Tumblin Dice Review

Tumblin Dice board game in play

Ok, dexterity lovers, it's finally happened - I've tracked down a copy of Tumblin Dice and reviewed it for your reading pleasure.

In Tumblin Dice, each player gets four dice and attempts to roll/flick/shoot them down the board in an effort to score points.  Once everyone has used all four of their dice, then you calculate scores - each die is worth the number of pips showing times the tier of the board that it landed on.  That's the whole game - you can either play until one player gets a certain number of points, or you can switch out players after each round.

So, if you've been around this site for very long, then you know that I'm a sucker for dexterity games.  And, sure enough, I think that Tumblin Dice is a great offering in the genre.  But, what does it do well?  Well, first I like the fact that you can knock out other players dice - or try to improve the positioning of your own.  And, I like the risk that those moves entail.  For example, if one of the players manages to land one of his dice on a 4x spot early in the round, then they have made themselves a target.  However, in order to get your die far enough down the board to hit him - and with enough force to knock him off the board, you will be flicking your die fairly hard.  And, shots with this much force will often go careening off of the board and be worth nothing.  But, conversely, if you don't shoot your die hard enough, then there's a good chance that all you will wind up doing is getting in the way and making it harder for any of the other players to knock the high scoring die off later.

close up of Tumblin Dice board
Tiered board with pegs to hide beside
Another element that I like about Tumblin Dice is how the board is laid out.  I enjoy both the fact that the board is tiered and that there are pegs on the lower tiers.  The tiered approach makes it so that your die will actually change faces (if it was a flat board, everyone would just set their die on a six, and it wouldn't matter if you were using dice, disks, small rocks, or semi-melted popsicles).  And, controlling (or desperately attempting to control) how many times the die will flip over on its way down the board is an important element in scoring higher values.  The other element of the board layout that I like are the pegs - the pegs really allow you a bit of a "safety net" when shooting your dice.  If you can hit a peg (softly), then you can stop your die from falling off the board - and you can protect yourself from being easily knocked off by other players.  This adds an extra element of skill to the game - in addition to just rolling your dice down the board, positioning them well can also help you win the game.

The final pro that I will mention for Tumblin Dice is that it is great to play with anybody.  You can play this with kids, adults, gamers, and non-gamers (I've actually played it with all of these different groups).  Plus, it's great for attracting people (assuming you're trying to do this for some reason).  Set up Tumblin Dice and start playing it, and it basically serves as a people magnet - people will come over to see what you are doing.  And they will want to play it.  And it plays quickly enough that you can let them; but then you might not be playing.  But I guess "you" need to learn to share (in this situation you actually refers to me).

One thing that I will mention about Tumblin Dice that I consider to be "neutral" is that there is definitely luck involved.  Most dexterity games have luck to varying degrees, but in Tumblin Dice it is much more obvious.  As you flick dice, they will topple end over end down the board.  Because of how dice are shaped, this means that they will change faces - and thus values.  I believe that if you become ridiculously skilled at the game, then you will be able to control this... somewhat.  But, there will always be an element of luck involved with it.  And, if you only manage to flick your die to a 2x tier, but it lands on a 6, then you will outscore somebody that lands on a 4x tier but with a 2 showing on the die.  Some people will hate this, others will actually prefer it - but either way you should be aware of it when deciding if Tumblin Dice is a game to check out.

Tumblin Dice leg
My main complaint
I don't really have any real cons with the gameplay of Tumblin Dice - it is exactly what I expected it to be.  However, I do have one con associated with the quality of my copy of the game.  My copy has a small wooden shard glued to one of the legs that causes the board to be lopsided.  I'm not really sure what caused this.  I'm also afraid to fix the issue, because so far I've been able to get the board to sit flat even with this situation - so I think that the board may not be completely balanced.  Since I've always managed to get the board setup and flat, I will probably just let it be.

Overall, I give Tumblin Dice an 8.5/10.  I really enjoy it, but I don't think that it will replace Crokinole or PitchCar as my "go to" dexterity game.

If you enjoy dexterity games, you might also check out Sorry! Sliders, Catacombs, and Caveman Curling.

