Beignets & Boardgames — Preview of Moonshine Run coming to Kickstarter in June

(Editor’s note: We thank A Madman Or Two Games for providing us with a preview copy of Moonshine Run. The artwork, by Starcat Games, is presented here with permission of Zack Ringler. Here’s Bradly with the preview:)Webbed.jpg

Recently the Krewe de Gumbo got their hands on a game going up on Kickstarter on June 6, 2017 called Moonshine Run.

Developed by Zack Ringler from A Madman or Two Games, Moonshine Run is a card driven, push your luck game where you are attempting to get your white lightning down from the mountains where it is made into town where it can be sold.

PrintThe game itself is simple and has a small footprint. Essentially, it is a deck of cards which includes a round tracker and a turn order card for each player, alongside a collection of markers denoting money, and a rule book. Each round players will draw a card from the top of the deck equal to the round they are in (so 1 card for round 1, 2 for round 2, etc). Players then get the option to buy additional cards from the deck; one card for one dollar (and you start with $10). Cards drawn from the deck, whether free or bought, are placed face down in front of the player who drew them in the order they were drawn.

PoliceBlockade_1
Someone pushed their luck too far?
That is when the push your luck element comes in. The cards in the main deck come in several flavors. There are stash cards, hazards, quality cards and item cards.

 

XXX Quality x4
An example of the artwork from the “quality” cards
Stash cards are ultimately how you earn money. Each card is a representation of the moonshine you are trying to sneak past the police. You will earn money depending upon how much moonshine you can safely transport to town without getting caught. Hazards are things like the police stopping you on the road, rival moonshiners looking to steal your stash, or even something as simple as a fallen tree.

 

TommyGun_1
The ole Tommy Gun…
Quality cards change the value of your liquor when you sell it. They can either make it more valuable, or less. And finally item cards come in several types, like the Tommy Gun
which either lets you fight off Rival Moonshiners or attack other players and steal their stash.

BoozeShed_Broken
Is that a place to stash some booze?
The game play is easy to pick up. One by one, on their respective turns, the active players will reveal the cards in front of them, each time deciding if they are happy with what has been revealed already, or if they are going to risk the next turn of the line up. The round continues until a player either chooses to stop, reveals all of their cards, or runs into something that ends their turn.

 

Round Tracker
Handy turn order card
For a push your luck game, Moonshine Run is both entertaining and small enough that you can have it on you for quick filler games. Most of the problems the Krewe had revolved around the quality of the copy we played, but that is likely due to the fact that we had a review copy. There were some places we saw where definitions of rules could be better or organized in a better manner, but we are hoping that ultimately these minor glitches will be fixed in the actual production copy.

 

The game was fun for all of us that tested it, and not surprisingly, many of the Krewe wanted to purchase a copy for themselves as soon as it comes out especially if the production quality is increased.

Look for it on Kickstarter on June 6, 2017.

 

Spotlight on Southern Designers: Michael Godbold of Gobo Games

Hunting, fishing, football,  and just being in the outdoors — Southern designers have a tough job.  They have to design a gaming experience that can compete for the gamer’s attention with hunting, fishing, football, and just being in the outdoors, all of which are enjoyed year round. 
I got a chance to sit down with another Southern designer who seems very prepared to offer alternative entertainment and hobby options for the young and young-at-heart even during another jam-packed football season.
Michael Godbold is a young designer in Lafayette, Louisiana who self-published his first design, Kobold Ka-boom, this past year under his own banner, Gobo Games. He is a hard worker, and a prolific and creative designer, so it did not surprise me that he has two more designs almost ready for sale, with more on the way.
I sat down recently with Michael, and we talked about life in Louisiana, family, and of course, lots of talk about games. I hope you enjoy my conversation with this very thoughtful designer/publisher:
Michael, thanks again for meeting me. How did you get your start in Hobby Gaming?
Hobby gaming is that one defining thing that always brings people to the table. I didn’t realize this until I was older. I was always an outdoors kid, trampling around the subdivision with the neighborhood posse. When we couldn’t play outside, for whatever reason, we always dug through the “game closet”. It was filled with classic board games, card games and even travel versions of chess and checkers. It was in those moments, fun was delivered by exercising the brain. There were adventures, stories, strategic advantages and even puzzles to present challenge. I got hooked. I can remember making up games and playing them with my friends. That stuck with me, but was completely sidelined when I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons, Shadowrun and the endless expansion of the imagination brought forth by the demand for more adventure. Eventually I grew up, I roamed around the world and ended up back in Louisiana with a trade job and a simple adult life. That just wouldn’t do. 
How did you come up with the name “Gobo” for Gobo Games?
I originally had a partner, and we dove head first into the deep unknown of starting a company. Gobo Games, LLC. was born. My last name is Godbold. Even though it is two words put together, people simply ruin it. I was called “Gobo” throughout school. It stuck with me through all these years. It was simple, different, catchy and curious. Why not use it as a name for the company!
What are your favorite genres of hobby games that you like to play? 
If I can take the role of something not of this world, it wins. Fantasy will always win. I want to get lost in a story or become and change the story itself. I mean, who doesn’t want to be a hulking ogre from time to time, or become an elvish assassin? When it comes to picking a specific type of game, I can’t answer. I play them all.
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Let’s talk about your game company, Gobo Games. I love the Logo! 
There were a “crap ton” of concept logos that I created. I wanted a logo that would pop on any type of game box, something different, modern, simple but not bland. Most of all, it needed to represent me. It’s just me pushing through the indie game company horrors alone these days. So I created the current logo. I hand wrote the name and copied it digitally. I kept it simple by throwing a circle around it. One of the most common symbols that represents a game is a die. I didn’t feel the need to have “games” written out. So I slapped a red die in there and boom, Gobo Games.
Where do you see your games fitting in the hobby market? Quick playing games with depth?

