Category Archives: Previews

Feed The Tree – Flippin’ Fruit review

Fruit 2

Never let it be said that Little Metal Dog isn’t shameless when it comes to our friends and their projects! Ladies and Gentlemen… The Judge.

Hi everybody! My reviews can be rambling. My reviews can be ill-focussed. My reviews are sometimes bombastic and filled with superlatives. Like them or not, they are, at the very least, impartial. If a game is great, I sing its praises. If a game stinks, I’m hardly shy of telling you so. This is because I strongly believe in a sense of integrity in this sort of journalism. Within our little cottage industry, some reviewers – particularly those who receive review copies – may feel they have a responsibility to at least sugar coat their opinions to maintain relationships with game publishers. As I buy almost all of my games, I can speak as a consumer first and foremost and always will do.

This preamble leads into a review of Flippin’ Fruit. Designed by my brother. With game design support by me. I don’t think it’s possible to be completely impartial on this one as any problems I have had with the design have been ‘fixed’ best as I can see it. So is this the perfect game? Maybe it is? Let’s find out…

In the tradition of games like Yahtzee and more modern variants like King of Tokyo, Flippin’ Fruit is a dice game where players, on their turn, roll dice, choose dice to keep and then reroll (up to 3 times) to then score certain results. There are a few wrinkles, just to make it interesting:

The Dice: The game comes with five 12 sided dice with unique cartoon fruit on each side: The standard fruit (Oranges, Apples, Bananas and Lemons on two sides each) the rarer berries (Blueberry, Raspberry and Strawberry on one side each) and a single Rotten Tomato. This increases the amount of different results you can achieve with the dice over traditional dice rollers. Rotten tomatoes are ‘locked dice’ and cannot be rerolled unless ONLY the tomatoes are rolled.

The Fruit Smoothies: These are three communal cards available to all players (and replaced from a deck when claimed) that ask for specific recipes. For instance, two bananas and a lemon would score you two points. Once scored, these cards are yours until the end of the game.

The Fruit Salads: These cards offer points for ‘poker hands’ such as a pair, three of a kind etc. to claim. Unlike the smoothies, however, these can be taken from other players if you achieve the requirement on a later turn. This can be a great way to cause a points swing and ‘get the leader’ at the end of the game without making every turn a futile game of ‘take that.’

Game Length: The game lasts just eight rounds and lasts for 10-20 mins. Downtime is minimal – even with four players.

A cute looking, speedy dice game with loads of deranged looking fruit - splendid!

A cute looking, speedy dice game with loads of deranged looking fruit – splendid!

So, quite UNLIKE Yahtzee then? Well yes, but it does feature a familiar dice rolling mechanism that everyone will pick up quickly – making it suitable for families and gamers alike.
Components are excellent! The full colour cardboard tube that boxes the dice, cards and rules also acts as a dice cup – very handy as those D12’s love to roll. The rules are clear and easy to understand and teach, and the original ‘Fruit with a Face’ art, all designed by my graphic designer brother, makes it very clear as to what you are trying to match to what – very important in this type of quick dice filler.

So overall, I really enjoy Flippin’ Fruit and unless you particularly hate fruit related puns (Sour Grapes, A Nice Pair, that kind of thing) you should too. It’s not going to change the world, and won’t compete with the latest Feld or epic 4x game for Game of the Year honours, but I think this is one hell of fun, fast filler. Certainly more successful that Dungeon Roll, for instance, which attempts to do a similar thing but where that is slow, dull and obvious, Fruit is bright, vibrant and offers several interesting tactical decisions (albeit based on luck and probability) every game.

So keep in mind the first paragraph. I wouldn’t write a review I didn’t believe in and right now, I would recommend that you go forth and back Flippin’ Fruit on Kickstarter - and please note: I will earn NOT A PENNY from this campaign. All my design input came as his brother, rather than a business partner. I hope you enjoy the game as much as I do.

And there you go! I’ve checked out the game and have put my money where my mouth is and certainly suggest you guys do too. It looks like a quick playing blast, a perfect little filler – and as I love me some random custom dice, why wouldn’t I want it in my collection? Cheers to Stuart for his write up – don’t forget to follow him on Twitter where he’s @Judge1979!

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I Am Not A Robot – 404: Law Not Found preview

It’s pretty obvious that the worlds of board gaming and science fiction cross over a fair old amount, after all, they’re two sides of the same nerdy coin. The amount of tables across the world strewn with copies of Twilight Imperium, Eclipse, Phantom League and more can only prove that there’s a link. There can’t be many gamers out there who haven’t dreamed of travelling through space at least once, or wondered precisely when we’ll be getting our robot servants who’ll do the dishes on our behalf.