Chicken Caesar Review

Chicken Caesar board game in play

Now is the time to rise up and crush our opponents!  And feed them to the people, fried!  Because that's (apparently my made up way of) how you do things in Chicken Caesar.

More correctly, in Chicken Caesar, your rooster family will battle it out with all of your rivals in an effort to be the most honored chickens in the coop.  (Though, lots of your roosters will be dead, and thus won't actually be in the coop.)  Each turn consists of filling up offices (by votes and bribery), performing the roles of those offices (like charging taxes, and then getting killed for it), collecting medals for your offices, killing off chickens (roosters), and then attempting to honor your dead chickens (again, roosters - though the game is named after chickens).   Ultimately, the goal of each of these actions is to get more medals (each office gives you a specific medal), because they are worth victory points.  But, moreover, you want to get a lot of the same medals.  Here's the catch - each rooster can only have one copy of each medal.  So, it is important to get as many of your roosters in the chosen office as possible.  And, when not possible, you will attempt to place excess medals on your dead roosters.  At the end of the game (when one player is out of roosters, or when there aren't enough roosters to fill all of the offices), whoever has the most money (including money earned based on the number of medals on your roosters) is the winner!

Overall, the biggest pro for Chicken Caesar is that it is a very enjoyable political game that plays in a relatively short period of time.  (Should I go on, or was that enough of a "review"?  No?  You want more?  Fine...)  Now, when I say "short," keep in mind that the length of the game is entirely up to your play group.  Since it is all about negotiations, if you let the bantering drag on forever, then the game will most definitely not be short.  Additionally, the speed of the game (how quickly chickens die, thus leading you to the game end condition) is also based on the tax rates that are set throughout the game.  However, the players setting the taxes have a large incentive to set the taxes high (they collect money based on the tax rate), and so normally games will have high tax rates and therefore high death tolls.  In most of the games I've played (including learning games), the game only takes 90 minutes or less.  But, with all of that, I have always felt satisfied at the amount of negotiation, bribery, and all around politicking that went on in our games.

Adding medals to roosters in Chicken Caesar
Collect lots of medals on different roosters
Another interesting element of the game is how the scoring system works.  The more medals you get on different roosters, the more points you score.  So, for example, the "Consul" award is worth two points at the end of the game.  However, if instead of one rooster collecting a lot of "Consul" awards (thus they are placed off to the side and can be used to posthumously award other roosters), you are able to put your second Consul medal on a different rooster, suddenly you're getting six points for your awards - so the second medal was worth four instead of two.  And, the next one on a different rooster is worth six points, followed by eight, ten, etc.  So, if you are successful at getting a lot of your different roosters into the same office, you get a lot of points.  This really makes for some interesting decisions, negotiations, and bribes throughout the game.  (And, with the bribes, you have to be careful to make sure that you don't wind up benefiting a different player more than you help yourself!  I've definitely seen that happen.)

The last pro that I will mention is the posthumous award of medals.  Though this element of the game hasn't played a big role in the games that I have played (because we killed so many roosters that the game ends about the same time that we have extra medals to award), this aspect of the game still adds a nice twist.  For example, if you don't have any dead roosters, then guess what - you can't award them with anything posthumously!  So, though it is good to keep your roosters alive so that they can hold a lot of offices (and perform the corresponding actions), it is also sometimes good to kill off one or two of your roosters so that you can give them extra medals.  Plus, the awarding of these extra medals to dead roosters makes the Consul role very powerful - but only during certain times during the game.  So, it is important to strategically choose when to promote your roosters into this role to get the most out of your opportunities.

Active player token in Chicken Caesar
Does this remind anyone else of a squirrel with a nut?
Now that I've covered the more prominent pros, I'd like to mention a couple "points of note" about Chicken Caesar before moving onto the cons.  First, relates to backstabbing.  Chicken Caesar allows you to backstab your opponents.  Sometimes.  Specifically, the rule is that you are only required to honor your word if money changes hands.  This means that, if your group wants a lot of backstabbing, then you can play it that way and constantly expect people to break their promises.  The games that I have played, though, have had very little backstabbing (it's not really a mechanic that we get excited about), and yet the game has still been fun without it.

Second, since this is a negotiation game, be aware that perception is much more important than reality.  So, if someone looks like the weakest player, they will often be able to get favors from other players that are looking to avoid helping one of the "strong" players.  This is simply the nature of political games - but I know that this is something that might bother certain people, so I wanted them to be aware of it.

So, with all of that said, what did I find in Chicken Caesar that I consider a con?  Well, first and foremost, there is a lot more "king making" than I would like.  (If you're not familiar with the term king making, it is a term for one player deciding who wins the game, or gets a very favorable position, without actually helping themselves in the process.)  I think that one reason for this is how points stack up towards the end of the game.  So, getting a fifth consul medal is worth 10 points?  Then there is a good chance that the censor will exile the rooster that is about to get his fifth medal, thereby costing him ten points.  In a game where scores are often in the 30-40 range, 10 points can be the difference between winning the game and coming in last.  As another example, if you are a Consul, then you get to choose whether a posthumous medal is awarded successfully.  Now, obviously, the goal is to get your own rooster in position to be able to approve your posthumous offer.  But, if you can't do so, and you attempt to nominate one of your deceased birds, then chances are that a different player will be making a decision that will drastically affect your final score.  Some elements of king making I think come with the territory when you make a game all about negotiation between players, but I feel like it is a bit more noticeable in Chicken Caesar.

Various positions in Chicken Caesar board game
Fighting for positions
Second, I felt like the rules are a bit confusing initially.  Honestly, the game is pretty straightforward and simple once you start playing it.  But, every time that I have taught the game, I have gotten a lot of confused and inquisitive looks.  And, I can't really blame them, because I'm sure that I looked very similar when I first learned the game (though by the end of it, I was enjoying it).  I don't know what the reason is for this con, since the rulebook seems well written and understandable, but something about the game just leads to confusion.

The last con that I will list is that the Consul role is neglected more than I would like.  Now, let me caveat this con - this was in the games that I played.  In the games that I played, we constantly had high tax rates, because the people setting taxes liked having hoards of money (after all, money means victory).  But, because of the high taxes, we were having several roosters die each round which causes the game to only lasts a few rounds.  The Consul role literally does nothing the first two rounds.  (The first round you have nobody that is dead, and you cannot collect a second medal with the same rooster until the "Award" part of the second round.)  So, at the earliest, the Consul role will actually make decisions in the third round.  Practically speaking, it will probably not do anything until the fourth or fifth round in most games.  And, when the game only lasts about five or six rounds (this part I'm guessing at, because I didn't keep count), then the Consul role will not do much for most of the game.  Now, when the Consuls do make decisions, they are super, crazy important and worth tons of points.  But, for most of the game you ignore them.  (Unless you play with low taxes, in which case they can become much more important.)

Overall, I give Chicken Caesar an 8.0/10.  I had heard mixed opinions about the game before getting to try it for myself, but ultimately, I have truly enjoyed my plays of the game.  The king making element leaves me a touch disappointed, but I would be happy to continue playing it more if my game group suggests it.

If you're interested in Chicken Caesar, you might also check out Quo Vadis, Zombie In My Pocket, and Family Business.

I would like to thank Nevermore Games for providing me with a review copy of Chicken Caesar.

Mage Tower: A Tower Defense Card Game Review

Mage Tower: A Tower Defense Card Game in play

Today's review is of the little game (with a long name), Mage Tower: A Tower Defense Card Game.

Mage Tower is - you guessed it - a tower defense card game.  If you are familiar with this genre from playing various video games of this style, then the general flow of the game will be no great surprise.  On each turn, you draw two cards and gain a gold.  Next, you take all of your angry monsters and have them punch you in the face (costing you life points).  Then, any monsters that weren't angry yet grow angry.  (I think they just grow jealous of all of the monsters that did get to punch you.)  After this, you draw more monsters, because you can never have enough of them.  Finally, you play a few cards in a desperate hope to not die.  Play continues in this manner until you are the last man standing (in a competitive game), or until you have exhausted the deck of monster cards (in a cooperative or solo game).  Oh - or until you die.  If you die, you lose.

