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Facts in Five
Word game in which players have limited time to come up with words starting with a randomly-chosen letter in several categories. This will always remain a party game without a more definitive way of adjudicating near-miss cases. It can be especially problematic if only one player knows a category well as the game provides no way of verifying the words. A simplified version eliminating the obscure categories has been published as Scattergories. I have always suspected that this game existed as a parlor game long before any formal publication. [Party Games]
Fairy Tale
Japanese card game of passing and drafting. Over several rounds players are dealt a hand of cards, being able to keep one and passing the rest along to the next player. This process continues until each receives back the one remaining card from the original hand. Then there are four rounds of simultaneous revelation of one card each. The goals are to achieve suit dominances as well as achieve certain inter-suit combinations which are worth points as described on the cards. There are also special effects cards which temporarily de-activate (turn over) or re-activate either one's own or opponent's cards. The card passing mechanism is a good one, a specialized form of drafting really, but the direction taken with it results in limiting the audience. Instead of keeping cards simple and layering another subsystem atop this, they are filled with little captions and icons that are practically impossible to comprehend in their entirety, especially when displayed before the player across the table. Players thus tend to concentrate mostly on their own collections and matters tend to to multi-player solitaire. The fact that not all the cards come into play tends to reduce planning and increase luck as well. Benefits are the short duration and the attractive anime-style artwork. Tacticians and fans of the theme, some possibly crossing over from collectible card games, will find some enjoyment here. Most everyone else will probably find a mild level of interest.
Strategy: Low; Theme: Medium; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Medium
One of the fastest games ever, both in simulated and real time as players are trying to be the last to go splat after falling off a high building. Requires a lot of skill as the nonplaying dealer to make the game go well. The real time features can be a turn-off for the serious gamer.
Leo Colovini card game on the little touched topic of genealogy, yet not an educational game. We've seen titles on inheritance (Die Erbraffer, Coronets) and on breeding (Garden Gnomes Society), but this is the first I've seen in which players track five generations of a family group. Each player is dealt a secret physical trait at start which he tries to make common at every generation. Traits are things such as large noses, red hair and large ears. As no one knows who is working for what, scores must be kept for all traits, not just the ones which actually matter. People cards are played in one of two modes: as a marriage partner (someone new joining the family) or as a child. Spouses need to have the right gender; children must feature only genes carried by their immediate parents. Marriage plays containing one's favored gene should be avoided as no points are scored, yet it is the only resort should one's gene be dying out. The per-card penalty for cards held at the end is further reason to get them played. It seems that secrecy applies for only about half the duration. By then it should be pretty clear who is who since too much bluffing will rapidly leave one out of the family. Luck of the draw is pretty strong here as well – fail to draw enough of your own and you'll be hard pressed to advance the cause of your selfish gene. The theme is quite nicely handled, however, and the cartoon illustrations add a feeling of levity. Theme fans will probably enjoy this short outing best.
Strategy: Low; Theme: High; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Low
Fan Tan (Sevens, Parliament)
Traditional card game of the stops family. Features considerable tension as players wonder if they will be able to get rid of all their cards, or, more agonizingly must decide whether to burn a cheap card which might eventually prove playable or an expensive one which will only need to be burned anyway. A rule forcing play so if possible adds urgency as well. The chief ploy is the tactical burning of a card for a personal penalty in order to create even larger penalties for others. The problem with this kind of attack, which a house rule for pre-game card passing would address, is that it may strike the last place player as easily as the first. In modified form this game also forms part of the suite of games in Barbu as well as Scott Marley's Guillotine.
Fantastische Ballonreise
Multi-player game of balloon racing created as a promotional item by Ravensburger for Fanta, the soft drink. Very nicely-presented including the nice moveable balloon pieces which are apparently the same ones used in the game Ballonrennen. Play is probably rather too chaotic to reward strategy very much. [Balloon Aviation Games] [rules translation]
Fantasy Business
Game for up to eight themed around setting up various shops selling items for fantasy adventurers. The theme is actually completely superfluous and no doubt calculated to catch the attention of the RPG and CCG crowds. Each turn is composed of an auction of as many shops and event cards as there are players. Reminiscent of Parts Unknown, players set prices (which have constrained minima and maxima) for each of their shops. All sellers except for the highest price get paid (in plain plastic coins of different metallic colors), with the low price being paid a substantial bonus. Negotiation (collusion) in price-fixing is permitted. The system is easy to use, but tends to devolve into always setting the lowest price, except for areas where a player has a monopoly, in which case the highest price is used. The true arena then should be in the auctions, but this has been artificially restricted by permitting each player to buy only one item a turn, leaving players few options. A larger problem is that it can be difficult to catch a leader. The other players have few ways to attack him – such a player will use larger funds to buy most of the event cards – and collusion becomes problematic since players end up with different numbers of shops and why should a player with one potions shop agree to help another who has three? Although it does illustrate some important economic principles for the uninitiated, sophisticated players will probably be disappointed with this offering. Published with the same title and artwork in separate French, German and English editions; there is significant card text.
Fantasy Pub
A player navigates a team of warriors, orcs, dwarfs and hobbits through a pub attempting to get each of them sufficiently, but not overly drunk. The engine of movement is dice, but each character has unique abilities. For example, hobbits steal coins while orcs leak them. But even more interesting are the drinking rules. No one can drink alone. If someone sits down next to you, they buy you a drink if more powerful than you, but the reverse if weaker. If someone of your rank is already at the table, you can't sit there, unless only that type is there, in which case it's a party and everybody buys their own drinks. But don't run out of money or have more than eight beers or you're liable to be bounced right out. Characters find it hard to leave otherwise as each beer consumed loses a dice pip in movement. But if successful escaping the pub, a point is earned for each beer consumed. As you may have gathered, merely explaining the instructions is a source of hilarity in this lighthearted vehicle. There's not a lot of science or strategy here, but considerable elegance and a large feeling of fun. This should work quite well for groups willing to get into the spirit of things, regardless of whether or not it's turned into a drinking game. It's unfortunate that the small press nature of the product did not afford thicker cards and tiles which would be easier to maneuver, but it's not so bad as to prevent play. Setting aside a lot of space so that cards can slide rather than be picked up will help a lot. Seems to be ideally suited for three players – above that, the bar can get so crowded that it's difficult to do much and decisionmaking becomes more a matter of finding the one available option. [Holiday List 2003]
if no image probably out of print
Trick taking card game using a 52-card deck in which a trick winner gets to claim one card from those played. The aim is to exactly match the suits of five cards drawn at random. There can be some trickiness to this if any butterfly (will you join my campaign to rename it a "flutterby" 'cause what do they have to do with butter?) cards must be matched. Flutterbies are in all four suits, but only appear on the 8, 10 and 12 ranks. Reception of this game will probably differ widely. If the card deals happen to be fair, all will seem fine. But sometimes they don't and here the game does nothing to mitigate it. A player who gets most of the high trumps and most of the high cards can devastate the scores of others, particularly if the cards which must be matched are in the trump suit. A game like Tichu makes low cards valuable by permitting creation of straights and bombs and allows hand improvement via passing. A game like Wimmüln allows players to predict how they will do and so score accordingly. But here there is no relief at all. There are partnership rules for four or more, but they're nothing special. With two or three one or more dummy players are involved and here is the one point of innovation. A dummy hand does not show all of its cards, but only about half of them, the others being placed face down, one each beneath a showing card. This can lead to interesting dilemmas as players try to decide whether to risk losing a void. It also means that voids can come and go. This could also be an interesting way for any developer to work solitaire on a multi-player trick-taking game. Maybe the game should have been based entirely on this idea with even live players making decisions on this basis. But as it is, the best advice is Avoid. [Two vs. Two Games]
Strategy: Low; Theme: Low; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 4
Derek Carver; daVinci games/Mayfair Games; 2004; 2-5 [Buy it at Amazon]
Fast Food Franchise
Game inspired by Monopoly but concerning the expansion of American fast food franchises. Although considerably more strategy has been added, there is still quite a lot of luck in the game, particularly in the cards. There also seems to be one best franchise, which differs depending on the number of players. Perhaps best are the interesting tactical decisions to be made in the center of the board regarding linking up and cutting off of franchises.
