A couple of us arrived very early and managed to squeeze in a couple of games and dinner before anyone else arrived. First up was Forbidden Desert. This is a very new, cooperative game, where players work together to try to escape from the desert before the get swamped by the sand storm or die of thirst. Although they have a lot in common, it is quite different to its older brother, Forbidden Island, and we felt, quite a bit more advanced. Since it was only the second time out of the box, we played on the Novice Level. Essentially, the game consists of a grid of tiles with a storm in the middle. As the game progresses, the storm moves about, shifting the other tiles creating sand dunes as it goes. The explorers also have to combat the lack of water in the desert, all the while trying to find clues to the location of parts of an ancient burried flying machine, and eventually, the parts themselves. In the end we did it with a little breathing space, but there is no way we would have escaped without the Water Carrier’s special ability to get more water from the well.
Next we managed a quick game of Morels. This is a really pretty set collecting game with a mushroom theme and added “woodsiness” in the form of forage sticks which act as a sort of currency. The idea is that you can collect the easily accessible mushrooms “at your feet” for free, or you can choose a less accessible fungi for the cost of one or more forage sticks. Once you have a set of three or more mushrooms you can cook them, with added cider or butter flavouring to add points at the end of the game.
It is the Stanford-in-the-Vale Summer Festival this weekend and we are planning to have a stall to raise our profile (weather permitting). Since it is quite robust, we are planning to make Army of Frogs available to people to play, so we thought we should try to get to grips with it first. Basically the idea is that you jump one of your hexagonal frog tiles (if you can) and then place a frog from your hand, finally drawing another frog from the bag to make your hand back up to two frogs. Somehow, we managed to play this apparently simple little game wrongly not once, but twice! Something to work on before Sunday…
Then, we played this weeks “Feature Game”, Mission: Red Planet, which is about colonizing Mars. In this game, each player is a colonial power which sends astronauts, in space shuttles, to occupy the most promising zones on the planet. It is an interesting game with a curious mixture of luck and judgement. The luck comes from the rockets that are available at the start of each round, the value of each region of Mars (which is hidden in the early part of the game) and the destiny cards drawn. The judgement comes from the character cards which enable players to place a number of astronauts into rockets and often do something else, like launch a rocket early or move astronauts around on Mars or even sabotage someone elses plans. The character played also dictates when the player gets their turn which leads to a lot of trying to “out think” everyone else, and with only ten rounds, once a card has been played you may not get the chance to play it again. This sort of game can either go very well or very badly and this is exactly what happened: Red came in four points ahead of Blue with fifty-five points, while Green finished with less than half that.
The last game of the night was Salmon Run. This is a new little race game, where players are fish dodging bears, eagles and rapids, jumping waterfalls and trying to be the first to get to the spawning pool without being too tired. The game has a modular board and, as it was new to most of us, we used a fairly easy set up: S1, 4E, 3E, 2M and F1. Red started quickly up the right side of the course with Black and Grey giving chase. Unfortunately Red banged her head against the bank which gave Grey and Black the chance to overtake. Black set the bear on Grey a couple of times and managed to sneak ahead, but Grey made a run for the last water fall and managed to sneak into the spawning pool, and as the last player in the round, ended the game and the evening.
Learning Outcome: For teaching at the Summer Festival, it is probably a good idea to have some laminated crib-sheets available!