Board games are magic. They can create an air of light, puzzling enjoyment or deep, perplexed confrontation. Normally ending with a in-depth discussion of how things could have gone, one way or the other. And some games have the bizarre ability to make laugh in the pursuit of achieving your goal. Party games fall into this cauldron of games, casting a spell that makes you say or do silly things.
A previous title from Buzzy Games, Top Face, preformed this trick seamlessly. Where one player would draw a card from a deck. Then have to make the same grimace as the image depicted on this card. While the other players had to race to find that face, from a large selection of face-pulling pictures scattered on the table. Simple, amusing and fun for 10 minutes. Longer, if playing with a large group of children and even longer, with a handful of tipsy adults.
Abra Kazam builds off of this game, which is basically the same concept. One player takes the role of the spellcaster and performs an action and the others race to find that action. In regards to the action, Abra Kazam has you casting spells, Potter style. The game comes with a cutely decorated magic wand, which players will be waving in the air, instead of pulling a face. It will be the movement of this wand that will point the other players (or wizards) to discern which spell is being cast by the spellcaster. Unlike Top Face that has around 60 different cards to choose from, this game has a select 24 cards. Narrowing down the choices a tad, but by no means making it easier.
There are four different coloured sets of spell in the game, that are housed in a beautiful but slightly strange box insert. Only two of these sets are used per game, which leads to a slightly different game each time you open the box. On one side is the spell name and a star constellation like drawing, that the movement of the wand needs to follow to activate the spell. The reverse side of the card has the effect of the spell, which I will get to a little later. A duplicate set of these spell cards, with only the spell image are also in the box. These are the cards that the spellcaster will draw from after they have been shuffled. The nice subtle thing about this smaller deck of cards, is that the drawn spell is the reverse to the larger spell cards. So when a spellcast cast their spell from the small card they have in their hand, they will be drawing it in the air, in the correct orientation for the other players.
Each player will have one chance to guess which spell is being cast. Pointing to it and shouting out it’s name. The fastest to do so will win you and the spellcaster a point. Carnage will ensue when kids all scream out, what they perceive the spell and spell name is. “Intellectualis” will become “Intolltacules,” or “Gallinarum will become “that one.” Fingers flailing everywhere. One minute here, the next there, and all because their mother pointed to the same spell too. Guessing incorrectly will mean that you sit out for a while, until someone or no one finds the spell. Finding the correct spell means, both the spellcaster and correct player, takes either the small or the large card into their spell book (a coloured card with a book on it). Each card in your spell book is a point at the end of the game.
Here is another change from Top Face, and evidently, the magic of this game. The player that guessed correctly becomes the new spellcaster. But they have had the previous spell cast on them. They will read the spell effect on the card they have just collected and have to perform the next spell in that fashion. You could be transformed into a Unicorn and have to attach the wand as if it was your horn, casting the next spell with your head. Or a smoke spell covers your eyes, meaning you cast the spell with your eyes closed. Or you are transformed into a snail, casting your spell extremely slow. Whatever you do, the game forces you to mime and act a little. Not too much that you feel like a fool, but a bit. This generates giggles from kids as they watch their parents do crazy things and fits of laughter when merry Uncle Mike does something very bizarre. Performing these actions with a spell becomes a challenge for the young one and also a source of amusement. And once the laughter has died down, the wand has changed hands and you carry on playing.
The game never outlives its welcome, with it’s built in timer. 10 spell remain on the table means it’s game over. Count your cards. It also balances itself, becoming quicker as you remove spells, leaving less possibilities to choose from.
In amongst it’s four types of spells, there are the red spell cards. These are not recommended for your first game. Although there is nothing difficult about them, they add another layer to the game. Making it more of a party style game. These cards have permanent spells that, when cast on the player, stay with them until they guess the next spellcasters spell. Nothing to difficult. Maybe you are now a Cyclopes, watching the game with one eye open or you’ve been turned into a dog, panting with your tongue out. This adds more amusement to the game but only to those who wish to participate in the crazy shenanigans. It might not be ideal for Grandma Gladdis to be tip-toeing around imaginary mice, at the age of 90.
At its heart, this is a family game, aimed mainly at children. And those of a disposition to all things Potter. Adults will probably take it or leave it, but the kids will want to play again and again. And hopefully won't start fighting over the wand. As a party game or cocktail game, it will work at certain parts of the evening. But the game nudges you to be silly, without pushing too hard. And you may or may not like that. Plus, you must alway have space around a bit table, for arms and legs to go flying.
Technical review 9/10
Some magical artwork with a cool magic wand and interesting, yet quaint insert. Simple presented rule book with light mechanisms for families, but party style may not be for all. Not interesting with 3 players.
My BGG score 6/10 (OK - will play it if in the mood)
The presentation is well done, but I like my humor in a game to come naturally. Always fun with new people and when I’m finished. I’m finished. I don’t feel the need to replay. I would recommend playing Top Face instead. It’s cleaner, more natural and you know what your letting yourself in for.
