A Young Teacher’s Guide To Educational Games

There are three types of games that may useful in helping students develop different skills in problem solving/critical thinking as well as knowledge and basic skills. They are:

  1. Commercial games;
  2. Specially designed and commercially produced educational games; and
  3. Teacher devised games designed to fit into a particular topic.

All games have some advantages:

  • Obviously, fun, as the children learn;
  • Learning by stealth, i.e. the children think it’s a game rather than school work;
  • Learning through cooperation with others;
  • Learning by observing others;
  • Often hands-on, i.e. tactile and visual; and
  • Often discussion between participants can lead to further learning.

There are disadvantages/difficulties especially with commercial games and some educationally produced games. They include:

  • They are expensive.
  • They often take too much time to get a result.
  • Teacher must be extremely vigilant with collecting all games and checking all parts have been returned. Otherwise, an expensive game becomes unusable.
  • Storage and borrowing practices may present usage problems.
  • Time can become an issue in organising distribution, collection, return and storage of games so they are put in the too hard basket.
  • Some of these types of games take many hours to learn to play well.

Therefore, games need to be:

  • Relevant to the learning required in the topic;
  • Easy to learn to play effectively in a short time;
  • Time friendly in the busy environment of the modern classroom;
  • Easy to store, replace and check;
  • Played by as little as two people and up to four to be effective;
  • Can be whole class ones as well; and
  • Not too reliant on their own consumable items or have consumable items that are easy to copy (with a licence to do so, if necessary).

Teacher Designed Games – Learning By Stealth

In my experience, teacher designed games are the most effective in the classroom. Some have evolved from well-known games such as Bingo and other games of chance.

The advantages of teacher designed games are:

  1. They are topic specific.
  2. Cheap to make. Often only photocopying is required.
  3. Few resources are necessary, e.g. dice and counters.
  4. Rules can start in a simple form and be enlarged or made more difficult to suit the class’s development.
  5. Rules can be changed to suit the situation, i.e. flexibility is an advantage if the game does not work successfully initially.
  6. Time needed is determined by the teacher as necessary.
  7. Results can be related to the topic you are teaching.
  8. New ideas can be deduced from the games to enhance the students’ learning, especially in games of chance.
  9. All students can have success. It does not depend on their achievement level in the subject.
  10. The games can be used to strengthen understanding in your topic.

I have included below a game called “Buzz” that I saw used by a trainee teacher. I don’t know where it came from but I have written a simple version of what I saw. I have used it, with many variations and complications, when doing relief teaching. You will see it has many of the advantages mentioned above.

Some points to take note of when playing games in class as part of your teaching pedagogue:

  1. Always play a practice game first.
  2. Then play your first ‘real’ game.
  3. After the first game, discuss with the class how they went with the game.
  4. After a second game, discuss the strategies the students used to increase their chances of success.
  5. Keep the game simple to begin. As the students master the basics, increase the rules of the game to make it more difficult.
  6. When the allotted time for the game is over, draw out the concepts that the game is teaching so that the students have learnt from the game.
  7. Don’t play a game as a fill in. This will create a feeling among the class that games are not to be treated seriously. Thus, you will lose a valuable learning tool.

The game below can be used in the first years in school in a very simple form. As the first year progresses, the game can be made more challenging. Step 9 below gives a simple way to increase the difficulty. In higher year levels, more complexity can be added easily without taking the fun out of the game or lessening its capacity to improve counting in our young students.

Buzz is a counting game you can play with classes up to Year Three. The aim of the game is to consolidate the ability to count with a critical thinking/decision making component. The students are learning to count in a non-threatening context while having fun.

Here is how to play the basic game:

Step 1: Decide on the counting numbers you will use. This will depend on the students’ age level, e.g. 1 – 10.

Step 2: Decide on your ‘Buzz’ number, e.g. 8.

Step 3:Arrange your class standing in a circle.

Step 4: Explain that the class will count one after the other around the circle from 1 to 10. Once the number 10 is reached, the next child says ‘1’ and the count begins again. If a child misses a number or says the wrong number, he/she sits down.

Step 5: Then say what the ‘Buzz’ number is, e.g. 8.

Step 6:Now explain that when this number comes up the child must say ‘Buzz’.

Step 7: If the child forgets to say “Buzz”, the class or the teacher will remind them and they sit down.

Step 8: Before you start the game again, ask the class what they are counting and what the ‘Buzz’ number is.

Step 9: The game continues until there is only one child left – “The winner”. You may need to add an extra ‘Buzz’ number at the end to make the game harder so that you can get a winner.

