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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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
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.
Another game we played at our most recent game night was Turnspell released by Mattel in 2016. This is a word game where 2 to 4 players are scored based on their ability to construct four letter words. Contained with the game are four, four-by-four letter boards for each player with scoring pegs and a center spinning board which contains letters chosen randomly from a pouch.
The pouch contains tiled letters with the exact same frequency and score values as Scrabble. I was actually disappointed to discover I am missing an “I” from my favorite travel Scrabble set when I tested the theory that these games use the same lettering system. Mattel, I think you may owe Hasbro an explanation, or at least a concession that they know what they are doing more when it comes to word games.
Scrabble and Turnspell tiles match up perfectly.
Letters are chosen at random and placed on the center spinning board, filling each of its four four-letter tile spaces. When we started the game we thought you were supposed to spin the spinning board to determine who started with which letters. Don’t do this unless you want pick the letters up off the floor on opposite sides of the room.
Try to make the letter setup truly random so no one feels cheated in the first turn. When we started one game, one of the sides of the center spinning board was completely filled with “E” letter pieces. Given that there are rare letters that are worth more points and common letters that are quite prevalent, my friend was forced to take an “E” on his first turn while his opponents were taking “J” and “X” letters. Perhaps a mulligan system could be employed to provide a more balanced start for all players. I would suggest if a side on the spinning board is completely filled with one-point vowels, or perhaps only one-point letters (vowels or consonants) at the beginning of the game, one letter should be traded out until a higher point valued letter is drawn to take its place.
Center spinning board. Be careful when spinning.
All players play simultaneously. Each player draws a letter and places it somewhere on their player board. The player’s objective is to create four-letter words on their board. Once a four-letter word is created, it is scored by counting the point value each of the letters is worth. The word’s total score is added to the player’s score total using the pegs on the player’s board and the letters from the word are then placed back into the letter pouch.
There is a possibility for a player to use a letter to create two four-letter words at the same time. When this happens, the letter values from both words are added together and then that final sum is doubled to compute their total score for that turn. When a player reaches a score of 44, they win the game. If two players surpass a score of 44 in the same turn then the highest scoring player wins. If both players tie past 44 in the same turn, I assume they must fight to the death or the universe explodes. The rules do not specify in this final case.
Once a tile is placed on a player’s board, it cannot be replaced without taking a penalty. If a player wishes to remove one tile, they may surrender five points or twice the point value of the letter to do so, whichever total is higher. If they do not have enough points in the game to take the penalty, they may not remove the tile. When a tile is removed, it is placed back into the letter pouch. It cannot be replaced on the player’s board.
A player board. All she needed was a “Z” and I took it before she could get it.
The player may also remove an entire row of tiles from their player board for no penalty. If there is only one tile in the row, it may be removed with no penalty. Similar to removing the one tile, if a row is removed from a player’s board it is removed to the pouch, not rearranged on the player’s board. Once all players have placed a tile on their player board, the center spinning board is turned one-click clockwise so that the next set of letters is facing a new player. Then the missing letters from the previous round of play are replaced at random from the letter pouch.
Turnspell is a good word game for board gamers who are not good at word games. I never win at Scrabble. I only ever really play it because other people enjoy it. I won at Turnspell against people who enjoy Scrabble and win often at Scrabble. It felt good, but also felt like sort of a cheap thrill for me while playing with such Scrabble aficionados. This is a nice light party game that takes a lower vocabulary and less brain activity than other word games in its class.
As alluded in the title, Goldfinger James Bond 007 Game is a board game released by Milton Bradley in 1966 after the release of the hit movie starring Sean Connery playing as James Bond. The Goldfinger board game centers around the scene in the movie in the vault room of Fort Knox as depicted on the game’s board. This is a two player game. One player controls the red pieces while another the blue pieces and one yellow piece which depicts Goldfinger. There are 8 blue pieces. The blue player’s objective is to get the Goldfinger piece to the outer edge of the board. If the blue player is able to accomplish this, they win. There are 16 red pieces. The red player wins when they are able to successfully capture the Goldfinger piece.
Game board with initial starting locations colored in.
