Deep Sea Adventure Review

Deep Sea Adventure Feature
Deep Sea Adventure Feature
Released 2014
Designer Jun Sasaki, Goro Sasaki
Publisher Oink Games (Website)
Players 2 – 6 (4+ probably best)
Playing Time 30-40 minutes
Category Competitive Cooperative
Push Your Luck
Resource Management
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

If I just go down one more step, I will *cough* get the better stuff. I am sure *gasp* it will *wheeze* be fine…

Getting rich by claiming the buried treasure.  It’s a theme we all know, and as such it’s one we can all grab onto instantly.

Extending this theme though, the theme is also relatable especially today.  Each player is a diver that is trying to earn their fortune, but they don’t have enough right now to pay for the expedition that should secure it.

So the idea of the game is that all of the competing divers have pooled their resources and hired a submarine and an oxygen supply to get the expedition underway.

Deep Sea Adventure, like almost all Oink games, is visually striking even with very simple components.

A tiny box, a submarine, and a trail of markers is all that makes up the board.  A few colourful meeples mark the players progress.

Just look at a setup game – don’t you think you already have a bit of a handle on what is going on?  Sure you may not realise the buried treasure aspect initially, but you know your going swimming!

Deep Sea Adventure Components
In a box smaller than 2 decks of playing cards, a lot of game is contained within

And that is a real part of Deep Sea Adventures appeal – it’s a game people want to be interested in, and because it’s quick and works with higher player counts (up to 6) resetting is a breeze!

Setting up the game

Setup is incredibly simple.  Let everyone pick a diver meeple.  While they are picking colours, put the submarine at one end of the table where everyone can reach it and place the round token on 25.

Now group all of the relic tokens (different shapes with pips from 1 to 4) into the four piles, and shuffle them up in the different groups.  Starting with one, place them face down in a trail from the submarine.  It doesn’t matter how the pattern works, as long as it’s a single line that doesn’t cross itself.  Because of this, I normally hand over the four piles to different players to shuffle and place.

Deep Sea Adventure Setup-Begins
While other players start setting up the board, you can start to explain the rules

That’s it – setup is complete.  As I said, nice and simple.  Getting people to lay the treasure path (even without knowing what it is) keeps people involved as well, so it’s a good way to let players setup the board while you explain the rules 🙂

Speaking of which…

How to play

Deep Sea Adventure has a very simple set of rules, but they must be done in the right order.  Upfront, it’s hard to see why until situations arise, but like any game, if you want to play a little relaxed you are more than welcome to.

The last person in the sea goes first, but the order is the same for each player.

First, reduce the oxygen by the relics you are carrying.  If it reaches 0, this will be the last turn.

Then, decide which direction you are going – further down, or back to the sub.  You can only change direction once though, so timing is everything!

Once you know your direction, roll the dice.  There are 2 three-sided dice, so you will always roll between 2 and 6.  Now, move the number of places you rolled, minus the number of relics you hold.  Also, no 2 players can share a space, so jump over any other meeples on your move.

Deep Sea Adventure Turn One
So the first round is all but set - roll the die, and try to get as far ahead as you can

You can never move backwards, and you can never move more than the trail of relics allows.  You have to be careful how many relics you pick up though – if you pick up 6 pieces, you will never be able to move again!

If a player rolls before declaring their direction, they must continue going down this turn.

There also used to be a rule where you had to have picked up a treasure before turning around, but this rule has been relaxed.

Once you have moved, you have a few choices to end your turn.

You can decide to do nothing and end your turn.

If you landed on a relic, you can take it and replace the section you are on with a round X token.  If you pick up a relic though, do not look at its score value!

If you landed on an X token, you can switch it for a relic, lightening your haul. This is where not knowing what you picked up makes which item to drop a little risky.

Deep Sea Adventure Treausre-Grabbed
The first two players dived and waited, but Purple took a Relic - so the clock has begun!

And that’s pretty much it.  Play continues until all divers are back at the submarine, or oxygen has reached 0.

Once this happens, any divers that have returned with relics can now inspect them (turn them over to reveal points).

Any other divers have unfortunately drowned, and their haul drops to the bottom of the ocean.  Starting from the player furthest from the sub, their relics (still unseen) are grouped into piles of three and placed on the end of the trail.  These piles are now considered a single relic, but the points will be the total of all three tiles.

Finally, all round X tokens are removed, and the holes in the trail are pulled back in, shortening the board.

This formally completes the first round – play 2 more rounds, and the player with the highest score wins!

Deep Sea Adventure Round One Ends
So purple managed to grab two relics, and one was worthless! Unlucky, as it cost the two other divers dearly.

So you just grab all you can?

You can play this way – or rather, Deep Sea Adventure can be played this way.  The thing is though if all players are only working in their own interest, it all but guarantees that no player will get a great score, and lots of divers will be lost.

The secret to how the game works is buried in the background of the game.  All of the rival divers have worked together enough to pool their resources and rent the sub and get some air.

To get some truly high scores though, all of the players have to still work together to maximise your oxygen resource, and this can be hard to explain to people up front.

This means that if players work together, truly high scores can be reached by all.  Winners will be determined by the luck of the relics that are retrieved, which is also incredibly thematic under the circumstances.

But.

If there is one backstabbing evil genius in the group, they can play along just long enough to get what they need, then get themselves back to the sub – everyone else can fend for themselves.

Deep Sea Adventure Round Three Cooperative
If everyone works together, everyone can come out with a haul

And this is a hidden gem within Deep Sea Adventure – there are different play modes, either by design or by accident.  If everyone works together as a group, everyone will get away with a points haul, making it more a cooperative puzzle.  But add that you can stab everyone in the back and work for yourself element,

A game this relatively cheap and fun looking shouldn’t have such depth to it (no pun intended) – but it does, and it works so well.

But there is a downside

My biggest issue with Deep Sea Adventure is it’s a game you almost need to trick people into playing one way so the true game reveals itself to them.  Apart from not liking to anyone into playing games they don’t want to, this can backfire a lot.

If the proverbial penny doesn’t drop, people will just walk away with the wrong idea of Deep Sea Adventure.  But if you try to tell people everything upfront, they can feel trapped into a ‘this isn’t a game’ mindset.

Deep Sea Adventure Round Three Mutual Backstabbing
But if everyone is out for themselves, this is actually a high scoring result

This doesn’t mean that Deep Sea Adventure is a bad game – it’s just a victim of its own presentation.  Small box and cute pieces surely mean a simple little fun game, right?

Having this presentation where you have to manage a group resource (oxygen) as well as try to optimise your play at the expense of everyone else means you are pushing other player’s luck more than yours.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Deep Sea Adventure

Final Thoughts

I have heard many people describe Deep Sea Adventure as a simple push you luck game.  This is being unfair.

Deep Sea Adventure is best described in my opinion as a competitive coop game.  Sure, you can look after yourself and try for a score, but everyone doing this is all but guaranteed to lead to zero scores all around.

If you have the people (you really want four or more players), Deep Sea Adventure is a great game – but there are drawbacks that as the host or teacher you will need to navigate.

Overall
7/10
7/10

Pros

  •  Compact for easy transport
  •  The premise is simple and easy to attract players
  •  Great quality components

Cons

  •  Can be hard to teach and learn
  •  Players can be lulled into being betrayed, hurting the experience

That’s Not Lemonade Review

That's Not Lemonade Cover
That's Not Lemonade Cover
Released 2018
Designer Matt Fantastic
Publisher Tuesday Knight Games (Website)
Players 2 – 6 (Best with 4+)
Playing Time 10-15 minutes
Category Push Your Luck
Social Game
Filler Game
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Who hasn’t thought about ‘switching drinks’ with someone?

In the US, the idea of the corner lemonade stand and the red plastic Solo cups are icons.  The rest of the world has seen this perfect image of innocence thanks to many, many forms of media, and is the basic premise of this That’s Not Lemonade.

There is a competition between the local kids as to who can drink the most lemonade (Make the best lemonade?  Something like that.  It’s not really important).  But the nefarious ‘Little Johnny’ has decided to spice things up by switching some drinks for something That’s Not Lemonade!

Rounds are simple – drink the most lemonade by having the most lemons in your hand at the end of the round, but if get something That’s Not Lemonade you are out immediately.

Win 3 rounds, win the game.  Simple, quick and easy!

That's Not Lemonade Components
The box is as big as a soft drink can, and the play while simple is dceptively fun.

Setup

Setup is incredibly simple.  Up to 6 players pick up a cup and pick a character.

The characters don’t really add anything to the game.  There aren’t special powers or rules for different characters, just grab the one that puts a smile on your face 🙂

The information at the top of the card shows how many of each card type is in the deck, so that’s handy to know.

If you are playing with 2 people, pull out one of the That’s Not Lemonade cards from the deck.  Playing with 3 people, take out 2 That’s Not Lemonade Cards.  Pick a dealer, and let them shuffle the deck.

That's Not Lemonade Characters
The Characters are cute, but no player powers make them laregly summary cards only.

You will probably be ready to play in less time than it took you to read this explanation!

Playing the game

The easiest way to think of the mechanics of That’s Not Lemonade is to think of Blackjack.

On your turn, you can Hit or Pass.  Hit means you are dealt a card, pass means that you turn over your cup and can no longer drink any more Lemonade.

If you Hit, the dealer deals you a card and you look at it secretly.  If it’s a That’s Not Lemonade card, immediately turn over your cup and put the That’s Not Lemonade Card face up on top of the cup.  This means you are out of the round as you recover!

Don’t show the rest of your hand if any though – the only card that is revealed is the That’s Not Lemonade card.

Now the rules do say to put your cup on its side, but we had a bit of rolling so went with the ‘card on top’ rule.  Go with what works for you would be my advice here.

