Idle Remorse

Review: Four Sight

Review: Four Sight
Publisher: Invicta Games
Year: 1975
Tagline: a game of the future where success is the power of

Four Sight box is long and has a woman's head from the upper nose up

how we met

I found Four Sight at a thrift shop and could not look away. Just look at that stunning cover! I don’t care what’s in it, how many people need to play, what the ratings are. I am buying this one.

how it plays

Four Sight is a two player abstract game that challenges your spatial reasoning skills. But in a fun way!

One player chooses one of the KEY PLATEs and one set of eight TABLETS, which are either black or white. The other player chooses a different KEY PLATE and the other color of TABLETS. KEY PLATES are like square, colored plastic plates with four openings in them. The object of the game is to place your TABLET pieces so that you can take your KEY PLATE, place it over the pieces, and have three of your pieces and one of your opponent’s showing. Then you win!

There are four key plates with four holes in them in different places representing different patterns
Step 1: pick your poison

The player with the white TABLETS moves first and places their first piece in any of the 16 places on the board. Then black goes. Then white again. And so on.

The square TABLETS on the game board, a 4x4 square
This is your battlefield

Each player must keep their KEY PLATE in front of them and visible to the other player. So the challenge is being able to mentally picture your KEY PLATE in every which way so that you know when you accomplish your goal. But then also to picture your opponent’s KEY PLATE in order to foil their plans. The rest is being strategic in placing your TABLETS and getting lucky with where your opponent places.

The main point of the game is to challenge your mind to be able to move and rotate the KEY PLATE as needed without touching it. The rules do say that once you pick up your key plate you must place it. If you are correct then you win, but if you are not correct then you lose!

how it went

Bill and I played Four Sight some random summer evening. I was a little bit nervous to play because spatial reasoning is not my thing. I played black and chose the yellow KEY PLATE for no particular reason. Bill chose the green KEY PLATE and had white TABLET pieces.

We filled about 2/3 of the board before I excitedly placed a TABLET piece, picked up and placed my KEY PLATE and won Four Sight! With all the irony that I did not see that win coming. I’m pretty sure Bill wasn’t paying very close attention, but I’ll take this win.

The board with a yellow KEY PLATE on it showing three black TABLETS and one white TABLET
My gorgeous win

play or pass

Pass for me personally, but I appreciate everything Four Sight brings to the table. And I’d play it again. I like the cheekiness of the name (winning requires foresight derp!). As you have heard me say many times in other reviews, I think this game borders on relying too much on a specific skill so having players with equal skill may be very important to enjoying gameplay. And that’s a bit of a drawback for me.

But Four Sight is simple and approachable by many different types of players. And if you like abstract games, it’s definitely worth picking off the shelves.

Review: Monster Mash!

Review: Monster Mash!
Publisher: Parker Brothers
Year: 1987

Cover has a green monster getting thwacked

how we met

The Kane County Toy Show happens twice a year, in April and October. I particularly love to attend the October show because it is full of spooky toys, decorations and games. And I have seen Monster Mash! at the show 30 times in various states of disrepair, usually with a very heavy price tag. So I never picked it up.

But one glorious day Bill was at a thrift shop and found a beautiful, complete, wonderful copy for just a few bucks. And he brought it home. And that’s how we met.

how it plays

Monster Mash! gameplay is so simple that there are no instructions, just the box back that indicates players should push the button on the monster machine to show a random monster, then thwack that monster card hard with your THWACKER™ hand! The game includes 27 different monster cards that are laid out in front of the players for optimal thwacking. If an already-captured monster comes up then other players will attempt to steal it from you. The first player who captures five monsters wins Monster Mash!

The monster machine with a large button at the top that you press, and the three sections randomize into a monster
The monster machine. Note the big button in upper right corner that will fetch you a new monster

how it went

Our gameplay was a long time ago now, but it was also stunningly violent and I remember it well.

Hands gesturing wildly over monster cards
The live portion of this photo shows a THWACKER™ hitting the table between those hands

We gave each player a damp paper towel to help their THWACKER™ hand pick up cards, and that worked very nicely. Highly recommend having those handy.

