On The Twelfth Day Of Christmas, My True Love Gave To Me…

Mastermind! And acted very suspiciously all day….

The Rules:

This game is very simple. One player makes a code using the coloured pegs provided and then hides it whilst the other player looks away/puts their face in a cushion. The second player then has to use the remaining coloured pegs to try and guess the code. The first player indicates when they are right or wrong using white and red pegs. The second player has to crack the code before they run out of lines. We already wrote a full review post of this game here if you want to read more about it.

For Christmas?

Definitely! This game is a fun quickie for two players, and fantastic for keeping the most rambunctious children occupied for a little while if you’re a family that been blessed with children with boundless energy! Although a two player game doesn’t sound the best for Christmas, when there’s usually vastly more than two people around it’s actually fantastic. Both for smaller families and big ones. It’s easy to make a Mastermind tournament if you have lots of interested people or, if there’s only a few of you it’s ideal for having a few quiet moments. It’ll also keep Aunt Jean happy – she’s not strong with tactical games, but if only two people are playing it at least there should be someone left to hear about her newest animal acquisition!

Happy Twelfth Day of Christmas! This brings us to the end of the Christmas period, and the end of this series of posts – at least until next year!

On The Ninth Day Of Christmas, My True Love Gave To Me…

Connect 4, and proceeded to bore me, explaining how if he started first he could always win…

The Rules:

Connect 4 is a simple tactical game; two players take it in turns to drop their coloured counters down columns on an empty grid in an attempt to make a line of four of their colour, either vertically, horizontally or diagonally, whilst preventing their opponent from making one first. The first player to make a line immediately wins. If both players run out of counters and no one has a line the game is a draw.

For Christmas?

I think it’s a good quick game for when you need five minutes to chill away from the masses, or for when you need your kids to stop running around for a few minutes so that you can get food out of the oven without falling over them. You could also get Aunt Jean to play it, which would keep her out of the way for a few minutes when you’re busy, because she’s really not as helpful in the kitchen as she thinks she is!

Happy Ninth Day of Christmas everyone! If you haven’t played any games yet, you’re not doing Christmas right!

Lotti Karotti or Funny Bunny!

5 - 5

Number of Players: 2-4

Year of Publication: 1999

Creator: Ian Steven (artist)

Go back to whichever hole you jumped out of and leave us alone!

What do you call a happy rabbit? A hop-timist! (Not the place for bad rabbit jokes? Okay…)

Lotti Karotti (the German name for the game, the English is Funny Bunny) is a simple and fun game in which you race against the other players’ rabbits, and hop that little bit faster than everyone else!

What’s In The Box:

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  1. Three-dimensional playing board
  2. Game rules
  3. Deck of action cards
  4. 4 x 4 coloured rabbits

Playing The Game:

Objective: To get one of your rabbits to the big carrot faster than anyone else.

To begin the game the deck of action cards should be shuffled and placed face-down at the side of the board and the carrot should be twisted until there are no holes showing in the board. Next each player should choose a colour of rabbit to be from the four available. As it doesn’t say in the rules who plays first we just did Rock, Paper, Scissors for it. Once a first player has been determined they draw the first card from the deck and turn it face up on the table. They then perform the action on the card which will be either, hop 1, 2 or 3 spaces, or twist the carrot.

Normally players will place a rabbit onto the first, second or third spot on the board on their first turn. This normally creates a que of rabbits, like this:

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Here two rabbits are adjacent to each other.

If this happens and the player in the middle or the back turns over a card that tells them to hop they are allowed to jump over any number of rabbits that are adjacent to them to get to the next empty space. Like this:

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The second yellow rabbit has hopped over the first yellow rabbit and the purple one to reach the third space on the board.

When the carrot is turned it causes holes to open up at different points on the board. If one of your rabbits is on a hole when it is opened by another player (or yourself) it falls underneath the board and is immediately out of the game. Likewise if a hole is opened next to where one of your rabbits is and you turn up a card saying to hop one space you also have to hop into the hole, you cannot hop over it.

Winning The Game:

The first player to get a rabbit to the top of the carrot is the winner.

Strategy:

It’s not really possible to have a strategy for this game. This time round that we played it all my rabbits ended up in underneath the board and there was absolutely nothing I could have done about it. I would say just try and get your first rabbit as far along the board as possible. But otherwise don’t think it through too much, because it’s a game of chance with the cards really.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. Between 2001 – 2002 this game was recommended for two awards and won 1.
  2. I have absolutely nothing else interesting to write here.

