Monday, January 25, 2010

Fast Flowing Forest Fellers

I know what you're thinking. Fast Flowing Forest Fellers...really? That's the name of the game? That's the best they could come up with? If you're thinking that I would have to agree. This game has the weirdest name of any game that I have heard of, and I've heard of a lot of games. Despite the crazy name the game is pretty fun. It's a quick light strategy race game where you are trying to be the first person to get your lumberjacks down the river. Here's what the rules say about the theme of the game:

"Daring lumberjacks meet at the river to begin their traditional contest of the fastest log riders. By skillful maneuvers they try to beat-out their competitors to get ahead in this running of the river. Sometimes you want to move ahead quickly and other times you want to block others in your race to be the first across the finish."

The game comes with some pretty cool stuff. You get 10 lumberjacks on logs, 45 logs, 80 movement cards, 5 jokers, 5 player cards, and 6 double sided game boards. The quality of the game is great. The only gripe I have is the box isn't laid out very well to store the components. You get a deck of cards, but no place to put them. What are supposed to do with the cards, just let them flop around in the box? I'm sure you could easily make a tuck box to store them in, but it would be nice have that included or have the box layout have a slot for the cards and other components. The game does come with a large resealable bag to store all the other components that works well. The box layout does nothing to affect the game play, but little touches like well thought out box design adds to the overall feel of the game.

So how do you play? Two game boards are selected and put together. Every board has rapids. When placing the boards together you have to make sure that the rapids match up. Logs are then placed on the board on all of the indicated spots. Players then select their starting lumberjack color (one male and one female) and their deck of cards that corresponds to their lumberjack color. The cards that make up your deck have a number ranging from 1 to 5 and a picture of a male or female lumberjack. The cards when played indicate how far you can move your lumberjack on your turn. There is also a wild beaver card in your deck that allows you to move either lumberjack up to three spaces.

Beginning with the starting player, each player plays one of their cards and moves their lumberjack the indicated number of spaces. You can move down the river or up the river, but movement on to the rocks, banks, and up the rapids is not allowed. You may not move your lumberjack directly on another lumberjack or log, however you may shove up to two other figures in a straight line. If three or more figures are in your way you cannot shove them, but must find another way around. At the end of your movement you then check to see if anything has landed on a current. Currents are indicated by arrows facing in a specific direction. Anything that is on a current must move one space in the direction of the current. If there is another current space that the figure moves on to it keeps going until the figure can't move any further. This make for some pretty fun game decisions and consequences. By cleverly shoving logs or lumberjacks you can send your opponents helplessly down the river in the wrong direction! After all movement has been resolved the player draws a card returning their hand to three cards and the next player takes their turn. The winner is the person that moves their lumberjacks past the last spaces on the river.

I like FFFF. It's easy to play and teach which makes it very accessible to a wide range of players. With 6 double sided game boards it would take a long time to repeat a setup, so replayability is high. The game suggests only placing two boards together, but I don't see why you couldn't put 3 or more boards together for a longer game. The only problem I could see is you might run out of logs to place on the board. There's not a ton of strategy, but there are some interesting choices to make on when to play certain cards and where you move on the board. A bad move could put you in a position to be whisked down the river in the wrong direction. So if your looking for a light strategy race game that would work for families and casual get togethers with friends, this game might be for you. Thanks for reading and happy gaming!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Great Dalmuti - By guest writer MaryAnn

Several years ago our friends introduced our family to a game titled "The Great Dalmuti". Surprisingly, we realized that at previous times in our lives we had played this game but under several different titles. We knew it as President, Janitor, and Scum. Since our original introduction to the game however, it had been several years since we had played the game. We were thrilled when The Board Game Nut was able to locate a copy of this game for us as we'd been told it was only available through the European market.

We picked up the game after Thanksgiving and began playing with a couple of people we knew, along with some strangers. One great thing about this game is it's quick pace. As in any card game, some luck is involved, however strategy is definitely an important element of this game as well.

The game is based on a hierarchical seating arrangement which begins with The Great Dalmuti presiding at the head with the lesser Dalmuti to his left, progressing finally to the lesser peon and ultimately the Greater Peon - a.k.a. the shuffler, dealer, and garbage/card collector. While the two peons have to pay 'taxes' (their best cards) to the Dalmutis, the Dalmutis get to give their worst cards to the peons. The Dalmuti then begins the first round laying down a set of cards while each player then lays down a set of the same amount of cards, but of a lower numerical value. Whoever lays down the lowest set of cards gains control and begins the next round by laying down the next set. The first player to rid himself of all of his cards becomes the next Great Dalmuti, and so forth. The last guy - well, he's the great peon and can get to work.
While not an extremely technical game, this game is interactive and yes, slightly addictive. It is a great game for parties and for breaking the ice, especially as seats and positions are exchanged after each game. Complete strangers quickly fall into the camaraderie of light banter, complaining, railing against the masses/overlords, and scheming to make their way around the table.
Another great aspect of this game is that children can quickly pick up the strategy and play as well. When we were first introduced to this game, a 10 year old maintained control of the Great Dalmuti seat for the entire evening much to our chagrin!
While fast paced, each individual round can be completed within 10-20 minutes.
This is a fun, interactive, and easily learned game which can be played with 4-10+ people.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Galaxy Trucker

So with a name like Galaxy Trucker the game has to be good right? I'm just going to get this out of the way early. I REALLY like this game. It's probably the most unique game that I've ever played. It's got a speed element, some good strategy, fantastic components, and everyones spaceships can get blown to pieces by asteroids. What's not to like?

