Board Game Review – Bloom

As a florist, you must always strive to meet your customers’ desires.  If they want four blue flowers, you’d better not give them three blue flowers and one orange!  Worse yet, you’re in constant competition with other florists, and are trying to use up all of your flowers before they use theirs!  Will you be able to be the most successful at keeping your flowers in Bloom?

Overview

Bloom is a roll-and-write game about creating groups of flowers.  Like most roll-and-write games, setup is simple: Give each player a scoresheet and a writing utensil, get out the dice, and you’re ready to play!  Each round, the start player takes and rolls all 6 dice.  Then, starting with the start player and moving clockwise, each player selects one of the available dice, representing a customer’s flower request.  With the chosen die, the player must attempt to circle the number of flowers matching the die’s color and number, with white flowers and the white die being wild.  For each flower of a different color circled or each flower missing from the desired number, the player creates an Unhappy Customer.  These are recorded in the unhappy customer section on the player’s scoresheet.  At the end of the round, the dice are passed to the next player, and play continues.  Over the course of the game, if a player has circled all of the flowers of one color, they circle the first available bonus associated with that color.  Subsequently if a player completes that color, they will get a lesser bonus.  Similarly, the scoresheet is divided into 6 flowerbeds of 12 flowers each.  When a player has circled all 12 flowers in a bed, they get a bonus for completing the bed, with the bonus increasing for the number of beds that player completes.  The game ends when any player has completed either 3 colors of flowers or 4 flower beds.  Players earn points based on their bonuses for completing colors of flowers and flowerbeds, and lose a point for each unhappy customer they marked over the course of the game.  The player with the highest score wins!

Amber’s Review

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” Lady Bird had the right idea, flowers popping up, hoping that something will come of it. After these flowers have bloomed, then there’s the hope that you can get them to the right customer, in the correct order, in the proper amount. People these days are so fickle when it comes to their bouquets, but sometimes a little change can cost you. Trying to bundle these beautiful blooms just right can be tricky, but satisfying. One fortunate element of this game, like other roll-and-writes, is Bloom is small, portable, and easy to teach. Bloom is bright and eye-catching, definitely a perk in a sea of somber, darker colors. When it comes to picking up a roll-and-write, I’d consider Bloom for the bright, cheery nature and portability!

Ethan’s Review

We’re back again with another roll-and-write game!  Like many of the R&Ws we’ve reviewed in the past, Bloom is small, light, and portable.  It’s quick to setup and learn, and can be enjoyed by almost anyone.  I feel like this can almost be standard boilerplate for roll-and-write reviews at this point because it seems to apply to a lot of these games.  Bloom is set apart by its flower gathering theme which might be attractive to some folks, though the gameplay is fairly abstract.  Additionally, I like the drafting mechanic present in this game, rather than each player using a shared roll.  I feel this adds some more decisions and serves to differentiate each player’s board.  On the other hand, the game is still fairly light, which might be a turnoff for gamers who prefer a heavier experience.  Limited scoring opportunities mean that you must be focused on completing colors of flowers and flower beds to do well, and with ending the game also correlated to these factors, it is likely the player who is able to draft the highest-numbered dice that will do best by the end of the game.  Altogether though, Bloom is a fun, light, and inexpensive game, so if you don’t already have too many roll-and-write games in your arsenal, check it out!

Board Game Review – Ganz Schön Clever

Everyone enjoys a good roll-and-write game, right? Making good use of the dice you’ve rolled and being able to use them to effectively chain several effects can be tough, but if you can pull it off successfully you’ll be having everyone at the table saying, “That’s Pretty Clever!”

Overview

That’s Pretty Clever (also known in German as Ganz schön clever) is an abstract roll-and-write game for 1-4 players.  Over the course of the game, players will use the six colored dice rolled both on their turn and other players’ to fill in their sheets and score points!  All that’s needed to set up the game is to give each player a scoresheet and a writing implement, set out the box and the six dice, and you’re ready to play!  The game is played over a certain number of rounds, depending on the number of players (four rounds for four players, five for three, and six for one or two).  Each round, every player will have a turn to be the active player, and will be a passive player for all the other players’ turns.  On an active turn, a player begins by rolling all six dice.  Then, they choose one of the dice, make a mark in its corresponding section (described in detail below), and place the die in one of the three slots on their scoresheet.  Any dice of lesser value than the chosen die are placed on the silver platter inside the bottom of the game box.  Then, the active player rolls the remaining dice and repeats the process two more times.  At the end of all three selections (with leftover dice going to the silver platter), the passive players may write the value from one of the dice on the silver platter on their own scoresheets.  Play then passes to the next player until all of the rounds are complete.  There are two powers players can earn over the course of the game that can be used on their turns.  The reroll ability can be used as an active player to reroll all of the available dice, and the “Plus one” ability can be used to select an extra die at the end of the turn, either from the dice selected by the active player or those on the silver platter.

