Board Game of the Week- Joking Hazard (for players 18+)

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  • Game Title: Joking Hazard
  • Release Date: 2016
  • Number of Players: 3-10
  • Average Game Time: 30-90 mins
  • Game Publisher: Breaking Games
  • Website: jokinghazardgame.com
  • Game Designer: N/A
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Yes

Disclaimer: This game has adult themes and is meant for players 18 and up. Do not buy this game for children and then get mad at me that it is inappropriate. Please and thank you.

Another Kickstarter funded game that takes a popular comic series and warps it into a fun, ridiculous, and inappropriate game came into my life last week. Joking Hazard is a card game based on the comic Cyanide and Happiness, which you’ve probably heard of if you’ve spent more than five minutes browsing the Internet. In case you haven’t, Cyanide and Happiness focuses on awkward and inappropriate reactions to situations and condenses them into a three-strip comic panel. Joking Hazard takes these elements and turns them into an extremely clever, wild, and raunchy game with Cards Against Humanity-esque decisions and a feeling of depravity that just can’t be beat.

The game is very similar in gameplay to Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples. You have a set of 7 cards, there is a judge that rotates clockwise every round, you play a card facedown and the judge chooses which card is the winner. The differences are fairly straightforward, but are important to the flow and style of the game. For starters, the cards are all single panels of a comic that you use to form a complete strip with two other
panels. The first panel is drawn from the draw pile, the judge places the second panel either before or after the first one, and then each player other than the judge chooses a panel to place at the end, completing the strip. This means that there is only one deck of cards, rather than two like in CAH and Apples to Apples, and each one is meant to be paired with other cards to form the final joke. The person who played the card that the judge picks keep their card to tally the score, and then play continues until you decide it’s time to stop.

The positives in the game come from the amount of creative ways you can play the cards and the game’s ability to keep you on your toes. Because each card is suited for a different situation, there joking hazard wife left meare a huge number of possibilities and directions you can take when playing a card. At first when I read my cards I assumed there was no way I would be able to use some of them, but sure enough a round came along where they were the perfect fit. In addition, the fact that the judge gets to play one of the cards is a huge positive in comparison to CAH and Apples to Apples. The judge actually gets to shape the story the way they see fit, which can very quickly add to the hilarity.

One downside to the game that I saw was that there are definitely times that your cards aren’t a good fit to the panels that have currently been played. This is an issue that comes up with any of these games, but the times when everything is a dud seems more noticeable when shown in comic style. This was rare when I played, but after a few more run-throughs I wouldn’t be surprised if it became more noticeable. In addition, the game seems to be a lot better in small groups. I’ve played once with 4 players and once with 10, and ultimately the game with 10 was still fun but it took longer and felt like some good cards got lost in the shuffle.

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Ultimately this is the type of game you want to have for get-togethers, parties, and alcohol related shenanigans (if you are the type for that). I once again want to stress that this game is not one you want to be playing with or around your kids, but when you have a group of fun loving adults it is a great game to have in your collection.

Jack’s Rating: 4/5 stars

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Board Game of the Week- Bards Dispense Profanity

Before I get into the game review portion of this post, I wanted to share some good news with everybody. A month ago, I had one of the best moments of my life when I asked my Girlfriend to marry me- for some crazy reason she said yes, so I am officially engaged! It is definitely a moment I will cherish forever, and not just because I asked her in the middle of a Laser Tag session (yes, we are nerds) but also because of the pure joy we both had in the idea that we will get to spend the rest of our lives together. OK, now back to what you’re all here for, reading reviews about new games that you can judge vicariously through me!

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I got Bards Dispense Profanity as a gift for my fiancée- she is an English major and I had read good things about it, so I figured it was worth a try. We tried it out with my roommates a few nights ago, and it didn’t disappoint. As you probably guessed, this game is a parody of Cards Against Humanity, the popular card game where you play inappropriate cards to try and get hilarious reactions out of the group. The game mechanics are exactly the same as CAH- you take turns playing as judge, the judge picks out a “prompt card” and the other players play a card to fill in the blank of the prompt card. The judge then reviews the cards and chooses the one he/she thinks is best, whether that is funniest, most accurate, or basically whatever they feel like choosing. The way that Bards Dispense Profanity varies is that the game’s play cards are all direct quotes from Shakespeare plays. For those of you who don’t know much about Shakespeare’s writing style, it may look fancy but in reality it is quite dirty. This can lead to some very entertaining answers, especially to people well versed in the Hamlets and Much Ado about Nothings of the world.

