Posts Tagged ‘Boardgames’

Advent reviews: Ca$h’n Gun$

Today, I’m gonna tell you about one of the silliest games in my collection, and one that comes with some rather useful props: Ca$h’n Gun$

What kind of game is this?

In this game, you play a bunch of stereotypical gangsters. The gang has just pulled of a heist, and are now back at the base, splitting the loot… but you know, Lotus didn’t really pull her weight, and El Toro is a bit of a jerk – plus, fewer people to split the loot with means more for you… hey look, I’ve got this gun, here. Hmm… are there any more bullets in this gun?

Ca$h’n Gun$ is all about Mexican standoffs. At the beginning of the game, you get a character stand, a foam gun and eight cards: five “clicks” (meaning your gun’s  not loaded), two “bangs” (meaning you’re going to shoot) and one “bang bang bang” (meaning you’ll shoot fast). Each round, a stack of money cards are revealed and put on the table. The cards come in $5,000, $10,000 and $20,000 denominations. At the end of the round, you split the money the best way you can between the people still in the round, leaving over anything that can’t be evenly distributed between that number of players. So if three people have to divide 3 $5,000 dollar bills and 2 $20,000 dollar bills, they $5,000 each and leave the remaining $40,000 for the next round.

When the money has been revealed and examined, everybody selects a bullet card and puts it face down in front of them. When everybody has selected a card, somebody counts down from three, then everybody points their gun at one of the other players. When everybody has had a moment to survey the situation, there’s another countdown, after which everybody can decide to “chicken out”, take a “chicken out” token and withdraw from the round.

The people still pointing at somebody will then “pull their trigger”. First, anybody with a “bang bang bang” card turns over their card, and shoots whoever they were pointing at. Then everybody else reveal their cards and shoot. Anybody who got shot takes a wound token for each wound and are out of the round. Finally, the remaining players split the loot.

The game continues for eight rounds. A player who receives their third wound is dead and out of the game; otherwise, the winner is the player with the most money at the end of the game.

There are two advanced components that you can play with in the game. The first is a secret power: each player will draw a card showing a special power they have this game. Some are revealed immediately, while others can be revealed during the game when the player wants to use it, or it can be saved for endgame scoring.

The second is a traitor mechanic: one person is a police informer, who must secretly contact the police three times before the sixth round, then survive till the end of the game. If they pull it off, they win, otherwise, they lose – even if they had the most money and were still alive at the end. Trouble is, they can only inform if they are part of loot division.

How many people should you play this with?

The box says four to six players. It works with four, but I would prefer five or six, just for that tense, chaotic, everybody’s-pointing-at-everybody feeling.

What do I think of this game?

This is a fun, short game. It’s not super strategic, but can be very tense, and is full of second guessing each other – trying to figure out who you should point at, and whether the people pointing at you put one of their precious bullets in their gun this turn. It is a great filler, and also one to play with non-gamers.

The game can be a bit bland in the long run, though. The special powers help, and they are a great addition, that I would wholeheartedly recommend playing with – maybe not if it’s the first play-through for a significant section of the people playing, but otherwise.

The police informer variant is ok, but no more than that. It seems extremely difficult for the informant to pull it off without revealing himself, and staying alive after calling the police for the final time is exceedingly difficult. It’s also rather unrewarding that the money you assemble is useless. It’s a fine variant, but I won’t be making it a stable of the game. If I wanted a traitor game, I’d be playing The Resistance, Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisitor, or one of the many other games that does that far better.

A few interesting things to note

  • The guns are great to use as props for other things. Unfortunately, most versions have orange pistols, instead of the black ones that were in the first version of the game. Such a shame.
  • There is usually a very particular progression in the game. At the beginning, everybody is pointing more or less at random, but as things progress and some people get loads of cash while others get grudges, patterns definitely start to evolve.
  • The patterns that evolve are of course obvious to both parties. This means you will have to start double guessing each other, not least concerning the loading of guns. “Well, he probably knows I’ll load my gun and chicken out, so I shouldn’t load it and waste a bullet. But wait – is he going to think I wouldn’t load, and so not chicken out, in which case I should definitely load my gun? Hmm…”

Advent Reviews: Article 27

Article 27 is a game about the UN Security Council. I bought it on a whim last year – I’m interested in the whole international systems thing, but the name and theme of the game sounded like it might be a heavy, dusty game. It turned out to be pretty much the opposite.’

