This week’s Backpack pick is Snake Oil: Party Potion from Out of the Box Publishing, Inc.
Now you can take “The World’s Best Party Game” on the go with the Party Potion edition of Snake Oil. This is a free-standing expansion to the original Snake Oil game. The game is for 3-6 players and plays in about a half an hour.
The package comes with a 3 compartment tray, 112 word cards and 14 double-sided customer cards. This gives the option for 28 different customers.
The object of the game is to use your selling skills to persuade the customer to buy your item. Game setup is super easy. Remove the tray from the box. Take all of the word cards and shuffle them into a pile on the table. Deal 6 word cards to each player. Choose one player to be the customer; that player draws a customer card, chooses which side to play and places it on the table. For example, one customer card has Astronaut on one side and Wizard on the other. That’s it! You are ready to play.
For the sake of this review, let’s assume you are the customer and you chose to be the Astronaut. All of the other players then look at their hand of 6 word cards and have about 30 seconds to combine 2 word cards in their hand into a good or service that would appeal to you. Once that time has passed, each player, starting with the player to the left of the customer lays down their 2 cards and has to give a sales pitch and explain why you should buy their product or service. So if you were the Astronaut and I came up with “Nightmare Uniform” saying that you can create your own entertainment in space while watching members of your crew struggle in their sleep with lots of bad dreams. You can require other crew members in your spaceship to wear this “special” uniform when they are sleeping. When they doze off, the nightmares come and cause them to have all sorts of crazy sleeptime experiences. All the while you watch as they have these bad dreams……..would you buy it? Maybe……..maybe not. But other players are trying to sell you their item or service too. After all of the players have given their pitch, you select which product or service you would buy. The player whose item you purchase gets the customer card and becomes the next customer. All the played cards go into a discard pile in the tray and everyone draws their hand back up to 6 cards. This play repeats until all players get to be the customer once.
I have reviewed the Original Snake Oil game ( http://goo.gl/IXxqpv ) and yes this the world’s best party game. Compared to the original Snake Oil, this game is even more family friendly than the original Snake Oil Game. The game is very entertaining, has a ton of replayability too. The main benefit of this game is the development of speaking skills as well as improvisation. The Party Potion edition is compact and can be taken on the go whereas the original the original game is a larger box that takes up more space to bring along somewhere. All of the cards in the Party Potion edition are new so they can be combined with the original game, or enjoyed purely as a stand-alone. The happy little snake on the customer cards is quite entertaining with the artistic talent of John Kovalic and Patricia Hayes Kaufman. The card backs look great as I love the lime green border on the cards. There is a special variant rule in this edition to play Snake Oil Live! making more like a game show to be played in larger groups. This makes the game perfect for classroom activities in school as well as sales team meetings. The game is great for families, teens, and college students. With a quick playing time and a compact package, this game is perfect for a group that is on the go. Families can gather around the table and have lots of fun with this creative game. One note as in the rules there is a link for using Snake Oil as part of an educational format: http://www.otb-games.com/games/party-games/snake-oil/ This game is sure to liven any gathering of friends and certainly will offer some creative spark in coming up with items and selling them. #backpackpick
This week’s backpack pick is Jaipur from Game Works.
Designer Sebastien Pauchon challenges us in Jaipur to become the Maharaja’s personal trader in this 2-player trading game. The main objective is to be the richer trader at the end of each week (round) and receive a Seal of Excellence. The first player to collect 2 of those Seals is the winner. The way to become rich is to collect and exchange goods cards at the market and then sell them for rupees. If you can work out a really good deal, you will receive extra rewards. The game also has camels in it……The camels can be used to exchange for multiple goods at the market or collected to try to earn extra points.
Setup for the game is quick and easy. First, place 3 camel cards face up between the 2 players. Next shuffle the remaining cards and and deal 5 cards to each player to form their starting hands. Place the remaining cards face down in between the players to form a draw pile. Draw the top two cards from the deck and place them face up next to the camels. These five cards now form the market. Players look at their hand of cards and remove any camels from their hands and place them face up in a stack in front of them. This forms the player’s herd.
Next, sort all of the tokens by goods types and make a pile of each good item in descending order so that each value on the tokens can be seen by the players. Separate the bonus tokens by type, shuffle each type separately and place in stacks near the good tokens. Place the camel token next to the bonus tokens. The tokens are arranged according to an illustration in the rule book. The Three Seals of Excellence are placed where the players can get to them.