For further information on Mathematical games in the classroom go to http://www.createspace.com/6069531 where you will find “The Quiz-the Forgotten Teaching Strategy”. Our author, Rick Boyce, has used games during his whole career even though some experienced teachers frowned on their use, suggesting that games were a ‘soft option’ to real teaching. What these teachers did not realise was that the students were learning through having fun and not realising that they were learning. In professional development workshops that Rick presented, he demonstrated games taught to him by other teachers that had the power to develop students’ understanding of difficult concepts.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Richard_D_Boyce/1265534

 

7 Wonders Board Game Review

There are some games, simple, yet so innovative that the moment they hit the market, become instant hits. 7 Wonders is one of them. With a load of awards already won, let’s see what makes this game unique.

Game Overview

7 Wonders is essentially a card game in which each player takes control of one great ancient city: Rhodes. Alexandria, Ephesus, Babylon, Olympia, Halicarnassus or Giza and tries to make it the leading city of the Ancient world. To achieve this goal, players must exploit natural resources, develop commerce relationships with neighbouring cities, advance in technology and raise a powerful army. Moreover players have the opportunity to built a wonder in their city in order to earn more victory points or other bonuses. The wonder is built in 3 stages (except one city which uses 2 stages). The game takes place over 3 Ages through which the relevant card deck is used. In each Age players have the opportunity to develop their cities and build a wonder by playing 6 cards chosen though a drafting system,similar of that used in Magic The Gathering. At the end of the third Age players count their victory points and the player with the most VP is declared the winner.

At the beginning of the game each player is assigned a city randomly (there is also the option of each player choosing the city he/she prefers) as well as the side of the city they will play. Each player board is double-sided (A & B sides) with each side having different requirements and bonuses for each stage of Wonder building. Each city is able to produce a resource, shown in the upper left corner of the board.

At the beginning of each Age, each player receives a hand of 7 cards, dealt randomly, from the corresponding deck. Each Age is made up of 6 game turns. During each turn the players put into play a single card, simultaneously.

A game turn takes place as follows:

1. Choose a card

2. Action

3. Give your hand of cards to the player sitting to your left or right and receive another hand of cards from the player sitting next to you.

All cards represent a specific structure and are of the following type:

  • Brown Cards (Raw Materials). These are resource structures. They supply one of more units of wood, clay, stone or ore
  • Gray Cards (Manufactured goods). These are structures that produce manufactured goods: Loom, papyrus and glass.
  • Yellow cards (Commercial structures). These cards may earn coins, produce resources, change commerce rules and sometimes earn victory points.
  • Red cards (Military structures). They represent military structures which grant military power.
  • Blue cards (Civilian structures). These cards award victory points
  • Green cards (Scientific structures). These cards represent technology advancement and score victory points depending on progress in three different scientific fields.
  • Purple cards (Guilds). They earn victory points depending on the number of same-color cards or stages of wonders built by the player or/and his neighbours.

After choosing a card, comes the action phase of the game, in which players can choose between 3 different actions:

  • build the structure they chose in the previous step. Each card has a cost in resources or coins but some resource cards can be played for free. Moreover building specific structures during an Age allows you to build for free some other structrures in the next Age e.g if you build the Scriptorium in Age I, you can build for free the Library in Age II. If you don’t have enough resources to build a structure you can always trade with your neighbouring cities as long as they produce the resource you are looking for. You must pay 2 coins to get the resource you want (but by building some commerce (yellow) structures you may reduce this cost to 1 coin).
  • build a stage of the wonder by paying the relevant cost (shown on the player board) and using the chosen card as a construction marker
  • discard the chosen card to get 3 coins

After choosing a card and performing an action with it, players give the remaining cards to the left (for Ages I and III) or to the right (for Age II) and the game continues this way until players receive the last 2 cards, in which point, players must choose one card and discard the other. At this point which is the end of an Age, military conflict begins and players battle with their neighbours by comparing the number of shields on their structures (red cards) with each neighbour and gaining a conflict token (positive or negative) for each battle. The game now progresses to the next Age, until all 3 Ages are completed.

Impressions

I admit that when I first played this game a few months ago, I didn’t find it too impressive. I had to play it again a few more times to appreciate its depth. And it does really have enough depth to keep you wanting to play more and more as soon as you realize that. There is enough room here for a load of different strategies, depending not only on the city you play with also on what strategy other players implement. And that’s because trying to eliminate other players strategies is acore element of the game. Most times you will find yourself struggling with important decisions such as “Should I choose this card that suits my strategy or maybe should I block my opponent by using a card he needs for example to build a stage of my wonder?” It’s a game of continuous decision making and luck doesn’t play any role. Many times you will go for a one or two-color strategy, especially if you decide to pick green “science” cards but other times you will try to balance between many colors.

