Sunday, April 28, 2013

F is for 'Favorite Game'

I have been thinking about the letter 'F' all week since I am participate with Ben and Me in the Blogging around the Alphabet.

Today one of the kids said  "That's our FAVORITE game" so I decided that's what my 'F' post should be about.

ALONG time ago when we still lived in England my husband and I went to stay for a week with my in-laws in their holiday home. We were having a lovely spell of English weather (namely rain) and were quite desperate for some fun. My in-laws suggested we go to a local flea market and wander around. My husband and I found a game called 'Mandarin' it was still sealed and cost three pounds - so we decided it was worth the risk. It was an immediate hit with everyone I think we played it continuously for the rest of the rainy week.

We have played this game for about 15 years. The animals depicted on the tiles and cards are of the Chinese Zodiac - Rat, Ox, Tiger, Cat, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig. The tiles are about half an inch square and each zodiac has a tile in each color. The circular movement track on the board is composed of 12 sectors, each corresponding to one of the animals of the zodiac, each with three squares, the inner square of each sector depicting a Chinese character, the other two squares a plain color.

One thing we like about this game as there is no reading required which means as soon as our children could sit and understand the rules they could join in the fun. (Little J is currently learning the rules - and LOVES taking his turn shaking the die.)
Game set up is really simple. All of the zodiac tiles are but into the little pagoda house which dispenses the tiles. The players are all given the same amount of money and a collection card.

The 'old wise one' gets to go first (my husband LOVES this rule.)

Now, the goal of the game is for each player to collect enough tiles so that they have either one tile of each animal (regardless of color) or all six colored tiles of any one animal. With that in mind, the game play is very simple.

On their turn, a player rolls the die and moves that many spaces clockwise around the board. Depending on where the player ends up they may either end up drawing some money from the bank (if landing on the inner Chinese character square of any zodiac sector) or alternatively use the dispenser.

The favorite part of the game for my children is using the dispenser. As mentioned above, the dispenser contains all the tiles that are unclaimed in the game. At the base of the dispenser is a little pedal/switch that players press and, on doing so, one tile is ejected from the bottom of the pagoda. Now the tiles only have their animal designs printed on one side of them, so when they pop out from the dispenser, as they do they come out either 'face up' or 'face down'.

When using the dispenser, the player gets to eject one tile for free - this obviously comes up face up or down. At this point the player can take the tile (not knowing which animal is on it if it came out face down) or risk pressing the peddle again to get another tile. If they decide to risk it they can choose to dispense another tile... and another... and another... This continues until either the player calls a halt and grabs all the tiles that have come out so far, or a tile comes out face up. At that point the dispensing ends and the player has lost their ability to claim the tiles for free. At this point ownership of the tiles is determined by a bidding which is open to all players, and this is where the players spend most their money.

Whenever a player wins a tile or tiles, they are placed on their collection card (everyone can see how the other players are doing).

There are additional rules that my kids love - when a player passes another player on the board gets to claim a tile from them and then roll again to try and escape; if a player owns 3 or more tiles of a particular zodiac creature they are considered to 'own' that area of the board and may charge tax on other players who land on the Chinese character square within it; players can sell tiles back to the 'bank' to gain money back; some of the tiles are marked with "Emperor" crowns making them more expensive plus where 2 players both own 3 tiles each for a particular type of animal the one with the 'Emperor' trumps the other player, the 'tax' is also doubled when the player has an Emperor tile.

The randomness of the tile dispensing adds a lot of unpredictability to the game. Although there is a small amount of skill needed (watching of others boards and outbidding for tiles at the right time) There is enough 'luck' needed so that the youngest players can win. (Boo won 2 games in a row last weekend.)

The only drawback to the game is the assigned starting position related to birth years. If my kids are too close together then they can get a little upset if they always have a sibling coming up behind them to steal a tile. We got around this by just spreading people evenly around the board.

Whenever we have played this game with family and friends - all have tried to get their own copy. Most people have had to pick it up from second hand stores or eBay as unfortunately Mattel no longer manufacture this game.

Most people have never heard of this game...but it our house it is our favorite. Thanks to a rainy day in Ulrome near Bridlington.
Check out what others are saying about the letter 'F' this week.

Blogging Through the Alphabet

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