The zombies are hungry. You and a band of small survivors should probably work together, but it’s every man and woman for themselves in this harsh apocalypse. Your job: be the first player to play seven checkpoints and escape. “OMZ! (Oh My, Zombies!), as you may have guessed, is a casual zombie-themed card game that’s currently on Kickstarter looking for your support. I’ve already posted a written preview and video outlining the game and its features, so be sure to check them out after you’re done here. It supports 3-6 players and plays fairly quickly.
Goh Eng Liang from the OMZ Team offered the following:
“Oh My Zombies!” OMZ is the #1 Zombie-themed Card Game for families & friends! Fun, exciting, and a little bit scary, this game will bring everyone together for laughs and a great time. With different strategies and roadblocks, beating this game will be the exact challenge your brain craves!
I’ve seen folks occasionally voice that the zombie genre has been pecked to death (pardon the pun)…I am not one of those people. Bring them on, I say. There’s something both frightening and appealing in fantasy no-win scenarios because in 90% of the movies I’ve seen, there’s never a cure. “OMZ!”, a 3-6 player card game that’ll be seeking funding through the Kickstarter process in late May 2019, advertises no such cure either. Rather, players will be attempting to accumulate seven checkpoints in order to escape. It’s important to stress that what I received was a prototype, so everything that you see and read about here is subject to change. I am also required by FCC regulations to disclose that I was paid to cover this game, however my thoughts and opinions are my own.
While the prototype rulebook is lacking in some places, the general premise seems to be simple enough. For future editions of the digital rulebook I’d recommend both a components listing AND a more detailed instruction in some places. The rulebook simply tells players to draw five cards to form their starting hand and while it might seem obvious to shuffle the deck first, there are PLENTY of games on the market that have players seed decks a certain way beforehand. If you intend to have players shuffle prior to play, then it needs to be clearly stated. I also found the rulebook to be overinflated…large text and empty space led to a twelve page manual when it all could have been listed on maybe two or three pages. The manual also uses terms like “routes” without defining what they are, though I would assume that they are a collection of checkpoints and safe houses. Again, prototypes are subject to change and the developer is free to create their games however they wish. My two cents are simply that.
On their turn, the active player observes the following steps:
1. Check to see if cards effects activate.
2. Draw Phase: Draw one card from the draw pile.
3. Action Phase: Play one card from their hand or draw one more card from the draw pile. If the former, carry out the instructions on the card. If the active player plays a checkpoint card into their route that matches the previous, they perform this action phase step again.
4. Discard down to a hand limit of seven cards.
5. Check to see if cards effects activate.
With “OMZ!” primarily being a card game, I feel it necessary to include a listing of all the card types in the deck so that you get an idea as to the content you’d be backing.
Checkpoints – Accumulating seven of these into your route wins you the game.
Safe Houses – These protect prior checkpoints.
Zombies – Played on other players’ routes to impede their progress.
Charms – Played on your own routes to help your progress.
Actions – Played for immediate effect.
Instant Actions – Played for immediate effect, on another player’s turn, in response to a card play.
Editor’s Note: The above doesn’t cover all of the rules found in the rulebook, but should give you an idea as to how the game is played.
“OMZ!” is both casual and cutthroat. It doesn’t have the meat that games like “Zombicide” do, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes you don’t want a long one to three hour play session. “OMZ!” can be played in around thirty minutes, even less, if folks know what they’re doing and play quickly enough. The art is family-friendly, though with this being a game about the undead I’d still suggest some parental guidance. It would also be a suitable filler for group game nights.
As you folks know, I don’t review prototypes. It wouldn’t be fair to score something that isn’t done yet. That said, I can recommend that folks look into them or steer clear, based on my experiences with the product. Due to its non-violent nature I would recommend this one to gamer families, though there are some “take-that” mechanics that encourage players to target others in order to slow them down. Parents should incorporate a system to prevent multiple kids from ganging up on one, just because. You do you of course, but as a parent who works full-time outside of the gaming hobby, I for one do not want to deal with “DAD!!! THEY WON’T LEAVE ME ALONE!!!” or “DAD!!! IT’S NOT FAIR!!!” or “DAAAAADDD!!! DAAAAAAAADDDDDD!!! TOMMY BIT ME!!!” or “DAAAAAAAAAADDDD!!! JESSIE’S BRAINS ARE ON THE FLOOR!!!!” You know, typical parenting stuff.
