Saturday, May 30, 2009


To celebrate the Spiel des Jahres nominations, I decided I should go out and buy a former Spiel des Jahres winner.... Um, that's my excuse.

Having said that, we played Aquaretto last night. It is based on the system from Zooloretto which won game of the year in 2007. And that game based on the great little card game Coloretto but with a board and tiles. And Aquaretto was fun, really fun. Lots of interesting decisions but definitely not enough to give you a headache. And it also still has that pleasant nastiness of Coloretto where you get to force people to take tiles they don't actually want. Great game, looking forward to more plays.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hoyle, eat your heart out...

You know, with all this talk of board games shipped from Germany and the US, it probably seems like I don't like a good old-fashioned game of cards. Not true. I was raised playing cards and spent years playing duplicate Bridge with my parents. And I still enjoy the simplicity of a game of Hearts...

Just found a great site for card games at It contains rules for what looks like thousands of games and it even has info for commercial card games requiring special decks of cards. Nice.

Monday, May 25, 2009

And the nominees are...

The Spiel des Jahres nominees came out today. Up for the award are:

Dominion, by Donald Vaccarino

Fits, by Reiner Knizia

Fauna, Friedemann Friese

Pandemic, by Matt Leacock

Finca, by Ralf zur Linde and Wolfgang Sentker

Dominion and Fits are both in my collection and I'm glad. They are great games. Pandemic is a good, tense little cooperative game that I've played a few times. And FInca is definitely on my list of "to-buys". Who can resist little fruit shaped wooden pieces! Fauna is a trivia game - a clever one, mind you, but not something I imagine owning.

They have also announced nominees for the Kinderspiel des Jahres and honorable mentions in the Spiel des Jahres category. Definitely worth checking out...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"The dog ate my board game!"

Played a new game a friend brought over tonight - Hollywood Blockbuster by Reiner Knizia. Have to say I was quite disappointed. I found the auction mechanic way too tedious to hold a game of that length. I also found the rules had way too many "ifs" and "buts" and I found it to be overcomplicated for a game that simple and dull. Oh well, still a huge Knizia fan. I'll have to go play a game of Blue Moon City to make myself feel better.

Sadly, the game was new and a piece fell on the floor. Our puppy promptly chewed it to bits. Guess the dog didn't like it either...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Couple new card games...

Played a few games this past weekend at the cottage, especially card games. There was the old standby of Wizard, which Vince's parents love (as do mine). If you don't own Wizard, you should. It's really just Oh Hell with a eight extra special cards added to a regular deck. It is great fun, though, with a ton of strategy and it's a game I seem to have to keep buying as I keep giving my own copies away.

I did also get to try out two new card games, one good and one bad and I'm gonna tell you what I think of them...

Archaeology: The Card Game

This short, sweet little game reminded me a bit of Bohnanza without the trading (although there kinda is trading). Basically every turn you will draw a card and end up with a treasure. You can trade these treasures with the open cards on the table for cards that sum to the same cost. Eventually you'll wanna play sets of the same treasures onto the table rummy-style to claim the points for them. Here's the thing: the more cards you play at one time the more each card is worth - think Bohnanza or Hanging Gardens. Throwing a wrinkle in this are the Sandstorm cards which pop up causing you to ditch half your cards. Thus hoarding and waiting becomes a risky strategy. As well, there are a few cards which allow you to steal from others and map cards which let you go on a side quest to the pyramid for big scores of cards.

Is it fun? For what it is, yes, it really is a cute little game. We played two 3-player games in about 20 minutes each and it is just the right amount of time. The strategy is very light and the gameplay is even lighter, but it is easy to teach and easy to play and definitely worth the ten bucks. Fun!

Top Dogs

This one was not my purchase but my partner's. I actually encouraged it, though, because Maureen Hiron invented this one. She's made some great abstract and card games so I thought it was a good sign. I was wrong.

We played one game and decided as a group not to play it again. The game is basically a blind auction for ten different trophy cards of varying values. Each player has their own deck of 20 cards of numbers 2 through 6 repeated four times. You basically have a hand of 7 cards and you pick three to bid with by placing them face down and flipping them up when ready. If the three numbers are distinct, you add the total. If two are the same, multiply them and add the third. All the same, multiply 'em. High bid wins the trophy card. That's it. (Unless there's a tie - then the card goes to third in line. This didn't happen in our game at all.)

Upon reading the rules, it actually seemed like a there was a quick, fun little game here. There isn't. You have no control of or idea about what the other people may be playing so the blind auction falls flat. I never got a triple better than three 2's in my hand so I lost every auction to triple 5's and triple 6's. You get the chance to ditch an extra card every auction but you're almost always gonna throw a 2. There's just no thought involved in this game and my final score was zero to the winner's 40+ points. I realize now, with the silly artwork and all, that we probably aren't the target audience for this. But there are far better card games for kids that teach some math skills and actually have a little bit of depth as well. Like Archaeology, for example. Too bad, cuz the chihuahua cards are cute...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Oh, the humanity!!! Please, no....