I find many games are overcomplicated. It isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes you want to sit on your butt and hang out around a table with your friends for four to five hours. The amount of people who make time for those games is way less than the people who would smash out a few quick games with friends and call it a night. It’s only logical that I aim to succeed in the best market possible for an up and coming indie company. So, I took the route of simple, quick and fun. For now. Just because something is simple, doesn’t mean it can’t bleed adventure.

What is your dream con to attend as a publisher?

Gen Con. Come on, that thing is massive. It is like a sea of heads and a constant flow to your booth. Who wouldn’t want to spread the word of their games to an ocean of people?
Let’s talk about design. Who are your biggest influences?
Jamie Stegmeier of Stonemeier Games has shown many what it takes. It can be brutal. I want to look at the challenges ahead and face them head. He has tools to guide people. My company has evolved because of his many stories and I am grateful. It isn’t his blog that influences me the most. It’s my daughter. She may be young, but I want to show her that anything is possible, follow your passions and enjoy life.
You talked about enjoying the outdoors as a kid. In the South, kids enjoy playing sports and hunting/fishing year round. How do Southern game companies and designers like yourselves compete for attention with those plentiful activities? 
There are several ways to introduce tabletop gaming to those who aren’t already a part of it. The main issue with marketing is it is always trying to grab the attention of a specific group. Tabletop games have so many themes that there is something for everyone.  Some companies like to have a racing, sports and/or outdoors themed game within their collective. The idea behind the simple tactic is to “break the ice”. Once you break the ice, and they enjoyed the tabletop experience, it’s likely they will branch out. The best marketing tool is the consumer. It’s best to let them spread the word and love of tabletop gaming.
Have you ever tried co-design or are you a solo designer? 

I have always been into design. It hasn’t always been tabletop games. I have had to work with people on numerous crafts, events and projects. Because I am an indie company and I am just now getting my feet wet, I have been going solo. I have a friend out of state who also designs games and has shown interest in joining my team. I can’t wait to work with him on future projects. My main focus right now isn’t Kickstarter. It also isn’t uploading promotional videos. My focus is on having a small collection to start my company with. Once things get rolling and people know more about Gobo Games, the next level will present itself. That next level will be more about promotion, giving me more time to work with other designers and bringing new light to Gobo Games.

 

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Where do you get your ideas?

My ideas generally start off simple. I might be thinking about making a word game and while driving I pass a construction site. What would happen if I put that together? Then I think about heavy machinery building letter buildings. I think about different game mechanics to introduce to this thought. The brain is always triggering and firing. It’s acting on an idea and watching it evolve that truly creates something. When your options are limitless, don’t put a limit on your options.

 

The Krewe de Gumbo has had a lot of heartfelt discussions about the tug of war between chasing after new games (i.e. “Cult of the New”) versus playing games already on our shelves and the comfort that brings. Admittedly, there’s a big thrill in opening up a new game, teaching it to players for the first time, and having the table light up with satisfaction at your “find.” But there’s also the social aspect of four friends playing a game where everybody knows the rules and can relax and have a good time.  Where do you stand on the line of Cult of the New versus Old Shoe?

Old Shoe would not exist without the Cult of the New. Leaving one’s comfort zone can bring new life. You can grow as an individual and  expand your imagination, problem solving and even learn new tactics from something new. Still… playing something that has been your fallback since the dawn of time… priceless. There is no real answer, just the coexistence of both.

Over the last few years, we have seen a lot of “hybrid” games — games with strong mechanics like a Euro game but injected with amazing art, theme and player interaction like a good ol’ Amerithrash game. Where do you stand on hybrid games?

 What if I asked you to create a monster. It is guaranteed you would reference other monsters, animals or whatever else. When a hybrid game gets attention, I think it’s wonderful. It’s a combination of multiple things, like your monster. I feel hybrids are evolving the industry. Sometimes these combinations create a new approach and open new doors for designers to venture.

Let’s talk about your own designs. So far, your first three designs are easy entry, quick playing, interactive card games. Is that Gobo’s “niche” or do you see yourself branching out as a publisher?

Right now? Absolutely. I need a broad market to get my company’s feet wet. I also really enjoy games that can be taken out, played and put up within an hour. I am a dad. I have to take care of my family. I also have to work a 40 plus hour work week. I also go on call sometimes and have very little time for myself. My time is limited. If I have an urge to play a game, but don’t have the rest of the day to play it, quick games win. I fully plan to introduce bigger games to Gobo Games’ catalog. Definitely.

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Tell me more about Kobold Ka-Boom!

Kobold Ka-Boom! is a “beer and pretzels” game. It allows people time to relax the brain because of the simple tactics and ease of game play. It opens up time for people to accept that passive aggression and just have a good time. The best thing about it for me is the shouting that seems to come from people playing. That just means they are having fun. Not everyone gets into imitating the sound of a bomb going off every time they use a bomb, but they should. I remember testing the game at a recent convention and a group of people sat down and went over the rule book. They were very quiet. They asked a few questions for clarity and then asked to play. Once they hashed it out after a round or two, they started shouting and making bomb sounds. One guy got out of his chair and jumped for joy after he scouted his opponent’s bomb and disarmed it. I just smiled and watched on. It drew attention and more people got to play. Almost everyone who sat down to play was eventually getting loud, pointing, laughing, explaining things to newcomers and generally having a good time. If you are looking for a more technical answer. Bombs. Who doesn’t want to bomb their friend’s forces into nothingness?

img_4298I love the art on Kobold Ka-Boom. You worked with a talented artist on that game, Kate Carleton, who has some big games under her artistic belt. Tell me about your work with her.

