On the Third Day of Christmas My True Love Gave To Me…

…A Triple-Player Game and Introduced Me To Her Best “Friend” Steve. – Three French Scotland Yards

Three French Scotland Yards
Three French Scotland Yards

The Rules:

Scotland Yard is a game about catching a criminal! While (like most board games) its not a very accurate representation of this it is good fun. I won’t go in to the rules in detail as you can view our previous post on the game for more details here.

For Christmas?

Not strictly a three player game (its a minimum of three players and a maximum of 6) it can be played by a fairly large group which makes it ideal for gatherings. Additionally the rules are quite simple and to the point so Aunt Jean may be able to pay attention to them long enough to grasp them and stop complaining about her cleaning lady who she swears is stealing from her, which is completely plausible apart from the fact that she doesn’t have a cleaning lady!

Happy Third Day of Christmas! I hope your true love did get you three French somethings!

Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum! – Buccaneer

3.5 - 5

Number of Players: 2-4

Year of Publication: 2006

Creator(s): Unknown

Just a quick note about this post; there’s going to be a bit of both of us in here, each covering our particular areas of interest (don’t know if you’ve noticed, but my brother tends to do hands-on DIY or how-to-improve game stuff, and my posts are a little more academically orientated. Not always, but as a bit of a general rule). So to keep you on your toes, we’re both writing in this post!

A Pirates Life For Me:

So my recent wondering through Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag left me with the crazy longing to be a pirate (my parents did always say I got overly affected by films I saw and games I played). Luckily for me I didn’t have to go to Somalia (like in the South Park episode) I just got out my Pirate of the Caribbean edition of Buccaneer!

The Box
The Box

“Well that’s nothing like being a real Pirate” I hear  the voices in my head say! Well, they may have a point but its a damn good game, if a bit different and less explanatory then original Buccaneer!

Original Buccaneer. Picture courtousy of our sister who owns the original.
Original Buccaneer. Picture courtesy of our sister/brother-in-law who own the original.

History and Things:

(Who noticed the change to academmic-y things? 10 points to you if you did!)
Although it’s been around for 75 years, this game doesn’t have a lot of history, in that, it has no historic or cultural background. The original of this game was first published in Britain in 1938, making the game just two decades and four years shy of being 100 years old! It was published by Waddingtons all the way up until the 1980’s, but had several revisions in that time. The original 1938 version of the game had a roll up canvas board that was stored in a tube and this first edition of the game is now incredibly rare, selling for over £100 if complete and in good condition. The game was revised in 1958 and the most notable change is that this version of the game has the folding board that we’re all familiar with now from games like Monopoly and Cluedo. Another change in this edition was that the playing size of the board went from 25×25 to 24×24.

There were also the “Small Box” and “Large Box” versions of this edition. The “Small Box” version was released first, in this version all the pieces for the game were stored in a small box, but the thick, heavy board was separate. Then there was the “Large Box” edition, you can probably guess where this one’s going, but i’ll put it in anyway, this one had a box large enough to store the board in too. Both the small and large box editions of the game had the same graphics, but with the release of the “Blue Box” version of the game, that changed.

On the box of this version of the game there were some pirates finding a treasure chest, along with the box insert containing “Treasure Island” graphics with palm trees and such.

All the biggest changes to the game occurred in the late 1960’s-70’s; the playing size of the board was shrunk again, but this time considerably to 20×20, some ports were reduced or relocated and there was a reduction made to the total amount of treasure available in the game, only five of each type were now included in the game, where previously there were different amounts for the different values of the treasure. Where all the earlier versions of the game were for 6 players, this new edition was only for 4. This was probably the biggest change made to the game.

Our copy was released in 2006 to coincide with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies being released.

All this exciting info, and very little else, can be found here, for anyone interested!

Objectives and Rules:

The aim of the game (apart from to sail around the board pretending to be a pirate) is to collect treasure, and, like any fearless Buccaneer roaming the Caribbean, you’re going to use any means available to get it, this could mean trading with a port, attacking a fellow pirate who you see as competition for the limited amount of treasure available or getting random events from the deck of cards located at the Isla de Muerta.

Winning the Game!

To win the game you must be the first player to have a total of 20 treasure points stored in your port. This sounds like a simple objective, but your luck, and the other players, can make it very challenging!

Starting the Game, Moving and Fighting:

At the start of the game each player is dealt five crew cards, these each have a value on them and come in two colours; red and black. To move you take the total value of your crew cards (irrespective of their colour) and can move that many squares in the direction you’re facing. The colour of the cards only matters when you either attack another player, or are attacked. Then you must take the two totals separately. You subtract the smaller total from the larger, and the number you’re left with is your fighting strength. Then the player with the highest number wins the fight. He or she can then take up to two treasure tokens or two crew cards from the loser’s ship. Taking the crew cards away reduces the amount that player can move on their turn as well as decreasing their fight value. Any unclaimed treasure tokens go to the Isla Cruces. The loser must now immediately move in a straight line away from their attacker for as many spaces as their crew cards allow. In the event that a player loses all their crew cards, they can only move one square per turn.

