily.

Ask the average person on the street to think of a console game and they will most likely tell you a game that involves shooting, violence, or football/sports. Even though I would consider myself to be a ‘hardcore’ game fan, I very rarely play the kind of things that most people do. I love games because of the amount of variation and wildly different experiences available, and I love finding hidden gems of games that sound crazy on paper, but due to the developer’s genius and vision, actually work really well!. So, without further ado, here are four of this kind of game that are all available right now on current consoles!

1. I Am Bread

I am Bread

Lets go straight in with one of the most off-the-wall game concepts that I have had the chance to play recently.

The name basically describes the main idea – you are bread. More specifically, you play as a sentient slice of bread, embarking on an epic journey to fulfil your destiny, and become toast! Each level is based on a room of a house, starting with the kitchen. Along the way you encounter different hazards, such as rotten fish, dirty floors and sinks full of washing up. If you touch any of these during your quest, your ‘edibility’ rating goes down and you get less points.

As ridiculous as this may sound, the game is really playable and addictive! Half of the enjoyment for me is from the absurdity and just realising that you are actually controlling a slice of bread flopping around someone’s house! In addition to a slice, there are also other types of bread in different game modes, such as a baguette or a speed-run mode with a bagel.

Another added bonus is that since the game is a couple of years old now, it can be found pretty cheap. I picked it up in a recent PS4 sale for only £3, well worth it even if you only get a couple of hours entertainment from it!

2. Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido

Sushi Striker Cover

This one is a much newer game, just released in June for both of Nintendo’s current consoles, the Switch and the 3DS/2DS.

The game, when you get to the playable part of it, is essentially a new take on the classic colour-matching puzzle genre. The idea is that you are standing in a sushi restaurant with loads of dishes going past on conveyor belts, and battling someone else by picking as many of the same colour plates as you can in one go, eating the sushi, and throwing the empty plates at your enemy!

Sushi Striker Screenshot

The gameplay is fun, but what makes it stand out for me is the hilarious backstory. The game is set in a world that has been ravaged by the Sushi Wars, due to a shortage of fish. Now, the evil Empire has banned all sushi, and you as the main character must lead the resistance against them. The story is told in extensive anime cut-scenes, including a lot of classic Japanese style humour, many over-the-top facial expressions, camp, buff bad guys and magical creature sidekicks.

The humour and tone of the game really reminds me of another classic from the Nintendo DS era, probably hard to come by now, called Elite Beat Agents, which itself was a westernised version of Japanese game Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan. These are rhythm games about special agent cheerleaders, which have equally ridiculous scenarios and cut-scenes. If you have played and enjoyed these, you will probably like Sushi Striker.

Even if you only slightly like the idea of this game, there is a free demo available in the Nintendo online shop, so if you have a Switch or 3DS, definitely give it a try!

3. and 4. Flower and Journey

And now for probably the best known games in my selection. They are made by a developer called ‘Thatgamecompany’. They released three games back in the PS3 era: Flow, Flower and Journey. All three were so good that they were re-released on the PS4. I haven’t played the first one, but knowing the others I would recommend it!

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In Flower, you play as a flower petal blowing in the wind. You travel through a beautiful environment, touching other flowers and picking up their petals, steadily growing into a giant group of petals. Some flowers will activate other things in your journey, such as splashing beautiful colours around the environment.  It is not free roaming though, each level has an objective, and there is an overarching theme of a growing evil as the levels progress.

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In Journey, you play as a humanoid being that wakes up in the middle of the desert. Your only guidance is a mountain in the background that has a bright light coming from it. The journey in question is to make it to the top of that mountain. To traverse the landscape you can only walk at first, but as the game goes on you gain the ability to fly for short times thanks to your magic scarf.