That's Not Lemonade Card Types
As long as you don't pull That's Not Lemonade, you can continue. It's this simple decision tree that makes for such a fast game.

If you get Lemonade or Ice, you are safe and the dealer proceeds to the next person.

If you decide that you are comfortable with the number of lemons in your hand, you can decide to pass on your turn which you indicate by flipping your cup.  You are still in with a chance to win, but you can relax a little bit and watch everyone try and work out what you have.

If there is only one person that hasn’t got any That’s Not Lemonade cards, they automatically win the round.

Otherwise once everyone still in has Passed, everyone shows their hands and counts the number of lemons.  There are 2 cards with Double lemons, so don’t forget to count 2 with these cards!

The winner puts a single lemon card under their character card to show they have won, and everyone resets their cups and play begins again.

That's Not Lemonade End of Round-Scoring
So two players have 3 lemons, but the top right will win as Ice is a tie breaker!

The quick amongst you will have noticed though that you have set back up for round two with one less lemon card.

That’s right – the more you play, the more likely you are to take a hit of Ice or That’s Not Lemonade as the lemonade runs out!

Winning The Game

Winning is simple – the first person to win 3 rounds, wins the game.  As I said, That’s Not Lemonade is quick, simple and fun – there is not a lot to get your head around!

The Good

That’s Not Lemonade is a game that is incredibly simple, but this is a good thing.  On each player turn, there is only one decision to make – Hit or Pass.

Analysis Paralysis is all but eliminated, but the social pressure of encouraging someone to drink and their squirming in indecisiveness is always fun to watch.

Each round only lasts a minute or two even with 6 players.  Only having a deck of 18 cards with 4 ‘dangerous’ cards means rounds cannot last a long time.  Almost everyone has been exposed to Blackjack, but even if they haven’t the Hit or Pass mechanic is easy to pick up on, and only counting lemons makes objectives simple to grasp as well.

That's Not Lemonade All Cards
There are only 18 cards, and as you play this amount gets whittled down. Play is amazingly fast.

Like many games, the first round will be the longest, but That’s Not Lemonade has the advantage of thinning the deck everytime someone wins, guaranteeing that games wind up quickly.

The cups are more than a nostalgia item or gimmick.  If your cup is ready to drink from, your in.  If it’s upside down, you don’t want to drink.  If it’s on its side (by the rules) or covered with a card (my rules) you are busy recovering from a bad experience.  This makes the game state easy to take in with a glance, even with 6 players.

Also, each game takes 10-15 minutes even at high player counts.  That makes for a great social filler experience while waiting for people, and as the game is about the size of a can of soft drink, easy to have on standby for such occasions.

That's Not Lemonade State of Play
While all together, I bet you can tell which player is doing what just from this snapshot.

The Bad

That’s Not Lemonade is a game with a lot left to chance.  It has to be, or it couldn’t be the type of game it is.

Even knowing this, going out on your first card is never a fun experience, and this is something that can happen multiple rounds in a row if you are really unlucky.

It’s chance, and not likely to always happen to one person, but be prepared to potentially counsel players that could be hit by this.

That's Not Lemonade Unlucky Run
You have to be really unlucky, but this is a potential win scneario.

But really that’s the only real downside for me – there is the potential you can get hit with a run of bad luck run in a 10-minute game.

There are people that may look down on a such a simple filler game, but as a general rule I would guess such players would object to most games described as ‘Filler’, ‘Social’ or ‘Party’ games.

There are always exceptions to such rules though, so let them try it.  Even players I have met completely opposed to filler games will give one a try if it’s only a few minutes long.  But like any game, there is an audience for it and That’s Not Lemonade may have wider appeal to U Mad Bro, there are some that just won’t like it.

Wait, U Mad Bro?  What’s that got to do with That’s Not Lemonade?

Ahh, well a lot actually.  You see on a simple level That’s Not Lemonade is a retheme of Matt Fantastic’s U Mad Bro.

Gameplay is pretty much identical from what I understand, but instead of lemonade stands players were Jersey Boardwalk Bro’s trying to impress the Babes with washed up bits of Cthulhu.  Get the most pieces and win, but if you go Mad – you’re out.

Personally, I prefer the lemonade theme, it feels less forced with the mechanics and eliminates the eye roll that some players show with Cthulhu themed games, not to mention the Jersey Bros.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
That's Not Lemonade

Final Thoughts

Want a game that’s quick, fun and takes very little brain power to play?  That’s Not Lemonade is probably right up your alley.

I cannot imagine game nights filled with just That’s Not Lemonade, but something to occupy the table while the new game is being set up, an opener, closer or straight-up time passer is the perfect time to pull it out.

Setup time is almost non-existent, and the combined social experience is silly but enjoyable at the same time.

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

  •  Easy to Teach and Learn
  •  Great for conversation during play
  •  Fun filler format

Cons

  •  Not for people wanting deep gameplay
  •  Going out first card is a real possibility

Welcome To Review

Welcome To Feature
Welcome To Feature
Released 2018
Designer Benoit Turpin
Publisher Deep Water Games (Website)
Players 1 – 20 (As long as you have sheets, any number can play)
Playing Time 15-25 minutes (Decision speed is the main factor)
Category Roll and Write
Pattern Building
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Beware the Home Owners Association – they may pinch your ideas!

There has been a major resurgence this year in a genre of game known as Roll and Write.  I have spoken about a few such games before, mostly in Last Week’s Gaming.

The premise is simple – you Roll some Dice and Write down the result to form some kind of pattern.  Everyone plays with the same roll, so it’s purely how efficiently you create your patterns that determine a winner.

But as with any design, this has been refined and played with.  One of my favourite ‘alternate’ Roll and Write games is the interestingly named Welcome To…!

What makes it an alternate game?  There are no dice to roll!  Everything you need in Welcome To… are some pens, the suburb score sheet, and some cards – that’s it.

Like a few other reviews in the past, don’t judge Welcome To… on the number of components that come with it.  This is a great game and logic puzzle that will keep you wanting to come back for more!

Welcome To Components
Not much to it - but Roll and Writes never do!

So what is Welcome To…?

Thematically, you are playing as architects in the 1950’s trying to design the ‘perfect’ neighbourhood.  You want to make estates of just the right size, parks and pools for recreation, and of course house numbers in the correct order.

Mechanically you are trying to do the same thing – neatly organised areas are more popular for buyers, hence more points.  Have a lot of parks in the area?  More points.  Got to install a lot of pools?  More points.  Had to slip in sub-housing such as 12A?  Well, that will cost you points.

Playing Welcome To…

First thing you do when you get your neighbourhood plans (Score Sheet) is to name your Suburb.  It’s part of the reason why the game is called Welcome To… – your perfect home hasn’t been named yet!

Then three City Plan cards are dealt out.  These are overall objectives that each player is trying to achieve, as well as an end game mechanic.

Initially these are fairly simple, basically grouping houses into estates, but if you want more of a challenge you can go advanced.  Advanced objectives are things like the first two streets must all have pools, or a certain street must be completely built.

Welcome To Initial Setup
You can just put your name, but where is the fun in that?

Once this is done, take the construction cards and place them into three equal stacks, numbered side up.  These will basically act as the dice of Welcome To… – whatever is revealed here is what everyone has to work with!

When everyone is ready, turn the first card over to reveal the effect.

Now the first turn happens.  Each player picks one house number from the cards on the left-hand side and writes that number on an empty house on their Sheet.

If you can’t place a house at any time, you must mark off a Building Permit Refusal box on the sheet.  These are penalties for not building, but can also end the game.

Once this is done, the player can choose to use the effect paired with the numbered card – this is optional, but these effects are generally how you improve your score and meet City Plan objectives.  This effect is also marked off on the Sheet.

Welcome To First Round Begins
So choose one number its paired effect. I have started with the high end number and a fence.

Repeat until an end game condition happens.  Ending the game happens when any player completes all three City Plans, uses all three Building Permit Refusal forms, a player has built every house in the suburb or any combination of the above.

Because play is simultaneous, it is possible for more than one player to reach an endgame condition – just play the turn out, then add up the scores!  Highest score wins.

Using the Effects

The building Effects are the score modifiers (and sometimes lifelines) in each game of Welcome To….

Generally speaking, they are all fairly intuitive.  For example, the Surveyor effect looks like a fence and lets you fill in a dotted line to make a fence and create a housing estate or group.

Similarly, the Landscaper looks like trees, and lets you fill in the Park score on the street you placed your house.

The Temp Agency looks like roadworks but allows you to change your house number by -2, -1, 0, 1 or 2 to a range of 0 to 17.  Why would you change a house by 0?  Because there is a bonus for the player that used the most Temp Agencies!

Welcome To Effects
You can mostly tell the effects just from looking at the image

The Pool Manufacturer looks like a pool.  If the house number you put down is in an empty house with a pool, you can ‘build’ the pool and mark it off on your sheet.  More pools equals more points!

The Real Estate agent looks like the stock market.  Think of it as marketing, where you can increase the final end game score for differently sized estates you build.  It’s all in the presentation after all.

And finally, there is Bis.  This hasn’t translated too well from the original French, and could throw some people.  All this is a mechanic showing a property has been slotted in, so an estate could be 3, 3A and 3B for example.

So now if you ever see ’12 Bis’ in a French street address, you know it’s just referring to 12A!

There is an additional advanced rule that also allows you to build Roundabouts.  By sacrificing an unmarked house and drawing a circle in it, you can instantly fence around the roundabout to quickly create estates.  Be careful though – this will also cost you points!

Welcome To Summary Board
Luckily the summary board makes almost everything easy to follow. Bis still throws some though.

So it’s just putting things in the right place?  How is that a game?

This is a question at the heart of many Roll and Writes.  Everyone has the same board, the same conditions, and puts things together as they wish.  But there isn’t one solution.

The player that does it the most efficiently or successfully pushes their luck the most is almost always the winner.

