Abluxxen / Linko

by Mikko on March 21, 2014

in Reviews

AbluxxenThe game: Abluxxen by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling, published by Ravensburger in 2014. The international edition is called Linko.

Elevator pitch: Card game filler where you steal cards from other players in order to get rid of the cards in your hand. 

What’s in the box? In the small, though not as small as it could be, box there is a pack of card: 1–13, eight copies of each, and five jokers and one extra card.

What do you do in the game? On your turn, you can play as many cards as you want – provided they have the same number. The cards are played in front of you so that everybody can see the sets you’ve played.

You then compare your set to the topmost set from other players. If your set has the same number of cards, but of higher number, you get to steal the cards. This comparison is done to every player, so if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to steal from all other players.

When you steal, you have two options: either you take the cards to your hand, or not. If you don’t take them, the victim gets to choose: either they take the cards in their hand, or they discard them. If the victim doesn’t take the cards (or if you took them), the victim draws equal number of new cards from a set of open cards.

The game ends when the deck runs out or somebody doesn’t have cards in hand. The cards are then scored: a card in hand is -1 point and a card on table is +1 point. Most points wins.

Lucky or skillful? Both. This is a light card game, so obviously there’s lots of luck involved, but there’s also room for skill. A clever player draws cards to collect larger sets and watches opponents to notice when they are about to run out of cards. In the end, lucky player may win, but skilled player will win more often.

Abstract or thematic? Abstract, but the cards do have a cute lynx on them.

Solitaire or interactive? There’s an interactive element. Stealing cards from other players is fun. Sometimes you want your cards to be stolen. Playing the other players is a part of the game, but it’s not pure chaos and there’s no negotiation element.

Players: 2–5. I haven’t tried the game with less than four so far, and I don’t think the two-player game will be worth playing, frankly. So far it seems four is the best count, but five is not bad.

Who can play? Anybody who can handle card games. Age recommendation is 10+, which sounds correct, but if you have younger children who can play other card games, I don’t think this one is going to be a problem. For everybody, though, the first round will probably be quite awkward, but once that’s done, it’ll click and the game becomes more attractive.

Length: About 10–15 minutes for one round, play as many rounds as you wish and total scores if you want to. A single round is not a bad filler, either.

What’s to like: Simple idea, quite unlike other card games, stealing cards is fun.

What’s not to like: It’s just a card game, nothing particularly new about it.

My verdict: W. Eric Martin was quite enthusiastic about this game on BGG. I read about it one Thursday morning and thought: well, we could try this. The game can be played with two packs of standard playing cards, so we tried it right away the same day. I liked the game almost immediately. Stealing cards and building larger sets is fun and so is trying to get someone to steal your cards so you can draw better cards. Once I played a three-card set, stealing two three-card sets which both matched my hand cards, resulting in two five-card sets. That’s the kind of move you aim for in this game.

Since the game is so easy to try, I recommend it to everybody with an interest in card game fillers and two packs of cards to spare. If you like it, buy the game – not only to support the authors, but also because the game is easier to play with the proper pack. The colour-coding where all the same-numbered cards are the same colour is quite helpful.

Abluxxen is currently one of my favourite fillers and I’ll be sure to include the cards in my small box of card game fillers I carry with me every time.

On the scale of EnthusiasticSuggestIndifferent or AvoidAbluxxen gets Enthusiastic.

Zeppeldrome

by Mikko on January 24, 2014

in Reviews

ZeppeldromeZeppeldrome is currently looking for funding at Kickstarter. I got a review copy, and finally got it on the table. The review is a bit rushed; I’ve only played two two-player games so far, but since the topic is current and I’m not sure if I have time to play the game again before the campaign is over, I thought it useful to jot down my thoughts so far.

Zeppeldrome Kickstarter page.

The game: Zeppeldrome by Anthony J. Gallela and Jeff Wilcox, published by 12SP Entertainment in 2014, hopefully.

Elevator pitch: Program your movement in this dirigible race. There are hazards on the racetrack and screw-your-neighbour action cards to spice things up.

What’s in the box? Modular board, tokens, cards, possibly 3D dirigible tokens (that’s a stretch goal).

What do you do in the game? Everybody chooses a flight plan simultaneously. The flight plan plots out your movement, with usually 3–6 moves up, down or forward. Some flight plans have couple of routes you can choose, some have optional moves you have to pay by discarding cards if you want to use them.

Once the flight plans are known, action cards are played one at the time. These cards can target anybody. They can add extra movement (before or after the flight plan), cause immediate movement (typically dropping a dirigible down), cancel movement or do something else wacky and unpleasant.

Once everybody has played as many action cards as they wish, dirigibles move. The flight plans and extra movements are followed step by step. Collisions are possible and have a good chance of ruining your carefully planned flight plan.

Then everybody discards cards if they want to, draw up to four cards and it’s new round. This is repeated until somebody reaches the finish line.

Lucky or skillful? I think the winner is predominantly determined by luck and table dynamics. It is possible to play poorly, and choosing your flight plan well is important, but if the other players decide to barrage you with harmful action cards, there’s nothing you can do about it. Well, you’ll fall behind, and next turn there’s a new leader to bash, so in the end, I think the game comes down to drawing good cards, using them to your best advantage and avoiding being targeted by other players. It also helps to be in lead on a turn when other players don’t draw good attack cards.

