Tag Archives: board games

Why I Love Board Games #3 They’re Good For The Brain

17 Apr

Another thing I love about board games is that you can learn while playing them. Sometimes it can be genuinely interesting facts, other times it’s just putting your game into gear while you work out an incoming move. Ultimately though, you’re always thinking, often learning and always having fun. Take the rather excellent Memoir 44 for example. It’s a genuinely superb board game from Days Of Wonder that reenacts key scenes from the second world war. The manual has a huge number of different scenarios, but the original information about those events are also included. Without realising it you’re soaking up world war 2 history without even realising it. Wrath Of Ashardalon is a lite version of Dungeons & Dragons, but it still teaches you (indirectly admittedly) about fundamental mechanics of the original game, ensuring you’ll have a better idea of play mechanics if you ever step up to a proper RPG night. Tales Of The Arabian Nights is another great example because it teaches you about some of the most famous stories ever told. Admittedly there’s not as much solid information as with Memoir, but it’s a surprising jumping off point, while the included books contain plenty of snatches of information about the famous tales.

Ticket To Ride Europe has done wonders for my daughters’ geography, Wildlife Adventure teaches the importance of endangered animals, while Powergrid has been useful for understanding where some of America’s biggest cities are. And then there are the game mecahnics themselves that require a good memory, and numerous maths solving to solve. I get a real kick when I play games┬álike Agricola and Lords Of Waterdeep with my 11-year old, as you can almost see the cogs whirring around her head, as she mentally works out her next few moves.

Board games are soon as boring and stuff, but they are anything but, even more traditional ones like Monopoly, Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit can genuinly help a number of everyday skills. So next time you sit down for a game of something, have a think about what you’ve just played. Odds are you might have learnt something that will stay with you forever.




Thunderstone – An 11-year old’s viewpoint

26 Jan

I’ll be covering the awesome Thunderstone soon because it’s brilliant. In the meantime, here’s my daughter Emily explaining why she enjoys playing this excellent deck builder from AEG.

Cyclades Video Review

22 Jan

Here’s a vide review of Cyclades to complement the written review on the blog. Enjoy.

Why I love board games Part 2 The Rules

18 Jan

This sounds nutty I know, but I love getting stuck into a good rule book. I’m terrible when it comes to actually remembering the rules when I prepare to play a game, but I love learning about game mechanics. I love looking at the gorgeous art. I love discovering new types of games that I’ve never experienced before. Most of all though I love the promise that a rule book offers.

When I’m reading a rule book I imagine how those scenarios will actually play out in an actual game. I love thinking about how my friends are going to enjoy certain situations, and I love thinking how we will react to those situations. I love the anticipation, the thought that very soon I’ll be sitting around a table with people I enjoy, and that these simple words, phrases and sentences will become something more. Something tangible.

Some games like Fortune And Glory have a starter rule set and a more complicated rule book. I obviously love reading both, but will still make mistakes.

Yes I get frustrated with ambiguous rules (who doesn’t) but I love the satisfaction I get when I finally work something out and finally get it when it all clicks into place. Granted, I’ll often have the points pointed out to me by my virtual friends at Rllmuk, but it’s a lovely Eureka moment. The kind you get when you finally work out how to take down a boss in a video game, or finish a particularly difficult crossword.

Some rules are harder to understand, but that's also part of the fun.

I love how the vast majority of rule books I own are like precious little tomes, full of gorgeous artwork, and beautiful presentation. I’m sure there are clunkers out there, but the many ones I have are dripping with theme, and make you even more excited about playing.

Perhaps most of all though I love that I can get excited by simply reading a rule book. I guess that’s part of the magic of this hobby that we all enjoy.

Expansion Madness #1 Carcassonne Catapult

6 Jan

Expansions are a great way of extending the life of a board game, so join me as I look at some of the best and worst that are currently available. First up I’ll be taking a look at Caracassonne The Catapult.

Carcassonne is a brilliant game that I always have trouble pronouncing properly, and sometimes even spelling properly. While it appears deceptively simple – you do little more then lay tiles each turn, which edges must match other tiles that are already on the board – it proves to be a deceptively strategic game. A game that my 6-year is absolutely amazing at, constantly trouncing me by a good 70 points whenever we play. She’s like the Rain Man of board games, so good is she at grasping the mechanics of most titles. But I digress.

You get 12 new tiles with Carcassonne Catapult. I like the one that looks like a cat's head (top left second in).

There are many expansions for Carcassonne, befitting for a game that’s so popular, and it’s a typical ‘Gateway’ title, essentially a stepping stone to other types of board games. Although there’s a certain randomness to the game (in so much that you don’t know what tile you’re drawing) it’s balanced enough that you’re rarely stuffed by a draw, as there’s always somewhere that you can place the tile.

Sadly, Carcassonne The Catapult, ignores this careful beautiful structure and throws a barrel load of chaos into the mix with a healthy side order of randomness. In short my six year old loves it.