Each color of dice has its own section on the scoresheet, and they all behave differently.  With yellow, numbers are scattered about in a grid, and crossing off all the numbers in a column earns points, while completing rows gives special abilities.  With the blue section, you must add together the blue and white dice and cross off the corresponding number (from 2-12).  You earn points for crossing off more numbers and special abilities for completing rows and columns.  For the green section, you must cross off boxes from left to right, and each box requires the die selected to be greater than a certain value.  Like the blue section, you get more points for completing more boxes.  The orange section has no requirements to add dice, and at the end of the game you total up all numbers written in the orange boxes.  Similarly, in the purple section, you will earn points based on the numbers written in the boxes, with the added requirement that numbers must increase from left to right, until a 6 is written and resets the row.  At the end of the game, players total up all of their points from the different sections, and if they have earned any foxes from filling out their board, each fox is worth as many points as the lowest scoring section.  The player with the highest score wins!

Amber’s Review

Sometimes you need something with no-frills, simple, easy, and fun. Ganz Schon Clever keeps the gameplay simple; you roll the dice, pick the dice, and write stuff on your sheet. Boom, you have a game. While Wolfgang leaves to frills to the other games, this doesn’t make it any less clever. With each die color representing a different way to score points, each round can be tricky, especially when you potentially discard dice each turn. The can cause a bit of analysis paralysis for each dice roll; with only six rounds to complete your game, each pick of the die matters. The wait can be frustrating to the other players while they wait to see what dice they will get to choose on the passive turn. Even if you can choose an extra die with your abilities, you must wait until the rolls are over, causing a bit of a lull when it isn’t your turn to pick. Luckily, unless you have a player that has difficulty choosing, this shouldn’t take too long, but with the entire game involving a bit of luck, it can be hard to keep focus.

Like many roll and writes on our shelves, the small box size and portability make it easy to share with others, spreading the gaming joy. Roll the dice inside the tray gives this game an even smaller footprint, allowing gamers to play while waiting for their food, on a plane, or wherever space is limited. Wooden dice to make rolling a bit wild, so if you’re playing on a tabletop, there is a chance the dice may go flying if you’re not careful. The markers are a bit lackluster as well; it’s nice to have thicker pens that fit in the box, but I struggle to write with the smaller utensils; if you’re the same as me, you may want to find or invest in a better quality marker. Although I have some gripes about the quality of components, you can’t go wrong with this price point.

Ethan’s Review

Ganz Schön Clever made a big splash when it was released in 2018, earning a Kennerspiel des Jahres nomination, and contributing to the roll-and-write game boom of the past two years.  However, despite its popularity, I didn’t get an opportunity to play it until this year.  Once I did finally get to play it, I realized that it wasn’t very clever of me to have waited so long, because it’s a really fun game!  As the name implies, there is a lot of cleverness to how you draft dice and how you can chain effects from the different colored areas on your scoresheet.  In the latter half of the game, you may place a die that starts a chain reaction involving filling in 3 or 4 other boxes.  I really enjoy that kind of puzzle where you’re looking to optimize what you do on your turns.  And even if you’re not optimizing things, almost everything you do will get you points, so there are very few objectively bad decisions you can make.  On top of that, the game seems to play well and be balanced at all of its player counts.  With the varying number of turns, you should get around the same number of dice picks in a 2 or 4 player game, though in the latter case more of them will come from passive turns.  I feel like the game is equally enjoyable either way, which makes it great for whatever player count you have!

While the game and it’s gameplay is fairly clever, its abstract nature and lack of any sort of a theme might be a turn off for some.  Many of the other roll-and-write games we’ve reviewed have had at least a semblance of a theme (even if they may be pasted-on at times), but Ganz Schön Clever is unabashedly just about rolling dice and filling in your scoresheet to get the best score you can.  While that is not a problem for me, I recognize that there are gamers out there who might not enjoy that, even if they would otherwise enjoy the gameplay.  Another less than favorable point for the game is that there isn’t a lot in terms of dice mitigation, which I like to see in roll-and-write games to balance out the luck factor.  You can earn a few rerolls over the course of the game, but once those are used up, you have to take the dice as they come, even if you aren’t able to place any of them.  This can be frustrating at times, but usually with planning and foresight you can place dice on most turns, and the game is short enough that you can play 2 or 3 games in a sitting, so if one doesn’t go well for you, you can always try again.  I definitely think that overall Ganz Schön Clever is a top-tier roll-and-write game, and I’d almost always be down for a quick game or two!