Most of time learning a game can be kind of a pain in the butt. Digging through rules and trying to figure out the game mechanics can be a confusing and frustrating experience. Galaxy Trucker on the other hand has one of the best rule books I have ever read. All throughout the rule book there's flavor text that adds to the theme of the game and the rules flow very well. It was actually fun reading and learning the game. The rules also recommend playing through the game as you read the rules the first time. The rule book explains just enough to start playing, but not too much to get you confused. I usually read through the rule book once or twice before I play, so it was nice to just jump in and start.

For an overview of the game here's the flavor text from the start of the rules: "Corporation Incorporated is an interplanetary construction firm that builds sewer systems and low-income housing on the less-developed planets of the Galaxy. For years, Corp Inc. has tottered on the brink of bankruptcy: transporting building materials to the edge of the Galaxy, where the need for their services is greatest, is a risky business.

The company was saved by a few visionaries on the board of directors. Instead of shipping materials to the Periphery, they reasoned, why no build the materials into the spacecraft and let them ship themselves? Furthermore, why hire pilots if there are nut-cases who will do it for free?

That's where you come in. Just sign the contract, and you gain unrestricted access to a Corp Inc. warehouse. Build your own spaceship from the available prefabricated components, and fly to the Periphery. Of course, you may have to eat a loss, but any profits you make along the way are yours to keep, and Corporation Incorporated will pay you a bonus for quick delivery.

It's possible that you will end up with an insurmountable debt and finish your days panhandling on the streets of Deneb III, but if Lady Luck should smile upon you, you just might find yourself among the 10 billion richest people in the Galaxy!"

So when I opened Galaxy Trucker for the first time I was amazed with how much stuff was in the box. You get a ton of tiles representing all of the ship components used to make your spaceship. You also get money (cosmic credits), aliens, humans in spacesuits to man you spaceship, small green battery pieces that look exactly like tic-tacs, a pair of dice, a bunch of boards to build your spaceships on, wooden goods cubes, and I'm sure some other stuff I'm forgetting.

The game is played over three rounds. For each round there are two phases. In the first phase you get to build your spaceships. All of the building tiles are placed in the middle of the table face down. These tiles represent the warehouse you use to build your ship. The boldest player says "GO!", and the round begins. Everyone playing then simultaneously takes a tile from the supply, turns it over and decides if they want to add the tile to their spaceship. All players have a starting cockpit on their ship and the tiles they draw must connect to the cockpit, or another tile they have previously placed. All of the tiles also have connectors. In order to legally place a tile the connectors on the tiles must match up. The types of building components you can can build your ship with consist of: cabins for your crew, guns, E-batteries (the E stands for enormous), alien life support systems, engines, goods containers, and shields. There are other rules for placing the tiles that I won't go into, but when playing you need to make sure you follow the rules or there are penalties. Oh, and did I mention that you are being timed? Depending on what round you are in is how much time you get to build your ship. Ships built in later rounds are bigger, so you get more time. If you run out of time before your ship is finished you have to fly an incomplete ship, which probably isn't the best thing to do.

Now you get to fly your ship! The game comes with three decks of cards that represent your flight to the Periphery. Depending on the round you have a certain amount of cards that are randomly put in the flight deck. The later rounds have more cards so your flight is longer. The person who finished their ship first is the leader and gets to draw the first card. The cards represent things you encounter during your journey, such as meteoric swarms, epidemics, sabotage, Pirates, Slavers, Planets, combat zones, and other things that can be either good or bad. Depending on how well you build your ship is how it will hold up during the flight, or how many goods and cosmic credits you will get. After all of the cards have been drawn, the flight is over and the rounds' scoring begins. The person who arrived to the final destination first gets bonus points, as well as the person who has the prettiest ship, which basically means the ship who took the least amount of damage. This goes on for three rounds, and the person with the most cosmic credits after three rounds is the winner.

Galaxy Trucker is one of those games that is just as much fun to lose as it is to win. There is something strangely satisfying about seeing your ship blown to pieces by meteors or a pirate invasion. I played a game with my wife and brother in law and nobody made it to the end in the third round. We were all taken hostage! The game was still a blast, and I wanted to play again. The only downfall to the game that I can see is the price. It's one of the more expensive games I own, but with everything you get in the game it makes sense. I still think it's a good value for the amount of enjoyment you get. So if you're looking for a great game with a sci-fi theme this one would definitely do the trick. Thanks for reading and happy gaming!