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The best part of the game that I found was that it is a fresh take on a game I already know and understand. I didn’t have to learn how to play the game, I simply opened up the box and dealt out the cards, and we were off to the races. It’s nice playing a game bards-rulesor the first time and feeling like everybody knows what to do, and even better it doesn’t feel like the same game you’ve always played because of the new cards and style. I also appreciate that the game is a bit more highbrow in its profanity- in no way does the game avoid dirty jokes, but it does find a way to make them more intellectual. Finally, the game is a great for social events and can be played with any number of players.

The downsides to the game parallel the issues with CAH- the gameplay can get stale on multiple play-throughs and there is no defined stopping point for the game. Also, even though I appreciate the fact that the game mechanics were identical to CAH, I do wish that they had added another component somehow. Similar game styles can feel like rip-offs very easily, and while the different cards are fun new content I feel like that’s the only draw of the game. Finding a different style or some new element would make the game more interesting. The closest they got is that some of the prompt cards direct you to judge based on other player’s preferences, which was a cool idea, but was not used enough to be a big part of the game.

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If you’re looking for some adult but classy fun, I think Bards Dispense Profanity is a pretty good choice. While it mirrors other games already in existence, it does bring its own flair and can be a great time for people who are fans of literature. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find the nearest performance of Macbeth…

Jack’s Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Board Game of the Week- Codenames

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  • Game Title: Codenames
  • Release Date: 2015
  • Number of Players: 2-8
  • Average Game Time: 15-30 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Czech Games Edition
  • Website: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/178900/codenames
  • Game Designer: Vlaada Chvatil
  • Expansions/Alternates: No
  • Available in Stores: Yes

 

I have seen plenty of reviews of the game Codenames online, and it looked like everybody enjoyed the game as a whole. I put the game on my list to try a long time ago and never got a chance until this past weekend, when I went to a Birthday party with a group of board game enthusiasts. We divided up into two teams and ended up playing two rounds before moving on to other activities, and I thoroughly enjoyed both rounds and the game strategy as a whole. At first I thought that you needed an even number of people to play, but after playing I do believe you could have an odd number of players if you really wanted to.

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Codenames is a two-team competitive card based game focused on one team member providing clues to the other team members that relate to specific code names. The game is set up by placing 25 “agent” cards down in a 5×5 row- these cards have a word on them, which is the code name of the agent. Then the team members chosen as Spymasters choose a Map card that shows which agent is on which team. Only the spymasters are allowed to see the map card. The map is set up to show which of the cards on the 5×5 grid are red agents, blue agents, civilians and the assassin. The object of the game is for the spymaster to provide a one-word clue to their team that relates to as many of the codenames as possible that are assigned to their team color. The other team members then guess which code name (or code names) the spymaster is trying to get you to choose. If the team is able to find all of their teams’ agents, they win. However, if they choose the opposing team’s agent, that agent is revealed and the other team has one less word to guess correctly. Guessing a civilian doesn’t hurt, but it does end your turn and leaves you unable to guess again if you wanted to. Guessing the assassin means that your team automatically loses, so the assassin should be avoided at all costs.

The biggest part about this game is the strategy of choosing words both as the spymaster and a team member. For the spymaster, the goal is to choose a word clue that can be linked to multiple agents on your team without misleading your team and causing them to choose the other team’s card or the assassin. There is also strategy in choosing a word that only could apply to one card, making sure that there isn’t any misunderstanding and effectively “playing it safe”. On the other side, the team members choosing the agents must strategically choose how many cards, and which cards, they want to choose. They can choose one card they are sure of, or they can choose multiple cards and take more of a risk. This is usually dependent on which team is winning and how confident you are that your spymaster is indicating a certain card.

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The most impressive thing about this game is the sheer number of variations: the game consists of numerous code name cards and map cards, so the possibilities of the cards on the grid and the options for agent card layouts are effectively limitless. The game encourages teamwork and strategy and is great for groups of close friends and strangers alike. Finally, the game is easy to set up and quick to play, so it is a perfect party game. The one downside I could think of with the game is the fact that while you can play with an odd number of players, ultimately it is easier/better to play with an even number so that no team gets an advantage. There are also a number of “player’s choice” rules revolving the hints that can be made, such as using Pronouns, that need to be addressed before the game starts. If your group forgets to go over these rules, it can cause confusion.

Overall I recommend Codenames as a great party game with a lot of fun strategy in a simple package. While the game says up to 8 players, you could certainly find a way to include more people if you choose, making it ideal for larger groups. In addition, the game can be played in small groups with the same effect, so don’t skip on it with 3-4 players either.

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Jack’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Fun Outdoor Board Games

I’ve been to a number of weddings over the past few months, and have realized that large outdoor games have become very popular for receptions and these types of outdoor events. With games like Corn Hole and Bocce Ball becoming commonplace in colleges and vacation spots as well, it got me thinking about the best games that can be played outdoors. There are large-scale versions of a number of board games, but there are also games that are created solely for outdoor play. Here is a list of my top 5 outdoor games from both of these categories:

Large-Size Games

  • Yahtzee- Everyone’s favorite dice rolling game, there are multiple versions of outdoor Yahtzee, or “Yardzee”. The rules of the game are pretty much the same as the original game, but can be played out in a large space.
  • Monopoly-Lifesize Monopoly where the players are the pieces is a pretty fun concept. This is less a game you can buy and bring to a party and more of something that can be found in certain parks and vacation spots.
  • Jenga- While not necessarily an “outdoor game” giant Jenga is available at a number of bars/breweries, parties, and receptions. It is a popular game because of its simplicity and excitement, especially when someone loses!
  • Chess/Checkers- Another popular vacation/park game, outdoor chess and/or checkers have become almost as popular as their regular-sized counterparts. With rules that everyone knows and heavy strategy, these outdoor games are perfect for all ages.
  • Connect 4- This is one game that surprised me during my search for life-sized games. Connect 4, the chip placing game is available for relatively cheap in a large-scale version. This can be used for any number of events.

 

Original Outdoor Games

  • Cornhole- By far the most popular of the outdoor gaming genre, cornhole can be found pretty much anywhere you go outdoors. The object of the game is to throw bean bags onto a slanted cornhole boards; throw them into the small hole in the board and you get extra points.
  • Bocce Ball- Bocce ball has always been fairly popular in Europe, but it feels like it has only picked up in America recently. A game based on strategically throwing heavy balls towards a smaller ball (the “jack”) and the player with the bowls closest to the jack receives points
  • Ladder Toss- In ladder toss, you throw two balls connected to a string (formerly called “bolas”) onto a ladder. You get points for which rung of the ladder you catch your bola on.
  • Quoits (ring toss)- Ring toss is a well-known game in amusement parks, but quoits takes the same concept and makes it more portable for smaller gatherings. The board is set up specially to provide a greater score to certain rings, adding to the difficulty.
  • Croquet- While it tends to take up more space than the other games on this list, Croquet is a very popular outdoor game based on smacking croquet balls through rings in a particular order. You also have the ability to knock other player’s balls out of the way as you move towards the finish.

All of these games, and more, are great additions to a party, wedding, or any other outdoor social event. While some of them will be more expensive and more popular than others, they are all fun games that deserve consideration for your next big even

Board Game of the Week- Space Sheep!

  • Game Title: Space Sheep!
  • Release Date: 2013
  • Number of Players: 1-8
  • Average Game Time: 20 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Stronghold Games
  • Website: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/141035/space-sheep
  • Game Designer: Anthony Rubbo
  • Expansions/Alternates: No
  • Available in Stores: Online and some local game stores

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I love Star Wars, and I love puns, so when I saw this game on the shelves at a local store in Pennsylvania I knew I had to play it. My girlfriend got it for my birthday, but I haven’t been able to try it out until last weekend. I expected the game to mostly be about Star Wars-based puns, but the game-play is actually very unique and fun. Fully customize-able based on the numbers of players and the level of difficulty desired, the experience is different every time you play.

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Space Sheep is a collaborative game where everyone works together to either win as a group; if you run out of cards before completing your goal, everyone loses. The object of the game is for you to move all of the sheep and shepherd tokens to the appropriately colored solar system. This is done by playing Tactics Cards, which are played to move either the sheep or shepherd (or both) to a different location based on the solar system they were in previously. In addition, there is a timer that is continuously going throughout the game, and if it runs out then the Wolf gets to attack and you lose tactics cards. The game ends either by the group winning and getting all sheep and shepherds to their correct systems, or the group runs out of tactics cards to use and loses. The game relies heavily on communication from player to player, as well as understanding that sometimes you have to move pieces to the wrong system in order to eventually get all of them to the right system.

The collaborative effort portion of the game is part of why it is so much fun. Talking through your turns and figuring out how to use the cards in your hand based on what other people can do is a lot of fun. In addition, the timer makes things interesting and keeps the game at a fast-paced level. The ability to customize the game is helpful because you can play with any number of players and adjust the difficulty based on who is playing. The game also would work well for children, because it’s cute and fun and also helps promote teamwork. Finally, for someone who enjoys Star Wars and cheesy puns, reading through the instructions for the first time is almost as enjoyable as the game itself.

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The downsides aren’t too drastic, but they are worth noting at least; first, the game takes a long time to figure out. Because there is a timer, it can be frustrating at the beginning stages when you don’t have time to decide on your best option for a turn. That, plus the numerous puns in the instructions which grow less entertaining after the first or second read through, can make the first part of learning the game tiresome. However, once you play through a few rounds the strategies and game-play become more apparent, and so the game becomes much smoother. The fact that the game is customize-able is one of its strengths, but also one of its weaknesses. If you don’t know much about the game, it’s tough to decide on how difficult you should make it right away. I recommend making it easier to start and then working towards the harder difficulties.

As a whole, I got Space Sheep expecting it to be all about the parody, but soon found that the theme was only a secondary part of a clever and fun game mechanic. I don’t expect this game to be one I play every week, but I do think that it’s a great game to play with friends and would be fun to pull out at parties and group gatherings. I also plan on trying to play the game by myself soon (a solitaire option is possible) to see if that’s as fun as playing with a large group. No matter what though, I’m glad to add the game to my collection, because nothing beats getting a chance to “Ewe’s the Force…”

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Jack’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Kickstarter and its effect on Board Games

A
few months back I wrote an article about the internet revitalizing board games, where I listed Kickstarter as a major contributor to board games being revitalized over the past few years. That, coupled with my recent activity supporting some upcoming games on Kickstarter, has made me realize how big the tool has become for many game designers and enthusiasts alike. Being able to fund a game without the backing of a larkickstarter-logoge publishing company may not seem like the most effective way to get to where you want to go, but taking the game to the masses and hoping the concept draws enough support is certainly becoming more common. There have been over 9,000 board games that were created and published through a Kickstarter campaign, including significantly popular games such as Exploding Kittens, Zombicide, and Dark Souls- the Board Game. Still, there is a limitation to the effectiveness of Kickstarter, and it has to be noted that it is only one of the many avenues for finding new and exciting games on the market. Here is a list of pros and cons for using Kickstarter as a means to fund your board game ideas:

Pros:

  • You have full control of the process- For people who want to have full control of the creative process, having a publishing company come in and make decisions on how to proceed would be very bittersweet. There are plenty of people who probably feel like the freedom to make decisions without other interested parties is a blessing. While it does also equate to more work, for someone who has dedicated time and effort to creating a game a little extra management isn’t going to ruin things.
  • Gather a strong fan base before the game is created- The great thing about Kickstarter is that your game doesn’t even have to be published and it can still grow a huge following. Depending on the number of backers and the prizes each backer signed up for, you could already have a large number of people to send games to right away. In addition, Kickstarters thrive on social media expansion, so the more a Kickstarter is advertised the more likely it is to gain more traction once it is finished.
  • Easier access to funds than through publisher- It’s difficult to make the case that a Kickstarter game is going to have significantly more funds than if the game was published by a game company (Exploding Kittens being the possible exception), but there certainly is an ease of access that helps Kickstarter campaigns become beneficial to game designers. Once a successful Kickstarter campaign is completed, funds are transferred to the game creator within a matter of weeks to begin the creation/distribution phase. Gaming publishers, especially larger ones, most likely would take a lot longer to go through the process of devoting resources to a game.
  • Lower risk post-funding- Because of the clientele already built up with the campaign, a game that is funded through Kickstarter already has a good following and a group of customers lined up to purchase the game. Because of this, a game funded by Kickstarter has less risk than one that is published directly from other funding. That isn’t to say that there is no risk whatsoever, but after the funds come through the game has a group of supporters right away to take advantage of.
  • Cost-effective alternative to self-publishing with personal funds- There are certainly some people out there who have the ability to use their own money to create a game themselves, but for those of us without that kind of funding available having an option to receive funding directly from the consumer cannot be understated. People who never thought they would have a chance to bring a board game to life have suddenly received that opportunity thanks to Kickstarter.

Cons:

  • Goal must be met in order to receive funding- The biggest con about Kickstarter is that if you miss your goal, even by a dollar, you do not receive any of your funds. This means that you could spend countless hours promoting the game and making a working prototype, only to not receive funding because you weren’t able to generate enough backing.
  • Start-up costs incurred for prototypes, incentives, etc.- Ultimately you can’t just start up a Kickstarter with an idea- you have to have put a lot of time and resources into it if you want it to succeed through a Kickstarter campaign. This is true if you were going to fund your game any other way, but it is enhanced when using Kickstarter because of the rewards programs usually created in a project. In order to incentivize backers to pledge higher amounts, a campaign will provide additional incentives to people who give greater amounts to the campaign. While this does benefit the designer by giving them a clientele to work with right away, it also means that the costs of the initial game creation can potentially be higher than in other situations.
  • Less name recognition than if game is published- This isn’t always the case, and is only really applicable when compared to a game that is published by a larger gaming company, but Kickstarter funded games don’t always carry the same weight as with a major publishing company like Hasbro or Iello. It’s also more difficult to get a Kickstarter funded game into the hands of major stores, because the large companies have a significant investment in getting their games on shelves.

