Sunday 30 September 2012

Review - Robin Hood and the Friends of Sherwood Forest

Robin Hood and the Friends of Sherwood Forest
Published by Brand Makers International
Designed by people who have (quite rightly) decided to remain anonymous

For 2-5 players, aged 7 to adult.

Today's instalment on Always Board, Never Boring will be a bit of a break from the norm. Usually, I will go out hunting for out-of-production board games at charity shops, and then I will photograph them, announce their arrival in a "News" feature here on my blog, play them, and then eventually write a review. For Robin Hood and the Friends of Sherwood Forest I have decided to skip the "News" feature and the bit where I play the game and go straight to a review. Yeah, that's right; I'm reviewing a game I haven't (and will not) play. I know that isn't really the done thing, but this game looks so bad in every possible way I just know that I will never be able to bring myself to set it up and subject some of my friends to playing it. Hell, I wouldn't subject any of my enemies to play it either.

So why, exactly, has this game caused me to have such a response? And why did I buy it in the first place?

I found this game in a charity shop marked up at £1.99. I am a sucker for old games at the best of times, but when the money is going to a good cause, and the price is reasonable, I'm always going to make the purchase. However, I think I would have purchased Robin Hood and the Friends of Sherwood Forest even if it had been much more expensive, simply because I was equally fascinated and repulsed by some of the worst box art I have ever seen.

Robin Hood and the Friends of Sherwood Forest - box art
The box art - reminds me of my old Spectrum.

The box art looks like one of those loading screens from an old ZX Spectrum game, and the massive hit of nostalgia I got off that alone was enough to pay the price tag. Imagine my joy when I got home and opened the box to find the artwork on the board is just as bad - and even looks like one of the levels in the old Spectrum game Q-Bert. It should also be noted that the game was unpunched and unplayed, which is never a good sign for a game that's 20 years old.

Robin Hood and the Friends of Sherwood Forest - board
Q-Bert will need to get hopping to change all those green squares.

Okay... So I bought a board game because it reminded me of an old Spectrum game. Probably not the best reason to buy something; and I guess the fact I now have this complete turkey of a game sitting on my game shelf is my own fault. But let's take a closer look, and we can all enjoy a masterclass in poor game design.

The basic premise of the game is that Robin Hood's friends have been captured by the Sheriff of Nottingham and taken to the dungeon, and Robin Hood has broken in to rescue them and steal some treasure on the way. This sounds pretty exciting, but it really isn't. It isn't exciting, because to rescue someone you just have to land on a green space on the board and then draw a card from the deck. If it is someone you haven't rescued yet, you keep the card, otherwise you return the card to the deck and try again next time. It is also not exciting because there are no guards in the dungeon, just the Sheriff of Nottingham who wanders around on his own (on a turn, you will first move the Sheriff and then you will move your own playing piece). If the Sheriff lands on your space, you have to discard one card; and then the game carries on.

And that's it: That really is all that happens. On your turn you move the Sheriff - obviously moving him as far away from you as possible and hopefully landing on an opponent - and then you move your own piece, hoping to land on a green space and then hoping to randomly draw one of the cards you need to complete your set. Horrible.

But the craptacular gameplay isn't the thing that bugs me the most. What really gets me is the use of the Robin Hood theme, which is pasted on in a way that would make Reiner Knizia blush. You see, EVERY player in the game is Robin Hood. That's right, Robin hopped in Ye Olde cloning device to make his job easier. Only, he didn't make his job easier, because Marion and all Robin's other mates used the damned thing as well, so now each of Robin's clones is trying to rescue a complete set of his clone friends.

Robin Hood and the Friends of Sherwood Forest - cards
With art this good, why wouldn't you use it as much as possible?

Luckily for Robin, the Sheriff didn't put all the clone friends in a dungeon together, and instead he just left them in different corridors, along with the occasional treasure chest. Even better, the Sheriff decided not to employ any guards, thinking it would be a better use of taxpayers' money to patrol the whole place on his own.


You know what? I can't even write about this game any more. It's just silly. It's a lazy game design (just roll and move and hope you get something good) and it's a lazy implementation of theme in which up to five Robin Hood's all try to screw each other over in an attempt to rescue multiple instances of the other major characters from the mythology. And it's all wrapped up in hideous artwork that would have been inexcusable at the time the game was released, let alone now.

There is nothing here to encourage me to play the game; and if you happen to find a copy somewhere I cannot stress strongly enough that you should not buy it.

Sunday 9 September 2012

Review - Mousie-Mousie (aka Pounce)

Mousie-Mousie aka Pounce

Mousie-Mousie (aka Pounce)
Published by Spear's Games
Designed by secret government agents
For 2-7 players, aged 6 to adult

My last few posts here at Always Board Never Boring have been about my new book The Wing Warrior. In my last shameless plug for that book (and yes, I know that referencing the book here is ANOTHER shameless plug), I promised that I would write a review today to make up for it, so here I am, writing a review...