The first pro that I have for Mage Tower is that, for those that really enjoy the game, there is a ton of replayability.  Why?  Because the game comes with 166 unique "draft" cards.  Each game your deck includes 8 of these.  So, let's forget all the complex math that determines exactly how many different combinations of cards are available.  Let's do the simple math - you can play the game 20 times and use completely different cards each time.  Granted, you'll be using the same basic five cards (two Archers, two Elite Archers, and one Knight), but I think you get the point.

The next pro that I have for Mage Tower is that it does seem to do a fairly good job of capturing part of the feel of a tower defense game.  I have played it several times, and each time I do get some of the overwhelming odds feeling that you go for in a tower defense game.  Specifically, a great tower defense game has overwhelming odds that can just barely be defeated - and then, only if you play your best.  This also lets you challenge yourself to do slightly better the next time.  In video game terms, this means letting less monsters pass through to the other side of the screen, but in Mage Tower, that means ending the game with more life remaining.

Mage Tower (Defense) game monster cards
You will see these six monsters all game
But, this pro leads me directly into my cons.  I said that it does a good job of capturing "part" of the feel of a tower defense game.  There is another element that I really enjoy in tower defense games.  It's this - my defenses start off pitifully.  They are barely able to kill a mostly dead skeleton.  Yet, that's ok, because the first enemies that attack me will be incredibly slow moving mostly dead skeletons.  And, when I kill them, I will be able to afford better defenses - which is really important, because slightly better monsters will be headed my way.  I felt like Mage Tower missed on this.  Yes, there is a minor deck building element (this is where the gold comes into play - you can buy one of three cards which, when shuffled into your deck, becomes much better the second time you play it), but for the most part, I didn't find the deck building to matter very much.  (More on that in a minute.)  Secondly, you are fighting the same monsters from the beginning of the game.  You have the same chances of drawing a Giant on the first turn as you do on the last.  So, your deck doesn't really get better, and the monsters don't really get tougher.  It doesn't build in the way that I would hope that a tower defense game would.

My second con is really two things that worked together (poorly).  Some cards are just flat better than others; and the deck building element generally doesn't matter.  Of the 166 cards, I probably played with about half of them in the 5-10 games that I played.  Of the cards that I used, there are only a few cards that allow you to draw more cards.  So, gaining a card into your deck doesn't really come into play very much.  Odds are, you're only going to see a card that you add to your deck once, or maybe twice by the end of the game - and that's assuming that you bought the card very early (in a solo game you will, assuming you live, take about 10-15 turns, and your deck is 13 cards, so you will go through it approximately twice; again, that is if you live).  Yet, there are some cards that are just insanely good.  What makes them so good?  Well, one of them can be played from your discard pile.  And, whenever you play it, you get to draw two cards and discard two cards - suddenly making all of your other "good" cards better, because you will actually draw them.  The only down side to a card like this is if it is at the bottom of your deck, and so you don't draw it quickly.  Otherwise, it will probably single-handedly make your deck better than your opponent's.

Skeletal Apprentice from Mage Tower card game
This Apprentice is amazing
This leads into the next con: the game often feels too slow - or, another aspect of this is that your decisions are often too prescribed.  When you can only draw two cards per turn, then, unless you get cards that let you draw more, your options are going to be very limited.  I've had many turns that consisted of drawing two cards, playing them both (which often will simply attack the closest monsters - no decisions on that end), and then pass for the next player.  Yes, there are times in the game when there are really neat combinations of cards, and a lot of strategic decisions.  Unfortunately, it is at least as common to have turns that are far too straightforward as turns with difficult decisions to make.

The last thing that I will mention isn't really a "con" as much as something for you to be aware of.  There is player interaction in this game (specifically talking about the competitive version of the game), but the interaction is more of an "annoy my opponents" variety than anything else.  There are many cards in the game that have either a sole function or a primary function of pestering other players.  This can come in the form of adding an extra monster in front of them, adding a bad card to their deck, or eliminating a card from the top of their deck (among other things).  These things can definitely come into play, but since there's nothing that they can do to prevent whatever card you play, it has more of the "annoy-a-neighbor" feel that I mentioned instead of something that will affect your planning.

