Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wits & Wagers Family review... and contest giveaway!!!

A couple disclaimers before I approach this review.  First, I am a big fan of the original Wits & Wagers, it being one of the only party games I enjoy playing and one I will happily play at any time.  And second, I have only played Wits & Wagers Family with adults, not necessarily the intended target audience, as my extended family lives pretty far away.  Having said all that, the adults I played with were happy to try this version of W&W and in the end, we enjoyed it greatly.  Here's why...

Components and Rules

The components and artwork of the original W&W were quite nice and completely usable.  However, there just wasn't much actual art which makes sense given that it really is a trivia game. One of the delights of the family version are the new pictures on the score and answer boards and the cute little meeple pieces a la Carcassonne.  It actual makes the game quite appealing, even for us adults, and adds to the experience (I had the soccer-playing meeple!)  The trivia questions themselves are of the usual high-quality seen in other versions of the game.

The new rules are short and simpler than the original, which is not a bad thing at all given the target demographic.  This game took about 30 seconds to explain to adults and wouldn't take much longer for kids.  And as usual, there is added info about the designers and company in the rules leaflet - it is always nice to see credit where credit is due.  Verdict:  Excellent.  Very cute artwork and pieces, great colours, and crystal-clear super-simple rules.


The gameplay itself is basically the same as the original Wits & Wagers with a few changes.  For those who haven't tried the original, it's pretty simple.  A trivia question with a numerical answer is asked and everyone secretly writes down what they think the answer is.  Once everyone has a number written down, the answers are flipped over and ordered from smallest to largest.  Now here's the good part.  Everyone places their markers, a large meeple and a small meeple, on the answer they think is closest without going over.  So you don't need to know the right answer.  You don't even have to be close.  But you can guess who does have the right answer and bet according to them or even play it safe by going low.

The answer is revealed and the one which is closest without going over gets that player a point (think Price is Right...)  And then every small and large meeple on the winning answer scores its owner one or two points, respectively.  This is one of the key differences between the family version and the original.  In the original, the players can gamble as much money as they want to risk.  In this game, they only have two pieces to place simplifying the process greatly and minimizing the decisions.   And this isn't necessarily a bad thing.  I prefer the gambling aspect of the original myself but this removes some of the nastiness without completely removing the strategy.

This leads to the other major difference.  Players play to a set number of points which means our games went on for about 10-15 rounds.  This felt fine but definitely was longer than the set 7 rounds of the original.  Combine this with the lack of a timer for players and you have a longer game, perfect for a family but maybe not for gamers looking for a quick fix.  As well, the questions themselves are definitely made for a younger demographic (think lots of Disney questions) but we still found them surprisingly tough as adults...  maybe because we weren't the target audience.  Verdict:  Great.  The same fun of the original minus a bit of the tension.  Simpler but still quite enjoyable.


What can I say?  I enjoy the original W&W and this one ain't much different.  The scoring is simpler, as are the questions, so it will definitely be more appropriate for a family.  The game is also a little longer than the original which might be a negative for some but it still plays in about 30 minutes.  So it really depends who you are playing with.  For my group of friends, the original Wits & Wagers is perfect but in a family setting, the family version is ideal.  I'll be keeping both on hand so I can be playing this great game at any time.

And now for the GIVEAWAY!!!!!!

The great people at NorthStar Games who published this game are giving away two copies of it to some lucky readers of this little blog.  Here's what you have to do...

Send your name and the answers of the following two questions to

1)  Name two other games besides Wits & Wagers that are published by NorthStar Games.

2)  Which magazine named Wits & Wagers "Party Game of the Year"?

One entry for emailing plus one more for each correct answer for up to three entries!  (Hint:  the answers are on the company website  You have until the end of Friday, April 30th to enter the contest and winners will be announced on Saturday, May 1st.  Good luck!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Oh, the symmetry!

For those fans of Ingenious...

Too much coffee late in the evening?
(Thanks to Namrok's girlfriend on BGG...)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Impressions of Marrakech...

I first heard of this game online where I saw pictures of the adorable felt rugs and wooden pieces.  What looked very much like a children's game, I was told, is actually quite a fun, little filler.  And whoever said this was right!  This game is a delightful, albeit simple, little game that actually allows for some interesting decisions throughout.

The basic premise of the game is that you are trying to lay as much carpet of yours down in an orthogonally connected group.  There is one marker for all the players (his name is Assam and he has a neat red cap!) and he moves around the board assessing the carpets. On your turn, you choose which direction he moves and then roll the dice and move him the corresponding number of spaces.  If you land on someone else's group of carpets, you must pay them according to the size of that group of carpets.  After that you lay one of your carpets adjacent to Assam, possibly covering opponent's carpets or expanding one of your own regions.  If you run out of money, you are out but I have yet to see that happen in our games.  At the end, most money and carpets on top wins.

And that's it!  You only have 12 (or 15) carpets so there is a finite number of turns, making for a quick game.  But there is a nice ramping up of tension as the board begins to fill up with your opponent's rugs.  This game actually reminds me of the inspiration for the classic Acquire, a lovely little game called Property from Sid Sackson's excellent book A Gamut of Games.  If there's any issue, I'd say it's that the strategy is tad obvious on most turns.  But because the components are so tactile, everyone who has played it really enjoyed it anyways.

So Gigamic scores big with this one, I think.  Simple, fun, and actually a bit nasty, the perfect children's game for the whole family (and my gamer friends as well).  And something you'll actually wanna show off for years to come....

Monday, April 19, 2010

And on the seventh day...

