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Card game for children first designed and published by The Skip-Bo Company in 1967. In 1980 the license was bought by International Games, the creator of Uno. A commercial version of Spite and Malice played with a special deck of 162 cards – 12 sets numbered 1 to 12 and 18 "skip-bo" cards which serve as jokers, it is a kind of competitive Solitaire with little strategy. If they are missing from your set, please see this on-line version of the rules from the Internet Archive or phone Mattel: 1-800-524-TOYS. [rules for Spite and Malice] [Two vs. Two Games]
Slapshot (Phantoms of the Ice, Power Play, Team)
First published by Gamma Two Games as Team, by Avalon Hill as Slapshot, by White Wind as Phantoms of the Ice and by Amigo as Power Play. The White Wind game not designed by Alan Moon is mostly a tedious, rather random affair of mind games and memory without much strategy. May be more enjoyable if one happens to be a hockey fan, although theme could be virtually anything, as Martin Wallace would later prove with Empires of the Ancient World. [6-player Games]
Skyline of the World
Multi-player game from the Netherlands posits skyscraper building on a bone-shaped island. Stackable plastic pieces are imprinted with varying values and players take turns 3 phases: earn income based on their largest group of visible buildings, spending to add levels, spending more money to bring pieces from their reserve to the active supply. The goal is acquisition of victory points which can are rather few -- a score of four could be enough to win. Points are given for building top pieces in the 1-2-4-6-10 sequence and especially for doing so on the three golden spaces which are evenly distributed about the map grid. For this reason the first player has a substantial if not decisive advantage -- he can most easily place the cheap prerequisite markers on the golden spaces as well as be the first to afford to buy and place the "10" pieces. That is, unless the opponents target his income, in which case these benefits accrue to the second player. In practice, however, targeting tends to be difficult, first because a covered player gets paid every time it happens and second, because the income calculation method gives a strong incentive to remain in the area where one is already strong. An "adventure" just to cover a leader is likely to be too harmful to one's own fortunes. Money is not so prevalent anyway as to preclude serious bottlenecks at times and sometimes a player even sells levels back to the reserve to gain cash. Moreover, the play area is roughly bone-shaped and a four-player outing tends to develop with two players clustered on each lobe. In some ways it becomes two two-player games. There are interesting ideas here, none better than the planning involved in buying pieces for the next turn, but none are entirely original. On the other hand, it feels that the features offered could have used further development. Unless that can happen, interest will probably be limited, logistics experts being the likeliest audience. [Game Master]
Strategy: Low; Theme: Medium; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: High
Deductive logic game by Sid Sackson. Challenging and amusing game which is much like Cluedo, without the fluff of the board. Players are a little bit subject to luck of the draw, however. It does not seem to be generally realized that actually this game is derived from a previous Sackson design, The Case of the Elusive Assassin.
Game about drug dealing in Amsterdam features rules somewhat reminiscent of the Dutch game Entengrütze in their funkiness, as well as in offering challenging decisions and trade-offs throughout. Perhaps slightly marred by a little bit of the kingmaker syndrome since when packets are auctioned, both first and second place bidders get to fill a bottle, thus tending to be too susceptible to a player not in contention giving away the game. [Cwali]
Smart Mouth
Word game in which players race to come up with a word which contains at least give letters and which begins and ends with a particular pair of randomly-determine letters. The letters are small, plastic tiles which become visible by use of a clever, but simple to use dispenser. These letters become points so everything is very economical, perhaps too much so if one wants a longer game. But you could always buy a second set. The task in general sounds simple, but often isn't. Quick! Name a word beginning with "o" and ending with "b". This had our group stumped last time. Really it's a special way of thinking about words, difficult at first but something you can learn to do. In short, it's a mind-stretching experience, even if you didn't think of "overdub".
Strategy: Low; Theme: Low; Tactics: Low; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 7
Snakes and Ladders (Chutes and Ladders, Serpents et Echelles)
The original versions of this game appear in second century BC documents from India. Reaching Britain at some point during the colonization of India, it finally arrived in the United States via Milton Bradley in 1943. Originally it was used for didactic purposes as the players travel along the squares sometimes using ladders which represent good acts that allow the player to come closer to nirvana while the chutes (snakes in the first British editions) were slides into evil. This may be the game that gave rise to the popular expression "back to square one". Has been published in many versions and there seems to be no standard arrangement of the ladders and chutes. There isn't really any skill here and the moralistic purpose has been lost in most editions, but it may help to teach counting to young children.
Tile-laying game intended for players aged 5 and up is not without interest for adults. Depicted on the tiles are Chinese-style dragons, long and curly, in varying colors. Players must match up like colors and snap dragons together like puzzle pieces. The goal is to complete as long a dragon as possible to maximize points. Of course it won't hurt to prevent opponents from doing same. Each player has a hand size of three so there is a decent amount of planning. Further interest is added by the fact that while dragon heads are common, tails are relatively rare, concentrating interest on how these tiles are positioned. On top of this, there are three tiger tiles which confer even more points. (In Chinese lore the dragon and the tiger are the mythic creatures of east and west respectively.) One particular play of interest revolves around the tiles which have the same color emerging twice, which come in pairs. When combined they yield a goodly number of points, so a player who holds one might like to watch carefully for the other to appear. Opponents who notice it appearing might like to void this possibility by defensively playing some other tile on it first. Tiles are nicely illustrated and made from fairly nice cardboard. While one might like the interesting longer dragons to arise more often, can make for a colorful and absorbing twenty minutes. [Gamewright]
Multi-player word game in which speed counts. As in Knizia's My Word, individual letters are revealed and then! players race to be the first shout out a word made from them. An additional wrinkle is that points can also be scored by adding to either end of an existing word. Since some letters -- X, Q, Z -- are harder to use than others, it seemed that these might have been worth more points, but no, here we are dedicated to the proposition that all letters are created equal. There are bonuses instead for forming longer words, following the model of Boggle. And that's about it really -- there's not much originality here. Probably the nicest aspect are the high quality plastic tiles and the cool, thin tube to hold them. Perhaps these tiles would last longer with kids than a card game? A lost card might be easier to replace though. For my money, this still has failed to eclipse Boggle and at where the title of this one comes from, the mind boggles.