This is a big part of the fun of these games – at the end, when everyone has added up their score, everyone will see something that worked better than their idea.  The allure of the ‘perfect’ formation is always there but is rarely attainable.

Because of the random nature of the resources involved and the lasting effects of decisions made, the challenge to simply ‘do better next time’ can be addictive to a lot of players.  This is where the fun of these games are – not in the actual mechanics, but in the satisfaction of what you have accomplished.

Welcome To Scoring
I have never been in a game that has finished the suburb, so it's all about maximising your score

More ways to play!

Welcome To… has a solo mode, which only slightly changes the rules.  Essentially you play the same way and try beat your high score, but you add a ‘Solo’ card to the construction deck, and you only make one draw pile.

Each turn, you draw three cards and choose one card for the house number, and another for the effect.  Once the Solo card is drawn, you can no longer score the higher City Plans scores, but that’s it – the game remains the same.

Expert mode makes the game a bit more complicated, but also adds another wrinkle to the mix.

Each player plays similar to Solo mode, except there is no Solo card (it’s used as a marker for dealing, but I would skip it in small groups).  Each player draws three cards from the central deck and chooses two cards to play as normal.

This third card is not discarded like usual though – you pass it to the player on your left, effect side up.  This hides some information for the next turn.  Next turn, each player then draws two cards, as they already have a choice in front of them.

Welcome To Expert Mode
Passing me a 6 makes the house number useless!

It might not sound like much, but forcing ‘bad’ choices onto a player will limit their play options each round.  Someone really needs low numbers to fill a street?  Hand over that 14 with a smile.

But remember, if a player fails to place three houses it’s game over, so you aren’t just messing with one player – your score is also in Jeopardy!

Welcome To… Mini and Home Boards

A version of Welcome To… has been announced called Welcome To… Mini.

This is an interesting marketing strategy in my opinion.  The Mini version comes with the cards, 6 laminated score sheets, and some dry erase markers.  That’s it – no rules or new additions.

If you know how to play Welcome To…, this is a great way to nab your own copy – as a gift, probably not so much.

For myself though, I have a laminator and if you get one on special, you will probably nab one for cheaper than Welcome To… Mini.  Yes, it’s a few minutes mucking around – but after those few minutes you won’t worry about running out of score sheets again!

Welcome To How to make a scorepad last
If you enjoy Roll and Write or any games with score sheets, a laminator and whiteboard pen works wonders!

Don’t like writing?  Try the App!

Blue Cocker has released an app that replaces the scoresheet in Welcome To…

Playing on my Sony Xperia XZ, the sheet works fine and because I am familiar with Welcome To… it was reasonably intuitive to use.

I do wish though that there were some instructions or a quick tutorial to help you work out how to actually use the app.  For example with fences I had to tap more than if I had built a pool – those icons just ‘felt right’.

But this learning curve aside the app does a good job of minimising mistakes in placement and makes scoring a breeze, plus it’s free!

Welcome To App Scoresheet
The app is mostly intuitive, but it could still be better. At least you don't have to add up!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Welcome To

Final Thoughts

Welcome To… holds a special place for me in my game collections.  It’s ‘only’ a simple Roll and Write game, but one that I can pull out and start playing in minutes.

There is that little bit more to it mechanics-wise that holds my attention while keeping its simple nature intact.  I wouldn’t play Welcome To… with 6-year-olds, but 10 and up would seem an appropriate age to me.

If you are the sort of person that enjoys a Sudoku or just logic puzzles in general, I think a game of Welcome To… is right up your street!

Overall
8.5/10
8.5/10

Poke Ball Plus Review and Guide

Poke Ball Plus Feature
Poke Ball Plus Feature
Released 2018
Publisher Nintendo (Website)
Category Augmented Reality Controller

Reviewing the little controller that is hiding so much more

So you would have seen in the last couple of Last Week’s Gaming that Pokemon Let’s Go has been my go-to game of choice lately. This is for a few reasons. It’s ‘simple’ – there are puzzles to solve of a sort, but nothing that has stumped me. Collecting Pokemon is still fun, but the ‘battle grind’ is gone. I don’t have to worry so much about random encounters – I can see Pokemon in the game world.

Now all of this is great, and I will review the game when done. I need to finish the game first, and I want to try teaming up and a few of the other new features before going there.

But one of the new features isn’t in Pokemon Let’s Go itself. New controllers aren’t exactly a new thing for Nintendo – just look at Super Smash Brothers as an example. But the Poke Ball Plus earns the plus by being more than ‘just’ a new controller.

Pokemon Lets Go Eevee is Happy 20181119
Eevee is happily sititng on my head as a walk around Professor Oak's office

The Poke Ball Plus itself

Being based off a Poke Ball, the Plus doesn’t have a lot of room to move in terms of design. The Poke Ball Plus is smaller than I expected, but not terribly so. On the ‘top’ of the ball is the B button, mostly hidden with a small circular indent in the red section. The centre of the Poke Ball holds the control stick, and pressing the stick (like L3 on PlayStation or L on XBox) becomes the A button. It’s straightforward and fairly intuitive once you have it in your hand.

At the back of the ball is a strap, and at the base of the strap is a small cover that comes off to reveal the USB-C charging port. I thought this cover would be more of a pain than it is, but it has proven fairly functional. You do need a little bit of fingernail or something to help pull it out, but as long as you use the recess on the left-hand side it’s a simple process.

Poke Ball Plus Front
If you look at the top of the ball, you can see the slight indent - this shows where the B button is

Also attached to the strap is a plastic ring section. This is supposed to fit around your finger as you play, as another measure to stop the Poke Ball Plus from flying if thrown. I also use it to hook the Poke Ball Plus to my jeans when I go for a walk. Becuase the ring is flexible, don’t forget to also secure the Poke Ball with the strap itself – while mine has survived a couple of drops relatively unscathed, why push your luck?

Poke Ball Plus Rear
USB-C for easy plugging (Yay!) and the cable just sits beside the Switch dock.

Playing Pokemon Let’s Go with the Poke Ball Plus

You would think this would be fairly straightforward – sync Poke Ball Plus with the Switch, play the game. And to a degree, it is this straightforward – just not like any other controller I have even synced.

Normally to sync a controller you slide the Joy Con into the Switch or plug in the controller via USB (Pro Controllers for example). Not so with the Poke Ball Plus. Start your Pokemon Let’s Go game, and you will be presented with a screen asking which controller to use. You can see Poke Ball Plus on the screen, but it’s not obvious how to select it.

All you need to do is push the A button on the Poke Ball Plus, and after a few seconds, you will see the controller change colour on the screen. Press A again, and you are most of the way there. The controls are now shown on the screen, and you can decide to back out and change controller if you want to.

It sounds simple, and it is simple. But when the instructions in the Poke Ball Plus state only ‘Follow On Screen Instructions’, and it’s so different from every other controller, a few people got caught out initially.

Poke Ball Plus Connect Controller
Normally to connect a controller you connect then play. Not the Poke Ball Plus!

Once that’s out of the way though, into the game you go. Playing is just like any other Pokemon game, and exploring the game world is a breeze. As I only really played Pokemon Yellow on my Game Boy, and then Pokemon Moon on my DS, the two button system made sense to me and off I went through the world!

The tutorial on how to catch a Pokemon came up on screen and was easy to follow. Really all you do is hit A to ready your ball in game, and then ‘throw’ the controller (action only – don’t send it flying!) in time with the capture circle. There aren’t curve balls or advanced techniques to worry about, so it was all pretty natural and fun. And the feeling when you feel the Poke Ball Plus vibrate and you hear the sound of the Pokemon come from the Ball? Talk about immersive!

Poke Ball Plus Throw Poke Ball
Capturing feels fun with the Poke Ball Plus. You get the on screen reminder to throw, but it just feels right.

The only downside is Pokemon Let’s Go takes advantage of the + and Y buttons in the game. Most screens will let you shake the Poke Ball for these extra controls, but not in combat. Shaking the Poke Ball Plus allows Partner moves (Special timed moves), so if you can’t remember what a move does you can’t bring up the info during the battle. It’s annoying, but not enough to stop me playing. I do pay more attention to the Pokemon while out of combat now to learn the moves a bit better, which is really all the system is asking of you.

Gaining a Mew

So one of the big bonuses of the Poke Ball Plus is that it comes with a Mew – a Pokemon that everyone swore you could get in earlier Pokemon, but I never worked it out.

Firstly you need to be far enough into the game to unlock the ‘Communicate’ panel. I don’t think this takes long – I had just started off on my quest from Professor Oak when I connected my Poke Ball Plus for the first time and everything came up on screen. You will also need to make sure you are able to connect to the internet, and that the Poke Ball Plus and Switch are charged. When you connect the Poke Ball Plus for the first time, if there is still a Mew available (remember, one per BALL not one per game you play on!), you will hear the ball make a shrill sound. This will let you know you are good to go.

Poke Ball Plus Communication Menu
Hitting B on the Poke Ball Plus brings up the main menu. You are looking for Communicate.

From here, as per the onscreen instructions, select Communicate, then select Mystery Gifts. You will see a bunch of options, select ‘Get with a Poke Ball Plus’. The Switch will connect to the net, and after a few seconds you will see the Mew emerge from your Poke Ball! The Pokedex screen will then appear, and the transfer is complete 🙂

Poke Ball Plus Mystery Gifts
As long as you heard Mew in the Poke Ball, it's all automatic from here

From what I understand, the Poke Ball Plus is the only way to catch a Mew in the game, making the Poke Ball Plus a must buy for the true completionists. If that’s all you are after though, it’s up to you how much you would pay for owning a Mew. Because I am not far enough into Pokemon Let’s Go to experiment transferring Pokemon Go characters I don’t know if this would work assuming you have a Mew in Pokemon Go.

