Review – Unexploded Cow

“Nothing is worse than being alone on the evening of the day when one’s cow has exploded.”
― Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas

The Story

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Europe. Summer 1997. You and your most creative friends have discovered two problems with a common solution: mad cows in England and unexploded bombs in France. You’ve decided to bring these two powder kegs together just to see what happens – and you wouldn’t say “no” to a little money on the side, so round up your herd, march them through France, and set them loose behind the Cordon Rouge. If you’re lucky, you’ll come home rich before Greenpeace gets hold of you.

Gameplay

In Unexploded Cow players are trying to collect the most money by traveling to each french town and blowing up the bombs that have been left behind. On every turn, you will buy cows and/or pay for special effects by putting money in a “pot”, then after playing as many cards as you want or are able you roll the D6 (The bomb) with the hope that you roll a number that would land on one of your own cows in an effort to blow up the cows and take money out of the pot (RIP Wiggins). You will earn money from the French as you explode the bombs…. and the cows. The player who has the most money at the end wins the game.

Components

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The money chits are thick and well done and gives the feel of throwing a poker chip into the pot when your add money to it. The artwork is great. I love that all the cows are different even within each classification  ( ex. every spy has a different disguise). The towns are also well done and add to the overall style.

Conclusion

This game is pretty funny. At first I was not sure how the theme would work for me, but as I began to play I was able to cheer for my cows to explode with no feeling of guilt whatsoever. It is a very light game, and I found it to be a fun filler game. It has a mild amount of strategy in that you can control some of the randomness by playing spies and magnet cows. I would not, however, recommend playing it with your vegan friends.

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Can you Escape from Colditz?

In late 2016, Osprey Games released a special edition of Escape from Colditz to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Pat Reid‘s escape from the inescapable German prison. Originally released in 1973 Escape from Colditz was designed by Pat Reid and Brian Degas with art by Pete Dennis. The game was given the deluxe treatment with great new components but the original design is intact.

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Gameplay

In Escape from Colditz one player will take on the role of the German security officer who will control a number of guards who will patrol Colditz to prevent the escape of the POWs. The POWs will be controlled by one to five players who will play an escape officer who must help their team gather equipment to enable their escape and then make their move.

Each round begins with the escape officer to the German officer’s left rolling two dice. The total of these dice is the amount of movement points the escape officer can use this turn. Movement points can divided among as many POW pawns that the escape officer chooses. If they roll doubles, they roll again (up to three rolls maximum) and add the total of the rolls together for their movement points. If any of the rolls are lower than five, the player draws an opportunity card that will provide them with an item or action that they can take at any time during their turn. Over the course of the game, escape officers must gather the items required to assemble an escape kit ( food, documents, a compass and a disguise) as well as items that will help them scale walls (rope), cut through fences (wire cutters), open doors (keys) and get through checkpoints (passes). The items are gathered by ending a turn with two POWs in rooms where those items are found. Play will proceed clockwise until each escape officer has taken their turn and then it is the security officer’s turn.

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The security officer begins their turn in the same way as the other players by rolling two dice and determining their movement points. Guard movement is much more versatile since they have the ability to jump from the guard posts to the commander’s office to the barracks, allowing them chase POWs much easier. A roll of less than five will grant them access to security cards rather than opportunity cards. The security cards will allow the guards to recall the POWs to a corral point, take sniper shots at POWs outside the falls, search areas they normally couldn’t enter etc… Guards can arrest POWs and send them to solitary if they are caught with escape equipment and depending on where the POW is caught the item could be removed from the game. At the end of the security officers turn the round marker is moved one position.

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The game will proceed like this until one of two conditions triggers the end of the game. When the round marker reaches the eagle the escape officers each have one final turn and if the escape conditions aren’t met the security officer wins. Alternatively one escape officer will successfully gather all the required items and get two of there POWs to an escape point, if this happens that escape officer wins.

Components

The treatment given to this game by Osprey Games is really impressive. The first thing that strikes you when getting your hands on a copy of Escape from Colditz is that the box itself is large and very sturdy. The cover art is striking and the graphic tone set by the cover carries throughout the game. The game board is very large and on very heavy stock, it has a lovely touch of the title silk screened in gold on the underside. The inside of the box features a large cardboard insert that holds a box fashioned to look like a Red Cross prisoner care packages which contains the game components. The cards come in matching tuck boxes. The cards themselves have a great aesthetic and vintage art. Throughout the box there are little historical touches like newspaper clippings, postcards and other documents from the prison and the era. All the pieces look and feel great and have a coherent look.

