The One About Yellow Porcupines and Bowling VikingsApril 26, 2021
Ryan looks at Mapmakers: The Gerrymandering Game and Valley of the Vikings
The Case of the Greedy Gerrymandering Mapmakers
Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game
- Player Count: 1-4
- Ages 8+
- 30-45 Mins
- Published by Go! Games, Lafair Family Games
- Designed by Josh, Louis and Becca Lafair
- Mechanics: Area Control
- Theme: Political, Gerrymandering, US Government
In Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game – players play the blue donkeys, red elephants, the green plants, or the yellow porcupines – or Democrats, Republicans, the Green Party, and the Libertarians (yes – their symbol is a porcupine and their official colors are yellow/gold). The goal is simple, to own the most districts when the game ends. How does one do that? With gerrymandering, of course! Players all have an assortment of tokens with numbers on them (1, 10, and then 2-9 twice), all players mix their tokens up together and put them face down on all the counties (a single space on the board) and then flip them up to get the starting set-up of the board. Note, that the board does scale depending on the number of players, there are light and dark grey spaces for if you are playing with 3 or 4 players. With the exception of the first couple of turns, on a turn, players will place 4 wooden district boards (black sticks) on the board on the outer edges of the district hexes, trying to carve out the majority in the district. A district MUST be an enclosed space of at least 4 county spaces but can be more. If ever a district can be carved up, it is not considered complete. So, if you have 9 spaces enclosed, it must be divided further into one 4 and one 5 space district. The winner of a district is the person with the highest number of votes (the numbers on the tokens) after you add up the tokens. When you win a district, the player places their meeple on it claiming it. The game ends when all districts have been won.
I think often when we think about the games that are to be used educationally, we already consider them “bad” or no way up to ‘hobby game” standards. However, Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game breaks that assumption. This is a good game, even by hobby game standards, and it’s very easy to teach. It may have basic rules but does area control very well. This game would be a great way to introduce area control to non-gamers, while also having a unique and educational theme. My family has really enjoyed playing this one, both as a 2 and 3-player game. This is one I also highly recommend for any gameschooler families or teachers out there looking for a game about American politics.
The Case of The Victorious Viking Bowlers
Valley of the Vikings
- Player Count: 2-4
- Ages 6+
- 15-20 Mins
- Published by HABA
- Designed by Marie & Wildfriend Fort
- Mechanics: Dexterity, Roll and Move,
- Theme: Vikings
It is easy to see why Valley of the Vikings won the Kinderspiel des Jahres (German Children’s Game of the Year) award in 2019. It ingeniously marries roll-and-move gameplay with dexterity. Depending on what color barrels you knockdown on your turn determines which players move along the game track dock next to the water. When one player falls off the dock and into the water, every other player reaps a reward while the player in the water goes back to the start of the track, all wet and ready to get back into the game. Part of the ingenuity comes from how you determine which color Viking (corresponding with the knocked-over barrel) moves along the dock. The active player chooses in what order those colors move in, this is important because you can’t share a space with another token, so players will jump to the next available space, also as soon as someone goes off the track into the water, all other players’ moves are null and void. This allows some fun combos, that may even save you from being the one that hits the water.
Valley of the Vikings is one that I would highly recommend to anyone that has children ages 5+, great for not only a mixed-aged group but for family game night. This is one of the best HABA games currently on the market.
Note: Both of the reviews are edited versions of one’s done in the past (and may have been slightly updated), to fit this new format. Both were also sent to Ryan by their respective publishers for a fair and honest review.