Triominos Tribalance

Tribalance box coverI 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 a triangular plastic board (hence the Triominos branding; this has nothing else to do with Triominos) and a stand for it. When set free, the board will be on balance on a hemisphere on its bottom.

Each player gets a set of triangular pieces of various sizes. The pieces are numbered 1–5 and the sizes match: the 5 pieces is five times bigger than the 1 piece.

The components are all plastic and not wood as in the original Theta version. They look nice, though, and do their job quite well, and I’m sure the new version is both cheaper and more readily available because of the plastic bits.

What do you do in the game? Players take turns placing their pieces on the board. A move is legal, if the board balances after the piece is played without touching the table. It’s fine if the board tips touch the table while the board finds the new balance, but once it’s balanced, the tips of the board should not touch the table. If the move fails, the player simply takes their piece back and loses their turn.

The pieces are played in marked recesses on the board. Each spot has a point value from 1 to 5, and the closer the recess is to the tips of the board, the higher the value. In the end, the pieces are scored by multiplying the piece value with the value of the recess it is placed in.

The game ends when somebody places their last piece. Then the other players may finish the game by placing rest of their pieces, but the rules become stricter: touching the table even temporary means the move fails and the player in question drops out of the game.

In the end, pieces on board are scored and pieces that weren’t played score negative. The player with the most points wins.

Lucky or skillful? No luck involved, it’s all skill. You need to be able to read the balance of the board and figure out how much load the board can take. It’s somewhat random how the board will wobble, so this is not quite as deterministic as some luckless abstracts are.

Abstract or thematic? Pure abstract, no sign of theme.

Solitaire or interactive? This is not a mean game, but of course you’re constantly reacting to the moves your opponent makes and trying to benefit from their mistakes.

Players: 2–3. In the three-player game it’s best if you sit after the weaker player.

Who can play? Age recommendation is 6+. While the rules are simple, balancing the board may be a bit difficult for children. An adult will probably always win, but children can play against each other without problems. Key requirement is knowing enough math to be able to count the scores in the end.

Length: 10–15 minutes. There aren’t that many pieces or options.

What’s to like: The game looks splendid; balancing the board is fun; the scoring is logical.

What’s not to like: The game feels always the same; it’s very much a game of avoiding mistakes.

My verdict: Triominos Tribalance is static. The game is always the same: you want to get the big pieces as near as the tips as possible. How well you can manage that is, I feel, less about your skill and more about the mistakes your opponent makes.

I can’t really see anyone being really enthusiastic about this game, at least for a long time. It just doesn’t have the legs for it. However, as a good-looking coffee table game this is great: the game looks really good, is quite unlike most other games and intrigues onlookers. If you play just occasionally, the game doesn’t get boring.

So, it’s nice to see this old game brought back to life as a mass-market edition, even though the Triominos branding seems quite pointless. I’m sure many people will enjoy this at least for a while.

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

Triominos Tribalance

Dokmus


Dokmus box coverDokmus
 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 generate a random board. There’s 25 wooden tokens for each player, a scoring board and guardian tiles for generating player order and special powers.

I’m not fond of the art, but all components work for their purpose. There are some cheat sheets, but only one per language. Fortunately they are not needed after the first game or two.

What do you do in the game? The goal is to gain points, which you get by placing your tokens next to the temples on the board tiles. Wide distribution is the best: you get major points for being next to a temple on every board tile, and a big bonus for reaching all temples in a single tile.

On every turn, players first choose their guardian. This has two functions: first, it determines the player order and second, it gives everybody a special power for the round.

Guardian #1 gives no power, but you get to choose first the next round. Guardian #2 lets you move a board tile, guardian #3 lets you move one of your pieces and guardian #4 lets you rotate a board tile 90 degrees. Guardian #5 gives you one of these three powers.

On your turn, you place three tokens on the board, adjacent to your previous tokens. There are ways to spread faster, mostly by rotating and moving the board tiles, but you can also sacrifice tokens in order to pass long distances through water. It’s a nice little puzzle to optimize your three token placements every round.

The game is over after eight rounds.

Lucky or skillful? There’s no luck element as such. Some player-induced chaos, for sure, but a skilled player will beat newbies easily – mostly because newbies don’t usually understand the value of reaching every tile and don’t really know how to do that. It doesn’t take many games to figure it out, though.

Abstract or thematic? Abstract. There’s art and some theme, but there’s just few sentences of the story background in the rules (and that is printed with a hard-to-read font). There’s no sense of world-building here.

Solitaire or interactive? There’s some blocking involved and you can move the board tiles in order to hinder your opponents, but most of the time you’re optimizing your own moves.

Players: 2–4. Two-player game includes some small changes to improve the experience, and the game works well with the full range.

Who can play? Age recommendation is 10+, which seems maybe a bit high. Well, this is not a children’s game, but works quite well as a family game, except for the lack of luck.

Length: 20–40 minutes. The turns are short enough – just three tokens – to avoid massive freeze-ups.

What’s to like: Interesting tactical challenge; clear goals but not obvious moves; the game looks quite nice.

What’s not to like: Despite the variable board, the challenges are always the same.

My verdict: Dokmus immediately reminds me of Kingdom Builder. In both games, you’re trying to maximize your scoring and every turn you place three tokens on board, under similar restrictions. Both have similar feeling of a tactical puzzle.