A year ago, and some change, I needed some art for my first project. I didn’t have tons of money to spend, and I luckily knew a lot of artists already. I posted online a few groups and friends to see if anyone was interested in working with me. There she was. Kate Carleton. She sent me a demo piece of a quick description I had given her. It was perfect for what I had imagined. She was immediately brought on board and has been a crucial member.

img_4950I bet we all do! Boggle and Scrabble have zero theme, but your take, Construction Words, looks like a thematic approach to word games. What was the inspiration behind Construction Words?

 I like word games, but I never had a huge vocabulary growing up. So wanted to take my liking of word games and create something unique that could help someone advance their vocabulary. I have a much better vocabulary these days, but it is always growing. The theme is construction. It’s building. Just like building up your vocabulary. This game had to have a loose theme to take away from it just being another word game. It also had to have a second mechanic. The idea to have incomplete words that needed to be fixed, really stuck with me. The awesome thing is each incomplete word could become hundreds or even thousands of complete words. If you don’t have a high vocabulary, you can still easily play with what knowledge you have. Plus the more you play and learn more words, the better. Having players wrack the brain traditionally is one thing, but having them think tactically for an advantage is another. I took my basic concept and added a slight competitive edge that introduced that tactical thinking. Now when a player completes an incomplete word they get to keep that card. Oh, look! It has a one time ability to skip a player’s turn. Who wouldn’t want to use this on that vocabulary wizard who is in first place?

6f88e2f8-15fc-4be8-95e5-64a5ef09210dThe new game, Heroes Deep, really intrigues me. Give me the elevator pitch  and more about the theme, how to play, mechanics, etc., and tell me about this unique art style that you have come up with. 

I set out to create a game that had simple mechanics, but brought something different to an oversaturated genre. Because the game is still in development, I will just give you what is currently in the works. 

I have been wanting to make a dice game for quite some time. There are a lot of simple dice games and then there are those that make D&D’s Handbook look like a birthday card. I researched and analyzed numerous games, markets and companies. I found that simple was ultimately key. Usually simple and goofy proved to generate more revenue for these companies for them to then put back into delivering more content for consumers. I wanted a more serious dice game, that was still simple. 

My favorite genre is fantasy, so I just dove head first and started a fantasy concept. Using a re-roll mechanic, players attempt to traverse through a linear dungeon. What the hell is a linear dungeon? Well, imagine a random deck of cards that represent where you have moved to within this dungeon. On those cards are icon challenges that can help or hurt you. So even though players aren’t literally turning left and right and going down paths, the dungeon is still randomized. The main goal is to survive and escape the dungeon with their weight in treasure. The catch is the other players can manipulate your dice if they have enough collected resources to do so. They can also prevent you from gaining those resources. That’s where the slight resource management comes into play. 

So besides fighting monsters, having goblins steal your treasure or having your friends making your life miserable, you can also become a monster. When a player dies their goal for winning is no longer exiting the dungeon with their weight in treasure. They must kill all the heroes. 

Because the concept involved a dark fantasy tone and my artist doesn’t normally do the style I was looking for, I ended up doing it myself. I used bits and pieces of photos, public domain clip art and even hand drawn effects and created base images. I then blended the absolute hell out of them all while tampering with lighting, blurring and smudging to get the finished results. There are also millions of blending filters which aided in solidifying the overall image. It’s pretty amazing when you can make your goofy friend into an evil looking wizard.

How has the playtesting experience been for you?

This one can be tricky. I playtest my mechanics as much as I can. I then hand it off to a small group of random people who are always in and out of the gaming community. I let friends and family have at it as well. I know that I need some “game breakers” to look over my mechanics so I review with a few semi-trusted groups who can’t wait to delve right into the game mechanics. The best thing I have ever heard about this industry is no one is actually right.

“If a company can make millions off of a mechanically weak game that has terrible art or a game that has great mechanics and terrible art… there is room for anything in this ever changing industry.”

It wouldn’t be a Louisiana lunch meeting if we didn’t talk about our next meal while we are eating! So, last question: best chicken — Popeye’s or Raisin’ Cane’s?

Popeye’s. Spicy. I am hungry now.

My thanks to Michael Godbold of GoBo Games for taking the time to visit with me. You can find more about Michael and his company at Gobo Games.

Beignets and Board Games: First Impressions of the upcoming game, Wordsy

The rhythm and cadence of language fascinates me. Growing up in south Louisiana has given me a front seat to a culture full of musical expressions for every day greetings and happenings. We worship idioms, both in French and English.

We say “How’s your maw-maw” or “comment les affaires” to say hello to neighbors on the street. We wink and say “on va se revoir (we’ll see you again)” when we bid good-bye to strangers we’ve just met. Our Cajun raconteurs are famous for their quick minds and ability to connect scraps of a conversation to an old story or joke.

We love language. 

Maybe that’s why I love word games. I remember long ago Saturday nights watching my mom play Scrabble for hours in the kitchen with her friends, or hearing my dad roar with laughter at a funny definition in Balderdash. We played Hangman at school during recess, and played hours and hours of Boggle with my family. As an adult, I bought a copy of Runes off of eBay, and loved competing with my wife to find words that fit the symbols on our boards.

I just love that moment in a game when someone makes a clever connection between random letters and an unusual word. There is an indescribable feeling when you combo letters into a word so unique to your group that everyone nods, a silent look of “well played” on their faces.

How does this feeling best translate to cardboard? I have been searching for that answer myself for years, and I think I have finally found the perfect expression of that desire. img_1105-1

Gil Hova of Formal Ferret Games, sent me a prototype review copy of Wordsy, a streamlined version of his original word game, Prolix. (Note: I have not played the original game, just this implementation. ) Gil is the designer of Bad Medicine and the blisteringly hot title from Gen Con and Essen 2016, The Networks, which sadly is still on my list of games to play this year.

So, slide into a comfortable chair, grab yourself a steaming cup of Community coffee (Cafe’ Special, of course) and a plate of fried powdery goodness, and let’s chat about this tight, fun, and challenging word game that hits Kickstarter this fall.

