Welcome back to the Board Game CrockPot — Mother’s Day weekend has gone by and I hope everyone enjoyed loving on their wonderful moms. Per the usual, I managed to get several games to the table this weekend: Sprawlopolis, Journeys in Middle-earth, Charterstone, Reef Route, DC Spyfall, Space Base, Marvel Contest of Champions: Battlerealm, Takenoko, and Dixit.
My favorite play of the week: Honestly, it was Charterstone. I don’t want to share too many details (no spoilers!). For my group, this was our 10th game of Charterstone (out of a 12-game campaign). This session, based on some of our previous actions and choices, presented us with a temporary rule that forced us to re-think the strategies we had been developing over the past few months. Right from the start, we could tell that this game was going to “feel” quick. It was a tense session in which every action felt like it needed to be maximized for efficiency, which is so tough when there are four or five things you’d love to accomplish. For those who don’t feel like there is enough variety in Charterstone, I don’t know what they are talking about. Any game is going to feel “the same” after many plays, but I believe this campaign has done a great job of giving each session it’s own unique mood — forcing players to avoid getting in a comfortable rut, but instead to continually evolve strategies and tactics. My son had a nice point-engine going and won this weekend (his 2nd straight) — but I at least managed to accomplish a few long-term successes. Only two more games to go — I’m very excited to see how this story finishes and where we all end up on the final score chart.
Closest game of the week: Takenoko –> I haven’t played Takenoko in a couple years, so I appreciated getting a chance to try it again this weekend. I started the game a little rusty, while I watched my sister-in-law complete five of her objectives at a lightning-fast pace. My brother-in-law was not far behind her, so I had already started thinking about my strategy for the ‘next’ time I would play Takenoko. The game wasn’t over yet, though. Sis stalled out with a hand of objectives that were proving difficult to achieve. Meanwhile, I slowly managed to get some of my objectives knocked out and jogged back into the race. The weather rolls were not going the way I wanted, but my “new strategy” was starting to work well for me. Suddenly, I had 7 objectives complete and was pretty close to achieving one last goal.
I was at 29 points and about to perform an action to finish a pink tile objective for four points. I rolled a ‘wind’ on the weather dice, which allowed me to perform the same action twice. That unforeseen ability allowed the Panda to eat pink bamboo twice in one turn –> perfect, I can knock out my 5-point eating objective instead! So, that brought me up to 34 points…then add the 2-point emperor card for getting to 8 objectives first and my total was 36. Now, to wait and see what my two opponents could conjure up on their final turns. Sis was still stuck and finished with only the 5 objectives she had knocked out much earlier in the game. Bro had 7 objectives complete and was sitting at 30 points. For one of his final actions, he drew one more objective into his hand — and it managed to be one that he could complete immediately. It was worth 5 points. His final score –> 35. I won the game 36-to-35. After so many unfortunate weather rolls, that final Wind roll gave me the one extra point I needed to take the victory! WHEW!!!
Now, on to the Monday review game of the week:
Review game: Drop it
The stats: Published in 2018 by KOSMOS; designers Bernhard Lach and Uwe Rapp; 2-4 players (in my opinion, best at either 2 or 4 — three players works but it is definitely harder); for ages 8+ (although I bet plenty of 5 and 6 year-olds can both handle and enjoy this game)
The background: Last November, my oldest son and I visited our local board game cafe for a day of gaming. Several great games hit the table that Saturday, but the most surprising success was Drop it. I had heard quite a bit of hype on this game (so was willing to give it a try) and expected it to be cool because it was unique, but light on strategy, fun, and replayability. Happily, I was quite wrong in underestimating this shapely, colorful, gravity-mocking game.
The setup and components: Drop it comes with pieces in four colors (one for each player): yellow, red, blue, and green. To setup, each player will need to collect all of his/her colored pieces: 9 playing pieces — 2 squares, 2 triangles, 2 diamonds, and 3 circles — plus a cube to put on the score tracker and a 2-sided rectangular token with a 25+ on one side and 50+ on the opposite side (this is placed on the score tracker when you go around the track one time…then it flips to 50+ if you make it around two full times). The playing pieces are sturdy and very good quality.
The tower you will be using to drop in your pieces will need put together. Ours does not want to come back apart, so instead of “putting it away” in the box after each play session, I just store it separately. There are also some cardboard pieces that you will place at the bottom of the tower and in the slots on the sides. Some focus on colors, while the others focus on shapes. Once slotted into place, they act as “no-score” zones during gameplay. Setup is very simple for Drop it and you should be ready to get playing within a few minutes.