Strategy: Low; Theme: Low; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 6
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SNCF (Paris Connection)
box cover
Among the inventors creating Winsome games in the Chicago Express style, the present one has been the most exploratory in terms of pushing the system to its limits, for example in Age of Schemes set in AD 400, Samarkand: Routes to Riches and the almost Expedition-like Colorado Midland. This one, being stripped utterly down as far as possible, is no exception. SNCF is the name of the French national rail service and accordingly the board shows a hexagonal map of France marked with the important cities. Each player turn consists of placing five cubes for a particular railroad or, trading in a stock share to pick two others. At the end players score points based on the quantity and quality of cities reached by the railroads for which they hold shares. A key factor is that players each begin with several randomly drawn shares hidden behind screens. This feature has the potential to be rather unfair since, for example, if a pair of players both happen to have quite a few of a particular stock they can make that railroad go a long way. Maybe other players can notice this and get their own shares in it, but more likely not, or not in sufficient time, and these two run away with the game. The 2011 re-publication by Queen offers much higher quality components, including changing the bits from cubes to little wooden locomotives. While aesthetically nicer, for this reviewer the result is worse as at the start each one of them needs to be put into its own little box and at the end each color into its own bag. Being that these train-lets are more irregular and harder to pick up than cubes, set up and tear down for this game can actually take more time than this very fast game does to complete. Something should be said about this. There is a more or less typical way to end the game, but there is also a fast way: as soon as any railroad reaches the southern city of Marseilles, which is not difficult at all. In fact even though it's almost certainly to only one player's benefit and no one may be entirely certain who that player is, stock holdings being hidden, it's also quite difficult to cut off such a railroad because although only one train can enter an urban hex, each rural hex can support two. So before two bites of a croissant you'll find someone has gotten there and the game is over, maybe in as little as twenty minutes. With this kind of playing time, it's difficult to complain too much and the decisions are often challenging, to be sure, as players try to simultaneously feel and fake one another out. So nothing wrong, and probably a good introduction to more serious Winsome-style games, but probably not something to look to for deep satisfaction either. Plays best with more rather than fewer players. [6-player Games]
LMMM6 (Strategy: Low; Theme: Medium; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 6)
David V. H. Peters; Winsome Games-2010/Queen Games-2011; 3-6; 30 Amazon
Snow Tails
Surprisingly, dogsled racing games are somewhat rare, though Mush comes to mind. That one, however, is more about managing dice and different dog capabilities. Here it's a matter of more or less equal sleds, just as in many of the auto racing games. The means of propulsion is actually more similar to that of Ave Caesar: cardplay determines the amount of movement, after which the hand is replenished from a personal deck. But considerable nuance has been added by allowing multiple cards to be played and forcing each to a specific purpose, i.e. left side speed, right side speed and braking. What's more, a played card persists until a new one takes its place. The difference between the left and right cards determines the number of lane changes which must occur, and their direction. This is actually a mild and painless form of vector-based movement (cf. Bolide). All of this may sound easy enough, but here comes the kicker: each turn all of the cards one plays must be of the same rank. As a result it's not unusual to see players careening into the wall at least once per game, or running into the back of an opponent. Damage is handled very elegantly, either by reducing hand size or by delaying hand replenishment. Physically, the game is very well done, even if lacking the customary fabulous Fragor bits. The track pieces are modular, permitting a large number of different configurations. Most fun of all are those that bristle with pine trees in diamond patterns, tricky to navigation to be sure. Just in time for Christmas, these are represented by delightful green wooden tree pieces. The sleds are in wood as well, curved in front, while the huskies go unrepresented except for the cards. Track pieces are double-sided. The unique component is a sort of cardboard paddle which stores the three current numbers. The point of this is that it can be re-oriented as the sled turns, thus helping to avoid left-right errors. It's a nice feature to have even if not everyone will use it. The tracks are very attractively illustrated with plenty of art just for flavor, and also include some annoying and often surprising snow drifts. Probably the biggest error players make is not planning far enough in advance, though sometimes a bad run of cards or opponent actions create difficult positions. As a result it's possible to wind up considerably behind the leaders and out of the running, even though there is plenty of race to go. This can lead to a deal of useless waiting as unlike some other games there is nothing that can be done to a leader. but at least if players are taking too long at their turns one can give them the special paw piece, the gentlest and perhaps most effective way of saying "hurry up already". Yes, the Lamont bros. really have thought of everything. At the end of the day though, this is another one for those who "get" racing games and not one which solves the fundamental problems inherent in the form.
Gordon & Fraser Lamont; Fragor Games; 2008; 2-5
Strategy: Low; Theme: High; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 6
So Spielt die Welt
This German book contains instructions for a number of games, some published before, others entirely new. The reader needs to supply the components.
Aloi Mak. This previously unpublished game is one leg in a tripod of games by Peer Sylvester that are set in Thailand, another one of which is King of Siam. Players each own a few food shops – serving chicken, fish and pork – which are located on a street, in pairs. Each turn players simultaneously choose cards which raise or lower prices by various amounts, the catch being that changes affect all of the player's shops. Or they might go and get more supplies, the catches there being that this makes their shops unavailable for a turn and they must buy new food in sets. In either case, four customers arrive, dice deciding which shops pair they visit. The customers always choose their meals strictly based on price, unless of course a shop is closed while its owner buys supplies or another customer is already there. An owner who fails to have food available when visited takes a "loss of face" marker. The game is challenging for its risk management and outguessing features, but I would like to have seen it developed further. What if in addition to changing prices one could also change locations, maybe even food types? More seriously, it appears that a particular strategy will almost always win. If a player raises prices the maximum amount, resets his hand, and repeats this sequence, interrupting only to buy new supplies when needed, a victory is secure after just a few turns. [board]
Strategy: Medium; Theme: High; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 4 Peer Sylvester; 3-6

Revolte. A Michael Schacht trick-taking card game for exactly three players combined with majority control. There are four suits and ranks 2-10. Players must follow suit, but there are no trumps. In addition, it is not the highest card in suit that wins, but the highest card overall. Cards of various ranks are marked with power symbols and one tries to take a majority of the symbols available in each suit to score eight points in the suit, but also avoid taking all such cards or else suffer a revolt and instead lose eight points. There is a penalty of two points for taking just some of the power cards in a suit and one of five for taking no tricks at all. Playing this well is like trying to balance on a knife's edge. Play boldly to take cards and opponents will happily give you all of them. Play meekly, trying to give some cards away and opponents will take them, leaving you outside the majority. At least tricks are left face up so that memory is not an issue. Ideally one can lead a 10 in a suit to ensure taking some cards in a suit and then lead a 2 in hopes that someone else has to take it and that one then still has enough power to take the requisite cards in the suit. But dealers are rarely so accommodating as to give such a useful combination. Particularly difficult are hands containing a long run of low cards in a suit which is almost sure to garner a two-point penalty or even worse, a run of high cards in a suit in which the eight-point penalty is difficult to avoid. Rather one needs some high cards and some low. Luck plays a role in this, but then, it does so in many card games. Playing several hands helps with the problem. If one can figure out from style of play which opponent may be holding what, it helps a great deal. There are also plenty of sabotage plays possible such as when someone leads a high card in a void suit. Of particular interest is the best way to play a 9 card. A 10 always wins when led, but counts as 0 when not the first card. A 9 on the other hand always retains its strength and so can easily cause collection of some involuntary tricks. Moreover, when led, it is a sure winner as well. What's most important in the end is correct diagnosis of the hand, to determine which suits are worth pursuing and which are most worth avoiding. It's not easy going right away, but with practice becomes progressively more entertaining. There are already some good trick-taking games for three (cf.
