Right before GenCon, Tasty Minstrel Games contacted me through my Instagram asking if I'd be interested in trying out one of their new releases, Okey Dokey. Tasty Minstrel has often delivered hits for me, including Scoville, Orléans, and Eminent Domain. I'm even currently waiting for a much anticipated copy of Chimera Station that I backed on Kickstarter. All that said, I thought: Why now? My copy arrived Monday, so I thought I'd share my thoughts.
Okey Dokey is a light and simple cooperative game. In it, you are trying to help an orchestra filled with cute animals preform. Everyone gets a hand of instrument cards. It's your groups job to play the instruments, moving the music sequentially (starting with 1 and moving to 8). You'll play 10 rounds to win, during which you can only play in the current column you are filling. You can play a single card of a particular instrument. So, if you have a set of the piano/purple cards in your hand, you can't play your 2, ,4, 5 each time it comes to you. During the round you'll be playing a total of 4 instrument cards & letting one section of your orchestra rest. Each instrument will rest twice, placing the Panda (0) its column spot instead the instrument card itself. These rests act as a reset for that instrument. So if you've played the 4, 5,and 7, you can start playing lower numbers in that instrument's row again. This will also let you discard up to 3 cards from your hand and draw back up.
Seems easy. However, when talking to your group, you can't use specifics about what numbers you have. You'll need to figure out a way to communicate what you want to play without getting specific. So, if you have a 2 in the violin, and your friend has a 1, you'll have to learn to read each others clues. That way you can't go "I'm planning on playing the 2." "No, don't do that! I have the 1."
Playing It Solo
One of the great things about co-op games is that you can often play them solo. Okey Dokey is no exception. I'll just say it... I REALLY liked this game solo. I received this game Monday night, and was able to play a couple of games of it during my breaks on Tuesday. Is simple. It's puzzley. Most importantly for me: It's quick. I get a few 15 minute breaks, and a 30 minute lunch. So sometimes I can have a single player co-op on my desk for days. This one I can set up in a minute and play in 15. I like it enough that I might consider buying a second copy just to have at work. While you lose the nuances of talking out card play with your fellow players, there's still plenty of challenge to be had. For instance, you have less cards "out" in people's hands, so going through the deck to find that card you need takes longer.
Sadly, I did not get to check this out with a very high player count, but I was able to rope my friend Xavier into a quick game on Wednesday. Here is where we got to think about our communication and this, for me, added a whole different layer of fun. We really got into saying things like "My Piano... is severely out of tune. Also, I have laryngitis. But you should really hear my rocking drum solo!"
Things I appreciated.
- Theme: Super cute. I mean, It's animals playing instruments. What's not to love?
- Simple. Not hard to teach, easy to learn, and easy to set up.
- The art is simple, yet incredibly fun.
- The cards quality is excellent. Mix this with the art, and I just fell in love. This mixture strongly reminded me of the cards in the copy of game I used to play with my grandparents, Elfer Raus.
- Plays well as a single player.
- Small box. It's smaller than my 6" Baymax Pop! Vinyl, making it easy to grab and go.
- Solid gameplay.
- Replayability. Because it's essentially a deck of cards, there's no "here is what we do." On top of that, there are several levels of difficulty you can try.
What I don't like, or can see others not loving (even if they're part of the good).
- Simple. You're not going to have a lot of variation to the game play. You also don't have a lot of "tough" decisions to make. Each game will play the very similarly.
- Art. I've stated that I enjoy the art very much (most likely for the nostalgic feel it gave me), but, like the game, it's very simple. For those who love staring at artwork on cards, this won't do the trick.
- Table-space. This game is a table hog. I don't know that there's a way to get around it, but while it's easily transportable, you won't be able to play this at a restaurant while you wait for your food.
- A potential to break. part of what makes this game interesting and fun to me is trying to communicate in code. But like any game that utilizes this concept, people could fall into the trap of "when this is said, he means he has a 2."
Final Thoughts (7)
I'm really glad to have this in our collection. It hits just the right spot for me. When I first played it and won using all 3 wild cards. Instead of gradually increasing the difficulty, I took all three out, thinking maybe it was too easy. And I failed. Hard. Twice. So mastering this will be a fun challenge, and one I'm looking forward to. With only a $10.99 price tag on CoolStuffInc, I think this game is a steal. Go get it!
