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Babel and the Quest for Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is defined in the Oxford dictionary as ‘a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.’
Games can be a lovely mindful activity. A well chosen game allows you to be fully absorbed in the activity of play – it demands enough of your attention to hold your attention without being too demanding. When we see children playing they are completely mindful, totally in the moment and it would be lovely to be able to capture that feeling as adults and the right game can help us do just that. Of course, the right choice of game depends on individual preference as well as other factors. If engaging with others is causing stress or anxiety then a game that is gently competitive where you focus on what you are doing and don’t need to consider others may be the right choice. Games like Azul, Calico, Fire in the Library, Dice Hospital, Takenoko and Carcassonne can all be played in this way. I often prefer games like this. I would rather focus on maximising my score rather than using energy trying to mess up other people. Often, in games where you are choosing a tile or card from a shared pool, deliberately choosing one your opponent wants means you don’t get the best one for you either.
In addition to the style of play, I prefer tactile components if I am looking to games for a mindful experience. Beautiful counters that you can turn over in your hands like the deliciously weighted counters of Splendor, or the careful building of bamboo towers in Takenoko help to immerse you in the game. In addition, artwork like the quilts in Calico or Patchwork, or the glint of the sun stones in Latice lend a contemplative beauty to the experience. A well chosen game will allow you to engage your senses and really dwell in the moment.
There are also games that can be played solo allowing you to be completely immersed in what you are doing – like Assembly, Spirits of the Forest or some of the Ell deck games. I particularly enjoy Spirits of the Forest as although it is quite thinky you don’t have lots of different things to concentrate on, you are just collecting sets of cards.
Whenever I am looking for ideas a quick tweet usually yields a lot of different suggestions. It was a tweet asking people which games they consider ‘mindful’ that led me to Babel and I’m delighted to have found it. It was a mindful activity and so much more too. Babel is like a solo role playing game with creative writing stimuli as well as being a strong game too. It describes itself as ‘A solo game of language and reality’.
To play Babel, as well as the game booklet, you will need:
  • a Jenga tower (or similar),
  • pen or pencil,
  • journal,
  • pack of cards, (you don’t have to have vintage ones)
  • six sided die,
  • letter tiles (I used Bananagrams).
It also suggests a recording device but I just made notes in a different colour on paper. I’m very old school and plus I felt that the use of something so modern would interfere with my experience of the game. I, of course, added in a cup of tea. I can’t be expected to make my way out of an ancient tower, rediscover my own identity and find humanity’s one unifying language without a cuppa. That’s just silly.
It suggests in the book that the game lasts around 30 minutes. I got lucky first time and played for around 45 minutes. I do think the game length will vary widely depending on how much writing you want to do or feel inspired to do. As the game progressed my journal entries became longer as I relinquished my self consciousness and worry about presentation, grammar or exact word choice and instead became immersed in the story. For a long time the only writing I did was model exam answers or, when I set a class off on a writing task I would complete it at the same time. The end result there, was always that I would share my work and we would scrutinise it – in my mind it could have mistakes and crossings out but it also had to showcase whatever skill we had been working on – appealing to the senses or using semi colons for instance. So it was always a very conscious activity and not at all relaxing. For me mindfulness, while it is a conscious activity by its definition, should contain an element of relaxation or recharge, some sort of break for your brain. I loved the writing I did as part of the game – it was never intended to be shared (let alone deconstructed!) and it flowed freely from my pen spilling ideas onto the page. The prompts were brilliant – a mixture of questions – “whose voice is it you hear in your mind?”; suggestions “You listen to the whispers of the wind, and you hear a song from your childhood.”; statements that put you in the action of the story “…you feel the bricks shift.” and the odd philosophical question “If everyone spoke the same language… would there be less conflict?”
You can see how you could easily spend some hours on the journaling aspect of this game. One of the suggestions is that rather than playing it in one sitting, you could play over a number of days – perhaps mimicking real time so playing one ‘in game day’ per day. As you can tell I have particularly relished the time, space and prompts to help me write creatively and freely. I was happy to set quiet time aside to concentrate on this. But, if writing is not your thing as long as you enjoy the story telling experience then you will still enjoy this game. Instead of writing you could very easily (as the game suggests) use your phone or other recording device to record your experiences.
