Rummikub (1998 Pressman Edition) – Tile Based Game Review

Rummikub Game Box
Rummikub Game Box

When I was a little kid, around four to six years old, my grandparents would take me with their friends on big vacations to other states. One time we went to Pennsylvania, another time it was Vermont. We would tour the Liberty Bell or Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream factory during the day and then at night they would try to put my sisters and I to bed and then break out their Rummikub set.

If I were quiet enough, they would let me sneak in and watch the game. One time I asked what a smiley-faced tile was (it was a joker) which got me instantly marched back to bed. I learned quickly to keep my mouth shut about what was in my grandpa’s hand.

My grandparents had a Rummikub set that looked like a padded briefcase. On the side of it was a fancy label that said Tournament Rummikub. The tiles felt fine and exotic though the boards to hold the tiles felt a little flimsy.

My grandpa is now deceased and my grandmother has dementia. The last game she remembers how to play is Rummikub, so we play it with her every chance we get. Years later, we still play with their old Tournament Rummikub set.

Several years ago I acquired a Rummikub set of my own. My son is around the same age I was when I learned how to play while watching my grandpa. My wife and I decided we would teach him how to play during our weekly family game night.

Rummikub is a tile-based game designed by Ephraim Hertzano. The set I currently have was published by Pressman in 1998. Rummikub may be played by two to four players.

My hand at the beginning of the game.
My hand at the beginning of the game.

One thing I discovered rather quickly is that the rules provided with my Pressman set are in many ways different from those from my grandparent’s set. I looked up Rummikub on Wikipedia and found that Hertzano authored a book entitled The Official Rummikub Book in which he provides three versions of the game: American, Sabra, and International. According to the article, the 1998 Pressman edition is the Sabra version.

To set up the game players dump all of the tiles face down in the center of the table and mix them all up. Then each player draws 14 tiles to make up their hand. The objective is to create sets of three or more tiles. A set should contain all of the same number with different colors, or be a run of numbers in sequence with the same color.

There are 106 tiles total. This includes tiles 1-13 of each color blue, black, red, and orange twice, along with two jokers. The same game can also be played with two decks of standard playing cards where two jokers are thrown out.

In order for a player to make their first play into the center of the table, they must be able to play a number of tiles that equals 30 or more points all at once. Jokers are wild tiles that may represent any other tile in the game. When played in the initial play their point value is the same as the point value of whatever tile they are replacing.

I'm out of tiles. I win!
I’m out of tiles. I win!

The first initial play may only consist of tiles from the players hand and may not be played on any other player’s tiles. Each turn after the initial play, a player may play on any set in the center of the table. Tile sets may be added to, split, substituted, and combined in interesting ways to eliminate tiles from the player’s hand.

Most everything is fair game, though players will want to brush up on the rules to make sure a move they are making is legal. Also if you’re making a complicated move, make sure you know how to back out of it if you get stuck and it doesn’t work. Otherwise the other players will hate you. The 1998 Pressman rules have a good template that may be used to determine a move’s legality.

The most crucial rule to remember when playing on the center tiles is that to substitute and reuse a joker, the tile it is being substituted must come from the player’s own hand and not from somewhere else on the board. All tiles that have been played to the center must stay in the center. A player can’t substitute for a joker and then keep that joker in their hand for a later turn.

The first player to successfully play all of their tiles into the center wins the round. In the event where no player is able to play all of their tiles, the player with the fewest and lowest scoring tiles is declared the winner of the round. Jokers remaining in a player’s hand are scored as 30 points. All other tiles are scored at face value.

The final state of the game.
The final state of the game.

The winner receives a positive score for the round that is the sum total of all the points left in each other player’s hand. The non-winning players must then receive a negative score equal to the number of points remaining in their hand. According to the 1998 Pressman rules, the players must agree on the number of rounds or the total number of points to play to in order to determine when the game ends. Whomever has the highest number of points at that agreed upon milestone wins the game.

The Rummikub family rules I played with growing up required 50 points for the initial play and had some heavier restrictions regarding under what conditions a set with a joker could be altered. This 1998 Pressman Sabra version feels really easy by comparison. The next time I visit my grandmother I will look at the rules they had and see if I can compare the two.

