Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight: Day 13 – Burger Up

Burger Up is a competitive 2-4 player game about building burgers of epic proportions, made and published by fellow Australians! Burger Up is a game of truly mouth-watering art, engaging pattern matching, and emergent humour in the ridiculous burgers you build.

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Serving suggestion.

Customers place orders and you all race to complete the requested burgers. Orders will sometimes specify the burger size (minimum or maximum number of ingredients), some ingredients (or category of ingredients, like meat or sauces) that must be in the burger, and some that must not be in the burger. You start with four ingredient cards and two bottom buns to build on. Every round a burger top isn’t claimed, it’s worth another coin.

Fictionally, in the game world of Burger Up, I like to think that everyone is so desperate to get their burger order that the longer they wait the more they’re willing to pay to finally just get their bacon and egg roll, especially after seeing four people served before them. Also, there’s just one guy providing ingredients to the group of competing burger artists and that guy’s kind of a jerk. Sometimes he’ll just give you sauce, sauce and more sauce.

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Burgers have cool names and lots have cute toppers. Aww, look at that Meat-A-Saurus Rex!
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Too much cheese? You didn’t say nothin’ ’bout no cheese, buddy. Deal with it.

What’s great about customer orders, is you don’t have to uphold the spirit of the order, as long as you meet the letter of it.

You can add whatever you like as long as you meet the order’s criteria. This rule means you end up with monstrosities like this Mad Max burger, which only calls for three particular ingredients, but doesn’t say not to add to a whole stack of cheese.

Funny moments like this are common, especially in rounds where you have no ingredients that any of the current orders require, so you just stack up whatever you can in the hopes some useful ingredients will show up soon. “You know what this mustard could really use? Tomato sauce”.

Why would you add extra ingredients? Well, the heart of Burger Up is a pattern matching game. Each ingredient card has two ingredients on it, and can be flipped to act as either one before placing it.

But see the icons on the cards? Your next ingredient has to match. So, you might be looking to place some meat, but the only meat you have in your hand needs to be placed on top of a sauce card, so you buy a sauce card, but that may need to be put on cheese. And so on.

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Orders are worth more and more each round, but can you be the first to build those burgers?

There are lots of different combinations of ingredients on the cards (some with the same ingredient type twice, letting you quickly make, say, a super salad burger)

Ingredient icons are also broad enough to allow some flexibility. The ‘meat’ icon is actually a patty icon, and veggie patties exist, so your salad burger’s not necessarily ruined just because you have that icon. And if all else fails, use a handy middle bun, which can be put on anything and have anything put on it. But it doesn’t count to the size of your burger.

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Chicken & Avo. Order up!

Spatulas, which are worth 4 points at the end if you haven’t used them, add another sprinkling of strategy, as they let you discard an ingredient and everything on top of it, or move that stack of ingredients to another bun.

In play I’ve seen a new burger bun come out where another player’s towering burger already had all the required ingredients! Except they had a stack of meat on top. And the burger was a vegan burger. No worries! Spatula that meat stack onto another burger and you’re left with a perfectly serviceable vegan burger 😉

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Perfect ingredients and big burgers give extra coins – if they match anyone’s order!

You’re encouraged to build bigger burgers, as they’re worth more when served up, but some burgers are specifically smaller sizes, so you have to keep your options open – or again use the handy spatula (you can use it twice, but that’s it).

When you build a colossal burger, you can forego the 10 coins you just earned to upgrade your restaurant, letting you place 4 ingredients a round, instead of 3 – it’s handy, but hard to tell how valuable or detrimental this option really is. We have usually had only one person take it, and they’ve trailed behind in score.

Burger Up is a fun time, with drool-worthy art, a fun pattern matching puzzle and player-generated humour through monstrous burgers you’ll be passing off as BLTs. Our main complaint is the the game has run a little longer than we’d like, sometimes. Solution? Just take out a few more top buns at the start to make this game fast food. Easy!