I think the Poke Ball Plus would be pricey for just a Mew, and that is where some bad feedback was thrown Nintendo’s way pre-launch, but time will tell if this is how it will all play out.

Taking your Pokemon for a Stroll

This is the feature that has grabbed my attention the most. I thought the idea sounded cute – take your Pokemon with you kind of like an old-school Tamagotchi, and ‘play’ with it now and then. But it’s more.

As you walk around, the Poke Ball Plus has a kind of inbuilt pedometer to keep track of your steps, and it counts how many times you play with your Pokemon. If your Pokemon is bored and calls out, all you have to do is hit the A button to play with it, and you are rewarded with a rainbow set of lights to show it worked.

Poke Ball Plus Stroll Results
This was Monday's effort. I scored 10,000 experience from doing this!

For someone like myself that usually gets to play in very short bursts, this was an amazing ability. All I need to do to help boost a new Pokemon or work on my better ones is essentially wear a new key ring. This is probably what I would call the most pay to win feature of the game, but man is it helping me so far.

As I mentioned in Last Week’s Gaming, I got a very base level Magikarp and walked around with the ball for a couple of days.

Nothing sustained or over the top, I think a shopping trip was the most steps in a single trip. But Friday night when I bought back my Pokemon from my Stroll, Magikarp evolved into Gyarados.

No grinding battles, no switching from the first Pokemon out to maximise XP, just keep the Poke Ball Plus on me, and my Pokemon has evolved.

Pokemon Lets Go 20181210
$500 Pokemon Dollars for a Magikarp, a couple of days walking around with the Poke Ball Plus and bam - instant Gyarados!

And what is the benefit of all this? In game XP. You don’t even have to be playing Let’s Go to strengthen your Pokemon – just walking around like you do every day. The more you move, the more you will be rewarded obviously, but especially early in the game any experience boost is a major advantage.

The process is fairly simple as well. On your Save screen, choose ‘Take your Pokemon for a Stroll’. This will start a screen asking you to connect your Poke Ball Plus – even if it was already connected, you have to do this again. Once synced, hit the A button and you will be given the choice of walking your Partner Pokemon (Eevee or Pikachu) or opening your Pokemon Box. Select the Pokemon you want to take for a Stroll, and after a bit of data transfer all is set!

Poke Ball Plus Prep for Stroll
It's hard to miss the Stroll choice as you will be saving Pokemon Let's Go often

Now you can only take one Pokemon for a stroll at a time – but I suspect that is per Poke Ball (as you have to connect the Poke Ball). Now I don’t think it would be worth buying multiple Poke Ball Plus to stroll your whole team, but I believe this may be possible. I will try this over the Holidays once Rabbit has gotten into playing, as I don’t want to do anything that may cost her a Mew.

To bring your Pokemon back, just do the same thing – the Switch detects that there is a Pokemon in your ball, and you get to bring it back. Here you will see the results of your Stroll and all that Experience – plus rewards like Candy for taking your Pokemon out! While not essential to the game, all of this is saving me so much time and giving me bonuses, I am surprised how much I have gotten into the Strolls.

Poke Ball Plus Return from Stroll
Returning is a little unintuitive, but that can be said for a few Poke Ball Plus options

Playing with Pokemon Go

Here is where things get a little more complicated, but not by too much. There are a couple of things to remember though. First, Pokemon Go must be running in the background on your phone. This will probably cause the most problems, as some phones will cut background apps silently. Secondly, you have to pair the Poke Ball Plus with your phone. While this seems obvious, you will also have to unpair your Poke Ball Plus from your phone if you want to play on your Switch. I would have preferred the disconnection to be automatic when joining back up with the Switch, but oh well.

To connect your Poke Ball Plus with Pokemon Go, first select the Poke Ball icon in Go, then select Settings from the top right menu. Scroll down until you see Poke Ball Plus, then select it. At the bottom of the screen, you will see Available Devices – it should be blank. Hit the B button to make Poke Ball Plus appear as an option.

But wait – it’s not over! From here, on the Pokemon Go screen, you will be able to see a dark Poke Ball symbol in the top right. Tap your A button on the Poke Ball Plus, then tap this icon. All going well, this will then pair with your Poke Ball Plus. I say all going well, because I haven’t gotten it to work yet! I haven’t gone too far into troubleshooting though, as until I find Go Park in Let’s Go I don’t really want to sync the two.

Poke Ball Plus Pokemon Go
The first part is easy, assuming you know to look at the bottom of the settings

Once it is all synced, as long as the game is running in the background and you have taken a Pokemon for a stroll, any Poke Stop you travel near will be automatically spun. If you see a green ring on your Poke Ball Plus, this means there are Pokemon near for you to catch. Hit B to throw a ball. If you are successful, you will see rainbow lights on your Pokeball. Well done! If your Poke Ball Plus starts to glow red, this means you don’t have space for any more Pokemon, and you will need to have a look at your phone to clear space or buy more space.

As I said, I haven’t been able to do this yet, so screenshots and images are a bit limited unfortunately, but hopefully soon I will be able to show how this works in more detail.

Some more undocumented tricks – Sound and Battery Levels

So a couple of days in I thought I broke my Poke Ball Plus. I could feel vibrations when I played with my Pokemon, but no sound. Turns out all I had managed to do was mute my Poke Ball Plus! If you hold the A and B buttons together for a second and then release, you will feel one vibration. This is letting you know the Poke Ball is now muted. Do it again, you will feel two vibrations and sound is restored.

Preferred playing mode – Handheld, Joy Con, or Poke Ball Plus?

This is a little tricky. I enjoy handheld mode for the most part, especially being able to use the touchscreen to play with my Eevee. But catching Pokemon is a lot fiddlier and you have to twist around more, which motions control improve easily.

What surprised me though is that the motion controls on the Poke Ball Plus are more sensitive than the Joy Con. Lack of buttons aside (more on that in a bit), the smaller Poke Ball Plus does seem to be the better controller of the two for Pokemon. Moving your character and button selecting is better with the Joycon, but picking up on the throwing of a Poke Ball or the finer control of feeding your Pokemon definitely feels better to me on the Poke Ball Plus.

My main gripe with the Poke Ball Plus, especially when docked, is the inability to put the Switch to sleep from the Poke Ball. You either have to have a Joy Con beside you to be able to hit the Home button or get up to hit the button on the docked Switch.

To check the battery level, the easiest way is when the Poke Ball Plus is off. Press and hold the A and B buttons for about 5-6 seconds, and you will feel a vibration and the ring will glow.

  • Green means your charge is good (>2/3)
  • Yellow means it’s OK (<2/3)
  • Red means low (<1/3)

Once you know the reading, just click A again to shut the Poke Ball Plus back down.  Simple when you know, but some instructions in the box would help!

Poke Ball Plus Battery Level Check
If the light is green, the trap is clean! Wait, wrong franchise...

You can check the Poke Ball plus on the Controllers screen in the Switch system menu, but the amount of mucking about makes this a bit of a pain in my opinion. You have to start Pokemon Let’s Go, go to the Home menu, select Controllers, and then you will see an oval-shaped controller – this is actually the Poke Ball Plus.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Poke Ball Plus

Final Thoughts

Cash grab?  If all you want is a Mew, yes.  Pay to win?  This is a little harder to answer.  Some of the features such as Auto Poke Stop spins in Pokemon Go and the Stroll in Pokemon Let’s Go definitely make your life easier.

I am happy I got mine, and if you were thinking of getting Pokemon Let’s Go I would recommend the bundle deal of game and Poke Ball Plus just for the immersion of playing on the couch.  That feeling and sound when you catch a Pokemon, gimmicky as it is, is undeniably satisfying to me still.

Bottom line though, the Poke Ball Plus is a $50-70 investment, which to be honest is another game.  If you have any doubts about the Poke Ball Plus, this is where you should spend your dollars.

Overall
7/10
7/10

Pros

  •  Finer motion controls than the Joy Con
  •  Comes with Mew
  •  Allows you to grow Pokemon as you walk around – great for ‘casuals’
  •  Allows you to play Pokemon Go without using your phone

Cons

  •  It’s AUD$70
  •  Advantages have a slight feel of pay to win, especially for ‘dedicated’ players
  •  No real manual on use outside of Let’s Go

You Are Deadpool Review

You Are Deadpool 1 Cover
You Are Deadpool 1 Cover
Released 2018
Creators Al Ewing, GURU-eFX, Salva Espin
Publisher Marvel (Website)
Players 1, but can play as a team of 2-3 people if you like
Playing Time 10-20 minutes per issue, dependant on choices
Category Comic Book
Choose Your Own Adventure

When a Comic is a game, but it’s still an adventure

Deadpool is a comic character that has grown on me over the years.  Originally I was him as a bit of over the top comic relief, and that still holds true today.

But the self-awareness and insanity that is Wade Wilson make for some truly interesting (if family-unfriendly) stories.  Two of my all-time favourites are Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe (Hey, it’s on Goodreads) and Deadpool: Dracula’s Gauntlet (Also on Goodreads).

If you enjoyed the Ryan Reynolds Deadpool (which let’s be honest, odds on you are) you may be surprised by the Deadpool in both of these stories.  Yes, there are puns and fourth wall breaks, but the type of choices and the accompanying self-justification may surprise you.

Today though, I am talking about another collection of stories – You Are Deadpool.  There are all the elements of the self-referential humour and satire that makes Deadpool so popular, but now you get to play as Deadpool in a Choose Your Own Adventure type scenario.

I grabbed these when they first came out and had the ‘joy’ of waiting a few weeks for the comic I was to play next to actually be released.  And I am not talking about the second edition – I went straight from issue 1 to 4!

