Over the course of a few days this month, I was able to attend PAX Unplugged in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The main goal my group and I had when attending this event was to play as much as possible, even if it didn’t seem like our kind of game, demo’s wouldn’t last long so we should at least try it.
Before jumping into the board game aspect of this write-up, I do want to recommend PAX Unplugged. It was an absolute blast and there was an absolute plethora of things to do and see during the three-day convention. If there are any specific questions, reach out and I’ll try and answer but I highly recommend this convention for next year.
For the purpose of this First Impression take, I will be submitting brief reviews (compared to my normal affair) of the games we were able to play one or two times. A few of these games may eventually get the full rundown but for now, this small format will have to do. Some of these games will have photos from us actually playing at their booths whereas others don’t just due to spacing. Some of these photos might not be great either due to lighting of the convention.
This review will cover the following games in the following order:
- Beasts of Balance
- duck, duck, Go!
- Go Nuts for Donuts
- Kitchen Rush
- Menu Masters
- New York Slice
- Stir Fry Eighteen
- Sushi Go!
- The Climbers
- The Great Dinosaur Rush
Beasts of Balance
Players: 1 – 5
Time: 20 minutes
Times Played: 2
Beasts of Balance is a visually stunning animal-based stacking game that uses an app to create the nurturing world needed to feed and care for your animals. You stack your pieces on the base (Plinth) which registers everything onto the app.
I want to be forthcoming in that I was not entirely sure what I was supposed to be doing. My fiancée described the game better than the demo booth did. Basically, the game was two stages: stack animals and pieces and don’t let them fall and use those pieces to score points.
When adding a piece to the Plinth, you scan it and the outcome will appear on the screen. The animal will be added to the area it needs to be (water, land, or air) and the other pieces can cross breed animals or make animals stronger, etc.
If your pieces topple off of the Plinth, a timer will appear asking you to re-align them and if you don’t do so in the time allotted, the game ends.
Beasts of Balance is an incredibly vibrant, imaginative experience that is different from anything else I’ve played. The components are shaped well and don’t appear to scratch or damage when falling. The app appears to be fairly intuitive and offers a Bestiary, which records all the different types of animals you can cross breed.
This game is not cheap. It was listed at $99 and I worry that after a few playthroughs, you will grow bored with the base game and be almost required to seek out expansions. I’m also not entirely sure this is a game as it’s more of an experience. The app and artwork and animals interacting was neat but I never really knew why I was doing it or what my end goal was. The game requires an app and batteries which worries me as what happens when the app is no longer supported? I’m also not sure if it was fun. The novelty was amazing but if I wanted a stacking game, why wouldn’t I just play Junk Art or The Climbers?
I think the idea and innovation are great but I worry about the return on investment and fun that I would get out of this “game”.
duck, duck, Go!
Players: 2 – 6
Time: 20 minutes
Times Played: 2
duck, duck, Go! Is a racing game with a modular board and cute, themed rubber duckies. The goal of the game is to reach each buoy (with exact movement) and then reach the drain before other players do. Movement is conducted by playing one of the three cards in your hand and following the movement shown. All players place their cards simultaneously with the lowest numbered card going first.
Any collisions with other duckies or the wall will result in your duck being turned 180 degrees and facing the other direction. Direction is paramount as the cards dictate your movement. This action, known as bonking, will result in the end of a turn.
The board includes lifesavers, which double as started spaces and teleportation pads. Anytime a duck crosses a lifesaver, they can move to any other lifesaver (even the one they are on) and orientate themselves in whichever direction they’d like. This will end their turn.
What was just described is the basic game. There is an advanced version as well but I was unable to demo that however at first glance it does add some further dynamics with the cards in your hand and some much more difficult maps.
The gameplay is straightforward but it will take a few rounds before everyone fully grasps the board-to-card orientation to movement. I was frequently placing my movement card over my duck to ensure I had the exact movement positioning correct. Having to take an exact movement to a buoy or drain can be incredibly frustrating but also highly rewarding when it works out in your favor. Since you’re only holding three cards in your hand at any time, there is not much room for future strategic planning.
