Idle Remorse

Review: Shark Tank: The Game

Review: Shark Tank: The Game
Publisher: Cardinal
Year: 2016
Tagline: Only the strong will survive.

The cover shows the main sharks posed and looking toward camera

how we met

Shark Tank: The Game is not some super find. My local farm store carries it on the shelves brand new. I have seen it at thrift numerous times. But the thing is, I really like the TV show Shark Tank. And eventually Bill started watching too when I had it on. Now when we eat dinner we sometimes throw on an episode. So with a couple of us prepared to compare the game to the television show, how could I say no?

how it plays

The goal of Shark Tank: The Game is very similar to the goal of Shark Tank: walk away with the most money.

Each player gets a SHARK coaster and corresponding chips. They also get an I’M OUT card and one million dollars in specific denominations. The SHARK coaster will explain your shark identity and, similar to another reality show board game Storage Wars, each SHARK has their own specialty to represent their expertise. You get bonuses if you win the honor of backing an idea in that area.

The sharks on coasters
They are a bit less intimidating as coasters. Note their specialties on the bottom of their coasters

To set up for play, place 6 COMPANY CARDS face down in the middle of the table. The game will end when each of these COMPANY CARDS has been pitched. One player acts as the READER (this role will pass to the next player for each pitch). The READER will choose one of the face down COMPANY CARDS and read the title and description only. The company type and worth info must remain secret until after bidding ends, which takes place over two rounds:

  • Round 1: Wagers are made in order, clockwise from the reader. Players bid openly using their money cards face up.
  • Round 2: This round is secret, and players bid with their money cards face down.

The highest bid wins the company. All wagers that were placed are put at the bottom of the money deck, so those wagers are the real deal. At any point if a player does not want to bid, they simply place their I’M OUT card for the other sharks to see. They are out of bidding for that company.

I'm out and money cards
You receive your initial $1 million in specific denominations to encourage card counting

The different companies have different values. When you win a company, roll the die to determine how much the company is worth. The result is represented by placing the corresponding chip on the card. If you are lucky enough to roll BLOCK BUSTER on the die then you are awarded the highest value and you get to draw another money card from the money deck.

Poker chips with shark faces on them, and the die
So if you rolled the blue dollar sign you would place a blue chip on the card. Be warned: a few people on BGG complain about the die wrapper coming off. We did not experience that

If the company you win corresponds with one of your specialties then you get to draw a money card from the money deck!

Company cards show title, type, description and 3 possible different values
There are approximately 15 bazillion COMPANY CARDS, and their color contrast leaves something to be desired

You are allowed to swap companies with other players or even purchase them if you can strike a deal. Any time a company changes hands, the new owner must roll the die to determine the new value of the company. The original roll does not transfer.

Once all 6 company cards have been pitched and purchased, the game is over. Add up the value of all companies you have and half the value of your left over money. The player with the most value wins!

how it went

We played Shark Tank: The Game as a group of three one game night – two of us familiar with Shark Tank and one of us not.

You know I love a good theme. I love how much the game embraces the strong personalities of Shark Tank. There are frequent guest sharks on the show, but the main group has lasted a long time and has a special dynamic. Here is a little bit about my take on them based on no real research but just watching the show:

  • Robert: the man loves dogs. He loves them. He does not make a lot of offers but does a good job of keeping the action moving along by reminding the entrepreneurs what offers they have and who is out
  • Lori: she is referred to as the Queen of QVC, and I think her offers reflect that. She is looking for a gadget that looks good on TV and a lot of people will buy, but won’t necessarily make the long haul. Kind of everything wrong with the world if you think about it that way
  • Barbara: she loves making offers on food ideas and giving hugs to the ones she takes under her wing
  • Kevin: aka Mr. Wonderful. My absolute favorite. He is dry, pessimistic and sometimes predatory. The seemingly sharkiest of the sharks. At times he manipulates the whole room. He is also good at reminding entrepreneurs where they stand, but less objectively than Robert
  • Daymond: nice guy, not on as much anymore. He does not make a lot of offers, but he shows particular interest in clothing items, where he has a lot of knowledge
  • Mark: seemingly beloved by most of those who set foot in the door. He has a soft spot for humanitarian ideas and is quick to praise entrepreneurs on their hard work and clever marketing
My Daymond coaster and chips
The one terrible photo I took during our play. I chose Daymond for play!

