Ludo

Ever since he realised that there was a second game on the back of the Snakes and Ladders board, Master C has become slightly obsessed with Ludo. It’s one of those games that I remember playing as a child as part of a compendium of games, but yet I don’t think I’ve touched it since childhood.

Ludo

Ludo’s origins

I do vaguely remember that Ludo is actually based on the Indian game Pachisi. Described by some as the “national game of India”, Pachisi is a cross and circle game (otherwise known as a race game) in which players move around the board, in a race against each other. First played in medieval India, the number of spaces moved was determined by throwing six or seven cowrie shells and whether the shells landed with the opening upwards or not gave you a score.

Game play

We’ve obviously moved on since then, and Ludo is played with a single die now and up to four players. Each player has four counters and each has a corner of the board as their initial home position.

If a player rolls a six then they move one of their counters into their starting position, and from there a second roll of the die determines how many spaces they need to move. Players then race around the cross shape on the board, until they get back to almost where they started. Then they have to head up their coloured strait towards “home” in the centre of the board.

Ludo

The aim is to get all four of their coloured counters home. But it’s not as easy as it may initially seem!

The twist

With players having all four counters, and different starting times for them, it ends up with everyones counters overlapping on the board. Even more so if you have three or four players. If you land on a square that already has a player’s counter on it then you knock them off the board and they have to go back to their home position, and await a six to start again.

It’s also possible to block other players by getting two of your counters on adjacent squares. If you manage this then it means that other plays can not knock you off, but also can’t get past you.

The only place on the board where you are really safe is on your home strait, as then no one else can catch you.

The kids’ reactions

As I mentioned when I wrote about Snakes and Ladders, Ludo is a much more complicated game, as you an play it with a huge amount of strategy. It’s up to you which counters you move when and whether you aim to knock the opposition off the board or not with certain moves. Realistically, it’s a huge step up from Snakes and Ladders, but at the same time it’s a perfect game for introducing strategy to children.

Master C got so excited the first time that he managed to knock me off the board. He also takes a great thrill from being able to block other players by getting two of his counters together. He may not yet understand all the strategy behind why you might do either of these things, but it’s a brilliant way to get him starting to think about them.

It’s also helped his mental maths come on even faster. As well as counting out each move of his own, he’s also been working out what he needs to roll to knock other players off the board.

Ludo around the world

I admit that I hadn’t really thought much about Ludo being played elsewhere until I innocently put a picture of the board up on my Facebook page and a Dutch friend commented.

He pointed out that Ludo looked much like a game in The Netherlands called “mens erger je niet”, which roughly translates as “Man, don’t get annoyed”. Intrigued I went off to do a bit of research and it seems that in German Ludo is called “Man, don’t get upset”. Ludo also has similar names in Albanian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovene, and Turkish. In Greece there is also a reference to players behaviour in the fact that they call it “Grumbler” and Italian just call it “Don’t get upset”.

I had no idea that what I had just thought of as a simple game could bring about such a response from players! And I Guess it just puzzles me even more as to why it so often seems to be found on the reverse of a game as innocent as Snakes and Ladders!

A variety of different Ludo sets (with and without Snakes and Ladders) are available to buy online here.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

Snakes and Ladders

Snakes and Ladders is one of those board games that feels like it’s been around for ever. It therefore seems like possibly a bit of a strange one to be the subject of a blog post, but please bear with me on this one.

A few months back Bonn and I came across a copy of it at a car boot sale that we stumbled across on our way back from Harwich on bank holiday Monday. I seem to recall that it didn’t cost very much and, as I feel like I’m very much having to restock all the toys and games I have for my kids since splitting from their Dad, I decided to grab a copy. I’m so glad I did.

Snakes and Ladders

The game came home with us, ended up on the shelf with some other games and to be honest I didn’t give it much more thought at first. Then, as the weather started to improve, Master C and I took to going and sitting at one of the picnic benches in his school playground in a morning, whilst we waited for the school bell to ring. On that particular table is a giant version of Snake and Ladders and we started passing the time in a morning by me rolling an imaginary die and him moving an imaginary counter round the board in an attempt to win before the bell went. One morning I happened to mention to him that we had a real copy of the game at home and his eyes nearly popped out of his head. Bad mum for not telling him sooner I guess!