At two-players, the board is wide open (on the basic maps) so as long as you don’t go the same direction as your opponent, it’s pretty much smooth sailing. When the game grows to three and/or four players, the game can become downright chaotic as players jockey for positions and bounce off one another. With more players, the game does become more deliberate with the opportunity to screw over other players so keep that in mind if your group becomes irritated easily.
This game surprised me. There is more to it than originally meets the eye as I thought this would be strictly a game for children but there’s enough meat on the bone for adults to play once in a while. I’m not saying this will be a stalwart of anyone’s night but I think this will come out to play at least once a month and the short set-up and play time will mean more than one game will be played in a sitting.
As an added bonus, within each box is a set of ducks that are unique to that game and are a key talking piece while playing the game. My fiancée was absolutely smitten at the amount of ducks available throughout all the boxes.
We ended up purchasing a copy of duck, duck, Go! while at PAX Unplugged.
Go Nuts for Donuts
Players: 2 – 6
Time: 20 minutes
Times Played: 2
Go Nuts for Donuts has a box that drew us right to it with the cutesy artwork and adorable faces on the foods. As a side note, my fiancée is enamored with food that has faces or can talk (so Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is basically a holy grail movie to her) so we couldn’t pass this game by without trying it.
Go Nuts for Donuts is a type of blind bidding, set-collection card game that plays incredibly fast and is incredibly easy to learn. The game is also made to scale, which makes playing at two players just as an enjoyable experience as playing at four (although the more players you have, the more donuts you get to play around with). In our two plays, I did enjoy the four player game more but it was mostly due to the amount of blocking that became available and the player interaction, although the two player game had an almost an equal amount of dealing.
Basically, there are a set number of donuts placed in front of the players for all to see. Each are worth points, provide an action, or both. Some donuts are worth nothing until there is a set or majority of them in your hand. Each donut that is placed in front of the players is placed under a number, which corresponds to the numbers in each players hands. Players will then choose a card in their hand that corresponds to the number of the donut that they want for their collection and reveal that card simultaneously. If you’re the only one to choose that donut, congratulations, it is yours and can be added to your pile. If two or more players choose that same number, the donut under the number is discarded and removed from the game. If a donut with an action card is selected, perform that action immediately.
Go Nuts for Donuts will obviously be compared to Gamewright’s other release, Sushi Go! as they are both set-collection games involving cards and cute food with faces on them but that’s all they have in common. The blind bidding mechanic opens strategy that isn’t really apparent in these quick style games as knowing what your opponent has, or them knowing what you have, means that blocking their acquisition is a valid move but comes at the risk of not gaining a donut for yourself or worse, they planned for the block and you are now stuck with a card you did not particularly want.
This is a great gateway game and perfect for a quick, easy to explain and play game for any gathering. We purchased a copy at PAX Unplugged and know this will be an ideal filler for Thanksgiving (or any holiday really) for those with nothing to do or a short amount of time to kill. I personally think this game can be played and enjoyed by anyone six and over although the box says ages eight and above. This was easily one of our top three surprises from the convention and I cannot wait to play more of it.
Players: 1 – 4
Time: 40 minutes
Times Played: 1
Overcooked for the PS4 is one of my favorite gaming experiences of the last few years. It brought together many friends as it was easy to learn and just the right amount of tension to make everyone uncomfortable. When I heard about Kitchen Rush being released, I hemmed and hawed on the Kickstarter (due to price) before ultimately deciding to not back it but deep down, I was always wondering if I made a mistake since this appeared to be Overcooked in board game form. At PAX Unplugged, I was able to play a prototype copy of Kitchen Rush that finally put my mind at ease.
I have no regrets about not backing Kitchen Rush.
The premise is strong, a co-operative real-time worker placement kitchen management game that uses timers to symbolize workers on the floor. The timers cannot be moved until the sand has fully left the hourglass. The board and components were very nice. The board was easy to interpret from anywhere at the table and the spaces were big enough to accommodate all of the tokens needed. Speaking of the tokens, they were shaped and colored to match their respective food group which was a nice touch.
