Friday, 30 September 2022


The Game

Regicide is a game that can be played with a standard deck of poker cards. It is a cooperative game. You are warriors working together to defeat twelve powerful enemies. These enemies are the Jacks, Queens and Kings in the deck. If any player is killed in battle, everyone loses. To win, you must defeat all twelve enemies. Whenever you defeat an enemy, it joins your ranks and helps you in fighting the remaining enemies. 

When setting up the game, you shuffle the enemies to form a stack, with the Kings at the bottom, the Queens in the middle and the Jacks on top. You know you will fight them in this order, but you don't know the exact order of the suits. To start playing, you reveal the first Jack. 

Every enemy has a health value and an attack value. Jacks have a health of 20 and an attack of 10. Queens are health 30, attack 15, and the powerful Kings are health 40, attack 20. On your turn, you play a card to attack the enemy, reducing its health. If its health is reduced to 0, it is defeated. As long as the enemy survives, it counter attacks, using its attack value. You have to discard cards from your hand to meet or exceed the attack value. If you fail to do so, you are defeated, and everyone loses. For example if the enemy's attack value is 10, you must discard cards worth at least 10 points to block the counter attack. 

The four suits mean something, and they are a most important aspect of Regicide. When you play hearts, you get to reshuffle some cards from your discard pile to the bottom of the draw deck. E.g. when playing a 9 of hearts, you will randomly move 9 cards from the discard pile to the draw deck. When you play diamonds, everyone gets to draw cards. E.g. play an 8 of diamonds, and everyone takes turns drawing cards until a total of 8 have been drawn or until everyone is at his hand limit. Cards are your resources. You use them both to attack and to defend. When you play clubs, your attack value is doubled. This is certainly helpful in quickly defeating an enemy. When you play spades, you reduce the enemy's attack value. By doing this you reduce the number of cards you need to spend on defense. 

The suits on the enemies mean something too. An active enemy of a particular suit temporarily cancels the power of that suit. For example when fighting a spade enemy, any spade cards played will not reduce its attack strength. That is certainly bad news. The enemy will always be counter attacking at full strength. 

Whenever you defeat an enemy, it joins your ranks. It is placed in your discard pile, so the next time you move cards to your draw deck, the former foe will become a powerful weapon. Now if you are able to defeat an enemy with precision, i.e. you play a card with the exact value to reduce the enemy health to zero, you get a bonus. This enemy is placed on the top of your draw deck instead. This is great news. You will soon draw it and you can use it for the next enemy. Players are not allowed to discuss their cards, so this is not exactly easy to do this. 

There is a Regicide app which you can download for free. You can use it to track the health level and attack strength of the enemies. It calculates card strengths and applies card powers for you. Not absolutely necessary, but it is handy. 

There are special rules for aces and jokers. This is not exactly a simple game. The strength value of an ace is just 1. However you can play an ace together with another card. You sum up the values, and apply the powers of the suits of both the cards, assuming they are of different suits. This can be very useful. Jokers have a value of 0, but they cancel the suit of the enemy. That means the enemy no longer disables the suit power. When you play a joker, you do not attack or suffer the counter attack. You also get to pick the next player. Jokers can be a lifesaver. 

You can play multiple cards of the same value, as long as the total doesn't exceed 10. That means this is limited to 2's to 5's. When you play multiple cards, you add up the numbers, and you apply the powers of all the suits. 

The Play

I played 3-players. Han had taught Allen before. I was the only first-timer. When they played previously, they misinterpreted the spade power and made the game much harder than it was supposed to be. This time we played with the right rules. However we didn't manage to beat the game. We only went as far as the kings. This is not an easy game to beat. 

At first I thought the toughest enemies would be the spade enemies, because they would always attack at full strength. We couldn't use spade cards to reduce their attack strength. They would severely deplete our cards during the defense stage. I later realised that enemies of other suits must not be taken lightly either. All aspects of the game presented challenges. In one of our games we lost due to not having any diamond cards in hand. No diamonds means no more card draws. That's a death sentence. It's only a matter of time to run out of cards. You have to remember to keep replenishing cards from the discard pile to the deck, and also to maintain the ability to draw cards. 

