Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island on Savvy Game Night

In Forbidden Island, players must work together to collect four treasures from around an island before the island sinks away into the ocean. It is another cooperative game where each turn ends with the situation getting just a little more difficult (see also: Pandemic). In Pandemic, this meant that a few more cities would become infected with one of the viruses; in Forbidden Island, it means that one more region of the island sinks further underwater. Every so often, a disaster card (in this case, a “Waters Rising” card) comes up, amplifying the game further. Forbidden Island in Play // Savvy Game Night

There are a lot of similarities between the gameplay of Forbidden Island and Pandemic. However, Forbidden Island is definitely quicker and easier for new players to pick up. For this reason, it works well as an end-of-the-night game, or as a game to get people in the game-playing mood at the start of a big board game session.

Forbidden Island: A Cooperative Game on Savvy Game Night

 

Mechanism:

Each player takes on a role that gives them a special ability. The Explorer, for instance, is the only player who can move diagonally, while the Navigator can move other players around the island. On each turn, a player takes these steps:

1. Take three actions, such as moving to a new part of the island, shoring up a sinking island tile, passing treasure cards or capturing a treasure.

2. Draw 2 treasure cards. When one player is holding four matching treasure cards, they can rescue that treasure from the sinking island. There are also a few special action cards sprinkled throughout this deck. If a “Waters Rise!” card comes up, the used flood cards get shuffled and put back on top of the deck. Better shore up those pieces fast, or they will flood and sink entirely in the next few turns!

3. Draw flood cards to flood new parts of the island.

To win the game, all four treasures need to be rescued, and then every player needs to get to Fools’ Landing and use a Helicopter Lift to fly to safety.

 

Number of Players:

2-4

Set Up Time:

10-15 minutes.

Play Time for New Players:

30-45 minutes.

Play Time for Experienced Players:

30 minutes.

Age Range:

10+

Overall Rating for Forbidden Island: 6 out of 10 stars.

Psst: This post contains affiliate links. I only ever recommend products I use myself. 

Jaipur: A Two-Player Game

Jaipur: A Two-Player Game // Savvy Game Night

Clearly, Dan and I go through phases with our two-player games. Last fall, we couldn’t get enough of Lost Cities. This spring, our go-to two-player game was Morels. And this summer, we’re all about the newest addition to our collection: Jaipur.

Jaipur Set-Up // Savvy Game Nigth

The game is simple enough: on your turn, you can either collect more goods or sell some of the goods from your collection. The person with the most money at the end is the winner. Typically, the game is played in three rounds. If we’re really short on time or energy, we might just play one round. If we have a half hour or so, we’ll do all three. There’s enough going on in the game that it doesn’t feel repetitive, even if we play it multiple times per week, but it is also simple enough for nights when we don’t want to exert a bunch of brainpower to strategize our gameplay.

If you’re looking for a great two-player game that doesn’t require much strategy, I recommend Jaipur.

Jaipur Tokens // Savvy Game Night

Mechanism:

Each player is a merchant looking to earn two Seals of Excellence before their competitor. There are five cards available in the playing area at all times. On your turn, you may:

1. Take one good from the play area, which is replaced from the Draw pile.

2. Take multiple goods from the play area, and replace them with your own goods or camels.

3. Take all the camels in the play area (so you have free cards available to replace goods when you later opt for #2).

4. Sell one type of good for monetary tokens. Some goods (like rubies) are worth more than others, and there are bonuses for selling 3, 4 or 5 of any type of good at a time.

The round is over when 3 types of goods have no more tokens or the Draw pile is out. Whoever has the most points on their tokens wins the round, and earns a Seal of Excellence. Typically, the game ends up being 2-3 rounds.

Number of Players:

Two only.

Set Up Time:

5-10 minutes.

Play Time for New Players:

10-15 minutes per round. 40-45 minutes total if you play all three.

Play Time for Experienced Players:

10-15 minutes per round. 40-45 minutes total if you play all three.

Age Range:

8+

Overall Rating for Jaipur: 9 out of 10 stars.

Psst: This post contains affiliate links. I only ever recommend products I use myself. 

