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Tag Archive: board games


As we inch closer to Christmas, Hasbro Gaming is making its latest effort to breathe new life into its classic board games.  The new idea is mash-ups of classics, combining two games into one, which should tap into the nostalgia of long-time players.  The game company is taking its recently developed game Speak Out and its famous acquired Parker Brothers inventory Monopoly, Clue, Taboo, and Scrabble, and combining them with its celebrated former Milton Bradley games Candy Land, Connect Four, Guess Who?, Jenga, and Twister.  The result:  Hasbro Mash-Ups, some strange combinations, but new twists for family game night, all at less than $21 each retail price.

The best bet looks to be Monopoly Jenga.  This game adds some additional strategy to the wooden block game where players remove a piece of the tower one by one until the tower collapses.  The Monopoly twist is adding color-coded Monopoly properties as blocks: Railroads, Free Parking, Chance and Community Chest cards, and a Go to Jail block.  The goal?  Collect the most properties, property sets, and railroad blocks without making the tower fall.

 

The strangest is Hasbro’s Taboo Speak Out.  There’s something really creepy about a family game with mouthpieces, and the box cover art doesn’t help much.

 

Perfect for ventriloquists, but a problem for everyone else, the speaking barriers are the key twist to the fun classic Taboo game.  The rules are simple:  Give clues to get teammates to say the Taboo word on the card, without using any of the five forbidden words, all while wearing a Speak Out game mouthpiece.  Easy peasy, right?  Maybe not.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A book released this month from Pavilion Books will have kids of all ages creating their own board games about anything they can imagine.  Kevan Davis and Viviane Schwarz’s new oversized hardcover book Board Games to Create and Play has everything anyone from kids to adults can use to learn about the mechanics of what makes board games work.  And it has 58 templates of 19 sample boards, cut-out cards and tokens, and 40 rule sets to get players to draw up new games on their own.

Beginning with pull-out sample games, readers will quickly learn the building blocks to make a great game.  Using the principles of Snakes and Ladders aka Chutes and Ladders as a starting point, readers can grab a pen and start marking up the game, filling in blank spaces with their own themes, goals, challenges, barricades, and rules.  You can incorporate dice or cards, or not, and use any kind of object for tokens or design something for each game.  Whether you prefer Sorry or Clue, Monopoly, Life, Parcheesi or Payday, or combine rules and technical difficulty to make your own role play board, the sky is the limit.

If you think the artwork in the preview below looks a bit basic, that’s the point–you’re not limited by your own artistic skill.  This is about being creative, using your imagination to create that game that has yet to be invented, but using the game prompts–in essence story prompts–to get you started.  And the education on gaming maneuvers, sequences, planning, and strategy is surprisingly insightful.  Even experienced game creators are bound to learn something here.  The writers explain components of rules, like burning fuel, action cards, non-player pawns, using money, hidden treasures, running fights, movement tokens, and out-of-time rules.  It also has a handy theme generator and sample mash-ups of rules to begin with.

Here is a seven-page preview of Board Games to Create and Play, courtesy of Pavilion Books:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The classic wartime strategy board game is back, but this time with the strangest update yet.  It’s Axis & Allies & Zombies.  Just released, the game is playable as a standalone game featuring a 1941 scenario, and if you’re a fan of the original and think you’ve exhausted all the scenarios under past editions, you’ll love the included new rule modifications for the 1942 Edition of Axis & Allies.  It’s a great way to reinvigorate your game play (even if zombies aren’t your thing).  Why?  At its core, Axis & Allies is a heavily dice-driven game.  The update really offers some random changes in circumstances thrown at you as you defend the Americans, the Soviets, the British, the Germans, or the Japanese, in an alternate universe battle to win World War II (we reviewed the new Axis & Allies 1942 Edition last year here at borg).  If you love the zombie genre, even better, as no other game will give you this kind of real-world zombie battle, outside maybe your town’s annual zombie run.