The artwork of the game is just awesome, especilally the player boards depicting each of the seven wonders. Cards are simple but efficient in design and tokens (coins and confllict tokens) just fulfill their role.

Lets go through our usual rating system to talk about the aspects of a game that really matter:

Components:

As I said before, aesthetics of the game are in a high level. The box illustration draws attention immediately with a beautiful mix of wonders depicted in the front. Player boards are colorful and illustrate the wonder of the city in elaborate detail. Cards are adequately designed, simple and solid. Coin and conflict tokens could be better if the were of wood or metal (maybe in a deluxe edition??). Overall 8/10

Gameplay:

The heart of each game!. 7 Wonders really makes miracles here as it keeps wanting for more each time you finish a game. Mechanics are polished and different cities are perfectly balanced. A whole lot of strategies to choose from:you can focus on resource gathering aiming for heavy cost cards in the last Age, balance between production and commerce or even change the rules of commerce. You can choose to ignore military progress or not to or focus on science. But don’t forget to always keep an eye on your opponents moves too. Gameplay is fast and is independent of the number of playes as all actions are done simultaneously. 9/10

Learning Curve:

Although the 12-page manual may seem daunting at first, the game is quite simple at its core and pretty easy to remember for future games. After dedicating some time to read the rules once, all will become clear and after a few games you will have mastered all the details. Last page of the manual is very helpful as it contains all essential information about the cards of the game. 7/10

Theme:

Artwork helps a bit here. Structures are depicted on the cards with beautiful pictures and the wonders are very impressively drawn on players boards. However this is not a game of great immersion. The mind focuses a lot on the best strategy to win rather than the theme of the game. 6/10

Replayability:

7 Wonders is at its best here. As soon as you get the grasp of it, you just keep wanting for more. Every game is a different one and there is much space for different strategies testing. Although game rules are pretty simple in their core, the game is complex enough to keep you interested. 9/10

Fun:

The fun factor in 7 wonders stems from it’s strategic depth and replayability. It isn’t a game that will make you laugh and interaction between players is minimal (only commerce and during the military conflict phase). 6/10

Pros:

  • Each game is different
  • There isn’t a single strategy that will lead to the win. Strategy will always depend on opponents strategy as well.
  • Beautiful artwork
  • 2-sided player boards allow for even more variety in the game
  • Cons:
  • Not much player interaction
  • Little immersion

Overall: 7.5/10

Find more information about 7 Wonders board game here: http://www.boardgamemaniac.com/Games/By-Genre/Strategy-Games/7-Wonders-l10.html

If you liked this article, feel welcome to read more articles about board games, plus find informative game presentations, strategy guides, a comprehensive sleeving guide and more by visiting http://www.boardgamemaniac.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Maria_Panagou/1333024

 

Bohnanza Card Game Review

Game Overview

Bohnanza is not a new game. It’s been originally published in 1997 and throughout the years many expansions have been keeping up the interest in it. I only recently had the chance to play it so here is my review:

Bohnanza is designed by Uwe Rosenberg, well-known for many other successful games, such as Agricola, Le Havre and the more recent Ora et Labora. It is actually the game with which he became famous in the board gaming world.The name “Bohnanza” is a pun on the words “bonanza” and “Bohne” (German for “bean”). It is essentially a card game, its only components being cards depicting beans. Players take the role of bean farmers, their sole purpose being to successfully plant, harvest and sell beans. Each player starts out with 2 bean fields in which they can grow any variety of bean, with the restriction that they may plant beans of one variety in each field. The more the players wait for the beans to grow, that is the more beans of the same variety they plant in each field the more coins they can get for harvesting and selling them. But sometimes they may be forced to give up a specific crop of beans before even having the chance to sell them for profit.

Each player starts with 5 bean cards in their hand and the rest of the cards becomes the draw deck. And here is the most important and unique rule of the game which may seem a bit awkward at first: You are never allowed to change the order of the cards in your hand! This is a pretty unusual rule and difficult to follow at first as in most card games you can do whatever you want with your cards (and many times will find yourself pretty much playing nervously with the cards in your hand changing their order continuously). After a while though you will get accustomed to this rule, which plays a great role in the game because you must plant beans in the order you received them. Whenever you draw new cards you must draw them one at a time and place them behind the last card in your hand. On your turn you must do the following actions:

    • Plant beans. You must plant the first bean in your hand in one of your fields. If you want, you can plant the second as well.
    • Draw, trade and donate cards. You draw the 2 topmost cards from the draw deck and put them face up on the table. You may keep any of these cards, setting them aside to be planted in the next step, and trade the others along with any cards from your hand. Other players may offer any number of cards in their hands in order to buy a specific card from the active player. They will also have to plant immediately the cards they will gain from trading. If no one is interested in buying you offer, you may donate them to any other player. You might want to do that because you might not have an empty field to plant them and will be forced to sell some planted beans for less profit than you would like or maybe for none at all. You may continue to trade/donate cards from your hand after the 2 faceup cards have been set aside, traded/donated. The player who is the recipient of a donation is not obliged to accept it. In such an occasion you will be forced to plant the cards nobody else wants.
    • Plant traded / donated beans. During this step all cards set aside, traded or donated must be planted. Players may (and may need to) harvest and sell beans from a bean field in order to plant the new beans.
  • Draw new bean cards. You draw 3 cards from the draw deck, one at a time and put them at the back of your hand.

When the draw deck is exhausted, the discarded cards are shuffled and placed on the table, becoming the new draw deck. The game ends when the draw deck is exhausted for the third time. Players then harvest and sell beans in their bean fields. The player with the most gold coins wins the game.

The most recent edition of the game by Rio Grande includes the first edition of the first German expansion as well as rules for up to seven players but also two player rules. The two player game, described as “bean duel” has some significant modifications that change the feeling of the game drastically. That could really be expected though as there can’t be any trading with only two players in the game. The most important changes in this version are:

    • A player can only sell beans on their own turn
    • The game ends when the draw deck is exhausted for the first time
    • During the initial step of each turn a player must plant or discard cards donated to him last turn.
  • The player draws three (instead of two) cards from the draw deck and puts them face up on the table. If the topmost card on the discard pile matches the cards revealed this way, the player adds it to them and continues to do so until the topmost card of the discard pile don’t match any of the cards drawn. Then he/she can keep any of these cards and donate the rest to his/her opponent.

Impressions

When I was proposed to try this game, I must admit I was a bit reluctant about it cause I thought that it would be a somewhat silly game(I guess that the title didn’t help a lot towards that). Looking at the bean cards was a pleasant surprise, as I saw beans depicted in a way I would never expect to. And what strange beans that were! Stink beans (yuck!) and beans with blackened eyes from a box fight and wax beans polishing the floor. Hey, this is fun! I admit I had a bit of trouble at first having to remember not to mess with my cards’ order probably because I play a lot of Magic the Gathering, hehe! In the course of the game I found myself trying to think of the best strategy to gain more coins and make profitable trades and there were a lot of laughs and player interaction to never get me bored. The end of the first game found me pretty excited and eager to start a new game (and to get my sweet revenge). Since then I’ve played a lot of games of Bohnanza, so, let’s get down to our little analysis of the core aspects of the game:

Components:

Components of the game are plain and simple cards but with much attention to detail. Cards are made of hard, quality card stock, glossy and very resistant to wear. I have rarely seen a card game with cards of such quality. 9/10

Gameplay:

Bohnanza is a game that I think I will never be bored to play. Turns are fast and interesting for all players. The trading mechanic is the key factor for that. Many would say that this game is pretty much straight forward with not much strategy involved but I think that there is much food for thought here. Players are required to make profitable trades trying to benefit from the trade more than they will help their opponents and also have to decide when is the best time to harvest their crops. Many important questions will require wise decisions. Should I harvest now and sell for less than maximum profit in order to be able to plant a new crop or should I wait a little longer to gain maximum profit? Should I buy a 3rd bean field? A very positive aspect of the game is its flexibility to the number of players. Referring to the latest edition by Rio Grande, there are modified rules adjusted to 6-7, 4-5, 3 or even two players. These rules guarantee that the game will remain playable and fun enough regardless the number of players which something that in general isn’t given attention and must be praised. Overall, simplicity in the mechanics and enough intrigue is the key of success in Bohnanza! 8/10

Learning Curve:

Rules of the game are pretty simple. During the first few games you may find yourself a bit forgetful and mess up with the order of cards in your hand. The best way to deal with that is never remove a card from your hand until a trade or donation has been accepted by the other player. Other than that you don’t have to remember any complicated rules. The value of each bean crop is depicted on the cards, on the “beanometer” as well as it’s rarity so you basically only have to remember the sequence of actions during your turn. 8/10

Theme:

The game’s theme is pretty simple. You are a bean farmer!! You are constantly reminded of that cause all you see on the table is bean cards and on your fields you see beans of the same kind planted one under the other which is close how your real farm would be. All beans don’t have the same rarity and don’t have the same market value, meaning that some are rarer than others, like cocoa beans that can be found only 4 times in the deck and therefore are very valuable (selling only 4 of them yields 4 coins). That also relate to real market conditions. What may spoil a bit the immersion in the theme is the strangeness of the beans you plant! Some are really ridiculous but that’s part of the fun, so definitely no complaints here. 7/10