Since there are a lot of cards with various effects, I felt that including a video would be more effective than writing out samples here. It’ll also give you a chance to see the wonderful art. Enjoy, and be sure to visit the Kickstarter page after you’re done here.
I honestly never thought I’d see the day. “Defense Grid: The Awakening” (the original video game by Hidden Path Entertainment released in 2008) was one of the first tower defense games I had ever played. It, and another game called “Sol Survivor”, frequented my time in between longer sessions of whatever Star Wars Flight Sim or 4X game I was playing at the time. “Defense Grid 2”, released in 2014, only improved on the formula by adding multiple AIs that gave you different abilities. Enter, “Defense Grid: The Board Game” and as mentioned previously, learning about it came to be an unexpected (but pleasant) surprise. Special thanks to Anthony Hanses from Forged by Geeks LLC for providing me with a free press copy for review purposes.
“Defense Grid: The Board Game”, a 1-4 player solo/cooperative experience, is essentially a cross between a deck-builder and a tower defense game. Prior to every mission, players will choose an AI and build a deck. Each AI has a limit for the different card types. For example, Cai can have a max of 14 attack cards, 3 special cards, and 3 support cards while Taylor can have a max of 8, 3, and 9 respectively. Some AIs only have access to certain towers to start. You can increase your deck count across these three types and access more towers/cards by upgrading your AI. Some cards are locked and become unlocked as you play through the persistent campaign.
Beating a level earns you medals that can be used to upgrade your AIs for future levels, though how many cores you protect determines whether you earn a gold, silver, or bronze…and yes, you can go back and replay previous levels with your better cards to earn a higher medal which will help you out on future missions. (In the video game, medals were awarded based on points but didn’t really affect future missions) This was my favorite part of the game…persistent upgrades. It made me want to go back and play again, just to unlock that next rank of a tower.
It’s a beautiful game, albeit a pricey one. I can partially understand why though, considering the quality work that went into this. This isn’t a casual game and there is a learning curve, so casual gamers who are put off by the price would probably find themselves a bit out of their league anyway. Fans of the video game will be pleased to know that there is indeed a raspberry tracking token, as there should be. When it comes to the theme, art, and components quality, I have nothing but praise.
It’s not without its problems, though. The bookkeeping in-between rounds is tedious and messy. Every time you complete a mission, you update EACH AI’s card and their earned/available spending points. Rather than including some kind of ledger, there’s just a box or two that you continuously have to erase and update. There was a missed opportunity here to make this process automated via a digital app. Along those lines I created an Excel spreadsheet with formulas that help mitigate the messy, busy work. It’ll also save you from having to ruin cards or print out the free ones provided online. To be fair the game does come with card sleeves you can write on, but meh…it just doesn’t solve the overlying problem.
The rulebook itself, I felt, was incomplete. Despite my experience playing hundreds of board games, I was left scratching my head at times. The rulebook tells you how to upgrade your towers and how to play cards, but doesn’t tell you which dice to roll when attacking. There’s also no components listing like I’d usually see in the opening pages of the rulebook. To the developer’s credit there are links to how to play videos, but there are close to 20 of them and some are 5-10 minutes a piece. I would have preferred one, no-nonsense, condensed video to help explain the key concepts. I monetize my videos so I have no room to complain, but I find it odd that said how to play videos are monetized…you’ve already paid for the game, why should you sit through ads to learn how to play it through official means? You wouldn’t stand for ads in a rulebook, would you?
I’ll be honest…I like the idea, but with the typos I’ve found on the cards/rulebook and the way the rules are laid out, I feel like this game hasn’t been fully hashed out yet. It’s going to appeal to a very niche audience and initially frustrate the rest, the latter of which includes myself. As a result, setup time took 2+hours. Beyond that, I’ve had to reach out to the developer to get rule clarifications on multiple items, which could have been avoided had more care been given into creating the rulebook in the first place. I included my Q&A with the developer below, should you wish to buy the game and want quick answers to some of the issues I had. The developer also provided me with a link to an on-going FAQ on Board Game Geek should you wish to check it out.
At present, “Defense Grid: The Board Game” is being sold through ForgedByGeeks for $99, though from what I’m told there are plans to bring it to Amazon in the upcoming months. If you’re willing to overlook the problems with the rulebook, do some homework, AND accept the moderate to high learning curve, then this tower defense game might be for you. I myself loved the art, theme, and quality, but the lack of QC when it came to the rules partially ruined the experience.
