5 Quick Questions About Battlestations Second Edition by Jeff Siadek and Gorilla Games

5 Quick Questions About Battlestations Second Edition by Jeff Siadek and Gorilla Games

Editor’s Note: As a kind of content geek, I try new formats. So, here’s a new interviewette for tabletop designers. We promise no TL;DR.

Let’s see how Jeff Siadek, designer of Battlestations, 2nd Edition (from his own Gorilla Games – and available NOW) does, shall we?


BGB: Attention is money, my friend. What is the elevator pitch for Hotshots?

Jeff SiadekBattlestations is the game where you get to crew a starship. It is a board game-RPG hybrid with action simultaneously on the modular ships and the ships on the hex map. 

BGB: Making games is hard work, so you best have a great reason for making this thing. What inspired this game?

Jeff Siadek: (1979’s) Star Fleet Battles has starship combat that is tactically rich. Space Hulk lets you move around inside a ship. Star Wars has heroic characters on amazing journeys. Star Trek has a crew of adventurers working together to solve problems ranging from mysteries to a good old fashioned space battle.

BGB: There are too many games out there. What hole in my game collection does this fill?

Jeff Siadek: This game is a crunchy space action RPG with tactical depth. There is nothing like it.

BGB: This is Boardgame Babylon, so out with your dirty secrets. What DON’T you want to tell me about this game?

Jeff Siadek: I’ve been working on a deal with (Star Fleet Battles’ Publisher) ADB to do Battlestations Star Fleet for over a decade and haven’t given up hope.

Battlestations
There’s a cool hardback book of the rules, too.

BGB: Thanks for telling us a bit about Battlestations. Let’s wrap up with the key specifics (play time, number of players, and the link to the game) and also, since I think you can tell a lot about a person by understanding their sense of humor, what’s a good joke to close this interviewette?

Jeff Siadek: Battlestations, 2nd Edition is

  • 1-? Players (optimized for 4 to 6)
  • Each mission takes 1-2 hours
  • 45 plastic miniatures
  • 8 lbs of full color cardboard
  • Quickstart rules
  • Advanced 300 page hardcover rule book sold separately
JOKE TIME:
What’s the difference between a board gamer and a role player?
The role player stands up and gesticulates when he rants against card players.

DISCLOSURE: Boardgame Babylon is not liable for damage to your sensibilities from the jokes these game designers submit.

More quick reads? Check out our other 5 Quick Questions posts.

Want to learn EVEN MORE about Battlestations? I had Jeff and his producer, Joey Vigour, to my house to play one time. It was a lot of fun and I wrote about it here. And there was also a podcast, that thing I used to do more often. And, yeah, buy the thing!

Review: Echidna Shuffle from Kris Gould and Wattsalpoag Games

Review: Echidna Shuffle from Kris Gould and Wattsalpoag Games

Echidna Shuffle is a fun game that your family and casual gamer friends will love.

There’s something magical about games that are easy enough to let 6 year olds play but that also delight adults. Sure, we all love the idea of ‘easy to play, challenging to master’, but that’s not all there is. The right components are a treat, a theme that can gain a smile from players young and old helps, and certainly a quick play time so it’s easy to play again are all winning attributes. Kris Gould’s Echidna Shuffle, which IS NOW LIVE on Kickstarter, has all of this in spades.

Echidna Shuffle
Images by E.R. Burgess, Prototype Copy

What’s an Echidna? Well, they’re a bit like a porcupine with a funnier name taken from Greek mythology. While the echidna of Zeus’ world was a half-woman and half-snake monstrosity, the real-life echidna is closer to a hedgehog or an anteater. This little bit of trivia is fun to tell the kids as you explain the rules of the game, which is pretty simple to play and, even with a full group of six players, it should finish up in half an hour.

Traffic Jams

In a way, the shuffle is a traffic management game. Players are trying to guide their three bugs (each player has their own plastic bug in their color) from a specific starting place to three plastic tree stumps that get placed on the board by your leftmost competitor. Unfortunately, your bugs can’t traverse the distance on their own – they ride the echidnas wandering through the grass and all over the board.

The echidnas cover the board and follow paths shown on the space directing where they will go, usually in winding paths. All players can move any echidna, whether or not their bug is riding on its back. The goal is to get them into the space where you placed your starting space, and then to guide them to your stumps. Yet, it’s not that easy because:

  • Echidnas can’t go straight to a space, they need to follow a paths laid out on the board.
  • Echidnas can’t jump over each other or sneak by. Players need to move the other Echidnas out of the way.
  • All players are doing this at once so people might move echidnas you just put into a specific place.