Gremlins, Inc. – Linux, Mac OS X 10.11, Windows 10 Game Compatibility

Gremlins, Inc. Main Menu
Gremlins, Inc. Main Menu

System Requirements

Linux
Operating System: Ubuntu 12.04 or greater
Processor: Pentium 3 or greater
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: Geforce 9XX or AMD graphics card
Hard Disk: 1 GB

Mac OS X
Operating System: Any x86 version of Mac OS X
Processor: Any x86 Mac
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Hard Disk: 1 GB

Windows
Operating System: Windows XP or greater
Processor: Pentium 3 or greater
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: Geforce 9XX or AMD graphics card
Hard Disk: 1 GB

Gremlins, Inc. – Linux, Mac OS X 10.11, Windows 10 Game First Impressions

Gremlins, Inc. Main Menu
Gremlins, Inc. Main Menu

Gremlins, Inc. is a computerized board game designed by Alexey Bokulev and Sergei Klimov produced under the Charlie Oscar Lima Tango Interactive Entertainment brand. It was published in 2016 by The Merchant Guild of Rund to the Steam platform. It appears to be fully multiplayer, where players may play online competitively individually or in cooperative teams, or locally competitively individually or on teams as well. It appears the game may be played by 2 to 5 players. There are ladders that track player statistics that may be climbed. There appear to be plentiful mods to customize, enhance, and extend the base game, and the game appears to have been consistently updated since its release.

Players may play as one of five classes of character: the Explorer, the Manager, the Gambler, the Collector, the Thief, or the Damned. I am not yet certain as to the strengths or weaknesses of the various classes since I’ve only ever chosen the random character option. Hovering over each one should give a description of their strengths and weaknesses.

Players are dealt six cards each at the beginning of the game. As these cards are played or otherwise discarded throughout the game, they are replenished immediately from a random deck. At the beginning of the game, all players may discard as many cards as they wish from their hand to be redrawn prior to playing their first turn.

Character Selection Screen
Character Selection Screen

Each card has a name and unique game art that make them easily remembered and identifiable at a glance once you get used to playing. The Gremlinopedia contains an index of each card and what effects they have to be referenced by the player when needed. All of this information is also present on the cards themselves within a players hand.

The number in the upper left hand corner of the card is the movement number. Cards may be played to move around the board or they may be played to execute the card’s action, but never both. Once a card is played for movement or its action, it is discarded. When played for the card’s action, the card must be played on the spot that it corresponds to. A picture of this spot is located on the bottom left of the card. A description of all of the spots on the board is included below. Some cards have an added action effect when played. These cards will have a gear icon located at the upper center of the card. Hovering the mouse pointer on this icon will reveal text that explains the card’s effect when played.

The Gremlinopedia for referencing card effects and game information.
The Gremlinopedia for referencing card effects and game information.

There are numerous Gremlins, Inc. game boards to play on, and none of them that I have seen are fully linear. Be careful to check the arrows on the board to plan your movement. On the board I first played on, there was a primary loop to travel counter-clockwise around in a circle that was fairly low risk. This primary loop had loops to the unique game spots connected to it, so traveling around this loop would provide a player access to those spots. However, there are also places within the primary loop where the player may take short cuts or move to a different place in the loop entirely. The player must take into account the risk versus reward when choosing their particular path. Paths with high reward usually come with high risk, while paths with lower reward come with a lower risk.

The most important and precious resource in the game are the general game points. At the beginning of each game, the game host decides how many game points will be played to. In the game I played, the number of game points was 20. This means that the first player to reach 20 game points would win the game. The number of game points a player has is shown in the middle of a green gear next to their player portrait on the main game screen. Wherever game points may be added or subtracted from the player in a game, they are represented by a gear.

Discard and redraw any number of cards prior to first turn.
Discard and redraw any number of cards prior to first turn.

There are also votes that may be collected or lost while navigating the board. Whomever has the most votes when elections are called becomes the governor. It’s good to be the governor. Governors don’t have to pay any resources when landing on a bribe spot.

Pitchforks are another resource. The more pitchforks you have the more notorious your reputation which counts for something. Be careful that you don’t have the most pitchforks though as some of the nastier misfortunes target the most evil player in the game. Then there is the + and – resources. The – resource is used to pay off the police when landing on a police spot and pay bribes. Money, or G, is the common currency of the game.

Many cards require G to play on their respective spots. When G is required to play a card, the amount required will be shown in the upper right hand corner of the card. The more powerful the card, the more costly it is to play. Unfortunately for the player who likes to plan ahead, G is what is most often increased or decreased in all of the in game events around the board which makes the amount of it in your purse at any time highly volatile. Getting a high power card that requires around 1000G to play made my mouth water since it would pretty much settle the game if I were to successfully play it. So I would plan out how to get to the other side of the map to play that one card and save enough G on my way there to spend it solely on that card. I tried three separate cards like this in the game I played and each time there was something that made me lose enough of my money to keep me from playing each of those three cards. This was even with me being the governor for around 80 percent of the game. The fluctuation of G in my coffer was a strong signal that Gremlins, Inc. is as much a game of chance as it is a game of skill. Randomness is hidden by the complexity of the game, but is still present in full, frustrating force and compounded by the actions of each player added to the game.