if no image, probably out of print
Suppose you hear about a game and learn that it's in the trivia category, about animals. Interest plummets. Then you hear it's by Friedemann Friese, who has a refreshing take on everything. Now it rises considerably. So where do you end up? There are 360 illustrated animals on large cards. Players can take their best guess by placing one of their cubes on any of the current animal's worldwide locations, length, height, weight or tail length. The problem, besides simply not knowing the answer, is that each choice can only be taken once. Moreover, each player can make multiple selections. So that there are more possibilities for reward, players can also earn lesser points for guessing a place which is adjacent to the correct answer. But to prevent too much random guessing, those which do not even meet this standard are lost to the player. As a catch-up mechanism, the last-placed player gets to make the first selection, which generally constitutes the low-hanging fruit. There are two ways of trying to play and success really requires the use of both. The direct approach is to try to reason out what the size or location must be. But attention must also be paid to the collaborative. The knowledge around the table is necessarily better than just one's own. Observation of others' selections provides a good idea of where the truth must lie. On the other hand, beware the wily first-playing opponent who places something he knows to be rather wrong in order to have everyone else follow in error and then who then places the correct answer after everyone else has already dropped out. The game includes a nice map of the world for locations and tracks for the numerical categories. Illustrations are well done, though it can be infuriating for animals where tail length is an issue and yet the animal is depicted from an angle where the tail is not visible! It's arguable whether this is a bug or a feature. This has only been published for the German market at the time of this writing and thus the numbers are in metric units which may be difficult for English speakers. Each person will have to decide their comfort level on this issue. Perhaps surprisingly, this is probably not that great for children. It's not that there's anything objectionable; it's just that it will be difficult for many of them to compete against the wider knowledge and experience of adults. Overall though, this is a challenging and also fun exercise of wits, much in the same way that Wits and Wagers is, probably for most, on a more enjoyable topic as well. An English language and measurements edition has been promised for some time now; let us hope it will be so. [6-player Games]
LLMH7 (Strategy: Low; Theme: Low; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: High; Personal Rating: 7)
Friedemann Friese; Huch & Friends-2008; 2-6 [Buy it at]
Involves players betting on a race of five colored horses. Players are each allowed three bets. Interspersed amongst the bets the players are moving the horses via die rolls. Simple rules and a lot of interest in choosing when and where to make bets and which horses to move early in the die rolls. Do you take the roll you have or hope for something better? Lasts about twenty minutes. Walter Müller; Walter Müller's Spielewerkstatt;
Fette Autos
Auto racing game is another which, like Formula Motor Racing and Stock Car Championship Racing Card Game, is without a traveled track, the cars simply changing position relative to one another. Actually, there is a board, but it serves no real purpose apart from minimal atmosphere. There is a track too, in the form of eight cards which the cars traverse one after another. These do matter as each player's current speed is represented by three cards containing icons. Each icon matching the current track grants two of the all-important acceleration chips. Each turn consists of three parts. First, each player draws a speed card and possibly sees one of his speed cards change depending on some detailed rules. Second, he can either deliberately change one of his speed cards from his hand, or if things are really desperate, change out his hand cards. Third, from back to front players can try to overtake with help of the aforementioned chips which are held in hand and simultaneously revealed. Cars go as fast as possible on the straights, but if they take the curve too quickly, must either discard chips or lose hand size and have their speed reduced by a random amount. It's all rather straightforward, yet there are interesting problems to solve and bluffing to accomplish. Tarnishing the otherwise nice system is the fact that so much depends on the chips, supply of which tends to rely too much on luck of the draw. Although up to seven players are supported, may be better with just a few – even solitaire is possible – as the non-player cars are unpredictable, making figuring them out an interesting challenge. A suggested variant: make sure the last piece of track is a straightaway to provide a more exciting ending. The game is made from sturdy materials, even the box, while the wooden cars appear to be painted cross sections of house moulding trim. The title means Big, Heavy or Powerful Cars. Update: see the publisher's site for advanced variant rules which may increase the strategic possibilities. [6-player Games] [Edition Erlkönig]
Light card game by Reinhard Staupe (Edel, Stein und Reich; David & Goliath; Shit!) with a strong memory element. The title is another one of those delightfully laconic German expressions meaning "faux-pas" or with the earthiness a German would appreciate, "to put one's foot in it". Players take turns revealing cards that are addeded to a running total – or subtracted when the limit is reached. If anyone is holding a numbered card showing this total, the unfortunate active player has "stepped in it" and must take a penalty. Upon taking four of these, the game ends and has been won by the one with the, ah, cleanest shoes. To its credit, the system can induce a real feeling of dread, as in "am I about to set a foot wrong again?" It does try to help with the memory problem by regularly revisiting which numbers are land mines, but on the other hand, exacerbates it by always adding new mines. It's best to get this as a memory trainer; strategists can leave it lie. Besides, I can never seem to draw any of those all too convenient "0" cards! (he remarked ruefully). I'd rather play Shit!, but maybe one could get both and make a theme night. Only, a couple more games are needed for a full evening. Is Herr Staupe planning to oblige us and make a niche of this odiferous topic?
Strategy: Low; Theme: Medium; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Medium
Knizia "play a card, draw a card" game for ages six and up casts players as rival ringmasters trying to attract the most customers to their particular circus. Attractions are rated for the number of people they bring in, but if one can match another's attraction, it's possible to steal from their audience instead. There are also a few specials. Human pyramids bring customers based on the number of other human pyramids already in play. Clowns can be played in large batches. Lions cause audience loss equal to the last inflow. Despite the stated ages, this can also be interesting for adults who with memory and tactics can layer on more meaning to the plays. For example, it might be a nice idea to play attractions held in pairs so that if someone steals from you, you can steal right back. The only downside would be that the publisher appears to have saved money on the artwork. Title means "fire-eater", one of the more popular attractions. [Holiday List 2003]
Fiese Freunde Fette Feten (Funny Friends)
if no image probably out of print
Another in the family of games combining the strategy and party games (Hart an der Grenze, Cash and Guns, Die Kutschfahrt zur Teufelsberg, Shadows Over Camelot, Saboteur, Gerüchte Küche et al.), this one adds the delicious twist that the topic is modern life, or more particularly modern foibles and relationships. This is accomplished by giving each player life goal cards in five areas. The first to fulfill them wins, though there are there also a few mega-goal cards fulfillable by anyone, which confer a more competitive aspect. The cleverest bit are the nine tracks found on each player board which denote how much a player has invested in drugs, smoking, drink, obesity, wealth, melancholy, religion, medicine and, finally, wisdom. What's cute is that reaching the end point of a track completely nullifies all progress in another. Going too far into drugs loses all wealth. Get enough wisdom and stop smoking. Etc. To make progress on these tracks players draft cards for the purpose of auctioning them off. What commodity permits buying these events? Time of course. Each event has two sections: a set of prerequisites and a set of results. But the fun doesn't stop there. Many events also require the participation of friends, who can be either neutral pieces or other players. In fact other players can force their inclusion using cell phone tokens or force the active player to use his cell tokens to choose someone else. Friends can eventually become sex partners – even same-sex ones – and share engagement, marriage, parenthood, estrangement and divorce. All along there is plenty of humor and especially so in this last area. "Start a rock band", "Trip to Amsterdam", "Discover BSW", "L7", "Condom broke" and "Become a game designer" are just a few of the 140 different cards (amusingly illustrated in cartoon style by the talented Maura Kalusky). But there are tactical aspects too. Just when is the ideal time to use that cell phone token? When should you take an event and when should you pass to collect more time? Or even change your life goals? A particularly sneaky tactic can be to bid strenuously for an event and let the opponent own it, but then join it as a forced friend and derive the benefits anyway. The German edition appears to be slightly racier and the English version also makes some changes for cultural reasons as well, e.g. soccer fans become baseball fans, a lodge becomes a Bridge club, a sex scene shows less nudity, a loss of faith scene omits a crucifix, a crew race becomes a softball match, etc., but it doesn't ruin the game the way that self-censorship ruined Eyes Wide Shut. There's also a blank card so you can add your own event! Although strictly speaking only icons are needed to play, many cards do need their descriptive titles to bring out the funny flavor. There are only two notes of caution. One is that while up to six players are permitted, there are really too few goal cards to support this; matters can go on much too long. The other issue is that the instructions are a bit vague in a couple of areas, but on-line play aides from the creators make up the difference. If you don't mind mixing a little laughter with your games, don't pass up this one. [6-player Games]
Friedemann Friese & Marcel-André Casasola-Merkle; 2F-Spiele/Rio Grande Games; 2005; 2-6
Strategy: Low; Theme: High; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 7 [Buy it at Amazon]
Fiese 15
"Vicious 15" is generally the best so far of Schmidt's new Roll & Play series of dice games. Features of the series so far are short and simple play, plastic boxes which unfold to become dice rolling towers and
low price tags. The idea in this one is that players take turns rolling six dice, each in a different color against a revealed card. The card shows a target value for each die color which can be matched, but not exceeded, the total always equalling the 15 of the title. Players have three rolls of as many dice as they like, trying to achieve the highest total possible, but having to allocate at least one die each time. If a player is unable to allocate any, the score is equal to the numbers on the unallocated colors, but if all six are allocated, the total score is doubled. It was surprising how differently players approached the problems here, there being different aspects, e.g. safety, doubling, high scores, to priortize. Of course this is all quite lucky, but the push-your-luck nature of it all is fun and exciting, even for the onlookers, who of course are always brimming with "helpful" advice for the current roller. On the other hand, not having a turn can get tiring so probably a limit of three players is the best bet. There's another reason for that too: although the tower is quite handy, it's difficult for more than about three to see the dice at a time.