Final Verdict: 7/10 (Good)
1. Page 9 and 10 talks about playing cards to activate towers. At the top of page 10, it goes from “When rolling dice” to “After all dice have been rolled”…completely cutting out how to roll them and relevant examples. For example, how many do you roll? I assumed it was the damage value. If so, then why is the yellow upgrade the same damage as the green? I’m also assuming I roll a special die for the yellow and red upgrade, but which one, the blue movement die? There’s no component listing section in the rulebook, so I’m only guessing as to what some of these components are used for. The grey dice seem to be 50/50, so it’s possible to get very bad luck and never hit the aliens when attacking…which seems odd. I’m just surprised they don’t do some sort of base damage. Easy mode seems to cover this, but I’m not a fan of luck based attacks.
There is a silver die icon on the cards showing when to roll dice. As an example, if an Overcharge Tower Card is played, based on player Special Card rank, you roll between 1 and 3 silver dice for that activation.
If you look at the Tower Activation (Red) cards, you will see the same icon next to Level 2 and Level 3 for damage.
In the Case of the Tesla, you would deal
Level 1 = 2 Damage
Level 2 = 2 Damage + 1 Silver Die
Level 3 = 3 Damage + 1 Silver Die
You will always hit aliens as we have a fixed base damage on all towers of at least 1 point. You never miss. When attacking some armored Aliens you may not do enough damage to actually hurt them, but you always hit.
2. If I understand alien movement, all aliens from the wave move at the same time. Once the round is over and the new alien movement phase occurs, the existing aliens move in accordance to your three step order, then the next wave moves all at once starting with the left-most alien. Is that correct?
Yep this is correct.
3. Random aliens: I know what the random alien means. My question is in how one is spawned. “Look at the pool of aliens already destroyed in the wave.” – Page 12. If I do that, then there would never be a random alien spawned because the current wave had just appeared. I’m interpreting this as “look at the alien TYPES for this wave, see if they have deceased aliens available to use, and include them in the random draw deck to spawn the random alien(s).
Example, wave 7 of mission 1 has 2 random spots. That wave has a bulwark, swarmer, and walker. So, I’m thinking I have to look at the graveyard of aliens to see if there are any of those three available to be included in the random drawing. Let’s say there were no bulwarks in the graveyard, but there were swarmers and walkers available. I’d use those two cards as a random draw for the random alien(s).
If so, I’d recommend rephrasing “Look at the pool of aliens already destroyed in the wave.” – Page 12 to something like “The random aliens that spawn will be of the types in the current wave. Look at the graveyard of aliens to see if any of that type are available, and if so, include it’s card in the random drawing” or something to that effect.
It means the ones destroyed. So as an example using Mission #1, by wave 7 you will most likely have killed at least a Swarmer and a Walker. You may not have killed any Bulwarks.
In other words you expectation is correct, but we just are talking about excluding cards from the random draw for aliens that haven’t been destroyed yet. In your description, you draw from all and if there aren’t any dead, you draw again. Either way works.
We are still working on how to word this better, but I do like how you wrote it. Its really on the mark.
4. Special Locked Cards…do I shuffle the entire deck and draw two after completing a mission for the first time and pick from those OR or do I take one card of each type to form a small deck, draw two from those to avoid duplication, then add ALL of that type as available for deck building?
You shuffle the entire locked Special Deck and take 2 from it. That being said, some people prefer to just shuffle 1 of each card or just pick 1 themselves. We put in a couple variant rules to allow this and encourage people to do what they prefer. The key thing is you only get 1 per mission completed.
5. Page 8 – Build a tower. I don’t see the shot counters covered here. Do you get to load your tower with orange shot rings/tokens when it is first built? Or is that only done in the refresh phase?
When Towers are built, they are immediately loaded with shots. You can fire them right after building them.
You can even build, fire until out of shots, sell, build again, and fire some more all in the same round.
6. Page 7 – Earning Resources – Resources earned seemed simple enough…the aliens list how many you get when they die. However, on the very back of the rulebook, there’s a “Earning Build Resources” section that says +2 per alien destroyed, +1 per armor point on alien destroyed, and +1 per card discarded. Page 7 didn’t mention anything about armor. Which is it? The card or the back of the rulebook? Or does the math always work out either way? If that’s the case, why confuse the reader with a breakdown without context when you can simply tell them to look at the alien card to determine resources earned?