Game board used in my first play through.
Game board used in my first play through.

Common Spots:

Bribe – Looks like a dollar bill with a G in the middle. When passing this spot, a player must pay -, when landing on this spot double – is paid. If the player cannot pay the full amount, they pay whatever they have and receive pitchforks. The governor doesn’t have to pay when passing or landing on any one of these spots.

Gamble – Looks like a die with a heart, club, and spade on it. When landing here a six sided die is rolled. If a one is rolled, a misfortune occurs. Rolling a two subtracts 50G, while rolling a four or a six will add 50G or 100G to a player’s purse respectively. Rolling a three subtracts a voter and adds a pitchfork, while rolling a five adds two voters.

Income – Clearly a money spot. When passing this spot you get money, or G. When you land on it you get double G!

Misfortune – Signified by ominous red face. Passing this spot curses the player with a random misfortune. Landing on it allows a player’s opponent to choose one of two misfortunes that will befall the player.

Police – Looks like a police sergeant’s hat. When landing here a player must pay – or there is a chance they will be arrested.

Risk – When you land on a risk spot, a six sided die is rolled to see if any misfortune is caused to your player. Prior to the die roll, the player is offered the option to buy insurance for 20G. If accepted and a misfortune occurs, it will be directed toward other players instead of the rolling player.

Tribune – Looks like a bullhorn. When landing on one of these spots you can address your voters. A six sided die is rolled to determine the effectiveness of your speech.

Unique Spots:

The Astral Plain – Looks like a hot air balloon. When landing here a player may choose to skip one turn to lose two pitchforks and draw their choice of one out of three cards from the deck.

The Bank – Signified by a gold G. When landing here a player may spend G based on their + amount to increase + by 10.

The Casino – This spot looks like a dart board. Here a player may roll a six sided die to win or lose an amount of money wagered from their purse. Rolling a 1, 2, or 3 causes the player to lose 100G, 50G or 25G respectively. Rolling a 4, 5, or 6 causes the player to gain 25G, 50G, or 100G respectively.

The Court – Signified by an icon of an angry looking judge. When landing on this spot a player may pay 40G to take a vote from any player of their choice.

The Dump – Looks like a worn out boot. When landing here a player may roll a six sided die to dig through the junk. rolling a 1 causes the player to lose one voter. Rolling a four, five, or six, causes the player to gain 10G, 20G, or 30G respectively. Rolling anything else has no effect.

The Jail – Signified by a grid of bars. Many in game actions can send a player to the Jail. Upon entering the Jail, the player rolls a six sided die for the number of turns they will stay in the Jail. At the beginning of each turn spent in the Jail, the player may choose to engage in good behavior, be neutral, or engage in bad behavior. Good behavior helps you get out of the Jail quicker, but bad behavior increases your notoriety and jail experience while potentially adding turns to your sentence. Choosing neutral allows a player to walk the line between the two.

The Inferno – Looks like a pitchfork, seems a lot like hell. Appears to be the home of evil. Cards related to the Inferno tend to boost your player’s pitchfork resource number.

The Office – Signified by a blue hand. A player may sell 1 voter for 100G on this spot.

The Marketplace – Signified by a green moneybag. When landing here a player may sell one of their precious game points for 200G if they wish.

The Plant – Signified by a golden gear on a green background. When landing here a player may skip one turn to receive 50G and lose one pitchfork if they so choose.

The Treasure – It looks like the game designers attempted to depict a yellow diamond icon for this spot, but I spent my whole first game thinking it looked like a yellow heart. The player may roll a six sided die to see how much treasure, or G, they receive. There is no losing on this space. Rolling a 1 wins 10G, 2 wins 25G, 3 wins 50G, 4 wins 100G, 5 wins 150G, and 6 wins 200G.

Gremlins, Inc. appears to be more a game of overall strategy as opposed to methodical tactics. Because of all of the probabilities of success and failure on each turn, it makes more sense to come up with a winning method of playing the game that works best in most cases than to tactically plan out each move many moves into the future. A player can plan a general strategy that provides them success a majority of the time and refine their strategy to eliminate those things that cause a loss of resources a plurality of the time. Focusing on the big picture is key.