Everything you need to play the game under the 1941 Zombie rules–the standalone game–are included in Axis & Allies & Zombies.  Blood-spattered money (Industrial Production Credits), a stained deluxe game board, six new zombie game dice, ghostly zombie characters, new zombie control markers, a set of 60 zombies (plus an 86-card expansion deck for the 1942 Edition), and all the game pieces from the original game are included here.  A big difference is this game can be played on a standard card table as opposed to the 1942 game board which requires far more space to play–this edition of the game includes a smaller game board than the original, but it still has plenty of room for play.

Zombies are created whenever a nation’s infantry unit is destroyed or via a directive from a zombie card drawn during each turn.  Every zombie gets to attack in each round.  Even neutral territories have gameplay–as a “Desperate Times” zombie card may indicate zombie infiltration via those locations, unlike their lack of utility in the classic game.  Optional play of “Desperate Measures” rules can result in good or bad actions, like the ability to use newly conceived anti-zombie technology.  And don’t expect an air attack by zombies.  Why?  Zombies can’t fly airplanes (of course!).  You also can’t deny the cool factor of another new feature–Chainsaw Tanks.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Axis & Allies is a classic wartime strategy board game that you’ve likely encountered either yourself or found a good friend playing over the years.  First released in 1981 by Nova Game Designs it has continued to be re-released from the likes of Milton Bradley, and it currently is a game produced by Wizards of the Coast and Avalon Hill under the Hasbro umbrella of companies.  Thirty-six years after its release it remains a fun and competitive game in various versions of play with a loyal following, continuing to be the focus of tournaments at Gen Con and other venues throughout the year.  This month Wizards of the Coast is releasing an updated edition of the game celebrating the 50th anniversary of Avalon Hill.  The company had tapped Axis & Allies original game designer and creator Larry Harris to take another look at the game and develop a special anniversary edition with updated features and gameplay.  The result is the Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition, a giant, beautifully designed edition featuring plenty of extras, including two completely different games in one box as compared to the classic standard edition–one with a scenario beginning in the Spring of 1941 (the Axis attack) and the other beginning in the Spring of 1942 (from the traditional version of the game).  The detail and complex strategy allow for an unlimited level of historicity depending on the desires of the players.  The out-of-the-box version will test players’ skill in planning, including short-term battle tactics and long-term strategy, and as with the original game there’s also room for luck to have a hand in the outcome.

The Anniversary Edition, originally released in limited quantities in 2008 and out of print since, includes more than 650 game pieces, including some updated sculpts of tokens compared to the standard edition.  It’s housed in a deluxe sturdy box that features a gorgeous painting when the eight game piece boxes are housed together.  The gameboard is a whopping 24 x 46 inches.  Recommended for players 12 and up, 2-6 can play, each representing one or more of the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom for the Allies, or Germany, Japan, or Italy for the Axis.  As compared to the standard edition Italy is feature of the Anniversary Edition, which balances out the board 3 to 3 (allowing for more players than prior editions).  As with Italy during the real war, the prospects of a single player representing Italy winning the game in a six player game will be a real challenge, but we figured a cunning or lucky player may be able to make it work.  China also has a different configuration in this edition, allowing for further twists to the game depending on how it is used to manipulate the balance of power across the board.  The key update for 2017 is an updated rulebook correcting past errors.

You really get your money’s worth with the giant board, extra features, and 650+ playing pieces in the Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition.

We set aside an afternoon to try it: my friend (who is a regular gamer, but hasn’t played Axis & Allies in years) and I (new to wargame/combat board games) made it through two complete rounds in 6.5 hours, but that time included initial board set-up (punching out pieces, etc.) and reading instructions.  Those familiar with the standard game will have no problem completing 4-6 rounds in this time, which appears to be the norm for a complete game.  The winner of the game is the first to capture a set number of major city capitals.  Each side starts with a designated number of cities (based on which scenario you play) and players decide in advance whether 13, 15, or all 18 capitals is the goal, which may shorten or extend the time of gameplay.  Paper money is used as IPCs or “industrial production certificates” and each of the six major countries is paid each round to represent a rough correlation of the actual military spending during the war.  We played the Spring of 1941 scenario and this meant Germany was powerful with Japan in a good position to strike, but the United Kingdom is entrenched upfront by design as a military stronghold with resources that, along with the resources of the United States, kept the balance in favor of the Allies for the first round.

