Xmas eXcavation – a game for Christmas

game screenshot

Xmas eXcavation

A merry Christmas to all, and to all a good 2018.

In celebration, and to give everyone a fun, indoor activity away from the cold, I present Xmas eXcavation (click to play).

The game will be familiar to any Minesweeper players, but with one key difference: you’re trying to locate and uncover presents hidden under the snow, while avoiding the dirty lumps of coal. Double click (or tap) to uncover a patch of snow. Single click to mark a suspected piece of coal. Good luck!
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Multiple Puzzle Solutions in The Witness

The Witness

Perspective tricks are all over The Witness

The Witness is a computer puzzle game from 2016. It’s great to look at, with challenging but satisfying puzzles and a few moments of genius.

Despite its high points, it has to be said that I was massively underwhelmed by the game overall and bored before I reached the end. The attempts to make the game deep by throwing in an assortment of philosophical sound and video recordings sits somewhere between lazy and insulting. Wired have already done an excellent dissection job, though I would choose the adjective “hollow” to describe the experience of playing The Witness, rather than “empty”.

The distinction is subtle, but the game really does look great on the surface. Its desert island setting is covered with perspective tricks and puzzles requiring you to be standing in just the right place so you can trace paths between separate buildings or across vast landscapes. The design of the puzzles in general is great, with LOTS of them, and a minority that are pure frustration. It’s a worthwhile reward at the centre of it all that’s missing, and the game falsely implies you’re going to receive one with its enigmatic wrapping suggesting questions to be answered come the end. Instead, the only reward for solving puzzles are more pretty graphics and more puzzles.

But if you want a challenge, I’d still recommend picking up a copy of the game. Just don’t expect to find meaning, or plot, or satisfying conclusions in it. Most importantly, if you get bored, walk away and come back when you feel in the mood again. Pushing through the game because you’re expecting something to happen rather than because you’re enjoying solving the puzzles will just suck the joy out of the experience.
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Trippples: Strategy and Combinatorial Mathematics

trippples game box

Trippples


Trippples (with three “p”s, p-p-pick up a p-p-penguin fans) is a chess-like strategic game from the 1970s. I found a copy in a Sue Ryder charity shop for £4. Bargain!

Two players, or two teams of two, try to get their transparent marker from one corner of the board to the other. Every square on the board has arrows pointing in three directions. These arrows tell you which directions the pieces can move each turn. The genius touch of Trippples is that your available moves are determined by the arrows under your opponent’s (or opponents’) marker(s). To win, you must force your opponent to move to a square that allows you to move to your destination.
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A Visit to Thirsty Meeples

For my *cough* 21st *cough* birthday this year, I took a trip to Thirsty Meeples, a boardgame cafe in Gloucester Green, Oxford.

The idea is simple. For £5 per person (£6 if you don’t buy any food or drink) you book one of their well worn tables for 3 hours. During that time, you can play as many of their 2,500 boardgames as you want. Their massive, well-organised library takes up half of the wall space.

Squeezed in among it all is a cafe serving a wide range of teas and coffees, and a small selection of light snacks, sandwiches and sweets. A couple of sandwiches and a slice of spinach pie went down well, and the hot chocolate was excellent. Best of all, though, was the Super Sugar Rush bowl of mixed Haribo, M&Ms and marshmallows to keep the energy up!

I got some game recommendations in advance from their active Twitter feed, and the knowledgeable staff made more recommendations on the day. They were also on hand to give us a decent breakdown of the rules to maximise playing time. During our visit, we managed to fit in a game of New York Slice, two games of Beyond Baker Street and just about squeezed in a run of Betrayal At House on The Hill before the end of the 3 hours.

For a mid-week afternoon I was surprised at how busy the place was, so booking in advance is definitely recommended.

If you want to try out some games before buying them or are looking for something different to do with some like-minded friends, give Thirsty Meeples a go!
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Agent A: A Puzzle In Disguise

Agent A

Ruby La Rouge’s cat meets Agent A

Agent A is your typical point-and-click / escape room adventure game. It’s lifted above the average by nice graphics and a great selection of puzzles with few moments of frustration or tedium.