Overview:

Wordsy is a word game for one to six players that uses a card system instead of tiles or dice to generate random letters. The game is competitive and is played over seven rounds, lasting about twenty minutes total. In each round, a two by four grid of consonants is formed in the middle of all of the players, with each two letter row given a successive number value from 2 to 5. During each round, players write down a word that uses as many of these letters as possible, and can score bonuses depending on the letter used and the time it takes to write down the word. Whoever scores the most points in seven rounds is declared the winner.

img_1101Bits and pieces:

The version we received is in prototype form, but I did enjoy the graphical choices even in somewhat raw form. Wordsy comes in a small box, that looks like an old leather bound folio. The game consists of a large stack of cards each with a different letter on it, some with colors and numbers to donate their rarity and bonus point potential. It also comes with a sand timer, and plenty enough scoring sheets for you and all of your word-loving friends. Finally, it has four scoring column cards each with a different point value. The prototype version shown in these pictures is what was sent to me, but my understanding is that the cards are not representative of all of the final graphical choices.

img_1033How to play:

Each round, players study the eight letters on the board at the same time. The first player to think up a word and write it down can grab the 30 second timer. That puts all the other players on the clock to come up with a word. When time runs out, the person who grabbed the timer scores his or her word first, and gets bonus points if he or she can beat at least half of the other players. Of course, the slower players also get a bonus if they beat the first player.

Once the seven rounds are done, players score their best five words plus any bonuses. The player with the most points is declared the winner. In short, Wordsy is simple, intuitive, and easy to teach.

img_1103-1Initial impressions:

I have played this game already half a dozen times, both one on one and in a group of three or four other players. I even brought it out with some non-gamers, just to test its accessibility.  The non-gamers picked up the concept of the game during the very first round, and said they were intrigued by the challenge of coming up with words “out of thin air” (as they said). They’ve seen many of my other board games, and were half-expecting a two hour long Euro game with lots of pieces (not something they are interested in at all), and were happy to see the minimalist construction of this game.  Both non-gamers gave Wordsy two thumbs up.

I also introduced it to some of the Krewe, who are of course very familiar with games like Biblios and Boggle. The Gumbo guys thought Wordsy played fast but challenging, and much preferred it to other word type games. The game is light weight, but has some gamer touches (scoring, bonuses, timer, and first player challenges) that gave a deeper level of strategy than your standard word game. 

How did I enjoy my plays? I love how Gil has put some cayenne into what could have been a standard fare race-to-make-the-biggest-word game. I love three of the many hooks he added to Wordsy:

The good hook? Different consonants are worth different points depending upon how rare the letter is in normal English words, and what column they are in.

The better hook? Two columns of letters slide down each round to lower value columns, and the higher values columns are replaced by new letters, so each round the board changes

The best hook? Players can use literally any letter they want in the alphabet to make up the word for each round — that’s right, any letter, not just the ones on the current board. The trick is that a player only scores the letters that are actually on the board.

As an example, if the board has the letters M, N, and T on the board in the 2, 3, and 4 point columns respectively, and a player writes down the word “filament”, the player would score 9 points total, not including any bonus points for being the first player to write down a word and beating the other players, or beating the first player outright.

This turns Wordsy into my favorite kind of genre, in addition to being a word game: It’s really a sandbox word game, where you are not limited to what is in front of you on your turn. Instead, the world is your board! Any letter in the English language is there for you to call it down from the aether onto your scoresheet. That’s real word game freedom.

img_1035Recommendations:

I have played Boggle hundreds of times, and the limited number of letters on the board is what drove me crazy about that game. I could never stand being limited to the grid of letters that randomly popped out of the dice. I always wanted a word game that added a little spice to the standard format.

Wordsy gives me the freedom to dream big. The outlay provided by the cards is only a starting point. It’s an invitation to search my memory banks for words that fit the pattern of the letters on the board. It is definitely a step up in fun and challenge from Boggle and Scrabble and other games that limit your choices, and the addition of the timed bonuses really adds some punch to the experience.

Challenge yourself. Invite a few wordsmiths in your area to sit down for beignets and coffee, and break out a copy of Wordsy after it comes out on Kickstarter this fall. If you like word games, or if you like challenging filler games that have some meat on the bones, you will definitely like Wordsy. It’s quick, it’s easy to teach, it’s challenging, and most of all, it is deliciously fun!

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

— B.J.

 

 

Spice it up! with Hand Off: The Card Football Board Game (LSU edition)

The Mad Hatter will no longer roam the Death Valley sidelines, looking for a tasty blade of grass to chew on during a tense late season game against the Crimson Tide.  News out of Baton Rouge on Sunday, September 25 is that head coach Coach Les Miles and his offensive coordinator were relieved of their duties by the athletic director, after a shocking loss to unranked Auburn.

LSU fans are divided over the firing, although the division was probably not 50/50. How best to quell the uncertainty as to who will lead the great LSU program for the time being and for next season, too?

If your team has started out this season in disappointing fashion, or is already mathematically eliminated from the college football playoffs after only four games, then spice up your game nights with a great college themed game, Hand-Off: The Card Football Board Game (LSU Edition)!


CSE Games sent me a review copy right after the Krewe got back from GenCon. True to form, the Krewe brought back a stadium full of new hotness from the convention, and we have been wading through those games. But, tugging in the back of my mind as each college football weekend unfolded was that brand new copy of a poker-flavored game just waiting for me to play. So, when LSU announced the news about Coach Miles, it was a perfect time to break open the box and try a few games.

LSU Hand Off is a card game that apparently streamlines the original game called Card Football. The game is geared for two players and plays quickly, in only about 45 minutes. The game is played over four “quarters”, with all of the different aspects of a good football game: time outs, special teams, big offensive plays, penalties and great goal line defensive stops.  All of these can and will happen during the course of a game.

