Idle Remorse

Review: Web of Gold

Review: Web of Gold
Publisher: TSR under license from Three Wishes Limited
Year: 1987
Tagline: A game of daring adventure in an abandoned gold mine.

The cover says Web of Gold in big gold letters with a giant spider and a man running down a mine holding a lantern

how we met

Web of Gold has what may be my favorite game cover of all time. I knew of Web of Gold as a thing, but the only time I ever saw it for sale was still in shrink for $30 a few years ago. That’s a decent price but more than I cared to pay. At this point I believe I will eventually find anything I want, so I have learned to be patient and hold out for thrifted games. And finally one day Bill found Web of Gold at thrift. It was in fantastic shape and only about $5 or $6.

how it plays

Your object in Web of Gold is to be the first player to collect six gold nuggets and escape the mine.

Each player controls an Adventurer pawn and a Spider pawn. The Adventurer moves first, can move 1-2 spaces, and must move each turn.

The Adventurer and Spider pawns
A closer look at the pawns

The outer area of the mine has green colored circles with numbers on them. If an Adventurer ends their turn on one of these spaces, they can roll the die. If they roll equal to or higher than the number on the space they have successfully discovered an item and may draw an ITEM CARD! These ITEM CARDs will help Adventurers in different aspects of gameplay.

Example ITEM CARDs like a Torch that allows you to break down two webs
The art on the ITEM CARDs feels like a departure from the cover, but they are also very cool. As you see

The gold colored circles act the same way, except a successful roll on one of these gets the Adventurer a GOLD NUGGET!

Each Adventurer gets this cool LANTERN that starts at full oil. At the beginning of their turn they decide whether the LANTERN is on or off. If they turn their LANTERN on, the oil tracker moves down one and the LANTERN is on until the beginning of their next turn. When the oil tracker gets to zero there is no more oil so that LANTERN stays off! So use it wisely.

A LANTERN that is on will give Adventurers +1 to their die rolls, making discovery of gold and items just a little bit easier. A lit LANTERN will also prevent a Spider from biting an Adventurer.

The lanterns show a tracker for oil, a tracker for on/off and a tracker for spider bites
The LANTERN is one of the coolest components. They track on / off, oil level, and spider bites

Adventurers can only carry six items, including ITEM CARDs, GOLD NUGGETs, and the LANTERN. It is likely they will need to return to their starting space at some point to “drop off” any collected GOLD NUGGETs.

The gold nugget chips
These are the nuggets. FUN FACT: the original German version of the game was called Gold Fever (Goldfieber)

After the Adventurer moves and completes their play, that player takes their Spider’s turn. A Spider can move from where it is to any adjacent pillar, but Spiders are not required to move. For example, if you decide to use your Spider defensively to protect your own Adventurer then you may not want to move it.

After Spiders move they have two different actions they can choose to take. They can either spin a web or bite an adjacent Adventurer that is caught in a web.

Overview of the board showing lines between the pillars
This is a shot of the board. It still has webs in it because I am lazy, but you can also see the white lines between pillars where the Spiders move

Spiders always spin 3 strands of web. If there is already a web nearby and you want to make it stronger, you can add 3 to it. Webs have a maximum strength of 6.

Adventurers will quickly need to move through webs in order to get around the board, and to accomplish this they need to attempt to break down the web. The Adventurer rolls the die then subtracts that amount from the number of strands (the LANTERN bonus does not apply to breaking webs). If the result is 0 or less then they are successful. The web is removed and the Adventurer moves into the next space. If they are not successful they get trapped in the web! And the web gets changed to the new number. For example if I am trying to take down a web with 6 strands and I roll a 4, I replace the 6 with a 2 and place my Adventurer on the 2 to indicate I am trapped!

This shows an Adventurer trapped in a web
The Adventurer pawns slide onto the webs when trapped, like the purple Adventurer here

If a Spider is next to a trapped Adventurer they can choose to bite them, as long as the Adventurer’s LANTERN is off. The player controlling the Spider rolls a die. If the result is less than or equal to the number of strands then they are successful! The Adventurer moves the BITE MARKER on the LANTERN up 1.

