Friday, August 24, 2012

Big Fat Tomato For Your Thoughts

The Big Fat Tomato Game
Designed by Casey Grove

First of all, a big SHOUT OUT to Gamewright games for making this review possible and for creating family fun games. Another big SHOUT OUT to all the farmers across the world for providing food for our tables. It is a tremendous and noteworthy profession that goes forgotten all too often. Especially in this tough year with all of the drought our thoughts and prayers are with you.

the big fat tomato game (TBFTG) joins the farming game fray with other farming themed games such as Agricola, Bohnanza, Nile, and The Farming Game. The TBFTG is a game for 2 to 5 brave tomato farmers who have about 20 minutes to harvest the most fuzzy little tomatoes you can. I would say that depending on the child, some younger than the suggested age of 10+ would be able to play the game and enjoy it.

In TBFTG the objective is to have the most tomatoes in your supply come harvest time. This is accomplished by playing cards that protect your harvest (like fences or hot pepper spray) from pesky varmints and weeds that have or will be placed on you by other competitive farmers. Setup is easy enough and is done by shuffling the cards without the "Market Time" card and then the Market card is placed somewhere in the last 10 cards or so of the deck. Each player takes a basket and the tomatoes are placed in the middle along with the dice for easy access. Each player is dealt 5 cards and the game begins with the player who can make themselves look most like a tomato (this is pretty fun and The Wife and I had a laugh while doing this, but if that isn't your style you could always play the highest roll of the die).

A turn is played out something like this: A player may play one green thumb card (used to either rid their harvest of unwanted pests or to build up fences) and one red thumb card (an attack card against another player). The player then rolls the two die to see how many tomatoes he will gather from the middle and place in his or her basket. The red cards will effect your harvest by limiting you to only one die, subtracting from your harvest by one roll of the die etc. There are other cards as well that I won't go to great detail on, but they can be played out of turn to stop attacks or reverse them and steal other's tomatoes etc.

The other key portion of your turn is to decide on whether or not you will "bank" or empty your tomatoes from your basket into your supply. This is key to the game for multiple reasons. First of all, you should try and keep track of the number of tomatoes in your basket (this shouldn't be too hard for the older players, but maybe a bit more challenging for the younglings) because if you choose to empty your basket into your supply and you don't have at least 20 tomatoes - well, you loose all of those from your basket into the middle instead. You want to empty your basket when you can because these tomatoes will be more safe from other players and only the tomatoes in your supply (not your basket) count toward your final count come market time. At the end of your turn, you can discard any cards you would like and then you draw back up to 5.

The game ends when the "Market Time" card is drawn from the deck. The winner again is the player with the most tomatoes in their supply. The game goes pretty quickly, and I might even suggest trying out going through the deck once and then randomly shuffling in the Market card on the reshuffle to lengthen the game and add more of a suspense to when the Market card will actually show up (this suggestion may not work as well if playing with lots of people because the tomato supply in the middle might dry up so to speak).

Everyone knows I'm a sucker for a game that comes in a nice tin. It might be because my mother collects tins or it might just feel like I'm getting something extra. Either way, the components of TBFTG come in a nice tin with great packaging. I love the little tomatoes, the baskets, and the cards. The cards shuffle well and seem that they will hold up nicely.

Overall, the game is a nice quick family game with great components and it plays really well. Sometimes you will find yourself without the proper cards in hand to rid yourself of your current predicament, but that is all part of the game and you will just have to rise above it like any good farmer would do and hope that no flying hippos will swoop in and make matters worse. I give TBFTG 2 fingers up, or in other terms 7/10 stars and that is How Lou Sees It!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Day 23 - Boat Pose

And thus concludes the A Yoga Pose A Day project everyone. It was a good time. I can't report that I'm more flexible, but I did not get seriously injured, so that's good. I will be coming out with more game reviews shortly and there is another daily project just around the corner! Until next time that is How Lou Sees It.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Thurn and Taxis: Power and Glory

Thurn and Taxis: Power and Glory
Designed by Andreas and Karen Seyfarth

Power and Glory is the first expansion to Thurn and Taxis and it does not disappoint. For those familiar with Thurn and Taxis read on, and for those who are not as familiar with the original or base game I suggest reading about it here first.

Now, Power and Glory is not an expansion in the sense that it adds components to the original board, but it provides a different map and a different way to play with the houses used from the base game. And I have to say, I'm not sure which one I like the best (I think The Wife actually enjoys the Power and Glory board and variation better than the original) which is definitely saying something for this expansion.