Replayability:

As I said before Bohnanza is a game I will never be bored to play. It’s simple and fast and each game can never be the same with any other. You will want to play numerous games in order to polish your strategy and test your ideas but it all really comes down to one factor: it’s fun, I want to play again! 9/10

Fun:

Player interaction usually is the key for a game to be interesting and this game is no exception. Trying to make the best trading deal and donating cards will make you and your friends laugh and tease each other and that’s what I call fun. Moreover designs of the beans are pretty hilarious. Many times I found myself just staring at the cards and smiling……Yeah, It’s definitely fun! 9/10

Pros:

  • Player interaction
  • Each game is different
  • Carefully designed cards and of high quality material
  • Can be played with 2 – 7 players without the fun factor being decreased
  • Fast play

Cons:

  • Some may find it too simple
  • I can’t find more things to complain about (I guess that’s a pro!!)

Overall: 8.3

Find out more about this game in http://www.boardgamemaniac.com/Games/By-Genre/Family-Games/Bohnanza-l89.html

Maria Panagou is the owner of http://www.boardgamemaniac.com website.
If you liked this article, feel welcome to read more articles about board games, plus find informative game presentations, strategy guides, a comprehensive sleeving guide and more by visiting the above link.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Maria_Panagou/1333024

 

Stone Age, Board Game Review

First off, let’s talk about the basic rules of the game. Stone Age is a worker placement game. Each player starts out with 5 people which can be placed in various places on the board in order to gather food, resources, make tools, construct buildings, advance in the food chain, produce more people or advance the civilization. Workers are placed in yellow “rings” and each place has 1 to 7 rings available for worker placement.

Each round of the game comprises of 3 phases:

  • Players place their workers on the board. The starting player places one or more workers on a place then the next player, in clockwise order, places some workers and so on until all players have placed all of their people on the board. The number of rings on the board indicate how many workers can be placed in a particular location. Each player is permitted to place workers only once per turn in a specific place.
  • Players use the actions of their placed workers. Players can choose the order in which each action is taken.
  • Players feed their people. All workers must be fed with 1 food originating either from standard food production (according to placement in the food track) or stocked food. Food can be stocked by hunting in the Hunting Grounds.

The possible places for worker placement are:

  • The hunting grounds. Here people hunt for food. This is the only place where no rings are shown and players may put as many workers as they like but remember, only once per turn! Players roll as many dice as the amount of workers placed, during the second phase, and get food equal to the result of the dice divided by 2 and rounded down.
  • Forest, Clay Pit, Quarry and River. Here people work for wood, clay, stone and gold accordingly. A total of 7 workers can be placed here. Players, during the second phase, roll as many dice as the amount of workers placed and receive an amount of the relevant resources equal to the result of the dice divided by 3,4,5 or 6 rounded down accordingly.
  • The Hut. Only a single player can place workers here. 2 people (man+woman) are placed here in order to produce an extra worker during the second phase.
  • The Field. Only one worker can be placed here. During the second phase, the player who placed a worker here will advance in the food track 1 space, increasing his food production.
  • Tool maker. Only one worker can be placed here. He grants the player with an extra tool, used to reinforce the result of dice when gathering resources. Players can use tools in dice rolling to improve the dice result by adding the value of one or more tools to the result, thus making up for a bad roll. Each tool can be used once per round.
  • Buildings. Players place a single worker on any building. During the second phase they will pay some resources to construct the building and will be given instantaneously some victory points.
  • Civilization cards. Players place a single worker on any card. During the second phase they will pay the amount of resources shown on the top of the location and will be given the card along with an instant bonus (There is one exception of a card granting 2 resources that can be claimed instantly or later in the game. Each civilization card gives a bonus that will give victory points at the end of the game. Cards may reward the player for the amount of workers, tools, buildings, food production or similar cards he has.

Now let’s see how the game scores in each of our review scoring categories, which are:

Components – Are the game components carefully designed? Are they beautiful and do they add to the value and feel of the game?

Gameplay – Is the gameplay interesting enough? Does it have enough depth?

Learning Curve – Is the game easy to learn or do you have to look up the rules each time you play it?

Theme – Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine being in the world it depicts?

Fun – Does the game make you laugh or at least have a good time while playing? Is it enjoyable enough?