Adventurers perish with 4 Spider bites. If that Adventurer is out of the game, the player can still control their Spider. If all Adventurers end up dead of Spider bites, the player whose Spider has the most Spider bite markers wins. But there is no way to track this, so that was strange and hopefully does not happen often.

how it went

My memories of Web of Gold are colored by Keri’s delicious Whiskey Sours, so we’ll see how this write up goes!

We played Web of Gold during our regular game night with four players, and play went a bit long. Not too bad, but a few of the BGG ratings say that 3 or fewer players is best. I can see that.

Web of Gold is often called an unsung hero in vintage board games, a game that is little-known and deserves more credit. And, eh, I’m not sure I wholeheartedly agree with that.

The game is really cool. The art is cool. The components are amazing. The theme is dense and never wavers. And one of my pet peeves with vintage games is when they abandon the theme with a dumb win condition or something (for an example see me complain about The Miss America Pageant Game). So I give Web of Gold lots of props for picking a theme and sticking to it relentlessly.

The web tokens
The web markers are kind of cool because they show more strands as the numbers go up

The game does have more strategy than a lot of the games we cover here, which is a pretty low bar, granted. The Adventurers can be treated almost robotically – they have one job. The Spiders are more interesting to play as they can be offensive or defensive, and they move rather slowly so those decisions need to be made at the right times to make the Spiders useful.

This is an overview of our gameplay showing my green spider near my green adventurer
I was green and kept my Spider nearby toward the end of play to block the other terrible spiders

But even as you move around, you are really just constantly rolling the die to try and get a high number, or a low number. So at its core, Web of Gold is pretty simple.

Our mine got extremely webby. We actually ran out of the 3 strand web markers several times during play. The rules do not address how to handle this, so we decided to just use 2 strand web markers. It seemed the most fair option.

As our game winded down, I was facing a couple of webs in order to get to my starting space and win. And if I did not pull it off then Bill would get the win on his turn. Fortunately I had drawn my one and only item of the game the turn previously and received a Torch. So I was able to blast my way to victory!

play or pass

Play. I think the game is a little overrated in some cases, but I love a good theme and if Web of Gold delivers anything, it delivers theme. Plus if you find it at thrift you can sell it for a couple bucks. And that cover! 😍

Review: Grabbin’ Grasshoppers!

Review: Grabbin’ Grasshoppers!
Publisher: Tyco
Year: 1990
Tagline: The Jumpin’ Grasshopper Game

This is a tall cover showing a cartoon man with a net trying to catch cartoon grasshoppers

how we met

Grabbin’ Grasshoppers! was dirt cheap and complete, but I still was not going to buy it. It looks fun for a one-time play but is it worth standing in line to purchase? However it has some resale value and so made it into the trunk.

how it plays

Grabbin’ Grasshoppers! is as simple as it gets. Press down on the grasshoppers, let go, wait until they jump, and see who catches the most! The most difficult part of the game is pressing down all 8 of them at once.

An overview of the board with red dots to show where the grasshoppers go
The board has red dots to show where the grasshoppers can all fit

The player that catches the most grasshoppers wins!

how it went

Keri is better at this game than I am, and she won several times. Those grasshoppers can really fly! And I think my mistake was in often not getting my basket high enough into the air. But I don’t think anyone ever caught more than two.

A close up of a grasshopper. The legs are metal and the bottom has a suction cup
A close up of one of our heroes, the grasshopper. They have suction cups on their bellies. Pro tip: you can bend those legs to really make them fly high

FUN FACT: Games like this always cause Keri to recollect the time we were playing Elefun and I smacked her in the head with my butterfly net. It was an accident!! Even though she won at that too.

To make things interesting I offered Keri a bazillion dollars if she could get all 8 grasshoppers to stick at once. She tried really hard, but I knew that was a safe bet. You just can’t get all the grasshoppers to stick at once as one human person.

play or pass

Pass, as I thought. It’s a fun, dumb game, but not at all gamely. And the launch method is very flawed. And Keri lost a bazillion dollars. But if you have fond memories of the game, it still works really well 30 years later.