You Are Deadpool Series
Think of each issue as a chapter - start at 1, end at 5. In the middle is up to you 🙂

The basic premise of the story is that you have to steal a time travelling helmet for the Tomorrow Man.  If you don’t know the characters, don’t stress about it – the series gives you enough information to go on for the story (such as it is).

Each issue then becomes a different time period you are jumping through, with plenty of era-appropriate gags and references to enjoy.

You Are Deadpool also rams home the ‘I’m not a comic!’ theme with an almost mandatory ‘See?’ panel early in each issue.  The different situations that you find Deadpool (and hence yourself) in are amusing, and it was a fight not to just run ahead and read them the first time to see what happens.

Yep, the first time.  This isn’t a normal ‘pick up and read’ comic, just as Choose Your Own Adventure was never a normal novel.  A big part of the fun in You Are Deadpool is trying to see how bad you can make things many different ways of playing through the story there are.

You Are Deadpool Dont Read the Next Panel
Panel 6 clearly says 'Don't read the next panel' - but of course you do, and a new path is made!

And multiple paths and twists there are aplenty.  It’s weird to describe You Are Deadpool as highly replayable, but it is indeed highly replayable.

Like any adventure, you have equipment both in game and in real life.

The first edition provides you with a template to make your own ‘Deadpool Die’ and a character sheet.  Now I am not a comic ‘purist’ – these were bought for me to read and play, but I do suggest just grabbing a few six-sided dice and a pen and paper, it will make your life a lot easier.

In game equipment is strange as well – you have three slots for items you can see that are ‘smaller than a bread box’.  Basically, if you see something in a panel and want to pick it up – it’s yours!

You Are Deadpool Game Components
I'm not against cutting the comic, it's just you roll 2 dice normally

Now just like in other multiple path stories with equipment like this, you can choose to ‘cheat’ and say you have the items.  All I will say about that at is enjoy your game.  The story knows it’s a game, and a comic, and this does sometimes lead to some funny situations.

Unfortunately, that’s all I can really say about You Are Deadpool as a game.  This is a fun experience that as a fan of the character I really enjoyed, and is a different way to spend 10-15 minutes a night ‘playing’ an issue.

But don’t fall into the ‘it’s a comic, it’s for kids’ trap.  Being a Deadpool comic, there is plenty of fighting and action.  Decapitation and dismemberment are common enough, and while not incredibly graphic probably not something you want your little ones playing either.  Basically, if you wouldn’t watch the movie with them (and not Once Upon a Deadpool, the originals!) don’t hand this to them either.

You Are Deadpool You Chose Poorly
Choose poorly enough, and this could be your ending...

Do you want to play?

You can technically play each issue as a mini-standalone edition adventure, as each issue deals with a different time period.  If you are reading this and decide to give You Are Deadpool a go – don’t do it this way.

I would be guessing you will be getting issues as you can, as even on first printing getting these in order was a little tricky.  Being able to ‘play’ the story through as you make your choices is the most fun.

Luckily this is really easy now, as the series was released as a combined trade paperback!  Expect to pay up to $25 from reasonable sellers, which isn’t too bad at all ($5 a comic, easy run!).  Amazon is probably easiest, and you can buy it on the Kindle as well!

JohnHQLD
You Are Deadpool

Final Thoughts

If you enjoy Deadpool and multiple path adventures, You Are Deadpool is a no-brainer recommendation.  It’s light, it’s fun, it doesn’t take much commitment so you can put it down and pick it up easily.

I would suggest the combined trade paperback only because everything is together, and you get that ‘holding it in your hands’ feeling.  Kindles are great and I use them a lot, but this is one of those special items that kicking back on the couch with pen and paper and dice is a lot of fun.

If you aren’t big on Deadpool, move on would be my recommendation.  If you want something similar though, all four of the Sorcery! series (go Goodreads again!) is all out now digitally from inkle, and I will be giving that a review when I can play through them all.  Same theory, but so much more in-depth and a much grander campaign.

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

  •  It’s Deadpool
  •  Light ‘game’ to sit and enjoy with multiple paths and endings
  •  Humour for each era is spot on

Cons

  •  While no swearing, violence is a part of Deadpool so keep away from little ones
  •  The story is light – great for a diversion, but if you want something heavier it’s not here

Tetris Effect Review

Tetris Effect Feature
Tetris Effect Feature
Released Tetris Effect
Designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi
Publisher Enhance Games (Website)
Home Page Tetris Effect Home

Over 30 years later, Tetris is still a game that holds its own

Many years ago, I got a Nintendo Game Boy for my 16th birthday.  The huge grey brick was still very new, and the thought of playing different games anywhere was magical.

The Game Boy came with Tetris, arguably the greatest game ever made.  The simple gameplay allows players to enter a Zen-like trance, where only you and the tetrominoes exist.  Clearing rows of blocks is a satisfying experience, and the inherent ‘Try Again’ challenge still works, even today.

Bring on the Tetris Effect

Such was the popularity of the original Tetris (no matter the platform you played it on), people started noticing something odd.  People started to report dreaming of tetrominoes and seeing interlocking patterns outside of the game.

For example, people started seeing how items on a supermarket shelf could be stacked differently to form single shapes.  You may look at some buildings off in the distance, and imagine the shape you ‘need’ to complete the rows.

Generally harmless, it nevertheless started research into the phenomena that playing Tetris for 30 minutes a day could help with cognitive skills.  Take that video game objectors!

Tetris Game Boy
This is where it all began for me. Tetris was around before this, but many hours were spent looking at a screen smaller than this picture! *Image from Nintendo UK

Of course, while all this is interesting, it doesn’t explain why Tetris was so popular.  All I can really tell you is that for me, Tetris is a kind of competitive jigsaw puzzle.

Think of any game that challenges you, and that feeling when you complete that challenge.  Never scored over 100 in Ticket to Ride before?  Got through the High Road in Crash Bandicoot without dying?  that feeling of satisfaction is addictive, isn’t it?

And this is where Tetris for me on the Game Boy sat.  As my score got higher and higher, I was rewarded with dancers and larger and larger rocketships launching.  It was fun to watch, and when I finally got the Space Shuttle, I was in heaven.  I still remember running around Lake Eppalock looking for my parents to show them.

Getting higher and higher scores was satisfying, but I could also play at lower speeds longer and just enjoy relaxing with the puzzle that is Tetris.  I could challenge myself or just sit back and relax, it was the game I needed it to be at the time.

Tetris Game Boy Shuttle Ending
This was the ending you hoped for back in the day. But it never stopped me from seeing if there was one more... *Image from Thumbnail https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofWVtZ9O0Yc

The more things change…

I am happy to say, at its core Tetris Effect is the same game I fell in love with almost 30 years ago.  There are a couple of new mechanics and game modes, but Teris is just Tetris, and I love it for being that way.

But don’t think if you have played Tetris before, you shouldn’t play Tetris Effect.  While the feel of the game has remained the same, so much more has happened here with the latest iteration.

But I don’t have PSVR

You can play Tetris Effect just on the PS4, and it is a great experience.  But you will be missing out on quite a bit.

For example, looking at the pictures I grabbed for this review, you can see a pretty game with various backgrounds and layouts.  What you can’t hear is the amazing soundtrack that goes with Tetris Effect and becomes part of the experience.

And that is what defines Tetris Effect – it’s an amazing experience.  Playing in the dark with headphones on will allow you to immerse yourself and enjoy, but playing Tetris in VR is just special.

Tetris Effect Gameplay 1
I have pushed the game back, but being able to turn your head and be in this room as you play is amazing

The PSVR difference

VR allows you to immerse yourself in new worlds – this has been discussed before.  But in Tetris Effect, with good headphones and the headset, you become part of a magical tapestry.

It sounds arty and full of hype, but this is one of the few times I really can’t explain the feeling any other way – Tetris Effect is a great example of gaming as an art form, with art in the traditional visual and/or audio context.

Playing a level with Dolphins swimming is beautiful.  There are no other words for it.  Then the music pitches as you clear rows, and the Dolphins react playfully cheering you on.

The sensation is distracting because you are playing a game but just want to watch the dolphins play.  But you keep playing to watch what else the Dolphins do.

The sensation of zooming through the waters or skimming on top of the ocean is indescribable – you need to experience it yourself.

Tetris Effect Mountain
Some areas like Space and Sea begin dark, but you can also get majestic views like this

The Journey

The main mode of Tetris Effect is called Journey mode, and it is fitting.  Traditional gaming wise, you can consider it the campaign mode.  Each level has it’s own visual and audio style to go with it.

The very first level has you playing at the bottom of the ocean, with neon sea creatures swimming around you as you progress.

Complete 36 lines and you are taken to a ‘cyber Egypt’ level.  Rather than the bottom of the ocean, you are in a darkened room with the illuminated outline of the playing area before you.

As you progress, outlines of hieroglyphics form and travel towards you.  Complete this, and you are whisked to a red Zen world where your movements create sound.

Tetris Effect Under the Sea
It is so calm and peaceful, and as you continue you begin to see larger and larger sea creatures as well!

No two levels are similar, and each is an amazing experience.  The Journey moniker is well earned indeed.

But.

While visually each level is different, there are changes and modifiers in each level or world as well.  Some will increase the speed of the blocks as you progress, either in score or number of lines.

Some levels will suddenly increase the speed insane levels.  Sometimes this is permanent, sometimes you just have to ‘survive’ the wave.  Each level is truly unique, but just like the visuals and audio, you need to learn how each level behaves.

Tetris Effect Journey Mode
Explore the galaxy in Journey Mode! I may have hit a level I need to practice though 🙂

The Zone

Many players and I describe the Zen-like trance that you fall into when you get into a game of Tetris.  Tetris Effect adds to this with a new mechanic known as The Zone.

It’s pretty simple – create lines and fill up a Zone meter.  When you activate the Zone, it begins counting down but tetrominoes stop dropping, giving you a much-needed breather.