 

7 Wonders

7 Wonders gets 10/10 stars on Savvy Game Night It’s time: time to finally review what is possibly our all-time favorite board game: Seven Wonders. This is the game that first got us into board games, and the one we turn to on so many of our game nights. In the game, each player works to build up one of the 7 Wonders of the World by playing resource, military, science, commerce or civilian cards. Rhodes on 7 Wonders | Savvy Game Night One of the reasons we love 7 Wonders is that the game has a lot of re-playability built in to it. There is no obvious strategy that will work for every single game – a lot of it comes down to which wonders you are next to and how those players are choosing to play. It usually isn’t worth getting into an arms race with Rhodes, for instance, because they get two extra military icons as part of their wonder. I often opt to collect the green science cards, and sometimes it works really well – especially when I have the science-oriented Babylon. But other times, I lose dismally, because while I have a lot of science points, I neglected to build up my military or commerce well enough. 7 Wonders - Building Up Your Wonder | Savvy Game Night You could choose to collect a lot of resource cards to start, so you can easily build the more powerful cards in later ages, or you could focus on collecting cards with points right away. This works especially well with science or civilian cards, which often build off each other and let you build later cards for free. But if neither you nor your neighbors are building resource cards, you’re all going to be stuck later in the game. You constantly need to balance what you are playing against what your opponents are building up. We really like that the game allows for 6 or 7 players. So many games cut off at 5, which means someone has to team up or sit out when you have a game night of 3 couples. We also like that it is difficult to tell who is winning the game until the very end. In some games (Settler of Catan, I’m looking at you), it is often apparent pretty early on if you are totally out of the running, which makes the remainder of the game a lot less fun. 7 Wonders on Savvy Game Night

Mechanism:

7 Wonders is a card-drafting game played in three ages. In each age, players choose cards to help them build up one of the seven Wonders of the World. Some cards build up the player’s military, some give them reusable resources, and others provide victory or science points. Players interact primarily with their immediate neighbors, buying resources from them to help build cards and fighting them in military battles.

Number of Players:

2-7. There is a two-person variant, in which each player takes turn playing for the “dummy player,” but we aren’t big fans. It is better with 3+ players, and ideal with 4+.

Set-Up Time:

5-10 minutes.

Play Time for New Players:

1 hour – 1 1/2 hours, if you include the time it takes to explain the rules. There are a lot of symbols to learn, but once you’ve got a hang of how the cards work and what the icons mean, the game goes much more quickly.

Play Time for Experienced Players:

45 minutes. It is much easier to decide which card to keep when you understand all the symbols and have a better feel for how the cards interact with each other.

Age Range:

10+

Overall Rating for 7 Wonders: 10/10.

Psst: This post contains affiliate links. I only ever recommend products that I use myself.

Cards Against Humanity

Cards Against Humanity | Savvy Game Night

I’m spending 44 hours in New York City this week, catching up with some friends from high school. It’s been far too long since I’ve seen either of them, and I’m looking forward to hitting up a Broadway show, exploring the city and chatting late into the night.

These are the friends that I used to hang out with nearly every night the summer after our senior year of high school. And more often than not, we’d play games like Cranium and Apples to Apples until the early hours of the morning. Then we’d head home to sleep, work, get ready for college or do other summery things, and we’d be back for another round of games by evening.

Cards Against Humanity Questions | Savvy Game Night

Cards Against Humanity is like the grown-up version of Apples to Apples. If it had existed in 2005, we probably would have played it in place of the more “family-friendly” games we were playing. As it is, I wish I had room for the game in my suitcase for this mini-vacation – playing with them would have brought up so many nostalgic feelings!

Cards Against Humanity Answers

While I usually recommend getting all your board games from your local game store if you have one nearby, Cards Against Humanity is going to have to be the one exception. They don’t distribute the game anywhere but online for now (rumor has it that this is changing soon).

And if you don’t want to pay for the game? You don’t have to! The cards are available as a free PDF to download and print on the game’s website. The cards will be smaller and square, and possibly more difficult to play with, but it will save you some money if you don’t want to purchase the game (though $25 isn’t a bad price point to begin with!).