LLMH6 (Strategy: Low; Theme: Low; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: High; Personal Rating: 6)
Steffen Benndorf; Schmidt-2010; 2-6; 30; 7+ [Buy it at]
Fifth Avenue
This is another in the line of games having a large number of mechanisms at work. Essentially, however, players attempt to place as many of their skyscraper pieces as possible next to the largest number of possible shops, receiving a final score by multiplying the two quantities (in one case actually a Fibonacci number based on the number). One of four types of actions forms a player turn. They include placing shops, drafting cards, scoring a region, acquiring more skyscrapers, initiating skyscraper placement, etc. Placement is conducted using auctions in each player may only use cards of a single color (plus wild cards). The dilemma here is that the higher the card values, the lower the number of skyscrapers that can be placed. There are also issues of adjacency within districts. This is a system in which a great deal occurs outside the player's turn, sometimes to the detriment. There can also be a blackmailing factor in which a player forces someone to the left to take a particular action in order to prevent some succeeding player from gaining too great an advantage. So there are a fair number of tactical possibilities. It also appears to have more than one strategic approach, but one of simply placing as many skyscrapers as possible appears a dominant one. The overall feeling here is of a fundamentally simple situation made complicated with a number of artificially layered-on mechanisms which fail to add an equivalent amount of interest. Of course there's no thematic connection to midtown Manhattan or its history either. Artistically, the various streets and squares and Central Park are labeled, but are filled with rather pastel boxes. The plastic skyscraper pieces are nicely realized. They would have been even more fun if they stacked. The cards are large and nicely realized except for the communication design which features too-similar colors and a difficult typeface. Also the actions are multi-part requiring a language-heavy player aide.
Strategy: Medium; Theme: Low; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 6
Wilko Manz; Alea/Rio Grande; 2004; 2-4 [Buy it at Amazon]
Fight the Power
Simple dice game of recruiting elves is reminiscent of Button Men. The idea is to start with four dice and win by either recruiting to eight or by getting rid of all of them to others. While the concept are rather elegant, the strategy of starting out by recruiting and falling back on trying to lose if unsuccessful is a little too obvious. The fact that it often ends after just four or five player turns means it is over before it had even begun to get interesting. Originally included as part of Chief Herman's Holiday Fun Pack and also included in the marketing materials of other games. Not nearly as absorbing as Can't Stop or Exxtra.
Multi-player game by Friedemann Friese. Here he continues his mock-gruesome niche by having victory points awrded in the form of shrunken head tiles. I'm reminded of the time I aroused the ire of the docent at a Fiji pavilion by innocently asking whether a long-handled fork was intended for eating human brain... But the main operands here are not heads, rather jewels (in the form of plastic beads in four shapes and colors). Four auctions are set up, each specifying a particular jewel type or types and each having a different result. For example, "whoever bids the fewest blue forces every other player to take a red" or "whoever bids the most green and yellow combined can alter one victory condition". The auctions are resolved via blind bidding, but the fascinatingly new wrinkle is that all four auctions are conducted at the same time! Layer on top of this the fact that each auction criterion and each auction result is specified on a different randomly-drawn card and you have a system both New and Good. The victory conditions – whether a player wants the most or the least of each jewel type – are randomly determined as well. To win, players need both analytical skills to parse out the consequences of the combined auction rules as well as psychological skills for what is probably the best version of Rock, Paper, Scissors yet devised. Unfortunately, this combination may be problematic for the game's reception as too few are good at and enjoy both (probably 10% of the general population, maybe twice that or more of experienced game players). Thus are illustrated three paradoxes: blind bidding can be a successful mechanism; Rock, Paper, Scissors can be made into an enjoyable mechanism; and a game can be very good and yet not have a wide fan base. There is also a two-player version which uses special scoring rules for rather a different game.
Strategy: Low; Theme: Low; Tactics: High; Evaluation: High; Personal Rating: 7
Friedemann Friese; 2F-Spiele; 2006; 2-5
Fill or Bust (Volle Lotte)
Dice game in which one chooses between standing pat or risking current winnings to win even more. Not much strategy. German edition known as Volle Lotte at leasts adds more colorful and interesting textless cards. Without the bonuses and other special effects added by a deck, known as Farkle. [6-player Games]
Filou: Die Katze im Sack (Felix: The Cat in the Sack)
Friedemann Friese's (as in "Porsche" don't forget to pronounce the final "e") latest endeavor since Fiji continues in the auction vein, this time finding out who can do the best job at buying closed sacks of cats. "As I was going to St. Ives ..." – but I digress. Actually the sacks are not completely mysterious as each player contributes one face down card having a positive or negative value to each. (Or a card may contain a dog which chases one of the cats away.) Plus, each time a player drops out of the bidding one of the cards is revealed. Dropping out, by the way, yields a small payout to the dropper, which is the only way to gain funds. Repeated play reveals two conflicting realities. The first is the geography of the situation. The last bidder, knowing the content of the last card to be revealed is in the most powerful position. The first bidder is in the weakest as his card is revealed right away – everyone knows more than he does. On the other hand, the player with the most money and the ability to buy any valuable sack is also in a powerful position, the second reality. Deciding how to choose a card balancing these realities is half the game and a tricky game of bluff the rest. But a consequence of all this is that if the player to the left of you is starting the auction a lot and you have a lot of money, life is very nice. Because this can happen through no "fault" of your own, it might make a nice variant to adjust the turn order each round so that the overall leader goes first and the last placed player last (considering both cards and coins to determine this). Overall though, it's an auction game to appeal even to non-auction fans. Think of it as a slightly meatier Geschenkt perhaps. A playing does not take all that long and the extra large cards are both amusing and attractive. The three player version employs special dummy player rules.
Strategy: Low; Theme: Medium; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 7
Friedemann Friese; 2F-Spiele; 2007; 3-5
[Buy it at Amazon]
Filthy Rich
Very innovative form of a game from the inventor of Magic: the Gathering gives rise to humorous speculation that it was invented to find something to do with too many binders and clear card pages lying around. Actually the game works fairly well as players try to start businesses and market them Hong Kong-style using flashy billboards. Each page of the binder represents a different wall of billboards and only the currently showing page and those cards that show up from beneath it can pay off. In addition each wall has rolls a different number of dice, the more dice the more likely a payoff. These features lead to several different interesting considerations to make when establishing a business. Players who fail to realize that financial conditions are very tight will probably go bankrupt from taxation so more care in investment is needed than in the typical game. The goal is acquisition of three luxuries at which point the game ends, but these rise in cost as the cheapest ones tend to be acquired first. [variant]
This game joins Ra, Tichu and I Doubt It as another whose title you say while you play it. The board is a six by six grid of increasing numbers. Each player turns over three of their dozen numbered plastic chips and the first turn begins with the roll of a twenty-sided die. Each turn players must place a chip on the number rolled and then reveal a new chip before the next roll. When all chips have been placed, a chip is instead moved from any on-board location to that of the rolled one. The goal is to arrange all of one's chips in sequential order first. This is short, simple and themeless, but offers the same kind of pleasure in creating order out of chaos that a Take It Easy or a Ten Days in the USA does. The challenge is to find the most efficient path to the goal considering all of the probabilities. Because there are so few rules it offers the additional advantage of being both played and enjoyed by young and old, experienced and not, alike. Everything here is well made and the only possible complaint is that there aren't enough boards to support six, or even eight or ten players. Curiously, this eclectic inventor also created the quite different silk road game, Die Seidenstraße. [Top Ten Gateways] [Top 10 Games for 7 or More Beginners] [Frequently Played]
Hartmut Kommerell; Schmidt; 2008; 2-4 [Buy it at Amazon] [Buy it at]
LLLH8 (Strategy: Low; Theme: Low; Tactics: Low; Evaluation: High; Personal Rating: 8)
Finstere Flure
"Sinister Corridors" is Friedemann Friese's horror-inspired game of teams escaping a monster-infested building. No one controls the horror, which comes in various cardboard realizations; instead it is moved according to a set of rules based on what it can see to the front or sides and partly via a randomly-drawn speed chit. This manages to be both straightforward yet tricky since the players, especially the later-moving ones, have so much effect on where the monster will go. The two-sided player disks (realized via buyer-applied stickers) elegantly provide variable movement by flipping to reveal a new rate after movement. 2F-Spiele have once again not shied away from edgy material – e.g. the blood pool tiles – even though it endangers support from awards committees. Production, following the example of the earlier Fische Fluppen Frikadellen, continues to be quite professional-looking. A possible problem for some is that this is an elimination game, at least in the second half, not just by losing all of one's pieces, but possibly just by losing enough that it becomes impossible to improve on the record of already successful players who win tiebreakers. Perhaps it would have been more interesting to award the tiebreaker to players escaping later instead? Anyway, these chaotic possibilities can irritate if there is considerable downtime, which, depending on one's group, may happen frequently as players struggle to imagine and count all the possible monster moves. Play this fast or the fun falls out. At the end of the day this is elegant, has a lot of tactical interest – along with possible kingmaking – and should be played, but is not the lighthearted romp that its storyline may imply. It is more, but is it too much? A variant for seven players might permit a human to control the direction of monster moves.