All of the COMPANY CARDS in Shark Tank: The Game come directly from the show, or at least I recognized most of them. So that is kind of fun to reminisce. People get some wild ideas.

There are a few places where my rules leave out important details or are wrong:

  1. Placing COMPANY CARDS face down: the instructions do not specify to do this, but the whole point of the bidding is that you do not know the value of the company. It is very important that they are face down.
  2. Green is blue: My instructions repeatedly imply that green is the highest value you can roll, but it’s actually blue on every single card. Perhaps the publisher was blue/green color blind.
  3. Reader role and its advantage or disadvantage at higher player numbers: The game is supposed to support 2-6 players, but the rules clearly state that the game includes 6 company pitches. The READER role can’t bid on the card they read (I’m assuming this, it’s not in the rules) because they have the secret info. So how do you balance 6 pitches between 4 or 5 players? Will the game balance if you add more pitches, or will everyone run out of money and hate it even more? If you allow the READER to bid, you still get more advantages to some players and not all.

Our play went pretty quickly, with just minor “Wait, what?” issues as we went through the rules. It’s easy to smooth those issues over if you game a lot, but it doesn’t mean they should be there. Bill won Shark Tank: The Game! Keri came in second, and I was a distant third. I probably bid way too much.

play or pass

Pass. I don’t think Shark Tank: The Game captures the spirit of the show, nor does it hold up as a very competent game. I appreciated the blind bidding round since it speeds up bidding, but it feels like a departure from theme. The rules are very poorly done. The game does not seem to have been blind play tested. It’s not painful to play, it’s just kind of nothing. For all of these reasons, I’m out.

Review: Shark Attack!

Review: Shark Attack!
Publisher: Milton Bradley
Year: 1988

A cartoon shark is menacingly swimming toward fish

how we met

Shark Attack! is a pretty desirable game, so finding the vintage version at thrift is fairly uncommon. We have found a few over the years, so sitting down to play was a must. I wanted to know: what is all the fuss about?

how it plays

Shark Attack! is a children’s game, so gameplay is pretty simple. Each player gets a certain colored fish pawn which they place on the game board at the correct starting space. The shark starts in its correct starting space, a ways back from the pawns.

Fish pawns yellow, red, green and a missing spot for white
Looks like I was missing the white fish pawn

When play starts, turn on the electronic shark and it will slowly eat its way around the board. Your goal is to try and be the last fish standing.

One player is declared the Roller. Their job is to roll the dice and then call out the colors. If your color is called, you get to move your pawn to the next space on the board, further away from the imminent danger. If the same color comes up on both dice, that player gets to move their pawn two spaces!

The dice with colored circles on each face
My copy of the rules did not address this (that I know of) but I assume one die has a dot in the middle and the other does not so the person calling colors does not accidentally call the same die twice. Kind of clever!

Once all the fish are moved the Roller rolls the dice again. Rinse and repeat. The shark will continue to grow closer. If it covers an entire fish in its mouth, that fish is considered eaten and is out of the game. Continue play until only one fish remains. That player wins Shark Attack!

The shark closing its mouth on the red fish pawn
Red is about one second from being fully eaten

NOTE: the game suggests that Shark Attack! veterans play an alternative version where the shark begins a bit further along and the Roller role passes from player to player.

how it went

I can see why little kiddos might really enjoy Shark Attack! I myself enjoy a constant tension in gameplay. But guys, this game is not good.

I think you could argue (if you are the argumentative type) that a lot of games are driven by luck, and perhaps you could just roll a die to determine the winner instead of playing the game. This argument is often astonishingly dismissive of certain elements of gameplay and enjoyment and social interaction. But it’s kind of how I feel about Shark Attack!

True, there is no strategy. True, this is entirely luck driven because if your color comes up more often then you are safer than the other terrible fish. True, assigning the job of rolling the die to a single person means that this could be played alone, and you could just bet on specific fish. But is that fun? Is the constant, droning threat of the shark enough to make this fun? Maybe for some people. I wasn’t into it.