Each round lasts four minutes as you take orders, prepare food, cook food, wash dishes, serve dishes, add spices, purchase more food and spices, and hire additional workers. The game is very frantic and tense and failing to complete orders hurts the prestige of the restaurant.
The game is really only twenty to twenty-five minutes long but scoring resolution and set-up add some heft to the length.
I simply love tense games and enjoy making split-second decisions when it comes to gaming but Kitchen Rush wasn’t a fun experience. I get that knocking over workers and being frustrated at the lack of movement or food available is part of the experience to simulate a real kitchen atmosphere but I never had fun doing it and what’s the point in playing the game if you’re not having fun?
Time: 25 minutes
Times Played: 1
The idea in Menu Masters is to become the most prestigious chef among your colleagues. This is done by acquiring ingredients and completing orders using those ingredients. First player to complete three menu’s triggers the end of the game and the player with the most prestige, wins.
The chefs all have a unique character and a backstory that are featured on their player boards, which is nice but I didn’t really grasp why we had/needed player boards in the first place.
The meals felt a little flat as we’re supposed to be these world-renowned chefs but the meals are salmon and green beans. None of the food items is extravagant or a named dish, which breaks the immersion just a tad. This is geared toward a family though so this is more nitpicking on my part.
The chef aspect also feels a little off as you’re not cooking or preparing anything, you’re just going out to purchase and pair the items.
We were able to play a three-player game that ended with the first and second player finishing within two points of one another and the last player winner was only separated by ten.
The asterisk regarding players is due to the fact that the copy we played came with a player mat and pieces for a sixth player and were told it’s an option for groups that are more cutthroat in nature. I also don’t know how this would play at two players. It was just a race to collect a set with a little blocking thrown in.
I wanted to like this much more than I did and it was the second kitchen let-down of the day for us.
New York Slice
Players: 2 – 6
Time: 25 minutes
Times Played: 1
I really enjoyed New York Slice. I just wanted to get that off my chest. The pieces, the artwork, the guest check scoring pad, the chalkboard specials, the pizza board game box; everything was oozing with theme and made me think I was in a dive pizza joint. It might be the most thematic game I’ve ever played in all honesty.
Gameplay is simple. Each round has one player act as the slicer and as the slicer, they deal out a randomized pizza and divide it equal to the number of players. The Today’s Special tile is also added for variable points, power-ups, and penalties.
After this has occurred, players get a piece of pizza until the slicer is left with the last slice. When taking pizza, players can either collect their pizza or eat it. Eating the pizza will give that player points according to the number of pepperonis on the slice whereas collecting it will count towards the set the player is trying to collect.
The antithesis of the pepperoni, the anchovy, causes a player to lose points at the end of the game if they are in the players collection. If a slice with anchovy is eaten, no points are lost however, it’s just gross. There are special slices as well that can influence scoring.
After the round, the slicer role passes to the next player and once all pizzas have been divvied up, the player with the most of each collection gets points and finally, your extra pepperonis and specials are added.
That’s it. It’s a quick to teach and quick to play experience that does well not to overstay its welcome.
The game was a surprise for me as it was a game about pizza and to be totally fair, you’re making the same decisions turn after turn. Those same decisions though are tough to debate and cases can be made for collecting and eating with each turn.
The game offers a lot of variability and probably replayability due to randomly discarding slices from the beginning of the game. I am unsure how the game plays with two (my group was five) and that was one of two criticisms I had for the game. The other was the price. There’s just not much “there” for the price tag when compared to other games and my fear of the two-player mode (if there is one) had us spending our money elsewhere but I know one day I’ll relent and purchase it. It’s not even expensive by board game standards.
This is definitely a family-friendly game and I think this has a place for social gatherings of all ages, similar to Go Nuts for Donuts. While not saying everyone should own this game, it’s definitely something everyone should try out strictly for how thematic the game is. Add a scratch and sniff pizza card and this would be gold.
