the grimm forest (2018) review
Like any tale, it starts with a "once upon a time". The story I am going to tell you happened a long time ago. His Excellency, King Reginald the Gourmand, decided to embark on a huge project by developing unexploited land near the mysterious Grimm Forest. Far from thinking of the happiness and serenity of the inhabitants of the kingdom, the Lord imagined firstly to fill the coffers of the kingdom with the resale of these habitable lands. He therefore appealed to the legendary builders of the kingdom. Alas for him, the three little pigs, because it was them, have aged well since their last buildings. Their legendary abilities only seem ... legendary. From then on, his excellence was looking for replacements who can fulfill his wishes. This is how the famous title of Royal Builder is awarded in a competition.
That's about the beginning of this tale. The rest is up to you to write or rather to live. The Grimm Forest immerses you in an enchanted universe of tales. The game of Tim Eisner (March on the Ants, Tidal Blades)offers us the opportunity to embody the competitors as Royal Builders. It was funded on Kickstarter by Druid City Games in 2018 and will be published in French later in 2019 by Lucky Duck Games.
Playable from 2 to 4 players, the game really interesting at the four player count. The goal of the game is to be the first to make three houses on this land, in the three different materials: straw, wood and brick (just like the little pigs did). Of course, each type of house requires different resources. And is played in two phases.
The first is the search for resources. There are four different places: the forest, the quarry, the field and the market (four players). Each player has a card of each location in their hand. They then secretly choose one place and everyone reveals it at the same time, then places their pig on the destination of the card.
This guessing phase works a little like the game, Crossing. If you are alone in your area, then you take all the resources present. If you are several, you share equitably between you (there is the difference compared to Crossing, where we did not win anything). Simple, fun and cunning but not too punishing.
The second phase corresponds to the stage of construction and expenditure of resources. During this phase, players have two actions. Among these actions a pig can draw a Fable card, or recover a resource of any type, or build. Here you will be able to start building your houses. By spending the proper resources, you will be able to recover pieces of a house. The house consists of three pieces: the foundations, the walls and the roof.
It's easy to be builders right? Whenever a piece of a house is made, a friend (these are cards) will join you to help. You can keep this fairy friend or send it to another player. Each friend brings you more or less important powers. But you only have enough room for one friend (it can be expensive to employ outside help). So, if your opponent has a powerful ally, it can be fun to impose a new one on them. It takes the place of that powerful one and without your opponent having a say in the matter. The door is always wide open after all.
I also mentioned the possibility of recovering Fable cards. These are one shots that will help you in your fight or your construction. These cards usually bring a bit of Take That to the game. And as soon as it's played, it's gone.
And that's all ... Yes the game boils down to that. It is not a complicated game, nor a game too long. The game plays between thirty minutes and one hour. The interest of the game will be wholly in the resource phase and from trying to guess where the others will go, while going to a place that interests you. Fable’s cards will also play an important role. Whether in our production capacity and our ability to progress but also in the fun of a game.
The Grimm Forest at first glance could pose as a childish game by its graphics, its theme, its relative simplicity. But it is not so. With short and simple rules, it manages to offer a slightly higher challenge comparison to a child's level. On the contrary, the game is too simple for expert players to not get bored (too) quickly. So there are the families left.
But the problem that arises at this moment is the price. The game is quite expensive. I’m not saying that it's not worth it (I'll come back to that soon after) but for a family budget, it’s a little high. The Grimm Forest has a rather strange place but it has happened to find an audience.
The strength of the game does not come from the theme or mechanisms. It should not be ignored, the most important interest and attractions come from the material and graphics. The illustrations by Noah Adelman (My Little Scythe), Lina Cossette (Brass: Lancashire), David Forest (Charterstone) are magnificent. They have done an exemplary job on this game. Everything transpires the theme and the magic of these tales. As for the material, from the opening of the box, it’s an eye full. The figurines are superb. They are detailed and quite impressive. Which is even more impressive (it’s a pity?) since in the end, some will be not enough used. The resources are easily identifiable and pleasant to handle. The houses fit together perfectly and the rendering is top. The cards are good qualities. Hardware level, there is nothing to say apart from there is nothing to fault.
