Schmovie | The Tabletop Letters

Dear Readers,

With award seasons upon us, it feels like the perfect time to share with you … Schmovie!

Schmovie is a hilarious game that’s easily adaptable for anyone with a sense of humor – no movie trivia knowledge required.

Image Description: the cover of Schmovie with a white hand in a blue sweater clutching a golden Cthulhu with 3D glasses and a popcorn bag.

In this game, you are given a genre, a description and a character. Then it’s up to you to impress the judge with your movie title.

The winner is given a golden (cardboard) Schmovie award to stand in front of your place at the table. These are all themed differently.

A whiteboard with a sample movie title, Gluestick: Stuck on the Starting Line
A movie title of a drama about a clumsy racehorse

Here’s the breakdown:

Players: 3-6 players or teams

Play time:

Age: 8+

By: Galactic Sneeze

Here we go- I’ll rank it on Accessibility, Mechanics, and Engagement.

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Image description: a UFO symbol on a die to indicate Sci-Fi with the cards Genius & Soldier.
An example of a movie title themed around Sci-Fi with a Genius Soldier.

You don’t have to be a movie buff to enjoy this game.

All you have to do is come up with a title for a movie around a premise. There are examples on the back of the whiteboards for each genre.

Image description: three examples of Schmovie awards.

I’ve played it with kids and had a good time, and played it with adults and also enjoyed it.

Mechanics ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑

It works very well. I have only one complaint about the mechanics, which we fix with a house rule inspired from The Game of Things.

My complaint is that if you pass the titles to the judge, they may instantly recognize someone’s hand writing. That kind of ruins judging unless you’re playing with playing with people who can put aside the author and judge solely on merit – I’ve known adults who couldn’t.

Image Description: a game whiteboard with the caption Cocoa Spanky and the Tootsie Rolls Get the Hell Outta Dodge
I can’t remember what this title was themed to, just that we thought it was hilarious at the time.

Our house rule to avoid that is that the whiteboards are passed to the person on the judge’s left and read to them. This seems to help very much.

Engagement ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑

Image description: several golden Cthulhu Schmovie awardsSince most of the time you’re wracking your brain for an excellent title, it can be very interesting. At the same time, when you are the judge, there isn’t much to do. The turns are pretty quick, and that’s just an aspect of the typical judges game. Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity are also subject to this.

In Conclusion

Image description: Game cards Unlikely + Sports Team

Schmovie is an excellent party game, and since it’s so easily accessible this is a game that you’ll be able to play with a wide range of groups.

Image Description: the starburst action die with the cards Blind + Butcher. The whiteboard says, Chopped: Outta Sight.
An action movie themed around a blind butcher titled, Chopped: Outta Sight

This post was #NotSponsored. Schmovie is available at Amazon and other retailers.

Happy Gaming! Play On!

Evolution : The Beginning | The Tabletop Letters

Dear Readers,

Have I complained about gray, barren winter lately? Have I? If I have, those complaints are half-hearted.

Box cover of Evolution: The Beginning showing a Brontosaurus 🦕

Sometimes in wonder I stare out my window to the diamond shavings clinging to the gray veins against the somber sky. I find the rain drops glimmering in the faint sunlight captivating. While any smattering of snow we receive is so fleeting I am still excited about it, the winter rains have an understated beauty. (To be fair, I must have a fascination with any sort of rain because I wrote a poem about autumn rain.)

Here’s a quote about winter that haunts me (I posted about it three years ago):

Let us therefore praise winter, rich in beauty, challenge and pregnant negativities. — Greta Crosby

I do miss a bit of greenery despite my fascination with sterile, quiet winter. There’s a book my daughter has showing a tiny squirrel bundled up against the winter cold.

Watering hole game piece with leafy food tokens.

Evolution: The Beginning is full of verdant life. It’s life upon life with modifications and very intriguing. It’s The Land Before Time meets Redshirts.

Here’s the breakdown:

Players: 2-5

Play time: 30 minutes

Age: 8+

By: Northstar Games

Here we go- I’ll rank it on Accessibility, Mechanics, and Engagement.

Game cards showing a Long Neck trait over a species card, and a Scavenger trait over a species card.

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑

Everyone begins the game on an even playing field. You have species to which you may assign characteristics that you draw – like being fast or nocturnal. These characteristics help you survive and sometimes avoid predators. The concepts are simple. The luck of the draw is very prominent in this game, though there is some strategy.

A food token pouch with a brontosaurus 🦕 on it.

The premise of evolution is one I’d hope most are familiar with. This game follows different species controlled by a player gaining traits, losing traits, struggling for food, while preying or being preyed upon.

They are written on medium sized plain text – reading glasses might be in order. The text is fairly legible. The colors are vibrant, but EnChroma glasses probably wouldn’t make a huge difference.

There are small pieces to pick up, and placing cards on the table is a definite factor to consider if fine motor skills are a concern.

The age of 8+ feels appropriate.