Overall, I give Mage Tower: A Tower Defense Card Game a 6.5/10.  The game functions, and I have played it quite a few times.  As a solo option, you might check it out, but overall it isn't a game that I see myself coming back to.

If Mage Tower sounds interesting, you might also check out Castle Panic, Legend of Drizzt, and Sentinels of the Multiverse.

I would like to thank Super Mega Games for providing me with a review copy of Mage Tower.

Toc Toc Woodman Review

Toc Toc Woodman (or Click Clack Jumberjack) set up to play

Just in case you're new to the site, there's one genre of game that immediately captures my attention, beckoning me to play every title within it's realm.  (My loyal readers know where this is going.)  Yes - that's right.  I love dexterity games!  So, none of you will be in any way surprised that I asked for a review copy of Toc Toc Woodman. (Though, to be fair, I also like rhyming, so I prefer its alternate name of Click Clack Lumberjack.)

Toc Toc Woodman is simple (because it's a dexterity game). You start the game with a tree made of plastic.  Upon each section (or "ring") there are four pieces of bark that are carefully balanced.  Players alternate taking two turns hitting the tree with a giant plastic axe (that is about the same height as the tree, so the lumberjacks are obviously giants that are trying to make toothpicks with these tiny trees).  Each piece of bark that a player knocks off is worth one point, but each center ring that a player knocks off is worth negative five points.  The game is played until all of the bark is removed from the tree.  (Because that's how real lumberjacks do it - they don't need that junk in the middle of the tree.  It's all about the bark.  I think they're trying to make the world's least efficient piece of armor out of it.)

Now that you know how to play the game, I suppose I'll tell you what is good about it.  First, the components are very well done.  The pieces all slide very easily, which is incredibly important with a game like this.  (It would be awful if you knocked a piece off, but then it wouldn't fall because it got stuck.)  Also, the axe is nice, and, though I joked earlier about how tall it is compared to the tree, the length really does help you swing it at the tree more easily.

Tree ready to topple in Toc Toc Woodman (Click Clack Lumberjack)
A delicate situation
The next pro for Toc Toc Woodman is that the rules are well thought out.  Whereas you would hope (and assume) this for most genres, it's not necessarily a given in dexterity games.  Or, I should say, that it doesn't always matter if the rules are well thought out in dexterity games.  However, the fact that you get to hit the tree twice in Toc Toc Woodman is a really nice touch.  After the first few rounds, the tree will most likely be in a very precarious position.  So, it is helpful that you can use your first swing of the axe to try to stabilize the tree.  If each player was only given one swing, then any time you tried to stabilize the tree, you would just be helping your opponents.  It's nice that this situation has been thought through.  The other aspect of the rules that is well thought out is the scoring.  Since each piece of bark is worth one, and the center rings are negative five (and each ring holds one piece of bark), you lose one point for each entire section you knock over.  If this weren't the case, then once you had a lead, you could try to just knock over whatever was left of the tree.  Again, a fairly small rule, but one that shows that the game designer put some effort into the rulebook.

The other beauty of dexterity games?  There's not really that much to say about them, so I get to keep the reviews short and sweet... and on that note, let's move on to the cons.

The two cons that I have for Toc Toc Woodman are both related to time.  First (this one is pretty trivial), the game is a bit of a nuisance to set up to play, since you have to assemble each piece and then stack it without the pieces sliding back off.  If you're playing with a few players and they're all helping, though, then this is mitigated.

Second (also trivial), the game can take a bit longer than it should if players are overly careful when they play.  So, you have to strike a balance between playing to win (aka not losing points by knocking things over) and actually playing the game.  If you hit the tree, and it moves less than a millimeter, then you're probably playing a bit too safe - pick up the pace so that we can play it five more times, please.

Overall, I give Toc Toc Woodman an 8.0/10.  I really enjoyed it, and it is a happy new addition to my growing library of dexterity games.  However, it doesn't have that "special something" of games like PitchCar and Crokinole.  But, that's not to say that I don't intend to keep playing it - I do.

If you like dexterity games, then you're in good company!  Because I like them too!  You should check out the games I just mentioned, but also check out Catacombs, Bamboleo, and AttrAction.

I would like to thank Mayday Games for providing me with a review copy of Toc Toc Woodman.