You are forbidden from discussing your cards. You aren't even supposed to give hints. This is crucial. Without such rules the game may not work quite well. However there is a solo version of the game, so maybe the game does still provide a challenge even if you have perfect information. 

The Thoughts

This is a game which can be played with any regular deck of poker cards, but I think it's fully worth buying a copy from the designers. Not just because of the pretty art. It is an excellent design. I greatly admire the game and find it better than most recent games I've played. It is creative and unique. Having been playing boardgames for many years, I sometimes despair because new games I play often feel similar. I often feel I'm seeing the same game over and over. Regicide is a game that gives me hope. There is still originality out there. There are still new ideas. There are still new worlds to explore. Being able to design such a wonderful game with just a standard deck of cards is no small feat. Two thumbs up! 

Friday, 9 September 2022


The Game

Lisboa is one of the most popular games from the well-known Portuguese designer Vital Lacerda. It is a heavy Eurogame about the rebuilding of Lisbon after the major earthquake in 1755, which triggered a tsunami and also led to a great fire that ravaged the city for three days. 

The game board is huge and contains a lot of information. The right half mainly features the four streets of Lisbon. This is where you will build shops and public facilities. The left half features the three important nobles - the builder, the minister and the king. Actions you can take when visiting them are shown on the game board. 

The game is played in two halves. You have a hand of 5 cards. On your turn you play a card to perform some actions, and then you draw a card from one of the four draw decks. The decks are face-up so your opponents know what card you are picking. Three of the four decks are related to the three nobles. When an opponent picks a card related to a particular noble, chances are he intends to take actions related to that noble. The fourth deck is an event deck and these cards have various powers. One half of the game ends when three decks run out. Player choices when drawing cards affect how quickly the game progresses. Another way a half ends is when a player collects a specific combination of rubble. In this game, rubble from the earthquake can be reused for the rebuilding efforts. 

This is the player board. When you play a card, you play it on the main board or on your player board. If played on the main board, you will visit one of the nobles or trigger an event. If played on your player board, you improve your abilities. The indents along the top and bottom of your player board are for you to tuck cards. You can tuck up to 3 cards horizontally from the top, and up to 3 cards vertically from the bottom. 

The most common action type in the game is probably visiting a noble, which requires playing a card on the main board. When you perform this action, other players may follow. They can spend a favour token to join you in visiting that same noble. As the active player you perform two actions related to the noble. Others piggybacking on your visit get to perform one. 

The icons at the top and bottom of the cards are what will be showing when you tuck cards below your player board. These icons will be the permanent benefits you gain after you play a card at your player board. 

This is the area where you do the actual rebuilding of Lisbon. There are four streets (the coloured stripes) and five rows of shops (well, technically the five rows of empty spaces where you can build shops). Along the north, east and west edges there are spaces for public buildings. When you build a shop, you place a shop tile next to one of the streets. Every shop tile has a little opening which represents the front door. When you place your shop, the street the door faces determines which kind of goods your shop produces. Of the five rows where you can build shops, when you build in the centre three rows, you always have two options. If you build in the first or last row, the door can only face one specific street - the yellow or the blue. 

Those red, blue and natural cubes are rubble. When you build a shop, the cost is determined by rubble in the row and column of the shop. In the early game building shops is expensive. It gets cheaper gradually because every time you build a shop, you will remove (and reuse) a rubble cube. You want to collect sets of rubble (a set is three colours). It improves your abilities, e.g. your warehouse capacity. 

These on the right are public buildings. To construct them you need to have obtained plans from one of these two architects, Mr Blue or Mr Green (sorry I don't remember their names). You don't need to spend cash, but you have to spend people (officials). That's essentially another currency. 

Below each of the three nobles you can see three different actions. When you visit a noble, you must perform the main action, and you may perform one of the two secondary actions. The main actions are building a shop, claiming a decree and constructing a public building. Decrees are cards which score points for you at game end, if you fulfil the conditions specified. 

