In this bi-weekly series I’m offering initial impressions and thoughts on three board games I’ve enjoyed recently. While many of us are getting our gaming via Tabletop Simulator, Tabletopia, Board Game Arena, and other sites during the Quarantimes, I’m focusing on gaming of the cardboard-only variety. And since game nights are much different now, I’m including at least one game with solo rules and one game that can be played over Zoom or Skype.
HABA consistently produces family and kid-friendly games that gamers enjoy. I love both Rhino Heroes and Animal Upon Animal, and I was pleasantly surprised by Honga, a family-weight worker placement game. Now comes 5er Finden, the first HABA roll-and-write game I’ve played (although I did play HABA’s wonderful roll-and-color game, Color It! recently; it’s for younger gamers, but a relaxing way to spend 15 minutes for all kinds of gamers).
In 5er Finden you roll dice featuring different symbols. You’re trying to find these five symbols on your player board in various tetrominos (Tetris shapes). You may find up to five of these shapes during a round and when you do, you turn over a 30-second timer, which is the remaining time left for your opponents (you are allowed to turn over the timer before finding five shapes). Whoever turns over this timer cannot use the time to find anymore shapes, but they do get one bonus point. Depending on the shapes you find, you’ll get various points. Erase your board and do it again for a total of five rounds and the most points wins. There’s also a puzzle mode where you don’t erase your board and find shapes one at a time until you cannot place anymore. I haven’t played this mode yet, but since it can be played solo I’ll be adding this to my solitaire repertoire when my family isn’t available to game.
After my family and I livestreamed 5er Finden on Twitch, we played it a few more times the next night. Lately that’s been my barometer for family game night: if we livestream something and we play it again off air, that’s a sign of a keeper. 5er Finden is one of our keepers.
Thanks to HABA for the copy of 5er Finden. Order here: https://www.habausa.com/5er-finden/
Earlier this year, thanks to my friends Edward and Sasha of GameSchoolCon, I learned all about the awesomeness of Crokinole. I’d heard nothing but good things about this 150-year-old game, but never understood its appeal. It’s a fairly plain-looking circular board, with two inner circles marked off, and a hole in the middle. There are also pegs on the inner circle.
Game play is simple, as you and your opponent take turns flicking checker-like discs on the board. If your opponent has no discs on board, you shoot for the middle; you must land in the inner circle or else your disc is removed. If your disc goes into the center hole, then you remove it and will score 20 points at the end of the round. Otherwise, if your opponent has at least one of their discs on board, you must strike that disc on your shot. Do so and you’re good. Fail to hit the opponent and you must remove your disc. After a dozen shots each the round ends and you’ll get points depending on where your discs are: 15 points each in the inner circle, 10 points each for the middle circle, and 5 points each for the outer circle, along with any 20-pointers you knocked in. You and your opponent compare scores and the higher score gets the difference. So, if Michelle’s discs totalled 40 points and Lauren’s discs totalled 25 points in the round, then Michelle will score 15 points for the round. Clear the board and play more rounds until one player scores 100 points.
Easy, right? Oh, but it is SO much more. Simply put, it’s the best dexterity game I’ve ever played. It reminds me of a desktop version of shuffleboard, but infinitely better. Rounds and games go by quickly and it’s instantly addicting; once you’ve shot your first Crokinole disc, you’ll want to keep coming back for more. There’s plenty of strategy, too. At first you’ll want to just flick discs as hard as you can, hoping to take out your opponents. You’ll soon learn how to use a bit more touch and subtlety. Sure, you want to knock your opponent’s pieces off the board, but you can also use their pieces as bumpers as you hit them and ricochet toward the 20-point hole. And speaking of bumpers, the pegs surrounding the inner circle act give it a pinball-like feel as discs fly off of them and into each other or off the board.
The only caveat to playing Crokinole? The actual game board is not cheap and a quick Google search will reveal prices that start at $150 before shipping and taxes. Thankfully, an affordable option exists: Mayday Games runs an annual Crokinole board Kickstarter and their board is only $99. I backed it at the start of summer and have already played a dozen games on it. It’s an excellent board at this price point and if you’ve ever been curious about Crokinole, this is the best way to get into it. And just in case you missed my earlier declaration: Crokinole is the greatest dexterity game I’ve ever played. Don’t believe me? Maybe this guy can convince you.
On September 1, 2020, you can pre-order Mayday Games’ Crokinole board in time for Christmas. More info here: https://www.maydaygames.com/collections/crokinole-tournament-edition-board-accessories
Herd Mentality seems like a game that was made for the COVID-19 Era: it’s a party game for 4-20 players that’s easy to learn, doesn’t out-stay its welcome, and can be played over Zoom or Skype with no extra copies of the game are needed. This is a race to eight cow tokens (points) and you’re trying to think like the herd. One player will draw a card and read it out loud, then everybody will write down their answers. Here’s an example that I’m making up and have no idea if it’s actually in the game: What is the best Star Wars movie? The answer doesn’t matter, but let’s say six players of a nine-player game write down “The Empire Strikes Back.” Not only have they written the best answer ever, but they are in the majority and each player scores one cow token. Let’s say two players wrote down “The Force Awakens.” They would score nothing. And finally one lone player wrote down the incredibly wrong answer, “The Phantom Menace.” Since they’re the odd one out, they score nothing and they receive the dreaded Pink Cow. The Pink Cow means you cannot win the game. Thankfully, it’s not permanent; once another player finds themselves as the odd one out, they’ll take the Pink Cow. The first to eight cow tokens wins the game.
This game is all kinds of silly fun, which is what we can all use more of during 2020. What I love is how this game will play with different groups; if I’m playing with friends of my generation, I’m definitely writing down “The Empire Strikes Back” for the Star Wars question. But if I’m playing with my nephew and nieces, I may write down “The Force Awakens” or even a Star Wars LEGO movie. Thankfully, with video conferencing software I can enjoy it virtually with them as we continue to practice physical distancing.
Thanks to Big Potato Games for the copy of Herd Mentality. Order here: https://bigpotato.com/us/games/herd-mentality/