Category Archives: Impressions and Observations

Unstable Unicorns (Card Game)

Introducing my family’s latest card-game obsession: Unstable Unicorns. The inscription on the box reads “Build a Unicorn Army. Betray your friends. Unicorns are your friends now.” Yeah, that’s a pretty accurate description of this game, actually. Starting out with one (adorable) baby unicorn, you work to build a stable full of unicorns–and sabotage other players from beating you to the goal. If you’ve ever played Exploding Kittens, there are a number of similar elements in the gameplay, although I think this game is a bit more complex. The art on the cards is fabulous, and the text is amusing and often punny. Generally speaking, this is quite a nerdy game, in the best possible sense of the word. Personally, I particularly enjoy the combination of strategy and chance that comes into play–it’s entirely possible to play the long game and have strategies planned out for numerous turns in advance. It’s also possible for another player to spring something on you and put all that planning to naught. . . . Of course, you can turn the same thing back on them, as well. The game is also quite adaptable, accommodating anywhere from 2 to 8 players with ease. There are also a number of expansion packs for added fun. Highly recommended.

NOTE: If you’re interested, you can find out more here.

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Escape Room in a Box: The Werewolf Experiment

Mattel Games

You’ve stumbled upon a mad scientist’s lab and been exposed to his experiment–the one that caused him to turn into a werewolf. Lucky for you, he did create an antidote as well, but it’s not that simple. . . . The antidote is locked away, and you only have an hour to solve the clues around the room and unlock the box, or you’ll be stuck as a werewolf yourself!

The basic idea of this is the same as for an actual escape room . . . only you have everything you need in a single package that you can take home and play for the cost of about 1.5-2 tickets into your average escape room. I was actually quite impressed by this game. The scenario was interesting, and the puzzles were appropriately themed. Moreover, the puzzles managed to be challenging while still manageable. You have a lot of that back and forth of one answer tying into another puzzle, plus the whole going through everything you’ve got just trying things to see what works. There’s even a blacklight! We played with 6 players, which worked well, but you can have up to 8 at a time. And bonus: although it would be kind of pointless for the same people to play over again, since you’ll know the answers, you can save everything in the box, print out new papers, and re-set everything for a new set of players (find instructions and more information here). Highly recommended for those who love escape rooms or puzzle games, or for those who are looking for an inexpensive, easy way to give the whole escape-room thing a try.

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Exploding Kittens (Card Game)

I recently got to try out this super-random card game with a group of friends, and I’ve got to say, it’s surprisingly catchy. It’s marketed as a game for people who like cats and explosions, and . . . well, that may be accurate, but it’s more for people who like fast-paced games that combine elements of both chance and strategy–along with lots of weird goofiness. The game is basically an adapted version of Russian Roulette–everybody takes turns going around the table drawing cards until something explodes (you draw an “exploding kitten” card). But then, there are cards you can use to defuse this (basically putting it off until later in the game), as well as a number of other cards that have different effects on the game. (You can find out a lot more about the rules and such on the official website, https://explodingkittens.com/.) Like I said, the game’s catchy and involves a nice balance of chance and strategy–more or less depending on the group of players, obviously. It’s also pretty easy to learn, and each game goes quite fast. I do also have to note that the art on the cards is just plain strange; like, there’s all kinds of randomness on them that’s totally not necessary for playing the game, but it’s kind of interesting to read . . . also, slightly disturbing and very strange. But overall, I enjoyed Exploding Kittens and would generally recommend it.

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The Inheritance (Escape Room)

Hosted by Escape Experience in Chattanooga, Tennessee

This weekend, my brother and sister-in-law dragged me to an Escape Room–something I’d never tried before, although they are obsessed with them. Turns out, it was actually a pretty fun experience. Basically, it’s a game that’s played in a locked-room set with a time limit, rather than on a board or with cards. Your group of players are dumped in this room and set free to explore. There are clues, puzzles, and challenges throughout the room, and you have to beat them all within the allotted time in order to win. It’s actually pretty intense, as well as a good mental challenge.

We did “The Inheritance,” a mystery game in which your scientist uncle has passed away, leaving behind some sort of treasure which you have to find and escape with before your uncle’s dangerous enemies show up. I thought that both the premise of this plot and the execution were well done for this sort of game. The detailed set was thoroughly immersive and conducive to a good gameplay experience. The puzzles were varied and challenging while still being accessible to the average individual. I do think that some basic math skills, science,  and geographical knowledge would be helpful for this particular game, but mostly just some solid teamwork, problem-solving, and logical skills are what you would need the most. There were a lot of puzzles in this particular game; it’s theoretically one of the more difficult ones, and we didn’t even finish it (although we were on the very last puzzle when we ran out of time!).  Our one complaint, honestly, was that any hints we were given were displayed on screens in the room . . . which is nice in that you can refer back to them, but not helpful in that several were given in two parts, and the first part disappeared way too quickly, with only the second part remaining on the screen. On the whole, though, this particular Escape Room was a good experience that I would recommend.

