30 December 2007

Phase 10

I try not to be a snob, but it isn't easy. None of the people in my social circle share my love of research so it is tempting for me to pull a "Well, actually . . ." on them. When my family hears the song "Hallelujah", all they think of is the movie Shrek. It is so much more than that, but I just bite my tongue.

What does this have to do with boardgames? I only have a few people to play games with, so I don't want to alienate them with my game snobbery. When one of ABM's best friends was excited to share a game called Phase 10 I had to control the urge to sniff derisively and stick my nose up in the air. I mean, even though this card game is easily available at any discount store, there was still a chance that it could be a good game, right?

Before I share my final opinion of the game, let me give a brief overview of the rules for those who have never played. Phase 10 is a deck of of cards in 4 different colors, numbered 1 through 12. There are also Wild cards and Skip cards. Each player gets 10 cards and on your turn you draw a card and discard a card. The goal is to complete each of the 10 phases, which are rummy-style combinations of cards. Everyone starts at Phase 1, which is 2 sets of 3 matching cards (such as three 3s and three 12s). You can't put down your phase on the table until you have it completed. Once you have completed your phase, you just discard a card when your turn comes around. When someone has no more cards, the round is over. Cards still in your hand are added to your score, which is bad because lowest score wins if there is a tie at the end.

OK, did I like this game? I would have to give a qualified "yes". It is a step up from Uno, and I think it is a good introduction to rummy-style games. I wouldn't mind adding this game to the mix of other light games that we tend to play. However, it does run a little long for me. Although I don't always agree with the recommendations on BGG, I have learned to take heed if several users say that a game outstays its welcome. We played using the Master edition rule that says you can work on the phases in any order, and it still felt like a long game to me. If we had played with the original rules (you must complete phase 1 before you can work on phase 2), then I think it would have added at least 30 minutes to the game. Since the adults don't get together to play that often, we try to play a mix of games. Long games like this are a downer for me on game night, but I wouldn't mind playing it on a Sunday afternoon with the kids.

23 December 2007

Year of the Board Game?

We are late shoppers in this family, so we didn't start buying Christmas presents until today. This isn't usually a problem for us, but it was today. DJ requested a copy of Game of Life: Twists and Turns. However, the board game shelves at Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, and Target were more picked-over than a turkey the day after Thanksgiving. I don't know whether people are being brainwashed by all the commercials that say boardgames are perfect for family night or parents are buying them because they don't know what else to get.

I estimate that 1/3 of the kids who come to play at our house like boardgames; the rest of them can't seem to wrap their heads around anything more complicated than Candyland or War. I wonder if any of my kids' little friends have requested boardgames for Christmas this year. Hopefully, one of them gets that new Game of Life and invites DJ over to play!

21 December 2007

Give me your DS picks!

If you have been reading my main blog or have seen me on Twitter during the past couple weeks, then you know that I have the Nintendo DS on the brain. I acquired several units for the kids at a price that I can live with, and now I am looking for games. I'll be going Christmas shopping this Saturday (I know, I know!) and I would like to have some good games in mind to look for. Here is what I have in mind so far:

Pokemon Diamond or Pearl
Mario Kart DS
Bomberman Land Touch
Chibi-Robo Park Patrol
Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales

Let me know if you have had any experience with these games and what you thought of them. So don't be shy -- I know that many boardgamers also play video games :-). Give me your recommendations or let me know what games are real dogs!

13 December 2007

Any board and card game recommendations?

Although I think that the kids have been enjoying the board and card games that I test out on them, I still worry that they feel a bit like lab rats. Imagine my surprise when my sone DJ actually requested board and card games for Christmas. He didn't give me a list of specific titles, however, so I am turning to the five of you who may still be reading this blog for recommendations.

DJ is mad about Pokemon and Naruto, but he hasn't really played the CCGs with the proper rules. The games we have played that he likes a lot are Incan Gold, Give Me the Brain, Bang!, and Escalation. The only two games he has mentioned that he wants are Battleship and Game of Life: Twist and Turns. Any suggestions?

02 December 2007

Game Review: Pass the Ewe

Pass the Ewe is a card game for 3-6 players. The rules are available for free on the Invisible City website. Although many of their games are print-and-play, the only thing you need to print for this one is a reference card for the scoring. To go along with that, you need a standard deck of playing cards and some sort of totem to pass around. The creators used a toy sheep, hence the name Pass the Ewe. We used a fluffy green teddy bear named Clover. Grown men look so cute playing with teddy bears :-).

The game rules seem simple at first. The deck is divided into five suits -- the four usual suits plus a fifth one called royals which is made up of all the jacks, queens, and kings. All the cards are dealt out to the players evenly; the remaining cards are put to the side. The first person plays one or more cards of the same suit. The next player needs to play cards to beat those cards or pass. If you play cards that make all the other players pass, then you take all the cards in the middle of the table and put them in a stack in front of you called your wool pile. You also get the totem and the 1-point bonus that goes with it. That is the end of the hand. If all the players still have cards, play another hand. Continue playing hands until someone runs out of cards; that is the end of the round. Whoever has the totem at the end of the round gets 2 bonus points. Anyone who still has cards in their hands will get negative points. The cards you have gathered into your wool pile are positive points. The first player to reach 100 points wins.

Easy, right? The tricky part is the ranking of the suits. Here it is:

Suit Ranking:
Hearts beat spades and clubs. Clubs beat hearts and diamonds. Diamonds beat clubs and royals. Royals beat diamonds and spades. Spades beat royals and hearts.

If the most recent play was one heart, you can play one club, or one spade, or two hearts. You can not play more than what you need to beat what was played; you can’t play three or more hearts or two or more clubs or spades.

I played a game with 3 adults and played again with 2 kids. Both times I had to look at the reference card during the whole game. Even my husband, who has a pretty good memory for such things, had trouble keeping it straight. I thought it might get better with the second game, but it didn't. Each player had to glance down at the reference card every time and it slowed down the gameplay.

What's the bottom line? I like the scoring system and, as I said before, it is kind of fun watching my husband and his friends get so happy about gaining possession of a stuffed animal :-). I just think the gameplay would go more smoothly if the game was played with specialized cards. I recently purchased a copy of the card game Escalation and it occurred to me that it plays almost like Pass the Ewe except in reverse. If you have a good memory, then Pass the Ewe may be your game.