Game Play…..Mechanics are SIMPLE. You can either Take cards or Sell Cards…..never both. If you choose to take cards you have three options: 1) take 1 single good from the market and place into your hand and replace the taken card with the top card of the draw deck. 2) take all of the camels from the market and add them to your herd and then replace the cards taken by drawing cards from the deck. 3) Take several goods which is an exchange. Take all the goods cards that you want into your hand (minimum of 2) and exchange the same number of cards either from your hand, your camel herd or a combination of both. At the end of your turn you may never have more than 7 cards in your hand. This the way you collect sets of cards in order to sell them for rupees.
The other action you can take is to sell cards. To sell cards choose one type of good and discard as many cards of that type as you like. Take as many tokens of that good type as cards discarded starting with the highest value token. If you sell 3 or more goods take the corresponding bonus token and place it in front of you face down. DO NOT LOOK at the bonus token until the end of the round. NOTE: When selling the 3 most expensive goods: silver, gold, and diamonds the sale must include a minimum of 2 cards. You can only sell one goods type each turn.
The end of the round is triggered immediately in either of two ways: There types of goods tokens are depleted or there are no cards left in the draw pile when trying to fill the market. At the end of the round move to scoring. The person with the most camels in their herd gains the camel token. Reveal any bonus tokens and then add up the total value of all of the tokens gained. The player with the higher total. That player is the richest and takes a Seal of Excellence. In the case of a tie, the player with the most bonus tokens takes the seal. If there is still a tie, the player with the most goods tokens takes the seal.
If neither player has 2 Seals of Excellence, set up the game again from the beginning and play a new round. The player who lost the previous round starts. The player who gains 2 Seals of Excellence wins the game and is appointed as the Maharaja’s personal trader.
This is a fast-paced lighter-style strategic card game. The main mechanics are set collection and hand management. But there is also a bit of risk management when it comes to your turn…Do you sell goods now or try to gain more of the same type to get a bigger bonus? But if you wait…what happens if your opponent sells the same type of goods before you and nets the higher value tokens? When you take cards…..do you take all of the camels and risk a number of diamond cards show up? These are the questions you ask as you play Jaipur. Make sure to watch what cards your opponents takes to see what he/she is collecting. Collect those cards too and sell them first! Use your camels to get the goods you want. The game is a lot of fun with excellent artwork on the tokens and the cards. The insert in the box holds everything nicely and the game is very compact to take with you. The game does take up a little bit of space due to the market and room needed in front of each player, but it can be played at a smaller table. This game does a good job of implementing the set collection mechanic with the bonus tokens. This helps balance the game out in case a player decides to sell only a couple of goods of each type to skim the high value ones off of the top rather than working out a larger deal. Besides being a fun game with good strategy, the best part is the rules are simple and you are up and playing within a few minutes. This game can easily be played on a lunch break if you are pressed for time. High praise for this game. Get your copy today. #backpackpick
The latest release for the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons is the Monster Manual. This is the second of the three foundation books that make up the Dungeons & Dragons game system. The first core book being the Player’s Handbook and the third is the upcoming release of the Dungeon Masters Guide. The Monster Manual is a tome of information of many monsters that are in the Dungeons & Dragons multiverse. The monsters in this manual have origins in real-world mythology and fantasy literature and others are D&D originals. The monsters in this manual have been culled from all previous editions of the game.
As I have said my my reviews for the Starter Set and The Player’s Handbook, the 5th Edition makes a great first impression with it’s presentation. The Monster Manual follows suit. The cover art presents you with a menacing beholder unleashing terror on a party of explorers. The sleek modern font and black edge binding lend to a very nice finished publication. One thing I have not mentioned is that the back cover has something unique. Part of the cover is glossy, and the other has a matte finish that gives a nice feel to the book and makes it easier to hold while browsing the pages. With the great looking cover let’s take a look at what’s inside.
The 5th Edition Monster Manual’s overall look and feel is high quality. There are 352 pages of pure delight. There are listings for 149 monster types, not including sub-types and species. My first impression of the pages was this: Full color artwork on almost every page.
