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1999 game by Oliver Igelhaut and small publisher Glücksritter for 3-4 players is sort of a combination of For Sale and Hornochsen. The deck is comprised of planets and modifiers. Planets come in three different colors and have different point values, apparently from -1 to +3. Modifiers affect planet point values by multiplying by zero, one or two. Each turn the first player turns up three cards. Then each player in turn places face down up to three stacks of bidding cards. Initially each player has an identical bidding hand of cards 1-6. However, after all bidding is complete, each player's used cards are passed to the player on the left. But going back to the bidding, the players all reveal their cards. Whoever has the highest value (ties go to the earliest player in turn) chooses one of the cards and either keeps it for himself or gives it to another player. Then the second highest value chooses, then third, etc. Cards can either be placed singly or combined with another card already in front of the player. Pairs are complete and cannot be added to. Only pairs score, either positively, negatively or zero, but in addition, players have their aggregate score for a particular planet color multiplied by the number of pairs they hold of that color. Only last about twenty minutes and very good for that timespan, although perhaps it could in some sense be "broken" if someone consistently refused to ever bid, in which case he might eventually get all of the cards?
Game of Life, The (The Checkered Game of Life)
Invented and published as the first game of a Mr. Milton Bradley in 1860, one of the very first commercial games in America. Originally, movement was along a line on a board made for Checkers, either one or two spaces left, right or diagonally, the player traveling from "Infancy" to "Happy Old Age". Earlier editions were much more concerned with social mores e.g. the path from "Idleness" leads to "Disgrace", than those produced since 1959. In its time considered a great technological advance in printing, taking advantage of new chromolithographic advances which put an end to thirty-eight years of hand-illustrated box and board artwork. A pocket-sized version, probably the first American "travel edition", was marketed to Civil War soldiers. Playing today shows its age as there is very little skill beyond simple spin-and-move. One starts by opting for business or college and then moves through spaces which include marriage, children, stocks, insurance, calamities, promotions, etc. In a conclusion befitting pure capitalism, the player who ends life with the most money wins. Has appeared in many different editions, some with rules changes, over the years. More information is available at the Hasbro website which long ago acquired Milton Bradley, not to mention Parker, Avalon Hill, Microprose, Coleco, Wizards of the Coast (and thus indirectly TSR and SPI) and many others. Just to show how far things have come, the latest update is called The Game of Life: Star Wars Edition.
Gang of Four
Climbing card game apparently derived from the The Big Two, a Chinese game played with traditional cards, whose relatives are Zheng Fen, Tichu, The Great Dalmuti and Frank's Zoo. Here the card combinations played are Poker hands (in only three suits). This has more sophistication than The Great Dalmuti because it's less about memorization and more about choosing which combinations to use when. As each participant plays for himself, it misses the extra interest inherent in Tichu's partnership play. The fact that a combination has an absolute value regardless of size and shape has a downside too: it emphasizes luck of the draw and reduces the chance that Tichu offers, that even low cards can be quite valuable. It also retains that old notion that the round loser must give up a card to the winner, fostering the kind of rich-get-richer syndrome inventors should avoid. (While The Great Dalmuti also keeps it, it is eschewed by Tichu. Frank's Zoo transforms it into something much more intelligent, and also introduces the novel concept of a circular hierarchy.) This is a late entry into a crowded field. Although it is more satisfying than The Great Dalmuti, it's hard to see a reason for playing it in a world that already includes both Tichu and Frank's Zoo. Title is a reference to the takeover attempt of Madame Mao and her cronies in the 1970's following the death of her husband.
Strategy: Low; Theme: Low; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Medium
Gartenzwerge e.V. (Garden Gnomes Society)
Multi-player card game from new small publisher Argentum. The spirit of the 1970's – its groovy colorfulness and socially-forward topics – inform this game of garden gnome breeding. The format is "choose one from several options per turn" and the goal to ultimately breed the golden gnome, or buy one. Yes, money plays a large role as gnome maintenance costs a lot, as do stud fees. The only ways to raise the cabbage are by entering gnome competitions or "pimping out" – this phrase is not in the rules but seemed very apt during play – one's valuable gnomes. Inventor Roman Mathar gives us not one, but two fairly novel mechanisms here. The first is essentially the sealed bid system used by governmental agencies the world over – with its challenging need to bid neither too high nor too low. Then there is the breeding mechanism, resolved by random card, which provides for a result that is uncertain, but which is based on the better of the parents. This is interesting to play with, but probably also the logical equivalent of turning a random tile in a map exploration game, i.e. rather luck-prone. This can be a problem for play balance as those achieving especially good results can probably subsist wholly on winning competitions and need never share their good fortune before eventually winning. There is also some fragility as an uncooperative player can harm others' chances, even while dooming his own. There are special rules for two-player situations that add a somewhat random third player – these work well. This is a logistical game in which victory is achieved bit-by-bit rather than by a single grand stroke. If this is your preference and you don't mind occasional randomness, this is an attractively-illustrated package on an unusual and slightly goofy topic that doesn't take too long to finish – might make an amusing gift, for example. After all, how many games feature hermaphroditic dwarrows, as apparently the design was unable to solve the extra problems engendered by gender. Actually, it seems any of that cats, dogs or thoroughbreds might have made a more successful theme, and one that would have better avoided the social darwinist implications. But there are some very good ideas here and we'll be looking to see how Argentum presents them more effectively in future offerings.
Geister (Fantasmi, Ghosts, Die guten und die bösen Geister, Jekyll & Hyde, Spökelser)
Abstract with bluffing contested by two on a square grid. Each player has four good and four bad pieces. A turn is just one piece moving one square orthogonally. Players try to avoid taking the opponents' bad pieces and to have one of their good pieces escape via the far corner. Strategically there are various approaches one can take – defensive, bluff, agressive – but the best policy is probably the one that takes best advantage of whatever weaknesses the opponent's position is leaving. Abstracts fans should enjoy, but doesn't sufficiently escape the form to draw significant attraction to others. At least tends to last only about ten minutes or so. Most versions have centered around a theme of good and bad ghosts, but the theme is rather easily dispensed with.
Alex Randolph; 1985
Pure abstract for up to six, made in Korea. As the gaming cafe scene thrives in that nation, it's good to see new home-grown inventions appearing as well. This one's task is to link one's pieces and block out others', quite similar to Blokus, but employing hexagonal rather than square grid and shapes. Who would like to be known as the inventor of a game so similar to its predecessor? On the other hand, there is one bit of mitigating cleverness. Here connections are made not via the corner, but across the short lines which extend out from the corner. This unexpected decision enables just the right amount of flexibility in play, neither restricting options too much nor permitting them to be too easily made. Still, the game's inventor remains anonymous. Like Blokus, this is on the aggressive and contentious side. Players seek to lock others out and if a couple combine to do it to you, your options and fun become rather limited. Except to true Blokus aficianadoes, this does not substantially differ, so these as well as those who are frequently five or six (or three which Blokus does not handle well) should be the primary audience. By the way, there is apparently even an attempt at a theme relating to the struggles of competing powerful families in Korea and extra bits reflecting this theme are available from the manufacturer.
Strategy: Medium; Theme: Low; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Low
Gerüchte Küche
"Gossip Kitchen" is a card game is on the party game end of the scale as well as reminiscent of Go Fish with a logical deduction feature thrown in. There are cards showing ten types of rumors. At the start one card is removed from play and the rest distributed. Players try to collect or ascertain the locations of full sets of each type to deduce which card is missing by asking another about their hand, e.g. "Do you have three widgets?" If incorrect, players answer either "more" or "less", but if correct, the question gets those cards. Collecting a set of six scores three points and removes the cards from play. Correctly guessing which card is missing is worth ten (minus five for a miss). Probably too chaotic for more serious players and requires memory skills to boot. Rumored to be re-released at Essen 2004 with new artwork.
