Sunflower Valley (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  • Designers: Wouter van Strien
  • Artists: Alexander Shaldin & Weberson Santiago & YOU
  • Publisher: Hobby World, Ultra Pro, Playroom Entertainment
  • Players: 2-5
  • Time: 45-60 Minutes
  • Times Played: 3

“Chugga Chugga Choo Choo”

                                  -Brandon Kempf April 2019

We’ve all dreamed of a place nestled in the mountains, a valley filled with sunflowers, trains and sheep. A self sustaining valley where sometimes train tracks will just be laid leading to nowhere because we have enough resources to just do that sort of thing when we have nothing else to do, and are feeling a bit bored. Welcome to Sunflower Valley.

Sunflower Valley is a roll-and-write game for two to five players, yup, I’m reviewing another one, but rest assured, I believe this may the last roll-and-write review from me for awhile.

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Brandon Kempf: Three Games – Three Family Games

I have a lot of games. A lot of games that are on my shelves, or on my table being played, that I have told myself that I want to review at some point. For one reason or another, this doesn’t always happen. My goal here on The Opinionated Gamers is that I want to get about one review out per week, but I’d like to write about more games. So I’m taking a page out of Patrick Brennan’s playbook, and we’re going to start writing about games in threes, in snapshot form. This should be a good way for readers to get to know me and my gaming tastes a bit better, and also another way for me to talk about games that I maybe don’t really want to dedicate two thousand words to. Welcome to Three Games.

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Chris’s Trip to the Gathering of Friends: Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday

I wrote about my first couple of days at The Gathering, and this is the next installment in that series. Whereas my first post discussed specific games, this post is primarily commentary about what seems popular and some other random musings.

The easiest way to get or latest new and thoughts is to follow us on Twitter at @OpinionatedGmrs (or just look at the panel on the right of our home page). Social media isn’t widely used at the event, but some folks are posting thoughts using the #GoF2019 hashtag.

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Dale Yu: Review of Nagaraja

Nagaraja

  • Designers: Bruno Cathala and Theo Riviere
  • Publisher: Hurrican
  • Players: 2
  • Age: 9+
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Times played: 4, with review copy provided by Asmodee NA

In Nagaraja, two players compete against each other trying to explore a long lost temple trying to find the sacred relics of Ananta.  Each player takes their own temple board, which is really just a 3×3 grid, and orients it so that the three entrances are facing him.  Six sacred relics and three cursed relics are mixed facedown and then randomly placed on the nine outside spaces of the grid.

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Dale Yu: Review of Squirrel

Squirrel

  • Designer: Tom Sudall and Catriona Ross
  • Publisher: format 15
  • Players: 2 foragers
  • Ages: 4+
  • Time: 5 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by designer

Squirrel is a pocket sized game that I had never heard of before the designer contacted me via email.  This cute little hand-made game was funded on Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/357750704/squirrel-a-pocket-tabletop-game-for-2-foragers/updates) earlier in the week, and an advance copy had been sent to me.  As you may know, I’m a big fan of games that can fit in a pocket and possibly be played on a restaurant table, so I was game to try it.

In this game, each player is a cute squirrel (one brown and one black), and they stand in a forest – which it initially made up of a 3×3 grid with 2 cards stacked in each location.  At the start of the game, all the cards are facedown – that is, the green leaf side is showing.  The reverse sides are all brown, with the majority of them having a simple brown leaf, but some with acorns of value 1 to 3.  The players can choose their initial starting spaces, and throughout the game, they must adhere to the rule that the squirrels can never be on the same space.

On a turn, you move your squirrel to an adjacent (orthogonal or diagonal) unoccupied space.  Then, take a card from the top of any unoccupied space adjacent to your new location.  However, if you have moved on top of an acorn (more on this in a bit), you can instead choose to draw a card from your opponent’s hand at random. 

After you get a card, either from the top of a neighboring space OR from your opponent’s hand, you then check your own hand of cards.  If you have more than 3 cards, you must discard one of your cards – BROWN side up.  If you made a gap or empty space in the 3×3 grid, you must play your card to fill the hole; otherwise, you can play on any adjacent unoccupied space.   Since you always discard cards with the brown side facing up, the forest will slowly turn from green to brown…

The game ends when all nine piles have a brown card showing on the top.  At this time, the players reveal their hands, and the player with the most acorns in their hand is the winner.

My thoughts on the game

The game is a nice little trifle, perfect for filling time at a restaurant, or maybe on an airplane tray table.  The games are short, probably 3-4 minutes once everyone is familiar with the rules.   Initially, it’s just guesswork to find some acorns (probably just like being a squirrel in real life), but then once you start filling your hand with valuable cards, then there’s a little bit of strategy that comes into play.

If you think that you’re winning – do you try to move around to end the game sooner by dropping your brown leaves on previously green stacks?  If you have two “1 acorn” cards, do you take a risk and try to bluff a bit to drop one down to then try to trick your opponent into possibly squandering a turn for a 1/3 chance at only a “1 acorn” card?  Or, if somehow an acorn lies unclaimed, do I do my best to then bury it under another brown leaf so that it is harder to get?

It is certainly easy to teach, and my one attempt to play with a young child went off without a hitch.  Sure, the strategy here isn’t the most – but it’s a nice game that is accessible to kids and/or non-gamers.  This is the sort of game that can literally be played by just about anyone.

Squirrel is undoubtedly pocket sized.  It comes in a cute and sturdy handmade box – and honestly, the game could be even smaller… the contents really only fill about 30% of the box depth.  When on the table, the game also doesn’t spread out as you’re just making a 3×3 grid of the cards which are 2” square.  The cards are gorgeous. They are silk screened by hand and they have a nice rustic feel to them.  The work and craftsmanship that have gone into this production are amazing.