The game play itself is fun and engaging. There are two ways to win and two ways to lose Babel. At the start of the game you place tiles which spell your true name (at least 10 letters) face down and shuffled onto the Ace of Hearts. If you can reveal all of these tiles then you will win. The remaining tiles stay in a bag or box – these form a pool of Hidden Letters. By drawing one of each letter from this pool you will have discovered the lost alphabet of the Unified Human Language and you will win the game. However, as you draw cards from the Oracle (shuffled deck of cards) should you draw the four Kings all is lost and you remain trapped in the tower for eternity. If when you remove a brick from the Tower itself, it topples then you die – buried inside the ruins. The odds are stacked (excuse the pun) against you. I had a long game but was eventually defeated by the Kings and the Tower then fell anyway (nothing like losing twice in one go!).
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Each turn you roll the die of Fate and it determines how many cards you should draw from the Oracle. You reveal them one at a time, resolving each one by consulting the codex which will instruct you to pull bricks from the tower, remove bricks from the game, take tiles from the Ace of Hearts moving you closer to revealing your true name, reveal tiles from the hidden letters pool – or to return tiles to either of these. The codex will also ask you to consider ideas, remember or reflect on things. As your final action roll the die of Fate again – if you roll a 6 then you can draw a letter from the Ace of Hearts. Once this phase is completed you should complete your journal entry reflecting over the events of the day; perhaps considering your progress, what you have learned and what is to come. You are then instructed to close your eyes ‘for a long time’. When you awake you are ready to play the next day.
The game continues in this manner until you triumph and revel in your rediscovered identity or die in ignominy beneath a heap of Jenga bricks.
Every action in the game is mindful, the roll of the die, the slow reveal of the cards, the painstaking removal and replacement of bricks. The tower in particular demands your full attention. You may find yourself examining it from many aspects before selecting your brick and inching it free. You feel every movement of that tower and see every shake or wobble. This helps to focus your mind on the experience of babel. When I saw the big list of accoutrements I needed to play this game I wondered if it would be silly or gimmicky but it isn’t either of those things. All of the objects enhance the experience and make it truly immersive and mindful.
I will be running a session on Card and Board Games for Mindfulness at The Abbey House Museum on Friday 22nd October 2021 from 2.45 to 3.45.
I’ll definitely have Babel in the bag along with the others mentioned in this blog and others too. I’d love to see you there. Click here for more details.
Make sure you subscribe to the newsletter below and check out Cards or Die events here.
Here is the link if you fancy getting your own copy of Babel.

This Valentine’s find your perfect game set and match.

The world of online dating is fraught with cliches. Fortunately for you, I have found a practical use for them. Simply choose the cliche which best summarises you and I’ve matched you with your soul mate. Sad news, it turns out your soul mate is a board game. Read on to find your perfect match. All you need now is someone to play with….
1. I like going out and staying in.
Which makes me a match with everyone on here – I can’t believe I’m still single (that’s how my dating profile opened!). You are all things to all people, easy going and laid back, I’m starting with you first because you’re the most difficult to accommodate. You will love Sushi Go.
Sushi Go is a lovely portable game so you can pop it in your bag and take it to the pub – or play it at home! It’s a quick, fun game. Collect a high scoring combination of sushi by choosing cards carefully before you pass them on. Strike a balance between blocking your opponents, collecting cards that score now and puddings that will score at the end of the game.
2. Cosy nights snuggling up in front of a roaring fire are my favourites.
You’re all about hugs and holding hands – you need a tactile game. Azul fits the bill. In Azul you are creating a beautiful mosaic with these gorgeous tiles. You score for placing tiles in the correct place and bonuses for sets of colour, columns and rows. The mechanic is straight forward but you need to plan carefully to ensure you maximise your points. You also need to keep an eye on what others are doing to make sure your plan can’t be scuppered! Each round you get to dig deep in the drawstring bag and replenish the tile stock – a very satisfying task!
3. GSOH – I don’t care about looks, I just want someone who I can have a laugh with.
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Twin It: visually noisy, this is loads of fast paced fun. A variation on snap – you need to keep your wits about you as you have to be the first to spot a pair of matching patterns from 8 different piles (in a 4 player game). For added challenge, play on my chintzy tablecloth!
4. Honestly, though, you do care about looks.
Be honest now, if you had to choose between looks and personality – you choose looks every time. High Society is your game. Beautiful images adorn these cards which each represent elements of high society living that you can bid for. Attaining Joie de Vivre will double your points but watch out some cards half the value of your stash or make you discard a card. When these appear you bid NOT to end up with the card. The other nice twist in this game is that the person with the least money at the end of the game is disqualified. So make sure you don’t run out of money or it won’t matter how pretty your cards are – you’ve still lost. I think there’s another cynical dating reference in here somewhere….
