Saturday, January 05, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 46

Our first Saturday morning gaming session of the new year was attended by my mother (Grandma), my six-and-a-half-year-old daughter Maddie, and myself. Although she didn't play, (and I know she wanted to!), almost-two-year-old Georgia sat on various laps wriggling and attempting to grab game components when they were within her reach. My wife Deb was out this morning with her father.

Maddie chose the six games we were to play. She then informed us of the order in which they would be played. This morning we would be playing the games in order of their individual box sizes, from largest to smallest. It was as good a method as any I've used before so we began.

First up was the largest box - Fraidy Cats. In this game the board is a 3d back yard with fences on the four sides of the yard and a dog house in one corner. Placed in front of the dog house is the battery-operated 'Mugs' the dog. The players are cats trying to make a precarious circuit of the dog yard along the top of the fence posts. Your token is a cat on a spring-loaded base. On your turn you roll two dice which have numbers and a picture of Mugs on the die sides. If you roll numbers you move that many spaces along the fence posts. If at any time either of the dice are rolled and you get a picture of Mugs that player presses a button on Mugs after they've moved. This then sets Mugs careening off from one side of the yard to the other, bouncing off the fences and turning every which way. If he happens to bump into a cat token sitting on the fence he triggers the loaded spring in the base of the token which then shoots the cat up into the air. The unlucky cat then has to return to the most recently passed trash-can (safe-spot) or the starting point if the trash-cans are occupied.

Mad Mugs the cat-hating dog

Sure, this is basically a roll-and-move game and I normally don't like roll-and-move games. This game, however, is a hoot to play with kids. There are squeals of fear when Mugs comes close to their cat and cheers when Mugs bumps into their opponents - and that's just me - the kids are pretty vocal during this game as well!

Mugs was particularly vicious this game, targeting me on several occasions and sending me back to the starting point. Grandma ended up winning with Maddie 2nd and myself 3rd.

The next box in size was Gulo Gulo. This is a fun dexterity game from Germany where those with dexterous fingers will egg-pluck their way to victory. Each player is a Gulo (wolverine) searching through the Swamp-Vulture-infested swamp to find the missing Gulo Jr (or Baby Gulo as we've nicknamed him). To move from dry land to dry land you must pluck an egg the colour of the land you wish to move to. The eggs are different shapes with the smaller ones obviously harder to pick than the larger ones. In the center of the egg-bowl (nest) is the Swamp-Vulture alarm. If it falls and touches the table, or you knock and egg from the nest, you set off the alarm and move back to the most recently passed land of the same colour as the egg you failed to take. Like she has done many a time before, Maddie was the ultimate winner.

A beautiful game that looks good enough to eat!

The next smallest game was For Sale. Maddie has said many times that she really likes this game. It's fast and it's fun and my daughter enjoys it which means it should see a lot of plays in 2008. This game was odd, with Grandma trying a different strategy of passing a lot to save money. I'm never really sure of Maddie's strategy but she always seems to do fairly well. Final scores were me 1st on $82K, Maddie 2nd on $77K and Grandma 3rd on $50K.

Hot property - but how much are you willing to bid?

The next game in size was Nobody But Us Chickens. This is another game I really enjoy. The object of this game is to score the most points in chickens. Each player has the same hand of cards representing chickens of varying values, a fox, a rat and a guard dog. A number of rounds is played equal to the number of players. Each round represents a night. Each round ends when all cards have been played from a player's hand. Each turn players play one card face down to the center of the table. The cards are then revealed and the outcome depends on what cards were played.

A fun game of bluff and counter-bluff!

If only chickens were played then those chickens stay in a pile (the chicken coop - we use the box to represent this). If chickens and a fox were played then the fox takes the chickens (more than one fox they share). If chickens and a rat were played the rat takes all the chickens. If a rat is played with other foxes then the rat has first pick of the chickens but can take only one. If a guard dog is played with any predators then he chases off the predators and rescues the chickens for points. If there are no predators the guard dog gets nothing. It's quite a fun game trying to outguess your opponents.

Night 1 - Me 22, Maddie 1, Grandma 1 (Wow! I scored big with the fox and guard dog!)
Night 2 - Me 10, Maddie 3, Grandma 3
Night 3 - Me 3, Maddie 11, Grandma 4

Final scores were me 1st on 35, Maddie 2nd on 15 and Grandma 3rd on 8

The size of our next game was again smaller than that of the one before - Pick Picknic. This game is similar to Nobody But Us Chickens in that each player secretly plays cards and the outcome is based on the comparison of those cards to any others played in the same area. It features lovely artwork by Doris Matthäus which also makes it visually appealing. In this game players are vying for corn in six poultry yards. The corn is represented by small coloured wooden cubes of values 1, 2 and 3 which are placed on the poultry yards. In our three player game, each turn each player played two cards of different colours on to separate poultry yards. If you were the only bird at the yard you ate your fill of corn. If there was a fox the fox ate the birds and gained points equal to their value. If there was more than one bird at a yard they could duel by rolling a d6 and adding their value to the roll. Highest roll got all the corn. There was also a fleet fowl who (similar to the rat in Nobody But Us Chickens) could pinch one corn and get away before having to duel or being eaten. It was a fun game with Grandma 1st on 61, Maddie 2nd on 60 and me 3rd on 47.


And so we had made our way from the largest game box to now the smallest - Der Plumpsack Geht Um (AKA Sherlock). I have the German version with the scrotum-like Plumpsack gracing the front of the box and also the title-card which is used in the game.

In this game play proceeds clockwise. Everybody has 30 seconds to memorise the cards and then they are turned face-down. The player on your right places the plumpsack card next to one of the cards. If you guess correctly you follow the directions on the card. There will be an arrow and a number. You then must guess the card so many spaces in the direction of the arrow. If you keep guessing correctly you keep turning cards face up. When you finally guess a card that directs you back to a card that is already face up you win that card.

It was as we were setting up the game that my wife and father-in-law arrived home. Deb saw what game we were playing and immediately wanted to play. We decided to make it 8 cards laid out and the first person to win 3 cards would be the winner. So it was Deb, Maddie, Grandma and myself in a battle to see who would be the best at recall. I've played this game before against my wife and she's pretty good at it. She did explain to me that she uses the pictures as items in a story. In this way she can better remember their order. This is a similar method to how some people can memorise the correct placement of a randomly shuffled deck of cards, or the names of people in a studio audience.

Apologies for the photo - it was blurry - unlike my memory in this game! ;-)

With that knowledge I approached the first layout of 8 cards. They were an alarm clock, a shoe, a sweater, a cap, an apple, a lollipop, an anchor and a yellow duck. I visualised myself waking up in the morning (the alarm clock), getting dressed (the shoe, the sweater and the cap) having breakfast (an apple and a lollipop), then having a bath and playing with a toy boat (the anchor) and a rubber duck (the yellow duck). This visualisation helped me to win the first card of the game. But here's the thing - when you win a card you take it as a point and replace it with another from the face-down deck. I ended up winning the apple and replaced it with a feather. This fit my story perfectly as it came straight after the cap allowing me to amend my story by placing a feather in my cap and reducing my breakfast to only a lollipop.

As expected it was a close game between myself and Deb. I ended up coming 1st with 3, Deb came 2nd with 2, Grandma 3rd with 1 and Maddie 4th with 0.

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