Meeple’s Digest: April 2021

Meeple’s Digest: April 2021

April 5, 2021 0 By Ryan Sanders

April’s newsletter with a mini-interview with Matt Riddle on his earth science games, Grasshopper Chess, upcoming games, mini-reviews of Flip Over Frog and Tussie Mussie, and free gameschool free resources

Note: This was originally posts in our monthly newsletter. We highly recommend signing up for it, to get Meeple’s Digest sent directly to your email.

Welcome to Meeple’s Digest, we hope you will enjoy this new format we are trying out, with the newsletter. We want to find a balance in having it packed full, but not too much that it overwhelms. New to gameschooling? You can learn more about it by reading this article. If you do like what you see, let us know on our Facebook page. Without further ado, grab a cup of coffee, we are going to jump right in…  

 

Interview with Matt Riddle about Stellar and Tiny Farms

Stellar is a 2-player game, designed by Matt Riddle and Ben Pinchback (designers of Fleet). In the game, players are stargazers trying to spy out Planets, Moons, Asteroids, Interstellar Clouds, and Black Holes. On your turn, you play a card to both your telescope and your research notebook. There are some cool mechanics about how you play your second card when placing it, as well as the importance of balancing not only your telescope but your research notebook. Published by Renegade Game Studios, we thought we would catch up with its co-designer Matt Riddle for a short interview. 

What’s the story behind the creation of Stellar?

Matt: Stellar started out as a desire to make a game about lighthouses. Ben and I spent many a lunch period getting nowhere frankly. We stripped it all the way back to our old favorite numbers on cards. The first thing we came up with was the idea of physically representing a lighthouse on the table via the tableau you still see today in Stellar as a telescope and night sky. From there we brainstormed card acquisitions mechanics and scoring and just like that Stellar was born… but as Lighthouses. Once we signed it with Renegade games they wanted to retheme it and we settled on space, but not spaceships, science. The main driver was that in the original game your tableau degraded visually throughout the course of play. In Stellar you are actually creating this beautiful night sky as you play.

Stellar, while not purposely an educational game has some good learning and reinforcement in skills with its science and math. What things will families be learning or reinforcing if they play this game?

Matt: Once it was decided that we were going to go science, we wanted to lean into that and provide players with scientific facts about each of the different celestial bodies that appear in the game. Each card has a unique fact related to its card type. As players build their tableau creating a night sky they can learn more about space.

Don’t forget the math in this game with the players having to use multiplication to get their scores. You have another upcoming game from Renegade Game Studios,  Subastral about the different biomes on Earth. What can you tell us about the game and gameplay?

Matt: Yes, plenty of math too! Subastral is the 2nd game in our Earth Science series (not a real name lol) and the follow-up to Stellar. Subastral is lighter and plays 2-5p in about 20min. It is a game that sneaks up on you. It is light and easy to learn but as you play, you realize that your decisions are important. Beth Sobel did the art and it is INCREDIBLE. The game is set collection, you are researching and storing cards in your journal, and where and when you store them matters in scoring. It is easy to pick up but has legit strategic depth.

Moving on really quick, as we come to a close – free resources are always a plus to both public school teachers and homeschool families, and you and Ben put out in 2020 your first free game – Tiny Farms. Could you tell us a little bit about the game?

Matt: Tiny Farms is a roll-and-write game that Ben and I put together, with the help of Dice Hate Me Games as a free PnP at the beginning of the pandemic. We wanted to provide a fun, family gameplay that could be crafted relatively quickly and cheaply. The response from folks was incredible and we were happy to provide it. It features a unique wheel mechanism that rotates to cover and uncover what animals are available to be put onto your farm that turn. Simple but fun and engaging.

Thanks for your time Matt. 

Readers can get Stellar from Renegade Games in games stores now. Tiny Farms print and play files can be found free on BoardGameGeek at

 

April Showers Brings May Flowers

Flip Over Frog – April Showers may bring May Flowers, but it also brings the croaking of frogs – so it’s a perfect time to talk Flip Over Frog. In this game, players want to have their color frog most prominent on the board when it’s all said and done. On a turn, players will take a frog tile and place it on the board, and will flip over any frogs that the tile points to. Simple, yet a lot of fun – great filler for gamers and a really good game to introduce to “non-gamers” that takes 15 minutes to play and has that “let’s play one more time” feel to it. From a gameschooling perspective, it could be a great warm-up game to play before school or as an end to the school day. The $15 price point makes this a perfect game to give as a gift to a non-gamer family and the rules are super easy to understand and it may open up their horizons about what games can be. As for a gamer family or just a season gamer – not only is the pricing point great, but so is the fact that it doesn’t take a lot of shelf space with its compact box (5in x 5in). It’s 10-15 playtime means it doesn’t take up a lot of your time if you’re short on it or can be played to open up a game night or between games. All in all, Flip Over Frog, is a croaking good time!  (2-4 Players, Ages 6+, published by HUB Games)  (Note this is edited from an old review – Ryan was sent a copy from the publisher for an honest review). 

Want to build a unit about frogs around Flip Over Frog? Check out this free downloadable resource that we made. 

And about those May flowers…

Tussie Mussie –  is an 18 card game from Elizabeth Hargrave, designer of the very popular board game, Wingspan. The gameplay is an I-cut-and-you-choose type game, where players are trying to score the best flower arrangement. This is done with a player drawing two cards and offering one face-up and one face-down to their neighbor and they choose which card they choose (but they cannot look at the facedown card unless they take it). Each flower has its own scoring objective or ability. The theme itself is an interesting one dealing with the Victorian custom of giving flowers to people due to their meaning (to learn more about that custom you can check out this article from National Museum Publications.) The meanings of each flower flavor text on the bottom of each flower card, which can make for a learning experience or thematic one if you are studying Victorian literature or history. Tussie Mussie may only be 18 cards (which comes in a vinyl wallet and not a box, by the way, making it easy to store or travel with) but it is rich with gameplay. This is a small game that I cannot recommend enough, with its unique theme and great gameplay. This comes from Button Shy (a company I have worked for in the past) and is one of their best games hands down. It could be a good little gift for mom this coming Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 9th this year in the US). You can purchase a copy of the game through Button Shy at https://buttonshygames.com/products/tussie-mussie (2-4 Players, Ages 8+, published by Button Shy). 

Grasshopper Chess

With Chess being so popular right now due to a certain Netflix show, we thought w share about one of many Chess variants, Grasshopper Chess. The grasshopper is a new piece, which can be represented by checker pieces at home. In Chess, new pieces are called ‘fairy’ pieces – and the grasshopper was invented by Thomas Rayner Dawson – “the father of fairy Chess” in 1913. Mr. Dawson made many (and printed in different publications) Chess problem puzzles, and the Grasshopper was invented for those but has since made its way into an actual game format and not just a puzzle to solve. The Grasshopper moves very much like the Xiangqi (also sometimes know as Chinse Chess) piece the Cannon but can also move diagonally. If you like to learn movement rules and play at home, you can by downloading these rules we wrote up to explain the gameplay. Grasshopper Chess due to having more pieces (and 3 starting rows for each player), gets into the action must faster than Chess – it is a piece that can be powerful at the start of a game, but near the middle and certainly at the end, can be frozen (cannot move). If you have Chess lovers in your home, check this one out. 

Upcoming Game Spotlight: Super Heroes, Door Knockers, and Animal Spies

Coming from Genuis Games in the mid-May is their co-op math game, Outnumbered: Improbable Heroes. This is a rethemed and retooled (some changes were made for a more streamlined experience) version of the British game, City of Zombies. In the new rethemed version, Outnumbered, players are playing working together, now as superheroes trying to stop Absolute Zero and his minions from capturing the Infinity Generator. On a given turn players will run three dice and must use all of the dice. There will be three levels of play and depending on the ages they will be adding, subtracting, dividing, and multiplying to get to the number of a minion card (and thus beating it). In the advanced version, players can also square or cube numbers. Genius Games also has some other games coming out in April and May time period including two new Math Rush games, as well as, Genotype, their game about Mendelian genetics.

April 20th will bring a new game to Kickstarter from Grand Gamers Guild (publishers of Endangered) Aldabas: Doors of Cartagena. For 1-4 players, “Aldabas is a puzzley tableau-builder in which you seek to fill your neighborhood with the most influential citizens.” The BoardGameGeek page for the game gives a little background for this uniquely themed game “In Cartagena, Colombia, the doors speak. Not with words, but with the grandiose knockers that adorn them. In Spanish colonial times, the knockers announced your job and your social status with the design and detail. Lions, lizards, sea creatures, and hands proclaimed the homes’ occupants as soldiers, nobles, fishermen, and clergy.” We reached out to the publisher and indeed the above is historically accurate, though some of the other door knockers have artistic licenses involved, though based on actual door knockers.  

Also, coming to Kickstarter around mid-April is a deduction game specially made for 2-players only. Animals in Espionage is an I-split-you-choose deduction game, where each player is the Director of their very own spy agency. Each round, players will attempt to discreetly recruit one of the six Animal Agents, while also trying to send a secret spy to their opponent.

Art Contest

We are currently running an art contest for your kiddos, on our Facebook page for those that live in the US or Canada. The winner will receive the Rhubarb promo veggie from the game Abandon All Artichokes (Gamewright Games). For contest details and to enter see this post on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/gameschooladventures/posts/497302204983434

Free Resources

30/56 Meeple Challenge – Need help playing through your collection? Print these out and color in the meeple when you (your family, or your child) play a game that fits the category or mechanic listed under the meeple. Even though a game could count towards multiple meeples, we encourage you to choose only one per game, thus getting you to play many different games in your collection to complete the challenge.

Until Next Time

Thanks for joining us for our first newsletter. We hope you enjoyed it, we will be back in May. If you did enjoy it, please spread the word and ask your friends to sign up for the newsletter. In the meantime, you can find us on social media at

Happy Gaming and may you have many fun adventures gameschooling,