Wondering where your game reviews went?

Time really flies when you are having fun. And I'm having fun running Gamicon! Gamicon is Mindbridge Foundation's annual game convention. It's awesome, and you should come. Friday, February 20 through Sunday, February 22 at the Sheraton Hotel in Downtown Iowa City. Check it out at www.Gamicon.org. It's kind of a big thing, and it has been taking all my time, so I haven't had a chance to write up new reviews. So come to Gamicon and see the cool games you have seen reviewed here, and I'll be back with new reviews in March.

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Game Review: Kerflip!

Game Salute, 2012

If you are a big fan of Scrabble and other word games, here is another one to check out. In Kerflip, players grab a number (depending on the number of players) of tiles at random, without looking at them from a bag.  Once everyone has their tiles, they hold them over the board and on the signal drop them onto the board. Then there is a slightly awkward time where the players all flip the tiles to their light side. Then everyone quickly shouts out a word that can be made from the letters on the table. We found this awkward because while players are flipping tiles, they can get a good look at them while somewhat shielding the letters from other players, making it easier for them to figure out words faster. Even unintentionally , this isn’t easy to get around. Maybe we should have formed our words, then flipped the tiles before scoring.  I’d recommend this.

Players then score their words . The first person (the one who stated their word first) gets 10 points for every light colored tile. Then they flip the tiles to their orange sides. Those letters now count for only 5 points on successive players turns. On the light side of several of the letters (K, Q, X, Z, J, etc) is a small number. If you use that letter while it is still un-flipped, you get to draw that many cards, which have victory points ranging from 0-20. Then all the orange tiles are removed from the game, and the unused tiles are returned to the bag for the next round. When there isn’t enough tiles for everyone to draw the required amount, the game is over.  At the end of the game, the total of your score from making words, plus the total of the cards you have drawn to make your final score. Highest score wins.

If you can’t come up with words quickly or make combinations that others don’t make, then this game may not be for you. A 15 second timer comes with the game in case you get someone who spends a lot of time trying to find the best possible word, to keep the game moving.  I like trying to make words quickly and enjoy the challenge of trying to make a high scoring words. I didn’t like the dropping and flipping tiles, but as I mentioned above, they wouldn’t have to be flipped until after the players have committed to their word. This plays fast and easy, and if you can make words using the special tiles, and get a lot of cards, it can even out the game, or it can push it toward one person grabbing all the points. It would be interesting if they put a lesser card draw on the orange side of the tiles, so a “Q” might have a 3 card draw if used once, 1 card if you use it after it has been flipped.

There is also a lightning tile. When this tile appears, the first person to shout their word gets a 25 point bonus. This can really give that fast-word-creating player a huge lead. I am not thrilled with that mechanic. Would rather see a tile like that come up, but have it go to the person who made the most points that round or some mechanic that makes it more of a strategic play, rather than a fast one.

In the end, it is a good quality game, with a nice storage tray that makes clean up of a lot of little tiles very easy. They have created a “funnel” within the storage tray. The board sits on top of the tray during play, so you just swipe the used tiles into the open section. At the end of the game, you simply tip up the box and all the tiles fall right into their storage box. Easy peasy.

If you like fast paced word games, pick it up. You’ll enjoy it.

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Game Review: Fill the Barn

FillTheBarnFill the Barn
Hoopcat Games, 2012

Fill the Barn is a lightweight simple game for ages 8 and up. Each player attempts to plant crops, keep them alive and harvest them to make a profit. At the end of the game, the player with the most money wins.

The game consists of a barn (board) that has 3 spots for 6 types of crops. Each spot has a monetary amount on it, which is the amount the market will pay for harvested crops. A deck of cards holds crops that vary in planting costs, harvest cards with varying costs,  irrigation cars, fertilizer cards, disaster cards,  action cards and junk which can be used to fill up the barn, taking away opportunities to harvest from the players. Each player starts and maintains a hand of 5 cards throughout the game. Each turn, players play one card, then draw a card. Play might be planting a crop, harvesting, tending crops with irrigation or fertilizer cards, or playing actions or disaster cards on other players. Endgame is reached when the cards are gone and no one can play any more from their hands, or when the barn is full, whichever comes first.

Our first play was a two-player game and was a fairly even, play was simple and direct, and the game went quickly. We played again with 5 players which changed the dynamic a little. We did have two “drought” disaster cards come out fairly quickly, which caused one player to lose most of their money, frustrating them for the rest of the game. The simple mechanics and quick play will be attractive to the 8-12 set, but the game doesn’t have a lot of strategic ability for older players. So if you are looking for something for your 7-12 year olds, this would be a good addition to their library, giving them some opportunity to learn simple strategy and basic economic principals. If they spend too much on planting and harvesting, then they won’t receive any profit on their crop. It may also give them a little glimpse on what a farmer goes through to get a crop to market, worrying about such disasters as drought and mice, and learning the value of insurance on a high cost crop.

Nice game with quality pieces and well written easy to learn rules. Recommended for younger players.


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Game Review: Cutthroat Caverns

CutthroatCavernsCutthroat Caverns
Smirk & Dagger, 2007

Got a few friends who would like to go on a Dungeon Delve, but no one wants to GM? Pick up a copy of Cutthroat Caverns.  Cutthroat Caverns gives you the experience of a good old fashioned dungeon crawl.

The theme of the game is: Without teamwork… you will never survive. Without betrayal… you will never win. You and your friends are a team of adventurers, heading into a dungeon filled with monsters, in order to retrieve an artifact of untold power. Along the way, you will face 9 (or more) encounters. These encounters may be horrible beasts, secret traps, or other nasty foes. These foes will have a number of hit points and an attack. But only the player who strikes the killing blow will get the prestige points that are needed to win the artifact at the end of the game.

You work cooperatively, using a deck of cards which include attacks, tactical maneuvers, actions and items.  Everyone is dealt an initiative card, then secretly selects one of their cards to play that round. Will you play an attack in an attempt to kill the monster? Will you use a tactical maneuver in order to make your next attack more effective? By initiative each player will reveal their card, and see if they have defeated the encounter. If they have not, play proceeds to the next player. At then end of the round, if the encounter has not been defeated, then you re-deal initiative, and the encounter will have it’s attack. You must be alive at the end of the game to win, so keep those healing potions handy! Play proceeds until the encounter is defeated. The player who struck the killing blow receives the card, and the prestige points. After the final encounter, prestige is tallied up, and the player with the most prestige wins the game and receives the artifact of untold power, going on to fame and glory in their career.

The unique mix of cooperative and competitive makes this game fun and interesting to play. If no one attacks, then the creature will continue on its rampage, doing damage to you and others, so it is in your best interest to kill it, but you must play strategically in order to be the one who kills it. The game has some little quirks. Initiative is handed out after the players attack, but before the monster attacks, so you have very little chance to avoid the damage that it deals. This is good because it gives you more reason to want to hurt the creature, because it may be you that it attacks, but bad, because you cannot plan for a way to escape that damage. Very much like it would be in “reality”, if 5 people are attacking a creature, how do you know who will get the attack of the creature? Will you sit out the round, hoping that others will wear it down while you strategize where to make the killing blow?

Every card you play will have an impact, and every person playing will make a difference. It is a board game that really feels like a dungeon crawl.

Highly recommended.

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