Each line you complete drops to the bottom of the pile, also allowing you ‘fix’ some previous errors.  This also has the benefit of allowing you to create groups more than Tetris – Decahexatris (16 lines) is my current max, but I hope to improve soon!

Tetris Effect The Zone
Entering the Zone isn't just metaphorical in Journey - you can create awesome combos and high scores!

No time for Journey?  Enter the Effect mode

Tetris by itself is already a challenge, and the different modes on display through Journey mode are different.  But sometimes you just want to play Tetris, and this is where the Effect modes come in to play.

The description is ‘play to suit your mood’, and it’s very apt.  Want the challenge of clearing 150 lines offered in Marathon, but can’t quite get there?  Practice in Chill Marathon, that just clears the stack and starts again.

Only have a few minutes?  See how many lines you can clear in three minutes, or go for your highest score in the same time.

The most masochistic I have gotten is a mode where the tetrominoes drop in time with the music – you have no control over it.

Tetris Effect Space Station
How quickly can you make 40 lines? It takes longer than I thought

A gorgeous example of Yin and Yang

Tetris is a great game to calm and challenge yourself.  Everything in Tetris Effect rewards you in some way, but those rewards can also be a negative.

Made enough lines to see the horses gallop across the plain?  It’s beautiful, and they gallop right in front of you.

Get about 4-5 levels into Journey mode as a first-time player, and get used to the increased speed factor over time.  Then to have the speed triple or quadruple without warning can cause veterans to rage quit.  It really is just a case of learning the levels and their little quirks, but first impression wow it feels like a cheap loss.

But this is truly a first impression issue.  If you know that the game will occasionally lull you into a false sense of safety then thump you, then you can prepare for it.

I also wish there was a soundtrack released for Tetris Effect similar to Beat Saber.  I could listen to the first level for hours – it’s truly hauntingly beautiful.

So while it may sound like Tetris Effect will frustrate and annoy, it does so in a way that only dangles the challenge carrot before you – and you will want to keep going.  And going.

Tetris Effect Dolphins in the Way
So the area is dark because it is early in the level, but you can see the dolphins starting to dance before the play area already

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Tetris Effect

Final Thoughts

I haven’t really talked about the gameplay of Tetris, as the gameplay is pretty much a part of our culture now.

While there are some frustrating aspects to the gameplay, perseverance and practice will help you overcome – and you will want to.

Tetris Effect is more than just a game – it’s a project of beauty and love that offers more and more the deeper you go.  If you have only heard of Tetris, give this a go – you will thank yourself that you did.

Overall
8.5/10
8.5/10

Pros

  •  It’s Tetris
  •  Multiple modes to suit your mood
  •  Incredibly immersive experience with VR and Headphones

Cons

  •  The scenery can be distracting
  •  Sudden multi-level speed increases are frustrating

Forbidden Desert Review

Forbidden Desert Feature
Forbidden Desert Feature
Released 2013
Designer Matt Leacock
Publisher Gamewright (Website)
Players 1 – 5
Playing Time 45-60 minutes
Category Cooperative
Action Points
Hand Management
Set Collection
Player Powers
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Going through the desert with characters with no name… It’s not the same is it?

Ahh, cooperative gaming.  Where would you be now without games like this?

Forbidden Desert is the follow up to Matt Leacock’s immensely successful and fun Forbidden Island (check out the review here!).  Like Pandemic and other cooperative Matt Leacock games, there are some similarities you will find between them – so much so that I suggest reading the Island review first if you haven’t already.  A lot of the comments hold for both games.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking they are both the same though!

The story continues – somehow?

Like Forbidden Island before it, there is a loose story happening here but it’s not really the main point of the game.  This time, you are a group of explorers sent to the desert to explore a buried city in the sand.

The Archeans aren’t really mentioned in Forbidden Desert, but now I am pretty sure that it is an Archean city you are exploring.  Unfortunately, the helicopter that bought you here has crashed, so you are stranded in the area of the city!

Or are you?  You need to find the ancient solar-powered flying machine if you want any chance of winning – and surviving!

Forbidden Desert Components
Just like Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert has a small number of components that lead to a lot of gameplay

So is Forbidden Desert just more of the same?

Straight up, Forbidden Desert is very much its own game.  Once again everyone must work together to solve the ‘puzzle’ the game presents.  The central idea of Forbidden Island is still intact – find the treasures (in this case parts) and get everyone to safety with the booty.

This time though instead of being on a sinking island, you are fighting against a massive sandstorm in the middle of the desert.  So instead of tiles sinking, they are buried beneath piles of sand that you have to dig out to uncover the part of the lost city beneath them.

The flow of Desert is the same as Island – your character can perform 4 actions now, and at the end of your turn, you draw Sand Storm Cards.  Gear is now provided if you find areas of the city with a Gear symbol, so it’s not guaranteed you will get help.

So you think this sounds pretty basic – just flip the tactics.  Instead of stopping something from falling, don’t let it get buried.  Check.  Let’s play you think!

Hold on.  Firstly you are working in the desert, so you have to keep a close on how hydrated you are.  You don’t deal with health as such, just how much water you have.

Secondly, now the tiles move.  As the storm rages on, tiles physically start moving around messing with your strategies even more.

Forbidden Desert Characters
A few more characters this time around, but each has their strengths and weaknesses. The Climber isn't shown, instead showing the summary card on it's back

As I said the feel of the game remains the same, even with these changes – but if the changes were good or bad depends on the sort of player you are.

For some, it bought about the ‘required challenge’ missing from Forbidden Island.  For others, it made for too many moving parts and put them off playing.

So who should play Forbidden Desert?

This is a hard one.  Personally, at the moment Forbidden Desert is my favourite of the Forbidden Trilogy (Island, Desert and Sky).

Having to find areas Raiders of the Lost Ark style and lining up rows and columns is fun for me, and dealing with the changing game board always presents a challenge.

If you were just getting into gaming though, I would probably suggest staying clear of Forbidden Desert.  The rules and mechanics are easy enough to get into, but the Sand and Storm has put off more new players than I have seen be awed by it.

Forbidden Desert The Board
So I know I haven't gone too much into the gameplay, but I am guessing you can tell what's happening just looking at the game here

Now, this doesn’t mean it’s not a great game that new players couldn’t just sit and play.  If you are playing it yourself or with players of the same background, you are more likely to enjoy playing Forbidden Desert.

The other catch to Forbidden Desert can be the downtime when Storm cards are drawn.  Moving tiles and placing sand can be a bit annoying, even though it opens up great gameplay.  If you are playing with people that don’t like the flow interrupted, be prepared!

If you are playing with a group or even one player that knows the game well though, that Quarterbacking problem can rear its head.  Most people learning tend to defer to the ‘experienced’ players, and the tactics and reasoning used don’t always come across.

Ending the Game

Similar to Forbidden Island, you win if you get all of the Skyship parts to the Launch Pad, assemble the ship and fly away.  Except that the Launch Pad can’t have sand on it, that’s it!

Losing though is just as easy as well.

  • Thirst – if a character runs out of water, game over!
  • Buried – if you need to put sand down but don’t have any, the storm has buried you all 🙁
  • Swept Away – if the Storm intensifies to the top of the level, it’s game over.
Forbidden Desert The Skyship
The ancient sky ship - your treasure and your salvation. While it makes sense to be looking for it, the real reason why wasn't revealed until 2018...

It’s all a case of managing a lot of resources at once and preparing for the inevitable.  Unlike Forbidden Island, the difficulty for Forbidden Desert mainly comes down to starting with the Storm at a higher level – no fancy designs here!

Now I don’t think this is a bad thing, but just like Forbidden Island there are people that have ‘beaten’ the Desert and call the game out on it.  Again, most people I have met that say this only play one particular level and set of characters.

Playing with random character assignments definitely works, and as long as you enjoy the game does mean you can keep playing Forbidden Desert for a long time.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Forbidden Desert

Final Thoughts

If you have played a few cooperative games before, Forbidden Desert is a great choice for you.  Playing with more characters still makes the game more challenging as you have to cause more ‘bad things’ before a character’s role comes around, but that is where strategy comes into play.

The component quality is great, with the exception of the propeller – almost everyone I know has trouble getting the prop off again at the end of the game!  It’s a small price though, and the only real quibble I have with the game overall.

If you get the chance to play it, grab it – you will be pleasantly surprised 🙂

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

  •  Retains the feel of the original but is a completely unique game
  •  Component quality is great
  •  Random placement and tiles moving mid-game make the challenges interesting

Cons

  •  New players can find it hard to keep track of all the mechanics the first couple of games
  •  Between turns, management can put some people off
  •  Quarterbacking can still be a problem as with all coop games

Tags Review

Tags Feature
Tags Feature
Released 2018
Designer Spartaco Albertarelli
Publisher HeidelBÄR Games (Website)
Players 2 – 4 (Or in teams!)
Playing Time 20-40 minutes, but really as long as you like*
Category Word Game
Real Time
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

How much do you think you can do in 15 seconds?

Say to a lot of people you are going to play a party word game, and you will get blank stares.  If not, most will be thinking games like Scrabble, Boggle, Upwords, maybe Pictionary.

Tags is set to change all that.  You need to know words, but you don’t have to be a spelling champion like Boggle and Scrabble.  You don’t have to have a secondary skill like drawing in Pictionary.  You just have to know things like an animal in Australia that starts with K is Kangaroo.

So with that little tidbit, I will show you the ‘board’.  I am going to guess you will already have a good idea on how to play the game.

Check out the image below, and see if you can see how to play.

Tags Game Start
Can you guess how to play Tags just from looking at the setup board?

If you said something along the lines of “Line up the category and the word condition on the grid and take a marble if you’re right” – you are correct!