Combined score 7.5/10
Driving at breakneck speeds
Cutting off other drivers and spinning out of control. It’s all here. It’s regular Rallyman, but with multiplayer. But you can also indulge yourself by playing solo, in a time trial mode just like in the original version. GT has it all in one box.
This new version of thel Rallyman from Jean-Christophe Bouvier, is being brought back to life, after it’s first sellout tour, and now on Kickstarter. Holy Grail Games, who are no stranger to this platform, have been closely working with the original designer to bring this game to the masses, with a slightly refined mechanism. And when I say slightly refined, I mean it. In fact, to my recollection, the only thing that is gone are the cards, that would keep count of your time around the track.
Now admittedly, I have never played the original Rallyman from nearly 10 years ago. And having only played a few games of this prototype, I must admit that I am tempted to play solo. Against my previous times. Just like in a rally. But the real fun will come from playing against other players. As this is a real battle of strategy and pushing the boundaries of what is possible. With just the aid of the dice, your be plotting your trajectory and seeing if you can hold that course.
The game holds a very simple rule set, that makes getting into the game very speedy. Although there are a few speed bump along the way to slow the game down, it runs very smoothly. Let me light your route.
NOTE: all photos are of a prototype
First thing that players do is verify the turn order. This is a simple case of whichever car is driving at the fastest speed, becomes that player. If there are multiple players at the same speed, it is the one who is furthest along the track. If there is still a draw, it is the player who hugs the inside lane.
Players, then in turn order, will perform two actions. First, plot the route they wish to take along the track. This is done with six sided dice. There are six speed dice, numbered 1 to 6, plus three break dice and two coast dice. You’ll place these on the track, in front of your car, in sequential order. Either making your car go faster or slower. The coast dice act like jokers, sustaining the speed value of the dice place before it. And the break dice are used to jump the order of sequence by one extra. So, to break from speed 5 to 3 would require one break die and the speed 3 die.
This is the tactical part of the game, as you only have a limited amount of dice. This limit will change depending on your tyre set up, the weather and if you have taken any damage. Plotting your course, around bends and other cars can get tricky. To pass an opponent's car, you need to be going at least the same speed as them. And some corners will need to be taken at a certain speed. Leaving you to play out several scenarios in your head.
Already you have this finite resource. Speed. Once you go up to speed 3 and beyond, you can’t not come back down to speed 3 this turn, as you have already allocated the die to a space on the track. Even if you use the break dice, as they require the speed die that you are breaking to. The head scratching will commence. As you try to figure out the most secure and easiest trajectory to take. And while you are taking your turn, the other players are scrutinizing your every decision. You may hear a gasp from another at the table. But was that because you blocked them in? Or will be making them go the long way around? Or because you used your dice unwisely? There is a little tension here, while this takes place. Sometime another player will point out another way to use your dice, which is nice. And that makes this game an easy game to teach, as you do it while you play. The only thing you can’t teach is self restraint and how to handle luck.
Because the second part of your turn is luck, to a degree. If you’re someone who like to throw chance to the wind, you will either win easily or lose drastically. As each six sided dice has one or more sides marked with a Hazard sign. Roll too many of these and your car will spin out, slid off the course and possibly take some damage. All of this is calculated, from the weather conditions, your tyre set up and the speed of the last dice that showed a Hazard sign. The tension that besets the table is always a breathless moment. The anticipation of getting to the last space of your trajected route is thrilling. But sliding off, unable to pull off your fantastic feat, can be inraging. Especially, as I encountered, it happens three times in a row. Every time I rejoined the track. Grrrr!
Whenever you roll too many Hazard signs, you will reference your dashboard, that has your tyre type. There is a table, that you cross reference with the terrain in your location and the speed you were driving at. This will indicate the severity of the accident that has taken place. You may have just spun out on the track or came flying off completely. Meaning that you will miss a turn, as you roll back onto the track. As long as no one is occupying that space. Making you lose another turn, until that space is available again. The fast you come off the track, the more chance there is of you damaging your car. Damage comes from drawing a number of tokens out of a bag.
These tokens can be green flag, which do nothing. Yellow flags stop players overtaking the crashed car. Weather tokens changes the driving conditions from clear and sunny to slippery with rain, and vice versa. Which can be funny if the player after the one that’s accident causes this change, has planned to break hard on a bend. No longer will they be able to if the rain sets in. Sending them also, off the track. Finally, there are the dice tokens. For each one of these you have, you’ll be restricted on using that coloured dice. Drawing two black dice tokens will penalise you on the amount of speed dice you can use on your turn. Pitstoping will cost you a turn but allow you to remove all this damage and maybe change your tyre set up. These dice tokens, I find are fitting in the realm of theme. As you will find your car hobbling along the track after taking massive damage. The weather token, not so fitting.