Mechanics ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑

Each turn begins with two pieces of food being added to the watering hole. A new species card is played. Cards are drawn. Next a player may turn those cards into traits, add to the population of a species, and keep the card(s) in hand. Traits may be removed. The species must then eat or die. If a species is carnivorous, they will attack other specimens (whether they are another player’s or the owner’s). Scavenger species feed off the deaths of others regardless of turn. If they are herbivores then they will feed out of the watering hole (with a few exceptions). Eaten food is moved to a food bag.

The Defensive Horns trait over a species with a population of three.

I’m knocking off one star because there were a couple of times where we disagreed about mechanics despite consulting the rule book and watching a how-to video about playing. In particular there were a couple of times where it seemed like there was more food in the watering hole than was appropriate or that carnivores perhaps gained more food than they should have.

Also, there was possibly poor shuffling in play combined with a lack of knowledge as to how common traits were. There were times where I used certain cards for their species/population aspect instead of as a trait not realizing how rare the traits were since I had already encountered several of that rare trait.

One player’s assortment of three different species with varying traits.

When the resources are exhausted the game ends after ensuring each player has an even number of turns. The player with the most points (surviving species, eaten food, uneaten food, etc.) wins. It’s survival of the fittest with cards. At first I don’t think we realized that wasting resources so others wouldn’t be able to use them is a good way to hasten the game and possibly help oneself. We don’t usually play that aggressively, so it was an intriguing dynamic for us – much like backstabbing in Redshirts and Munchkin.

Engagement ⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑🌑

Waiting for your turn can be boring in any game. With games where there are player vs. player combat aspects, sometimes it can be protracted (cough, cough … Redshirts… couch, cough Munchkin), this was more straightforward than that.

A carnivore card over a species card with the traits of defensive horns and speed.

Since you may be attacked by other players, and you may have the opportunity to feed as a scavenger, it could every engaging. When neither of those aspects were in play, waiting for other people’s turns was, well, a drag.

In Conclusion

This is a fun version of the Evolution game. I think a certain biology professor I had would have allowed it to be played in class toward the end of the semester when there wasn’t much to do.

A picture of the guide card showing each of the trait types.

It’s a fast game with straightforward concepts easily understandable by small children, but complex enough to be challenging and entertaining for adults.

This post is #notsponsored. Evolution: The Beginning is available at Amazon has it available only through third-party sellers and at a higher rate as of this publication.

If you need some greenery in your life to beat the winter blues, then Evolution: The Beginning might be just the thing to help you adapt. 😉

This cracked me up, so I had to end with it.

Happy Gaming! Play On!

Takenoko – The Tabletop Letters

Dear Readers,

Winter is here with it’s gray and cold. A game centering around growth and the great outdoors seems like just the thing right now.

A friend brought this game over, and I loved it, though I must admit I got really hung up on one of the cards. 😬

Cover of Takenoko

Man vs. nature – a very basic conflict, which in this game it’s manifested as a gardener trying to grow bamboo while a panda is eating it. Anyone who has dealt with deer eating bushes or dogs digging up flowers can relate to the poor gardener.

Here’s the breakdown:

Players: 2-4

Play time: 45 minutes

Age: 13+

By: Asmodee

Here we go- I’ll rank it on Accessibility, Mechanics, and Engagement.

Panda figurine on tiles with pink bamboo pieces.

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑

When most people think panda, they think the large, black and white, bear-like creature gracing these tiles. Not the crazy cute red ones dubbed the First Pandas by the Chinese – Red Pandas, nor the “Trash Pandas” that grace our lawns – raccoons. That’s a different game.

Tiles placed at the end of the game.

In this game, you will at times gain control of either the panda or the gardener. These tokens are not monopolized by any players.

Players find out the weather, draw and place a tile, move either panda or gardener, irrigate the land to help bamboo grow, gain or place tokens (anti-panda, and for/against tokens for irrigation and fertilization), or they may draw new goal cards.A yellow bamboo goal card.

The weather effects the actions for the turn. A die is cast indicating whether it will be:

  • ☀️sunny (extra action)
  • 🌧rainy (one extra bamboo)
  • 💨windy (two of same action if desired)
  • 🌩stormy (scared panda dashed through the forest then gorges itself for comfort)
  • ☁️cloudy (no irrigation, fertilization or anti-panda tokens may be placed)
  • ❔and lastly, a wildcard ❔sidePlayer card.
  • While this game is adorable, easy to play, and has few words … the coloration is not the most distinctive. This is somewhat addressed by differences between tile design, (a circle indicates a three leaves for pink, two leaves for yellow, and one leaf for green) but it’s my opinion that those are small and could be easily missed by someone who is color blind.
  • The lack of text makes this a good game for those of us who may need reading glasses from time to time, or who are dyslexic.Mischievous panda figure.
  • The pieces are on the smaller side, and we did have a few instances of bumped tiles needing straightening despite none of us having issues with motor skills. At the same time – it was no more tedious than average. The irrigation lines are probably the most difficult to handle as they are very thin rectangular blocks.Goal cards.
  • Mechanics ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Gameplay is very straightforward. The beginning of the game gives you three goal cards (like Ticket to Ride). There is no penalty for incomplete goals – you simply don’t receive the points for them. I should have tried to get more goals earlier in the game. Instead I was hung up on a specific tile pattern placement goal and … ya snooze, ya lose. As I’m wont to do, I did not play as aggressively as needed to be successful. Though honestly isn’t that my mood toward life? Hmmm. Too philosophical and deep for this cutesy game.

