Mastermind! (again)

There’s No One More Mindful Than Me Here, You Could Even Say I’m The Mastermind!

Okay, I know that’s a bad line, but we actually already wrote a post about this game which you can read hereso I didn’t have much creativity flowing through me. So, if we’ve already reviewed this game, why are we reviewing it again, I hear you ask. Well it’s simple really, the first Mastermind post that we wrote was actually about Mastermind Junior which is the simple-for-kids version of the game. Hence my second Mastermind post.

However, as this is a follow-on post it’s going to be quite short, as the fundamental way of playing the game is exactly the same.

Playing The Game And The Differences Between The Two Versions:

Adult Mastermind is exactly the same as Mastermind Junior in that one player makes a pattern or code using the colours and hides it from their opponent. The opponent then uses the remaining colours to try and crack the code. The first player indicates whether or not their guess is correct using the (in this game) black and white pegs. A white peg means a colour is right but in the wrong place, and a black peg means a colour is right and in the right place. This the where the difference between the two games comes in; in Mastermind Junior the first player indicates which colour is right by the placement of the pegs, but in regular Mastermind the second player doesn’t know which of the colours they’ve chosen is correct, only that one of them is.

So here you can see how correct colours/placements are indicated in Mastermind Junior:

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The white animals indicate correct colour and placement.

And here how they’re indicated in regular Mastermind:

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I apologise for the weird angle of the photo, WordPress refuses to let make the photo vertical so that it looks less strange. But here black pegs indicate correct colour and place, and white correct colour but wrong place. You can see that there’s no way to tell which of your colours is correct with this layout.

There’s a slight difference. The first difference between the games is that in the adult version you play with one extra colour in the code, making it that little bit harder to crack. In addition to that your opponent doesn’t indicate to you which of your colours is correct, so you have more guessing to do.

Winning The Game:

Traditionally this game is played in rounds; the players decide before starting how many rounds are going to be played (always and even number) with the roles of code-maker and code-breaker alternating every round. The winner is the player with the most points at the end of this. Points are scored by the code-maker. S/he gets one point for each guess the code-breaker makes, and is given an extra point if the code-breaker doesn’t manage to accurately guess the entire code in their last move. Points are kept track of across the rounds and added up at the end.

Strategy:

In the Junior version of the game, not much strategy is required, as the code is only three pegs rather than four. In the adult version my preferred strategy is the one seen in the photo above. I like to start with four of one colour and see if any of them are right. This does seem pointless to some people but it’s a very quick and useful way of knowing, is this colour in the pattern. From that first one you simply continue in a similar pattern with other colours until you have the code. Though this strategy doesn’t crack the code in the optimal 5 moves most of the time I will say that I’ve never lost a game playing that way.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. The modern game, played with pegs, closely resembles a pen and paper game called Bulls and Cows that may be over a century old.
  2. The rights to the game have been held by Invicta Plastics since 1971, initially they manufactured it themselves, but have since licensed it to Hasbro, Pressman Toys and Orda Industries for production across the world.
  3. The 1973 edition of the game features a well-dressed white man sitting in the foreground with an attractive Asian woman standing behind him. Bill Woodward and Cecilia Fung reunited in 2003 after 30 years to pose for another publicity photo.
  4. In a standard set of the game, allowing a four-peg code, with six colour options, there are 1,296 different possible code patterns (including, and allowing for duplicates).
  5. In 1977 Donald Knuth showed that the code-breaker can solve in a maximum of five moves, using this algorithm.
  6. There have been computer versions of the game produced, as well as multiple different editions released.
  7. The difficulty level of the game is altered simply by changing the number of pegs allowed for the code, or the way in which the code-maker indicates a correct or incorrect guess.

Conclusion:

To conclude, I have to reaffirm how much I like this game. In both the child and adult forms. I think it’s a great game for kids because it’s quick, it’s easy to understand, and it promotes logic, problem-solving thinking. I think it’s a must-have if you have kids, or if you like quick games.

P.S. I know I borrowed the History section (and the winning section) from the previous Mastermind post, by they were still applicable, so please don’t be grumpy!

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Blokus!