 

Cards Against Humanity Sample

 

Mechanism:

One player is the “judge.” They flip over a black card and read it aloud. Each other player must choose one white card from their hand that they think will best fill in the blank or answer the question on the black card, and submit it facedown. The judge shuffles the submissions, and reads them aloud before choosing their favorite. Whoever submitted the winning white card receives the black card as a “point.” The role of judge passes to the player on the left.

Number of Players:

3+. You can really play with any number of players, but we’ve found that the game works best with 4 -8ish.

Set-Up Time:

None. Shuffle and deal!

Play Time for New Players:

You can play for as little or as long as you’d like.

Play Time for Experienced Players:

Same as for new players.

Age Range:

17+

Overall Rating for Cards Against Humanity: 10 out of 10.

Psst: This post contains affiliate links. I only ever recommend products that I use myself.

Oz Fluxx

Oz Fluxx | Savvy Game Night

Fluxx games are the games that are super-difficult to review. Not because they are complicated or challenging to play, but because the game is never the same twice. At the very beginning, the rule is simple: “Draw 1 card. Play 1 card. Play passes to the next person.” But from there, the rules – and the goal of the game! – are constantly changing.

Oz Fluxx Cards on Savvy Game Night

So it is difficult to explain any version of Fluxx without diving into the mechanism.  We own Oz Fluxx, the (you guessed it) Wizard of Oz-themed version. There are six types of cards:

1. Yellow “New Rule” cards, which change the way the game is played. These might be as simple as changing the number of cards you draw or play on each turn, or they might be a little sillier. The “Magic Slippers” card, for instance, says that if you click your heels together 3 times, you can draw and play an extra card on your turn.

2. Pink “Goal” cards, which change the aim of the game. Examples might be “The Smartest Dummy Ever,” which says that whoever has both the Artificial Brain and the Scarecrow cards wins, or “I’m Melting!,” which lets you win if you have the Wicked Witch of the West and the Water cards.

3. Green “Keeper” cards, which help you meet the goals. These are the Artificial Brain, Scarecrow, Wizard of Oz, Toto, Yellow Brick Road, etc. cards as well.

4. Blue “Action” cards, which you use once and discard. These might let you exchange Keeper cards with another player or steal something from another player, for instance.

5. Black “Creeper” cards, which keep your opponent’s from winning.

6. Purple “Surprise” cards that can be played at any time to disrupt your opponent’s play.

Because there are no set rules, this game is super easy to learn and pick up. It is great for groups with mixed experience levels!

Mechanism:

The game of ever-changing rules, no 2 games of Oz Fluxx are the same.  See above for more!

Number of Players:

2-6. We generally prefer it with 4+.

Set-Up Time:

None. Just shuffle and deal 3 cards to each player.

Play Time for New Players:

20 minutes to an hour

Play Time for Experienced Players:

20 minutes to an hour

Age Range:

8+

Overall Rating for Oz Fluxx: 6 out of 10.

Psst: This post contains affiliate links. I only ever recommend products that I use myself.

Pandemic: A Cooperative Game

Pandemic: A Cooperative Game on Savvy Game Night

Let’s talk cooperative games. Rather than the typical board game format, in which there is one winner and everyone else loses, in a cooperative game, it is all or nothing: either everyone wins together, or everyone loses. In the case of Pandemic, either you find cures for or eradicate all four deadly diseases that have broken out around the world, or everyone dies.

So far, Pandemic is Dan’s and my favorite cooperative game. It is nicely balanced, and it is neither too difficult to ever win, nor so easy that it doesn’t feel like much of a challenge. I’d say we win about 2/3 of the time. And more often than not, we lose because we run out of player cards, not because there were so many outbreaks that we couldn’t control them. There have been several occurrences where we just needed one more turn, maybe two, in order to get all the cures or eliminate the last disease.

Pandemic In Play on Savvy Game Night

Unless you are playing with five people every time you play Pandemic, the game changes a little bit each time. Each player is given a role with a special ability: the Medic can treat all the illnesses in a city at once, rather than one per turn; the Dispatcher can move other players around the board; the Scientist can find a cure with 4 player cards instead of the usual 5, and so on. Since the roles are randomly assigned, the combination of special abilities available in the game changes a bit each time (again, unless you are playing with the full five players).