I am going to write a review about Mousie-Mousie, a game that has instructions printed on the inside of the box lid. I have talked about this before: I quite like it when a game can fit the instructions on the box lid. It means you can basically start playing straight away without having to spend an hour figuring out what you are supposed to do. And having instructions that fit inside a box lid does not mean that a game is shallow; my first Chess set had the instructions printed in the box lid, and no-one can accuse Chess of being shallow.

However, sometimes a game will have instructions printed inside the box lid, and that game WILL be shallow. Possibly the most shallow of all such games is Mousie-Mousie; a game so ridiculously shallow there should be a "no diving" sign on the box.

Mousie-Mousie instructions
Instructions in a box lid - joy!

Mousie-Mousie (or Pounce, if you prefer), is a dexterity-type party game. One player gets to be the catcher and all the other players are mice. The catcher player gets a plastic bowl thing, and all the other players get nine tiddlywink style plastic counters and a plastic mouse with a very long tail. The only other components in the game are a custom dice (with colours on each side instead of numbers) and a small rubbery mat (which is usually missing from second-hand copies).

Mousie-Mousie game components
Catching bowl and custom dice.

The game starts with all the mice players putting their mice on the rubbery mat. The mice are positioned with noses touching, and each mouse player holds the tail of his allotted mouse. The catcher then starts rolling the dice. If he rolls any colour other than red or blue, nothing happens, and he should roll again; but if he rolls red or blue, he will quickly slam the bowl down and try to capture mice on the mat while all the mice players will try to move their mice out of the way.

Mousie-Mousie mice pieces
The mousie-mousies... er... mice.

Every time the dice is rolled, you need to check if anyone needs to pay a penalty. Mice players pay one counter to the catcher each time they are caught, or each time they "twitch" and move their mouse away when a colour other than red or blue turns up on the dice. The catcher pays one counter to each mouse player who gets his mouse away. He must also pay one counter to every player if he brings his catching bowl down after rolling a colour other than red or blue.

And that's it.

I'm not kidding. That's it. That's the game.

It's a very simple "twitch" game. The catcher is poised with the catching bowl, and the mice are poised holding the tails of the mice. The dice is rolled, and people have to quickly react to the result.

This is not my idea of fun.

The game claims to be "a riot of laughter and excitement." I disagree.

The game instructions say you should specify a time limit to play of ten or fifteen minutes. I think five minutes is a push.

This game is staying in my collection because... to be honest, it ISN'T in my collection. I bought this game for my wife, who loves it. So, I will indulge her from time to time by playing it when we have a group of friends over; but really, it's not for me.

But if anybody would like to buy this game and give it a whirl, you can buy a new "retro" copy from Amazon.

Saturday 8 September 2012

The Wing Warrior - Available Now!

I know, I know - two posts in a row that not only have nothing to do with boardgames, but which are also shameless plugs. I'm sorry.

I'll make you a deal... Read this post, and tomorrow I'll post a review of an old classic boardgame that I've been meaning to review for ages.




So, I'll cut to the chase - The Wing Warrior, first book in The Legend Riders series, is now available for Amazon Kindle.

In a world where magic has been banned, and the legendary creatures of old are nothing more than memories, an ancient and evil force has returned.

In the shadow of this terror, a young boy called Nimbus sets in motion a chain of events that arouses a leviathan from its slumber and awakens an even more sinister power within his eight-year-old sister.

But Nimbus’s problems don’t end there: his family is falling apart, his best friend has developed a nasty streak of jealousy, and he is about to discover just how difficult it is to become a hero when you’re dead.
You can find out more at

Sunday 2 September 2012

The Legend Riders

Okay, this isn't a post about board games; but this is my blog, and if I want to use it for a bit of shameless self-promotion then I will...

I would like to announce the imminent release of my new book, The Wing Warrior, which will be available from Amazon's Kindle store.

In a world where magic has been banned, and the legendary creatures of old are nothing more than memories, an ancient and evil force has returned. In the shadow of this terror, a young boy called Nimbus sets in motion a chain of events that arouses a leviathan from its slumber and awakens an even more sinister power within his eight-year-old sister.

But Nimbus has bigger problems to deal with. His family is falling apart, his best friend has developed a nasty streak of jealousy, and he is about to discover how difficult it is to be a hero when you're dead.

The Wing Warrior - Book One of The Legend Riders
The Wing Warrior - front cover art by James Lloyd.

The book has been written with the 9-12 age group in mind, but I think there are plenty of older readers and even some adults who will find something to enjoy.

They say that everybody has one good book in them; I am hoping I have at least three, because The Wing Warrior is the first book in a trilogy entitled The Legend Riders. The series has been structured so that in each book new legendary creatures are introduced (a leviathan and a dragon in book one, a unicorn in book two, and a pegasus in book three). The mythological elements of the stories should find an audience with children who have enjoyed The Spiderwick Chronicles, by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, and are now looking for a slightly more adult book dealing with some similar themes.

If you would like to know more, then visit or follow me on Twitter at @KevinWOutlaw