4.5 - 5

Number of Players: 2-4

Year of Publication: 2000

Creator(s):  Bernard Tavitian (designer) and Alan D. Hoch (artist)

If The Piece Doesn’t Fit, Get A Bigger Hammer!

Is what my mum and grandma used to say to me when I was small and doing puzzles (I love puzzles, for the record, but I wasn’t a particularly patient child) and the piece I wanted to put in a certain place didn’t fit and I’d just stubbornly push it, trying to bend it to my will. Eventually one of them would intervene though, to stop me from destroying the puzzle.
Fortunately, Blokus isn’t a puzzle in that way. But it is a rather good, simple abstract strategy game.

What’s In The Box:

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  1. Grid-Patterned Game Board
  2. Game Rules
  3. Four-Coloured Game Tiles

Playing The Game:

Objective: To play all your tiles onto the board.

Blokus is a very straightforward game. Every player chooses a colour and takes all those pieces. Players then take it in turns to place one of their coloured pieces onto the board starting from the corner closest to them. However, pieces cannot be placed with the flat edges touching, but must be places point to point, as you can see in the picture below:

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It may be noted that I’m using German rules for the game currently – that’s because I’m in Austria, so any photos of rules posted may not be in English.

The idea is simply to manage to play all your pieces without getting blocked in by other players. With less than four players this game is very easy. Everyone usually manages to play all their tiles without any problems. However, with four people it does get more challenging, especially when you get closer to the end of the game.

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I realize that the above is a pretty bad picture, but you can clearly see that the green and blue players have managed to create a kind of blockade in the middle of the board. I don’t have a picture, but this was quite problematic for the green player later in the game as they effectively sealed themselves off from one part of the board.

Strategy!

This game does require you to think a few steps ahead, as the further into the game you get, the harder to have to think about where you’re putting your pieces, and which way around is the best to place them. In my opinion the best strategy is to get rid of the biggest, most awkward-shaped pieces as quickly as possible, as these are the pieces that will really be difficult to get rid of when the board is fuller. On top of that if you can manage to get through to every section of the board then you’re doing very well. The more places you can reach, the more likely you are to be able to put down every tile. The best way to develop a tactic for this game is to just go for it. Play, watch your opponents, and give a reasonable amount of consideration to each of your moves.

Winning The Game!

It is possible for every player to win this game, so it may not be as appealing to some people, but to be honest I consider it more of a personal challenge to get all my pieces down. However, if no player is able to lay all their tiles then the player with the fewest squares (once counted up from their remaining pieces) left not on the board is declared the winner.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. Blokus was first published in 2000, the inspiration for it was most likely the very popular retro game Tetris.
  2. Between 2002 – 2005 it won five awards and was nominated for two others.
  3. There is also a Solitaire version of the game where one player tries to get rid of all the pieces in one sitting.

To Conclude:

I rated the game 4.5 because although it’s very well thought-out and easy to understand and play, I think the 3/2- player variations are too easy. If I were developing the game I would add some kind of additional “2-3 Player Challenge!” to the game, so that it could be played in the original form, or with, for instance, white tiles randomly placed around the board in a few places that add an extra dimension of challenge to the game. Something like that. It seems to me that there’s room for improvement.
Having said that, I recommend this game. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s good, old-fashioned fun!

Kids Games – Teddy Memory

5 - 5

Number of Players: 2-4

Year of Publication: Unknown

Creator(s): Ravensburger

How’s Your Memory?

In this classic variation of Pairs, the simple memory game Teddy Memory is a cute and child-appealing version of the game, with adorable teddy cards.

What’s In The Box?

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  1. Multi-lingual rulebook
  2. 24 Teddy cards (12 pairs)

Playing The Game:

Objective: To have the best memory and so collect the most pairs before the end of the game.

In normal Pairs there is only one way to play the game: you shuffle the cards and lay them all out face-down on the table. You then take it in turns to flip over two cards. If they match you can keep them and take another turn. If they don’t match you have to turn them over again and it is the next players turn. In Teddy Memory Ravensburger have suggested two additional ways to play this game, which are both interesting.