Fische Fluppen Frikadellen
Friedemann Friese travel and trade game is set in a world which is themeless apart from every thing in it beginning with the letter F. Players use up to three movement points each turn, at the end of which usually having the chance to buy/sell/exchange with a merchant. Prices are fixed on a big board and only vary per merchant depending the size of his supply. The act of selling reduces prices by an amount based on the price's position, not by the amount sold. Interacting with a merchant usually has one or more side effects; this is how prices rise. Also included are some rather powerful special effects such as being able to move goods around and even to alter the geography by swapping merchant positions. Winning is essentially a matter of "buy low and sell high", but the actual race is to buy three fetishes from the unique fetish dealer, each new fetish being more expensive than the last. The board has twelve positions for merchants and thirty-six merchants available which means that (1) replay value is good with the essential geography being different each time and (2) an expansion kit is likely. Apart from this initial positioning and determination of start player, which has been carefully balanced by giving succeeding players extra movement points, there is no luck. But because the actions of other players can vary so very much, and have so many side effects, one does not feel the lack. It is possible that analysis paralysis may develop with some groups. Overall very complete and well-developed; should find many fans, especially those who appreciate a fine system. With reduction of some of the chrome, e.g. the complicated movement and ferry rules, could entertain a more general audience as well. Play works fine with as few as two, but uniquely, with multiple sets can support up to fifteen, players departing to other board to collect their fetishes. For this reason is sold in three versions, A, B and C, the only difference being the sizes and shapes of the pawns. This is a clever idea, but somewhat less exciting in practice as with more than five players at a table matters become chaotic in the extreme. The board art is green as the inventor's hair with a delightful look as well as a collection of quirky merchants, including the inventor, who, by the way, is not content with just any number, but is assigned one whose spelling begins with an F, 14. There is also a jab at a neo-Nazi and a joke on the two squabbling Chinas, one communist, one not, but joined at the hip nevertheless. My favorite though is the one inspired by Nosferatu. Be prepared for a few rules ambiguities which have since been addressed. [Q&A] Title means Fish, Cigarettes, Meatballs – three of the five commodities in the game – or if you want the alliteration, Fish, Fags, Fricassee. [Traveling Merchant Games] [variant]
Strategy: Low; Theme: Medium; Tactics: High; Evaluation: High; Personal Rating: 8
Friedemann Friese; 2002; 2F-Spiele; 2-5 (15)
Fischer von Catan, Die (The Fishermen of Catan)
Nature abhors a vacuum and apparently so does Catan. So often new players have asked, "what are these all-sea tiles for?" One is forced to admit they are only there for flavor. But no longer! This expansion kit provides thin overlays that cover several of these tiles. Printed on each is a number in the range 4-10, indicating that when the number is rolled, a player having an adjacent settlement makes a random draw from the fish pool. These two dozen or so tiles depict varying numbers of fish which may be spent or saved. The larger the number of fish turned in, the greater the effect. Besides the expected card stealing effects, it's noteworthy that for the first time the robber can be forced back to the desert. One of the fish tiles does not show a fish at all, but an old boot. Drawing this piece of bad luck means that the player now needs eleven points to win rather than the usual ten. But that's not all. At the end of the turn it can become the problem of any other player who h as at least the same number of points. Not all playings will feature this tile, but thos that do will likely have a more exciting endgame from this moving of the goalposts, though at the cost of more time. Overall, this is a good expansion as it fits seamlessly, does not overwhelm the original and yet does alter the building analysis to some extent. I wouldn't want to play this expansion every time, but it is certainly welcome occasionally. In terms of playing advice, probably the fish are not worth thinking about too much during setup, but should be considered when deciding where to build new settlements. And since fish can be used to do some surprising things, e.g. steal several cards during a single turn, opponent fish supplies should be carefully monitored during play. One question remains and it's for Mayfair: is fishing a male-only sport or can women participate too?
Strategy: Low; Theme: Medium; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 7
Klaus Teuber; Spielbox/Mayfair; 2007; 3-4 [Buy it at Amazon]
Fish Eat Fish
Reiner Knizia board game of stackable plastic fish for children eight and up. Fish movement is kept admirably simple so as to focus on the mechanics of stacking and struggles for survival. The latter are resolved by simulataneous card play which has fewer options than Knizia's Lord of the Rings The Confrontation. Played careds are afterward hidden away, putting matters squarely in child's memory game territory. Victorious fish stack up on the vanquished and yield points when height exceeds five. Therefore deciding which stack to target forms most of the strategy. Play decisions lack the usual Knizian subtlety and even the colorful graphics are disappointingly impersonal. It's depressing if these are the highest production values the American market will support for an original Knizia publication.
Trick-taking card game with bidding. The game exists in several versions, the best of which are the Australian rules. The game might have been a nice, less demanding version of Bridge, but doesn't quite work because each bid is too much of a commitment. Whereas in Bridge there is a range of seven bid levels, here there are only four. Moreover, once one passes on a bid, it is impossible to come back in. Thus any real communication with one's partner is mostly impossible. One might as well save the time and simply play David & Goliath or Der Flaschenteufel instead. [Two vs. Two Games]
5ive Straight
Abstract for up to six, including possibility for partnership play. The plastic board is a 10x10 grid marked with numbers which decrease in a spiral towards the center. Players hold four number cards and on each turn play one to put a peg on the board at that number or higher. Objective is to get five pegs of one's own color in a row. Very similar to Sequence without the wild cards, but slightly more sensible graphically as the numbers can be found much more readily than card illustrations. The ability to play on a number which does not exactly match the card is also a good idea, one sort of picked up later in the game Rheinländer. Just as in Sequence, requires a lot of attention to what is happening, but not much thought. Partnership play is not really all one would want as there is not much ability to communicate intentions. Strategically, it is probably a good idea to get rid of high-numbered cards as soon as possible to avoid having dead cards in hand which can severely limit a player's options. [Two vs. Two Games]
5,000 Years of Chinese History
Basically a variant of Monopoly in which players attempt to collect various properties and not go bankrupt from paying rents. Published in Taiwan, Republic of China.
Fjorde (Fjords)
Two-player tile-layer by Benno (TransAmerica) Delonge. Each time players place a randomly-drawn tile they may also place one of their farmer pawns. After all of the hexagonal tiles have been laid, there begins an Act II when they take turns placing farm tokens that radiate out from the farmers onto vacant tiles. Players seek to fence off territory and claim the largest regions for themselves, the winner being the one with the most farms. The rules are easy, but play difficult as "Norway" only rarely seems to develop in the directions one expects. Watching this natural growth is an amusement in itself, much as it's fun to watch the networks grow in TransAmerica. But growth is rather restricted by the placement rules which require each new one to abut at least two existing tiles and that their sea, mountain and meadow components all match. Very frequently a player has no choice about where a tile must go which is already no fun, but it feels even worse when that tile helps the opponent. On the other hand, it's possible that after many plays one develops such a thorough knowledge of the tile set that land growth and thus farmer placement becomes much more intelligent. But if this is true, unless it's a couple who have been playing only together, it's likely one player will have a marked advantage over the other. So while this is probably a good option for regular opponents who don't mind going deeply into a single game, it probably features too little control for the average player. [Frequently Played]
Strategy: Low; Theme: High; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 6
Flaschenteufel, Der (The Bottle Imp)
Another trick-taking game with non-traditional rules. This one is actually based on Robert Louis Stevenson's delightful short story "The Bottle Imp". How many other games can claim literary origins? The unique feature here is that a small number of low cards are trumps, but each time one is used this group shrinks to all cards below it. This eventually converges to nothing and the last one to play a trump is stuck. This one may be a bit random, but does induce a maddening feeling of terror akin to that of the story. The game has a definite learning curve. Of particular concern are the questions (1) which cards should one pass? and (2) when is it a good idea to "volunteer" to take the bottle? especially early in the trick when other players can use this to ditch low-valued cards. The art is not necessarily professional-looking, but still attractive, perhaps more so than if it were professional. Update: Re-released in a more professional edition at Essen 2003 including a wooden bottle facsimile, attractive art by Carsten Fuhrmann and two two-player variants. The game has two natures, one when played with 3, another when by 4, and the variants reflect this, "Lopaka" mirroring the first and "Bright House" the second. The former is more easygoing and avoids some of the confusion of playing two hands while the second has considerably more subtlety, especially as one can set things up with the first hand when the opponent doesn't know exactly what's intended and then finish them in the second. Both work well and are satisfying. Note that in scoring the Bright House variant: the player who ends up with the bottle only gets negative points. [rules translation] [Frequently Played]
Strategy: Low; Theme: Medium; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 8
Günter Cornett; Bambus; 2003; 2-4
Flickwerk (Turbo Taxi)
Friedemann Friese vehicle is, à la Ricochet Robot, really a puzzle turned into a multi-player speed competition. A 9-square grid constitutes the board, the center of which receives a random "road" piece. At the margins are randomly placed two sources and two corresponding destinations, the goal being to connect them by placing the roads. To keep things challenging, it's also necessary that all roads connect and do not lead off the board except where required. Road configurations include straights, tees, four-ways, turns and a cul-de-sac. It's interesting to speculate whether this puzzle arose from Friese's life as a designer or his other existence as a mathematician as there appears to be plenty of theory under the surface. Sometimes a setup does not work, i.e. has no solution. As there are too many ways for this to happen, it is left for the players to ascertain. The puzzles are quite difficult to solve initially, but one develops with practice. There will be significant disparities in results until all players reach similar leves of experience. Unlike Ricochet Robot, there is unfortunately no opportunity for a more leisurely bidding system that could tend to equalize matters. No, it's perform fast or lose, which is too bad for the slower, deeper thinkers among us, but great for fast and clever tacticians. While what's here is fine and is probably good brain exercise, there's something of a feeling that there should be more. But if you're a puzzle fan already, this is definitely worth checking out. Another nice feature is that it plays fine with two, or even one. Unfortunately there is a player maximum as each needs his own pieces.
