We've had the mighty dice arena known as Das Exclusive in the GNN fold since I found it, still shrink-wrapped, in a charity shop years ago. However, rare is the game that cope with its majesty. Almost any game with a board is out, since DE takes up a large chunk of the table. And even dice games that have no board often suffer at its hands, since whatever other components are present are usually obscured by the long and weirdly inky shadow Das Exclusive casts. The only games that really work are pure dice-rolling and very little else; Decathlon is ideal, and Roll Through the Ages would probably be fine but we don't play it (do we even own it? Andrew might I think). And now Qwixx.
I recently bought a copy of this, a 2013 Spiel Des Jahres nominee; a super-simple game comprised of six dice and a pad of score sheets. Players attempt to cross off as many numbers as possible on four different coloured rows numbered 2-12 (or 12-2) - the catch being that once you've checked off a number you lock out all those before it. Thus your options diminish over the course of the game, and you find yourself rolling 'fehlwurfe', or mis-throws, which score -5 points. Once players have locked out two of the coloured rows, or someone has made four misthrows, the game is over and scores are tallied.
Sam and I had a quick game over lunch last Friday, and were underwhelmed (along with most of the BGG hardcore, it seems). It's true, it's no gamers game. However, I convinced Charlotte and our visiting friends Liza and Rick to play on Saturday night, and it was a big hit. We played twice, and on Sunday Charlotte and I played two more games, with Martha and Matilda. Last night I played with Martha and Bea - they all loved it. Okay 'loved' is a strong word when it comes to board games and Berger women - but Charlotte saying she enjoyed it and offering to play again is very much a thumbs up.
It reminds me a little of Take it Easy (without the maths-heavy tallying at the end), in that there are communal numbers that everyone can use; there's also the shot at a perfect eleven crosses in at least one colour (seven is the highest in any of our games so far).
It's simple, but not without its own little learning curve - and there are some subtle strategies; but in the end the luck of the dice is going to play a huge part. It's not going to set GNN on fire, that's for sure, and Sam and I both expressed surprise at its pedigree, but it's a very good example of what the Spiel Des Jahres sets out to promote - games so simple anyone can pick them up and play them without a lengthy rules explanation. It beat Hanabi to the 2013 prize*- it's not nearly so innovative or interesting; but it's certainly more approachable.
*this is nonsense, as pointed out by Martin in the comments. Hanabi won, Qwixx was nominated.
My money's on Mysterium for this year based on these criteria, though I'm not sure there's a German-language edition available yet, which would be a pre-requisite I think.
The other big hit of the weekend was Botswana, AKA Wildlife Safari - a 20 minute Knizia from the master's mid-nineties heyday. I've wanted this forever, but it's been hard to come by, and I finally nabbed a copy in a recent maths trade, along with Money and Gem Dealer.
It's brilliantly over-produced, featuring five of each zebras, elephants, rhinos, leopards and lions, all plastic animals of near Schleich quality. There are cards ranked 0 to 5 in each animal/suit, and all cards barring a couple are dealt to the players. Each turn you play a card to the relevant row, and take an animal of your choice. Once all six cards of a single suit have been played, the round is over and players score all the animals they've collected - the animals are worth the last card played in their suit.
Simple, ingenious fun of the kind the good Dr does so well. It's basically a stock-manipulation game, and as Martin pointed out last week, the animals could easily be replaced by five cubes of five colours. This is true, but I guarantee my kids wouldn't have wanted to play it if that were the case; as it is Martha and Bea both really enjoy it. Charlotte's verdict? "Unbearably tense".
This tells me all I need to know about her gaming habits - we won't be playing Rattlesnake any time soon then.