The secondary actions are claiming two officials, taking an architect's plan, buying a ship, producing goods, moving the cardinal and taking a favour token. You produce goods to be sold for cash or to barter actions from the nobles. Goods are produced at shops, so you need to build shops before you can produce anything. Selling goods for cash requires ships, but you can use other players' ships, just that they will gain points for shipping those goods. 

Here are some decree cards. Wigs in Lisboa mean victory points. Most decrees here score 5VP if you have the most of something. The decree in the centre scores 2VP for every public building designed by Mr Green Architect on the west side of the city. 

That pawn at the top left is the cardinal. He moves around this track. Whenever you move him, you can claim one of the clergy tiles next to where he stops. Clergy tiles give you various abilities and bonuses. You can also discard them for points. 

The four goods are worth between $4 and $6 at the start of the game. Selling goods by shipping them off is one way to make money. Every time anyone produces goods, the prices drop. Goods will be worth less and less as the game progresses. However in the later game you will produce more and also you will be able to ship more. That offsets things somewhat. 

When you claim clergy tiles, you have to place them in this corner of your player board. There are only four slots. When this gets full you will have to discard clergy tiles. 

The artwork and graphic design is done well. I love the attention to detail. 

The Play

Lisboa is a typical heavy point-scoring Eurogame. There are many ways you score points. You'll do scoring during the game, and you'll also do a bunch of scoring at game end. In our game, almost half of the final scores came from game-end scoring. The main thing you do in the game is you build shops and public buildings. Making money, claiming architectural plans, recruiting officials are all things you need to do in order to build stuff. Producing goods, buying ships and shipping goods is one other major process flow, and you do that mainly to make money. That brings you back to using the money to build shops. 

During play you must remember to claim decrees. This is basically positioning yourself for the end-game scoring. You claim decrees sometimes not just for yourself. You may also claim some for the sake of denying your opponent. As players collect different types of decrees, they priorities diverge. They will tend to focus on fulfilling the criteria on their respective decrees. 

Cards, decrees and clergy tiles come in a huge variety. Every player gets a booklet listing all of them and their powers. When we played we had to refer to the booklet all the time. Learning this game takes a fair bit of effort. 

On your turn, the broad stroke is you play a card then pick a card. Where you play that card determines what actions you perform. The basic actions are those 9 printed on the board, plus selling goods, for a total of 10. None of these are particularly complicated. However many of them are related to other rules and mechanisms, like how to calculate the cost of an action, whether your opponents get to follow, what the restrictions are. There is a lot to digest. 

There is plenty of player interaction. You fight over building lots on the map, both for shops and public buildings. It's first come first served. You station your officials at the offices of the three nobles, to make it more costly for your opponents to visit them (aah bureaucrats). You also fight over decrees. With decrees which reward points for being top in certain criteria, you can deny your opponents the points even if you don't claim the decree. You just need to do better than them in those criteria. 

At this point I had two ships tucked along the top of my player board. I had one card tucked at the bottom, and it makes red rubble cheaper by $1, i.e. being discounted from $2 to $1. Those little houses at the bottom right are used for marking shop ownership on the main board whenever you build a shop. When you remove houses from your player board, you unlock new abilities too. 

Whenever you build a shop, you claim one rubble cube. If you build a public building, you claim two.  Whether you are building a shop or a public building, you will gain a one-time benefit as specified on the space of the building. 

A shop may earn victory points up to three times, if it matches up with the right type of public buildings. When you build a public building, it may help your opponents' shops earn points. 

We did a 3-player game - Han, Allen and I. Han had played before, so he taught us the game. Our scores were close throughout most of the game. However when we did the final scoring, Han's score sprinted ahead and he won by a large margin. He had more shops than us. 

The Thoughts

I have come to a realisation, or perhaps I should say I am finally admitting it to myself, that I'm drifting away from heavy Eurogames. For many years I have identified as a hardcore gamer primarily playing heavy strategy games, and I am solidly in the heavy Eurogame camp. In recent years, I find myself less and less patient with these games. Games which spark my interest are no longer games in this genre. I think the problem is there is less innovation in games of this genre. But I may be wrong. Maybe the problem is with me. Maybe my taste has changed. 