Strategy: Low; Theme: Low; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Low
Fliegende Holländer, Der
Klaus Teuber-designed game about the legendary Flying Dutchman. Although very nicely presented with innovative systems that deserve general praise, there seems to be too little control to be ultimately satisfying. Bad luck at the draw of the ship cards and/or of the lucky horseshoes can spell defeat despite the player's best efforts. Worse, the game permits a player to be completely eliminated before it is over. [6-player Games]
Fliegende Teppich, Der (Flying Carpet)
Race game for children which is not bad for adults. Play a card and move your carpet, but don't run into a wall or a cloud. If you land on another's carpet, you can stall him or drop him to the ground. A fun, not-too-serious game with some wild effects so you're never sure who will win until the last play. The rules are just a bit ambiguous about whether it is allowed to overshoot movement and be stopped by a cloud or building. Perhaps the best way to cope with this is to insist that players aged 10 and up must scrupulously avoid collisions while those younger are allowed to get away with it. An interesting variant might be to make the race go there and back again, so that players lagging behind can land on the leaders.
Flinke Pinke (Quandary, Thor)
Quick Knizia game about a stock market situation is not without strategy. A pun on the German term "Pinke Pinke" which is a slang term perhaps best translated for Americans as "moola" or "bread". "Flinke" means lively or nimble. Also published as Quandary with nicer components and in 2002 as Thor.
Flower of the Lotus (China Moon)
Bruno Faidutti racing game web-published at the Game Cabinet. Although the theme of ducks, frogs and a lily pond is cheerfully admitted to be thin, actually it's rather a charming fairy tale. Players are frogs racing to land directly on lilies which they collect in sets, including some at the end. Other spaces cause trades or loss of lilies. The engine of movement is neither die nor spinner, but simply player choice aided by a special rule that permits skipping over already occupied spaces. Play is almost entirely tactical without much strategy which will no doubt engender jeers in some, but cheers in others. In each turn one should always gain something tangible, but if not possible, it's probably better to move the malingerers in the back than blindly move oneself forward and accidentally help someone else. In Hare and Tortoise there is more strategy – do you race ahead? are you a tortoise? do you live on the chance cards? – and more calculation. Cartagena is about the same difficulty, but the "move back to go forward" motif is more novel and bewildering. Probably the best predictor is Savannah Café – if you can appreciate its simple pleasures, you may well appreciate this one as well. Published for real in 2003 as China Moon with some improvments in rules, board layout and, naturally, components including rubber frogs. One almost wants them to be launchable as in Ants in the Pants, but alas this is not the case. Otherwise the feeling of play is mostly the same. [instructions]
Should I plant my annuals with my perennials or would that be a botanical faux pas? If you have ever asked such a question, you're a likely fan of this latest in Kosmos' Games for Two series. Cardboard tiles in a bag are, like Dominoes, double-ended, showing two flowers, or, rarely, the same flower twice. The turn consists of drawing a tile at random and then placing on the board so that like flowers touch, much as in another game with a 1960's flavor, Aquarius. Players build on their own halves of the grid, so it's mostly a solitaire affair, trying to complete tricky plays that optimize use of rather limited space. The restricted opportunities for interaction constitute three chances for each to sow weeds in the other's garden by placing a tile upside-down and the chance to claim flowers in the other's garden by linking them up to the same type in one's own. There are dilemmas, particularly in deciding whether to go for a few large clumps or many smaller ones. Matters can go on too long as at the end it seems most plays are destined to be non-operative or even impossible. The design team of Angelika Fassauer and Peter Haluszka includes a woman and reliable reports indicate that the fairer sex is taking to this title more than most, which is good to see as men still seem to vastly outnumber in this hobby. I don't know if an American edition is planned, but even though there is no English text apart from the rules, it would seem a good idea to have this one findable by the general public in the stores. On the other hand it does conjure up the humorous picture of a hairy-chested male wargamer working up elaborate strategies in the only game his woman will play, but having them all fail because trying to get too complicated will probably be self-defeating. As tiles are drawn and immediately used, it is difficult to do too much long term planning; master strategists should probably stay away. On the other hand, those looking for a light, introductory game could do worse. If nothing else, it's a good chance to brush up on your flower identifications. [Holiday List 2002]
Fluch der Mumie
This move and capture style game with a difference takes us back to those old movies of explorers being chased around a pyramid by a mummy. "Curse of the Mummy" is a one-against-the field affair where the mummy, playing one side of the vertical board attempts to capture the unseen treasure hunters on the other. The cardboard evidently contains some metal as the player and mummy magnets stick right to it. Also sticking to the mummy piece is a corresponding piece on the other side so that the adventurers can see just where the mummy is at all times. The mummy only gets an idea where its targets are when they capture a treasure by revealing the card that goes with its space. Then if the mummy piece can get to its prey in time, moving into the space causes the player piece to quick-as-a-wink and as if by magic jump onto the mummy piece and stick there, signifying a capture. This does not knock the player out, however, at least not at first. He is just transported to the mummy's dungeon from which he can immediately escape. The player is out on the third capture, however. This is an elimination issue, but usually when this happens the game is close to over anyway, either due to the mummy making sufficient captures or one adventurer retrieving all of his treasures and thus winning. The way that movement is determined is a thing of beauty. The adventurer rolls several dice whose values range from 1 to 4, but may not re-roll any which show the mummy picture instead. These dice are set aside and each such one gives an extra point of movement to the mummy, who also rolls an exclusive die in his turn. When the number of dice to roll become too few the adventurer, in what is one of the two most interesting decisions of the game, may decide to pick them all up to roll, but then provides the mummy player with a free move. This can endanger adventurers, but if it is not himself, the player may not care. Always the adventurers must walk a fine line between keeping the lead among their colleagues vs. not letting the mummy get too close to victory. The other most interesting decision is outguessing where the mummy player will go. The usual situation is that the adventurer gets one turn of movement before the mummy arrives on the spot so there is a guessing game to be played about which of two or three options to use. Here an arrow die result which permits unlimited travel in a straight line can help. The artwork here is suitably attractive. Communications-wise, some of the spaces could have been colored more distinctively, but this can be overcome. The ankh tiles players hold to represent their "lives" are somewhat thin and the dice somewhat small, but there is nothing major to complain about in this area. Play scales well for various numbers of players and the simple rules make it accessible to many ages and player types. It might be fun sometime to turn out the lights, light some candles, put on some mummy movie music and forbid talking to induce a suitably spooky environment for this one. Only available in German, at least at the time of this writing. Pronunciation (for Americans) is something like [flook der moomiya]. [Ancient Egypt games]
Marcel-André Casasola-Merkle; Ravensburger; 2008; 2-5 [Buy it at]
MHML8 (Strategy: Medium; Theme: High; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 8)
Flussfieber (Fast Flowing Forest Fellers)
if no image probably out of print
With this one the German man with the green hair has invented a race game, and perhaps his most American-style game to date. It fundamentally succeeds in spite of that, avoiding the worst excesses of the form. The original "River Fever" doesn't quite convey the topic: loggers racing down river, carefully perched on floating logs. A player controls two racers, but on each turn moves only one of them, as determined by the card played from a constantly renewed hand of three. This design decision has the benefit of making sure nobody languishes too long without a turn (as it would if turn order were completely random as in Cosmic Encounter), while still throwing randomness into what could otherwise become a procession. Of course, the excitement of a race varies directly with the number of racers as well (to a point, anyway) and here even with just a couple players there are enough to keep matters interesting. Each card specifies the number of hexes a particular racer will move, with one card permitting the player to decide which to move. Once one of one's racers is over the finish line, the rest of one's cards all count for the other. Racing is not the only activity on offer, however. Pushing, in the form of driving racers and logs before oneself, features as well. It even has a (limited) domino effect which takes on added significance due to the various back currents printed on the maps. Getting caught in these can put a racer considerably off course or, in some cases, back to the start of a board. But what never happens and what in an American treatment would almost certainly happen, is that a racer be pushed off his log and out of the race. That a player needs to get both racers across the finish line to win helps keep everyone involved also since opponents will gang up on a player with only one to go. The many riderless logs floating in the water can often be used to help with this. There's a generous variety of boards – printed front and back – which permit a very large number of course permutations. Pawns are wooden representations of boy and girl log riders which differ fairly obviously, something the card illusrations could have done better. Aesthetically, all is attractive, however, and the wooden log pieces a nice touch. This is a romp of a game where, except for once or twice per playing, the decisions are obvious. As such it should be a little shorter, but the theme certainly shines through. For an interesting variant, try having no hand and the player just using the top card from his deck. Also permit sideways pushes as one passes.
