Idle Remorse

Review: Wild Wooly

Review: Wild Wooly
Publisher: Parker Brothers
Year: 1995
Tagline: He’s Wacky! He’s Wild! He Wants OUT!
Players: 2 to 4

Since my copy is missing the box, this photo is courtesy of @mevans444 on Board Game Geek

how we met

A couple of winters ago, our friend Alex wanted Bill to sell some of his childhood items on eBay. He brought over a couple of boxes, mostly dinosaur junk (jk, I love dinosaurs). Amongst the old toys was a ziplock bag containing Wild Wooly! And I stole/kept it. It’s just. so. 90s.

This version was only missing the box and instructions. NOTE: Hasbro keeps instructions online for their games so missing instructions are often just a google away.

how it plays

Wild Wooly is a rare and wild creature that you captured, and now your job is to create the best cage wall that you can! And quickly before he tries to burst out of the cage!

Wild Wooly!

Each player gets one side of the cage to guard. There are cardboard doors for sides where you may not have a player / for fewer than 4 players. Each player gets 7 cage bars in a specific mix of colors. They then place the cage bars in whatever manner they choose on their side of the cage as long as each top and bottom hole only contains one bar. You can’t just stack them in a couple of places.

What the cardboard wall looks like. This is used when you have fewer than four players and when someone goes out.
Here is a look at the slots that you can use to plan your cage wall strategy!

The game also includes a series of cardboard foods. Set these to the side where all players can reach them.

Once all players are ready, poke Wild Willy in the nose. This will anger him and cause him to try and escape the cage! Once he has started moving, the youngest player should start play by spinning the spinner and then play will continue to the left.

One of these things will happen after you spin:

  • Single color: remove a bar of this color from your own side of the cage
  • Rainbow space: remove a bar of your choice from your own side of the cage
  • Feed the beast: throw one of the food items to Wild Wooly to calm him down
  • Wild Wooly: remove any color bar from any of your opponent’s cage sides
A closer look at the spinner and food bits. I know a couple of humans that are calmer after a key lime pie slice, so it makes sense.

Soon, Wild Wooly will break out of one side of the cage!!! The player in charge of that side of the cage is eliminated, as they should be. Place a cardboard cover on that side of the cage, place Wild Wooly back into the cage and continue play. Repeat this process one more time if needed, until you have one player left and they win Wild Wooly!

how it went

Every time I have played Wild Wooly with a new group, two things have happened consistently. The first thing is that everyone gets a strange look as I begin to set up the cage. It’s a kind of, “Oh what does she have now?” look. The second thing is that everyone wants to play again immediately.

The cage bottom has a nugget on it, which makes the cage shake and rattle as Wild Wooly throws his weight around. This is much more fun than if the cage just sat flat on the table.

In my personal opinion, there is no real solid approach to building the cage wall that will get you a better outcome. (Side note: I have almost never won, so grain of salt and all that) The escapes seem to be somewhat random. But it can be a lot of fun to watch someone with a wide open space that Wild Wooly would just glide right on through, and watch him just flirt with getting near it. He’s a wiley one, that Wild Wooly.

Here is a look at our later play, with Wild Wooly searching for an exit.

I appreciate the absurdity of having to feed the beast. I can just imagine playing this as a kiddo and throwing a cardboard hot dog at Wild Wooly, hoping it will calm him down.

The first time we played with my regular group we played a few times in a row. I think both Bill and Keri won. I certainly did not. Most games had me go out, then John, then either Bill or Keri. Maybe there is a strategy to cage building?

Nah, I don’t believe it.

The deconstruction of your cage wall is at the luck of the spin, especially if you only have one bar of that particular color. The rest of the deconstruction is based on whether your terrible friends decide to target you. And finally, the random way in which Wild Wooly moves decides the escape. Such are the trials of caging a wild beast.

Finally, a very quick look at Wooly in action.

play or pass

Play! I’ll admit there is a lot of randomness and luck involved here, so Wild Wooly is not very gamely. But it’s cute and scary and tons of fun.

Review: idiomaddict

Review: idiomaddict
Publisher: Marbles the Brain Store
Year: 2013? per BGG
Players: 4 or more

Cover has various idioms in different colored boxes, like Happy as a clam and Have butterflies in my stomach

how we met

I found idiom addict at my local town thrift shop, which doesn’t always have good games but when it does, they are quite random. If you are not sure what an idiom is, the box cover should remove all doubt since it is plastered with them. In fact, the game doesn’t really have a tagline I just used one of the examples from the box.