Geschenkt (No Thanks, No Merci)
Games come in many different durations: the short, the medium, the long and in the American scene: the super-long. This one makes the case for the very short, as in five minutes. Such a plan has the undoubted advantage that it can never try player patience, and a concomitant problem: how to put in enough to elicit player enjoyment. Like another very short, Falling, this gains benefit from the classic mechanism of the random order of cards in a deck. Reaction speed is not an issue here, however. Instead, on his turn the player chooses whether to accept the current card or put a chip on it and pass it to the next player. At the end the player with the fewest card points, subtracting chips, wins. The clever rule is that if cards are collected in sequence, only the lowest one counts. What makes it so fun are the different approaches one can take. Try to never take a card? Try for only low cards? Try for a sequence in a particular range? Try to monopolize chips? What are the players to your immediate right and left doing? And how can you measure a good deal? What might make it eventually tiring are the cruel vagaries of luck that can make it feel totally unfair. But for at least a while this should be great fun for any audience. This clever invention comes from Thorsten Gimmler who among others has previously created Cape Horn and Odin's Ravens. Title means "given" (as with a gift). [Frequently Played] [Top Ten Gateways] [Holiday List 2004]
Get Bit
Very simple card game illustrating the old joke about how it's not necessary to outrun the bear, but only to outpace one's fellows. But in this case the "bear" is a shark, the runners, swimmers. These latters are arranged in a line ahead of the shark and each turn players simultaneously choose cards from their identical hands (ranked 1-7). After revelation, players who chose unique numbers, and in order from lowest to highest, move to the head of the line. Whoever is last in line loses a limb, represented by detaching such from the cute (robot-resembling) plastic figure. This system is quite similar to that of Würmeln, but with the fascinating analog blocking component. In that system the particular numbers therefore have more meaning, which can be a problem here as there is little to no predictability to the opponents at all and so random collisions are frequent. There are some very simple games which remain fun to play over and over again, but this one, despite its fancy components, is not likely to become one of them. Apparently some sets also come with a plastic shark to use instead of the normal shark card. Cards are printed left-handed only. [6-player Games]
Strategy: Low; Theme: Medium; Tactics: Low; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 4
Dave Chalker; Robot Martini; 2007; 4-6
Game about oil prospecting and selling which really requires exactly four players. Trucks drive about prospecting for oil which is shipped to three oil markets via player trains. At first play the black train cards which represent the game system will seem out of control as the end of the board is never explored. Although contrary to player expectation, this is actually wise as otherwise matters would go on too long for the possibilities offered, not to mention making too obvious the nature of the as yet undiscovered oil strikes. There is the appearance of multiple strategic paths, but in reality is decided in the oil auctions, leaving mysterious why players are forced to walk through all the rest of it. Not for everyone, but should work well for players who love auctions, get really turned on by very fancy plastic pieces and don't mind the price tag.
Giganten der Lüfte (Airships)
Sometimes it would be nice to use a lie detector on game inventors. The particular question would be, "what game did you fundamentally dislike, but nevertheless enjoy just enough to create your own similar one?" It seems there must be a recent one for how else to explain the current plethora of dice games around, many of them combining dice and a technology tree. Or perhaps a lot of inventors had this type of prototype hanging around, but it took one breakthrough product to convince other publishers that they needed one of the same type as well? Yspahan perhaps? Whatever the case, probably it will be years before this group can be evaluated in complete fairness simply because of marketplace fatigue with so much of the same thing. Yes, as you've gathered, this is another effort in the same category, this time revolving around the perfection of airship technology like that of the Hindenburg (wartime uses carefully sidestepped). But this is one of the few examples where the inventor – not surprisingly considering his track record – shows at least a modicum of interest in theme. The four players represent Germany, France, Italy and USA and the play materials reflect that (though this is not really a variable powers game). Also thematically nice is the separation of cards the players can acquire into six types: engines, pilots, scientists, tools, hangars and funding. All of this is realized in some quite lovely artwork by Jo Hartwig, the faux "designer's notes look" being especially fetching. What's more is that the internationalized communication design is clear and well done. Along with these materials, there are some unusual dice in three colors. White dice show results in the range 1-3, red – 2-5 and black – 4-8. A number of cards are laid out, each specifying the types of dice and the total needed to acquire them. To the total the player may afterward add a bonus chit; failure grants another such chit. Turning in three chits permits a double turn. A player can only hold one of each type of card which means there are sometimes difficult decisions and also that the order that new cards appear is a bit of randomness perhaps more decisive than that of the dice. Eventually players try to create actual dirigibles by taking the more difficult cards which grant victory points. Doing so gives the nice wooden blimp piece and another dice roll bonus. Starting work on the major airship overrides all lesser ones, however. The fact that this ship may never be finished and that the game ends not when all four of lesser airship stacks are depleted, but when each is down to just one card shows judicious wisdom that prevents matters from going on past the point of fun, something less often seen in American games where normally, come hell or high water, every last possibility must be played out long after Fun has left the building. Often the winner is the one who was most often able to roll an 8 on a black die as it always seems that that will win the prize while failing to roll an 8 will lose it. There's a bit of strategy – low-risk/low-reward v. high-risk/high-reward – but the main skill is evaluation of probabilities. On the other hand it's short enough and the choices and setting otherwise interesting enough to make this one of the better possibilities in the dicing sphere.
Strategy: Medium; Theme: High; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: High; Personal Rating: 6
Andreas Seyfarth; Queen; 2007; 2-4 [Buy it at Amazon]
Gin Rummy
Very amusing two-player card game whose influence can be seen in games like Lost Cities. Players must often decide whether to pursue sequences or triplets, how quickly to discard face cards, how to read opponent discards and gauge how close the opponent is to going out.
Gipsy King
"Tile placement" game by Corné van Moorsel in which the "tiles" are largish, wooden recreational vehicles (RVs, cavarans). A gridded board is formed by fitting together multiple-hexagon pieces. Hexagons are either land or pond, some of the pounds containing varying numbers of fish. The ponds are also numbered and in numerical order players take turns placing around them. An interesting wrinkle: a player may decline to place when it is his turn and thereby keep first place in line after the next placement. Goals are twofold: to have majority control of scoring ponds, which provides the minority of points; and to own a large number connected tiles, which pays off per the triangular numbers scheme. Important skills are lookahead ability and understanding of the blackmail/take-one-for-the-team blocking move. There can also be some kingmaker effects as well, depending on whether or not certain blocks occur in the late game. The same game is played twice – the second time in reverse numerical order and permitting a couple of double placements. Despite this, it finishes in good time and features good replay value. Of concern are the thematic elements which seem to suggest a prejudiced view of the Roma who here seem to be swarming public parks and stealing all the fish from the ponds. Is the reason for misspelling "gypsy" in the title?
Strategy: Low; Theme: Low; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 6
Corné van Moorsel; Cwali; 2007; 2-5
Girl Genius: The Works
Card game by James Ernest is really a reworking of XXXenophile for the PG crowd. A somewhat interesting idea is marred by the usual problems one finds in American games. Card art is too busy; there is too much text whereas icons could have been used; and the text is too small to be readily read. This last may not sound a problem, but when up to 12 cards must be carefully scanned and at least half or more are on the table facing away from you, it really becomes a serious one. Add to this unworkability rules which force players to look through and carefully read all hand or score cards. If his opponents are not yet asleep, they would still wait longer while the player must carefully select hand cards to play as replacements. Put all of this together and one winds up with not a strategy, but a skill game, the winner being the one most successful at noticing all the little bits scattered here and there on the very busy display.
Giro Galoppo
if no image probably out of print
This horse-racing game is by the creator of that other G-G game, Gulo Gulo. Like that one this is a good candidate for play both by adults and children (down to about age six). The board depicts a path that winds through the countryside, crossed by rivers and swamps. To these obstacles each player adds another in the forms of walls, bushes or barriers, so this is not merely a horse racing, but also a horse jumping event. Each player has an identical set of cards numbered one through six. For those not yet able to read, there is also a form of horse counting: the same symbol repeated a number of times equal to the value of the card. Players choose their cards privately and reveal at the same time, the lowest card moving first. That's when things get tricky. If one lands on another, the landed on is sent back to the first clear space. If one would land on an obstacle, there's no move at all. Thus there's a lot of guessing and outguessing with the overall goal being to be sent backward less distance than the other players. The colorful map shows attractive, pastoral scenes and the oversized wooden pieces easy for even little hands to manipulate. The separable riders can be paired with any horse, each of which is differently colored. Moreover the whole thing can finish in ten minutes without any turn lacking in either dilemmas or excitement. Probably variants such as picking up the cards after only five plays or giving special powers for playing low-numbered cards could make the game more complex should adult-only players wish to do so.
Jürgen P. Grunau; Selecta Spielzeug/Rio Grande; 2006; 2-5
Strategy: Medium; Theme: High; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 7 [Buy it at Amazon]
Give Me the Brain
Card game about a group of zombies having only one brain between them working at a fast food restaurant. Players attempt to get rid of their cards, but many cannot be played unless "the brain" is held, which can usually only be done by play of certain cards. A later version puts all card text in Czech and provides only one translation sheet, available only to the player holding the brain. Virtually all atmosphere that can easily outlive its humor value. Follow-on Lord of the Fries has nothing in common apart from theme.
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Glen More
if no image probably out of print
Buy it at Amazon
A first time German inventor brings us a game set amongst the lochs, wheat fields, sheep, castles and whiskey barrels of highland Scotland. This is another employing the rondel mechanism, but this time its shape is rectangular, a "rectdel" perhaps. On a small board with a market in its middle player meeples leapfrog one another to claim square tiles. The next player to move is always the least advanced one, as in Thebes. Taken tiles are added to the owner's freeform display. Figuring out the best way to locate these is a source of a lot of the interest. First there are restrictions: some tiles require a river or a road; these must be aligned to the river and road of a player's starting tile. Tiles not containing either of these features may not block those which do. In addition a tile must be placed adjacent to one of the player's meeples. After placement adjacent tiles are activated. Some permit a meeple to hop over to an adjacent tile, which one to move and in which direction being another challenging decision as the display expands. There is also the ability to promote to a chieftain, removing it from the display, but allowing it to count in scoring. Other tiles produce sheep or cattle or butcher them to produce points. Wheat may be grown and turned into whiskey. There are also a number of one off tiles providing even more significant abilities, products or endgame scoring. Available tiles begin play divided into stacks and an intermediate scoring occurs each time one runs out. The methodology compares all players in three categories, in each the most advanced player receiving points for the difference between himself and the least advanced, with intermediate players receiving a portion. This sort of thing also has a reverse effect in special endgame scoring when the player with the largest display is penalized in comparison to the player with the smallest. Perhaps the largest drawback here is the packaging and presentation. While the wood and cardboard are all their typical attractive Alea selves (some may not approve the thinner tiles Alea has been using the past few years) and there's full appreciation for the small box, a larger board and tiles would have been very helpful when trying to figure out what other players are working with across the table. Unique tiles show white icons which are meant to indicate that they have associated cards, but these resemble too closely the whiskey icons. The cards are quite small as well and feature tiny print. For these reasons and also because there's too much downtime and too little ability to plan, avoid this with five players. With four players there is some downtime, but at least there is less of the situation of a strategic path that only one player takes and therefore wins because of it. With fewer than four, there is a special rule wherein a virtual player takes tiles away via die roll. This can be amusing, but adds randomness that some may not enjoy. On the other hand, the downtime issue disappears at this number. There are some tactical considerations, sometimes about taking a tile another player needs, but certainly about timing one's activities to be ready for the scoring intervals.
HMMH7 (Strategy: High; Theme: Medium; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: High; Personal Rating: 7)
Matthias Cramer; Alea-2010/Rio Grande-2010; 2-5; 60
Global Pursuit
Published by National Geographic magazine. The geometric map includes the entire world. The object is to answer geography trivia, and match map tiles to earn points and create a world map. Map tiles show different maps of the earth: political, economic, topographical and historical. Questions have varying degrees of difficulty. Since a lot of the information is basically unknowable, at least in my opinion (how much do you know about Indonesian trade figures during the 1980's?), the purpose here is more education than gaming. In fact it has been used quite a lot in school curricula. Unfortunately there is not much for the strategist here. [Party Games]
Gloria Mundi
The title of this large, multi-player board game from Abacus by James Ernest and Mike Selinker must be some kind of joke for how can a meaning like "Glory of the World" describe what the players are doing here, which is alternately bribing barbarians not to attack or abandoning Rome as fast as their little legs will carry them. But just as in the joke about outrunning the grizzly, it's not necessary to outpace the bear(barians), you just need to outrun your opponents. In this tightly integrated design, each player starts his turn by playing a card triggering production of gold, soldiers or food – for all players, and the more cards they have of this type, the more they earn. But this card has a second purpose: providing a build site for a same-colored card that a player may now buy, a building which will both permit movement and provide some special advantage. But should the underlying card ever be lost, there goes the building card with it. The reason to lose a building is that some slacker on his turn might elect not to bribe, which means the barbarians wreak havoc and players take turns having their holdings ravaged. Initially players are probably reluctant to take this mutually destructive option, but actually it should be chosen whenever one is less harmed by it than others. Players tend to set up extra cards as buffers against destruction and to specialize in unique colors to avoid damage. They also tend to not get too attached to anything as fortune make quickly take it away (but is Ursuppe any different?). Most often the key to victory will be successful assembly of a group of mutually supporting buildings. Unfortunately these are not all laid out in nice rows to choose from as in Puerto Rico. Instead, they appear one by one in a draft pool where they are initially too expensive and later too vulnerable to getting picked off by others, an annoying situation which may eventually sour some players. Probably these are the ones who should just forebear from the strategy of buying a building every turn so as to keep moving and instead save up to pay more for a really complementary one. The trouble here is that those cards may show up too late, or not at all. In this context it should be kept in mind that the more bribes are not paid, the more cards appear. The cards themselves are lacking in communication design, but considerable care has been taken thematically as they all tend to match their functions well. Each has a diferent Latin name as well, with the meaning being clear from the illustration. One detects a different theme in each suit: white legion cards tend to confer glory, food cards wealth and gold cards more money. It's pretty evident too that the inventors have played plenty of Magic: the Gathering, as some of its modes are apparent here. The production is lavish and overdone, as is appropriate for the title, reminding a bit of editor Joe Nikisch's former glory days at Goldsieber. There are many bits, including pieces in three colors that remind of chiclets. The joke is present mostly in game play, not in the artwork, though the too-comfortable Roman lounging on the box cover gives some idea. Overall the mechanisms are fairly innovative, grasp of theme is good, but duration is rather long for its level of chaos. The important skills are evaluation and lookahead, but tactics and theme are acknowledged as well, so there is something here for just about everyone. Even if not entirely successful, this is definitely in the right direction, the sort of German-American hybrid that it is hoped will appear more often. [6-player Games]
Strategy: Medium; Theme: Medium; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 7
Glory to Rome
Multi-player card game set in Rome, just after Nero's fire. Players vie for prestige in the rebuilding by use of a huge deck of multi-function cards – at least 5 functions each. The idea that one's played cards go into a pool from which players draft on the next turn is borrowed from Lamarckian Poker, but surprisingly never before fully realized. It leavens above the usual game of this type. But this is also a good example of the maxim that "it's not enough to have a good idea; one needs to know how to use it". Too bad then that this design has been tricked up with several special cards that hugely alter events, having the potential to end matters after just a few turns, giving the lucky card drawer the victory. The design seems almost schizophrenic as how could someone invent the very fine rules permitting players to acquire permanent capabilities in various categories when the game can end before they can even be used? Trying out different capabilities ought to have been part of the fun. On the other hand, matters here are so chaotic that they can last quite a long time, much longer in fact than situation and fun afforded warrant. So this is not recommended unless one wants to tinker and there of course is no guarantee that anything reasonable can be accomplished with the materials at hand. But it's good news for inventors that the idea is still out there, just waiting for proper application. Card art is cartoonish rather than classical. Note that post-publication errata restricting the use (abuse) of the Jack card has been issued. [Cambridge Games Factory]
Strategy: Medium; Theme: Low; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Low
Klaus Teuber game of the Wild West in a surprisingly-small box (first in the new Kosmos "Games for Multiple Players" series). The heart of the game is a double auction system. The first bid uses an adventurer to try to win at either a shootout, poker or gold digging. An adventurer may be lost at this if too successful or not successful enough. But the winner gains some advantage, say in gold or victory points, and then there is a second auction for adventurers using IOU's. Eventually the IOU's come due and the players must pay using the gold they have acquired earlier. Woe betide the player who cannot pay as they suffer a black stain on their reputation and consequent loss of victory points. Strategy tip: do not overbid IOU's. The main idea here seems to be to have perfect timing and balance, but the experience is overly chaotic due to the vagaries of which IOU cards are pulled. Somewhat reminiscent of the inventor's earlier Der Fliegende Holländer in this respect. Also unpleasant, unless the rules translation is wrong, is the mild memory aspect. Title means "Merciless".
Gnip Gnop
Game for children first published in 1971 by Parker Bros. takes its name from Ping Pong spelled in reverse. Each of the two players has three levers which are used to propel a ball through a hole to the other's side. First to get all six balls to the other's side wins. Although mostly a game of speed, a player can attempt something smarter by watching the opponent's hands and trying to time a shot from the corresponding lever at the same time, or slighly earlier, thus both getting a ball through as well as stopping a ball from coming through. Overall, the frantic action becomes more fun than such a simple idea would seem to deserve. [picture]
Die Gnumies (Gnumies)
David Parlett card game for children of silly, fantasy characters reminds of Raj in which players each put a card face down to bid for a revealed points card. Fortunately here only the winner pays. Other added twists are the bonus points for set collection, a wild card and instead of negative cards, seven cards which destroy part of the collection rather than improve it. Finally, a special card does not participate in bidding, but instead permits the player to draw an extra card from the deck, which he either keeps by paying his special card or gives away. There is some strategy and interest in trying to figure out how much to value each card. How many low cards do you need to save to avoid the negative cards? How much should you spend to keep an opponent from collecting the third or fourth card of a set vs. building such a set yourself? Etc. But it can be quite frustrating if the entire deck does not get used (usually it is not) and the card ranks you are collecting are all stuck at the bottom. This is not bad as an introductory game for children, but not one that adults will also prefer for themselves. Instead, they should try something like Drahtseilakt. [Holiday List 2002]
Go (Baduk, Weiqi)
Traditional game apparently invented in Japan at least five hundred years ago, possibly a lot earlier. Introduced to Europe and the United States in the 1880's (the similar British game Annexation was invented around the same time), one of the most challenging of two-player games abstracts. Even computers do not so far play it as well as masters do. Rather devoid of color, however. After decades of decline, is apparently again on the upswing in Japan. [Periodic Table of Board Games]
Go Fish (Authors)
This simple card game may seem beneath interest, but it does have some strategic features. One must decide whether it is wiser to ask for the card that one has only one of or for the triplet that you're holding. The best decision will vary depending on the number of players as well. The Authors version of this game, featuring famous writers with each card showing one of their more popular books, was invented in 1861 by American August Smith and published by Whipple & Smith. Apparently it was not copyrighted as over the years many game companies produced their own versions.
Go to the Head of the Class
One of the original trivia games, it was invented in 1936 by Milton Bradley. After having made several games for the classroom, they apparently decided to put the classroom into a game. Board depicts a home room with desks numbered "1" to "100". Players take turns answering questions from a booklet and either advance or fall back. Some desks require drawing examination cards which pose a second question. Other desks are labeled "Luck" and a card with random effects is applied. Progress on the last five desks is one desk per question. A nice feature is that questions are rated at three levels, equalizing play for unbalanced groups. Also interesting are questions which involve all payers in consecutively naming items from a well-definied category. Almost no strategy, but the trivia is interesting, particularly in the older editions where it's surprising how quickly the trivia of yesterday has been forgotten. [Party Games]
[Buy it at Amazon]
It's possible that in his head every designer, or even every player, has a Platonic ideal of the perfect game, but being perfect, it's entirely possible that this game can never exist, or at least not in playable form. Meanwhile, what do exist are various different approaches to that ideal. I mention this here because with this game one starts to discern what the Platonic ideal of someone at Hans-im-Glück must be. The company's 2004 Spring big game of Renaissance Portuguese merchants in India features once-around auctions of items, nominal ownership of which are assigned to players by a grid-traversal method reminiscent of Restaurant. This type of auction is very light and is not far from drafting. The items purchased mostly contribute to production of one of the five wares or give colonists or ships. Along with money, these are the currencies of the game that permit advancement on the five tracks each player pursues. Track advancements give more capability in the areas of money, ships, colonists, wares or special cards as well as the majority of victory points (special cards and tiles providing the residue). Thus, just as in this publisher's St. Petersburg, it's a game of acquiring materials and managing them to get small efficiencies to outstrip the competition. But a very similar structure can even be seen in some unexpected places like Amun-Re and Morgenland (Aladdin's Dragons). Just the details and complexity change from release to release. The complexity here is on a high end and often one wishes for a piece of paper on which to write out a plan simply because there are too many different tracks and costs to consider. Fortunately the tiles and cards appear to be well-balanced, if a bit bland, which is perhaps an inevitable consequence, leaving the contest mostly a fair one, appropriate for its heavier nature. Component design is up to the company's usual high standard including a superfluous main board. Special kudos are in order for the attempt to create language-free international cards, although they only succeed as a mnemonic rather than in the loftier goal of original communication. A tighter grasp of the theme is lacking – here the player in no way feels any sense of historical experience and the game could be about anything. Overall, this is a worthwhile effort, slightly annoying for offering yet another auction, but a healthy repast for the master strategist.
Freeform hextile-placement game of gods trying to find the most tribal followers. The system is clean and elegant, player turns comprising just two actions from a short list of possibles. They tend to build their own branches to establish nations, earn points cards and then cap the ends with waste lands for defense. The most powerful play – placing a new temple – must paradoxically be mostly avoided, both because of its high expense and because the player with the most loses a significant number of points at the end. Unfortunately not enough seems to have been done with the unintended side effects of placement. Euphrat & Tigris and Café International are just two diverse examples which have done much better in this regard. And the mere two up tiles to choose from are really too few to relieve the problem. The result is that most plays seem to be obvious and uninteresting. [summary]
Michael Schacht; Spiele aus Timbuktu;
God's Playground
Volume 1 of God's Playground is the title of a history of Poland from its origins to 1795. The game picks up the action in the 1400s with players vaguely representing rival factions or magnates within the country. Although it depicts wars, this is not a war game; the players do not fight one another, but do combat foreign invaders while trying to gain maximum advantage at home. Although this situation resembles somewhat that of Republic of Rome, there is no equivalent possibility that the country will fall or that all players will lose. What's well-designed here are three strategic paths that exist under a coherent thematic context. Players will enjoy discovering the details for themselves, but one path is to concentrate on owning as much land as possible, including taking over others' holdings here and there. Another is to concentrate on making money and thus controlling the king and the power it confers as well as constructing (and then defending) the rare but valuable cities. A third involves having influence dispersed everywhere which permits valuable victory point purchases (representing establishment of religious schools). Even better, players are not completely locked into these approaches and can mix and match a little, particularly when it comes to trying to prevent whoever is leading. As in many games, but particularly here, it's not a good idea to look like a leader as he will be targeted, whether it's taking over his lands or letting invaders (Teutonic Knights, Prussians, Swedes, Russians, Tatars, Turks and Hapsburgs) ravish his lands. Speaking of the invaders, their strengths not fixed, but vary slightly depending on dice rolling, so there is no perfect planning. Even more chaotically, invaders who overwhelm their region of entry overflow into neighboring ones. Combat is handled simply. There are three types of units – infantry, cavalry, artillery – and a "to-hit" die is rolled for each. As a refreshing change, the map communicates quite clearly; it is attractive as well. There is a veritable country-load of wooden bits to go with it. There are a few rules glitches, but nothing that cannot be handled. The most serious issue is that the patches and jerry-rigging needed to provide balance are all too apparent. Certain actions can only be performed in certain turns – some only once per turn. Costs vary depending on when they are paid. Some powers can only be used depending on relative score or relative influence in a region. Etc. All of these inelegant exceptions can cause mistakes, either in obeying the rules or in playing optimally or both, and can ruin play to a small or even large extent. Other issues are that the entire game could break if the kingship auction results in a tie (suggested deciders: fewest points, then fewest pieces on board, then randomly). Another is that it's an open question whether there are enough die rolls to be fair in a game of this 3+ hours. On the other hand, the final result can be very balanced, with scores between all players being less than 10% of the total.