Kingdom Builder has variable scoring, which is good and brings variability. Dokmus, on the other hand, has more opportunities for clever play, thanks to the guardian powers that let you manipulate the board.

If you hate the one card hand in Kingdom BuilderDokmus will give you more freedom: place anywhere, as long as you’re adjacent to your previous tokens. This is a solid game, and if you enjoy tactical puzzles, Dokmus is well worth trying.

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

Dokmus

Scotland Yard Junior

Scotland Yard Junior boxScotland 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, yet looks like the old classic.

What’s in the box? There’s a board depicting London and various routes through the city, done in the style of classic Scotland Yard. There are also pawns, route tokens and visors, just like in the old game.

The components look nice, but are not as useful as they could be. The route tokens are a nod to the old game, but not really suitable for this game. The detectives don’t actually need them at all and for the Mister X, a set of wooden tokens would be better.

What do you do in the game? There are always two detectives and, depending on the number of players, one or two fugitives. The fugitives try to escape the detectives. On each round, the fugitives first decide where they will move by choosing a route token: that will tell where they went.

Then the detectives will move. Their goal is to guess where the fugitives are. They know where the fugitives start their moves, but nothing else.

When the detectives have done their moves, the fugitives reveal their moves. If the fugitives are caught, the detectives get one point, but if they manage to escape, they score one point.

This is repeated, until detectives get three points or the fugitives get nine points (this seems fairly balanced).

Lucky or skillful? The game is pure outguessing, so it’s mostly luck. You can’t really know where the fugitives are, or deduce anything. This is just a guessing game.

Abstract or thematic? Quite abstract, though there’s a nice layer of theme on top of it. It’s always fun to look at a map of London.

Solitaire or interactive? A thrilling chase, but how much interaction is in a game of “did you find me? no you didn’t”? Not much.

Players: 2–4. I’d say this is best with two, then with three, then with four.

Who can play? Age recommendation is 6+, which is ok. The rules are really simple and there’s hardly any strategy. Kids should be able to play this even without adults, once they know the rules.

Length: 15 minutes.

What’s to like: Simple game; looks good; there’s some logic to this.

What’s not to like: The game can be frustrating; it’s also quite repetitive.

My verdictScotland Yard has survived the test of time quite well. The new Junior version isn’t quite as long-lasting, I think. It’s just a guessing game, which can be frustrating, if you keep guessing wrong (or if your opponents keeps guessing correctly).

That said, it does look nice – despite some niggles with the components, where paying homage to the original has overruled usability – and plays quite unlike most other games.

Not a classic, by no means, but worth checking out, if you’re on the hunt for clever children’s games.

On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Scotland Yard Junior gets Indifferent from me.

Scotland Yard Junior

Rüben Rallye

Rüben Rallye is published in Finnish as Kaniralli by Haba, and I received a free review copy from the Finnish distributor Tevella. The game: Rüben Rallye by Sylvain Ménager, published by Haba in 2016. Elevator pitch: Beautiful roll and move game for kids, but with an added element of distance approximation thrown in. What’s in the box? Haba is known for … Continue reading Rüben Rallye

Kakerlaloop

Kakerlaloop is published in Finnish as La Cucaracha Loop by Ravensburger, and I received a free review copy. The game: Kakerlaloop by Inka and Markus Brand, published by Ravensburger in 2015. Elevator pitch: Roll and move your bugs across the board, but watch out for the Hexbug Nano cockroach that tries to bump the bugs off the spaces. What’s … Continue reading Kakerlaloop

Fashion Show

Fashion Show is published by Finnish Peliko, and I received a free review copy. The game: Fashion Show by Theora Design, published by Peliko in 2016. Elevator pitch: A simple tile-laying pattern recognition game with a Top Model -like fashion theme. What’s in the box? A large board checkered with different cloth patterns, a bunch of thin cards. The … Continue reading Fashion Show

Out of Mine!

Out of Mine! is a tile-laying game from HUCH! & Friends. I did the Finnish translation and got a free copy because of that. The game: Out of Mine! by Martin Nedergaard Andersen, published by HUCH! & Friends in 2014. Elevator pitch: A tile-laying game like Ubongo where you must fill your board with tiles as fast as possible. What’s in the … Continue reading Out of Mine!

Gaming Year 2015

2015 was a solid year. Numbers-wise, no complaints, and quality has been excellent. I played lots of good games with my son, who has continued to be an active member of the cult of the new. A new game for us to try? He’s game. My daughter is also growing up and we’ve been moving … Continue reading Gaming Year 2015

November 2015 new and noteworthy

November is usually the best month for me when it comes to new games. This is not unusual, as Essen games trickle to us non-visitors. This month, in order to try something new, I’ve grouped the games in three groupings: buy, play or pass. Enjoy! Buy Cthulhu Realms sounded like a good deal to me. Star … Continue reading November 2015 new and noteworthy

Allies: Realm of Wonder

Allies: Realm of Wonder is a Finnish card game from Mindwarrior Games. I got a review copy of the game to try. The game: Allies: Realm of Wonder by Mikko Punakallio and Max Wikström, published by Mindwarrior Games in 2015. Elevator pitch: A quick two-player card game, with tug-of-war mechanics based on rotating cards. What’s in the box? Smallish box (could … Continue reading Allies: Realm of Wonder