Components:

The gameboard is just awesome! It’s very colorful and impressive. All places where you can assign your workers are depicted with beautiful detail and appear connected to one another, forming an amazing little world. The individual player boards is the place to put your food, tools, buildings, tokens and resources. It also provides useful information about how civilization cards are used to gain victory points and what are the various multipliers for the resources. After a while you will remember these by heart but for the first couple of games it can come up handy. Resource blocks depict well each resource and the leather dice cup ensures that the dice are rolled without much noise. 8/10

Gameplay:

Gameplay is the most essential part in a game. No matter how beautiful a game looks, if it hasn’t enough depth to keep you wanting for more, you will easily be bored. After playing a few games of Stone Age I realized that Stone Age is not an easy game to master. Each and every game will be a different one and players have to constantly think and adjust their gameplay and strategy according to the particular circumstances. More than often you will have to face crucial questions: Should I try to get that civ card that will give me more points or maybe should I aim to sabotage an opponent who is building up in structures? Should I make another tool or go for the field before the place is taken? One of the most intriguing aspects is the limitation of rings per location as well as the uniqueness of locations e.g the hut, toolmaker and fields. Only one player can occupy these places which makes the decision of proper worker placement pretty challenging. The most important part of the game is the first phase and players should pay attention not only to their own progress but to their opponents as well. Don’t forget civilization cards when acquired are placed face down, so you must try to remember what your opponents strategy is. Dice rolling will be done extensively in the game but strangely it won’t affect a lot the path to victory (partially because using the tools you make, dice results can be improved). Close attention has been paid to the variations of the game for 2-3 players, introducing new challenges and requiring a bit different strategy. For example in a 2-player game, only 2 of the 3 places: Hut, Field, Tool Maker are available, plus only one player can occupy the resource locations. Considering the fact that most games lose some of their fun factor when played with less than 4 players, this is a point where Stone Age shines. Overall I think that, although simple in implementation, the game is very challenging and can become quite addictive as the road to victory is never straightforward. 9/10

Learning Curve:

The game rules may seem a bit confusing at first but after playing 2-3 games, all becomes perfectly clear and rules are very easy to remember. Individual player boards help towards that, by containing information about resource multipliers/point values and the way civilization cards work. 7/10

Theme:

Although the game board and components are beautifully designed and depict the theme of the Stone Age quite successfully, the mechanics of the game don’t have enough depths to let you actually feel like being a caveman. Maybe if the people tokens were designed with more inspiration…. 6/10

Fun:

Stone Age isn’t a game that will make you burst in laughs in any case. There is no player interaction in any way, which some may think as a downside that affects the fun factor However, if you like strategy games, Stone Age can be very engaging and keep you nice company for a lot of hours as you struggle to find the key to success. A key that will be somewhat twisted in every game you play. 7/10

Pros:

  • Each game is different
  • A lot of strategy involved
  • Special rules for 2-3 player game which can be even more challenging

Cons:

  • No player interaction

Overall score: 7.4

Find out more about Stone Age at:

http://www.boardgamemaniac.com/Games/By-Genre/Strategy-Games/Stone-Age-l34.html

Maria Panagou is the owner of http://www.boardgamemaniac.com website.
If you liked this article, feel welcome to read more articles about board games, plus find informative game presentations, strategy guides, a comprehensive sleeving guide and more by visiting the above link.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Maria_Panagou/1333024

 

Thunderstone and Thunderstone Advance, Board Game Review

Thunderstone is a deck-building game by Mike Elliott, published in 2009, one year after Dominion hit the market, creating a frenzy with the introduction of a hot combination of game mechanics: deck building and card drafting. In games using these mechanics, players choose cards from a common pool laid out on the table, and try to gradually built the best deck of cards with which they will acquire the most victory points. The theme of such games may differ but the main idea remains the same. With this review we will look at 2 games, the original Thunderstone released in 2009 and the new Thunderstone Advance, which is a new improved implementation of the original game.

Game Overview

In Thunderstone, you are the leader of a heroic party of adventurers arriving at Barrowsdale, near Grimhold Dungeon where the first Thunderstone, an artifact of evil power, is kept. You seek to find the Thunderstone but in order to do so, you have to battle powerful monsters that guard the dungeon. You must build a deck of cards, consisting of adventurers, weapons, magic spells, food and other items.

Before beginning the game, you have to setup 3 different kind of decks. Remember that in each game of Thunderstone you won’t be using all cards available in the game but each time the cards you use will be different:

  • Dungeon deck: There are 8 different classes of monsters. You choose 3 or more classes at random, take all monsters belonging to these classes and shuffle them to form the dungeon deck. Shuffle the special Thunderstone card with the bottom 10 cards of the Dungeon deck. Now you are ready to populate the hall which is the area where you fight the monsters, placed next to the Dungeon deck. There are 3 ranks of monsters in the Hall Area. The card farthest from the Dungeon deck is rank 1 and the one closest is rank 3. These ranks are populated with monsters from the Dungeon deck. The rank of each monster, is associated with a specific amount of Light penalty, subtracted from the heroes attack power. This element of the game tries to simulate a real situation in a dungeon, where the farther you advance into it, the less light there is, inhibiting you to properly see the monsters, thus lowering the power of your attack. Each point of light penalty subtracts 2 points of power from your attack. Monsters placed in rank 1, give a light penalty of 1 (thus attack -2), monsters in rank 2 give 2 points of light penalty (thus attack -4) and those in rank 3 give 3 points of light penalty (thus attack -6).
  • Village deck. The village deck consists of Heroes, Magic spells, weapons and various items. Those are chosen randomly each time you play, using randomizer cards, just as monster classes are chosen. However there are 4 basic card types that will always be present in the village: Militia, Torch, Iron Ration and Dagger. In each game you will choose 4 different Heroes and 8 different Village cards to populate the village along with Basic cards. All these cards populate the village. Each time you choose to visit the village as your action, you can buy one of them.
  • Starting Deck. Each player is dealt 6 Militia (6 Regulars in Thunderstone Advance), 2 daggers (Longspears in Thunderstone Advance), 2 iron rations (Thunderstone Shards in Thunderstone Advance) and 2 torches. This is your starting deck which you will gradually grow, filling it with cards from the village and monsters you defeat. You shuffle your deck and place it face down in front of you. Draw the top 6 cards of your deck and you are ready for adventure.

On your turn, you can choose to do one of the following actions:

  • Visit the village: The cards you have in your hand, give you a certain amount of gold coins. You can use this gold to buy cards from the village as you see appropriate. In fact that’s what you will mainly do in your first few turns, as you wil probably not be strong enough to attack monsters in the hall.
  • Enter the dungeon: Each hero has an attack power, indicated on the card. The combined attack power of all the heroes in your hand is your total available power to defeat monsters. Moreover some cards, like the torch, give you light, thus reducing or even eliminating light penalties. If you are strong enough to defeat a monster in the Hall, taking into account light penalties, you can enter the dungeon, equip your heroes with weapons if available, cast spells and defeat a monster. Each monster, when defeated, awards you with a certain amount of victory points and some experience points which you can use to level up your heroes.
  • Rest. By choosing this option, you can rest and may destroy one card from your hand. It goes to the destroyed cards pile, not to the discarded pile.

At the end of your turn, you discard all cards in your hand to the discard pile and draw six new cards. When your deck is depleted, shuffle all cards from the discarded pile to form your new draw pile.

The game ends when a player collects the Thunderstone (by defeating a monster in Rank 1 thus causing the Thunderstone to move to that open rank) or it enters Rank 1 because a monster wasn’t defeated. Players count up victory points from cards they have collected throughout the game. The player with the most victory points is the winner.

In 2012, a new updated version of Thunderstone was released: Thunderstone Advance. The first set of the new version is called “Towers of Ruin”. Cards from original Thunderstone and Thunderstone Advance can be mixed together. Here are the most important new features of Thunderstone Advance:

  • Changed terminology: Light penalty is now called Darkness. React is a new ability that enables players to act during other players turns. Raid is a new effect that occurs when monsters are first revealed in the Dungeon Hall.
  • Thunderstone: The Thunderstone card has been replaced by the Thunderstone bearer. Now the game ends when a player defeats the Thunderstone bearer or he escapes the Dungeon Hall (reaches Rank 1).
  • Game board: Thunderstone advance comes with a double-sided board that serves more than one purposes. The game board helps to organize cards better as there are slots on it to place monsters and village cards. Additionally it provides a more balanced setup, by determining a specific number of each card type to be used in the game. There are 4 slots for weapons, 3 slots for items and 3 slots for spells. During setup village randomizer cards will be revealed and matching stacks of village cards will be placed on the appropriate slot. If all slots of the revealed randomizer card type have been filled, then another randomizer card is revealed. The two sides of the game board provide for novice and advanced play. The novice side is called “wilderness side”. darkness rules are easier and there are 4 slots for monsters in the Dungeon Hall. Advanced side is called “dungeon side” with classic darkness rules and 3 ranks.
  • Monsters: Monsters now have levels. During setup, one monster group from each level (1,2 and 3) is chosen randomly to populate the Dungeon Hall. This way monsters have balanced power and weird setups e.g. of most monsters being overpowered are avoided.
  • New action: Apart from visiting the village, the dungeon or resting now players have the option to prepare for their next round, by placing as many cards they like from their hand on top of their deck and discarding the rest.
  • New card types: Familiars are new special cards that can be gained after defeating a monster. Each one of them has one or more different abilities that require a certain amount of XP points to be used. Each player can have only one familiar during the game, placed face up in front of him. Curses have replaced generic Disease cards.
  • Better graphics
  • New starting cards: Militia has been replaced with Regulars who are leveled up easier and when equipped with a Polearm, while in the Dungeon, you may draw a card. Iron Rations have been replaced with Thunderstone Shards and Daggers with Longspears.

