Monday, 31 August 2020

Kuih Muih

The Game


Kuih Muih is a Malaysian design by Mike Ooi, with a theme of traditional Malaysian snack food. The game shares similarities with Sushi Go Party, but there are some differences in the core mechanism. It is a light game, featuring card drafting and set collection. 

A game is played over 3 rounds. Every round you collect cards and score them at the end of the round. Some cards are kept and scored only at game end. There are 14 card types that come in the box, and only 8 are used in any one game. So you have some variability. When a round starts, you shuffle the deck and deal out a number of card stacks. The number of stacks is player count plus 2. In a four player game, you'll deal out 6 decks of 7 cards each. Leftover cards are temporarily set aside. You'll use them again next round when all cards are reshuffled. 


The card drafting is simple. Players take turns choosing one stack. Once everyone has a stack, he selects a card from it and places it face-down before him. Cards not selected are returned to their original positions at the centre of the table. All selected cards are revealed at the same time. If there is any card with a special power, it is resolved immediately. This card drafting repeats, with players taking turns being the start player. Players collect cards and try to maximise the point values of their card sets.  

This is a game in progress. Players lay out their cards based on types. 

Once any stack at the middle of the table runs out, the round ends, and you do scoring. Throughout a round, the cards dwindle and you have fewer and fewer options. You need to remember cards you have seen, so that if there are cards you want, you know where to look for them. Hopefully they have not yet been taken by your opponents. Memory is a big element in this game. 


On average a card is worth 2.5 to 3 victory points. To decide whether a card is worth it, 3VP is a good rule of thumb. In this photo above, the pulut seri muka on the left is 3VP each, which is a good deal. However it is a risky card. If there is another player picking this card on the same turn, you all discard your cards, i.e. you have just wasted one turn. 


Let's look at some of the cards more closely. Card types are represented by the small icons at the bottom right. The circle cards and the star cards are permanent cards. You use them every game. The circle cards (top left) have point values directly written on them. They are the most straight-forward. The star cards (bottom left) score points based on who has more ondeh ondeh (the green balls). Whoever has most scores 6VP. Second most scores 4VP. Everyone else loses 2VP. In the case of ties, all tied players score points. This creates interesting situations. Let's say there are four players. Two of them have three ondeh ondeh, and two of them have none. The two leading players would score 6VP, and the trailing two would score 4VP, despite having spent no effort at all on ondeh ondeh. Technically these trailing players are in second place. Now, if one of the leading players decides to get one more ondeh ondeh, he will become the lone leading player, and still score 6VP. The player with three ondeh ondeh will become second placed, scoring 4VP (2VP fewer). The trailing players will fall to third place and lose 2VP (a 6VP difference!). Let's look at another possibility. If one of the two trailing players decides to get one ondeh ondeh, he will become the lone second placed player. He still scores 4VP, but he will force the other trailing player with no onder ondeh into third place, going from 4VP to -2VP. Are these two trailing players going to sabotage each other? Or will one of the leading players sabotage them? This is the kind of scenario people discuss in game theory

There are two types of triangle cards, and only one type will be used in a game. Triangle cards are scored only at game end. If you claim any triangle card in Round 1 or 2, keep them and set them aside to wait for game end scoring. 


There are six types of square cards, and you only use three in any game. The prettiest is the kuih lapis. There are four varieties. The more you claim, the more you score. There are only two cards per variety, so it is not easy to collect all four. The pulut tai tai (bottom left) is a weird one. If you collect more than two, they are worth nothing. Who would be stupid enough to collect a third card? One possibility I can think of is when a stack has only one card left, a pulut tai tai card, and the player picking the stack doesn't know or has forgotten it is a pulut tai tai. Another possibility is the card was designed this way to create a specific type of competition for it. Players who decide to go for it will only want two of them and no more, so these cards will be easier to collect. 6VP for two cards is not a bad deal. If anyone already having two cards still claims more to deny you your second card, you must have wronged him severely in the past. Please sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk. 


