Friday, October 28, 2011

Knock Your Blocks Off

Like to flick dice, throw dice, or drop dice on or at other dice? Me too. I used to get into dice fights with my brother growing up where we would build the dice up in to massive towers and then start knocking them over with other dice. Eventually the dice would grow into tennis balls, then bowling balls, then straight up fist fights. Ah to be young, dumb, and full of dice. But that is then, this is now. Nowadays, this fun is organized and sold to you as a game that will teach you about patterns and matching too.

Knock your Blocks Off from GameWright Games is a quick and easy sorta dex game for both kids and adults. In the box you'll find four sets of patterned dice with a matching crown die, a destruction dice, chalice coins to use for scoring, and building reference cards.

To play the game, everyone races to build a structure listed on their reference card, making sure that the faces of the dice match where they touch (white to white, color to color) and then put their crown die on the top of the structure. First one to build theirs grabs the destruction die from the center of the table. After everyone is done building, players check each others structures to make sure they were build correctly, and then the fun begins.

Starting with the player who grabbed the destruction die, players will roll the die and attack another players structure and try and knock the crown die off the top. To determine how you attack, you roll the destruction die, and will either flick it (boulder symbol), drop it (dragon), or throw it (ogre) based on what was rolled. Depending on what structure you build (or your chosen opponent) you will get certain benefits to use when you attack. You might get to attack a second time if you weren't successful the first time, or you might get two rolls of the destruction die and pick which one you want to do. Or, you may build one that is immune to certain types of attacks, making you win automatically.

The game is very light, fast paced, and made fun because you get to purposely throw and flick dice at other people. While it is intended for a younger audience, like most GamesWright games its still very fun for an adult group. Even a group of grownups still have problems understanding that color to color actually means color to color. Plus, it easily can turn into a drinking game (for adults) with the incorporation of a few house rules and 6/30 packs. Its definitely not a main course game, but as a filler/"party" game it works great, and can easily be played in 10 minutes.

Friday, October 21, 2011


In the last couple of months, I have found myself playing a lot of Pitch Car and have become an internationally acclaimed dexterity-based racing champion. Not a day goes by without being recognized for my innate ability to flick stuff around a wooden track. My fame has gotten to the point where I have had to cancel all of my scheduled TV appearances out of fear of fan frenzy. Yet, I manage to stay humble.

For those three of your who do not know what Pitch Car is, it is a dexterity based racing game from Ferti and distributed by Fred Games where you flick a wooden disc around a wooden track. In the box, you will find straight tracks and 90 degree turn tracks, as well as eight race car discs and a bunch of guard rails.

Along the way to international racing fame, I have found that there are two different views to this game:

1. People absolutely love this game and have a fantastic time playing it for hours on end and can't say enough good about it.
2. People think it is the dumbest thing in the world and don't understand why anyone would waste their time on it.

Now, this is true about many things in life, but there is usually a grey area in between the two as well. With Pitch Car, its very black and white.

To play the game, racers will build the track using all or most of the pieces. Then, they will take turns flicking their race car around the track. First person to go around the track three times is the winner. That is the entire game.

I know that there isn't much to this, and it very easily can be seen as a very dumb game concept, but when you and seven of your buddies are all standing around a raised table at 11:30 at night taking turns to find just the right shot to bounce around the leader and glide into first and then do it without flying off the track, that dumbness goes right out the window. Its simplicity lends itself to being able to focus on what matters when you're playing a game - fun.

I'm not going to lie to you, there are much more complex games out there that are much more fulfilling, but for a fun time with a bunch of beers, this can't really be beat. By no means is it a brain burner that'll keep you up all night contemplating what you'll do next time when you play as Turkey, but with the right folks it can be up there as a crazy memorable and fun experience to remember for a long time.