Schnäppchen Jagd, Cosmic Eidex, The Bottle Imp) and this one deserves to join the list.
Strategy: Low; Theme: Low; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 7
Michael Schacht; Bambus-2007; 3 Shop
Socks in the City
What word begins with an S, ends with an X, has three letters, the middle of which is a vowel and it's better when there are two? Exactly, SOX! (What! you were thinking of another word?) Alas, when I suggested this to inventor/publisher Günter Cornett this game had already gone to print and it was too late. That's too bad because "Sox in the City" is a 2-player game about connecting up sundered socks via the rail stations of Berlin. When you have played TransAmerica as many times as I have (over two hundred at last count), you may find yourself contemplating the rail network players have built and wondering whether it is anything like the most efficient possible. Of course, because of the differing player goals, it never is, but it's that exact problem that is at the heart of this design. On a hexagonal, modular board which is different every time, 6 pairs of socks are distributed and players race to link each of them. The fact that only one player controls each link makes it more difficult, but the fact that several stations are already connected by neutral links lightens the task. While play looks simple, this is deceptive as good play requires considerable board analysis to determine the likeliest possible, as well as re-usable, paths. Once play begins, the strategic gives way somewhat to the tactical as there are corner cases when it's a good idea to block the opponent, although often this can at best merely delay. It's better to play positively in general. Identifying the important already connected stations and linking to them is recommended and after that, it's often a good idea to build out from end points as these are the most likely chokepoints. Socks themselves constitute barriers against joining other socks and so must also be reckoned with. Often games seem to end with each player having connected three pairs, victory going to the one with the most widely separated ones. For this reason players might want to give these socks first priority. Of course, ambiguous plays that could serve multiple purposes as well as keep the opponent guessing are always a good idea. The ability to count well and determine whether a project is still worth pursuing or constitutes a lost cause is also important. It does seem slightly advantageous to go first and the evenly-matched might consider a switchback start as variant. Production is fine, though rather unusual. Rather than a box, everything comes in a red felt sock, such as one might hang on the mantle at yuletide. The board pieces are not single hexagons, but four joined together in that same sock-like shape. The only complaint here might be that the sock tokens are a little bit hard to see sometimes and three-dimensional cubes or pawns might have been easier to use, if less atmospheric. The hexes all feature photos from around Berlin and this is kind of a love letter to the home city of publisher Bambusspiele. It's strange though that one station is called "Under the Lime Trees" when its German name is one of a handful of German expressions actually recognized by most foreigners: "Under den Linden". Several of the station names seem to be inside jokes appreciable only by Berliners. There is no luck here. Players who don't mind a strongly abstract feel and like to try out their intuition should find this a worthy test.
Strategy: High; Theme: Low; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Medium
Günter Cornett; Bambus-2005; 2
Solitaire (Patience)
The family of single player card games is an interesting demonstration of how many different combinations of cards are possible in a single deck.
Another Pachisi variant, this one also featuring cards which affect the moves, possibly offering slightly more strategy, although still quite subject to luck (of the draw).
Space Beans
Another Uwe Rosenberg game about bean trading, but this time featuring characters from old science fiction movies and television programs. With only a dollop of decisionmaking, little information to regard and almost no control, best played with no more than three so as to reduce the intolerable downtime. May work okay as an introductory game, but strategists will find little to fire their imagination. By the way, the Space Bean who is in the round ship ironing his sock comes from a German TV series called "Raumschiff Orion" (Spaceship Orion) – the iron was part of the main engineering console. [6-player Games]
Uwe Rosenberg; 1999
Space Dealer
This unusual pick-up-and-delivery game perhaps borrows its main idea from Tamsk, that of controlling activities via sand timer, which can now be added to the list of the usual methods of simulating continuous activity in a game: sequential action, simultaneous programming, random order. The modus operandi is that a player takes an action and then flips over a timer, which must run out before it permits its next action to be initiated. A player has two or three timers so downtime is negligible. The entire length of the game is also timed, by a CD of background music. Actions include moving one's ships, picking up cards, producing items and fulfilling demands at other player planets. As can probably be deduced by the level of complexity, this is not a game of fast-paced action. Most of one's time is probably spent waiting for a timer to run down, but that's good since that is a moment in which to think about what to do next. On the other hand, that amount of time is not long and can be problematic, for example, if one has a rules question or there is some kind of dispute. It also means that nobody is watching others' activities – at least not carefully – so the integrity of play may become compromised, even if all have honorable intentions, simply because mistakes in games are easy to make and there is nobody to catch them. There is some strategy because one can decide whether to spend more time developing new technologies (by drawing cards) or to spend more time on production and shipment. The science fiction theme helps to justify the ship improvements, but this could probably have been set in eras other than the future as well. This is always the danger with the science fiction theme -- the suspicion that the theme has been chosen simply to reflect pre-existing mechanisms. Displays are well-designed and effective. This game pretty much lives or dies on the timer mechanism as without it there is little which has not been seen before. One also needs to consider how annoying the constant press of time can be. Even though I consider myself a fast player, just the idea that something is constantly forcing me to hurry decisions does not make for a pleasant experience. Still, there are frew enough German games which cover the science fiction genre, so thirsty science fiction fans may well see this as a saving rain. Apparently can be expanded to accommodate up to eight players by buying a second copy.