I thought of several possible alternative forms of gameplay for your consideration:

  1. Introduce a story element to gameplay. Require each player to assign their fish a back story before play begins. This would at least make you give a tinker’s cuss about the little thing, and then you might actually care whether your fish gets eaten by the shark or not.
  2. Everyone picks a charity when they pick their fish pawn. Every 15 or 30 seconds players are required to throw a bet down on one of the fish pawns – could be dimes, quarters, dollars, whatever. The winning fish pawn’s charity gets that donation.
  3. Place magnets in your fish pawn and use fishing poles from Gone Fishin’ to move your pawn forward when your color is called. I picture this as short but ridiculous. And crazy fun.
  4. Require each player to share a little known fact about themselves before rolling the dice. This could be particularly painful in groups that include strangers.
  5. Require each player to ante something precious to them that is tied to their fish pawn. The winner of the game then owns each of the items that were offered up in the ante. This may sound familiar to Magic the Gathering players, though I never played that way myself. You’d have to be nuts.

These alternative gameplay suggestions are not tried and true. The game sold before we could really test these suggestions. But I feel pretty good about them.

Keri won our gameplay. She’s so lucky!

Keri making a fin over her head in the background
The electronic shark is in the foreground. The adorbs shark in the background is Keri celebrating her win!

play or pass

Pass, pass, pass. I tried to figure out what all the fuss is about and instead dived deep into suggesting ways to improve gameplay, because as it stands this is barely gameplay.

Please comment with further alternative gameplay suggestions! 366 BGG users are claiming ownership of this game, and they need you.

Review: The Joke Game

Review: The Joke Game
Publisher: All Things Equal, Inc.
Year: 2008

Cover photo shows a cartoon chicken crossing a cartoon road with exaggerated cartoon people in the background

how we met

My sister told me about The Joke Game originally. She found it at a thrift shop and played it with friends for several hours. Since she wasn’t giving it up, I had to add it to my wishlist and hunt down my own copy.

My impatience got the better of me and I ultimately ordered it from a seller on Amazon for like $15. I have seen it at thrift twice since then, but whatever. I have no regrets!

how it plays

The Joke Game has very simple gameplay. On your turn, roll the die and move your chicken pawn that number of spaces.

Chicken pawns are cardboard standees of chickens in various states like eating a banana, sitting, laying down drunk, blowing a whistle?
The chicken pawns. Choose wisely

Then draw a card and read the joke aloud for the category you landed on. There are only three categories:

  1. Blue: Stereotypes & play on words
  2. Yellow: Dry, witty & dumb
  3. Red: You know you’re [blank] when…

The reader and all other players try to come up with a good punchline for the joke. Once all players have written something down, each player reads their punchline. After this is done, the reader turns the card over and reads the “correct” punchline. NOTE: the red category does not have a correct answer

If any players wrote a punchline that matches or is close to / in the spirit of the correct answer then they get to move ahead one space! Once that is done, the reader chooses their favorite punchline. That player gets to move ahead two spaces! Then the next player rolls the die and takes a turn.

The example card includes the joke Why did the taxi driver quit his job? People kept talking behind his back
The example joke card for your eyes

Play continues this way until one lucky player makes it to the WIN! space. They are the winner!

how it went

The Joke Game is glorious fun. We have played a few of the other party games by this publisher including Hollywood Shuffle, which I wrote about, and The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Game, which I regifted before taking photos. The Joke Game is my favorite by far. It is simple and the Laffy Taffy style jokes are the ideal backdrop for this type of creative party game.

NOTE: While I would describe the jokes in the game as Laffy Taffy style, not all of them are good, clean fun. A few are a little on the risqué side so best avoid if you are sensitive to that type of content.

The WIN! space is a mere 13 spaces away from the start, and you do not need to land by exact count. You always move between 1 and 3 spaces on your turn, and hopefully you are also moving on other people’s turns. This game is short!

The game board showing cartoon characters and a short path to the end
The board showing both the short path your chicken must follow as well as trying to answer the question (I think) of why the chicken crossed the road

When I first played The Joke Game with my game group, I think we played twice back-to-back after being shocked at how quickly it ended. I played recently with Bill and my sister and bro-in-law over Zoom. We played one quick game, then just had our second game go to the WIN! space and back again to make it last a tad longer. But it’s a short game.

The box full of joke cards
The pretty box full of jokes

I will be intentionally stingy in providing joke examples from the game because there’s not endless amounts of cards either. I definitely recognized some of the jokes between my first time and second time playing. The fun part of that was it recalled some of our better punchlines from last play, and that was a fun memory to revisit! But current events or whatever is happening in your life can often drive your creativity in a certain direction and help ensure you are not answering jokes using the same exact punchline six months or a year later.

So while I don’t see myself playing The Joke Game on a weekly or monthly basis, I am keeping it for sure. It’s good fun and can appeal to many different groups and types of humor.

play or pass

Play. The Joke Game is simple, silly fun. I will never tire of it until I tire of the hilarious quips of my close people. Until we stop cracking ourselves up. Until we can’t find a joke in the darkness. In other words, I will never tire of it.

Guest Review: What the Face?

Today’s guest review is by Stef of HappiMess Media! Stef is a thirty-something writer/artist who used to want to be a mermaid. She currently freelances in Orlando with her bae, Honey Bear, and their dog, Max.

Review: What the Face?
Publisher: Spin Master
Year: 2014
Tagline: The Game of Inappropriate First Impressions

Max the dog laying down next to What the Face

how we met

My husband, HB, and I visited a thrift store in search of an offbeat, two-person game we could play. In addition to Spy Alley, I eventually came across What the Face, which is actually a three-or-more-player game, but it promised such a catty time that I vowed to make it work. And that’s the story of how I became $5.99 poorer.

how it plays

The game contents include

  • 260 face cards featuring photos of the weirdest people you’ve ever seen
  • 88 label cards reading things like “abducted by aliens,” “still sleeps with a teddy bear,” and “Twilight fan”
  • 12 voting cards
  • A rather pointless board to highlight cards in play
A messy mess of card backs

The instructions were annoyingly absent from my copy of the game, although the premise seemed straightforward enough: judge what people are like based on their looks alone. 

The one-minute tutorial video on the publisher’s website (since removed) advised that game play goes as follows:

  1. Each player gets five face cards.
  2. The oldest player (Player A) selects a label card and places it on the needless board’s question mark space.
  3. Player A and the player to his/her left (Player B) select one of the face cards from their hands that they think best suits the label card.
  4. Some secret card mixing-up takes place so no one knows whose card is whose.
  5. The face card selections get placed on the A and B spots of the aforementioned useless board.
  6. The other players vote between A or B.
  7. The player who gets the most votes wins the round.
  8. Steps 2-7 repeat, this time between Player B and the player on his/her left (Player C).

If you draw a label card that ends with an ampersand (“Bible study teacher &”), you draw a second label card (“smooth operator”). The two label cards work together as a pair—both labels have to make sense for the chosen face cards. According to the video, these label cards are worth double points, which is the video’s first and only mention of these mysterious points.

It isn’t clear what anything is worth, how points accumulate, when new cards should be drawn, or even how to win the game. It seemed like a mix of Apples to Apples and Heartthrob, only not good.

how it went

I summarized the intended game play for HB, who was disappointed: “I thought we’d just look at each card and be like, ‘This person looks like a pedophile,’ and then everyone else is like, ‘Nah!’ or ‘Yeah!’” But how does one gamify that? Maybe the answer is “just add alcohol.”

After the game sat around the house, unplayed for a year, I ultimately wound up playing it with my three bridesmaids the night before my wedding. I asked them, “Will you guys play this crappy game with me so I can write about it for my friend’s blog?” When they asked what the premise was, I said, “We judge people based on how they look.”

“Middle school, we’re playing middle school,” said one bridesmaid.

“We’re playing me in real life!” said the maid of honor.

We wound up ignoring the voting cards and the board (did I mention how useless the board is?) and straight up played this just like Apples to Apples: One player puts down a label card, the others ascribe to it one of the seven face cards in their hands, and the player chooses her favorite of the proffered options. The player who has seven of her faces chosen wins the game. 