 

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Honey Heist (Tabletop RPG)

Created by Grant Howitt

The honey convention is in town, and you–a bear–have one goal in mind: get the honey! Your have a complex, perfectly planned strategy. There’s just one complication . . . you’re a bear. Test your skills, see whether you’ve got what it takes to be a criminal, and look out for extra-special prizes (and cool hats). But be wary, because there may be a few less-pleasant surprises as well.

I recently got a chance to try out this (rather absurd) tabletop RPG and found it to actually be great fun. It’s definitely more crackish and cartoony than most of your RPGs–the opposite end of the spectrum from, say, Dread. But the utter ridiculousness of it is a lot of what makes it fun as players try to figure out how to accomplish complex thievery as bears; as you can imagine, the potential problems are limitless, as are the possibilities for absurd solutions to said problems. The actual gameplay dynamics are pretty simple, so this isn’t technically hard to play. I would recommend playing with a group that favors lots of role-playing, that has a good sense of humor, and that doesn’t get too bent out of shape over the rules. This is the sort of game that is much more fun if you just roll with the craziness. As with DreadHoney Heist is a one-shot sort of game, not really suited for campaign sorts of play, but as a short afternoon/evening’s game, I would definitely recommend giving it a try.

Note: You can find gameplay/rules at https://www.docdroid.net/KJzmn5k/honey-heist-by-grant-howitt.pdf.

 

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Heart of Crown (Card Game)

By Japanime Games

Support a princess in her race for the throne–just be sure to choose wisely. Build up your economy and infrastructure. Go to war against rival princesses and their supporters. And gain the succession points needed to win the throne.

Heart of Crown is a very cute but complex and challenging game that I was recently introduced to. So I should note that this isn’t a full review–more like an impressions post, really. This is a deck-building card game, which is a pretty different style from most of what I’ve played before, since you build your playing deck as you go. Once you get used to the concept (or for those of you who are already familiar with this style of game), it’s not too difficult though. The challenge is to build the best deck to win, and this is a challenge that is constantly changing. As in games like Sushi Go, your set of cards that you’re working with can change based on what you choose at the beginning of the game. And different sets require different strategies. To add to the strategizing, each princess provides unique bonuses that affect you’re gameplay. And of course, the other players you’re working with will change how you have to play as well. With the base set, you can have 2-4 players, and that number seems to work well with the flow of the game. Basically, I found this game to be challenging but in a good, interesting way. There’s clearly been a lot of thought put into each card and into the system as a whole, and it all works well together to provide a good challenge for players. On a side note, this game has some of the cutest anime-style art I have ever seen in a card game. I really love it! So yeah, Heart of Crown is a lot of fun and I would recommend it for basically anyone who likes deck-building games, strategy-dependent games, or just plain cute stuff.

Note: You can find out more about this game at https://japanimegames.com/pages/heart-of-crown-resources.

 

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First Impressions: Wayward Sisters

Guys, I just watched Supernatural 13×10, “Wayward Sisters,” which is also the backdoor pilot for a spinoff series by the same title. And WOW, I was blown away.  I was crying before the intro finished! The basic premise is a story focusing on Jody Mills and the girls she’s taken into her home–as well as Sheriff Donna Hanscum. You’ve got the classic Supernatural monster-fighting thing, but you’ve also got the whole family dynamic. In other words, it’s a story that stays true to its roots, to the things that make Supernatural so special to fans. But it also provides a shift in focus, centering on some powerhouse fan-favorite female characters like Claire Novak as well as some fabulous recent additions to the cast like Patience and Kaia. It also deals with a very different family dynamic, with the whole foster-family sisterhood thing, even including characters who aren’t hunters as main characters. Plus, it seems to have a greater focus on diversity, which is really cool. Seriously, Wayward Sisters is something that a lot of fans have been wanting for a long time, and if it makes it past the pilot into a complete show, it will be an incredible thing. Go check it out, and give this amazing show the support it deserves!

The CW/Written by Robert Berens & Andrew Dabb/Directed by Phil Sgriccia/Starring  Kim Rhodes, Briana Buckmaster, Kathryn Newton, Katherine Ramdeen, Clark Backo, & Yadira Guevara-Prip

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