There’s enough skill involved for the game to be meaningful, but there’s plenty of luck and chaos to keep things interesting until the end.

Abstract or thematic? The theme is silly, and the game is certainly no simulation. It works, but didn’t really thrill me.

Solitaire or interactive? The title says this is a screw-your-neighbour game and there sure is lots of interaction. It can be quite mean, and I’m not sure I’d like to be in the lead in a four-player game – the barrage must be pretty bad. If you like “take that!” type of games, Zeppeldrome is your cup of tea. If you don’t like direct interaction and games that depend on bash the leader -effect, skip Zeppeldrome.

Players: 2–4. I’ve only tried the two-player game. That worked, but I think the game would be more fun with more chaos.

Who can play? It’s a bit involved for casual gamers. This game needs players who are willing to listen to a rules explanation. It’s not that complicated. For gamers Zeppeldrome may be a bit too light and bit too long. The game falls on a bit of a awkward middle ground here – it needs players who like lighter games and take that -kind of fun, but who don’t mind bit of rules and special cases. 

Length: Up to 90 minutes. We played two-player games in about 40 minutes or so, which was ok. I’m not sure I’d like 90 minutes of Zeppeldrome. Slow players can bog down the game, despite the simultaneous moves, as there’s quite a bit of thinking to do with the cards – thinking that’ll be shot to ruins by action cards from other players anyway.

What’s to like: Planning your moves, figuring out the best way to use your action cards, good take that interaction.

What’s not to like: Lots of chaos, too much direct interaction and bashing the leader, a bit long playing time.

My verdict: I’m sure there are people who’ll like this game: planning your moves is fun, figuring out the best way to use your cards is interesting, and there’s some entertaining player interaction. If you like programming, direct interaction and a zesty take that element in your games, Zeppeldrome is a good choice for you.

I, however, am not particularly keen on programming and actively dislike direct interaction and take that elements. I don’t see myself playing Zeppeldrome, even when it’s pretty good for a game like that. The puzzle element is fun. The game’s just too silly and chaotic for my tastes, and a bit too slow-moving and long for what it is. Something like this might be fun with the kids, but the direct interaction is going to end up in tears and the game’s a bit complicated for a family game.

The price is right, though. We Europeans can get a single copy of the game for less than 30 euros, including shipping (from within EU). For Americans, the price is just $29, which is quite decent. Too bad the project doesn’t look too good at the moment. With only 26% pledged at the moment, looks like it’s going to fail, unless there’s a good boost in pledges in the end.

On the scale of EnthusiasticSuggestIndifferent or AvoidZeppeldrome gets Indifferent. Not bad, but not really that interesting, either.

Gaming Year 2013

January 12, 2014

2013 was a very good year of board games, just like 2012 was before it. My kids and I have continued to play lots of games. My son is now seven and half, and can play quite complicated games. My daughter, soon five, is also a bright little gamer, and much less prone to throwing […]

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Machi Koro

December 2, 2013

The game: Machi Koro by Masao Suganuma, published by Grounding in 2012. The name means something like “Dice town”. Elevator pitch: Catan resource production distilled into a 30-minute filler game. Roll dice to produce money, use money to buy your way to victory. What’s in the box? The smallish box contains cards, cardboard coins and two dice. Everything looks really […]

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Carcassonne: South Seas

December 1, 2013

The game: Carcassonne: South Seas, by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, published by Hans im Glück in 2013. Elevator pitch: First game in the Carcassonne Around the World series: an independent Carcassonne game set in the South Seas, featuring familiar Carcassonne game play with novel scoring system. What’s in the box? Usual Carcassonne-size box contains tiles, meeples, wooden resource tokens (clam shells, bananas, […]

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Nations

November 4, 2013

The game: Nations, by Rustan Håkansson, Nina Håkansson, Einar Rosén and Robert Rosén, published by Lautapelit.fi in 2013. Elevator pitch: Lead your nations from ancient times to industrial age, gaining glory and power while you’re at it. Through the Ages streamlined. What’s in the box? Large box has two central boards and player boards (thin cardboard, not actual boards), hundreds of cards […]

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Dragi Drache

October 13, 2013

The game: Dragi Drache, by Christoph Cantzler and Anja Wrede, published by Ravensburger in 2012. Elevator pitch: A ball floats in an air jet, and the goal is to blow it so it falls in the right place on the board. Most accurate blower wins. What’s in the box? The tall box contains a large battery-operated air […]

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Die kleinen Drachenritter

September 29, 2013

Another German children’s game, so far with no English edition and no attention whatsoever on BGG. The Finnish edition is called Junior Lancelot. The game: Die kleinen Drachenritter by Marco Teubner, published by Huch & Friends in 2012. Elevator pitch: A stacking game, where you try to climb a wall by piling cardboard objects on top of each […]

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Ab in die Tonne

September 22, 2013

There are at least three games named Ab in die Tonne. This is the one that was recently published in Finnish as Roskis. The game: Ab in die Tonne by Carlo A. Rossi, published by Abacus Spiele in 2013. Elevator pitch: A stacking and double-guessing game, where you play cards to place trash in garbage and avoid spilling out […]

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Autumn game season roundup

September 21, 2013

It’s the season for new games. Here’s a quick run-through of some recent titles. The long-awaited Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Deck-Building Game arrived, I translated the cards and we just played our first game. Interesting! Different enough from the new games, and the fans of the first game will like this just for the […]

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