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Rod Roddenberry’s website (where the son of Gene Roddenberry sells and promotes a lot of Star Trek replica merchandise, among other things) put me onto a new Internet series on gaming.  It’s not about video games.  It’s about good old-fashioned “game night” games, board games with dice and cards and tokens, and it’s called TableTop.

If you’re a fan of Wil Wheaton, it’s the show for you.  Wheaton is best known for his role as Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation and as the young star of the Rob Reiner/Steven King film Stand By Me, but he has been quickly branching out as a stellar guest star on series like Leverage (as a superb IT villain) and Big Bang Theory (where he often plays himself), showing he’s gone beyond the kid actor thing.  And even if you’re not a Wheaton fan–like you thought Wesley Crusher should have been left on Rubicun III–give this series a try anyway.

Tsuro game in play on Tabletop.

My favorite thing about Wil Wheaton is he seems to thrive at all things geek and nerd.  He’s not apologetic in the least, and in chatting up his love for games and TV and books, he is bringing everyone along for a fun ride.  He’s a regular at San Diego Comic-Con, and I saw him at a Star Trek writers panel with Star Trek authors where he showed a great rapport with fans, and seemed to love talking about what he liked (and didn’t like) about Trek.

Wil Wheaton with authors Kevin Dilmore and Dayton Ward on a panel at Comic-Con in 2008.

TableTop is an online half-hour, biweekly series just beginning and in its first five episodes, which is a bit like Comic Book Men and Celebrity Poker, but far, far better than both of those shows.  In fact, the introduction, production values, and content should get some network exec to take notice.  This is the first online-only series we’ve taken note of here at borg.com that we think is worthy of another look and we think a wider audience is out there for this show.

TableTop has host Wheaton playing a few board or dice games with some friends, including explaining quickly and clearly the game’s rules, and just chatting it up around the table with people like Rod Roddenberry, Felicia Day (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Monk, House, M.D., Eureka), Colin Ferguson (Eureka),  Grant Imahara (Mythbusters), James Kyson (Heroes, Hawaii 5-0), and Neil Grayston (Eureka).  I think it would be an interesting twist to add in other celebrities, maybe genre actors or legends Wheaton himself is a fan of, but may not previously know personally.  I’d love to see someone like Billy Mumy do an episode and see what these guys would talk about while playing Apples to Apples, or pull some obscure old games out of the game closet that are long forgotten but still fun, like Bionic Crisis or the Star Wars board game.

Which brings us to the episode with Rod Roddenberry, where they covered a few games including TsuroThe episode intrigued me enough that I wandered past a game shop this weekend while hanging out with family and I bought it.  We were able to pull out the board and playing pieces and start playing at a local coffee shop in minutes.  Just as I had discovered watching the players in the episode of TableTopTsuro is a blast.  In a nutshell, you have 35 cardboard tiles that players lay out one by one, in turn, and each tile has a different set of paths, some straight, some crisscrossed, some coming back at you.  The goal is to create a path for yourself and maybe even knock others off the board and be last player on the board.  Even the barista stopped by and commented how awesome the game looks (it has the beautiful Chinese red dragon board, parchment divider page, and cool rune playing tokens) and I passed along Wheaton’s show and the game shop across the street that had one more copy in stock.

We’ve played it three times so far and I can’t wait to play Tsuro again.  Thanks, Wil Wheaton!

Update: I met Wil and his lovely wife Anne and a few friends outside the Starbucks at Comic-Con 2013. His wife graciously snapped this shot of us.

wheaton-and-bunce

(and for the record I look like this after staying up without sleep in Ballroom 20 lines at SDCC for 40 hours straight) I relayed the above and how much we enjoyed his online show.  A very nice accidental run-in and fun to be able to give him feedback on his show directly.