4 Jan

FITS / A la carte / Cluzzle

Filed under: Boardgames No Responses

My wife is way better at this than I am.

The end of year holidays seem to be the season for light-hearted party games, because that’s certainly what we mostly played. It was just as well since both Shan and myself were sick and we probably wouldn’t have enjoyed anything more strenuous. Since these aren’t very complicated games, I’ll just cover three of the games we played during one recent visit to CarcaSean in one post.

The first thing we tried was FITS that Hiew had brought with him. It’s a best described as a Teris-like game. Each player has his own pad and set of tiles in various shapes and the idea is that the tiles are dropped from the top of the pad and falls until it stops on something. There are four levels and each level becomes more complicated but it’s always about arranging the pattern of your tiles to cover most of the spaces while possibly uncovering some key ones.

Unlike Tetris, the tiles always drop straight down, so you aren’t allowed to move them laterally at all. But there are many more odd shapes than Tetris. Each player starts with a different tile already in place. After that, cards are drawn from a deck to show which tile all players must place next. If the drawn card matches your starting tile, you simply skip your turn. The turn ends when all tiles have been placed.

Level 4 has you trying to expose only matching pairs of symbols.

Anyway it’s a cool conceit and kudos to Reiner Knizia for coming up with a way to convert Tetris into a boardgame. But with only four levels, that we were able to get through in a fairly short time, I don’t think there’s much replayability. I suppose that it’s role is that of a filler, so it’s not like you’d want to replay the same levels over and over again in a single session. I also noticed that the plastic used for the base is much flimsier than I’d thought it would be. It doesn’t look like it would stand up to much play, especially if kids are involved.

The next game we played was A la carte. Both Shan and I were reluctant to play this as we had played it before and found it uninteresting. The draw of this game is clearly in the components, including cooking pots made of metal with plastic handles, stoves made of thick cardboard tiles and small plastic jars filled with seasoning bits. Unfortunately the food in this game is still represented by ordinary tiles.

As Hiew mentioned there’s a bit of light strategy in here involving the selection of recipes to cook and the manipulation of the coffee cup tiles, but most of the game is just about dexterity and luck. Each player gets a pancake tile that’s worth quite a bit of points but requires the player to flip the tile in the pan to successfully cook it. Most other dishes require condiments. The condiment bottles also contain salt and that too much salt or too much of any condiment spoils the dish. The trick is that you’re supposed to tip over the condiment bottle completely, but it’s pure luck whether you get the amount that you need or indeed anything at all.

Cooking pot, stove and dishes to be cooked.

My favorite part about this game is the sense of humor in the recipes. Breakfast Fidel for example is simply a cigar, an obvious reference to the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Other than that, I don’t think this game has any redeeming features. Sure, the components are cute but surely you could get more and better quality stuff in a children’s playset for the same amount of money and why would you need to be constrained by the rather silly rules when you can just use your imagination? After all, children playing house do it all the time.

Finally, we played Cluzzle, which is perhaps best described as Pictionary with modelling clay. A bunch of rules add some additional structure. Each player draws a card with a bunch of nouns on it and picks one item to make with their clay. There are a total of three guessing rounds for each item, so if someone gets a guess right on the first round, both the guesser and the player who made that item get 1 point each. This increases to two points each in the second round and three points each in the third round. Each player also gets to ask two questions to try to get additional information.

We played for three rounds, so everyone had to make three items each. Predictably enough, everyone started with pretty detailed models in the first round, but ended up making more and more abstract models later. In the first round, it wasn’t hard in most cases to see what object was being modeled, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s easy to hit on the precise noun required. Sean, for example, made an obvious carrot but the exact word needed was “vegetables” including the “s”.

Each player even gets his own color of modeling clay!

In the second round, Aaron made an obvious replica of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek, though he turned it upside down to try to be a bit more subtle. But the correct word he wanted was “Star Trek”. In response to a question, he had said that his object wasn’t a mode of transportation, so that ruled out starship or spaceship. So my personal guess was the “enterprise” as it could refer both to the ship and to an organization. But that was perhaps trying to be too subtle. I guess Shan did something similar by making a model of the golden arches of McDonald’s with the correct answer being “french fries”.

Things started to get really abstract in the third round. Choo made a simple ring that I couldn’t guess. It turned out to be a hula hoop. Shan made a flat, featureless object that turned out to mean “credit card”. Hiew made a similarly flat object with a single ball on it that was supposed to be a football field though I at least got that one. I guess I was guilty as well as all I made was a simple pole, which no one could guess. I thought it would be easy enough to exhaust the possibilities to arrive at flag pole but someone guessed lamp post and left it at that.

Anyway, being the anti-social nerd that I am, I’m pretty bad at all types of party games and I’m not into them much. Still, Cluzzle was more fun than I expected it to be, even though Shan later criticized me for my terrible clay modeling skills. I think FITS is an okay game and I feel compelled to obsess over it for a while to improve my score but I still can’t see it holding anyone’s attention for very long. I think Ubongo is better in that respect. But I really, really can’t see myself playing A la carte again.

Written on January 4 2011 and is filed under Boardgames. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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