Category Archives: Games

Alhambra, the board game

A game of Alhambra

Image via Wikipedia

Published by the German company Queen Games, Alhambra is a board game for 2 to 6 players, age 8+, and has already won several awards since it first came out in 2003.

The idea is to build your own Alhambra palace, buying in masons and architects (i.e. the buildings) from 4 different countries. Of course, everyone wants paying in their own national currency and not only are your resources limited and semi-random, but there is no such thing as foreign exchange. Or change.

There are various types of building available, each with its own value when it comes to totting up points – providing you’re among those with the most of that type of building at the time.

So Alhambra requires a certain amount of strategy and forward planning, especially if you don’t want to be stuck because of the way you’ve built your walls. What is currently on offer from the architects may well be affordable now, but do you really need that extra tower? Will the walls around that pavilion be a problem later? Maybe you can’t use that seraglio, or it won’t get you any extra points, but if you buy it that’ll stop one of your rivals building one and getting marks for it…

The winner is the one with the most points at the end of the game, with the twist that points are calculated at three points throughout a game, with different criteria each time. Now that can make things a bit more fraught.

An enjoyable game with easy-to-follow rules for all the family. You can also play it with friends and still keep them as friends afterwards. Highly recommended.

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Munchkin card game

Game Cover

Game Cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kill the monsters. Steal the treasure. Stab your buddy.

In role-playing circles, the term “munchkin” is used to describe an individual who does his utmost to boost his character as much as possible, not infrequently going as far as illegally modifying the character sheet. They are unpleasant people to play with, particularly as the role-playing part of RPG is usually totally ignored.

The card game was conceived as a parody of the “open the door – kill the monster behind it – take its treasure” system often found in badly designed dungeons (where munchkins are in their element). There is a 6-sided die involved, but it has only two real functions: choosing who plays first, and deciding whether or not an attempt to Run Away from a monster was successful.

The rules are simple, logical, and even include that great unofficial Law of Final Arbitrage which states: “The owner of the game has the final decision in any dispute over interpretation of the rules”. We’ve never needed it.

The cards are all illustrated cartoon-style, mostly by John Kovalic, although there are also guest drawings by such celebrities as Howard Tayler (Schlock Mercenary) and Phil Foglio (Girl Genius). The jokes are on the whole accessible to non-RPG-players (except perhaps the Dread Gazebo, but there’s always your favourite Internet search engine for that). You should, however, be aware that the puns are excruciating.

The objective is to be the first to reach level 10, by hook or by crook. It’s a good idea to use counters of some sort to follow levels. Some people use a d10, SJG sell a level counter. You can also use peanuts, pistachio nuts, M&Ms or similar comestibles; these have the advantage that you can eat them when you lose a level. If you use pistachio nuts you can also flick the shell at the treacherous boop who made you lose the level.

There are currently seven themes, all following the basic system. Only the names and jokes change, so it’s possible to combine packs, although I recommend not overdoing this as you can easily end up with marathon games and tottering, unmanageable piles of cards. Unless, of course, you enjoy that sort of thing, in which case go merrily ahead. Perv.

  • Munchkin
    Parodies Dungeons & Dragons ®. Face and defeat the Dread Gazebo with your Boots of Butt-Kicking!
  • Star Munchkin
    Han Solo shot first.
  • Munchkin Fu
    Practise the art of Toe Fu, wield the Folding Chair of Retribution and cause Won Ton Destruction.
  • Munchkin Bites!
    Ah, the heady days of Pinewood Studio and their ilk. Imitate Bela Lugosi. Go up a Level.
  • Super Munchkin
    Super heroes. May contain capes.
  • Munchkin Impossible
    Espionage, with rocket backpacks and cigarette dart guns.
  • Munchkin Cthulhu
    Lovecraft parody. No SAN required.

Playing time:
A game can occupy 3-6 players (although the upper limit is a bit hazy and you can certainly go beyond this if you’re playing with one or more extensions) for a good couple of hours, depending on how determined everyone is to stop the others winning. If you genuinely want a quick game, you should probably agree on special rules beforehand, such as “No disintegrations”.

Munchkin card game @ Steve Jackson Games

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