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Game review: 3 games fit for families from Calliope Games

Posted December 20, 2016

Calliope Games is a family-run company that publishes games that are of excellent quality, fun, affordable (all three games are under $40) and easy to learn. Three new games in their Titan series offer tons of fun for families: Hive Mind, Menu Masters and Running with the Bulls.

Hive Mind is a party game for three teams up to as many as are wanted. The goal of the game is to think like the other players at the table. This game is unique in that there is only one loser, the first team to get eliminated by being pushed to the exit of the beehive.

To begin the game, a bright, beautiful board is placed on the table showing a beehive with several rooms and a track of flowers for the queen bee. Players place their team meeples in the beehive and try to avoid being pushed to the exit each round.

On a turn, the active player rolls a die and moves the queen bee. He or she then asks a question. Teams are given two minutes to answer the question. Questions include such things as "what two people in the room had the best time at prom" or "name four flavors of pudding."

Points are awarded for answering a question as well as matching answers with other players at the table. For example, if the answer to a question given by one team was bubblegum and four other teams had the same answer, the first team would score one point for the answer plus four more points for all of the other players that had a matching answer.

When all of the points are tallied, the queen bee is consulted. She may be on a space with one, two or three bees. The number of bees determines the number of teams with the lowest scores for the round that move a step closer to the exit.

Included in the game are a bunch of delightful components such as a set of custom Hive Mind pencils, wooden player meeples, a queen bee token, a notepad and 300 question cards. This is a great game for parties, families and parties with families. It provides an exciting game where most players will win.

Menu Masters is a game about chefs buying top quality ingredients, fulfilling menu orders and managing money. From two to five chefs may compete, and games last about 45 minutes.

First off, the illustrated components in the game look fabulous. The artist brings to life the various foods, chefs and stores in the game by using vivid colors and captivating illustrations. The first player token is a well sculpted chef with his arm raised in the air. The game will look good on the tabletop.

To start, players choose a color and receive a chef board, four chef cap pawns, six coins and two secret menu cards. On the board are various stores where one can buy ingredients to fulfill menu cards. There is the produce stand, the bakery, the butcher shop and the super market.

Menu cards show different foods that need to be purchased in order to fulfill that card. Three menu cards are visible to everyone, and two are secret for each player. When three menu cards are completed by a single player, the game ends.

Each food card has a number of stars on it indicating the quality of the ingredients. When points are scored, the stars are counted. So not only do players want to complete orders quickly, they also want it to have the best quality ingredients to score lots of points.

During a round, players take turns placing one of their chef cap pawns on a store they wish to purchase an ingredient from. There are three available ingredients in each store, so multiple players can purchase from the same store, but they must stack their pawns on top of each other in order of arrival.

When it's time to buy ingredients, the player with the hat on the bottom of the stack chooses first but must pay in coins the total number of stacked chef caps. When a purchase is complete, that player's cap is removed. Therefore the last player to choose will have the least options but will pay the least.

Another option on a turn is to earn money. Instead of buying ingredients at a specific store, a player may play a chef cap and become the owner of one of the stores for that turn. Any money paid to buy ingredients at that store is given to the player who owns it. The only restriction is that a player may not buy ingredients from the same store he or she owns that turn.

When one chef completes three menu cards, all chefs finish the current round and add up their scores. Points are based on the star quality of the foods used, so even if a player doesn't fulfill three menu cards by game end, the quality of the food may help them win. Menu Masters is a simple game that is easy to learn and play.

There's lots of crazy fun rolling dice in the game Running with the Bulls, for two to six players. The comic illustrated board depicts the crazy world of outrunning bulls with city street paths running from one roundabout to another from the top of the board to the bottom.

The goal is to race from the starting roundabout at the top of the board to each successive roundabout and finally to a scoring destination at the bottom of the board without being trampled.

All players choose one of six colors and receive a set of dice representing their runners as well as a set of colored cubes that can be used to give direction by playing action cards. The bulls are represented by big red dice.

Five destination areas at the bottom of the board are seeded randomly by destination cards. Destination cards show a fun location players are trying to reach to be safe such as the china shop, bookstore or nightclub. Points are awarded for reaching the destination and a special rule applies that gives the game some fun variety.

Before the race begins, each player receives five action cards that allow him or her to break the rules. One card is played by each player every turn before the runners move from one roundabout to another on the board.

At the top of the board are five starting roundabout spots. One bull die is rolled for each spot and placed there. This generates a bull die with a number between one and six. Players then roll their runner dice. They are placed in the appropriate starting spots with the bulls. A sixth bull die is then placed by a random roll, and it's off to the races.

Paths from one roundabout to another are sometimes straight and sometimes split. Split paths are odd or even, and depending on the number of the bull or runner die, the appropriate path must be followed. When the runners and the bulls reach the next roundabout, the dice numbers are compared. Anyone with a runner die that matches the number on the bull die must immediately reroll. If it comes up the same as the bull again, that runner is trampled and out of the game.

Sometimes multiple bulls will be in one roundabout, so if a player rerolls a runner, he or she can be eliminated if the runner die matches any of the bulls present. Ouch!

The surviving players keep playing an action card and moving runners until the final destination is reached. Action cards allow players to reroll dice, add bulls to the game, hurt other players, earn victory points and much more. Sometimes a player may wish to not play an action card, but this rule is not optional.

When players reach a destination, the destination card rule is applied and those remaining runners score points. There are a total of three races and then the game is over. The person with the most points wins.

Running with the Bulls is highly entertaining. It's fun to watch the wacky things that happen after all the cards are played each turn and runners make their moves. There's always a tense feeling when a bull shows up with the same number and the dice are consulted to see if a runner lives or dies.

The best part is that this game really plays like its theme. The dice rolling, running and random acts of destruction from the bulls give this game a lot of chaos. It's just like the real bull running activities in Spain. Be sure to check this one out.

Email: rmorgenegg@deseretnews.com

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