Gremlins, Inc. is a fantastically complex game. It’s the kind of game I always wanted to play as a kid but one I know I would never find anyone who would want to play it with me. If you are not a fan of complex games, don’t let that statement completely scare you away. The computer takes care of most of the complexity, it’s just the player’s job to understand what they want to do and figure out the best path to winning. It’s wonderful that the game designers have created such a game of vast complexity that is relatively simple to play and provides an interface through which to connect to other fans of complex board games worldwide with no real language barrier.

My wife beat me.
My wife beat me.

I found no evidence of unwholesome material in Gremlins, Inc. There is no violent or sexual content nor bad language that I encountered. It may be a game too advanced for younger children to understand, which could make it frustrating for them to play and for those who play with them. I would say if someone can easily play Magic: The Gathering, they should be able to handily play Gremlins, Inc.

I can’t wait to play more Gremlins, Inc. My wife and I both enjoyed our first play through and are eager to play as a team competitively to see how high we can rise on the leader boards. If you are a fan of complex board games, I highly recommend you get this game.

Deer in the Headlights – Card and Dice Game Review

Deer in the Headlights Game Box.
Deer in the Headlights Game Box.

Deer in the Headlights is a combination card game and dice game published and released in 2014 by University Games Corporation under the Front Porch Classics brand.

Deer in the Headlights includes three proprietary dice seemingly exclusive to the game as well as two full 54-card standard playing card decks. The standard playing card decks are branded on one side with the Deer in the Headlights logo, but have the same card designs on the play side you would expect to see with any deck of playing cards purchased at the local drug store. The decks even come with two jokers even though jokers are never mentioned anywhere in the rules. It is important to discard the jokers prior to beginning play.

The Deer in the Headlights cards are standard playing cards.
The Deer in the Headlights cards are standard playing cards.

Once the jokers are removed, the first round’s dealer combines and shuffles both decks and then deals out all of the cards to everyone playing. The Deer in the Headlights instruction booklet states that the game may be played by two or more players. I would imagine the only limit to the number of players is the number of cards that may be dealt. The included score pad for the game contains a slot for six players, but keeping track of player scores in a notebook or using two sheets from the score pad should be trivial.

The player who manages to discard all of their cards first wins the round. At the end of the round, all other players count up their points which are then tabulated on the score sheet. Number cards are worth their number values. Jacks, queens, and kings are worth ten points, while aces are worth one point. At the end of ten rounds, the player with the lowest score wins the game.

Play begins with the dealer. They roll the dice and play their turn based on what they roll. There is zero strategy involved. Deer in the Headlights is less a game and more an exercise in probability.

There are three six-sided dice, one beige, one blue, and one red. The dice are the only part of the game that cannot be easily interchanged with another game or other rules. Even though this is the case, the one on the red die is meant to indicate an ace. The red die has the lowest point numbers: A, 2, 3, 4, 5, and a Deer with Antlers. The blue die has the middle point numbers: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and a Deer with Antlers. And finally the beige die has the highest point cards represented: J, Q, K, Car, Running Deer, and Deer with Antlers.

The most common rolls are for three card values such as 2, 6, and Q. When this happens and no symbols are rolled (e.g. Running Deer, Car, or Deer with Antlers) the player who rolled may discard all of the cards that match the values rolled to the center discard pile from their hand. If they are unable to play any cards from their hand from this roll, any and all opponents around the table may discard from their own hand those cards and give them to the rolling player. The second most common roll is two middle or lower point numbers and a deer with antlers such as 4, 7, and a deer with antlers. When this happens, the player may discard to the center pile all of the 4’s or 7’s in their hand.

Deer in the Headlights contains three dice, one blue, one beige, and one red.
Deer in the Headlights contains three dice, one blue, one beige, and one red.

A more uncommon roll is to get two numbers and a car. The car essentially indicates that any cards discarded will not go to the center pile but will instead by distributed by the current player to the other opponents around the table as they see fit. When two numbers and a running deer are rolled, the player may discard to the center pile all of the cards in their hand for the numbers shown, plus an additional wild card of their choosing. So if a 3, 8, and running deer are rolled, the player could discard all the 3’s, 8’s, and Kings they have in their hand if they were to so choose.

When a number, a deer with antlers, and a car are rolled, the player may discard any card that matches the number rolled, as well as any number of cards that add up to that number. So if the player rolled a six, she could discard all of her sixes and any other combination within her hand that adds up to six. Three twos, one four and two ones, and one five and one one would all count. Because the car was rolled, all of these cards discarded are distributed to any of the opposing players the current player chooses.

