Twenty One

I bought a copy of Twenty OneTwenty One from a trip to Amsterdam as a souvenir.

The game: Twenty One by Steffen Benndorf and Reinhard Staupe, published by NSV in Germany and White Goblin in Netherlands in 2017.

Elevator pitch: Another quick die-rolling, coupon-filling game that keeps everybody active on everyone’s turn.

What’s in the box? A pad of scoring sheets, rules and six colourful six-sided dice. No pencils, this time, so provide your own. Everything is well-designed, looks nice and doesn’t take any more space than is necessary. It’s all very convenient and lovely.

What do you do in the game? The goal is to score points by filling your coupon with rolled numbers. You score from two sources: the raw sum of your rolls and the amount of exact hits you get. More is better.

The spaces on your sheet are colour coded, dictating which dice you can use to fill those spaces. Each space also has a number: that’s the maximum value you can enter there, and if you match it, you get an exact hit bonus.

The active player rolls all six dice and gets one reroll. If you reroll, you must reroll everything, except ones, which you’re not allowed to reroll.

Then everybody must use at least one number. You’re allowed to take as many as you wish, but only on the row you’re currently filling. You must take one, but if you can’t (eg. you’re only missing one number, and that die has a bigger number than you can take), you must cross out the leftmost open space on the row you’re on – and since the biggest numbers are on the left, that’s usually unpleasant.

Once you fill a row, you can then move on to the next row on the next roll, and whoever fills their fifth row first gets to end the game for everybody. Sum your scores, and the highest score wins.

Lucky or skillful? Very lucky. There’s some decision-making involved, mostly judgements on how many compromises should you make. I’m not sure you can play this particularly well – can’t really tell what’s a good move in this game – but you can definitely make bad moves.

Abstract or thematic? Abstract.

Solitaire or interactive? It’s a competitive solitaire. No interaction, but it’s a race, and how fast other players are filling up their coupons should affect how fast you’re moving, because if you lag behind, you’re going to lose.

Players: 2–6. The box has plenty of sheets, but there are only six different colour combinations in the pad, and it’s best if everybody has a different combination. Even though everybody is active on all turns, I’m pretty sure this is more fun with fewer players.

Who can play? Age recommendation is 8+, and I think it’s quite accurate. Certainly not higher, and smaller kids can play but not necessarily do well, unless they’re good with their numbers.

What’s to like: Well-designed, well-executed; plays fast, keeps everybody active all the time.

What’s not to like: It’s really quite lucky.

My verdictTwenty One joins the line of Qwixx and Qwinto. All three are very good replacements for Yahtzee. Yahtzee is a fine game, but compared to these new, sleek games, the old classic is a boring downtime sessions, as you wait for other players to roll. All these new games keep everybody active on every round.

I like how Twenty One forces each player to act on each round; in Qwixx and Qwinto that’s always voluntary for the non-active players. Then again, those two games are probably slightly more strategic than Twenty One. All three are good die-rolling fillers, though, and I’d be happy to play any of them.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Twenty One gets Suggest from me.

Twenty One

P.S. I’ve created an infinite scoring sheet for the game. It also counts the score automatically for you.

Run Bunny Run

Run Bunny RunRun Bunny Run is a new title from Mayfair Games that was originally published in Finland by Peliko in 2015 as Runny Bunny. I got a review copy of Runny Bunny back then from Peliko.

The game: Run Bunny Run by Dennis Merkx and Kees Meis, published by Peliko in Finland in 2015 as Runny Bunny and Mayfair Games in US as Run Bunny Run in 2017.

Elevator pitch: Kids’ version of X-Wing Miniatures Game, played with only a bunch of cards.

What’s in the box? A small pack of cards: movement cards for the bunny and the wolves and couple of cards to act as obstacles and scenery.

The original Finnish box was way too big for the cards; hopefully Mayfair will use a better box. The box art is much better than in the Finnish version, hopefully card art is also improved, as it looked boring.