Or if you still haven’t had your fill there’s the Burgers of the World expansion with more top buns and ingredients like tofu patties, brie and beetroot. It doesn’t make the game longer – unless you want it to – but variety is the spice of life.

Had enough now and looking for a new flavour? How about Sushi Go, Hanabi, Between Two Cities or Galaxy Trucker? Along with an actual burger recipe, the Burger Up Game Recipe Book includes variants inspired by these great games. It even has rules for a solo mode and a 5-6 player version of Burger Up. A tempting buffet of gaming options indeed!

Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight: Day 12 – Friday

You are Friday, an islander who’s trying to help the very weak, very stupid, very shipwrecked Robinson Crusoe get good at life, and survive long enough to get killed by the pirates – or to kill them, take one of their ships and get out of your life forever.

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If I was Friday, I’d want this guy off my island ASAP.

Sometimes your boardgaming buddies are busy. Or you just want a quick game by yourself, a private island of play. More and more games these days also serve as solo games, but some are made especially for only one player. Friday is one of those games.

In Friday, you’ll be drawing challenges to see what the island throws at you – from exploring the island or examining the shipwreck, to wild animals and cannibals. Each card has a white number showing how many free cards you can draw from the Robinson deck – representing your hapless visitor’s sparse capabilities and many, many flaws.

The traffic-light coloured numbers are the goal numbers for the various phases, showing you the score you need to beat the challenge. You start in the green phase, then reshuffle and increase to the next phase each time you run out of challenges.

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Friday’s components, all set up to play.

Robinson starts with a lot of 0, 1 and -1 cards, with an occasional 2. So, even just aiming for a goal of 1 or 0 can initially be difficult to achieve without drawing extra cards. Each extra card costs you a life point, which can only be recovered 1 or 2 at a time from some card powers.

You’ll fail challenges a lot at the start. But that’s good. Robinson may learn something! You have to pay a life point for the difference between your card score total and the goal. If you drew a 1, 0, 2 and -1 against a goal of 4, you have to pay 2 life points. Here’s the good part: for every life point you pay, you can destroy a card you played. Goodbye 0 and -1!

 

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After drawing 4 cards for a total of 3, I pushed my luck too far. Robinson’s distracted… -.-

If you win, you can’t destroy any cards, but you get the challenge card and flip it over into your deck, representing what Robinson learned from the experience, and also giving you some cool ability, like being able to exchange cards you’ve drawn with ones in the deck, or healing life points, copying card abilities, doubling the value of a card, and so on.

You’ll need these powerful abilities as the phases increase, and against the pirates.

Because of this, you may sometimes want to fail challenges, just to slim the dumb from your deck. You don’t even need to draw all your free cards if you don’t want to. As long as you’ve got life points to spare, getting rid of excess idiocy is often a great idea.

It’s always an interesting decision: win and get a new card, or lose and remove bad ones, but have that same challenge come around again later, but during a harder phase.

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Robinson does have his moments. He’ll have more, with Friday’s guidance.

Once you reach the bottom of Robinson’s deck, you shuffle an aging card into your deck without looking, representing even more debilitating effects due to the stranded idiot now getting older as well. He’ll get hungry, scared, and more, shown by negative card values and effects that make you lose life points or ignore the highest value card you’ve played.

And that’s pretty much the game. Once you finish all three phases, you’ll face the pirates. They’ve got super-slow ships, so you can see them on the horizon from the very start of the game, and try to prepare your Robinson deck to combat these specific threats.

There’s a bunch of pirate ships in the game, with all sorts of powers, from extra draws draining more life points, to variable draw and goal numbers, to just really high goals to hit – like in the 40 and 50s. When your cards are more like 3s and 4s if you’re lucky, you’ll need to use a lot of abilities that let you draw more cards, double their strength or copy other card powers to get you through these final boss battles.

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Pirates are visible from the start of the game, and you need to defeat both ships to win.

If you haven’t realise yet, Friday is a funny game. It’s Robinson art is just so derpy, and even when you lose, you often can’t help but chuckle when you set Robinson to a challenge only to draw: weak, weak, distracted, eating. I think Friday invented facepalming.