Tobias Stapelfeldt; Eggert-Spiele; 2006; 3-4
Strategy: Medium; Theme: Medium; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 5
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Game about being the firm to make the most money outfitting an international space station. Players acquire seven different types of equipment payloads as well as rockets (which come in five types including a re-usable shuttle) and roll a die attempting to launch them. Rockets are rated for carrying capacity while equipment comes in varying weights, provides various amounts of income and extra end of game cash. Bad luck arrives in the form of cards played by other players such as bad weather which if launched in requires an additional die roll. Meteorite showers threaten equipment which is already in space, unless the player can roll a die to divert it with shields. Other cards include special missions and satellites which can provide more income. Boycott cards halve income unless bought off. The "event" cards and good luck in launching seem key to victory so there is plenty of luck here, but at least one can reduce it by spending more to buy cards. May go on a bit repetitively with a lot riding on just a single die roll for some, but at least there is great drama in every launch roll. Player mats are nicely designed and work well. Somewhat reminiscent of Nuclear War as there is plenty of "take that" and trying to guess just who is currently in the leading position. Lift Off! is similar in theme but less so in play. From Austria by Piepmatz Spiele.
Speed Circuit
Game about auto racing fails to feel like it because a good race is won by running around a track over 100 times, edging up on your opponent and then zooming by at the crucial moment. This is not depicted here. Presentation is rather drab and lifeless as well.
Older Dirk Henn stock market game may remind players of his later Derby, which may paradoxically be more familiar. Here eight stocks move upward via the combined efforts of simultaneous card plays and rolls of the dice. Players have very limited opportunities to buy and sell and thus maximize profits along the way. Although not particularly realistic in terms of the market – it is nearly always a bull market – it flows very well and takes up to six players. On the other hand, because each player holds a cancel card and there are only eight stock moves per round, it is probably best if the number of players is kept to four or fewer. Also, sometimes it seems that the player lucky enough to roll the +1 or the -1 die result at the right time has an advantage over others.
Dirk Henn; db-Spiele
Spices of the World
Special commission by a major spice corporation is long on information about spices and rather short on play interest. Do not attempt without major revisions to the rules. [Traveling Merchant Games] [variant]
Spy Alley
It's the Cold War and we are moving around the board like it's Monopoly in this game for ages 8 and up. Each player is a spy working for a government whose identity is known only to the player, one of Britain, France, Italy, Spain, USA and USSR. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to gather the four items specific to your country: the passport, the disguise, the keys and the codebook. How do we acquire these? By landing on the right space of course. Actually the game is more fun than it may sound so far because of the possibility of landings which allow a choice of steals from another player, the ability to guess another player's secret identity thus knocking him of the game and the option of thus stealing an identity. Free Move cards also help reduce the luck of the die roll. How much to bluff and how much to play for the win will always be an interesting dilemma. On the other hand, besides the drawback of players possibly being out of the game well before it is over, there is a considerably unfair "blackmail" feature as the player just right of whoever is poised to win must risk all to stop him. I suspect most games will rather end as a direct result of good or bad guessing.
Square Mile
1962 Milton Bradley game about rapid, post-war development features an impressive collection of components including plastic roads, bridges and grids as well as white plastic buildings similar to those used by The Game of Life. It shares the play money used by that game as well, including the Art Linkletter $100,000 bill. Although it looked forward to the future in other ways as well including cash management dilemmas and negotiation rules, finally it is dominated by luck in the initial placements and in the start player determination as matters tend to be highly processional. [Periodic Table of Board Games]
St. Petersburg
Game for two to four set in Imperial Russia. Players watch tiny cost differences as they invest as efficiently as possible, being able, for example, to shave off a point for each owned card matching the one being purchased. Cards mostly generate either income or victory points, with a minimal few providing special abilities which supersede the usaul rules. And basically this is it, apart from the vagaries of purchasing order and a sub-game of collecting the widest set of aristocrat cards. Morever, this stripped down system is really just a card game, the board and oddly-shaped wooden pieces being superfluous. Simplicity, visual appeal and sufficient strategy probably mean there is something here for everyone, the only small complaint being that it could be about anything. Still, it tries by naming some cards after Russian landmarks, and with the artwork. This game feels like it's in the same space as San Juan and it's the former that feels slightly more fun, even though this is possibly the fairer game. The fun buildings with special powers just don't have the same kind of presence in this one. Strategically, the end game aristocrat points appear to be very important in the four-player version and not so much with two. Invented (under pseudonym) by Hans-im-Glück president, Bernd Brunnhofer.
[Buy it at Amazon]
Star Traders
A "train game" in a spaceship science fiction setting. Players compete to complete contracts and are able to place stations on systems instead of buying routes. Event cards play an important role as do each player's special ability given at the start of the game. The single most interesting feature here is that a player may travel by one of several different routes, but whether the trip is actually completed depends on a die roll made for each segment. As longer segments are more difficult to make, this introduces interesting strategic considerations, especially when one considers what other players may be able to do before one's next turn. Quite enjoyable overall, with possibly some balancing of the special abilities needed. [Traveling Merchant Games] [Steve Jackson Games]
Starbase Jeff
A pipe-connection style game combined with a gambling game does not really work due to the overpowering nature of luck of the draw in the system.
Station Master
Multi-player card game by Chris Baylis reminds of Knizia titles Titan: the Arena and Royal Turf, the shared element being that players bet on various contenders even as they are also influencing their progress. Here locomotives rather than monsters or race horses command the stage (but even less convincingly). Each locomotive has a prescribed length, which when players have chosen to add that number of car cards, signifies that it is to be scored. The value is determined by the sum of the cards, which can be positive or negative. Meanwhile players have been placing hidden bets of various sizes which pay off at this time. There are a great number of tactics available, but strategically there is the choice between trying to collect a lot of points versus spiking others with negative ones. Both plans require cooperation from those that one is competing against. Point totals get rather high and must be tracked on paper; devising a way to keep them lower and tracking it with chips might have been preferable. More objectionable is the card deck that isn't really balanced considering its "special effects" cards which are quite powerful and which I have endured an entire game without drawing. Play probably lasts a bit longer than feels right as well. This kind of system, involving group-think and bluff can work well, but could have been better realized, as it has been in other games. [6-player Games]
Strategy: Medium; Theme: Low; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Low
Stay Alive
Simple game from 1978 for 2-4 in which players place their marbles on a 7x7 grid. At the end of each row is a lever which you pull or push. When you move the lever some of the grids open up causing the marbles to drop through. The last player with a marble left wins. Too large a level of randomness, one doesn't know how safe a space is, will discourage replays.