Because Monster Mash! has the rules on the back of the box only, the game is ripe for house rules. Things that you may want to house rule:

  • Does the first person to thwack the monster get it, or do they need to transport it safely to their area? We often had players try to steal the monster en route. Annoying, but probably fair.
  • Is there any punishment for thwacking the wrong monster? Many people play that a wrong thwack causes you to forfeit a captured monster.
  • Bill is not allowed to bodily block you from accessing the monsters.
  • Keep your elbows to yourself.

In terms of pattern recognition games, Monster Mash! is a really good time. The monster machine is a great way to randomize monsters, with the drawback that repeat monsters happen pretty consistently. But stealing someone’s captured monster is just another part of the gameplay.

The THWACKERS are long yellow arms with orange suction cups
Our heroes, the THWACKERS™

The challenge of Monster Mash! is obviously to quickly determine the monster you are looking for and then to find it. Drinking may not be a great idea during this game not only because you may easily knock your drink down, but you can’t afford any delayed reaction if you hope to win.

Monster cards showing some similarities and differences
Three of the 27 possible monster combinations

Throughout our play we all thwacked a good share of monsters, each other, the air, the table, and especially the other THWACKERS™. Bill won our first game heartily.

play or pass

Very much play! I’m not sure I would describe Monster Mash! as elegant or anything, but it’s such brutal fun. This game is kind of expensive if you try to hunt it down. I think it’s worth keeping on the wish list though, and you may just stumble upon a bargain at thrift like we did.

If you know of another game that implements this type of lively pattern recognition, please comment and let us know!

Miscellaneous: 2019 Happenings IRL

happenings irl

I made a Happenings IRL post last November, and it seems like annually is about the right speed for me. So here we go!

Panic Mode!

Yes, again. Still.

My card game Panic Mode! arrived on my door step in March, and that was rather exciting. It is hard to describe the feeling of seeing it. I almost felt overcome with apathy, or I felt an emptiness where I expected to feel relief and joy. I think it had to do with the fact that having the game “done” and on my doorstep means the ball is 100% in my court, and the marketing part is the part I don’t love.

Pallet of games

But boy is my game pretty. But more than that, Panic Mode! forced me to stretch the edges of my comfort zone in 2019. Here are a couple of things that happened:

i was on a podcast!

Yes, and a good one too! I was invited to appear on the Indie Board Game Designers Podcast after the creator, Patrick Rauland, received an unsolicited copy of Panic Mode! in the mail from my biggest cheerleaders, who happen to also be mutual friends, Keri and John. John signed me up to appear before he told me, because he knows me and knows that my guilt reflex is likely stronger than my don’t-look-at-or-listen-to-me reflex.

Anyway, I was just very happy I did not vom during my appearance. But I think it went okay. And I met Patrick Rauland, who is lovely. I listen to his podcast pretty regularly now, and I love how it allows people from all sorts of backgrounds tell their personal stories related to game design. Patrick captures voices in game design that no one else does. Which is amazing.

i went to a convention!

I recently attended DreamHack Atlanta in the Indie Tabletop Spotlight area to demonstrate and sell copies of Panic Mode! Someone reached out to me a few months ago and suggested that I apply to attend, and it was such an amazing opportunity. DreamHack has pretty big attendance, and the attendees might be attracted to my branding (I mean, a tower computer on fire?). So I applied and got accepted and I went!

This forced me to get my shit together in a lot of important ways. I needed to be prepared to take payments, I needed to decide how many games I could sell, I needed to make a banner, I needed business cards, I needed to think of any other fun things to attract people to my booth, I needed to order blank cards so people could make their own Panic Mode! cards, etc etc etc.

Ultimately Bill and I decided to drive to Georgia from Wisconsin so that we had more freedom generally. When to arrive, when to leave, how many games to bring, etc. The weather cooperated and everything was fine.

