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19jellybeans

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8
Go to the Forbidden Desert page

Forbidden Desert

42 out of 48 gamers thought this was helpful

One line impression and recommendation:
A surprisingly challenging coop adventure that’s still easy enough to introduce to kids to the idea of working together.
Highly Recommended.

How to play:
Your intrepid party of explorers have been stranded in a mysterious desert ruin by a raging sandstorm. It’s a race against time to collect the parts of an ancient flying machine in order to escape. Each player has four actions per turn allowing them to move, clear sand, excavate a tile or pick up a part of the flying machine. In addition, each character has special abilities which may allow variation from the standard rules and gear cards may be obtained to make your game a little more manageable. After the end of each player’s turn, the storm plays, shifting the board pieces around and depositing more sand. There is also the added risk that it may increase in intensity or the sun will beat down forcing you to drink your dwindling water supply.

Review:
Forbidden Desert was a surprise hit for me, my other half borrowed it from a friend and the first time we played we almost put it away thinking it was far too simple. Then I re-read the rules and realised we’d been playing it wrong (only playing the storm after we’d both had our turns instead of after every turn). We played it again and realised it was a lot more fun than we first thought. With two players it’s challenging but still quite winnable, with four to five players however, we’ve found it very difficult and are yet to win a game with a larger number of players.

We’ve played Forbidden Desert with our usual group of test subjects; our gaming friends and the in-laws, and found it was well received by both groups. A note of caution however, this is not a game to play conservatively. After explaining all the ways to lose to my gaming friends (dehydration, being buried alive in sand, or the storm reaching the maximum intensity) they latched onto dehydration as the biggest threat and refused to stray too far from the water source. This meant we couldn’t clear and excavate enough of the board and we all drowned in sand.

I insisted on introducing it to our niece when playing at the in-laws, the age suggestion on the box says 10+ but Little Miss 9 had no problems picking it up and I think you could easily go younger. I thought it would be good to introduce the idea of working together in order to win as a way of tempering her strong competitive streak. It worked. She went from, “I’m going to win and get out on my own” to “Oh, I guess Mummy needs more water” after gently explaining that if anyone died we all lost. My husband thought she’d struggle to understand, but as it’s a cooperative game you can discuss the options each turn with children and they still feel like they’re playing independently.

The game itself is surprisingly good quality for such an affordable price. The desert tiles and sand tokens are made of a heavy board and the flying machine is a robust little model that can stand up to all the putting together and pulling apart. The only thing I felt could be better was the thickness of the playing cards. These are quite thin and show wear very easily. This is likely to be the biggest problem with the character cards as there’s a little plastic marker to indicate your current water level. Clipping this on and off and sliding it up and down may damage these cards quickly without due care. The box itself is designed quite well with a moulded insert that everything fits into very nicely.

Overall:
I might be going against the majority opinion here, but I think I actually prefer Forbidden Desert to Pandemic. I’ve had much more fun trying to escape the desert than I’ve ever had curing diseases. I suspect it’s the theme which appeals to me, I’m a scientist in real life so I prefer something more fantastic in my down time. We’ve since had to give Forbidden Desert back to its owner but I’ll be looking out for a copy to add to our own games collection and it’s now firmly on my wish list.

7
Go to the Ticket to Ride: Europe page
45 out of 51 gamers thought this was helpful

One line impression and recommendation:
A fairly relaxed, semi-competitive jaunt across Europe, good for new gamers and younger kids with a little help.
Recommended.

How to play:
Players attempt to complete tickets to travel across Europe by claiming coloured railway routes. To begin each player is dealt four coloured train cards and a number of tickets (one long and three short trips) which represent the routes you are attempting to complete. Each player can do one action during their turn, they may claim a section of track if they have enough matching coloured train cards, draw additional train cards, draw additional tickets or build a train station (these allow you to use another person’s track to complete a ticket).