To Conclude:

As kids games go this is pretty great. It doesn’t involve any complicated thinking but also, because of the nature of the ‘carrot’ cards, doesn’t get boring either. It’s a good quick play for children of all ages with a cute theme.

Sphinx!

5 - 5

Number of Players: 2-4

Year of Publication: 1999

Creator(s): Gunter Baars (designer) and Chris Mitchell (artist)

Can you fathom the riddle of the Sphinx?

sphinx-riddle
Image courtesy of awesomejelly.com

Sphinx  is a simple game for kids which incorporates the popular mythological creature. The Sphinx is a widely recognize creature; a lion with the head of a man. The most famous Sphinx in the world is the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt, which stands near the Great Pyramids of Giza on the west bank of the Nile. In popular mythology the Sphinx is a wise being which often demands the answer to a riddle. when this answer is given incorrectly the Sphinx eats the unfortunate person who couldn’t answer. However, the mini Sphinxes in this game are much less vicious.

What’s In The Box:

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  1. Game board
  2. 3 6-sided dice, one with a double snake image on one side
  3. 6 Sphinxes with different coloured bases
  4. 4 player tokens
  5. 6 coloured Sphinx cards
  6. 1 Rule book (not in the picture as someone was reading it at the time)

Playing the Game:

Objective: To collect the right coloured Sphinx cards and present them before the Sphinxes to collect the treasure.

Okay, that’s not a hugely clear way of writing the objective, but that’s why we write the rest of the post!

To begin the game each player chooses a token and places it on the square on the board with an arrow on it. The six Sphinxes are then randomly placed on each of the six squares with a Sphinx image on it. If you’re playing with less than four players you should remove the appropriate number of Sphinx cards from the stack by the side of the board so that there is one for each player. In this game the youngest player starts, and play then continues clockwise round the board.

To begin your turn you roll all three dice. In this game you do not total the number shown on the dice, instead you take each die as an independent section of your turn, in whichever order you choose. If you pass another player you can take a Sphinx card that you need from them. However you cannot take a card that you already have, if a player has Sphinx cards, but you already have all of them, they have to return one to the stack and recollect it.

An interesting thing about this game is the flexibility with which you can take each turn, when you move forward with the number on one die, you can then move backwards using the number on the next die.

Note: you cannot move forward an backward on the same number. For example I couldn’t split a five on one die into two three squares forward, one square back, I would have to move either five squares forward or backwards.

 

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Okay, take this picture as an example of how I might take my turn. Say I’m green and I’ve just rolled a 2, 3 and 5. I could then proceed as follows: I could go forward two squares and collect the beige Sphinx card (to collect a card you can either land on, or pass over the correct square), I could then proceed a further five squares along in the same direction as I was previously going. This would pass me over a mummy hand, doing this means that I can look at the base of any one of the six Sphinxes on the board to know which colour it is. In addition to that, I also have to spin the section of board that I’ve landed on. It’s not clear in this picture, but some of the sections of wall in the maze are small 2×2 square turntables. If a player ends one of their moves on one of theses, they have to rotate it 180 degrees; if another player is on the next square, or the other side of the same wall section, they are also rotated. Lastly I have a 3 to use up, I can then go in whichever direction I choose, three either direction takes me to another turntable.

Oaky, so that’s how you would play a turn. Lastly, there’s a double-snake symbol on one of the sides of one of the dice. When this is rolled the player who rolls it has to swap one of the Sphinx from the center of the board with one of those situated down the right-hand side.  When doing this they are not allowed to look at the base of either of the Sphinxes; that can only be done when a player passes over, or lands on a mummy hand.

Winning The Game!

To win the game a player must correctly discover (or guess) the colours and order of the three Sphinxes in the center of the board and proceed to the first Sphinx and present the correctly coloured Sphinx cards.

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The Green player (me) is going for the win. I announced the first Sphinx to be blue, the second green and the third beige. I won. 😀

The optimistic player must then announce to all other players which Sphinx they think has each colour. They then look, without showing any other player what the colours are and announce whether they are right or wrong. If they are right they then show the Sphinx bases to all the other players. If they are wrong they remove their playing piece from the board, and stay quiet whilst everyone else keeps playing. The first player to get to the middle with the right Sphinx cards in the right order wins.