The set up is easy. The board is a flat representation of LSU’s Tiger Stadium, affectionately known by Louisianians as “Death Valley.” Although the crowd noise and bourbon fueled frenzy does not come in the box, the field has almost all of the appropriate views of the stadium and field — with one exception, namely that Tiger Stadium marks the yardage in 5 yard increments not 10 yard increments — and there are spaces for four downs for each player. Shuffle the standard poker deck, and deal each player five cards. That’s it.

The game play is equally easy and fairly intuitive. Each player tries to build the best modified poker hand (high card < pair < two pair < three of a kind) during the downs, and are allowed to add cards to a play if they can help build one of those hands.  The highest hand at the time of that down gets to enact the play on the card, which could be anything from a big offensive play or a defensive stop, or even a penalty.  

The game comes with a football marker and a referee marker, which shows you were the ball is and how far you need to go for the first down. I do have to complain here, as both my son and I had trouble moving the markers down the field as each yard is pretty tightly placed next to each other. Making the board a little bit bigger (I would love to see it on the Ticket To Ride 10th Anniversary sized board!) would definitely have made that part easier.

Frankly, I was surprised at how much fun the game was, and how much it felt like watching a football game. There was momentum when you saw that you had a chance to combo some good cards into a long drive. There was drama as teams got into the red zone or a penalty potentially wiped out a big play. Field position — just like in real football — was crucially important, and you have to manage your time outs to give yourself a chance to get those good cards you need in the red zone. Kudos to the designers who must be big football fans, because this really plays like a football game simulator.

I like the addition of the trump cards, too. A number of LSU’s greatest teams are represented by a small card that each player chooses. These can be played as a trump card if the player ends up with that very card in his hand. The implementation of the trump cards was a little bit of a let down, as they were just small square cards with some facts about the team. Artwork, photographs, flavor text — any of those would have spiced up those trump cards and I think the designer missed on that part.

But the whiffs are few, as the game plays very smoothly. I have never played the original implementation, but it feels like this is a 2.0 of that game. If I had to quibble, the rule book does need a little bit of development, as I think it could have been organized better. An index would have helped, too. But those are minor quibbles, because we were able to stop play as needed to check the rules and almost always got to the rule we needed fairly quickly.

In summary, on the pro side, I love the speedy play, easy to pick up poker mechanics, and the drama that comes as a tense drive begins building up and crosses the midfield. The game is a breeze to teach, and should definitely excite any college fan. I imagine it is a great game for tailgating — and I will test it out at the Ole Miss game coming up next month to make sure.  

On the con side, the stadium is too small and missed out on some accuracy, the rule book needs a graphic designer and a developer, and the all time trump cards need some spice. These are not things that would dissuade me from buying the game, but they do need to be fixed in the future. 

Both my son and I really enjoyed playing the game, and look forward to many more plays this season. It is definitely staying in my collection, and although I cannot recommend it for everybody, I can definitely recommend it to any gamers out there who like college football and want a quick and easy game to play. Note that the game also comes in a Florida Gator version, too.

Until next time, laissez Le Bon temps rouler!

–B.J.

@boardgamegumbo

 

 

Spice it up! with Broom Service

Louisiana summers are hot. Ouai, ca fait chaud! But as hot as it has been in 2016 down in the Bayou State, the steamy heat that vented up from the Atchafalaya Swamp is nowhere near as hot as designer Alex Pfister was this year.

Just to recap the last few months:

  1. Mr. Pfister won his second Spiel des Jahres Kinnerspiel (connoisseur game) for Isle of Skye in ’16;
  2. Won the International Gamers Awards general strategy (multi-player) Game of the Year for Mombasa in ’16; and
  3. Garnered the 2016 Deutsher Spielepreis (people’s choice) Game of the Year with Mombasa again.

If you are keeping score at home, that’s three of the top awards in international hobby board gaming in just a few months. And we cannot forget the Spiel des Jahres Kinnerspiel won in ’15. Have you played on of his designs? If not, which one should you try first?

Does your game group love Libertalia, with its juicy decisions over which cards to play to maximize your points, while bluffing the other players as to your strategy?

Well then, spice up your gaming nights with Broom Service by Alexander Pfister!

 

I spy big points in that right hand corner, if you can get there quickly enough.
Broom Service is the 2015 release from Alea / Ravensburger which the Spiele jury awarded its prestigious Kinnerspiel award in 2015. Two to five players take turns moving their witches across a beautiful landscape of towers, delivering magic potions and dispelling angry clouds along the way.  The game plays over seven rounds, and there is a unique twist in its mechanics.

 

Players have not one but two witch meeples to keep track over over the board. All actions in the gamer, including movement of the witches and delivery of the potions, are accomplished by playing a hand of four cards from your ten role cards in your hand. Each player is given the exact same cards, namely a witch for moving quickly around the board, a fairy for dispelling rain clouds, gatherers for farming the potions, and Druids for delivering the potions. To make it even spicier, Mr. Pfister requires that when playing with only 2-4 players, a ‘dummy’ player is added whose sole purpose is to draw at random three cards which will cause players to take a three point penalty if they play that role.

 

$1 plastic box from Dollar Tree not included.
And you thought any of the above was the twist? Non, non, non. The real twist is that each role has two available actions, a “brave” action and a “cowardly” action.  If a player chooses the brave action on his or her turn, and no one else plays that role, the player gets the usually awesome brave reward. That could be anything from extra victory points to extra money. But if anyone else plays the brave action following the first player’s choice, unfortunately that choice is ‘trumped’ and the previous player gets nothing. (It’s all there in black and white in the fine print, Charlie.)

