Designer: Peter Burley
Artist: Alexander Stronhmaier, Steve Tolley, Franz Vohwinkel
Release date: 1983
Age 10+ (5+)
Favouritefoe #favouritefoefunlearning score: 9/10
Mini-meeple loves numbers. Mathematics is his favourite subject, and it makes sense to him. I am the oddity in our family. I am a wordsmith. Language is my bag. I struggled through GCSE and AS Level number hell a long time ago, and rely heavily upon my smartphone to save me from any more pain. Having home-schooled for over a year, however, I was thrust into the crazy world of Year 1 maths.
And I needed help. Number bonds, number lines, number sentences…….a foreign language built upon an integer alphabet. I struggled. Thankfully, Mini-meeple thrived despite my failings.
So, to break the tension (mainly inside my own head), I looked to our game shelves for something fun to play that was still linked to numbers, and I spied Take it Easy.
Take it Altogether!
Although it features numbers, the main gameplay in Take it Easy is pattern matching. The mathematical link is definitely there, however, it comes a little later in the scoring.
Pattern recognition and sums? Double win for gaming parents everywhere!
In the game, everybody has their own player board and set of 27 hexagonal tiles. Each tile depicts three intersecting lines – differentiated by colour, (subtle but different pattern), and number, but the board has space for 19 tiles total. The object of the game is to try and make as many unbroken matching lines as possible.
And tile selection is carried out in bingo style turns. One player is nominated as the caller for the entire game. Their tiles remain face down, whereas everybody else’s sets are laid out face up.
So, on each turn, the caller picks a tile at random, flips it over, and announces/shows which tile it is (e.g. 5/6/8). Everybody (including the caller) then has to choose where to place that tile on their own board. There is no adjacency rule restriction – it can go anywhere within the available space, and everybody has an identical set of tiles. Eventually, working from left to right, there will be 5 complete columns on each board comprising three, four, five, four, and three tiles.
Take it Tricky!
The process starts fairly easily as your board is wide open. Here is where you strategise. Are you going to risk trying to form a long column of 9s down the centre, or are you going to spread risk by going for smaller columns? With only 19 tiles out of a total 27 to appear, some are never going to show up……
Then, as the available space gets smaller, tough decisions have to be made. Scoring sacrifices. Because, whilst the caller may have announced a 9 tile that will help you complete that coveted central column, you may have to break the other two lines forming diagonally behind it. Both of which were shaping up to have juicy point potential!. And this is where cogs start turning. Fast multiplication inside heads to work out the least-worst option available to them. See? Told you it was educational! 😉
Take it to the Bank!
Once the last tile is called and placed (yep, you have to. I won’t lie. It HURTS when you see a carefully planned line shatter on the last turn!), scoring begins.
And here is where the mathematical element of this game really shines. Because each line is worth the number on the completed line multiplied by the number of tiles within it.
So a central column with an unbroken line of 9s will score 45 (9 x 5 tiles). By contrast, if you have a completed central column where 1s run from top to bottom, you will only score 5 (1 x 5).
Once everybody has added up each of their completed lines and totalled them, the winner is the player with the most points.
Take it to the Max!
This game sounds simple. Technically, it is simple. But it hurts my brain in the best possible way. Battling luck of the draw with only strategy to save me is close to the centre of my favourite game circle.
My husband and I are extremely competitive in Take it Easy, primarily because there is no way to meddle with each other’s boards within the multiplayer solitaire gameplay. But we also love playing with Mini-meeple, and sometimes include some additional grown up restrictions (e.g. 9s must be placed in the central column). Often, however, they aren’t needed to level the playing field as Mini-meeple can definitely hold his own here now.
I won’t deny that this game triggers my AP; as the game goes on, my turns take longer and longer. Particularly where I know I have to change strategy because the tiles are not coming out in my favour! But, Mini-meeple doesn’t let me cogitate forever. His excitement about picking the next tile snaps me out of pause. And for those worried about downtime in what should be a short game, a timer is always a possible option. The components are also only cardboard (thick tiles but thinner boards), which means that they could struggle with repeated plays – the corners of some of our tiles are looking a little fluffy.
But that is, I suppose, a testament to how much Mini-meeple loves this game. He is always the caller (obviously!) as he can apparently uses his super lenses” to see through the tiles! (If that is true, then all I can say is that he must have a serious vendetta against me as the tiles I want always come up in precisely the wrong order! Haha). At only 5, he understood the simple rules and objective from the first game.
And, looking at his completed boards, it is easy to see how he is progressing. He now ponders a little before placing, concentrating hard on completing some longer columns which he knows will score him more points, as well as factoring in the effects on the intersecting lines. He also loves adding up everyone’s scores at the end. In fact, I think he might like that bit the best!
