Fairy Tale

Fairy Tale box

I wrote a review of Fairy Tale in Finnish.

Fairy Tale is a drafting game with a very superficial fantasy theme. There are four rounds: in the beginning of each, five cards are dealt to the players. Each player takes one card and passes the rest to the next player. Of the four cards they receive, players keep one and pass the rest, and so on, until all players have five cards selected and none left in hand.

Then comes the second part of the round: players play three cards, one by one, revealing their cards simultaneously. The two extra cards are discarded. This is repeated four times, leaving the players with twelve cards played . The player with the most points win. So far so good!

Card tricks

Of course, it’s not that simple. The cards have more than points. There are four suits, three of which are practically identical. The cards build up on each other: each suit, for example, has a card that has a value of n, where n is the number of those cards you have in play. There are cards with the value of n*3, where n is the number of certain other card.

Advanced cards bring even more options in the form of conditional cards. With those, you can score large amounts of points, if you can fulfill certain conditions: have most cards in a suit, have certain cards on the table and so on.

It’s not that simple, however. You are not guaranteed to keep all your cards! Some cards close other cards: a closed card doesn’t score any points, unless you can open it somehow. The fourth suit, shadows, is particularly full of cards that close cards from each player. These cards bring some player interaction to a game that is otherwise fairly solitaire-ish.

Quick and fun

Fairy Tale is a reliable game: unless the players are really, really slow, a game’s over in 15 minutes. There’s a fairly hefty dose of luck involved and some of the decisions are pretty trivial, I’d say, but it doesn’t really matter. There’s at least an illusion of control and it’s enough. I always have a good time playing the game and choosing my cards. I don’t care about the lack of interaction: I’m happy when I’m able to keep an useful card from an opponent every now and then.

I haven’t yet tried the game with two players, but the game definitely works with three, four or five players. Many people prefer the partnership game, which is good, but I like the game both ways. Fairy Tale is a perfect opening game while you’re waiting for more players to arrive and a perfect end for a session when you have only fifteen minutes left.

Celtica

Review of Celtica in Finnish

Celtica, a game by well-known designer duo Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling was published recently in Finland. I was curious to try the game; for background, I had read the less-than-favourable comments from the Geek, combined with Bruno Faidutti’s recommendation.

The game certainly looks delicious, from the beautiful box cover to the shiny pretty bits. The lush green colour fits the Celtic theme well. The background story has druids, vikings and amulets broken in pieces — player rush around the board, collecting amulet pieces.

Druids on the run

The basic idea of the game is very simple: players move the five druids on the board by playing cards that match the colours of the druids. There are three possible outcomes when the druid stops moving: player gets few amulet pieces, player loses few amulet pieces and gains an experience card or player gains a card, if they want to. All players can move all druids, based on the five cards they are dealt each round.

It’s simple, but not completely devoid of decisions. Sure, if the white druid is standing one space from a juicy spot and you have a white card, you play it and score the amulet bits. But what if there are two good spots in a row and you have two cards? Do you play both and leap to the last spot or do you play one and wish the opponents don’t have any? These are fairly simple decisions, I agree, but they do make the game a bit more interesting.

Then there are the experience cards: they are like any other cards, but unlike the basic cards, you don’t have to play them. You can hang on to them as long as you want to, and use them when you really need that extra step. Even better, if you can hang on to them until the end of the game, you can trade them in for amulet pieces.

Once the first druid makes it to the end of the 16-step track and the round finishes, the game ends. The player with the most complete amulets wins the game, extra amulet pieces breaking the ties. The whole affair should take about 30 minutes.

Recommendations

I like the game, I really do. The amount of decisions and mix of skill and luck tags Celtica firmly as a family game. I’d say the luckiest player wins, but the journey through the board is fun, exciting and offers just enough decisions and small gambles to make it worth the 30 minutes of your life. You’ll curse your opponents when they move the very druid you were planning to move, try to gain extra cards to avoid the amulet-eating ruins and have a good time while you’re at it.

I have played the game with two and four players and enjoyed both. With two players, the game is definitely less chaotic. I think this game could’ve been a small hit amongst gamers, had it been packed as a Kosmos two-player game. With four, there’s more chaos, the game is shorter (there are about half as many rounds as with two players) and luck plays a higher role, but the timing of playing your cards gets more interesting. I’m fairly sure five players would be too much.