I find Lisboa tiresome. Sorry to all the fans, and I know it has many. It's not bad, just that for me the effort I have to put in is higher than the enjoyment I get out of it. It has many rules and mechanisms, and I don't think all of them are necessary. I would enjoy it more if it were more streamlined. But perhaps it would not be what it is were it streamlined. If someone else at a table is keen to play, I'll probably agree. Now that I know the game, it will go more smoothly. 

I'm pretty sure this is a story-first-mechanism-later game. Many important elements in history are retained. If this game were a mechanism-first game, I'm pretty sure it would be less complicated. Which comes first, story or mechanism, doesn't decide whether a game is good or bad. The story is a big part of many games. It is part of the play experience that the designer creates for the players. 

Friday, 2 September 2022

boardgaming in photos: Category 5 / 6 Nimmt, Attika


In August I made a trip back to my hometown Kota Kinabalu. My previous trip was more than two and a half years earlier, before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the pandemic, I didn't visit my parents for two and a half years. The whole family returned to KK - my wife and my daughters too. Younger daughter Chen Rui said she wanted to play Category 5, so I brought it along. She had played it before, but it had been some time ago so she had forgotten the rules. She just remembered it was fun. When we played, I asked my mum to play with us. So we had three generations playing together. 

Another game I brought on this trip to KK was Attika. This was the first time elder daughter Shee Yun played. I rarely play this with four (the highest player count). The mahjong table we used was barely large enough for it. There was enough space for the land tiles to be set up, but the play area would grow during play. 

I have played a fair bit of Attika last year and earlier this year. When I taught younger daughter Chen Rui how to play, she liked it, so we played a lot of it. We became quite familiar with it. 

The amphoras in Attika let you take extra actions. 

During game setup the temples are placed at the corners of the play area. 

When the game started, Chen Rui (blue) and I (green) were lucky because the black buildings we drew were our respective capitals. Capitals allow many buildings to be constructed for free next to them. 

As the land expanded, it encroached upon our player boards. If it continued to grow, we would need to shift our player boards out of the way. The player boards are not an optional reference sheet. They are an essential part of play.

Shee Yun was new to the game and needed more time to think and plan. Chen Rui was a little impatient and suggested that Shee Yun placed her buildings here and here. That didn't look right to me at all. If Shee Yun placed at those locations, she wouldn't have much to gain, but Chen Rui would benefit from less competition. So I said to Shee Yun not to trust her sister. Chen Rui was just being cheeky, suggesting something that wouldn't make sense if you played properly. Shee Yun was swamped by suggestions from both camps, Chen Rui and devil and I the angel (ahem). My wife Michelle told us to back off and just let Shee Yun play whatever way she liked. 

Later in the game, when Chen Rui placed a new land tile, she positioned it to create a golden opening for Michelle. Michelle's turn was next, and she placed three buildings to create a highway between two temples, thus winning the game. 

The two temples at the top left and bottom left were now connected with Michelle's (red) buildings. Chen Rui saw that her positioning wasn't great, while mine was generally better. She felt it was hard for her to catch up, and thus decided to throw the game to Michelle, just for the fun of it. Shee Yun frowned at me distrustfully and asked, I thought you said connecting temples is hard to do? I defended saying, well if Chen Rui plays crazy like this then anything goes! 

This was one silly game ending in sudden death. We didn't get to see it go all the way to anyone completing all buildings. However it was great to have the whole family sit down for a game together. My daughters are in their late teens now, one doing pre-university and one finishing secondary school soon. They have their own hobbies and interests and their own friends. We are not playing boardgames together as much as when they were little. I am glad that from when they were young boardgames has always been part of our family life. It gave us many happy memories. 