I'll break my review up into the two main differences between this expansion and the base game starting with the new board. The new board has color coated regions just as the first but they are arranged a bit differently. The largest color region is actually split into to areas of the board (which I like) and there are a few "free cities." The free cities are independent cities (not belonging to any region) and even though they are all represented by a gold color, they are not considered to be a region or color category for means of placing houses (you can only build in one of these cities when scoring a route). The first player to place a house in the free city obtains 1 point. The free cities do not contribute in any way to the diversity bonus (in which a player has a house in each region). I like the new map, and it helps provide more replay to the game as a whole (I even wish they would have provided a double sided board like Power Grid, but it would have been a bit more difficult with additional cards needed). The good news is you can also play with all the same original rules and just play with the new board as well, but the variation provided in this game might actually be preferred to the original. Let's take a look.

In the Power and Glory variation, there are no carriage cards obtained for building routes 4, 5, 6, and 7 long.  The game therefore doesn't end until someone's houses are all gone (they still obtain a bonus point and tie-breaker tile for ending the game). Players will still want to build longer routes, because this game has bonus tiles for length once again (on up to 8 long). You can obtain these tiles at a first played, first gained basis. Basically, this opens the game up a bit and gets rid of the time component of the carriages - not allowing players to speed or slow the game by the carriage cards (they can still do this by choosing how they play their houses). The main change to go along with this change is the horses. Each of the cities has 3 cards just like the original, but the back of the cards have either 1, 2, or 3 horses on the back. Each player starts with a carriage card with 2 horses (each card on the front also has a representation of the horses by horseshoes 1, 2, or, 3) and while playing a card down into their playing area, a player may choose to play a card as horses to his carriage instead of adding to the route. The player must have at least as many horses as the player does cities before the player can close and score his route.

I really enjoy the variation in play. I believe it actually makes it easier in some ways, especially in regards to having to discard a route. If a player doesn't have the city he needs to continue his route, he can play horses to his carriage instead (max of 6 cards to the carriage) and wait and see if the city comes up next time. I have not concluded which I prefer more yet (the original or the P&G horses variation), but I believe the horses to be a great variation. Definitely worth getting this expansion for Thurn and Taxis and that is How Lou Sees It.

Day 17 - Half Prayer Twist

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Smash Up

Smash Up
Designed by Paul Peterson

What do Pirates, Aliens, Robots, Tricksters, Ninjas, Dinosaurs, Wizards, and Zombies have in common? They are all used in this simplistic battle for power in the card game "Smash Up." A big SHOUT OUT to AEG for making this review possible by sending an advanced copy of the game. Smash Up was scheduled for an August release, but since then the game has been pushed back to a September release, so keep your eyes open. To me Smash Up feels like a simpler version of Killer Bunnies with a pleasant added variety to the type of cards. The game is very easy to learn and play and the games go by really quickly (so you can play again with a different mash up of types). The game is made for 2 to 4 players and with all the different species or types, the game has tremendous replay value.

The game includes 8 different categories with 20 cards in each. Players choose 2 different categories and shuffle them together creating their playing deck for the game. This can be done by taking turns choosing a type or another fun way I think is to actually take a card from each category and shuffle them up dealing out 2 cards to each player randomizing each players deck. Either way, each different combination will have its pros and cons and your strategy will have to adapt.

After the decks have been shuffled, different base cards are dealt out onto the table and the mayhem begins. Each player can play 1 minion (these are cards with characters of power and usually have some special ability associated with them) to a base and/or 1 action card (these allow to enhance your own minions or hurt others etc.). You then "score" any base on which the sum of all the minions' power (yours along with other players' minions) is equal to or greater than what is on the base. Players then score victory points according to their power ranking compared to the others. A new base is then drawn and placed. The player then draws 2 cards (discard down to 10 at the end of your turn). Simple as that! The game ends when someone scores at least 15 victory points and the winner is the one player with the most.

I really like the simple play to the game. You can introduce the game to 3 entirely new people and have the game going in 5 minutes. The game of course has a bit of luck on the draw of cards and you are greatly affected by the other players constantly. The different types of cards and combos make the theme crazy and fun. My only negative feedback on the game is that the game requires a pen/pencil and some paper to keep track of score. I would have loved some simple method included in the game to keep track of the victory points. All in all, a great little card game. Who would have imagined ninjas teaming up with dinosaurs or pirates combining with aliens or zombies and robots (now that's a scary thought)...and that is How Lou Sees It.