I found that the art and style really brought the theme to life and also really respected the original publication of the game.

 

Conclusion

I know that roll and move words that will make many modern gamers run for the nearest worker placement game but I was really surprised at the depth that was provided with such an old and much derided mechanic. The non-linear aspect of the movement combined with the multiple pawns to move and the many goals those pawns can accomplish make the decisions in Escape from Colditz quite tactical. I found that every turn you had to choose from many meaningful decisions and required some thought beyond just moving your pawns the maximum spaces.

This game is steeped in history and not just its own, which is rich and intriguing enough. Included in the game box is a little booklet recounting the story of Pat Reid’s escape as well as some interesting back story on the prison itself. I played several great games of Escape from Colditz and have no problem telling people to try this game as I think that for such an old game with such simple mechanics it really does a wonderful job of bringing history to life and really is quite fun.

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13 Minutes: The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962

13 Minutes: The Cuban Missile Crisis is a micro game  that distills the excellent 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis which is a distillation of the masterpiece Twilight Struggle.  I hope I haven’t lost too many of you with my meta discussion but I wanted to lay some groundwork with readers that maybe familiar with the two games that this games a lot to.  The game is a head to head strategic game of balance where players must make good and sometimes the least horrible choices, like it’s older siblings, but I think it still offers a fresh take on the premise.

Setup & Gameplay

13 Minutes packs a decent amount into a tiny box that contains only 13 cards and 26 cubes. The setup is quick and simple. Place a card face down between the two players. This will represent Cuba. Next players take a number of cubes from their 13 influence cube allotment and bid for the chance to decide who plays first. Once this is decide the players drawn two cards and take turns playing one card. A card can be used for one of two actions:

  1. Command action: place the number of cubes illustrated on the card onto a single battleground.
  2. Event: if the card played is a neutral UN card or for you superpower, you can use the event power of the card.

Cards are played either into the neutral area in between the two players or into that   players “sphere of influence” which is the tablespace between him and the neutral area where Cuba begins the game. The cards on the table become battlegrounds where the two players will place and remove cubes to fight for influence in this areas. The player with the most cubes on a battleground controls it and will score it at the end of the game. When cubes are placed onto a card, now a battleground, the battle ground moves. It moves towards the player when adding cubes and away from the player when removing cubes. Having a card in your sphere of influence can be good as it breaks ties if both players have the same number of cubes on a battleground but can also lose you the game if you have 3 battlegrounds with the same colour DEFCON symbol.

Players will go back and forth playing one card until they each can no longer draw a card. When each player has one card remaining you add up the following to determine who wins:

  1. 1 prestige per battleground the player controls
  2. 2 prestige for controlling Cuba
  3. 1 prestige for controlling the most military battlegrounds (Orange DEFCON symbols)
  4. Reveal the remaining cards and add up the cubes for each superpower. The superpower with the most cube images gets 1 prestige.

Unless someone has started a nuclear war by having 3 DEFCON symbols of the same colour in their sphere of influence then the player with the most prestige is the winner.

Components

13 minutes comes in a sturdy little box and features the same graphic design as 13 Days. The font and historical photos are the same which makes a nice consistent look. The cars are well laid out and easy to understand. The quality is good. I really like the overall look of the game.


Final thoughts

I will confess that it was going to take a lot for me not to enjoy 13 Minutes. I love 13 Days and Twilight Struggle is one of my top 3 all time favourites so the theme had me right away. If you don’t like political themes or the Cold War theme in particular then it may not appeal to you but I think it’s abstracted enough as to not be a major factor. I loved the mechanic of moving the battlegrounds back and forth as a physical representation of the political struggle you are playing out on the table. I think this game will make an excellent filler, from set up to take down you can play a game of this in under 20 Minutes easily. I found that I still had decent choices to make and there was a good amount of tension. Overall I think this is a must buy filler for Twilight Struggle or 13 Days fans that still deserves some consideration from people that might be turned off by those bigger games.