In every game you use two heart cards. These are all special power cards. The most feared is the third one - the karipap (curry puff), which you can use to swap with another player's card. This is the only attack card in the game. It can break an opponent's collection, at the cost of giving him 2VP. The fourth card, kuih bahulu, is a lucrative 4VP, but it only scores if you have the most colours in your play area. 

The rule book recommends some combinations of card types to use. Once you are familiar with the cards, you can customise the game to your liking. 

The Play

So far I have played three games, all with four players (my family), and I have tried all card types. This is a game which plays quickly once you get familiar with the game. That takes just half a game. Since there is a memory element, you will find that you need to be quite focused. Everyone is absorbed. One confusion we often had was whose turn it was to be start player. Eventually we used a large yellow coin as a start player marker. The marker was passed clockwise at the start of a turn, to help us remember who the start player should be. 

The children loved going for the triangle cards, those which scored at game end. After a while I decided not to fight for these. It is risky to fight for something many others are going for. You may end up scoring little, or scoring nothing at all. 

We all dreaded the karipap (curry puff), because it was destructive. It is the only attack card in the game, but if the copy card is in play too, the karipap can be copied by the copy card, resulting in more attacks. The tricky thing about the karipap is if you take it too early, there may not any opponent card worth attacking. You'd be doing it only to protect yourself from a possible future attack. You score 2VP for it, which is below par. However if you hold off taking a karipap card, later someone else may take it before you do, and use it on you. Aaah... decisions.

The children negotiated a non-aggression pact, and agreed to only attack Michelle and I. Sometimes they even helped each other by hinting at which stack contained cards the other needed. It was all in good fun so we didn't stop them. As a father I'm happy to see my daughters being close. 

Paying attention to who is start player is important. Let's say you know you'll be start player next turn. If the stack you have picked this turn contains two cards which would go well together, like tepung pelita (1 card = -3VP, 2 cards = 7VP), you can safely take one of the cards. Next turn you'll be first to choose a stack, so you'll be able to take that second card you need.

The memory element may sound a little tiresome. If you really hate it then it will be a turn off. I don't try to memorise the cards I see. I am happy with just having a rough idea which stacks are good and which are less useful. Sometimes I try to remember specific cards, e.g. where the karipaps are. That's sufficient for me to enjoy the game. 

It is a must to watch what your opponents are collecting. You need to know who are competing with you. Player interaction is high. 

We didn't use pen and paper to keep score. We used our own poker chips. 

The artwork is of the cute style. 

The Thoughts

Kuih Muih is easy to learn and fast to play. It is a casual game, the type very suitable for boardgame cafes and gatherings. There is plenty of player interaction and it keeps players engaged. 

When Mike passed a copy of the game to me for review, he asked me an interesting question. Mike is publishing his own game. Kuih Muih is his second game. The first one was Math Genius (2018). He finds that starting a boardgame business as a one man show is not easy. Designing a game takes a long time. It requires much playtesting and fine-tuning. He asked me what I thought about using a published game as a blueprint to design a game, giving it a different theme and new artwork. My understanding is game mechanisms can't be copyrighted. So anyone can do this without worrying about legal issues. However, setting legality aside, what people think about ethics may not be so straight-forward. In the past there was a debate on Bang and Legends of the Three Kingdoms (三国杀). The latter was clearly based on the former. There was a court case, but eventually it was dismissed in 2016. Many boardgame hobbyists felt it was wrong for Legends of the Three Kingdoms to have copied Bang. What if the designer had acknowledged that he was inspired by Bang. Would that have been sufficient for us? Or would the designer need to share profits with the original designer and publisher? There were people who felt Legends of the Three Kingdoms was much more than the original Bang, and since no laws were broken, the whole incident was unnecessary.  

I mentioned above that Kuih Muih is similar to Sushi Go Party. Indeed some cards worked in the exact same way. However the core card drafting mechanism is different. Sushi Go Party uses the same mechanism as 7 Wonders. Kuih Muih's mechanism is slightly more complex, has a bigger memory element, and gives players more control. The themes are different. One is based on Japanese food, and the other Malaysian delicacies. 

