I love small box games: brilliant experiences, stuffed into as few components as possible by some of the best designers in the business and to top it all off? An attractive price point. I’ve played a few of these recently both of which had been in my review pile for way too long. First up? Hear the roar of the crowd, the lights dim, the music swells and you step into the arena of the Galaxy Wrestling Federation from Homosapiens Lab.
Laying the Smack Down
A review copy of Galaxy Wrestling Federation was supplied by Homosapiens Lab.
Galaxy Wrestling Federation is an odd little boxed game, ostensibly being a trick taking game with a fighting theme. Stepping into the spandex of one of the Galaxy’s finest wrestlers you will be given a set of cards, each player being given the exact same set. As you battle it out in the ring you pick on an opponent trying to beat them in a competition of strength (highest number wins) or speed (lowest number wins). The person who wins the most bouts at the end of the game is the winner (you get a wrestling belt for each match!).
On the count of 3 you turn your cards and see who has won this bout. If one card beats the other then the bout is over, but if the initial clash leads no results you compare the main card number as a speed or strength contest.
The balance of the cards is pretty subtle and the game actually has a lot more depth than it initially seems: not only can you not just wail on the person who is losing, but the game also ends when one person has 3 pairs of the same number in front of them, opening up an interesting tactical space. On top of this you have a super move that can beat any other card apart from another super move, but when is best deployed? Add in a bit of being able to interrupt other player’s bouts as they happen and you have a fun, compact game that makes for a nice bit of filler but that could have really done with another pass at the rulebook.
Enter the Forest
I backed the Forest Dragon Kickstarter with my own cash.
Created by the youngest designer I know of, Rory Hodgson , The Forest Dragon is a rather charming game of push your luck and magical adventures with lovely illustrations of the various inhabitants of the Forest. Setup is quick being just laying out a grid of cards facedown for you to explore.
Making your way into the forest you begin to turn cards over, finding artifacts to give you points, equipment to help you on your journey and monsters that will stop you in your tracks. All sorts of things can happen to you in the forest and you can stop adventuring at any time, but there is always that temptation to go one step further.
There isn’t much more to it than that but there are a good number of expansions that will provide some different play and opportunities as you journey through this mysterious land.
The game has a simple premise but it makes up for that with oodles of charm and a quick play time. It’s not going to win any prizes for depth or strategy but it has proven to be a hit with a mates kids. Definitely one to consider if you are looking for something different to play with the family. You can get the Forest Dragon from Handiwork Games, and there is now a follow up game out as well.
Watch out for the Squirrel
A review copy of Squirrel was provided by the designer.
Squirrel is probably the smallest game I have ever reviewed, not much bigger than a matchbox. Handcrafted by the designers this is a quick two player game of foraging nuts, a dash of tactical movement and a little bit of subterfuge. Over a 3 x 3 grid your squirrel meeples will scamper, moving and picking up adjacent cards hoping to have the most nuts by the end of the game, when all the piles of cards have turned brown and winter is coming (no it’s not Game of Thrones).
As you can only hold 3 cards in your hand max, sometimes you have to discard a card back to the grid and this can lead to some interesting choices. As you lay cards back into the grid faceup you can be giving your opponent info about what you may have in hand as there are a limited number of each card type. On top of this if you ever land on a revealed nut card, dropped by one of the players, you can steal from your opponent, not that that has happened in any of my games so far.
Squirrel is a very charming game, lovingly crafted but not terribly deep. I can’t really see me coming back to it again and again but I have definitely enjoyed my time with it and I could see it having a place in a travelling bag of games to keep kids entertained on long journeys or to while away the time on a train. Squirrel is on Kickstarter now and will be coming to retail later this year.
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