5. Looking for fun – no strings attached.
No deck builders or legacies for you!
Yogi is a physical card game – it has been likened to Twister but with cards. I can see why, but it’s much more inventive than Twister. You must follow the instructions on the cards as you turn them over, each turn it becomes harder and harder as you add more cards to the mix. You might be battling to keep your lower teeth hidden, hold a card on your eyebrow, hold another card between your fingers and keep both arms touching!! Then you still need to be able to pick up another card and follow the instruction. Whenever we play it ends in chaos and laughter. Also if you get the right combination it can transform you into a rock star!
6. I’m new to this. My friends said I should try it… I’m not sure what to put but here goes…
Everyone loves Carcassonne, it is one of my most played games. My copy has been played at all sorts of bookings cafes, pubs, weddings… And with good reason -it’s a lovely game, great if you want to try something a bit more complex than Monopoly or Cluedo. Because of the different possibilities when placing your meeples and claiming land or roads you can just layer up the complexity as you go along. I’ve only recently mastered farmers and for some reason I still sometimes struggle to explain it clearly. So if you’re new to it I would advise you to come back to farmer later…
In its simplest terms, all you do on your turn is place the next tile from the pile adding to the map image – continuing roads, fields or cities. Each turn you can place one meeple, thereby claiming that stretch of road, city or fields surrounding an Abbey. You try to get the biggest cities or longest roads to get high scores. It’s a very satisfying game as you watch your lands grow, your score increase and your cities sprawl out. The more you play the more strategic you become.
7. Looking for my partner in crime.
If you have written this it is more than likely you are romanticising criminals – picturing stylish gangsters and their molls, spies and espionage, car chases and adventure. Get Adler will allow you to either take on the hidden role of Adler or play detective and is from just the right era to match the film playing in your head!
Agent Adler has done a runner with Top-Secret documents. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to track down and eliminate Adler and retrieve the stolen dossier. You have seven hours… The game is played in two halves – in the first part you must identify Adler and in the second you must apprehend them using the cards you have collected. Have you got enough pistol cards to outshoot Adler or will you be shot down?
8. I enjoy long walks… to the pub.
What you need is a game that you can slip in your bag and it won’t weigh you down on your long hikes. Travel Hive is a lightweight but lovely game which comes in a drawstring bag so it will fit easily into any backpack. Win by ensuring that your opponent’s Queen Bee is surrounded by tiles. Each insect in the hive has a different movement ability, making it highly strategic. It is reminiscent of chess but a much quicker game.
9. I’m laid back and easy going.
You’re not are you? In fact, you are super competitive. Your perfect game allows you to grind your opponents into the dust where they belong while you tactlessly celebrate. You need an old school classic – the insincerely named, Sorry! The kind of game siblings have played for decades, the kind of game that usually ends in tears!
10. I love travelling.
Ticket to Ride allows you to wistfully recall your travels round Europe and rant about the inadequacies of British transport whilst enjoying a tactical game of route planning and claiming. Best of all it comes with little trains!!
11. Don’t message me if you can’t differentiate between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’.
You’re lack of patience (d’ye see what I did their?!!- ooh and there. Are you twitching? What about know?) and love of language lends itself to Speedy Words. Be the first to shout out a word which matches the symbol and the letter shown. In the picture that would be a food beginning with P. If you win, you take the card and the person with the most cards at the end is the overall winner -the supreme word master, vocabulary overlord. You can come up with your own grammatically accurate title – you love doing that.
12. I don’t need any more drama in my life.
Oooh you big fibber, you thrive on it – otherwise you wouldn’t have mentioned it. Bucket of Doom for you! There are just three easy steps – choose 1 from 8 random items you could use to escape the terrifying scenario; convince the group that your plan is the best; vote for a winner each round. You definitely need a very fertile imagination for this one – you don’t have to be dramatic but it helps.
13. I’m normal.
Only people who are not normal claim to be normal. You’re not only lying, you are missing out on an opportunity to embrace your lack of normality. I can help you with that. In Quirk! you need to collect the most sets of three cards. Sounds normal so far. The twist is that in order to collect the sets you need to become the creature you’re collecting. In Quirk! Legends for instance to complete your set of Unicorns cards you must impersonate a Unicorn. You can also play tactic cards which allow you to block, distract others and tell people to Quirk Off which is immensely satisfying. It’s hilarious and noisy and anything but normal. Just like you.
