It is Monday, May 6th — a Monday that has to follow-up on May the 4th Be With You and Cinco de Mayo. For me, it was a solid board gaming weekend. I managed to get to the table: N.Y. Chase (been awhile for this 1999 Ravensburger title), Robot Turtles, Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock Dice, Pulsar 2849, Notre Dame, and 7 Wonders.
My favorite play of the week: This one was easily Pulsar 2849. I joined a local board game group recently and this was my first game night to attend. My friend, the host, chose to teach Pulsar 2849 as the highlight game of the night. So, I queued up a rules video from Paul Grogan at Gaming Rules! to make sure I understood the basics. There were three of us playing and it took us about 2 hours, 20 minutes — and I loved every minute of it! The dice drafting is a great mechanic and with only 2 (maybe 3) actions per turn, the decisions are mind-racking and critical. I came in 2nd and felt like I played pretty well. I would love to get more plays of Pulsar 2849 – my first Suchý game – in the near future.
Closest game of the week: N.Y. Chase — As the more experienced player, I took the role of Mister X. My wife and oldest son were the detectives. I had them guessing wildly at the first, par for the course in this game. In the middle of the game, they made some wise choices on where to setup roadblocks, reducing my future subway traversal opportunities. Then, in the home stretch, they were able to use their final helicopter ride to close in tight. I made a sneaky Black ticket move to gain some distance beyond what I believe they would expect. Unfortunately, their roadblocks meant that my final three subway tokens were unusable and I had to ‘pass’ on my last three moves. I was stuck, unable to move, and just hoping they wouldn’t figure out my decision-making. Alas, on the final turn of the game — the detectives’ last-ditch effort — they discovered Mister X hiding at the bottom of the New York City map. So close!!
Review game: This week is going to be a small review, at least a review of a small game –> BOO
The stats: Published in 2017 by Perplext and One Moment Games; designed by Chris Handy; Artist is Mihajlo Dimitrievski; BOO is a 2-player game; estimated at 15 minutes playing time; ages 10+
The background: This looked like a fun stocking choice, Christmas of 2017, so I picked up BOO and SPY for my kids. I have had the chance to play this one with my oldest son and was impressed with the gameplay that came out of this tiny, little box.
The setup and components: There is little in the way of components. You get the rules and 30 rectangular cards — six for setup and twelve for each player. Setup is simply creating three stacks, the six setup cards, the twelve white-lined cards, and the twelve black-lined cards. Using the setup cards, create the gate design as shown in the rules. The other two stacks are shuffled. Quick, simple, ready to go. The cards are good quality, but the small size of the cards can make them hard to handle, even more so for adult fingers. The artwork is fun, along with the white/black/purple color-focus. (Great game to bring out in October!)
The gameplay: Each card is broken up into three sections. In each section there will either be a white ghost, a black ghost, or a graveyard. Each card has ghosts/graveyards on each side.
You and your opponent will go back and forth playing a card from your hand onto the ‘board.’ The goal is to have more ghosts of your color face-up at the end of the game. When you play a card, the following rules must be observed: your card must be played so that at least one square touches an existing card square, cards can never be covered, and either side of the card may be placed.
The core mechanism of this game is Scaring. When you place a card, the color of the ghosts and the direction they are facing matters. Each ghost on the card is going to attempt to make a scare. To scare, you follow the line-of-sight of the ghost across the cards until you get to a ghost of the opposite color. If that ghost is looking straight back, nothing happens. If that ghost is looking a different direction, then flip that card. You get to choose what order the scares will happen — in an attempt to have more ghosts of your color face-up at the end of your turn than when you started. Note: ghosts cannot see through tombstones.
In the example picture above, let’s say I had just played the right-most card on the table and I am the white ghost player. The middle ghost is facing right (where there are no cards) so that ghost will have no impact. I then have an option to scare with the top, black ghost first. If I do, he is looking at the white ghost directly to his left. That ghost is looking a different direction, so that card gets flipped and would now display two black ghosts (no good!). Then, I would scare with my white ghost at the bottom of the card. She would now be looking directly at a black ghost (the recently flipped one) and would turn that card back over. That turn would end up with a zero net-benefit to my white ghost squad.
This gameplay continues back and forth until all cards are used. Every turn, the key is to ‘solve the puzzle’ and determine where to place your card to maximize the flipping potential to start showing more of your own colored ghosts.
Review Thoughts: Small games like this (gum-sized or wallet-sized) can be very hit-or-miss. The small packaging generally means few components. That requires the designer to come up with a creative and fun gaming package with little to work with. I have played enough small games to know that this doesn’t always pan out. In the case of BOO, Chris Handy conjured up a winning formula. BOO is quick, the rules are simple, but the action you make each turn is enjoyable (essentially tile-laying, which is practically the best) and significant. A perfect filler game for when you want to get in a quick play, perfect for taking on a trip, and a must-play for Halloween-time themed gaming.
Have you played any other titles from the Pack-O-Game series? Which one is your favorite?