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AK Jones (Oxford, UK)

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Deadly 60 Tracker Board Game
Deadly 60 Tracker Board Game

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The kids love it, needs a few house rules though......, 30 May 2013
This review is from: Deadly 60 Tracker Board Game (Toy)
My 6 year old son and 8 year old daugther enjoy this game, and have asked to play this quite a few times.

The good thing is, the game is simple with only a few instructions needed so you can get started right away. Both my children instantly understood this game.

Basically, you have to pick an animal card (this is one of the more fun parts of the game finding out what you are tracking) indicating that you need to collect a certain amount of Item cards which can be either Physical, Medical and Equipment cards (up to three of each). You roll a dice to move around the board, and if you land on a blue symbol, you roll a dice, with an even number allowing you to pick up an Item card. If you land on a red symbol, it's a risk, indicating you are in some predicament that requires you to roll certain numbers: if you succeed you gain an Item card, if you fail, you loose an Item card.

Once you have collected the Item cards you need, you move to the centre of the board and, against the timer, have to keep rolling the dice to try and match/beat the Tracking Number shown on your animal card. If successful, you keep the animal and draw another animal card - you win when you have collected three animal cards. All that adding the accumulative total of the die rolls provides some adding up practise for the younger ones.

As it is, the game is basically a die rolling fest. We have added a couple of house rules to make it interesting:
1) You keep your Item cards face down so they are known only to you. You can ask other players if they require an Item you have and see if you can swap cards. You then need to move adjacent to that player to actually swap Item cards.
2) What's the point of the Risk? If you land on a blue symbol, you have 50% chance of getting an Item without fear of loosing anything, while on the red symbol, you potentially have more than 50% chance of loosing an Item? We rule that if you take a Risk and succeed, you can take the top two Item cards and choose one of them.

This is a game to play with young children (I say of 10 years or less). The good thing is, both my children can play this together without guidance from adults, as long as one child can read the Risk cards.

Gamewright Forbidden Island Game
Gamewright Forbidden Island Game
Price: £14.98

5.0 out of 5 stars A children-friendly and travel-version of Pandemic, 7 April 2012
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Co-operative games are becoming a favourite in our household. We have Pandemic - Game in English (in my opinion one of the greatest of all board games) which I play with adults, not with our children who are aged 5 and 7. The first co-op game the children played was Castle Panic Board Game, which is a great game, and it was almost played every day: TV was forgotten, troll slaying was in! Then we got Castle Panic: The Wizards Tower, a brilliant expansion for Castle Panic, but one that in a strange way left Castle Panic in the cupboard unplayed. The main reason for this was that the new Wizard cards required reading, and the 5 year old, as a result, lost interest. It was difficult to revert to the original version as it was so basic by contrast. Plus, Castle Panic can easily go on for over an hour, and during the game the children will say "I want to do something else" and off they go.

Enter Forbidden Island. Reading all the other reviews I'm sure you'll get an idea of what the game is about. A game takes about 30 mins, so it's easy to sneak a game in before bed time. The game doesn't rely on reading, with cards having pictures that says it all, so even the 5 year old can shout out "Sandbags!" or "Airlift!" or feel dismay when drawing a Water Rise card. The adventurer roles also capture the imagination of the younger players (with perhaps the exception of the Navigator, whose ability to move other players is a bit more subtle), whether it be a diver, a pilot, or Explorer. The treasure figurines also look good, and help to the atmosphere that you're risking your lives to get something truly valuable. For me, the genius of the game comes from setting up the tiles to form the island, so that the layout is never the same. What's more, you can alter the shape of the island (check out the variant rules on the Forum website) which alters the difficulty of play.

In Pandemic (by the same author) which has notable similarities, you win when you cure all 4 diseases. What is different with Forbidden Island is once you gain all 4 treaures, all players still have to get to the helipad, known as Fool's Landing, and use the Airlift card to claim victory. This adds a sense of complete closure to the game, and also added tension as there are still oppurtunities to loose before everyone is lifted to safety.