The first is this: Reaction Memory
I’m going to write here exactly what they wrote in the rulebook. “Shuffle all of the cards and place them face down in the same direction. The first player turns over one of the cards and leaves it face up. The next player then does the same, and the game continues in this manner until two matching cards are revealed. Then it’s up to the players to react – the first one to call out what the picture on these cards is takes them as his or her own. The game then carries on as before. The game is over when only two cards are left on the table. The player with the highest number of pairs is the winner.”

The second variation is: Describing Pictures
“The Memory cards are shuffled well and placed face up on the table. One player chooses a card, describes it and then passes it on to the next player. The second player chooses the matching card from the table and keeps the pair. This player then chooses a new card and describes it before passing it on to the next player. The game is over when all the cards have been collected. There is no winner in this game.”

These are all simple and I don’t think they really need any extra explanation, so I’m going to go straight to the next part of the post.

Strategy!

Well, this is a game for children aged 2 and a half – 5 so there’s not much in the way of strategy. For the classic version of the game the best way to play is really to concentrate on what other people are turning over. I find that to collect a lot of pairs you should first turn over a card that you haven’t seen the other side of, and then try and remember if its pair has already been turned over somewhere. If it has, pick that one out, and if it hasn’t, turn over another random one to see if you can get lucky.
That’s basically it. Concentrate hard and you might be able to win. But also maybe not, that’s the beauty of simple games.

History and Other Interesting Things:

To be totally honest, this game is really old but it’s almost impossible to date it or to know anything interesting about it except that there’s hundreds of variations of it, with Bears, Disney Princesses, Barbie, Happy Families, Farm Animals… The list goes on.

Further Reading and Other Editions of the Game:

This is possibly the easiest game to find variations of ever. Online there are regular memory games, number memory games, letter memory games… Some more challenging and obviously educational than others, but fundamentally all the same.

Conclusion:

This game is great for kids, and for adults. It’s so simple that the rules have no ambiguity to them, and you can even make your own version of this game at home using paper and pens if you don’t have a properly published version. It’s also quick and straightforward, so although it’s always possible to get frustrated at a game I believe that this one generally remains fun and light-hearted. If you’ve got kids and you haven’t played this game with them you should get a copy, especially as it really helps them focus, therefore improving their concentration and memory skills from an early age.

Update – PLANS!

So since my last update post I’ve successfully posted…. 1 game. :/

This is a little underwhelming I know. But I have been formulating a plan in the time since then, and I promise it doesn’t involve every second post being an update! The first part of the plan involves my sister, Bex, blogging about books over at anarmchairbythesea, and Terry Pratchett, well-known author of the Discworld series of books, among other things.

The second part of the plan involves Christmas!

A little explanation is in order? Perhaps.

I don’t want to say too much in case of two things;

  1. I fail epically at making any of this happen, OR,
  2. I fail at making you (the reader) excited about it, and therefore unlikely to return to read the fruit of these plans.
Part 1:

A basic sum-up of the plan can, however, be given. The part involving Bex goes like this: she’s organizing and partially hosting a Discworld Readathon or ‘Discworldathon’ (as she’s taken to calling it) on her blog, starting in January and continuing for one full year with each month having a Discworld-novel theme.
Since Terry Pratchett also authorized the creation of several board games based on the books, which we have already reviewed on this blog (the reviews can be read here) we thought it could be a nice idea to tie in the Discworldathon with some kind of replay or re-enjoyment of the related games. As of now we’re not 100% sure what the best way to work this out is, but we’re theorizing and planning and scheming and such, and we’ll undoubtedly come up with something.

Part 2:

This is the part of the plan involving Christmas. As some avid and dedicated readers may remember we did a series of posts entitled “Twelve Games of Christmas” in 2013. These, based on the statistics of the site, were quite popular. So I intend to bring them back this year. I’m hoping to be organized enough to make this possible, and I’ve already compiled a list of potential games to use for this.

That about sums up everything that’s in the works at the moment, and my hope is that even if posting is sporadic there should be a decent amount of posts going up around Christmas and some definite ones happening in the New Year in connection to Bex’s Discworldathon.

That’s everything for now, and I sincerely hope that my next post is not an update!

Miriam