Sometimes you are a bit pushed for time, and just want a quick fire review of a game. Here is where SaggyShorts comes in! These are short, punchy reviews of some smaller box games you may not have heard of yet. I’ll give you a quick flavour of the gameplay, and what I think of it. I will also give you some indication of if you liked this game then perhaps try that one.
Line Links is a simple tile placement game where you try to lay the tiles to link up with as many lines as possible. Each line you manage to link to scores you points. The longer the line that you managed to link to (the more tiles it goes through) the more points that link is worth.
This game is simple in its components, you have a small rules sheet and 25 tiles. That is all.
Although one thing that immediately struck me about this small Brainbox game is the environmental note on the side. “Mind Your Planet: This game is made and packaged in board made from a minimum of 70% recycled material and is recyclable.” This is exactly what I want to see more of in games. I love chunky, clacky plastic tiles, but shrink wrap and single use plastic really shouldn’t have a place in the modern game industry really. This game has a quality feel and one of those magnetic flip close boxes so it doesn’t feel like an “eco box” which I see as a huge plus. Being environmentally friendly does not equal poor quality or everything made out of hemp.
Of course a review should really be about the gameplay. This is a super simple game with clear graphic design and a simple lay a tile in the best way to score you points. The gameplay has me thinking of more of a puzzle than a game, and smacks a touch of NMBR9but with a bit less to think about.
The game is simply a beat your own score puzzle for solo play, but it is still enjoyable. The heavyweight large tiles are absolutely perfect for playing outside. Which in the unpredictable British weather and the current conditions makes this a great game for 2021.
Age 4-7 years
Who likes Spot the Difference? I love spotting the difference, and can never leave a difference unspotted!
Difference Junior is the kid specific version of Gigamic’s Difference (Age 6+) and uses a more cartoony kid friendly version of the artwork to bring the age recommendation down. The cards in the game are double sided and show one of four images, a kids birthday party, animals at a water park, lions on a motorbike and an ice cream stand picture. The images have a lot going on, and this makes the difference spotting competitive. The majority of them are not spotted immediately.
This game is similar to Dobble in the way it plays in real life. You want to try and spot the differences before your opponents to place your card into the centre. You need to be the first to get rid of all your cards to triumph. In the current climate though, I have been keen to try out more versions of games that are zoomable. An adaptation of this game has been successfully played via zoom with just a single copy.
Of course it is not the same as gathering together around a table, but I did find a way. One person has the game as puts the cards out in pairs, the first person to spot and shout “difference” gets one card for their pile and the person who got the second difference gets the other card. It isn’t exactly the same game, but still great fun and works well over zoom which in the current climate is a great addition!
[please note that a copy of this game was kindly provided by the distributor for the purpose of this review, however, any opinions given are my own]
Who loves chucking dice? Me! I love throwing them, but the absolute randomness of skill-check and attack type dice games leaves me cold. Which is why my love for Age of Warfrom Fantasy Flight is even more of a surprise.
In this game, you are racing to win control of the castles and gain the most points. The game consists of 14 castle cards and a set of seven custom dice, and rule sheet.
To gain control of a castle, you will need to roll dice Yahtzee style and get the correct symbol. The die faces have a Japanese style dragon head symbol, cavalry, archers and swords. The swords come in one, two or three “stabs” as we call them. With your roll, you may either choose to take an unclaimed card from the centre, or else you could try to steal an opponent’s hard won castle card. This ups the player interaction immensely, but in a good way.
Unlike in Yahtzee, you must decide based on your first roll what castle card you are after. And each re-roll requires you to remove a die from the pool, so the more re-rolls the fewer dice you will have in play. This is where the crunch comes. Do you take that cheap Castle or do you re-roll just one more time to try and win that high point scoring card. I usually push my luck to go for the higher card and usually I throw exactly what I don’t need and end up with no card.
Push your luck is one of my favourite mechanics to teach non-gamers. Who doesn’t love the thrill of seeing if you can just get that one big win. And the schadenfreude in us all wants to see our opponents think they are all that and push their luck so far the whole thing comes crashing down around my ears.