And full marks for presentation. The game comes in a tin box with well presented instructions, and is easy to take around. I wouldn't take Pandemic on a camping trip, for instance, as there are quite a few little pieces to loose. Forbidden Island, on the other hand, is easier to fit in a suitcase and is more durable.

In a few years time, I'm sure the children will get back to Castle Panic and be able to play the whole game in a single setting, and when they reach 10, I will introduce Pandemic to them. As for now, Forbidden Island is all the rage. The suggested age of 10+ is a bit high. My 7 year old daughter has easily grasped the concept and tactics, and is able to make her own suggestions, and I think could play this game with children of a simlar age. The 5 year does need adult supervision.

Overall, excellent! A very good introduction to co-op games for any age. For adults though, I thouroughly recommend Pandemic.

Fireside Games Castle Panic Wizard's Tower Board Game
Fireside Games Castle Panic Wizard's Tower Board Game
Price: £16.89

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whoa! - more monsters, more strategy and MORE PANIC!!!, 7 Jan. 2012
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Castle Panic Board Game is a co-operative board game where 1-6 players are on the same team defending a castle against waves of goblins, orcs and trolls. It is a highly enjoyable game, and it's simplicity makes it suitable for younger children to join. Almost all the time my 4 year old son asks to play 'the Castle Game' (gone is the thought of watching telly) and has grasped gameplay and is getting an idea of thinking a step ahead to anticipate the movement of the monsters. You could tell from the Castle Panic box that it could hold many more cards and tokens, and when this expansion came out, I wasted no time getting it.

First thing I noticed - delivery was fast, only a couple of days.

I think the expansion is great. You replace one tower with a wizard's tower, which towers over your castle, crying to be different. And indeed it is special, for as long as the tower stands, you can discard a card to draw from a wizard deck of cards, representing spells that can have incredible effects, such as instantly slaying a foe in the forest ring, driving all monsters in an arc back to the forest and frieballs. And that brings me to a new rule - fire! You can set monsters on fire, and your buildings can catch on fire. There are several ways your walls and towers can be on fire, one I'll mention - dragon! Yes, there are loads of new monsters including six mega boss monsters (three are randomnly selected each game) such as the dragon, chimera and necormancer, each with their own deadly abilities, and some of them need 5 hits to kill! There are other new non-boss monsters such as the gargoyle, cyclops and centaur, each with their own quirks which means you either need the rule book handy or the useful monster summary card. There are new castle deck cards as well - the beserk card is genius where you can pick up a new card for each one you play. There are cards that can change the colour of your attack and also range (so a green swordsman can become a red archer), and loads more.

The expansion definitely requires more thought and strategy to play. I first tried to play with my 4 year old son but soon felt quite overwhelmed by the different monsters and massive increase in options and soon abandoned the game. The expansion box thus went back to the cupboard thinking to bring it back out when the children were older. But no, a week later I thought to give it another try with a second adult present, so I played with my 4 year son, 7 year daughter and wife. There is definitely a lot more discussion each go and alot more options, sometimes deciding which card to trade can be quite agonizing, and discarding a card to pick from the wizard deck is not necessarily a foregone conclusion (for the adults that is, for the children each wizard card brings a "wow" helped by the dymanic illustrations) as there is a time when the humble swordsman is sorely needed. We managed to win, but only just, with only the wizard tower left standing.

If you liked Castle Panic, this game is a must. If you liked the concept of Castle Panic but thought it pretty simple, give this exapansion a try.

Castle Panic Board Game
Castle Panic Board Game
Price: £24.08

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fun co-operative board game, can be played by under 10s, 2 Jan. 2012
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This review is from: Castle Panic Board Game (Toy)
Castle Panic is a co-operative board game where everyone plays on the same team against the board, thus providing a relief from friends confronting each other and potential disputes.