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He’s not the hero this island deserves.

He’s so pathetic and idiotic that trimming the fat of -1s and 0s and shaping Robinson up into a lean, mean deck of 2s, 3s, 4s and powers feel all the more rewarding. Especially when you combo a dozen or so cards at the end and realise you can beat the pirates!

And if it all gets too easy, add in the -3 Very Stupid aging card, or try one of several difficulty settings included in the manual. Friday is like a training montage, of Robinson facing the same types of challenges over and over, getting slowly better until he’s ready – or not – for the inevitable finale which, excellently, always seems to come too soon.

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Beating the pirates is oh so satisfying.

Friday has good strategy and choices, like which challenges to tackle, when to lose on purpose to destroy cards, when to spend life points to stretch for a potential win, and how to manage your overall deck. Various pirates, difficulty levels and striving to beat your previous high score means the game has a lot of replayability, too.

If you’d like solo games or would like to try them, you can’t go far wrong with Friday. It’s a cheaply priced, very small box with fun, easy to learn mechanics, interesting decisions and some laughs along the way. If you ever find your crew’s not around and you’re stranded alone, you’ll have a much better time if you seek out Friday.

 

Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight: Day 11 – Samurai Spirit

Samurai Spirit is based on the film Seven Samurai, and sees 1-7 samurai cooperatively defending a Japanese village against raiders by engaging in the ancient art of battle blackjack!

In real-world feudal Japan there were no women samurai and when a you took two wounds you transformed into an humanoid animal warrior. It’s the same in Samurai Spirit, which even has a note about it in the back of the manual explaining but not apologising for its staunch adherence to historical accuracy.

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In this game you’ll Fight by drawing raider cards numbered 1, 2, 3 and 4, Confronting them by adding them to your Combat Line (the right side of your samurai board) trying to reach your kiai number. Think of it like 21 in blackjack. You want to hit it exactly, and not go over, or you’re out of the round and raiders burn down a village barricade.

Below, Kikuchiyo has a 3, 2, 1, 2, 2, which equals exactly 10, his kiai number. So, he gets to remove the first card (the 3) from his Combat Line, to stay in the round and give him another chance to reach his kiai number again. His special kiai ability also activates.

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Any time a samurai reaches his kiai exactly, he discards the top card from his Combat Line.
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Kikuchiyo’s kiai ability also lets him discard the most recent card in his Combat Line.

When you Fight, you can Defend instead of Confronting, which lets you place the raider to the left of your board instead, not suffering any ill effects of the card – but you only have three slots on the left, one for a card with each of these icons: hat, farm, family (doll).

Ideally, you’ll want to fill up the left side, to uphold the samurai code of honour and – more importantly – to avoid penalties at the end of the round. Without a hat, you’ll get a wound; lacking a farm or family icon means a farmstead burns down (flipping over to reveal yet another penalty) or a village family is killed (removing a round end bonus).

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Our village is under attack! Call on the 1-7 Samurai!

To help you deal with all these raiders, in addition to their kiai abilities, each samurai has unique talent, which can be used each round. Talents let you do things like put the next raider onto the bottom of the deck, pass certain value raider cards to a neighbour. Instead of choosing to Fight, each round, sometimes you may want to Support, which grants an ally access to your talent once their turn rolls around.

Raiders often have icons in their lower left, which are known as ‘battle penalties’ – basically the damage the raiders inflict to you and the village. Each turn, you apply the penalty in the lower left of the most recent card in your Combat Line. It might burn a barricade, prevent you supporting other samurai or let intruders sneak into the village (which also happens whenever you Support). Raiders, of course, can also wound you.

 

Wounds are really interesting in this game. You can handle 1 wound, but take a second one and your animal spirit is unleashed! You flip your board, which makes your kiai ability more powerful and increases your kiai number. Take another wound, and it’s fine. Take one more after that, and you die, the group loses morale and you all lose.

