Thoughts From The Gameroom

The ramblings of a Euro-gamer from South Dakota

Archive for the ‘Card games’ Category

Still Here!

Posted by sodaklady on August 27, 2010

And occasionally playing a game or two.

Isn't this gorgeous?

A couple of weeks ago another BGGer dropped by on her way from Washington state to Wisconsin. Lynette (meerkat) needed to get to a family reunion but funds were low so I volunteered a bed for the night. She arrived later than expected (around 9pm) because of roadwork but we still got in a lot of board game talk and a single play of Taluva. She had played it before but didn’t remember the rules which meant one of my infamous rules-teaching episodes. I did very well since it’s a fairly simple game. It was a relaxed game, hints coming easily and not too much back-stabbing. In the end, I made a bad tile play and saw that Lynette had the ability to win, which I pointed out to her. This is the type of game that, win or lose, it is just a joy to handle the pieces and the big, chunky tiles.

The next morning we spent an hour talking about other things besides board games and were having such a nice time that it was hard to call it good and send her on her way. I hope she comes back by the same route and will spend another night with us.

Last week my daughter, Cori, and I played a game of The Last Night On Earth: The Zombie Game and had a great time. I will write that up in a separate post since it’s pretty long.

Yesterday my friend, Mike, came over and he brought his newest acquisition to show me, Innovation. He had called me the day before to set up our game day and I mentioned that I was in the process of pre-ordering it, it was in the cart and I was a minute away from checking out. He casually says, “I have it.” Well, hell, why didn’t you say so sooner? So I put my checkout-clicking on hold until I could sample this newest offering from the creator of Glory To Rome. Good thing, too.

Innovation photo by EndersGame

I appreciated the new mechanic of “splaying” the cards to reveal more icons, the more the merrier in this game, but I did not have a very good first experience. In the beginning when I had four cards in my play area, three of them started with “If you return a card from your hand…” Well, that doesn’t give you a lot of inventive ways to go, does it? Every turn I drew and either played a card if it was good or turned it back in for points or something. The kicker is that Mike had more of almost all icons so he’d get to do the same thing, only he could do it first!

By the midway point, I had managed to take the second achievement but only because Mike had missed the fact that he could take it. By abilities were still pretty slim and not terribly useful since Mike still out-iconed me for all but one of them. Mike kept telling me how this game could turn right around in an instant and I was waiting…. patiently…. trying not to lose what little patience I possess. Then I got a card that let me play all my point cards to my play area. Well… hmmm.. then I have no points to acquire another achievement but then again there may be something in there that would save my sorry ass. O.k., I’ll do it!

Well, of course there wasn’t a miracle in there! Of course I’m now in worse shape than I was before. Errggghhh, I want to throw these cards on the table and say, “you win. What else have you got?” But I don’t. I grit my teeth, grumble, and proceed to lose horribly.

Which was pretty much the way the day went. I didn’t win one game the whole day. Ah, well. That’s the way it goes.

A sample of the "parade" and some cards to play.

I had recently gotten a couple of Z-man’s card games, Parade and Onirim, which I brought out as something a little lighter and hopefully, more fun!

Parade for some reason has an Alice in Wonderland theme, which is cute, and the colors and artwork are very nice. The parade starts at the deck, new additions to it stepping into line at the right side in the picture.

On your turn, you take one of the cards from your hand and add it to the parade. Then you count the cards to the left of it equal to the number on the card you played. Those cards are safe. The remainder are available for elimination from the parade. Of those available, the ones that will be eliminated (and taken into your points piles) are any cards of equal or lower value than the card you just played, and any cards of the same color as you just played. In the sample above, if you played the blue 1, you would take no cards. This is a good thing as you’re trying NOT to get points. The red three is also a safe play because the red 6 is the #1 card when you count down from the card just played. If you play the yellow 2, you will have to take the other yellow card. If you play the white 4, you will be taking the yellow 4 because it is the same number and the white 5 because it is the same color. The white 8 is not available for elimination so you don’t have to take it.

This game sounds so simple yet in reality give you quite a bit of maneuverability and lots of tough choices. It feels very much like a Michael Schacht card game:  Coloretto, Crazy Chicken (Drive), or Richelieu. Even the scoring feels familiar, you score negative the face value of the cards you took unless you have the majority in that color in which case those cards will each be worth -1.

I like this game very much for a quick, light diversion. It has interesting choices in card play and you can to some extent control the game-ending conditions. Of course if the draw pile runs out, the game ends but it also ends if one player gets all six colors. This is the part you can control a little, especially in a two-player game.

This was my closest loss all day, something like 67 to 75.

Labyrinth and Door cards, and a Nightmare card

The other Z-man game, Onirim, is a bit strange. No, it’s really strange. First off, it’s designed as a solo card game, which is an unusual creature in the game community. The second thing is that it’s a cooperative game if you play it with a friend. That’s really unusual in a simple card game.

The final point of strangeness is actually the rules. Even after playing twice I will have to check the rules on a couple of points just to make sure I get them right!

The basic idea is that you are trying to acquire all of the door cards to escape the labyrinth, there are 2 of each of the four colors. To do this you must either have a labyrinth card with a key icon in the corner in your hand when a door card is drawn or play the third labyrinth card of a color to the line of cards in your play area.

This sounds so simple. But those nightmares keep coming up, frightening you out of your sleep before you can get to the door. I guess. That’s my story anyway.

On your turn you play a card to your labyrinthine line in front of you, or discard a card from your hand. Then you draw a new card, the it’s possible you’ll have to shuffle the deck before your next turn if some cards have been place into Limbo.