When a number, a deer with antlers, and a running deer are rolled, the player may discard any odd or even cards based on whether the number rolled was odd or even. So, if the player rolled a 10, she would be able to discard all of the even cards in her hand to the center pile. Face cards are not included in the odd/even count, so jacks, queens, and kings may not be discarded in this way.

If two deer with antlers are rolled with one number, the player loses a turn. If however, two deer with antlers and a car are rolled, the player who rolled may select an opponent to lose the turn for them. If two deer with antlers and a running deer are rolled, the player may discard all of any two kinds of cards they choose from their hand to the center pile.

The most tragic move of all is to roll three deer with antlers. This “freezes” the player. They must pick up all cards from the center pile and they are unable to play a full turn again until they successfully roll a set of dice with at least one deer with antlers. This can be a real rotten game changer and has the potential to make a sore loser in a hurry. It is surprising how rare it actually ever happens, however.

Dice Rolls and Corresponding 'Card Plays' sheet from Instruction Manual.
Dice Rolls and Corresponding ‘Card Plays’ sheet from Instruction Manual.

Deer in the Headlights is a good game for teaching young children how to play basic card and dice games. Its sophistication is greater than that of Go Fish and Candy Land so parents won’t be as bored out of their minds playing it. It’s still quite a tedious game for me to play with my six-year-old son where I have my algorithm all worked out for each and every turn while he takes forever trying to figure out how many nines he has in all of the cards strewn about his hand. Given there is no strategy involved, I really can’t wait until he’s graduated from this one.

Deer in the Headlights might also serve as a decent social game for people who don’t like to play games. In most rounds I have played, most players were about to run out of cards at the same time which tends to provide the illusion that a player is playing “well.” This also increases the possibility that a player will have a “good” round regardless of their level of gaming skill. For those who are new to and scared of more sophisticated games, this could be used as a gateway game to get them interested in something more complex as time goes on.

Qwirkle – Tile-Based Game Review

Quirkle Game Box

Qwirkle Game Box

Qwirkle is a tile-based game for two to four players. It was released in 2006 by publisher MindWare and was designed by Susan McKinley Ross. It is one of those wonderful games that is approachable to young children while simultaneously rich in complex strategy such that there is a great deal to enjoy for advanced players as well. I was introduced to Qwirkle by my five year old son who learned how to play it with his friends at a board game night we attended. He nearly taught me how to play all on his own, though the more advanced strategies seem to be difficult for him to implement and it will take him some practice to ramp up. It is also one of the rare games that doesn’t vary in gameplay based on the number of players playing. The game plays pretty much the same with two players as it does with four players, and no one will feel like a third wheel when playing it with three players.

The Qwirkle set I purchased at Target on sale for 15 dollars has high quality wooden tiles that fit nicely into the supplied cloth bag. Much like Scrabble, players draw their hand from the bag without looking to see what they will get. Each player’s hand is six tiles to start with. After each player plays, they draw the correct number of tiles to replenish their hand.

Quirkle Game Pieces

Qwirkle Game Pieces

There are six different shapes: a square, an x, a diamond, a circle, a star, and a clover. The six different colors are red, blue, purple, green, yellow, and orange. There are 108 tiles in all which divided out means there are three of every shape and color combination that may be played in any game. Having this knowledge comes in handy in the later stage of the game when you are running out of moves for maximum points and want to know if a move can potentially allow an opponent to qwirkle.

In each turn a player plays a single line of tiles that are alike in one of two ways. They are either the same shape but different colors, or they are the same color with different shapes. After the first turn, these lines of tiles must be played on other lines of tiles in the play area. When a tile or line of tiles is added to the play area, points are given for each tile in each line affected by the play. A line of two tiles is worth two points, while a line of four tiles is worth four points. A line of six tiles is called a qwirkle and is worth 6 points for the number of tiles with a bonus of 6 points totaling 12 points.

Linear Gameplay (Before We Knew What We Were Doing)

Linear Gameplay (Before We Knew What We Were Doing)

It is possible to play Qwirkle quite linearly, that is to make plays in straight, solitary lines for 2 to 12 points, hoping when you get your five pieces in a row that your opponent doesn’t have that sixth piece to qwirkle. However, scoring does not just occur on a single line unless only a single line is touched by the play. If a player plays beside an existing line, they are scored for the line they played as well as each line they added that intersects the played line. So, if a player plays a line of two tiles directly beside another line of two tiles, they receive two points for the line they created, plus two points for each of the new lines that were generated by the two lines sitting side by side for a total of six points. When playing in these successively larger squares, this can lead to significant point increases.