Review:
Ticket to Ride was another early edition to our games collection. My other half was on the hunt for games that play well with just two players and brought this one home to try out. With two players it is a more relaxed game as it is possible for both players to stay relatively isolated from each other. As the number of players increases there is more tension and competition involved as players start claiming routes that others had their eye on. I find it scales well from two to the maximum five players and the train station mechanic avoids too many disagreements over stolen routes. I like this; however, it may be a negative for those who enjoy strong competition or “take that” style games.

We have played Ticket to Ride with my in-laws as well as friends with great success. Little Miss 9 played with me as a team, as all other players were adults, but she picked it up quite quickly – more quickly than my father-in-law in fact. She only had trouble with a couple of rules and came up with some very inventive ways to fulfil our trip tickets. It’s also been quite popular with our friendship/gaming circle as a good warm-up game or as a break from anything more intensive.

The game is quite good-looking, the board is a beautiful big map of Europe which feels lovely under your fingers and the cards are all beautiful. Although there is a very strong colour matching requirement, all the colours have a corresponding symbol for those who are colour blind. You are also given a few spare trains in each colour in case the cat eats any, which is a nice bonus. The cities are labelled with their local name as of 1901, so you get a little bit of history along the way.

There are a couple of drawbacks which prevent me from giving a higher rating. Firstly, I can’t play too many games in a row as there is limited number of trip tickets (especially the long trips) and after a couple of games you will start repeating trips and other players will recognise where you’re trying to go. The Europa 1912 expansion should help with this but I haven’t yet played it. Secondly, I have a niggly irritation with the fact that the map printed on the trip tickets is not identical to the one on the board which can make it difficult to find cities.

Overall:
A good warm up to (or break from) more serious gaming and a good introduction game. Competitive while still allowing everyone to keep playing right to the end.

9
Go to the Dixit page

Dixit

45 out of 52 gamers thought this was helpful

One line impression and recommendation:
Firm favourite with everyone we’ve played it with; gamer, non-gamer and kids alike.
Highly recommended.

How to play:
The active player attempts to describe a card without being too obvious or too obscure. The description can be anything, a word, a phrase, sing a song, make a sound or perform an action. We normally tend to go with one or two words but your imagination is the limit. Everyone else then selects a card from their hands that matches the description. Everyone except the active player votes on which one was the target card.

House rule:
If playing with less than six players we will add a card or two from the draw pile to make up the maximum 6 cards. We find this adds a bit more challenge as there are more cards to select from. It’s also hilarious when the deck plays better than anyone else and gets all the votes.

Review:
Dixit was one of the first games we bought when we decided to start a serious games collection. My other half had played it with work colleagues and liked it then one day came home with a copy of the base game. As it doesn’t work too well with just two we convinced my best friend to try it out with us. It immediately became one of my favourites! I would have loved it for the artwork alone as I’m strongly drawn to aesthetically beautiful games but it’s so much fun to play as well.

We’ve since played this with my family, my in-laws and our friendship/gaming circle and it’s become our most played game. My completely non-gamer sister-in-law loved it and happily requested a second round. Our niece has so much fun she doesn’t notice if she’s not winning. That says a lot, Little Miss 9 has a serious competitive streak and hates to lose so much that she cheats at snap. We have originally let her play with her mum as a team but think she could go it alone now. My father-in-law is a force to be reckoned with and he’s a Chilean mathematician (his English is a bit patchy and not the most creative type).

We haven’t found anyone who doesn’t like this game, from the completely gorgeous yet bizarre artwork which inevitably triggers a lot of giggles to the gentle competiveness which doesn’t leave anyone feeling bitter, it appeals to a wide range of people. We never play just one game.

The only drawbacks are: firstly, after a few games with the same group, that the cards start to get very familiar and you know how someone will attempt to describe them. The expansions are a must in this regard but they’re all so oddly beautiful I wanted to collect them all anyway. Secondly, although the cards are of excellent quality, they are of a large size and so can bit difficult to shuffle unless you have big hands.

Overall:
A great warm up to more serious gaming or the perfect introduction for non-gamers to the new wave of board gaming. Lots of fun for people of all ages and abilities.

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