The labyrinth cards each have one of three types of icon in the corner: a key, a moon or a sun. When you play a card to your line of cards, investigating the labyrinth, the card must not have the same icon as the last card played. That’s one difficulty to overcome but not too bad. But if you draw a card to refill your hand and draw a nightmare, you have several choices, none of which is appealing. You can choose to place one of your doors back in the draw pile, draw the top 5 cards from the draw pile and discard any labyrinth cards (Doors and Nightmares go into Limbo), discard your whole hand, or discard a key. None of this sounds too bad really until I tell you the final difficulty in winning this game: you lose when the draw pile is finished. Now discarding all those cards becomes a more important consideration to your plans.

This is a tough game to win, at least in my short 2-play experience. And if it’s not hard enough for you, it comes with 3 variations to make it harder! Mike and I lost by 1 door! We’ve decided that it’s important to try to save keys to overcome the nightmare cards. Next time, maybe.

The day ended with Ra: The Dice Game. I absolutely love this game and could play it again and again but I usually settle for the best 2 out of three. Well, today it was two up and two down, Mike taking them both by a loooooong way.

I spent the day losing but it was still fun, except for Innovation. I’d play it again to give it another shot but I’ve cleared my cart at the online game shop. I may put Invasion From Outer Space: The Martian Game in there instead!

Posted in Card games, Game Night, New Game, Session reports | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Wild Kingdom Rummy

Posted by sodaklady on March 16, 2010

I was browsing the newest Reviews the other day and came across The Gaston Game, a rummy variant. This in turn led me to an article about a contest for people to design a rummy variant. I love rummy so I read through all of the entries, marked a few to try, and picked Wild Kingdom as my first to try for a couple of reasons.

First, the cards have 3 characteristics so that melds can be of varying strengths allowing them to attack other melds of lesser or equal strength. Oh, yeah, lets add more conflict to rummy.

The second reason is that you can pick up anywhere in the discard pile, adding everything above that card to your hand and using the card you picked up, 500 Rummy-style. I’ve always preferred 500 to vanilla rummy with the added tension that a wrong discard can be fatal. That, and grabbing a handful of cards – mmwwaahaahaahaa!

RULES
I had no problems understanding the rules, and no unanswered questions. There were examples for everything that is unique to this rummy variant. And I thought the addition of a glossary for theme-related game terms was very nice touch.

DESIGN
The card design is very good, the subtle colors, the lovely pictures of the animals, the iconography, and the paragraph at the bottom giving a brief description of the animal, which I think is a nice addition. The one problem we had was finding a way to see which animal we were holding since the animal name is at the top right and all the way at the bottom left, and that in tiny-sized font. I would have preferred the name to be under the icon at the top left.

Some cards from Wild Kingdom. Image by Rebekah B., the designer

GAME PLAY
The theme of the game is groups of animals battling each round to see who is superior.  The Land Group have green borders, Sea Group has blue, Air Group has yellow, big Cats are Orange, and King of Beasts are purple. There are only 3 King of Beasts cards and if you manage to make a meld of them, it’s an automatic win for that hand, leaving your opponent with zero points.

Melds are made up of any 3 cards of one Group, regardless of animal. But within the Land, Air and Sea Groups are 3 Families, each with 3 distinct Animals. The more characteristics your meld has, the stronger its Rank. So a set made up of a Gorilla, a Polar Bear and a Frilled Lizard is the weakest set being made up of three different animals from different Families (apes, bears & lizards) of the land Group. If your set is Polar Bear, Grizzly Bear and Brown Bear, it’s a higher Rank, being made up of all one Family. The King of Beasts (male lions) is the highest meld.

The Cat Family is a special Group which can be used either for a meld OR discarded to the Carrion pile to use its special ability. An Eye of the Tiger card lets you peek at your opponent’s hand, the Fast Mover with a cheetah on it lets you play two melds instead of one this turn, and the lion cubs on the Bonus cards are set aside for extra points to the player who has the most cards in the Group that wins the battle this hand.

In keeping with the theme, when played, melds of a particular Group can attack any other Group that is of equal or lesser Rank. A card is taken from the attacked meld and placed in the Carrion pile. This can be useful not only to cut down your opponent’s field but to strengthen one of your own meld’s Rank by eliminating an odd animal from your set. A set is never more than 3 cards but can be attacked and herded so as to leave only a single card in the “set”. It can then be strengthened as long as you do not decrease its Rank.

Herding is an interesting ability which can help both yourself and your opponent.  You can take one or two cards from any lower-ranked melt to form a new higher-ranked meld. You can rearrange your own field with this ability OR steal animals from your opponent. In the latter case, you could very well be increasing the strength of his meld, making it harder to attack in future.

OPINION
First, there’s a lot of rules here to give Wild Kingdom its special twist on rummy. This makes it both a unique and interesting game but also challenges you when it comes to teaching it. It also means it may take a hand or two to come to terms with all you are able to do, how you can manipulate not just your own sets but your opponent’s to your advantage. In my opinion, it’s worth the effort.

I loved the theme, and the rules supported that theme very well. I loved the extra depth of card play and think there’s a lot of game here for a rummy variant. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys card games and is looking for rummy with punch.

My husband’s opinion? He wanted to know if this can be bought or is it just for download? From my non-gamer spouse, it won’t get any better than that.

Posted in Card games, Do-It-Yourself Games, New Game, Reviews | 1 Comment »