Outside of the linear style of play there are two main strategies. A player can play to block others from getting qwirkles. This keeps the opponents’ scores lower but can also impede the scoring potential of the one who played the blocking move. A player can also play to build out the play area so qwirkles are more easily accomplished for everyone.

The order in which tiles are played is extremely important and will affect how successive plays may be made on those tiles later in the game. I have found the best strategy for me is to only play moves where I can get more than five points in the turn. I do this by splitting out my hand. Wherever I have three or more tiles that could be used toward a qwirkle, I keep them saved so I can qwirkle in one move when the time is right. The remaining pieces I attempt to use to play around the board to maximize my points per turn and impede others from achieving their own qwirkles.

Things Got More Interesting When We Learned How to Score More Points

Things Got More Interesting When We Learned How to Score More Points

There is a legal move in which a player may choose to pass on their turn. The player may set aside all tiles from their hand they don’t want to be discarded. Then they may draw that number of tiles from the bag to replenish their hand. The tiles they discarded are then placed back into the bag and the bag is shuffled. Then that player’s turn ends and they are awarded no points. I have not been able to determine a situation in which this would overwhelmingly help a person, outside of perhaps within the first few turns of play. I have thus far not had a hand poor enough that I was willing to purge it at the expense of a turn’s worth of points.

When played with a worthy opponent, Qwirkle tends to be a very cutthroat game. The scores will often be so close that winning or losing comes down to some elegant play in the end game. The player who successfully plays through their entire hand of tiles once the tile bag is empty is awarded an additional six points to their final turn’s score and the game ends. Therefore there is great scoring power in being the last person to play.

I have had a surprising amount of fun playing Qwirkle. It is easy to teach newcomers how to play and it affords a challenge that keeps it fresh. I’ve been taking it to family gatherings. The younger children can still play with the adults, while the adults keep getting better and more difficult to beat. This is a fantastic game that I would recommend be in any board game or strategy game fanatic’s collection.

Blast Works: Build, Trade, Destroy – Nintendo Wii Game First Impressions

Blast Works Title Screen

Blast Works Title Screen

Blast Works is a side-scrolling shooter game released in 2008 for the Nintendo Wii. It was developed by Budcat Creations and published by Majesco Entertainment. From the little research I have done on this game, it appears to be a port of Tumiki Fighters from the PC to the Wii.

Tumiki Fighters was developed by Kenta Cho and released as free software in 2004. Written in the D programming language, it uses OpenGL for graphics rendering. I would assume Kenta Cho had a good deal of creative license with Blast Works given that versions of his other games, rRootage, Gunroar, and Torus Trooper are included as unlockable bonus items in the game.

Come At Me

Come At Me

Blast Works has a unique game mechanic that I don’t believe I’ve seen in any other side-scrolling shooter I have played. When an enemy is shot down and is falling toward the bottom of the screen, the player may swoop in to catch the enemy or the enemy’s guns. Wherever the enemy makes contact with the player’s plane is where the two objects connect. Once connected, the enemy’s guns will fire from that position as the player’s own guns toward other enemies. The former enemy will also serve as a buffer from being hit directly and losing a plane. As a level progresses, downed enemies hook to downed enemies creating a massive structure of firepower the player has accumulated to take on the level’s final boss.

There's nothing quite like a good boss bullet hell.

There’s nothing quite like a good boss bullet hell.

When I first witnessed this game mechanic it surprised me. I had a great deal of fun connecting out enemy planes to the end of the screen and blasting anything in my path with my own bullet hell for once. I then got to thinking that due to this game mechanic the game might turn out to be too easy. Not so. The game makers did an excellent job balancing the game. Each boss I played outside of the first couple levels made me sweat. The player may choose three different levels of difficulty. The bullet hells are intense and Blast Works provides a similar experience to other classic side-scrolling shooters I have played in the past.

Come with me little girl on a magic carpet ride.

Come with me little girl on a magic carpet ride.

Another interesting feature provided in Blast Works is a full-fledged level editor. The player may create their own level, with their own enemies, and custom build their own planes to fly through those levels. Even new bullets can be created and customized. The game offers a CAD-like program to create and save new shapes and modify environments. The amount of detail to which a player can create their own levels is incredible. Blast Works feels like a PC game that still works incredibly well with the standard Wiimote/Nunchuck controllers.