How Many Echidnas Can You Move?

Echidna Shuffle shines here, pleasantly mitigating the randomness of dice with consistent numbers. While players roll at the beginning of their turn to see how many spaces they can move as many echidnas as they like (between 2 and 7 on a modified six-sided die), the lucky factor is managed by assigning players an opposite value to move next turn. So, if I roll a 7, next turn I will be moving only 2. This is tracked on a simple board, but it’s also an enjoyably elegant way to keep everyone feeling like they had a fair shake and weren’t losing just on the die rolls.

For the younger players, there is a little planning involved, but this will teach them some skills there. Downtime isn’t too bad because even though the board “shuffles around” every turn, players know how many spaces they will move every other turn, meaning they can plan ahead. While there are a lot of echidnas to consider, it isn’t too overwhelming for players because you can trace your options back to your bug space and the stumps.

Winning Echidna Shuffle isn’t hard but it is fun to play and quick enough that it is easy to start it all up again right away. Trapping friends’ bugs in dead ends, blocking them with more echidnas, or sending them the wrong direction (don’t walk bugs riding an echidna over his own stump because he knows to stop and will jump onto the stump). There are a few more rules (like trying to move more than two bugs at once), but that’s the gist of the whole amusing affair.

Echidna Shuffle
Images by E.R. Burgess, Prototype Copy

Shuffling Echidnas

Echidna Shuffle
Images by E.R. Burgess, Prototype Copy

Since I received this prototype copy, I’ve played Echidna Shuffle five times and it has been a hit with kids, teens and adults alike. The adorable echidna figures and bright colors on the board are sure to attract many players and they will be happy to see the game is worthwhile, too.

A couple of years back, I had the pleasure of playing Kris’ MASSIVE prototype of Echinda Shuffle at the Gathering of Friends and I recall thinking it would be tough to bring to market, even though I hoped he would since it was a hit of the convention. Yet, all Kris and his Wattsalpoagians had to do was address the scale issue. The rather large animals got smaller and cuter so they could fit into a regular box. They will charm players big time, as they have at all of our plays of the game.

If you like casual games at the level of Tsuro, that involve a little thinking and planning but nothing that will overwhelm people, Echidna Shuffle is for you. Anyone else, I’d still recommend giving it a go because it has a feel that isn’t like every other game you can play in that amount of time with six players. And if you have kids, I’d upgrade that rating to Buy It Now.

Echidna Shuffle is now LIVE on Kickstarter and I hope you will grab one and enjoy it with the family.

Boardgame Babylon Rating for Echidna Shuffle

BIN (Buy It Now) PIN (P)lay It Now TIF (Try It First) NMT (Not My Thing)

Disclosure: Publisher Wattsalpoag Games provided a pre-release prototype for independent review.

5 Quick Questions About Hotshots from Fireside Games & Designer Justin De Witt

5 Quick Questions About Hotshots from Fireside Games & Designer Justin De Witt

Editor’s Note: As a kind of content geek, I try new formats. So, here’s a new interviewette for tabletop designers. We promise no TL;DR.

Let’s see how Justin De Witt, designer of Hotshots (a game from Fireside Games that is AVAILABLE NOW) does, shall we?


BGB: Attention is money, my friend. What is the elevator pitch for Hotshots?

Justin De Witt: Hotshots is a press-your-luck wildfire fighting game where 1 to 4 players work together to try and put out a raging forest fire. Players move to burning tiles and roll dice trying to match the combination shown on the burning tile. The more symbols you match, the better you will do, but fail to match a symbol on a roll and the fire gets worse. You can use vehicles to help your battle, but at the end of each turn the fire spreads by drawing a Fire card. Players win if they put out all the flames and lose if 8 tiles or the Fire Camp scorches.

BGB: Making games is hard work, so you best have a great reason for making this thing. What inspired this game?

Justin De Witt: I wanted to make a press-your-luck game where the consequences of failure actually mattered. I experimented with a few themes, but the idea of a fire getting out of control worked SO well it quickly became the obvious choice.

BGB: There are too many games out there. What hole in my game collection does this fill?