Trevor Benjamin, Brett J. Gilbert
High Risk is one of the small box mini games published by Iello. It is a game for 2 to 4 players aged 8+ that plays in 20 minutes. It is a push you luck race to the top of the mountain. You win by being the first player to get all four of your climbers to the top of the mountain.
Inside the box there are 6 custom dice, a small mountain board, 16 climber meeples, four in each colour, and a rulebook. The box is only palm-sized so it is perfect for travel. Turns in this game are pretty straight forward, you roll the six dice and check for a fall.
The D6 dice each have three danger lightning bolt symbols, two mountain ascend symbols and one weather symbol. If when you roll the dice you only get danger symbols on the dice you rolled, then that indicates a fall. If you don’t fall you may choose to climb based on the roll you made last or you can decide to push your luck and re roll all the dice with danger symbols that you last rolled. You need to make sure you don’t roll all danger symbols though as this will trigger a fall and end your turn.
When a player causes a fall, their highest climber that is not safe at the summit will fall to the next available space below their next highest climber. If you don’t have another climber on the route you will fall all the way to the bottom. This means you need to ensure you don’t only climb with one piece at a high time as you risk big falls, which will slow your progress in the race down.
If you land on the same spot as another climber, you will “knock them off” and they will drop down to the next available spot on the route. This means there is a lot of player interaction, which is really what you want in a small box family game. If you have ever enjoyed ludo, snakes and ladders or yahtzee, then pick up High Risk and give it a go. It’s a great game for the price point and one that I am happy to keep in my collection!
There are a lot of people who hate the game UNO.
Apparently it is not cool to enjoy the mass produced non-purist games. But I say codswallop to that and will happily express how much I enjoy UNO. It is an easy to grasp and quick to play card game which has enough strategy to be enjoyable but not enough to require too much brain power. I like to play UNO when I feel drained, as it is easy to set up and easy to play. It doesn’t out stay its welcome and it can be played with kids as well as adults. This version plays 2-10 players aged 7+ and in my plays has lasted between 15 and 30 mins.
There have been a lot of UNO spin-off games over the years, we had one where instead of picking up cards you had to press the button a few times and it would spew out any number of cards at you. That made the game longer, but there was a serious thrill associated with pressing the button and seeing whether you’d be lucky or severely punished.
My favourite though has to be UNO Flip. I think I like this more than regular UNO. In this game, the cards are all double sided. One side shows the regular UNO red, blue, yellow and green, and the other side shows turquoise, orange, pink and purple. On this darker flipside, there are also some seriously seriously dangerous cards on the dark side which is fitting really. One of them lets you name a colour and the next player must draw cards until they get one of that colour. That could be 20 cards or just one.
If you enjoy quick light card play and have previously loved UNO then why not give this one a try for a literal “flip” on the classic.
Wolfgang Warsch is a powerhouse when it comes to modern board game design, he has made some of my favourites such as Quacks of Quedlinburg which I recently introduced Favourite Foe to. The Mind is more of a small box event perhaps than your typical game. During this game, you try to read each other’s minds to cooperatively play cards in ascending order. You lose if you play a card out of sequence.
The game consists of a deck of cards number 1-100, 12 level cards which tell you the changes in difficulty for the next round, 5 life cards and 3 throwing star cards. The throwing stars are a bit of a hail mary action to try and get out of a sticky situation, but they are quite hard to come by, so you must use them wisely.
Trouble is you can’t speak to each other about what cards you have. You are desperately trying to gesture to the other players with a series of eyebrow raises that you have a 54 and a 78 in your hand. Aside from eyebrow morse code, you need to pause long enough to scope out whether you have the lowest card left to play and ensure you play it at the right time.
This is a co-operative event more than most games, and it is great fun for 2 to 4 players aged 8+. Playtime is anything from a few minutes if you guys just aren’t on the same wavelength to around 15 to 30 minutes if you are actually excellent at it.
Our experience is that we play a few times trying to get further each time, we as yet have not made it up to the final round, so there is big mileage left for us even just as a two-player. Each round gets progressively more difficult as more cards are dealt to each player, upping the ante after each success.
I love this kind of game arc where winning a round pushes you to try a harder one. If you like the idea of trying something completely different that is a bit of an event rather than a game, then check out The Mind.