Board Game Review – Rolling Ranch

The life of a rancher is not an easy one.  In addition to managing the animals on the ranch, including ensuring they all stay in their own pens, you also have to worry about constructing the buildings essential for the ranch’s viability.  On top of that, your rival ranchers always seem to be one step ahead of you when it comes to filling their pens, so you must try your best to keep up!  Can you keep your ranch a-rolling?

Rolling Ranch is a roll-and-write game for two or more players, with an official solo variant.  Each round, players draft either an animal or building materials from the two dice rolled.  Players are vying to score the most points by the time the end of the game is triggered by any player filling their scoresheet.  As a cunning rancher, you must balance obtaining and breeding animals and constructing buildings to gain the most points!

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Board Game Review — Rolling America

The United States of America is made up of 50 different states, each with that own special something that makes them unique.  But while all the states have their differences, they have similarities too.  In this roll-and-write game from Gamewright, you must insure that neighboring states are filled in with similar numbers, or else you’ll be penalized!  Grab your dice and let’s go for a trip all around the country in Rolling America! 

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Board Game Review — My Little Scythe: Pie in the Sky

The Annual Harvest Tournament between the animal kingdoms determines which kingdom will rule Pomme for the coming year.  However, on the eve of the 3000th festival, something amazing happens.  The Airship Kai, long lost to the ages, suddenly reappears, bringing Fox and Owl Seekers along with it.  Will the Seekers for the upcoming tournament be able to leverage the legendary airship to help them win the tournament?

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Board Game Review – Planet

As planets form, natural habitats develop and animals find their homes.  In Planet, you control the development of your own planet, working towards developing habitats and attracting as many animals as you can.  Can you make your planet the most hospitable?

Game Play

In this game, players construct their planets over the course of 12 rounds, in the hopes of maximizing their natural habitats and attracting as many animals as possible.  Each player starts with an empty magnetic dodecahedral planet.  The magnetic continent tiles are shuffled and divided into 10 stacks of 5 each.  The animal cards are shuffled up and dealt out next to the continent tiles, starting with one next to the third stack, increasing to two for the sixth, and three for the tenth.  Each player also receives a random Natural Habitat card corresponding to one of the five types of habitats in the game.

Each round, the five continent tiles for the round are laid face up on the table.  Starting with the first player for the round, each player chooses one of the tiles and adds it to any empty spot on their planet.  The unused tile(s) for the round are added to an 11th and 12th stack of tiles until those stacks have 5 tiles.  Starting in the third round, players will be able to claim the animals dealt out at the beginning of the game.  The animals all have a preferred habitat, and are either looking for the most distinct regions of that habitat type, or the largest region of that habitat that is either touching or not touching a secondary type.  If one player has more regions or a larger region (depending on what the animal wants), they will claim the card; otherwise, if there is a tie the animal is moved to the next round.  During the last round, the tie for animals looking for the largest region is broken by the player with the second largest region of that type that touches or doesn’t touch the specified second type.  The game ends after 12 rounds of tile drafting, placement, and animal claiming.

At the end of the game, players reveal their natural habitat cards and score points accordingly.  Each card scores points based on the number of spaces of the specified region on the player’s planet.  Then, each player scores points based on the animal cards they have collected over the course of the game.  Each animal matching the player’s natural habitat is worth 1 point, while others are worth 2 points.  After totaling up the points, the player with the most points wins!

Amber’s Review

Please give me a gimmick; I’m typically here for it. Some people use gimmick like it’s a dirty word; I like to think of it as innovation. With the option to hold the whole world in your hands, seeing Planet set up on the table is an instant draw. When you see a dodecahedron with so much blank space, it’s hard to pass up at least a few Planet plays. Blue Orange has piqued my attention with the use of 3D shapes and magnetic tiles. As far as I can remember, I haven’t played anything with components like similar to this before. With games where you can build your dice, full-size swords, I wonder how elements like this will continue to evolve in the future.