Friedemann Friese; 2F-Spiele/Rio Grande; 2008; 2-5
Strategy: Low; Theme: High; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 6 [Buy it at Amazon]
Multi-player card game in which the victory conditions, as well as the rules, continually shift. While definitely an innovative idea, it is unfortunate that so often the implications of the changes are so broad and thus strategic planning is for the most part lost. The result is a rather mindless, though amusing experience while the idea thus remains under-exploited. Has affinities to Das Regeln Wir Schon, Democrazy and more distantly, Guerilla. [Looney Labs]
Strategy: Low; Theme: Low; Tactics: Low; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 3
Andrew & Kristin Looney; Looney Labs; 1997; 2-6 [Buy it at Amazon]
The primary unique feature of this trick-taking card game featuring a non-standard deck of three assymmetric suits with four wild cards is that the player of the lowest card (failure to follow suit is considered lowest of all) must sit out the next trick. Negative points are taken for still holding cards when the first player goes out while the player going out receives a ten point bonus unless finishing with the lowest card. A bit subject to luck of the draw, but the primary skill is in remembering what has already been played. A high hand permits always being able to play as well as the privilege of the lead while a low hand at least provides a low negative score. Thus there is at least one interesting dilemma of whether to try to stay in suit using a wild card or holding onto a cheap "1" card while taking the opportunity to dump a more costly one. Not being able to play on certain tricks can be something of an annoyance as the player has little to do. Cards are attractively illustrated, each with a unique humorous figure after the style of Paul Klee drawings. Title literally translates to "to tease" although "Fool" has been suggested as a more useful translation. Playable by children 8 and up.
Strategy: Medium; Theme: Low; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 7
Friedemann Friese; 2F-Spiele; 1995; 3-6
For Sale
Ingenious, quick game of purchasing properties with the interesting mechanism that the player who drops out gets the lowest valued property and his bid back while the one who stays in longest get the best but must spend it all. The second round of then selling the houses à la Raj is just as challenging and tricky to evaluate. [Frequently Played] [6-player Games]
Stefan Dorra;
Formel Eins (Niki Lauda's Formel 1, Daytona 500, Top Race, Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix)
Auto racing game driven by cardplay has been published under several titles, some with slightly differing rules. Keys are that bottlenecks can be jammed and prevent forward movement of those behind and that sometimes it is necessary to play cards to help opponent cars. Luck of the draw plays a large role and may turn off serious players. As with other auto racing game, has little to do with what makes for a true auto race.
Formula C Minus
After finding a previous game (Trailer Park Gods) by this publisher atrocious, I was shocked to find one even worse. In this stupendously lacking auto racing game, even the most primitive items are wholly absent, such as how to set up the race cars in the first place, race car counters themselves, rules for choosing the first player, rules for determining the player order, rules for determining the result of a tie on a ramming attempt, etc. And again, just as in the previous game, a player who is already in the lead is rewarded with more cards and thus the rules actually encourage runaway leaders. The only slighly redeeming features are the attitude embodied by the cards and background and a map which is not too badly drawn. Games which reach this low level make one stop and think that perhaps the whole thing is being done as a proof that the public will buy anything otherwise could someone really put out a product which is lacking in so many ways? [6-player Games]
Formula De (Formula D)
Game about auto racing fails to feel like it because a good race is won by running around a track over 100 times, edging up on your opponent and then zooming by at the crucial moment. Here, passing other cars is trivial and the best "line" to take through corners is almost always the opposite of real life. Instead of cutting to the inside and "smoothing out" the corners, here it's better to go to the outside. Rather this is a game about risk management concerning what one's speed should be going around the turns. Additional complexities arise when tracks narrow such that cars cannot easily pass. Various interpretations of the rules seem to exist, requiring discussion beforehand with unfamiliar opponents. At least the presentation offers a sense of color and excitement. Many expansion kits depicting tracks from all over the world have been published. Title is a bit of a pun as "de" is French for "a die". [6-player Games]
Formula Motor Racing
Reiner Knizia design originally published by Gibson's in 1995 and re-released in slightly-changed form by GMT in 2001. As in Stock Car Championship Racing Card Game, there is no track and cars simply change position relative to one another. Chief interest is in the team racing effects achievable by getting one's pair of cars together. Positions are affected by card play, some of which are very powerful and can take opposing cars out of the race with a single roll of the die. Rather simpler than Stock Car Championship Racing Card Game with much more basic components, the GMT edition employing the same plastic cars used by Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix. The result is mostly light fun – not a game to be taken seriously. Strategically, given the "take that" nature of the cards, being out in front early is probably a bad idea. [Take That! Card Games] [6-player Games]
Each player represents a paleontological researcher trying to make major fossil finds. Success brings more money and fame; failure the opposite. The board is a 9x9 grid, each space of which is covered by a tile depicting a portion of a fossil. Each tile also contains a point value from 1-3. On the board are two stones, one of which can be moved by each player on his turn in order to claim a fossil. There is something very nice and clean about the mechanics of this one. Fame is expended in quantity equal to the number of spaces moved. When the last tile of a particular fossil is removed, players receive points based on the number of components they have and the point values on those tiles. In addition, the player completing the fossil can exchange a tile he has collected with one of those from another player. Players who had no component in the fossil lose points which are then given to the player who had the most points in that fossil. The game is dependent on all of the players being at about the same level, otherwise the game can easily be given away. Strategically, if you can collect the most pieces of a single fossil before running out of fame, you will probably do well. [6-player Games]
4 in 1 (Mü & Lots More)
This package o' games permits play of four trick-taking card games: , Njet!, Was Sticht and Willi. All of the cards use the charming artwork of Doris Matthäus, including a delightful dragon for Meinz. In the case of Was Sticht the chits are also replaced by cards. Although these games are good, one wishes that even more card games could have been included, especially some that are long out of print. How great would it have been to also have had Foppen, for example? Well, if this is a success, perhaps another similar effort will appear later. Nevertheless, this is a great treasure for trick-taking fans.
Personal Rating: 8
Amigo/Rio Grande; 2007 [Buy it at Amazon]
Njet!: In this edition the number of cards goes from forty to sixty, including three zeroes and four(!) sevens in each suit. Now the zeroes rather than the ones are the potential supertrumps. The greater number of cards permits an additional player and every row on the decision board has five options, including a no-trump option for the regular trump suit. There are also options for pre-game card handling, e.g. removing one or two cards, removing two non-zero cards or passing two cards to the right. In scoring, the added option makes every trick take costs two points. For uneven teams, the starting player chooses which player of his, smaller team has a doubled score. Play is fairly similar to the original except that the hand size with fewer than five is a trifle large and there are some additional wrinkles caused by the multiple cards of the same rank. In these cases, by the way, the last to play a tied card takes the trick. It is disappointing that the Njet! rules do not address at all the endgame problem.
Willi (Meinz): This game has been re-named Meinz and given special rules for a dummy player – which can do quite well – when there are only three.
Fowl Play!
Capture game for two to four by Richard Breese. This simple contest of player foxes pursuing neutral chickens (inspired by a Wallace & Gromit marathon?) has very few rules and most of them are found in one of the more byzantine scoring sections ever composed. Even Himalaya has nothing on this. The fundamental idea is that each of the chickens has different traits in three categories. The player has a secret goal card which tells which three traits he must avoid to maximize points, i.e. the more trait-friendly chickens survive, the more points he gets. But in addition he scores more if he can capture complete sets of four in any type, even though this must include some from his avoidance group. (Math majors, do group theory and even the term "abelian" spring to mind from some distant recess?) In addition, a player stands to gain extra by capturing the chicken of the type having all three traits on an opponent's card. So this is an opportunity plus calculation plus mild deduction game. As for the on board activities, they are not at all novel. Each player chooses a hand card which defines which chickens he may move. Chicken and fox moves ensue on the hex grid, including some teleportation to keep things moving and fluid. Thematically it seemed like there would be a lot, in the nature of a Tally Ho!, but actually there's not a great deal as calculation greatly overwhelms feeling. Minimizing and maximizing without other innovation has its limitations. Most replay value will come from different different amounts of chicken trait overlap, but this number does not appear large. Components are of good quality and the illustrations appropriately silly, but do require careful consumer sticking of chicken labels. The tokens may be a bit too helpful actually, in their communication design as it can confusingly seem like the chickens have more traits than they actually do. This is a good one for those looking for something rather different from the rest of the field, even if in some ways it is too much more of the same. On the other hand, the marriage of intense calculation with the move-and-capture motif may well put some players off. The group that comes to society games from war games should also be more amenable to it than most.
Strategy: Medium; Theme: Low; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 5
Richard Breese; R&D Games
Freight Train
Alan Moon card game of operations in a freight yard as players compete to draft the longest chains of identical train cars. Cards are reminiscent of those in Express while play reminds one of Reibach & Co. Particularly interesting is evaluation of the value of taking a good card versus what valuable action this will enable for the next player. Optional caboose rule does not seem to add anything. Warning: requires a surprisingly large amount of table space.
