Hey board gamers, BJ from Board Game Gumbo here, back with more Louisiana flavor and tales of board gaming from the Krewe de Gumbo. Volunteering at our local high school game club gives me the chance to try games that we might not normally play at Gumbo Game nights, or work out the kinks with the rules before springing it on the Wednesday night crowd. Here is our first impressions of the board games we played at this week’s meeting. If you have questions about our club, or how to start one at your school, hit me up on Twitter.
Enough blather, let’s get to the games!
In Space, No One Can Hear You Scheme
After a few months of introducing new games to these brand new gamers at our high school club, I’m starting to get a feel for what they like and what they don’t like. High on their list is any kind of game with high levels of player interaction, which is second only to hidden role / traitor games. Games like Coup, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Werewords, Chameleon and Deception: Murder in Hong Kong are played every week.
They also seem to enjoy cooperative games, Pandemic being the most frequent game that they play in that genre. But they have no experience yet in playing games where the entire group is working cooperatively to do something, while secretly there is a player (or two) working against that goal. Battlestar Galactica or Shadows over Camelot would be great to play with them, but unfortunately, we have a limited window of time at our two hour meetings each month.
That’s when I heard about Smirk & Dagger’s latest game, The Menace Among Us. It can be taught and played with up to eight people in about thirty to forty-five minutes, so it fits right into our schedule. Smirk & Dagger were kind enough to send us a review copy through the Envoy program.
Players are forced to work together to save a ship from losing all energy and oxygen. It has a cooperative team element about it, but all the while there are at least one or two traitors (the menace) out to prevent the group from reaching their goal.
The Menace Among Us is a 2019 release from Smirk & Dagger Games designed by Jeff Gum, with art from J Hause. We have had a chance to play it a few times already, and it has gone over very well with the teens. Smirk & Dagger bill the game as a “semi-cooperative game of intrigue and survival in deep space.” Players are crewmembers on a crippled spaceship, and they must work together to fix the ship before the oxygen runs out. But, of course, it is not that simple! There are traitors aboard the ship actively trying to sabotage the plans.
Players will take turns playing cards out of their small hand, or drawing a card from the card deck, or using one of their special “above deck” powers. These could something as simple as healing another player wounded by the menace, or playing extra cards to help increase the oxygen level of the ship. The cards are placed face down, and gathered up and shuffled once every player has had a chance to play or draw. Then the cards are laid out one at a time, and the actions (ranging from basic and advanced repairs to the ship — good for the crew — to brawling or air leaks — bad for the crew!) are activated on each card. If the ship’s energy can be restored before the crew runs out of oxygen, then the crew wins! But if not, the Menace has foiled their plans.
I had pre-set up the decks of cards before hand, so set up was a breeze. The teens had a few questions about their roles, but otherwise, picked up the game very quickly. That may be one of the best parts of the game, namely, the fact that game play is so intuitive. Each player not only has their main objective — if they are part of the crew, its to repair the ship, but if they are part of the Menace, it is to kill everyone or break the ship — but they also have special powers. In addition, everyone has private goals that may contradict what’s going on in their team’s objectives. Rotating these every game should really amp up the replayability.
The teens dove right into the mystery part of the game, scrutinizing each action very carefully. They noticed right away which players were playing cards, and which were holding back. Accusations were flying, but I think they enjoyed playing cards more than the voting. Finally after a few rounds, they exiled a crew member to the brig, losing a lot of resources in the process. Fortunately, the crew had a good run of cards and were able to save the ship.
Roux Dat Says: Sort of a BSG-lite, with lots of hidden roles, pre-made decks, and checks/balances built right in that both creates and dispels suspicion. Maybe not quite as thematic as Battlestar Galactica, but for the complexity and time investment, it is very close. An excellent introduction to hidden role, hidden agenda card games that has some “expert” features regular gamers can start using right away.
We Came, We Didn’t See, But We Built Anyway
The teens also like partnership games like Medium. So, when Brain Games sent us a review copy of Team3 their new team based construction party game through Envoy, we were happy to bring it to the club meeting to play it with the teens.
Team3 is cooperative, quick playing party-style game where players must work together to build structures depicted on their play cards using the plastic pieces that come with the game. The trick is that one player can read the card with the description of the placement and silently give instructions using only their hands, another player can verbally give those instructions (as they interpret them) to the remaining player without using any gestures at all, and of course, the third player who builds the structure without opening their eyes. That’s right: one player can’t talk, one can’t see, and one can’t hear any instructions!
Sounds difficult? It’s not easy, that’s for sure!
We split up into teams, playing a modified game using the easiest level of cards and having both teams compete to complete the card first. It was wild and a bit chaotic hearing both ‘callers’ call out competing instructions to their teams. One of the teacher advisors to the club remarked that this would be a great game to play with the communication classes at school.
Team3 comes in two different formats: pink and green. Each has ten brightly colored construction pieces (enough for two teams to make small constructions, or one team at a time to make larger ones), a ton of blueprint cards in varying difficulties, and a unique expansion to each box.
Rout Dat Says: What a fun but stressful game! We’re going to bring this one back again for the next meeting, as not everybody got to play this time. The teens were surprisingly adept at giving directions, and I can see this being a staple of our afternoon game sessions. It might be a little tough in a pub type atmosphere, but perfect for a family or school type game group.
THE WRAP UP:
So, that’s it for our post-game quarterbacking session. Roux Dat will be back with more commentary and reviews about the games we are playing. Is there a game that you would like to suggest for the next Roux Dat? Send me a tweet @boardgamegumbo and let’s chat about it.
Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!