Tuesday 21 May 2024

Snow White on Opinionated Gamers

 

Snow White and the Eleven Dwarfs was reviewed by the Opinionated Gamers. It is exciting for me to hear that it was played at the Gathering of Friends convention. 

Friday 17 May 2024

boardgaming in photos: The Adventures of Snow White

I designed a counter display unit for Snow White and the Eleven Dwarfs. The game comes in a small box, and in a retail store this is a disadvantage. It has less visibility compared to big box games. A counter display unit like this will help create a bigger footprint and more visibility. 


This is still a prototype. There are still some issues with some of the dimensions. Correction required. I printed this mock-up on normal paper. The actual thing will be printed on cardboard. 


I won't be printing many units, so I will be assembling these myself. A unit can fit six boxes. 


14 Apr 2024. I participated in a Tzu Chi association (慈济) event. The main event was a Sunday school for parents and children. This particular day they had a special programme introducing boardgames to families. It was quite a big group. We had about 12 tables of players. I brought Snow White. Before the event I didn't know the age range of the children. It was quite a mix, from lower primary to upper secondary. When we settled down to play, I got a little worried. I had some lower primary kids at my table. Now Snow White was not specifically designed to be a children's game. I was worried whether the younger children would be able to handle it. Thankfully at the time we had 7 players, the minimum player count. Normally I recommend players to play in groups of around 10. 7 is workable but it's a bit easier and not challenging enough for my tastes. Since we had younger children, 7 was a good number. They managed fine. At the table we had adults too, even one senior citizen. It was an amazing feeling seeing Snow White being played by three different generations at the same time. 


Within the one hour activity slot, my table did 4 or 5 games. Players swapped in and out. They were encouraged to visit different table to try different games. 


2 May 2024. I visited my alma mater. Well, to be more accurate, the Malaysian campus of my alma mater. I was invited by the boardgames club of Monash University Malaysia to showcase my games at their weekly gathering. That day two other local game designers were there too. Brandon brought Pantheon War. Nasi Lemak made an appearance too. 

I left school almost 30 years ago. Stepping into a campus (though not the actual campus I studied in) was an amazing feeling. At the guardhouse I registered myself as a visitor. All around me were young people. I felt energised. 


I brought three games that day - Dancing Queen, Snow White and the Eleven Dwarfs and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. I managed to show all three to the students. A senpai (senior) teaching his kouhai (juniors). Snow White was played the most. It was wonderful seeing so many of them so absorbed in the game. I taught them one of the variants - the twin. 


I recently came up with a hand signal for Cili Padi Games, this one above. From now on, I plan to ask people who play my game to pose like this when I take a photo with or of them. This is a form of marketing and branding. The little finger represents Cili Padi - small and spicy. I have thought about whether this signal might be inappropriate in some countries or cultures. So far I have only found two other things this gesture can mean. In Japan, this can mean girlfriend, wife or mistress. That doesn't sound too bad. The other one is from Mediterranean countries. Apparently some people use this to belittle others. I'm not sure how common this is, or whether the gesture looks exactly like this. 


Friends from Monash, whether student or alumni, please post below and let me know which year you're in (or which year you graduated) and what course you are doing (or did). I graduated in 1997 and I did computer science at the Clayton campus. 


I recently read a post from Bruno Faidutti in which he shared that half his 2023 income from boardgames is from Citadels. To make a living from purely designing boardgames, you probably need to have an evergreen title. He could have gone into game design full-time many years ago, but he chose not to. He continued to teach. Teaching was his full-time job, and game designing a part-time job. His full-time job took 80% of his time, but his part-time job paid more than his full-time job. Teaching was his way of contributing to society. I respect that. Coincidentally I played Citadels recently. I don't play it much nowadays. It was one of the games I bought when I got into the hobby around 2003. It was already a popular game then. It is still selling well today, after more than 20 years. 