Alan R. Moon
Freya's Folly
Multi-player game on dwarfs excavating jewels in order to fulfill contracts. Much revolves around movement through an elaborate underground labyrinth randomly stocked with jewels. À la Emerald, dwarf movement depends on the location of other dwarfs, here the goal being to have some in one's path as this permits the longer frog's leap. But if there are too many one cannot leap at all. A dwarf may also be given a special ability which modifies this, e.g. moving further, moving more often, perventing others from jumping or even carrying extra jewels or employing a bat to fly jewels to the top. There is some ability also to steal from others which at first feels mean, the process of acquiring jewels honestly being so laborious, but by the end everyone tends to have more jewels than they can use anyway. The fact that claiming a contract requires the most vital resource of all – an action – is somewhat troublesome as a player may claim one and then see his jewels stolen out from under him. On the other hand, refraining from a claim may lose it to someone else. To help there is a side game of fulfilling amber contracts which has the tripartite effect of providing extra moves, triggering the end of the game and modifying scoring somewhat depending on the number of these contracts completed. As free actions can be extremely valuable, probably every winner completes at least one of these (and maybe no more than that?). The board is rather large, the pieces many and all is attractively realized. The thematic fit is apt as well. The only objection might be that not enough of interest happens in a turn and little of interest on others' turns so it is imperative that all play quickly lest excitement flag. The choices one makes are not so much agonizing as mostly obvious with only the occasional significant deviation being advisable. [Sagacity Games]
Strategy: Medium; Theme: High; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 6
FrischFisch (Fresh Fish)
Tile-laying game with auctions by Friedemann Friese. One wants fish to be as fresh as possible, so players compete in four categories (the others being nuclear waste, petrol and games) to get their outlets as close to the source as possible on a 10 by 10 grid. Very unusual game of prediction and of measuring risks and opportunities. There is a slight problem in that players must be alert to placing road tiles which occur by implication, but it is not too serious since the same activity also helps one to play better. Highly recommended sophisticated – what the German industry calls anspruchsvoll – game. Unfortunately had only appeared so far in a limited print run, so the subsequent American edition was most welcome despite a few glitches: too similar looking red and orange pieces and an unnecessarily larger package. The box cover art is quite attractive, although it might imply that the game is for children – definitely not the case. Some rules have been altered – probably for the better – groups must clarify which are to be used before beginning play.
Friedemann Friese; Plenary Games;
Fruit Fair
Picking four types of fruit and presenting them at fairs is the topic; simultaneous selection the mechanism. Four trees adorn the board, each having a number of plastic fruit pieces. All players have a card for each tree which they lay out face down, allocating to them, also face down, their picker and planter cards. Each picker gets one piece of fruit at the assigned tree, if any are still available, and each planter creates a new piece of fruit on the tree at the end of the turn. This is the only limited means by which new fruit appears; to help with that, one thing players can do with their fruit is spend it to acquire more workers. These can act either as pickers or planters, which generally means that when sent to a tree containing no fruit, instead of picking they plant. The other way that fruit can be spent is in buying face down victory point chips (which represent prizes at the fair). The chips appear at various costs and categories, e.g. gold, silver, bronze, etc. and their range of values displayed so that players can tell approximately the number of points that will be earned. This is the basic setup, but there are a few wrinkles in the form of special ability chits which are assigned each turn after purchases. Each of these is goes with a particular tree and the player holding the most fruit of the tree types receives the benefit for the following turn. One gives the advantage of being the first player, one an extra picker who brings something home even if all trees are empty, one removes the requirement to plan the move and then there is the raccoon which appears to be so important this could have been sub-titled "The Raccoon is Power". First the raccoon holder removes two different fruits before picking and this causes the special ability chits at these trees to be swapped, probably scrambling the plans of the opponents. But in addition, the raccoon holder gets an important bonus on all purchases. As a catch-up mechanism, players tied on the turn order tree fruit swap turn order chits, so the fourth player would go second and the second fourth. Thus what tends to develop for each player is a two- or three-turn cycle in which they are acting early and acquiring a lot of fruit and then on subsequent turns acting late, probably getting little or no fruit, but with any luck having the raccoon and being able to make valuable purchases. Bits wise, there are oodles of impressive plastic fruit pieces, round on one side, flat and hollow on the other. There are also a fair number of cards, they and the board illustrated in a slightly impersonal, cartoony way, more traditional American game style than anything else. The board is large enough to make finding space for your cards, bits and beverage difficult, and unnecessarily so. In fact as nothing on it ever really moves, the entire board is actually superfluous and could have been replaced by cards, or even nothing at all and the publisher might have saved some costs. Play moves with little downtime and a three-quarter hour duration is reasonable. When this much is being planned simultaneously, and available items so scarce, and the raccoon can change things so significantly, a large amount of chaos is inevitable, especially with more players. Many players will feel their planning is insufficiently rewarded and their decisions not significant enough. The randomness of the awards only adds to this. Thematically, picking and planting operations reflect reality well, but what the special ability chits represent, why they and extra workers are acquired via fruit, and how the raccoon has the effects it does, are perplexing. There is some strategic decisionmaking, mainly around how many extra workers to acquire and which special abilities to target, though it's quite possible to acquire one or more purely by accident.
MMHM6 (Strategy: Medium; Theme: Medium; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 6)
Kris Gould; Wattsalpoag-2008; 3-6; 8+
Fuddy Duddy
(Note: a complimentary copy of this game was received for purposes of review.) Card game for two to eight intended for both adults and children. Certainly it's easy to play, but can adults appreciate it? The idea is basically that of Mah Jongg, cards replacing that game's tiles. Players still try to collect a set, drawing either from the pile or discards. The chief differences are that the set to collect is only four cards long and that there are four discard piles, organized by rank. The skills are the same – watching what others are collecting and memorizing same. But three of Mah Jongg's main attractions are unwisely absent here. First, the tactile pleasure of handling the tiles should not be underestimated. Second, the aesthetic pleasure of the colorfully illustrated tiles has been sacrificed for drab, but readable cards. And third, the fourteen-item set size has been reduced down to just four. This last means that now things are much more subject to luck because drawing a nearly-perfect hand is much, much easier. Sometimes in fact a hand is over in less time than it took to set it up. Thus it will generally not be appealing to adults, nor is the main game skill – memory – really fair. Adults can do this rather better than kids can – if they want to, but of course many don't even want to. In general, memory isn't a great mechanism on which to build a family game. It's generally much better to set up a system where analysis helps, but in which more-or-less random play isn't that bad either. Thinking of titles in which this is true is left to the reader. At least the sturdy, plastic-coated cards are easy to handle, though differently-shaped illustrations would have helped the color-blind or those playing under low light to distinguish the suits. Perhaps the publishers can think up some better games to play with this same card set? [Let's Play Games]
Strategy: Low; Theme: Low; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 3
Fugger, Die
The title of this card game refers to the Renaissance financier Jakob Fugger II (1459-1525) rather than the euphemistic term found in early Norman Mailer novels. This character, not so widely known in America, has nevertheless appeared in quite a few games including Conquistador; Lords of the Renaissance; and Fugger, Welser, Medici. Son of an Augsburg merchant, he turned his city into the financial capital of Europe by lending to the rulers of Germany, Austria and Hungary and by forming cartels to control the prices of silks, spices and velvets. It's the setting of just such prices that are primary concern in the game as well. But if the theme is rooted in history, the history of the system is in games like Modern Art and Paparazzo. All three share the element of cards slowly being revealed to determine which commodity is most valuable. This game's departure is to base the valuation not purely on number of cards, but also employ progression around a sort of price pinwheel in which the highest price is immediately followed by the lowest. This type of boom-bust cycle may seem unrealistic, but does look rather like the progressions of modern fad products. Eschewing auctions, the system expertly implements its central mechanism as players simultaneously struggle to divine others' capabilities while reacting to the rapidly changing situation. Artwork is rather attractive, but some thought should be given to table arrangement so players are not required to swivel their views so fiercely. Perhaps the player cards should be placed more to the middle and the circle at the margins. This may be better for fewer than four players anyway in order to avoid cycles of too predictable play. Games of the Italian Renaissance]
Fugger, Welser, Medici
Longish Doris and Frank large game about Renaissance European traders. The name refers to three of the leading trading houses in Europe at that time. Gorgeously illustrated by Doris Matthäus as usual. Players send their traders hopping around Europe trying to make profits and vault up to the nobility. Somewhat like Ursuppe, there is perhaps a bit too much not very important activity and only a single crucial decision, i.e. when to make a bid to win the game. Games of the Italian Renaissance] [Traveling Merchant Games]
Frank Nestel & Doris Matthäus; Doris&Frank; 1994; 2-6
Fundstücke (Unexpected Treasures)
Friedemann Friese cynical take on thieves helping themselves to others' furniture, clocks, radios and cameras and re-selling to order. This clever combination of the guessing part of Adel Verpflichtet and the fill-the-order part of Empire Builder works quite well and it is surprising that no one has done more with the concept in subsequent years. (Silberzwerg went part of the way.) The resolution of multiple players making the same choice of hauling vehicle is quite good: the player holding the lowest-numbered token gets to go, but must trade this valuable item with the tied player holding the highest. Players caught in the middle get nothing. Cameras act as wild cards and I wonder how that would work in real life. The customer requests you deliver him a sofa. You arrive and explain "Well, I couldn't get the sofa, but maybe you'd like this camera instead?" I find this more humorous than objectionable. Players can also steal from one another, wrenching plans even further. Artwork is monochromatic, but appropriate, suggesting the dark days following World War II. Title means "found item", i.e. poking fun at the suggestion that these black market dealers are only selling items that nobody wanted anymore. Seems to fit in well with the world of Landlord. Also known as Unexpected Treasures from Rio Grande Games.