Colour Chess + Lure Review

Colour Chess + Lure currently on Kickstarter is new twist on a very familiar game. Designed by Tom Norfolk of Dog Eared Games who is the man behind the fun little card game Stak Bots (a fan favourite of my 8 year old twins). The box includes everything needed to play chess, Colour Chess, and Lure. The board is modular and is built by the players before the game begins which presents variability and a little gamesmanship in itself. The colourful squares and simple design are easy to read and not so different as to make a classic unrecognizable.colourchess

Set Up

You snap together the frame of the board and then organize the colour squares into an 8×8 grid. You don’t have to and in fact shouldn’t try to replicate the pattern of a standard chess board. Once the board is complete place the chess pieces in their standard configuration.colourchess_content.png

Game Play

Colour Chess pieces move in the same manner as classic Chess, but final location of the piexes is controlled by the colour selected by the player. The first player selects a colour and then moves a piece in a legal chess move ending the movement on the selected colour, if a player cannot legally move to that colour they cannot choose it. The next player moves a piece to that colour (if they cannot they pass their first movement) and then selects their own colour and makes a move. Another change to the regular rules of chess is that a king must be captured not just put into check mate.

The other game included is Lure. Lure is played using the same board components but different pieces.

  1. The swords – these are your offensive pieces, they take other pieces
  2. The Shields – They protect other pieces when they are adjacent to them. An adjacent piece cannot be taken
  3. The King – If a king is taken you lose, if you move him to your opponents back row you win.

The goal of lure is to score 4 or more points, capture the other king, or to get your king to the back row.

Pieces move by declaring a colour and moving as many of your pieces as you can onto adjacent tiles of the colour or diagonally to a tile of that colour. If you place a shield next to a piece (other than the king) either diagonally or orthogonally that piece is safe and cannot be taken. Each piece you take is worth one point and each piece you get to your opponents back row is worth a point.

Components and Art

Colour Chess + Lure as indicated by the name is a very colourful game. It is a simple and elegant design that isn’t as hard on the eyes as one would imagine a rainbow coloured chess board could be. I found it to be quite vibrant sitting out on the table. I used a Print and play version so I cannot speak to the quality of the final components.

Final Thoughts

I found colour chess to be a neat twist on a classic and it certainly added some interesting mechanics that made game play fresh and new. I preferred (as did my kids) Lure which I found to be a fast paced and exciting tactical abstract game. I think this game would be wonderful in the classroom and could really get some kids to give chess a chance. I recommend checking out the kickstarter and hitting the back button if you like chess or if you want to try some a new abstract game.

Fantasy Fantasy Football is live on IndieGoGo

FFFootballFantasy Fantasy Football is a player drafting football game set in a fantasy universe being published by CSE Games. Players will take the role of team managers and draft players to build the ultimate football team of fantasy characters. The game supports 2 to 6 players and will take 20 to 60 minutes to play.

The design team of Daryl Andrews and J.R. Honeycutt are big sports fans as well as gamers and it looks like they’ve found a way to combine these interests. The colourful artwork is done by the local to me illustrator Rob Lundy.

Check out the video from To Die For Games’ very own Boardgaming Pinup Girl Mandi when she sat down with Daryl Andrews at GAMA for a little preview of the game:

Kickstarter Preview: The Grimm Forest

This is a title that has more than one member of the To Die For family very excited. The Grimm Forest is a game by Druid City Games where players must use cards and tricks based on familiar fairy tale characters to play cards and gather resources in order to be the first to finish all 3 levels of their house.

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Players are encouraged to use any of the devious tricks they have read about in the many books of Fables found throughout the land. Some will have their plans wrecked by that villain of old, the Big Bad Wolf, while others will gain bricks, straw, and wood by the cart load.

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The art on this game is quite nice and the components for the players pieces and the houses are great sculpts. Our very own Board gaming Pinup girl, Mandi has had a chance to play a demo of the Grimm Forest and has had nothing but great things to say about it. Check it out March 21 when the project goes live.

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Kickstarter Preview: Dig!

Dig! is a cool little push your luck style game that has a very interesting 8 bit look. Designed by Julien Charbonnier this game looks like it could be a blast to play.

The Hill hides many treasures and all it takes to collect them is to DIG! However, these are not the only things the hill hides… Creatures and traps await, the galleries you will create might either mean wealth or despair.  Delve into the hill and gather ten Gems to win the game! Take some risks, push your luck, hire recruits to dig deeper and win favors of companions (Knight, Wizard, Scout, Hunter…) to protect your galleries from the many creatures (Thieves, Skeletons, Orcs…) and traps the Hill hides.

The artwork really appeals to me and as a man of great height (5’3″) I really appreciate that the shortest player goes first. If retro game art and pushing your luck looking for treasure while fighting of monsters is your cup of tea that check out this game when it goes live March 19th 2017.