Capturing is accomplished by directly surrounding a piece on both sides. The blue player would capture a red piece by having two blue pieces on either side of it, and vice versa. If the red player were to move a piece between two blue pieces, their piece remains safe and is not passively captured. A player may capture two pieces in one turn, if they happen to move a piece into place such that it completes the corner of a right angle. When capturing, the Goldfinger piece may act as a blue piece. Neither red nor blue pieces are allowed to occupy or move through the Goldfinger piece’s starting location.
The Goldfinger piece can be captured in one of three ways. It can be captured if it is on the yellow dot in the center of the board if there are four red pieces surrounding it on the blue dots with white circles which are adjacent in cardinal directions north, south, east, and west to the yellow dot. If the Goldfinger piece is on one of the white circles, it may be captured by one red piece that places itself on a normal dot such that the Goldfinger piece is sandwiched between the yellow dot and the red piece. And if the Goldfinger piece is on a normal dot, it can be captured in the same way as any other blue piece.
Capturing two pieces at once.
Red always goes first. Each turn a player must move one piece in any horizontal or vertical direction any number of spaces. They may not turn a corner or move in two directions in their move. Play alternates until the Goldfinger piece escapes to the edge of the board or the red player captures the Goldfinger piece.
Capturing the Goldfinger piece.
Goldfinger James Bond 007 is a very mentally stimulating, challenging strategy board game title. Much like chess, it really takes a great deal of skill and thought to master. The first few times I played through this game, I made some of the clumsiest mistakes that my opponent was quick to take advantage of. It’s nice to play with someone who has never played before on your first time, because she made just as many mistakes that I was then able to take advantage of as well.
Capturing the Goldfinger piece.
It’s strange and interesting to switch colors and play the other side from game to game. The set of strategies is completely separate between blue and red players, and I found myself really having to think through every move. The rules make a point of stating that this game is meant to be played like chess. That means, while the blue team could win by taking direct advantage of a mistake made by the red player and move the Goldfinger piece to the outer edge of the board, the blue player is supposed to alert the red player as such a move is made. The idea is that a sort of check and checkmate should be called as the game is approaching completion in order to ensure the game is played strategically, not accidentally.
Example of “checkmate.”
It surprised my opponent and I both how quickly the tide of the game can turn. It is easy to get cocky when you have clearly captured more of your opponents pieces than they have captured of yours, yet still get routed. This game is not quite like any other two-dimensional strategy board game I have played. It is sort of like Chess, Checkers, and Nine Men’s Morris, but none of these games really do justice to explaining the gameplay going on here.
I found my copy of Goldfinger James Bond 007 at a local antique store a few blocks from my house in the city I live in. They sold it to me for $15. The cheapest copy I saw online was on Ebay for $40, which is a little steep. From my limited research it appears this game may be rare, but it would really be trivial to duplicate on a checker board without the movie theming. In order to do this you would need two sets of checkers pieces for one of the colors. So if the red player were still red when using checkers pieces, they would need two sets of red checkers or 16 red checkers. Meanwhile, the black player which is taking the place of blue would place 8 black checkers in their places on the board and two black checkers stacked on top of each other in the center to designate the Goldfinger piece. Instead of playing on the squares, play would be done on the intersections of lines and the board would have to be laid out as shown in the pictures in this article.
Initial piece positions. Note how this could be imitated on a standard checker board.
Goldfinger James Bond 007 is a great game for the collector. It’s a nice piece of American cultural history, it’s a Milton Bradley game from the 1960s, and it’s somewhat rare – all things that make the game a nice conversation piece. But beneath all this theming and history is a well balanced, impressive strategy game that can be played using very basic gaming components. I would hate for any fellow gamer to have to miss out on the richness of this impressively amazing strategy gameplay simply because they haven’t been able to get their hands on this particular movie to board game title.
Zaxxon, published by Milton Bradley in 1982, is a board game designed after the hit arcade classic of the same name developed and released by Sega. Zaxxon is a two player game. The objective of the game is for each player to be the first to successfully shoot Zaxxon once using each of their planes.