First Impressions:

Upon opening the box of Thunderstone, you see a number of cards and some xp tokens. Artwork on the cards is beautiful and detailed. And then comes the difficult task of reading the rules. Although the rulebook is well written, there is so much information in it that one needs some time to absorb it and put it into use, especially if you never played a similar game, like Dominion. But even if you have, Thunderstone provides advanced mechanics along with extensive terminology and may at first discourage you from playing it. Of course things get a lot better if there is someone willing to explain the basics to you, this way taking away the burden to read all the 24-page manual.Thunderstone Advance makes a better first impression by providing a board (it’s also a double-sided one), which helps you to easier get involved in the game and understand what’s happening. There are slots drawn on the board for monsters in the Dungeon Hall as well as village cards and all seems better organized and gamer friendly. The two-sided board serves as a way for both novice and advanced players to enjoy the game experience. When you reach the point of understanding how the game works, gameplay is smooth and you will soon find yourself very engaged and captured by the theme, striving to find the right combinations of cards to build a working, and hopefully winning, deck!

Components:

The components of Thunderstone are only cards and some xp tokens. Cards have beautiful and carefully designed artwork. In Thunderstone Advance, things get even better. There is also a gameboard, which gives a sense of organisation and cards are redesigned with more variety in colors, even more detailed graphics and more clear card layout. (Thunderstone: 7/10, Thunderstone Advance: 8/10)

Gameplay:

Gameplay is interesting and gets you really involved. The game mechanics are well-thought, blending the theme with game actions and abilities. I think the idea of using the light / darkness element is a really brilliant one as is the ability to level-up your heroes with xp won from beating monsters in the Dungeon Hall. There are many more small details that enhance gameplay like dungeon effects and spoils, and all prove that gameplay has been designed very carefully. However, during setup, it is possible that weird combinations of village or monster cards will come up, making the game hard to beat, or somewhat uninteresting. Good news is that this problem has been eliminated in Thunderstone Advance, which provides specific number of slots for different village card types, as well as monsters of different levels. In Thunderstone advance, the extra option of “preparing” as a game action, allows you to design your next hand and provides more flexibility and the ability to utilize better your strategy. Moreover the replacement of Militia by the more efficient Regulars is a very important improvement, allowing players to enter the dungeon quicker and somewhat reducing the existence of “dead cards” during late game. The power of the game lies in developing the best strategy to win, by using the best combinations of cards and in the right amounts. (Thunderstone: 7/10, Thunderstone Advance: 8/10)

Learning Curve:

The game has a rather steep learning curve. The first game will last a lot more than 60 minutes and you probably will have to go back to the rulebook and look up some details throughout the game. However, after this first game, things will run smoothly and you will probably feel glad for all those small details in the game, that make it a bit complex but, in that way, more interesting too. 6/10

Theme:

The element of theme is dominant here, in contrast to Dominion, and you constantly feel the urge and anxiety to reach further down the dungeon and beat those despicable monsters. There are many elements that contribute to the sense of immersion like the light/darkness element, curing diseases/curses with Clerics and more. 8/10

Replayability:

With dozens of different heroes, monsters and village cards, no two games will be the same. Randomizer cards can be used during game setup, to randomly choose heroes, monsters and village cards that will be available in the game. If you like the deck building/card drafting mechanic of the game, you will probably spend many hours playing this game and enjoy it a lot. A number of expansions have been released and more will be released in the future, bring to the game more heroes, monsters and village cards as well as new card types, thus enhancing replayability. 8/10

Fun:

The game offers many thrills and can be fun, although there is little player interaction. Maybe an improvent in this field, should be included in Thunderstone advance, with village cards that would mess more with opponent’s decks. 6/10

Pros:

  • Nice artwork
  • Gameplay with depth
  • Replayablity
  • Immersion

Cons:

  • Minimum player interaction
  • Somewhat complex rules

Overall: Thundertone: 7, Thunderstone Advance: 7.3

Find out more about Thunderstone Advance at:

http://www.boardgamemaniac.com/Games/By-Genre/Strategy-Games/Thunderstone-Advance-Towers-of-Ruin-l102.html

Maria Panagou is the owner of http://www.boardgamemaniac.com website. If you liked this article, feel welcome to read more articles about board games, plus find informative game presentations, strategy guides, a comprehensive sleeving guide and more by visiting the above link.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Maria_Panagou/1333024