The page layout is very nice and well organized. There is nice font selection, line spacing and use of bold type. The stat blocks for all of the monsters is easy to read. Plus there is a lot of background information about all of the creatures, including specific information on sub-types and sub-species.
In the picture above, there are stats and information for both the Bugbear and Bugbear Chief. The pages have this nice parchment appearing background that gives the look of an old tome without being distracting to the eyes. This book has lots of nice little gems placed throughout the whole text. The Disclaimer in the front of the book should definitely be read. There are lots of flavor text boxes throughout the book, making it seem more of a historical gathering of knowledge.
The Monster Manual is primarily for use by the Dungeon Master, however anyone can enjoy the content of what’s inside. The Monster Manual is meant to be used hand-in-hand with the Dungeon Masters Guide for creating encounters. The first eight pages of the Manual give information on how to use the book, defining a monster and where they live, what monsters to use in encounters, and their statistics. The Dungeon Master Guide and Monster Manual can be used together with the Dungeon Master Guide for the budgeting of experience points (XP) and adjusting the difficulty of encounters.
The Player’s Handbook is also used with the Monster Manual to further discuss creature size and space, alignment, hit points, speed, and ability scores.
There is a discussion of legendary creatures and their special abilities along with lair actions if they have any.
Looking at the entries in the Monster Manual itself, each page has an artist’s rendition of what each creature looks like. This gives one interpretation for the Dungeon Master to use in describing the appearance of the monster. In the entry information itself is a wealth of information about each monster, where it lives, it’s habits, where it came from, etc. Certain monsters, demons for example, have information of the different sub-types as well. All of this information can be used by the Dungeon Master in creating encounters and aids in placing the right monsters in the right places. One thing the Monster Manual does is that it gives creative license to the Dungeon Master to change things about the monsters. For example, a green dragon normally has a lawful evil alignment. But if the Dungeon Master chooses, he can have a green dragon have a chaotic evil alignment if he wants to.
Speaking of dragons, there are entries for Ancient dragons, adult dragons, young dragons and wyrmlings. So plenty of different information and stat blocks for a monster that has a long lifespan.
One thing I noticed in the 5th Edition Monster Manual is the inclusion in the stat block of advantages. This is extremely useful information for use with the new rules concerning advantage. It is prominently displayed in the stat block.
There are 2 appedices in the back of the Monster Manual, one being for miscellaneous creatures that are commonly encountered in the multiverse, again listed with their advantages, The second appendix is for Non-player characters, giving stats and descriptions for many humanoid characters.
If you are a Dungeon Master, this Monster Manual is a must have. This is a wealth of information that is easy to navigate and understand with plenty of artwork to inspire your narration of encounters. The updated manual included advantages that is a major factor in the 5th edition of play. According to the notes in the book, if you are an experienced Dungeon Master, a few of the monster write-ups will surprise you as they went back to some of the older Monster Manuals to bring back some long lost factoids. They also added some new twists to some of the monsters, all the while not trying to curtail your creativity as Dungeon Master. If you are a player, although this book is not required to play the game, it is a nice resource to have to explore and understand many of the monsters you may encounter in the multiverse. I continue to be impressed with the quality of content being released in this 5th Edition. The Monster Manual is excellent in it’s own right. I find this an invaluable resource for the Dungeon Master is the creation of homebrewed adventures and also a great tool to use with printed material to use to improvise a situation where players deviate from the script per se. With the 5th edition, I continue to see the influence of going back to more of the use of imagination and the theater of the mind, and the Monster Manual is a tool that the Dungeon Master can use to inspire the players to imagine all of these different monsters in their minds. I highly recommend this new edition of the Monster Manual and I find myself highly anticipating the release of the Dungeon Master Guide.
This week’s backpack pick is Star Realms from White Wizard Games LLC. Star Realms is a deck-building game for two players. Unlike many other deck-building games, this combines the strategies of a deck-building game and marries it with the interactive battle nature of many popular trading or living card games.
Star Realms comes packaged in a tuckbox packed with 128 cards and 2 rule sheets. The rule sheets have one for two-players and the second rule sheet has multiplayer rules, which can be used by adding additional sets of Star Realms.
In Star Realms, players start off with a basic deck of 10 cards, eight of them being Scout Ships which give Trade resources and two of them are Viper Ships that give Combat Resources. Players also start off with 50 Authority, which can be thought of as life points. The object of the game is to build your deck into a powerful armada and to reduce your opponent’s Authority to zero.