The game can be played by 1-6 players who are in a castle attacked from all directions from goblins, orcs and trolls swarming from the surrounding forest. These monstrous foes can be dispatched by playing archer, knight or swordsman cards depending on far away the monsters are. After each go, the monsters advance ever closer to your castle ......

The castle consists of six towers and six walls. The walls can be rebuilt by playing a combination of two cards, while towers are removed permanently if destroyed. If all six towers are destroyed, the monsters have won, and if all the monsters are killed (depicted by tokens which are drawn at the end of each turn), all players are victorious. The feeling of everyone either loosing or winning together adds a great sense of team feeling, and everyone shares the panic when they see the castle surrounded by a flood of monsters.

The co-operative element comes from players having the option to trade cards to stop as many monsters as possible, or build a wall, each go. In our household, we have two other co-op games; The Lord of the Rings Board Game [With Dice and 105 Cards and 44 Tokens and 3 Game Boards] board game and Pandemic. Of these three, I would recommend Castle Panic for younger players as it is the simplest (this game is played by our 4 and 7 year old children) or to introduce the concept of co-op board games. We had a great 6-player game with player ages ranging from 4 to 65 and it was a close exciting game, just barely winning with only one tower left standing. The older players, who were only used to the Monopoly-type games liked the co-op aspect and seeing the children helping each other, with obvious tides of excitement ebbing and flowing throughout the game.

Players do not have roles, such as in Pandemic (suggestion for an expansion?) which really adds to the co-op element of the game, but Castle Panic does have a Master Slayer competitive element, where the player who kills the most powerful monsters is crowned the 'Master Player', effectively becoming the winner, but only if the Castle still remains standing. It will count for nothing if the monsters have won. So this can add some hidden agendas in thinking how to help the team be victorious while thinking about personal achievements.

Only with the solitaire version does it feel that in some games there is no chance of winning. Otherwise, the game is well balanced, with most games being close. The difficulty of the game can be tweaked by suggestions in the rules and at the Fireside Games website.

Watch you don't fold the board the wrong way, as it can cause the board to easily split. Otherwise all game components are well presented and durable. There's really only educational value to younger players who can benefit from team work and starting to think a step ahead in anticipating what cards to play once the monsters have advanced.

In summary, an excellent game that can bring the family together.

Pandemic - Game in English
Pandemic - Game in English

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best co-operative games out there., 31 Dec. 2011
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This review is from: Pandemic - Game in English (Toy)
Our household owns three co-operative board games where all players are on the same team against the game. These are Lord Of The Rings Board Game, Castle Panic Board Game and Pandemic. Of these three games, which are all great, Pandemic is my favourite. Lord of the Rings and Castle Panic have a fantasy setting which may not be easily accessible to some. Castle Panic perhaps is easiest for younger players, and indeed we manage a game with my 4 and 7 year olds (they do prefer Mattel Uno Card Game though), whereas I wouldn't introduce them to LotR or Pandemic just yet. In LotR each player takes a role of a hobbit trying to destroy a ring, each having a special ability (unlike Castle Panic), but you only have two or three paths to choose from, so the number of choices is quite restricted. Pandemic, on the other hand, you have the whole world to move around, and right from the start, you'll be discussing where to go and what to do out of the many options available.

The aim of Pandemic is to cure four diseases threatening to overtake the world. Each player takes a role, which can the the Dispatcher (who can move different players around), the Medic (who can treat disease cases more quickly), the Scientist (who can find cures more quickly), the Researcher (who can share information more easily) and the Operations Expert (who can build a Research Station more easily). Players have cards representing different cities. These cards can be used to travel around, build a research station or be collected to find a cure. Since curing all four diseases is the only way to win the game (which requires a research station), it's tough to decide how to use the cards to either find cures or travel around and treat diseases to prevent outbreaks. And outbreaks are likely to happen as each go more cities get infected. Each go the players can discuss their options, utilising the special abilities of each their roles, thus requiring co-operation to stem the infection tide.