DreamHack was fascinating to me. I am not very aware of esports so it was so interesting to see esports around me. Across from our booth we had Twitch streamers and even just watching the lag time was interesting, to say nothing of their content. We could see part of the screen where speed runs of old games took place all the time, and that was amazing. To go to the bathroom we walked past the Bring Your Own Computer area. And everything I mention here was a teeny tiny fraction of the event. DreamHack was awesome.

But there was one thing that I was in my element on, and that was tabletop games. I was so crazy impressed by the caliber of tabletop games at the event! I bought just about everything available. Here is what they had:

It was really fun to explain my game in a short pitch to people all day long. I sold a number of games. And there are sometimes people that read my cards and walk away, shaking their heads. I consider those victories too.

Panic Mode laid out on the table
A pyramid of panic

A lot of times I describe Panic Mode! as a niche game. I do this because usually the audience I am speaking to is gamers, and Panic Mode! is not necessarily for them. But one thing DreamHack taught me is that Panic Mode! is not a niche game at all. It’s just a game. Educational, simulation, real-time, cooperative, card, etc. But not niche.

I get very inspired by people getting a kick out the concept of my game and laughing at my snarky humor. This experience really inspired me to work harder at selling Panic Mode! and at working on an expansion. And to stop waiting for things to fall in my lap. That plan worked in 2019, but I can do better. 🙂

work was busy!

I have a day job, and 2019 was inordinately busy for me. I only mention this because it felt like the year went quickly and I spent less time on my personal goals than I typically do.

i wanted to write!

Last IRL post I talked about wanting to return to my novel. And I did that, a little bit. I went in a few different directions.

I did make some progress on my novel. I also read a novel that was eerily like the novel I had started and tangled with the feelings that brought out in me. I ultimately decided that I would keep going because it felt different enough. But I remain unsettled.

Another exciting thing that happened this year is that my friend Erik released a story on Amazon. The story is called Cuervo and it’s creepy and atmospheric and fantastic. I definitely encourage anyone interested in the slow build type of creepy writing to check it out.

But the point is that I was so jealous. I have known Erik for a long time and we have shared our writing back and forth for many years. And he self-published. This changed everything for me. Erik is pulled in a lot of different directions and his best intentions always included publishing, and he did it. I am so proud of him, and I settled into the inevitable self-examination that his accomplishment brought out in me.

I ended up picking up a lot of my shorter pieces and revisiting the idea of a collection that I could get “out there” to be done with it. I improved on a couple of those. But I still feel – a fucking year later – the pull of my blob. And I think it’s where I should focus. So that remains my plan. I can juggle that with Panic Mode! expansions, probably. I have gotten some cool stuff done on top of my day job, but I still waste so much time. I am really good at prioritizing, and I can make self-publishing happen.

2019 catch up

Bill finished a section of our basement that now houses many of our cool sci-fi collectibles. We started playing Gloomhaven. My dog Gracelynn lost one eye on Valentine’s Day. 1,010 copies of Panic Mode! arrived on my door step. I started to sometimes use Twitter as @idleremorse. I even follow a person or two on there that I am pretty sure are just me, in different places, which is very comforting to me. Keri turned 39. I was on a podcast. John turned 40. Bill turned 40. I turned 40. We finished Betrayal Legacy. I had my first guest review which was Spy Alley by HappiMess Media’s Stef (she killed it, of course). Bill reorganized our game collection, Jenga style. I went to my first convention as a game designer. Our first Gloomhaven characters retired. Gracelynn went fully blind but gets around like a champ. We played Gloomhaven. We played more Gloomhaven. We continued playing Gloomhaven.

One eyed basset hound
Soon we will remove the other eye and she will go from furever winking to furever blinking

stay tuned

I do this blog for fun, so I sometimes take breaks. Sometimes I can not foresee these breaks (although based on blog evidence they are around March and October each year). So if you see me disappear for a few weeks or so, probably I just am prioritizing something else. But if you ever worry, please do reach out. And if you ever want to guest post, I adore you already.