But you’ll be happy to know that there is dice mitigation. As you can roll the dice, one of two way. First is “Flatout.” All the dice that you used on your trajectory are picked up and rolled at the same time. Yes, this is dangerous, luck driven part of the game, as you have no control over the results and could easily roll many hazards. But it has benefits. If you roll successfully, you are rewarded with Focus Tokens. One for each die used in going Flatout, except break dice. This is great for those who like to take great risks in game, but not so fun for unlucky players who roll four dice and get three Hazard results. Sending you into the barrier...Then do exactly the same on the next turn. Frustrating. But as I said, it’s up to the player to use restrian when rolling dice.
The other way to go about it, is to take your time. Roll each die, one by one and stop when you feel there is a chance of too many Hazard signs showing up. This is a steady and sure way to get around the course without danger of crashing. The sole risk comes from breaking. If you have used a break die to reduce the speed die, these dice get rolled at the same time. So, there is a chance of spinning out of control, even more so if you are hard breaking from from speed 6 to 2. This is where the Focus Tokens come into play. These can be spent, so you can remove dice before you roll them, making them natural success. Meaning no chance of a Hazard sign. The value of each die you remove in this fashion augment by a value of one. Removing the first die costs 1 Token, the second 2 Tokens, so on and so on. This is a great way to get around the circuit, as long as you have them. And to get them, you need to go Flatout from time to time.
After a few turn, the game becomes fluid and before you know it, someone is approaching the finishing line. The pressure is on to get there before them or the same time as them, but with a little more gusto, as you simultaneously cross the checkered flag. And the winner is decided, much like the starting player. Fastest. Furthest. Inside lane. All exciting fun, unless you have walked under a ladder with a black cat.
All in all, an enjoyable and sometime frustrating racing game with solid dice driving mechanic, that is otherwise a realist simulator. The art on the tiles is wonderful and sets the setting nicely, although in prototype form, the cars are nice too. With the hexagonal tiles, there is infinite coursed to make and with the promise of more cars, tiles, dice being unlocked in the the Kickstarter, the more I can’t wait to play again.
Hello Chaps & Chapettes,
It's not every day that you get offered a game and get excited by it instantly. Now, I don't get bucket loads sent to me, like Rahdo or Vasel, but those that I do get are unknown to me. Hence there is a little mystery in discovering a game. Not having any expectations. And never sure of where the game wants to go, leaving me with mixed feelings. For example, a dungeon crawl is a dungeon crawl, which is a sensation I know well and can appreciate it. And a good one will make me feel that I am crawling in a dungeon. Where as game where cubes are moving about, card are being bought, but the game is about concurring the world, can give me the feeling of farming. Not concurring the world at all.
Last year, I had a game shoved under my nose, that was a war game...of movie star clones. And it didn't give me a war feeling, but was immense fun. Plus there was combat. Mental and physical. That game was called Badass Force and in one week, starting on Kickstarter.
The game has an air of Coup. Choosing an A-list action movie star, like Arnold, Sly or Bruce, in front of yourself. Then, either telling everyone that who it really is or blatantly lying about who you have, just to use another power from another character. That way, in no one calls your bluff, you can take down some of the other players at the table. Interesting stuff...
...But it's not all about bluffing. Which is good for those that have a dislike to these type of games. You can play honestly. Because there is more to this game than meets the eye. You can change out the character you have choose. On top of that, there are weapons that need to be loaded, before firing. There is a choice with the weapons. And the biggest bonus is, there is no player elimination. If all your stars have been wiped out, you get to collect them and reuse them...But in a Revenge mode. A mode where their powers are enhanced. So if you are bad at lying or just have bad luck OR are always picked on. You become a tad more powerful, striking a little fear in your opponents.
The game comes alive, very quickly after a moment of uncertainty that players get in the first round. Not only as they adapt to the rules and strategy's, but as they start quoting...
"I heard you were dead!"
“Go ahead, make my day.”
"That's not a knife, that's a knife."
"This is my BOOM STICK!"
"Hasta la vista, baby."
“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… And I’m all out of bubblegum.”
"Say hello to my little friend."
Man, I could go on and on...
This game is an enjoyable party style game. And I'm not just saying that because I am now the community manager for the KS. But because I do enjoy this game. The player interaction is high and made higher when one liners come out of other players mouths. Of course there is a bit of luck involved in the game. Calling bluff on a player you've never encountered before. But there is always the rematch, as you figure out their style of play. And there is a surprising amount of strategy hidden in the game. Should you bluff? Should you use your loaded weapon? Should you choose this character? Should you make their grenade, blow up in their face? Lots of choice and plans to formulate. But I won't ramble about it too much. I'll let you look for yourself. Below are some links to the rules, character powers and tips. Check them out and I will see you soon, with some videos.
Link to HOW TO YIPPEE-KI-PLAY (part 1)
Link to HOW TO YIPPEE-KI-PLAY (part 2)
Link to CHARACTER POWAA!
Link to WEAPONS TRAINING
Link to Facebook page