The resources on the cards line up with the math on the back and on the resource tracking sheet.
So as an example, if you look at the Decoy Alien Card, you will see it gives 4 resources. It also has 2 Armor. So 2 base resources + 2 Armor = 4 earned resources.
In hindsight, we shouldn’t have included the math formula for the Aliens resources earned as it has confused a few people.
DGA Plays: Defense Grid: The Board Game (Ep. 270 - Gameplay / Let's Play) - YouTube
“Fluxx” is back with another rendition of Star Trek, this time “Deep Space Nine”. To date we’ve seen The Original Series and The Next Generation…from what I’m told Voyager is due out next year. The DS9 version plays similarly to the others so if you’ve played one of the others you’ll be able to jump into this without a problem. One of the key differences is a new meta card that lets you discard so many goal cards to draw more cards, an interesting way to get rid of a hand of goals you really don’t want especially if there’s a hand limit rule. It’s expensive to buy each one ($20 a pop), so if you’re strapped for cash buy the version that suits you best.
You can watch Aidalee and I experience our first game below. It’s worth noting that we made a few rules goofs (we should have discarded rules and goals we replaced rather than let them stack, etc.). That said, we had fun anyway…rules goofs or no. It’s fun, chaotic, and well themed. Aidalee wasn’t impressed by the chosen art style, but I myself didn’t mind it.
Final Verdict: 9/10
DGA Plays: Fluxx - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (Ep. 267 - Gameplay / Let's Play) - YouTube
Vinnie Jr. graced us with his presence last night as we checked out “Sushi Roll”, Gamewright’s latest rendition of “Sushi Go”. I don’t blame him…he’s 18 now and way too cool for his dad. 18? Wait what? Ugh…I feel old. Anywho, “Sushi Roll”, as you may have guessed, uses dice instead of cards. The amount of content mirrors that of the original smaller tin, though it’s worth noting that it doesn’t hold a candle to the amount of content in the larger deluxe tin (“Sushi Go Party”). That said, the re-rolling and swapping mechanics are new, welcome, and fresh. Come check out our 45-50 minute play session and first impressions. Purchase links available in the description of the video for all three aforementioned versions, so pick the one(s) you like and help support me in the process!
I first learned what a “DEFCON” was by watching “WarGames” starring Matthew Broderick. While I would often prefer to play a nice of “Chess”, there’s something to be said for games involving global thermal nuclear war. Yes, the theme is both morbid and gruesome, but you can play such games without the risk of your hair falling out or your skin melting off the bone. “ELEVEN FIFTY NINE”, a quick two-player micro dice game that is due to launch in early April 2019, will task players with surviving an arsenal full of nasty nuclear bombs. Before we begin it’s important to stress that I received a prototype for press coverage purposes. Prototypes are not often reflective of the finished product, making everything you read about and see here subject to change. I am also required by FCC regulations to disclose that I was paid to cover this game, however my thoughts and opinions are my own.
My prototype copy of “ELEVEN FIFTY NINE” came with two yellow meeples, two black meeples, one yellow rocket, one black rocket, two yellow dice, two black dice, three yellow chevron bunker tokens, three black chevron bunker tokens, seven white diplomacy gems, and an instructions card. To set up the game, each player receives the pieces of one color. Players take one of their chevron tokens and places it in the center of the table along with the diplomacy gems. The players’ nukes start on their side, indicated that they are unloaded.
“ELEVEN FIFTY NINE” is a simultaneous dice rolling game, meaning that there are no player turns. Everything happens in real-time, so you’ll have to be quick! The goal is to kill both of your opponent’s meeples or to gain five diplomacy gems, whichever comes first.
If a player rolls a “7”: They earn either a diplomacy gem by taking it from the center of the table OR they can replace a chevron of their color from the center of the table with one of their diplomacy gems.
If a player rolls doubles: They may load their nuke (place it upright), fire their nuke (place it on its side), or send an enemy diplomacy token to the center of the table. Firing a nuke allows the player to move an enemies chevron bunker token to the center of the table or if they are out of chevrons, kill an enemy meeple by removing it from play permanently.
While you can play one game and be done, there is a campaign mode that you can observe that earns you points across multiple games. A victory via destruction is worth three points and a diplomacy victory is worth two points. First to seven points wins the campaign.
