Friday, August 19, 2011

Memoir '44

Subject: History
Category: WWII
Ages: # of players: 8 and up
Time to play: Mechanics/Game Type: Battle cards, dice rolling
Ratings (1 to 5) Educational Value: 5
Gaming value: 5
Aesthetic value: 5
Price value: 5
Ease of play: 3
Younger adaptability: 2

My comments:  Memoir '44 is an entry-level, hex-based war game based on World War II.  The basic set contains German and American army figures, including infantry, tanks, artillery, and obstacles like barbed wire and sandbags.  While the rules may seem a bit complicated, they are simple by war game standards and are well worth mastering.

The rule book is also a campaign book based on actual WWII battles.  Players decide which battle scenario they want to play, which has a description of the actual historical events.  Players then set up the board by placing a variety of terrain hexes and troops according to the scenario specifications.  In general, on your turn you play a card that allows you to activate troops.  You move them and then battle with them, using dice to determine how many if any of the enemy you eliminate.  Doing so earns you victory metals; collect the scenario-specified number of metals to win the game.  Movement and battle have various rules based on terrain, troop-types, and obstacles.

The game is made by Days of Wonder, the same company that makes Ticket to Ride.  And like Ticket to Ride, Memoir '44 comes with a variety of expansions, each with new armies (British, Italian, Russian, Japanese), campaigns, cards, terrain, and some additional rules. (See the Days of Wonder website for all the available expansion.)  Have only one war gamer in the family?  He or she can play free online (if you have a decent computer) against the computer or other live players (caution: opponents can chat live during play.)  You are given "50 gold ingots" to start but once they are used up you have to buy more to play ($8 for 200, or buy larger volumes at a discount.)

Overall this is a great introduction to war gaming, a world steeped in history and top-notch strategy.  It certainly has sparked an interest in WWII for my kids. link to this game:

Elk Fest

Subject: Category: General
Ages: # of players: 6 and up
Time to play: Mechanics/Game Type: Dexterity
Ratings (1 to 5) Educational Value: 2
Gaming value: 3 (though a fun value of 5)
Aesthetic value: 5
Price value: 5
Ease of play: 5
Younger adaptability: 5

My comments:  This simply is a fun two-player game.  Each side has 3 round, flat "stones", an island, and a moose (even though they are moose, I think it is called Elk Fest because the original German name, Elchfest.)  You place your moose on your island and the three stones next to it.  Each turn you "flick" the stone (hit the side of it with your finger much like a cue hits a pool ball) into position in order to move your moose across the table from stone to stone.  Whoever gets their moose to the opponent's island first wins.

The game can be played by anyone that can flick a stone.  Put the pieces in a bag and carry it with you for the kids to take out in times of boredom (like a restaurant.)  It's a fun, quick game to play anytime. link to this game:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ticket to Ride

Subject: Category: Geography
Ages: # of players: 2 to 5
Time to play: Mechanics/Game Type: Card collection strategy
Ratings (1 to 5) Educational Value: 5
Gaming value: 5
Aesthetic value: 5
Price value: 4
Ease of play: 4
Younger adaptability: 5

My comments: Ticket to Ride has become one of the most popular board games around, as evidenced by the large variety of version available.  If you are studying geography of the US or Europe then these games are both fun and educational.

The game has Destination cards and various color Train cards; the board has railroad routes of various colors and lengths connecting various cities (gray routes can be any color.)  You try to collect enough of the same colored train cards to claim a route between two cities, placing your own set of neat plastic trains on the board when you do so.  Claiming a route earns you point, which you keep track of by moving a scoring marker around the outside of the board.  Ultimately you try to claim routes to connect the cities listed on your Destination cards.  The game ends after the first player runs out of plastic trains, when the final scoring for longest route and completed destination cards happens.

Each turn you have a choice of one of three actions: draw Train cards (up to 2), or claim a route, or draw Destination cards.  As for the deck of train cards, five are face up on the table while the rest are face-down in a stack.  You can draw either a face up card, and then replace it by turning over the top of the stack, or one from the stack.  If you draw a face up wild card your turn is over; if you draw a single-color face-up train or a card from the pile then you get to choose a second card from either source (other than a face-up wild card.)  When you draw Destination cards, you pick three but you only keep what you want.

The game is long for younger players, though fewer players speeds it up.  No reading is needed, and if you play open-handed then even younger players can enjoy this game, or get the dice expansion.  The biggest issue is the appeal for kids to play with the trains.  While you get extra, every player needs 25 trains since that determines when the game ends.

The basics of the game are easy to learn, but game variations have rule variants.  Even the basic game has some variation depending on the number of players; in a three-player game, for example, only one side of a double route can be claimed.  Ultimately the variations make play more challenging or interesting, but it can get confusing if you don't play often.

Here is another description on the Games by Johnny! blog about the game with pictures and details about playing. links to these games:
Ticket to RideTicket to Ride EuropeTicket to Ride: Marklin Edition (Germany)Ticket to Ride Nordic CountriesTicket to Ride: Switzerland expansion.  And there's more expansions--dice, cards, 1912 editions.  Check out the Days of Wonder website for the full line.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The aMAZEing Labyrinth

Subject: General
Category: Logic and patterns
Ages: 8 and up
# of players: 1 to 4
Time to play: 30 to 45 minutes
Mechanics/Game Type: Tile slide

Ratings (1 to 5)

Educational Value: 5
Gaming value: 5
Aesthetic value: 5
Price value: 4
Ease of play: 5
Younger adaptability: 5

My comments: This is a game that's been around for awhile that the whole family can enjoy while building spacial, pattern, and logic skills at the same time.  The mechanics of the game are the same as for Chateau Roquefort but the board is much easier to set up.  The tiles are pictures of various types of tunnel pieces; the board has some fixed pieces and the rest are placed randomly on the board.  They may or may not connect to form a continuous tunnel depending how they are positioned, and one tile is left over.  Next all of the 24 cards are dealt out as a stack; you can only look at your top card at any time.

Your goal is to reach the character pictured on the top card.  On your turn you try to make a connecting tunnel by inserting the extra tile on the board to shift the whole row of tiles. Next you move your piece along the tunnel; if you land on your goal you turn over your card and end your turn, trying to reach the character on the next card next turn.  If you don't land on it your turn still ends and you try again next round.  If you push a player off the board, including yourself, that player moves to the other side of the row to the tile just placed.

The game is simple to set up, simple to play, and intriguing enough to make it interesting for the whole family.  Be careful to punch out the tiles from front-to-back when you first get this game for a clean tile separation.  The board is a little small, though.  Otherwise, the aMAZEing Labyrinth is one of our family favorites.