Card Games

Bohnanza: The Bean-Planting Card Game

Board Game Review:

Bohnanza

Rating: 7.2 out of 10 stars

Intro

What I hope to accomplish with my card game reviews is to introduce you to a new game and help you determine whether the game is a good fit for you. I will consider and rank five criteria: gameplay, design, strategy, originality, and replayability.

Description

Bohnanza is a hand management and negotiation game for 2-7 players. The play time is about 45 minutes, which seems about accurate based on my experience. The suggested age for players is 13+ years.

Gameplay (8 out of 10 stars)

Bohnanza is a game where the objective is to plant and harvest beans to gain coins.

In the beginning, each player receives five cards. The order of the cards matters in this game, so you cannot organize the cards in your hand.

On your turn, the first action you must take is to plant bean cards from your hand. The first card you must play on one of your fields. The second is optional, but can only be placed if it matches one of the beans you already have in your fields.

The cards you place must be the first (and second if you decide to place two) card on the right side of your hand.

Next on your turn, you turn over two bean cards from the top of the deck. You can then decide if you want to keep and immediately plant those two cards, or get rid of them. The only way to get rid of them is by trading with the other players. If no one is willing to trade, you must plant those beans. The active player can also trade cards in their hand along with the two beans from the deck.

A player can also give bean cards for free. This may happen because they want to get rid of cards they would otherwise have to place in their fields.

The third part of your turn is planting the turned-over cards from the deck if you haven’t traded them, and/or planting the traded cards. If you plant a bean that doesn’t match either of your stacks of beans in your fields, you must harvest your largest bean crop and then plant the bean.

You can harvest beans at any time, whether during your turn or someone else’s. When you do, you look at the beanometer at the bottom of the card that says how much different amounts of beans are worth. Then you gain coins matching the amount listed on the bottom for the number of beans you have.

The game ends when the draw pile is emptied and shuffled for a third time.

There is a variation that includes several more types of beans: the cocoa been, wax been, and coffee bean.

There is also a variation with slightly different rules for the two-player game. (For example, the game ends when the draw pile is emptied the first time.)

Design (4 out of 10 stars)

Design includes two categories: art and components.

The art is just plain ugly. The green bean above, who is standing next to a pool of vomit, is a prime example of how horrible the artwork is.

The player mats are flimsy, so thin and easily to damage that my dad laminated ours.

Strategy (9 out of 10 stars)

There is a lot of strategy of the game, but most of it is bargaining to get the beans you want and get rid of the beans you don’t want.

Knowing when to harvest your beans is also strategic, as is choosing which beans to focus on since some are worth more than others but are less common.

Originality/Creativity (8 out of 10 stars)

I would say this game is pretty creative. I have never played a game before where I was so desperate to give away cards for free. Having a game where you can’t organize or reorder your hand is also very unique.

Replayability (7 out of 10 stars)

The game has good replayability because of its variation and how fun and easy it is to play. I would even be willing to play it more than one time in a row if everyone at the table was enjoying it.

Conclusion

I admit I’m not a huge fan of card games compared to board games, but I found this one to be interesting and engaging.

Anime, Shows

RWBY Volume 1: A Shaky Start to a Great Anime

Spoiler-Free Anime Review:

RWBY Volume 1

Rating: 6.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

Let me start by saying that RWBY is one of my favorite anime. However, even I have to admit that the quality of the first volume is lower than the quality of later volumes.

Basically,

Low Budget + Slow Start = Lackluster Beginning

Yep, it’s the same issue as with the original trailers. For my review of the trailers, click here.

RWBY Volume 1 is available on Crunchyroll and Amazon Prime.

Background

RWBY is an American anime. Some people say anime has to come from Japan to be legit–I disagree. I share the opinion of many others that say anime is a style and not limited to the products of any one country.

The creator is Monty Oum, who developed the plot for the company Rooster Teeth. Originally the anime was an indie miniseries with a low budget, but it has become largely successful.

Volume 1 was released in 2013, preceded by four color-themed trailers that established some character development and worldbuilding.

Summary

A young hero, an exalted heiress, a troubled rogue, and a party girl–These are the four members of RWBY, a team brought together and trained for the sole purpose of combating the rampant evils that plague the fantastic world of Remnant. If these four girls want to graduate Beacon Academy they’ll have to learn to work together both on the battlefield and in the classroom.” (1)

Rooster Teeth

Basically, RWBY is about four young women who seek to become huntresses and defend the world of Remnant from shadowy creatures called Grimm.

Pros

  • Fantastic worldbuilding with mythological inspiration
    • A world with its own mythology
  • Memorable characters
    • Character names and design that allude to fairy tales
  • Unique weapons
  • Elaborate fight scenes
  • Original music
  • Humorous dialogue
  • Creative design for the monsters called Grimm
  • Groundbreaking American Anime
    • Helping to define a new category of anime

Cons

  • Poor animation
    • Merely shadowy silhouettes of non-essential characters
    • Very little detail, especially in backgrounds
    • Occasionally very awkward movement
  • Ridiculously short episodes
  • Cliché aspects of the plot

Review

Worldbuilding

Map of Remnant (2)

The map of Remnant was developed by squirting ketchup on a napkin at an IHOP restaurant (3). As such, the landmasses are complicated shapes that make up a creative, unique world.

In the beginning, the people of Remnant were created from dust, and were forced to contend with the darkness, which took its own form in the creatures called Grimm. The power that allowed them to fight back was given the name Dust.

Dust is an energy source activated by Aura. It can be used to add elemental power to attacks, and it is extremely valuable to supplement weapons.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dust-crystals.png
Dust Crystals

Every person who has a soul in Remnant has an Aura, though some are better using it than others. Aura is basically the energy inside a person that can be used to protect oneself or attack. A person’s aura shows a certain color–for instance, Ren’s Aura is pink and Jaune’s is white.

Ren using his Aura
Jaune using Aura for the first time

According to Pyrrha,

Aura is the manifestation of our souls.”

Aura is what lets the people of Remnant use their semblances, which are special powers. For instance, Ruby’s semblance Petal Burst allows her to turn into a fast-moving cloud of rose petals, and Pyrrha’s semblance is called Polarity, the ability to mess with magnetism.

Characters

Ruby Rose is a spunky, determined teenager who tends to be a bit silly and childish. At age 15, she is the youngest of Team RWBY, but she should not be underestimated.

She is truly what Monty Oum wanted her to be, “a badass Red Riding Hood” (4). She obliterates Grimm who stand in her way with the fighting skills she learned from her uncle Qrow.

The name Weiss Schnee comes from German and literally means “white snow.” Her name was chosen to allude to the character of Snow White.

Weiss is a bit of a spoiled rich kid. However, her childhood was darkened by the attitude of her father and the depression of her mother. She tends to think highly of herself and look down on others, but is willing to change her mind.

Blake Belladonna had a troubled past that she tries to put behind her when she enrolls at Beacon to become a Huntress.

She loves reading, which makes her awesome in my opinion. Her character alludes to both Beauty and the Beast, which is definitely more subtle than the previous two characters (5). Belladonna is a type of flower, a poisonous plant that’s part of the nightshade family.

Yang Xiao Long is a laidback party girl with an intense side. Her character alludes to the character of Goldilocks, another fairy tale allusion that is not as obvious as that of Weiss and Ruby (6).

She is the older half-sister of Ruby Rose. She is particular about her hair to the point where she will pretty much kill anyone who messes with it. When angry, her eyes turn from purple to red.

Weapons

In RWBY, weapons are truly extensions of the characters. They reveal and deepen the characters’ development and personality, and make all those freakin’ awesome fight scenes possible. Most of the weapons in RWBY can be used multiple ways and generalize in both long-range and short-range attacks.

Just weapons? They’re an extension of ourselves.”