HHHH7 (Strategy: High; Theme: High; Tactics: High; Evaluation: High; Personal Rating: 7)
Martin Wallace; Treefrog-2009; 3
Going Nutz
Very simple party game in which players must take turns naming an item from a randomly-drawn category in order to advance on a track. Often fraught with debate or even difficulty if players cannot agree on what is and is not a legal answer. Actually, the game is rather superfluous as this could be played without any implements whatever. [Party Games]
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if no image probably out of print
Apparently gold has just been discovered, but requires donkeys to extract. That must explain why each of the six suits in the 60-card deck contains cards worth -2 (the donkeys) as well as the ranks 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. In reality the theme is pretty thin, but the rest works so well it's forgiven. Reminiscent of Coloretto, each player begins with a donkey in a different color. To start each round five cards are laid out. On a turn the player either drafts the lowest-valued one, trades in a donkey for a better card or trades down a held card to get a less valuable one. The latter can be worthwhile because the goal is to acquire three cards in a suit, which then get removed to the player's score pile. But before doing so, this player steals one card from another player, but not one from any color already held. When the cards run out, the player having the highest total in each color gets to score the best of these cards only. Then it's just a matter of adding up scoring piles to see who won. So this is an affair of simple rules, but tricky decisions. For each possible action, what are others likely to do? Which are more needed at any given moment, donkeys or high-value cards? By retarding the progress of the round, how close is it possible to get to being the first to draw when the new cards appear? And are enough donkeys held to be prepared for that? What cards are needed to play defense against others and what other cards should be spent to get something that matches, especially considering that some of them are just going to be stolen anyway? Etc. In terms of graphic design, these cards should show a symbol as well as the number to help the color blind, but it's not that bad since all cards in play are visible to all and someone else can always be asked. The simple artwork, showing only a gold coin and number, could have been made more exciting, but these are mere quibbles. This decisionmaking here has the quality of a new Coloretto with that immediate "let's play again!" feeling and is one of the best new games from 2011 tried so far. The only real downside is that it only supports up to three players, but it seems likely that with his design practice of constant improvements, the inventor will overcome this eventually. Meanwhile we have this to enjoy for all of those two- or three-player situations that inevitably crop up. The Gold! Promotional Scoring Card expansion changes the game by adding one of three possible end conditions: (1) the player with the most donkeys automatically loses; (2) red card sets automatically count 15 points; (3) "3" cards are tripled in value.
LLHH7 (Strategy: Low; Theme: Low; Tactics: High; Evaluation: High; Personal Rating: 7)
Michael Schacht; Abacus-2011; 2-3; 20; 8+
Gold der Maya, Das
Board game in which players participate in blind bids to acquire either an eighth-, sixth- or a quarter-sized wedge of a circle in two colors, one of which is unknown. High bidder pays off the low bidder. Only certain types of wedges may be placed next to other types. Points are scored for completing a circle, for having a circle all of one type, for the intrinsic value of the wedges and for remaining coin. The design of the wedges is problematic. The most valuable wedges usually have the second most valuable form on the back. But some player will be forced and locked into a strategy with not very valuable wedges. According to Sylvie Barc, its inventor with her ex-husband Jean Charles Rodriguez, it was originally about gods creating planets and called "Stardust".
In lieu of a new mechanism, this game of selling beer presents several old ones combined together in a new way. There is the simultaneous option selection of Basari, the grid expansion of Löwenherz, the majority of cubes in an area from many games and the proportional shares from a few others. But do they all add up to something greater than the parts? Well, Basari detractors will be happy to learn that unlike that game there is no negotiation and that one always gets to perform an action, even if others also choose it. Instead, being the only one to choose an action type means one gets to do it twice, or in the case of getting cards, for half price. In this beer setting, this card option seems to be king of beers, however, and it's likely the best strategy is to almost never choose anything else. That's because it's generally possible to use cards to get into nearly anyone's business. Unlike Löwenherz, where territory shifts between opponents, here it only gets traded between two areas owned by the same player, so most often there is little point. Moreover, the young lady and the old man who provide significant point shifts are also controlled by the cards. So even though its course runs smooth, most strategists will want more of a challenge than this one offers and those with a design perspective, more innovation. This may appeal somewhat to non-gamers – the beer garden theme may help there – so long as they are not put off by a fair amount of accounting at the end of each round. Also the need for players to be alert to playing "defense" may be problematic for this group, especially given the simultaneous blind bidding situation. If no one thinks to "bell the cat", watch out! Poker chips, if you have them, make a nice alternative to the paper money by the way. There may be some extra humor intended in the depiction of the old man (lecher?) and the (rather severe looking) serving woman that German residents alone can fully appreciate.
Franz-Benno Delonge; Zoch/Rio Grande; 2004; 3-4
Die Goldene Stadt
if no image, probably out of print
In a lot of games about building up a position, one starts with practically nothing. With Martin Wallace games it's even necessary to take loans, both early and often. Many Sierra Madre games have such meager starting positions that the player is in danger of being knocked out by the system before its even over. These are Cinderella stories in which by the end a profound transformation has occurred. But there's another style. In this class of games players begin with substantial positions, receive lots of "free" stuff and thus steadily progress to better positions, without ever experiencing much angst. Sort of like an early Tom Cruise movie. It's not clear whether it's because that's what they attract or because their game development process makes it so, but a lot of such games are produced by Kosmos. It happens in the Settlers of Catan where everyone starts with one-fifth of what they'll eventually need to win and continues all through that series as well as in similar vehicles like Elasund. It works for the Settlers, of course, but this scenario needs to be employed judiciously, lest it rob the affair of all drama and sense of accomplishment. The conceit here is that merchants have arrived at "The Golden City" and compete at acquiring goods, establishing centers and receiving letters of recommendation. The colorful map divides a large island into four quadrants – mountains, meadows, woods, desert – which is crossed by crooked roads all ultimately leading to the city in the center. Pairs of quadrant cards permitting placement of the ubiquitous Catan houses in associated lands are set out for players to claim in turn. In a cute graphical turn these claims are handled using special hand-shaped tiles. Less cute are the rules by which players compete over cards. If someone wants an already claimed one, he can do so by just paying one gold to oust the current claimant, who is then unable to re-place his hand until every other player has had a chance, probably meaning that he will then need to pay two to get something useful. Players need to be particular because buildings need to be chained along the road and once in a quadrant, sites types are limited. On the other hand, matters are mitigated somewhat by permitting pairs of matched cards to act as a wild card, but that too is limited because hand size maxes out at five. Each building confers some sort of reward as printed on the board. Scoring occurs each turn based on a random public scoring card which indicates which part of the board will have its holdings rewarded. There are also multiple set collection games evaluated at the end of play, based on various types of cards players have collected for buildings. Depending mostly on how the cards come up and turn order, but only a little on cutoffs resulting from building decisions, some players will be advantaged, others not. The problem is that when it happens, there isn't much players can do to catch up. Someone needs to put their hand over that of the leader's, but who is going to do it? The second placed really ought to be the one, but then the cards he would receive might not be useful to him at all. On the other hand maybe the fourth-placed player does need the leader's cards, but he has troubles enough already and can he be expected to go to extreme lengths? Why, just to be a kingmaker? Probably this whole card distribution mechanism is ill-advised and should have been a different sort of auction or distribution mechanism entirely. As is, it tends to make for an orderly procession rather than a competitive contest. Which is a shame as this is an attractive production with many cards and bits and which does not last overlong. Some of the roads are difficult to discern, but this might have been deliberate trickery. Besides the unique hands pieces, it also has a nice key piece to indicate the starting player. It is limited to a small player range, however, something Kosmos has been getting away with for too long, and does not have an English edition, though there are no language-dependent components. This might work in some cases as an introductory affair for players who want to avoid too much direct competition, but is probably too bland to earn many repeat plays.
MMMM6 (Strategy: Medium; Theme: Medium; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 6)
Michael Schacht; Kosmos-2009; 3-4 [Buy it at]
Exploration game by Wolfgang Kramer set, much like Legend of the Lost Dutchman, in the world of the early American Southwest. Like that game, and like last year's Africa, is a matter of turning up random tiles and then trying to do the best one can with them. Here the tiles are satisfyingly large, thick and very attractively illustrated, including American Indians, canyons, lakes, deserts, bandits and mountain lions which look much too nice to shoot. And unlike Coronado's real-life experience, the gold of El Dorado really does exist, particularly in the far corner of the board. The communication design deserves high marks with no textual elements and a well-designed card showing pawn speed based on how much is being carried (a nice idea basically borrowed from Serenissima). Gold provides points, but in addition there are various races, akin to the roadbuilding contest in The Settlers of Catan, in which players attempt to overcome the most of a particular type of tile. This heavier-than-usual treatment of an exploration game is a noble experiment that unfortunately will often not turn out well. Because there is so much luck in what is turned up, and in what order, some players often have an unfair advantage. Adding weight and length to the affair simply increases the misery in these cases. In addition, there appears to be a unbalancing strategy in simply traveling along the outside border to be first to reach the gold corner. Overall, Knizia had the right idea with Africa: if it's to be an exploration game, best to keep it fast and light. Players who are not fanatics for exploration games or the Southwest should stay with that one. When it comes to the truly satisfying exploration game, master strategists are still searching.