We have a lot of recently played games just waiting for their reviews. What did we love? What surprised us? What gameplay was just as anyone could have expected? What sought-after games are we excited to ditch? We still have to review Polly Pockets, Shrieks and Creaks, Which Witch?, California Dreams, Clarissa Explains It All, Harassment, Crackers in My Bed, The Black Hole: Voyage of Fear Game, and a bunch of others! Please stay tuned for our continued ramblings on these and more.


Review: Cue Me!

Review: Cue Me!
Publisher: The Games Gang, Ltd
Year: 1989

The cover of cue me is just a talk bubble with CUE ME! written in it

how we met

Cue Me! still has a price tag on it, and I have no idea how, when, or why I found it. This is not incredibly unusual, but it is unusual. I enjoy looking for games, finding them, inventorying them, all the steps. So when this kind of confusion happens I do not expect to enjoy the game. Instead I expect to be bitter about having dragged it around for who-knows-how-long.

I mean, I don’t even recognize the type of price tag on Cue Me! As far as I know I might have been sitting on this game, like it was an egg, for eight years. Then one day it was time to play.

how it plays

In Cue Me!, players are separated into teams of two players each. On a team’s turn, one player rolls the number die. This points the player to which word on the card they are trying to get their teammate to guess. One side of the die has a STAR on it. If a player rolls the STAR, they can choose any of the words on the card for play including the BONUS MESSAGE, which will add two more spaces to your regular board move if the turn is successful.

The player tells their teammate the category of the word they are guessing, like Person, Place, Thing or Event and whether it is a proper name.

Example cards show words like teenager, freeway, raincoat and funeral
Here’s some of the cards you may encounter during play

Next the player rolls the four letter dice. They can then give a one to four word clue about their word, using each letter they rolled only once. A STAR on one of the letter dice means you can choose any letter you wish for that die. A couple of sides include letter combinations like J/K, and either or both letters can be used for these rolls. You can’t say any part of your secret word in your hints.

An example roll of the dice showing letters P, W, A and J/K
So if I am trying to get my partner to guess “teenager” I might say Person, Junior, Kid, Acne and I can’t think of anything for W

But wait, it gets harder. Each turn lasts only two minutes, you can only roll the letter dice three times, and your teammate can only guess once per roll! It’s so difficult!

If a team is successful they move their pawn according to the rules below. If they land on a space with an “F” on it, that is like an all-play and the same player immediately takes another turn where all other players are allowed to participate in guessing. In this Free-for-all / all-play, the player giving clues still only gets three rounds, but all players can guess as many times as they like without penalty.

If a player is able to successfully guess their teammate’s secret word then they move their collective pawn accordingly:

  • Correct on first attempt – 4 spaces
  • Correct on second attempt – 3 spaces
  • Correct on third attempt – 2 spaces
  • ONE-ON-ONE which is correct with one clue word, one guess – 8 spaces
  • BONUS MESSAGE – 2 spaces added to any of these
  • Winning an all-play when it was your team’s turn – 8 spaces
  • Winning an all-play when it was not your team’s turn – 4 spaces
Overview of the board with lots of greens and purples and some spaces have F on them
Overview of the board. The star spaces near the end require the team to get a successful ONE-ON-ONE clue.

In order for a team to get to Finish, they must win a ONE-ON-ONE. The first team to successfully reach Finish, wins Cue Me!

how it went

Normally I am partnered with Bill for team games, but this time we wanted to have the turns go around the table easily while switching teams each time, so Keri and I were kitty corner and on the same team.

Our pawns during play, one white pawn and one old rusty screw
There was an old, rusty screw in the box and the boys decided to use that as their pawn
Components including the timer, the pawns, one number die and the four letter dice
.. and not because we were missing pawns

Cue Me! is a good example of one of those party games where I looked forward to it being my turn. Whether I was giving clues or guessing, it was really fun and required all of my attention.

The rule that only one guess is allowed per roll was nasty and cruel. It puts so much pressure on the clue-giver because you want to make sure you really squeeze out all the value you can from your roll, but as the guesser you can’t just make some wild guess. It’s a very tense 2 minutes, on both sides.