Ruby Rose
Crescent Rose | Heroism Wiki | Fandom
Crescent Rose

Crescent Rose is Ruby’s weapon, and functions as both a scythe and a sniper rifle. What is even more amazing than seeing this weapon in action is the fact that Ruby built the thing.

Myrtenaster

Myrtenaster is Weiss’s weapon of choice – a Multi Action Dust Rapier (7). Weiss can use dust to add elemental power to her attacks. The reason it looks like a fencing sword and that Weiss fights like a fencer is apparently because of Monty Oum’s own background in fencing (8). A Myrtenaster is a flower found in Germany, and is likely the origin of the name (9).

Gambol Shroud | RWBY Wiki | Fandom
Gambol Shroud

Blake’s signature weapon is Gambol Shroud, which has two different sword forms and a gun form. Even the sheath is used as a weapon.

Ember Celica

Yang uses Ember Celica, her Dual Ranged Shot Gauntlets (10). When inactive, they appear to be bracelets, but when activate they cover her arms. The ammunition explodes on contact with the enemy. There apparently is a Celica flower that has a double bloom–possibly that’s where they got the name? Just a theory.

Fight Scenes

RWBY blasts its way to mainstream success with side-splitting comedy,  heart-rending drama, and adrenaline-pumping action – The Reflection

The fight scenes in the RWBY trailers are phenomenal. Even though movements seem awkward during other parts of the episodes, the fight scenes are graceful, true works of art.

Music

Unlike with many anime, the music in RWBY was created exclusively for RWBY, with foreshadowing built into the songs and songs that seem linked to specific characters.

The music was composed by Jeff Williams, and his daughter Casey Lee Williams does a lot of the vocals. Jeff Williams does not regard the songs as canon and asserts that they should not be taken literally (11).

To me, that just seems like he is covering for himself and Rooster Teeth in case the story ends up veering too far from the lyrics, but I know that so far the songs fit the theme and story very well.

The best songs in Volume 1, in my opinion, are Red Like Roses Part II and This Will Be the Day (12, 13).

Dialogue

The humor of the dialogue in RWBY contributes to the lighter tone of Volume 1 compared to the other volumes.

Ruby’s dialogue reveals her childish nature. For example, when she says:

I don’t need people to help me grow up. I drink MILK!!!”

Jaune’s naïve tendencies are demonstrated by his words, such as this eyeroll-worthy statement:

My dad said all women look for is confidence.”

And how could I be a RWBY fan if I left out this quote by Nora:

We’ll break his legs!”

Monsters

The monster called Grimm come in a variety of forms and dissipate into darkness when defeated. Some are pretty puny in Volume 1 compared to the heroes…others are worthy foes.

Beowolf | RWBY Wiki | Fandom
Beowolf
Nevermore | RWBY Wiki | Fandom
Nevermore

Beowolves are pretty common in RWBY. Nevermores are not rare either, but they boast more unique characteristics, such as sharp, hard feathers that can pin prey to the ground.

Death Stalkers | Villains Wiki | Fandom
Death Stalker

Death Stalkers are ridiculously tough and take a lot of ingenuity to conquer.

Animation

Unimportant background character is a silhouette

The 3D animation of RWBY is made using Poser, and thus differs greatly from most other anime. The major consequence of a low budget combined with this 3D style was that it made the whole volume look underdeveloped.

Characters without importance were denoted using shadowy silhouettes without any details. This made it obvious from the beginning which characters would be recurring, making the series more predictable.

Backgrounds had very little detail as well, making the scenery less interesting.

The animated movement was occasionally very awkward.

Plot

The plot is similar to many magical school kind of shows. Some of its terribly predictable, such as the way the bullying episodes progressed and the way they ended. That’s not to say there’s nothing unique–it’s just that the first volume is more predictable than the rest.

Episode Length

Episode length varies from around 6 minutes to closer to 12. This is annoying, but avoidable if you watch the whole Volume as one. It is available in that format on Amazon Prime. If you try watching this on Crunchyroll without Premium, you’re in for a ridiculous amount of commercials.