 

 

Hmm, what does the green and black witches know that the red and blue do not?
Ah, but the player could choose the cowardly action, and then that role is safe, albeit with a lesser benefit. After each player plays out all of the four role cards in his hands, the next round begins.

 

If given a vote, I would have voted this game as the 2015’s Top Game That Underwhelms Me From Its Description. Frankly, the box cover art, the reviews I read, and even the game play videos did not strike my fancy. Then I heard the Dukes of Dice extolling its virtues, and I kept reading and hearing the same theme everywhere after that — the beauty of Broom Service comes in the bluffing and backstabbery in the game. When you are the first player — and you get that honor by being the last person to have played a brave card — there is such a deep and delicious decision making panic that could overwhelm many players.  After surveying the other players on the board, the potential cards that have three point penalties on them, the cards in your hand, and the available towers and clouds, making that first move is such a gut driven decision! At least the way we play it is. — because there are lots of stares and questions like “Do you have that gatherer or not!” — and the hooting and holly ring is loud and fun every time someone is ‘trumped’.

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Take that, B.J, and the  brave witch goes down in flames.

So why is this game spicier than Libertalia?

Before we answer that, let’s clear up something first.  Libertalia is a game I still LOVE, and I will play it anytime it is offered. But, there are definitely some elements of Broom Service that give it a slight edge over Libertalia right now.

First, it is much more of a traditional board game than Libertalia. It has a very vibrant board, that is almost a little overwhelming or intimidating at first with the pop of color that is found all over the board. The board has lots of cute little graphics showing the various terrain and the different types of towers.  Within a play or two, I was reading and exploring the board ever more, and I have no complaints about the layout. If I had a minor quibble, it is that at first glance the bordes between the territories seems hard to define in some places. Repeated plays took care of this, so I do not see this as a stumbling block.

 

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One player seems to have a lot more resources than the other. Two guesses as to the winner of this game.
Second, the bluffing and card play aspect of Libertalia really gets amped up here. Even at two players, Broom Service is all about reading the table and the board together to figure out the best next play. Are all of your opponents away from juicy scoring opportunities in the hills? Then maybe that’s the direction you go, and you do it bravely not cowardly.

 

Third, and probably the biggest factor, is that the “take that” element of Libertalia is ramped up big time here — yet provides some forgiveness, something that is lacking in Libertalia.  In Broom Service, the ability to gauge the room or your own level of daring as to whether you want the base action or the bonus actions that come with chancing it on the brave side of the card is very elegantly designed.  Even the most cautious player can run around the board scoring points, albeit at a slower pace. And when the opportunity to be last on the board and play your brave actions come out, it is very satisfying.

 

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Empty coke zero bottle not included.
Are there any downsides? There’s a lot going on for new hobby gamers, with multiple paths to scoring points (clouds, towers, bonus points, etc.). The random round event cards can sometimes add a level of chaos or change the action of the game so much that it does not feel thematic to the experience. The plus side of having two witches and therefore two sets of actions to explore can be intimidating for younger players. But all of these are quibbles, and there is so much more on the positive side of this game.  It is tightly built, and one of the few games that should leave you asking “just one more round” when turn seven ends.

 

So, if your game group likes to play games that combine beautiful bits, a board, and cards too– with a game experience that lasts about an hour — then I have the game for you. Head on down to your friendly local game store and pick up a copy of Broom Service. I give it four out of five cayenne peppers!

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

–B.J.

@boardgamegumbo

Spice it up! with Celestia

One of my favorite genres of games is the classic push your luck games. I have played Can’t Stop hundreds of times, and I just love rolling the dice just one more time…even No Thanks! has a push your luck element that I can’t resist.

I have been on the look out for a good push your luck game to add to our game nights, one that would add a little more ‘game’, a little more theme to the mechanic. One of the Krewe de Gumbo members, Dustin, brought this game to our game group on the advice of Tom Vasel, and Tom was spot on with this one. At Gen Con 2016, we saw this game being played all over the convention, and we ended up picking up five more copies to bring back to our respective game groups and families!

Are your game nights getting a little bland? Is your game group ready for the next step in push your luck games?

Then, Spice it up! with Celestia.img_0741

Celestia is a 2015 release from Quick Simple Fun Games designed by Aaron Weissblum. The game play is simple: players take turns as captain of an airship floating from island to island. The object is to score more points (treasure cards in this case) than the other players by advancing the ship. Captains advance the ship by rolling 2, 3 or 4 dice (depending upon the island), and then match cards in their hands to the results of the dice rolls. Each island you advance to gives you a chance at higher point cards, and of course, the designer included special power cards that can be used to bend the rules (like force someone to jump out of the airship or to re-roll favorable dice.) The first captain who collects 50 points in treasure cards is the winner.

img_0660The game involves so many mechanics that I love. The captains take turns bluffing the players into thinking that they have enough cards in their hand to match the dice rolls, while the players push their luck on whether to drop out (and take the safe points) or push onto the next island.

Admittedly, the theme is a little pasted on, but on the other hand, it definitely has much more them than No Thanks! and Can’t Stop, which are all just about the mechanics. At least in Celestia, the airship and the artwork and the island boards all contribute to a vague feeling of adventure and treasure hunting. In the end, the theme is not enough to make or break the game, but it does help it…ahem…rise above the competition.

img_0850 The bits and pieces are perfect for this game. The islands have great artwork, and are sturdy cardboard. There are plenty of islands to make the rounds last just long enough to create juicy tension.

The cards themselves are easy to sort and the game is a breeze to set up. The airship even has a rotating propeller on it! The pawns could have been a little more thematic, but I am quibbling here.