Players: 2 – 4
Time: 15 minutes
Times Played: 1
In addition to Go Nuts for Donuts, we were able to demo Outfoxed by Gamewright, which is a cooperative children’s deduction game that is basically a cute, family-friendly version of Clue. Each player is a detective trying to discover who stole a pie. There are sixteen suspects placed around the board, face down, and each turn, a player must choose to either search for a clue or reveal suspects. To do either of these actions however, they must roll three dice and have the dice match the action they want to perform (paws for revealing a clue and magnifying glasses for revealing suspects).
Revealing a suspect involves flipping over a face-down suspect card and showing who they are to the rest of the board. Revealing a clue (which happens when you move your token onto a clue space on the board), has you take a face-down clue token and place it in the decoder. The decoder will reveal that the clue is either white or green. White means the suspect does not have that clue on their person (could be glasses, a necklace, etc.) whereas green confirms that item is on the suspect. With this information, you can start removing suspects.
Each time you roll the dice and don’t get the outcome you wanted, the thief moves forward three spaces on the board (four if you’re feeling ballsy). Eventually, the thief can escape and you will lose the game.
I can see this game being too tame for adults but for children and their parents, I think this is a home-run. It’s a simple concept that helps children build on their memory and deduction skills as well as let them use a really cool decoder to decipher who the criminal is. The crime of stealing a pie is generic and non-offensive and the artwork is easy to look at as you reveal clues.
With this game being cooperative, you don’t have to worry about a child having to be the winner or loser as everyone succeeds or fails together. I think the older the child is, the less likely they will be to want to play this game but I would say that the five to eight age range is where this slots the best. The world always needs more games for children and Outfoxed fills that niche perfectly.
Players: 2 – 4
Time: 25 minutes
Times Played: 2
Queendomino was a game we all were really looking forward to demoing at PAX Unplugged and it was the first game we played after the doors opened on Friday morning. I have absolutely loved the last two Blue Orange Games that we have played (Photosynthesis and Kingdomino) and had through-the-roof expectations for this new iteration.
The main objective and ebb and flow of the game is similar to Kingdomino. Players are using terrain pieces to build their kingdom and score points and they do that by choosing terrain tiles based on where their meeple pawn was last placed. The similarities end there however. Queendomino is the “gamer’s” version of Kingdomino and adds new terrain, money, buildings, knights and tax collection, towers, a dragon and a queen. Let me cover these new aspects briefly:
The new terrain is orange and is used to build buildings on. Buildings are purchased from the public track for the amount of money located under them. Each building has a different function. It could provide an immediate benefit (such as additional knights), it could provide end game scoring (via points per tower or something similar), or it could provide a benefit for the duration of the game (an additional coin every time taxing occurs). Buildings are purchased when you have an open area to place them on your turn.
Money can be gained by taxing your territories using knights. Knights can be placed on a territory that was just placed and the player will receive one coin for each like territory touching the newly placed tile. Up to two knights can be placed a turn, with each on a square of the domino tile.
Towers are beneficial as the Queen locates to the area with the most towers and some buildings provide points for towers. The Queen provides a one-coin discount when buying buildings and if you have her in your kingdom at the end of the game, you can add one crown to a territory of your choosing (which makes her a great get, besides her amazing personality).
Lastly, there is the dragon. The dragon resides in their cave near the buildings and if they are still in the cave on your turn, you can bribe them with one coin to go and burn down any available building, discarding it from the game permanently. Once the building is burnt down, the dragon stays there until the turn is over. I don’t know why the dragon wants or needs gold but they have it.
The other big change is scoring. There are a lot of ways to score now and because of that, Queendomino comes with a scoring pad that can be completed when the game ends. Besides the normal scoring and what was mentioned above, one point is awarded for every three coins in your coffers at the end of the game.
Queendomino offers many new strategies and variability compared to its predecessor and plays very different as well. If you try to use similar tactics found in Kingdomino, you are underutilizing the vast potential available. All of the changes to this game do come from the new terrain type so if you’re looking for changes to the wastelands and forests, you will be disappointed, although there is some fun updates to the art and the game has a ton of Easter egg-type content that I won’t spoil here.
