Category Archives: Board Games

Another Obscure Board Game: The Legend of Cheung Po Tsai

I am just drawn to obscure board games. The Legend of Cheung Po Tsai: The Hidden Treasure in Hong Kong is as you can guess a board game from Hong Kong and I am pretty sure it didn’t have a global release. It is made by People on Board and designed by Thomas Wong. A friend got this for me on his recent trip to China and this game is a beauty. The components and the artwork is just stunning. Just look at the ship minis (made of metal) and the board is even pressed with the logo of the game! Wow!

The Legend of Cheung Po Tsai Box

The Legend of Cheung Po Tsai Components

I am pretty sure I got the second version of this game. Unlike Mission Critical Mars this game does have a board game geek profile and it does have a youtube video from the publisher on how to play. The game is a pretty simple race around the island game with a bunch of take that cards. The twist is a spinner which dictates the direction of the wind for the turn. For example if you spin north, you can play as play as many north wind cards you have to move forward (one space per card). The theme and general goal of the game kind of reminds me of Jamaica. I had low expectations for this game but it was a surprisingly fun filler game.

The Legend of Cheung Po Tsai

There are some downsides though. The game is super random and the game can be very unfair and mean. For example there is a card which allow you to switch places with another player. So a player could be in last place, switch places with the leader, play a few wind cards and win. The rule book is also terrible. The english rulebook has a ton of mistakes like broken english, missing words and for some reason it keeps referring to the ship piece as “chess”. I can excuse these mistakes since it wasn’t released in the United States and honestly I have seen worst rulebooks. With the video and because the game is super simple you can get the point fairly quick and figure out the rest as you play. Another huge problem is the cards do not have their abilities printed on them so you constantly have to refer to the rule book to see what each card does.

Overall this is fun game to start your board game night or between two longer games. A lot of the downsides can be excused because the game is so short. This game’s greatest strength though was its ability to catch your eye. I was playing this at the park and we had a bit of crowd checking out this game as we played. This game is very hard to find outside of China and Hong Kong but if you do come across, it could be an interesting game in your collection.


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Two Games That I Designed

I design board games as a hobby and in fact I will be leading a board game design workshop in Bryant Park (New York City) June 14th. So with that in mind I want to share two fun fillers that I have designed. The first one is a push your luck bluffing game called Sweet 16 where you want to score as close to sixteen points without busting. No one has perfect information and everyone must make decisions based on what they think the other players will do. The second is a Gin Rummy variant that I call BP Rummy (BP stands for Bryant Park). I like BP Rummy because is fast and easy to teach. You also don’t have to keep score unlike other Rummys and you can play up to six players (but you can probably have seven or eight players if you tweak the numbers). Here are the rules.

Sweet 16: A 3-4 Player Dice Game

What You Need: 12 dice, a 1-6 spinner (or another different looking dice), pen and paper to keep score

The player with the spinner is the scoring player for the turn. For a 4 player game, the scoring player rolls 4 dice in the open so everyone can see the result. Then each player including the scoring player secretly sets two dice to any result. The scoring player also secretly locks in what number (1-6) scores for this round with the spinner. When each player has set their dice and when the scoring player has locked in the spinner, each player reveals what they have secretly chosen. Score the total of the all the dice with the chosen number but if the total is greater than 16 the scoring player scores zero for the round. There is one special rule. If the scoring player has exactly two sixes, he or she can also score all the ones too but if the total of the ones plus the sixes is greater than 16 the score is still zero. Finally pass the spinner to your left and repeat. Each player should have four chances to score and then the player with the highest score wins.

For a three player game, roll 3 dice in the open and each player secretly sets 3 dice. Each player should have five chances to score.

The rules to BP Rummy is a little wordy but you can probably glance over some of these rules if you have played any version of Rummy or Gin Rummy before.

BP Rummy: A Gin Rummy Variant

What You Need: Two decks of playing cards

BP Rummy is a 2-6 player gin rummy variant. The goal is to be the first player to get rid of all your cards by playing melds. Each game has one winner, is self contained and there are no points to keep track of.

First take out all the jokers. You use one deck for 2-3 players and you use two decks shuffled together for 4-6 players. Aces are low and count as a one. You also can’t wrap around a straight like K-A-2.

A meld can be 3 or 4 of the kind (eg K-K-K or A-A-A-A) or 3 or 4 card straight with the same suit (eg J-Q-K all hearts or 2-3-4-5 all clubs).

Each player is dealt 7, 10 or 13 cards (agreed beforehand). More cards means a longer game. Set aside one card faced down. This is the wild card. Players can look at the wild card by playing their first meld on the table. (eg If the faced down card is the ace of hearts then all aces are wild.) If every player has looked at the wild card, you can turn it face up.

Take the top card of the deck, reveal it and form a discard pile. Starting with the first player (chosen randomly) he or she can choose to take this card or pass. Play then goes clockwise. If all players pass on this card, then the first player plays as normal. If someone takes this card, he or she is first to act.

During each players’ turn they have to take a card. This can be a blind card from the top of the deck or the top card of the discard pile (the last card discarded). Then they must discard a card face up to the discard pile. Finally they can play a meld to see the wild card (there is no benefit to playing more than one meld unless you forgot the wild card) or they can reveal a winning hand. If the game continues, the player to his or her left is next to act.

One special rule is if someone hasn’t played a meld (which means that player hasn’t looked at the wild card) and the last card that player needs to win was just discarded that player can take that card out of turn if the next player hasn’t acted yet. That player must still discard a card and reveal the winning hand as usual.

One of the melds has to have 4 cards and the other melds have to have 3 cards.
A player can never take a card back from a meld he or she played but they can add to one.
If a player took the card on top of the discard pile, that card cannot be discarded that turn.
If the deck ever runs out of cards, shuffled the discard pile aside from the top card to form a new deck.
A player must still discard a card for the turn to win.

Solo Variant:
You can play BP Rummy solo. The goal is still to go out by forming melds as quick as possible. Start with 13 cards. Actions and the set up are the same as above. At the end of your turn, you must also discard the top card of the library to the discard pile (after you discard a card from your hand) so you have a new card you can pick up from the discard pile at the start of your next turn.


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One of the Most Obscure Board Games: Mission Critical Mars

Have you ever come across a board games that is so obscure that there is almost no information about it? Well I came across one, Mission Critical Mars at the discount bin at Barnes & Noble. There is no Board Game Geek page about it and there are no YouTube videos or reviews of it anywhere. There isn’t even more information (like how it is played) on the manufacturer SmartLab Toys’ website.

Here is what I know. It is a space themed, kids, timed co-op game. There is an electronic talking element and it is supposed to be an educational game but it doesn’t really say how. From the tiny pictures, there looks to be 4 letter codes that you have to punch into the machine and there are two dice, an eight sided dice and a six sided dice with a check mark and an X. There are also trackers for player stats.

Sure, this is probably a terrible game. There is absolutely no buzz about it (positive or negative). But I just had to find out how this game is played. So I bought it…

Mission Critical Mars Box Front

Mission Critical Mars Box Back

Mission Critical Mars is actually not a bad game. In this game, you play as astronauts on a mission to Mars and may complete tasks to buy you time before you have to land. To complete tasks, players have to go various locations in the shuttle, have a minimum player stat and roll a success with the task die. When you complete tasks, new tasks are revealed. In addition to the tasks, players have to manage their hunger, stress and fatigue levels. Players in the red for hunger, stress or fatigue are unable to do tasks and have to spend turns resting. Of course not everything goes to plan and emergencies pop up from time to time that have to be addressed right away. Despite the simple mechanics, the game is a lot harder than you think it would be.

A couple of details in case you are curious. You have to roll the movement dice every turn even if you don’t want to move because some of the faces of the die can cause either hunger, stress or fatigue to increase. The landing is the hardest obstacle since each astronaut have to be in the green level for all three stats and when you do land, you win. Finally the four letter codes are just how you let the command computer know you completed a task or ended an emergency.

Mission Critical Mars Board

I like the fact this game is timed. It adds to the tension and depending on your group, it may solved the problems many co-op games like Pandemic has with quarterbacking and analysis paralysis. But there are some downsides. You have to roll a dice to move around the shuttle and roll & move mechanics are generally considered outdated. Also it is feels way too random to determine the success of task with just a roll of the dice. I wish the game’s tasks are like another game, Spaceteam. I also wished the computer could be a little louder and I wished the buttons worked better. There was times where we failed because we couldn’t input the codes correctly in the heat of the moment.

So there you have it. The most comprehensive look and review into Mission Critical Mars. Space themed games and space themed game involving Mars in particular are getting quite popular but I think after most of the copies of this game are cleared out through fire sales it will be quite hard to find.

Since I am the only one talking about this game, if you have any questions leave me a comment below.


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Awesomely Awesome Board Games: Dropmix

Dropmix is a music mixing game that has always piqued my interests but it was always too expensive. Well I had the opportunity to pick up the base game for 70% off, $30 and 4 expansions packs for 60% off, $6 each at the Toys R’ Us going out of business sales and I had to have it.

Dropmix Board and Cards

Wow, this game is amazing! First it is just amazing how seamless the technology works. Each card has a chip that the board reads and it sends that information to the app. So to make you own music mashups, you just have to lay out the cards you want on the board and let it do everything else. It is also amazing how well all the music samples go well with each other.

From the reviews I read, many aren’t as impressed with the actual game modes but I actually love the clash mode. At first glance, it seems like the clash mode is all luck but I find there is actually a lot of strategy in the order of your actions and what cards you play and where. I find the better player usually winning. I don’t want to go to much into the details of the game but you basically build decks and play 1 v 1 or 2 v 2. You get points for each card you play (and there are some limitations on where you can play a card) and you get bonus points for something like playing a bass card when the song is lacking it. You can also hit the dropmix button to try to discard some of your opponents cards to clear room for your cards which also lowers their score. There are wild cards which have a lot of flexibility and white power cards which gives you special abilities. The first player or team to 21 points wins.

The party mode on the other hand gets old fast. It is basically a timed coop game where the app asks for a particular card and we need to find someone who has that card as fast as possible. I almost never play this mode.

All in all, there is no game like Dropmix. It definitely has the wow factor. The only downside is that it is very, very expensive and it is quite addictive. Not a good mix. But if you can find it for a good price, I can’t recommend that game enough.

Finally I want to talk a little about Toys R Us. As I was shopping in Toys R Us during it last days, it was hard not to feel sad. I can’t imagine a world without toy stores and without Toys R Us that is becoming a reality. I even notice there are less and less video game and board games stores nowadays too. It is not the same to just have a toy section in a big box store or to shop online. You don’t know how much you will miss something until it is gone…

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Awesomely Awesome Board Games: Mouse Trap

OK Mousetrap is a terrible game. It is just a roll and move game that takes way too long to set up. Plus if you like me when I was a kid, it doesn’t get to to the good part, springing the trap fast enough. BUT McDonald’s has a line of mini Hasbro games and this version of Mouse Trap is way better.

Mouse Trap Happy Meal Toy

It is essentially a Russian roulette game. Player takes turns removing mouse pieces and hope the trap doesn’t spring. Each mouse piece has a slightly different weight to it so it isn’t the same every game. I just changed one small rule to give players some semblance of strategy. Players can take one or two pieces during his or her turn.

For $3 for a Happy Meal with a small board game, I think this is a great deal. I haven’t played with all the games in the line but I think Mouse Trap is the best of bunch. It is the only game that really works with more than two players. I may use this as a way to determine who the starting player is for a bigger game.

On a side note, does anyone else find the Happy Meal mascot kind of creepy…

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Board Game Night: Zombies!!!, Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot & Karma

I was looking to mix things up a bit for board game night with some new games. I took a look around my local board game store but none of the newer games excited me. So I went thrifting around New York City and I think I got a pretty good haul.

First up I got Zombies!!! new and sealed for $4. I actually own this game (and I think Run, Fight or Die is a better zombies game) but this was too good of a deal to pass up. Someone in my group will want it.

Zombies Board Game

Second is Killer Bunnies and the Quest of the Magic Carrot, a chaotic card game for $2. I wanted this game in the past but cool off on it. But for this price it is definitely worth trying out for the next board game night.

Killer Bunnies Card Game

Finally I got Karma for $0.50 and… I own the pocket version of this game already. But I think for a card game like Karma the bigger cards are a huge upgrade. I haven’t play this in awhile but I remember it being fun.

Karma Card Game

So in total a couple of new games to try out or trade for $7!

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Lost CCGs: Universal Fighting System Collectible Card Game

I don’t think it is fair to say Universal Fighting System Collectible Card Game aka UFS CCG is a dead CCG just yet but it is definitely a dying one. There are still UFS CCG sets being released but most of the local gaming stores near me don’t stock them any more. The packs or decks I do find are usually for sale. I got 10 packs of UFS Red Horizon Tides of Vengeance and a Dr Wiley starter deck for $12.

Universal Fighting System Cards

What piqued my interest in UFS initially is their licensed sets like Megaman and Street Fighter. UFS mimics classic fighting games (like Street Fighter) and the goal is to land enough attacks to knock out your opponent’s character. What I think is the strongest element of the game is the push your luck mechanics. For example, each time you play a card you have to see if the difficulty is less than or equal the control number on the top card of the library (which you discard). If you don’t pass the check, you have pay the difference with foundation cards that you played earlier. Each additional card you played also increases in difficulty. This make you think about the order you play card and even how to build and balance a deck. I also like how fast you go through your deck. You draw back to the starting hand size every turn and you also discard a lot of cards because you have to make a lot of checks.

So why did UFS fail? UFS sets were released too fast and there were way too many broken cards. Their banned list is huge. It is no fun to see the deck you invested in banned and it is also not fun to play against broken decks every round in a tournament. Also there are a lot of Japanese/ anime theme card games that is has to compete against. Just to name a few: Weiss Schwarz, Dragon Ball Z TCG, Final Fantasy TCG, Force of Will and Buddyfight. You also got the big 3 when it comes to CCGs: Magic, Pokemon and Yu Gi Oh. It is tough for any CCG.

Also I have to admit I have not gotten to play a full game of UFS. I goldfished the game a bit but it is hard to find someone to play with. Everyone in my gaming circle would rather play either Magic or a board game instead. Learning a CCG is a commitment. Sure the rules could be simple but there is a lot of reading and a lot of ambiguity when you first start any CCG. I also find it takes a couple of playthroughs to just “get” the game. It is a tough sell for any CCG.

All in all I still like collecting lost or dead CCGs. They are usually super cheap and I kind of just like building decks without really expecting to play with them…

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