Since then the pair of us have ended up playing Snake and Ladders quite regularly. It’s made me realise what a wonderful game it is for a child his age. On so many different levels.

Firstly, and this almost goes without saying, board games are a wonderful way to engage with your kids. Conversations can happen whilst you’re playing. It’s like the action of playing a game means that children somehow forget that they normally don’t tell you anything about their day at school. It’s also proper focussed time with them. No opportunity to pick up your phone and end up down a social media rabbit hole when you’re having to take turns.

A game like Snakes and Ladders also introduces children to so many different things. There’s the whole concept of taking turns. It may seem obvious to us as adults, but it’s a skill that children need to learn. There’s maths involved in rolling the die, counting the dots on the surface and then moving a playing piece the right number of spaces on the board. Regular playing of board games can help a child so much with some of what they are more formally taught in the classroom.

In a game like Snakes and Ladders there are rules to follow. If you land on the bottom of a ladder you go up it, if you land on a snake’s head you go down it. Simple rules, but again another concept that it’s important for children to learn.

And finally, there’s the fact that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. As I’ve discovered, it’s very difficult to cheat in Snakes and Ladders, short of not rolling the die correctly. It’s totally random as to what you land on and this means that whoever is playing has an equal chance of winning. There’s no strategy involved. After the initial disappointment of going down their first snake, children soon realise that even mummy can  end up landing on a snake on the final row of the board and soon be back to the beginning. And how Master C laughs whenever that happens!

Interestingly the version of Snakes and Ladders that we picked up came with Ludo on the reverse of the board. A game that I vaguely remembered from childhood and one that I assumed was equally as fair as Snakes and Ladders. How wrong I was! Look out for a whole separate blog post about this game and why it’s apparently called “Man, don’t get annoyed!” in some parts of the world!

It goes without saying that there are numerous versions of Snakes and Ladders out there. You can find a wide selection online here.

Smart Ass

The last year as seen us play loads of board games together as a family. We’ve found them a fantastic way of getting people of all ages together, laughing and bonding in a way that sitting in front of the TV just can’t compete with. We’re also using them as a bit of a stealth way of educating the kids. Whether it be understanding the concept of taking turns for the younger children, or building the older ones’ general knowledge, board games are an excellent way of doing both as a family. When I saw Smart Ass at Blog On I knew that it would be perfect for that general knowledge building for the older kids.

Smart Ass family board game

Smart Ass is all about showing off if you know the answer. Or even if you just think you do. It’s perfectly acceptable to shout out the answer and totally goes against the way that some kids feel that it’s not right to be seen to be smart.

How to play

In Smart Ass the aim of the game is to be first around the board working out Who Am I? What Am I? or Where Am I? The first player to reach the end is the ultimate Smart Ass.

Smart Ass family board game

Designed for 2 to 6 players and for ages 12 to adult, play starts with the oldest Smart Ass player who is the Reader and will read the first question. This first player rolls the Jumbo Category Die to determine which category the first question will be from. This could be one of the following:

  • Blue – What Am I?
  • Green – Where Am I?
  • Orange – Who Am I?

Each question card lists 8 clue on it. Starting at the top of the list the player reads down the clues and other players can shout out an answer at any time. But, players only get one go at answering each question. So, if they get it wrong they’re frozen out responding to the rest of the clues.

Smart Ass family board game

Once someone gets the right answer that player (the one who got it right) rolls the Jumbo Movement Die and it tells them how many places to move their playing piece around the board.

Play then goes back to the player on the left of the first player, and you repeat the steps above, just moving round the players after each movement on the board.

Special Spaces on the Smart Ass Board

Smart Ass family board game

  • Dumb Ass – this is a penalty space. If you land on this you can’t answer the next questions. Basically, it’s like missing a turn.
  • Hard Ass – there are a separate pile of Hard Ass questions as this is effectively a bonus question space. Only the player who has landed on this space gets to answer the Hard Ass question. If they get it right then they can roll the Jumbo Movement Die again for a bonus move. If they answer incorrectly then play just moves on as if it had never happened!
  • Kick Ass Space – this is a basically the same as landing on a “go back” space. If you land on this then you have to move back three spaces on the board.

The winner of the game is the first person to land on “The End” and you don’t need a correct number on the Jumbo Movement Die to do so. They are the ultimate Smart Ass.

What we thought

It’s quite possible that we’re all a bit thick, but we actually found the questions in Smart Ass were actually quite difficult. Yet, we could do all the Smart Ass questions! Not sure what that really says about our levels of general knowledge.

We enjoyed the game, and there were certainly quite a few laughs as we tried desperately to guess some of the answers. Even more as we then had to google who some of the people were to help explain them to other players.

Smart Ass family board game

One thing we would say about Smart Ass is that we think it could do with there being more spaces on the playing board. Once one player is on a roll the game can a actually finish quite quickly. In a way that’s good as it means each game can be relatively short, but with a playing age of 12 and up I felt that each one could go on for longer really.

Smart Ass is certainly a good addition to our selection of general knowledge games though. And it seems that 13 year olds aren’t too old for a bit of a laugh at calling someone a “Smart Ass”!

Smart Ass is available in high street toy shops or can also be bought online here. It has an RRP of £19.99, but can sometimes be found cheaper online.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Smart Ass for the purposes of this review. All opinions remain my own. This post contains affiliate links.

Hedbanz – a family game of “what am I?”

I’m sure at some point we’ve all played one of those games where a post-it note is stuck to your forehead and you have to guess who or what you are. Hedbanz follows the same concept in a family game – with some hilarious results.

Hedbanz family game who am I game

Much as the game name suggests, in Hedbanz each player gets a headband to put on your head which can hold a playing card size card. The idea is that everyone wears on if these with a card placed in it, and they have to guess what they are.

Hedbanz family game who am I game

How to play

Game play works in that each player is given three counters, or chips, at the start of the game. When it is their turn, they turn over the timer and then have that long to ask questions to help them work out what they are. The rules don’t specifically say that it is has to be yes / no questions, but they generally are.

Hedbanz family game who am I game

Helpfully the set also includes a card for each player which has sample questions on it. We played with 8 year old Little Miss C and she found this really helpful on her first go to have a bit of structure and guidance to help her work out what she was. Although – I’ll be honest and say that none of them really helped me to work out that I was a toaster in one round!

Hedbanz family game who am I game

If you guess what you are before the timer runs out then you put one of your chips back in the bank. The first player to get rid of all their chips wins. If there’s still time remaining on the timer then you can also pick up another card to place in your headband, and try to guess a second time.

What we thought

For a game you can have between two and six players. We tried it out with two adults, a thirteen year old and an eight year old. It worked really well with some hilarious results. I can definitely see it being a firm family favourite at Christmas time, or just the next time we have extended family to stay. I’m also guessing that after a couple of drinks it may also go down well with the adults playing alone!

I though the whole chips side of things a bit of a complication. In a way it would just be easier to each take a chip when you guess correctly. But you can easily tweak how you play to accommodate that.

Added bonus

There’s also one extra added bonus of the game which has to be mentioned. It’s wonderful for helping you to get new online profile pictures of people!

Hedbanz family game who am I game

Headband is produced by Spin Master and is available in most high street toy shops as well as online. It has an RRP of £12.99 but if often available for less, especially at sites like this one.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Hedbanz for the purposes of this review. All opinions remain my own. This post contains affiliate links.

Rack-O

For a while now Bonn and I have been collecting various vintage board games. We’ve been picking them up from charity shops all over the place with the aim of featuring as many as we can here on Penny Plays. The idea is that we can feature each of the games and maybe include some in videos and podcasts that we have planned. I guess that means it’s time to welcome our first vintage game here on Penny Plays – Rack-O.

rack-o

Last Monday saw us luck enough to stumble across a car boot sale as we headed home from the ferry port. We managed to pick up quite a lot whilst we were there. One such game being Rack-O. For the grand price of 66p!

Now I have to admit that I’d never heard of Rack-O before last week. The box told us that it was a card game that involved putting things in order, but not much more than that. As general card game fans we were very much up for giving it a go though. Aimed at ages 8 to adult we played with my Mum and step-daughter.

The aim of Rack-O is to get your cards in numerical order. Much like you might do in the regular card game of Rummy, or “Threes and Fours” as I always knew it. Rack-O isn’t played with regular cards though. Instead you have cards numbered 1 to 60.

Game play

In the regular four player game, which we played, each player is dealt ten cards and has to place each card in his or her Rack-O rack immediately. In the order that they are dealt. Each space in the rack has a number next to it and these go in fives from 5 up to 50. The first card dealt goes in the 50 slot and the final one in the 5 slot, with others following in-between.

rack-o

At this stage I literally found myself having to sit on my hands as not being able to put the cards in numerical order was very hard to bear! It’s something that you so naturally do in card games, but not in this one.

The remaining cards are placed in the centre of play in a pile. This is the stockpile. The top card is turned over next to them and forms the first card in the discard pile.

Game play goes around the table clockwise from the dealer and the aim is to get your cards in numerical order from front to back in your rack. When you do this you then shout “Rack-O” and win that game.

rack-o

The way you get the cards in order is that you need to take cards from the table and replace cards already in your rack with them. Each turn you can either take the card on top of the discard pile or one from the stockpile. If you want to keep a card you put it in your rack, in whichever position you choose. The card you have replaced is then put on the discard pile.

You don’t have to have straight runs of numbers (at least not in the regular four player game), but they just need to go from lowest to highest.

Scoring

What makes the game particularly interesting is the scoring. And for this you definitely do need paper and pencil whilst you play. The overall winner is the first player to get to 500 points.

rack-o

The person who shouts Rack-O first in a game gets a total of 75 points. 25 of these are for shouting Rack-O whilst the other 50 are for the cards in his rack. 5 points for each of the ten cards in the rack. Other players score 5 points for each card in their rack in low to high order, starting with the card in the number 5 slot. This counting of points stops when you get to a card that is out of order. Also, the last four cards in the rack do not count. This means that whilst the winner of the game gets 75 points, the maximum anyone else can score is 30.

Game variations

We tried out the standard 4 player game, but variants are available for 2 or 3 players. In these you use less cards and the two player version also requires your to have at least three cards in immediate sequence in the rack to call Rack-O. It is also possible to play as partners when playing with four players.

There is also Bonus Rack-O in which you get extra points for runs of numbers when you shout Rack-O. Get a six or more card run and you can end up with a massive 475 points when you shout Rack-O.

History of the game

A bit of a search online suggests that Rack-O was first brought out in 1956 by Milton Bradley – more commonly known as MB. The version we found is probably early 80s as it says copyright 1980 on the box, but 1978 on the instructions. In later years the game was produced by Winning Moves.

It seems that Rack-O wasn’t actually all that obscure. A quick look on Instagram with the #racko hashtag, also suggests lots of people are still playing it. All around the world. There are also lots of old versions of it still for sale online.

Nice touches

Whilst we all had a great time playing Rack-O there were a couple of nice touches that are really worth shouting about. Firstly the racks and tray for the stockpile and discard piles. It’s lovely to see both made from a sturdy plastic that shows no signs or raging or wear after all these years.

Secondly, and most importantly in my eyes, the card design. In particular the positioning of the number on the cards.These go across the top edge, but are done so that they are in a different position for each number, with lower numbers at the left and higher ones at the right. This means that as you look down your rack you can easily see any card that is out of position. A small thing that makes game play so much easier.

In conclusion

When we buy games at car boots and charity shops we always do so with the idea that we’ll try them out and then either sell the on or donate them to a charity shop if we don’t like them. The measure how a good game is if we decide to keep it. Rack-O is definitely in the keep pile! 66p very well spent.