One of the general trends that I’ve noticed in the past few years is that the release calendar is slowly but surely trending backwards. When I first started seriously playing games, it felt like most of the new releases were timed for the Tuesday/Wednesday of Essen week. Each year, as I was acclimating to the time change on my first walk through the halls on setup day, I saw plenty of folks anxiously awaiting the arrival of the pallets of their new games, straight from the factory (or at least straight from LudoPack).
I don’t know whether this is a consequence of the Scheer meltdown where a bunch of companies missed Essen entirely, now it seems like games are ready earlier – in order to build in a cushion to make the show. That has been going on for awhile now.
Then, in the past two or three years, it feels like the release schedule has been backed up to the point where now many games are launched (either fully or softly) at GenCon in August. Games now come to market here in August, and then they have their European release in Essen in October. It makes sure that the production of the game is done in time for Essen, but it also helps get a little bit of buzz going about a game going into the main convention of the autumn.
Thus, a few games that we’ve played here feel old, but they’re still going to be “new”. Given the time crunch heading into Essen (as well as the crunch in the calendar as we’re already posting twice our normal rate!), I’ve decided to put three capsule review of these three small/quick games together. Here we go!
Flip Over Frog
- Designer: Okabenius
- Publisher: Hub Games
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 6+
- Time: 10-15 minutes
- Review copy provided by Hub Games
Flip Over Frog is a cute looking but possibly mean spirited game about frogs taking over the rainforest – which is represented by a 4×4 board. Each player is assigned a color (though their identity remains unknwon until the end of the game) of frogs. There are tiles for each color of frog as well as a few snake tiles, and all these tiles are shuffled together into a draw pile. Each player gets a starting hand of 3 tiles.
On a turn, the player plays a tile to the board. Frogs can be played on empty spaces or on top of facedown tiles. When they are played, there are a number of arrows on that tile. All the tiles (or stacks of tiles) in the spaces denoted by the arrows are flipped over. Snake tiles can only be played on top of face up Frog tiles. The Snake and the face up Frog are discarded. If there were other frog tiles underneath, they remain in play on the board. After playing a tile and resolving the arrows, a new tile is drawn.
This continues until either all 16 spaces on the board have a face up Frog on them (i.e. nowhere to legally play) or when the final tile is played. Then, each player reveals their identity, and the winner is the player whose color of frog is found most face up on the board. Only the frog on the top of a pile is considered in the final scoring.
I’ll be honest, when I went to the Hub Games booth, I was hoping to get a demo or a review copy of Megacity Oceania – but it was sold out already! Michael from Hub Games gave me this to look at instead, and I’ve been pleasantly suprised with it. Sure, there’s not much to the game, play a tile, do what it says, repeat… But, there’s a fair bit of strategery going on here.
It does involve a skill that I am frankly awful at – that is being able to conceal my own hidden identity while playing the game. But, I still try to do my best. As you draw tiles that could be any color, you will have the chance to play tiles for all players – so trying to achieve your own goals without making it too obvious is key. There’s also a bit of interesting mean-ness here as just about every tile you play causes something to be flipped over or removed from the board. It’s not malicious, but definitely a fun froggy way to attack your friends.
As a filler/opener/closer, this one is delightful. I’ve enjoyed playing it, and it is a lot of fun for a small package. And, also, it has a cute frog peeking out of the grass on the UPC label. How can you resist that?
- Designer: Robert Couch
- Publisher: Indie Boards & Cards
- Players: 2-5
- Ages: 14+
- Time: 15-20 minutes
- Review copy sent to me by Indie Boards & Cards
I’m always a sucker for medically themed games. Probably because I’m a doctor. Or maybe it’s because Operation was my favorite game growing up. Who knows?! Per the back of the box:
In Doctor! Doctor!, your patient is waiting, and the other doctors aren’t sure of your surgical skill. Show them who has the steadiest hand in the O.R. by completing more procedures than your competitors in this fast-paced, nerve-fraying dexterity game of concentration and operation.