Player 2’s outer fortress perspective
Each player starts with two planes on their respective Player 1 or Player 2 home base starting locations. The game board is divided into two sections, the outer fortress and the inner fortress. In the outer fortress, each player must use their planes to destroy a gun turret, a missile silo, and two fuel tanks. When a fuel tank is destroyed within the outer fortress, it is moved into its designated spot in the inner fortress. Once a plane makes it into the inner fortress, for the remainder of the game whenever it is destroyed the plane will respawn at one of the restart positions right outside the inner fortress. In the inner fortress each player must destroy all of their fuel tanks prior to facing Zaxxon.
Zaxxon the Board Game spinner
Each player gets control of one six-sided die which they roll together at the same time at the beginning of each round of play. The player with the lowest roll then gets to spin the spinner. The spinner has three colors it could land on. If the spinner lands on blue, then all gun turrets currently in play are activated and any plane within their area of effect is shot down. If the spinner lands on red, all of the missile silos currently in play are activated and any plane within their area of effect is then shot down. Any missile silo or gun turret that has been destroyed no longer has any area of effect. The missile silo and gun turret closest to Zaxxon may not be destroyed, they are considered indestructible by the game’s rules. If the spinner lands on white, nothing happens.
After the spinner is spun, the player with the lowest roll moves their pieces the number of moves designated by the die they rolled. If they rolled a five, then they would have five movement points. Moving one position takes one movement point. Changing altitude takes one movement point. Firing at a target requires the number of movement points the plane is away from the target. In order to fire at a target, there must be a direct path through the hex grid from the plane to the target to fire in a straight line across the hex positions. A player may distribute their movement points across one or two planes any way they like and planes may move in any legal direction across the hex grid. A plane may not stop on top of a wall, so at least two movement points are required to clear any wall. After the player with the lowest die roll moves their planes, the player with the highest die roll then moves their planes. After all movement has been made, play continues in the next round as it did in the previous round with both players rolling their die together again.
Game pieces with different altitudes
Just like in the arcade game, altitude matters. In the Zaxxon board game, a plane may be in high altitude or low altitude. A plane must be in low altitude to hit a target. A plane must be in high altitude to pass over a wall. And a plane must be in the same altitude as another plane in order to shoot it down.
The dog-fight zone within the inner fortress
Right within the inner fortress, there are many spaces designated by open circles contained within an orange area. This is the dog-fighting zone. Players may shoot down their opponent’s aircraft here. Within this zone is a radar barrier. In order to send a plane through the radar barrier, the player must have rolled the highest of both players on that round of play.
Zaxxon and its movement area
Once a player’s plane has entered the radar barrier, Zaxxon becomes alerted and activated. At this point in the game, whenever a player spins the spinner and it lands on a space with a “Z,” that player will move and fire Zaxxon based on the their roll of their die. Zaxxon cannot move beyond the area it inhabits designated by the dark black circles on the board, nor can the player’s planes enter this area. Zaxxon can shoot as far as the fuel tank positions in the inner fortress. Any player within those positions can be hit by Zaxxon.
The game of Zaxxon I played with my opponent started out easy enough. We both handily destroyed our targets within the outer fortress on our way to the inner fortress. When we crossed the walls into the inner fortress the showdown began. We had fun shooting down each other’s planes. She crossed the radar barrier and I shot her plane down and vice versa.
As soon as we crossed the radar barrier, Zaxxon activated and moved up to the limit of his movement zone. We cautiously eliminated the front missile silo and gun turret in front of the fuel tanks and eliminated each of our fuel tanks when we were not eliminating each other. At one point we had four of our planes just outside Zaxxon’s range ready to take Zaxxon on. I sent one of my planes to the right-most side to flank it, and with a good roll managed a hit sending one of my planes back to home base and sending Zaxxon to his starting location. Using the same maneuverer with the second plane, I had to wait awhile until Zaxxon was back in position for me to strike again. As soon as the time was right, I got my hit and won the game.
Bird-eye view of the game board
Zaxxon is probably the best arcade to board game adaptation I have ever played. The game is balanced between both players. The game board, pieces, and game play feel close to the original arcade game. And the board game creators did a satisfactory job of balancing the level at which skill and chance factor in winning the game. The Zaxxon board game is not difficult to learn, and takes around 20-30 minutes to play once you know what you’re doing. It is a pleasant game that is fun and original and doesn’t make you think too hard; a good board game when you’ve got time to kill with a friend who doesn’t want to play anything too involved or is a fan of arcade gaming but the power is out.