 

While there are risks involved in setting up a Kickstarter campaign for a board game, ultimately if done well and with a good idea it can be the perfect way to create something you never thought you could. Any aspiring board game designers out there should give a long thought towards using Kickstarter for your next game idea!

Board Game of the Week- One Night Ultimate Werewolf

ONUW Logo

  • Game Title: One Night Ultimate Werewolf
  • Release Date: 2014
  • Number of Players: 3-10
  • Average Game Time: 10 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Bezier Games
  • Website:  http://beziergames.com/products/one-night-ultimate-werewolf
  • Game Designer: Ted Alspach, Akihisha Okui
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Yes

This board game of the week is thanks to my girlfriend, Mary, and a group of our friends. I had heard a lot about “that Werewolf game” from them for a few weeks until I finally got a chance to try it out myself.  The result was a group of 7 people in their mid-20’s arguing about how I was obviously a werewolf, even though I continuously told them that I wasn’t. Lack of trust aside, the game is based around the childhood game “Mafia” and is a fun and engaging way to spend your time. The game is very fast-paced, so the expectation would be to play the game at least 2-3 times in a row in a single sitting.

ONUW Roles

One Night Ultimate Werewolf starts with everyone choosing what “roles” they want to include in the upcoming game. The game comes with 16 different roles that all have different effects during the game. Every game must have at least 2 werewolves, 1 seer, 1 robber, 1 troublemaker, and one villager. Depending on the number of players in the game, additional roles are added before the game starts (must have three more roles than the number of players in any game). Once the role cards are chosen, they are shuffled and one card is given to each player and the remaining three are left face down with nobody viewing them. After you check your role, the “night” phase of the game begins. This is where the Mafia style of game mechanic comes into play- during this phase, everybody closes his/her eyes, and players with certain roles “wake up” (open their eyes) at specific times to complete tasks related to their roles. These actions change depending on which roles were picked, but the order for when everyone opens and closes his/her eyes remains the same no matter what. Once all of the roles have completed the necessary tasks, the night phase ends and it switches to the “day” phase.

Once it becomes the day phase, everyone openly discusses who they believe is the werewolf. The werewolves then try and divert the blame from themselves by accusing others, while the villagers are all trying to determine who the werewolves are. You can say anything you want during this time, but you cannot show your role to another player- they will have to take you at your word. The day phase usually only lasts about 5-10 minutes and once time is up, everyone votes for who they believe the two werewolves are (this is done by pointing, either at a person or at the face-down cards in the center if you think nobody is a werewolf). The two people with the most votes are then accused of being the werewolf and must show their card. If one of them was the Werewolf, then the villagers win. If neither of them was the werewolf, the werewolves win.

ONUW App

There is, in fact, an app for that

This description of the game is very basic and glosses over details of how the different roles affect each other. There are certain roles that switch role cards between players, look at other player’s roles, or even take on the role of another card that you view. After the night phase, you could find yourself in a situation where you have no idea what role you currently have in comparison to when the game began. This makes your strategy and the voting process all the more complicated, and certainly adds to the intrigue of the final results. Another big factor in the game is the speed- it is supposed to be a very quick game which only allows for a specific amount of time to discuss and vote. In order to help with the timing portion of the game, I highly recommend someone from your group download the free app that goes with the game. This app not only keeps time for you throughout the whole game, but also announces the phases of opening and closing eyes during the night shift according to the roles your group is using.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a difficult game for me to review- on the one hand, its gameplay and fast-paced style are quite engaging. On the other hand, there are some flaws in the way the character roles are structured, and the time limit feels constricting at times. I like the fact that you can choose what roles are involved in every game, but I am not a huge fan of the idea that your role can change without you knowing it. The fun of the game is certainly apparent- bluffing and trying to trick your friends into thinking you are one thing when you’re actually another is a staple of many board/card games. Still, the concerns should definitely be noted; knowing what the game is about is important, and will make it more fun because you’re going in with a full understanding of what to expect.

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I feel like you have to be in a very particular mood if you want to play this game- it is certainly a lot of fun when you get a group of people involved, and the positives certainly outweigh the negatives, but I would recommend understanding the rules and formulating a strategy before you dive headfirst into the game.

Jack’s Rating: 3.5/5 stars