Now, the most important question of all: Does Queendomino usurp Kingdomino? Yes and no. If you want a longer, deeper game, then you will side with Queendomino but Kingdomino won the Spiel des Jahres for a reason. Its simplicity is a gift that will keep it played for a long time. I wonder if Queendomino is the much-requested facelift that builds upon a pretty solid foundation or if it’s just mechanisms to make a simple game needlessly complicated. I wish this “sequel” of sorts would have just provided more and different terrain tiles so you could build bigger kingdoms because that’s all anyone wants to do when we play. We now can by combining the two games but the viability of that has not been tested by us yet.
Regardless of whether or not this is an improved implementation, this is a game that we will be adding to our collection soon and when that happens, there will be a much more in-depth review where hopefully we can delve deeper into some of my concerns.
Stir Fry Eighteen
Players: 2 – 5
Time: 8 minutes
Times Played: 1
Stir Fry Eighteen is a short deck building game about cooking stir fry and trying to bluff your way past your opponents in route to scoring the most points. There are only eighteen cards in this filler game and of those eighteen, three are highly valuable: Chicken, Pork, and Shrimp. With those cards, your stir fry can score the most points compared to a meal without any protein.
Those cards can also be used to trade in for more cards, which might be needed to complete your dish. But you can always bluff when discarding to either try and increase your chances at getting more cards or by trapping your opponent(s) into discarding their hands by calling your bluff and failing. The deck has five noodle cards that are required to use to make your meal and even though they are only worth one point, they are arguably the most valuable card in the small deck as without them, no food can be prepared.
After each player turn, the cards are shuffled and the next player tries to build their meal. Players can keep cards between rounds but it seemed more beneficial to make the most grandiose stir fry imaginable than to horde cards.
You do have to keep track of the score in your head (unless you use your phone or a pad of paper) as scores run to fifty (but this can be changed for a short game. We went to thirty for our three-player demo).
We really liked this game. It is incredibly short and easy to teach and fills a nice niche with the bluffing aspect as the game runs under ten minutes. The group playing this will dictate your fun level as with any bluffing game, you will need people to call out others. This is an ideal traveling game that can be taught to anyone and if you get a chance and need a small filler game for your collection, you could do much worse than Stir Fry Eighteen.
Players: 2 – 5
Time: 15 minutes
Times Played: 3
Sushi Go! has been on our list to purchase for a long time but for whatever reason, we never bit the bullet and purchased it. Maybe it was too easy to acquire and we preferred the hunt. Whatever the reason is unimportant as we finally were able to play at PAX Unplugged.
Sushi Go! is a set collection card game where you are trying to make the best combination of sushi dishes. You do not need to know anything about sushi going into this game to help you. The game is played by each player having the same number of cards in their hands, picking one, and revealing everyone’s selection at the same time publicly. After that has been resolved, the cards are passed to an adjacent player and the process begins again. This continues until all cards have been played onto the table. Once this occurs, scoring is measured and the game consists of two more rounds after this. All cards from the previous round, with the exception of pudding, are discarded from the game. After three rounds, the player with the most points wins.
This game is simple in design and execution but also provides players with a fair bit of strategy while maintaining the family friendly nature presented on each card. The cards themselves are adorable and as mentioned in the Go Nuts for Donuts review, absolutely hilarious in nature.
This is a fast game and after everyone has played at least once and is comfortable with all the cards, turns will take seconds and rounds will fly by. Scoring will take longer than the rest of the game and that’s not because it’s difficult but because it’s not done simultaneously.
We played with three players each time and while it was fun, I think this is a four to five player game at heart and since the game plays so fast, there really isn’t any negative to having more players. I say this because of the nature of trying to collect certain groups is fairly easy at three players (as there aren’t many of you). I do wonder if the game would be more fun not revealing the cards publicly until the end in a three-player game but that’s just me.
We also butchered the chopsticks card and to be honest, I’m still not sure if we ever got it right. I don’t know why that was so troublesome for us.