Saturday, 27 August 2022

Crowdstorming: Tagline for Dancing Queen

Looking for help: ideas for game tagline. I'm working on self-publishing my game Dancing Queen, a 2-player 9-card game which plays in 20 minutes. I am trying to think of a tagline to be put on the cover. The game is aimed at gamers. Although it is a short game, there are some tactics which non-gamers may not appreciate. It is not a mass market game. The objective of the tagline is to arouse interest and to entice the reader to want to know more about the game. 

Here are some ideas I've come up with. Still not yet decided. Would like to get feedback and suggestions. 

  • A short and sweet game for two
  • The gamer couple's game
  • Take me to prom
  • The night is young

For reference, this is what I plan to put at the back of the box: "It's party time! You and your opponent both have in mind a particular dance to perform. Will you get your way? How many boys and girls should you bring? Will you bring a girl secretly dressed up as a boy to foil your opponent's plans?" 

Dancing Queen won the BoardGameGeek 2021 9-card game design contest. 

Friday, 26 August 2022

Dirty Pig / Drecksau

The Game

Dirty Pig is a 2012 game, and in that year it was a Spiel des Jahres-recommended game. This box cover above mentions the Spiel des Jahres, but this is a little misleading. It's not an award winner, just one of the recommended games. Still, this is no small achievement, and having played the game, I certainly appreciate why it was commended. This is a light card game suitable for families and casual gamers. It has no text or even numbers. I think children as young as 5 can manage and enjoy it. 

With 4 players, everyone starts the game with three squeaky clean pigs. The pig cards are double-sided, one side clean and the other side dirty. Your goal is to get all your pigs dirty. The first player to do so wins the game. 

You have a hand of three cards. On your turn you play a card, then draw a card. The cards have various  powers, expressed solely in pictures. This card on the right - the mud pool - is how you dirty your pig. Play it and you can flip one of your pigs to the dirty side. The card on the left is the bath card. You get to clean another player's dirty pig, flipping it back to the clean side. 

That card in the middle is the rain card. When it is played, all dirty pigs are washed clean by the rain. Well, except for those sheltered by barns. The barn is another card type. Play it above your pig to protect it from rain. However it doesn't protect your pig from the bath card. The farmer can still walk in and wash your pig clean. Also a lightning card can destroy your barn, exposing your pig.  

The planks card seals the barn door and stops the farmer from coming in to wash your pig. This further protects your pig. There's a lightning arrester card which can be built atop your barn. If you have both the planks and the lightning arrester installed at your barn, your pig is 100% secured. However it is not easy to complete such a construction project. Your opponents will certainly try to sabotage your project while it is in progress. Also, all this work protects just one of your pigs. 

The Play

Dirty Pig is a simple game. Every turn you just play a card and draw a card. The card powers are straight-forward. Player interaction is high. Many of the cards are attack cards. The more players you have, the more discussions you'll have about who should be attacking who. You will likely be discussing who has which cards and negotiating who should be attacking which pig. There will likely be some cooperation, when there is a need to slow down the leading player. However this is an everyone-for-himself game, so no collaboration is lasting. If you can dirty your pigs quickly, why spend your turns cleaning other players' pigs? Let other people do that while you focus on your goal. Let them do the hard work. This is one tricky element of the game. If you rely on others, or force others to stop another player, they may not have the right cards to do so, and you might end up letting the leading player win when you could have stopped him. Sometimes people may lie about what cards they have or do not have, to get out of contributing to the efforts to stop the leader. I know this is getting into the overthinking- and overcomplicating-a-simple-game territory (gamers tend to do this), but this is a fun part of the game. When nobody is willing to sacrifice his own turn to stop the leader, and everyone is hoping the leader doesn't have a mud pool card yet, the result may be the leader cruising to an easy victory. I made use of this selfish crowd mentality in one of the games, and managed a quick victory. Aaah... the fun of exploring human nature, in such a simple game. 