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This, the third edition of Age of Steam, has a new name primarily because of a legal dispute between original designer Martin Wallace and developer John Bohrer (Winsome Games) over the right to use the original title. This was eventually settled via name change (the complications caused by many third party expansion kits helping this to happen) such that the second edition continued to be published under the name by Eagle Games with the new one being put out by Mayfair. At the time of this writing it is this edition which is rated higher on the BGG site, albeit only slightly so. Well, how different is it? Different enough that so that the previous expansions, unless they provide extras about how do it, no longer work. But similar enough so that the overall feeling is the same. Actually there are two separate game styles here, one more accessible and one more involved and also two maps, a USA one for 3-4 players and a Europe one for 4-5. The six-player option is reserved for subsequent expansion kits. A significant rule is picking player order via auction on the first turn, paid for by reducing position on the income track. Subsequent turn orders depend, as in Automobile on which special action a player chooses. These include play first, move goods first, build extra track, build first, add goods to a city, increase your transport ability or convert a town to a city. As before track is built via hexagonal tiles and goods in the form of cubes are transported to same-colored destinations, earning for the players owning the tracks used. Each turn after building track players either move one cube or increment the number of links over which they can move goods. Play finishes after a fixed number of turns. Victory is via points which are granted for income levels plus rail links. The standard version changes these basics by forcing more planning. There is only one point per turn when a player can get more money and so must figure out in advance the amount needed. In addition, maintenance fees are required. While now undoubtedly more streamlined, both versions are very much a case of tweaking for the fans; those who didn't cotton to the original won't be satisfied with this version either. One question to consider: is it fair for railroad games to get exclusive claim to these titles? Were there not other significant uses of steam? cooking, electricity generation and steamships constituting only three. [6-player Games]
LMHH5 (Strategy: Low; Theme: Medium; Tactics: High; Evaluation: High Personal Rating: 5)
Martin Wallace; Mayfair-2009/Phalanx-2009; 3-6
Stephensons Rocket
Reiner Knizia game reminiscent of Acquire is set in the early days of English railroading. Some claim it to be a "railroad game", since in fact it does include railroads, and, invitingly, in a setting not previously visited: George Stephenson's early efforts. This is overlooking a a few minor details: (1) mergers allow a smaller company to swallow a larger one; (2) all stock shares cost the same amount, i.e. zero pounds sterling, regardless of company size and success; (3) in a merger, odd shares are unrealistically lost, (4) anyone can buy into a company and immediately start determining its direction, (5) train lines often go in nonsensical directions that would never even be considered, much less built, in real life, (6) stations are built in the middle of nowhere and are generally uncoordinated with railroad lines, (7) players receive money for being the most to build into others' stations which does not seem to reflect any reality. Obviously the theme has not captured me, nor do the mechanics which I have mostly seen before. A
Sterne Stehen Richtig, Die (The Stars Are Right)
if no image probably out of print
Usually horror-themed games inspired by the writings of H.P. Lovecraft have the players fighting against alien horrors, but this one turns that on its head: the winner must summon an evil Great One to destroy the earth. Luckily none of the awful events that would attend such a calamity are actually depicted in the game. Here a view of the heavens is represented by a 5x5 arrangement of tiles showing stars, our sun, phases of the moon and other cosmic bodies. Players hold cards one of whose functions is to permit tile flips and re-arrangements. The purpose is to make the tiles match an arrangement which is the second function of a hand card, presumably a different card than the one being used to make the alteration. This is one of the problems players face: the card one wants to match might be the very one that can do the job, one that sometimes makes taking a turn take a while. The third card function are the creature depictions, each associated with a special power. Thus à la Puerto Rico and other such affairs, players are constantly building up new capabilities. Wisely this does not last too long; a mere ten points is sufficient to achieve victory, which translates to just a few cards, their exact number depending on whether the player has concentrated on weaker, low-point cards or the more powerful, high-value variety. Besides the advantage held by earlier players, the annoying artifact here is the deadness of the downtime between turns. Because the grid generally changes so much between turns, it's often useless to plan anything. Of course as there has been no planning, turns tend to take longer than they ought or otherwise would as well. There's also not much ability to deliberately stop a leader, but it's certainly very possible to dramatically disrupt someone's plans completely by accident. It's an uncharacteristically sterile Cthulhoid affair thematically, with no sanity check in sight. It might as well be a pure abstract for the most part, though some may enjoy the comical creature cards. The tile illustrations are also nicely realized. (These comments apply to the Steve Jackson Games edition.) Perhaps this is another of those games that permits four but is actually only good for two.
LLMH5 (Strategy: Medium; Theme: Low; Tactics: Low; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 5)
Klaus Westerhoff; Pegasus-2008/Steve Jackson Games-2009; 2-4 [Buy it at Amazon]
Sternenfahrer von Catan, Die (The Starfarers of Catan)
"The Starfarers of Catan" takes the popular series into outer space colonization complete with alien races and pirates. Exceedingly attractive plastic pieces and components which snap together and are shakeable are part of the fun here as are encounter cards which feature two or three choices in a mini-adventure and combat with non-players. Curious that in all of this space age theming, the game still comes with a very antique-looking pair of wooden dice. There is a lot of luck involved in playing this game however as each turn each player receives a free trade goods card which may or may not be what one needs; there is a lot of luck in what kind of planets one finds; and plenty of luck in which encounter cards the player draws. The result is a game which does an excellent job in terms of feeling fun and experience, but is altogether too random to be taken seriously. Everyone should play and enjoy it several times, but as the randomness becomes apparent, attraction eventually pales. [variant] A
Topic is the stars in the twelve stellar constellations that constitute the Zodiac, but remains essentially an abstract. Largely a game of bluffing and advance planning, it moves along quite satisfyingly and completes at just the right time. Very nicely made plastic star pieces add considerably to the enjoyment.
Tom Schoeps; Goldsieber-1995; 3-5; 30
Sternenschiff Catan (Starship Catan, Objectif Catane, De ruimteschepen van Catan)
Two-player game set in the same science fiction universe as The Starfarers of Catan. A player's Catanian area of development is his space ship which has holds for the five different commodities as well as for a sixth, scientific development, which works in much the same way. Once again players roll a "production die" to generate items, but now the randomness has been tightened as there are only three possible results. New production and other benefits are achieved by space voyages, realized each turn by having the opponent reveal several cards from one of five face down decks. The opponent's participation is important because some cards represent pirates whose strength is unknown until combat is attempted. Other cards permit colonization, marketplaces and other benefits. As items accrue, players spend to acquire advantages including more speed and more combat ability. As is customary for two-player games, there is no trading, but there is a card which permits forced trades. The two ships begin with different advantages so players can enjoy trying both sides and always have the dilemma of whether to reinforce their advantage or try to become more balanced. There is a memory element in relation to the card decks, but as it's relatively small, one forgives it in the context of so much else that is really pretty wonderful, such as the nice components, the attractive science fictiony display and the nice attention to theme. Moreover, the balance and deck diving problems of The Settlers of Catan Card Game are entirely absent. The only other issues might be a slight one of length -- a bit too much? -- and some difficulty in catching up to a leader. These are probably easily addressed by slight rules changes if truly issues at all. Otherwise this is highly recommended for virtually all audiences at least 8 and up and I wish I hadn't believed those who assured me I wouldn't like this and instead tried it out long ago.