The only thing not immediately obvious from the board is that there is a timer for your turn.  Your turn starts when the timer is flipped, and you have 15 seconds to answer and collect as many marbles as you can.  Clear a category column?  Take the card – it’s worth points at the end.

When your time runs out, the person clockwise flips the timer and play continues until all the marbles are clear, or one complete round goes by where no one gets a word.

Tags Topics
There are a heap of Categories or Topics in the game, but none really require specific knowledge

Now, this may sound intimidating to some – especially to people that don’t consider themselves to have a wide vocabulary.

This is where the 15 second turn time is genius.  Even if you are a borderline walking thesaurus, performance anxiety kicks in and it takes a special kind of player to push through and dominate in a round.

Scoring is pretty simple as well – White marbles are 1 point, Blue marbles are 2 points, and Black marbles 3 points.  The Category or Topic has a number of whole stars on them, and if you have one of these get an extra point per star.

Once each player has been first once (so a round a player), add up total scores, and the highest score wins.  Tags is quick, it’s simple, and it works really well.

Tags also works with 2-4 players, or you can spice things up by playing in teams for more players.  It may sound easier to play in a team – the only difference really is one team member is nominated the marble and tag collector, but mayhem can occur very easily.

But really play as you want to – the score is very much optional to me, just playing the game is an amazing social fun time that works with smaller player counts.

Tags Mid Game
You think you may not be doing well - but usually neither is anyone on the table. 15 seconds isn't much!

Only one hand on the board makes sense, and all team members can answer.  But if two or three people are shouting answers and another player is trying to collect everything, it becomes an instant shouty mess.  Usually, this is something to avoid, but in a situation like Tags and Happy Salmon, it only adds to the communal fun!

Well, maybe not for other people in the restaurant.  Maybe pick your location :p

Tags is fun, simple and easy – hence not a very in-depth review is possible.  This is very much the sort of game that if you are playing it, people will wander by and start playing with you in spite of themselves.

I am going to see if I can talk a few people into playing a couple of games and we can put the video up – that will definitely show you the game more than I can describe it.

If you get the chance to play, take it.  If you get the chance to buy it, I doubt you will be disappointed.  As an opener, closer or filler Tags is a great game that can be played again and again.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Tags

Final Thoughts

Tags is a quick and fun party game that works with smaller numbers of people.  This is a rare thing, however lately with Tags and Drop It that feeling seems to be being developed nicely.

There are no lengthy rules explanations required, people just naturally ‘get’ the game mechanics.  Sure you need to explain scoring, but a grid that intersects ‘Australia’ with ‘Starts with K’ has people saying Kangaroo before they realise they are playing.

For a ready on the shelf party word game that is more ‘gamified’ that Codenames, Tag It is a great addition to any game hosts shelf.

Overall
8.5/10
8.5/10

Pros

  •  A game anyone can drop in and out of
  •  Intuitive rules make teaching a snap
  •  Lot’s of laughter involved
  •  More of a ‘game’ than Codenames (not including Duet)

Cons

  •  Larger vocabulary does help
  •  ‘Serious’ gamers can be put off

Forbidden Island Review

Forbidden Island Cover
Forbidden Island Cover
Released 2010
Designer Matt Leacock
Publisher Gamewright (Website)
Players 1 – 4
Playing Time 30-45 minutes
Category Cooperative
Action Points
Hand Management
Set Collection
Player Powers
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

But the tin says 2-4 players…

In board gaming circles, Matt Leacock is considered the father of modern cooperative board gaming.  Depending on who you ask, he is also the father of the frustrating ‘draw a card – you lose’ mechanic as well.

All this started with a board game called Pandemic.  I am sure anyone looking at my site would have heard of Pandemic or one of its numerous spin-offs, most likely Pandemic Legacy.

New players looking into any Matt Leacock game will undoubtedly see comparisons to Pandemic and its mechanics.  The cooperative nature and randomised events by card draw ask for this.  But this review is for someone that hasn’t played Pandemic, so if you have – I apologise, there will be some information you already know.

If you haven’t played Pandemic, welcome to a review for you!

But how do you play a multiplayer game solo?  The official player count is 2-4 people.  And this is true.  It’s also a fully cooperative game with no hidden information, so good thing to remember is you can play a lot of these style of games solo with no problems – just control multiple characters!

It does take a bit of practice, but it can be a lot of fun as well.  So I won’t be talking about players so much in this review as characters, because it doesn’t matter so much how many players are involved as much as the number of characters they control.  I have played Forbidden Island and similar games a few times with two players at two characters each.

Forbidden Island Components
Simple but beautiful components will entertain players for many hours

The reasoning for wanting to play at the full character count I will talk about later.  As a general tip, keep that in mind whenever you look at a cooperative game, there is a good chance it will solo play well as well.

So what is Forbidden Island?

At its heart, Forbidden Island is a cooperative exploration game where you play as a team searching an island for four rare artifacts.  When I first played Forbidden Island, my thinking was basically ‘So a team of Indiana Jones/Lara Croft types’.

As usual, this was both correct and incorrect.  Each character has a distinctive role, represented by a different skill.  These skills are all rule breaking abilities, giving the character the chance to do one “That would be nice” thing.  For example, the Diver can swim through sunken tiles and the Navigator can move other characters on its turn.

Story-wise I was initially very meh about.  Legends of an ancient race called the Archeans that could control the elements – Fire, Wind, Water, Earth.  Fairly standard fare but it was as good a reason as any to be coming to an unexplored island.

Of course, this was 10 years ago.  The board game renaissance had not yet begun, and we were a lot more forgiving of a lack of good narrative experiences.  Little did we know that 10 years later, Forbidden Sky would come along completing a trilogy (so far) of games where explorers continue to chase down the Archeans!

Forbidden Island Treasures
The treasure - the ability to control the elements. Wind, Fire, Water and Earth - I still want to paint these years later.

Of course, just finding the island to search for the treasures wouldn’t be that exciting.  But what if the Archeans had booby-trapped the island to collapse if anyone set foot on it?

Playing the Game

And that is where the game of Forbidden is played.  Sure, you need to explore a randomly set out bunch of tiles, but you need to do it while parts of the island sink away beneath you.  The Diver doesn’t sound like such a strange ability now does it?

On your characters turn, you can perform up to three actions.  These include moving, shoring up a tile to stop it from sinking, trading treasure cards, or finding a treasure.

Most of these actions are self-explanatory.  Move your pawn one tile in any direction up/down or left/right (no diagonals!).  Flip an adjacent tile from flooded to safe.  Give another player on your tile a treasure card.

Forbidden Island Setup
A pretty standard setup. Some areas of the island begin flooding immediately, as you can tell from the blue tiles - they are going underwater.

Finding a treasure means being on a tile marked with the treasure you are trying to find and exchanging four matching treasure cards to receive the treasure piece.

You find treasure cards at the end of your turn, where you get to draw two treasure cards every time.  The only issue when doing this is you have a five card hand limit, so you need to work with everyone so that people can focus on concentrating on a particular treasure.

Also in the treasure cards could be special powers that can be used by anyone as a once off reward.  There is also the Water’s Rise! cards, but I will go into those later.  For now, they are worse than you are probably thinking.

It all sounds pretty simple and straightforward, doesn’t it?  It’s one of the aspects of many of Matt Leacock’s designs I really appreciate – the mechanics don’t usually get in the way of enjoying the game.  The players just need to concentrate on solving the ‘puzzle’ presented to them before a ‘You Lose’ condition is met.

Oh yes – Forbidden Island is not the relaxing zen-like puzzle you may be imagining.  After you have drawn your treasure cards, rewarding you with exploring for another turn, you get to draw flood cards.

You draw the number of Flood Cards currently shown on the Water Meter.  Most game modes start at 2, and you can draw up to 5 cards each turn.  In the flood deck, there is a card for each tile in the game.  Draw the card, and flip the tile corresponding tile to the blue ‘flooded’ side.  If the tile is already flooded, remove the tile and the card from the game – that part of the island has been claimed by the sea and can never be visited again.

Forbidden Island End of First Round
And one round in, we already found one Water Rises! card, leading to the Watchtower being lost forever. Luckily the Engineer had somewhere else to swim!

So now you can see where Shoring the tiles comes into play.  At the start of the game, you can let a water be around the island as the island is slowly sinking.  But as you pull Water’s Rise! from the treasure deck, you increase the gauge on the Water Meter.

Pulling more cards means getting through the deck quicker, meaning less time for a card that has already been pulled to appear again.  Letting a tile sink also means fewer cards in the deck, speeding up the island sinking!

Oh and those extra cards your pulling?  It includes the discarded cards straight away.  In Forbidden Island, you take the remaining flood deck and the discards and shuffle them into a Flood deck.  This way you have no way of knowing what is likely to be sinking next!

And this is where the ‘Draw a card and lose’ aspect of a Leacock game comes into it.

To win, you ‘just’ need to have everyone on the ‘Fool’s Landing’ tile with all four treasures, and a Helicopter Lift card to fly away to safety.

To lose, just one of the following needs to happen:

  • Fool’s Landing Sinks (No Escape)
  • It the Water Level reaches the Skull and Crossbones (Island Sinks)
  • If a character has nowhere to swim to if their tile sinks (Character Death)
  • Both Treasure Temples sink and the treasure is not collected (Cannot retrieve all 4 treasures)
Forbidden Island The Item Deck
The items giveth, and the items taketh away. Looking at the water level gauge, you think there is plenty of time to spare - but it's less than you think!

It sounds hard to win, and initially the random nature of drawing good and bad cards can seem unfair, but there are ways to win almost every time.  Rest assured there are definitely winning strategies that will let you win a majority of the time.

So there is a set way to win?

Yes and no.  This is probably the biggest difference of player opinion occurs.

The Treasure and Flood decks are fairly fixed.  Even if you are not a card counter, you get a feel for how likely a ‘bad’ draw is to happen.  Knowing these odds are a big help in planning your strategy.