My opinion is if a game is mostly inspired by or based on another, then it should be acknowledged. Not for legal reasons. Just as a sign of respect and gratitude to the earlier game. As a boardgame hobbyist, if I know that two games are very similar, once I have tried one, I likely won't bother with the other. There are too many good games out there. I'd rather spend my time trying something different. Now that I've played Kuih Muih, I likely won't try Sushi Go Party. Not because I prefer the local flavour (I do like Japanese food), but because time is precious. 

Kuih Muih is a good souvenir for friends from overseas, because it features Malaysian food. Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 pandemic still around, there is little chance of overseas friends visiting. For those interested to support this local game, you can buy it straight from Mike at Shopee.

Saturday, 22 August 2020

Ticket To Ride: Italy

The Game

The Ticket to Ride: Japan expansion contains two maps, Japan and Italy. This expansion is not a standalone game and can only be played with components from the base game. 

 
Similar to the Japan map, the Italy map is longish. There are many cities in the north. Off both eastern and western coasts of the Italian peninsula there are many grey ferry routes. 

In the north there are five neighbouring countries in play. Routes connecting to these countries connect to them as a whole as opposed to connecting to specific cities. The countries are represented by their flags. Some ticket cards specify needing to connect to a specific country instead of to a city. Taking Austria as an example (in the northeast), there are two separate routes which lead to Austria. Either one may be used for completing tickets which require connecting to Austria. 

Ferry routes are partly new. Some spaces on a ferry route are marked with wave icons, and this means you must use jokers (locomotives) to claim these spaces. This is similar to the ferry routes first introduced in Ticket to Ride: Europe. In the Italy expansion, there is something more. You have ferry cards. Each ferry card is worth two wave icons. You can think of them as double jokers. However they can only be used for ferry routes, not regular routes. On your turn, one new action type is simply claiming one ferry card from a common pool. Ferry cards are always available. You may hold at most two ferry cards.  

One more new mechanism is the bonus for connected regions. Italy is divided into many small regions. If your network connects 5 or more regions, you'll get a bonus depending on how many regions are connected. If you happen to build two or more separate networks, you score them individually. This network score is not much if the number of regions is low. It only starts getting interesting around 10 connected regions (16VP). If you manage to connect 15 or more, you score 56VP! That's not easy to do though. 

Every city on the map shows the emblem of the region it is in, to make counting regions easier. 

Three of the regions in the game provide a bonus if you connect all cities within the region. Your network containing that region counts the region as two regions instead. The island of Sicily is one such region. If you connect all five cities, you treat Sicily as if it is two regions. 

 
Both the Japan and the Italy map have a pretty red air plane. 

The card at the bottom left is the ferry card, with two wave icons. The ticket cards in the top row are city-to-country tickets, one going to Monaco (not Indonesia) and the other going to Croatia. 

The Play

Compared to the Japan map, the Italy map feels more similar to the standard Ticket to Ride game. One similarity it shares with the Japan map is the long-distance tickets. My gut feel is in this map it is also worth gambling and trying to draw those long-distance tickets, and hope you are not far from completing them. This is quite exciting. 

The more outstanding game mechanism compared to other expansions is the region scoring. Often this only becomes prominent towards late game, because your network is not worth many points when it only has a handful of regions. It is possible to plan early and aim for many connected regions. So far I have not explicitly attempted that. The region scoring can be significant enough to determine win or lose, so it must not be neglected. It may be necessary to sabotage your opponents' network building to stop them from scoring too much. 

This was a 2 -player game. There wasn't much competition or tension. I (green) mainly used the ferry routes in the west, while Michelle (red) mostly stayed on land. We both had long north-south tickets but we took different paths to fulfil them. So there was little conflict. 

 
By late game, I did not have many trains left and did not dare to draw more tickets. I decided to just switch to expanding my network to connect to more regions. My tickets only required that I reach Ravenna. The tracks built past Ravenna were purely for the sake of connecting to more regions. 

 
I had connected to all five cities on Sicily island, so Sicily counted as 2 regions for me. 
 
 
This was a 4-player game, and things were much more tense compared to the 2-player game. There was more risk of getting blocked. At this point, Michelle (red) and Chen Rui (blue) seemed to need to get to the same cities. They nervously and frantically built tracks, to avoid getting blocked by each other. 
 
 
This was taken at the end of our 4-player game. I took the same approach as the previous game, utilising the ferry routes off the west coast. The routes were long, so they scored more points. Also they let me go far with fewer turns. Initially I had expected a 4-player game to be leisurely, since all routes on the map were accessible, compared to a 3-player game where double-routes would only have one half available. However the 4-player game was quite tense for us. We seemed to get into one another's ways rather easily. That was unexpected. Maybe it was because the map was narrow. 

The Thoughts

I find that Italy has the excitement of gambling and hoping to draw long-distance tickets, similar to Japan and Switzerland. It is less pronounced than Japan, since it doesn't have a shared shinkansen network which helps greatly with long-distance tickets. You need to have already built your own long distance network first. I find that this excitement comes from the fact that the map is long and thin. 

The region scoring is the most unique element of the Italy map. It is straight-forward, and it is not ground-breaking like the shinkansen, but it works. 

You can't buy Japan and Italy separately. They are in the same box. Whether you buy this expansion will likely rest on whether you like the Japan map and the shinkansen mechanism, because the Japan map is the more out-of-ordinary map. I see the Italy map as a nice bonus. 

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Ticket To Ride: Japan



The Game

I have been eagerly anticipating the Japan expansion map. The most eye-catching element of this expansion is the shinkansen trains (bullet train). This is a unique game component. The Japan expansion is not a complete game and needs components from the base game or Ticket To Ride: Europe. The game board is double sided, one side being Japan, and the other being Italy. The Italy map has its own unique game mechanisms too.

This is the full Japan map. There are two insets. The first one is Kyushu, one of the four main islands of the Japanese isles. It is the southernmost island. The second inset is the Tokyo subway. The map of Japan is just too long, and has to be presented this way. Hokkaido, the northernmost island, is barely shown.

The Tokyo station in this Tokyo subway map is the same as the Tokyo station on the main map. When you connect to the Tokyo station here, you are considered to be also connected to the one on the main map. This mini Tokyo subway map is much simpler than the one in real-life below.

The real Tokyo subway map.

The station connecting Kyushu and the main map is Kokura, at the northeastern tip of Kyushu.

This red airplane reminds me of the Miyazaki Hayao anime movie Porco Rosso / Crimson Pig.

The unique mechanism introduced in the Japan expansion is the shinkansen (bullet train). The grey tracks in the photo above with shinkansen icons are the shinkansen routes, and once built, anyone may use them. Building a shinkansen route is just like building any grey route. You must play cards of a single colour, but they can be of any colour you like. Unlike normal routes, you don't place your own trains onto the tracks. Instead you place a single shinkansen train onto the track marked with the shinkansen icon, to indicate that this route has been built, and any player may use it for the purpose of completing tickets. You don't score points for building a shinkansen route. However you do keep track of how many cards you have contributed towards the shinkansen. Player contributions are compared at game end, and they are rewarded or penalised based on their rankings.

When playing the Japan map, you only have 20 trains of your player colour, compared to 45 trains in the standard game. There are only 16 shinkansen trains, which are shared by all players, since anyone may build a shinkansen route. The game ends differently. You enter the final round when one player has two or fewer trains and there are two or fewer shinkansen trains left. Both conditions must be met.

This track is for keeping record of each player's contribution towards shinkansen routes. You count each card spent. At game end, players gain or lose points based on their relative positions on this track. In the case of ties, both players enjoy the same higher reward. E.g. both players tied for 2nd place score the points for being in 2nd place. The next player gets the penalty for being in 4th place.

These are the rewards and penalties you get for your contribution towards the shinkansen. Taking the 5-player game as an example, the biggest contributor scores 25VP, and the lowest contributor loses 10VP. If you don't contribute at all, you lose 20VP. There really is no excuse not to contribute. Some shinkansen routes are very short and thus easy to build. 