Looks like Ridley Scott, the director of such great films as Alien and Thelma & Louise, is planning to make a film based on the board game Monopoly. Supposedly Kirsten Dunst may sign up. Ugh. I wonder if it will be as long, boring, and awful as the board game....

Sunday, May 17, 2009

May Long gaming...

Out at the cottage. Weather is cold and that makes me happy! Games inside with the sound of the surf. Not a bad weekend, I'd say. So far, we've only played FITS and Alhambra. Seriously, you gotta get FITS, if you don't already have it. Worth every penny.

Tonight I'm hoping for Settlers and Age of Steam. We shall see...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Spiel Des Jahres (Game of the Year) awards...

So every year Germany gives out an award for the best board game of the year. They take their games VERY seriously. It's always a family game that wins, usually something with a fair amount of strategy but not an overwhelming amount of rules. For me, a game of the year award usually is a must-buy. They are guaranteed lots of fun and are usually great games to introduce people to the hobby. Classics like Settlers of Catan and Elfenland have all won in previous years. I don't have 'em all but I'm working on it.

The finalists will be announced at the SdJ website on May 25 and I'm definitely curious to see what is nominated. My vote for the winner: Dominion (of course...) Most original game of the past year and by far the best. Easy to teach but endless playability. It'll be a travesty if it doesn't win.

You can check out previous years SdJ winners and nominees here. For the next couple weeks I'll probably do some mini-reviews of winners that I own in the leadup
to the award announcements.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Updated artwork and info for Wits & Wagers...

Just got a message from the designer of Wits & Wagers letting me know that the box art has actually been updated for the latest editions - see above (I had commented that the artwork was "fugly" in this post.) Apologies to them... Now you have all the the more reason to go pick up a copy of this great award-winning party game.

As well, for those who already own W&W, the first expansion pack will be unveiled this summer and available for purchase in September. Exciting...

Also, if you are able to make it to Origins Game Fair or Gen Con this year, the designers will be handing out some special promo cards for the game. Sigh. Anyone wanna buy me a plane ticket?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Review of Reiner Knizia's "Fits"...

So I think Reiner Knizia gets a bad rap in the gaming community. He is easily the most prolific designer in the world right now and has produced some classics in the past 15 years. He has been criticized mostly for creating games where the themes are almost non-existent. Okay, fine, but I have fun playing his games. A lot of fun. So much fun, usually, that I could give a rat's ass if I'm really just counting cards and rearranging cubes on a grid. So what happens when he decides to take on Tetris? Obviously, there is no theme. But is it fun? Oh yes, it definitely is.


The plastic pieces of this game are pretty high-quality and serve their purpose just fine. They are perfectly ridged to slide down the ramp from top to bottom. As well, the ramps double as storage containers for all of the different pieces. Very useful and keeps everything in perfect order.

Rules and Gameplay

The rules to this game are easily explained in the rulebook and anyone familiar with Tetris will catch on immediately.

The game takes place over four rounds and they increase in difficulty (although this is easily adjustable). Everyone has a different start tile determined by a card which helps differentiate how everyone plays their other tiles. After this, one player flips from a pile of cards showing all the different pieces. Much like the classic Take It Easy (or for other, maybe Bingo), everyone has to play that tile at the same time. The tile can be oriented however you'd like, but once its fixed the orientation can't be changed as it slides down from the top to the bottom of your ramp. As well, unlike Tetris, the pieces can't be slid horizontally from column to column once they've begun their descent. Now, if you REALLY don't like the tile that was drawn, you can set it aside but you won't get a chance to play it again. And this could hurt you, depending on what round you're in. Here's why.

In round 1, you get 1 point for every horizontal row you make and lose 1 point for every dot that remains uncovered. Now there are exactly 72 squares in your 16 pieces and 72 dots on the board that need to be covered. So just tossing away a piece isn't necessarily the best idea. In the second round, rows don't count. There are certain numbered spaces and if you leave those uncovered you get the corresponding number of points. You still lose a point for every other dot left uncovered. The third round introduces -5 spots that really need to be covered and the fourth round gives 3 points for every pair of corresponding symbols left visible at the end.

So, how does it play? Well, my favourite part of Take It Easy was the point where everyone starts begging the flip person to flip a certain tile. You get the same thing here, but with every tile! The specific shape you want never seems to get flipped up in the right order and it's frustrating fun. It is a much more luck-dependent game than Take It Easy but it also a lot shorter. There are decisions to be made on every turn, although I wouldn't say they are all that taxing. What is a little tricky about the game is having to decide which pieces to toss and which to play. Plus the different boards give each round a different feeling and lend somewhat of an arc to the game, unlike Take It Easy.
Great. Lots of fun!


This game is very light. It actually sometimes feels a bit like you are playing with a toy more than a board game. So don't expect a ton of strategy. But there is some planning and lots of decisions to be made every turn, some of which are agonizing. But, much like Bingo, the luck of the draw will often help you the most in the end.
If you're looking for a lot strategy, this is the wrong game for you.