The Thoughts

You can call Dirty Pig a children's game. It is simple. There is no deep or complex strategy. Player interaction is high. It is a rowdy game. The more players you have the better. The balance and competition among players will be more interesting. Luck evens out somewhat. The whole system becomes self-balancing when trailing players gang up on the leading player. This is an excellent boardgame cafe game, because it's easy to learn. It's a party game. Despite appearing to be shallow, the game allows some subtle tactics and psychological manipulation. That's if you want to play like that. You can certainly play it in a relaxed and instinctive manner and still enjoy it. 

Initially I worried whether the game would drag, since everyone would be trying to undo progress made by others. I wondered whether it would become an endless back-and-forth of some players advancing only to be quickly pulled back by the rest. However from the games I have played so far, this didn't happen. Players still tend to prioritise getting their own pigs dirty. You don't win by stopping others, you win by making progress yourself. Wow, that sounds like some life coach motivational quote. 

Dirty Pig is a good icebreaker if you are making new friends. It's the kind of game that encourages conversation. It certainly deserves the recommendation from the Spiel des Jahres jury. 

Friday, 19 August 2022

Deep Sea Adventure


The Game

Deep Sea Adventure is a game from Japan. It is small and compact, not just in terms of components but also in terms of gameplay and rules. You are deep sea divers hunting treasures. During the game you will make three dives, each time trying to bring valuable treasures back to the submarine. The player who manages to collect treasures of the highest total value wins. 

This is how the game is set up. You create a path using tiles in four different shapes. The tiles form your dive path and they are also the treasures. Their values are unknown initially, since they are face-down.  You only know the value range, and that the darker a tile is the higher the value range. You dive by rolling two dice. The die faces range from 1 to 3, so with two dice, you will roll between 2 and 6. 

If you run into another player when moving, you skip over the space. This is convenient. You are using your opponents' pieces to move further. When you land on a treasure tile, you may decide to pick it up. Once you pick it up, you are committed to bring it back to the submarine. You don't own it yet though. It's yours only if you manage to make it back to the sub before oxygen runs out. 

Once you have a treasure in hand, two things change. Firstly, your movement slows. You deduct the number of treasures you carry from your die roll. The more you carry, the slower you become. Secondly, you start consuming oxygen. There's an oxygen tank back at the sub which is shared by all players. At the start of your turn, you reduce the oxygen level by 1 for each treasure you carry. If everyone is carrying treasures, the oxygen depletes quickly. You need to make it back to the sub before the oxygen runs out. You don't die if it runs out. This is not that kind of game. You'll still make it back to the sub, but you must drop all the treasures you are carrying. They sink to the bottom of the sea. 

When you pick up a treasure tile, you replace it with a round token. This is just temporary. Within the same round, if someone else later lands on the round token, he can't pick it up, because it isn't a treasure. It just forms part of the path. 

In the first half of a round, everyone dives downwards. Eventually every player will decide for himself that it's time to change direction and head back to the sub. Once you turn back, you can only move up until the end of the round. 

If anyone fails to bring his treasures back to the sub, they sink to the bottom of the sea, i.e. to the end of the path. These abandoned treasures are stacked into threes. In the second and third rounds, if you manage to reach any of these stacks, you can pick them up, and a stack is treated as a single treasure. That means it only slows you down and consume oxygen as if it is one treasure. However for scoring purposes you do count the points on all three tiles in a stack. This is a high risk and high reward element of the game. 

The Play

Deep Sea Adventure is a push-your-luck game and also a group psychology game. It is a game of chicken. If everyone is bold (or greedy, depending how you put it), you can go pretty deep without starting to consume any oxygen. Once anyone picks up the first treasure, the dreaded countdown begins. When players start consuming oxygen, the usage can accelerate and the oxygen can deplete very quickly. I did a 4-player game. When each of us had just one treasure, I would be seeing the oxygen level drop by four before my turn came again. This was terrifying, especially when my movement was already slowed by carrying a treasure. 

We all want to be greedy, because if you aren't you won't win. Yet the greedier you are, the bigger the risk. If you fail, you end up empty-handed. It's all about risk assessment. Yet it is impossible to perfectly gauge the risk. It's not just the luck of the die rolls. There's also the psychology of your opponents. Your opponents' decision affect you. When you are clumped together, everyone moves quickly because your pawns help one another. Also, the number of treasures your opponents carry affects oxygen consumption. 