The card art for the Japan map is more modern compared to other Ticket To Ride expansions. Usually the artwork is based on trains from the steam era. In most Ticket To Ride games, the ticket value is based on the number of trains needed to connect the two cities by taking the shortest possible path. This no longer holds true on the Japan map, because of the shinkansen mechanism. The shinkansen helps tremendously in completing long distance tickets, so long distance tickets are not worth as many points as you would expect if this were a typical map.

The Play

Let's talk about the shinkansen first. There is area majority competition in this new game mechanism, because everyone is competing for the limited number of shinkansen trains and trying to be the biggest contributor. Contribution is relative. You only need to be one notch higher than the next person. Being far ahead is wasteful, since only the relative positions matter. There are only 16 shinkansen trains. If everyone fights for them, they will run out very quickly. The shinkansen mechanism creates an internal conflict. On one hand you want to compete to be the biggest contributor, but on the other hand you hope not to help your opponents too much when you build shinkansen routes. You prefer to benefit from others' efforts.

The number of shinkansen routes on the board is more than 16. Once the shinkansen trains are exhausted, the remaining shinkansen routes become normal grey routes. When you build these tracks, you will claim them using your own trains. This also means you monopolise that route and it cannot be used by other players. In our game I used this to break the shinkansen network into two. We had a long uninterrupted shinkansen line from Kyushu in the south all the way to Hokkaido in the north, except for just one stretch in the middle. We had run out of shinkansen trains to build that. I intentionally left it unbuilt because others were extending the shinkansen elsewhere. Once shinkansen trains ran out, I quickly claimed that remaining stretch with my own trains, so that I became the only player who could access the whole network. Others only had access to the northern half or the southern half. If they wanted full access, they would need to build an alternative route to link up northern and southern half with their own trains.

Due to the shinkansen, many long distance tickets are easy to complete. Drawing tickets is lucrative. You want to gamble on drawing long distance and high-scoring tickets which you can easily complete using the help of the shinkansen. This lucky draw feeling is wonderful. It makes the game more luck-heavy, but I am fine with that. The Switzerland map also encourages players to draw tickets, and I like it because of this. 

 
In our game, the construction of the shinkansen network started from three different spots - the far north, the far south and that one short route near the middle right next to Tokyo. 

 
Chen Rui (blue) took an unusual approach when she worked on the Tokyo subway. In this photo she had build three separate routes, none of them connected. It was as if she didn't care whether anyone blocked her. It would have been easy to sabotage her network building by claiming the routes which would link up her network. We did a 3-player game, so only one half of the double routes were available. Getting blocked was a serious risk. Later on we found out that some of her tickets really were that short, and she actually didn't need to link everything up. She had one Shinjuku-Ikebukuro ticket which could be completed by claiming just that one route at the top left. Okay, she knew what she was doing. 

 
Michelle (red) and I (green) competed to be top contributor of the shinkansen. Chen Rui (blue) gave up quite early. She had many Tokyo subway tickets and didn't need the shinkansen as much.

 
The shinkansen looks impressive. 

This was the end of our game. We had built a shinkansen route all the way from the southern tip of Kyushu to Sapporo in Hokkaido, except for that one small stretch next to Tokyo which was claimed by me (green). Trains of the player colours were scattered and disjointed. Many of our tickets were helped by the shinkansen, and we only needed to build short last-mile stretches from a shinkansen station to a smaller city.

The Thoughts

Ticket To Ride: Japan is quite different, but I must admit I decided to buy it simply because it's Japan, well before I knew how the shinkansen works. If you are a fan of the series and enjoy something out of the ordinary, then this certainly is worth checking out. The shinkansen works for me, but what I like most about it is actually how it makes drawing tickets lucrative and exciting. I get a kick out of that. I think on the Japan map it is harder to get blocked, due to how helpful the shinkansen is.  