The Architect is one of the characters in Citadels

Ticket to Ride: London. We had a massive traffic jam. 


I have been a boardgamer for many years. Now I am using boardgames in my work. It certainly wasn't something I would have expected when I got into the hobby. I consider myself lucky. My full time work is leadership training. This above is one training activity I designed, a giant boardgame based on Hong Kong gangster movies of the 80's and 90's. The board is a map of Hong Kong. 


I also use Pandemic as a training tool in my work. I created a giant version of it. Not all boardgames are suitable to be used as training tools. Pandemic is a great fit because many aspects are related to leadership and management. Twenty, or even ten years ago, I would not have imagined myself teaching people to play games in such a serious work setting. 


The training activity I designed is called Rivers and Lakes. That's the literal translation of a Chinese term "jiang hu" (江湖) which refers to the underground society. It is a game about gangs fighting turf wars. There are two gangs, the Kong family and the Woo family. If I get a big group, I add a third gang, the Lee family. 

In line with the setting, the territory names are in Traditional Chinese in addition to English.

Also in line with the setting, the attack markers are white vans. 


Players get to pick who they want to roleplay as. The characters are all Hong Kong movie stars of the 80's and 90's. 

Friday 10 May 2024

Brew Crafters: Travel Card Game


The Game

Brew Crafters is originally a boardgame. I have not played the boardgame version before, but I had the chance to try the card game version - Brew Crafters: Travel Card Game. This is a game about brewing all sorts of beer. There are five different types of beer to brew, and you need different combinations of ingredients. Their point values are different. The game ends when any player reaches 21 points. Whoever has the most points wins. 


On your turn you start with taking two cards. There are five face-up cards on the table you can pick from. You may also draw from the deck. Each card has two uses. You either use it as an ingredient (icon in top left corner) or play it as a tool. You may only perform one of these actions on your turn. To install a tool, you simply play the card face-up before you. It will give you some power for the rest of the game. If you decide to brew beer instead, you discard the required ingredients to score points. 


There are many different tools. Some help you with brewing specific types of beer. These two above allow you to use fewer ingredients when brewing specific types of beer. Some tools let you score more points when brewing beer. Some let you score bonus points at game end based on other tools you own. 
 

The five ingredients in the game have different rarities. Apple and coffee beans are the rarest. The high valued beers require them. You have a hand limit of 7 cards. The most valuable beer needs 7 ingredients too. It is quite difficult to get the exact 7 ingredients to make this beer, without discarding cards you can't use. It feels wasteful but likely it's a sacrifice you have to make. 

The Play

This is a procedurally simple game. The core process is collecting ingredients to brew beer. While doing this, you also decide which tools you want to play to give you an edge over your opponents. The target score is 21pts. The highest valued beer is worth 6pts. You'll reach the target score by brewing 3 to 4 times. The lowest valued beer is worth 3pts. That takes more brewing, but the ingredients are easier to collect and you need fewer ingredients too. The game doesn't take long to play. Within that limited time, you try to work out a good combo of tools to help you brew and to help you score more points. There is luck in terms of what cards you draw and what are available on the table. You try to put together tools which jive with one another. For example if you manage to put together several cards that help you with brewing coffee stout, you'll want to focus on just that beer. 

Sometimes you will be torn between using a card as an ingredient and playing it as a tool. This is an interesting decision you have to make in the game. 

So far I have only done a 2-player game. Coincidentally both of us played the exact same tools in the first third of the game. We both wanted to work on the higher valued beers. Only towards mid game our tool choices diverged. The next time I play I should try different tool combinations and different beers. 

The Thoughts

Brew Crafters: Travel Card Game is a light strategy game. It does not present any particularly new ideas. Multi-use cards are nothing new by now. The beer brewing setting has its attractiveness. The overall package doesn't give me any surprise. However I am curious to play it more to explore other strategies. Maybe I'll find something more. 

Friday 3 May 2024

The Malaysian Dream


The Game

The Malaysian Dream is a simple card game for casual players. You play as all sorts of funny characters in Malaysia, and you pursue your dreams. There is a deck of face-up dream cards. The topmost card is always visible. Everyone knows the next dream that can be fulfilled. You fulfil dreams by paying for it. This game is keeping it real, my friends. When the dreams deck runs out, the game ends. Whoever has completed the most number of dreams is the winner. 


That on the left is a character card. On the right, that's one of the dream cards. Characters all have unique abilities. Dreams cost either 300K or 500K, but both types are worth 1 point. 

Other than character cards and dream cards, the rest of the cards in the game are simply player cards. Some of them are action cards. You do something with them, following the instructions on them. Some of them are money cards. Money in hand cannot be spent to buy dreams. You need to perform an action called putting money into the bank. That just means laying down your money cards. Money on the table can be spent. It can be stolen too. 

Some action cards are used to attack your opponents. Some are used to help yourself. Some cards let you steal money. Some even steal dreams. When you steal money but your victim has none, you steal a dream instead. That's painful. When you run out of player cards, you reshuffle the discard pile to form a new draw deck. You continue playing until the dreams deck runs out. 


Some cards ask you to do things beyond the game components and the game table. E.g. you need to do jumping jacks, or you do a staring contest, or you compete to see who stands up last (and that person will be penalised). There's even one card which requires you to recite the Rukun Negara (the Nation Principles of Malaysia). 


Some dream cards count as double if claimed by specific characters. In this example, the bomoh (witch doctor) gets an extra point for fulfilling the dream of protecting Malaysia from disaster. One other character in the game is an MLM agent. She scores an extra point if she fulfils the dream of buying a sports car. 

The Play

This is a silly fun type of game. It is simple. Many card powers are written on the cards themselves. You just follow instructions. You hope to draw money cards, so that you can use them to buy dream cards. There are many take-that cards in the game. You steal money and dreams from your opponents. With at least three players, you will have some politics. Winning or losing may come down to who the players decide to attack most. If you get attacked more than others, you probably won't win. There is luck. Sometimes some people will get all those powerful and nasty cards. Some people will just happen to have the protection cards at the right times. All the cards are related to Malaysia. The humour is what Malaysians will appreciate. 

4-player game in progress

The Thoughts

This is very much a non-gamer or casual gamer game. It doesn't require much brain power. It has a lot of take-that, or the more Malaysian term would be a lot of "sabo" (sabotage) cards. There is a fair bit of luck. Officially the game is for 2 to 6 players. I don't think it will work well with two. I think you need at least three. With 2 players, you can only choose one opponent to attack. It becomes an exercise of seeing who draws the better cards for attacking the opponent. With three players, at least you have some politicking to do. I'm a gamer, so The Malaysian Dream is not my type of game. I personally don't like game mechanisms which make you do stuff like singing and other physical exertions. I want to sit down and play a boardgame. I want to do something intellectually stimulating. I want to interact with people. For me, some of the jokes in this game don't last. The second time round I already start to tire. The first time someone needs to recite the Rukun Negara, I find it amusing. The second time it becomes tiresome. I do like the art style. The jokes are relevant to Malaysians. The game will work better for non-gamers. The novelty may wear out quickly for gamers. 

Friday 26 April 2024

Ticket to Ride Legacy: Legends of the West


The Game

Ticket to Ride getting the legacy game treatment comes as no surprise. The evergreen game series is hugely successful. A number of other popular games have had legacy versions published. When I learned about Ticket to Ride Legacy: Legends of the West, I felt it was a matter of sooner or later. It was certainly exciting to see Alan Moon, Rob Daviau and Matt Leacock work together. Ticket to Ride is well known, so I won't describe it. I will focus on what Legends of the West is like. 


