Sunday, 22 January 2012

Meeples Cafe - Captain Clueless, Pack & Stack, Kids of Catan

I visited Meeples Cafe again on their members day, this time bringing the family. I was there to buy games too of course, taking advantage of the good discount on that day. It was a family outing for us, to try some children games and children-friendly games. The staff at Meeples Cafe was very helpful and friendly. It was a hectic day for them. The place was crowded with people taking numbers to pay for their game purchases. Thankfully I had made a reservation. I had also listed games to try, read their rules and prepared rules summaries, so we could jump in to play without delay.

We were customers number 21 to 24 that day, but I don't think the numbers go in sequence strictly.

Captain Clueless

This is a team game needing at least two per team. The game board is a map if the Caribbean. To win, your team needs to start from your home port, visit 3 ports (randomly picked), and then return to port. You do this by drawing your route using a whiteboard marker (can be erased after every game). What's interesting is the captain doing the drawing is blindfolded, and the crew (teammates) are limited to giving a few words as hints during the sailing. Whenever the ship crashes your turn ends and on your next turn you start from where you crashed. First team to complete its journey wins.

We played at easy level, 5 words allowed to be given as hints per turn. I teamed up with Shee Yun (6) and Michelle with Chen Rui (5). In the first game the children played the captains, which I thought would be fun for them. They certainly have not played anything like this. Sometimes they drew too quickly and crashed before we could stop them. We didn't even manage to fully utilise 5 words.

For the second game Michelle and I played the captains and the children gave hints. It turned out to be hilarious. When you have a 5 word limit, hearing panicky hints like "Oh no!" (2 wasted words), "left a bit" (3 words when 1 would do), "Not there!" (2 words which are rather useless to someone blindfolded) makes you want to laugh and at the same time makes you feel so helpless.

Michelle and Chen Rui playing Captain Clueless, with Chen Rui being the captain.

Chen Rui was quite pleased with the results - her team (red) won.

Some of the port cards.

I think Captain Clueless is primarily a children's game. Not really suitable as a party game if played with only adults, because I suspect it would become more serious and skill-based than it should be. It may be different matter if you are a littly tipsy though.

Pack & Stack

Now Pack & Stack can be played as a party game with only adults. It is based on a simple and clever idea. Every round everyone gets a random distribution of small wooden blocks, with sizes varying from one cube (the basic unit in the game) to five cubes long. These represent furniture you need to pack onto a lorry. Lorries come in many varieties. They have different storage area base shapes (not all are rectangles), and they allow different stacking heights, ranging from 1 to 4. After getting your set of furniture, a number of lorries are revealed at the same time, and players race to pick the one they want. Whoever is last has no choice and must randomly draw a lorry from the lorry deck. After that everyone tries to fit his furniture onto his lorry. You lose points for furniture you are unable to load, and also for wasted space on the lorry. That means it's very hard to get a perfect score of 0. Everyone starts the game with 75pts, and the game ends when someone runs out of points. One catch is the player who loses the fewest points every round gains a bonus 10pts. So even if you are behind, it is still possible to turn the table.

There is not a lot to the game, but it is exciting to grab your ideal lorry quickly, and somehow the game manages to make moving house fun. I never imagined something like packing too much luggage into a too-small car boot (trunk) can be fun.

Pack & Stack. Furniture has been loaded onto the lorry. The number 1 on the lorry means furniture cannot be stacked (only 1 level allowed). The dice are used to determine the furniture you get for a round. The round tokens are scores tokens.

The lorry allows 3 levels.

Kids of Catan

I hadn't planned to play Kids of Catan with my children. It was older daughter Shee Yun (6) who picked it. I wonder whether the "Kids of" on the cover attracted her, or the cover itself did. The game doesn't have much decision making, so I wasn't keen. The game has a rotating disk in the middle, and player pawns are placed on the edges of this disk. Right outside the disk are slots for the resources (wood, brick, grain). The active player rolls a die (which only has values 1, 2 and 3) and rotates the disk by that many notches. If anyone's pawn stops next to a resource slot which has a resource, she collects it, i.e. this can be done by players other than the active player. You can only collect one of each type of resource. Once you have all three, you construct one of the three buildings you are assigned at the start of the game, and return the resources to empty resource slots. After you build all three buildings, you can build the special city hall building to win the game.

Chen Rui playing Kids of Catan.

The pawns with the outstretched arms are the player pawns (blue, red, orange and white). The centre of the disk is the area for constructing buildings. Some have already been built.

Chen Rui was quite pleased with winning the game.

The building with the green roof is the city hall.

So this is a basically a fancier roll-and-move game, where the most frequent decision is where to return your resources when you construct a building. Well, you want to put them where you are most likely to collect them, so it's not even really a true decision. I thought both my children (6 and 5) have outgrown this type of game, but to my surprise they enjoyed the game. I guess I'm biased, because I'm looking at the matter from a gamer's perspective. Well, Kids of Catan still has many merits as a children's game. It teaches taking turns. It teaches set collection. It also introduces the interesting concept of being able to do something on someone else's turn. It teaches anticipation - knowing what you'd need to roll to get that brick resource, and knowing what you mustn't roll to avoid the robber who would steal a resource. The components are wonderful.

Visit Meeples Cafe, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.
Buy Kids of Catan from Noble Knight Games. Status: in stock (at time of this post).
Buy Pack & Stack from Noble Knight Games. Status: in stock (at time of this post).


Daniel Chiam said...

I love Meeples too and I love board game even more. There is also another board game cafe opened in Taipan USJ called Giggles.

Woohoo for board games!

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Thanks. I hadn't heard of Giggles before. Good to know that boardgames is becoming more and more popular.