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After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday, 20 August 2020

Dark Imp Cracker Games

It's August, are you already gearing up for the festive season? Often I'm the first person to grumble about the ringing of Christmas cheer in stores as early as October, but this year I shouldn't be hypocritical, having bought an advent calendar last week! If you want to prepare early, then Dark Imp games are running a Kickstarter in September, guaranteed to fulfil to UK backers by December 1st 2020, bringing the perfect Christmas cracker for gamers to your table.

If you're hosting for up to a part of six this year, then The Dark Imp Cracker Games is a single, extra large Christmas cracker for the centre of your table. When you pull this cracker, you'll find instructions and components to play six different board games that introduce modern board gaming mechanisms in a very simple way. You'll also find some rather good jokes, very tricky puzzles, but no party hats, nail clippers, thimble, tiny pack of playing cards or measuring tape to be seen.

Gameplay

While all the games use the same set of components, the games are rather varied in themselves. Four of the six games can be played with two players, while the remaining two need a full compliment of four to six to play. These two games: IMPulsive, where players vote over who's cubes to steal, and IMPatient, a racing game where players play cards to determine which imps move, were not played by us due to the current difficulties in having larger gatherings.

 

  • IMPetuous is a speed game, which makes use of the cards, each card has three features: imp colour, background shape a number. Each player has a grid of cards, players will simultaneously revel a card or two, then players  must rush to call out which is the most common feature. Call out the correct answer and you score the cards, make a mistake and you lose a scored card.
  • IMPressive is a set collection game with resource management. Each player has a number of cubes and they take turns buying one imp from a market row. The first imp is free, but if you want to skip that imp you must place a cube on it to take the second imp card and so on. The game ends once all the cards are bought, at which points players score points for sets of features, colours, backgrounds and numbers.
  • IMPrudent is a simple card game, you start with a hand of cards and one face up card. You must play a card on top of that card that matches at least one of the three features. You can play up to three cards so long as each card matches on at least one feature. When you do this you will score cubes and draw new cards, the more cards you play at once, the more cubes you gain, but the fewer cards you draw. At the end of the game the player with the most cubes wins, but if you ever can't play you are eliminated.
  • IMPassive is the most complex game. The six screens are placed out along with the six coloured imps. Each player gets two score cards which secretly tells them which imps they will score for. Players can play cards to either move the imps around, swap a card in their hand with a score card, or add cubes to a numbered screen. at the end of the game each imp scores a number of points equal to the number of the screen it is in-front of plus the number of cubes on that screen for everyone who has that colour imp in their scoring cards.
 
Amy's Final Thoughts

Objectively speaking as a gamer there was nothing in the Cracker Games which blew me away, the four games we played were all short filler games that filled 2-5 minutes each. Most of the games did require some real strategy to play, especially Impassive,  while Impetuous is a perfectly fine, light speed game, which happens to be a genre I'm not particularly fond of. Nothing in the cracker made me long to go back and play it again, but conversely nothing in it made me want to avoid playing it again if someone else asked me to. 

So the games are OK, how about the components? Well, here you have a real win. The game all comes presented in a lovely cracker box, which is a lovely touch, even if it doesn't *crack* when you open it. The contents otherwise is a bag of cubes (used for currency and colour randomisation) a handful of imp shaped meeples, a set of relatively small playing cards, the rules and, of course, some jokes. The jokes are actually surprisingly funny, certainly above your average cracker quality! One of the great things is the rules are all on double-sided pieces of paper about the size of a modern phone. They are fantastically quick to learn, which is perfect for a quick game after a big meal!

I'm an experienced game teacher, I do the learning and teaching for almost every game we review, and I do it for my day job. While you can say a lot about the quality and substance of the included games, a product like this lives and dies with its instructions. Dark Imp manage to pack some advanced gaming concepts in a series of simple to play and fast to learn games. Honestly, the feat of making these so easy to learn and play is fantastic. This cracker might not be an addition to my gaming collection that I'll savour 'til the end of time. But it is an incredible way to get a family playing some games around the dinner table that are a darn sight more enjoyable and less frustrating than the traditional family game of Monopoly.


Fi's Final Thoughts

Dark Imps's Cracker Games are not quite what I was expecting. When I thought about board game Christmas crackers, I was expecting either six crackers with parts for a larger board game spread out over the six, or, once I learnt that there were six games, I was expecting one game in each cracker. What you actually have here is one giant cracker, containing rules and components for six games. While that's perhaps even more content than I was expecting, I can't help but be a little disappointed that the tradition of pulling a cracker with a partner is lost. This cracker looks great, but is more of a centre piece that one person will open, rather than a replacement for your normal Christmas crackers.

The games each vary in complexity - marked from one to three stars. They're all very simple for a seasoned gamer, but they do each introduce new mechanisms, such as set collection and resource management. The components are very simple, but effective and I like how the Dark Imp motif is carried through everything. The deck of small cards, in particular, is very well thought out with the three different attributes of a card then allowing for lots of possible game designs. The Dark Imp's Cracker Games are really a lesson in designing games with a very small design space to work in, and their success can definitely give you inspiration to try out a simple game design o your own.

The Dark Imp are doing great work in creating new and innovative products that bring modern board gaming to a broader audience. Their Buzzle Boxes, coaster games and now these Christmas crackers all speak to me as a gamer who might have opportunities to spread the love, at a big family gamthering or similar occasion. Their Christmas crackers are a great way to personalise your Christmas dinner experiences and the games are good, but very simple, ideas. While I might not have a craving to play any particular game again, every game was well explained and very playable, plus, a perfect weight for a quick 10 minute, after-dinner activity.


You Might Like...
  • This is such a well presented package - with nice components, a festive feel and well thought out jokes and puzzles.
  • The different difficulty levels really help you to pick a game that suits your dinner guests.
  • The simple components that are used across all six games might just inspire someone to invent a game of their own.

You Might Not Like...
  • If you're a whole family of gamers, then these games won't hold your interest.
  • You might still need some crackers that actually go bang to uphold traditions at your Christmas table.

The Verdict
If you're bored of the usual Christmas crackers, with bad jokes and gifts that make their way straight into the trash, then Dark Imp Cracker Games are a great way to get people playing something light and fun around the table. The games might not stay in your collection forever, but they might just get your Uncle or your Niece interested in board games and can at least provide a few fun activities that are accessible enough to learn at the table. I hope that lots of board gamers are able to share their love of games with Dark Imp Christmas Crackers this year.


A review copy of  Dark Imp Cracker Games was kindly provided by Dark Imp Games. The Kickstarter goes live on September 1st 2020 and you can sign up to be notified here.

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