Justin De WittThere’s nothing quite like Hotshots out there right now. This is an easy to learn co-op game that will really try hard to beat you. There is also a ton of replayability between the tile arrangements and how the Fire cards play out. If you’re looking for a game that’s going to be easy to teach, challenging to win, and tense as heck, this is your jam!

BGB: This is Boardgame Babylon, so out with your dirty secrets. What DON’T you want to tell me about this game?

Justin De WittThose really cool plastic flames that are in the game were a huge challenge to get right. The first versions didn’t work and we had to delay the game because of it. There may have been tears involved…

BGB: Thanks for telling us a bit about Hotshots. Let’s wrap up with the key specifics (play time, number of players, and the link to the game) and also, since I think you can tell a lot about a person by understanding their sense of humor, what’s a good joke to close this interviewette?

Justin De Witt: Sure thing, Hotshots plays in 1 hour, for 1-4 players ages 10 and up. You can buy it NOW on our website at www.firesidegames.com/games/hotshots or Amazon at http://amzn.to/2xi0U0i.
I’ve got a joke you’ll like; What’s the worst thing about Ancient History professors? They tend to Babylon.
OOOOOH, see what I did there!?!

 

DISCLOSURE: Boardgame Babylon is not liable for damage to your sensibilities from the jokes these game designers submit. Justin ‘De Witt’ indeed!

 

More quick reads? Check out our other 5 Quick Questions posts.

 

5 Quick Questions About Kung Pao Chicken from Sunrise Tornado

5 Quick Questions About Kung Pao Chicken from Sunrise Tornado

Editor’s Note: As a kind of content geek, I try new formats. So, here’s a new interviewette for tabletop designers. We promise no TL;DR. Let’s see how Ta-Te Wu, designer of Kung Pao Chicken (a game from Sunrise Tornado Game Studio that comes to Kickstarter on Jan. 2) does, shall we?

BGB: Attention is money, my friend. What is the elevator pitch for Kung Pao Chicken?

Ta-Te Wu: Kung Pao Chicken is secret identity party game of chickens vs. foxes. If you’re a chicken, your team scores points for each chicken that is saved. If you are a fox, your team scores points for each chicken captured. The only thing is: You don’t know if you’re a chicken or a fox. Ready to Kung Pao?!?

BGB: Making games is hard work, so you best have a great reason for making this thing. What inspired this game?

Ta-Te Wu: I love making games. Can’t stop and never will. If I recall correctly, I made Kung Pao Chicken because I wanted to make a game with chicken before the Year of the Chicken, based on the Chinese Zodiac. Just days after I made the first prototype, I went to Las Vegas and playtested with Aki, my college roommate, and his friends. We played it over and over and had a lot of fun. Yet, I spent a whole year to finish the game, making sure it is as good as it should be.

BGB: There are too many games out there. What hole in my game collection does this fill?

Ta-Te Wu: Kung Pao Chicken is a quick filler and there is always a demand for this type of game. The game is easy to teach and fun to play. KPC has a few fun deduction mechanics and every game feels different based on the card distribution. I think the best part of the game is probably the phase where you need to guess who you are. It makes most people laugh. You will know what I mean when you play the game 🙂

Kung Pao Chicken Game
Designers John Clair (Downfall, Mystic Vale), Brad Brooks (Rise of Tribes, Letter Tycoon) and a friend Kung Paoing it up. Photo courtesy Ta-Te Wu.

BGB: This is Boardgame Babylon, so out with your dirty secrets. What DON’T you want to tell me about this game?

Ta-Te Wu: Hmmm…that I am working on a two-player expansion and an edition that can be played with 20 people?

BGB: Thanks for telling us a bit about Kung Pao Chicken. Let’s wrap up with the key specifics (play time, number of players, and the link to the game) and also, since I think you can tell a lot about a person by understanding their sense of humor, what’s a good joke to close this interviewette?

Ta-Te Wu: Kung Pao Chicken is a 3 to 5 player game and plays in 15 minutes. It will be on Kickstarter on Jan 2nd, 2018. Finally, no animals were harmed in the making of Kung Pao Chicken.Kung Pao Chicken Game

 

DISCLOSURE: Boardgame Babylon is not liable for damage to your sensibilities from the jokes these game designers submit.

REVIEW: Arkham Ritual casts a light spell of Cthulhu

REVIEW: Arkham Ritual casts a light spell of Cthulhu

Arkham Ritual is a solid deduction game from NinjaStar Games that has the feel of many recent microgames, but with some new concepts as well. Designer Hiroki Kasawa looks to the time-honored Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft for the setting of this quick-playing title but the star is really the twisty game play.