In both games, there is a very minimal interface, hardly any tutorial, and no speech. What there is, is a beautiful soundtrack, serene visuals, and gameplay designed to give you an emotional response as you are immersed in the world of their creation. A bonus in Journey is that if you are online you sometimes get paired up with another player who journeys with you. The only way to communicate with them is by how you move, or by sending energy pulses, but this is enough, and it’s great having someone there to show you around and point out secrets, or if you are more experienced, it is also nice to help others if they look to be struggling.  If you are lucky enough to be paired with someone for a whole game (it takes about 2 hours to get through), it can make for one of the most beautiful moments in gaming.

I can’t strongly recommend these two games, especially Journey, enough to any PS3 or PS4 owners.

5. Everything

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So I have to end this post with a game that is about everything!  In this game, you can actually be almost anything!  You start as a fairly normal animal , but after playing for a bit you gain the ability to be, or possess, another animal or object smaller than you.  When you do this, your perspective shifts down to the size of that object. You can keep doing this to get smaller and smaller, right down to the sub-atomic level of matter!  later on you also gain the ability to shift back in to larger things, and literally anything you see in the game, you can be, all the way up to super clusters of galaxies, and beyond!

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The game is actually procedurally generated, so each play through is different to the last.  There is a vague goal, but most of the enjoyment of this game is just roaming around, discovering all of the environments and things that you can be.  As you roam around, some of the objects talk to you.  You can also get groups of the same kind of thing to follow you.  Every so often you get to hear audio snippets from the late philosopher Alan Watts about life and existence, and this, plus the general experience of the game start to leave you with a different perspective on real life.

This for me is again a game I highly recommend trying out.  It is a beautiful zen-like experience.  You can play just to chill out, or you can play to explore and try be every object it has to offer.  You can even just leave it on in the background and the game will play itself.

 

I hope that at least one of these games has piqued your interest enough to give it a try, and I hope that you, like me, start to realise that the world of computer games outside the standard samey mainstream ones is a beautiful and varied one that is worth diving into!

5 Games to make Holidays more fun!

This is the time of year when people are starting to plan their summer holidays.  One thing you shouldn’t forget to plan, especially if travelling with kids, is your playing time!

Whenever I go on holiday with the family I always try to take a few games. These are useful for keeping everyone entertained on the journey, and also for some great quality family time when we are there. One of the main limits to what to choose is the luggage space, especially while flying, so all the things we take fit in a compact package. There are several games that would fall into this category, but here are five of my favourites, that we happened to take on a recent trip:

1. Playing Cards/Uno

This may seem a little too obvious of a choice, but for me taking a deck of classic playing cards on a journey is a must. They are very compact, only 52 pieces (not including jokers..), so versatile in the amount of games you can play with them and very accessible – pretty much everyone has played a card game in their lives. I played a few games with my son on the plane to my recent holiday, and the journey flew by (excuse the pun!).

Also, the classic card game Uno is played the same amount or more than regular cards in our household, so this is another no-brainer for us to chuck in to the bag.

2. Rory’s Story Cubes

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This is another simple game with many possibilities, that also comes in a packet as big as a deck of cards. The game comes with 9 dice, each covered with various different pictures. To play, you roll the dice (as many as you want) and use the pictures that come out in any order to inspire a story. There is no score and no winning or losing, it is just about telling entertaining stories.

It’s great to play while travelling or on holiday, all you need is enough space to roll the dice! My children have Spanish cousins and it is also a good game for inspiring language learning among them. See another of my blog posts here for more educational game ideas!

3. Happy Salmon

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Happy Salmon is a fun and simple game, great warm-up or icebreaker game for family gatherings or any kind of party really!

In this game, three to six players each get a pack of 12 cards with a mixture of actions that need to be done in pairs: high five, fist bump, or ‘Happy Salmon’ (stick your arm out like a salmon fin and flap flippers with the other person!). They then have to be the first to get rid of their cards by shouting and finding partners to do the actions with. That’s pretty much the whole thing!