Die rolls are exciting because they can produce expected results, both good and bad. They create an urge to gamble. They sometimes make you more optimistic than you should be. Yet sometimes when you get lucky that feeling is wonderful. 

There is no direct aggression, but you can intentionally sabotage your opponents. Let's say one particular player is doing particularly well and it looks like he's going to get back to the sub with a valuable treasure. The rest can try to force him to fail by taking more treasures. You can decide to sink and drag your opponent down with you. That shared oxygen tank mechanism is clever. 

One possible situation is you get back to the sub with a lot more time to spare than expected. Once you are back, you no longer consume oxygen from the tank, and you are leaving more for your opponents who are still racing back. You might regret not having taken one more treasure. Aaah... it's so tantalising to try to find that perfect balance of risk and reward. You want to go right up to the edge where the reward is the highest, but where that edge is is highly uncertain.  

This was the second round in our game. A few of us failed in Round 1, thus the stack at the bottom of the sea. When a new round starts, round tokens (due to treasures having been picked up) are removed. This shortens the path and makes higher values treasures more easily accessible. This creates escalation in the game. 

Since most of us got burnt in Round 1, we were all more conservative in Round 2. However one particular player went all out and dived all the way to the bottom. He claimed a stack of three tiles. The rest of us thought he was doomed, since we had all turned back and he had no one to leapfrog over as he headed back. However he made it back to the sub just in time. Those of us who made it back to the sub no longer consumed oxygen, and what was left in the tank was enough to get him home. 

With one player leading by a mile at the start of Round 3, the rest of us knew it was all or nothing. We all gambled, and we all lost terribly. So the player who hit the jackpot in Round 2 won the game comfortably. Going against the flow might be a winning formula. Sometimes.  

After all that toiling and all I got was this lousy 4pt treasure.

The Thoughts

Deep Sea Adventure is a game with that particular Japanese style which I highly admire - concise and clever, both in terms of components and gameplay. This is the minimalistic school. It is almost a microgame. Play time is short so it works well as a filler. I have an uneasy relationship with this kind of game. On one hand I greatly admire them, and I want to make games like this myself. On the other hand, when I arrange game sessions with fellow seasoned gamers, we don't plan our sessions around games like this. Our main event is almost always some heavy strategy game. I pick minimalistic games only when I plan sessions with non gamers or casual gamers. At these gatherings we play multiple games which are lighter and shorter. 

Boardgames as a hobby for me is changing. In the past few years I have done more and more game design, and I am playing published games less. Up till now (August) in 2022 I have not yet bought a single new game. Five years ago this would have been unthinkable. I do still play new games, just that they are other people's games. I have shifted from a pure consumer to a mix of creator and consumer. It has been fun and rewarding going into the game maker side of the hobby, and I guess that's what's important. Deep Sea Adventure is the kind of game I want to learn from. I think to make a commercially successful game in Malaysia it needs to be a light game with mass market appeal. It has to be accessible. So that's where I'm focusing, even though my favourite games tend to be heavy Eurogames. I have thought about creating a heavy strategy game, and I have some ideas. However I have not actually started work on any such project. My many projects designing light games are already keeping me busy. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

boardgaming in photos: Sushi Go, 10 Days in Asia, China, Bohnanza


Normally I wouldn't be planning to play Sushi Go, because I've played Kuih Muih, and I know they are very similar. I just happened on a chance to try it, so I thought why not. 

In summary, Sushi Go is 7 Wonders simplified. You play 3 rounds. Every round everyone starts with 7 to 10 cards (depending on the number of players). You pick a card from your hand, and pass the rest of the cards to the player next to you. Everyone does the same, all at the same time. You then play the card you have just picked. Everyone knows what cards everyone else is collecting. Repeat this pick-then-pass process until all cards have been claimed, and the round ends. You do scoring. The different types of cards score in different ways. E.g. you must have the most or second most of maki rolls to score. You need to have a pair of tempura to score. Once scoring is done, you'll discard most of your cards. Only a few types of cards are kept for end game scoring. Rounds 2 and 3 work the same way, and then the game ends. 