Another example dice roll showing letters J/K, L, I and L
So say you have to get your partner to guess the word “raincoat” – which clues would you give?

As an example, in one of our turns I was trying to get Keri to guess the word “Heart.” I can’t remember all of the letters I rolled, but I gave her the clues “Physiological” and “Red.” Then I was out of ideas, and I really wanted to roll again so I said, “I’m going to need a guess.” And she was like WTF but then she guessed heart! And that was 4 spaces! And it really warmed my [physiological red] to nail that one.

The categories seem off sometimes. That is probably to be expected in a vintage game, and it becomes clear to all as play continues. But that is worth noting as one of the many challenges you face in making a guess on your turn.

One of the most interesting things about Cue Me! is that you never really feel comfortable. Even if you happen to do really well, you are going through short, 2-minute periods of stress. And even if you happen to fall behind in play, you are still looking forward to that brief, shining moment where you can maybe get a really amazing guess. Even if it doesn’t catch you up to other teams.

A shot of our play
A shot of our play. The screw was leaving gross bits behind it the whole time. Playing with a rusty, old screw: 1 out of 5 stars

Bill and John maintained a pretty steady lead throughout our play. It probably took three or four turns before they could get a successful ONE-ON-ONE near the end, so this is a fair catch-up time for other teams. But they were able to take that lead right into the ultimate victory. And Bill and John won Cue Me!

play or pass

Play all day. Cue Me! is really difficult and requires concentration and quick thinking. But I think it does such a nice job of balancing the inevitable hopelessness you feel at times with the absolute pride you feel when a guess goes your way. I tend to be a big fan of micro-wins within gameplay and Cue Me! delivers that in spades. Whether you win the game or not, you may just really enjoy the journey.

Review: the Game of cat & mouse

Review: the Game of cat & mouse
Publisher: Parker Brothers
Year: 1964
Tagline: AGES 4-10

Cover has a blue kitty with the title on top of its curved tail

how we met

This one was an estate sale pickup. It was a magical sale that I was not at myself but was using photos to direct purchases via text. Prices were awesome, selection was awesome. And few things get my friends excited to game like an age recommendation of 4-10. Sold.

how it plays

Oh so simple. the Game of cat & mouse is a roll and move game where each player has only one of their four mice in play at a time.

Mice pawns
My copy is missing one red mouse, but it’s not a big deal

The board consists of mostly mouse spaces, where the mice are facing all kinds of different directions. There are also a handful of cat spaces that are dips just waiting to trap unlucky mice!

The board showing mostly mice spaces with some indented cat spaces
This is what you’re up against

Roll the die and move your mouse in the direction the mouse space you are on indicates. If you hit the edge of the board just chill out there until your next turn.

If you land by exact count on a cat space, your mouse falls into the hole and is out for the rest of the game.

The last player to have a mouse still at play wins the Game of cat & mouse!

how it went

There is no real game here, this is 100% luck. The only decision you really get to make is which of your remaining mice to play for the first turn or if the second or third mouse dies.

I am missing one of my red mice. But it’s not a big deal because you can easily either remember to play your first mouse twice, or replace it with a red pom pom you have laying around, or a penny, or anything really.

A few times we messed up the direction the mice are facing ever-so-briefly, and started to move our mouse pawn the wrong direction. The mouse spaces are legitimately difficult to read in this version. The only reason that is worth mentioning is that it started to really annoy Bill, which was kind of funny.

Overview of our play showing some mice trapped and some still in play
Our play, where red and blue both look to be in bad shape

John was the luckiest of us, and he had the last remaining mouse! And John won the Game of cat & mouse! Then he ran around with his hands in the air yelling, “I’m the greatest!” This was even more silly since he had won Casino Yahtzee that night and was wearing our Casino Yahtzee crown, which is a sight to behold.

play or pass

Super pass. There’s not much of a game here, even to me. I mean, it’s cute and I really like the artwork. I am not sorry to have picked it up. I’m not sorry! But you shouldn’t pick it up. Or if you do, take mine.

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