You'll understand, I love this game. I find the magical fairy side very appreciable. It exudes a charm due in large part to its artistic direction to small details. On the other hand, it is true that in terms of playful interest, the game will have difficulty finding its public. Even if it remains playable at two (the presence of a neutral player is a palliative to the lack of tension) or three, it is four that becomes really interesting. Below, the game loses its interest and especially its risk taking.
It is a game based on a race mechanism (first-come, first to build everything, first to win). For a family audience that is not afraid of exceeding playtimes of 45 minutes, the game can easily find a good home in the cottages. It remains a superb game, simple, interesting and very pleasant to play. Luck is of course present (as if luck was absent from the tales) in the decks of cards: Fables or friends. But it does not play a determining role in winning. The Grimm Forest is a bit like the tales of the Brothers Grimm, a good game with potential but not to put in everybody's hands.
Technical Score 9,5/10
The illustrations are superb. The cards are good qualities, just like the material. The figures are superb (too bad we do not use them anymore). The storage is really suitable (to be seen for the VF). The rules are clear.
My BGG Score 8/10
(Very good. play it and recommend it)
A good game that has a special care for its content. We can regret a lack of challenge that can occur between players, but in families it works really well. Even if you find yourself immersed in a magical universe, the theme is less enchanting.
Combined Score 8.75/10
And now it’s over to you...
Rolling Japan (2014) review
Rolling Japan is a small Roll-and-Write game published by Ozaku Brand and Japan Brand. This little game published in 2014 is playable from 1 to ... as many players as you want.
From the designer Hisashi Hayashi (Yokohama, Isabiri), this game presents itself as a "multiplayer solitaire" dice game.
What’s in the box? First, you’ll find the most important thing : a block pad of paper. These sheets represent a map of Japan divided into six colorized areas, themselves divided into forty-seven "Prefectures". You’ll also find the on there a round tracker, three squares for changing color, a box for reminder of the number of X you have placed and a space with the possibility of registering your name, for posterity. Then there is a small purse (maybe too small) with 7 wooden dice inside.
Finally, note the presence, rare in this type of games, several pencils. Yes! Pencils in the box!!! This is a very minimalist game.
Up till there, all seems like a classical style of game (apart from the presence of pencils). At the rule level, the game is very simple and can be explained in less than 5 minutes. In turn order, players will draw two dice from the bag. Each die has a specific color that corresponds to an area of the map of Japan. Six coloured areas so seven coloured dice ... oh wait ... Yes, there is an intruder. The seventh dice, purple in color, is a kind of joker. Players will announces aloud the result and the color of the dice. Everyone will have to insert these numbers on their map by respecting three important things:
This last obligation offers a small strategic dose, that requires quite bit of thinking. It forces you to make choices or take risks on the future. If you can not insert a number in the designated quarter, you’ll have to place a cross in one of the corresponding coloured boxes. You just can’t put anything in it. On the other hand, a space with a cross is like a void, giving the possibility of putting another number beside it.
To help you in your mission, you have the possibility to change the color (and not the number) of a die three times. Once done, you’ll check one of the boxes to indicate that you have used this ability (and they can go quickly!). You also have the purple dice. It serves as a wild color. You can enter the number in the neighborhood of your choice.
The end of the game comes at the end of the 8th round. A round ends when six dice have been drawn. These are then placed back in the bag and you start the next round. At the end of the 8th, everyone fills the gaps still present on their map with crosses. You’ll calculate the number of crosses present in all our Prefectures and … zap! you have your end score. The player with the least amount of cross wins.