    Placing the tiles and choosing a course of action are pretty quick, but there are so many options as the game progresses that it can be time consuming to decide your turn.The gardener piece.

    Engagement ⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑🌑

    Here’s one point where it did struggle a little. I found my mind wandering as others played. There’s not a lot that can be done while other players are thinking about their turns.

    The game play is fairly quick, so I wasn’t bored for long.

    Planning my own turns ahead of time was not very successful. The board changes quite a bit with four players by the time it’s your turn again.

    Irrigation tiles, and sprouts of green and yellow bamboo.

    In Conclusion

    This is an adorable game. It even has a chibi expansion! I can see it appealing to a wide care of players. It’s like Catan with pandas. The backstory of this game is that a long time ago a Chinese emperor offered a Japanese emperor a panda as a symbol of peace, but it was challenging to take care of. This game incorporates tile placement like Settlers of Catan and requires strategy for fulfilling the goal cards like Ticket to Ride. Unlike Ticket to Ride, the tickets do not count against you if you fail to complete them (I shoulda grabbed more tickets!!!!!).

    Panda next to a pagoda.

    This post is #NotSponsored. Takenoko is available at Walmart (yes, Walmart). I’m suggesting them because I price checked and as of this date the difference was substantial.

    Happy Gaming! Play On!

    Elder Sign | The Tabletop Letters

    Dear Readers,

    The descent into madness can be a short fall for some of us – as easy as the toss of dice.

    Enter the world (and Otherworlds) inspired by H. P. Lovecraft in this cooperative dice game. Each player is an investigator with different abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. It’s a race against time to keep one of the ancient elder gods asleep and at bay.

    The elder gods of Lovecrafts universe are ancient powerful beings whose very presence causes madness. They are evil agents of chaos bent on consuming existence. Defeating them is so herculean that it’s better to keep them in their slumber. Crazed cultist forces want to watch the world burn, and the investigators in this game work to defeat monsters and gather the elder signs that will save the world.

    Continue reading “Elder Sign | The Tabletop Letters”

    The Cat Game | The Tabletop Letters

    Dear Readers,

    A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to play a game that I have seen over and over again in stores: The Cat Game.

    As a cat person and someone whose drawing ability can only be called “abstract” and “kindergartener-esque”, this game was perfect for me!

    Here’s the breakdown of this adorable feline drawing game:

    Players: 3+

    Play time: 30 minutes

    Age: 16+

    By: Spin Master

    Now I’ll rank it on accessibility, mechanics, and engagement.

    Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑

    Like Pictionary, you draw a card with a concept to sketch. Unlike Pictionary there are base images of cats to incorporate in the activity in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, poses, and expressions.

    This was “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”.
  • There were a few cards that perhaps not everyone may have been families with the references (for people in particular with a younger group), but each card has three options for Purr-sons & Purr-fessions, Cat-tivities and Cat-egories.
  • There’s very little text and the images are a collage of dry erase around/over cats, so this game probably is comfortable without reading or EnChroma glasses.

    It’s playable with children under the suggested age of x, but there were a few more adult themed options that were ignored.

    Since the cat images are on the small side (think a child’s sticker from the greeting card section), this wouldn’t be as scaleable for larger groups as some other drawing games.

    To accommodate someone with less use of their hands, I suggest taking a photo with a smartphone or tablet of the cat image on the dry erase portion and then drawing on the photo. I don’t think they have this as an app, but it could be a lot of fun. The next best thing (minus cats but hosted by a hilarious personality) is Jackbox’s Drawful.

    Mechanics ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    The Cat Game works very well and is a format that is easy to pick up or familiar for many game players – the artist draws an image and everyone else tries to guess the subject before the timer runs out.

    It also can accommodate large groups well using teams.

    This was “choir”.

    Engagement ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Since no one is kicked out, and everyone is clambering to have the correct guess, this game is engaging. The cat pictures add a unique, adorably hilarious element to this game.

    After we played it was suggested to make it more difficult that the next round through we might remove a cat image from the pool once used. We didn’t try this, but it could be a lot of fun.

    This was “Rapunzel”.

    In Conclusion: This is a fresh take on the old drawing guessing idea. The use of cats eliminates the stick figures of my fellow gamers whose art is also lacking and adds comical moments to the game. With topics supervised, the age can be adjusted.

    I don’t always enjoy drawing games. Drawing is not my forte. This game was a blast, though.

    The Cat Game is available on Amazon. This post is #NotSponsored.

    Click here to see it played by TTPM.

    Machi Koro | The Tabletop Letters

    Dear Readers,

    It would have been more appropriate on Samhain to write about “The Fury of Dracula”, but it felt more like a “Machi Koro” kind of day. We’ll play “The Fury of Dracula” soon, I’m guessing.

    Machi Koro was rather rare when I first encountered it. I can’t remember where I heard about it, but I know I had to order it. Now it’s available at many retailers and Target even has its own special version.

    Continue reading “Machi Koro | The Tabletop Letters”