I'm very glad I ordered this game (and boy, was it hard to get a hold of!) It is a very light, very short game that has been a piece of cake to teach. Everyone loves Tetris and this seems to scratch that itch while sliding in the joy of a good round of Bingo. And it's more strategic than both of those games. For the price, I'd say pick it up. I think most of you would already know if you like this sort of thing and our group definitely does.

One thing I do wonder is whether it will outstay its welcome. After four games, our group is already wanting more boards to play. I know Ted Alspach is posting more at his great site Bezier Games and we will be downloading them ASAP. Considering how this game is already selling out across North America, I expect there will be many expansions...
Knizia strikes again. This time he hits a lot lighter but still packs as much punch.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Party games that don't suck....

So I often get people saying, "I LOVE games! Let me know when you play cuz I'll bring over Cranium..." AArrgghhh! Although I own a copy of Turbo Cranium (it was an expensive gift that I am too polite to get rid of), I think the game is shit. It is a mish-mash of other boring games like Pictionary, Charades, and Trivial Pursuit all dolled up to look like new. It's unoriginal and favours certain players over others due to their specific skill sets. I remember the one game I played with a dyslexic friend who kept drawing the activity where you have to spell words backwards. Totally unfair and embarassing for him. And just not fun.

In general, I find most party games suffer from these same issues. Make sure you play Trivial Pursuit on a team with someone who knows a lot about sports and play Pictionary with someone who can draw really well. I don't find this fun. I think everyone should be on the same footing independent of their experiences. Luckily, there are some great "party" games out now which deal with these issues or even bring people's life experiences and personalities into the game. I've even played a few of them....

Apples to Apples is tons of fun and stupidly easy to learn. Each player has a hand of cards with various names of people, places, things, and events. An adjective is flipped over by the judge for that round and everyone picks what they think will match from their hand. The choices are mixed up and then the judge reveals them one by one. The judge picks their favourite and the person who played it gets the point. The fun of the game is trying to sell the judge on your card and dissuade him from the others without revealing your pick. Great game and I've enjoyed this with every group I've played it with.

Wits & Wagers just came out a few years ago and has been a big hit. Haven't played it yet but I have heard it's a blast and am planning to pick up a copy (despite the fugly artwork). It's a trivia game but all the answers are numerical. People bet and then place their answers in order on a betting mat. Once the answers are done players can bet on the answers that they think are the closest without going over (shades of Price is Right?) So a player can possibly be totally wrong with every answer they provide and yet still win by betting shrewdly on the numbers that seem the safest or are closer than theirs. Very clever and very inclusive to everyone's different levels of knowledge. Love it.

Say Anything comes from the same people as Wits and Wagers and sounds like fun. Descriptions online make it sound a bit like Apples to Apples except you write your own answers down. Then you get to vote on which answer you think will be picked kinda like Wits & Wagers. Sounds interesting and great in a group of people just getting to know each other.

If you like Bingo, but wish it had some strategy, you should get a hold of Take It Easy, which has been out for over a decade. My copy has seen many, many plays in the last 10 years and still comes out occasionally. Basically everyone plays the exact same set of tiles in the exact same order, trying to make as many lines across the board as possible. Despite playing everything the same the variety of scores is always huge. Lots of fun, very tense, and plays with up to 8 people.

Last one I'll mention is a new game out of France called Dixit that is just starting to make waves. Every player takes turns as the storyteller who is given a single picture to describe in either a word or a sentence. After this, every player chooses a picture from their hand and all of them are mixed up and then laid out. Players vote on which picture they think is the storytellers. Here's the thing: if everyone guesses the storyteller's card then he gets no points. If at least one picks it but not all, then the storyteller gets the points. What makes this even more interesting is the beautifully elusive artwork. Totally up to interpretation which adds so much. Can't wait to play this one.
Check out the beautiful artwork for Dixit here.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Tetris + Bingo = $#&@-loads of fun!

Okay, here's the latest obsession....

Ravensburger has just released Fits and it is available as an import. In this game everyone has the same set of Tetris-style shapes and a slanted board. Everyone places one starting tile and then the game begins. A card with a picture of one of the tiles is flipped and everyone has to place that tile at the top of their board and let it slide down into place. Unlike Tetris, once you pick the orientation of a tile, it can't be turned. So players end up playing the exact same pieces but with different starting tiles. The game plays in four rounds with different boards in each round and each board offers goals like extra points for leaving bonus spaces open or covering matching pairs of symbols. Sound like fun?

Why am I really excited about this? Well, first, it was the most played game at the Gathering of Friends that happened this past month. Secondly, the mechanics are reminiscent of Take It Easy, another classic game that scores big with everyone I know. Most importantly, though, is that it was invented by Reiner Knizia, the creator of great gamers' games like Taj Mahal, Modern Art, and Tigris & Euphrates and ridiculously fun family games like Pickomino, Blue Moon City, and Ingenious. This is pretty much a guarantee.

Copies are sold out across North America. Thank goodness I caught one of the last two that were available off It's in the mail as we speak.. :D