Rolling Japan is a simple but not simplistic dice game. Quick to learn and fast to play. The material is not amazing, but very functional. The graphics of Ryo Nyamo are very austere, offering clear visibility. It will be noted with great pleasure the presence of pencils directly in the box. Chance is inevitably present and forces you to make sometimes difficult choices. But it can also offer you a chaotic path. The interaction between the players is zero. Everyone really plays in their corner, waiting for the results of the dice. It may not be the most original roll-and-write, but it stands out from the other games.
Pretty clever, this little game is easily transportable and wherever you go good times will be had with friends or family. To diversify the pleasure, several variants of maps are available on the internet for download.
Technical Score 6.5 / 10
Nothing extraordinary, everything is functional. However, the pencils are included! Bonus
My BGG Score 6/10
(Ok game, some fun or challenge at least, will play sporadically if in the right mood.)
Easy to play, easy to transport anywhere, for all types of players, smart and fast.
Combined Score 6.25 / 10
And now it's over to you ...
The mind (2018) review
I very much enjoy perusing the shelves of a gameboard store. Searching, discover new games, admire the illustrations, seeing the content of a game, take my time ... And sometimes, in the middle of a shelving, I discover games to which I would never have stopped otherwise. This is the case for the game I'm going to talk about.
It is a small box, quite sober, which does not look like, and which, if it were not put forward, would seem quite somehow. This game, it's about The Mind.
The Mind comes from the brain of Wolfgang Warsch (Fuji, That's Pretty Clever). Wolfgang is a fairly recent Austrian designer. His first game arrived in 2015, Dream Team. A year later, he created Shadows Master. Then in 2018, he returns with no less than four games: That's Pretty Clever, The Quacks of Quedlinburg, Illusion and The Mind. And among these four, three are nominated for the Spiel 2018! Yes, you read correctly. That's Pretty Clever and Quacks for Kennerspiel, The Mind were potential Spiel des Jahres. The latter failed to win "the supreme title" against the Azul machine, but the The Quacks of Quedlinburg won the Kennerspiel. All this will tell you that this molecular biologist is an author to watch very closely. His latest game Fuji, released by Feuerland, and soon to be published in French by Supermeeple, has already received a warm welcome.
The Mind came out in 2018, published by Nürnberger-Spielkarten-Verlag. Since then, many publishers have added it to their catalogs. In France, Oya takes care of its distribution. Right away, the game produces an effect. To tell the truth, it clearly divides the players and left no one indifferent. It’s success is unstoppable and already has a good track record with it’s Spiel des Jahre nomination and victory at the 2019 Cannes International Game Festival.
The box is small, and this is understandable because inside there are just a deck of cards. 100 of them, numbered from 1 to 100. Each card is unique. You will also have level cards, from 1 to 12, life point cards and shuriken cards (or “star” following the interpretations). And that's it (well there are also the rules of course, otherwise you must immediately notify your dealer).
Oliver Freudenreich's illustrations are clearly minimalist. Strange (does it look like a rabbit straight out of Donnie Darko?), but really sober and abstract. We could even believe that the art is a little too light. Yet, it works. After all, that's not why we bought this game. This almost non-existent illustration makes the readability better (to the detriment of a potential immersion).
Now let's focus on what interests you the most... How do you play it?
The rules are extremely simple and fit on a small sheet of paper included in the box. The Mind is played by 2 to 4 players and is a cooperative game. Everyone wins or loses together. A bit like a the game, “The Game,” you must play sequences of numbers in ascending order according to the cards you have in hand. There is no order of the turn per se, everyone plays when they think that they have the next card in this sequence. But beware, you can only play one card at a time. So, if you have twenty-two and twenty-three, you will have to first put one down, then play the other from your hand. Which of course can give another player time to play something else in between. At the beginning of a level, each player receives as many cards as the level value. In other words, in level one you will receive a card; level two, two cards... For now, everything is straightforward, nothing foolish or original.
When you are able to complete a level, that is when all players have managed to get rid of their cards, depending on the level, you will win a bonus: a new life, a new shuriken, or nothing.