This Ninja Star game is for 3 – 7 players, but you really want at least 5 to see the game at its best (even the publisher agrees with this assessment). Thematically, players are part of a mysterious ritual, perhaps trying to sort it out or maybe just deciding to give this being evil thing a go (seems like more . The ritual involves a lot of magic artifacts of varying alignments and some special cards that you will play or switch out. This process may change your intentions as you try to survive the ritual without going insane. This is harder because you do not know what you are holding at any one time.

Calling back to the concept of Blind Man’s Bluff poker or even the euro-style version, Powwow, players hold one card at a time and make it visible to everyone else, but it is not known to them. With the knowledge of other players’ cards, the idea of the game is to sort out if you need to discard your own to avoid losing sanity in the current turn.

Arkham Ritual

The deck of cards is just a bit larger than the Love Letter deck that has become a standard number for microgames. At 22 cards, it is manageable to deduce what is in play and what might be hidden in your own hand. The card mix included events and artifacts of both blue and red colors (good and bad, respectively), and cards featuring Lovecraftian Great Old Ones (yes, those are bad). Each turn, players decide to either keep an unseen card and discard their current one or take a peek at it and pass it to another player. The discard goes to the tableau in the center of the table, which helps everyone figure out what remains and what they might holding. If you pass it, it might go around the table until no one else can pass it, when it becomes that last player’s hand card.

Are You Cursed?

When the round ends from a specific card play or running through the deck, Red cursed cards will cost you sanity if you have one in-hand. Additionally, each artifact has a duplicate in the non-cursed (blue) world, so if you have that one when the other is in play, you also lose some sanity. Sanity is tracked in brain tokens, of which there are plenty.

Arkham Ritual
Keep your brains on-hand.

There are some special cards, too, including a Cultist that will switch which color cards are cursed, gates that bring in special problems with the Old Ones and the Elder Sign that ends the round earlier. The Cthulhu card is an automatic win if someone else has one of the Gate cards, too, so if you see this combo, it is best to get them out of those players’ hands. In this way, players need to get a bit used to the cards to do well. With that short play time, it’s easy to play again immediately.

Arkham Ritual is an enjoyable game with a large group and it is perfect for the Halloween season with its dark theme. Yet, the theme is implemented pretty lightly. While deeply thematic games like Arkham Horror or A Study in Emerald give you the true feel of Lovecraftian horror, this is a party game so you can’t get into the lore too much. That’s probably best for some players who might be less enthusiastic about Nyarlathotep and Yog-Sothoth.

How’s That Theme?

In a recent podcast episode, I spoke with the fellows who run the On Boardgames show about Lovecraft-themed games. Lovecraft is one of the authors that dominated my young life after my Uncle Bill (recently departed and deeply missed) gave me some of his books. The nightmarish world of cosmic horror that Lovecraft embodied was fascinating to me, someone who is more likely to enjoy the Twilight Zone than gory slasher films. So, I was glad to talk about my favorites. Even though I’d received (full disclosure) a copy of Arkham Ritual ahead of time, I forgot to mention it because the theme is present, but it isn’t the part of the game that makes it most compelling. While I would not drop it into the category of pointless Cthulhu-themed games like Reiner Knizia’s Cthulhu Rising or Unspeakable Words, I’d certainly say Arkham Ritual is more fun because of the deduction elements than any cosmic horror theming.

Arkham Ritual is available now from Amazon or directly from Ninja Star Games.

Boardgame Babylon Rating for Arkham Ritual

BIN (Buy It Now) PIN (P)lay It Now TIF (Try It First) NMT (Not My Thing)

Disclosure: Publisher Ninja Star Games provided a copy for independent review.

REVIEW: Sparkle*Kitty Delights With Its Message & Silliness

REVIEW: Sparkle*Kitty Delights With Its Message & Silliness

Sparkle*Kitty is a cute game I wish I’d had years ago. Simply put, I had an easier time getting my son to play board games over the years than I ever did with my daughter. Sure, when she was younger, my daughter delighted in any time with Dad. But it’s not really her fault; there are never enough games with girls in the driver’s seat (although I will soon talk about the amusing One Deck Dungeon, which pushed the other way). That’s one reason why Sparkle*Kitty is delightful. SK tells a story that makes sense for the girls, with self-rescuing princesses that are in control. More importantly, it’s a charming party game that rides the theme well for both families and kids-at-heart.