The game is a race to 12 points. You will earn points by successfully conducting operations on the Patient – success being deemed by removing the appropriate body part from the patient on your turn. The deck is made up of four different body part cards (each with its own color and shape) – bones, brains, hearts and lungs.
The deck is shuffled and three cards are placed on the table to provide the Operation row. The box insert is flipped over and the rest of the cards are placed on the table face down. They are placed messily – which is essential to being able to actually play this game. The patient card is placed on top.
On a turn, the active player chooses one of the Operation cards and tries to perform it. The card tells you how many VP it is worth (stars), how many red blood pressure cubes are stacked in a column on the patient (red cube) and which card(s) must be tweezed out of the stack for the operation to be successful. The sandtimer is flipped over and the player tries to pull out the right cards. If he succeeds, he keeps the operation card as his prize, and this marks his VPs. Any cards removed from the stack are placed face up in the Operation row.
The operation fails for just about any other reason – running out of time, toppling the stack of red cubes, the patient falls off the table, you cheat and use something other than tweezers, you take the wrong card out of the deck, etc. In this card, the Operation card is placed back in the row, and any cards that had been removed are also added to the Operation row.
The game continues until someone has 12 points and then ends immediately.
As you can see, there isn’t all sorts of deep strategy here – it’s just a fun, whimsical dexterity game. And, thematically, it kinda falls apart when the patient loses his fourth brain of the game. Maybe this is some sort of alien or something?! Well, we haven’t bothered to get too caught up on that…
If you have a bit of a tremor like I do, you’ll pretty much completely suck at this game. But, you’ll likely still have lots of laughs, and for a ten minute game, it does the trick. I have not yet played this with James Nathan, but I assume given his great skill at Hiktorune, he’d clean up on this one as well. If nothing else, this game let me play the Thompson Twins over the basement stereo for fifteen minutes and then I was able to sneak into a guilty pleasure montage of Howard Jones and Wang Chung, so that was a big positive too!
Decrypto: Laser Drive
- Designer: Thomas Dagenais-Lesperance
- Publisher: Le Scorpion Masque, distributed by IELLO
- Players: 3 or more
- Ages: 14+
- Time: 20-30 minutes
- Times played: 10+ with review copy provided by publisher as well as with prototype version
This is the first expansion to Decrypto, the word/party game which the Opinionated Gamers have loved since its release (well, actually since even before that as we were lucky enough to play a prototype of it in advance of its release)… ej maHvaD ghu’vam vIHtaHbogh latlh expansion.
When you add Decrypto: Expansion #01 – Laserdrive to the base game, each round you draw a category card — movie titles, tourist attractions, words that begin with an A, etc. — and at least one of the clues that you give to your teammates must match this category. If all three of your clues match the category, then you receive a red laser token.
You can spend two red laser tokens to attempt to guess one of the team’s hidden words. If you guess correctly, you receive a white token because you’ve intercepted their info — and collecting two white tokens wins you the game, so this expansion gives you a new way to work toward victory.
This is an interesting addition to the game, as the limitation in clues sometimes makes you have to think a bit more in order to come up with a clue that uses the theme. On the whole, I like the way that it gives you one other way to try to be creative and to possibly score a victory point. On the whole, I’m not sure though if I prefer to play with this one because there have been a few times when I just can’t come up with an animal or a dead person that fits my cluestream, and then it becomes harder for my own team to even figure out what I’m getting at because I’ve given them a clue that really just doesn’t relate.
But, I suppose that both sides will have the same issue possibly, so it’s just something that you have to work with. And now, when we play with Laserdrive, there is always a bit of skepticism thrown in when it’s evident that only one clue relates to the Laserdrive card, and now we have to take that into account. But it does lead to a higher rate of miscommunication issues with my own team at times.
However, I just adore Decrypto, and anything that causes the group to want to play it more is a good thing in my eyes…
All three of these games should be available in Essen, so you will have a chance to check them out for yourself in just a few weeks!
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor