Boing Boing 

Betrayal at House on the Hill - play if you dare

Betrayal at House on the Hill is a board game that takes place in a haunted mansion. You and your friends must explore the mansion to discover its dark secrets. But you should tread carefully as one of you might be a traitor.

The game starts out as cooperative, in which players explore the abandoned mansion to find omens, trigger events and pick up items. This continues until the 'Haunt' phase starts. The Haunt is triggered by the omen cards. Every time an omen card is picked up, the player must roll the dice and try to score more than the collective omens currently on the board. If the player fails the Haunt starts and then, depending on the omen, one player will take on the roll of the Spider-Queen, Witch, Demon, Zombie Lord or Werewolf and the rest will fight for survival.

This is a really fun game for anyone interested in horror. It's interesting, different and will always keep you guessing. Every play through the mansion will be different. Couple this with random card picks, twelve characters to choose from and over 50 scenarios you can play, and this game equals great replay value. However, it isn't perfect. The Haunt will sometimes favor one side or the other, which can make it next to impossible to win, so it can be a little unbalanced.

The quality of the game is great. There are six miniatures (all colored), and each has a character's sheet printed on glossed cardboard. The tiles are solid, strikingly eerie and excellent quality. The sliders, which keep track of your stats, is the only drawback. They're not well-fitted and slide off the card pretty easily. It can play up to 6 players (three being the minimum) and plays about 1-2 hours, depending on the amount of players you have. – Engela Snyman

Betrayal at House on the Hill
by Wizards of the Coast
Ages 12 and up, 3-6 players
$34 Buy a copy on Amazon

See more photos at Wink Fun.

Blokus takes 2 seconds to learn, but many games to master

Apparently Blokus is a popular game that’s been around since 2000, introduced by the French company Sekkoia before being sold to Mattel in 2009. But it’s new to me. I just bought it a few weeks ago after my daughter came home from her friend’s house raving about the game, and we’ve had many a summer Blokus evenings since.

Blokus is a strategy game that takes two seconds to learn, but many games to master. In a nutshell, each player picks a color and starts with a pile of Tetrus-shaped plastic pieces made of 1-5 squares. For instance, one piece is only one square, another is a line of three squares, another a four-square block, another a five-square L-shape, and so on. No piece is alike. Players start off by placing a piece of their choice in a corner of the gridded board. They then take turns connecting pieces to one of their own pieces already on the board. But you can only connect pieces by their corners – not by the edges (although your edges can connect with an opponent’s edge). As the board gets filled, the turns get more difficult, and after a few games you’ll realize how much strategy can make or break a game. The game ends when no one can make another move. The player left with the least amount of squares wins. Addictive and challenging, yet simple enough for a child to learn, Blokus is a great family game.

Note: The version above is 10" x 10", which is smaller than the original 13" x 13". They both have the same amount of pieces, but the one I got (the link above) is simply smaller in size and less expensive. Some commenters on Amazon prefer the larger size for its ease of use. Since I only know this version, it works perfectly fine for me.

Ages 7 and up
$20 Buy a copy on Amazon

See sample images at Wink.

Game review: detectives hunt for the infamous Mr. X in Scotland Yard

“Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man…” wrote Hemingway. It is precisely this Holmes-versus-Moriarty style rivalry that makes Scotland Yard worth an hour or more of your time. At the outset, a player is chosen to be the infamous “Mr. X,” pursued throughout the game by the remaining 1-5 players. The board is an intricate map of London, detailing lines of public transit, but also including fun landmarks, such as Buckingham Palace and the London Eye. The transit routes, however, are the key to winning the game.

Detectives are issued tickets for each type of transit—taxi, bus, or underground (train), which cannot be replenished, and therefore must be used wisely. If less than the full number of detectives are playing, the extra pieces become “bobbies,” after the British slang for police. Bobbies act as shared pieces at the detectives’ collective disposal that don’t need tickets to explore London. Likewise, Mr. X does not need tickets for regular transit. Additionally, he is issued special tickets that allow him extra privileges, like using the ferry or making two moves in one turn. Detectives take turns collaborating and moving their pieces from one station to another, according to the tickets at their disposal. When all of the detectives and bobbies have moved, Mr. X takes his turn, recording his invisible moves on a special notepad. Detectives are allowed to know what type of transit he used, assuming he hasn’t used one of his special tickets. Mr. X only appears on five of the twenty-three turns, lending hide-and-seek anticipation and lots of discussion on where he could be next. The game is over either when Mr. X has been cornered (can make no more moves without bumping into a detective) or captured (a detective lands on his station). Alternatively, if Mr. X evades capture for the full twenty-three turns, he is the victor.