Of course, when it comes to robots, things don’t always go entirely smoothly. There are countless stories and movies out there where our automaton friends go a little off plan, and a new game called 404: Law Not Found plans to add to the number. However, where in most games you’re acting as humans (or aliens, we’re equal opportunities here on LMDS), 404 puts you into the soulless bodies of the robots themselves. This, as you’d expect, is not going to go well…

You see, everything was going so well in the world of Law Not Found before the new microchips arrived for the robots. Their usual, well functioning Laws were replaced with slightly less sensible Directives, and in combination with the fact that the humans on board the good ship Lucky Break are quite inept at their roles… Yeah. Not good at all. And if you’re going to win, the little metal version of you will need to successfully complete three missions before anyone else does. Three very odd missions, that don’t pay any attention to Asimov’s Laws of Robotics. In fact, most of them plain fly in their face.

Over the space of ten rounds, you’ll face anything from meteors to evil enemy alien vessels. A card is flipped to reveal what the humans on board will be dealing with, and they’ll react via a simple but effective flow chart. The monkey (for what is a spaceship without something to test stuff on?) will hunt down and eat bananas, and then the players get to do their thing by playing three action cards per round that will hopefully get them closer to completing their missions. Pies will be placed into missile tubes and blasted into space. Scientists will end up in the vacuum of space without a protective suit. Out of date navigation files will bugger up all manner of events, and all the while you’re still looking to make your three objectives.

On the surface, 404: Law Not Found is a very silly game. However, a couple of rounds into your first play and you realise that it’s not to be taken lightly – with up to six different robots attempting to complete three missions each, pushing and shoving each other around the ship, there’s a lot of planning required. You’ll also need to be quite the opportunist, reacting to whatever your opponents are up to and taking advantage wherever possible.

Of course, with this being a prototype, I can’t comment on the quality of final components, but as a game it’s very solid indeed. There’s a nice drafting mechanism when it comes to doling out the objectives, so you’re kind of aware of what the others are trying to do, but you’ll be spending most of the time trying not to screw yourself over. You can sort of work out what the various people on board will be doing by playing the game’s AI system, so it’s certainly possible to push things in your favour – you’ve just got to try and not make things better for everyone else.

Chuck in a fair bit of humour – this is definitely more on the Red Dwarf end of the scale – and 404: Law Not Found is certainly one of the more interesting games being crowdfunded at the moment. Playing it feels a little like FTL mixed up with RoboRally, finished off with a bit of its own Ingredient X. No, it’s not the easiest game in the world to get to grips with, but with a bit of time investment I reckon many gamers will find 404 pretty rewarding.

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Ballroom Blitz – Pong Tactics preview

Despite being in my mid-30s and having had a rather splendid career at university, I had never played the legendary party game that is Beer Pong. Hell, most people on this side of the Atlantic are barely aware of the thing, their only experience of it being in terrible movies and TV shows where college kids get too drunk and end up getting sliced into pieces by masked killers. If you’re one of those unaware folks, here’s the quick rundown…

First, get a bunch of plastic cups, generally ten per side. Set them up into a formation of your choosing – there are many, the most traditional being the triangle – and find yourself some ping pong balls. Pour an inch or two of beer into each cup and you’re good to go. The rules are simple, bounce the ball into the opponent’s cup and they drink the beer, putting the cup aside. Get rid of all the opposition cups and you’re a slightly drunken winner!

So far, so good, though I’m at a slight disadvantage. First off, as previously mentioned, I’ve never played this before (plus I suck at most dexterity games). Second, I don’t drink, meaning that I don’t get the advantage of booze-induced hubris. Now, with the arrival of Pong Tactics, I’m wondering if this could be the playing field leveller I’d require to become a champion in the field?

Being an evolution of the original game, Pong Tactics takes the basics and remixes them into something slightly more strategic. The rules encourage you to face off in teams of two, and rather than setting up your cups in a standard formation you’re allocated one at random from a deck of cards depicting many different possibilities. Once that is done, both teams take a hand of cards from the game deck and things are ready to begin.