Keeping the Game Exciting:

If you want to shake up the game a little by not attacking someone or roaming around from port to port you can sail to the Isla de Muerta, or Treasure Island, in the center for the board. Here you take a chance card from the deck on the island, and read it out. These can be both good and bad, sometimes they simply tell you to dig for treasure, other times they’re quests that can be something you must do immediately, or something that you can do at any point in subsequent turns. They can also simply be bad luck for you and your ship, they might tell you that you got caught in a storm and lost some of your crew, or treasure, or have to miss a turn. All of these are unfortunate for you, and probably make your opponent(s) very happy. These cards make the game more interesting because they’re always a gamble, they help to keep the players on their toes a bit. When you visit a place on a quest card, such as Davey Jones’ Locker, without the quest card, nothing happens, these places are irrelevant unless you have a quest card that tells you to go there for whatever reason.

I think that’s all the exciting things I can tell you about how to play the game, so now, go play it, be pirates, roam the seven seas, and drink lots of rum! I’m out and handing back over to my brother now! Enjoy! 🙂

Flaws of This Form of the Game:

In comparison to the original a HUGE flaw in this version of the game is its canceled down rules, while it means you can play faster and don’t feel like you’ve just read a novel after reading the instructions it leaves you very unclear on some points. Meaning that when certain circumstances occur you have to make a decision as to what happens in this case, leading to a face off because one option will probably benefit one player more then the others and vice versa. Now having played the original (but not for a long time) I remember the original instructions being far less vague, however I can not specifically make comparisons as I haven’t read the original instructions in two years or so.

However, the biggest flaw in this game is the storage! The game comes just in a box, with no vacuum formed plastic tray shaped to fit all the pieces (which is basically a given with 99% of board games).

This is the game in its box, the bags are not even included. I stole them from the kitchen to keep the pieces together!
This is the game in its box, the bags and rubber bands are not even included. I stole them from the kitchen to keep the pieces and cards together!

Then to add insult to injury they put this in the instructions:

This is in the instructions as some sort of compensation for the lack of actual storage system.
This is in the instructions as some sort of compensation for the lack of any actual storage system.

Now, while all the separate pieces for the board are awesome, there are a lot of bits when all’s said and done and just to have them in the upturned islands inside the box is fine…SO LONG AS YOU PLAN ON NEVER MOVING THE BOX! Or taking it to a friend house…Or anything…EVER! I can’t imagine it would be that expensive to have produced a plastic insert for the box to hold the pieces…Would it?

The last thing I have a problem with, with this version of the game, is that in the original game you got awesome little pieces of treasure!

If you can see in this picture the barrel in the ship and the pieces in the island.
If you can see in this picture there’s a barrel in the ship and treasure pieces in the island.

But in this version you just get little tokens that represent the treasure!

As you can see at the bottom of this picture the sets of tokens representing ruby's and silver.
As you can see at the bottom of this picture the sets of tokens representing ruby’s and silver.

However I will let this go as to counter it, they changed the middle section to you have to actually dig for the treasure with you finger so you don’t know what your going to get which makes the game much more interesting.

Who’s Morris? – Twelve and Three Men’s Morris Board

2 - 5

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: Unknown

Creator(s): Unknown

The most important question you must consider when playing any Morris game, is who was Morris? Now considering it dates back to… God knows when and God knows where, this could be very hard to discover and for more information on this one should view our earlier post here! I like to think Morris was a man who discovered this game while playing Tic Tac Toe drunk…Or high on opium, maybe? If it was first played in China? but I’ll let you formulate your own ideas!

Without Further Ado:

My Twelve and Three Mens Morris Board:

My proudly crafted board!
My proudly crafted board!

I made this myself in the same way I made (and on the back of) my Fanorona board which you can see here and also see the technique for making one.

Why did I make my own I hear you ask? Well I’ll let Ron Swanson form the show Parks and Recreation explain:

(this video will start at the relevant quote but watch the whole thing for the full effect)

Aside from that, versions are expensive and difficult to come by. So when you have a piece of wood, the tools and the know-how, just make one!

Three Men’s Morris:

Now there are different versions of Three Men’s Morris but one of them is exactly the same as Tic Tac Toe, So I made the one that wasn’t (for obvious reasons). Quite possibly the shortest game I have ever played taking literally about a minute to play (like Tic Tac Toe) and coming to an immediate win, lose or draw! However even the version I created, which lacked the diagonals of Tic Tac Toe could still just as easily by played on paper because there is no movement phase like in Nine and Twelve Men’s Morris. So is it worth spending an hour branding a game board for it? Probably not, just variate your games of Tic Tac Toe every once in a while.

Three in a row, just like Tic Tac Toe!
Three in a row, just like Tic Tac Toe!

Twelve Men’s Morris:

This is a game that is much more complex and I’me much happier I went to the effort to make a board for it. With all of the aspects of Nine Men’s Morris but even more to think about (as you have more pieces and diagonals to consider) it can be a quite challenging game. It is played exactly the same as the Nine Men version but with Twelve pieces and a board with diagonals on it. So, you could just draw diagonals onto your Nine Men’s board, or even imagine them! But why do that when you can spend hours with a soldering iron?