The rules are fairly easy to understand from the small rulebook. If I had one real criticism, it is in the size of the print of the rule book — by that I mean, the pictures that are contained of the cards. Whether in the spirit of the game, one of the key calculations is to figure out how many good cards are in the stack in front of you. Unfortunately, the pictures of the cards in the rule book are too tiny, so tiny that they are useless in terms of calculation. Until I actually take the time to separate the cards and look at all of them, I will never know how large the point values can get in each treasure pile. Maybe that was intentional on the part of the designer?

img_0849I have had a lot of success teaching this game to newcomers to our hobby. It takes perhaps one round for even the most inexperienced game night participant to figure out how to play and pick up on some of the bluffing strategies. By round two, even the youngest gamer is picking up on the importance of kicking people out of the airship at just right the time, or bringing down the whole crew crashing if you are the captain and you pushed your luck one island too far.

But, the game also goes over very well as a good filler in our more experienced game groups.  Gamers that are familiar with each other’s ‘tells’ from other bluffing games will not be able to help themselves with trying to guess how many cards a captain has based on an eyebrow twitch or smirk.  And with a quick and easy set up, we can get a few games in while waiting for the main group to arrive, or play it at the end of the night when we just want to play “one more game.”

img_0851Celestia has been a big hit, and I am not sure why it has not gotten more love and buzz from the community.  For my money, it replaces Can’t Stop and maybe even No Thanks! too.

So, if your game nights are getting a little bland, and you really want to introduce a fun filler with lots of bluffing and push your luck elements, then get down to your friendly local game store and pick up a copy of Celestia.

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

B.J. 

 

More Gen Con previews…

Why does it feel like Gen Con 2016 is the Super Bowl of gaming?!? So many exciting events, so many new game releases, I am not sure how we are going to fit everything in.

Last week, I covered the top five anticipated game releases. Here are a few more that are really stirring up the acquisition disorder.


ISLEBOUND (Red Raven Games — booth #2657) — Sure, Ryan Laukat and Red Raven Games are blowing up Kickstarter with their currently in development  sequel to Above and Below called Near and Far.

But they will also have limited quantities of their previous release, Islebound. The artwork is as fun, familiar, and whimsical as the best of Laukat’s work. I haven’t tried the gameplay yet but it is in my list to demo.

THE DRAGON & FLAGON (Stronghold Games — booth #2323)) Next up is a tough choice. As one board game podcaster said last week, This may be the strongest lineup Stronghold Games has ever produced at Gen Con. But which one to choose? I think I am most excited about Dragon and Flagon, a new real time programming game from The Engelsteins. I LOVE the chaotic fun if Robo Rally and Colt Express, so this deserves a pass by and a look see. I am also very interested in Terraforming Mars, so we may be spending a lot of time at Stephen Buonocore’s booth.


DARK DEALINGS (Nevermore Games) — I love filler games. I love card games. That’s why Dark Dealings from Nevermore Games is on my list to check out. Drive Thru Review had a great review and synopsis of the game. It looks quick but thinly, and not something you catch onto on the very first play. That hopefully means there’s some depth to it, too, even if it plays in 30 minutes or so. Gonna check this one out.

crgcgi101

 

PLUMS (Crash of Games) — Yes, I know. I love filler games and I love card games and you know that, too. But look at the artwork on this game! I heard a good review from the blue pegs with Blue Peg, Pink Peg podcast (and you should check them out if you have not already). They made it sound as Plums is the perfect family game. CoG’s website says it is sold out, but I am hoping they have copies at Gen Con or at least a demo.

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VIA NEBULA (Space Cowboys — booth #1619) — I have never played a Martin Wallace game! There, I said it. The guys at The Secret Cabal (my favorite podcast from York, Pennsylvania) are always raving about Mr. Wallace’s latest creations, yet no one in my game group has any. What to do? Head down to booth 1619, of course. I plan on at the very least demoing the game, and it is definitely on my radar of games to pick up.

DASTARDLY DIRIGIBLES (Fireside Games — booth #743) Our last look see for today is a Fireside release. My kids grew up on lots of plays of Castle Panic, but I have honestly never played any of their other games. I believe the company is based down south so it would be nice to meet up and do an interview. But back to the game — as you can see, we like new and unusual themes here, and this one is very unique. Plus it has some Take That, at least from the previews I have seen.
So that wraps up this week’s list. Tweet me if you have something you would recommend that the Krewe of Board Game Gumbo try out at Gen Con 2016. Until then, Laissez les Bon temps rouler!

B.J.

Spice it up! with Bohnanza

Cajuns love card games. We play Hearts, Spades, and of course our own Cajun games, Bouree’ and Battaille (the former for adults, and the latter your basic War or Battle card game for kids).

So it should come as no suprise that any good Board Game Gumbo is spiced with a heapin’ helpin’ of card games.

Once we mastered the Art Of Battaille, we moved right to the game of Pit. This is the classic game of trading first published by Parker Brothers way back in 1904. Players are dealt a hand of cards with commodity symbols on them, and then try to “corner” the market in that commodity by trading unwanted crops to the other players.

If we have played Pit one time, we have played it hundreds. Traveling from Louisiana to Quebec or to Yellowstone on long summer vacations, we whiled away the hours in the back of the  camper by playing round after round. We even started playing our own house rules — the inevitable “quiet” rule, where you had to hold up fingers to trade the commodity cards with other players — or even a version where you had to knock on the table to indiciate the number of cards intended for trade.

Pit was a great game, but it suffers from limited mechanics and appeal. So what do you do when your game group has had its fill of collecting and trading games like Pit?

Why not spice up your game night with a copy of Bohnanza?

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Designed by famed German designer, Uwe Rosenber, who brought us Agricola and Caverna to name just two of his most famous farming games, this is Pit served up with fun, frivolity, and much spicier trading. It is simple to teach, plays in less than an hour, and at least in the version I bought from Rio Grande Games, plays up to seven (7) players.