Friday, 14 August 2020

Miniature painting service (Malaysia)

Posting this for a fellow Malaysian Tengku Iskandar

Original link here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/boardgamestogoMY/permalink/3195422777203566/

~~~~~

Greetings boardgamers,

Since MCO started, I've not been able to secure a job and a job opportunity of mine has been postponed indefinitely.

I've decided to start opening a miniature painting service to provide for my family, for now. If you're looking to have your boardgame/D&D miniatures painted but don't have the time/skills to do it yourself, we might be able to work on a deal.

I'm still building up my portfolio website, but below are some examples of miniatures painted by myself, varying from 2018 to 2020. I've only had experience painting Warhammer / Games Workshop miniatures, but I will be able and would love to be able to paint your boardgame/D&D miniature sets.

I've been painting miniatures since 2015 and recently had won a local miniature painting award (https://www.facebook.com/battlebrossmr/photos/a.587661971937358/587662095270679/?type=3).
Since my portfolio website is still under construction, you can see more of my work at my painting log Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/merahkuningminis/

Do FB message/email me at tengkuiskhandar@gmail.com if you're interested or have any questions. We can discuss first and I'll give you a quotation. If your boardgame is something that I'm currently very interested to paint, I might even give you a special price.

I reside in Klang Valley, so those outside of Selangor might be a bit hard due to shipping risks. But we can try to discuss first.

Thank you and stay safe!
 
 
 




 

Sunday, 9 August 2020

revisiting Robinson Crusoe




I recently brought out Robinson Crusoe for some solo gaming. The previous time I played it had been 6 years ago in 2014! The game comes with 6 scenarios, and I had never completed them. Since it had been quite a while, I decided to start all over again from the first scenario. In this game, you are shipwrecked on a deserted island. You need to first survive, and then complete the objective of the specific scenario you are playing, within the time limit. The first scenario is straight-forward. Within 12 rounds you need to learn to make fire, and you need to stockpile enough wood for a bonfire. You are going to light it up to attract a passing ship, so that you can escape the island.

I played the solo rules, as opposed to playing multiple player characters. It makes a difference. Playing solo means you only need one food per day. As long as you camp on a hex which produces food, you no longer need to worry about starving. With two or more characters, you need more food. On the other hand, if you are to hunt or you get a large amount of food at one go, the food will probably be wasted because anything not eaten within the same day usually spoils.

Playing solo means I get Friday (the native) and Dog to help me. I picked the carpenter character because of his specialised knowledge in making the Snare tool. It is for catching small animals and it provides one food daily.


This is the scenario board. By Round 3 I had stockpiled three pieces of wood (brown cubes). Winning the game requires 15 pieces of wood, and the wood must be stockpiled in batches, at most one batch per round. The third batch requires three pieces of wood, as can be seen in this photo. From Round 4 onward the rainy season will be here and you'll need to roll the rain die. From Round 7 onward you need to roll the beast die and the snow die too. If you don't improve your shelter enough to protect you from the weather, you may end up burning wood to keep warm. This will slow you down in building the bonfire.


These were the two starting bonuses I drew. The Biscuits on the left is good. I have insurance for lack of food for two rounds.


You always land on the island at the leftmost hex, the beach. You then move inland to explore the island. So far I had moved camp twice, and was now camped in a mountain cave at the bottom right. In this photo you can see some black and blue cubes, blocking resource and terrain icons. These were due to event cards which I drew. Some resources became inaccessible. Some previously discovered terrain became unknown. Discovering terrain was important because many tools required having discovered such terrain. Losing the discovery meant losing the ability to make such tools. I would have to explore more to find the required terrain type again, in order to make these tools.

Many times I ignored the events which caused me to lose access to terrains and resources. I had other things to worry about and I had to prioritise. As a result, I lost even more access on other hexes, or some access became permanently lost. Had I spent effort on handling the events, I might have been able to reverse the effects of some of the events. Too bad. Life is about tough choices.


My head was injured twice (green and brown markers), once from a fall, and another time bitten by a snake. Both these injuries threatened to worsen. When they did worsen, if I had not created the Cure (a tool), I would suffer even more. I hurriedly made a Cure and kept it on me. Unfortunately, I never needed that Cure, because something else killed me well before those head injuries came back to bite me. I had been enthusiastically planning for shelter upgrades and wood production, and I neglected taking care of myself. I underestimated how quickly my life points dwindled. I didn't rest or take other actions to restore life points, and I had let the various events take their toll. Then a few unexpected events got me killed before I could do anything to heal myself. Lesson learnt: Don't be a workaholic and take care of your health!