The game does include a player mat (pictured below), but only if you pledge at the DEFCON 1 or 2 levels ($35/$19 respectively).
“ELEVEN FIFTY NINE” is very similar to “Brace For Impact”, a two-player kill or be killed submarine mint tin game that launched on Kickstarter in March 2017. Instead of intelligence gems as found in “Brace For Impact” you have diplomacy gems. Instead of the black and blue colored meeples/rockets you have black and yellow colored meeples/rockets, and so on. The instruction card is nearly identical, save for the colors. Long story short: If you’ve played “Brace for Impact” then you’ll be able to jump into this title without any trouble.
Real-time, quick and dirty dice battlers aren’t for everyone, though with enough imagination one can modify the rules to make the game turn-based instead. In fact I recommend doing this for your first playthrough, just so you can get a feel for the rules and how everything ties together. It’s not a deep game, rather it’s a filler for use on game nights where other, longer games are the primary focus. It’s portable and travel friendly so you can easily take it with you when you’re on the go.
In addition to “Brace For Impact“, Rampage Games also developed “Iron Horses” and “Elements“, both of which I enjoyed. To that end, I recommend giving “”ELEVEN FIFTY NINE” a look.
Roughly ten years ago I was diagnosed with a blood clotting disorder called ITP. I consider myself lucky however, as my platelets usually hover around 60,000-90,000 which generally doesn’t require hospitalization or treatment if you’re careful. There are folks out there who have much lower levels and require weekly IVIG treatments and steroids to stay out of the red zone. It’s serious medical issues like this that folks need to be aware of as it can happen to anyone and that’s why I was happy to check out “Blood Drive Solitaire“, a card game that promotes blood donation. Before we begin I’m required by FCC regulations to disclose that I was paid to cover this game, though any and all opinions are my own.
To set up the game, you’ll separate the Need and Donor cards and shuffle them into their own face-down stacks. 3 Need cards will be dealt face-up, to be replaced by the deck of Need cards as these are fulfilled. 3 Donor cards are dealt face-down at first in a stack, then taken/viewed so that only the bottom card is visible. It’s kind of like regular “Solitaire’s” draw three variant but here, you can’t see the cards behind the third card.
To play, you’ll look at the Donor card in your hand and attempt to match it with a Need card by playing the former under the latter. If you did, you should still have two cards in your hand with only the second one being visible. You’ll continue to play Donor cards under matching Need cards until you can’t match or run out of cards in your hand. If you can’t make a match, discard all the cards in your hand and draw three more. When a Need card gets three Donor cards assigned to it, you’ll discard the donors and place the Need card into your score pile. You’ll then replace it with a card from the Need deck, if possible.
Play continues until no more Donor cards can be drawn and the last of your cards have been played. I’m fairly certain that there’s a typo in the rules sheet I was given, telling me that the points I earned is equal to my “completed Donor cards”. This should be “Need cards”, in my opinion, as you’re discarding Donor cards whether they contributed to a Need or couldn’t play them to the same pile. It’s common sense, but worth mentioning for casual players who aren’t familiar with the idea of “score piles”. There’s no chart telling you how well you did, so I suppose you can keep track another way and simply try to beat your high score in the future.
“Blood Drive Solitaire” is an extremely light game, one that can be played in as little as 15-20 minutes. As the name implies it’s appropriate for one player, though I would encourage parents to play with their kids in a cooperative fashion should they take the dive. This game is designed to be educational while giving you something to do at the same time and for those of you who know me, I’m all for games that have this design style. “Blood Drive Solitaire” could easily be adapted to a classroom setting, again either as a solo game or more of a teaching aid coupled as an activity.
At present, “Blood Drive Solitaire” is being sold on The Game Crafter for $12.99. From what Game Developer Paul Hock tells me, he’s “working on a way to fund and donate the game as a promo item given out by Blood Banks.” He continues by explaining that his wish is to get the production quality up to suitable levels. As such, I should stress that what I received (and what you could receive if purchasing the game through the aforementioned page) is a prototype. Prototypes aren’t generally reflective of the final product, so I’m opting to preview this game rather than review it. While the developer didn’t mention it, I think it would be great to give some sort of discount to buyers of the prototype who wish to purchase a better version down the line. I suppose it’ll depend on how much more content there is in the future versions and etc.
