Wednesday, June 22, 2011

PopCap On Sale for $1 Billion?

That's what TechCrunch is reporting. The story is unsourced and PopCap isn't talking. $1 billion is about ten times their annual earning power, but PopCap (creators of Bejeweled, Plants vs. Zombies, and other mega-hits) is a proven entity. TechCrunch writer Jason Kincaid runs through the standard speculations about buyers: Zynga (boo, hiss), EA, and a Chinese company called TenCent. As long as we're just making up possibilities, it could be Apple, Walmart, or Papa John's Pizza. Nobody knows anything yet, so all we have right now is rumor and speculation. All of the stories out there--including the post you're reading right now!--are just reporting TechCrunch's initial story, so we'll have to wait and see. 

Guys? That's Not Cool [Chess]

A Canadian company is producing a War on Terror-themed chess set. The rook is shown to the right.

Since the company produces toy soldiers and other miniature militaria, they probably think this is a tribute or something. Memo from America: it's not.

And did I mention the Taliban Suicide Bomber Knight?

h/t Kathy Shaidle

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Disney Forgets to Renew Club Penguin Domain


Disney paid $700 million for Club Penguin, an online gaming site for kids, only 4 years ago. On June 13th, they lost their domain because they forgot to renew the registration for $10.

Yesterday, the site went offline, leaving 12 million angry little penguins who were unable to feed their puffles.

All the stories are saying that the problem was quickly corrected, but as I write this, is nothing more than a dead domain screen. I snapped this picture on Tuesday afternoon.

REVIEW: Spot It!

Designer: n/a
Publisher: Blue Orange
Players: 2-8
Ages: 7+
Time: 1-2 minutes per round
Price: $14

This review is going to be short and sweet, just like the game. Spot It! is a remarkable little confection that works great as a warm-up game or just a quick bit of fun. It comes in a compact tin that contains a set of 55 circular cards. Each card has 8 symbols drawn from a set of 50. These are clear, clip-art-style images like scissors, bullseye, snowflake, pencil, dragon, etc. The images are scaled, so you may see a large zebra or a small zebra, but each tends to have a single dominant color. Between any two cards there is only one matching image. I'm not certain how they pulled that off, but they did, and it forms the heart of the gameplay.

The goal is to draw cards and spot the matching images. It's that simple. The size doesn't matter, so a large snowman can be matched to a small snowman. However, there will only ever be one match between two cards.

With this basic setup, Blue Orange offers 4 gameplay options. In The "Tower", players are each given one card face down, with the rest of the cards forming a face-up draw pile. Players flip their cards simultaneously, and the winner is the first person to announce a match with the top card of the draw pile. They place that card on the top of their own pile, and the matching continues until the draw pile is exhausted. The person with the most cards, wins.

"The Well" is like The Tower in reverse. One card is dealt to the center and the rest are dealt to the players. The goal is to shed your pile of cards by matching a symbol from your top card to an image on the center card. 

"Hot Potato" is also a shedding game, but this time players each hold a single card in their palms. The first person to call a match places all of his cards on top of the matching card, then draws another. Play continues until one person has all the cards, then a new round begins. The winner is the player who has the fewest cards once the draw pile is exhausted. This one plays better with larger groups.

The final variant is called "The Poisoned Gift." Each player has a single card, with a draw pile at the center of the table. The goal is to make a match between the top card of the draw pile and another player's card. That player then takes the matching card and play continues. The winner is the person with the fewest cards when the draw pile is exhausted.
If all this just sounds like a simple matching game ... well, it is. But it's also a whole lotta fun. It's much more entertaining than you might expect from a mere description. Play is lightening fast, with quick turns of fortunate and split-second decisions. You have to be observant and fast, and each player develops a technique of rapid observation in order to compare visual elements as quickly as possible.

If I just saw this game sitting on a shelf, I never would have bothered with it. It looks too rudimentary and seems to lack replay potential. In fact, repeated play only makes it better, as you become familiar with the images and the pacing. I must have played at least 100 games with just my daughter alone, and it still comes out as a 5 minute filler or a compact travel game. It's immensely clever and appealing, and scales quite well for different ages and group sizes.

You can try the online demo, but this really plays better with another person.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Legend of the Five Rings Gets Board

It's been years since I've played Legend of the Five Rings, but in all my many game purges, the original Wizards of the Coast collectible card game version of L5R is one I've kept. It's a great CCG with a lush setting and solid mechanics. It's good to see that AEG (the original developers of the game) are still publishing and expanding the game line.

Debuting in August at Gen Con is a new L5R board game by Fr├ęderic Moyersoen (designer of Sabateur). Called NINJA, Legend of the Scorpion Clan, the game "features fast play, hidden movement, limited information, bluff and guile." The game is for 2-4 players, and comes with more than two dozen 28mm miniature figures, four pads of secret maps, 58 playing cards, and a full-color map. Here's the official line:
The game centers around one very dangerous night at a castle in the provinces of the Lion Clan. Honorable Lion samurai stand vigilant watch around the castle, protecting it from harm. The Scorpion Clan sends one well trained ninja to infiltrate the castle for nefarious purposes… it may be to assassinate an imperial guest under the Lion’s protection, or poison the well, or steal the daimyo’s war plans for the coming season. Whatever the goal, the ninja has vowed to accomplish it, or die trying. Worse yet for the Lion Clan, the ninja has an accomplice: a traitor among the ranks of the Lion samurai whose true loyalty lies with the Scorpion.