Blast Works features three modes of gameplay for playing through the side-scrolling shooter levels. Campaign Mode allows one or two players to play through campaign levels in a sequential order. I assume extra game features are unlocked through this mode of play, but I have yet to unlock anything yet. Arcade Mode allows one to four players to play through levels sequentially for points. And as mentioned earlier, one to four players may play through a custom level created by a player in the User Levels mode.

Blast Works Game Disc

Blast Works Game Disc

The music in the Blast Works is good. It sounds like a typical Wii game soundtrack, but mixed with the heavy synthetic techno kind of themes I would expect from a classic side-scrolling shooter of the Super Nintendo era. While the graphics are a bit blocky and look quite dated for the time this title was released, Blast Works more than makes up for it in gameplay and replayability. I picked up my copy of Blast Works used for less than four dollars. From a quick Amazon search it appears buying a new copy might cost less than ten dollars. At that price it’s well worth it. I would especially recommend this title for children who enjoy playing with Legos. It’s certainly not Minecraft, but who knows? Maybe this will be a gateway game for getting my son to play with CAD software someday in the future.

Set – Card Game Review

Set Card Game

Set Card Game

Set is a card game developed by Marsha Falco and published by Set Enterprises, Inc. and Cannei, LLC. It was released in 1991 to understandable acclaim, as it is a clever, novel card game. Set may be played solitaire, or with any number of players provided there is enough space around the table for everyone to see what cards are in play.

There are 81 cards in the Set deck. On these cards are combinations of one, two, or three shapes in the form of a squiggle, diamond or oval. These shapes appear in one of three colors: purple, green, or red. Each card’s shape is solidly filled in, unfilled, or shaded. At the game’s start the deck is shuffled, and twelve cards are laid face-up in the center of the table in a 3×4 grid.

Set 3x4 grid arrangement

Set 3×4 grid arrangement

Once all of the cards are laid out, those who are playing examine the grid for potential sets. A set is defined as a group of three cards anywhere within the grid that all either share a similar or completely distinct characteristic for each classification of shape, shading, color, or number of items on the cards. Once a player is sure they see a set, they call out that they’ve found one to everyone else playing. They then pick out the three cards and all other players confirm whether a set has actually been found or not. If a set has indeed been found, the player who found the set keeps those cards and a point is added to their score. Three new cards are drawn from the deck and are used to fill in the places where the cards used to make the set were taken. If a valid set was not confirmed to be found, the player who claimed a set has their score decremented by one set. Play then continues with all players looking for the next set. Play ends and scores are tallied when the deck runs out of cards. Whoever found the most sets becomes the winner of the game.

It is important that all players understand exactly what a set is before play begins. I was mad as a hen when I was picking what I thought were sets and losing points the first time I played Set. Meanwhile my opponent was selecting out sets that I had disregarded because I thought they did not fit the description of a set.

An example of a set is shown where there are three solid green ovals, three solid green squiggles, and three solid green diamonds. These constitute a set because they are all green, there are three shapes on each card, the shapes on each card are all solid, and a distinctly different shape is displayed on each card.

This is a valid set.

This is a valid set.

An example of a group of three cards that is not a set is also shown here. While all three cards are colored purple, each card has a distinct number of shapes, and all of the shapes shown are solid, two of the cards display diamond while the final card is oval. Because not all of the cards contain diamond nor does each card contain a distinct shape, these cards do not constitute a set.

This is not a valid set.

This is not a valid set.

One final example of a set is shown here. The color is different on each card: red, green, then purple. Each card contains diamonds, but each one has a different number of diamonds. The diamonds have distinct shading across all cards. The first is solid, the second shaded, and the third empty. This is a valid set.

This is a valid set.

This is a valid set.

If at any point no set is found within the grid on the table, then three additional cards are pulled from the deck and placed into the grid for a total of 15 cards. Play then continues. When the next set is discovered, no further cards are drawn in order to get the grid back down to twelve cards. Therefore, as I understand it, there should never be more than 15 cards in play at a time. In solitaire play, a player is trying to find as many sets as they can to beat their previous score. When they are unable to find a set in the twelve card grid, they may add the additional three cards, but doing so creates a one set penalty to their score. Of course, who is going to know you’re cheating if you’re playing alone?

Set is a fun little card game that is easy to learn how to play. Given that any number of players may play it, it is an ideal card game for party situations. It has won several game awards including the MENSA Select award. I can vouch that this is a fantastic title that belongs in any serious card gamer’s collection.