The game plays fast! There are no turns. Everyone is doing the picking and passing at the same time. Usually you'll only pay attention to the player next to you, because you want to avoid passing to him cards which help him. It's not always easy to avoid that. There will be cards you want to collect, and it's not always worthwhile to forgo a card you want in order to take a card your neighbour wants. 

Compared to 7 Wonders this is definitely easier to learn so this works better with new players and non-gamers. It does look very similar to Kuih Muih, but the core mechanism is a little different, resulting in a slightly different play experience. Compared to Sushi Go, Sushi Go Party comes with more cards, more than what you need to play a game. When you set up a game, you only choose a subset of card types. That means you can play a number of variants, depending on the card type combination. 

I first played Animal Upon Animal quite some years ago. I am playing it again in recent years because of the children learning programme I'm involved in. This is a game which works for both children and adults. I used it in a recent training session I conducted (for adults), and it is equally exciting, if not more so, when the players are all adults. This is a dexterity game where you need to stack up the animals and avoid causing the whole structure to collapse. 

In July I organised another boardgame gathering for my BNI friends. They are mostly non-gamers, so I generally picked light-weight games. What do you think of this selection?  

Lost Cities is a classic and a good filler when waiting for others to arrive. It was well received. 

I took the opportunity to get my friends to try my upcoming game Dancing Queen. I wanted to see whether it works for non-gamers. I didn't get much response, so maybe this isn't really something for non-gamers. 

Another game which was popular was 10 Days in Asia. Alex immediately asked me where he could buy this. Unfortunately it is now out-of-print. 

I like describing this as mahjong. There are elements I call "self draw" and "waiting for a single tile", which are terms used in mahjong. The game isn't really like mahjong. I make it feel like mahjong so that new players are more comfortable with it. 

KLASK is easy to learn and engaging. This particular set was not very well balanced. We had to put a folded piece of paper under one of the legs to make it better balanced. 

Bohnanza, or the bean game, is a classic from Uwe Rosenberg (Agricola, Le Havre, A Feast for Odin). He was famous for Bohnanza well before he was famous for Agricola. It was great fun bringing this game out again. It works well for new players. It has plenty of player interaction, because this is a negotiation game. The magic of Bohnanza is a sight to behold. This should be a hall of fame game. 

In my BNI community there is a phrase often used - Givers Gain. When we played Bohnanza we kept teasing one another - givers gain! You don't really need this stink bean so you might as well donate it to me. I'll be forever grateful! 

I taught the group China. This is a game I greatly admire. Unfortunately it didn't pan out. I had thought this was a straight-forward game, but the group felt it was complicated. I guess the core rules are not complicated, but indeed there is some depth in the strategies. 

I probably should not have elaborated so much on the tactics. If I had simply stated the rules, the game might have gone better. When I enthusiastically explained the strategic considerations of this situation and that situation, I was confusing them more than educating them. They gave me blank looks and said, whatever you say, I'll trust you. I should have let them explore the tactics at their own pace, even if they didn't quite figure out all the intricacies. I had overwhelmed them with unnecessary information. 

Red had created a chain of at least four connected houses, so he would score a bonus. 

Bella Little Flower is a game for young children. I taught this at recent lesson. On your turn you roll a die to move Bella the sheep. If she lands at a spot with flowers, you collect all the flowers next to her. Your goal is to collect as many flowers as possible to make a necklace. At the end of your turn, you draw a flower tile, and add the flower to the spot matching the colour of the flower. For adults, this is barely a game. It certainly isn't very interesting. However now that I'm running a learning programme for children, I've learnt to appreciate these children games and how they help kids learn. Many elements in a well-crafted children's game create a learning experience for the children - the artwork, the game components, how the children need to count and move a game piece at the same time, and how they need to match the colours of two components. Adults take these for granted, but for children the experience of playing a game gives them much sensory input and thus triggers learning.