Review: Rodney Dangerfield’s Game No Respect

Review: [Rodney Dangerfield’s Game] No Respect
Publisher: Milton Bradley
Year: 1985

Rodney Dangerfield is straightening his tie and making a funny face on the cover

how we met

I have seen No Respect on forgotten game lists and vintage game lists and all kinds of lists for a long time. I just assumed that I would find it someday. It’s not all that uncommon to find, the trick is that most of the time you find it the seller is pricing something they assume is very valuable, like when you see an Elvis record at a flea market and it’s priced like it’s made out of gold. So I was happy when Bill found it recently at thrift, because I figured we would play once and resell it.

how it plays

The first thing you need to understand about how to play this game is that it has nothing, but nothing, to do with Rodney Dangerfield. The game is simple, but takes a bit of explanation.

No Respect comes with 80 little plastic number tiles, made up of 10 sets each that go from 1 to 8 (NOTE: this means that anything that looks like a 6 is a 6 and not a 9). All of those numbers need to get mixed up and go upside down in the middle of the game board.

The board with all of the numbers upside down, ready for play
Here we are ready for play

The goal of each player is to win in one of two ways: you can either complete all 3 of your columns, which the rules rightly point out is unlikely, or you can be the last player able to play at all.

Each player has three columns consisting of four circles with designs on them, and one bottom circle that is blank. The blank circles are your DISCARD area, and the design circles are where the magic happens.

On their turn, a player turns up one of the plastic pieces in the middle and will get a number from 1 to 8. Each column is independent, and any numbers you play on your design circles need to start at the bottom of a given column and the numbers must get smaller as you work toward the center of the board.

This shows my DISCARD full with a 1, 2, and 1 and then one columns starts with 7 and one with 1
So like this is terrible. I drew 1 after 1 and had nowhere to put them. The column with a 1 can be stacked on, but I can’t draw anything less than 1 so that column is no good to me.

You can also place a number in one of your precious DISCARD areas, or you can STACK it on another matching number in play. You can’t stack on the DISCARD areas, yours or opponents. But if you or an opponent has a number showing that matched the one you drew, you can STACK it on top of that number as long as it is the topmost tile in that column. A STACK is only two tiles high and the tiles must be the same number.

The goal of a STACK is to ultimately CAP a player’s column. If any of the topmost tiles an opponent is showing are STACKED and you draw a matching number, you can play it on that STACK to CAP the tiles and that column is dead. Nothing else can be played on it. A CAP is only 3 tiles high.

So if you draw a 4 on your first turn that kind of sucks because you either have to use up one of your lovely DISCARD circles or must place a 4 as your starting number in one of your tiles. This would mean that only 3 then 2 then 1 can close that column for you. If an opponent happened to have a 4 played that early, you best STACK it on theirs.

This shows a game where I got capped in two columns and finished the other
Here I started strong with large numbers at the bottom, but then I got capped on two columns. But I still have open DISCARDs!

As mentioned above, the first player to successfully complete all three columns OR the last player to be able to play wins No Respect!

how it went

No Respect brings me a tad bit of shame because I have read around 5,000 vintage board game lists and I was very aware of this game. I have seen it for sale several times, especially at toy shows, but they always want way too much money. It’s never been in my wishlist. I never even bothered to look up how it plays.

So imagine my surprise when we open it up and find 80 little number tiles. The only jokes are on the box! And the insert!

Rodney and a few of his No Respect jokes like "As a kid I got no respect. My yo-yo never came back."
This is the insert with some dated jokes and one of the two licensed photos

We enjoyed No Respect so much that we played a couple of games back to back. This is one of the cases, too, where I think playing more than once actually taught us something (not always the case).

The rules point out that it will be rare for a player to close all three of their columns. In our second play, when we knew that our goal was to try and avoid playing on our own space unless it made a lot of sense, the game was a tad more cut-throat.

No Respect still has luck involved. I mean you are picking a number from a bunch of face-down numbers. But there’s strategy too. In order to be the last man standing, you need a lot of options. Ultimately, whenever you put a number down on your space you have a target. The more columns you play, the more targets you have. Any target you have with a STACK is no good. Your DISCARD space is precious, but it needs to be used when it makes sense. And it’s important to follow any “take that” instincts that you have.

An overview of the board late in play with few numbers left
A look at our late play in one of the games. The 4 sitting to the side was drawn by Bill and he couldn’t play it, so he is out.

In our first game, John had to run an errand so we continued to play on his behalf, balancing his decisions between the three of us. And John ultimately won our first game in his absence! We played one more time that night and Bill got that win!

play or pass

Play. No Respect is a game I would probably play on my iPad if it existed in that format. Luck is a big factor, but you will be happy or sorry with the strategic decisions you make along the way. I am keeping this game in my collection, and I did not see that coming.

Review: The Great Escape

Review: The Great Escape
Publisher: Ideal
Year: 1967

Three children looking excited while handcuffed to a game board

how we met

I found The Great Escape recently at thrift. I picked it up because it’s a giant box and made by Ideal, so it was probably going to be great. When I realized that the happy kiddos on the cover are handcuffed to the game board, nothing could have persuaded me to put it down again.

how it plays

In The Great Escape, players have one hand handcuffed to the weights in the corners of the board. The weight is really a plastic piece that is meant to fit to the corner of the board to make you feel trapped. You can remove the weight in case of emergency, but the handcuffs really don’t come off without breaking or the key.

One hand handcuffed to corner of the board and all the cards are in place
This is Keri’s lovely hand, trapped

The game board has multiple cards that are face down and different spaces have arrows pointing to the cards. Players must roll the die and land on an arrow by exact count and then they can flip up the card indicated by the arrow. This will be a piece of a key in one of four different colors. Then players may look at any other card on (or off, see next paragraph) the board. If the color matches, they get to keep both cards face down in front of them.

Once players have cards face down in front of them, their cards can also be chosen to pair with a face-up card from the board.

A completed key with four matching cards
This is what a complete key will look like. This will let you choose and try a handcuff key

Players may only have three cards in front of them, so if you end up with a pair that is not the same color as your existing pair then you must choose one card to place back on the board face down, in any spot that you like.

If you do collect all four pieces of a key in a single color, you get to reach into the jailhouse and choose one of the six handcuff keys (without looking!). Then insert the key into your handcuff. The same key will unlock all four handcuffs. If the key does not work, set it aside, re-hide your four key cards on the board, and play continues. If the key works, you win the game!

Six red keys in different shapes
Simply press the key into the lock. If you have to force it, it’s the wrong key

how it went

The Great Escape is one of the many games we played during the July 4th holiday, and the only one that required handcuffs. Bill immediately flexed and broke his handcuff, so he was able to fetch us drinks and other sustenance while we played.

A closer look at the four pawns
A closer look at the four goofy pawns

It’s important to remember that you can pair with other player’s cards in order to make matches. Some players might be hoarding three different colors which will prevent matches and slow down gameplay, so go after them. But this weird 3 card limit does cause problems. I was holding onto a single yellow card for most of the game, so unless everyone remembers that then they are prevented from getting an entire yellow key.

The rules seem fairly explicit that you can only turn up opponent’s cards, but if you mess up early and end up with only 3 matching cards in front of you – say you had three cards in front of you, found a matching pair, then threw away a mismatched pair at some point – then the only way to capture the fourth card is to match it with one of your own. We allowed that.

A close up of the Jail House with a cartoon cop on it
A better look at one of our Keystone cops

We were not particularly lucky during play, either in landing by exact count or choosing the right key. As we got toward the end of play, there was a certain amount of double tapping to land on the space desired, and even peeking at cards on the board before choosing one for the match. But we were pretty ready to look the other way at that point. In fact I am convinced now that the young man on the cover is exclaiming, “Why don’t you just act like you landed there, Ricky?! I need to take a piss.”

A shot of our play with John flipping off the camera
This is a shot of our early play. As long as John keeps handcuffing himself to game boards, he can flip off the camera all he wants

We were on our fifth key choice when John blatantly cheated to finish his key card matches and unlock his handcuff. And John won The Great Escape! Kind of. You could also argue that we all lost.

play or pass

Pass. As much as I enjoyed being literally tethered to the game board, the necessity to land by exact count became too much for my enthusiasm to overcome. The Great Escape is captivating for sure, just not in all the ways I had hoped.

Review: Up the…… Corporation

Review: Up the…… Corporation
Publisher: Glass Ceiling Productions
Year: 2004
Tagline: <none>

Cartoonish writing over a commercial building

how we met

I have a sister, and she is lovely. My lovely sister gifted this game to me. She bought it somewhere that was not thrift, but more like a home goods store or something. If I remember correctly it was around $7 or $8, so more than a typical thrift purchase but brand new and sealed. She bought Up the…… Corporation for me not too long after I started this blog because she thought it would be a good fit. And boy, was she right!

how it plays

In Up the…… Corporation you have a singular goal, which is to climb the corporate ladder and beat all of your hideous coworkers to the top. Then you win!

NOTE: Presumably the game is called Up the…… Corporation because they were not allowed to use the term corporate ladder?

Players choose their characters randomly by choosing a card out of an envelope that says, “No Peeking!” Each character card has a brief description of that character, and each has a matching pawn. Once you have your character then you adopt it completely, including gender. If cards refer to gender, they mean your character, regardless of the player. This comes up a lot, so it’s important to mention.

Character B.S. Artista is an exaggerated salesman
I played B.S. in our group’s play. Check out my sweet sandals, ladies.

Once players have characters, they draw a random SALARY card and a random EDUCATION card. The SALARY card will represent which rung is your starting position in the corporate ladder. Those cards are then returned to the SALARY deck. The EDUCATION card sits in front of you and may come into play by rewarding or punishing you based on how much education you have. They do not change starting play.

Salary card examples showing 20, 40, and 50 thousand
Random SALARY cards
Random education cards show Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, or GED
Random EDUCATION cards

Players also begin the game with 5 STRATEGY cards that they should keep secret from other players. These cards say things like Vacation, Complete Goals, Avoid the next Demotion, and things like that. They can potentially protect you from negative things happening.

Random strategy cards show Project Completed, Activity Reports, and Vacation
Random STRATEGY cards

The player whose pawn is on the lowest salary gets to go first. On their turn a player draws from any of the three decks: ETHICS, POLITICS, or HARD WORK. Players read the chosen card aloud and resolve it. Some of the ETHICS cards, in particular, will let you keep them and use at an opportune time later in the game.

Random ethics cards show memos asking people not to eat each other's lunches or stealing a strategy card
Random ETHICS cards
Random politics cards showing females moving down 2 levels, or AnnaLee Airhead moving ahead
Random POLITICS cards
Random hard work cards including moving up a level if you have a degree
Random HARD WORK cards

Generally all the cards you draw will punish you, celebrate you, punish all of the workers, celebrate all of the workers, focus on a particular gender, focus on a particular character, or be neutral. Anything can happen, really.

Your pawn will move up and down the corporate ladder as these cards are played. If you end up all the way at the bottom rung and need to go further down, just lay your pawn down in the mailroom and wait for better luck. The first pawn to reach the top is the winner! Choose 3 rewards!

how it went

Up the…… Corporation is so photogenic, but it had a few flaws. So let’s tackle these things one by one.

First and foremost, the components are sublime. I don’t like to sound too dramatic, but there are no nicer components in this big, wide world than the ones in Up the…… Corporation. The game board has a ladder going up out of it, so your pawns move (hopefully) ever upwards. And the game board spins! It spins, effortlessly! And so each of the six different decks has its own place and each deck is easily within reach of every single player. Sublime.

The pawns are lovely, and they sit on bases that can fit onto the ladder rungs either full on or sideways. Two pawns can’t fit nicely on a single rung full on, but they can move sideways and fit fine.

The illustrations for the card backs are not spectacular to me. In fact, they are reminiscent of clip art, or just a cut above it. But the character illustrations are very nice. And the bottom of the game board is a mail room, and it looks like a mail room.