When you open the large box, this is what you see. That long box on the left stores most of the cards. The eight boxes along the top are components to unlock as you expand the map. The legacy campaign (which consists of 12 games) starts with a map of just the eastern coast of USA. As you play through the campaign you will unlock regions and grow the map. You will be opening boxes and adding game components and new rules. 

The five boxes along the bottom are the player companies. You will keep some components for your next game, and this is where you keep such components. 

The basic rules of Legends of the West are similar to that of basic Ticket to Ride. In fact when the campaign starts, I find the rules even simpler. Later on there will be more rules and new mechanisms, but things don't get too complicated. This is still a family game. The complexity doesn't go up much. This is not a gamer's game. One aspect which is different from standard Ticket to Ride is you don't score points when building tracks. This simplifies the game. Also here your points are simply called money. At the end of a game instead of scoring points from completed tickets, you earn money. It's the same thing. If you fail to complete a ticket, you are fined. One more difference is when you build a track in your colour, you earn some money. There is incentive to collect train cards in your own colour. Tracks on the map come in six colours instead of eight. There are five player colours plus white. No more orange or pink. 

There are events. Some newspaper cards are shuffled into the train deck. When you draw one, you have to reveal the next event card from a separate event deck. You follow the instructions. Sometimes it is a one-time effect. Sometimes it is ongoing. This injects some uncertainty and variety. 

Some of the train cards. 

These are tickets


This is the map at the start of the legacy campaign. Much of the continent has yet to be explored. Florida is a large missing piece. The game is not meant to be historically accurate. Think of it as a historical what-if drama. 

Every player colour has a different train piece shape. 


This is a player's company box. It has two sections. One is for keeping components for the next game in the campaign. The other is for components needed for scoring at the end of the campaign. That's called the vault. Throughout the campaign you will be asked to put stuff into the vault. 


At the end of every game, you do scoring using this slip. Your points (i.e. money) come from three different sources. First, cash on hand. Second, the number of train pieces left. If you manage to use up your trains, you get a $16 bonus, which is significant. If you are able to, you want to end the game while others still have many pieces remaining. The third way you make money is from your completed tickets. Total money determines the winner for the game. This slip is then put into your company vault. It will be used again at the end of the campaign. 


This is the legacy card deck. You'll reveal some cards at the start of a game and also at the end. There will be some story to read out. New components and rules will be added too. 

The Thoughts

The campaign takes 12 games to finish. So far I've done seven. I don't have a complete map yet, but I have seen many game mechanisms and components. There will be more to come. I have been enjoying the journey so far. There are many pleasant surprises. From a game mechanism perspective, Legends of the West and Ticket to Ride are just slightly different. Not better or worse, just a little different. The new mechanisms are fun. Not particularly innovative. If they were in a different standalone game, I probably won't find them interesting. However as they are combined here as a package, they are fun. Playing Legends of the West is about enjoying the story and the extended journey, not really about looking for a new interesting game. It is about enjoying variants to the core Ticket to Ride formula. 

Like most legacy games, Legends of the West is best played with the same group of friends for the whole campaign. I would suggest you get 4 or 5 players. It will be a wonderful shared journey. 

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From this point onwards there will be spoilers. If you haven't played this game and intend to do so, best not to read any further. If you have no intention to play it, welcome to read on to see more details. If you have already played the game, let's reminisce...
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One part I absolutely love is this hole puncher. This is introduced at the end of the first game. When you complete a ticket, you have to punch a hole in it, in the section of your player colour. Some tickets let you punch one hole per row. Some let you punch two. Whenever a row is completed, that ticket is retired permanently. 

This particular ticket has some instructions. When it is retired, the player who completes it receives a letter. The letter has a story element, which must be read to the whole group. It also has some power which the player keeps for future use. 


The first time we expanded the map, we went for Florida. We were not comfortable with that glaring gap. Here you can see some routes are semi transparent. They don't have a specific colour yet. You get to decide what colour these routes will be if you are first to build tracks. You will add stickers to the board to determine the colour. From then on, for all future games, the colour is fixed. 