Sometimes, taking a wound is a good idea, to unleash your animal spirit and give you more wiggle room if you’re getting close to your kiai number and know there are lots of high cards coming out soon.

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Finally, this tiger has had more than he can handle.

After each round, any intruders that got past your samurai are flipped over. If they have flames in their lower right-hand corner they burn barricades (or farms, if the barricades are all gone). You win the game if you have at least one farm and family by the end.

But! Round 1 isn’t the end.

You play again, without healing wounds or caging your animal spirit. Instead, you add lieutenants (value-5 cards), shuffle the deck and go again. After that, you play a final round with the addition of value-6 boss cards, each of which has unique art and powerful battle penalties.

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Kikuchiyo’s filled up the left side, then encountered a boss. Luckily, he’s reached his kiai!

Samurai Spirit has a lot of gaming goodness packed into a box about half the size of most other modern board games. I only have two main criticisms with Samurai Spirit. One, I’ve mentioned: the lack of women, the ‘sorry if you feel that way’ non-excuse pseudo-apology in the manual.

The other criticism is a fairly significant rules oversight I’ll warn you about right now.

If you’re playing the 2-player variant, it’s very important you ensure you have enough family icons on the cards that form your raider deck. If there’s only one icon, the game is literally unwinnable (at least one of the three families will die each round). If there’s two, it’s very likely unwinnable.

I’d recommend checking your cards and ensuring you have more than 2 icons. 4 or more, perhaps? The game’s designer and updated rules PDF agree, but if the physical manual in the game box may not mention this critical, but easily-overlooked rule.

Samurai Spirit is a great game! For a relatively cheap price, the game packs a lot into a little box – basic mechanics are simple enough to grasp quickly, but the co-op powers make for interesting interaction and combos, the player count is great, and the three-round structure ratchets up the tension as the game progresses. It’s even short enough that, win or lose, if you’re anything like me you’ll be keen to dive right back into the fray!

Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight: Day 8 – Sultaniya

IMAG5194The Sultan has decreed that whoever builds him the most amazing palace will be named Grand Vizier.

Sultaniya is a game for 1-4 players. Everyone starts with a different palace base displaying large, gorgeous character art, with an equal gender spread, which is a big plus.

Each palace base also has a few different rooms already placed and different ways listed to get points. Perhaps you get points by planting palm trees in your palace, where someone else scores towers or domes.

But all palaces need good security – so everyone competes to have the most guards.

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You also have two secret goals each. These might be having a certain feature aligned on as many floors as you can, or having lots of a certain type of feature on a single floor.

Some tiles have sapphires on them. As well as these symbols being involved in some of the secret goals, whenever you place a tile with sapphires on it, you get to grab that many big plastic sapphires from the sparkling pile of wonders.

Sapphires are the only currency the Djinn Union accepts. You can hire these beings of phenomenal cosmic power for such menial jobs as: revealing new tiles, removing a room and replacing it with another one, building two rooms at once, looking though all possible rooms for a single floor and building one.

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The more tiles you add to your palace the harder it is to place new tiles. You see, the art has to match up, adding a puzzle-like element. So Djinn powers are very helpful to deal with this.

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Sultaniya plays pretty quickly, decisions each turn are easy to understand but meaningful. And while competitive, it’s not cutthroat – there’s not much direct interaction with the other players, aside from taking tiles they may want. You only score at the end of the game, and scores can be pretty close – our latest game had only 1 point difference.

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Each of the tiles is beautiful, and details on the rooms are varied, with nice little touches like parrots, monkeys and fountains – there’s some especially flashy stuff on some of the roof tiles. As you build your palace, it’s just a nice time where you’ve got the fun of tackling your own little puzzle, while enjoying the art and the other players’ company.

Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight 2016 – Day 6: The Networks

Ever had a favourite show cancelled on you? Or a main character removed or recast between seasons? When you play The Networks you’ll be the one doing all that over five seasons, to gain and maintain viewers to make your new TV network the most popular of the new channels.IMAG5169

Every player runs a different network and you all start with shows like “Let’s Pickle” and “Emergency Broadcast Test Hour” that are so bad they have literally no viewers. You play the game by hiring stars to feature in your shows (gaining more viewers, but often needing salaries), landing ads (which give you cash to develop shows or pay stars), developing shows by adding them to your network (and attaching stars and ads to them).

Importantly, the number of viewers a show will have depends on which time slot you air it in, which stars are on the show and which season it’s in. Some shows start off strong and lose viewers the longer they stay on the air, but others get better with age.

After a few seasons, you’ll find yourself callously (or regretfully) cancelling your sci-fi blockbuster for a more lucrative, ad-ridden sportscast. Or you’ll get some lucky Network Cards that give you bonuses and special abilities.

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I ran the U62 network and one of our launch shows was Chainmail Bikini Warrior, laughably staring a xylophone talent contest winner. It gets better in season 2, then really goes downhill. But I got the “Showrunner” Network Card two seasons in a row, which let me prevent the viewership from degrading, giving Chainmail Bikini Warrior a healthy 4 seasons before it was replaced when viewers finally jumped ship.

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Quirky art and funny shows, often plays on real favourites – like Person of Disinterest, Dextrous, Cringe and Communist-y – give the game a great sense of humour. Players inject funny moments into the game, too, through strange pairings of stars and shows, like a Celebrity Chef in an action series.

There’s real strategy involved, in deciding when to go for stars, when to focus on ads, and which shows you should be aiming to air. If you’ve ever aired 3 shows of the same genre you get a viewer boost and some other immediate bonuses (and again with 5 same genre shows). So, it’s great to focus on similar genres, but sometimes you can’t, and just need to cast that sports show on your otherwise dedicated sci-fi network.

Because shows do better in their first season when aired in the appropriate time slot, there are also decisions to make about whether to cancel a show while it’s still doing well to open it’s time slot up to a show with an even higher viewership, or air that new show in a different time slot for a few less viewers.

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Even when to stop playing in a season is a decision you’ll need to consider. Once you feel you’ve done all you can do, you can choose to drop out of getting new cards this season, and instead take a bigger cash or viewer bonus. The later you do this, the smaller the bonus, but the more cards you can acquire now.

Then you start the next season, with new stars, ads, shows and network cards.

Some may find all the decisions a bit tricky to weigh up, but for others that’s half the fun – deciding how you want to tackle the challenge of increasing those precious viewer numbers.

With a great theme I haven’t seen in board games, interesting decisions, great art, lots of nods to real television in the art and certain rules, and the 1-5 player count, The Networks is sure to find a loyal audience.

Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight 2015 – Day 5: Suburbia

Suburbia is basically “SimCity the Board Game”. It takes longer to play than anything I’ve posted this fortnight, but it’s a fantastic game and a candidate for my favourite 2-player game ever. Though, it actually plays 1 to 4 players.

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Suburbia sees you buying property from the Real Estate Market (which gets cheaper the longer it’s there) and trying to build a city that fits together well, to give you a better income and reputation.

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It’s well paced, loads of fun, pretty funny (Suz focused on lakes, but see my elementary school down in the industrial and airport district) and a game that you sort of play together and apart.

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Lots of stuff I could go into here, but let’s leave it here and let my favourite board game site Shut Up & Sit Down explain more about, this, one of my favourite games.

Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight 2015 – Day 1: Dungeon Roll

Suz and I have two weeks off. We plan to play a different tabletop game every day. Maybe you’ll see something you’d like to play.

First up: Dungeon Roll. Roll your party and delve into the dungeon, collecting treasure and battling ever increasing numbers of monsters. You’ll need a diverse party if you hope to defeat the dragon, and the deeper you go the more likely it is to awaken. Get out with what you’ve got or risk it all for the chance at more XP and treasure?

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A fun, quick push-your-luck game with a cool theme and more depth and choice than Zombie Dice.