Play runs as you would normally go, but this feels like a very different game thanks to those cards. At the beginning of your team’s turn, one is drawn from the deck and added to your hand. These can be played throughout your turn, either giving you an advantage or screwing things up for your opponents. Whether it’s bowling your ball and removing any cups it touches or getting extra attempts until you miss, mastery of these bonuses is essential. Of course, you’ll need to hone the ability to bounce that ping pong ball into a cup if you’re going to even get close to winning, but with the right cards you may not have to do that even once…

Pong Tactics is a curious little thing. While it’s not the kind of game that we normally cover here on The Little Metal Dog Show, it takes something that has been around for ages and brings it into our world. Sure, Beer Pong is a game played by countless frat boys and party girls, but with the elements added by designer Ben Mentzer it’s now become something a little more. While it’s far from the most complex enhancement – I mean, it’s a bunch of cards when all is said and done – it adds strategy and silliness into the mix. Dropping a bunch of stupid rules onto your opponents that forces them to close their eyes and throw their next shot over their shoulder is pretty damn funny. Yes, it’ll work much better in a party environment as opposed to the hushed rooms at your local games night, but perhaps Pong Tactics will bring this long-historied game to a much wider audience. I know we’ll be playing it next time there’s a bunch of folks round ours who are looking for something light and fun – and we don’t even need booze!

Designed by Benjamin Mentzer and published through Whiskey Jack Games, Pong Tactics is currently on Kickstarter with a campaign running through until September 22nd. A minimum of two people are needed to play, but I’ve found it best when you’ve got two pairs facing off against each other. A copy of the game can be yours for $25 (though there’s also an Early Bird deal for $22). Thanks to Ben for sorting out a preview copy!

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Glitter and Trauma – Warfields preview

Tan Smooth Leather Texture

It seems that everyone and their dog are attempting to muscle in on the card game market at the moment. Personally, I applaud this – I’ve said many times that the amount of card based games out there that do things in different ways is impressive, plus it’s an inexpensive way of getting into the industry. No need to produce limited runs of pricey miniatures or custom dice, just print up a bunch of cards and you’re away.

The latest game to join the fray is Warfields, launching later this month on Kickstarter. A two player battle to the death (well, the death of your opponent’s King), it’s a quick playing affair that I’ve come to enjoy despite some initial minor worries. Those will be covered later, but first up: a quick overview of the gameplay.

With no board, you’ll have to use your imagination a little. Each player has three virtual rows (called Fields) before them, with the Kingdom Field closest, followed by the Ranged and Melee Fields. Starting with a mere three cards in play, a King, Knight and Worker, you’re looking to build up an army that will wipe out enemy forces and eventually topple their King. You have a hand limit of seven cards that depict other characters that will get involved in the battle as well as useful items and special effects, all of which require gold to be brought into play.

Gold drives the game, so much so that it has its own stack of cards. At the start of each turn you’ll draw a couple of cards from the game deck, then take one gold card for each Worker you have in play. Of course, the more Workers you have at your disposal, the more gold that can be produced, making your options a lot more open. It’s a neat little mechanic – far from innovative, of course, as it’s been seen in countless Eurogames, but interesting to see it applied to a card game.

Next step is to introduce characters into the game by paying said gold and adding them to one of your three Fields. Any of these rows with an enemy character in them is off-limits, but you’ll generally have plenty of space to play with – you are, however, limited to seven characters per Field. Movement is next, with your brave fighters moving forwards or backwards one Field only. After that comes the meatiest part of Warfields… combat!

As you’ve probably worked out, astute gamer that you are, there are two different ways to fight – melee and ranged. Location is vital when it comes to combat with melee attacks only affecting adjacent Fields and ranged hitting two Fields away. With only a single action per character each turn, making the right decisions in the optimal order is what you’re looking to do, maximising the strength of your forces to clear out as many enemies as possible, allowing you to move forward on your next turn and get ever closer to that opposing King.

Attacks – like everything else in the game – cost gold to perform, so don’t go spending everything early in your turns. It’s a lesson I learnt the hard way, bringing loads of characters into play then not actually being able to do anything with them… that was a short game, I tell you. When resolving attacks, you and your opposite number will be wiping out a character’s defence value first, then working on their health. If a turn ends, the character’s defence is is reset but their health remains at whatever number it was knocked down to. Essentially, if you’re trying to destroy someone, concentrated attacks from multiple characters are the order of the day – as long as you can afford it!