The game does have its faults however. First off, it takes up a ton of space, so playing on your kitchen table with all the of track may be difficult for some (I mean, look at our table. the track is barely on in some spots.) Similarly, even having a big enough table space may present a problem within itself. On numerous occasions, we have had to pull several tables together, and due to the puzzle piece nature of the track, not all the track will be flush, causing "speed bumps" mid track that can cause your car to change direction, fly off the track, or just stop suddenly. clearly that isn't a good thing. also along these lines is that given time and humidity, track has been known to warp, adding to this "fun". Because it is a dex based game with some serious flicking action, it can be difficult for some who may have physical dexterity limitations. Adaptations can be created/made/used, but it may not be ideal for them, but you never know til you try.

All this aside, the game is great fun with endless track design possibilities. there are also a series of expansions to the base game that add sharper turns, jumps, longer straightaways, and bottlenecks to up the technical skill needed in order to play. Recently I had a chance to play the game with all the expansions and it was pretty batshit insane and fun.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Angry Birds: The Board Game

Ok, so you have a problem with a pack of irate green pigs who want to sit on all of your furniture and random sheets of glass. You're pretty much at a loss as to what to do, so why not launch birds at them and hope that that solves it. I mean, whats the worst that can happen, right? well...

Angry Birds is a game that more or less every one is familiar with in some capacity. Be it they've played the video game on their iPhone/Android, or they've given a stuffed bird as a gift to someone, theres a really real chance that they are at the very least familiar with Angry birds. Question is, did they know there is a board game?

Board game is a loose term in this regards, but it does exist. In the box, you'll find a red bird, a yellow bird, a black bird, a various amount of pigs, plastic lumber, a fake star, a fake set of eggs, a bunch of cards, and a catapult.

In the game, players will draw a card from one of four levels of difficulty (level 1 being the easiest and so on) which will have a structure that you need to build with the plastic lumber and stack pigs on accordingly. Then, you need to take the birds and launch them at the structure and knock the pigs off of said structure. If you do so, then you get the points. If you don't, then you are SOL. First person to a certain amount of points wins the game.

And thats it, but its not.

You see, in theory this is the coolest game ever and how can there be any problems? I mean you get to launch plastic birds at plastic pigs who are loitering on plastic lumber, who are all sitting on your kitchen table. How is this a bad thing? Well, that depends on how you define it.  In the video game, each of the different birds have a special ability that you can use to your advantage in order to get the most things knocked over. The yellow bird could be double tapped and fly extra hard and extra fast into a very specific location. The black bird would land and blow up as if it were a keg of dynamite. These were pretty bad ass effects that you'd hope you would get to replicate somehow in a killer board game of the same name. Except you can't.

In the board game, all the birds have the same effects and are purely included for the sake of completion, not competition. It'd be pretty cool if the black bird was full of lighter fluid and would spray it everywhere as its flying through the air, and then setting itself on fire upon its landing, but that makes very little sense. But nope, black bird flies the same as red bird, which is to say not very well.

Which brings us to a pretty key point of contention with this game. The catapult is not made very well. The games directions call for setting up the structure that the pigs are supposed to live on about a foot a way from the catapult. when you got to launch your birds, they will either fall about nine inches short of your target, or will sail right over them without any remorse. This is a pretty serious issue in game play because in both scenarios you don't hit the stupid structures and are left with an army of pigs staring back at you and laughing. Check out this series of action shots (below)

And that is the catapult in action

Now, I accept that I may not be the best person to launch a bird into the air at an army of pigs due to my recreation degree. But when shared with friends, they faced the same challenges as I. Some one at some time should have hit some pig with some bird. But you never will. And that is a problem.

For whatever reason, the catapult was not made for these birds in mind. In turn, the birds included in this game are extremely light weight and has made it increasingly difficult to actually make a difference in the game. Honestly, its just the catapult that is an issue. There really isn't anything you can do to get the birds to do anything unless you were to whap the yellow bird out of the air after you launch it, or blow up the black bird when it lands, but then you're house ruling it.