As mentioned above this is a preview and I don’t generally review prototypes, but I do want to praise the developer for adding facts and tidbits of information on the cards themselves. The Donor cards tell you what that blood type is compatible with, while Need cards give you a sentence or two of a fact with which you probably weren’t aware. The little lines on the cards help make matching extremely easy. While not mentioned on the rules sheet, you can make the experience easier by letting players (or yourself) see the cards under the top Donor card in your hand, just so you can plan ahead and maximize your card plays.
I love seeing games with an educational twist and this one is no exception. If it weren’t for my own medical issues/bills, I’d be backing games like this financially more often.
Hey folks! Just dropping a quick line to let you know that “VikingJarl” is looking for your help to successfully fund on Kickstarter. “VikingJarl”, with 17 days left to as of this article’s publishing date, has reached $11,262 of it’s $19,183 goal…meaning there’s still time to set sail and jump in on the action. Roughly $50 USD will grant you a copy of the game with an estimated delivery date of December 2019. There are plenty of pledge levels and some cool looking stretch goals, so feel free to go above and beyond to pick what suits you best.
A representative of SB Games AS, Kevin Duke, offered the following:
VikingJarl is a historical strategy game about Vikings and Norse Mythology. You begin the game as one of four Jarls, with the goal of becoming the next Ruler of Kaupang. You accomplish this by pillaging, trading, and settling. 2-4 players. The Vikings loved stories– the “sagas.” That is why VikingJarl includes the histories of each key settlement, the stories of the heroes and gods, are all woven into the VikingJarl. VikingJarl blends the most exciting elements of Euros, cardgames, and wargames in a fast-moving game of plunder and glory. On Kickstarter through April 18.
If “The Sims” has taught me anything, it’s that gardening is hard work. That, and the fact that I should never, ever sing Karaoke and attempt to make friends at the same time. “Gartenbau”, a game that’s coming to Kickstarter in late March, 2018, lets you garden in a semi-imaginary way without all the fuss. It supports 2-4 players & ages 12+ with an average play time of about 60 minutes. It’s important to stress that the copy I received is a prototype, so everything you’re about to see and read about (including the rules) are subject to change. I’m also required by FCC regulations to disclose that I was paid to cover this game, however my thoughts and opinions are my own.
The game comes with 72 seedling tiles, 49 plant tiles, 21 flower tiles, 25 water tokens, 25 sunlight tokens, 1 score pad, 1 starting player token, and a rulebook that is about 8 pages in length. My prototype had a misprint or two, but the developer was kind enough to include a separate sheet that outlined what was wrong and what was intended. The object of the game is to be the first to grow a garden containing four fully mature flowers (along with other seedlings and plants) in order to win the most prestige (victory points). The winner earns the title of “Gardenmeister – The Master Gardener”, which may or may not earn them a discount at their local flower shop. I have yet to check – proper journalism can’t be rushed.
To set up, players will shuffle and place the face-down stack of seedling tiles in the center of the table, dealing five face-up to form a market. Players also separate the plant tiles by color, then arrange each stack so that the their listed prestige is in ascending order with the lowest on top. This group of six stacks is placed about the seedling market. Finally, players shuffle the 21 flower tiles and deal five to each player, removing undealt tiles from play. The rulebook recommends however that new players should use the preset starting hands of tiles found in said rulebook.
Assuming you were dealt the cards randomly, a draft occurs similar to that of “Sushi Go!” in that players choose one to keep and pass the rest on until they have four tiles. The extra tiles left over are discarded from the game. In a two player game, two dummy players are included to assist with the drafting process. After the draft, players choose any combination of five water and sunlight tokens with which to start the game. Play proceeds in clockwise order with the player who most recently gardened going first.
On your turn you may do one of the following four actions:
1. Acquire Seedlings From The Market – Drop one resource onto seedling tiles starting from the right until you reach the desired tile. You keep any resources that may be on it (if it were passed over on a previous turn). Tiles slide to the right to fill the empty space and a new one is drawn face-up to be placed in the left-most spot. Seedling tiles must be placed in front of you immediately, with tiles after the first needing to be adjacent to any previously placed tiles. The touching ends must match, like in “Dominos”.
2. Purchase And Place Level Two Tiles – Acquire a plant by meeting the seedling requirements as noted on the tile. You’ll also have to pay the resource requirement (water/sunlight tokens) listed on the top left of the plant tile. The plant tile will cover the matching seedling tile.
