Saturday, October 06, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 35

Another Saturday morning of gaming with my mother and daughter. Today we had the opportunity to play some recent game purchases from Germany - Burg Appenzell and Der schwarze Pirat.

In Burg Appenzell (or Castle Appenzell) each player controls four cute coloured mice and tries to collect pieces of cheese from within Castle Appenzell. On their turn players spend action points to either put new mice into play, reveal corridors in the castle, move their mice, or push a tile which changes the maze and can possibly drop mice into the dungeons below. If on a turn any two of a player's mice are sitting on tiles that show the same kind of cheese, that player obtains a piece of this cheese. The first player with 4 different pieces of cheese wins the game.

Burg Appenzell from above - the various roof tiles hide the board below

On a side note, Appenzell is a region in north-east Switzerland. A cheese called Appenzeller has been made in this region for the last 700 years. My mother was born in Switzerland so it was interesting for Maddie to link the place where this game was set to her Grandma's country of birth.

The components are simply beautiful with nice thick cardboard, lovely artwork and cute mice tokens. The box itself doubles as the castle and contains a plastic tray with internal wells representing the dungeons.

Each player starts by placing one of their mice (did I mention how cute these mice are?) in one of the four castle towers. The starting player is the last person to visit a real castle. Out of the three of us that would have been me but the general policy in our house is that youngest player (in this case Maddie - aged 6) goes first. Maddie chose blue, Grandma chose yellow and I chose green.

Maddie quickly picked up the action-point mechanic and used it to lift roof tiles to reveal cheese tiles below and move her mice. Roof tiles cover 2 to 4 spaces. There is an element of memory involved because as soon as there is no mouse in an area at the end of a player's turn the roof tile is replaced thus hiding any cheese tiles below. There is also the element of sliding tiles like in the Amazing Labyrinth. The cool part is there are 3 tiles with holes in them that can be used to drop opponent's mice into the dungeons and take them out of play.

One of Grandma's mice is headed for a one-way trip to the dungeon

I took an early lead and mentioned to Maddie and Grandma that I already had 3 pieces of cheese. I was proud to then see Maddie whispering in Grandma's ear about ways to stop Daddy from winning. As I was so close to winning we all decided to change the required number of cheeses to 7. I did eventually go on to win with 7 pieces of cheese, with Grandma on 5 and Maddie on 3. Burg Appenzell is a light fun game for adults and children.

My winning haul of cheeses. Mmmm....cheese.

Next up was Der schwarze Pirate. This was another beautiful game with great components. The board is formed by four pieces which interlock like a jigsaw puzzle. I was concerned that the edges of the board pieces may not lock together properly or perhaps be warped but was relieved to find they fit together extremely well and lay flat. There are raised edges around the edge of the board and also raised areas on the board which represent islands.

Each player is assigned a coloured wooden ship with cloth sails which starts on a predetermined space in the middle of the board. A black pirate ship starts in a predetermined bay on pirate island. The aim of the game is to move your ship around the board by blowing it with a rubber puffer or bellows. On the various islands will be gold coins which you will collect if you enter the bay (represented by a lighter blue than the surrounding ocean) of that particular island. When all the available coins have been collected the player with the most coins wins the game. Maddie chose red, Grandma chose yellow and I chose green.

Maddie placing a coin and trying to blow her ship at the same time

On their turn the player will roll two dice. The first die will show how many puffs of the bellows you can use to move either your own ship or the pirate ship. The possible outcomes are 1) move your ship 3 puffs, 2) move your ship 4 puffs or 3) move the pirate ship 3 puffs. The second die determines onto which island you will place a coin. Sometimes two coins will be placed on two islands.

Moving ships with the bellows is the cool part of this game. Experimentation will reveal that it is best to blow at the more stable wooden base of the ship rather than the cloth sail. Blowing at the cloth sail will often result in a capsize which ends your turn and forces you to place your ship back on its predetermined starting space in the centre of the board. Maddie took a little while to perfect her bellows-style but was soon as proficient as the adults.

If your die roll means that you move the pirate ship you can choose either of two tactics. Either move the pirate ship into the bay of an island (like you would do with your own ship) and claim all the island gold for yourself or try and move the pirate ship so that it touches an opponent's ship. The player whose ship was boarded by the pirate ship must now take 3 coins from their bag and place them hidden in their two hands (either all 3 in one hand or 1 in one hand and 2 in the other). The pirate player then selects a hand and gains all the gold in that hand.

Hoping the winds of fate will blow me into the bay of that island to claim the gold

As the placement of the coins is randomly decided by a die then you will find yourself having to try and navigate around the raised islands to seek your glory. Dexterity games like this are fun with all players cheering when a particularly well-placed gust of wind sends a ship flying towards its target.

Once again this was another quality game from Germany with a beautiful thick board, lovely cloth bags, gorgeous yellow wooden coins and stunning wooden and cloth ships. Fun for adults and kids alike. Final scores were me on 18, Maddie on 10 and Grandma on 8.

Our final game of the morning was my hand-made copy of Diamant. This is a fun quick game of push-your-luck. Players are adventurers exploring 5 caves which hold gems and hazards which are determined by revealing cards. Knowing when to leave and take your accumulated gems is the key to this game, although sometimes pushing your luck and outstaying the other players can pay off. Its all about managing risk versus reward.

My home-made version of Diamant

The photo above was taken on the second card draw of round 1 before I realised that we had forgotten to share the gems before moving on to the next card. Final scores were me on 51, Grandma on 48 and Maddie on 25.


Fraser Anderson said...

I am glad the pirate game is good, I just mailed this to Canada for my nephew's birthday.

Ozvortex said...

Hey Fraser. Yes, I really enjoyed it. Good choice - you've got one lucky nephew!

Anonymous said...

You are my hero!
i miss my heroquest box now!

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