The gameplay is simple, even for kids or novice gamers, making it not only a good gateway game, but an excellent next step after introducing other trading games. Players win by collecting valuable sets of “beans”, cards with bean caricatures on them of varying values.  The scoring depends upon the rarity of the beans in the deck.  Players have only two fields in front of them at first, which are needed to “plant” and then later “harvest” the bean cards that you draw.

Of course, the other way to collect the beans you need to complete your sets is to trade  with other players.  And that’s where the wheelin’ and dealin’ fun begins. Each round, the active player will be solicited by the other players hoping to trade for the cards that have come out, or get rid of cards in their hand that do not fit with their bean strategy. It may take some convincing, or even some pretty crafty dealing, but eventually you can get the cards you need to harvest your field.

The game consists of three rounds, and players will reshuffle the deck two times. Just remind new players who stare warily at the extra sized deck, that it will be whittled down by all of the harvested beans, many of which do not go back in the deck but instead are used as scoring tokens.

The components are pretty standard: a large set of cards  with humorous depictions of beans in various poses related to their names:image

The box has a nice plastic insert that holds the cards, but caution — the insert will not prevent the cards from spilling over the insert if you turn it on its side. The cards include enough beans to scale the game from 3 to 7 players.

What makes this game spicier than Pit or other trading games? It takes some strategy to manipulate the two fields players start with to ensure all of the beans are planted (eventually, players can purchase a third bean field, which greatly helps).  It also takes skillful negotiations to get that last bean of the set, or to prevent other players from upgrading their field’s harvest. A little card counting ability never hurts, either.

In sum, Bohnanza is an awesome next step up from Pit, and should be in every gamer’s collection. Spice up your next game night with a great opening game while waiting for your group to arrive! I give it three out of five cayenne peppers!

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

B. J.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spice it up! with Blood Rage

In some parts of south Louisiana, there’s an old saying. “Passer a la bastringue.” It roughly translates into “passing through the triangle.” The triangle in this case is an important part of Cajun music. The typical Cajun music band has an accordion, a guitar, a fiddle, and a little iron triangle that is used as percussion. Keeping time on the iron triangle with an iron rod can make a nice ringing sound, but its size is also just large enough for a hand and not much else to pass through the opening of the triangle.

So when Cajuns say that a board gamer looks like he was “passed” through the triangle, that means the gamer probably looks pretty beat up. Or,  they could be referring to the gamer’s sour reaction to the end of a particularly disastrous outing.

What an appropriately accurate expression for today’s discussion.

By now, your group has knocked around a few of the well made introductory-type war games. You may have started with Memoir ’44 , by Richard Borg (who surprisingly also designed Liars Dice), especially if your group likes two-sided pitched battles with just enough randomness to even things out between those on different levels of experience and skill.

Or better yet, maybe someone in your group has already grabbed a copy of Small World. It is a relatively simple game in concept, and serves as a great introduction to area control and battle mechanics.  It is super easy to teach, and with a few modifications, you can knock out a three or four player game in about an hour.

But what happens when Small World and Memoir ’44 get a little stale (even with their numerous expansions, which is a good topic for another day)? Are you ready for a challenge — with the potential that you just might get “passed through the triangle?”

Spice it up! with Blood Rage, by Eric M. Lang.  (You will remember Lang from XCOM: The Board Game and Arcadia Quest and all those  Quarriers! dice — and watch out for his latest, The Others: 7 Sins!).

Blood Rage is the ultimate in Viking glory games. It is a card drafting battle royale between two to four players that plays in about an hour and half (maybe even about an hour if everyone is experienced.) The game consists of three rounds (called “Ages”) where the Viking clans compete for space across the board, represented by lands and villages.

And when I say compete, I mean battle for the Glory of Odin, in a blaze of mayhem that will ultimately result in an honored spot in Valhalla.

To get to Valhalla (and to earn the most ‘glory’ or victory points), players are each dealt a random hand of cards. They draft a card out of their hand, and then pass the remaining cards to the next player. (Those familiar with 7 Wonders will have no problem with this part of the game, although card combo-ing is ratcheted up in Blood Rage.) Once each player has the required number of cards, the strategy and battles of each Age begin.

Clans summon their leaders and warriors to stake out claims in each land.  Players spend Rage (the ‘money’ in this game) to move the clans around the board, or beef up their stats and clans, summon ships and monsters, or even to pillage the villages for more upgrades.

Those who enjoy the cramped quarters in Small World, which encourages attacks and counterattacks, will appreciate how that mechanic is drilled down even more streamlined here. One of the main goals in the game is to upgrade your clan’s rage and numbers, and each area of the map has juicy favors that can be won by raiding. But, each treasure is within the range of almost every other clan, so the battles for the prizes are ultimately contested by one or more clans.

And the board gets smaller and more cramped in each age. “Ragnarak” (signaling that the Viking world is ever closer to the end times) occurs after each age, destroying more and more parts of the board.  Warriors are sacrificed to Valhalla when the areas are bombarded by meteors, but if the clans play the right card, quests can be completed (which could include bonuses for sending your fighters to their ultimate glory) to gain tons of victory points.

By Age Three, there is no safe place to hide. No village goes uncontested, and the treasure battles are higher with more intensity…..all part of Mr. Lang’s diabolical design, I am sure.

After the last helmet is knocked off of the last standing Viking, and the last village is destroyed during Ragnarak, then it is time to count up the glory.  I made lots of mistakes during my first play, but at least I was thinking about how each card can combo with others in my hand. I could already see the different strategies that one can use to march toward victory — load up on warriors and take over the board? trick others into giving you more glory through the trickery of Loki cards? focus on beefing up your clans and getting the extra glory that comes with the increase in stats? — and can’t wait for the next play.

So if your game nights are getting bland, Spice it up! with Blood Rage. I am sorry I missed the initial Kickstarter campaign and can’t wait to get my own copy. I give it 4 out of 5 cayenne peppers.

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

B.J.