Peggle – Compatibility

Peggle Title Screen

Peggle Title Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 98 or later version of Windows.
Processor: Pentium Compatible 500MHz or greater.
Memory: 256 MB
Video: DirectX Compatible Graphics. DirectX 7.0 required.

Windows 10

Installs – Yes
Runs – Yes
Uninstalls – Yes

Peggle appears to run flawlessly in Windows 10.

Peggle – Windows Vista Game First Impressions

Peggle Title Screen

Peggle Title Screen

Peggle is an arcade puzzle game, released in 2007, that was developed and published by PopCap Games. Given the cartoony artwork on the cover of the game’s jewel case, it almost looks like one of those games that used to be sold as a gateway for getting a user to try America Online or to install a Yahoo! Toolbar. I was concerned when I installed it on my machine that I might have to uninstall some unsavory software. I am glad I did install Peggle as it not only seems like a safe stand-alone piece of software, but it is actually a very fun, addictive game.

Multiball!

Multiball!

The objective of the game is to eliminate all of the orange pieces prior to running out of balls. Once all of the orange pieces are eliminated, the player progresses to the next level. The player controls the direction in which a ball is launched. The ball then bounces off of every surface it hits in Plinko fashion until it falls down through the play field. At the base of the play field is a ball catcher that oscillates to and fro. If the ball is caught by the ball catcher, the player is awarded an extra ball to use in play. Otherwise, the ball is lost, and the player fires another ball to attempt to eliminate the orange pieces.

There are also blue, purple, and green pieces. Blue pieces are the standard default pieces. They award a set number of points when hit, but do not contain any special properties. Purple pieces award increased bonus points. Green pieces cause special actions to occur based on the host mascot of the particular stage of levels being played.

Kat Tut's Pyramid

Kat Tut’s Pyramid

There appear to be 50 levels divided into five level stages. Each five level stage is hosted by a particular animal mascot, or master. The first stage is hosted by Bjorn the Unicorn. When a green piece is hit in Bjorn’s levels, the player is awarded a “Super Glide” for the next three balls. Super Glide allows the player to target a piece and then target where the ball will ricochet into another piece. The second stage is hosted by Jimmy Lightning, who appears to be a hamster on a skateboard. Hitting a green piece in his levels spawns a second ball that bounces in the opposite direction of the ball that hit the green piece. If timed correctly, this can cause the player to catch both balls. The third stage is hosted by Kat Tut. When a green piece is hit, the ball catcher turns into a pyramid for five turns. When this happens the player’s ball has a better chance of bouncing away from falling into the abyss and instead making it into the ball catcher for a free ball. I’ll need to play further to explore the other level stages.

Extreme Fever

Extreme Fever

When the final orange ball is hit, the game enters “Extreme Fever” mode. Gameplay enters slow motion and rainbow sparks fly to the background music of “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s symphony number 9. The ball then bounces into one of five containers at the base of the play field for bonus points. The middle container is worth 100,000 points, those on either side of it are worth 50,000, and the final containers are worth 10,000 points.

Fireworks

Fireworks

Peggle hits all the right stimuli to keep you playing. Flashy graphics, encouraging cute fuzzy characters, and catchy sounds and music all combine to keep a player focused on shooting another ball onto the play field and getting to the next level. I had meant to review a different game tonight. When it didn’t work on Windows 10, Peggle was my fall back. Even though it was late, I couldn’t stop clicking and wanting to play that next level and watch my score go up and up. This game will eat your time. If you didn’t have anything too important going on, you’ll be glad it did.

Peggle Game Disc

Peggle Game Disc

I purchased my copy of Peggle second hand still in shrink wrap from either a thrift store or a yard sale. The price was right, so I grabbed it. However, Peggle also came out on the Steam platform. At the time this article was published, it could be purchased for $4.99. It’s not the the most challenging puzzle game out there. I would actually consider it more of an arcade game than a puzzle game, but it is a virtual dopamine factory with its visuals and sound. This would also be a good title for small children as it is easy and avoids frustrating the player at its lowest levels.

Decksplash – Compatibility

Decksplash Title Screen

Decksplash Title Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 10 64-bit
Processor: Intel Core i3 6th Gen or AMD FX-6200 or better
Memory: 4GB RAM
Video: Nvidia GTX 680 or AMD R9 280X or better
Sound: DirectX 10 compatible sound card
Hard Drive: 4 GB
Gamepad recommended for play.

Windows 10

This game was designed for Windows 10.