A game in mid swing.
A game in mid swing.

I would recommend anyone who’s a fan of Nine Men’s Morris to give this ago or even a fan of Chess or Droughts. Additionally if you don’t want to buy a physically version HERE is a website where you can play all the different versions of all the Morris games either against a computer or a human. Or if you want an excuse to buy a video game under the premise that it has some educational value or at least some strategic thinking value the Morris game in various forms can be found in both Assassins Creed III and Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag so buy them now!

On Another Note – Breach The Keep:

To anyone who cares we ordered the first real print of our very own board game Breach The Keep which you can find more information on here. Hopefully they’re going to look great, they’re being printed in the US and shipped to the UK (because for some insane reason that’s cheaper than just printing them in the UK. So expect pictures and an update on the free games give away some time soon. If all goes to plan the game should be ready to go in less than two months!

But we all know life never goes to plan.

Additionally we’re also planning a video blog to go alongside/be part of this blog. We’re just contemplating structure and formatting and getting hold of equipment etc. But that could happen anytime soon so keep an eye out for that too!

Don’t Rock the Boat – Balance Game – Part 1

1 - 5

Number of Players: Theoretically unlimited

Year of Publication: 2013

Creator(s): Tiger

Unfortunately due to life being… Well, life, having time to play games and time to write about them has been difficult recently, it’s at times like this that I’m quite glad no one cares about this as it means we don’t let anyone down! However we also want people to start caring so any suggestions on how to achieve that would be appreciated.

Anyway, to the point! A very obscure balancing game (or two) purchased from the shop “Tiger” and without more of a name than “Balance Game” (or Balancespil, which I assume is Balance Game in Danish as Tiger is a Dutch company) and instructions that read “Roll the dice and place a brick of the same color as shown on the dice on the tipping moon.” We thought we could do better than this, well we thought they could probably do better than this but apparently some very obvious things to make this game better just never occurred to them!

The contents of the box - One "Tipping Moon", 6 different color sets each with three circular pieces of different sizes and two dice with each of the colors shown on each of its sides.
The contents of the box – One “Tipping Moon”, 6 different color sets each with three circular pieces of different sizes and two dice with each of the colors shown on each of its sides.

So to begin with we played the game the way they suggested, which was good, you could see the potential in the idea and if the box had had an age range on it saying 4 – 10 or something similar I would say the game was perfectly acceptable and needed no help. However it did not and therefore needs lots of help! The fist problem we ran into was that it’s possible to stack all of the pieces onto the “Tipping Moon” without any of them falling off… So no one can win!

The "Tipping Moon" with all the possible pieces on it
The “Tipping Moon” with all the possible pieces on it

So at this point we decided this wasn’t good enough and we could do better! So we tried various versions of the game to find a better way of playing. The first thing we did was get another copy of the game (however the other copy was written off and therefore missing some pieces, but was good enough for our needs).

Variation 1:

We played the standardized version of the game with almost double the amount of pieces – using the second set. This worked much better as it was now impossible to fit them all on so someone had to lose! In fact if they had made the original with four pieces to every color set instead of three this would have sufficed.

The game with another (almost full) set of pieces.
The game with another (almost full) set of pieces.

Variation 2:

So being the adventurous types that we are (board game enthusiasts) and not just happy that we’d found a good version of the game we decided to go even further and assign a value to each piece depending on its size. We tried a few values but found that it works best using 4 for the largest piece, the middle piece as 2 and the smallest as 1. You now roll both the colored die and a standard die together and must place the value of the standard die in the color the other die shows. If you cannot play because there are not enough pieces in that color you re-roll one of the dice and if you still cannot play you re-roll the other die and keep re-rolling until you can play a piece/s.

A standard dice showing a 6 with the color orange so a large piece that equals 5 and small that equals one are added together to make 6. (this was our original attempt at this idea where we used 5, 3 and 1 but found two many 1 pieces where needed.)
A standard dice showing a 6 with the color orange so a large piece that equals 5 and small that equals one are added together to make 6. (this was our original attempt at this idea where we used 5, 3 and 1 but found too many 1 pieces were needed.)

We found this to be a great way of playing which lead to the idea to make a better version of the game altogether! Why have a “tipping moon” when you can have a boat with barrels with numbers indicating their weight on them, and you have to add the weight to the boat and you can call the game “Don’t Rock the Boat” or something to that effect!

Variation 3:

Still not happy that we’d found the best version of the game we continued to make alterations! This time we played the same as before but we made the purple on the dice a wild color meaning you could play any color you wanted and added the purple pieces into the other colors to increase the amount you had to work with. All the other rules still applied!

This we found to be good too as it meant you spent less time re-rolling dice as the game came to the end.

