Monthly Archives: February 2017

Bugs in The Kitchen: A game that’s light on the strategy but heavy on the fun

bugs

Games, like ice cream, come in lots of “flavors”. I’ve often remarked that there is a reason why Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors and not two. We don’t all like the same flavors and sometimes we aren’t in the mood for a flavor we normally love. You’re probably wondering about all this ice cream analysis and thinking Boomer has finally cracked up. Maybe not. Ravensburger is a game company that publishes some of my favorite strategy games, such as Puerto Rico and Princes of Florence. Along comes Bugs in the Kitchen, which is about as opposite of those two games as you can get. It’s not a game with much strategy, but it’s a blast. It’s especially fun for the under eight crowd or adults that like to act like that crowd.

Game Concept:

It’s a simple idea. Take a game board and divide it into sections using plastic levers, shaped liked silverware, that allow you to create a maze of passageways. Place traps at each corner, one for each player. Add a special edition, black and orange colored, HexBug Nano. One that’s styled to look like that dreaded insect we don’t want in our kitchen. Then let the players move those levers in an attempt to trap that normally unwanted visitor and presto instant fun. Unless you are like my wife and terrified of those bugs. She’s so terrified of them, that I’m not allowed to name them. Here’s a hint, the Spanish edition of the game is titled “La Cucaracha”.

Game Play:

The game starts by setting the levers to one of three starting configuration and placing la cucaracha in the center. The youngest player goes first by rolling the die. The die has a spoon, a fork, a knife and three question marks. You then get to turn a lever that corresponds to the die roll. If you roll a question mark you can move any lever. The goal is to get the little bugger into your trap. Of course, all the while, the bug is dancing around, bouncing off walls and changing direction. Most player are tempted to try and wait for the bug to get into the right position before turning a lever. The rules even state: “If a player takes too long, the other players can tell them to hurry up”. There is something wonderful about any game that has a rule that allows you to say “Make a move already, I’m not getting any younger here”. When the bug lands in your trap, you get a chip. The first player to amass five chips wins. A typical game will last about 10 minutes.

What it isn’t:

This isn’t a game about strategy. The maze is small, so there isn’t time to an elaborate pattern. Usually after the second player has gone, the bug will have a path to one or more traps. It isn’t a game where you should be over-analyzing you moves. The bugs isn’t very predictable in its movement.

What it is:

Silly Fun. It reminds me of the silly and really fun games of the my childhood. Games like “Hang on Harvey” and “Time Bomb”. It’s a game that’s best played quickly. It’s a game that needs a shot clock. If you have an egg timer even better. Set the timer and start the game, if the timer goes off during your turn then you lose your turn. This forces players to move fast.

It’s a Target exclusive, so if you want a copy head to your local Target. Of course

Ticket to Ride – The Heart of Africa: Making a great game even better

ttr

Today it seems like every successful board game has lots of expansions. Some expansions are just a tool to extract more money from a loyal fan base. Then there are those expansions that add real value. They add new elements or challenges that make a good game even better or take a great game and make it sizzle. The Heart of Africa by Days of Wonder is falls into that sizzling category.

The first thing to remember is that this is not a stand-alone game. It requires you to have either Ticket to Rideor Ticket to Ride Europe. You’ll use the trains and ticket cards from one of those games. Just like the base game you’ll be scoring points in 3 different ways. You get points for completed tickets, claiming routes and end game bonuses.

The map is a beautiful early 20th century depiction of the southern half of Africa. Place names are those that were commonly used at that time, so knowing a lot about African geography might actually slow you down. Expect that the first few games will take a little longer, as you learn where cities are located.

Differences from the base game:

The big new element that gets added is terrain. There are 3 different types of terrain cards, each representing 3 different route colors: Desert (Red, Yellow, Orange); Jungle (Green, Purple, Blue); Mountain (Grey, Black, White). When drawing a train card you can choose to take a terrain card instead. When claiming a route, you may simultaneously play terrain cards. A route that is three or fewer trains requires one terrain card, while a route longer than three requires two terrain cards. You are not required to play terrain cards, but if you do you double the value of that route. That’s right, double points. And since there is only a handful of long routes, this makes it very competitive. Terrain cards are kept face up in front of you, so everyone knows how many everyone else has. This is important as you must have as least as many cards of the type you want to use as any other player. Terrain cards used to double the route are then discarded.

There is no bonus for longest continuous track, but there is a bonus for most tickets completed.

Strategy differences:

The map is much more congested than in Ticket to Ride. This along with the double points for terrain make the game more about building routes then about completing tickets. There are almost no double track routes in the middle of the board, so if you don’t like cut-throat games I suggest you stick to 3 or fewer players. Compared to Ticket to Ride, a larger share of your total points will come from claiming routes as opposed to completed tickets. I think this makes it more a matter of skill and less about getting lucky with drawing good tickets.

Since some routes will be doubled, by using terrain cards, those of you that like to score the routes at the end of game will have a problem. How do you know which routes were doubled? You can switch to scoring each route as they are claimed or just use a marker such as a bingo chip or penny and place it under any route that is doubled.

Heart of Africa makes a wonderful addition to any game collection that include Ticket to Ride.

If you want check out the rules before you buy click here.

Finding a copy is easy, most places that sell Ticket to Ride will have this as well. Locally here in Durham try:

Atomic Empire

3400 Westgate Dr.
Suite 14B
Durham, NC 27707