Sushi Go! is a great travel-sized filler game and I can see why there’s such great appeal for it. I can’t say that I loved playing it but I did appreciate it for what it is.
Players: 2 – 5
Time: 35 minutes
Times Played: 1
The Climbers is a three-dimensional abstract strategy racing (climbing) game. The game looks great on the table due to the height from which the game can be built and the colors used on the blocks.
The game is fairly simple. Build a structure using the blocks and then be the player at the highest point when no one else can move up at all.
There are five colors and one neutral color (gray). On a player’s turn, they move one block and rotate it to place the color they want face-up anywhere it will fit. There cannot be any overhangs. Their pawn, which has its own color, can move onto blocks at the pawns “eye-level” only if they are the same color or the block is neutral. There are two ladders which can be used once each that will allow for higher movements. Players are also given a blocking token that can keep players from a block for one full round. The Climbers ends when each player passes or fails to move vertically up the structure.
First and foremost, there is not any theme with this game. It’s not Everest or the Sears Tower. You’re just doing you. I am glad that there are pawns though. It makes the game feel better than just being random tokens.
We played with three players and while it looks like the game works with two (and is probably much more cutthroat as you are actively trying to sabotage one other player) I think four is the sweet point. Five could be an issue because one of the players has to play the color that is opposite of the neutral color on the blocks and that could hinder their movement severely. This game does have competitive aspects so if you think it’s just a walk in the park up the tower, you will be sorely mistaken.
The Climbers also appears devoid of luck, which is a boon for me but something to take note of. All decisions are made by the players (even the creation of the original structure) so tactics and strategy will come heavily into play.
While most games come down to who you are playing them with, I think The Climbers really relies on the group to make the group better. If someone does not like being blocked or can become frustrated by having their optimal move blocked, they may sour on this experience.
I also can’t say that I love the end game trigger. Reaching the top of the structure means just sitting there trying to optimally block/build so you can keep moving upward. It’s a weird dynamic and maybe it was just because we only had one run-through that I didn’t like it.
One last thing to note is that the demo had us playing on a lazy Susan, which was great as we didn’t need to walk around or maneuver through people to see all aspects of the “board”. That is not included in the base game so players will need to be comfortable moving around and peering at odd angles to maximize their potential moves.
I can’t say I recommend The Climbers after one play but there have been other games I’ve been wrong about after one play-through so what do I know?
The Great Dinosaur Rush
Players: 2 – 5
Time: 50 minutes
Times Played: 1
The Great Dinosaur Rush caught our eye because it had the word Dinosaur in the title. For a little more background, this is a game where you are collecting bones from the archaeological site that is being excavated and while doing so, you secretly construct your Dinosaur to match the type(s) that you are looking for.
The bones are different colored sticks and each player is given an absolutely massive player aid/screen. These things are the length of the board when unfolded and take up some serious table space. The cards are nice as they have images of Dinosaurs and a little spiel that adds some educational knowledge about that Dinosaur.
The game has three rounds. A round consists of three Field phases, where you are excavating Dinosaur bones which is then followed by a Build phase where you construct your Dinosaur and then lastly an Exhibit phase, where you showcase your discovery (i.e. score points).
There’s a little more to the game than just that but I wouldn’t say anything is overly complicated and we demoed one full round and had most of the rules down.
Without being able to read the booklet for additional information, I presume this game is set when Dinosaur bones were first being discovered in mass as the game has you just jamming bones together to make Franken-saurs with each card. The game offers some ways to directly interact with your opponents (via blocking or stealing bones) so it’s not just a walk in the park as you collect your samples.
We were able to play at three players and I think this is a game that could definitely shine with four or five players as board control will be much more important. With three players (for the one round we played), we were able to basically go where we wanted and publicize whatever feature of our dinosaur that we required without worry.
For depth, I think this is a step above a gateway-style game but it does not tip into the midweight realm of complexity. While there is strategy involving the dinosaurs and bones and the notoriety that can occur from blocking your opponents, the nexus of the game appears to be in the exhibition stage, where you are scoring points for your dinosaur being the biggest, longest, heaviest, etc. based off of the publicity tracks, which are altered by the players. I’m unsure if a fixed scoring mechanic would make this better or not but a lot of action points were spent here.
