World At Play Games Archive
Monday, July 27, 2009
While wandering the internet as we sometimes do, we stumbled across a very interesting blogger, Drake. We all enjoyed reading his reviews of some of the games we carry, so we approached him about using his reviews in our blogs. He agreed, so we'll start posting some of his reviews mixed in with our other blog posts. This first one is about the board game, Snow Tails:
Fanboys (and I guess fangirls, though you don't see as many of those in board games) are weird. They tend to get upset about stuff that is sometimes really lame. Case in point - Snow Tails. When Asmodee announced that they were going to reprint this game and bring it to the US, they were going to rename it, probably because 'Snow Tails' sounds like an 80s Disney cartoon ("Life is like a sled race, here in, Snow Tails"). In all fairness to the geeks, the new name was worse - Too Mush sounds like you left your breakfast sitting in the sink all day - but there was a serious uprising, including a letter-writing campaign, and Asmodee decided it might be a good idea to stick with the original, nonsensical name, so that more people would buy it. I guess the answer to, 'what's in a name', is, 'money.'
So we got Snow Tails in the United States, and a lot of people were very happy, even though the name of the game sounds like dogs sitting in the snow, not running through it.
I don't really care what they call it, I'm glad Snow Tails made it to my side of the Atlantic. It's not the most exciting racing game ever (that would be Formula D), but it is a lot of fun. And it's crazy original, with rules that fit the theme, and a theme that perfectly fits the rules.
In most racing games, you roll some dice to figure out how far you go. Some of these games work better than others - Moto Grand Prix, for instance, sucks like the vacuum of space, while Formula D is totally bad-ass. But in Snow Tails, you're not racing cars or bikes or boats or whatever, you're racing sleds pulled by dogs. You don't get to just change lanes because you want to change lanes - you have to tell the dogs on one side of the sled to pull harder, and you have to be careful not to tell them to run you into a wall. Normally you would not have to tell dogs not to run into walls, but I guess if they're moving really fast, they get stupid. Of course, my dogs will almost never move fast, and they're still stupid, but they would also totally suck in a sled race.
The tracks in Snow Tails are single pieces that let you make a track pretty much any way you want, and unlike a lot of games where you haul ass, you only have one lap. There's a start and a finish and a lot of track in-between. You can play the basic sides of the tracks, which just have all the lanes cleared, or you can flip them over to dodge between the sides of ravines and plow over little trees. If you can find the Leap of Death expansion track, you can also jump your dog sled over the chasm, as long as you're moving fast enough. Since, as I mentioned, my dogs are slow, this is yet another place where they would ultimately fail as sled dogs.
All of this is fairly cool - nothing particularly revolutionary, but cool. Where Snow Tails really makes itself a contender in the racing game category is the way you move your sled. Each player has a sled card, with two dogs and a brake (plus, you know, a sled). You play cards numbered 1 to 5 on any or all of these spaces during your turn, and this is how you know both how far ahead you move, and whether you swerve right or left.
See, the total of both dogs minus the brakes is how far ahead you go. If you're going into a corner, you don't want to go too fast, or you'll flip your sled into the snow, break your collarbone, and then your cranky-ass dogs will probably eat you to survive. So you may want to stand on your brakes entering a tricky turn, and then let 'er rip for the straightaway.
But the thing is, you can't just change lanes. By playing different values on the two dogs, you create an imbalance that pulls your sled to the left or right. You absolutely have to change lanes to get through a turn, or you'll plow right into the wall, so you spend a lot of the game positioning yourself for a turn, sliding through as fast as you can, and then slamming the speed to beat everyone else to the next corner.
This dog-balancing game mechanic is fantastic, and it really makes Snow Tails a fantastically original game. It doesn't have the breakneck, burning-rubber feel of Formula D, but what it does have is a fun, engaging way to play through a race. You have to think ahead, do a little math, and be able to build just the right maneuver with your cards. And you need to be able to plan well enough to avoid banging up your sled, because then you'll have even fewer cards, and it will be even harder to pull through the turns and goose it over the chasm. You may end up going so slow that your dog team can stop to mark the trees.