The full board showing the ladder, characters on the ladder, and the spinning game board
This shot shows you a view of the spinning board, the decks, and the ladder. I think at this point we teased Bill that he could smell the stamps from the mail room.

Now let’s talk about the gameplay. Up the…… Corporation seems to be going for shock value, which is not something I tend to appreciate. The game is taking the inequality of corporate America, a real thing, and overly characterizing the characters, minimizing the struggles involved, and generally painting with a brush as wide as corporate America itself.

And that’s my problem. I will show you some of the cards we saw and laughed at. We are used to laughing at cards that should not exist, but that’s because we play so many vintage games. Up the…… Corporation is from 2004, so that’s still quite a long time ago, but it’s a bit close for comfort.

This card says as a female you need to take a typing test
I actually did take a typing test once, not as a female but as a temp, but I am probably on the outer cusp of this phenomenon
All men move up 1 level
There were one or two of these, without context. But who am I to ask? I am just a lady corporate citizen.
This card says one of the characters is PMS'ing so everyone goes down one level
Becky the Backstabber is clearly the most powerful character and we didn’t even get to play with her 🙁

Up the…… Corporation introduced an interesting struggle for me. I am pretty tolerant of very old games and their shocking cards and characters and play. But I was there in corporate America in 2004. So should I give a break to old games where I was not there, but then judge so critically where I feel like I lived it too? That’s not really fair. But this is my blog, so on I go.

This shot shows the Airhead character winning
In our first play of this game, AnnaLee Airhead won

I have another bias worth mentioning, where I tend to get frustrated with anything that is too black and white. I live in a grey world, and so many of the fundamental truths expressed in this game can be (and especially were) true. But exaggerated this way, even I reject the points as absurd humor. The nuances were lost, and it’s too bad.

The outside of the box says real names were not used to protect the ignorant
This was on the outside of the box. The shaming was relentless.

Now looking at the game on BGG, the two designer names appear to be female. Good for them for making a game to express their frustrations (and with those amazing components!). But the gameplay feels like a vent, and I think that is a disservice to the fundamental issues at hand.

Suzy Do Right won our game
Bill won as Suzy Do Right! And true to Suzy Do Right’s lot in life, even I cut her off in the photo. Not intentionally, but it never is.
Reward items included dream house, trophy wife, and getting indicted for fraud
Bill’s rewards were Trophy Wife, Dream House, and Getting Indicted for Fraud. Hopefully he put the house in her name!

This game is about being heard, but it is not about being listened to. Up the…… Corporation is a cry into the darkness. The characters are straight out of central casting. And I think that was interesting to me because I play with role biases in my own game, Panic Mode. And it’s one of the things I ask players to discuss: what biases are used and are they fair? Why or why not?

Up the…… Corporation doesn’t need your answer to that question, because it probably already knows. I imagine there’s a lot of righteous anger in being a competent individual that is constantly overlooked or taken advantage of. But maybe Suzy Do Right just wants the same thing you do, and AnnaLee Airhead maybe hasn’t gotten child support in 2 years, and B.S. Artista probably knows what you call him but he doesn’t get paid if he doesn’t sell, and Jack the Jock maybe hasn’t gotten child support in 2 years, and etc.

You don’t get to complain about a lack of empathy while you are actively demonstrating a lack of empathy. That’s my rule, I just made it up. It’s going to change the world.

play or pass

Pass. This game is incredibly interesting (at least to me) as something that happened, with characters locked in time. Kind of anthropologically speaking. I think it can be a good starter conversation for how these designers felt at this time, what has changed, and what has not changed.

It is clear from reading the rules that Up the…… Corporation is trying to achieve the same experience that happens in corporate America. And I have to say, it succeeds at this. It doesn’t matter where you start in the company, and it doesn’t matter what your education is. You sometimes get rewarded out of left field, and sometimes your entire gender gets a perk (perhaps from a recent lawsuit?). You may get benefits if you are a hit at parties, and you get punished if you don’t take credit for your own work. It’s a long, back and forth slog.

While Up the…… Corporation is not a play, the game is special. And did I mention that it spins? It spins effortlessly.

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