Note: if you are playing with only 2 players, you will each pick two colors and take twice as many turns.
The gameplay: In Drop it, every player will take 9 turns, since everyone starts with 9 pieces [18 turns in a 2-player game]. The goal is to pick one of your shapes, release it through the drop zone slot and then hope it lands where you wanted it to go. The tower has semi-slanted lines that cross (somewhat horizontally) as you move up the tower. These lines separate scoring zones. The lowest zone (under the first line) is worth 1 point. Then, the next zone is worth 2 two points all the way up to the 8-point zone at the top of the tower. The highest zone that your piece can be considered ‘touching’ is the points you score (even if above a line by just a fraction…it scores!)
There are also some clear circles designed into the tower’s two sides. These circles come in three shapes. If your piece manages to be inside a circle at all, you will score bonus points. 1 point for the larger circles, 2 for the mediums, and 3 for the tiny circles. Landing a successful drop that also hits a circle is a great way to stay ahead of the competition.
So, that’s how to successfully score points: the highest zone your piece landed in + bonus points if you hit a circle. The game is harder than just that, though — because there end up being plenty of ways in which you can manage to score zero points for a turn. A) Watch out for the bottom — any piece touching the very bottom will not score if touching the color or shape listed on the inserted card. B) Watch out for the sides — there will be either colors or shapes for each zone of the tower. If your piece touches the side, it could be nullified. C) Same colors cannot touch. If you are the Yellow player, make sure you spread your pieces around so that you don’t get trapped — if your dropped piece touches one of your previously played shapes…NO POINTS FOR YOU!! D) Same shapes cannot touch. In a 2 or 4 player game, there will end up being 8 squares, 8 triangles, 8 diamonds, and 12 circles that get dropped. If your triangle touches another triangle (regardless of color), once again…no points!
After all 9 rounds, the player who amassed the most points wins the game.
Review thoughts: When I update my top 100 list at the end of the year, I expect Drop it will be amongst my top 20, maybe even top 10 games overall. I have fallen in love with this game and it is perfect to bring out with almost any crowd. The no-score rules provide a challenge on every drop, but you should still have plenty of opportunities to score points.
Drop it can also be counted on to supply some great moments every time it hits the table. Each time we play, there are at least a few points when a piece does something crazy when dropped: bounced in a completely unexpected way, moved other pieces that you didn’t think about, and on occasions will even defy the logical rules of physics — that moment when you drop a circle onto a precariously balanced stack of shapes and it just STICKS! — Lands its dismount like it is trying to earn a 10 on the pommel horse.
Another satisfying aspect of Drop it — the ramped-up scoring. Early on, it will stink to fail some drops, miss points, and watch yourself fall behind. But as the pieces stack up and higher zones get hit in later rounds, there are opportunities to rally bigger scores and potentially catch-up. Late in the game, one successful drop followed by an opponent’s miss could turn into a 7, 8, even 10-point swing!
If you haven’t had a chance to try this game yet, I urge you to give it a try. Drop it has the makings of becoming a classic, a shelf-staple for families for many years.
Other thoughts: Up above, I mentioned that the game is more difficult at a 3-person count. I wanted to bring that up again to make potential players aware. At 4 players, all four colors get played. At 2 players, each person plays with two colors…so again…all four colors get played. With only three individuals playing, only three colors will be used. You will find that the difference between four and three colors entering the drop tower creates a huge impact on everyone’s ability to score –> specifically based on the rule that no points are scored if your piece touches the same color.
That doesn’t mean the game isn’t fun at three, but be cognizant that there will be more fails and lower scoring.
Also, if you are playing with someone new to the game or a younger player, the game provides happy-face, mulligan tokens. Feel free to hand one or two of these out to any player that may need them to try and even-the-playing-field. The point of the mulligan is not to re-do the turn, but allows the individual to trade in one of the tokens to negate a zero-score rule on a single drop — this allows the player to still score points based on where the piece landed.
I have not played using these mulligan tokens yet, but I am definitely able to see situations when those would come in very handy. They are a smart inclusion by the developers.
Tip: Make sure to have your phone or a flashlight handy. When there is an argument about whether two pieces are touching, or if a shape is inside a circle or not, shining a light into that area has worked very well to determine exactly where the pieces are situated.
Has ‘Drop it’ dropped into your game sessions yet? What’s your best 2 or 4 player score? At a 2-player count, mine is 93 so far.