14. I love my family.
The fact that you feel the need to announce this fills me with suspicion that your beloved family are under the patio. You can reminisce about their gruesome ends with a good game of Gloom. In Gloom your aim is to make your family as miserable as possible before killing them off, you can also try to lift the spirits of other people’s families (see – you’re not all bad.) The cards are see-through so that you can stack them up, obscuring or replacing some or all of the existing scores and categories. Event cards intensify the gloom of your family and outline a mishap or terrible event: ‘disappeared in the night’ or ‘was part of a feast’ for example. As these stack up you tell the horrifying story of that character. Storytelling is outlined in the rules as ‘half the fun’: you are encouraged to flesh out (if you will) how these chilling events came to pass – perhaps you could draw on past experience.
15. I give up. I’m deleting my profile.
I feel you. You don’t need anyone; you are a rock; you are an island and what you need is Tiny Epic Galaxies: a solid solo game. Take over galaxies, farm resources, beat the rogue galaxy – all in a small (ish) box. Perfect for while you are waiting for late friends (or dates).
Happy Valentine’s Y’all.
I hope you all get to play a game you love and that loves you.
2018-05-15 11.00.11

Assembly by Wren Games or ‘why you don’t want to get stuck in space with me.’

Update 02/12/2018 – click on the links below to see a how to play video:
My copies of Assembly arrived last week. I’m so pleased with the look and feel of them. The larger cards work great and it’s still portable enough to play on the go. All those stretch goals have meant it has lovely components including a metal die. I upgraded and got extra glitches as well as a play mat and I’m glad I did. I play this game a lot so it’s well worth the additional investment for me.
You were so excited when you were assigned to this platform – building luxury spaceships. But now you rue the day you ever set foot here. A series of meteorites have hit the orbital platform, triggering a deadly virus which has wiped out the entire staff – even Jones, the ship cat, bought it. Everything is malfunctioning and the computer seems determined to keep you here. You are delighted to learn that I have survived and can almost certainly impede your escape plan. You have spent many of our breaks winning my hard earned cash from me in a variety of strategic games.
Our only hope is an incomplete ship. If we can contain the virus by locking the bays and complete the assembly of the spaceship, then we can make good our escape and return to Earth with our vital immunity to the virus. So, not only do our lives depends upon our successful completion of this challenge but so too the future of mankind.
To be fair working with me, death is fairly certain but still, it’s worth a shot. Afterall it’ll entertain us in our last minutes together.
To escape we need to match all the modules to the bays in the assembly line using a limited set of commands. We can communicate but the computer keeps cutting us off as soon as we use a key command word. Time is of the essence.
Assembly is a beautifully compact game. Have a sneak peek here.
Assembly can be played solo or as a 2 player game. It takes between 10 and 20 minutes. I have played it both solo and the two player variant.
I love the look and feel of this game. The layout mimics clock patience. It’s co-operative but with communication restrictions which nicely adds to the complexity. But the best thing for me is that the theme is immersive. Every element, every mechanic, every card strengthens the theme. In my teaching days I babbled on a lot about the importance of writer’s craft and ‘making every word count’ so I appreciate it when I see that in action. You really are battling against a sentient knobhead of a computer fixed on your demise. Even the scoring at the end is well crafted ‘Unfortunately, good attempts don’t make you any less dead’!
I’m still trying to get a run of wins at the basic level but there are challenges that you can add and variations with the malfunction cards (not necessarily more difficult but they lend a different dynamic to the game). When I say I’m still trying, I am playing this a lot. To say it has a strong ‘Again… again..’ vibe is an understatement and the compact nature of Assembly is very handy given how addictive it is.
And I will play it in the rain and on the train and while I’m waiting for my green eggs and ham and at the pub and in the fog and when I should be writing a blog… you get the picture…
Despite numerous losses, the game is winnable – I know I can do it but it’s hard. Which for me means it is perfectly pitched and because you can add difficulties it should remain so.
Time restrictions also add to the challenge. When the command deck is exhausted three times your time is up. Each time you draw the last card you add in one of the set aside command cards – this is an easy way to track where you are up to as well as being integral to the game. The wild card is the last to be added – if only you’d had it at the start, things could have been so different.
There are four basic commands you can use to move the modules onto the correct bay. (Match the symbol on the module to the one shown on the card). You can swap two modules, rotate modules, draw up more modules or lock the bays down. Simple. Apart from, when each deck cycle ends – not only is the command deck shuffled but the computer scrambles all the unlocked bays on the assembly line. So all of the modules that were close or even in the right place are no longer. That computer really is a tricksy beast.
As we speak Wren games are hard at it, designing more challenges. I’m sure they want to see us trapped in a half built luxury spaceship which after all is not a bad way to go.
The game will be live on Kickstarter from May 24th. If you enjoy space, co-operative or solo gaming and you’re up for the challenge, this is one you’ll want to get on!
Click here to make sure you don’t miss out.
You can play Assembly at a Cards or Die event.
You can also check out my tutorials over on Youtube: Solo Play Two Player
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Spirits of The Forest – a review

I always maintain that Kickstarter and having a crap memory make my life infinitely better. Or at least my post. It feels like Father Christmas definitely exists as I receive random presents through the post that I have no recollection of ordering or paying for. Admittedly, he’s a bit confused these days and his presents arrive willy nilly. Last week Spirits of The Forest arrived just in time for my birthday and it felt like Thundergryph games had sent me a gift. I couldn’t tell you how much the game cost as it was past me that treated me to it (or possibly Father Christmas – there’s no way of ever knowing). Either way it’s brilliant!
My hazy recollection of backing it consists of me seeing it on Twitter and thinking ‘that’s beautiful’. I remember clicking on the link, seeing the shiny gemstones and the gorgeous expansion pack and immediately clicking ‘back this project’. The first thing that struck me when I unwrapped it was how stunning it is. I haven’t played with the expansion pack yet as I am still mastering the base pack but the pieces are so lovely it’s tempting to dive straight in. It’s certainly good to know there are lots of layers to be added to the game at some point.
I have no idea what these bits do but look at them! They were lovingly crafted by fairy folk I have no doubt.
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How to Win
You win by collecting the most of any set of Spirits and/or the most of any set of power sources. If at the end of the round you do not have at least one of each of the Spirits you lose 3 points and if you don’t have at least one of each of the power sources you also lose 3 points.
How To Play
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All of the cards are laid out and 8 favor tokens placed on top. Each turn you can collect up to two identical spirits from the outer edge of the playing area. Players can try to reserve the card they want by placing a gem on it. If another player wants that card however, they can have it if they sacrifice one of their gemstones.
It is a simple premise. You collect sets of cards and try to have more than anyone else of one particular set. But you must ensure you have one of each type too. So there is a lot of balancing to do before you even factor in your opponent(s) who are trying their damnedest to do the same and thwart your plans. Also try not to be dazzled by the art work. I have already lost games by completely ignoring the numbers on the cards (which helpfully tell you the number of spirits of that type there is in the pack) choosing instead to collect the prettiest spirits. Heads up – this is NOT a winning strategy. My favourites are the web spiders and the fruits – respectively the gothest 10 and the cutest 6!
Solo Play
Rather frustratingly as with so many other games, the solo rules start off by saying that it’s the same as the multi player game with the following exceptions…
Now, maybe I’m incredibly lazy or slow on the uptake but I’d really just like one set of rules to read. If I’m playing a solo variant I don’t necessarily want to learn the multi player version so that I can then adapt it to one player.
Having said that, the solo version is enormously satisfying and challenging. Your invisible opponent’s bonus power sources in this game remain hidden until you clear 2 and then 3 lines. That combined with the random layout of tiles means that there is just enough luck to make the game unpredictable but not so much that it isn’t worth strategising.
Plays 2 to 4
We have played with 2, 3 and 4 players. Pleasingly while the game is different with more players it isn’t better or worse. So many games have an optimum number of players and yet this does not. The game feels faster with more players but then there is more to weigh up when you are choosing your tiles. It is easier to block someone from collecting a full set of power sources or spirits but then if you choose to do that it is harder to amass a majority. With 2 players the intensity of decision making remains and the hidden bonus tokens feel more valuable as the balance is likely much closer creating a tense game.
I can see this getting a lot of time out of its box: it’s beautiful and satisfying to play; easy to learn but not so easy to master. A delicate balance of set collection and screwing over everyone else’s plans! Each game is different and you are at the whims of the Spirits of The Forest so victory is never certain. Place your gems with care … you are not alone in the forest….
Come along and play at a Cards or Die event.
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Movable Type – Winning at Words.

When I unwrapped this game and looked at the cards, I felt I had opened a game which had been personally designed for me. I love word games – you can read more about some of the other Cards or Die word games here. One of the frustrating things for me is how little the rest of my household enjoy them and so I rarely get to play. However, my 13 year old and my 11 year old both enjoy this one and, even if they didn’t, there’s a solitaire version. One of the things the children particularly enjoy is the fact it’s quite tactical – you can start planning your final word in round one; pay attention to which letters others are collecting and thwart their plans. There is nothing my offspring enjoy quite so much as decimating each other in a game. I like the planning element and the fact you can deliberately place letters which win you author cards which help later. It’s also beautifully designed; they look like they’ve been meticulously carved and stamped. The choice of authors on the bonus cards is right up my street – among the authors you can win are Edgar Allen Poe*, Ada Lovelace, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen and I’m going to make William Shakespeare the last one I list here. They have chosen fantastic writers to champion your cause. And finally, I know a song about it. I have a song for most occasions and sometimes I have to resort to adapting one (see ‘We built this settee. We built this settee from i-keee-aaaahhh’ for reference) but not this time thanks to the marvellous Commoner’s Choir. I’m even in the video – bonus points if you spot me!!
*On World Book Day, I went to school dressed as a raven and spent the day freaking children out. That probably tells you most things you need to know about me!
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A synopsis
Movable type is a word building game played over 5 rounds. During the first four rounds you are collecting letters to use in your final word. It will be this word which decides the winner.
Players 1 to 6
25 minutes
Designed by Robin David, Visual design by Tiffany Moon and Additional art by Alisdair Wood.
Playing in a group
This game is equally enjoyable with 2 or 6 players. Obviously the more people who play, the longer it takes as people need thinking time to plan and then re-plan if someone pinches the letter they needed! If you want to go all out and allow dictionaries then it takes even longer – you have been warned. Although it rules out any unpleasantness and it’s nice not to have a relaxed game without time pressures. We have enough of those all day.
The key thing is to start collecting the most useful letters then formulate a reasonably flexible plan for the word you will play in the fifth round.
Playing Solo
When you play the solo version of the game you must pit your wordly skills against the formidable Bronte Sisters. At the end of each round you add some cards to your collection just as you do in the multi player version then all of your unused cards go to the Sisters. At the end of the game the word you spell from your collected letters must beat the total points those unused cards amount to. Throughout the first four rounds you can score bonuses which allow you to trash cards or add extra to your collection which allows you to play more tactically.
There’s three of them, they’ve written some pretty good books and they’re ganging up on you so this is not going to be a stroll in the park. Helpfully, though there are hard and easy modes available so you can beat them and then step up the difficulty which is a feature I always welcome.
The fine print
You begin by drafting your cards. You are dealt five cards and you must choose 1 to keep, passing the remaining 4 on. You repeat this process until you have a new (and if you’re me, a much crapper) set of 5 cards.
You then play your highest scoring word, or perhaps a word which fulfils one of the challenges and earns you an author card. To end each of the first four rounds all of you choose cards to add to your collection which you will use in the final round – the winner chooses more than the other players. So winning in the early rounds puts you in a good position.
There are common letter cards which can be used by all players and a single letter can be used as a double. So, for instance to spell the word ‘letter’ you would only need to play the letters ‘LETER’. I’m both regretting using the word letter as I feel I’ve overused it and also realising how many other words have double letters in them!
In the final round you use the cards in your collection, any author cards and any of the newly dealt common cards that you want to create (hopefully) the highest scoring word and attain literary greatness.
The conditions for a tie in the end say that the first person to publish a novel would be declared the winner. We had two issues with that. Firstly my partner’s Mum has published 6 novels so no-one wants to tie with her and secondly it implies that if no-one has published a book yet the announcement of winner is delayed till such time as the condition is fulfilled. Flash forward to a phone call from one of my delirious offspring announcing both the publication of their first novel and pointing out they are now the proud winner of that game of Movable Type we had 20 years previously. Boom. Double whammy!
I thought a few words from my daughter, Molly would be a fitting way to sum up our family’s reaction to this game:
Hi, my name’s Molly (I’m the one playing with the rubber
band in the top picture). I really enjoyed this game, it took us a few rounds to remember the rules – she says trying to remember the rules – some of them were slightly confusing so you would focus on remembering the rules then realise you need an “N” not a “W” to spell banker. I’m very good at English (as you can tell from my immaculate spelling during the game) which made movable type a bit easier although if you struggle with it, the game might not be as enjoyable. I really recommend this game for most ages, for people who love reading and love writing but always keep a dictionary on hand!