All serious strategy board gamers have been there. You’re on a camping trip out in the middle of nowhere wilderness where there’s plenty of food and plenty of fire to roast weenies and marshmallows, but no electronics and few games to play. Maybe someone brought a deck of cards, but no one can agree to learn anyone else’s card game, they just want everyone to play their own. Often someone brings Uno, which is nice but not too mentally engaging. Perhaps someone who didn’t mind being labeled as the camp nerd took one for the team and brought along chess. He’ll kick your butt every time, but at least it gives you something to do. But most often, in the backwoods campgrounds I have been to, or even on the way there or back while waiting for a table at a Cracker Barrel country store, somewhere there is a checkers board. It may be scrawled out on the top of a wooden barrel, or painted onto a picnic table. All it takes is 12 round pieces each of two distinct colors and you’re saved from boredom. Even if your opponent doesn’t know how to play checkers, it’s likely one of the easiest games to teach.
So you begin playing checkers. At first the game is quite even, piece captured for piece captured with the occasional one piece for two pieces. But eventually the end game comes along, and it’s down to a number of kings duking it out. It feels like I have had more opponents quit on me at the beginning of the late game than not when playing checkers.
“Ah, I can see you’re just too good for me! You win!” they say as if they are doing me a favor.
Sometimes I have thought to myself, “Self, wouldn’t it be great if you could just skip to and play the checkers late game with someone so they don’t get fatigued and chicken out?” That’s kind of what Chung-Toi feels like to play. Chung-Toi, a product of House-of-Chung Enterprises, bills itself as “Tic-Tac-Toe with a Twist.” Copyrighted in 1985 and designed for two players only, the objective of this game is to get three of your pieces in a row. The game contains a 3-by-3 board with three white pieces and three red pieces.
Chung-Toi game pieces
The rules are pretty simple. Both players decide who goes first. Taking turns, each player places a piece on the board until all pieces have been placed. Each piece is in the shape of an octagon and has arrows on four sides. When turned one direction, a piece’s arrows will be pointed horizontally and vertically on the game board. When turned one-eighth of a turn from that position, the arrows are pointed diagonally across the game board. These arrows indicate the direction that piece is allowed to move in a later turn, so when you place your pieces make sure you’re happy with the direction you’ve got the arrows pointing.
Once all pieces are placed, if no player already has three pieces in a row, a player may move one of her pieces in the following ways. A piece may be moved in one direction indicated by the current position of the arrows across the board either to an adjacent empty position or to hop over a piece to an empty position two spaces away from the piece’s current position. When moving any piece, the player may reorient the piece’s arrows in any configuration they choose. A piece may also be rotated to change its arrow configuration from diagonal to horizontal/vertical and vice-versa. Finally, a player may rotate a piece such that its current arrow configuration does not change, in essence passing on her turn.
Chung-Toi game play
Playing this game starts out feeling like a simple game of tic-tac-toe, but once all pieces are on the board, it is a puzzle to figure out how to arrange your own pieces while not compromising the positions you are holding that are keeping your opponent from winning. This game won a Mensa award in 1994. It’s really easy to pickup and teach. It’s moderately simple to get decent at this game when playing with other beginners, but becomes a delightful challenge to learn how to master besting an opponent when similarly matched.
I was unable to find a website or any real information on House-of-Chung Enterprises. According to the game box, W. Reginald Chung from Tifton, Georgia holds the copyright on Chung-Toi. It’s such a simple game, you could actually scrawl out a playing field using chalk on pavement and then use make-shift objects to designate player’s pieces and directions if you were out at camp and had no games with you.
I found a copy on Ebay selling for under 10 dollars. This seems like a worthwhile price to me. The biggest issue with paying too much for this game is that it literally feels like the end game to another game. The box claims that the “average playing time is 7 minutes per game.” I have yet to play a game of Chung-Toi that came close to 7 minutes, which would make me wonder if I was really getting my money’s worth. On the whole though, this is an excellent game to play with someone who has a short attention span, when you have only a little bit of time to waste, or you’re out in the woods with nothing to do.
