Monday, August 10, 2015

A gateway to the hobby: "Takenoko" and "Chibis"

Takenoko: 2 -4 players, 45 minutes, Ages 8+

Overview: By placing tiles, growing and eating bamboo, complete goal cards to score the most points. The player that can balance growing their species (red, yellow, green) of bamboo with the appetite of the hungry panda will win the game.

Child Playability: Symbol reading required. Language reading skills not required. Low number counts. Bamboo pieces are small enough to be eaten.

Game play: Starting with an irrigation tile in the middle of the play area, roll a "weather die" that tells you to "gain 1 action", "rain" on 1 tile, take two of the same action, move a panda, obtain a tile improvement token, or pick one of the above. Then you get two actions to draw and place a new tile, irrigate, move the gardener (to grow bamboo), move the panda (to eat bamboo), or draw a new goal card.

Review: This is a fairly simple and light family game that is great to play after a dinner party or with your kids. The components are cute and well made and the tiles are sturdy. The art is great and the game play is easy to learn. If you have friends (especially of the female variety) that are not into board games so much, this would be a great way to introduce them to the hobby. The mini goals that need to be met throughout the game keep you engaged and make you keep thinking about how to meet your next objective. The strategy is light but still enough to not bore the moderate gamers.

You can block other players or set them back by trying to accomplish your own goals which can frustrate children...but they need to learn sometime and why not do it with a cute panda bear eating their bamboo goals? 

As a group game I find that it is great with 3-4 people that are looking for a light game. For a little more strategy and PVP action, a two player game is good as you really start to watch the other player's moves in an attempt to block their cards you think they have. Adding additional rules like discarding goals you already have completed or making incomplete goals count negative like in Ticket to Ride can add more stress for those looking to make it a more medium weight game.

Expansion: The expansion (Chibis) adds a female panda, babies (3 of each color), 6 new tiles and some new goal cards. The expansion adds a little more strategy to the game and a bit of luck as each of the babies give you a random bonus. Watching other players' bonuses from the babies can push you into trying to get certain ones if you know what is left as all 3 colors have the same 3 unique bonuses. The new tiles can make bamboo grow anywhere, one tile grow all three colors, and a new way to obtain goal cards. Chibis adds to the game without making it too complex and keeps it at a light - medium weight game that is still good for new gamers.

Recommended for: New gamers, Friends and family of gamers, Children.

Not recommended for: Moderate - Heavy gamers

Thursday, May 28, 2015

100' Faux Steelpipe Bookcase

100' Faux Steel Pipe Bookcase

After years of wanting to do a walled bookcase but wanting to go with the eventual Steam Punk theme of my basement I finally figured out a cost-effective way to accomplish it. The idea was to do a bookcase made entirely out of steel pipes. This bookcase required over 100 feet of piping so that would require about $1,500 in pipes alone.

I finally decided to use PVC connectors, floor flanges, and wooden dowels. This made the project cost about $300 with the primary cost being the flanges as they only come in steel. I used ¾” PVC with 1 1/8” dowel rods.

What the wall looked like to start.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Best Treehouse Ever: 2-4 Players - Ages 8+ - 20 mins.

Game Play: Give each player a base to their tree house place one of their colored tokens in the middle space of the tree house and the other on the scoring track. The deal 6 cards to each player. Players then choose one card from their hand and place it face down in front of them and all players then reveal their choice at the same time and place it on the tree house. Players then pass their remaining hand clockwise and play continues until one card is left that is then discarded allowing five rooms played per round. Three rounds are one game.

The first time a color is played it may be played anywhere. The first level of the tree house supports two rooms, the second three rooms, etc, on up to six levels. The outside rooms can be played on only one supporting card of the lower level but interior rooms must be supported by two cards of a lower level. Any colored cards after the first must touch the same color or it cannot be played. Each time a room is played to the left or right of the center-line, the balance marker is moved to that side. If the balance marker is to one side or the other, you cannot play on that same side.

After the first round, you then randomly draw a "no score" card or a "double score" card. From last place to first, you play your card on a corresponding color scoring card to either double or cancel points. each player then scores their tree at one point for each color unless a modifier is on that card. On the last round you only score if you have the most of a certain color and you score as many points as you have rooms of that color. 

For the kid version, you do not play the score modifier cards and just select a color you want to score and all players score for every color selected by a player.

Review: This game is fast and fun. The simplicity of matching colors and balancing the tree house is great for younger children and fun for adults as well. My daughter and I played this several times and I do not get bored of it. My daughter is almost four and gets the basic concept of the game. Strategy will come with time but after about five plays, my almost four year old can get through a game with the only real help needed when she blocks herself out of a color. Strategy will come with time and the kid rules reduces the strategy and raises the luck but still makes it fun.

The older version adds a level of complexity that is great for older children and adults alike. Memory is needed to remember what color is in each hand and anticipating the next player's moves is exciting as you try and make sure you get the most of a certain color. But if you obviously are winning with a color, other players will just cancel all your points with the "no score" modifier. The game then becomes subtle strategy of trying to anticipate other player's moves, the colors still in each hand, and making sure you don't block yourself out of certain colors while trying to it all.

Since the game is only 20 minutes long, you can play more games and keep the score card running through each one. I supported this game on Kickstarter and when I get the published edition we will revisit the game.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


Munchkin: 3 - 6 players - Ages 10 plus - 1 hr. plus
Game Play: In the base version of the game, each player is dealt 4 of the two types of cards; door cards and treasure cards. Each player begins the game as a "level 1 classless human".
On your turn you "kick open the door" by drawing a "door card" for everyone to see. If it's a monster you fight it or run away. If it's a curse, it immediately affects you. If it's something else, you keep it in your hand. If you defeat the monster by having your level plus any effects from other cards be greater than the monster's level, you get a number of treasure cards indicated on the monster card. Curses are variably bad or silly and other cards include changing your class, race, sex or getting your very own monster. Treasure cards have gear like weapons, armor, and potions you can use to beat monsters.
The wrench in the game is that players can help you defeat monsters, or they can help the monsters defeat you. If you die, the other players get to "loot" your body and you start over at level 1 with new gear. The ultimate goal is to be the first to reach level 10.
The rules to the game state that all cards trump any rules in the rule book. And there are exceptions to almost every rule. There's even a "cheat" card that lets you break any rule. The game has over 20 expansion sets ranging from zombies to super heroes to western. All expansions are interchangeable.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Small World

Small World: 2 -5 players, 40 - 60 minutes, Ages 10+

High replay value. Fantasy themed, competitive, turn based game play, amusing combinations of races/powers. Comes with expansions that can increase number of players to 6 (Realms), and races and powers.

Mid-game of a 5 player game

Game play: Races and power card are shuffled and matched making for almost endless possibilities. Each player begins their turn by using their starting points to buy a race/power combo that gives them a set, varying number of starting pieces. The player then uses those starting pieces to take over the