Strategy: Medium; Theme: High; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 7
Klaus Teuber; Kosmos/Mayfair; 2001; 2 [Buy it at Amazon]
Trick-taking card game in which each player chooses a misery suit to avoid. Because there is no requirement to follow suit, any player who looks like he is winning the trick is liable to receive low cards in his color, in other words, there is a lot of sticking going on. This one is wilder than a lot of other trick-taking games and probably not as satisfying overall as, say, David & Goliath, but is popular with those who like the "take that!" nature of the proceedings. Players who stick with the game will find continued study of these weird mechanics rewarding as more and more nuances become apparent. Title means "to jibe or make snide remarks", but it is a close pun with Stich which means "trick". [6-player Games]
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"Trick Master" joins the group of trick-taking card games like Sticheln and Was Sticht in having fun with the German word Stich, meaning "trick", but on which one could also get stuck. While we still play those two, this one has stuck like few others. Since acquiring it just eight months ago it has already been welcomed to the table no fewer than sixteen times, and this in competition with a great many new games arriving from week to week. So how has Friedemann Friese managed to cook up something so good? There's a deck of sixty cards numbered 1 to 15 in four suits: fans, coins, koi and gates, some of them face cards showing samurai and ladies. Why the Japanese theme? No particular reason, but it's something different and they look nice. In addition there are sixty rules cards divided into three categories: those that create trumps, those that change the fundamental rules and those that alter the normal scoring of one trick equals one point. Each player always has a hand of three of these and at the start chooses one to to apply to the current hand and they are simultaneously revealed. To this we have tended to apply a slight modification, though not always. Because it's pretty common that some rules cards render others invalid we instead play the rules cards one by one and face up. This leads to less imbalance and can make for intriguing choices by the latter players as they seek to skew what the earlier ones have done. Since we play as many hands as there are players everyone gets a chance to experience this. And what is it like? Crazy, usually! It can certainly take some getting used to having not one, but up to four warping rules in a game. Having multiple trumps, including numerical trumps using a system similar to can be tricky to remember, as can things like "the fifth trick is tripled rule" (recommend you put the rule card in the middle of the table to help you remember). We took one rules card out of circulation for a while for being just too crazy – the one which reverses the direction of play after each trick – but restored it upon realizing it might have dramatic effects if certain other rules were in effect. We still sometimes play without the variant as well. One sort of annoying feature is that when there is more than one numbered trump in the mix, the lower ones outrank the higher ones, leading some to wonder if our designer is having too much fun torturing his players. Fortunately, you can always declared this reversed if you like. But the great thing is that every hand is very fresh, really like playing a different game each time, each with its own considerations and strategies, which is a very cool thing to have in such a small package. In addition, this is a game that you and your opponents have, in effect, collaboratively designed, getting to the idea that Njet! was after, but didn't succeed in reaching entirely. The rules may seem crazy, but experience has shown that actually they're well-tempered and work well together to form an unendingly satisfying experience. Now if we could just get an English version published so that it's not necessary to provide translations of the rules cards for the players. [rules translation] [Frequently Played]
MMML6 (Strategy: Medium; Theme: Low; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 9)
Friedemann Friese; Amigo-2010; 3-5
Card game of political parties. An example of its satirical tone is evident in that the eventual goal is not in winning votes, but DeutschMarks. Players each represent a political party and identical decks of cards numbered 1 to 10. With these they take turns drafting either votes or money cards. Interest centers around the fact that while the goal is to make the most, the player(s) with the most votes double their monetary total, creating an interesting linear programming problem. It is a bit unfortunate that all of the fully-trackable information is not public as it is critical. Otherwise, a worthy quick and introductory game. Monotone colored cards with rounded corners contain satirical artwork meaningful to those familiar with the German political scene. Title combines the words for "voice" and "cattle" and is a reference to the notion that voters make their choices in a herd mentality. [Bewitched Spiele]
Stock Car Championship Racing Card Game
Card game on auto racing which manages to be more convincing than most which feature cars traveling around a track. Rules are fast and light. Main challenge is to stay close to the front and yet manage to retain enough useful cards to zoom to the lead just before the end. Advanced version does not add a great deal apart from pit stops, which would seem to want some adjustment. Currently, stopping in the pit adds twenty-five more cards to your deck. It would be more interesting and realistic if one had a total capacity of twenty-five which would make timing of the pit stop more of an issue. Good luck in drawing the special ability cards early helps, although if overused can cause using up the entire deck too quickly.. Recommended, especially for larger groups, probably of up to eight, as card decks come in packs of four. More than eight is possible with the third set, but may become somewhat unwieldy – figuring out who has played the next highest numbered card can take a while. [6-player Games] [McGartlin Motorsport Design]
Störtebeker (Corsairs)
Multi-player game in which players essentially bid cards and roll dice to take over (and steal from one another) merchant galleys of varying values. Highest points of interest are deciding how to use one's three card plays – available choices being bidding cards, discarding to get new cards and broadsides to remove others' cards – and deciding when one's chances of boarding are good enough to risk the attempt. Features plenty of strategy and tactics, being overall light and elegant as well, but overlong with dice luck playing a too considerable role in the outcome. Probably best for non-gamers and played with a variant which reduces the deck size. Title is a reference to Klaus Störtebeker, a pirate figure in fourteenth-century Baltic Sea history. This character is becoming an identity touchstone in Germany. [Pirate Games]
Stone Age
A multi-player game of allocating capabilities, rolling dice to obtain resources and spending them on cards and tiles. First, players take turns placing their meeple pawns on various board areas. Two in the single hut location will generate a new meeple. There is one location for the improved tools that each add to one die roll. One in the only food technology location increments the player's turnly food income. The unlimited hunting location brings in more food on a one-time basis. There are seven locations each for collecting wood, brick, stone and gold. Finally there are four one-place-only cards and four one-place-only tiles. At the hunting, wood, brick stone and gold locations, the player will roll one die for each of his pawns and divide the total by a number which increases with the value of the commodity in question – from 2 for hunting to 6 for gold. The player receives commodity tokens in whole numbers and remainders are lost. Often these commodities are used to buy the tiles which have various costs and provide various amounts of victory points. A nice innovation here is that many cards permit the buyer to decide which items to offer and thus also the number of points which will be scored. Commodities also go to buy cards which often provide multipliers for victory points as well as other advantages, e.g. more commodities, better food technology, etc. Many cards also contain a green background. The more different types of these that a player collects, the more points he earns. There are many things to evaluate, both numerically in terms of the likely dice results and tactically as understanding what options others are planning to take is very important. Strategically, no one can afford to ignore the green cards, not only because they're a major source of points, but also because doing so dramatically increases the scores of opponents. Beyond that each player will probably choose a different set of multipliers to focus on – there are only four types. These multipliers are not all on the same cards, one card showing one, another two and yet another three. But suppose the three multiplier card you are working on never appears out of the deck. This will be rather devastating to your score. On the other hand a rather fun type of card is almost a game itself. The player rolls a die per player. Each result corresponds to a different type of benefit which players then take turns drafting. The presentation here is quite attractive and the wordless communication design nicely clear. The meeples are covered in ridges, apparently to represent the wooly hairiness of our forebears. There is considerable attention to theme, though at the end of the day one feels more a number cruncher than a cave man or woman. As is appropriate for the creator of St. Petersburg, the primary feeling and required skill here is logistical. My feeling, by the way, that it would not win the Spiel des Jahres (German game of the year) award for which it was nominated, has recently been confirmed. As the above description attests, it is just a touch too complicated with too many working parts for the goals of that award.