Variation 4:

Now still not happy we decided to scrap the color idea altogether and lose the color dice but keep the weight/value system. So now all pieces were only judged by their weight… Not the color of their skin… Which is a step in the right direction but perhaps not all the way to a harmonious society! In addition we added the idea that you could remove pieces from the boat to make the number. So say you roll a two you can add a large piece that equals four and remove a two piece that’s already on the boat, this adds an addition tactical element to the game as you can change the weight distribution of the boat drastically quite easily. We ruled that you had to place your piece or pieces (up to two per turn) before removing your piece or pieces (up to two per turn). This made the game very interesting, and a lot more fun as you had a “steady hands” Jenga type aspect to the game of removing the other pieces.

Variation 5:

Then finally (happy we had found the best way of playing with one boat or “tipping moon”) we decided to see what would happen if you played with two! We changed the point distribution to make the biggest piece worth eight but keep the others at two and one and kept rolling a single six sided dice and ignoring the colors.  We then made one “tipping moon” a Plus boat and the other a Minus boat and you had to make up the number by adding to both boats but the Plus boat counted towards the number you had to make and the minus counted against so if you rolled a six you could add an eight piece to the Plus boat and a two OR two one pieces to the Minus boat (again a maximum of two pieces could be placed on each boat each turn). The first one to tip either boat lost.

The one on the left is the Minus boat and the one on the right is the Plus boat.
The one on the left is the Minus boat and the one on the right is the Plus boat.

This was very interesting, and requires a very large number of pieces to play properly, but holds great promise!

Don’t or Do Rock the Boat:

After all our experimenting we decided just to make our own version of the game called “Don’t Rock the Boat” OR “Rock the Boat” OR something else if we come up with a better name. (Feel free to throw out suggestions)

We decided our game should be like this:

  1. The “tipping moon” should be a boat and the pieces should be barrels that you have to load onto the boat.
  2. The pieces would have no color classification just weights of 4, 2 and 1 and it would be played with one standard die that would dictate the required weight to be added to the boat.
  3. You could play the game in two variations. One just by adding pieces to make the required weight and two by adding and then taking off barrels to make the required weight.
  4. The loser would be the first one to make pieces fall off the boat, excluding the piece they are placing. Any piece(s) that moved but stayed on the boat didn’t count as a loss.
  5. Additionally we decided that you could make it so if you got two copies of the game you could play it with Plus and Minus boats so we would paint a Plus and Minus on opposite side of the boat so with two sets you could play it how we played in variation 5.

I addition to all of this we decided that there needed to be more of each of the pieces per set so it was impossible to fit them all on the boat. However due to time and horrible things like having to work to live, this wonderful concept for this game has not been made yet but hopefully will get made soon so keep you eyes peeled for “Don’t Rock the Boat – Balance Game – Part 2” post sometime soon… Hopefully, I make no promises as to when!

To Be a Criminal – Outrage! Steal the Crown Jewels and Breach The Keep – Board Development

4.5 - 5

Number of Players: 2-6

Year of Publication: 1992

Creator(s): Unknown

Continuing the Theme of Criminality:

What’s more fun, catching a criminal or being one? Probably neither in reality but in the world of board games I’d say being a criminal! For example being Mr X in Scotland Yard is more fun than trying to catch him, and attempting to steal the crown Jewels in Outrage! is a lot of fun.

The box
The box

The aim of the game is obvious, it’s even in the name! But, the cool thing about the game is you get a whole set of mini crown Jewels to try and steal! Only problem with them is they are liable to get lost or broken. However, providing you’re careful and don’t feed them to any small children or animals you should be OK.

The jewels. Out Orb is slightly broken.
The jewels. Out Orb is slightly broken.

Outrage! Is a game for 2 – 6 people and is more fun with more people as with 2 it can be slow moving.  You have to move around the board, which is the layout of the tower or London, acquiring burglary tools, weapons and armor (in the form of Tower Cards) while avoiding the Yeomen Warders posts.

A Yeoman Warder at his post.
A Yeoman Warder at his post.
The board all set out ready to play.
The board all set out ready to play.

You can play by two strategies depending on what weapons or tools you have. You can either go for a crown jewel OR you can wait for someone else to steal one and attack them for it. Which can be super frustrating because after lots of careful planning you can steal a jewel and be ready to make your escape, then someone else can attack you and take it from you and win after all your hard work! But it does add an addition edge to the game.

You can set two win parameters for the game, either its the first person out with any Jewel OR you can play until all Jewels are stolen and the player with the most amount in points wins.

The pieces wearing the Crowns; which is actually the biggest design flaw in the game is they don't fit on top of them, which is upsetting, but additionally I don't think they are supposed to.
The pieces wearing the Crowns; which is actually the biggest design flaw in the game is they don’t fit on top of them, which is upsetting, but additionally I don’t think they are supposed to.

It can be an extremely fun game, but like many games it can vary a lot in time depending on how lucky a player is or is not. Also there are two other versions of the game a travel version which I recently managed to pick up in a charity shop for about £3 (around £6 cheaper than ebay) and a Deluxe edition of the game which (according to wikipedia, the greatest source of completely accurate and unquestionable knowledge EVER) is the most expensive board game in the world valued at £7995, the Jewels are made out of real precious metals.