...we played Eurogames.  Samarkand: Routes to Riches and Macao, to be exact.  And Samarkand was a delightful, quick little game, like Chicago Express meets Ticket to Ride (and quicker than both!)  Can't wait to play it again.

The second game of Macao was less than inspiring.  I vowed to give it another chance and I did.  There is a great game here that can be a lot of fun but it is buried beneath a bunch of poorly-written, tiny little cards that often contradict each other.  I just think someone screwed up big with this one.  The cards are hard to read, they are inconsistent (two cards do the same thing but may be worded totally different), and you just have to deal with too many of them.  You end up scanning cards over and over to see if you missed anything and the choices are too numerous.  Our second game clocked in at almost 2.5 hours.  Way too long.  But we were hunched over the table most of the time scanning stupid cards.  I'd play this again but I wish I hadn't bought it. 

I had hoped to play my review copy of Wits & Wagers Family but Macao took way too long.  Sometime this week, we'll get it on the table.  Oh, and that's Flaschenteufel in the corner there.  Got it used off someone last week for VERY cheap.  Can't wait to try it out as I've heard great things...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Okay, now I REALLY, REALLY want an Ipad (and an Iphone...)

I've mentioned the Ipad before and all the cool game apps that are coming.  But this morning I read Dale Yu's summary of his time at the latest Gathering of Friends (which made me insanely jealous, as usual...)  He mentions that one of the hot toys at the Gathering was the Ipad and he described the Scrabble app which uses separate Iphones as the tile racks.  Um.  Awesome.  Ridiculously awesome.  I had to look it up.

Watch the video below and perhaps a pool of drool will start forming in front of your keyboard, as it did in front of mine...

On The Horizon: Isla Dorada

I played the classic Elfenland again on Monday night with some newbies and forgot just how wonderful the game is (Alan Moon is an outright genius, in my mind).  Reminded me to mention the upcoming game, Isla Dorado, invented by Bruno Faidutti and being released this fall by Funforge.  The game itself sounds like a cross between Wildlife Adventure and Elfenland although he attributes many of the ideas to some others.  Read Faidutti's fascinating post about the development of the game here.  There is also a first review here on BGG - read it and start the countdown....

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Canadian game-design contest!

FallCon in Calgary announced that they are looking for entries for a new annual game designing competition. The information is here.

I have pages upon pages of ideas and yet I still have not put together a single prototype to try out. I think I have this weird fear that the game I produce will be completely unplayable. I really must get over that.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Oh, the horror!

We like horror movies at our place. A lot. So you can imagine how happy I'd be with a horror movie about board games!

And now there is a movie, The Black Waters of Echo's Pond, coming out this weekend about an ancient board game that unleashes terrible evil when played. Seriously.

It looks incredibly cheesy but then sometimes the B-movies are the most enjoyable...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Macao: impressions after first play...

I finally got Macao to the table Sunday evening with two other players and I was less than pleased. I will withhold final judgment until I get at least one more play in but there were a few issues, one which I predicted, others which I did not.

So what was the problem? Not the main cube mechanic. No, that was actually surprisingly fun and interesting and quite tricky to play correctly. And the rules themselves were fairly easy to grasp. No, my issue was the number of choices in the last few rounds of the game. In the first couple rounds you have 6 or seven choices of actions but very limited cubes to actually do them with. And often the colours of the cubes determined many of the choices. This was great and agonizing in a good way. In the last couple rounds things were different. We all had close to action 20 cubes to use which could possibly yield 20 distinct actions. Give yourself 7 different types of actions, 10 or more quarters left to conquer each requiring a different set of six different coloured cubes, and complete freedom in the order that you can do these actions. And let's not forget the action cards that we have all been forced to buy throughout the game, each one yielding a special advantage or power that can be taken at any point throughout the round. One player took a 17-minute turn. 17 minutes.

I really think the cards are the major issue. Everything would be fine if you didn't have 10-12 different rule-breakers to factor into your decision tree. It started to feel a bit like Magic: The Gathering as you scanned your cards to see what you could still use that turn. It doesn't help that the printing on the cards is ridiculously tiny and many of them are poorly worded and wide-open to player interpretation as mentioned here by the other Eric Martin.

Now don't get me wrong, I like choice in my games. I enjoy Le Havre and I love how the decisions expand over the rounds in Endeavor. But in Endeavor, the choices are still stream-lined and the choice grow very much linearly. Not so much here. Think exponential growth. I really want to like this game and will definitely give it another try. I enjoyed the first half of it immensely as I saw things slowly ramping up and tried to plan how and when I would receive the cubes I needed.

Maybe we just need to play it a few times and I'll bring a magnifying glass for the cards....

Sunday, April 4, 2010

6-player Tichu...

Don't think I'm a fan. With only 9 cards a hand, it's a lot tougher to play any real interesting combos which makes each hand feel pretty luck-based. Also with five people having to pass consecutively, each trick seemed to go on and on and on...

Still, we love playing this game so I imagine we'll have a few more 6-player hands in the future and I probably won't say no.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bargain basement find of the year...

I made a pretty amazing find in a second hand store this week - the Starducks edition of Poisson d'Avril, a long lost East German game from 1983! The Starducks version was the American release from the late 80's. Poisson is one of the most sought after games on BGG since the warehouse containing most of the original copies burned down before it was actually released. Wow.

I really wonder how much I'll be able to sell this for as it's practically unplayable without the expansion, unfortunately. And I doubt I'll be lucky enough to find a copy of that....

RELATED: Looks like Queen is considering a card game version.