Strategy: Medium; Theme: Medium; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: High; Personal Rating: 6
Bernd Brunnhofer as Michael Tummelhofer; Hans-im-Glück/Rio Grande Games; 2008; 2-4
[Buy it at Amazon]
Strada, La
Martin Wallace connection game in the medieval Tuscan countryside. Players want to connect to the largest cities, but every new connection reduces the value for all. Much decisionmaking revolves around guessing what others have in mind and blocking it with one's own roads, but as one can generally penetrate via a town, it's a difficult proposition to really wall anyone out. The board provides a nice variety, being formed of pizza slice shapes recomposed for each playing. But therein also lies a danger in that some boards can be unbalanced in favor of the first player. The later a player moves the more disadvantage he is in anyway since there are always more roads in his way. The last players may not even receive as many turns as his predecessors. Predecessor games in this area are Morisi which had the fascinating additional idea that the players' roads decide which cities are most important and the even more sophisticated Magna Grecia. This one is the simplest and should be considered a bridging effort as many strategy gamers may find it rather unfair.
Martin Wallace
Four-player partnership card game on an unusual topic: beach volleyball. Although a bit random in the luck of the draw, really does provide a realistic feeling of volleyball as each player must develop a feeling for the position and abilities of the partner, or at least their seven-card hand, from a minimum of information. On the other hand it is a bit disappointing that the best strategy seems to be a most unvolleyball-like one of simple volleys omitting the setup and spike in order to exhaust the opponents' cards. This is because between high point "Baggern" cards, blocks and diving saves, it is almost always possible to successfully receive nearly any ball. If anything, spikes (Schmettern) should be saved to the very end when hardly any cards are left, not least because a double block can be very difficult to counter and if it is necessary to use a diving save which will take the player out for the rest of the point, it would be better if that player had already used up most of his hand. Another approach if one is holding a spike, is to go ahead and try a three-touch play if only to make less likely the dangerous "block". Cards are not extremely well-made, but are amusingly illustrated. Owning two sets permits adding two more players. To get the game length right, recommend that you play with the new volleyball scoring being used in the Olympics: it's possible to score a point whether serving or not. [summary] [Two vs. Two Games] [6-player Games] [Krimsus]
Corné van Moorsel continues to demonstrate great range, this time bringing us a sports game: 5-on-a-side soccer. The basic insight is a clever one: success depends on position. This is realized via a tripartite player turn. First, roll a die to see how much one of your players can do. Second, move him, orthogonally across the grid. Third, should he reach the ball, kick it a number of spaces equal to the remaining pips plus one. This must be in a straight line with one 45o angle change permitted. It cannot be kicked through an opponent, but should it reach a teammate, it is extended another space and can even be re-directed. It's deceptively simple the way it all works, but it cannot have been easy to figure out the ideal board size and rules for movement and kicking to have it all come together so well. Despite the abstractions, there are many situations -- the goal kick, the sideline pass, the cross from the corner -- that seem lifted right out of a real match. For the sake of a game it might have been better to just end it when a side reaches three goals to avoid the chore of tracking turns, but the much bigger bone of contention is the roll/role of the die and the randomness it causes. Alternatively each player could have drawn from twelve cards to even out some of the chaos, but I think also at the cost of drama and fun. Besides, which of us chagrined losers is honestly willing to give up one of the most convenient excuses for failure around, eh? With a strong "just one more" quality, this is the most amusing game on soccer I have seen, replacing Tor in this regard, and should be of interest to virtually all players, even strategists who can experiment with various setups and re-programmings (re-positionings). [Cwali]
Stunt Academy
Multi-player card game of would-be stunt actors trying to be best in class. By drafting cards players compete to be the star pupil as well as the overall best among all courses for each semester. In addition, points are awarded for the player who at the end has done the most in each discipline. Timing is everything as what you don't take probably won't be around by your next turn, especially as the card at the front of the queue, if not taken, is tossed. Players also need instructors and while these are never tossed, they cost fewer action points as more get taken. But can you wait for a bargain or will the one you want already be gone? It's unfortunate that a lot of the Hollywood jokes on the cards, especially the film agents, are only in German as they are rather droll. The cartoonish illustrations are fun too. Some communication design problems are apparent as training and instructor cards are meant to match up by first letter, but in one case it's an A for Auto while the other is C for Car. So players end up going strictly by color, but this has its own dangers as the light blue F looks a little too close to the off-white F. It appears more blindtesting with a full color proof version of the game was called for. There's an action point recording system that is very error-prone and players ought to just overlap one card with the other. Other minor annoyances are the need to record and view scores on paper, memorizing that instructor prices are 6-4-2-1 as well as that minimum requirements are 4-5-6-7. Only three and four player versions are offered and with three some of the numbers are different. Play continues over 4 semesters which seems to run on just a bit too long for the level of randomness -- perhaps just 3 rounds might just suffice? That way one has a somewhat random, but challenging short game on an amusing theme. There is some strategy as well since one can concentrate either on quantity or quality, so with the caveats mentioned, everyone should find something to like here. This would be a good candidate for a better tested, more lavish production that included rules for two and five players, point chips, fixes to the graphical errors and a small board to display the important numbers and track the competitions. [Rules translation] [Krimsus]
Strategy: Medium; Theme: High; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Medium
Action game based on a football (soccer) match. Each player controls eleven plastic figures on a green felt mat and simultaneously flicks them by finger trying either to hit or block the ball with them, the ball eventually going into one or the other's goal for a point. Rather simple-minded and not particularly like the real game as only one figure is moving at a time.