Friedemann Friese; 2F-Spiele-2002/2F-Spiele-2012/Rio Grande-2012; 3-6; 30; 8+
Funkenschlag (Power Grid)
Another game from Friedemann Friese and 2-F; it's bewildering how he manages to come up with good game after good game restricting himself to the letter "F" to start the title. Here it refers to "striking a spark" which is only appropriate for a game (generously for up to 6) about building and supplying national power grids using three combined mechanisms: (1) auctioning power plants, (2) a sliding raw materials market à la McMulti, and a crayon-drawing system akin to Empire Builder. The auction is kept various by having different sorts of plants – oil, coal, oil/coal, wind, garbage, nuclear, fusion – and by having them flap in and out of availability. It is a game of very close measurement – accountants should do well – and many tactical maneuvers, not just on the board, but also in the auction bidding and supply purchasing. But while play of the latter two tends to be mostly reactive, it is in the board drawing that players can form longer plans, and where the game is won and lost. This sub-game is good enough that the rest could be jettisoned and it would still be sufficiently satisfying, the key being that initially only one player can draw to a city – later it's two and only in the last part, three. There is nothing here of the German game staple that in helping oneself, one also helps another. Indeed, virtually every action makes the opponent's life harder. Perhaps this is one reason that this longish game seems to be getting a warmer reaction – more and better reviews – in the English-speaking world than in the German. It also means that it's a good idea to choose players carefully as a mean-spirited person could probably make himself rather obnoxious by always drawing to cities just ahead of a particular opponent. But there are healthy advantages to being in last place and indeed, at certain points, it can be a vital strategy to deliberately get there in order to vault into first. While there is nothing amiss, it's also possible to wonder about lost opportunities. Instead of being able to easily switch between types of power sources, what if there were a feedback mechanism encouraging continued use of the same types? Wind power people know wind power well, nuke people know nukes well, etc. This could have created several different strategic channels for players to consider, and widened the opportunity for strategy beyond just the drawing board. Or even a special prize for "going green" as in Dicke Kartoffeln. Thematically, it's doubtful that in real life or even on a fictional continent such as this one that electricity needs such a wide clearance – it worked much more believably with railroads – but at least one never needs to worry about rivers flooding! The designer is nevertheless to be congratulated for once again basing a game on a modern topic rather than relying as others do on old and safe romantic, historical periods. Note: a plexiglas sheet with dry-erase markers works quite well to keep everything securely in place. Update: The second edition, also known as Power Grid, omits the drawing element in favor of a much higher quality "pre-drawn" map. There are two map options in fact, one of the United States and one of Germany (on the reverse side of the board). The game operates much as before otherwise, but what struck oddly this time were all the little inelegancies: the necessity of three stages, remembering when to discard plants, remembering all the different fuel replenishment rates, etc. It can all be coped with, but it's just unfortunate. By the way, the above suggestion on a feedback mechanism has been ignored. [6-player Games]
Funkenschlag: Fabrikmanager (Power Grid: Factory Manager)
if no image probably out of print
Suppose you were put in charge of a factory? Would you manage it or mangle it? Now you've a chance to find out. First off let's dispose of the "Power Grid" name issue. It's sort of annoying to see a game adopt the branding tactics of other industries, but when at the cafe folks come over to ask if it's as much fun as the original, it becomes clear that it works. The annoying thing to swallow is that this and Power Grid have only a spark of electrical theme in common. The constraining factors here are the limited space available to contain machine and storage tiles and the limited number of workers that operate them. Actually it's all about binary balance. As in Vegas Showdown, income is the minimum of two qualities (here machines and storage). Workers are needed to run machines, but also for tile acquisition. Then within tile acquisition itself, workers are needed for bidding on turn order, but the more used to bid, the less available for use in acquiring tiles. Getting new tiles is the most innovative feature, a mechanism which feels like it must have been used before, but it's difficult to think of where. What happens is that tiles of increasingly better quality are arranged on a big board (a somewhat tedious setup chore) and players follow one another in drafting one or more, not to immediately own, but simply to place in a purchase pool. The thing is that before the more impressive items can be drafted, all its lowly predecessors must also be chosen. Then there is a second round and in the same order, players are now able to purchase items. Naturally the earlier one is in a round, the better the item one can buy. The trick is that only the late acting players can draft the best items, which they will likely not be able to buy, but by doing so they likely guarantee better items for themselves as well. Often players often want to act early in a round one turn, late in the next: another binary balance. While it's all very clever, it's slightly dissatisfying that to play properly, before drafting one should really study each opponent's board thoroughly to understand what they're trying to and can do, and draft accordingly. But in the hurlyburly of a game, and to keep things moving, one doesn't do that, and gets the feeling of not having done one's best. Ideally this might be played by email to give time for the requisite analysis. The production is very well done with separate player boards and oodles of tiles and meeples. Most probably have Poker chips to replace the paper money. The overly terse instructions which can lead to errors. Thematically it's not bad, though the drafting doesn't quite make sense, and strategically there are different tacks one can try such as going into robotics or early entry into improved power sources (power is a cost). Your entire management stint will last just five turns or right around an hour or less. Due to its novel mechanism, it also works better with more rather than fewer players; at least it supports five which is becoming more and more rare these days.
MMHH6 (Strategy: Medium; Theme: Medium; Tactics: High; Evaluation: High; Personal Rating: 6)
Friedemann Friese; 2F Spiele-2009/Rio Grande Games-2009; 2-5 [Buy it at Amazon]
Fürchterliche Feinde (Formidable Foes)
Fantasy dungeon hack-and-slash for up to six. Departing from the usual, player characters begin entirely undifferentiated in abilities, although they rapidly gain different wisdom levels as they defeat more and more monsters. Combat is resolved by straight numerical comparison – either you have the wisdom to defeat the monster or you don't. What's uncertain is how much damage you will take, which is determined by subtracting one die result from another, the dice being specially made to reduce variability. Defeating a monster also usually provides a spell card which is text free, but the picture needs to be looked up the first time. Eventually a player takes enough damage so as to be in danger of losing his last power point, in which case he sits out a turn and collects a portion of the points which have previously been lost by players. By shading a portion of the track on which these community markers sit, the game makes it easy to calculate the number retrieved. Timing this is a bit tricky though as monster levels are going up all the time and one must avoid a situation of running out of nearby beatable opponents, the collection of which gives the victory. So careful observance of others' situations and intuition about their next couple of moves can be important. There are special rules to help the last place player though it's unclear whether they're sufficient in all cases. It's possible that the Kramer 2000 rule of all players being in the running right up to the end doesn't hold. The monsters appear in a maze where some of the paths must be discovered and in numerically increasing strengths. Such orderly monsters are quite a departure from the usual in this genre. But then this is something of an orderly game, perhaps a bit too much so since the next thing to do is usually rather straightforward. The end game can offer a few surprises, but often these depend on spells hidden in hands so solving them isn't really achievable via planning. The other and perhaps main challenge is finding the shortest path through the maze – which includes teleportation points that change on every playing – and while this puzzle offers some interest, it's really just a matter of looking and counting. The main difficulty is really a player tendency to underestimate its difficulty and miss something by not studying the somewhat murky board long enough. Overall this genre is not really a good match for the German-style game. This attempt may in fact be the best one can do under these constraints and yet it remains basically unsatisfying. If nevertheless one is determined to play, the best best is to include all six players, thus minimizing predictability as much as possible.
Strategy: Low; Theme: High; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Low; Personal Rating: 6
Friedeman Friese; 2F-Spiele; 2006; 2-6
Fürsten von Florenz, Die (The Princes of Florence)
"The Princes of Florence" is set in Renaissance Italy. The composer Vivaldi lived in Venice or else he would be a perfect metaphor for this game where one must harmonize a number of game elements as successfully as possible. This idea is taken to a degree not really seen before. Players conduct auctions each turn to determine how interested they are in various landscape designs, architects and jesters – there is great variety as there are actually seven different items from which to choose. They receive two actions which can include constructing buildings and supporting cultural activity, which need to be matched with construction plans, with one another and with ideologies. At the same time one needs to figure out how to defeat the plans of others as well as any possibilities for making use of what they have accomplished. In a sense one is also engaged in empire-building. There appear to be several different strategic routes to victory and players should enjoy exploring all of them for quite a few replays. Games of the Italian Renaissance]
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