3. Place Square Flower Tiles From Hand – Place a flower tile from your hand onto a plant tile in your tableau assuming the flower tile matches the requirement shown. Take three resources from the bank, taking no more than two of the same resource.
4. Take Resources – Take three resources from the bank, taking no more than two of the same resource.
The last turn is triggered when either the last seedling tile is acquired from the market or when one player places their fourth flower tile in their garden. Turns continue until everyone has had an equal number of turns. Scores are based on the prestige points shown on a player’s flower and plant tiles. Whoever has the most points, wins!
Editor’s Note: The above doesn’t cover all of the rules found in the rulebook, but should give you an idea as to how the game is played.
“Gartenbau” seemed like any other tile drafting/placement game until I got to the scoring. There’s actually an entire page in the manual devoted the different ways tiles could score. For example, primary colors score a flat amount and that’s it, while secondary and tertiary colors can score two different ways depending on what the tile indicates. With three primary colors, three secondary colors, and six tertiary colors, the number of different scoring conditions is truly staggering and opens the door for a lot of strategy. I highly recommend giving the table in the back of the rulebook a once-over before playing to become familiar with the different scoring options available.
I also appreciate that there are two additional, optional actions players can include in their game that involve either moving a seedling tile or paying resources to draw the top face-down seedling tile from the deck for placement into your tableau. I would definitely include at least the former option, as sometimes you’ll want to place a plant tile but can’t because the required seedlings in your tableau aren’t touching (flower tiles take up two seedling tile spaces, either a full seedling tile or a half of two separate seedling tiles).
“Gartenbau”…what’s not to like? It’s family-friendly, has a colorful theme, and is easy to play but still requires a fair amount of thinking and strategy. I personally can’t wait to see what the finished product looks like.
I’m a kid of the 80’s, so I’m no stranger to games like “Sorry!” and “Trouble”. Enter, “uDog”: a relatively casual game that takes a lot of inspiration from the aforementioned games. Your team’s job is to get all of your marbles from their “kennel” to their home spaces before anyone else. It supports anywhere from 2-8 players, depending on the model that you buy (more on that in a bit). Before we begin I’m required by FCC regulations to disclose that I was paid to cover this game, though any and all opinions are my own.
Let’s start with the pricing model. At $55 plus shipping, you’ll receive the 4 player version and any modular boards required to make that happen (in this case, the larger boards). $75 plus shipping will net you a 6 player version, while $95 plus shipping will net you the 8 player version. The 6 and 8 player versions come with smaller modular boards that connect to the larger ones like puzzle pieces and as such, you can modify the game to support 4 players easily by removing the smaller boards. $25 grants you smaller modular boards as sort of an upgrade kit to the 4 player version, if that’s all you initially went with. The copy I received from the developer was the $95 / 8 player version.
The game came in what I can only describe as a rectangular cardboard pizza box with no box insert. It included four larger boards, four smaller boards, a baggie filled with marbles, business card sized player aids, a six-sided die, two decks of standard playing cards, and a rules sheet. The rules sheet is front and back and was fairly easy to understand, though I did have to look up one rule via the developer’s how to play video because I didn’t feel it was clarified enough. There were other rules that I felt were out of order. I’ll note which rules I’m talking about once I get to it later in this article.
The two decks of cards are shuffled together to form a draw deck and each player draws one to determine who deals first (high card wins). The rulebook says to draw a card first to determine the dealer, then shuffle…but if it’s your first time playing straight out of the box then you’ll want to shuffle first. I’m nitpicking, but it’s what I do for the benefit of the board game layman.
In the first round, the dealer will deal six cards to each player. Once the round is over, the role of the dealer moves clockwise and that new dealer deals five cards to each player. The next dealer deals four, then the next dealer three, then the next dealer two. The die is used to track this process. After that, the number of cards dealt is reset to six. This part of the rulebook is confusing as the way it’s ordered, it sounds like the dealer deals six for round one, then the same dealer deals five for round two, and so on. The text, “dealing rotates clockwise” appears at the end of the paragraph and does not indicate when the role of the dealer actually changes. I.E. At the end of every round, or when the cycle of 6,5,4,3,2 is complete? I’m fairly certain it should be the former based on the way it was described in the developer’s how to play video.