I think Pandemic is the most accessible game as the board is a map of our world, with cubes used to represent the spread of infection. And the initial Educational element is right there, showing geographical locations of cities throughout the world. Also, there is a reason why all players start in Atlanta, as this is where the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention is located. With recent outbreaks of swine flu and other diseases, one can relate with the game. LotR tends to take at least two hours to play, Pandemic takes half that time, so a couple of games can easily be play before a decent night's sleep.

So far I've played it three times, The first two times we played with five players. Even though the rules suggest up to 4, we played with four epidemic cards with each player starting with two cards. The first time we lost, the second we won. The third time we played with three players and lost - and that was because we spent time eradicating a disease instead of treating more prevalent diseases. Each game starts differently with different cities infected to varying degrees. Also, the roles are dealt randomly, so each game really feels different. There are three difficulty levels, depending on the number of Epidemic cards in play (4-6), and each time you loose, you'll want to discuss what you could have done better and want to try again.

All in all, if you want to try a co-operative game, I recommend this as the first to try if everyone is 9 years +.

Star Wars: Death Star
Star Wars: Death Star
by Michael Reaves
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "not everyone on board was a monster...", 14 Mar. 2011
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This review is from: Star Wars: Death Star (Paperback)
You recall that running gag in Austin Powers where Dr Evil's henchman cannot make a party because he was killed doing his job?

Whereas Death Star is not a spoof like Austin Powers, it does deal with the 'ordinary people' who are involved in the every day running of the Death Star, from Architect, librarian, doctor to cantina boss and bouncer. These people are just doing their job and the story follows several characters who realise what an "evil" project the Death Star has become and don't want any more to do with it. Of course, we all know what happens to the Death Star and the tension of the story comes from finding out who makes it off the massive space ship before Luke Skywalker blows it up.

This book is not high on action, but gives you a trip into the Star Wars Universe seeing a well known story from a different point of view, blending in well known scenes from Episode 4. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am interested in reading other Star Wars stories by the authors. I have read Shadows of the Empire, and again I enjoyed the use of scenes from the well known films as a backdrop to introducing new characters.

Munchkin Impossible
Munchkin Impossible
Price: £18.04

5.0 out of 5 stars The name's Impossible, Munchkin Impossible, 15 April 2009
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This review is from: Munchkin Impossible (Toy)
The original Munchkin and all its expansions is an excellent, light-hearted game. with amazing scope for bundles of fun. It does though have many in-jokes that would only be appreciated by those who have played fantasy role-play games, in particular Dungeons and Dragons. I thus wanted to have a Munchkin game that I could introduce to friends who had never created a dwarf fighter or an elf ranger and would be completely baffled if you went on about your 7th level bard.
Everybody knows about James Bond right. Enter Muchkin Impossible. It uses the original Munchkin rules but you are sophisticated spies equipped with high-tech gadgets, be they a trusty camera gun or a swimming helicopter. You can be loyal to the Russians, the Chinese, the Americans or the English or to any three of them if you have the right card, all coming with their own advantages. On top of this, do you want to be the highly trained assassin or the suave playboy? May be you are highly trained in demolitions or are you deadly with a banana. As in the original Munchkin, the aim is to reach level 10 by selling items, getting Level Up cards or fighting monsters, and in typical Munchkin style you can help other players fight tough monsters, for a share of the treasure of course, or if no one wants to help you, seduce them.
When I have friends round, out of all the board and card games I have, Munchkin Impossible was the one they wanted to play again and again. Highly entertaining and thoroughly recommended to introduce the zany world of Munchkin to those who never rolled a d20 before.