For fun, we said that whatever faces of ours were chosen at the end were our friends. Three of the faces I played were chosen, so this was my end-game squad:

The second time we played this, we flipped it: The player would put down a face card, and then we’d attach labels to it. Again, the first one to seven wins. This time, our finale twist was that whatever label cards were left in our hands, we’d assign to each other. For example, these were the labels ascribed to me by the other players: 

play or pass

“Our version is nice,” one bridesmaid said reluctantly. “I would not like the real version.” 

“I like judging people,” said the maid of honor.

In other words: Pass, unless you’re really desperate, or you’re imaginative and can put your own spin on this. The face and label cards really aren’t that funny, and once you go through them all, it gets especially boring. But maybe you can use this game to deduce how judgmental your friends are…? WHAT FUN!

Review: Dinosaurs of the Lost World

Review: Dinosaurs of the Lost World
Publisher: Avalon Hill
Year: 1987
Tagline: An Adventure Game for Ages 8 and Up

The cover has adventurers looking on some dinosaurs, with a large T-rex in the forefront

how we met

I bought Dinosaurs of the Lost World on the Geekmarket! Bill had played the game years and years ago. After he described it I was eager to give it a whirl. I actually found a sealed copy for a very fair price. When it arrived I ripped that plastic off and away we went!

I think I paid $40 for this copy, and I was very happy with that price. I still have never seen it in the wild, but my friend Melissa got a copy at a swap meet. Miracles do happen.

how it plays

The first thing to do in Dinosaurs of the Lost World is to set up for play. Place hexes face-down throughout the game board to represent unexplored sites. Mix up the tool markers and place them face down in a stack on the TOOL space. Shuffle the EXPERIENCE and EVENT decks and place them nearby.

The hexes say combos of Nothing Here, Items, and Locations for Adventures
Here are some of the Hexes. A LOT of them say Nothing Here
Experience cards
All the EXPERIENCE cards are similar to these

Finally, each adventurer gets to choose any eight tools to bring with them on their trip, and no more than two of each. These are secretly written down on a scrap of paper by each adventurer (you will not get markers for these). I think guns are a good choice, but generally this is a crap shoot so just go with your gut and call it good. The back of the rules will tell you the options and where they may come in handy. Once gameplay begins your choices are no longer secret.

Tool markers
During gameplay you will get Tools randomly, and here are some of them!

Your turn involves three things:
1) Roll two dice and move your EXPEDITION along the board. Note: your EXPEDITION is shaped like an arrow, and this is helpful so make sure it points the way that you should be moving. You will bounce back and forth since you can’t turn corners without enough Victory Points, so movement is not always clockwise.

The EXPEDITION pawns that move on the outer track of the board. The pawn here that is not shaped like an arrow has the awful job of representing you on the CHASE TRACK

2) Perform the action of the space you landed on.
3) Move your regular pawn on the Lost World Map up to the number of spaces indicated by the space your EXPEDITION landed on. Regular pawns always start in camp and can move outward in their exploration. They are often sent back to camp.

Plain pawns like from any roll and move game
These plain Janes move you around to explore the middle of the board

The entire time you play, you will gain and possibly lose Victory Points. They need to be tracked on your scrap of paper because they are key to your escape.

There are times when you will need to go into battle, either with a competing EXPEDITION or with a creature such as a dinosaur.
VS EXPEDITION, if you win the battle you get to take one experience card, or a non-weapon tool, or an event card of your choice (event cards and escape items can’t be lost, although BGG has some interesting takes on that) from the loser. If you lose, you return to camp and lose your next turn.
VS creature, if you win the battle then you get to stand your ground and remain where you are. If you lose, you are getting chased on the super fun CHASE TRACK.

Dinosaur pawns
The higher the number, the more difficult these creatures are to battle against

Oh the CHASE TRACK, my old friend. This is you running for your life while a creature chases you. Roll one die and move forward. One of the other players will roll for the creature chasing you. Creatures never move past you, but if they hit your square then you lose one tool or experience card each time. It really sucks, so run fast! When you get to the end you move back to camp.