Geared toward the analytical thinker and recommended for children 10+, Scotland Yard is an exciting way to pass a rainy afternoon. Including both cooperative and competitive play, the game even comes with a visor (or hat, depending on your edition) for Mr. X to hide behind as he strategizes. Moreover, as in a real man-hunt, there’s just enough luck involved that either side could gain an unexpected advantage at any moment. If you’re hunting for an edge-of-your-seat challenge for you and your friends, investigate Scotland Yard. – Chloe Quimby

Detectives hunt for the infamous Mr. X in Scotland Yard

Scotland Yard
by Ravensburger
Ages 10 and up, 2-6 players
$29 Buy a copy on Amazon

Thank you Unique Toy Shop for lending us this copy to review!

August 18, 2015

See more photos at Wink.

Takenoko board game – take care of a bamboo garden to keep a panda alive

Takenoko (which means bamboo shoots in Japanese) is a light, colorful board game in which players take on the role of Japanese court members to take care of a panda and gain points by completing tasks. At the beginning of the game each player is given three cards explaining their tasks. The tasks include cultivating and irrigating plots, growing colorful bamboo, or getting the panda to eat said bamboo. At the end of the game the player with the most points wins. But where Takenoko shines is with the weather element.

The weather die is rolled at the beginning of each turn, and tends to throw all your best laid plans out the door. Experienced or ignorant players can make or break your plans as well, which makes the game a little chaotic. Takenoko is fun and easy to teach, but it can be a little frustrating when you're at the mercy of poor dice rolls. Just go with the flow, do what's in front of you, and you'll have a great time.

The game is beautiful and the components are excellent. The painted miniatures, colorful plots and plastic bamboo shoots make it look like an expensive candy box. It plays about 45-60 minutes and can have up 4 players. The winner of the Golden Geek Award of 2012, it's little wonder why people adore this game so much. – Engela Snyman

by Asmodee
Ages 13 and up, 2-4 players
$33 Buy a copy on Amazon

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Scientist studies Diplomacy game to reveal early signs of betrayal

Cornell computer scientist Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil analyzed messages sent between players of strategy game Diplomacy to tease out early signs of future betrayal. A computer algorithm then predicted betrayal correctly 57 percent of the time, which is way better than the players themselves did.

Read the rest

If you like word games, here's one you can print and play for free


We chose Spry Fox's Alphabear as Offworld's Mobile Game of the Week when it launched, and Laura and I are both still playing it. If you love word games as much as we do, board game designer Robin David has made a totally free, Alphabear-inspired card game you can download, print and play for free.

David describes Litterateur as a cross between Scrabble and Sushi Go. It sounds simple to learn and fun to play with a group—managing your collection of letters and denying opponents good ones from the pool, and using the letter values on each card, making the best words you can.

It's best for groups of 3-5, and takes between 20 and 45 minutes to play. I like card games like that when I have my friends over in the evening—simple experiences with just a few components that help everybody break the ice and get to chatting with each other. Although David says he might Kickstart or officially produce Litterateur in future, it's free for now to anyone who'd like to print all the cards out. Check it out here.

Creepy 1960s board game for girls included shame tokens


Not that you'd expect the '60s to be remotely progressive about jobs for us lil' ladies, but "What Shall I Be: The Exciting Game Of Career Girls" was a board game about the many career opportunities young girls could dream of: You know, model, actress, stewardess, secretary, nurse and teacher.

As you can see, we'll have to worry about our posture, makeup, and being "slow thinkers:"


News of "What Shall I Be" comes from Mark Frauenfelder's roundup of five of the old days' weirdest board games, over at Offworld's parent Boing Boing. As Mark points out, look at the picture of the game 'Pie Face'. Look how excited, determined, committed that father and son are about getting whipped cream in their mother and sister's faces. It all got me thinking about "board games for girls" as a concept. Remember Dream Phone?

I remember being barely adolescent and being told, by these noisy pink plasticine game objects, that I ought to hurry up and get concerned with "which guys really like [me]!" Just look at the wild panic in the eyes of the children in the ad.

A similar dating game, about encouraging girl children to get ready for men at their door, goes all the way back to the 60's: Try to watch this ad for Milton Bradley's "Mystery Date" without getting a little creeped out at the gasping, sighing kids opening the door to tiny men (and being disappointed when he is some kind of laborer instead of an abstract tuxedo).

And who can forget Mall Madness? I abstractly remember wanting this one, actually, although in hindsight the throbbing, singular robotic command of the mall's pink beating heart (CLEARANCE AT THE SUNGLASS BOUTIQUE) is terrifying, as is the sight of children waving pretend cards and money feverishly.

Luckily things are way better for board games these days, whether that means progressive roleplaying systems, or just more gender parity among characters and women getting to have cool jobs.

5 bizarre board games you should try playing just once

This could be you.

This could be you.

Lots of board games from the 20th century just plain suck. Monopoly and Risk are positive-feedback games where the first person to gain a slight advantage inevitably becomes the runaway winner a couple of tedious hours later. In Candy Land the winner is determined when the deck is shuffled – players make no decisions (other than the wise one of burning the game and burying the ashes in salted earth). And calling out random numbers in an attempt to score a hit in Battleship is, as Steven Johnson points out, "about as mentally challenging as playing Bingo."

The board games below all suffer from similar problems plaguing the ones above. But they also have one or more additional qualities -- an inane theme, offensiveness, bad illustrations, unintentionally funny cover lines, or an ineffable WTFness -- that make them worthy of note, or at least mockery. Let the fun begin!


1. Pie Face (1968) "click... click... click... Whoops!..." Dad and son seem inordinately determined to make a mess on mom and daughter's faces in this uncomfortable cover photo.


2. Gomer Pyle Game (1964) Transogram, makers of this execrable TV show tie-in game, should have called it quits with its most famous game, Tiddledy Winks, which at least required skill to win. According to Charlie Claywell, "the game is played by rolling the dice and each player tries to finish first so they can salute Sergeant Carter."


3. Ice Cube (1972). This sadistic game undoubtedly inspired many a young sociopath to pursue a career in the CIA or Chicago Police Department. Ice Cube uses little men made of real ice (that you freeze before playing), which players punish for no reason other than to take pleasure in their suffering. Instruments of torture include a device that dumps salt on them and another that splashes them with warm water. Players can also submerge the characters in a warm bath or sadistically place a hot metal cylinder on their head. This is the strongest evidence I've come across to support the long-held rumor that Dick Cheney moonlighted as a game designer 45 years ago. (Check out this excellent post with many photos of Ice Cube at Tracy's Toys.)


4. Blow Football (1950) Though the cover image depicts a game in the vein of an Adam Sandler movie ("unlovable loser controls the outcome of pro sports events with a small magic whistle") the truth about Blow Football is even worse. Inside the box are a couple of cardboard straws, a rubber ball, and two pieces of bent wire. You know, this sounds better than an Adam Sandler movie.



5. What Shall I Be? The Exciting Game of Career Girls (1966). Girls can grow up to be anything they want to be, as long as it's a model, actress, stewardess, ballerina, nurse, teacher, or secretary. Bonus: tokens designed to instill shame in girls, ages 6 and up.


The “Amen!” Game: 1970s Christian board game, scanned online for you to play


The “Amen! Game,” a Bible trivia version of Bingo from 1973.

Read the rest

Zombicide will have you running for your life

Zombicide, or Zombicide Season 1 as it is affectionately called, is the first offering by Guillotine Games. It’s a zombie survival board game that recreates the feeling of being swarmed by dozens of zombies with tons of replay value. There are ten missions inside the game’s instruction booklet and even more offered on the official Zombicide website. Each mission rearranges the tiles in different ways to create new maps. Typically the missions – chosen to accommodate the number of players – involve surviving and making it to an exit after certain conditions are met.

Players start with one of six characters, each which has a different set of skills that can help players survive the zombie hoards. Each time a zombie is killed, or when certain mission objects are completed, characters earn experience points that open up new skills. However, character cards have different color increments on their experience chart. This makes leveling a double-edged sword. Each mission has different zombie spawning points. At the end of every round zombies will spawn at these points. One of the zombie cards is flipped up for each spawning point, and the second any player goes into warmer color increments then the instructions for that color are followed. The warmer the color, the deadlier the circumstances as tougher and more copious amounts of zombies will appear.

In addition to leveling mechanics, characters get weapons/items that help them kill zombies by doing searches of buildings, and cars if they’re on the board. Weapons have varying damage capabilities and increase the chances to hit a zombie as combat is resolved with a six-sided die; the weapon determines the lowest number a player needs to win the encounter. Typically, if a zombie ends up in the same space as a player, that person will end up injured if the undead entity is still up. Players want to take out the zombies as soon as they can because after that first hit they’re dead. This creates not only a sense of urgency to complete the mission, but to make sure any zombie threats are dealt with.

When people win Zombicide, the victory is so very sweet because it is easy to lose within six rounds with some scenarios. Sometimes the difference between winning and losing is one card. Hearing something like, “If it wasn’t for that last zombie card, we would have won,” is common for this game. That difference of one card will keep people playing over and over again, having fun while they do it but desperate to get that victory. – Kris Ganske

See more photos at Wink Fun.

Suburbia board game: a simple, subtle economic simulation

Suburbia is a technocrat’s take on urban planning. The art is streamlined to the point of austerity, there is almost no luck, and the game is unashamed to show off its mathematical guts. At heart, Suburbia is a simple, subtle economic simulation with three moving parts. Players take turns buying hexagonal tiles from an ever-changing market and placing them in their town to develop their city in ways that affect its population, income, and reputation.

The population tally (which serves as the game’s scoring mechanism) models the disadvantages of urban growth in a very clever and elegant way – every so often on the track there’s a red line, and when your population surpasses it you lose one point of income (more expensive municipal services) and one point of reputation (more density/pollution/crime/whatever). This simple mechanism creates delightfully rich feedback loops that take a number of plays to fully appreciate – grow too quickly without an economic base and your town stagnates, unable to afford the development you need to serve your population; but bring in too much business or industry and nobody will want to live there.

Buying tiles for your city isn’t just an exercise in math, though – building your city is a spatial and temporal puzzle, with a limited ability to impact the other players’ cities as well. Some of the tiles’ effects work spatially (placing residential areas next to a highway hurts your town’s reputation while placing businesses there makes them more profitable), others work based on what else is in your city (building schools helps your reputation based on how many residential areas you have), and some affect other players’ cities. Once the market is emptied out, the game ends and players score based on population, plus additional public and secret individual scoring goals that you draw at the start of each game.

This game seems to lean heavily toward being a muliplayer solitaire puzzle at first glance, but once everyone is familiar with managing the feedback loops between reputation, population, and income, and with the scoring goals that are available, denying other players what you think they need becomes pretty competitive. Another nice mechanism is that tiles from the market can be played upside down as small lakes, which provides a cash infusion but also allows you to take a tile out of the game that’s useless to you but helpful to an opponent.

Where the game can bog down a bit is in keeping track of the interdependent effects of some of the tiles, particularly the ones that affect other players’ towns, but after a few plays we got familiar enough with the tiles’ effects that it was manageable. It bears mentioning that Suburbia has one of the best app implementations (both Android and iOS) of a board game I’ve seen, with smooth design, interesting single player puzzles, and local and online multiplayer.

See more photos at Wink Fun.

Firework or Sex Toy – The Boing Boing Game


RULES OF THE GAME: Fun for the whole family, “Firework or Sex Toy” consists of shouting out EITHER a product from a major fireworks company OR a product from major sex toy company. It’s up to contestants in the room to match the product names to the correct industry.

Here is a selection to get you started:

Sold by TNT Fireworks, Florence, AL:

Girl’s Best Friend, Not for the Timid, Thrill Seeker, Meow, No Limit, Lost Control, Team 6 Arsenal, Steel Force, Delirium, Festival Balls

Sold by Good Vibrations, San Francisco, CA:

Comet II, Pop Your Top, Wonderland Mystical Mushroom, Lady Luck, Pocket Rocket, Power Dancer, Double Delight, Night Rider

BONUS ROUND: Have participants guess where the following pieces of marketing copy appear:

“A traditional favorite gone mad . . . this will leave a smile on your face.”

“You will be shaken AND stirred.”

“Watch the ground erupt slowly into a plume of pretty lemon and purple sparkles, climaxing into a louder crackling sliver and purple sparkles. WOW.”

[HINT: All are TNT.]

A gallery of impossible board games


Joe Kowalski says:

Last month I was asked to participate in an art show. I was told was that I’d be receiving some objects, and I was to craft a response to them using whatever medium I wanted. A week later, I received a package. It contained a cryptic telegram from the 1960s, a disc with an atom icon carved into it, and a metal ruler that measured days rather than distance.

Read the rest

Cube Quest

Imagine Crossbows and Catapults—but with meaningful rules rather than excuses for a demolition session. Jon Seagull reviews Cube Quest.Read the rest

Apps bring new possibilities to board games

Matt M. Casey on Golem Arcana, one of the new offerings whose gameplay leaps from tabletop to tablet. Read the rest

Best ever cooperative boardgames

Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen recommend their favorite cooperative board games. Read the rest

Five Tribes -- a twist on the worker placement game

Worker displacement games will soon pack the shelves at your local tabletop game store. For that, you can thank Five Tribes’ designer Bruno Cathala. By Matt M. CaseyRead the rest