Game Review: The Game of 49

The Game of 49
Breaking Games, 2014

The Game of 49 is an auction game for one to five players. The game consists of a board with 49 squares, money, and a deck of cards numbered 1-49 plus wild cards. Each player starts with 49 dollars. The starting player will draw a card from the deck and the players will bid on that board space. The winner of the auction puts a chip of their color on that space. The object of the game is to capture four spaces in a row, vertically, horizontally or diagonally. Wild cards will either be the “49” (center) board space, or will cover a range of spaces. The 49 space is the only space on the board that can be “stolen” or “re-auctioned”. If you win an auction for a wild card with a range of space, you choose which unoccupied spot within that range to place your chip. Each wild card also has a payout action. Once the auction is complete, each player will receive $7 for each chip they have on the board, to a maximum of $49. If a number that is already taken comes up, a new card is drawn.

This is an easy to learn game. It’s fast paced and bidding becomes fierce over contested spaces. There are different strategies to win, and different bidding styles can really change the game. The number of players also can wildly affect strategies, but it plays equally well with any number. There is a slight variation in rules for two players. As you gain more spaces after 7, you start getting less payout. This keeps the duration of the game to a similar timeframe as the multi-player game.

I really enjoy this game. It is exciting and keeps moving. Everyone is involved and interacting. It is not really billed as a party game, but certainly has that feel. If you are looking for a good party game for a few friends, that plays quickly and has a lot of energy, then give The Game of 49 a try. Age says 10+ but a younger set could play with the right group.

Check your local conventions. Double Exposure Envoy hosts state and regional tournaments for the Game of 49, with winners getting cool trophies and regional winners get admission to the National tournament at GenCon.


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May 2017 Minutes

  1. Call to Order
  2. Welcomed two visitors from Anime Demoii from Drake University in Des Moines
  3. Minutes Approved as posted.
  4. Treasurer’s Report: We have money. Read More »
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Game Review: Panic Lab

Panic Lab
Gigamic, 2012

The amoebas have escaped the lab and you must be the first to track them down. In Panic Lab, twenty five cards are laid out in a circle on the table. Cards consist of amoebas with various attributes (spots or stripes, one or two eyes, and two different shapes, which I shall refer to as “Ghosts” and “Slugs”), vents, starting labs (yellow, red and blue), and mutation devices. Each of the starting cards shows two directions black arrows (left) and white arrows (right). The starting players rolls the four dice. The first die will show the color of the escaped amoeba, the second shows it’s shape (ghost or slug), the third shows stripes or spots, and the fourth shows the starting card color and direction.

Players look at the dice and, starting from the indicated start space, follow in the indicated direction to find the indicated amoeba. For example, you may start on yellow, and following along to the left (black arrow) to find the orange, spotted, ghost amoeba. But, wait… if you hit a vent, you must jump to the next vent and continue. This may pass over your intended target! So, as you keep going if you hit a mutation card, it will change one attribute of the amoeba for which you are searching. The player who correctly follows the path and finds the correct amoeba wins the round and gets a victory point chip. But beware, if you pick the wrong amoeba, you lose a victory token! And you have to follow the path without giving any indicators to your opponents. (You have to do it in your head!)

This game is recommended for ages 8+, however, the kids I have played with were very frustrated by the thinkyness (it’s a word, really). Keeping the attributes in your head and following along the path may seem easy, but is actually incredibly hard at times. The more spots you hit and change, the harder it becomes to keep track. This game has cute art and deceptively simple rules, but can be a great brain-burner. Recommendation, unless you are very good at keeping multiple instructions in your head while changing frequently, I’d give this one a pass.

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Game Review: Freedom: The Underground Railroad

Freedom: The Underground Railroad
Academy Games, 2012

Freedom: The Underground Railroad is a fully cooperative, historical board game for one to four players. The players have two goals. First you must attempt to assist slaves in escaping southern plantations, and move them across the board into Canada. Second, you must attempt to sway public opinion to the abolitionist cause. You and your team mates will have 8 rounds to accomplish both of these goals.

These two goals are made more difficult by having to avoid slave catchers and by having limited supplies of resources. When a slave is moved into the path of one or two of the five slave catchers, the slave catcher moves one space closer to that slave. If this movement causes a slave catcher to move into a space occupied by a slave, that slave is captured and sent to the next slave market. At the end of each round, slaves from the market will be placed into the plantation spaces. If there aren’t enough spaces to place the slaves, then the remaining slaves are lost. Each round has a full slave market, plus any lost slaves to place. Losing too many slaves will cost you the game.

Players start with limited funds and have only a few ways to earn income. All of the support tokens for the abolitionist movement must be purchased by the end of the game to win. In order to gain more options and avoid negative events, you must also use these precious funds. It is a delicate balance, and one that, over several games, I have not yet figured out how to master. Most of the game’s goals and supplies are tiered to the number of players, which makes it a balanced game, no matter how many people play.

I have to say that this is one of the most intense and difficult cooperative games that I have played. It is incredibly thematic. Academy Games is known for their educational games, but because of this, I wonder if they may sometimes get overlooked when people are looking for an entertaining game.

Games like Pandemic or Forbidden Island/Desert, are very thematic as well, but sometimes the win or loss can be pinned on random card draws. While Freedom does have some of this, the cards seem to affect this game less. I feel that the players are more in control of the destiny of Freedom than other cooperative games.  I have played this game several times, and we have lost every game, usually due to not being able to purchase all the supply tokens before the end of the eighth round. We have managed to free all the required slaves (giving us sort of a moral victory?). We are usually very close to winning, within one or two tokes. The cards are very thematic and educational as well.

Overall, I very much enjoy this game and recommend it. It is always challenging, no matter how many players you have. It will keep you involved and “on-the-edge-of-your-seat”. The recommended age is 13+ and I highly recommend following that guideline, as there are a lot of possibilities each turn and analasis of those options to maximize potential can make this game tough for a younger crowd.

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