Here's the catapult itself. It appears to be made out of a sturdy balsa wood. I've included a bumper pack of Pringles for comparison purposes. The Pringles were very nice.

The main draw of Carassonne Catapult is the catapult that comes with it. It’s a fairly sturdy construction and i’d imagine you’d have to apply a lot of pressure in order to break it. Which you’ll want to do, as it’s one hell of a frustrating addition to the game, mainly because it’s about as accurate as hitting a square peg into a small round hole. Whenever you flip the catapult it rarely lands where you want it to. While this randomness delights young children, it becomes very frustrating as it’s possible to lose larger number of points due to randomness that’s completely out of your control. Take a look at the following new cards to see what I mean…

The new tiles from left to right: Target Hurling, Catch, Knock Out, Seduction. I hate you all.

Each player is given 4 tokens, one of which can be played whenever you draw a Catapult tile from the bag or pile of tiles you have. The first tile shows a bullseye and is ‘Target Hurling’. If you play this, you must take it in turns to try and hit the last placed tile. Whoever gets closest scores 5 points. The icon showing a ball is called ‘Catch’. Here players use the included measuring tile to mark a halfway line between an opposite player. You must then attempt to flick your tile past this line. Points are scored by your opponent if they catch it or you don’t shoot far enough, and you score points if they miss it or you shoot to their side. Next up is the blue knock out tile – one of the most horrid tiles in all Carcassonne creation (at least in those I’ve played). If this little bugger comes into contact with an in-play meeple, it immediately removes it from the board (you can lose your own this way as well) as horrible as it sounds. Lastly we have the yellow ‘Seduction’ tile. Successfully land the tile on the board and you can switch the nearest meeple of an opponent with one of your own. It’s a nice idea, but like all the other options, is flawed due to the unpredictability of the catapult itself, which turns the game into a complete luckfest. Fine if you like that sort of thing, dreadfully frustrating if you don’t.

While I recommend Carcassonne The Catapult to those with small children, the sheer randomness and the low precision targeting of the actual catapult makes it hard to recommend to anyone else.

New Year, New Games

2 Jan

So it’s the start of a brand New Year, so I thought I’d post what I received, or gave for Christmas. One of the great things about my new hobby is that the family enjoys it just as much as I do, so I was able to give presents that would not only benefit them, but also me. Cracking, and not something I’ve ever been able to do with videogames.

Anyhoo, I won’t go into too much detail here, simply because I haven’t had much time to play the games in question. This in itself is typical. You have an entire 10 days off for the Christmas break, and don’t give yourself enough time to do anything. Very annoying.

Anyway. Let’s take a look at the actual games…

  • Carcassonne The Catapult

This was actually a gift for my 6-year old daughter Alice. She’s a huge fan of the standard game, and already owns The Princes And The Dragon. This new set is a little too random for my liking, mainly because the included wooden catapult is pants, making it very hard to genuinely judge where you want tiles to fall. Still Alice likes it, and I guess that’s what really counts.

  • Quarriors! Rise Of The Demons

Another present, this time for my wife. She loves Quarriors! so the expansion was something of a no brainer for me. We’ve not played it yet, but it features a brand new monster, a new spell, a new type of basic corrupted die and corrupted versions of all the main monsters from the core set. It looks like a lot of fun.

  • Thunderstone Heart Of Doom

This is a gift for my 11-year old daughter Emily. She’s absolutely amazing at this game, so much so that we dread playing it with her. There’s something completely devastating about being regularly beaten at games by a child, but we plug on with it regardless. Anyhoo, we’ve not played this yet (there’s a theme building here) but it looks like a very cool set, with some great new monsters, including a mighty living thunderstone that requires a stupid amount of hit points to kill. If you fail, or if it breaches, it’s game over!

  • Power Grid

This was a present from my wife and one I’m greatly looking forward to playing. It’s a great resource game (according to those who have played it) and sees you building your own power companies to take over either germany or America. Great theme, and something I can’t wait to get stuck into.

  • Summoner Wars

Again, another game from my wife, and another game I’ve not played yet. It’s basically Magic: The Gathering, but without the need to spend an absolute fortune on cards. This sounds right up my street, as well as my mate’s Greg, so I’ll be playing it later this week.

  • Fortune And Glory: The Cliffhanger Game

I want to love this with all my heart, I really do, but so far something is stopping me. It’s steeped in theme and is effectively Indiana Jones the board game, just an unofficial version of it. you play 1 of 8 adventurers and must travel around the world retreiving artifacts and battling nazis. It’s dripping with theme, but it’s over reliance on dice is making it feel a little too random at the moment. I was playing it wrong though (I’m a chump like that) so expect a more balanced review when I’ve had some more time with it.

So that’s my new games, hope you all got great stuff as well.

Do You Remember? #2 Hero Quest Video

31 Aug

I’ve already written about Hero Quest on the site, but I thought I would use a video as well ­čÖé