I have not seen the Mayfair version, so I can’t comment on that.

What do you do in the game? One player is a bunny and tries to escape the wolves. Wolves try to work together to eat the bunny.

All movement happens with cards: one card is on table and shows where you are. When you move, you choose a card from your hand, place it on the table overlapping your current card and that’s where you move.

Wolves don’t turn fast: their cards can be played exactly one way, and offer little flexibility. The bunny can play new cards on any edge of the current card, allowing very rapid changes of direction and plenty of surprises.

A round goes on until wolves reach the bunny or the bunny can make it to the rabbit hole. Points are scored by the winner, and then a new round is played, until everybody has been the bunny once.

This is simple, fairly clever, but – given how fast the bunny is, the wolves are going to have really hard time catching it. Bunny never tires, it just goes on and on, and should always be able to escape the wolves, at least with one or two wolves against it (I haven’t tried the four-player game). That means the game is likely to end up in a draw: everybody should win their round as the bunny.

Lucky or skillful? There’s no luck involved, as all cards are always available, and you have full control over what you do. Some luck might be good for the wolves.

Abstract or thematic? The theme makes sense, mostly.

Solitaire or interactive? Highly interactive: all the other players are actively chasing the bunny.

Players: 2–5. At least with two or three players the bunny should always be able to escape. With more wolves, things might get harder for the bunny if the wolves play well together, but there are more rabbit holes, too.

Who can play? Age recommendation is 8+, which is nice. For kids, the game isn’t as obvious, as playing the bunny well requires a bit of thought. This is probably best as a game for kids.

What’s to like: Fresh idea; small footprint.

What’s not to like: Balancing the game requires work; playing the game isn’t much fun, in the end.

My verdict: Run Bunny Run has a good idea and some potential. As it is, the balance issues make the game quite anticlimatic: ending the game in a three-way draw is never very exciting in a three-player game.

There’s something that can be done to balance the game, for example adding obstacles for the bunny on the course, but that’s work I’d prefer the game developers do, instead of leaving it for the players.

I haven’t seen the Mayfair Run Bunny Run edition. Mayfair said in a tweet that the games were independently developed and there are minor rule changes. Hopefully they address at least some of the issues.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Run Bunny Run gets Indifferent from me.

Gnomi

Gnomi box frontI backed this game on Kickstarter.

The game: Gnomi by Brian Fouts, published by Poppy Jasper Games in 2017 following a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Elevator pitch: 10-minute filler card game that doesn’t require a table to play – just keep your cards in your hand and put the decks in your pocket!

What’s in the box? Small, sturdy box has a magnetic lid and contains a deck of 25 mushroom cards and 21 gnome cards, a 7 card expansion and rules.

The cards are of decent quality; not great, but nice. The art is ok, and at least the cards are easy to use.

The cards might benefit from sleeves, but while the box looks like it could hold sleeved cards, it doesn’t: even thin, close-fit sleeves make the deck too thick so the lid doesn’t close.

What do you do in the game? Everybody starts with four mushroom cards and three gnomes. No additional cards are drawn during the game.

On your turn, you have three options: use one mushroom card and request a mushroom of the same colour from another player, use two mushroom cards to take one random mushroom from another player, or use a gnome power. If you can’t do anything, you can always pass, but that requires you to mark a card used.

Used cards are flipped upside down: the mushroom become compost and the gnomes go to sleep. If all your cards are upside down, you’re out of the game. The last player to stay in the game wins the round.

Gnome cards let you steal mushrooms from other players, flip cards back from the compost, wake sleeping gnomes, put opposing gnomes to sleep and so on.

Lucky or skillful? Lots of luck. Early game is mostly lucky guesses. During the game you get useful information, when you see mushrooms going from one player to another, and you can use that to remove some luck. But it’s still very heavy on luck.

Abstract or thematic? The gnome theme is silly and makes a tiny bit sense, but mostly it could anything.

Solitaire or interactive? Quite a bit of interaction: you’re trying to steal cards from your opponents after all. You choose who you attack, sometimes you know who has the cards you want, sometimes you’re just picking someone at random.

Players: 2–6. The two-player game didn’t impress me much; seems quite pointless. I’ve tried with 2–4 players, and based on that I’d guess this is a game for 4–6 people.

Who can play? Age recommendation is 12+, but that’s too high. Players must be able to read and hold their cards hidden from other players, but kids who can do that can play this game just fine. There’s some strategic nuance that smaller kids won’t figure out, but it’s not tricky.

What’s to like: Simple rules, very easy to teach; doesn’t require a table to play; doesn’t last too long.

What’s not to like: Heavy emphasis on lucky guessing; boring art.

My verdictGnomi has an interesting promise: it’s a card game you can play anywhere. That’s true: you have seven cards per player, those cards never leave someone’s hand. If you do have a table, putting sleeping gnomes and composted mushrooms on the table does make the game slightly easier to follow.

Gnomi is pretty heavy on luck, though. Your gnomes can be useful or not, and that depends on luck. In the beginning there’s no information, so it’s all up to lucky guesses.

The game has player elimination, but it’s mercifully short. Playing several rounds doesn’t take long and balances some of the luck. I think the art should be more spiffy – right now the game doesn’t really look as attractive as a light low-barrier-of-entry game like this should.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Gnomi gets Indifferent from me.

Gaming Year 2016

2016 was a good year. Lots of games. I made a new record for the number of new games tried. My previous record was 93 new games in 2011, but this year I reached 133 new games. This is a record that’s unlikely to be broken any time soon. I don’t really want to. I’ve decided … Continue reading Gaming Year 2016

Träxx

I bought a new copy of this game myself. The game: Träxx by Steffen Benndorf and Reinhard Staupe, published by Nürnberger-Spiele-Verlag in 2015. Elevator pitch: A quick simultaneous play route-building filler. May the best route win! What’s in the box? Four boards, four dry-erase pens, fifteen cards and rules. The components are minimalistic, but perfectly functional. Colours are bright … Continue reading Träxx

Heat

I bought an used copy of this game myself. The game: Heat by Dave Chalker and Chris Cieslik, published by Asmadi Games in 2015. Elevator pitch: Heist-themed drafting game, with artwork inspired by Saul Bass. What’s in the box? 34 cards, a small board, bunch of cubes and some plastic chips for money. Component-wise, this is almost … Continue reading Heat

Dungeon Rush

I received a free review copy from the publisher. The game: Dungeon Rush by father and son team Rustan and Eli Håkansson, published by Lautapelit.fi in 2016. Elevator pitch: Slapjack in a dungeon. Turn over monster cards and slap the ones your heroes can beat. What’s in the box? Bunch of cards: 10 oversized hero cards and 110 … Continue reading Dungeon Rush

Triominos Tribalance

I received a free review copy from the Finnish distributor. The game: Triominos Tribalance by Michael Sohre, published by Goliath in 2013. Originally published as Tri-Ba-Lance by Theta Games in 1995. Elevator pitch: A balancing challenge: try to get the best pieces on the best locations on a wobbly board without unbalancing the board. What’s in the box? There’s … Continue reading Triominos Tribalance

Dokmus

Dokmus is published by Lautapelit.fi, and I received a free review copy from the publisher. The game: Dokmus by Mikko Punakallio, published by Lautapelit.fi in 2016. Elevator pitch: A tactical puzzle. Twist and move the boards in order to expand your influence all over the board. What’s in the box? There are eight double-sided board tiles that are used to … Continue reading Dokmus

Scotland Yard Junior

Scotland Yard Junior is published in Finland by Ravensburger, and I received a free review copy from the Finnish distributor. The game: Scotland Yard Junior by Michael Schacht, published by Ravensburger in 2015. Elevator pitch: A new version of the old classic Scotland Yard, redesigned for children. The game has been simplified a lot and feels like a different game, … Continue reading Scotland Yard Junior