Since it is so simple, quick to play, but more importantly fun, it was great to take on our last holiday as we were going to spend some time with family. The other advantage for this game is that it comes in a cool neoprene bag, so it is super easy to stuff in any backpack or suitcase!

4. Love Letter

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I really enjoy introducing new games to people, especially if they don’t typically play games. Love Letter is a good game to do this as it gives people a sense of achievement. When you play for the first time it can seem quite overwhelming to learn the different moves, but since there are only 16 cards in the pack and the game is played over several very short rounds, it is actually soon picked up.

We played this a few times with different family members over our last holidays and it was enjoyed by all. It is simple enough to not put off casual players, but also has a basic tactical element that more experienced gamers will appreciate.

5. Sushi Go

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Sushi Go is a family favourite of ours, and it makes us hungry for sushi every time we play! If you have ever been to one of those sushi restaurants that have the food going by on a conveyor belt, the game concept should be easy for you to pick up.

The idea in this purely card based game is to build up the tastiest sushi meal possible. This is helped by the really nice art on the cards of different types of sushi dishes with cute faces.

The kids really enjoy playing the game and they really understand the rules and how to score points, while my wife and I understand the slightly deeper card drafting tactics, so it’s enjoyable for all of us to play together on a holiday afternoon.

 

As I said, there are absolutely loads of choices in this category of holiday games, and I need more as I love them, so please let me know what you take on your holidays too!

6 School Subjects Supported by Games (part 2 of 2)

This is a continuation of my last post about games that can help with school subjects, but are actually fun! Please read that first if you haven’t already, it covers the most common subjects of Maths, English/Language and History. In this post I will cover three more school subjects with perhaps slightly more tenuous links to board games, but I think they are valid nonetheless.  So without further ado, let’s get on with it!

4. Drama

Useful in the subject of drama are the ability to act outside your normal personality and also to observe how others behave in different situations. Social deduction games are perfect for this. This sub-genre includes the really fun Werewolves game, that I wrote about before and the inspiration for Werewolves: Mafia.

Another nice example of a social deduction game for a smaller player count is The Resistance. This is a 5-10 player game where you act as a group of rebels who go on missions to try to bring down the evil Empire. Some of the group are undercover empire spies however, who try to sabotage the missions without anyone working out who they are. Players take turns in going on missions, and use their deduction or bluffing skills to choose the right people to go with them. The ‘goodies’ are trying to pass the majority of the missions, while the spies are trying to sabotage them.  The situation can get quite tense, as you don’t know who is who, and it can make for a great different gaming experience.

Before moving on the to next subject, I do have to mention murder mystery games as another really good way to flex your acting muscles. There are several of this type of game available on the market, mostly designed to be played during dinner parties. Generally each person is given a specific character to portray and act through various rounds with clues to who the killer is being slowly revealed as the night goes on. These games are vastly improved by everyone staying in character throughout, and if anyone who hasn’t done a murder mystery game gets the opportunity to try it, I highly recommend it!

5. Geography

Geography is a wide ranging subject, covering all aspects relating to land and how it is formed. Board games have a particular field that they can help in best, and that is maps and map reading. There are games such as Forbidden Island, where the board is a map of a fictional place, and there are also a surprising number of games, mainly the wargames mentioned in the History section of part one of this post, where the board is an actual map of the real world location in question.

The best example I can think of where this is the case is actually the classic game Risk. Risk is a war game at heart, it has a tactical and luck of the dice side to it. There are a lot of spin-offs available, but the original game is played on a (simplified) world map, with each player trying to take over the world country by country. I remember as a child playing this a lot (my friend had to be red, or he wouldn’t play at all..). I mainly remember the fun I had playing, but actually, without that game, I would have no idea that there was a place called Kamchatka, let alone where it was on the map!

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The board for Pandemic

 

A more modern game where the board is a world map is Pandemic. This is by the same designer as Forbidden Island and has similar cooperative gameplay, but with a couple more layers of complexity added. In it, you are trying to save the world from deadly disease outbreaks and you travel between major cities around the world to do so. This again has the side effect of increasing your general knowledge as to where major cities are located around the world.

6. Computing

Ok, time for the final subject that I am going to cover: computing.  Or more specifically, computer programming.  Surely you can’t learn programming skills with an unplugged, completely-in-no-way-electronic board game?  Well, there is a board game that covers almost every subject, so yes you can!

Potato Pirates is a very new game that just came out in late 2017.  It is actually so new that I can only find it for sale on the maker’s website at the moment.  As a lot of games do these days, it went through a Kickstarter crowd-funding process to be able to launch it.

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The game comes with a pack of cards and a bag of mini potatoes, which are your pirate crew.  You also get some ships for the potatoes to sail.  The idea of the game is to attack (boil, mash or fry!) the other players’ pirates by building up a series of attack cards, and also collect the pirate king cards before anyone else.  So how does this teach coding?  Well, there are a lot of programming concepts that are common to any programming language, such as loops, conditional statements (IF), and handling variables.  The attacks that you build up use these concepts, so you may have a card that says ‘Mash 2 Potatoes’.  This used on its own would be ok, but if you combine it with a For card, e.g. ‘For 3 times > Mash 2 Potatoes’, it can be devastating!  Learning a programming language with all of its intricate syntax requirements can be daunting, but knowing the fundamental concepts goes a very long way and this game teaches these concepts while also managing to be a really fun game about potatoes!

 

I hope this post has inspired you to think more about the educational benefits of board games, for children and adults alike, and I am always interested in learning about new examples, so if you have any ideas of your own, let me know!

6 School Subjects Supported by Games (part 1 of 2)

Before writing this blog, let me get one thing straight – I play games primarily because they are fun to play. I enjoy the aspect of learning the rules to a game, and how to exploit those rules to perform in the best way. I also like seeing all those playing having a good time.

Aside from learning rules and tactics though, there are several games that as you play actually help with learning skills and concepts that are useful in the real world (if you ever want to venture out there..). A lot of these type of games may fall under the umbrella of ‘educational’ games and toys, the kind that are very obviously made for an educational purpose, and in that sense immediately lose any aspect of real fun that the designers may have desired them to have.

The games I want to highlight today are examples that I have played where the game aspect is given as high priority, if not higher, as the educational element. This means that anything learnt after playing is purely as a by product of having fun, which in my opinion is the absolute best way to learn! I have split them into easily recognisable school subjects for reference. I have only picked a few examples here, and there are obviously countless more. Let me know your favourites in the comments!

1. Maths

Maths is probably one of the most commonly used skills in games, as most have a scoring system. This is good way to practice addition, but there are a couple that go a bit further. The fantastic Kingdomino, which I wrote about previously, is a great example as it uses some multiplication. Another game that I came across recently is the lesser known Symbotica.

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Symbotica – shapes and sums

 

This is a card game where each card is a coloured shape. The idea is to place the cards so that they match the shape or colour of an existing card, a bit like another one I wrote about in this blog, Latice. The scoring for Symbotica is the number of sides of each shape multiplied together, so a blue pentagon could go next to a blue square and score 5 x 4 = 20. This is great for recognising shapes and times tables, and my primary age kids love playing it!

2. English/Language

A lot of learning a language (even your own, when you are younger) is practice and learning how to express what you want to say in different ways. A good way of getting this practice is inventing stories, and Rory’s Story Cubes are a perfect way to provide inspiration!

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Rory’s Story Cubes – prose prompters

 

This is a simple game with endless possibilities. The main game comes with 9 dice, each covered with various different pictures. To play, you roll the dice (as many as you want) and use the pictures that come out in any order to inspire a story. There is no score and no winning or losing, it is just about telling entertaining stories. While this works really well in your native language, it can also be used as a learning tool for intermediate language learners. There are several expansion sets of three dice available, and also quite a few copies of the same concept on the market. I particularly like these for long train journeys!

3. History

There is a whole subset of tabletop games known as wargames which focus on recreating various different historical battles and times of unrest. You can find ones about almost any historical period, from World War II to ancient Rome, feudal Japan to the cold war. These games tend to be fairly complicated, and are more about strategy however, and while they do give an idea of certain historical events, they are very focused on one aspect.

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Timeline – play in the past

 

A more simple series of games that helps with learning historical facts is Timeline. Each game is a set of cards covering several historical events. The event is on one side of the card and the year the event happened is on the other. The idea of the game is to try to guess where on the timeline the event that you have happened, compared to other events already on the table. I played a British history version, but there are different versions for many different country’s histories, also for scientific discoveries, inventions and even Star Wars!

Laying out events like this in a time line really helps to visualise and understand the progress of history. After a few plays you really start to learn the historical story. There are over 100 cards, so it would take quite a few plays before you started to learn every single one off by heart.

 

Unfortunately I have realised that this post is getting fairly long now, as I could go on for a while about this topic.  I’d rather not bore people too much however, so this will be continued next week, with Drama, Geography and Computing!  Update: Part 2 is now available by clicking here!

Kingdomino Review – A new Twist on a Classic

Board games have been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years. There are only a few classics from hundreds of years ago that still survive now. Dominoes is one of them. The game I am writing about today uses the classic idea of dominoes in a fresh new way.

I think today’s game may be one where the name was thought up before the game mechanics, as Kingdomino is a game about building a kingdom from domino pieces, exactly as you may think!

The game is for 2-4 players. Rather than numbers, the domino pieces in this game have pictures of different land types, e.g. field, forest, bog, mine, at each end. The aim of the game is to join these pieces together in a 5×5 square to make the best scoring kingdom. Each domino must join to the existing kingdom by matching at least one end or side of a tile already placed, dominoes style. At the start, you place a castle square (unimo?) that any other piece can join on to.

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Certain dominoes have crown pictures on them as well as the terrain type, and the score for each area at the end is the number of crowns in the area multiplied by the number of squares of that terrain. For example, if my kingdom had one grassy area made of five squares with two crowns in it, and one forest area of ten squares with one crown, the score would be: 5×2 + 10×1 = 20. This scoring system is great for our family with primary age kids, as it really helps them with their times tables! The numbers never get too big either, so the sums are never really complicated.

For an added challenge, if playing as two players (as my wife and I do after kids are in bed), you can both try to build an even bigger 7×7 kingdom. This obviously increases the score potential much more, and also means you have to be that bit more tactical in which tiles you choose and where you place them to try to get the biggest scoring areas.

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This game was only released a couple of years ago, but as with all board games that gain a bit of popularity, a couple of expansions are available. Queendomino is a ‘sister’ (or spouse?) standalone version of the game. It has the same basic rules, but adds a bit more complexity, such as knights and dragons! It can be played separately and is compatible with the original game, so both can be combined to allow even more players in one game, or have four players making 7×7 size kingdoms! A new smaller expansion is also due out this year, Age of Giants. This can be added on to Kingdomino to give enough tiles in total for a fifth player, and it also has a new giants mechanic which can either help or hinder you! This would be perfect for my family of five, so I am looking out for that one.

I think this is a really great family game, easy to learn, but also challenging to get high scores. It is educational for kids learning maths, but also still entertaining for adults to play. Perhaps it is not yet as much of a classic as the original dominoes, but who knows, in a few hundred years it may be!

Happy Salmon Review – Fantastic Fin-Flapping Fun!

Ok, here is a quick post about a quick game we got recently. It is called Happy Salmon. It is a very simple card game about shouting and having fun!

In this game, three to six players each get a pack of 12 cards. These packs contain a mixture of actions that need to be done in pairs: High Five, Pound It (fist bump), Switcheroo (physically swap places) and Happy Salmon (stick your arm out like a salmon fin and flap flippers with the other person!).

To play the game:

  • Each person looks at the top card in their pack and shouts out the action on it.
  • If they find someone else with the same card they do the action with that person, then discard their card.
  • The winner is the first to get rid of their cards.
  • That’s it!
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The cards in the game

 

Due to this simplicity, Happy Salmon can be played with pretty much all ages. I would say that as long as you can read the cards, you can play. Obviously since it is a very noisy game kids love it, but it can also be played and enjoyed by fully grown adults, as an icebreaker at an event, warm up for a game session, or any family gathering.

Depending on the players the noise can get a bit much to be honest, so luckily there is a quiet variant to the rules. Here you play the same way, but you aren’t allowed to speak. This can be even more fun than the original, as everyone sits around frantically making hand gestures to each other in an increasingly urgent fashion!

A limitation to playing could be for players with reduced movement, who e.g. can’t move around the table quickly for a Switcheroo.  To get around this, a different action could be invented for that card, or the Switcheroo cards could be removed.  The different coloured packs also have symbols on them so they can be distinguished for anyone with colour blindness.

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You can take the Salmon anywhere!

 

On top of all of this, the pack it comes in is a cool neoprene salmon shaped bag, great for travel.  The original is green, and there is also a blue variant of the game.  This is exactly the same game but the packs are different colours, so can be combined for up to 12 player madness!  On top of that, I have just heard that a ‘sequel’ of sorts will come out this year, called Funky Chicken.  This has more standing up dance moves and can be played separately or also combined with the Salmon!

So, this is a great little game for anyone to have in their game drawer, and I advise everyone to flap their flippers and go out and get it!

Dixit Review – Wonderfully Whimsical Wordplay

One thing I like about modern board games is the sheer variety available. After getting more into the hobby a year or so ago, I started researching what kind of games were out there and I was amazed to see there are now literally thousands of new board games released each year. The last few years has seen a boom in board gaming, so this number is only increasing. This can be quite daunting when wondering what games to get, you are spoilt for choice! Also of course, of those thousands per year released, most aren’t amazing, and you couldn’t possibly have time to play them all anyway.

So, what do you do? Well, there are a couple of options: You could research on the net, there are a lot of great game sites with information and game reviews out there, my personal favourite being Board Game Geek. The main method I would choose though is to try and only buy games that you have played before, so you know you like. I found out about the game I will be writing about today in just this way. We played it at a relative’s and straight away it went on to our family game wish list. It is a unique, beautiful and fun game, and it is called Dixit.

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Some of the cards of Dixit

Dixit is, at it’s heart, a card game. It comes with 84 cards, and the first thing you notice when playing is that these are not your average cards. They are oversized, approximately double the size of your average playing cards, and each card has unique fantastical, whimsical, surrealistic, dream-like pictures printed on them. The images almost all have more than one element to them, and it is a pleasure just to look through the cards the first time you play! There is a board of sorts included with the game, but this is only to keep score.

 

The game itself is kind of a guessing game. Each player gets six cards. Each round, players take turns to be the ‘storyteller’. They pick one of their cards and say a word or phrase that the card reminds them of (without showing the card). The other players pick one of their cards that best matches this phrase. All of the picked cards are shuffled and laid out, and then the players guess which card belonged to the original storyteller. If the storyteller makes it too easy, and everyone votes for them, or too difficult, and no-one votes for them, they don’t get any points. In this way, the subtlety of the gameplay when you are the storyteller is to say a phrase that means some people, but not everyone, guesses your card. There is an element of luck to the game, as the other players may have cards which either fit the phrase very well, or none at all, but due to the clever way that the cards are designed featuring several similar themes, this is not an issue very often.

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This game was actually originally released about ten years ago. Since it has been very popular, and as is the case with a lot of board games, a lot of themed expansion packs have been released, and are still being made. Here are a few from Amazon, for example.  Each pack contains 84 cards with even more original and beautiful artwork, so can be shuffled in to the base game cards, or bought and played separately. The main base game of Dixit (pictured above) and Dixit: Odyssey contain pieces to keep scores. If you play other expansions separately, you would just need a paper and pen for this.

I have played Dixit with different groups of people, including young kids and adults, and it has been enjoyed by all. Younger players may find it a bit more challenging to think of words that are not too easy for others to guess, but they should still enjoy it.  The game actually changes depending on who you play with, as different vocabulary and shared life experiences may change the clues you give so this allows for good replayability. I would say that this fact, the unique concept and the beautiful art style, make Dixit a fine addition to anyone’s board game collection!

Switch and Snipperclips!

The Switch is Nintendo’s newest games console. It has been on the market now for almost a year. As I have made it clear in previous blogs, I am a big fan of Nintendo, so I couldn’t resist this latest machine.

Switch handheld mode
The Switch in handheld mode

 

The main unique feature of the Switch, apart from the great Nintendo games on it, is that it is a hybrid hand-held and home TV console, and can ‘switch’ between playing on a TV to playing in handheld mode very quickly.  This gimmick, and the really high quality games released (most notably Mario Odyssey and Zelda: Breath of the Wild), have made it very successful so far.  Even in the first ten months of release, it has now sold more than Nintendo’s previous console, the Wii U, did in its 5 years on the market.  This also reflects on the poor marketing for the Wii U, but in any case, the Switch is a fantastic console and if you are looking for a new gaming machine, especially for a family, this should be at the top of your list.

Switch docked brighter
Switch docked in TV mode

 

One of the reasons I like the Switch is that the main controller can be fixed to the side of the console, or separated into two parts, and this makes it instantly ready for two player games out of the box.  This makes it great for family/friends game time, and there are already a lot of games out that utilise this feature, such as Mario Kart, Mario Odyssey and Puyo Puyo Tetris.  One game that I feel uses the multiplayer aspect to great effect is the ‘couch co-op’ game Snipperclips, and so to continue the co-operative theme from last week, the rest of this post will be about that!

snipperclips

Snipperclips is a smaller sized ‘indie’ game that was released at the same time as the Switch and it was published and promoted by Nintendo at the time.  There are a few side minigames to it, but the main part of the game is a series of puzzles played with two U shaped characters, apparently called Snip and Clip.  They can move around and jump, etc. just like in a normal platform game, but they can also snip parts of the other one’s body out to change their shape.  They do this by overlapping their body with the other player, then pressing a button and the overlapping part is snipped off.

The snipping mechanic is pretty unique among computer games, and it is this that is used to solve the many puzzles that the game presents.  Each level is essentially a single screen puzzle.  There are a lot of variations to what you need to do in each level, such as: cutting yourselves out to fit in a dotted line shape, playing basketball, popping balloons, helping a flower to grow, and many more!  There are well over 50 levels in total and they are all presented in a clean and cute styled background, with a theme that changes for each world, or group of levels.

 

snipperclips screenshot
Basketball!

The game can be played with one player switching between the control of each character, but the main fun to be had with this is playing with another human.  there are even a few four player levels available, if you have enough controllers!  Since you both need the other player to snip you into the right shape, and the answer to the puzzles are not always obvious, a lot of communication and co-operation is required to pass each stage.  Obviously this doesn’t go without the inevitable arguments!  I think this just enhances the enjoyment of a game compared to a single player one, so this is a big plus point for me.

I would say that if you own a Switch this is an essential purchase.  it provides a lot of entertainment, the price is reasonable compared to a big AAA game such as Mario, and it is a really good demonstration of the unique two player ability of the console.  At the very least, it is worth downloading the free demo, which contains the first few levels.

That’s all from me, next time, back to board games!

 

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