The basic plot is that Ruby La Rouge, an enemy spy with an awful accent, has killed your boss and several of your fellow Agents. You’re Agent A, the best in the business, and it’s up to you to confront Ruby in her hideaway. No sooner have you found your way through the front door, then Ruby turns the tables and traps you inside with her vicious cat.

What follows is a short but charming homage to spy films as you crack safes, reveal secret rooms hidden behind bookcases, and put oversized precious jewels to good uses.
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Pandemic Legacy: Tutorial Games

Pandemic Legacy art

Pandemic Legacy: Season 1

NOTE: This post DOES NOT contain plot spoilers for Pandemic Legacy. To learn more about the game, here is a longer, also spoiler-free preview.

In brief, Pandemic Legacy is an episodic, choose-your-own adventure, campaign-style board game. Intended to be played over 12 months, the rules and objectives change month by month and permanent changes to the game are made by ripping up cards or sticking things to the board depending on how well, or badly, you do in each game.

Everyone’s story will be slightly different, though the major plot points in the game will be the same for everyone as you work through a fixed “Legacy Deck” of events and objectives.

January has been a busy month in the world of Pandemic. My other half and I played several tutorial games before finally jumping into the full campaign. This post covers my thoughts on the basic Pandemic game based on the tutorials and contains no campaign spoilers. I’ll save those for the next post.

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Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 Preview

Pandemic Legacy art

Pandemic Legacy: Season 1

NOTE: This preview does NOT contain plot spoilers for Pandemic Legacy.

If you’re not familiar with the Legacy genre, this will sound like an unusual way to start a review of a board game. But Legacy games are unusual, as I recently started to learn.

Released in 2015, Pandemic Legacy was the second game in the Legacy genre. The series started with Risk Legacy in 2011 but it was the buzz around Seafall in late 2016 that finally caught my attention.

The concept underpinning all three titles is that decisions and outcomes in one game affect subsequent games. In Risk Legacy, a variation on the classic game of world conquest, players choose a faction they will lead over the course of 15 games. Factions gain and lose bonuses depending on how well they do. Individual games become parts of a longer campaign.

Pandemic Legacy reportedly raised the bar and produced something excitingly different. I intend to recount my personal experiences while playing through the whole of “Season 1”. This first post is spoiler free in the sense that I have done nothing but open the box, read the rules, and play a trial, legacy-less game with my other half.

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The Room and Other Computer Game Puzzles

room logo

The Room

The Room came out back in 2012 and won enough awards to get its own Wikipedia page. I decided to give it a whirl to see what the fuss was about. It can be picked up cheaply as a mobile game, or for a few pounds on Steam in a revamped desktop incarnation.

It’s a short game, possible to complete in an evening. It’s also easy to see why it’s popular as it’s beautifully presented, accessible and contains nothing taxing enough to cause severe frustration.

But all the way through I spent more time thinking about other games, and the numerous problems with computer puzzle games as a genre. Problems that have rarely been solved.

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News and Updates for November

logo This is a monthly update of treasure hunt, game and puzzle tidbits.

Treasure Trails has produced a Halloween themed puzzle that’s free to try out. If you like it, their main business is selling walking and driving tours of hundreds of different places around the UK. The unique feature is that the tour includes clues for a treasure hunt or a murder mystery that you crack en route. Trails cost £6.99 if you want to print them off at home yourself. » Read more

Having fun with Pokemon Go

pokemon go logo

Pokemon Go

It’s difficult to justify writing a blog about treasure hunting without mentioning the biggest treasure hunt of the last 12 months: hunting Pokemon with Pokemon Go. You gotta catch ’em all!

For some, catching Pokemon is an obsession. Others dimiss the game as childish nonsense. As usual, the best option in life is to find a happy medium between two extremes. It’s a digital treasure hunt, not something to get worked up over, and hunting Pokemon can be a lot of fun.

This post is about finding the fun in Pokemon Go if throwing red balls at weird Japanese monsters isn’t your cup of tea.

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