What is this game?

In Article 27, you play one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council. Now, the name of the game refers to the part of the UN code that says that a resolution must have a majority for it in order to pass, and that it cannot pass if any of the permanent members vote against it. This means that permanent members vote “no” by abstaining, while a “no” vote is a veto. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that the game is all about negotiating a resolution, and trying to get people to vote for your proposition, or at least not to veto it.

During the game, the players take turns being the Secretary General. In a 4-6 player game, each player will be Secretary General once, in a 3 player game, each player will be Secretary General twice. The Secretary General has five minutes to try to put together a resolution that will be able to pass – that is, a majority must get enough out of it to vote for it, while no one can dislike it enough to veto it.

So, what do players get out of a resolution? Three things: Players will receive or lose points for which of five issues are part of a resolution. At the beginning of the round, each player will draw five tokens from a bag, placing them on fields that mark out the points the player will gain if that issue is passed this turn: +5, +3, +1, -2, -4. You can draw several tokens with the same issue. This means that you could theoretically have five identical tokens, though you will most often, you will get a variety of tokens with one or two copies. You might still get both plus and minus points for the same issue though.

There are a few more points available. The Secretary General gets five points if they can pass a resolution. Also, each player has a hidden agenda that they want passed throughout the game. Each issue token will carry one of these hidden agenda tokens, meaning that you might have an interest in passing an issue, even if it doesn’t get you any points.

Finally, there are bribes. Players can use their points to bribe each other to do certain things: Put a certain issue in the resolution, vote for a resolution,  even veto a resolution (which is a way of splitting the cost of vetoing). Bribes are offered by putting coins together with a token representing your country on the other player’s playing board. This board has spaces for all the different kinds of bribes you are likely to be making throughout the game. Then, after voting, players get any bribes they honoured, while they return any they didn’t live up to.

The game continues until all players have been Secretary General, then you score the secret agendas, and count your points.

How many would I play this with?

The more the better. I would say that five is probably optimal, but six is great too. Three is ok, but you don’t really get enough negotiation around the table. You need a few more players to spice it up.

What do I think of the game?

I really like this game. It’s a real “me” type of game: hidden agendas, negotiation, silly voices – what’s not to like? The game is pretty simple, but I feel there is plenty to negotiate. The artwork is very silly, but in a way that evokes roleplaying your country.

In general, the component quality is really good. The boards and the tokens are great, the sand timer is good, and the gavel that the Secretary General has is frankly just amazing. There is a problem with the contrast on the yellow tokens – you simply cannot see which secret agenda is on a token. I’m frankly a little surprised why they haven’t caught that and given the yellow tokens a black outline. For a high quality game, that’s a stupid mistake to make.

The game can be very cut-throat. Very often, the louder, more insistent player will gain more than the quieter players. This can lead to some surprising votes, when one player suddenly decides to veto or vote against a resolution.

And the game is not at all fair. You depend a lot on the way the tokens come up on the board – if you’re unlucky, there won’t be anything that will really give you points in a given round. This doesn’t bother me so much – to me, the game is about getting the best deals I can – but I can certainly see it as a drawback to many players.

All in all, Article 27 is a bit of a different game, and one I’m really fond of. It’s also a rather light game, and I would feel fairly comfortable introducing new players to it. And if someone doesn’t like it? Well, the game takes a maximum of five minutes per player, plus a bit of bookkeeping – so it’s not the biggest waste of time if someone turns out not to like it.

A few interesting things to note

  • That the designers added Germany as a sixth “permanent member”. This bothers me a bit, as it is highly unlikely that another European country would become a permanent member of the Security Council. It’s much more likely that any additional permanent members would be a BRICS country, or at least an African/Asian country, rather than a European country.
  • How you will most often not use all five minutes – but the consciousness of the time constraint will make you move the negotiating process along.
  • How the addition of a leader of the negotiating really moves it along. In some negotiation games where there is no leader, people can sit on their hands a little bit at the beginning, waiting for somebody else to make the first move. Here, the Secretary General will start out with a suggestion, moving the thing along.