There are a few extra elements in the game of note. Initially you may only bring out Human characters to the Fields, but by introducing Summoners and Necromancers you’re allowed to play with Beasts and the Undead too. However, should your Summoner or Necromancer be removed from play with no backups, all of those subservient to them are removed from the board as well. There’s little more satisfying in Warfields than seeing three or four cards taken out in one fell swoop because your opponent missed an opening on their card…

The previously mentioned effects are the usual things you might expect from a fantasy based game, giving your the chance to curse or poison characters, render them immobile or even paralysed while boosting your own abilities in battle. While in early games I found I wasn’t using them that often, relying instead on getting people on the Fields and going for a Strength In Numbers approach, the subtleties behind screwing over your opponent made for a more thoughful and interesting game. You’re also able to sell one card per turn in order to bring in a little more gold – particularly useful if you’ve got a heavily wounded character who you know is going to die next turn!

Now, I mentioned earlier that I had some initial worries regarding Warfields – and that’s all down to the rulebook. Perhaps I’m being picky but despite reading it a few times before attempting to play, the game didn’t really click into place until I’d actually played a few rounds. A well written rulebook should be able to conjure up every aspect of the game in your mind without having to have everything out there before you, but that’s nothing that a rewrite wouldn’t fix. Once you’ve actually got a good hold on it, Warfields proves itself to be an entertaining little game that requires a surprising amount of thought. Where so many self-published games often struggle with elements such as balance, this one manages to get through those issues and deserves to do well. Now, I wonder if there’s any plans for an expansion?

Warfields was designed by Chris Green and will be appearing on Kickstarter later this month through Menaveth Games. It’s strictly for two players with games taking around 30-40 minutes. Thanks to Chris for providing a well in advance prototype copy! I look forward to checking out the final version!

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The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret – The Agents preview

Agents AGENTS

Coming straight out of nowhere, Saar Shai has brought The Agents out into the light through Kickstarter. I was lucky enough to receive a preview prototype recently and am pleased to say that the hype behind the game – one which blew through its funding target in a matter of hours, quite impressive considering there are no minis involved, just cards – is well deserved. Other reviewers have roundly praised this interesting little game, and I’m happy to add my voice to the chorus.

The Agents is, at its heart, a simple game. However, as with so many good games, little ideas and touches enhance the experience greatly. It’s one of those titles that, when investigated, you get to thinking why it hasn’t been thought up yet. Between two and five players command a team of Agents, each one bestowed with a special ability and represented on cards. Many of the Agents also have a points value that will help you get to your target of scoring 40 points – manage to do so and you win the game immediately.

So far, so simple. As you’d expect though, there’s a twist. These cards will be added to a row between pair of players, so your always facing off against the people to your left and right. Cards can only be added to either end of the row, but you also have to make an additional call. You see, the cards you play are double ended – depending on which way you place them, you’ll either get to take advantage of the Agent ability or score the points, and making the correct decision is the difference between glory and failure.

Thankfully, the abilities on offer give you plenty of opportunity to skew the rules in your favour, and clever manipulation of the right cards can bring in a stack of points. Another thing to consider is how these points will be used: not only do you need to keep hold of them in order to win, you also have to spend them to bring new cards into your hand – a potentially very tricky decision, but one that must be balanced to ensure victory. Points are also available by making sure that arrows on the cards are pointing towards you – manage to engineer the layout well and a healthy bonus is on its way to you at the end of each turn.

Two other card types will also come into play: Special Agents and Missions. The Special Agents don’t get added to your rows, instead acting as one-off actions that can often pull you out of a fix. Missions are played face down to the side of one of your rows (in a top secret fashion, as you’d expect) and are flipped to reveal them should the objective on them be reached. Clever management of these will give your points total a decent boost, so getting the, into play is a must.

Agents CARDS
Being a prototype, I can’t really comment on production quality, but I can make mention of a few pros and cons. First of all, the game is visually striking – the graphical style is bold and of a kind rarely seen outside of indie comic books; definitely a positive, in my opinion. Once players have a basic grasp of the rules, you’re pretty much good to go – after all, most of the stuff you need to know are on the cards you’ll be playing – so despite being a simple game, there are many things you need to consider when your turn rolls around.

My only real negative with The Agents is with the points cards – a system of keeping score that I never like. With different values on each side (1 and 2, and 5 & 10), less scrupulous players could well be tempted to flip over the occasional card in order to bolster their hand and further their progress. I’d personally prefer to see tokens being used and can see why the designer went for this method – it’s just not to my liking, that’s all.

Overall though? The Agents is a bloody good game. So good that I’ve actually chucked my own money into the Kickstarter campaign that is currently running wild, well over ten times its funding target – and that is a pretty rare occurrence, I tell you. Get in on it now if you’re looking for something that looks to take your card gaming in a new direction. You shan’t be disappointed.

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