Diamonds (Mike Fitzgerald, Stronghold Games)
Earlier this year, I was introduced to both this game and the designer in person at the Gathering of Friends. I’d missed Mike on my previous GOF trip but it was a delight to meet him in person this time. I’ve always been quite keen on his Mystery Rummy series of games and we’d exchanged an email years ago about doing a Mystery Rummy: In Depth podcast to discuss the game and its history. Mike graciously agreed to do the show but we never scheduled it. He’s, of course, comfortable broadcasting, as a man with plenty of experience in this area.
As a proud owner of the entire series (including hangers-on Wyatt Earp, History’s Mysteries, and Bonnie and Clyde), it was even more delightful to see Mike walk in with The Battle of Red Cliffs under his arm. I’d previously been told by a friend that he was taken with the game and the central mechanism (the work of my friend and co-designer, Ta-Te Wu, from his previous game Tien Zi Que). It was an honor to hear him mention that he planned a future game in the series with some inspiration from Red Cliffs. Achievement Unlocked for sure. By the way, his latest Mystery Rummy is on Kickstarter with just a week to go.
Later in the week, I had the pleasure of trying Mike’s new non-Mystery Rummy game, Diamonds. We had that spot missing in our collective deck set, with Hearts, Spades, and the terrific Clubs from Northstar Games. Diamonds is a slightly different animal, though. It’s still a trick-taker of the light variety but it also tracks your score with actual gems that are collected into your showroom and then behind your vault (a cute screen each player gets), where they are safe from stealing.
The cool new idea is that the winner of each trick gets to take an action associated with the suit. Hearts let you pull a diamond from the bank, Clubs let you steal one from an opponent’s showroom, Spades will let you pull one from the showroom into you vault, and Diamonds let you grab from the bank directly into your vault. Diamonds are the best, of course, but a cross-section of the others are needed to do well.
Thus, this changes the perspective a bit on how you handle short-suiting, which I found appealing. These actions are awarded not only to the one who wins the trick but also to anyone who breaks suit (if you can’t follow, of course). At the end of the round, a bonus action is also awarded to the players with the most of each suit, with ties resolving without a winner.
Diamonds is an enjoyable game that will be published by Stephen Buonocore’s Stronghold Games. The art deco look is irresistible and Stephen promises a classy production (not a surprise – the man makes some really nice-looking games). I look forward to breaking this one out with casual players and to close evenings with a light trick-taker. The game is now available for pre-order (see the link below)
The mighty Larry Levy doesn’t count himself among the fans of Diamonds, although it really is for a more casual crowd than the serious Mr. Levy! 😉
This is my third, and final, article discussing some of the new games I played at the Gathering. Their use of smart phone technology to yield answers to deductive queries is not only uber-cool and groundbreaking, it solves a longstanding problem with deduction games, which is guaranteeing that no mistakes are made when providing answers.
Mary (Diceychic) Prasad’s blog post on the Gathering of Friends notes her enjoyment of Diamonds as well. Yes, you can spot me in her pics and video of Ravindra (her always-affable husband) eating a “Death Wing” at Duffs Buffalo Wings. Yeesh!
The Gathering of Friends, hosted by game designer Alan Moon, was held April 11-20, 2014, in Niagara Falls, NY. Note: I didn’t bring my pro 35mm camera, just a small digital – it’s not the best but it sure is a lot lighter and smaller to carry around. Exploring area restaurants is one of my favorite things.
Dodge Dice (Eric Messersmith, Gamewright)
Many gamers already know the small wonder that is Qwixx. This fine little dice game (one of those ‘so-simple-how-didn’t-we-already-have-it’) was already recognized by the Spiel Des Jahres jury as a finalist last year (losing to the unique, perfect Hanabi) and I owned a copy already. Qwixx is now out in a lovely magnet-snap box copy that is high in quality, as you’d expect for uniformly wonderful mainstream game company Gamewright.
What you may not know is Dodge Dice, a second dice game that is of a box size with the colorful Qwixx package and clearly meant as a companion from a packaging perspective. But it deserves more than being classed in that way; Dodge Dice is cut from a similar cloth in that it also plays quickly with just a handful of rules, is a bit lucky but also has some control, and feels like it should have been with us for years.
Dodge Dice is a limit game where eventually someone will get penalty points and players are hoping for good rolls as well as effective use of ‘skip chips’ to let them avoid that fate. But it isn’t just a roll-and-hope affair. Players do roll a lot of dice, including a penalty die (which notes the 10, 20 or 40 points at stake, with a matching color), an action die which hands out skip chips to the active player, and a host of ‘dodge dice’ which will eventually roll and lock on the color of the penalty die. You pass the dice each time and when all dodge dice match the penalty color, the action die determines what happens – the penalty amount may be multiplied, subtracted, or even shifted to someone else. When someone reaches 100 points, the player with the fewest points will win.
Dodge Dice is a welcome filler to open or close an evening. It’s light, fun, and worth picking up along with Qwixx. Dodge Dice is available now on Amazon.
Just had to add in this push for Martyn F’s new crowdfunding campaign. Take a look at his new title, Oklahoma Boomers. I like Martyn’s games – I just wish they came out more often…
Oklahoma Boomers from @originalMartynF is being crowdfunded. Looks good! Need a game mule at #spiel to pick it up. https://t.co/VrTYGLy9hG
— Twitter (@bgbabylon) 2014-06-25T04:35:44Z
DIAMONDS by Mike Fitzgerald! Preorders now open! Get 30% off, guaranteed to ship to you before anyone else! http://t.co/CQLrLpWCY0
— Twitter (@StrongholdGames) 2014-06-24T16:57:08Z