Image curtsy of http://www.historicroyalpalaces.com/ as surprisingly we didn't own one to take a picture of.
Image coutesy of http://www.historicroyalpalaces.com/ as surprisingly we didn’t own one to take a picture of.
Outrage! Travel edition, I bought this from a charity shop for £2.99.
Outrage! Travel edition, I bought this from a charity shop for £2.99.

Breach The Keep – Board Development:

Now I know you’ve (I don’t know who I mean by that) all been wondering how our board game Breach The Keep has been coming along and here’s the answer, the result of giving it to a highly paid graphic designer (ha! if only):

The board development so far!
The board development so far!

What do you think?

Genuinely I want to know what people think so any comments or criticisms are most welcome. Its still arguably a work in progress. I’m thinking to texturize the grey at each end, which is where your pieces start, to a stone type texture but I can’t make up my mind.

Anyway it has been sent to be printed properly in full size so I can see how well that works and then work from there. So next week (hopefully) there will be pictures of a real board and perhaps some pieces (if we’re really organised) ready to go up, additionally I might release the full rules document on the very small off chance there’s anyone interested in reading them.

Thoughts, comments, suggestions and criticisms all welcome.

Also remember we will be giving ten of these away for free once they are done, to get feedback, so keep on checking in to see how close we are to the give away and be ready to email us as soon as the post goes up!

To Catch a Criminal – Scotland Yard and Some Chairess

From the Depths of The Less Obscure Than we Thought:

4 - 5

Number of Players: 3-6

Year of Publication: 1983

Creator(s): 

Scotland Yard is a game we’ve had since…. Well, since forever, so naturally we did no research and just assumed it was obscure. However it turns out it’s sold over 4 million copies worldwide and is still widely available.

The Box.
The Box.

The game is basically a depiction of detectives trying to catch a criminal called Mr X, but if they had no cars… No money… And the only transport option available to them were transport vouchers that would only take them one stop at a time. Even on Taxis that done have stops. Not to sound to stupid but one of the best things about this game is its simplicity, you don’t have to spend an hour reading the rules just to play for half an hour, and on top of that the board is an awesome map of London!

The board, The starting card, my detective and the travel tokens.
The board, The starting card, my detective and the travel tokens.

Every station or stop on the board is numbered. You each start on a stop chosen at random from and deck of cards with the stop numbers on. Mr X doesn’t show where he starts, instead he has a pad where he writes where he is. Every time he moves he writes on the pad the number of the stop he has moved to and then covers it with the travel token for whichever transport method he has used. After three moves he has to show the other detectives where he is then it’s every fifth move after that.

Mr. X Travel recorder and the best clue the detectives have to work out where he is.
Mr. X Travel recorder and the best clue the detectives have to work out where he is.

In this way the detectives must try to land on the same space as Mr X using the knowledge of where he has been and what travel methods he has used. However the detectives have a limited number of travel passes for different things and as they use them they pass them over to Mr X, so, for example, when they run out of ones for the underground they can no longer travel by it and when they run out of all of them they lose because Mr X will never run out. So potentially the game can be fairly short as board games go and it has a finite ending and cannot pull a monopoly on you.

And blue is the winner!
And blue is the winner!
The list of Mr X. movements can then be examined to see how close the detectives where at any one time.
The list of Mr X. movements can then be examined to see how close the detectives were at any one time.

Chairess:

What is Chairess I hear no one ask… WELL! Its Chess… Played with Chairs on a tiled floor when you don’t have a chess board. Recently we were in Brazil, as one often is, and we were bored, so me and my friend looked at the assets we had to entertain ourselves. They happened to be a very large room with a tiled floor and a LOT of plastic chairs and this is what happened:

The initial set up of Chairess.
The initial set up of Chairess.

Unfortunately due to the lack of other colored chairs both sides where white. But! We combined our great intellects and came up with the idea of using which way the chairs were facing to determine which side they were on and the way we stacked them to determine what piece they were:

  1. for Pawns
  2. for Castles
  3. for Knights
  4. for Bishops
  5. for a Queen
  6. for a King
Taking pieces was interesting.
Taking pieces was interesting.

Lets just say that it was less than ideal when it came to moving anything from the Knight onward. If we had had access to a printer we would have printed off identifiers but alas our sole attributes that day where some white chairs a large room and the flip flops on our feet which we used to mark the corners.

Unfortunately due to the sameness of everything it takes quite a lot of thinking to get your head round Chairess.
Unfortunately due to the sameness of everything it takes quite a lot of thinking to get your head round Chairess.

As the game progresses it gets harder and harder to keep it straight in your head, because not only do all the pieces look the same they’re also much larger so to take the board in as a whole becomes difficult. This may explain why I lost 2 – 1 to my friend where as on a normal Chess board I beat him 2 – 1.

So if you ever find yourself in a position of boredom and you happen to have a large tiled room and a lot of chairs… You know what to do!