Certain hex locations on the map have red stars on them. If you begin your turn on one of the hexes with a red star then you can choose to HAVE AN ADVENTURE instead of rolling the dice. This involves going through the comic sheet for that particular adventure until completed. It’s kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure except the die and any EXPERIENCE cards make all your decisions for you. If you have any of the recommended Tools for that adventure, shown in the upper right corner of the sheet, then draw an EXPERIENCE card for each tool you have before you begin.

Adventure M Tree Fern Grove
This is Adventure M Tree Fern Grove that recommends having 1 Shovel and 1 Machete for best play. In these Adventures, EXPERIENCE cards are everything

Once a player has received 25 Victory Points then they may attempt to escape the island! There are three ways to do this:

1) Landing on the last frame of the Indian Caves adventure and having either the Lost Map tile or event card 22.
2) Landing on the last frame of the Pinnacle adventure and having either the Role tile or event card 21.
3) Landing on the last frame of the Geyser adventure and having either the Tarpaulin or event card 23.

Then you win!

Note: most adventures may not be repeated once you complete them. However the three above (Indian Caves, Pinnacle, Geyser) may be completed again since they are your means of escape.

how it went

Dinosaurs of the Lost World is probably one of the more complex games I covered on the blog here, at least so far. But it’s honestly really easy once you get started. Don’t be intimidated by the long (Avalon Hill) rulebook. It’s really a game on the outer track of the board, a game on the inner portion of the board, and occasionally a comic adventure.

our play
A shot of our play late in the game

I have played Dinosaurs of the Lost World a number of times, with anywhere from 2 to 4 players. I found the gameplay to be enjoyable at all of those levels, but with a few nuances to be aware of along the way.

With 4 players gameplay takes a bit longer because you potentially have more people going through adventures, getting chased, etc. But it also helps to explore the board quickly, and it brings all of the juicy items to the table for getting plundered.

My cards and items during play
I was pretty stacked for this game

With 2 players gameplay can go more swiftly, but you have to be careful about being on the offense with attacking your fellow player. All of the weapons and allies they had pointing at creatures can quickly become pointed at you and really ruin your game. I guess it feels like imbalance can happen more quickly in the smaller player numbers.

I love a bunch of things about this game, most of which are very thematic. I love choosing my initial tools even though I don’t know what I might encounter. I love making friends and enemies in my adventures. I love collecting random items that might help me escape in the future.

Example event cards
Here are 3 randomly chosen EVENT cards to show you variety (red is bad)

The CHASE TRACK can definitely become a bummer if you visit it too many times. It always sets you back at camp and that can be a very long way from where you intended to be. Your movement can give away your immediate goals, especially when you get set back.

The board showing chase track
Not a great picture of the board, but after I mentioned the CHASE TRACK 18 times I thought a photo was due. It is that thing running along the top. Also it’s hard to see but CAMP is in the bottom hex row, 3 from the right, black text on dark green background

The comic adventures are such silly fun. If you have enough EXPERIENCE cards then your adventure can be a cakewalk, but those cards don’t grow on trees so make sure you aren’t using them when your alternative is acceptable.

We only played once with our regular Idle Remorse game group of four players, and luck was really on my side for that game. I was unintentionally, gleefully hoarding all of the items that are required for escape. It was my game to lose, but instead I blew that popsicle stand, left my terrible friends behind, and won Dinosaurs of the Lost World!

One of the adventures The Geyser
I escaped on a Geyser!

We played the first Choose Your Own Adventure game House of Danger when it came out. So much reading, so little replayability, but so unique. Dinosaurs of the Lost World is kind of like that. I mean it has replayability, but one of its strengths is that it is pretty unique.

play or pass

Super play! The gameplay is more simplistic than the long rules would lead you to believe. There are certainly more sophisticated games out there, but not quite like this one. And the theme is strong, which I always appreciate.

I’d be surprised if a lot of people became addicted to Dinosaurs of the Lost World or brought it to the table constantly. But I’d also be surprised if a lot of people decided to get rid of their copy after play. It’s a fun, approachable game and it has dinosaurs!

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