Playing Air Empire, a board game released in 1961 by Avalon Hill, is like walking back in time for an educational, yet entertaining history lesson. Playable by 2 to 4 players, each player assumes control of one of the four major airlines at the beginning of the 1960s: American Airlines, Trans World Airline, United Airlines, and Eastern Air Lines.
That last airline was one I had actually never heard of. Apparently, Eastern Air Lines used to be one of the biggest airlines during most of the 20th century. Run by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, a World War I fighter ace and Medal of Honor recipient, Eastern Air Lines “had a near monopoly on air travel between New York and Florida from the 1930s until the 1950s and dominated the market for decades afterward.” according to Wikipedia, though it has been defunct since 1991. I didn’t fly in my first plane until the mid 1990s on a Delta airlines flight. Delta isn’t represented in the game; they didn’t really become a big-time airline until well into the 1960s.
While writing this first impressions review I got so absorbed in reading about Rickenbacker’s adventurous life, from winning 26 aerial victories in World War I, his secret mission to the Soviet Union during World War II, to all his near death experiences where the press reported he had died multiple times throughout his inspiring and exciting life. I want to read his autobiography now. Look him up, you’ll be glad you did.
When I was getting pumped up to play Air Empire I was telling my wife I was looking forward to “flying the friendly skies.” That slogan is nowhere to be found in this game since United Airlines did not institute that slogan until 1965. Their slogan in 1961 was “The Main Line Airway.” I can see why they changed it.
Air Empire game board
It’s unusual to write a first impressions review for a board game. Most board games have a single set of rules that you follow and a set amount of time to play through the game. Air Empire has two rule booklets and three sets of gameplay. Booklet A contains the rules for the basic game. Booklet B contains further details about rules in booklet A and additional optional rules of play that add complexity to the basic game. On the back of booklet B are instructions for the Air EmpireTournament Game which adds additional rules designed to make the game more cut-throat and eliminate the players. In tournament play taxes and revenue fluctuations are added as well as forcing the player to turn in old planes and purchase new ones to maintain their airline fleet.
Booklet A directs players to start with it. The instructions are written such that players read a piece of the instructions out loud, then play that piece of the game, then continue reading the instructions, play the next piece and so on. Because we started with the basic game and the basic game is all we had time for during our game night, I’ll have to fully review the tournament game another time. There are some games that offer players kid gloves to get them eased into the game on the off chance they are not very experienced gamers – a “basic” game that is more like a tutorial. This game is not one of them. If we had started with the tournament game, it would have been brutal. My opponent and I kept running out of money and going bankrupt during the game. We made agreements at several points to rewind the game and try again when we had made a game-ending grave mistake.
Air Empire game play
Each player assumes control of the airline designated by the logo on the side of the game board that is closest to them. The basic game occurs over a period of three in-game years divided into quarters. Therefore there are 12 rounds of play. The object of the basic game is to be the player with the most liquid cash at the end of those three years. Assets do not count toward this cash total.
There are 18 route cards that correspond to the 18 airport destinations on the game board. Each quarter all of the players bid on which class of service and how much they are willing to invest in each route. At the beginning of the game out of all the players, a “Senior President” is chosen. In the case of a tie in the game, the Senior President wins the tie in all bids. Each quarter, the position of Senior President moves to the next player around the table in a clockwise fashion. I’ve found using a dealer poker chip works well for this. In setting up the game, the route cards are shuffled and placed face down on the designated space on the game board. Each player receives a score sheet to keep track of the statistics for their airline.
Air Empire score sheet
Each route card contains a city, a list of cities adjacent to it, the flight costs associated with providing service in that city at each class level, and the revenue received from operating flights in that city at that class level. In a two player game, only classes A and B may be bid on. For three or four player games, a player may bid for any class level.
At the beginning of each quarter, the route card on the top of the deck is flipped over to reveal the new route. All players then covertly write the name of the city in an open Route Application slot on their airline score sheet. They select which class they are bidding for and the amount they bid to invest in that route. Their bid must be the same or higher than the flight cost amount listed on the route card.