And as a parent, a thinky, satisfying game that encourages our child to visually recognise patterns, weigh up consequential decisions, and practice his number skills, is always going to get a grade A from me!
Designer: Peter Wichmann
Artist: Flore GmbH
Release date: 2017
1 - 4 Players
Favouritefoe #favouritefoefunlearning score: 8.5/10
We are a passionate polyomino family. Bearded Moon and I weaned on Tetris, and Mini-meeple already bosses it in Bärenpark.
So when the legend that is Saggyhead told us about this game, we had to try it. It took one game for Bearded Moon to become OBSESSED with it. One game! And Mini-meeple is quickly following in daddy’s footsteps for sure!
NMBR (0 to) 9!
So what is it about NMBR9 that has captivated my husband and son’s attention so completely?
Well, firstly, it is an incredibly easy game to understand. Each player has a set of cardboard polyomino tiles in the shape of numbers 0 through 9. And there is a small deck of 20 cards, two per number.
The object of NMBR9 is to get the most points, and points are based on where each of your tiles has been placed; the level they sit on acts as a multiplier for the final value of those tiles.
So, for example, any tile placed on table level is worth zero. Any tile placed on level one is worth 1 x the number of that tile, and so forth.
But you can’t just place tiles where you want!
· Tiles have to touch an existing tile on the same level;
· Tiles can only be placed on higher levels if they can be positioned entirely over two or more tiles
on a lower level. No gaps or overhangs allowed!;
· Tiles can’t be repositioned once that turn ends; and
· Plus, whilst you can tessellate like a titan, you can’t turn them over and use the reverse side.
And that’s it. Someone around the table flips a card and everyone sets about positioning that number on their own space. Once placed, the next card is turned over, and play continues until the 20 card deck runs out.
So, ease of use has definitely drawn both of them in. Mini-meeple understood the rule from the get-go. But they both need more to keep them rapt. And the puzzliness of this simple game is the hook here.
NMBR9 sounds like it is going to be an easy filler game. But it isn’t. Every time one of those cards reveals a number, it is nearly always the right number at the wrong time!
Getting a 9 in your first few goes feels like such a waste as 9 x 0 = yep, big fat 0!!! Similarly, getting a 6 or a 7 sounds great if you have prime real estate up at level 1,2, or even 3 on which to lay it.
But, when you realise that 8s and 9s are still lurking in the pack, you have to decide whether to “waste” it on a lower level, or hope that another shape will fit into it on a later turn. After all, you know you are going to need a flat surface to receive those point-tastic higher numbers.
Mini-meeple loves the jigsaw aspect of the game. He loves connecting the tiles together knowing that he will be able to score more points in later turns. His towers may not be as tall as daddy’s right now, but when he can get an 8 or 9 up high, his face is priceless.
Thankfully, he also handles the losses better than daddy who takes anything less than 80 personally! The engineer in Bearded Moon can’t always mitigate the luck of the draw in terms of number sequence, and it frustrates him in the best possible way.
And whilst this game is multiplayer solitaire (with a BYOS solo mode), Mini-meeple injects socialisation as he offers up his “help” and suggestions to every other player!
As a maths whizz, Mini-meeple also loves the scoring aspect of the game. Like Take it Easy (review here), he finds the scoring as much fun as playing NMBR9 . And as a parent, anything that encourages a primary school child to add up and multiply, is golden in my book!
It also falls within Mini-meeple’s attention-span sweet spot; he is gripped for 15 or so minutes and then he is done. And that’s fine by me. Having home-schooled for over a year using a timetable split into hour long sessions, I know that he works and plays better in short, sharp bursts.
As a family, we love this quick, puzzly game. The box is big, but the insert works to keep the numbers in place for in-game picking which is helpful. The tiles are also chunky, but they are only cardboard, and some of our corners are also beginning to lift a little – our fault for playing so much!
I also will admit that I struggle a little with picking and placing the tiles due to the dexterity nature of it. The surface of each tile is shiny, and I can (and do) knock my tile tower by mistake (especially where I reposition a tile before the end of my turn). I have, however, found that a playmat which gives traction to the base level helps to improve stability for the base level.
Overall, NMBR9 is a great little puzzle and it definitely gets an A as a #favouritefoefunlearning game!
Publisher: Lookout Games
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Artist: Klemenz Franz
Release date: 2019
1 – 6+ Players
Age 8+ (5+)
Favouritefoe #favouritefoefunlearning score: 8/10
As I mentioned in my NMBR9 review, we are passionate about polyominoes. Turning them, flipping them, fitting them together…..that’s our jam.
But sometimes, Mini-meeple is in a more creative mood. He isn’t often quick to suggest drawing or colouring as an activity because he loves to build. Our house is full of cardboard tubes, empty boxes, tape, glue sticks, staplers……everything an almost 6 year old needs to build a robot, a spaceship, or even an Ocado van (the more subtle effects of the Pandemic persist!). The practical hands-on experience turns his brain on in ways that simply blow me away.