Strategy:

This is a pretty simple game, aimed at kids aged 8+. The only thing I really want to say in terms of strategy is that if you roll a double snake, the best thing to do on that turn is to try and pass over a mummy hand with your other two numbers, before swapping any of the Sphinxes. If you do this then you can look at one of the Sphinxes from the edge of the board, and then move that one into a space in the middle. When you do this you’re actually making it easier for you to win the game as you’ve played a Sphinx that you already know the colour of. Don’t forget that you have to collect Sphinx cards though, I generally try and pass over as many Sphinx cards as possible on my way around the board, as I can then proceed very quickly to the treasure in the middle once I’ve worked out the colours of the Sphinxes.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. The word Sphinx was derived from the Greek word spingein, meaning to bind or squeeze, by Greek grammarians . However, the etymology of the word is unrelated to the legends that surround the creature, and therefore dubious.
  2. The earliest Greek author to mention the creature was Hesiod, and he called it Phix.
  3. The most famous Sphinx legend features the Winged Sphinx of Boeotian Thebes. This Sphinx was said to have terrorized people by demanding the answer to the following riddle, “What has one voice, but becomes four-footed, two-footed and three-footed?” and devouring anyone who answered incorrectly. Upon being given the correct answer: a man who crawls on four legs as an infant, walks on two when grown and leans on a staff in old age, she kills herself. Talk about a drama queen.
  4. It is from this legend that the belief that Sphinxes are omniscient apparently arose.
  5. The Great Sphinx of Giza is known by the Arabs as “Father of Terror”.
  6. Although most images of the Sphinx don’t have enough information with them for their function or symbolism to be known it is generally believed that the Sphinx served a protective function.
  7. Sphinxes were commonly carved with the heads of pharaohs on them.

Okay, I know this is only seven points, but there’s actually so much that can be read about Sphinxes in different parts of the world, in legend and in artistic representation and interpretation that I can’t go through more of it without my brain turning into jelly!

To Conclude:

This game is great. It’s complicated enough to be a challenge; the three-section turn means you have to think a little more tactically that if you simply moved the entire dice roll in one go. But simple enough that you can’t really get into any arguments about the rules or anything like that. It’s also a good memory game for children as in discovering the pattern of colours of the central Sphinxes they have to remember which Sphinx had which colour, and they have to be aware when Sphinxes are moved. This is challenging for children (and some adults) and encourages the development of focus, concentration and the short-term memory.

I rated this five because, in addition to the well-structured nature of the game, the box is also great. Every piece has a place and it’s tidy and efficient.

 

Schwarzer Peter (Old Maid) – A Card Game

5 - 5

Number of Players: 2-6

Year of Publication: 1874

Creator(s): Hans-Joachim Behrendt, Beatrice Braun-Fock, Dick Bruna and Wilhelm Busch (artists)

Who’s got the lucky black cat?

Schwarzer Peter is the German version of Old Maid. As I was unable to find accurate dates for Schwarzer Peter, I have here included the details for Old Maid instead.

What’s In The Box:

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One deck of cards!

Playing The Game:

Objective: To have the most pairs at the end of the game, and not be holding the black cat card.

To begin the game the deck is thoroughly shuffled and the entire deck is dealt out to the players. Players then find all pairs that they have in their hand and place them on the table like this:

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Each player has laid down the pairs they had to start with.

Once every player has finished laying down their pairs they take it in turns to take one card at random from one other player. When playing with two this means you will always (unless you draw the Black Peter card) manage to make a pair.

Winning The Game!

Once all the pairs have been made the player left with the Black Peter card is the loser, and the player with the most pairs is the winner. In the event that the player with the most pairs is also holding the Black Peter card, the player with the next highest number of pairs is announced the winner.

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In this game I have clearly won, as my opponent was left with the Black Peter card, despite having quite a lot of pairs.

Strategy:

There’s little to be said for strategy in this game. It’s generally chance as to whether or not you will be dealt the Black Peter at the beginning or will draw it from another player. When playing with two players you both know from the beginning which of you has the Black Peter, but this doesn’t actually make much difference, in that the second player can still accidentally draw it on their turn. You just have to hope to get lucky.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. Although there are many different published decks of cards with nice illustrations on them for playing this game it can also easily be played with a regular deck of cards.
  2. The name Schwarzer Peter is thought to be reminiscent of a comrade of Schinderhannesthe robber Johann Peter Petriwho was also known as Black Peter. It’s thought that the game originated in his prison years, from 1811 onward, however, the true origin is probably older.
  3. Old Maid is a Victorian card game, for 2+ players, believed to have been derived from a drinking game, in which the loser buys the next round/pays for the drinks.
  4. It is known by many different names; Schwarzer Peter in Germany, Svarte Petter in Sweden, Svarteper in Norway, Sorteper in Denmark, Fekete Péter in Hungary, Musta Pekka in Finland, Asino in Italy, Le Pouilleux in France and Babnuki  in Japan.
  5. There is an English variation of the game, known as Scabby Queen which is played with a standard 52-card deck in which the loser has an additional punishment, on top of losing the game. When played with a standard deck of cards the odd card is usually a queen and the punishment inflicted in this game is this:

When the loser (the player with the single remaining queen) is found, the deck of cards, including the remaining queen but not the jokers, is shuffled and the loser cuts the deck. The card on the bottom of the pile they picked up then decides their “punishment”. If a red card (heart or diamond) is chosen, then the player is rapped on the back of the hand with the deck. If a black card (spades or clubs) is chosen, then he has the entire deck scraped across his knuckles (known as snipes. A skilled player can draw blood with the opening ‘snipe’). The number of times this is performed is decided by the value of the card. Cards 2-10 carry face value, jacks and kings have a value of 10, aces are 11 and queens are 21. Be aware that this can rip the skin of your hands, and can be extremely painful, hence the name Scabby Queen. It is also better to use old or cheap cards, as the cards can also be damaged (cheap and older cards also tend to be softer and more bendable, so the “punishment” is less severe). However, today the game is often played without this punishment, especially where the pain inflicted is not considered appropriate by the players (such as when parents are playing with their children), though the game is still called scabby queen. As with all playground games, the rules are often lost in translation and regional variations are common (school-specific rule-sets are not unusual). Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Please note that this variation of the game is rarely played now.

To Conclude:

It’s a good game for families, it teaches kids to identify matching pairs, as well as providing a learning opportunity if you’re using an animal deck. You can get the children to identify different types of animal in their masculine and feminine forms (if they have them) and also what the babies are called. On top of that the game is very straightforward, so it’s hard to get confused when playing it. I rated this 5 because there’s nothing I would change about it.

Connect 4!

5 - 5 - Strike Thro

4.5 - 5

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: 1974

Creator(s): Milton Bradley designers, artists etc are uncredited.

The simplest and yet often the most frustrating of games!

Connect 4 is a popular game played most often by children of primary school age (7-11). It has a very simple your-turn-my-turn game play and can be quite frustrating if your opponent keeps winning.

What’s In The Box:

whats-in-the-box

  1. 1 Fold-out game grid
  2. 21 yellow and red counters

Playing The Game:

Objective: To create a line of four of your counters either horizontally, vertically or diagonally, before your opponent.

This game is incredibly simple in its original form. The yellow player takes the first turn, and places one of their counters into the top of any column on the grid, this then falls to the bottom, taking a position on the lowest line on the grid. The red player then follows suit.

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This is what a game that is about halfway through might look like.

The game continues in this manner, with players each dropping counters into whichever column they like, until either one player has succeeded in creating a line of four, or both players have run out of counters.

Winning The Game!

Winning the game is simple, and would look like this:

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Yellow player (me) has successfully created a diagonal line through the red players attempt to create a line of four!

Strategy:

This game is one of a group of games that can always be won by the first player, provided they play correctly. Strategically the best starting position for the first player is the central column, as from there they can choose to play on either side of grid whilst knowing that they’ll be connected to their other counters. I generally play to block off my opponent at every turn, whilst simultaneously trying to create a position in which I can create two lines of four, meaning that my opponent, at that point, cannot stop me from winning.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. The game was first sold under this name by Milton Bradley in February of 1974, but is also known by these names: Captain’s Mistress, Four Up, Plot Four, Find Four, Four in a Row, Four in a Line and Gravitaps (Soviet Union)
  2. The game is a Solved game, meaning that its outcome can be correctly predicted from any position, assuming that both player play perfectly.
  3. The game has been mathematically solved by several different people, the first of whom was James Dow Allen on October 1st, 1988.
  4. There are several different variations of the game; Pop Out, Pop 10, 5-in-a-Row and Power Up. They can be read about in more detail here.
  5. Hasbro produces various sized outdoor versions of the game, the largest of which is built from weather-resistant wood, and measures 120cm in width and height.
  6. A rumor that the game was created by David Bowie was started by NME broadcaster and reporter Stuart Maconie which then became an urban myth.
  7. Another version of the game, Connect 4 Twist & Turn was published by Winning Moves in 2015. This version features a game tower instead of a grid, with five rings that twist independently. The objective, to create a row of four of your colour disc, is the same, however as a player can choose to twist a ring after they’ve played a disc a new level of strategy is added to the game.

Look at that! I managed to find quite a few interesting things about this game!

To Conclude:

This game is great, as a child I loved it (and am still good at it). I rated it 4.5 instead of 5 because of the problem where the first player can always win. Although there’s not much that can be done about it in the original form of the game it doesn’t still make the game technically unfair. Aside from that though, I have nothing to complain about, the game is great for kids as it makes them think a little tactically, plus, it’s simple enough that it can be learnt in a few minutes. I’d say that this a game to have in the house if you’ve got children, especially as it’s easy to tidy up due to not having lots of tiny pieces.

Tempo, Kleine Schnecke! (or Snail’s Pace Race)

3 - 5

Number of Players: 2-6

Year of Publication: 1985

Creator(s): Alex Randolph (designer) and Dick Bruna, Hans-Günther Döring, Horst Laupheimer and Wolfgang Scheit (artists)

You’re going slower than the speed of a snail, could you hurry up!?

My parents and siblings all use this phrase when one of us is doing something stupidly slowly and they’re running out of patience. Fortunately for us the snails in this game are much speedier; like this racing snail:

neverending-story-racing-snail
The racing snail and his rider, Gluckuk from The Neverending Story, a popular fantasy story written by Michael Ende. This image is a screenshot taken from the 1984 movie adaptation.

What’s In The Box:

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  1. Game Board
  2. 6 Coloured Snails
  3. 2 6-Sided Dice
  4. Rules printed on the back of the box (technically not in the box, but still important)

Playing The Game:

Objective: To guess correctly which two snails will win and lose the race!

In this game it doesn’t matter how many people are playing, all six snails are still used. To begin the game line up the snails on their respective colours. Then each player has to place a bet on which snail they think will come first, and which will come last in the race. Players then take it in turns to roll the two dice, whichever colour is rolled, that snail is moved forward one space on the racetrack and if both dice show the same colour then that snail is moved forward two spaces. Every player does this until all the snails have crossed the finish line. The winner is then the person who guessed most accurately which snails would win and lose.

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Starting Line-Up

The game begins like this: say I bet that the Orange Snail will win, and the Blue Snail will lose and my opponent bets that the Blue Snail will win, and the Yellow Snail will lose, we then roll the dice and move the snails like this:

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No Orange Snail, why are aren’t you moving!?!?

So far the Pink Snail is in the lead and both Blue and Orange Snails are having a nap or something. But due to the erratic and unpredictable way in which each snail is allowed to move the game can also change reasonably quickly, like this:

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Please excuse the fuzzy quality of this photo…

Okay, so Orange Snail hasn’t won here, but he’s caught up pretty well after a slow start! At this point Pink Snail has won, and as no one bet on her we have to see which snail loses the race to know if anyone’s managed to win the game.

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Orange Snail loses the race. 😦

Because Orange Snail is the last to cross the line you could argue one of two things:

  1. That I lose because the Snail I bet on to be first actually lost the race, or,
  2. That no one won the race because neither of us guess winner or loser correctly.

I’m going with option number 2 on this one.

Strategy:

This is a guessing game, so I really can’t write anything about strategy except that you’ve probably got as much chance of winning the game as any of the other players.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. This game is excellent for teaching colour recognition in children, as they have to identify each snail by its colour to be able to play the game.
  2. It promotes sharing and because technically the snail wins the race, and not the player, it’s a good game for children who have issues with not coming first.
  3. The game was originally published in German – hence my dual-language title for the post (also as the version of the game I’m playing is German).

That’s about all I can get for this section, so we’ll proceed now to the conclusion!

Conclusion:

I like this game a lot, I think it’s great for children, particularly those that are very young and can’t grasp a game with lots of rules. I’ve rated it only at a three for a few reasons. The first of which is the box. All the pieces are just loose in the box. We’ve said this on a lot of posts, but it’s still true, there are very few things more satisfying than a board game with a well-designed box. For a game with this few pieces it wouldn’t have been difficult to make a plastic insert that could hold the snails and dice, would it? As it is, everything rattles around inside the box, and whilst the snails are wooden, and so quite durable, they also get scratched, and bash up the dice if the game is moved around a lot. My second reason for not rating it higher is that it’s a betting game, and although you don’t bet anything on the snails, there are some children that would insist that they get given something by the other players if their snail wins, and I could foresee this becoming an argument-starter.

That said, it’s a good, simple game that can be played in five-ten minutes. The time each player needs to take their turn is maybe 10 seconds, so the pace of the game is also good as it doesn’t allow time for the children to get bored. All in all, I would recommend it!