I love word games, and this one didn’t cost an arm and a leg. idiom addict was coming home with me.

how it plays

Players divide into teams of 2. The goal is to guess the common idiom based on the clues given, usually like the common phrase was fed through a thesaurus. (Example: the clue Punt the pail would become Kick the bucket) Teams take turns rolling the die with potential outcomes:

  • Synonym Twist is like an all play where each team has one representative guess the synonym based on provided clues. The first player to correctly guess two different synonyms gets to move their team pawn two spaces.
  • X1 or X2 then the opposing team will read your team Mixed Messages cards for 30 seconds. Guess as many as you can in the time limit. At the end, multiply your correct number of guesses by 1 for X1 and 2 for X2, and move your team pawn that many spaces on the board.
The die and pawns on the tiny board

Once a team’s pawn reaches the Idiom Addict end of the board, they must successfully win one last Synonym Twist to take the cake!

how it went

I first played idiom addict with my sister, Jaime, also a lover of word games. We played 2 player, and for the record 2 players vs 2 teams is six of one, half dozen of the other. 2 player works fine as long as you can drag someone else to the table to read out the Synonym Twist challenges to you. One of my fondest memories of playing was when one of us rolled Synonym Twist and we simultaneously whined, “Aaaaaron!” as my poor brother in law tried to do anything else for five minutes together. He’s a great sport.

In that initial play, Jaime soundly whipped me. She was ahead most of play and ultimately won! I put up a good fight though. We are both pretty good at word games.

The cards are double-sided, so here are both sides showing Mixed Messages and Synonym Twist

The next time I played idiom addict was with a group of friends in a conference room. The players ranged from my usual gaming group, with John insistent he would be terrible at it, to friends that I don’t get to game with very often. One is Polish, and I was worried how the cards would translate, if at all.

But the thing about idioms is, they are as ubiquitous as oxygen. They are a piece of cake. In the large group setting we had, we quickly abandoned the board, teams and official rules for just taking turns individually. I imagine this happens with idiom addict a lot.

Check it out, even the box of cards is thoroughly dipped in idioms

And, this type of casual play in a large group is a good rule of thumb. When players are in teams, play becomes a race to answer first. When players get a chance to answer on their own, the game is more enjoyable, more chill and more inclusive. If keeping score is important, just let people keep the cards they answer. Even if people don’t win, at least they got to play.

play or pass

If you are a fan of word games, don’t get cold feet over picking up idiom addict, especially at thrift. The official rules are for the birds in a large group, but there is still idiom fun to be had with the cards. Most of my friends that didn’t think they would like idiom addict ended up having fun with it. I don’t think the replayability is very high, so I am donating mine to a local brewery for others to enjoy.

Review: Knock Knock Game

Review: Knock Knock Game
Publisher: Milton Bradley
Year: 1982
Tagline: If you know “Who’s There”, you’ll win the Game!
Players: 2 to 4

The joke on the cover is: Who's there? Rich. Rich who? Rich for the sky..this is a holdup.

how we met

I stumbled onto Knock Knock Game in the clearance cave of Noble Knights games in the Madison area, which makes the game $2? $3? Thrift price. I was dreading playing after looking through some of the cards because the joke punchlines seemed difficult, but this is the kind of game I buy. So I bought it.

how it plays

Knock Knock Game is a spin and move game with different colored pawns – two each of red, blue, yellow and green. There are corresponding colored doors along the path, as well as grey doors. You also start the game with four Who’s There? cards in your hand. On your turn, you spin the spinner and move one of your pawns that number of spaces on the board.

Step right up!

If you land on a door the same color as your pawn, spin again! You get an extra chance to move ahead.

If you land on a grey door, nothing happens.

If you land on a door the same color as an opponent’s pawn, you must Knock Knock them. This involves drawing a Knock Knock card, choosing one of the two jokes to read aloud, and doing so. That player can check their Who’s There? cards to see if they have the answer, or they can guess. The game is clear that the wording need not be exact, but the spirit of the punchline must be there to get a correct answer.

If the player is wrong, they spin the spinner and move one of their pawns backward. If they are correct, that’s it. No extra spins and play moves on.

The first player to get both of their pawns past the Start space wins Knock Knock Game!

The Knock Knock deck
The Who’s There? deck

how it went

We played Knock Knock Game during a recent game night with my gaming group. My copy was missing pawns, so I just pulled some spares out of a baggie of extra parts and away we went.

NOTE: I made one change to the rules to speed up our gameplay. We each were in control of one single pawn instead of two. This allowed for a speedier trip around the board.

The board is cute and colorful

One of the concerns I had playing this game was the difficulty of the jokes. The Who’s There? cards really helped alleviate that concern because you might be asked a joke that you already have the punchline to. Easy. But I wasn’t prepared for some of the antiquated punchlines.

Knock Knock Game bringing you all the hits from the early 1900’s. Seriously, these cards contain lyrics to songs from 1902 and 1926.

This same method, where a player may have the answer they need on a card in their hand, means that some of the jokes are redundant within the game. This makes sense because if Knock Knock Game were full of too many different jokes then it would be increasingly unlikely for you to have the right punchline in hand, and the entire design would break down. The lack of sheer joke volume was a bit disappointing though, I have to admit. And we went through most of the deck in a single play (shortened by my single pawn decision) with four players.

It is worth noting that when you Knock Knock another player, you are the one saying, “Knock knock!” They say, “Who’s there?” You say who/what and they have to guess the answer — at this point the structure of the Knock Knock joke that has been burned into our brains since our youths breaks down fully. The other player only says “[whatever] who?” if they do not know the answer or choose not to guess. This is off-putting and even confusing at times.

Not too surprisingly, some of the jokes were a stretch. For example, monkey = my key.

One of the Knock Knock cards I drew during play

But, for the most part gameplay was straight forward and short enough to be enjoyable. I ended up in the lead after a few lucky spins, and I won Knock Knock Game! I also happened to have the right cards in my hand more often than not. After play, we just sat there and read some of the more bonkers jokes to each other.

play or pass

Pass this one right on by. If you have any reservation about passing up Knock Knock Game, just pick up The Joke Game instead. Knock Knock Game jokes range from a big stretch to positively antique. What ever happened to “Orange you glad I’m not a banana?” classics?

Review: Spitting Image

Review: Spitting Image
Publisher: Parker Brothers
Year: 1984
Players: 2 to 6

Two puppets resembling Gorbachev and Reagan stare at each other
I know, right?

how we met

Since my sister moved to the area, I frequent Madison quite a bit, and Noble Knight Games has a clearance cave that I rarely leave without four or five games in tow. My very first visit I found Spitting Image, a game I’d never heard of. From a show I’d never heard of. With puppets that were once in a Genesis video that I’m not sure I’d ever seen. But the box is pretty irresistible, and I was happy to take Spitting Image home with me.

how it plays

In Spitting Image each player is a World Leader and has three scandals they are trying to keep secret. Your goal is to reveal the scandals of your fellow World Leaders and be the last World Leader with at least one scandal unrevealed. Then you win!

Our heroes?

In true shock value fashion, the fattest player goes first. Hello, 1984.

Movement in Spitting Image is very interesting. You choose where to move, anywhere between one and six spaces. In addition to moving their own pawn, each player also moves the Journalist pawn that number of spaces. World Leaders can’t share spaces with each other, but if the Journalist Lands on the same space as a World Leader, one of that World Leader’s scandals is auctioned off. The highest bidder obtains the scandal – but can’t reveal it yet!

This is what the hidden scandals look like during play.
Examples include "is secret member of flat earth society" and "suspected of insider dealing"
And some of the example scandals.

The player who wins the auction takes the next turn.

When a World Leader pawn lands on a Press Conference space and they have another player’s hidden scandal, they can try to expose the scandal. When the Press Conference is landed on, the following may occur:

  1. Blackmail (optional) where you can ask the World Leader whose scandal you have to pay you to keep it a secret. If it’s paid, you keep the scandal but the Press Conference ends and play goes to the next player.
  2. Accuse the World Leader by reading the headline out loud! Oh no!
  3. Play relevant Dirty Tricks cards to accuse the accuser of lying, but if they have the lie detector card then your accusation will fail and your secret will be out.

If a scandal is exposed, the World Leader that exposed it receives $50 million from the bank. Because the rich get richer.
If the scandal is instead refuted, the World Leader that was accused receives $10 million from the accuser as damages. That’ll show the bastard.

The money isn’t much to look at, but here you go!

The player who wins the press conference always takes the next turn. The rules about play turn are important so you don’t get stuck moving in concert with the Journalist. That would suck.

Other spaces on the board move the Journalist pawn, allow World Leaders to draw cards or grant the World Leaders more money.

Here are the Dirty Tricks cards. National Security lets you escape a press conference without embarrassment, guaranteed!

Play continues until one World Leader remains, and they are the winner!

NOTE: For a shorter game the rules recommend everyone counts up what they have left after the first player is out, cards are assigned dollar amounts and the World Leader with the most wealth wins!

how it went

I played Spitting Image recently with my usual gaming group. The movement took a few minutes to get used to, but then we were booking it around the board and callously moving the Journalist onto each other’s World Leaders consistently.