Note: A newer version of the game was released in 2013. Apparently, it introduces two new roles and reduces the maximum number of players to four. So if you purchase/play the newer version, the combination of roles will change every game, even when you are playing with the max number of players.

It’s a fun game for Dan and I when we aren’t feeling all that competitive and want to work together. And because it is a cooperative game, Pandemic is a great one to pull out when we have friends over with mixed levels of experience with or interest in board games.
Pandemic, a cooperative game. Don't let too many outbreaks happen, or everyone loses! On Savvy Game Night

There’s an outbreak in Essen, and the blue disease has spread to all neighboring cities. Don’t let too many of these happen, or everyone loses!

Mechanism:

Pandemic is a cooperative game, so either everyone wins or everyone loses. Four diseases have simultaneously broken out around the world. Players must research to find a cure for or completely eradicate all four diseases before the epidemics become too overwhelming to contain. Each player may take up to 4 actions on their turn to move around the map, treat infected cities, research a cure or build a research station. At the end of each turn, the diseases spread just a bit more, unless an Epidemic card turns up, which accelerates the infection rate.

The game is over when: all the diseases have been cured and/or eradicated, there have been 8 outbreaks, or there are no player cards remaining.

Number of Players:

2-5. It is much more difficult to win with just two players, but it is still doable.

Set Up Time:

5-10 minutes

Play Time for New Players:

1 hour.

Play Time for Experienced Players:

45 minutes – 1 hour.

Age Range:

8+

Overall Rating for Pandemic: 8/10

Pandemic Player Cards on Savvy Game Night

Note: This post contains affiliate links. I only ever link to games I’ve played and enjoyed myself. Most of the links above are to the newer version of this game. If you’d like to purchase the version of the game photographed here, click here.

Morels, A Two-Player Game

Morels | Savvy Game Night

We own a handful of games designed exclusively for two people. For the most part, we tend towards games that can be played by just the two of us OR us + friends, just to give our game cart a bit more flexibility. But after test-playing Morels at The Enchanted Badger a few times, I knew we needed to add it to our collection. In fact, it is such a great game that Dan got two copies for Christmas – one from me and one from our friends Megan and Matt!

Morels has been our go-to game lately. It is easy to set up and quick to play (even quicker than Ticket to Ride, once you know how to play). There is a little strategy involved, but just to a small extent.  Since you can’t fully anticipate what moves your opponent is going to make, you can’t do too much planning and counting to figure out which cards will come up on your turn.

Morels on Savvy Game Night

If you’re looking for a great two-player game, I highly recommend Morels. It is a great weeknight game!

Mechanism:

There are two decks of cards: the daytime cards and the night cards. There are far fewer night cards, but they are more powerful.

At all times, eight day cards are laid out in a row between the players. On your turn, you can choose to:

  1. Take a new card. The two cards in the line furthest from the deck are “free,” while the others cost 1 or more foraging sticks.
  2. Sell 2 or more matching mushrooms to gain foraging sticks.
  3. Cook 3 or more matching mushrooms for points.
  4. Play a pan card. This essentially only happens if you are close to your hand limit or don’t want any of the available cards.

The game is over when there are no daytime cards left. Add up your points!

Number of Players:

2 only.

Set Up Time:

Nearly none. Just separate the night and day cards and shuffle. Deal 3 daytime cards to each player, and you’re ready to play!

Play Time for New Players:

45 minutes – 1 hour.

Play Time for Experienced Players:

30 – 40 minutes.

Age Range:

8+

Overall Rating for Morels: 9/10

Morels - How Scoring Works | Savvy Game Night

Scoring example: The score on the plays above would be: (3 Lawyer’s Wigs x 2 points each) + (4 Shiitakes x 2 points each) + 3 extra points for the butter = 17 points.

 

Psst: This post contains affiliate links. I only ever recommend products that I truly use and love.

The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet

The Little Prince Make Me a Planet

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince holds a special place in my heart. I was first introduced to the book my senior year of high school, when we were tasked with translating the text. I fell in love with the language and messages of the book then.