Advent Reviews: Werewolves (of Miller’s Hollow)

Werewolves is the quintessential party game. I love playing it – unfortunately, it is difficult to gather enough people to play it.

What kind of game is this?

Werewolves is a funny kind of a game. It exists in many versions, and was played for a while without any commercially released edition. It was originally known as Mafia, and can also be found ind the guise of “Do you worship Cthulhu?” All that said, the version of the game that really made it famous was “The Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow”.

In any version, one player is the moderator. All other players receive a character card, showing whether they are a common villager, a werewolf hiding in the village, or one of a number of special characters, most of which are on the side of the villagers.

The game is played in a number of day/night cycles. Each night, the moderator tells everyone to close their eyes. When everybody has closed their eyes, the moderator tells the wolves to open their eyes and vote for whoever they want to eat that night. After the werewolves are done, a number of other characters can open their eyes, one at a time, in order to use their special powers – like the Seer, who will point to someone to find out whether they are a werewolf or not.

After the night phase, everybody opens their eyes, and the moderator tells them the results of the night: Who died, and what else happened? Then the players debate who they suspect of being a werewolf, and vote to lynch someone. The game ends when all the werewolves are dead, or when the werewolves overpower the villagers.

How many people should you play this with?

The more the merrier! I think a minimum for playing this is eight players and a moderator. But the game really shines when you have 10-15 players. This will make the game a fair bit longer, and the first player to die will be out for a fair while. This is unfortunate, but you can help it either by involving the dead players in the game, or by having them start a second game at some point.

What do I think of this game?

This game is so much fun! It hits a sweet spot between roleplaying and board gaming, and causes some really fun situations when everybody is slinging accusations back and forth. The rules are very light, and not very strict, but that is perfect for what the game is – not least because it makes it easy to bring new people into the game very quickly.

A few interesting things to note

How important artwork is. The difference in the feel between this version of the game and the one called “Ultimate Werewolf” is more or less just the artwork, and yet I much prefer Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow.

How fun it is to have a game you can customize so much. Each time, the moderator chooses a set of cards, which means none of the players can be entirely sure what’s in the pile. That keeps you on your toes.

Aye Dark (imagined) Overlord

Today, I played both Smallworld and Aye, Dark Overlord for the first time. Both are games I’ve been quite eager to try, and both were quite positive experiences – even though I got trashed at Smallworld, getting 74 points when everybody else had between 90 and 110. I don’t feel like I know either game well enough to pass a verdict on them, and so I won’t review them here and now.

I will, however, tell you about an alternate way of playing Aye, Dark Overlord, we discovered.

We played one game, which suffered a bit from the fact that we were waiting for food to arrive, and so none of us were fully in the game. Then, later, when another group wanted to play the game, we were only four, while the game calls for four “minions” (players) and one “overlord” (moderator/umpire). Suddenly, someone said: “Do we even need an Overlord? No, it turned out, we didn’t.

Here is what we did (if you don’t know the game, what follows may not be entirely comprehensible):

Each of us took cards as usual. Then, one of us would draw the top card of the “hints” deck (a deck of cards with “typical” fantasy tropes, such as the psychic bomb or the wicked elf). He would then turn to the player next to him clockwise, take on the voice of the Overlord, and ask why this or that plan didn’t work – just like the Overlord usually works. Play then goes on as usual.

We wanted it to be so that the others had to agree when you recieved a Withering stare. We decided on an “X-factor” model (which is probably really an “”X’s got talens” show) where everyone would put a clenched fist on the table when they thought people deserved the stare.  When there were three fists on the table, the person got a stare.

The player who lost would discard his hand and draw a new one, as per the ordinary rules. But then, he would draw an extra hint card and make a new plan based on that, directing it to the person next to him.

It worked quite well. We did lack someone to keep track of the story for us, as our story sometimes turned out to be rather confusing, and not entirely coherent.

Later, I’ve come up with this way of deciding who to direct the opening of a round to: the Overlord should choose the person with the most actioncards in his hand. If there’s a tie, the person with the least number of Stares decides. If there’s still a tie, the person closest to the Overlord in a clockwise direction.