If two or more players bid for a particular class, the highest bid for that class wins the route at that class. If there is a tie, if the Senior President was involved, the Senior President wins the bid. Otherwise, the player sitting closest to the Senior President in the clockwise direction wins the bid. When a bid is won, the winning player fills in the revenue and profit blanks on the Route Application and places the appropriate number of planes from their fleet at the new route’s city on the game board. The exact breakdown of what planes are required for each bid amount are listed on the game board under the “Flight Costs Table” heading.
Air Empire Flight Costs Table
Air Empires is very unforgiving for players who don’t plan ahead. If you win a bid, but you don’t have the right number and type of planes to support your bid amount, you automatically lose the bid and the next highest bidding player wins the route at that class instead. There are two types of planes: propeller and super jet planes. In one round I attempted to hurt my opponent by bidding high in class A for the Baltimore-Washington route at a price of $18,000. For $18,000 I needed 4 propeller planes and 2 super jets. I think I had 3 super jets at that point in the game, but I needed more propeller planes. If I had bid $17,000 or $19,000 I would have had an adequate number of planes to service the route. But because I frivolously bid $18,000, I lost the bid and the round as a result.
Any player who loses a bid in a class does not get to open a route that quarter. There are many perks for fighting for and winning bids in class A, however. For every two class A bids a player wins they may, if they choose, “borrow” $5,000 from the bank. This bank loan gets recorded on their score sheet on the round it was received, they receive the cash from the bank, and they are never required to pay it back. As the rules state, “Interest would be too small to effect play of the game, so this step has been eliminated.” Sounds like a cheap bonus granted to the current winner to me. Another bonus granted to class A route holders occurs when a player holds two adjacent class A routes. When this happens, a player receives a 20% increase to the profit generated from the new route. Each route card indicates which other cities are adjacent to it. It is possible, given a player has the planes necessary to support it, to bid so high no immediate profit is made from winning the bid. This can be used as a strategy to keep another player from getting a class A route, or to obtain a strategic class A route that can be used later.
Filling out the Air Empire score sheet
After the winners of each class on the current route have been determined, players fill out their score sheets with their profits added to their current gross profit. Filling out the score sheet is kind of like filling out a tax form. Imagining that I was an actual president of a commercial airline, I enjoyed seeing my profits written down on paper and doing the math there. Others might consider this to be more work than game play though. This is a large component of the game, so keep that in mind if you consider obtaining a copy of Air Empire.
After recording profits, the player must decide how many new planes they would like to purchase. Propeller planes cost $2,500 each while super jets cost $7,000 each. There are a finite number of super jets and propeller planes. There are fewer super jets than there are propeller planes. It is a workable tactic to buy up all the super jets to make it more difficult for opponents to bid on the higher class routes. After recording the total purchase price of all planes, the player then calculates the total maintenance and overhaul cost of their fleet. Each propeller plane costs $200 per quarter while each super jet costs $500 per quarter to maintain. Gross Profits – (New Plane Cost + Maintenance Costs) equals net profit received from the bank. If this number is negative, the player owes the bank money.
Just like running an actual business, it’s really easy to plan poorly and wind up dirt poor or bankrupt. I found it helpful to use a calculator each round for planning out my next round. While calculating my scores for the current round I also came up with a shortcut to make figuring out the number of planes I would purchase easier by combining the cost of the plane with its maintenance cost. So when purchasing a propeller jet I calculated it at a cost of $2,700 and super jets at $7,500.
Once all players have made good with the bank by receiving their net profit or paying their outstanding balance, the next route card is turned over and the next quarter of play begins. It is important to keep track of when the game will end. When the game is over planes may not be turned in for cash, so it is wise not to purchase too many planes in the final quarters.
Air Empire is so cash.
Air Empire is a moderately complex game of extreme strategy and skill. As I noted before, a great deal of math and planning goes into excelling at this game. Even more interesting is the bidding process though. Each bid I made with my opponent was akin to playing a hand of Poker, trying to determine the opponent’s next move and whether they would bluff or not. Air Empire is rich in these chance game mechanics while not actually being a game of chance. Based on these mechanics, I find this game to be absolutely fascinating. I concede it is not for everyone, but if you consider yourself to be a serious board game player and love strategy or betting games, I would highly recommend you give Air Empire a try.