There are 80 cards that make up the Trade Deck and on a player’s turn, there will always be five cards available to be purchased using Trade resources in the Trade row. In addition, players can also purchase Explorer Ship Cards. In the trade deck, there are four different factions that you can recruit into your armada: The Trade Federation, Star Empire Faction, Machine Cult, and Blob. Each of these factions perform differently and can be added to your deck to help generate resources. For example, The Trade Federation is very good at generating Authority. There are different types of ships that can be purchased to add to your armada and there are also Outposts that can be built. Some outposts are bases that can be used to protect you from direct attack from your opponent. When outposts are played, they stay in your play area until they are destroyed, and each turn, they will generate resources.
Aside from the starting round, players will have a hand of five cards to start their turn. Each turn has three phases: The main phase, the discard phase, and the draw phase. In the main phase, cards are played from your hand. You will generate resources that will go into their respective pools. Authority is immediately added to your Authority total. Trade resources are used to purchase cards from the Trade row. Combat resources are used to attack your opponent and his/her outposts and bases. When playing cards, some of them will have ally abilities, meaning that if you play another card of the same faction that turn, an additional ability will be triggered. The Ally ability can be used anytime during the main phase of the turn.
A unique mechanic in Star Realms is the scrapping mechanic. This allows players to thin out their decks to maximize performance. Certain cards have scrapping as an ability and others have a scrapping icon. When cards are scrapped, they are placed out of play in the scrap heap, with the exception of Explorer Ships, which are placed back on the Explorer Ship pile. A card that has a scrapping icon can be played for it’s ability and then you choose to scrap it on your turn to generate a second ability or resource. Cards that are scrapped for any reason other than the scrapping icon will not trigger the scrap ability.
Any cards that are acquired during the main phase are placed into the discard pile. During the discard phase, place all in-play ships in the discard pile along with any cards left in your hand. Any left over trade or combat resources are lost from their respective pools at the end of your turn.
In the draw phase, draw five cards from your draw pile. If at any time you need to draw cards from your draw pile and it is empty, shuffle your discard pile to form a new draw pile.
Play continues until one player’s Authority is reduced to zero. The surviving player is the victor.
Star Realms is an intense game that gives more purpose to deck-building: DESTROY YOUR OPPONENT. This is a highly competitive game that offers many different strategies each game. Each faction can add flavor to your deck, for example, Blob faction is very heavy on generating combat resources, whereas the Trade Federation faction generates Authority. There is a lot of strategy in this game through adding cards that can combo off of each other. This game also allows for a lot of decisions to be made, especially with using the scrap mechanic. You can weigh the option of keeping the card around, or scrapping it for a one time ability, but lose the card for the rest of the game. This offers a lot of replayability due to the different combination of cards that can be added to a deck each game.
Star Realms is very compact coming packaged in tuck box the size of the cards. Personally, I think that the packaging for the game could be better as the tuck box will take a beating from the amount of times this game will be played. The amount of space needed to play this game is not very much, mostly you need room for the Trade Deck and Trade Row. Play time is not very long, so this game can be played over lunch periods, or between classes if you are student. I really enjoy this game, but the use of Authority cards can be cumbersome and inconvenient, so get rid of them and use dice or some other counter to keep track of that resource. This game is great as a 2-player game, and I recommend tracking down the promo cards to get the co-op and solo play scenarios.
This adds additional ways to play the game, including some challenging solitaire play opportunities. Adding additional sets of Star Realms, opens up the opportunity to play games for 3 up to 6 players, with different options like Free-For-All, which is every player for themselves; Hunter is a variant where players may only attack the player to your left. Hydra (two-headed or three-headed) offers a team play option. And there is an advanced team play game called Emperor. And finally there is Raid, which has one player acting as the Boss versus all of the other players as raiders working together to defeat the boss.
For further game play options, track down the Gambit cards that can be added to further enhance game play experience.
Overall this is an awesome game for two-players. And with a price point of $15 you get a lot for your money. The game is very popular with Organized play opportunities at your local game stores. Adding the additional sets and cards opens up the game for play options from 1 to 6 players. This is great for kids to play, teens, couples too. This game gets a high recommendation from me. So pick up your copy of Star Realms today. #backpackpick