Day 15 - Bow Pose

Monday, August 13, 2012

Thurn and Taxis

Thurn and Taxis
Designed by Andreas and Karen Seyfarth

I absolutely love this game and it is definitely joining my top 10 (bumping out Slide 5) and making 5 out of my top 10 games now Rio Grande Games. A big SHOUT OUT to Rio Grande Games for making this review possible. This is actually going to be part 1 of a 3 part series. I will also be reviewing the 2 expansions to Thurn and Taxis as well: 1) Power and Glory. 2) All Roads Lead to Rome. Look for these reviews in the coming weeks.

Thurn and Taxis actually came out in 2006, 2 years after the successful game Ticket to Ride. While there are some similarities between the two games (one being that they both received the great Spiel des Jahres award for their release year), Thurn and Taxis is by far the more enjoyable game in my opinion and some have even nicknamed Thurn and Taxis the "Ticket to Ride Killer." The game is for 2 to 4 players and it takes about an hour or a bit less to play. The only reason I don't think that this has become as popular as Ticket to Ride in the U.S. is because the map is not of America and people just haven't heard about it.

In Thurn and Taxis, players are building postal systems by building different postal routes, post offices, and by collecting carriages. The game play is learned quickly and is very easy grasp. A player draws one card and then has to play one card.  There are six face up city cards available to choose from along with the draw stack (you can choose to take the top card if you wish). The player then has the option to close and score their current route (if at least three cities long) or keep it for the next turn.

The player also has the ability to use some help from postal officials. The player has the option of using one of the four special abilities each turn. The player can: 1) draw two cards instead of just one, 2) play two cards instead of just one, 3) discard the current six face up cards and replace them with new ones, or 4) obtain some help with getting carriages (I'll explain this a little bit later).

Each turn you are playing city cards down in front of you in a continuous fashion. If you are unable to play a city that is adjacent to what your route is currently, you have to discard your route and start all over. So, there is a lot of strategy in choosing the right cities and being able to play a card each turn. As you build longer routes, you can obtain higher valued carriages. The game ends when someone runs out of their cities (everyone has 20) or someone obtains a 7 carriage. I like this element of the game, because the pace of the game is dictated by the players. One player can advance the game more quickly by upgrading his carriage faster or by playing more of his cities. Players get certain bonuses throughout the game for building in certain areas first (there are runner up bonuses for those who get there second etc.).

The scoring for each player comes from their highest valued carriage card and any of the bonus tiles received throughout the game. Players also subtract from their score for each unused city remaining in their supply. I don't want to get into the rules in greater detail, but you can for yourself here.

The game components are really great quality and the illustrations and everything is great. The game has little cards (similar to the size in Ticket to Ride) which isn't my favorite, but they shuffle great and seem to me that they will hold up very well. The game as I said is very easy to learn and play, but has a nice depth of strategy to it as well. The game is not overly interactive (you can't block routes or anything like that, but you can take a face up card that you know your opponent would like etc.), but you are trying to work the board so that you can obtain the best bonus tiles before everyone else. I like the fact everyone really has the same objective and same bonuses available, nothing is really secret. A lot less luck factor than Ticket to Ride with the ticket cards etc. One thing that I think could have been better is the color differences. I think playing the game might be a bit tricky for a color blind player with the subtle change in colors.

I played the game with The Wife, just the two of us, and it played very well with just two players. The game is a good length allowing for a quick rematch, or if you just need a shorter and not so complex game. I highly recommend this game to everyone and I can't wait to try out the expansions as well (stay tuned for Power and Glory and All Roads Lead to Rome)!

Day 13 - Side Plank Pose

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Day 9 - Dancer Pose

So You Think You Can Dancer Pose? Maybe I missed my true calling in life.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Day 7 - Spinal Balance

Once again, feel free to send in pictures of yourself doing the Yoga pose and I will post it. I'm sure pretty much everyone out there can do these poses better than myself.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Day 1 - Greetings

Namaste and welcome to the beginning of Lou's A Yoga Pose A Day (AYPAD). Inspired by my A Game A Day (AGAD) project that ended a few weeks ago. I have never done Yoga before in my life (other than some Wii Fit), so these next few days will be my best attempt at different Yoga poses. Feel free to e-mail me pictures of yourself performing the Yoga poses and I will add them to my posts. Join me in my journey to see how flexible and relaxed I can become.