So Frankly...

So Frankly...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Fireworks for the Fourth - A Review of Hanabi

Last year, I reviewed a game that I played on July 4th: Battle Cry.  My son and I played it because of the holiday.  The Battle of Gettysburg was fought 150 years earlier over the first days of July.  This year I thought I would review a family game that tied in with the 4th.  Hanabi is a game about putting on fireworks displays.  It has won high praise, and is being highly touted as a fantastic family game within gaming circles.  However, I think the last three words are important.

Hanabi is a cooperative game for 2-5 players that should take about 30 minutes.  There five suits of cards (and an optional sixth suit) which have cards valued from 1-5.  There are three 1's, one 5, and two each of the 2's, 3's and 4's.  Players work together to lay down cards in order for each of the five suits.  Sounds simple, but there is one catch:

You can't see your own cards!

Players hold their hands backwards, so that a player only sees everyone else's cards.  On a turn, a player can provide limited information about either the suits or values in one players hand, discard a card, or play a card to the table.  The game forces discards, and only three wrong plays to the table can occur before the team loses.

This is a great idea for a game, and I had a "blast" with it.  But I am not sure how it would play in families.  First of all, while the game gives an age range of 8+, I can't imagine too many 8 year-olds that could really wrap their heads around this.  It's fairly "thinky"; not what one would call a "light" game.  It doesn't surprise me that it's a "family game" in the gaming world.  Kids in the gaming world often catch on a little earlier due to their gaming experience.  But for casual family play, I would suggest something else.  This is the co-op love child of Mastermind and Headbanz.

It won the 2013 Spiel des Jahres, so I am probably plain dead wrong with my reservations. There are families that will love it (including mine I think), and there are reasons to pick it up:

It's great for families with older children.  While the under 10 crowd might struggle, this would be great for older kids.  I always like cooperative games for families, but sometimes they can suffer from "dominant player syndrome", where one person is bossing everyone around.  That's impossible in Hanabi.  Not only is there too little information, but it's flat out against the rules.  As a result, everyone feels like they contributed.

Puzzle people will like it.  My wife is a puzzle person.  If we sit down at the table to do anything other than eat, she's going to pick a jigsaw puzzle for the activity.  There is a lot of "puzzling out" the logic in this game, so it's great for people who are into that.

It's $10 and fits in your pocket.  I know a lot of people have sticker shock when they see the cost of modern board games, but they are well worth their value.  This one is downright cheap at the price, and it can go anywhere you want it to go.

The game plays very well, and is a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it.  Despite my reservations about its appeal, I can recommend it as a solid game.

Thematically, it's a great fit for the 4th.  It can go to the fireworks display in your town, and you can play it on the blanket while your waiting for the show to start.  Have your own little fireworks!

It's Your Move!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Ticket to Ride - 10th Anniversary Edition

A few years ago I wrote a review of Ticket to Ride, a fantastic game by Days of Wonder.   What I said then still holds true:  no one has ever told me they dislike it. Both gamers and non-gamers alike are drawn to this game.

Ticket to Ride was released in 2004, and one the Spiel des Jahres.  While there have been some innovative new mechanisms in games, this game would still be a contender for the award today, ten years later.  Days of Wonder is actually putting out a 10th anniversary edition in commemoration, and it just gets better and better.

The artwork in Ticket to Ride has been updated with new illustrations, but still retains that Victorian, Around the World in 80 Days feel.  It's larger too; the board is actually 50% bigger than earlier versions.

New artwork, same Victorian feel!  (Promotional image by Days of Wonder)
 The box will need to be bigger too, since the train cars, which are actually more like pre-painted miniatures, come in tins.  There is one tin for each player:  circus cars, cabooses, passenger cars coal cars and oil cars.
Beautiful miniature trains for the game pieces
  (Promotional image by Days of Wonder)
 The biggest complaint I had against the original Ticket to Ride has been answered too.  In the original, the playing cards were very small: almost half the size of a typical playing card.  We solved this by purchasing the 1910 expansion, which had standard size cards.  The anniversary edition will come with standard cards.  All the same, Days of Wonder tossed the expansion into the box too!

Full size cards sport new artwork.
  (Promotional image by Days of Wonder)

This news is great for my wife and myself.  You see, our son is the one who actually owns Ticket to Ride in our house.  Of course, when he goes away to college, he'll take that with him.  Let me rephrase that:  he'll take that with him.  So, obviously, it only make sense that we will get a copy of the 10th anniversary edition for our shelves.  Oh, I misspoke again: we will get a copy of the 10th anniversary edition.  You should too.

Ticket to Ride: ages 8 and up, 45 minutes, 2-5 players.

It's Your Move!