If you play with the same team every time, even with the island tiles placed randomly you learn how the team works and how to get the most out of them.

There are also obviously ‘better’ characters to play early games with.  Better in this context means ‘easier to use their powers all the time’.  Playing a game without an Engineer and their ability to Shore Up multiple tiles is more challenging, but that doesn’t make the character superior over the others.

Forbidden Island Skull Island
Mastered the original island? Try variants like Skill Island! The different layouts change gameplay nicely.

You may hear reviews or opinions that Forbidden Island is too easy.  Most people I have played with or spoken to about difficulty have a caveat to this though.  They play the same configuration every time.  And not just the same characters – the same characters played by the same players, on the same difficulty,  in the same play order – every time.

Now, to me this is fine – people enjoy this style of play.  I am not one of them.  My only complaint is that I wish people that simply dismiss Forbidden Island with ‘Too Easy’ clarified this is how they play.

Think of Forbidden Island like a video game for a second.  Worked out how to beat easy every time with the same group?  Play with the two characters you don’t normally pick.  Mastered that?  Start playing at higher difficulties, and randomise the character selection.  Unfortunately not in my copy, but there are even official alternate island layouts you can play to increase your challenge.  Just finishing the game once doesn’t mean you ‘beat’ it – there are other ways of increasing the challenge for you.

Yes, there are more challenging games out there these days – that’s not in question.  If you are new to gaming or cooperative games, then Forbidden Island is a great way to start.  The challenge in Forbidden Island can be tailored to your wishes more than many people acknowledge, and I find that unfortunate.

Downsides to Forbidden Island?

Apart from difficulty, the other divisive item is the tin.  Yes – Forbidden Island comes in an embossed tin.  It’s pretty, it holds the components well, and I don’t mind putting it on other games or having other games on top of it.

I like the tin, but there are those that are very opposed to it.  That said, I hope that future reprints come in a cardboard box, because the third game has ditched the tin.  Unless something goes very wrong, I won’t buy another copy just for the box.  But if you are looking at padding your collection and want the Forbidden series, this may be a consideration.

Forbidden Island Something is Different
It's a small thing, but series defining - a 'Forbidden' game not in a tin! Still makes a nice pyramid though...

The other potential problem is common to all cooperative games.  While it’s great that you can play them solo, some players think they are playing it themselves even when others are at the table.  This little gem is known as Quarterbacking.

Quarterbacking – at least problem quarterbacking – is when usually one player dictates the actions of the game.  You think something else is better?  Too bad, they know the game better than you, so just do it their way or else.

Now that might sound childish and overly simplified, but I have seen Quarterbacks treat players like that – and much worse.  When you are playing with your friends, you can point out that they should probably tone it down, and all is well.  But Quarterbacks during gaming meetups and conventions have been known to bring the entire experience down for everyone.

If you are ever in a situation like that, leave the table and just let the host know what’s happening.  Don’t let Quarterbacks ruin your games.  Coming soon, I will be writing an article on Quarterbacking with some advice on defining it and how to deal with it, so keep an eye out for that.

The only positive to the experience is you can use it as a litmus test for a new organised games group – if they are a friend of the organiser and left alone, you probably don’t want to be with that group.  If the host takes it seriously and tries to work with everyone and handles it maturely, take it as a good sign.  Either way, let people know about your experiences – good game groups are hard to find!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Forbidden Island

Final Thoughts

Forbidden Island was my second Matt Leacock game, and the first board game I played solo (that wasn’t a solo game).  It’s also a great game to introduce non-gamers too, as everyone is working together, you can talk through many standard game mechanics and help players get used to some now standard game mechanics.

The game to a degree will scale with your skill.  Too easy?  Play as different or random characters.  Check online (or the app) for different island layouts.  There are a lot of possibilities for replayability.

The randomness can get to some players, but to me, it just adds to the tension of playing and the theme.  While not a game for everyone, this is a game that a lot of people have played for many great reasons.

Overall
9/10
9/10

Pros

  •  A great introduction for non-gamers
  •  Simple yet challenging gameplay
  •  Beautiful art and fun components

Cons

  •  Some people get frustrated by randomness
  •  ‘Quarterback’ players can dominate the game experience

Wait, what about those other pieces?

You may have wondered about the meeples in the banner – these are an aftermarket set I bought from Meeple Source. I have a set for Forbidden Desert as well.

I am hoping that they do a Forbidden Sky set soon!  The pawns work fine, but I do like playing with the customised pieces and they take up much less room than minis.

Forbidden Island Meeple Source Meeples
They don't improve the game in any way, but the customised meeples are fun to play with 🙂

If you like the idea of sprucing up your games, give Meeple Source a look!  I don’t order much from them because of shipping, but every year they seem to do an upgrade Kickstarter and I can order in bulk whatever catches my eye.

Drop It Review

Drop It Cover
Drop It Cover
Released 2018
Designer Bernhard Lach, Uwe Rapp
Publisher KOSMOS (Website)
Players 2 – 4
Playing Time 15-20 minutes
Category Dexterity
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

If you thought competitive Tetris was too easy, welcome to Drop It

So a few weeks ago I went over to Alpal’s for some Sunday gaming as usual.  With a huge grin on her face, this box is produced bearing the words Drop It.

Looking at the pictures and a cursory glance at the manual, I think Tetris with Connect 4 elements maybe?  I was correct, but only in the best possible way of being completely wrong.

Watching the game board being set up, I couldn’t help but play with the coloured geometric shapes.  Alpal starting explaining the rules to me, and while intrigued I admit all I was thinking was ‘Wonky Tetris’.

The explanation is really simple – players take turns dropping pieces of their choice into the tower, and the higher the piece is the more points you get.  Winner has the most points.  Simple, right?

Looking at the tower, one of the first things you notice is the lines across the tower.  These are your scoring areas, the higher they are the more points they are worth.

Drop It Components
Even unassembled, you get a pretty strong sense of what you should be playing soon

The wonky description comes from both the tower and the shapes.  Unlike Tetris with its perfectly formed connecting shapes, Drop It has various geometric shapes of various angles and indeed weight, including circles.

Instantly I started forming stacking strategies in my mind on how to get a mostly stable base happening.  This tower was going all the way to the top if I could manage it.

Looking at the setup, I noticed all of the shapes on the sides and base had an X on them.  While I thought I knew what was going on, I asked Alpal what that meant.

And I was right.  Any piece touching the matching shape, either on the bottom of the tower or the sides, did not score that turn.

My tower started rearranging itself in my mind, and started calculating risk and reward for sacrificing some early points to score big later.  I was still confident this tower was going places, but only after a few setbacks.

Drop It 4 Player
4 Players - a colour each. Nice and simple. Everyone has the same shapes and strategy.

And then the last placement rule came.

Any piece that touches a piece of the same shape or colour will not score this round either.

Tetris suddenly became Super Puzzle Fighter in my mind.  The height of the tower no longer called me, but how could I place shapes that would score while messing with Alpal’s plans?

Now all this in Alpal’s kitchen took about 2 minutes, and I was eager to play.  And that is one of Drop It’s greatest strengths – it’s a game that when people see it, they want to play it.

It’s like Apples to Apples/Cards Against Humanity where spectators suddenly feel like they are already a part of the game just being on the sidelines.  Even younger players will intuitively just ‘get it’.  Sure, maybe some finer tactics may be overlooked, but this is a game you can have fun with anyway.

Drop It 2 Player
2 Players? Take 2 colours each, all the rules are the same - but you have many more options. You can see the irregular shape of the tower from this angle as well.

Unfortunately for our first games, we discovered that one of the colours was missing two shapes.  This got sorted out in short order, but even missing a couple of shapes did not diminish our enjoyment of the game at all.

Playing with less than four players, each player gets a mixture of the remaining colours and shapes so that all tiles remain in play.  So in a two player game, one player has all of the red and green shapes, while the other player has blue and yellow.

In a three player game, each player selects a colour but the shapes of the fourth colour are distributed a little differently.  This is great because the game does feel different at the different player counts.

Strategies you use in a two player game such as alternating colours to avoid touching the same colour no longer work.  In a three player game, using one of the common colours among all three players is a tactic you can use to force opponents to use shapes or colours they may not want to.

Drop It 3 Player
I think the most devious combination - 3 player. Because you all share a colour, blocking and placement becomes even more tactical like this.

While Drop It offers a lot of fun and surprised me with its ability to draw me in, ultimately it is a filler game for me.  I can see myself playing it a lot, especially in a ‘we want to play something but don’t know what’ setting with it’s light party feel, but I wouldn’t setup a game night around it.

And if you thought that longevity wise Drop It might not last, there are a couple of surprises in store for you.

The shapes on the side and the bottom?  You can play Shapes or Colours there are inserts for both, and I can’t see why if you really want to mix things up you couldn’t mix the two.  Shapes on the side and Colours on the base for example.

The tower area where your pieces drop also isn’t really straight.  The higher you go up the tower, the narrower the playfield gets.  This promotes an almost Carnival Game style challenge where you try and slightly throw the tile in a direction you want something to land.

It’s a subtle thing, and just dropping the tiles in will still be a fun experience.  But essentially working out how to do trick shots with your turn will be just as satisfying as pulling off the same shot on a pool table.

Drop It Game Started
It took a while, but a score was finally had! Pieces kept bouncing into each other, either onto the border or into the same shapes dropped. Such is Drop It!

The only downside I can see is Drop It is one of those games where I can see arguments about what is touching vs being merely close can break out.  It may not sound like much, but I have seen grudges held for less in some games, and deciding if a piece is worth double points or none can give someone else the game.

If you have ultra-competitive players in your group, you might want to keep this in mind.  Luckily almost all of the players I play with are more laid back, but there is the possibility.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD