Blue Orange Games Double-Down: Crab Stack and Atilla

Hello friends! Today we have two reviews for you, primarily because the games are so short and simple, there’s not too much to say. Blue Orange Games has really stepped into the gamer limelight recently, with quick, simple games that still have some meat (Battle Sheep, for example). Now they have two more kid-friendly, colorful abstracts for you: Crab Stack from Henri Karmarrec and Attila from Bruno Faidutti.

 

Crab Stack

crabstackboxCrab Stack is a game for 2-4 players that takes about 30 minutes. Each player is given 9 crabs (3 small, 3 medium, 3 large), and all of them are randomly placed on the board at the beginning of the game. On your turn, you move one crab – small crabs move three spaces, medium two, and large one – and you can only land on crabs the same size or smaller. Only the topmost crab can move on a pile, and quite cleverly, crabs can only move on top of other crabs, making the board very easy to use for different player counts without players getting confused about which spaces are actually available. One a player can’t move, he’s eliminated, and last one standing wins. There’s one more twist, though: when the pile of crabs is split into two or more, the smaller piles are washed away by a “tidal wave”, i.e. removed from the game.

crabstackgameplayFirst, let me talk about the bits. I love how chunky the crab pieces are, and I like the shape of the board and the clarity of the spaces. I also really love cartoony artwork, and Blue Orange nails that every single time. The price is also really good for how nice the bits are – $25 MSRP for a decent-sized box – card games are often that price. My only complaints about the bits are that the board folds over twice and it’s not very large, so it doesn’t lay as flat as if it only had one fold – and it easily could have done that and still fit in the box (most of the box space is taken up by the insert). The other tiniest of complaints is that the stars on the crabs look like VPs, and probably aren’t necessary.

As for the actual gameplay, I enjoyed the game quite a bit. It’s quick and simple, but the strategy isn’t necessarily obvious. I thought the logical play would be to cover up opposing large crabs as quickly as possible since they’re the most flexible in what they can cover up, but that strategy hasn’t worked for me. You also have to consider the board state, not only what’s adjacent to what but also the possibility of splitting the piles and causing a tidal wave. It wasn’t brain-burning, nor was it very long, but it was interesting enough, and something that both kids and adults can enjoy. I’m happy to have it and look forward to playing it again.

 

Rating:

3star

3 out of 5

 

Attila

attilaboxWait, I thought Bruno Faidutti only made chaotic card games like Citadels and Mascarade? On the contrary, Bruno has made a few abstracts such as the very simple Babylon, and now Attila. In Attila, each player has three pawns placed on a board of 20 squares (for example, a 4×5 grid), which is made up of 2 2×2 squares and 2 2×3 squares, allowing for some variable setup. On your turn, you move one of your pawns in an L-shape just like a knight does in chess, and then place a Scorched Earth tile on any unoccupied space, rendering it unusable. That’s from where the name is derived: Attila the Hun once said, “There, where I have passed, the grass will never grow again.” When you can’t move any of your pawns, you lose, and therefore the other player wins.

I love, love, love these components. This game comes in the same embossed tin as Niya, and they’re even stackable (hint, hint, Timeline series). The pawns are nice wooden pieces, with stickers that don’t feel tacky. I really love the Scorched Earth tiles – they were pre-punched, and they have a variety of amusing artwork of freaked-out animals running away. The insert even has a fancy divider set up to fit everything in. My only complaint is somewhat a big one – you kind of have to look at the side of the pawns to see which one belongs to you (red or yellow) because the sky is the same orange-ish color in all of the pictures. I did notice a bit later, though, that the pawns for each side are curved a bit differently also, so that helps offset that problem. And the MSRP is $15, which is probably about as low as you can go for such nice bits.

attilagameplayOn the gameplay side, reading the rules had me afraid that this game would be far too simplistic. Move a knight, block a space? And I’ll admit, there’s not a lot going on here, but it’s trickier than I thought it would be. With six pawns on the board, you really have to consider every possible maneuver, and you want to make sure you don’t screw yourself with your own Scorched Earth tile a few turns later. You also have to keep in mind that you can force your opponent into ‘checkmate’ by blocking their pawns with your own, in addition to the Scorched Earth tiles – but blocking a move for them is one less move for you too, so it’s a dangerous gambit. The replayability given by different board layouts is an extremely nice touch, one that elevates the game quite a bit. I don’t think this is a game I’ll reach for on game night, but I’m more than happy to throw this and Niya in my bag when traveling and need to kill some time.

 

Rating:

4star

4 out of 5

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