Five years later, when Dan and I got married, two sentences from the book formed the basis of our wedding ceremony:

On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essential est invisible pour les yeux.

(You can only see clearly with the heart. The most important things are invisible to the eye.)

So it was with a sense of nostalgia that we picked up a copy of The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet at the Enchanted Badger last fall. As it turns out, it is a charming and simple little game. The artwork on everything in the game, from the box to the instructions to the play tiles, comes straight from the book, and many of the characters and themes play off the book’s plot as well. Where in the book too many baobab trees would crush a planet, in the game, having too many baobab trees will cost you points. In the story, the lamplighter constantly lights and extinguishes his lamp, so if you have his character in the game, you get one point per lamppost on your planet.

The Little Prince Make Me a Planet

The game is simple to learn and quick to play. There is a small bit of competition: you must judge which of the available tiles will help you without leaving open a high-scoring tile for one of your opponents. But for the most part, each player is on their own, and it isn’t very cutthroat.  We’ve enjoyed playing this as a palate cleanser at the end of the night, or as an introduction to board games with our non-gaming friends.

The Little Prince Planet

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Sushi Go!

Welcome to Savvy Game Night! If you want to keep up with my weekly board game reviews, you can subscribe to them by newsletter or RSS feed. Thanks!

Sushi Go Box

Admittedly, I was initially interested in Sushi Go! because of the adorable artwork. Who knew wasabi and tempura could be so cute?  But we soon realized that the game is a nice easy game, great for both getting people into the gaming groove at the beginning of game night or wrapping things up at the end.

Note: Sushi Go! was recently purchased by GameWright. This is great for the creators, as the game will now have a wider distribution (it is difficult to find online for purchase at the moment), but they are changing the artwork a bit. It will still be cute, but with fewer bright colors.

The game is super simple to set up and learn. Within 10 minutes, you can shuffle the cards, read through the instructions, and be ready to go! 

Sushi Go Hand

Because you only use a small portion of the deck during each game, the hand composition and game strategy changes every time. Some rounds may have no pudding, or five puddings and no wasabi. You may start off collecting sashimi, only to realize after a few passes that there are only four sashimi in play this round, and your opponent has already played two…so do you take the last sashimi to keep your opponent from getting those 10 points, giving you both a big fat zero for sashimi, or let him take it and focus your efforts on making up for those lost points? These constant changes to strategy keep the game from turning stale or boring, because the cards are different every time.

Though Sushi Go! isn’t necessarily our favorite game, it is a quick and easy one we can pull out when we want to play a game but are tired or short on time. And like I said, the artwork is pretty darn cute.

Sushi Go Play

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Ticket to Ride + Welcome to Savvy Game Night

Today is the launch of Savvy Game Night! If you want to keep up with my weekly board game reviews, you can subscribe to them by newsletter or RSS feed. Thanks!

Welcome to Savvy Game Night! At the end of last year, one of our friends posted on Facebook that she had just bought her 365th game, and that she could play a different game every single day in 2014 if she wanted to. As someone who has been blogging for the better part of 5 years, I immediately thought that would make a great blog concept – the Julie and Julia of board games, if you will. Which got my wheels turning… Dan’s and my collection is nowhere near the size of our friends’, but it does number close to 50. So while I can’t write about a game every day, I very nearly can review a different game every week. And so Savvy Game Night was born.

Ticket to Ride | Savvy Game Night

Dan and I have been having some long workdays lately, so some nights, we simultaneously want to play a board game to unwind and don’t have the energy to put much time or thought into it. Ticket to Ride has been one of our go-to games this month, partly because it is such a breeze to set up and get going.

Ticket to Ride | Savvy Game Night

There is definitely some strategy involved, as far as choosing tickets and which color train cards to collect. But very few decisions affect the rest of the game in any serious way, so you don’t have to constantly be thinking 5, 6 or 10 moves ahead, and one wrong move won’t destroy the rest of your game. The game remains lighthearted and fun, with maybe a tiny bit of deviousness, depending on the player. Like the time Dan cut off my ability to complete a 10-point ticket (not cool, honey). It wasn’t serious enough to keep me from winning!

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