Review: Whoonu

Publisher: Cranium, Inc.

Number of Players: 3-6

Playing Time: 15 minutes

Release Year: 2005

Year I got it: 2005

It’s a cross between: Not really able to think of anything.  It’s a card game where you learn about people.  Maybe Hearts and Have You Ever?

Number of Plays to Obtain Proficiency: 2

Replayability: Always replayable with new people, definitely replayable at least 3 or 4 times with the same people.

Social Interaction: There can be a lot, as people talk about what things they like and dislike, and why. It’s a good way for introverts to introduce themselves to each other a little bit.

The Cranium games are almost uniformly good.  This one is one of the shortest, and it makes use of their trademark picture cards, cards with pictures of all kinds of things you might see in the world, from “Shoes” to “Mountains” to “Birthday Parties.”

Each player, except for one who is “it”, gets four cards.  An envelope is passed around, and you are supposed to select, from your cards, which thing the “it” person will like the best.  Finally, “it” looks at all the cards and orders them according to how much they like them.  Everyone gets points according to how well their card was ranked.  Finally, everyone passes their cards to the right and a new person is “it.”

This is a “getting to know you” type of game.  You learn what people like and dislike.  I’ve played it often with my extended family on trips and vacations and it can be very fun.  I’d also recommend it for get-togethers with old friends.  This is not a hardcore gamers’ game, though.  There really isn’t even very much skill to it, who wins is mostly a combination of luck and randomness.

Even though there isn’t much skill involved, there are a few things you can do to try to obtain a higher score:

  • Since cards are passed to the next player at the end of each turn, if you know a card you have is absolutely one of the favorite things of the next person, and the person to your right is winning, go ahead and play that card on this turn instead of giving it to them, depriving them of even more points.
  • If you know one of the people you are playing with really well, and no one else knows each other very well at all, you will have something of an advantage.  In fact, this is almost cheating, so if you want to win, set up the game to be like this.
  • You can play a variation where you try to give the person things that they hate, rather than that they like.  This is probably a slightly easier version of the game, though I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s just easier to get a sense of what people don’t like from their personality, whereas what they do like is sometimes harder to discern.

Anyway, I would definitely recommend this game.  I don’t think I’ve ever played a Cranium game I didn’t like.  But, if you have hardcore gamers coming over, then get them to play something a little more involved since you have the chance.  This game is a little lighter fare.

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A good sport

At our Easter get-together, we played three games of volleyball, which is probably the first time I’ve played a team sport, or any sport at all, in about a year.  I really enjoy it, but I’m so out of shape that I can basically only play sports where you don’t have to run very much.  (When I play soccer I usually give myself about 4 minutes, and that’s generous).  I think I would like to play team sports more often, maybe join some sort of league or something.  I think that’s more likely to happen if I’m living with my brother than with my wife.  She refuses to do anything like that, in general.

So, I hope I do that.  But so I don’t waste this blog post with just mindless blather, I’ll talk about professional sports!

I don’t like them.

Mainly the reason I don’t like professional sports is that they are essentially just business.  Yes, there is a good deal of skill involved, but who shows off that skill and where they do it is basically a matter of team owners making smart investments and trades.  I wonder what the world would be like if people followed college recruitments to major corporations like they followed sports drafts.

And the meat of the sports business is government subsidies.  Teams will do anything to convince local governments to build them stadiums using taxpayer dollars for next to nothing, and usually anything means threatening to move their team to another locale.  The fact that a team is local means next to nothing to the owners and most of the players, but the fans seem to care a great deal.

I wonder where in the United States is farthest away from a stadium owned by a major sports franchise?   I might like to move there.  And I bet some crazy sports fan has figured out what that place is (not unlike something a crazy scifi fan like me would do, though).

Review: Yacht Race

Yacht Race

Publisher: Parker Brothers

Number of Players: 2-6

Playing Time: 40-90 minutes

Release Year:1960

Year I got it: 2006

It’s a cross between: Checkers and Pirate’s Cove

Number of Plays to Obtain Proficiency: 2. At least, I hope so, since I’ve only played it twice. Since the game is so long, there is a good chance you will gain proficiency on your first try, but probably not at the beginning of the game, which may keep you at a disadvantage.

Replayability: Definitely playable more than once, though definitely not in the same sitting. This game is very competitive, being a race, and that can drive some who know how to play to want to play against new challengers. It is a fairly unique game, so it is a useful one to have in your repertoire to show off, especially to other board game aficionados.

Social Interaction: This can be a pretty social party game, but only if everyone involved is a board game nerd. If it isn’t moving quickly, it can get a little boring, sort of like Monopoly, so you want to make sure everyone involved is a quick thinker, and hopefully, a quick wit. If you play with someone like my brother, who makes pirate references and is all-around very silly, you will be doing plenty of laughing.

Yacht Race is an old game, but that doesn’t preclude it from being any fun. Alas, I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been in print for at least 30 years. The only place that I know of that you can get it is eBay. Most of the copies are no longer pristine, including mine which is missing two pieces. So, I guess my copy is only for 2-5 players, not 2-6.

It was introduced to me by my advisor at college, Sam Rebelsky. We played it at a dinner party at his house one day. All of us were CS majors, and I’m pretty sure most of us were geeks. Melissa had to leave early because the game was taking too long! I guess it isn’t that exciting a game to watch, especially when it takes a long time.

The game comes with a beautiful and very large board which is divided into a grid. The board is supposed to represent the location of the yacht race, and there are various islands and land masses to be navigated around. The objective is to get your yacht out of the starting gate, around some buoys, and back to the start before anyone else does.

The difficult part is managing the wind. All the players have to synchronize their movements with a common wind direction. It can be changed by any player on their turn, but only a certain number of times during the game. When your boat is supposed to be going north, and the rest are all supposed to be going south, it can be difficult for you to keep the wind in the right direction.

You also have spinnakers that you can use to double the speed of your boat, but only if you are going directly with the wind. If you try to tack against the wind, your spinnaker will go down and you will lose it. You only get three spinnakers for the whole race.

Yacht Race is best when played with more players, more than 4 makes it really fun, these strategies also work best when the race is crowded:

  • Getting across the grid at the start and finish is the trickiest part of the game. When getting out, try not to stray too far away from the pack, and try to block the other players if you can. When returning, plan your moves ahead at least 3 moves in advance if you can, and watch out for being blocked.
  • If you are in last place, and everyone but you has already rounded a particular buoy, that’s the time to change the wind. Set up the wind so it is against the rest of the players and favors you. This is especially nice when rounding the last buoy, as most of the other players have run out of wind changes.
  • Use your first two spinnakers fairly early, but save the last one for the final rush across the board to the finish. The competition gets fierce and usually the distance between players narrows during this last push and you want to have every advantage available.
  • Don’t forget that not only can you block a player by being in front of where they want to go, but you can also block their wind by being directly upwind. If you really want to prevent someone from moving, move up behind them and then change the wind so that you are blocking it (or ask someone else to do it for you!)

Yacht Race is a very good game, especially for being as old as it is. I recommend it, even though it’s hard to find. If you can’t find a copy, come over to my house and bring a few friends!

Flash! This Just In

Alright, I’m feeling a little lazy today, so let’s just get you hooked on some flash games:

  1. The Gravity Game
  2. Laser
  3. Splash Back
  4. Roboclaw

Be careful, most of these are a little noisy, but fun!