Contribution to Anime

RWBY is unique because it is one of the few American anime. Additionally, its animation style, while underdeveloped, sets out on a separate path from typical anime.

Conclusion

If you decide to watch Volume 1 and it doesn’t peak your interest in RWBY, still give the next few volumes a chance. Most of the people I’ve talked to are more distracted by the animation than anything else. Once you get used to that, you can appreciate the rich storytelling and worldbuilding of RWBY.

Even as a RWBY fan, I rated Volume 1 relatively low because its poor animation quality and predictability. It took me awhile to get into it…but it gets better, trust me.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Links

  1. Rooster Teeth Quote – Source: Fandom
  2. Remnant Map – Source: Rooster Teeth
  3. Remnant Development – Source: Fandom
  4. Interview with Monty Oum
  5. Blake’s Development – Source: Fandom
  6. Yang’s Development – Source: Youtube
  7. Myrtenaster – Source: Twitter
  8. Weiss and Fencing – Source: Twitter
  9. Image of Myrtenaster Flower – Source: Wikimedia Commons
  10. Ember Celica Info – Source: Twitter
  11. RWBY Soundtrack Info – Source: Fandom
  12. Red Like Roses Part II – Source: Youtube
  13. This Will Be The Day – Source: Youtube

Related Articles

Books

My Rating System for Books

Stars,metal,hotel,nature
Stars,metal,hotel,nature

I figured it was about time to share the reasoning behind my ratings – after all, just a number of stars seems pretty arbitrary. So if you are interested in how I come to my decisions, this is the article for you.

Without further ado…

0 stars – So bad I couldn’t finish it. No pros and many serious cons.

1 star – A rating reserved for one of the worst books on the planet. I wouldn’t read it again if you paid me. I could barely get through it. There are no pros and I would not recommend it for any audience.

2 stars– The book was really bad, but has an insignificant pro or two. I would not read it again unless I was paid a hefty sum as compensation. It may be appealing to an extremely limited audience, but nevertheless is terrible in quality.

3 stars – The book was bad, but it could conceivably be worse. It may have a handful of minor pros. I would not read it again unless you paid me a decent amount as compensation. It may be appealing to a limited audience, but it is low quality.

4 stars– The book was not good, but it has a few pros. It may be worth reading again just to laugh at how bad it is. At the very least it’s not super cringey or unbearable. Some people probably would find it at least interesting, even if it could not really be called good. The quality is not very good.

5 stars– The book was average. It has enough pros to make it look appealing, at least from the outset, but it doesn’t satisfy. Nothing makes it stand out in a bad or good way. You could maybe convince me to read it again, but it would take a lot of persuading. Some people probably would like this movie, but I at least found it lackluster.

6 stars – The book was slightly better than average. It has its cons, but also comes equipped with several redeeming features. I’d rather not read it again, but if you insist… There is probably a decent-sized audience for this book, including a handful of people who will fight you to the death if you say anything bad about it.

7 stars – This was a good book. It had several cons, but it makes up for it with pros. I would read it again, but probably not for a few years. There is either a large possible audience or it is very appealing to a smallish audience.

8 stars – This was a great book. It probably had a couple of cons, but more than made up for it in pros. I would read it again in a year or so. There is either a large possible audience or it fits into its particular niche extremely well.

9 stars – This is an awesome book. It maybe had one con, but who cares?! It was so worth it. I would read it again in a few months. The book is accessible to a wide audience or it fits into its particular niche almost perfectly.

10 stars – This is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. There were no cons that I could think of. I could read it again next week. The book is accessible to a wide audience or it fits into its particular niche perfectly.

Card Games

Saboteur: The Game of Mining, Sabotage, and Gold

Card Game Review:

Saboteur

Rating: 8.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

What I hope to accomplish with my card game reviews is to introduce you to a new game and help you determine whether the game is a good fit for you. I will consider and rank five criteria: gameplay, design, strategy, originality, and replayability.