This is an employee card. Every game you will pick one. At the end of a game, you get to choose one for your next game. The poorest player gets two employees instead of one. This particular employee above can only be used twice for the whole campaign, thus the need to punch a hole whenever he is used. 


The piggyback card is a life saver. In case you are stuck and locked out of a city, you can use this card (it's single use per game) to build one track to that city, using a route already claimed by someone else. 


This is the circus. When it comes into play, you can collect carriage stickers by building tracks of at least length 3. In Legends of the West you don't score points for building tracks. Painstakingly collecting many cards of the same colour to build long tracks feels like a waste of effort. The circus makes long routes attractive. Carriage stickers will help you score points. I mean make money. 


Everyone gets a tiny sticker booklet like this. You collect carriage stickers here. Every sticker is worth some points. If it is in your player colour, it is worth more points. Money. I mean money. 


On this page, you collect stickers in sets. Within a set, the colours must all be different. The largest set is worth $64 if you manage to complete it, but getting stickers in 5 different colours is not easy. 

I wasn't too ambitious and only attempted the 4-carriages set. 
 

Eventually the circus will end their tour. When you see this icon, it means the circus will leave play and you won't be able to collect any more carriage stickers. Whatever you have collected go to your company vault, to be scored at the end of the campaign. 


The grey pawn is the bandit. It always starts at Dodge City. When the bandit comes into play, whenever anyone uses a locomotive card (joker), the bandit must be moved. Whoever has tracks at the city he moves to is robbed. The money from these robberies go to the bandit's stash. The stash will keep growing, and when a specific event comes up, all players may get to share this stash. When the event happens, you may discard four cards to participate in splitting the loot. 

At this city, the bandit robs the blue and the yellow players. 


Towns (in red) can be controlled by players. In this photo above, St. Louis and Cincinnati are now controlled by the blue and the green player respectively. Taking control of a town can only be done through special powers and events. It's not something you can choose to do any time. The benefit of controlling a town is whenever anyone builds a track to that town, you get to collect a fee. Chicago is a city and not a town, so it is safe from being controlled by players. 


If you look closely you will find that the tracks around Oklahoma City are all stickers added to the board by players. Dodge City is where the bandit always starts, so players tend to be wary about building tracks in this area. 


At this point in the campaign we had about half the map revealed. There were still many routes in the newer regions (on the left half) not yet stickered. 


Baltimore has an anchor icon, which means it is a port. There are some minor gameplay elements related to ports. I (green player) took control of Baltimore when the opportunity arose, because I felt many routes would go through Baltimore. It was a hub. 

Shares! That's another mini-game in the campaign.


When shares are in play, there will always be two face-up share cards. If you build a track in the colour of one of these shares, you get to claim that share. When the campaign ends, you will make money from shares. Each of the six companies will pay shareholders based on who has more shares. So this is a majority competition. The shares mini-game leaves play after players claim all the shares. 


This is yet another mini-game - treasure hunting. This comes into play when you unlock the Sierra Madre region. Whoever builds tracks in the regions gets to either collect a treasure map or attempt to find a hidden treasure. How the treasure hunting works is that in order to be successful, you need to draw ten cards from the deck without any skull icon. This is actually quite difficult. Treasure maps are a tool to help you improve your chances of success. Every treasure map you have allows you to ignore one skull icon. 


When you successfully find treasure, you scratch off one section of this lost treasure card and claim the reward shown. Throughout the campaign hidden treasures can be found five times only. After that there are no more treasures. 

This particular employee helps in treasure hunting, increasing your chances of success. 

My progress with Legends of the West is a little slow. I started in Nov 2023, and so far I have played 7 games. Still 5 more to go to complete the campaign. I hope I can get it done before November this year! Perhaps I'll share more after I complete the whole thing.