Five Tribes & the Camwhales
"Five Tribes" is a fantastically fun game that provides both diversity & complexity for the experienced player, but is simple enough to include a new gamer. In it, you are in charge of moving members of, well, five tribes across dessert landscape, making sure they meet up with one of their friends, or fellow tribesmen. When you meet your matching colored meeple, it'll do one of several things:
- Work towards points
- Work towards resources, including Djinns that can help you throughout the game
- Assassinate meeples to gain yourself points or take points from other players
Things I Really Like
Randomization. While other games in our collection have even more variety, Five Tribes still offers enough randomized elements to create a unique game every time. You start by shuffling the land tiles and placing them in a 5x6 grid. Next, you finish setting up the board by the placement of meeples, which is decided by pulling 3 at random from a bag to place on each tile. It's nearly impossible to start the same way twice.
Purchasing of Turn Orders. I found this unique, as it is the first of our games that used this particular game mechanic. Every round (each player takes one turn), you bid for turn order that round, from 0-18. The catch is, you're bidding with your victory points, so you have to decide if being able to take a specific move is worth losing victory points. It may appear to help you now, but cost you at the end of the game. NOTE: Elisabeth and I both found this mechanic a little tedious in a two player game. With multiple players, this mechanic weighs heavily in the strategy, since even if someone doesn't "steal" your move, their move may render whatever you were planning useless. As we played just the two of us (in which, you use two turn markers instead of one), we discovered that most of the time we were just rotating turns as you would in a normal game, so instead of enhancing game play, it really became a way to just spend our Victory Points.
No Single Way to Win. How you approach winning is in itself is a strategy. There are several things that earn you points:
- Claiming Land Tiles. If you finish a move by clearing a tile, you claim it and the points associated with it. This is done by placing one of your Camels, or as we've come to call them, Camwhales*, on the tile. The tile's value can increase if, through game-play, a Palm Tree or Palace has been placed down on the tile.
- Collecting Victory Point Coins by playing Blue Tribesmen (Builders)
- Djinns (Each has a point value, but can also provide extra points throughout the game.)
- Gathering Resources. The more varied the resources you collect, the more they are worth at the end of the game.
- Collecting Yellow & White Tribesmen (Viziers & Elders)
We played one game where it seemed that Elisabeth would be the clear winner. She had lots of land, tons of Victory Points piled up, and many, many Djinns. However, I had one Djinn that increased the value of my Yellow Tribesmen (Viziers), creating a 20 point increase, which enabled me to edge her out by 2 points.
Things I Didn't Care For
We already talked about turn bidding for the two player game, but there was one other thing I didn't quite love. Lack of clarity. There were several places in the rule book that I would have appreciated a little more clarity, specifically when it came to scoring the Viziers. All things considered, these are two very minor complaints.
Score: 9 Victory Points
This game has quickly become one of my favorites. As I said at the beginning, it is simple enough for your average player, but for someone who likes a more advanced game, this really hits the spot. I think that that is a really hard place to land, and for that reason, I would feel good recommending this to anyone. Even 7 Wonders, which I think has much simpler game mechanics, has a more difficult learning curve. While Five Tribes has a high price tag, I would argue it is worth every penny. It's one I expect we will be playing in our house for a very long time.
*So, when we were first unboxing this game, people were a little confused about the camels. Because the camels are laying down, from one direction they look like camels and from the other it looks like whales half out of the water. There ended up being a lot of silly debate at the table on whether these were camels or whether they were whales or whether or not they were some sort of weird camel-whale hybrid. Hence the name "camwhales".
Monopoly Deal: This is a card game for 2-6 players ages 8 and up. The box says games take 15 minutes, but I would definitely suggest allocating more time than that until you become familiar with the game. The object of the game is to collect 3 full sets of  properties using money, new "action cards" (anything from "Pass GO - draw 2 more cards" to "Deal Breaker - Steal a full set of properties from any player"), and of course a little Chance. I'm not going to begin to try to explain the rules, otherwise you'd be here all day. You'll just have to go over them yourself if you decide to buy the game. :)
Pros: Much shorter than the original Monopoly; Less clean-up required; Appealing to a wide age range; Easy to travel with.
Cons: Very complicated directions.
If your kids are tired of playing traditional Monopoly and want to learn something new, or if they just don't want to spend hours on one game, this may be a good alternative. I enjoyed playing this game (then again, I won); however, my co-workers who I played with did not seem to enjoy it as much until we played long enough to gain full understanding of all the rules. I would not suggest using this game with an impatient group, and a practice round wouldn't be a bad idea either.
One final note, while I love Amazon Prime, I wouldn't recommend buying from them until their price drops back down to less than $10.