Description

Saboteur is a fantasy bluffing game that uses hand management and hidden roles. It also has a notable take-that mechanic. Players play as dwarves mining for gold–except at least one of them is a hidden traitor!

It’s a game for 3-10 players that is supposed to take 30 minutes. (In my experience it takes at least 45 minutes.) It is meant for ages 8+, but I could see it being difficult for an eight-year-old the first couple of times. I think it would work best for ages 10+.

Gameplay (8 out of 10 stars)

A Saboteur and Gold Miner

Basically, in this game you play either as a gold miner or a saboteur. The objective for the gold miners is to place find the gold, while the role of the saboteur is to prevent the gold miners from reaching the gold.

The way you do that is by using path cards, shown above. Most path cards can be used to get closer to the goal, but there are some dead end path cards that saboteurs use. The three brown cards at the top of the picture have either coal or gold under them.

Throughout the game, players can check what’s under one of the brown cards by using a map card. A map card is an example of an action card. Action cards can be identified by their white border.

Anyone is free to tell the truth or lie when using a map card, so it is generally good to have a second person verify the location of the gold or coal if possible.

There are also attack cards among the action cards. Saboteurs can use them to sabotage miners, and miners can use them to sabotage saboteurs. When a player is attacked with one of these cards–breaking their lantern, pickaxe, or cart–they cannot play any path cards.

Broken supplies can be repaired using the cards shown below, matching the type of equipment. After the equipment is repaired, the player can use path cards again.

There are is also a type of card that removes a path tile from the board–a tunnel collapse card. This can be helpful for the saboteur or the miners.

There are three rounds in the game and there are two ways to end each round. One way is for one of the players to find the gold. In that case, the miners win, and the player who put down the last path card gets first pickings of the spoils.

The other way is for the saboteur(s) to win the round by making it impossible for the miners to reach the gold. Once cards run out in the decks, they are not reshuffled, meaning the miners have a limited amount of time to reach the gold before they run out of useful path cards.

If the saboteur(s) win the round, they receive 3 gold each. This is because it is harder to win as the saboteur.

After 3 rounds, the player with the most gold wins.

(As always, for a full rules explanation, read the actual rulebook because I just provided an overview.)

Design (9 out of 10 stars)

Close-up of details on cards

Design includes two categories: art and components.

The art was created by Andrea Boeckhoff and is generally pretty simplistic. However, as shown above, the artist included details in some of the path cards that are playful and creative.

This is a card game that fits in a tiny box, so don’t expect anything fancy. The components include path cards, action cards, gold nugget cards, gold miner cards, and saboteur cards.

The rules are included on a single page and yet sufficient.

The advantage of the components in this game is that they fit in a really small box that is shorter and more compact even then most books.

Strategy (10 out of 10 stars)

Strategy is cooperative for most players and consists mostly of teamwork and knowing what cards are best to use when. The game requires a lot of attention on the part of the gold miners to be able to realize who the saboteurs are and stop them.

Also, since the last person to place a card before the gold is revealed gets first pickings of the loot, there is a tiny bit of competition and cooperation is still very self-focused.

There is more strategy for the saboteur(s). For one thing, they want to find out who the other saboteur (or saboteurs) are without blowing their cover. Saboteurs also have to decide whether to act decisively at any point in a way that reveals their wicked intentions, but it is more effective.

Originality (9 out of 10 stars)

The originality is high in this game. Using cards like tiles to reach a goal is interesting, as well as the bluffing aspect allowing you to get away with being the saboteur for as long as possible.

Unlike in some games, you don’t lose if someone finds out the saboteur–you just get to keep on playing.

Replayability (8 out of 10 stars)

Replayability is decent. You go through the same pack of cards every time, but who is the saboteur and the number of saboteurs is pretty random and makes playing it multiple times still enjoyable.

Conclusion

I would certainly recommend this game. It is low complexity and functions perfectly as a gateway game for those just starting out in the board game hobby. Yet it is challenging enough to engage more serious board gamers as well.