Too simple? Ah, but I did not tell you about the specificity of the game. It is forbidden to communicate. Yes. No words, no gestures, no mimes, no foot movements, no blinking the numbers as you have (if you have the 100 it must be tiring I guess) ... No, nothing , Nada, Rien, you do not speak! Even worse than Hanabi. There, it is not funny anymore. Well, it can be funny, but in other ways.
You will have to be careful. Everything will be played with intuition, with sensation, with the gaze. It will not be easy I grant you. But when you get there it's so enjoyable.
To help you, you still have the right to use a shuriken. When all players agree by raising their hands (we do not speak I already told you!), they can use a shuriken. This allows all players to show their smallest card from their hand and discard it. Phew. Except that shurikens are like lives, they are rare and precious. To win, you will have to reach a certain level, depending on the number of participating players. Good luck!
To lose, easy, just lose all your life cards. When a player has played a card, if no one has a smaller number in their hand, everything goes well. Otherwise, the game is paused, discard all the smaller cards and especially a life card. It costs dear lives, so be careful.
The game is extremely fast. This makes it possible to override the defeat, following stinging, and to take pleasure to start over again and again. A kind of Die & Retry. Except that necessarily the conditions are never the same. You are clearly in an abstract game. Replayability can quickly be questioned. If you play always and often with the same group, then yes the game will seem quite limited and you will quickly leave it aside. On the other hand, with different groups or with the same but less often, the game continues to surprise, amaze and make you laugh.
With its ultra-simple rules, The Mind goes well beyond the game. And that is what will finally divide players into two camps.
Some see it as a game based solely as luck, without an interesting idea, and an easy to rule bend the difficulty. After all, it would just be enough to count the cards played, or memorise what numbers have passed and hope the following numbers would be easier to play. Yes, it can be if you have a very mathematically synchronized group. But that would be completely missing the point of game.
The goal of The Mind is not so much to win as to overcome this handicap, this imposed silence between players. It can be disturbing in your first game, you will be jumping, hesitant and surprised. Once the rhythm is taken, everything will become fluid, tense and fun. Because yes, getting past the potential frustration that can occur in many people, you will eventually let yourselves be transported by this playful other plane of existence.
Example of a turn: Level two, in my hand I have a three and a sixty-six. The round begins, I logically say that I must play the three very quickly. So, I put it on the table without hesitation. And “boom”, there is the drama. My partner had the two. We lose a life less. So now, I hesitate. I have just the sixty-six left. I tell myself that I have time. I wait. Nobody plays. The third player after a while launches the seventy, telling himself that because everyone waited, the numbers were necessarily high. And “boom”, a second life gone.
The Mind is a game apart. Certainly not the best game of all time, but for the party game category it has found its place and stay there for a long time. A fun experience open to all, young and old, players and non-players. Will you be lucky? Are you a budding telepaths? Will you be sure of yourself? Short games, contrasting feelings. What frustration it gives in not being able to control anything, but what a joy when everything goes together perfectly. And the crazy laughs when it goes into a spin. For some of you, you’ll take to the game right away. For others the magic will never work.
Technical Score 5/10
Nothing extraordinary, everything is simple but functional.
BGG Score 8/10
(Very good game)
For me, magic has transpired. Fun, fast, simple. It's a pleasure to play with the right people.
Combined Score 6,5/10
And now it's over to you…
Barry’s first impressions.
This game is a giggle. It gives a sense of a team sport, where every player is trying to achieve this objective collectively. There is some blind luck and some blind guessing but all of that adds to the fun and enjoyment that comes from trying to divine when players are planning to play or not. And you will probably find yourself bending the rules a little bit as your body language starts to exaggerate your intentions. This happens generally when you’re playing with younger players.
I can see why this wouldn’t appeal to everyone, as it is a childish notion to put numbers in order. And I was guilty of that sensation when I first heard of “The Game.” But it is the simplicity of this game that makes it accessible to everyone, much like sitting around a table doing 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle together. Played it once and found it addictable and I now have my own copy.
summit: the board game
Barry Doublet &