Some games come in big packages and have a ton of depth to game in them, some come in small packages and have a lot of strategy, and some come in small packages and are a fun little filler. The Mind falls much more into…
This was a game that I was originally introduced to at GenCon, I got to play a quick little bit of a self led two player demo. A few months later it showed up at a local game shop and I was looking at it every time that I came in, thinking that I really need to buy the game, and I finally pulled the trigger. I got to play it again already and it didn’t dissappoint.
Draftosaurus is a game that the best way I can describe it is half way between Sushi Go! and a roll and write game. In Draftosaurus, you are building a dino park. To do this, you are grabbing 6 dino meeples (dineeples or deeples) as is everyone else. Then whomever is the first player rolls the die, this determines where you can place the dino meeple. It might be in the forest or the desert or on the restroom side or gift shop side of your dino park or in an empty pen or a pen without a T-Rex. But, if you’re the person who rolled the dice, you can place your dino where ever you want. You pass your dinos to the left and repeat the process with a new person being the first player. You do this until all 6 dino meeples have been drafted, and then you do it for another 6 dino meeples. Then you count up your score, which is based off of the pens. Some of the pens want pairs of dinos, you get points in other pens for having more different dinos or more dinos of the same type. And there are more ways to score on the board, plus the board is two sides which has even more ways to score.
This game is small and a lot of fun. The real star of the game is the dino meeples, they look amazing, and the T-Rex looks different than the Stegosaurus which looks different than any of the others. Just playing around with those is fun, though, this game which is light and easy enough to teach kids, the dino meeples are supposed to be hidden in your hand, so they are somewhat small, but with six of them, it might be harder for a younger kid to be able to hold them all. The game also says it is for 8+ because of the size of the meeples, I think that younger kids could play it, but the dino meeples are a choking hazard, so don’t let them use it unsupervised, if they like to stick things in their mouth.
Draftosaurus also plays extremely fast. You’d drafting a total of 12 dino meeples and then adding up a score. And because you’re drafting at the same time, it’s only twelve times of drafting no matter how many people you have. They say on the box that the game takes 15 minutes, and I think that is on the longer end of how fast the game should go. Maybe if you have a really tough decision it’ll make a pick take a little bit longer, but generally you pick, reveal and place, and pass, and you can do that in 30-45 seconds. That means that when you do play Draftosaurus, you can play again, and in fact, the rule book suggests that you play the summer side and then the winter side to get an overall score to determine who can build the best park.
Let’s talk a little bit about the scoring. I wish that this game came with score sheets. The scoring isn’t complex, but you’re having to hold multiple numbers in your head, adding them together, and if you get distracted, like I can, then you have to start over again. Or if someone asks a question about scoring when you’re doing your scoring. With a score pad and a pencil, you’d be able to make the scoring go a whole lot faster, and it would make the game a little bit easier. Then, even a younger kid would be able to do the scoring, holding the numbers in your head, keeping track of which pens of yours you’ve scored, that could be a bit much. I might actually spend time designing a score sheet if there isn’t one already on Board Game Geek, that I can print off an laminate in order to make scoring easier and I think scoring a pen at a time makes it more exciting at the end. That’s a minor quibble to how the game works and one that I can adjust myself. The actual ways that the pens score is interesting and it doesn’t feel like there is really an overpowered method for scoring and you have to adjust depending on what dino meeples you are getting.
Overall, this is a really good game. It’s a good fast filler and has a lot of replayability. The choices are good enough for a gamer, but it is definitely for that mind clearing filler that can be played with kids, played with family, or played at a game night. I do think that the game works best over two players, I played at two players the first time, but it isn’t bad at two players either, it’s just better at more. I haven’t played the two sides back to back, but I think that would even be the best, around 20 minutes, get a quick filler in and it mitigates a bit of the luck from scoring, just because it is so random. But you really need to pay some attention to stuff being passed and be ready to pivot when you need to.
Overall Grade: B+
Gamer Grade: C
Casual Grade: A-
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When playing cards is too easy, there are games that make it a whole lot harder. The Mind and Hanabi are two of them that make it a bit trickier to play cards in order, and while I find the mind entertaining, I don’t think it’s that great a game. Hanabi, well, you’ll have to find out.
It might be a bad idea to hire a bunch of blind fireworks employees, but that’s the theory behind Hanabi, you, and everyone else you’re playing with, are trying to create the best fireworks show possible, but you can’t see your own hand of cards. In fact, they are facing away from you so that everyone else can see them. On your turn you can do one of three things, you can spend a clue token to give someone a clue about the fireworks that they have, you can either point to all the cards of a certain number of all the cards of a certain color in their hand and let them know what the number or color is. Or you can play down a card onto a firework either start a firework, playing the one card, or to continue a firework, playing the next highest number of that color. Or, finally, you can discard a card to get back a clue token. If there aren’t clue tokens, you can’t give a clue, so hopefully you know what’s safe in your hand to discard or play.
This game has a ton of fun tension to it. Does the person who is coming up know what to do, can you give them a clue that will keep them from discarding the only five of a color and maybe discard a one that has already been played. The mechanics of the game are really simple for the amount of tension that it causes. Sometimes, you think you have the perfect clue, because you want them to know that they have a blue four, but, then you realize that they have more blue cards and they have more fours, so it won’t focus them in on a single card. Or maybe you want to let them know that they can discard a card so you can get another clue back, but is that the best use of your clue to get a clue? But sometimes there might not be a better option.
Hanabi is one of those games that the longer you play it, the better you’re going to get at it, because you’ll know what the better clues are. And, I think that is what really makes Hanabi shine as a game. Mainly because if you can remember where cards are in your hand and previous clues, clues for you can then be built upon. Maybe blue isn’t that useful and four isn’t that useful, but using both will help you get to the blue four, but hopefully will also let people know about other parts of their hand. For example, if they can see the blue five, and the blue fireworks are at a 3, they know that their other blue card isn’t needed. This, however, requires both the clues given to be good and that the person can remember, and while I think that it’s possible to do both, it’s really hard to know since, you don’t know what five cards you have in your own hand perfectly.
For me, this is one of those games that when it gets to the table, because it plays fast, 15-30 minutes depending on number of players and familiarity with the game, it generally gets played a second time, and maybe a third. Now, I can see how this might go over poorly, I’ve played with different groups and it’s gone over well, but especially for a new person into a group of experienced players, they won’t understand the full strategy of giving clues, because of inexperience. If this leads to visible frustration in the more experienced players, I can definitely see that souring the experience for the new player. And if you are a player who would get frustrated, I can understand not wanting to teach it, especially if you are going for the elusive 25 point perfect victory. But generally, this is a game that’ll get played twice and because I haven’t gotten the perfect 25 and no one I’ve played with has, we always want to try and do better the second time.
Piggy backing off of what I just said, I think that is one of the things that makes this a good cooperative game. And while not all cooperative games do this, I think that this game and Letter Jam which uses a number of similar things to Hanabi, do well is create that score that you always want to better. I assume that you could end up getting perfect scores on both and decide that you’re done with them because you can’t get better, but I think that isn’t that likely to happen or happen often that Hanabi is always going to be a challenge. And the fact that the deck is a random shuffle means that all the games are going to be different, though you’ll go through all of the cards.
Overall, you can tell that I really enjoy this game. I really like cooperative games, and I like that this one comes in a small package. Not only that, but it also does something that is different. People understand the idea of playing cards down in ascending order, but Hanabi is a twist upon that they won’t have seen. I’ve had good luck with this in several settings and player counts. I think it’s better at a higher count because you have more options of clues to give, but at two players it was fun as well. It’s been a while since I’ve played this one, but, now I want to play it again. And because of the time frame for it, it is one that I can pull out and get to the table easier.
Overall Grade: B+
Gamer Grade: B
Casual Grade: B+
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Let me start out by saying, this game was and wasn’t for me all at the same time. What made it for me was that it was very story driven, however, I’m not someone who has played a single Fallout game. So, when you read my review, know that I’m coming at it from how the theme feels, but not how it compares to the video games, and how the game plays, not if it plays like the video games.
In Fallout, you take on one of several roles from the video games, you might be a Ghoul or a Super Mutant or someone from a Vault or someone who explores the wasteland for a living. You, and the fellow players are racing to be the best wanderer of the wasteland, completing objectives, fighting monsters, and exploring new locations and ruins. By completing various objectives and fights, you can gain experience points to become better at surviving the wasteland. On your turn, you can move, explore, interact with quests or fight, but when you interact with a quest or search a location, those are where the game really takes off, because you get story read to you. Fallout as a branching story deck that allows you put in or take out cards from the story and advance quests an the main plotline, and depending on what you do, that determines where the story and scenario go. And that’s also how you can get victory points, and the first person to nine points wins.
Let’s start out by talking about theme, the people who I played with talked about how it pulled in quests and side quests from the video game, and that thematically it felt right for that. As someone who wasn’t familiar with the game, I thought that the theme worked well, and I enjoy a good dystopian/post-apocalyptic theme. I’m sure if I was more familiar with the IP (intellectual property) I’d pick up on more of the specific Fallout theme, the theme didn’t differentiate itself a ton from other dystopian/post-apocalyptic settings. That said, it wasn’t completely generic either and even without playing the games, just from being familiar with them in concept, things like Nuka-Cola are nods to the video games that I recognized.
The theme isn’t where the game suffers a bit for me. The game is pretty stingy in handing out points. So getting to nine victory points, which are on quest or objective cards, is slow. And you basically always get them through completing parts of the story quest. You can fight monsters, but unless they are harassing you, it’s not that great a strategy, and while leveling up can be helpful, the randomness of how leveling up works can work out extremely well for some people and very poorly for others. I like the concept of leveling up and how it works, but it felt a bit too random. And leveling up doesn’t give you anymore scoring and isn’t always that helpful for allowing you to get more of the main quest done.
But, to counter some of what I said here, the story parts are the best part of the game. The combat, challenges, exploring, movement, all of those things are pretty standard fair. The story, on the other hand, how it’s created is well done. You can branch out in different directions as to who you help or how you help them. That will then lead you into a new section of the story, depending on which one you did, and it continues to branch and add things to locations that you can explore as well as to the main story. And since that’s the best way to get victory points, it really encourages you to find ways to solve the main quest items as they come up. And that means that there is more story that is read. And sometimes the main story is contingent on the locations that you are searching, so separately you all search at similar locations until you find what you need.
There is one notable other downside for me, this is not a short game. Getting to nine victory points, because it mainly comes through quests that you can then get more points because of completing objectives, the game can last a long time. Our three player game lasted probably near 2.5 to 3 hours, and while the story is good, that means that you’re taking a lot of turns where you are either getting generic story or no story at all. And, if you don’t get lucky on some dice rolls at times, you can find what you need to get more story, but then the story is taken away from you. If this was a fast game with turns taking a few seconds (which they generally don’t take long) and you get points for killing tough monsters or other ways, the game would work better. Instead, the game overstayed it’s welcome. I think I’d find it more interesting if you could try and move forward the story faster every turn, or that the choices were a bit more choose your own adventure style or, in Dungeons and Dragons terms, failing forward, where even when you don’t succeed on the main story, that causes it to move forward somehow, as that would make the game move faster. For what we were doing in the game I think that 1.5 hours would have been a good upper time limit, not nearly twice that long, and the game can be played with four people, which is going to make the game last even longer.
But overall it’s not a bad game. I think that fans of the Fallout video games who like board games are going to enjoy this game way more than I did. And, I think, with the expectation of how long the game takes set from the very beginning that might help better set expectations for the game. I knew, generally, how long it was, but the game still seemed a bit long to me. I do think that the theming is pretty strong and especially that case for fans of the video games.
Overall Grade: C-
Gamer Grade: C
Casual Grade: D
Fan of Fallout Grade & Board Games: B-