With only a few different components, Planet has an easy setup and tear down with the insert. There isn’t a significant table presence to the game, making it more accessible to people with smaller spaces. One crucial element that we haven’t encounter enough is the lack of text on cards and game pieces. Having played many games designed for families, having printed words can be a setback for some players. Players at a lower reading level or those who are not familiar with the games’ language can sometimes struggle when there are many words; it’s a thoughtful choice to limit print on this game. It is also beneficial that the game’s symbology is accessible and easy to identify; even if a player hasn’t been to the tundra or desert, they can tell the areas apart by color or texture.

Unfortunately, I had a hard time playing Planet with one of the main mechanics involving turning your world over and over. I found it slightly disorienting, trying to remember which spaces were next to one another and counting the areas I had adjacent to score points from cards. I do have issues playing other games where spatial recognition is a crucial factor (I’m looking at you, dexterity games!), so I know this is a personal downfall. One solution to help counteract my lack of recognition skills could be to mark tiles with a dry erase pen, so if you are like me and need a little extra help, this could be the solution for you.

Ethan’s Review

Planet is a light and quick tile drafting and placement game.  The core mechanism revolves around players drafting pentagonal terrain tiles for their planets.  I have to say, I can’t think of any other game that uses magnetic dodecahedrons, so it’s certainly innovative and eye-catching.  The component quality of the planets and the tiles is good as well — even though it’s a little challenging to shuffle the magnetic pentagons, they hold up well, and easily remain attached to the planet cores with no fear of falling off.  One interesting thing about the 3D planets, compared to a more traditional tile-laying setup, is that you can’t see all of your terrain tiles at the same time.  While this may cause a little consternation to a player looking at their own planet and trying to figure out where to put a tile or what cards they satisfy, it also means that you can’t tell at a glance who has the biggest terrain piece or most of a given terrain.  Even though by the rules you can look at any other player’s planet at any time, I feel like most players wouldn’t want to do that for fear of slowing down the game, and this makes the tiles to draft and how to place them a bit less obvious.  I think this is good, because otherwise the game is pretty light and simple, though that is good for a family weight game!

One thing I find strange about the game is that in a four player game, there is one tile left over from each of the first ten rounds to form the 11th and 12th stacks, meaning that all but 2 tiles will be drafted (the two leftover tiles from rounds 11 and 12).  However, in a two player game, there are 3 tiles leftover each round, meaning that the 11th and 12th round stacks will be filled up by round 4.  I don’t know if this is an issue with scaling — we’ve only played with two, and it seemed to work pretty well — but it is odd that in a two-player game you will see the leftover tiles from the first rounds again but not those from later rounds.  The other drawback to this game is that it is quite light, so for serious gamers it may be more appropriate as a filler game rather than the main attraction for a game night.  However, it is fun, and the planet-building mechanic is unique and definitely worth a try if you get a chance!

Board Game Review – Slide Quest

Do you remember Labyrinth?  No, not the David Bowie movie, and not that place where Theseus fought the minotaur.  I’m talking about this toy, where you used knobs to tilt the platform and try to navigate the ball towards the goal without falling in one of the many holes.  Slide Quest is essentially that, but cooperative.  Each player will take a side and can tilt that side of the board up, in a quest to navigate the heroic Knight on a quest through up to 20 various levels, facing obstacles and enemies as he goes.  Can you work together to achieve victory in this fast and frantic game?

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Board Game Review – The Alpha

In the forest, when resources become scarce, predators must work hard to find food and assert their dominance over their hunting grounds.  This is not lost on the wolves of the land, who must try to find enough food to feed themselves while not running afoul of or losing their prey to other packs in the region.  Because in the end, when hunting for food only one pack can come out on top and be: The Alpha.

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Board Game Review – My Little Scythe

It is time for the annual Harvest Tournament in the Kingdom of Pomme!  Each year, the seven animal kingdoms send two young siblings to compete in the tournament.  The winners receive not only the glory of victory, but the opportunity for their kingdom to take the crown of Pomme for the coming year!  Will your kingdom be victorious in this year’s Tournament?

Board Game Review — Wavelength

How hot is coffee?  On a scale from hot to cold, it would probably call on the left side of that spectrum, right?  But how far to the left?  There are definitely tings that are hotter, like molten metal or the sun.  And what if you wait for your coffee to cool down before drinking it, or (god forbid) like iced coffee?  In Wavelength, these kinds of discussion and debates are commonplace, as each round one player is trying to get their team to guess where something falls on a scale between two extremes.  You have to put your psychic powers to the test to guess what they’re going for!

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