Game Review: Looney Bin

LooneyBinLooney Bin
Numbskull Games, 2008

Looney Bin is a quirky, weird, easy and fun card/board game for 3-7 players. You are a doctor in the Looney Bin. You have a ward of 4 patients that you attempt to cure. The first person to clear their ward or cure five patients is the winner.

To start the game, you are dealt 4 patient cards. These sit face up in front of you, forming your ward. Each patient receives a face down tile that details the treatment that they need to be cured. These tiles are secret, no one knows what is on them. You are also dealt a hand of 5 action cards. The player with the highest numbered patient goes first. On your turn, you play any number of action cards, either on yourself or others, then make one attempt at finding a cure.

This is where the game is really cool. It has a great mechanic for curing. There are seven "Therapies" in the game: A padded cell, Electroshock, Frontal Lobotomy, Group Therapy (we ended up calling this "needing a hug"), A straightjacket, Medicine, and Hypnosis. You pick a therapy, and the person to your left looks at the tile. If you have guessed a correct therapy, you put the therapy chit on your card face up, and make another therapy attempt. You keep guessing, as long as you keep guessing correctly. If incorrect, you place the chit face down (the "no") side, draw a card and your turn is over. There are only 3 therapies on each tile, so it takes a couple guesses to get the three you need to cure the patient. Event cards can help you by giving extra guesses, stopping other people from playing cards on you or other numerous effects.

We found this game quite entertaining. We enjoyed the mechanic and the event play. Overall, pretty well balanced. It runs quickly. We are pondering purchasing a larger pill holder and using it as a storage for the therapy chits. We had a lucky guesser at our table who one both games because he was able to continue guessing cures in longer runs, but we were able to slow him down. If you hate games that take some luck, this might not be the game for you. We were getting into the cards and having a really good time with it.

On the negative side. The production quality of this game isn't the best.  The chits are a little flimsy, and the lamination on the cure tiles tends to make them stick together. The artwork is ok, but comes off as a bit amateurish overall. The good game play might be able to overcome this, but the price tag of $30 might cause some to balk because of the production quality. I could see these folks trying a kickstarter to push this game to the next level with better art and better quality pieces and packaging.

Overall fun game. Recommended if a good game is more important to you than a good looking game.

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December 2014 Minutes

Mindbridge General Meeting minutes for Wednesday December 3, 2014 at ARC of Southeast Iowa

  1. Call to order by Jon M
  2. Minutes of last meeting not available yet
  3. Treasurer's report was read.
  4. ICON Report Read More »
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Game Review: Influence and Rules Rant

InfluenceInfluence
Two Monkey Studios/Game Salute 2014

If anyone was wondering if all I do are positive reviews, the answer is no. I’ve been debating on this one, but finally decided to give my two cents worth on this game. Influence is a 2-6 player short game. I tried twice to sit down with a group and the rules to puzzle out how to play this game. We gave up both times. The rules are confusing. Overall, it looks like it would be an easy game to play and learn, but as we figured out parts, we came across questions that either weren’t answered in the rules, or led to more questions that weren’t clear. After more than an hour with 3 people, 2 sets of rules, and the internet, we were still no closer to figuring out the game than when we started and finally gave up. I’m sure if someone who knows how to play were to put up a video, or were we to go to a convention or event where it was being demo’ed, we would probably enjoy the game, we just couldn’t figure out how it was supposed to play.

So here is where I go into my rant. Rules. Games are made or broken by them. Many a great game has had it’s downfall in poor rules, and many mediocre games have been made more fun and accessible by having great rules. They are such a critical part to every game. So, to game companies, put more time into your published rules than you do into your playtesting. Give your game to people and let them try to play it by learning the rules from your rulebook. As you see them get off track, don’t try to correct them, take notes and figure out how to write your rules better. Then playtest them with a new group who have never seen them. I’m serious. If people have trouble learning your game because of bad rules, you won’t get the sales, even if it is a great game. Make sure they are clear, concise, consistant and enjoyable to read. Add timing charts, or bulleted lists.

[getting off my soapbox] And so, in conclusion, this is a possibly good game, with rules bad enough that we walked away from it. Twice. You are welcome to give it a try, but until someone posts a video play, I wouldn’t recommend picking it up.

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Game Review: Zoneplex

ZoneplexZoneplex
Mysterion Games/Game Salute, 2014

Zoneplex Is a space themed, middle weight game for 3-5 players. Each player is a warrior monk (you play with pieces they call Monkles instead of meeples) who is trying to take control of the Zoneplex pyramid. You overcome fears in order to become worthy to enter the eye of the pyramid. You are aided on your journey by various “relics of the bygone future eras”.  The idea behind this comes from an idea that ancient civilizations were really advanced starfaring races who created the Zoneplex.

Play is relatively simple to learn, but can be somewhat difficult to master, and depends a little more on luck than I would like to see.  You begin the game by drawing tiles to build the gameboard (placing triangular shaped tiles in a pyramid shape), place your 4 spirit stones in spirit chambers, and move around the board, attempting to gain relics.

You place your spirit stones on special spaces marked with different symbols. At the beginning of the game, each player is given a card with a secret symbol. At the midpoint of the game, when the last board tile has been played, the cards are revealed and influence points are scored.

On each turn of the game, you draw a card, which will tell you how many tiles to play, and how many spaces to move (1, 2 or 3), or will have a special power/event, or it may be a fear. Fears are monsters which you must defeat. You must defeat 3 fears (one of each type), have the most influence points, and reach the eye of the pyramid to win the game. Some of the board spaces are relic spaces which give you special relic cards which may give you influence, or other special game effects.

While we did enjoy the game, I did have a couple of difficulties with it. There are relic cards that give  extra influence, however there aren’t very many of them, and one player got the majority of them, giving that player a definite lead that was almost impossible to overcome. Also, you have to defeat fears of three different types, but if you never draw the correct fear, it can be impossible to win. You can ask others for help in defeating a fear, as many of them will require more than you can accomplish on your own. You can negotiate for help, including giving away the fear, or the relic “rewards” that come from defeating it. This is one way to get a fear that you need, if you can’t draw one, although the other players never have to make that deal. It would have been nice to see some cards, maybe in the relic deck, that allowed for the steal of a fear, or to look through the deck or discard for a specific fear.

Overall, we played a generous game, helping each other with fears for various benefits. We didn’t play very “hardcore”, and our game ended up pretty even at the end, with an exciting race for the finish. While this will never be one of my favorite games, it is probably worth a couple of plays to see if we can figure out some different strategies, or see how much luck of the draw really figures into the game.

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