Definitely a Quick One! – Fanorona! (pronounced Fa-noorn)

3 - 5

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: 1680

Creator(s): Again, the designer is unknown, but Néstor Romeral Andrés was the artist for the modern board

It gets to be big and bold and exclamation marked in this sub-heading because it’s the first game we’ve managed to cross off our list of Games We Want, which is a noteworthy achievement in the limited history of this blog. Fanorona is also notable as having been bought to the attention of many through the PS3 and Xbox 360 game Assassins Creed III where you can play it as a mini game within the game along with Nine, Six, Three and Twelve Mens Morris.

Fanorona is currently down as the quickest game I’ve ever played, and that’s not only because I’m terrible at it (but better than my brother at the moment). It’s for two players and played on a rectangular board.

Our home made Fanorona board. Made on a chopping board using a soldering iron to brand.
Our home made Fanorona board. Made on a chopping board using a soldering iron to brand the markings into the wood.

History and Interesting Things: 

This is where I organize all the interesting stuff I found out about Fanorona, if you don’t want to read about the history of the game, skip down a bit and see more pictures of us playing and a bit about the rules and how to move!

10 Things I Found Most Intriguing:

  1. Fanorona is a strategy game, but, like Go, it’s considered a one-off. Not part of any other family of games.
  2. It is believed that it was developed from the game Alquerque, which is most commonly played in Arab countries and may date back more than 3,000 years.
  3. Fanorona comes in three varieties – Fanoron-Telo which appears to be identical to Three Mans Morris (another on the list of Games We Want) – Fanoron-Dimyand the board for which is identical to Alquerque – and Fanoron-Tsivy, more commonly known as Fanorona and the most well-known version of the game.
  4. It’s the national game of Madagascar and is so important there that they have a National Committee for the Coordination of Fanorona and an International Fanorona Society.
  5. The only recurrent story I can find involving Fanorona is the following about a King called Ralombo. He was sick and trying to decide what would happen to his Kingdom when he died, he did not want to divide the Kingdom between his two sons, so he sent for both of them. He reasoned that the son who arrived first was the most loyal to him and should therefore inherit the Kingdom. His oldest son was engaged in a game of Fanorona when the messenger came and was in a situation called telo noho dimy, a very difficult situation involving three pieces against eight. He was so absorbed in the game that he sent the Kings messenger away. He did not arrive at the castle until the following day, by which time his younger brother had already inherited the throne.
  6. I reach point six and find that, given the limited history that is known about Fanorona, I have nothing left to write, so pretend that this is ten points, and keep reading to find out about the rules and game play!!

Game Play:

Black and white playing pieces are used for this game, they are set up as shown in the picture below. There is one space left empty in the middle of the board, which allows white to make its first move. These pieces  we stole from a copy of Reversi (more commonly know as Othello) to go with our home made board.

The starting set up of Fanorona on or home made board.
The starting set up of Fanorona on our home made board using Othello pieces.

Anyone who’s familiar with Draughts will understand when I say that the game progresses quickly due to the compulsory taking rule. Also like Draughts, taking moves can be linked. A player can continue to take pieces with the piece they initially moved that turn for as long as there are legal moves available. The nature of the game is sacrificial, for the game to progress each player must lose a large number of their pieces.

To take a piece in Fanorona a player must move one of their pieces either towards or away from the piece(s) they wish to take on a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line. The player then removes the pieces they have taken on that line up to the point where there is a gap between pieces.

The starting position of a taking move.
The starting position of a taking move.

 

The white piece then moves forward to take the black piece in front of it
The white piece then moves forward to take the black piece in front of it.
It then moves to the left to take the line it moves away from and that is the end of its move chain.
It then moves to the left to take the line it moves away from and that is the end of its move chain.

Initially the game should progress very quickly, with each player taking multiple pieces each turn. When the board begins to empty, the rate of game play should slow as each player will have more options to choose from and cannot afford to be reckless with their remaining pieces.

The remaining pieces on the board after only a few minutes of play.
The remaining pieces on the board after only a few minutes of play.

The objective of the game is to either eliminate your opponents pieces from the board or force them into a situation where they cannot move.  If either of these situations arises you win the game. If you reach a point where neither player can move or take another players piece the game comes to a draw.

Once you’ve played maybe, twice, the game becomes easy and can be played in well under 20 minutes. After grasping the initial rules about moving and taking it is then only strategy that remains to be developed by anyone wishing to play regularly.

The game close to the end as black finds itself backed into a corner.
The game close to the end as black finds itself backed into a corner.
White is the winner having removed all of the black pieces from the board.
White is the winner having removed all of the black pieces from the board.

There will be another Fanarona post going up in the next few days where my brother shows you how he made the board and how you can make your own if you like. Considering that buying copies of this game appears to be rather expensive.

For anyone interested, I read about the history of the game here.

Quick games! Well, relatively – Backgammon

5 - 5

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: -3000

Creator(s): Mostly unknown, but Willem Cornelisz Duyster is responsible for the design of the modern board

This is the first in a series of posts, it was initially going to just be one, but I realized that I have far too much to say about each game to make it fair on anyone reading it to put it all together. So this post is just about Backgammon, enjoy.

