I’ve finished my annual project and compiled the 2017 top 100 list. It was a very good season, there are plenty of new games on the list. There are also several new games in the top 10, and the top 3 is all new games. Crazy!
I played Deja-vu at the local board game cafe. How very convenient!
The game: Deja-vu by Heinz Meister, published by Amigo (and several other publishers) in 2017.
Elevator pitch: A combination of a memory game and a reaction test: pick up the items you’ve seen twice in the cards, but make no mistakes!
What’s in the box? A huge pack of cards (not many cards, they’re just big) and bunch of cardboard objects. The illustrations are really nice, and the black borders of the items make them look really sharp and neat. Everything is well done.
What do you do in the game? The goal is to pick up as many items as possible. Cards are shuffled, three are removed unseen and then you start flipping cards one by one. Each card has one to three items, and each item appears on exactly two cards.
When you think you’ve seen an item appear twice, you can pick it up. It’s one point for you. There are no turns, so the fastest player takes the item. However, if a card is flipped and it shows an item you’ve picked, you’re out of the round. You keep your items, but score zero points.
In the end of the round, the three cards that were taken aside in the beginning are flipped face up. If you have any of those items, you’re busted. Count points for items for players who didn’t make mistakes, and play again. The player with the most points after three rounds wins the game.
Lucky or skillful? There’s no luck involved, it’s all memory and reaction speed. There’s input randomness to keep things fresh.
Abstract or thematic? There’s no theme. The items are a random assortment of household objects, all cleverly similar with at least one other item (clock looks like a compass; shovel looks like an axe; the hat is depicted in the stamp and so on).
Solitaire or interactive? There’s no interaction outside the race to grab the tiles.
Players: 2–6. I guess you can also play alone. I’ve played with five and it was ok, but I think the game is slightly better with fewer players.
Who can play? Age recommendation is 8+. It’s accurate, could even be lower. The rules are simple enough for almost anybody. However, to be enjoyable, the game requires players of approximately similar skill. Because of the heavy memory element, this isn’t quite as brutal as many reaction test games are, but still, in a family environment this may not work perfectly.
What’s to like: New twist on reaction tests and memory games; looks really nice.
What’s not to like: If you don’t like memory games or reaction tests, this game will not change your mind.
My verdict: I like most reaction test games and don’t mind memory games (but dislike memory elements in other games). Deja-vu sounded like a fun game and I wasn’t disappointed – it sure is a fun little game. The idea feels fresh and the components are excellent, so it’s really a pleasure to play.
It represents a divisive genre, and if you hate reaction tests or memory games, you’re not going to love Deja-vu. If you have a bunch of players, roughly on the same skill level, Deja-vu is a hoot. The way the memories of the items you’ve seen start to mix up after a couple of rounds is delightful and leads to surprising failures – all of which is a lot of fun.
On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Deja-vu gets Suggest from me.
I bought a copy of Twenty 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 verdict: Twenty 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.
P.S. I’ve created an infinite scoring sheet for the game. It also counts the score automatically for you.
Run 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 … Continue reading Run Bunny Run
I 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 … Continue reading Gnomi
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
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
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
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
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