I really like the card-playing feature in Snow Tails, but it is not without drawbacks. If you can't plan your move, tweak your cards to make a good play, and calculate your ending space in your head, you're going to take a while on your turn. And if there are four or five people playing, that's going to really slow down the game - not only will you have to wait for a lot more people to take their turns, but your plans will get wrecked all the time as you try to avoid slamming into other racers' sleds, and so you'll all have to take longer to take your turns.
Of course, this particular issue will not affect every group, and the theme in Snow Tails combined with the card-based movement is an absolute winner in my book. It's still fast enough to feel like a race, but with rules that make you think about what you're doing. Where I come from, that makes a pretty good game. And if someone crashes, you can pretend they were eaten by bears, and then you've got body count, which is great because real men play games where people die.
Great theme that meshes perfectly with the rules
Easy to teach to a group
Hits a nice balance between thoughtful and flat-out speed
Requires a fair amount of careful planning, and you'll hate it if you can't do this
Could really bog down with too many players, especially if they're slow
from Drake's Flames
Read the whole review here: http://drakesflames.blogspot.com/2009/07/board-game-review-snow-tails.html
We'll post more of Drake's reviews as we go, but if you want to read all of his reviews, check out his blog, Drake's Flames.
If you're interested in getting the game he reviewed, you can get Snow Tails in our store.
by: World At Play Games
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Hey all! We got our digital camera in recently and I've been trying to think of cool things to do with it. So yesterday I got the idea to set up the camera in one corner of the warehouse and see what we look like in action. We could only fit a couple hours on the memory card at one time, so it jumps in a couple spots because I couldn't get the camera in the exact same spot, but overall it came out pretty well. Check it out:
We hope to do a similar video in November or December when we are at our busiest, just to let you all see how crazy it gets around here.
by: World At Play Games
Monday, July 6, 2009
Games are always getting bigger and better. Bigger boards, more elaborate pieces, and in general just more stuff leads to games getting more and more expensive. Yeah, Agricola is a lot of fun, but who has $50 to spend on just one board game these days?
Today's Blog is the first in a series that will help you have fun even if you're low on funds. We'll feature a couple items each time, so keep looking out for more Gaming on a Budget blogs. So here are this week's featured items:
Treehouse/Icehouse by Looney Labs - When you buy a standard deck of 52 cards, you're not just buying one game, you're buying the cards needed to play hundreds of different card games. The same holds true when you buy a set of Icehouse pyramids. The standard "Treehouse" set comes with 15 pyramids - 5 colors, 3 sizes each. With just one set of these pyramids you can play a number of games, including Treehouse, the set's namesake. If you combine multiple sets, called "Stashes", you can play even more games. The community-maintained icehousegames.org is a Wiki-style site full of information, including a big list of games you can play with Icehouse pyramids. If you prefer printed rules, the book Playing With Pyramids is available for purchase and contains instructions on how to play 12 of the most popular Icehouse games.
Also, if you've ever thought of designing your own games, Icehouse can be a good jumping off point. The many different games playable with Icehouse sets were designed by normal people. Come up with a cool use for the stashes, spread the word, and who knows, people may start playing YOUR Icehouse game!
Chessex Pound of Dice - Every gamer knows you can never have too many dice. And while some people may prefer to get speciality licensed dice that can retail for $36 (like some that glow in the dark), the rest of us just want the biggest bang for our buck. And trust me, this bag of dice has quite a bang for a rather small price: we sell the Pound of Dice for less than $20, meaning you get about 100 dice for a lot cheaper than you'd get 7 of those glow-in-the-dark Chtulhu dice! Granted, none of the dice glow in the dark, but these are not wimpy dice. Chessex knows what it's doing when it comes to dice, and this assorted bag is no exception. And for those of you who only need a bunch of 6-sided dice, you can pick up a Pound of D6 for even less!
by: World At Play Games
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