With the right expectations and attitude and enough tolerance for luck and chaos, Celtica is an enjoyable 30-minute filler for gamers. Celtica is also a good family game — easy enough, good luck beats skill and yet the game offers excitement instead of boredom.

Rat Hot

Rat Hot reviewed in Finnish.

Rat Hot is a small two-player tile-laying game from Michael Schacht. It was previously web-published as Dschunke: das Legespiel, but this edition is from Queen Games and Rio Grande Games.

The game is about merchants storing goods in a storage; they try to pack similar goods together for easy access. They also have to worry about rats. The theme doesn’t make complete sense, but the game is quite abstract in the end, so it doesn’t really matter.

Piles of boxes

Players pile 3×1 tiles on the board, two each turn. Each square in a tile can have goods of either player, nothing or a rat (which are also colour-coded). When a tile is placed so that two similar goods are together, the owner of the goods scores one point. If a group of three or more is formed, it’s two points.

Rats are a threat. If player has three rats of her own colour showing up in the end of her turn, she loses immediately. So, better cover up those rats! It’s a great mechanic to add tension in the game; unfortunately it can rarely lead to situations where players loses on the last turn without any chance to prevent that.

However, it’s easy to recognise those situations (and separate them from failed risk-taking) and avoid them, so I wouldn’t count this as a big issue. Also, as I said, it should be fairly rare.

Simple rules

The rules of the game are fairly simple and intuitive. The only thing I had problems with was one restriction for the tile placement: you can’t place a tile directly on top of another tile. It must always cover at least two tiles. That’s an important rule, but it’s also a bit non-intuitive.

Otherwise the game is very straightforward and fun, in it’s own dry way. It’s not a riot, but something I found quite enjoyable, particularly as it’s so fast to play. The three-dimensional approach of the game is refreshing, as it’s fairly rare in tile-laying games.

Limited recommendations

The game is a tad expensive for a short filler, at least here in Finland, so I wouldn’t recommend it, unless you play two-player games regularly. In that case Rat Hot is worth a try, it should give you something new and fresh for a while.

I know I won’t be buying the game, as my two-player gaming is occasional and I don’t think I’d get enough bang for a buck from Rat Hot. With a regular opponent (for example if my wife were more into games), I would get this without a doubt.

Diabolo

Here’s a review of Diabolo in Finnish. Diabolo is a light-weight card game from Michael Schacht, the designer of Coloretto, one of the more popular filler card games. Diabolo is a struggle between heaven and hell. Players play cards on the table trying to influence the five colours in game. Cards can be played on … Continue reading Diabolo

Fjords

Here’s a review of Fjords in Finnish. Fjords (or Fjorde) is a nice little two-player game about the vikings — however, this time the vikings are not burning and pillaging, they are farming and exploring! The game is divided in two phases. First players lay tiles to build a map and place farms on the … Continue reading Fjords

Flix Mix

Another review up: Flix Mix (in Finnish). Flix Mix is one of my favourite speed games. Each player has an identical deck of 16 cards, all featuring six dots sporting different colours. The goal of the game is to get rid of cards by laying them on the table. There’s just one limitation: each card … Continue reading Flix Mix

Fettnapf

First of the Essen games reviewed! A Finnish review of Fettnapf is up on the Finnish site. I went to the fair looking for a good Amigo card game. I had tagged Fettnapf and played it the first chance I got. It wasn’t a disappointment, but a rather pleasing little game. It’s basically a game … Continue reading Fettnapf

Thursday, day two: Shopping for games

The morning started off quite well. We were having breakfast, when I suddenly noticed a familiar-looking gentleman in a salmon-coloured shirt: herr Knizia! I wasn’t quite brave enough to go talk to him, but maybe I’ll ask for his signature tomorrow, as I now have a game to ask it to. It would be neat … Continue reading Thursday, day two: Shopping for games

Monumento, High Society

Monumento was the last game I reviewed on the old site and High Society is the first one on the new. Monumento (or Make’n’Break) is a very simple dexterity game. The player in turn takes ten large colourful wooden blocks and a deck of cards. When the timer is started, he or she turns up … Continue reading Monumento, High Society

Land Unter

Man, I’m in the zone now. I just wrote another review, this time of Dorra’s card game Land Unter. Land Unter is a clever little card game. The basic mechanism is a simultaneous trick-taking game, where the two highest cards collect two water level cards. Water level cards are a mixed blessing, as each turn … Continue reading Land Unter