Leo Colovini game for up to four has players racing to collect twelve different items from under the sea. This is not a flip-a-token-to-see-what-you-get game. Rather, all of the tokens -- more than necessary -- are distributed randomly at four depths of the sea which is divided into several segments, thus forming a grid. Being played with here is the idea that only one treasure it at the most shallow level, but there are four if you descend to the hardest to reach deepest level. But movement is fairly easy to accomplish as one can travel as far as desired as long as depth doesn't change by more than one. More vital are the rules that to grab a treasure one needs to have a card of the same color and that if any opponents' submersibles are in the same zone or higher, their owners must each be given a card from one's limited supply of fifteen. Another challenge is that one can't activate just any submersible, but only the ones located under one's ship, which crosses the board from left to right and when it reaches the end, awaits other ships, leaving the owner with little to do. Especially in the two-player game, it seems worst to be the first player, all of whose placements can be covered essentially cost-free by opponents and whose ship is likely to finish first and be at others' mercy. In general, with only the cards being random, this is on the abstract end of the scale. Thematically, ,the idea that other submersibles steal a benefit by being able to "watch" makes sense, but the idea of a race to collect twelve does not. This is probably of most interest to thoughtful tacticians who enjoy entertaining everyone by pulling of a magnificent big play. The four player version is probably the best option while two-player is not recommended.
Strategy: Medium; Theme: Medium; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 5
Abstract for four players includes 120 wooden squares, twelve wooden houses and thirty-two human figures in four colors. Players try to build up lands and get their people into houses in a game which is simultaneously about competition and cooperation as even "marriages" between players are very important. One might wish that the rules could have been constructed a bit more elegantly. One problem may be that it is a bit too easy for an inexperienced or careless player to give away the game to the player to the left, the so-called "Fossil factor".
Summon the Dragon
Trick-taking partnership card game which like Bridge or, more aptly, 500 features pre-game bidding. The only real wrinkles here are fantasy theming (unfortunately some of the cards are so "artistic" that it is difficult to determine to which suit they belong) and the ability to summon the super trump from another player's hand. The original 500 will prove to be the superior game for just about everyone unless fantasy themes are of utmost importance.
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Sun, Sea & Sand
In the midst of 2011 it's easy to be fatigued by the belly flop the game industry has taken in the direction of the worker placement mechanism. Just look at how many of the
new games of Essen 2010 employed workers, and this doesn't even count expansions, spinoffs, etc. But here's an example that refreshes instead, perhaps because it's truly interested in its theme. Players are entrepreneurs on a scenic island. By establishing hotels and attractions and putting up signs they hope to make money on the tourists, which come in four types. Some like to play on and in the water, some like amusement rides, some like to play sports and finally there are those who simply love to eat and drink. These are all represented by differently-colored meeples and it's completely hilarious that the food lovers are extra fat. Here the workers are five family members who do things like book tourists – all of whose arrivals are randomly determined and completely known from the start – build new condos and buy attractions, or signs. An interesting twist is that some activities take more time than others which is represented, cleanly, by workers not being available for an extra turn or two, becoming another factor in planning. Attractions are things like bars, boat rides, tennis courts, golf courses, etc., the point being that after tourists arrive, if there are extra attractions matching their interests, they will stay another week, and pay once again. One departure, arguably, is that money doesn't matter in the end. The winner is the player having the most tourists at their facility when play ends. In fact money doesn't matter all that much. The most a player can have is capped and we have seen a playing in which a player had this maximum for most of the game, but still did not win. There is also a sub-game in the arrangement of attractions on the player's resort grid, attempting to create as many discrete open spaces as possible. Finally, mostly for fun there is a backpacker tourist who never books, but moves around a number of moves based on the amount of the money held by the poorest player at the end of the round and booking a room if they end on a resort having a vacancy. The cartoonish art in this one is delightfully realized by Christoph Tisch. This is a game in which looking ahead is important and overbooking is a problem. These two factors are key to the fun. [Tourist Games]
LHML7 (Strategy: Low; Theme: High; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 7)
Corné van Moorsel; Cwali-2010; 2-5; 50 [Shop]
Superblatt, Das (Buried Treasure)
Sid Sackson-designed card game based on operations of a newspaper is somewhat reminiscent of Solitaire. Mechanics work well, but options are few and there is not much strategy here although there is plenty of luck of the draw. Buried Treasure is the title of the slightly-revised English version, changing to a piracy theme. [Pirate Games]
Later re-released as Atlantis, this fun game from the times when Americans still knew how to make them still retains considerable appeal for adults and children alike, especially in the American edition when each refugee from the sinking continent had a different and hidden value. Great fun handling and using the attractive sea serpent, whale and shark pieces. [Rules]
Card game ostensibly about medieval kingdoms feels like multi-player Solitaire with battle and courtship elements. Luck of the draw often seems to dictate the winner among close players at the end. The courtship rules are rather complicated and it is not clear that anyone outside the designer's circle of players fully understands all of the potentials buried within them.
This is one of those inexpensive games in a tiny package one picks up with the thought "at that price how bad could it be?" One should really learn ... There are ten special dice and thirty or so small red chips. Each player begins with a pair of dice and some chips. On your turn roll the dice and follow their instructions which can be (1) swipe a die (but not someone's last die), (2) swipe a chip, (3) swipe a die from the middle, (4) put a die in the middle, or (5) swipe a chip from the middle. If all of one's dice come out to (4), steal a die from every other player. Whenever all the chips in the center are exhausted, the player with the most chips wins. Although the problems of players having enough dice and having a decent chance are nicely solved, the only decisionmaking in the game at all is in choosing which player to target, which being only about numbers is very easily determined. That there is decisionmakking at all raises it a notch above LCR, but just barely. Although the plastic game box is small enough to fit in a pocket, that's also about the size of the ideas inside.
Strategy: Low; Theme: Low; Tactics: Low; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 2
Garrett J. Donner, Michael S. Steer, Wendy L. Harris; Fundex; 2004; 2-6
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