The second part of my short series about games arriving on or about the holiday season. Part 1 covered Forbidden Desert. Today I am writing about GadZOOks!, Dig Down Dwarf, and Iota.
I ended up backing several game products on Kickstarter last year, and GadZOOks! (née ZÜ) was one of those. It’s a game about building up a zoo collection, and the central element of play is bidding against other players for animals and resources to bring in the visitors your zoo needs to survive.
The mechanics back this story up quite well: each turn you bid on new animals, and try to breed from animals you already have (although not until you have at least one animal*). The bidding mechanics are not kind, either – you lose money you bid even if you don’t win, and there are cards you can draw to mess with other players.
Oh, and the art! The art is so darling… big-eyed animals in pastel shades with cute babies. It’s specifically to have broad family appeal, and it’s certainly cute enough for non-gamers to want to play just to look at the cards.
The game is quick to learn and play, but there is some pretty deep strategy involved in making good bids and so it has replay value even for experienced gamers. Beware that kids who get emotionally invested in winning the bid for the elephants might get upset if the bidding doesn’t go their way.
If you want a copy, you can go to the Sly Bunny Games Etsy store.
Dig Down Dwarf
Another Kickstarter project which turned up in time for Christmas was Dig Down Dwarf.
The premise here is that the dwarf king has died, leaving the players to stake their claim to the throne by mining as valuable a collection of gems as they can. Each character comes in male and female variants, and has different bonus goals.
Gems are mined by rolling dice. Different combinations of pips earn the gems that are revealed in the central pool (new gems are added each turn), and gems earned can be spent to manipulate the game – for example, to allow a reroll of an otherwise locked die, or add another die to the pool for that player.
For a game that is basically Yahtzee with a clearer scoring mechanic, it is a very engaging and story-appropriate game. I wouldn’t say that the mechanics reinforce the narrative as such, but they are consonant with it and since the game comes with a bag of gems** to stare starry-eyed into it’s a delightful game to play.
Gameplay itself is simple once you get past a large number of facts about the game you need to learn in one go, but as I say it’s basically rolling dice and collecting shiny objects. A two player game can easily be played through in fifteen minutes.
Grey Gnome Games is your place to go to find a copy.
Finally, we have Iota. This game has no story, it is just fun to play.
It comes in a tiny tin containing 66 square cards and a rules book. Apart from two wild cards, every card is unique: a complete permutation of three properties with four values each – number (1-4), colour (red, blue, yellow, green), and shape (circle, square, triangle, cross).
You play with a hand of four cards and try to lay down sets of cards with at least one property that is different on each card. So, you might lay down a set where all the cards are blue, but the numbers and shapes are different. Or where just the colour is different, or even where all the properties differ. A set can only be four cards long, and sets are played intersecting like a crossword. It’s a little akin to Qwirkle, but with more variables and fewer repeats.
The worst thing about this game is learning to see repeats in sets you or other players put down, but once you have your eye in there is a lot of interest in looking for the perfect card to complete two intersecting sets of four: you earn points from the numbers on the cards you play but your score for the turn doubles for every set you complete, which means a turn can get you anything from the low single digits to low hundreds in one go.
With it’s tiny tin it is of course madly portable, although you will need a decent-sized table to play it.
Recommended, and available where Gamewright games are sold.
There’s one more post in this series to review games purchased post-Christmas.
[*] two are usually needed of course, but there are miracle cards that can change that rule.
[**] or more, if expansion gems sets are purchased. We have the Gems of Norcia expansion which means you will always collect something for your hoard.