Once cards are passed out, teammates (who sit across from each other), pass one card face down to each other and only look at them once the handoff is complete. After that, the person to the dealer’s left plays first by playing a card and moving a marble clockwise. A player cannot play a card if they cannot move and in that case, they discard all of their cards and sit out for the rest of the round.
To get out of the kennel (from where the marbles start), players need an Ace, King, or Joker. Number cards move the marble that many spaces. The 4 lets a player move back or forward 4 spaces, and the 7 lets a player split their move between two marbles. A player can send any other marble back to the kennel if they land on it. On a 7, the player can jump over it and still send it home (called “burning”). A player cannot be sent home from the space they would be just having gotten out of the kennel (called the “start spot”). If a player has succeeded in getting all of their marbles home, they can use their cards to move their teammate’s marbles.
Editor’s Note: The above doesn’t cover all of the rules found in the manual, but should give you an idea as to how the game is played. The rules are slightly different for 2, 3, 5, and 7 players for example and players can opt for an accelerated start should they wish.
Let’s start with the positives. The quality of the boards are excellent and as puzzles pieces, they fit very well together. Being heavily inspired by “Sorry!” and “Trouble”, this game is easy to play and can support players of all ages. The rules are easily modified, should you take issue with them as I did (more on that in a minute). I also love the modular boards and how easy it was to change the player count by removing or adding the smaller boards from the play area.
On the downside, this game is heavily inspired by “Sorry!” and “Trouble”. While easy to play, it falls into the same rule traps as the aforementioned games. The effort and drive to come up with something truly unique is clearly lacking here. A 4 in “Sorry!” lets you move backward and so does a 4 here. A 6 is what you need to move out of your starting area in “Trouble” and you need a Joker, King, or Ace to move out of the Kennel here. While the passing of a card to your partner at the beginning of every round opens the door for a bit more strategic play (“Hearts” btw), you’re still at the mercy of whatever you and your partner draw.
By adopting some gameplay mechanics, rule for rule, you also adopt the same problems that come with the aforementioned older games. Remember how annoying it was in “Sorry!” when your opponent could move backward from the start, then right into home without lapping the board? You can do that here. Remember how annoying it was to never roll a 6 in “Trouble” to get out of the starting area? That can happen here. In fact, there’s a blurb in the rulebook about what to do if you’re stuck for three consecutive rounds. What kid wants to sit out for three consecutive rounds because they can’t leave the kennel? Like I said, a clear lack of effort to do anything revolutionary.
Worse, the dealing mechanics are convoluted and absolutely unnecessary. It’s like they tried to improve upon “Sorry!” and “Trouble” but focused on the wrong thing. The developer has praised (in private) to me about the strategic options this game has to offer. On hands where you’re dealt 2 or 3 cards, your strategic options are very limited. I personally would have done away with the role of the dealer changing hands altogether. Everyone gets 4 or 5 cards (you decide) and you draw a new one every time you play one. If you can’t play one, discard as many as you want and draw up to your hand limit, ending your turn. The strategic options available to you with this approach remains constant throughout the whole game as opposed to the beginning of a hand of 6 or 5 cards.
Of course, you folks can play how you want. To make it more accessible and to eliminate the issues that come with copying rules from the prior games so exactly, I’d adopt the above dealing rule, allow marbles to get out of the kennel on a Joker, Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and 10, and eliminate the “back 4” rule. This makes it easier to get out of the kennel meaning less possible downtime and also no lucky kennel-start-back 4-home, kennel-start-back 4-home combos.
As a side note, the theme feels slapped on. Besides the logo of the dog on one of the larger boards, nothing felt “dog” themed. The marbles could have easily as been Hobbits taking a stroll around Middle-Earth to get back home in time for Second Breakfast.
Lastly, the price is not at all competitive. The problem with copying games like this is that folks can buy “Sorry!” or “Trouble!” at $20 and get roughly the same experience. The cardbox pizza box is not at all what I expected at a $95 kit level. While true that the more expensive kits of “uDog” support more than 4 players, you’ll need to dig deep into your pockets to make it happen. At that point you’ll have to ask yourself if it’s worth it. In my opinion, it’s not. There are plenty of casual, family/party games out there that support 8 players at a much cheaper $10-30 price tag.
In the end, “uDog” may look nice, but it’s just too similar to “Sorry!” and “Trouble” to warrant that kind of price hike. As a consumer and experienced gamer I’d look at this and do a hard pass.