I really enjoyed building my own dinosaur as you can pretty much make them into whatever shape you want as long as you follow the bare guidelines. One of my dinosaurs was basically all neck like they were born looking for something.
This is definitely a game I wish I had more time with and I hope to find a copy to play soon. One round was long enough for us to see what was going on but not long enough for any of us to be sold on whether we enjoyed the experience or not. It is absolutely on my list of games to explore further.
I also really enjoyed it as it was something new. No Orcs, no space colonies, no settling cities or trains; just digging up Dinosaur bones. I love when games offer a new thematic experience.
Players: 4 – 10
Time: 10 minutes
Times Played: 1
Werewords is a party/deduction/word game that plays in a relatively short time. It says ten minutes but once you’ve played a game or two this could be shortened to six or seven.
Werewords premise isn’t really important to the story but it involves a secret word that will banish werewolves that only the Mayor and Seer are privy to but neither can outright say what the word is, for reasons.
The game itself uses a free app (available on iOS and Android) to speed along gameplay. I am not a fan of games that rely on an app (what happens when they stop supporting it?) and don’t really know why this game requires one. It could have been done just as easily with cards and paper or a dry erase board. That being said, the app does include a word bank of over 10,000 words and variable difficulty which is nice for making a fast game and not pigeonholing someone to words that they typically use.
Everyone is given a role and the mayor will receive one additional card, which could make them the Seer or the Werewolf or just another villager. It’s easier to think of being the Mayor as a title as opposed to another person. The Mayor picks the word that will be the word that the rest of the group is trying to guess. Once that is done, the mayor closes their eyes and the Seer finds out what the word is. Then the same process happens for the Werewolf.
Over the next few minutes, players will ask yes or no questions to the Mayor, trying to decipher what the word is. The Mayor can only answer questions using tokens marked Yes, No, Maybe and So Close. If a villager guesses the word, the Mayor will push the Correct button on the app. The Werewolf now reveals themselves and tries to guess the Seer. If they are correct, the Werewolf wins and if not, everyone else does.
There are some variations available with more players but we were not able to demo them.
I really like social deduction games and really wanted to enjoy Werewords but I didn’t. It had aspects I look for in party-style games (easy to learn, quick pace of play) but it just fell flat with us. Maybe it was the price point that turned us off or the artwork, as it’s goofy and uninviting or maybe it’s just the pasted on theme. We played with six social people and honestly couldn’t wait until the game was over. I don’t really know if the theme was ever very important in this game and I worry that if you played this game with the same people over and over, you would be able to out people quickly (which is true of any social deduction game).
Time: 11 minutes (per round)
Times Played: 3
Zendo is a new abstract strategy logic-based game where players must discover what rule the Master is using to build their configuration. The game comes with blue, yellow, and red pieces that can either be rectangular blocks, triangles, or wedges. This was a new version of Zendo that was just released this year.
To begin, the Master creates something using the pieces available that adheres to a rule that they are following on a card drawn from a deck. Each turn, a player creates something using their pieces and then can either be told if what they made matches what rule the Master was following via a Yes or No answer or the player can receive a quiz, where they challenge the Master and try to guess if their design does, or does not, match the rule. If their guess matches that of the Master, they gain a token that will allow them to guess the rule. If they are incorrect in their guess, the Master will design something to show off the rule. Guessing correctly wins them the game. Play continues until someone guesses correctly.
We played three games at a three-player count with Andrew Looney acting as our Master. I was really bad at this game but I liked it. It was simple and visually appealing. We had several people stop and watch a turn or two as we played as the game components draw you in.
Like most abstract games, this might not be a regular game that gets to the table but it could be a nice change of pace for the group. The only drawback for us at the time was the price. I do think this would be another excellent game for young children though, as it helps build their deductive reasoning ability.
I would definitely recommend trying to play Zendo if you enjoy abstract and deduction games (or anything from Looney Labs really).