A Few Early Impressions

No, this isn’t the point in our blog in which I bust out my killer impersonation of Apu from The Simpsons. I’ve just been cranking through a lot of games lately, but not in the depth needed to deliver a full verdict, so here are a few quick glimpses of what’s been coming to the gaming table.


I really wish Hasbro would contact me before naming their games. That way, I could have warned them that this sounded like “Fungus,” and that people generally don’t like to play games they associate with something you need to get rid of with an ointment. The game is mostly a giant box of 120 tiles, each one bearing a single word, with words divided into different categories by color. You place these words on a frame to describe a person, place, or thing, and everyone else has to guess what you’re trying to describe. It’s charades with words, and it actually has the makings of a pretty good party game. I’ve only done a couple of small sessions with this one, but it’s been fun, and not just because I’m one fungi. (I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry for that one.)

Sorry Revenge
I hate hate hate Sorry. The only thing I hate more is Trouble, and that’s because the sound of a Pop-o-Matic is the Devil’s own heartbeat. With that out of the way, I can now do my deep breathing exercises, calm down, and move along to say that Sorry Revenge seems okay. It’s a card game with a bit of 21 and a dash of Uno tossed in for good measure. It’s slight, but seems enjoyable. Again, I’ve only done this with two people, and I plan to try it with 4 before I write more about it.

Castle Ravenloft: The Board Game
I did one pass through the first, solo adventure. I like the mechanics. A lot. So far, however, the solo game seems to be “spawn monster, move to new tile, kill monster, repeat.” I suspect this pattern shifts radically when more people are added to the mix, so I’m eagerly awaiting a chance to recruit a Coalition of the Willing to test this more fully. Stay tuned.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
I’m just plain enjoying this one. It has a very tight comic-book look, with bold lines around the edges of objects, a vibrant color palette, and a four really distinct visual styles for the four different worlds. With a few exceptions, Spider-Man has always had good fortunes in his video and computer game adventures.

Batman: The Brave and The Bold
Yeas: Great approximation of the look, sound, and style of a great TV show. Nays: Feels like a really elaborate Flash game. More play is required to be sure.

Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
If you put a bunch of random words and letters into a computer and had it come up with a title guaranteed to make my skin crawl, it would look something like the above. I haven’t even cracked the shrink wrap on this one, and thus far I’m keeping it sequestered from the other games just in case its taint is contagious.

Yes, I’ve heard that it’s based on a popular young adult book series about owls wearing armor or something, but that’s such a catastrophically stupid idea that I hoped someone was pulling my leg….

Nope, there’s an owl wearing a helmet on the cover of the book. It looks every bit as dumb as it sounds. Is this the new formula?: animal [cat, bear, owl, three-toed sloth] + cheapjack ersatz Tolkien nomenclature and fantasy hoo-ha = BESTSELLER FOR 12 YEAR OLDS! At 12, I was reading Conan Doyle, Burroughs, Lovecraft, and Poe, like any American boy with his head on straight.

Gamespot gave it a passable review, so I’ll give it a shot. Since I have a pair of YA readers in the house, maybe I’ll recruit their expert opinions. They haven’t read the books, but they have a good eye for cynical corporate-manufactured media tripe.


App O’ The Mornin’: Reiner Knizia’s Poison Review

Reiner Knizia’s Poison, a 2005 card game later re-themed as “Baker’s Dozen,” has been given a fairly plain port by Griptonite Games.

The game is solo-only for one player and 4, 5, or 6 AI opponents. Right off the bat Griptonite missed the boat by leaving out multiplayer elements, which are precisely what this game needs to give it some spark. The AI only has a single setting, and that setting is “always choose the right card.”

The game is played around three cauldrons. Each player has a clutch of cards in red, yellow, and blue, each with a number value: 1, 2, 4, 5, or 7. The goal is to shed all your cards to the cauldron by playing on matching colors, without pushing the total number value over 13. If you do exceed 13, then you claim all the cards in that cauldron, earning one point for each card. Since the game is won by the person with the lowest score, you want to avoid taking piles whenever possible.

There is also a green “Poison card” which can be played to any pot. It has a face value of 4, but counts as 2 points when calculating the score.

This is an interesting riff on Hearts and other trick avoidance game, and a has similar strategic element. As he often does with Rummy games, Knizia has taken a familiar theme and put an interesting spin on it. The app version is a competent implementation of the game, but it’s rather short in the feature department. It’s certainly a good way to play an interesting game: it just doesn’t play like a $3 app.