Movable Type is available to play at Cards or Die events
or you can treat yo’self to a copy here: http://www.robin-david.com/2018/05/movable-type-second-edition-is.html
2018-08-15 15.07.12

What’s in your bag?

The answer is of course subject to whim and fancy but amongst the plasters, knee supports, notebooks, tiger balm, tissues, pens, paracetamol and parts of games there always nestles a little game. For those moments when you fancy a quick game: the queues, the waits, the cuppa stops or, when you look at your family and think ‘here are some people who need to interact with each other more’.
Geistes Blitz
This is a game of speedy reactions – flip the card then either grab the object shown or if the object does not feature you must work out with lightning deduction which item and colour is not depicted. Grab the wrong object and your go is over and you’ve just helped your opponents along.
The first couple of rounds of this were painful for me. For your first game I would recommend that you play against your peers rather than your heartless offspring. But before I had time to abandon all hope (which can happen remarkably quickly) I grasped it!
And the more rounds you play, the faster you get. It’s addictive, like a kind of hardcore spot the difference.
It quickly earned its place on permanent rotation with a few other games in my bag.
Don’t be fooled by her cute ears- she’s a stone cold victor!
Who Did It?
If you are tired of Poo! but have not grown out of finding faeces funny then this is a good, solid choice.
You need three players for this so although it regularly has a place in my bag it’s better when there are more people (up to 5). Handily, I have created a 5 person family.
Each person gets a hand of animal cards; each card is the potential culprit who has defecated in the living room.
The first player places their card down with the words (for example) ‘My cat didn’t do it, someone’s parrot did it.’
The first player to slap their parrot card on the cat has proved their innocence and declares ‘My parrot didn’t do it, someone’s rabbit did it’…. and so on… until everyone but one player plays all their cards in which case the last remaining player holds the culprit OR, you accuse an animal that no one holds and then you lose the round.
This last condition is the real genius of the game and moves it beyond a game of snap where the fastest reaction wins every time. You must be the fastest and remember the cards which have been played: boss both of these to ensure you don’t end up with the poo.
Zombie Dice.
I know that I have mentioned this one many times but thanks to our added soundproofing (a layer of felt glued to the inside of the insanely noisy box) it’s often rattles round quietly inside my bag. I love push your luck games and the element of probability alongside the tactile nature of the dice makes this game a firm favourite. I’m only disappointed that the markings on the dice aren’t more engraved and distinct as it could be so perfect for players who are blind or visually impaired.
Red dice contain more gunshots; green, more delicious brains and amber, an even mix of fleeing victims, brains and gunshots. Each turn you draw up to three dice and roll to see if you will feast or fail. It’s a low scoring game – once you get your head round that it is much easier to win. But win or lose the repetitive rolling of dice coupled with the thin veil of strategic thinking keeps me quiet for ages. And, as my family will tell you – that’s not to be sniffed at.
Heartcatchers is a fabulous little two player game. And when I say ‘little’ I am not being pejorative – it really is tiny with only 20 cards in the slim box.
The aim of the game is predictably to catch the most hearts, gaining bonuses and avoiding penalty cards. The ‘secrets’ – bonuses and penalty cards are played face down while you capture your opponents card stacks brazenly using face up hearts.
This is a game of bluff, strategy and memory. Do you put a -3 card down under your own stack in the hope your opponent thinks it must be a +3 and captures it? Or do you put the +3 under your own and hope to hang on to it? How long do you risk waiting before you steal the stack you want?
The game is brutally fast. I’ve just about worked out which cards I want when it’s all over. It’s one of those beautiful games that you want to replay immediately using a different strategy. And you can play again and again testing out different strategies whilst trying to second guess your opponent’s.
It’s certainly captured my heart.*
*Look, I’m sorry. I genuinely held that in as long as I could. It had to come out. Is now a good time to point you back to the poo pun?
Solo Puzzle games
2018-08-14 15.29.54
2018-08-14 15.38.35
My most recent bag essential has been not one but three solo puzzle games. These are perfect for those moments when you look at your family and think ‘here are some people who need to interact with each other a lot less. Before someone loses an eye’
Each of the games comes with a booklet of puzzles steadily increasing in difficulty, which you can work your way through. They are incredibly absorbing and actually it’s hard to watch someone without joining in. Unless of course you have gone to sit in a different part of the pub while you enjoy the silence from a distance.