And so, when he grabs his pencil case and asks to play Patchwork Doodle, it’s an automatic yes. With my mummy hat on, I am always happy to encourage and indulge his calmer, colouring side. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely LOVE the fact that he wants to get stuck into so many 3D building projects. But as a parent, I also like to know that he is getting to experience different aspects of creativity, particularly when they are at his own instigation.
But does it pass the #favouritefoefunlearning series mark? Let’s find out!
As the title suggests, Patchwork Doodle is a fast, multiplayer reimplementation of Uwe Rosenberg’s storming 2 player puzzle game, Patchwork. And that quilt constructing gem is one of my longest owned games. In fact, I have two copies (original and Christmas themed) because it is so darn good!
[Fear not for I will be including Patchwork in the #favouritefoefunlearning series at some point. But for now, let’s focus on this variant.]
So how has Uwe repurposed Patchwork into a more sociable, speedy experience? Well, by turning it into a roll and write of course. And a sweet little, relaxing one at that!
Scribbling Set Up!
Like most roll and write games, set up is breeze. You get your own 9 x 9 sheet and the use of a selection of basic colouring pencil (or your own supply – trust me, you’ll want to use your own!).
Having each selected a starting shape card at random, you then draw that 6 square polyomino onto your own sheet. All of the starting cards are then returned to the box.
Finally, 8 patch cards are drawn at random from the deck of 30 and placed face up in a circle. The remaining cards are kept face down in a pile in the middle of the circle. The meeple (anyone who has played Agricola or All Creatures Big and Small will recognise the little farmeeple shape!) is then placed between two of them, ready to roam.
Played over three rounds, you will be drawing 6 shapes during each one (18 shapes in total). The shape you draw on every turn, however, is determined by where the little farmeeple lands after the dice is rolled. And whilst some patches can be mirror flipped, this doesn’t apply to all of them.
When there are only two cards left in the circle, the round ends, and you calculate your score for that round before setting up 8 new patch cards for the next one.
Although play happens simultaneously, and everybody draws the same patch each turn, there are 4 one-time use special actions available. And it is down to you as to when (and if) you use them. For example, you can choose to draw the patch adjacent to the patch the meeple landed on. Or, you can cut a patch into two, and use only one part of it. These are fun and add a little extra colour to the…..well, colouring!
The rounds continue until there are only 3 patches left in the 3rd round. Then, instead of rolling the dice, all players get a free choice on their last turn. And whoever has the most points overall is crowned the Patch-Daddy of the Doodles!
Unlike the original game, in Patchwork Doodle, scoring happens immediately after the end of each round. And the way it scores is a little different.
Once a round is over, you will look at your board and score one completely filled rectangle. But not just by counting the squares inside it. First, you find the largest square within it and score 1 point per square. Then you score an additional 1 point for every extra row or column within the rectangle that hasn’t already been counted as part of the square. The rule book has handy diagrams and an example which are really easy to follow.
It goes without saying that Mini-Meeple loves the artistic and puzzle elements of this game. He describes it as designing his own colourful jigsaw puzzle and solving it at the same time – and he is right.
Essentially, the most points come from interlocking as many drawn patches across your 9x9 grid as possible. And that happens when gaps are avoided through exercising sharp spatial skills. But timing is important if you want to win overall. Because you need to focus on building your largest rectangle and square ready to score at the end of each round, not just the end of the game.
And, whilst Mini-meeple doesn’t seem overly fussed about forming squares inside rectangles at the start, that quickly changes. As soon as someone scores more points than him in round one, his head is suddenly in the game! I would say that most of our games so far have been decided by what happens in round one. Not all of them – unlucky rolls and too-hasty use of bonuses can offer others a chance to sneak past. But a high score at the start can often set the scene for the rest of the game.
Like all the games we play together, Mini-meeple likes to add up the scores for each player. And with scoring happening after each round, that’s three opportunities to practice multiplication, addition, and pattern recognition skills inside 20 minutes. Parental Point Bonus!
I love seeing our son selecting shapes and drawing them in. Mini-meeple’s finished sheets are always a beautiful explosion of colours and creativity (although he does use his own pencils as the included ones are not very good). For us maxi-meeples, Patchwork Doodle is a fun, light, simple, relaxing filler game. And relaxation is not something that comes naturally to me. As such, this game (in both solo and multiplayer solitaire mode) represents a brief insight into a world where I have time to sit with my son and draw – a multicolour meditation with mummy and Mini-meeple.
For the joy and interest it inspires in Mini-Meeple (as well as providing me with a brief circuit-breaker!), Patchwork Doodle is a great addition to the #favouritefoefunlearning library!