I found and purchased this board game, Cross-Up by Milton Bradley, at an antique shop in Sweetwater, Tennessee. When I saw it I turned to my wife and said, “Look! It’s Lucy from I Love Lucy!!!” Judging the cover of the game, I would assume that is what the publishers would have hoped a prospective buyer like me would have done. As can be seen in the image, the cover has a canned cursive Lucy signature. The signature looks nothing like the signature on the Lucille Ball Wikipedia page. Despite this and the image of her sitting behind the table, this game appears to have no further references to the great American icon.
Cross-Up has a copyright date of 1974. According to Wikipedia, 1974 was the last year Lucy was credited as starring in any particular movie or show. It kind of hurts me to look at her face. She’s like a grandmother smiling longingly at me, hoping she’ll get to play the game with me, while also sad and exasperated like she has low expectations that will ever happen. I hope they simply edited her picture onto the cover, otherwise I would feel sorry for the camera man who surely felt he must play the game she’s advertising to keep from breaking her heart. Enough about that, on to the game-play.
Cross-Up Game Components
Cross-Up is advertised as a game for two or more players. I would like to know if there is a world record on the number of people who have played Cross-Up at one time. Four game pads are provided, but the five-by-five letter play grid is easy enough to draw out on a piece of scrap paper.
Cross-Up Letter Card Piles
There are two decks of cards containing one letter on each card. The decks are shuffled together and dealt face down into six equal piles. Each face down pile is then turned face up and placed in a spot within the letter card tray. The letter frequencies are as follows.
A – 9; B – 4; C – 4; D – 4; E – 12; F – 3; G – 3; H – 3; I – 9; J – 2; K – 2; L-4; M – 3; N – 6; O – 8; P – 3; Q – 1; R – 6; S – 4; T – 6; U – 4; V – 2; W – 2; X – 1; Y – 2; Z – 1; Total: 108
It is best for all players to agree on a dictionary before play begins to alleviate the kinds of conflicts that arise out of playing word game board games. Take care when doing this. While house rules often state that if a word is in the dictionary it’s fair game, I noticed that the Merriam-Webster dictionary we were using had correct spellings of popular biographical figures, and we all know that’s not Scrabble kosher.
The rules say all of the players simply determine who will go first by mutual consensus. They obviously have never played a game with the people I play with. We used a single die, highest roller went first. Each player chooses a letter tile, calls it out loud, and places it prominently where everyone can see it. Then each player chooses where they would like to place that letter within their five-by-five play grid. Play continues in a clockwise manner with everyone drawing a card until 25 cards are drawn. Once players have filled out their play grids after the 25th letter, they calculate the points of the number of three to five letter words they were able to construct. The letters J, K, Q, V, W, X, Y, and Z are considered special letters. If a word contains one special letter, the total point value of that word is multiplied by two. With two special letters it is multiplied by four. With three special letters it is multiplied by eight. And with four special letters it is multiplied by sixteen!
Cross-Up Play Grid
The corners of the play grid are labeled starting in the upper left corner and going clockwise: A, B, D, and C. Legal words may be read horizontally A to B, vertically A to C, diagonally A to D, or diagonally C to B. The point values are rated below. As can be seen, it pays to favor diagonal words over horizontal ones. Five letter words are the brass ring.
Diagonal 5 Letter – 15 points
Diagonal 4 Letter – 8 points
Diagonal 3 Letter – 5 points
Horizontal/Vertical 5 Letter – 10 points
Horizontal/Vertical 4 Letter – 4 points
Horizontal/Vertical 3 Letter – 3 points
Cross-Up Final Score
As you can see from our scores, I tend to be awful at word games. That being said, I think playing this game would help someone who was trying to become a better Scrabble player. The entire game could be viewed as an exercise in creating as many three to five letter adjoining words in a tight space as possible, an art that really separates the expert Scrabble players from the loser laymen like me. Cross-Up is a simple game that takes little time and preparation to play and is fairly enjoyable while it lasts. See if you can pick it up for around three dollars like I did.