Seriously though, these are great for adults and children and although they are solo puzzles, when it comes to problem solving two heads are almost always better than one!
All of the games we review are available to try at Cards or Die events – join us or book us for your own event!
Other previously reviewed excellent games you might want to bag (click on the links to read more)
Join us at a Cards or Die event and try them out.
2019-01-07 15.56.51

Wordopolis – the capital city of word gaming.

1-3 players
30-60 minutes
Age 8+
I have been lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the Print and Play edition of Wordopolis – the new word game from Caper Games, which is hitting Kickstarter on the 22nd January. As you know I love a word game.
Wordopolis has reminded me of an important life lesson: you buy cheap*, you buy twice. If you take nothing else from this blog – remember that! My first print of Wordopolis was on ‘cardboard’ – I bought a pack of many sheets of this ‘cardboard’ very cheaply. It was like thick paper. It did allow me to have my first play-through of the game and realise that Wordopolis deserves printing on fine and beautiful card. Which – thriftily enough – you can buy books of from The Works for £3!
*The fact that I feel £3 is ‘thrifty’ but not ‘cheap’ tells you all you need to know about my budgeting skills.
So, once you’ve printed it on sufficiently elegant card… then what?
Shuffle the letter cards and place them in an 8 x 8 grid. Draw 4 cards and place some or all of them over letters in the grid to create new words. The grid works like a wordsearch – you can read in any direction as long as it is in a straight line.You score for new words created when you place the letters. The trick is to create as many new words as possible with the strategic placement of letters. While is only played over four rounds it requires a decent amount of thought and planning before placing letters. Think Scrabble rather than Boggle! There are bonuses to be scored dependent on the number of letters in words you create and extra bonuses if you create 10 or 15 new words. Additional care is needed because if you don’t spot words you have created then the other player can claim those points. Even if it is your first play through of the game, your son might mercilessly steal points from you instead of letting you off which you would you have done for him. So just be aware of that – we don’t want any unpleasantness.
This picture shows the 8 by 8 grid and also showcases my shuffling skills which are on a par with my dice rolling abilities.
An interesting anomaly
It bears mentioning that usually I can’t get anyone to play word games with me because apparently I ‘just win so it’s pointless’ so I was pleased that this has a solo variant. As soon as I set it out my son who is 13 took an interest in it and is enjoying playing it with me. I think it’s because instead of making words from scratch you are using some parts of words or groups of letters from the grid so it is not just a test of vocabulary but also of observation. He has also beaten me a couple of times which may suggest that it plays differently to other word games or just that my brain is slowing with age. In the absence of actual science lets just go with – Wordopolis is a unique game: awesome in a range of ways!
It’s good for your brain.
We have played as a group and I have played solo games -all equally enjoyable and rewarding. The game plays in the same way and there are no additional rules to read and learn.The solo game is a tough nut to crack – you need 1000 points to win. A feat I have yet to master. I am positive that it is achievable but it is certainly not very easy. Each time I play, I generally score higher so my brain is becoming attuned to the skill set required to beat it. The ability to improve is always a motivating factor and knowing that other play-testers have beaten the solo variant fills me with hope. (As well as a growing concern that my brain is turning into a fully soaked sponge and it is only a matter of time till bits of it fall off in the bath).
Other Good Bits!
The rules are really straightforward and easy to remember, and scoring and bonuses are on a separate card for quick reference. The randomised nature of the set up means that you can have endless variety in your games. I can’t see myself ever tiring of this. Before I got Moveable Type (another awesome word game with a solo play option) I used to play Boggle or Bananagrams solo. They’re great games – but playing solo, you are just aiming to do better than you did last time and each game stands in isolation. In the solo game of Wordopolis you are aiming for a set score to beat and the game is progressive. I love that most of the letters are already there, so any thinking or planning you do in the first round can benefit you later. When playing with others I much prefer games where the competitive element lies in doing your best and not expending energy trying to thwart someone else. As the thwartee in many of our household games it’s always nice to be beaten without being completely destroyed! And as my family bemoan, an English degree gives me an edge in word games so there’s even a chance I’ll win. Wordopolis also lends itself well to an app and online version which will be available. But for me the lure of the cardboard is still too strong. I’ll be there on January 22nd right at the front of the queue!
If you want to try it out, come to one our events and join me for a game.
Find out more about this game and Caper Games other fab titles (including Get Adler) here .