Deep Storm
Deep Storm
by Lincoln Child
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable light read, 23 Jun. 2008
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This review is from: Deep Storm (Mass Market Paperback)
I'm a great fan of the Child Preston double efforts and have only read a few of their solo novels (Tyrannosaur Canyon and The Codex) which weren't bad. I was intrigued by the premise of Deep Storm so I ordered a copy. I would describe it as a good read for the plane or beach - highly enjoyable that can be read quickly and not terribly substantial to get you bogged down. The mystery of the story - what's beneath the ocean that the undersea research station Deep Storm is trying to discover - is the main driving point of the story and it's not until the end that's it's finally revealed. It's something I didn't guess but I wasn't bowled over by the revelation either. Still, it was fun written with a racy Blockbuster type style to keep the pages turning. Some of the 'cliffhangers' at the end of several chapters basically felt like a paragraph had inadvertently been sent to the next page and so felt a bit forced.
The stories written by Child and Preston as a team are by far better.

DRAGONS OF THE DWARVEN DEPTHS: 1 (Dragonlance Novel: The Lost Chronicles (Paperback))
DRAGONS OF THE DWARVEN DEPTHS: 1 (Dragonlance Novel: The Lost Chronicles (Paperback))
by Margaret Weis
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £8.22

4.0 out of 5 stars It's good to be back with old friends, 10 Nov. 2007
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For me, the Dragonlance Chronicles and Legends are the best Dungeons and Dragons-based novels available. Weis and Hickman created a band of heroes you really cared for. You witnessed them together and saw them split up to follow their own paths of destiny. This book is set between Dragonlance Chronicles 1 and 2. That means all the heroes are together and it's great to see them interacting with each other. It's like being with old friends and a certain amount of nostalgia creeps in. You also get a sense of the characters gaining in power, especially with Raistlin. In the original books you basically see him as a low level mage - cast the odd sleep spell here and there - who then becomes all powerful. In this novel you get to see him as a more intermediate-powered mage able now to cast fireball. The strength of this novel is revisiting the Heroes of the Lance. The story itself isn't that great and the ending with the appearance and defeat of the main eneimies was a bit lame and felt rushed.
Overall, I enjoyed the book but it's near impossible to be of the same quality as the Chronicles and Legends where the bar is set so high.

Road of the Patriarch (Forgotten Realms) (Forgotten Realms: The Sellswords)
Road of the Patriarch (Forgotten Realms) (Forgotten Realms: The Sellswords)
by R.A. Salvatore
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Getting to the roots of Artemis, 4 Oct. 2007
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This is the concluding book in the Sellswords trilogy. Whereas the second book, Promise of the Witch King, was pretty much hack n' slay, which is great since Salvatore is the master when it comes to writing battle scenes, Road of the Patriarch concentrates more on the development of several parties, namely an assassin's guild, a dragon duo, a band of drow and of course Artemis Entreri. While we thought we had met some pretty powerful characters in book 2, that's nothing compared to King Gareth and his friends, who turn out to be the group who had destroyed Zhengyi. Salvatore makes a point of one person of this group in particular, the monk Kane, to be a most powerful force to reckon with. For destroying the dracolich, King Gareth bestows an apprentice knighthood on Artemis, which, as Jarlaxle found, is quite amusing as Artemis is hardly a knight in the making. Indeed members of Gareth's band were pretty dubious about awarding some unknown person such an honour. I found it quite strange that Garath, being a powerful paladin, didn't use his inherent detect evil ability on Artemis, because I'm sure if he did, he would most likely change his mind.
Minor quibbles aside, I really enjoyed the book. I found it to be the least predictable Salvatore story yet. You're kept guessing as to whether Jarlaxle and Artemis will have to confront these powerful characters and despite the foot having been taken off the action accelerator, there are some good fights, especially between Artemis and an axe-wielding ranger.
The last section of the book comes as a complete change and explores in quite some depth Artemis' background. Salvatore sets up some nasty charaters that you really want Artemis to dispose of.
Great fun.

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