Per the KS campaign: “If successful, Squirrel will be joined by a further 3 titles in an eventual series of 4 collectable forager themed pocket games by format 15 “  I look forward to hopefully seeing the later games in this series.

Until your next appointment

The Gaming Doctor

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Chris’s Trip to the Gathering of Friends: Saturday/Sunday

This year is the 30th Gathering of Friends, though it is only my third year attending.  The event, held annually in Niagara Falls, is an invitational convention hosted by Alan R. Moon.  Many attendees started arriving on Thursday/Friday, and it goes until Sunday night. 

I arrived late in the day Saturday, and I’ve been busy reconnecting with old friends, playing a few prototypes, and getting in games of some of my favorites.  I even did a day trip to Toronto yesterday (Monday)!

I’m going to go through things day-by-day, discussing news-worthy games along the way.  This entry covers Saturday and Sunday.   Keep in mind that impressions are based on one play, and photos are likely of pre-production copies.

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Patrick Brennan: Game Snapshots – 2019 (Part 8)


Iggy Azalea only likes Fancy games with Patricio

I may have mentioned previously that I contract out to help manage elections on behalf of the various local electoral commissions. I’ve just completed one (state election) and, whilst still in health recovery for that, the federal election is about to start. While rewarding and interesting, they really are all-consuming beasts and life gets put on hold while they’re in swing with gametime going down the gurgler. Anyway, one down, one to go, and the good news is that there was at least some gaming done in between times.

I’ve begun adding each game’s BGG ranking (as at time of writing rather than time of publication). They might add a bit of context for unfamiliar games as to where they sit in the minds of the populace at large. For whatever that’s worth anyway … there are many fine games languishing in the rankings for lack of enough ratings to push them further up the pole.

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Alan How – Review of Promenade

How I came across the game

Many years ago, before the detailed presentation of forthcoming games at Essen, you had to wander around the halls, bumping into new games. As there was not very much information about, it felt like an exploration of a large toy shop. You did not know what you are going to find but amongst the stalls would be some gems. The excitement came from discovering one.

So I came across Promenade at Spiel in October 2018. A friend had invited me to join him in a look at a pre published copy of a game. You never know what you’ll find so I joined him. The designer, Ta-Te Wu, originally from Taiwan, but now living in America showed us his game. It was a prototype, but decent looking. He did all the design and art himself and it looked really good.

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Dizzle (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  • Designer: Ralf zur Linde
  • Artist: Anna Pätzke
  • Publishers: Schmidt Spiele & Stronghold Games
  • Players: 1-4
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Times Played: 5

“How many damn roll and writes are going to be made?!?!”

-Brandon Kempf April 2018

Well, what’s this? I’m back again with another roll-and-write review? This time we are going to take a look at the newest roll-and-write from Schmidt Spiele and designer Ralf zur Linde — the designer of Finca and Animals on BoardDizzle. Before anyone asks, I have no idea what the word dizzle actually means. I thought maybe it was German slang, or something, but I can’t find anything that doesn’t link back to Snoop Dogg or some kind of real estate service.

What I do know is that Dizzle is a roll-and-write that is played over a set number of rounds, where the players have a collection of dice that are rolled and then everyone will take turns selecting a die, re-rolling all the dice, or passing on their turn. All in the hopes of scoring the most victory points by marking off spaces on their player sheets, of which there are four different sheets representing four different levels of difficulty.

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Gathering With Friends: The First Day

Spring has sprung which means it time for your friendly OG editor-in-chief Dale to post a weekend’s worth of impressions on the latest games, local Niagara foodie hideaways, and other nonsense at the annual Gathering of Friends. I look forward to his reports every year like seeing the first robin as a sign of the season or grumbling about the spring weather in New England (which is really a year-round thing). Alas, there will be no reporting from Dale this year as he is on assignment for a family event. In his absence, Dale has given instructions for me and other OGers attending the 30th annual Gathering of Friends to stand in and share our thoughts. While I can’t speak for the others, I’ll do my best to fill the the void. So without any further adieu here is a short recap of my first day.

Its one of the rare years when the Gathering lines up with my school spring break so after packing up the car first thing, we hit the road at 10:15 and pulled into Niagara seven hours later, checked in, and headed for dinner with some friends. Right about here, Dale would have a picture of some part of his dinner. No such picture from me, but I did enjoy a tasty rye old fashioned to toast the official start of vacation. I’ll try to be better about pictures as the week progresses.

Back to the ball room to say hello to friends and get in a game or two. First game of the week was Deep Sea Adventure – the Sponge Bob Edition. One of the regulars in my group is the king of pimping out games . After seeing and playing some of Scott’s upgraded versions of games, I decided that Deep Sea Adventure was a good candidate for a similar treatment. It didn’t take much to give the game a Sponge Bob themed makeover. Instead of diving for treasure from a submarine, Sponge Bob, Sandy Cheeks, and company leave the Crusty Crab to search for the most valuable starfish. Given that they all live under the sea, oxygen is replaced by the consumption of Crabby Patties. Its really rather ridiculous, but it makes a big splash on the table.

Patrick Star got a little too greedy while Gary’s slow and steady approach carried the day.

We finished the evening with a game of Krass Kariert, a clever Amigo card game that few under the radar from last fall. Not sure how I missed it then, but was glad to learn and give it a go. Seems like this will be a regular late night filler throughout the week given the comments from passers by. The long drive means its time to cash in the chips for the evening. More nonsense tomorrow.

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