The games I’m about to talk about in these posts probably don’t count as all that obscure, the names being fairly well-known as far as I’m aware. However, they are games that have fallen out of common play. Which seems like a real shame to us.

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Recently we’ve learnt how to play Backgammon, and we think it’s a great game. Once you’ve played it a few times it’s very easy to remember the rules and to develop your strategies and it can be played in half an hour or so, making it one of the quickest board games I’ve ever come across!

We still require pictures to set up, hence the printout.
We still require pictures to set up, hence the printout.

We had a few teething troubles with this game as the copy of the game we own didn’t come with rules. So we went on a quest to Google and learnt the rules off the internet. The only problem with that was that, aside from the two dice each player roles to determine their move, there is a fifth die involved in Backgammon called the doubling die, and the internet rules didn’t explain what this was for.

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Oxfam to the rescue!
I work a few days a week in an Oxfam charity shop, and on my break I went through the board games we had in the storeroom and found a copy of Backgammon to read the rules from. Initially this copy of the rules only told me a little about the doubling die, but was enough to solve our problem temporarily. I learnt that it wasn’t originally part of the game and has been introduced in the last century or so.

I thought this interesting so I’ve been doing some research into the history of the game. General consensus is that the game may be well over 5,000 years old, along with Chess and a game called Go, which we have yet to play, and is likely to have originated from Iraq, which was Mesopotamia at the time.

There are literature and artistic references to Backgammon (although not under that name) all over the world throughout all the ages. Chaucer references it in The Canterbury Tales as Shakespeare does in Love’s Labour’s Lost. It has always been a gambling game – Emperor Nero played for roughly the equivalent of $10,000 per game! – But there was only one stake made in the game, one amount was agreed at the beginning and it is that amount that the winner claimed at the end.

However, as you’ll see in the pictures below, due to a lack of expendable money in our lives we gamble with chocolate instead, you pay less for more “chips”, and you can eat them when you’re finished!

Our horrific gambling tendencies.
Our horrific gambling tendencies.

In 1920’s America Backgammon was going out of fashion, it was too hard to bet on and took too long to play without anything exciting happening for the players. It’s at this point in history that the doubling die first appears, this element gave the game the extra boost it needed to become a popular casino game again.

Interestingly, although it is fairly easy to track the history of Backgammon in America through strategy books that were written about it, it is nigh impossible to know when it crossed the Atlantic and came to the UK.

YOU GAVE ME LOADED DICE!
YOU GAVE ME LOADED DICE!

I also learnt that Backgammon can be played with the offloading space either to the players left or their right – there is no fixed direction of play. This gave a new dimension to the game as it can give a player an advantage to be able to play the game either way around. It will also prevent confusion for them in the event that they ever have to play the game in the opposite direction to the one they are used to. For this reason we’ve started playing half and half, setting the board up differently for half the time.

If anyone’s interested my next post in this chain will be about the game Fanorona, not to confuse you but there’ll be two posts about it, one from me about game play and history, and one from my brother about how he made his own board. His is likely to be much more interesting!

Load off left!
Load off left!
Load off right!
Load off right!

And if anyone’s at all curious, I found most of the things about the history of Backgammon written here on this page.

Also if anyone wants to learn the rules of Backgammon we recommend looking here or if you’d rather learn to play by doing we recommend playing here (click ‘Play as Guest’) and use the tutorial.

Breach the Keep – Under development!

Now… The totally unexpected and unanticipated game! That thing that no one has been waiting for! A look at the obscurest game of all…

Breach the Keep! 

Also widely known as that game I just made up that’s actually quite good, or so I think!

The Idea:

So one day I’m sitting there and I’m like “I should develop a board game” so I go and create a terribly complicated game about super heroes… Then a year later I come up with Breach the Keep after saying to my sister “we should develop our own board game!”. The initial idea was for the board, I thought it would be good to have a basic strategy game that did’t move in squares, so I came up with the idea of intersecting Octagons, Hexagons and Squares and drew this:

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My super wonky first prototype of the board!

What I was going to use it for exactly hadn’t yet come to me, all I thought was that the octagons and squares had to mean something different to the hexagons. So (naturally) I started thinking about war… Most strategy games seem to be based in some form or other on the idea of war. I started thinking about medieval war and how you had to advance step by step, taking your enemies castles and burning their villages (yeah not pretty but it was war). So I thought, what if the octagons where castles and you had to make your way down the board taking them as you go and holding them against your enemy and thus the initial idea was born.

Development:

Next I had to establish rules to the game, I had to work out how it should work and decide upon an objective. First I thought what if you just had to take all the other pieces? But then that seemed stupid, they (I have no idea who) always say the mark of a bad chess player is one who has to take all their opponents pieces before they can put them in check mate. So I thought what if, like chess, you had to capture their king? Then he could be in your Home Keep that, if breached, meant you lost. This seemed like a good idea so I went with it. We then had to test play (a LOT) to figure out how movement would work and how taking and breaching would work.

Yes those are Warhammer pieces, Draughts pieces and a few Othello pieces.
Yes those are Warhammer pieces, Draughts pieces and a few Othello pieces.

So test play ensued, using pieces borrowed from other games to try to figure out how many pieces were good, how much they could move, how they could move etc. This was a long and depressing process of trying out almost everything we could think of and debating if certain things worked or not. I won’t go in to detail here or you’ll get bored and if you’re still reading at this point you’re probably already bored enough. So in super short detail we came up with some great ideas for combining pieces so they could move further to make them more powerful and so great ideas to balance the breaching of a keep against the defense of it. We also decided that the board was too small so I created this one:

The basic concept of the board - It will be much prettier once it is done!
The basic concept of the board – It will be much prettier once it is done!

Which is still underdevelopment in a aesthetic sense but after much more trial playing we were rather happy with:

IMAG1039 IMAG1028  IMAG1033 IMAG1031

So i started thinking what to do with it next. Obviously I wanted a real copy of it rather than something printed on A4 paper taped together and stealing other board game pieces to play. Additionally I needed it to be tested by a wider audience so I thought “why not start a blog and offer up ten free copies once you’re ready in exchange for feedback to see if it’s actually a terrible game and you’re just blinded by your own delusions!” and so here we are. However the game is still under development, the board is being made to look pretty, I’m busy creating box art and pop out pieces that can be used with the game when its distributed. Additionally we’re trying to make the rules as understandable as possible (I often complain about ambiguity in other rules so I’m trying to make these as good as possible, unfortunately, and as you might be able to tell, writing’s not exactly my forte).

Concept designs for the box cover and for the Octagons (keeps) on the board.
Concept designs for the box cover and for the Octagons (keeps) on the board.
A very basic and rough digital concept of the box art.
A very basic and rough digital concept of the box art.

And Now Let’s Briefly Ramble:

So hopefully the game will be ready in around one – two months and will be shipped to the first ten people who send their address to the given email free of any charge on the condition you give feedback and tell me what can be made better and what you would have done differently. Now you’re thinking “Damn it now I have to keep checking this thing before I can get free stuff… But I want free stuff NOW!”. Well tough! Patience is a virtue, well actually Aristotle wrote about Temperance rather than patience but it could be understood as the same thing… Anyway this is a board game blog not a philosophy blog… Although I should start one of those too because philosophy is the birth of all knowledge and knowledge is POWER!

First post, Obscurity, Sneak Peeks and Java

So! First post! If you’re reading this WELL DONE! If not… I don’t blame you.

First post and Obscurity!

The aim of this blog is just to talk about games; mostly obscure ones if we possibly can… Let’s be honest not many people want to talk about Monopoly. The other aim is to show our ideas and designs for games and give some away for FREE, so you can test them and give us your feedback. We have one in the works right now so keep an eye on this space as the first ten people to email us with their addresses will get a properly produced copy sent to them completely free of charge – providing they promise to give us feedback!
Even if it’s just to tell us we’re terrible and should just leave.

Sneak Peeks:

Here’s the tiniest sneak peek of the game under development:

Yes those are Warhammer pieces, Draughts pieces and a few Othello pieces.
Yes those are Warhammer pieces, Draughts pieces and a few Othello pieces.
The basic concept of the board - It will be much prettier once it is done!
The basic concept of the board – It will be much prettier once it is done!

Java:

4.5 - 5

Number of Players: 2-4

Year of Publication: 2000

Creator(s): Michael KieslingWolfgang Kramer (Designers) and Franz Vohwinkel (Artist)

So the first on our list of Obscure games is an awesome game called Java.

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As far as we can figure from searching for it online it’s pretty hard to come by, lucky for us we picked it up in a charity shop for £3.99 on a whim. It’d never been used before as none of the pieces had been pushed out of their holders. Only downside we could find was a dent in the box but at £3.99 we’re not complaining…. Much.

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The game in essence can be seen as a strategic planning game. Your aim is to take control of the island of Java through building cities and enlarging them by placing more land pieces strategically. To win you have to score more fame points than your opponent, you accumulate these through building palaces and enlarging them and through palaces festivals or irrigating. From this run down of the game it sounds kind of boring and probably doesn’t make all that much sense… In fact when we were reading the rules we were thinking… Wow this could really suck. However it has a sort of charm to it that is unexpected and you quickly find yourself starting to try to out think your opponent. It also helps that you’re allowed (and encouraged to in the rules) to make the board more three dimensional by stacking pieces on top of each other, this is a visual bonus as the board ends up looking pretty cool!

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Now, as this is the very first post I’m not going to go on too much as I don’t want to bore you to death. If you have the opportunity to get hold of a copy of Java, go for it! It’s entertaining and tactical, it makes you have to constantly watch your opponents moves and think. It’s also very easy to turn the tide so for those who like games that aren’t a set thing from within the first four or five moves this is a good game.

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Hopefully we’ve ticked all the boxes with this post. Next post will be a full update on our own board game – which by the way is called ‘Breach the Keep’ cool name right? And after that we’ll see where life takes us.