Patrick Korner: Essen 2011 As it happens! (Friday update)

Note: This is a continuation of the Essen 2011 As it happens! (Wednesday & Thursday) report.

10) Ab in die Tonne

Whew. Another exhausting day at Essen is in the books and my fingers are tired from punching out games.

The full buylist is coming, I promise (probably tomorrow evening as I think my own purchases are now complete), but for now some writeups on the games I played tonight, all of which are on the lighter side.

First up, Ab in die Tonne, a new Cwali game that lets you try and clean up the place, one pizze slice or flat soccer ball at a time.

Gameplay is just like FITS, where you choose a piece and then drop it down the inclined board to try and make it fit in your garbage can. The genius is that you have to let the pieces drop from above a certain level, and that the pieces are all VERY oddly shaped (especially that stupid fan!).

The result? Sheer genius. Easily one of the best games I’ve played at the fair, with lots of groans and laughter as the garbage bits get caught up on one snag or another on their way down.

There are three rounds to the game, the second and third of which involve covering up / leaving uncovered some special chewing gum stuck to the inside of the garbage can. This makes the game even more fun…

11) Monsta

Next was this card game from Amigo. Use the cards in your hand to bid on lots of cards. If you win, you give the cards you bid with to the auctioneer and take the cards that were auctioned off (never more than 2). You then get to be the auctioneer for the next round, which is also the only way you can score points. Points are scored by making melds of cards as follows: Play out as many cards of the same type as needed to match the number on those cards. So five 5’s, for example. Or two 2’s. Keep one card (as points) and discard the rest.

Lather, rinse, repeat until one player has 15 points.  Yawn. A decidedly ‘meh’ game that lacked spark. Good thing Ted bought this one and not me…

12) 23

Hey, another Amigo card game. Actually, I think we played Sandwich (see below) first but whatever.

23 is everything Monsta is not, including awesome.  Each player gets dealt a hand of cards with values ranging from 1 to 23. The player with the 1 starts by playing it out. Then, in clockwise order, you can do one of the following:

– pass (and take a penalty chip)
– quit the round (and take penalty chips equal to the cards left in hand)
– play cards

If you play cards, you can play as many as you like of the same number. The number must be higher than the last card played to the discard pile. If the cards are more than 1 higher than the last card played, then you take penalty chips equal to the gap (so playing a 4 onto a 1 would get you 2 chips).

You also get three special bonus chips that, when played on your turn, let you adjust the value of the last card played to the pile by +/- 5. Nice for getting rid of that 3 you were hoping to play but never quite got around to!

Oh, yeah. One more thing. If you choose to pass, you can instead take 2 penalty chips to force the next player to play. Fun and nasty.

Play two rounds of this and then whoever has the fewest penalty points wins. Any bonus chips you have left negate 2 penalty chips. And if you end a round by playing out your last card you can get rid of 3 penalty chips.

Simple and light, this is a real winner. My choice for this year’s “Geschenkt-like simple game that’s better than you think from reading the rules” award.

13) Sandwich

An odd game about making sandwiches. Each player simultaneously reveals a possible sandwich ingredient (on cards) and then all players simultaneously grab for the cards to get the one they want. Once all of the cards have been taken, players prepare three sandwiches with the ingredients, offering one to each other player.

Players then look at what they’ve been offered and choose which one is their ‘most tastiest’ and ‘second tastiest’. Those are worth points to the players that offered them.  Second round is identical except now you’re going for the most disgusting sandwich. General hilarity ensues.

I thought this would be stupid. Turns out it’s stupid fun. Offering someone a jam, carrot and bacon sandwich is oddly enjoyable…

A little pricy for a tiny box (I think it’s selling for about 10E?), but something I’d be happy to play on occasion.

14) Big Five

Another Amigo card game? Horrors!

This is essentially Dr. Knizia’s take on Qwirkle. Play out cards in rows / columns. There are five different animals and five different colour backgrounds, and when you play out cards to lengthen a row or column one of the attributes has to match. So you get rows of orange animals. Or rows of elephants. And so on.

After playing, you draw cards from your personal draw pile; winner is the first player to run out of cards. You can get rid of extra cards from your hand or pile by playing the fourth or fifth card in a group; that lets you ditch one or two cards, respectively. You can also use your turn to ditch as many cards as you want out of your hand (back to the bottom of your pile) and redraw the same amount.

So, yeah. It’s card Qwirkle. And not nearly as good / fun in my opinion. It’s missing the spark that Qwirkle has, but I guess it’s cheaper. It’s not a direct copy, of course, but it’s certainly derivative. I just wish it added to the concept instead of just repackage it…

(Note: So, in speaking with friends here today apparently Knizia went to Susan McKinley Ross and asked her if she had a problem with the game before it got published. They didn’t, as long as the symbology wasn’t too similar, and Big Five was born after all.

So while I still think it’s derivative, I offer kudos to Knizia for doing the right thing. And concede that it was independently conceived, as sometimes happens in the gaming world…)

15) The Big Idea

To finish off the night, this reprint of the older Cheapass game of the same name.

Use cards to come up with wacky inventions and then use our glibness and charm to sell the other players on the idea. Try and get at least one medal (which means another player chose your idea as best that round) each round to avoid negative points (each player with the fewest medals gets one point). Fewest points after 6 rounds wins.

Eh. It’s fun but these kind of popularity / boderline party games are always tricky because the group dynamic is so important. I can see this being a lot of fun but I can also see it going horribly wrong with the wrong crowd. I’m happy I played (and can’t imagine that my Extraordinary gold-plated satellite cleaning bicycle did so well), but it’s not a game I’m likely to want to pick up myself.

Okay, enough for tonight. Tomorrow comes the Big Reveal of the Big Buylist!

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Continued with the Saturday report.

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