Sparkle*Kitty
Princesses Galore

Sparkle*Kitty is designed by Manny Vega and published by Breaking Games, who have had past success with Letter Tycoon and the wildly successful Kickstarter for Rise of Tribes earlier this year. The game allows for 3 to 8 players and works fine for ages 6 and up. Generally, you can play it in 15-30 minutes (depending on the number of players) and I say the more, the better.

Players in Sparkle*Kitty get to play as one of seven cool princesses with various personalities. Each player gets a hand of nine cards that are used to build a tower with four of them, with their princess on top. The remaining cards become their starting hand and they begin play with the goal of getting rid of first their hand cards and then the tower. Generally, players will need to clear their hand card first, then they can disassemble their tower to gain freedom and win the game.

How do you get rid of the cards? That’s the amusing part. The tableau in the center has two cards from the deck with funny or quirky words that are said together on player turns – this is ‘casting a spell’. When the active player would like to play a card, they need to match the color or the icon of one of the cards, then say the words. This is funny stuff as the words tend to be quirky and cute stuff like:

Sparkle*Kitty

Okay, not all of them are sweet, but that’s part of the fun. Some cards will offer players an advantage (like playing as many cards as possible or forcing other players to draw), but many of them (black cards labeled “Dark Magic”) will require players to say another word whenever they cast their spell. While people don’t mess up all that much, you can decide how tough you want to be on them for partially flubbing a word here and there.

That’s part of the amusement, in my book. More special cards exist, with some rule-breaking options, some wild cards and even the super-cool Sparkle and Kitty cards that let you draw back to your hand from your Tower instead of the deck. But the real fun is everyone repeating the silly spells each turn while trying to get rid of their cards. Many tongue-twisty moments came up, especially with the Dark Magic cards in use.

Sparkle*Kitty ends when that happens and the princess who discards her last tower card wins. The game from rules to finish is less than 30 minutes with typical players. I love that designer Manny Vega built this game, which could have been done with a variety of themes, specifically with the empowered princess in mind. As I said, I wish my daughter could have played it as a younger person and seen us all need to play self-rescuing princesses with such a funny theme. Even with kids in the game, who stayed engaged in our game due to the bright colors, funny words and great artwork of powerful princesses, we played the game quickly. The under-10 year old players wanted to play again immediately and asked about how soon they can get the “Kitty Game.”

 

The answer is right now. Sparkle*Kitty is just bursting out now after a limited run back at Gen Con 2017. It’s now on Amazon for $20 and at your local high-quality hobby game store. If you have young kids, maybe bump up that rating by one level because you may just need the game with the rainbow-vomit kitty box.

Boardgame Babylon Rating for Sparkle*Kitty

BIN (Buy It Now) PIN (P)lay It Now TIF (Try It First) NMT (Not My Thing)

Disclosure: Publisher Breaking Games provided a copy for independent review.

RIP Tim Keenon, Strategicon Stalwart and Miniatures Advocate

RIP Tim Keenon, Strategicon Stalwart and Miniatures Advocate
I’m deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Tim Keennon, a great friend to the Southern California gaming community. His contributions to Strategicon Conventions over the years were many. He dedicated an enormous amount of time supporting the efforts of current leadership to build the conventions back to their former glory. And it worked!
 
His sure hand helped ensure a lot of good things happened and I think all attendees at Strategicon owe him a debt of gratitude for the countless volunteer hours he put in. He was a level-headed guy and loyal friend. Never played a game with him, but I would guess he was a welcome presence at any table.
Tim ran a lot of things at Strategicon, including the unloved task of doling out space in the various hotels the convention has occupied since the current leadership took over. I worked with Tim for years and while he applied many of what he learned as an IT manager to his planning, dealing with all of the personalities involved was always a challenge. He really worked hard to get things right and when things went wrong at Strategicon, Tim was one of the first to get those calls and resolve things. I’m not sure he even played games at the convention – he was mostly just working to make sure others had fun, and enjoying the company of people who were.
 
Make no mistake, Tim and I had conflicts. I pushed hard to get more space for board games and Tim fought to give the miniatures gamers more room for their massive displays. But it was always about trying to make sure the community got a great gaming experience at Strategicon. I’m glad he was the passionate advocate for his part of the hobby that I have always been for mine.
 
RIP, good sir. Your life made ours better and we appreciate it.
(Photo credit: Robyn Nixon)

Review: Imagine from Shingo Fujita and Gamewright

Review: Imagine from Shingo Fujita and Gamewright

Imagine is a worthy addition to your party game collection, giving quieter players a chance to get creative.

Some might say we’re getting too many party games into the market these days. I’d instead suggest that this is a Renaissance of party games. Thirty years after the craze of 80’s games that pushed Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary and Scattergories into the collections and get-togethers in US homes, we have an upswing in quality. It’s not like party games died. They may have taken a back seat to electronic entertainment. Maybe a lack of creative energy flowing in. No more – with the advent of Apples to Apples, its naughty cousin Cards Against Humanity, Cranium, and the titles from serious designers like Codenames, Concept, and One Night Ultimate Werewolf, there’s a surge of good games in the last 5 years that are rightfully being played more and more.

Add the clever Imagine to the list for sure. This winner has simple game play yet a unique feel to its play. Like so many other great games, Imagine is about trying to get someone else to understand your clue. The big twist here is that players make use of transparent cards that can be stacked and shifted as you clue to the other players what you are trying to get across (a word, the category of which is given to the other players).

The cards are a little like the see-through cards you see in games like Gloom or Mystic Vale, which can superimpose items over or next to each other, as appropriate. However, movement is one of the tools you can use to make the generic and semi-specific shapes offer insight into the word you selected.

As with the best party games, this is also where the hilarity kicks in. Players frantically pull up the cards (all are available, so there’s something to be said for using what you can find quickly) and shift them around to get the point across. Hilarity will ensue or you aren’t playing properly. Even your reserved friends can get in on the fun with Imagine.

Imagine’s Winning Attribute

The real charm of Imagine is how even your quieter friends can get the thrill of Charades going. It doesn’t take a lot of courage to use the shapes and symbols to clue as it does to use your body. We love how it is opening up that side of fun to introverts

Scoring, if you care, is well-implemented. The current player can get any other player on the board to guess what he or she is trying to convey so they can both score. I’m fond of this idea because, like Concept, this allows for more players to be involved for more turns. I also like the fact that Imagine is explained in seconds and people just naturally get the rules from there. As a result, this one works well for families. Yes, it’s also for your drunk friends at the end of the night.

The game plays in about 20 minutes with the standard rules giving players two go-rounds. We have always ended up with at least one more game. When I brought it to my work game-night, they refused all other games to play it all night for hours.

Imagine recently won the 2017 As d’Or – Jeu de l’Année, which isn’t a surprise. This game has excellent replay value, works for any crowd, and will be the source of many laughs that night. I believe it belongs in your party game collection.

Boardgame Babylon Rating for Imagine

BIN (Buy It Now) PIN (P)lay It Now TIF (Try It First) NMT (Not My Thing)

Disclosure: Publisher Gamewright provided a copy for independent review.

Ice Cool is the Kinderspiel Des Jahres 2017

Ice Cool is the Kinderspiel Des Jahres 2017

Congratulations to the makers of Ice Cool for winning the Kinderspiel Des Jahres 2017! We love this adorable game and are delighted by its victory. Even our own Wish the Cat loves it very much, as you can see below.

This wonderful bit of flicking fun is available now on Amazon. We have had a terrific time with Ice Cool and look forward to additional games in the series that make interesting use of stackable boxes to expand the play area for the game. This “Russian Doll” aspect to the production is interesting in its own right, as it allows for some expansion on the amount of space a board can provide. Box within a box is a novel concept and I look forward to what it might inspire with designers that pitch to the publisher.

A Quick, Lighter Better Flicker?

While mechanically simple, Ice Cool is definitely good for both families and gamers who just like flicking games like Pitchcar or Crokinole. Ice Cool plays quickly, has a cute theme, and isn’t the heavy monster to transport that some might accuse Pitchcar of being…

Ice Cool plays in 20 minutes or so, with 2-4 players but it really shines with three to four. The wobbly penguins in the game (who are ‘too cool for school’ – ouch) remind me of Weebles, a toy that was popular when I was a toddler. The spin you can put on them adds to the game in a way that caroms you might use in Pitchcar, Crokinole or Catacombs just won’t. This little bit of uncertainty adds to the mix and if there’s a great way to control it, I haven’t figured it out. I look forward to trying more and more.

Get Ice Cool just in time for summer on Amazon.

Session Review: Rise of Tribes by Brad Brooks and Breaking Games

Session Review: Rise of Tribes by Brad Brooks and Breaking Games

The things that make a good game is a subject I ponder a fair amount as both someone who talks a lot about games and a sometime-designer. Not a great game, mind you. I might advance the idea that what makes up a good game and what makes a great game or not just the same thing but more so. I know, it sounds odd but, dear reader, indulge me for a moment.

Rise of Tribes

To me, a great game is some kind of lightning in a bottle. Great games may contain something that just doesn’t exist in lesser quantities in good games. The mechanisms click, possibly with the theme or the components, the creativity it inspires in players, the collaboration, the mix of strategic options or maybe the various paths to victory. Some kind of magical silver string pulls it all together to make an experience you want to enjoy over and over. The ‘one and done’ good game may not really have that mix of elements sitting there, ready to be augmented.

But maybe I’m wrong. This came up as I was doing some recent playtesting, with the highlight being Rise of Tribes from Breaking Games, pretty much the only game I played that I can talk about today.

A new game from Brad Brooks, of Letter Tycoon fame, Rise of Tribes is a quick-playing early civilization game with exploring, conflict, tech, and growing your tribe. Despite the many options in the game, it plays in under an hour, has a unique decisioning system, and I found it satisfying. The game is currently going like gangbusters on Kickstarter (over 1000% funded) but what else can I tell you about it.

Rise of Tribes’ central mechanism is simple; roll two dice and add them to the two of four options you plan to use this turn. Those options include adding tribe members (3 of them), moving them (4 total spaces), gathering resources from hexes your tribe members occupy, or drawing two victory point/advantage cards you can buy with gathered resources.

The interesting part about this game is the dice element. The dice are six-siders with two each of blank sides, moons and suns. Cue the Credence when you see those moons because they mean bad things. At all times, three dice are at the top of each of the four options. When you add a dice to select the action, it changes the makeup. Now, the three dice only matter if there are pairs of suns or moons. If the former is true, you get a bonus to the action (usually just a higher number item). And, yes, two moons means you get less than the normal action. Kudos to Brad and Breaking Games for making this intuitive with their board design.

After your two actions, you can use resources to buy cards from your deck (all the same) that you previous drew. The cards are key because they not only give you points, they also mitigate some of the penalties in the game, give you raw victory points

The other thing you can build is a Village. These are exceptionally useful as they hand you a victory point for each turn you begin with them intact and each player has a different resource combo to build them. They also give you the power to effectively cycle your bonus cards. The only problem is – they kind of attract attention.

There is conflict among the Tribes, but it isn’t annoying like some games of this nature. It’s nothing personal – we’re just talking about space here. If you want to share the land with other tribes, you can. Both of you can gather there and no one gets hurt. But, if you get more than five people in one hex, you’ve got a conflict on your hands. This is resolve by removing a pair each until only one tribe color is left. This also happens if you are alone and just pile too many of your Tribeeples in one place. Space is space. If there’s a Village on the spot, you don’t get to take it over if you kill the Village owner, your tribe is just too excited and they burn it to the ground. Just like in real life.

Rise of Tribes

The game is played to 15 points and it ends immediately when someone hits that goal. While the Hut is a reliable source for VP, they can be destroyed by an incursion from others. Safer is to buy cards from your deck, which also often give you an advantage in the game.

So, is Rise of Tribes good or great? Well, I think it’s very good and the last stages of play testing may push it over the edge. I think that silver string is here in the unique dice mechanism and maybe the card mix in your private reserve. The fast-playing schedule also makes the game feel like “Race of the Tribes”, which is a compliment. I can see this playing in 30 minutes with the right crowd – and that’s a lot of game for 1/2 an hour.

Rise of Tribes is on Kickstarter right now, through July 6th. A nice upgraded version is also available. Breaking Games is making a name for itself with some new offerings that look interesting. Definitely keeping an eye on them.

Boardgame Babylon Rating for Rise of Tribes

BIN (Buy It Now) PIN (P)lay It Now TIF (Try It First) NMT (Not My Thing)

Disclosure: Played a play test copy of Rise of Tribes, provided by Breaking Games. I personally know Brad and Peter Vaughn from Breaking Games. But, you know, I know a lot of people.