This card game which plays like a board game is set in the gold rush era, but rather than dig and pan, players pursue a surer source of income: providing services, including the naughty ones, for the miners in the form of various buildings. Players take turns revealing event, resource and bandit cards from the deck. After events are resolved, players bid for the resources. Then the active player uses action points and resources to acquire building permits and tools or erect buildings which differ in their resource costs and advantages conferred, including action points. Bandits may also be used to counter others. Then players engage in a sub-game somewhat akin to group Blackjack – but with a greater range of results – to distribute gold useful for the next auction. This is an economic game with considerable chaos, an unusual mixture which will probably cause fans of only the former to blanch, used as they are to steady forecasting and manageable risk. But I don't think this was invented for them. Rather it should appeal to those with a great appreciation for theme and a tolerance for the ups and downs of Lady Luck, while still retaining some important strategic decisions. The wood-themed artwork on the 120 cards is atmospherically fun, although the throroughness of the "look" sometimes makes the three kinds of cards tricky to distinguish. The only sub-system which might need further work would be the end scoring. It seems almost certain, at least in a five-player game, to generate many ties, for which the rules do provide a solution, but fewer ties in the first place would have been much preferred. There are also four expensive, one-of-a-kind buildings, but they do not provide any flavorful benefits. Perhaps one day the publisher will consider a variant which endows them with special powers? There is little German text to bother English-only players, but one "gotcha" is that in terms of their capabilities, there are five different types of bandits. Unfortunately, these are detailed mostly in text rather than pictorially, but players should be able to quickly acclimate. Note also that scissors are needed to cut out tool and dynamite chips (fold these into the rules for easier storage). Overall, my second favorite from this publisher, after Strand-Cup, and better than many in the Wild West genre. [Krimsus]
Gomoku (Go-Moku, Renju, Go-Bang, Spoils Five, Noughts and Crosses)
Ancient Japanese abstract similar to Tic Tac Toe except played on an infinite board with the goal of getting five or more tokens in a row. Usually a 19 x 19 Go board will suffice to complete a game. Most strategy revolves around trying for four tokens in a row with a blank at either end, an unbeatable situation. A good way to move into more sophisticated gaming after Tic Tac Toe, it is more strategic but still has the flaw that with perfect play the first player must win. A derivative is the Swedish game Pente which adds capturing pieces as another way to win. Introduced to Europe around 1885, it was originally called Go-Bang. It was first published in the United States just two years later by McLoughlin Brothers (a company later acquired by Milton Bradley). [Periodic Table of Board Games]
Good Guys and Bad Guys
Cadaco game from 1973 for children about a classic Old West battle between good and evil as four white-horsed law-enforcement cowboys pursue four black-horsed lawbreakers. Players roll the dice one by one deciding to which horse the roll should be allocated. Sometimes if particularly unlucky one of the outlaws can be captured on the first turn or three. At a certain point the trail splits into three paths, each with its own advantages and disadvantages and the outlaw must choose based on how many and how close the lawmen have come up to their heels. Often it is wisest to split up while the lawmen are probably best off to let at least one of the outlaws escape so as to be sure of catching the others. Certain vague rules need some pre-game discussion. One of the more flavorful an intriguing entries of its time and type, mostly for the intricacies of the map.
Good, the Bad and the Munchkin, The
Surprise has been expressed over the years at the lack here of any commentary on the Munchkin series of games. Had they really been avoided for so long? Actually no, but what had happened was that after it came out seven of us sat down to try it. After a few rounds of complete boredom, I asked, since there were plenty of other players already, to be excused. That said, three others immediately asked the same thing and the entire playing disintegrated. Many years have passed since then and with no fewer than thirty-one products out so far, the line must be succeeding at some level and so I resolved to try it again. What I found once again is that really the selling point is humor. These text-heavy cards could have been a book of humor, but reading's a solitary exercise whereas in a game context you can read to one another, something that's not normally acceptable, except in the context of parents to children. The game itself is nothing new. One draws a card to find out what happens. Some negotiation can occur and others can play "take that!" cards to work against whomever they like, even the person in last place if they don't happen to like them that day. It's not exactly unbalanced, but forget about any strategy or tactics. There is a good deal of fiddliness, detail buried in text and difficulty in remembering to use all of the various abilities one has acquired. It's sort of strange too that the Dungeons & Dragons ideas of encountering monsters (here other gunfighters, grizzly bears, etc.), classes (dude, cowboy, Indian (possibly offensive?), outlaw, etc.) and levels are preserved instead of coming up with something new and more appropriate for this setting. Don't get this if you're looking for a game about the Old West; do get this if you're the type of person who enjoys endless repetitions of dialog from Monty Python and other genre humor. By the way, back in 1983 I helped create a humor piece that may have spawned this whole line of Munchkinism. If that is true, I would like to humbly apologize. Also published in German as Spiel mir das Lied vom Munchkin (Play Me the Munchkin Song.)
Strategy: Low; Theme: Medium; Tactics: Low; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 3
Steve Jackson; Steve Jackson Games; 2007; 2-6 [Buy it at Amazon]
Isomorphic grid tiles are assembled in random fashion to form the board, becoming a maze which is often difficult to navigate. Populating the maze are a number of hazards and tools in the form of both inverted counters and printed text. These include things like fires, snakepits, cave-ins, locked doors, involuntary slides, trap doors, tight squeezes, etc. Also present are each player's Get-Out-Of-The-Maze-Units. The first to successfully acquire all three of these units wins. While an interesting concept and rather different than most games, just as in Dschungel the chief challenge is simply trying to decipher how to navigate the board (which like Wiz War wraps at the edges) rather than plan any strategy. There is also a large reliance on luck of the dice as players roll for movement and only with a "6" can a player rotate a tile and even then it may not be possible to do anything to slow down a leader. Some spaces are too strong such as those that when landed on require losing two turns. Similar frustrating effects also occur because players are not allowed to discard unused movement points. [Jolly Games]
Gouda! Gouda!
A racing game in which the object is fragrant cheese and the racers eager, climbing gangs of mice. Special dice show results of either forward, backward or "no effect" and the player decides which mice, including those of others, move where. First to the cheese wins. An advanced version adds two more cheeses and three secret chits per player which allow them to alter the normal course of play in various ways (up/down-grading dice, cancelling rolls, forcing re-rolls, changing venue, etc.). Rules and presentation are easy to understand and use. There is a bit of a tactical element in that one tries to roll dice where a lot of other mice are already present and also to escape the side paths where few mice congregate. Includes very pleasing stylized wooden mice and cheese pieces. Intended for children, hopes that it would be as appealing for adults as similar vehicles Igel Ärgern, or even Ausbrecher AG are unfortunately dashed, leaving one to wonder at the tininess of the gap between success and disappointment. Progress is too random, with mice often travelling quite high only to fall seriously out of contention, and the outcome too long in coming. The advanced version only accentuates these flaws. The attempt is applauded, but the cute theme and presentation are best left to the younger audience, and even they can probably do better elsewhere.
De Gouden Eeuw (The Dutch Golden Age, Die Goldene Ära, Le Siècle d'Or, Holdenderski Zloty Wiek)
Games with multiple strategic paths are very popular and admired, but does it work for you if there is plenty of luck attached? After all, despite the luck, those strategic decisions are still there to be made. Maybe the answer is a question of length. How long would you be willing to to play such a game? Set in 17th century Netherlands, this one's first strong impression is a large and beautiful map of its provinces. Around the outside is a track over which via dice roll a pawn moves to start each player-turn. Each landing space contains two province names; players having a piece there receive some small income. This isn't a big part of play, but is clever because it's an easy way to add some unpredictability to player activities as well as bailing them out a bit when their investments have gone sour and they're desperately strapped for cash. Speaking of investments, there are two main forms: the tulip market and overseas colonization. Tulips tend to be very risky, but the overseas investment even more so. These ventures are pursued by drawing cards which, reminiscent of Risk, can be turned in when a complete set is drawn. Some cards pay off as singles, but others only in a set of three, which can take rather too long. One bug is that there are only five of the latter type in the tulip deck which could result in nobody being able to cash them out. But how are these cards acquired you ask. There is a color scheme to the board. There are five colors of provinces and four corresponding colors of decks. Presence in a color gets you the ability to buy a card in the corresponding deck. The fifth color is used to introduce new pieces to the board. But this is not all. There are also five color tracks with ascending numbers. A player unable to get onto the board can instead buy his way into a color by ousting the player currently on the track of the color he desires; of course each oust costs more than the last one. The decks not yet described include an arts and culture deck in which players endow paintings and the like for victory points and an interesting gray deck which is a real grab bag of items including special one of a kind powers plus cards normally found in other decks. As a result there's a mostly monetary path to victory, an arts and culture one, an exploration one and the gray deck, plus the possibility of mixing paths together, admitting that some mixture is probably necessary anyway, especially in the early going. But one has a limited number of pieces to place which is definitely a limitation going into the endgame. Obviously though, drawing cards, and therefore luck has a large effect on play. Thematically the game isn't bad, if one can accept the distillation of many things down into just a card. At least the cards are attractively illustrated and well made. There are both wooden and cardboard counters as well as dice in orange, still the color of Holland. Both map and cards clear communications-wise, though the instructions, at least in English, can be a bit confusing at first pass and should have had another edit. Turns are entirely a free-for-all in which the player can do whatever he likes so long as he can pay for it and sometimes this causes confusion. It is unfortunate that it only works for such a small player range. But with experience this offers intriguing sets of choices and only lasts about an hour, which depending on your tolerance for luck, just might make this one golden.
Leo Colovini & Giuseppe Baù; Phalanx/Mayfair; 2008; 3-4 [Buy it at Amazon]
HHMM7 (Strategy: High; Theme: High; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 7)
A few years ago we had the year of the pirate game, but lately we seem to be overrun with vikings games, this being one of the examples. At the same time, while the Catan series seems to be headed in warlike directions (Struggle for Rome), games like this one could as easily carry the title "The Settlers of Greenland". But we don't get much of the island here, only the coasts, which are represented by two rows of placards, each representing one of five terrain types. A terrain type produces a resource card per turn, drawn from decks containing three different types, in different proportions. The types overlap so there are only five types overall. Each turn features accumulation for all players, but the right to building (which passes clockwise) is available only for one (who does not move on this turn). As in Catan, players use resources to build new control structures (houses) which can earn more resources, but also – here the game more resembles Puerto Rico – they upgrade their abilities or those of the areas they dominate. Catan detractors who feel that dice and/or trading ruin the game may be pleased that neither apply here. Instead, each player has a chance to propose a division of spoils for one area. Then, explicitly without any negotiation, players vote on it, some having more votes than others as they depend on local holdings. What becomes quickly apparent is that in such situations it is wiser to propose the other player as a recipient, hoping he will return the favor. In this way both players at least make progress against the others where as othewise both are falling further behind. It may appear prima facie that some starting positions – those centrally-located – are more favorable than others – those located at the edges – but there are two ways to look at this. If those in the center have better access, they also tend to be in the midst of more contention whereas those at the edge tend to be left alone more. The artwork in this game is photographic rather than cartoonish and some of the terrains look a little too similar to one another, but they become clearer with practice. The communication design is well done, including the informative player aid cards which feature a clever way to secretly indicate movement and graphics on the back of each resource card indicating the mix of its deck. This game features both new mechanisms as well as new combinations of mechanisms. It should earn quite a few replays as different starting positions and various advanced capabilities are tried. It has a nice fit with its theme, which is thankfully an unusual one to boot. In short, recommended for anyone seeking something more than just a light outing who doesn't mind a ninety minute game.
Strategy: High; Theme: High; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 7
Vladimír Chvátil; Czech Board Games; 2006; 3-5
Grande, El
Multiplayer game designed by Wolfgang Kramer and Richard Ulrich is set in medieval Spain, apparently in the era of the weak-willed monarchy of Ferdinand and Isabella. Players represent powerful magnates vying for power which consists of a number of races, one for each province in Spain and one for the court. Competition is in the basic form of having more wooden blocks than the opponents while cards layered on top of the system permute the system and create a myriad of special conditions to create a game which needs a great deal of detailed lookahead. Too weakly tied to its supposed reality for my taste and more suspectible than most to psychological attempts into diverting players to competing with someone else. [Spiel des Jahres Winner]
Grande, El: König & Intrigant
Expansion kit adds an identical card deck for each player inducing even more considerations. Lends more variety if one already likes the vanilla game, but does not salvage matters otherwise.
Card game about the hallucinogenic lifestyle of the 1970's is essentially a specialized version of Milles Bornes. One twist is the Paranoia type of card that one must not be caught with at the end of the game, but which is passed around the table and so are difficult to avoid. The rules are a bit vague and house conventions probably unavoidable. [Take That! Card Games]
Great Balloon Race, The (Himmelsstürmer)
Game of bluff, each player favoring three secret balloons to win the race. Although movement is based on the luck of the die, the ability to bump others so as to provide another turn or temporarily strand them adds considerable interest. The need to figure out other's motives is a third solution to the general "down time" problem that afflicts most games (others being very short turns or non-player reactions). Rather enjoyable, certainly much more so than it might first appear. Bright and charming presentation helps considerably as well. German title can be translated "sky stormer". [Balloon Aviation Games] [6-player Games] [rules translation]
Great Dalmuti, The (Der Große Dalmuti)
Card game with a medieval theme another in the family of climbing games which includes Zoff im Zoo and others, probably all originating in a traditional game from China, the best known version of which may be Zheng Shangyou (not described here, but see P). This version take its theme more seriously than most, forcing the player who has done worst to act as the servant for the other players and seating rearrangements based on rank after each deal. Often the best strategy is to draw a good hand. A good memory for what has been played certainly does not hurt. [6-player Games]
Green Ghost
One of the plethora of weird and wonderful-looking games that sprang forth in America during the 1970's. Components glow green in the dark, but it never works quite as well as in the television commercial which cheated by filming under black light. Plastic board is a raised platform held up unsteadily by plastic pillars and only somewhat stabilized by three cardboard boxes over which it is fitted. Boxes contain feathers, guts and bones, though the latter two are really rubber bands and lengths of hard plastic. Players move their spooky pawns around the board as directed by the finger of a large host spinner., trying to land in the right spot to fish out the majority of ghosts from the boxes. Involves very little skill and is really too fragile for the intended age group. Remains a uniquely-interesting artifact of its time.
The latest Günter Cornett design reworks the 18XX series (of train games), managing to finally make one worth playing, at least to this reviewer's taste. For one thing, the stock market is completely jettisoned. Instead, this game of leading tourists around the ever-changing Greentown and its many attractions is one of route planning and tile (re)placement. Players have no choice in the tour demand cards they receive; thus they often must help opponents even while competing with them. Victory goes to the one who can best intuit how routing is likely to change and who can best imagine what the effects of new tiles will be. Although the rules are simple, decisions are not. Still, duration is only about forty-five minutes. Greentown appears to be the place where Age of Steam, fanatics and "soft core" game players can happily rendezvous. [Tourist Games]
Strategy: Medium; Theme: High; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 7
Günter Cornett; Bambus;; 2006; 2-4
Große Geschäfte (Mall World)
Andrea Meyer tile placement game of outfitting shops and targeting customers for them. Actually, theme is very slight as various colors are meaningless, only prevalence, adjacencies and pairings count. Points are mainly earned by creation of board situations which match goal cards drafted during play and getting these played – timing is everything. The trouble is that whenever you play a card you are not improving the board. You can try to play cards during others' turns, but who knows which ones they will put on offer or whether you will bid high enough in the blind auction to get the ones you want. Another dilemma is that most placement cards have about three different ways they can be played. If a player puts three such cards up for auction and there are ten different potential board locations for each (all different) you get an idea of the amount of cross-referencing that's required. Although not overly long, this logistical outing should be best appreciated by those who usually play longer and very detailed games where very slight facts and moves can make a big difference. Memorization is helpful. There is often a feeling of too little control as well since one is at the mercy of two draft pools which the player must somehow synthesize together. Artwork is attractive and avoids color blindness issues. Theme is at least innovative, if humdrum and not strongly grasped. The nature of play is new in many ways as well. Coming from the inventor's previous detailed game, ad acta, I wanted to like this one more, but found it not as appealing as its very satirical and elegant predecessor. [Bewitched Spiele]
Grosse und das kleine A, Das (Einer ist immer der Esel, Uno deve pur perdere, Who's the Ass?)
Card game by Wolfgang Kramer is another in the family of climbing games which includes Zoff im Zoo and others, probably all originating in a traditional game from China, the best known version of which may be Zheng Shangyou (not described here, but see P). One important difference here is that the trick is only once around rather than the usual continuously rolling version. Essentially the deck is formed by combining two traditional card decks including jokers. Added are two special cards, one showing a large "A" the other a small "a". Climbing is only by means of exceeding rank of matched set, not by exceeding the number. Jokers are treated as the highest rank, but also have wild card status. Tricks are removed from the game, with one exception. The first trick taken puts the "a" in the taker's hand. The second trick taken puts the "A" in the taker's hand. These cards only come back out if the player is able to lead them. When they are led, a special round is held, the high card taking the "A" card. If it was the "a", the player must take it and all the cards with it as penalty points. If it was the "A", it may be re-introduced later, but the last holder is penalized by twenty. Others are penalized to the extent of the cards they are holding when someone has cleared their hand by the end of a round. An improvement on games of this type because both low and high cards are valuable, but at different times, but without introducing a power cycle as in Zoff im Zoo. The overall result is a challenging exercise full of vicissitudes to track and difficult decisions in a deceptively simple setting. One of a very few games that comfortably handles 3-9 players. [translation] [Holiday List 2004] Second Edition: A new edition of this most worthy game has appeared from the unlikely source, Phalanx, heretofore a vendor only of war and complicated works, proving what Avalon Hill long ago learned, a complany cannot stand on this type of game alone. Herr Kramer's second thoughts make for a more elegant game, removing the appendage-like first two special tricks and actually dealing the large "A" into someone's hand. The small "a" card is gone, replaced by a joker. Finally, now it's the last tied player rather than the first who takes the special trick, which doesn't change it too much apart from keeping the trick's outcome longer in doubt. Although I think I still slightly prefer the extra machinations of the first edition and their ramifications, either way of playing is fine and the components of either edition permit either rules set. The new artwork, replacing faces resembling human posteriors with donkeys, offers less (naughty) fun, but probably makes it more acceptable to some kinds of audiences. This marvelous gem remains highly recommended for all. [6-player Games] [Top 10 Games for 7 or More Beginners]
Strategy: Medium; Theme: Low; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Medium [shop]
Guatemala Café
It's surprising that a game on coffee production in Guatemala hasn't appeared before this. Visiting the place I was told that Germans had been instrumental in its early cultivation and since they left it's never been quite the same. This is a make-as-much-money-as-you-can game with three distinct approaches: growing on the coast for export (high cost-high reward), growing in the mountains (low cost-low reward) and growing in between (medium cost-medium reward). The terrain is a square grid on which plantations, meeple workers, ships and roads to them are placed. This part of the game is generally well done, though not particularly innovative. What's more unusual is the means of acquisition of these items, all of which are distributed on a separate grid, one per space. À la Kupferkessel Co., a single pawn moves up to three spaces a turn – more if you pay – and the player drafts three items from the pawn-facing row or column. These items are replaced with roads so that they don't show up until they start to be needed. The final type of item to take is the coffee sack which generates scoring for plantations of its color, usually helping two different players. So the nature of the competition is cooperative. The only other draftable item is the coffee sack – representing a harvest – which is not replaced with a road, but with a coffee sack from the player's hand, providing influence over what can be scored in the future. Tactically, one tends to avoid putting out one's own colors in the first third of the game when they may be scored before attaining full worth, but chooses nothing but that during the latter stages. In terms of placement, some may be tempted to try bringing cheaply grown mountain grown coffee all the way down to the harbor, but this turns out to be a nearly impossible task (well maybe not if there are less than four players). Rather than pursuing such quixotic goals, players should be watching what others are drafting and preventing them from monopolizing a particular color. The drafting board is two-sided, by the way, one being pre-programmed, the other permitting a random distribution. There doesn't seem to be much wrong with using the random side – in fact it seems to start the game up faster whereas the programmed side may be fairer, but prevents drafting workers and plantations on the same turn. Production here is quite good, featuring quite a number of largish wooden pieces not seen in other games. In what must be an attempt at differentiation even a small bag of real coffee beans is included. Whether gimmicks like this or the musical CD provided in Space Dealer really improve the experience is in the eye of the beholder. Thematically everything fits pretty well though and if the mechanisms are not intrinsically unique, they are so in combination. This should be acquired if a game where careful attention to the activities of the player to the left and not leaving them anything good is acceptable. Probably best when played with at least four, however.
Strategy: High; Theme: High; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 7
Inka & Markus Brand; Eggert-Spiele; 2007 [Buy it at Amazon]
This party game resembles Charades, but adds a time limit. The information to be conveyed to teammates via gestures alone comes from pre-printed cards which come in two varieties, easy and difficult, and which are worth either one or two points. A standup plastic device meant to resemble the clapboard used in moviemaking holds four of the cards, the actor choosing which end of each card to use. Once the mechanical timer has been wound up, bringing down the top starts the time and a rotating device inside which causes the cards to fall one by one. Thus, once a correct guess has occurred, the actor must pull out the card to score it. Thirty seconds is all a player has before all four fall through. All clues are single words. Among the easy ones are "shirt", "garbage", "face". Harder are "suitcase", "touch" or "big". There are a number of weird things going on here. Why the moviemaking association when there is nothing here about movies? Why must the buyer apply some stickers while some are already applied? And why is there a faux awards statue which really has no strong use in play? No matter, this is an entertainingly fast version of Charades, especially for the attention deficited. For even though rules permit pulling the ear to connote "sounds like" and other tricks, there really isn't time. Another version of this was later released as Electronic Guesstures. [6-player Games]
LLLM6 (Strategy: Low; Theme: Low; Tactics: Low; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 6)
Jeffrey Breslow; Hasbro-1990; 4-24; 8+ [Buy it at Amazon]
Guillotine [card game]
In the Barbu family of card games for four players in which the dealer chooses one of six different games to play. Each dealer will choose each game once. Deciding what type of game each hand is best for is quite interesting, even if not every game is of that much interest.
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio
This railroad game set in the American southeast sort of works. There is a hex map dotted with cities and around the board are littered a pair of cards for two to three dozen little railroads. Before play scores of cubes in various colors must be laid out in rows, a different color for each row. On a turn a player either auctions some train stock and possibly builds track with the money or builds more track with an existing stock he holds. Each railroad has one or more specific locations where it must begin. The color it must use is set when its preferred stock is sold, i.e. the color of the longest row of cubes, which are then pulled out and put on the board to represent track. Color is important because the players are ultimately not attempting to earn money, but victory points and whenever a player manages to expand a railroad so that it joins with cubes of a new color, extra points are earned. From this rule arises the main problem:
there is little to no incentive to invest early, but if no one does so the game cannot continue. Early investing players can accrue only a few points compared to those that later entrants can garner just by connecting to the railroads that are already present. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that by the time the early investors are ready to return to the board, colors tend to be already connected and no additional such opportunities are available. There is little that can be done to a leader either, except to sell the second half of their stock, but this tends to be a fairly minor effect. In terms of graphics this is a typically drab Winsome affair. There is little use of color to help the communication design either. The important map abbreviations only appear on half the cards. There is also a rules ambiguity, namely once a railroad has started, can it only be continued from its existing track or are its other starting locations still valid? Thematically this is okay, but why doesn't connecting to an existing railroad benefit both railroads instead of only the joiner? Instead of naming it after the Ohio, maybe this should have been called "Ol' Miss".
Eddie Robbins; Winsome Games; 2008; 3-5
LHMM5 (Strategy: Low; Theme: High; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 5)
Gulo Gulo
if no image probably out of print
Dexterity game for children down to about five has them removing wooden eggs from a small bowl without unbalancing the weighted stick in their midst. Components are wonderful and the rules so elegantly simple it can be explained as one goes along. Yet it can also be played in a thoughtful way if one cares to calculate probabilities. This has the potential to be the best of its type since Würmeln. "Gulo" is German for the egg-stealing wolverines that players portray. [Holiday List 2003]
Strategy: Low; Theme: Medium; Tactics: Low; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 7
Jürgen P. Grunau, Hans Raggan & Wolfgang Kramer; Zoch/Rio Grande; 2003; 2-6 [Buy it at Amazon]
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