These are the World Leader cards that you pair with your scandals.

Some of the pawns are not especially easy to tell apart, which can be a pain. I was happy to have the big red nose on our awful Journalist pawn.

A look at our play. Specifically Pope John Paul II.

In a repeat of history, Kinnock (me) and Thatcher (John) were the last two pawns standing in the end, taking shots at each other. John had so much money I didn’t think I would be able to get poor Kinnock to the end. But I wore John down and drew very lucky cards that allowed me to protect my last, precious, scandalous secret. When I revealed that Thatcher “once went on seal-culling adventure holiday” that was it. Kinnock wins!

play or pass

Pass. I enjoy the quirky pawns in the style of Spitting Image puppets, and the movement kept things interesting. But player elimination and the dated content places major limitations on the enjoyment of Spitting Image. I do love a good satire, but it doesn’t always translate to a good game.

Review: The Secret Door

Review: The Secret Door
Publisher: Family Pastimes
Year: 1991
Players: 1 to 8

Cover shows a spooky house in the distance

how we met

Bill picked up The Secret Door for me at the Kane County Toy Show <3. I love a 90s game, and this one had pretty decent reviews – which is not always the case when I buy a vintage game. Sold!

how it plays

The Secret Door is a simple memory / deduction game. There are 24 VALUABLES cards and 12 TIME cards that all have identical blank backs. Three of these valuables get hidden away and the object of the game is for the team to deduce which objects are hidden before the clock strikes midnight!

Shuffle the VALUABLES cards and set aside three of them face down in the Secret Passage. Keep all of the cards face down and add the TIME cards, shuffling all the cards together. Then place them throughout the mansion, face-down. (NOTE: I highly recommend storing the VALUABLES and TIME cards separately in the box to aid in setup)

A door card and two stacks of other cards, one showing clocks the other various valuables
The door is only there to hide the three secret valuables!

Players work cooperatively, taking turns placing two cards face-up. The goal is to find pairs of VALUABLES. If a player turns up a TIME card, that card goes to the Clock area of the board to indicate another hour has passed.

Because this is a cooperative game, there are a couple of tips that I strenuously recommend:

  • Make sure all players see your cards when you turn them face up. If a player is not paying attention, get their attention and politely ask them to get their head in the game.
  • Do not turn your two cards up super-quickly-one-after-the-other. If you turn up the first card and do not remember seeing its pair, maybe another player does. If you turn them both up boom-boom then an opportunity for a match could be lost.

If you make a pair, place the cards into the Safety Deposit Box and your turn is over.

The board has various rooms shown, like a cut out of a house
A look at the board. I recommend as you uncover TIME cards to place them along the clock section face down so they stick out from the board more than if you place them face up

Once the Clock strikes midnight (all TIME cards have been found) then players must cooperatively make a single guess at which three VALUABLES are hidden away, keeping in mind it’s possible to have more than one of a given type. If you think you know before midnight you can guess earlier. If you guess any VALUABLES correctly, they are saved from the thieves! Any you got wrong are made off with. 🙁

how it went

There’s a lot to be said for a game that is fun, simple and rather quick to play. I played The Secret Door with my ol’ standby gaming group of four. We had a good time and played twice back-to-back.

In our first game, we were only able to identify two VALUABLES cards that were hidden away. In our second game we identified only a single item! I was a veritable magnet for the TIME cards, which probably led to a poorer performance in the second game. Time sure does fly! (The rules make this joke as well)

The TIME cards are one of my favorite aspects of The Secret Door. Knowing you can let your team down by revealing a TIME card brings tension and really helps elevate what is essentially a memory, pair-matching game.

An overview of the board
A look at the end of one of our games. I can practically see my fingerprints on those TIME cards

A common criticism of The Secret Door is the component quality. This is important to note, especially if you find the game used. You want to make sure all the cards are present, and ideally that they do not have damage that would allow you to identify a type of card face-down, like a severe fold or some such thing. My cards are well-worn and bordering on gross, but they do not have markings on their backsides. And if you are worried about it, you can always sleeve your cards. I have seen worse games get card sleeves.

And it’s worth noting, while we did not play with children, many of The Secret Door’s beloved fans enjoy playing with kiddos: improving memory, practicing co-operative play, partial win scenarios, etc.

play or pass

Play. The Secret Door is simple fun, a good filler vintage game. Combining memory with deduction against the backdrop of a spooky mansion and hailing from the early 90s — The Secret Door checks a lot of my boxes! Add to this that it’s family-friendly and quick to play, and it just might check a lot of your boxes too.

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