Tag Archive: board games


   

Two years ago here at borg, we talked about Hasbro′s turn at offering its classic games in mash-up form, with Monopoly, Clue, Taboo, Scrabble, and Speak Out colliding with former Milton Bradley games Candy Land, Connect 4, Guess Who?, Jenga, and Twister.  Hasbro’s next line of classic games takes your favorite board games outside.  They’re in the form of beach towel backpacks that transform into a giant board to stretch out on the beach or at a park, at last giving you something to do when you’re enjoying this summer.  We tried out Beach Towel Backpack Clue and found lots of reasons why this could be your new version of choice (check out our review below), Connect 4, Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, and a new take on one you’ve probably seen in a giant towel version before: Twister.

Even better, we found them for less than $15.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

You can’t fully appreciate science fiction without a grasp on natural science, one of the categories of “real science” we look at from time to time here at borg.  We’ve delved into dinosaurs, and trees, and yes, birds (oh, my!) and we’re back again today with a striking tie-in to a 2019 board game that has become even more popular thanks to the increase in game sales due to sheltering at home for the pandemic.  The game is Wingspan from Stonemaier Games, a celebration of birds where you are a bird enthusiast and your goal is to attract birds to your aviary.  The game is so popular it has prompted a market of custom deluxe scoreboards.  But it’s often difficult to play a board game outside–and this is about the natural world–so a new book from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the artists for the board game have come up with an outdoor version that doubles as a gorgeous interactive field guide, called Celebrating Birds. 

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We often critique a series for its inability to get off the ground running.  Perhaps no television series excelled at that (both literally and figuratively) than the one and only original 1969-1970 animated series, Scooby Doo, Where Are You?  The entire series is airing this month on Boomerang.  The cultural impact of “those meddling kids,” the Scooby Gang, Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and their Great Dane Scooby Doo, cannot be overstated.  The pop song introduction, the 1960s van, the clothes, the cameraderie, mix with the first shake cam most of us ever noticed, cool colors, and a laugh track telling us we weren’t the only ones in on the fun.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you ever needed a big, fun, family game, it’s probably now, right?  We’ve just previewed Avalon Hill’s forthcoming summer release Scooby-Doo! Betrayal at Mystery Mansion, arriving in stores later this month, and it’s a winner–no doubt it will go down as the season’s best tabletop game.  With dozens of throwbacks to the classic animated series featuring Scooby-Doo and the Gang, it mixes elements of Clue, Monopoly-like strategy levels, and staples of the roleplay game genre including its own Monster’s Tome game book.  Twenty-five impressive mysteries and dozens of possible outcomes for each will keep your family busy this summer with your favorite sleuths: Velma, Fred, Daphne, Shaggy, and, of course, Scooby-Doo.

You won’t play this game without piping in with your own ruh roh and jinkies along the way.  Clues, objects, and events all point back to elements of the TV show.  Colorful tokens (like Scooby snacks, pizza, flashlights, and treasure) are provided specific to each of the 25 mysteries that work together with clue cards (like a painting with eyes following you, a mysterious letter, and a locked box), layout tiles to build 28 rooms inside the haunted mansion and spooky areas outside, along with 8 dice and three guide books, all to set 3 to 5 players on their way to sleuthing out a mystery, Mystery, Inc. style.  Everyone plays one of those famous “meddling kids,” then one player steps out to play the monster, ghost pirate (or is that pirate ghost?), masked neighbor, werebeast, alien, witch, henchman… you’ll have plenty of familiar baddies to take on, challenging each other in the style of previous roleplay games like Magic the Gathering with upgradable strengths and dice roll battles.

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Die Hard board game

Looking for your next game to keep you family occupied this spring?  Gamemaker Usaopoly has a recently released board game for fans of Bruce Willis’s John McClane and the Die Hard franchise.  It’s the Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist Board Game.  While you’re sheltering at home (you’re doing that, right?) you can order the game from two good sources we found: Amazon here and Entertainment Earth here.  Bookmark this link to Entertainment Earth for future reference, because as Amazon reprioritizes shipments, it may be the quickest shipping method for the coming months for all your game and toy purchases.

The Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist Board Game is a one-versus-one, two, or three players game of stealth, combat, and action-tactics, following the story of the original Die Hard film.  The game has several components and plays out with cards and tokens in a sequence of three acts.  One player is John McClane and the rest play thieves, moving through Nakatomi Plaza, while the thieves try to stop him and break into the vault.  Thieves proceed to break six locks to get to the seventh level, when the FBI breaks in.  McClane must complete objectives to get to each new level.

Die Hard cards   Die Hard tokens

Players have shoot and punch attack actions, and McClane sneaks around the board–yep, walking through glass.  Thieves get “line of sight” to draw blood (not “first” blood, that’s a different movie).  Thieves get reinforcements, and McClane can get radio support.  The game ends when McClane dies, the thieves break into the vault, or McClane kills Hans Gruber.

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What’s going on at Mystery Mansion?  Scooby-Doo and the Gang are ready to find out.  You can take on the roles of the Mystery Inc. Gang in a new board game coming soon from Avalon Hill.  Based on the game maker’s award-winning Betrayal at House on the Hill board game, the newly developed Scooby Doo! Betrayal at Mystery Mansion lets you become Scoob, Shaggy, Velma, Daphne, or Fred and explore a mansion and its grounds, finding clues, encountering strange occurrences, and maybe even catch site of a monster.  Ruh roh!

Offering 25 haunts based on popular Scooby-Doo episodes and movies, just like the show you collect Clues to learn what’s really going on.  That’s when the Haunt starts, and one player will switch sides to play the role of a never-before-seen monster… or maybe a ghost?  Will you be able to stop it before it carries out its sinister plan?

Scooby-Doo! Betrayal at Mystery Mansion is designed for 3-5 players (25-50 minutes play time), and designed so every time you play it’s new–the Betrayal at House on the Hill rules have been modified for family night fun (ages 8+)–allowing for lots of repeat play.

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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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