designed by Darrell Louder and Mike Mullins, published by Greater Than Games (Dice Hate Me Games)
Players: 2; Playing Time: 5-20 min.; Good for: Baseball fans, couples, and armchair quarterbacks (to mix sports metaphors)
The game is tied, with two men on, two outs, and a full count. You stare into the eyes of the opposing batter, and you’re on your last legs. What do you do? Find out in this two-player game that recreates, well, the bottom of the ninth inning. The home team wins if they score a runner while the away team wins if they get three outs. Players begin with a “stare-down” where the pitcher chooses a pitch using two wooden disks and the batter tries to guess that pitch using the same method. Successfully guessing the pitch will give the batter an advantage, while outsmarting the batter will give the pitcher the same. Then the pitching player rolls dice to determine how well the pitch turned out, randomly determining a ball, a strike, or even painting that elusive corner. The batter responds by rolling a die, the number indicating a strike, a foul, or a hit, and even the type of hit. Players play through each pitch like this, with the pitchers earning fatigue with certain pitches and the batter trying to CRUSH THAT PITCH.
The best part of this game is the way they use game mechanics to capture the feeling of the batter-pitcher duel. The picking of the different pitches, the way the dice offer randomness, the way contact works, and the way pitcher fatigue is built in: all nicely done, and yes, really feels like baseball in a box. The fact it only recreates half an inning also makes sure it doesn’t wear out its welcome. Did I mention unique player powers for each batter and pitcher? A lot of game in a little box, and quick enough to lose two or three games to your son, who doesn’t even watch baseball, in an evening.
One Line Verdict: Don’t leave this one on the bench, especially if you’re a baseball fan. Even if you’re not, pick this up as a great two-player experience.
designed by Jeff Johnston, published by Gamewright
Play hide and seek in the woods at night while trying to be the first one home in this charming kid’s game. Each round, players will “hide” by placing their player tile face down with other tiles with matching backs. Then a dice roll determines how many firefly tokens they can collect from the pool. Next, players will use firefly tokens to try and guess where the other players are hidden. If you are found, you are “frozen,” and you can’t advance on the track back home. If you aren’t found, you take one step closer to the house. Players who were “frozen” get to draw new tiles to mix in, thus making it harder to guess where they are hiding, and repeat! First player to make it back home wins…and settles in for a nice cup of warm hot chocolate waiting for everyone else to get back in.
This game is built on two fun, strategic, and easy to understand mechanics. The first, using the wood tiles to “hide” your player tile is a great way to psych out your opponents, and the second, adding more woods tiles for the frozen players works as a great catch-up mechanism. Both allow you to look your six year-old in the eye, and point to a tile, and say “you are here” and be absolutely right and feel like a big man.
One Line Verdict: Grab your flashlight and join in this fun romp in the woods with the family and kids. Older players may want to stay in the house.
designed by Sergio Halaban and Andre Zotz, published by Arcane Wonders
Try to smuggle goods past the corrupt sheriff in order to stock your shopping stall and earn the most points. Easy enough: place goods and/or contraband in your bag (contraband scores much more points then the goods), and the bag to the player who is currently Sheriff and, give a number of goods and one true item. Bribe the sheriff to get him to look the other way and let the contraband through, of if you are the sheriff, try to convince people to make it worth your while not to look and bust their smuggling. Players take turns being the Sheriff and smugglers. So, there can be give/take dynamic as you bribe, cajole, and convince the other players to let you through. But when you can’t bribe/smuggle correctly nor guess when someone’s lying to you, you’re not winning this game. Like me, in this case.
A game all about social dynamics and the strategy of when to smuggle, when to bribe, and when to tell the truth.
One Line Verdict: Cut it out with a spoon. At least for me. But if you like bluffing games, it’s quite nice.
Can you escape with the troll’s treasure? A simple action selection/deduction game that fits into a teeny, tiny box. The starting player looks at the troll who has a number between 5 and 11 (roughly), and then places a number between one and five face up. The higher the number, the greater the reward, but also greater the risk. The next player decides to either put a number down blind, and double their reward, or they can peek at the troll and make a better decision. If the total is higher than the troll’s number, then it will catch you! What is your opponent doing? Are they a jerk who will get you snatched by the troll? Probably.
Definitely a clever game with a pretty basic mechanic. Almost pure bluffing, and there is room for strategic play, but that fact isn’t apparent right away. And it feels pretty light.
One Line Verdict: Don’t bother with his Troll too much. Unless you like trolls. And bluffing.
designedly Jacques Zeimet, published by Competo/Marektoy
In this pure bluffing game, keep the vermin away from you by passing them off to other players. Pick a card from your hand, hand it to the next player and declare boldly what it is: truth optional. The next player can decide to pass: then he looks at it, passes it to the next player and he declares boldly what it is. Or, he calls the bluff: “that’s not a cockroach!” Guess right, and the original player gets the card in face up in front of them: or guess wrong, and you get the card. First to four of the same vermin in front of them loses.
Complete crap if you’re bad at bluffing or trying to read your opponent. So, good thing I won by not going out first. Otherwise, quick and light and a great filler.
Can you defeat all the monsters in the dungeon with the “help” of your opponents? Choose an adventurer with lots of special powers and then look at a monster card: decide if it goes in the dungeon or if it goes out. If it goes out, take away one of the adventurer’s special powers. The net result: the dungeon gets more dangerous as the adventurer gets weaker and weaker. The next player does the same: until everyone passes and only one player remains. That player takes the poor, under-equipped adventurer through the now enemy-packed dungeon and hopes for the best. It’s mostly about playing your opponents: what do you think they will do? Probably go in just when you want to and win the game.
It seems so easy with such easy choices, but don’t timing is an issue and it becomes critical when it’s just you and your opponent: you know you can make it, but you have to force her out somehow before you lose the one thing you need…