Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Board Game Top 100 (2024) Part Two (98-96)

Continuing my board game top 100 of 2024, here are entries 98-96. (At this rate, this list is going to take forever. I will try to break things up with an occasional non-board-game post.)

#98 Mindspace

Mindspace is a roll-and-write game. Each player has a dry-erase board that has a square grid area divided into zones. The grid is supposed to represent the human brain, and each zone is a different area of the brain. There are 5 dice in 5 colors. Each round all 5 dice are rolled and then placed above a row of six cards. If a 1 is rolled, it is placed above the first card. A 2 is placed above the second card, and so on. The cards show different Tetris style shapes. When a die of a specific color is placed above a card showing a specific shape, players may draw that shape in that color on their board.

The game comes with dry-erase markers in the 5 different colors. You want to fill in as much of the board as you can, but you can't place shapes of the same color next to each other. Scoring cards give players points for filling in specific patterns or areas of the brain, and the scoring cards have neat thematic descriptions based on psychology. The theme is barely there, but what is there is cleverly applied. The game is fun and quick and provides a satisfying puzzle. This is a great one to bring to the table when we want to play something, but we don't want to think too hard. That is why Mindspace is my 98th favorite game of all time.

#97 Rallyman GT

Rallyman GT is a car racing game. In Rallyman, players place dice with ascending or descending values to plot their course on a race track. The dice are custom six-sided dice each showing only a single number. There's a 1 die with only 1's, a 2 die with only 2's, and so on. However, these are actually dice and not just cube shaped markers. On each die there are one or more hazard symbols in addition to the numbers. 

The 1 & 2 dice each have one hazard symbol. The 3 & 4 dice each have 2 hazard symbols, and the 5 & 6 dice each have 3 hazard symbols in addition to their numbers. Low value dice have a single hazard symbol, but higher valued dice have more symbols. After you plot your movement, you roll the dice to see if your plan has caused you any trouble. If you roll 3 or more hazards, you lose control of your car, which is bad.

After you plot your course it's time to roll. You can choose to play it safe and roll only one die at a time. If you do this, you can stop at any time. Or you can throw caution to the wind and roll all the dice at once, accepting whatever happens as a result. This is called going "flat-out" and if you go flat-out and don't lose control of your car, then you get a focus token for each black (gear) die, and each white (coast) die that you rolled. Focus tokens are a good thing. They help you to mitigate bad luck and help you to win the race.

Rallyman GT presents a great press-your-luck puzzle. The choice for when to go flat-out is important and provides interesting tension. Curves on the track must be entered at lower speeds that are marked on the curves, and if you are going too fast then you will have to use red (brake) dice which have three hazards on them. The track itself is modular. You have a bunch of hex tiles that you can use to build whatever sort of custom race track that you want. This track building element is one of my favorite features of the game. That combined with the intense press-your-luck element makes Rallyman GT my 97th favorite game of all time.

#96 Jekyll Vs. Hyde

Jekyll Vs. Hyde is a trick-taking card game for two players. Over the course of three rounds, if Hyde is able to achieve 10 points, he wins, otherwise Jekyll wins. For a trick taking game, Jekyll Vs. Hyde is surprisingly thematic. I love the idea that in order to win, Jekyll has to keep Hyde under control (preventing him from scoring 10 points.) Note that I said "points" and not "tricks." Another thematic part of this game is how it is scored. At the end of the round, Hyde scores based on the difference in tricks taken between himself and Jekyll. So Hyde wants to be as different from Jekyll as he can, while Jekyll needs to keep the number of tricks on both sides as close to equivalent as he can. Jekyll seeks balance while Hyde seeks discord … very thematic.

The deck is made up of 25 cards. There are 7 cards each of three suits numbered 1-7 and then four special potion cards numbered 2-5. Jekyll Vs. Hyde doesn't have so much as a trump suit as it does a suit hierarchy. The hierarchy is determined during play. The first card of a given suit that is played marks that suit as the weakest in the hierarchy. Then the next suit played becomes the middle powered suit in the hierarchy, making the remaining suit the strongest in the hierarchy. You must play in suit if you can, but if you can't you can play any card paying attention to suit hierarchy because when you don't follow suit, the number on the card doesn't matter and the strongest card in the suit hierarchy will take the trick.

The potion cards trigger one of three possible special powers. Which power is triggered depends on the card played by the other player. If you lead a potion card, you can demand that the other player play a specific suit, and they must play this suit if they have it. If they don't have it, they can play any other card they want, even another potion card, but when two potion cards are played at the same time, no special powers are activated.

Jekyll Vs. Hyde is a tense, interesting, trick-taking puzzle that works great for two players. There is a cooperative version called Jekyll & Hyde Vs. Scotland Yard that I really want to try, but until then I will have to be happy with my 96th most favorite game of all time, Jekyll Vs. Hyde.

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