Episode 368: Ubike Tours: Taiwan

Release Date: March 15, 2021

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:  97 min.

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Let’s take a bike trip around northern Taiwan. So much to see!

The night markets in Taichung, the great Buddha statue in Changhua, the Hakka Round House in Maioli, the Science Park in Hsinchu, Da Xie Old Street in Taoyuan, Cape Santiago in New Taipei City and Liberty Square in Taipei City just to name a few…. 

Play scenery cards to visit as many sites as you can over the course of nine stops. The traveler who plans the best and pedals great distances will score well and create a memorable trip.

Ubike Tours: Taiwan draws inspiration from two beloved modern classics: Six Nimmt and the 10 Days In series. It combines familiar mechanisms with a clever press-your-luck element to create a lovely balance of strategy and chance.

Grab a bike, explore each option and be ready to pounce when opportunity presents itself. There’s a fun world waiting for you in Ubike Tours: Taiwan behind the flip of every card.

Tune in explore the game and discover why it is Major Fun!

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Episode 367: The One Hundred Torii

Release Date: March 8, 2021

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:  32 min.

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The One Hundred Torii is a game that values journey over destination.

Players create a beautiful Japanese garden together by laying tiles, making their way through Torii gates, beautiful red arches - each one an invitation to enter a sacred space. 

Step into a peaceful realm of flowers, fountains, and shrines. You may even encounter a poet, a vendor, perhaps even a wandering samurai.

Each path you make is a chance to collect memories - the sights and sounds, the landmarks and people you encounter along the way.

Observe, create, accomplish. The One Hundred Torii offers us a chance to see that our movements have meaning beyond the everyday - an experience that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Tune in explore the game and discover why it earns our Spiel of Approval.

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Episode 366 - Yura Yura Penguin

Release Date:  Feb. 26, 2021

Download: PDF

Designer: Ryoko Yabuchi

Publishers: Ryoko Yabuchi

2-6 players  | 10-15 min  |  ages 7+  | 2-3 min to learn | MSRP $28


An iceberg has melted and a whole village of penguins needs a new home! Can you stack together enough ice to build them a place to stay? The wind (or other players…) might make it wobble, so it will take a steady hand to find the right balance to place each level and find a perfect spot for each bird.

Yura Yura Penguin is a charming and clever card-based dexterity game where players build an uneven tower higher and higher, placing blocks of ice and penguins on different levels. Be the first to play all your ice cards and avoid making the tower topple to win the game.

Written review continues after the break.

Episode 365: Castles of Tuscany

Release Date: February 17, 2021

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:  107 min.

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Northern Italy in the 15th century was ruled by influential noble families. Can you guide your region to prosperity by supporting farms, mining, monasteries, villages and trade?  Building out from a single castle, each decision can create a chain of benefits, providing more opportunities and actions. Garner the most power over the course of three turns and you will secure your family’s legacy and influence across all of Tuscany.

Castles of Tuscany is beautifully simple tile laying game that creates space and opportunity for depth and strategy. The game challenges players to stack simple small decisions together in order to build complex chains of actions and bonuses. The pleasure and fun that comes from thoughtful play doesn't require dense rulebooks... only the subtle genius of designer Stefan Feld.

Tune in explore the game and discover why it earns our Spiel of Approval.

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Episode 364: Cupcake Academy

Release Date:  Feb. 8, 2021

Download: PDF

Designer: Erwan Morin

Publishers: Blue Orange Games

2-4 players  | 10 min  |  ages 8+  | 3 min to learn | $22


Seven minutes separate you and your team of pastry chefs from enrolling at the world famous Cupcake Academy. How many assignments can you complete, exchanging and stacking colored cups on plates, readying them for the kitchen? 

Be quick, but be careful.

The judges are very picky, so each order has to be just right for everyone to move on. Complete all the assignments before time is up and you’ll enjoy the sweet taste of victory.

Read on to explore the cooperative logic puzzle at the gooey center of Cupcake Academy and discover why we think it is Major Fun!

Written review continues after the break.

The Short List - 2020


We play hundreds of games every year. Each one is given due consideration for  The Spiel of Approval and Major Fun Awards.

Out of these hundreds, only a dozen or so games are selected per award. 

Inevitably, there are games that might not fit all of the award criteria but are games we really enjoy nonetheless.

These games make our Short List. 

Think of the Short List as an Honorable Mention category.  

They might not have made the final cut, but any game on our Short List is one we think is engaging and fun.

Read on to explore the list.

I bet you'll find at least a couple you'll be itching to try! 

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Episode 363 - Holiday Party

Release Date: Dec. 21, 2020

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:   225 min.

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Join our party of misfit nerds for fun, games, and freewheeling conversations spanning the wide world of geekdom.

We hope you'll be in a festive mood for the season after being part of some Grade A goofing around.


Francie Broadie (Indianapolis, IN)

Stephen Buonocore (Boynton Beach, FL)

Allen Chen (Cupertino, CA)

Alex Despres (Arlington, TX)

Suzie Despres (Arlington, TX)

James Engelhardt (Greenville, SC)

Gubbins (Indianapolis, IN)

Jeremy Piets (Midway Point, Tasmania)

Debbie Ohi (Toronto, Canada)

Darrell Ottery (Reading, UK)

Jeff Ridpath (Toronto, Canada)

Lucio Rodriguez (Riverside, CA)

Katherine Rosland (Stavanger, Norway)

Kristof Tersago (Sint Truiden, Belgium)

Mark Smalley (Indianapolis, IN)

Mark Wilder (Chicago, IL)


Debbie Ohi provided the fun and festive artwork for this episode! 

You can watch the party on Youtube here!


Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Episode 362 - Nova Luna

Release Date: November 23, 2020

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:  85 min.

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We humans are caught in a cosmic conversation with the Moon. Its monthly dance pulls at our planet. Nova Luna (New Moon) is the start of another cycle; it has come to symbolize a new beginning, a chance to plan for the future.

Nova Luna is an abstract game of new beginnings. Players select and place colored tiles from the Moon clock, hoping to create patterns which allow them to place scoring tokens on the tiles. As the moon moves through its cycle, new choices and strategies will arise. The moon will talk to you through her tiles. Listen close and you’ll make the right connection.

Tune in explore the game and discover why it earns our Spiel of Approval.

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Episode 361: Calico

Release Date:  Nov. 2, 2020

Download: PDF

Designer: Kevin Russ

Publishers: Flatout Games, AEG

1-4 players  | 30-45 min  |  ages 12+  | 5-8 min to learn | $40


Your calico quilt starts as a pile of simple fabric in colorful floral patterns. Patiently you cut, fold, and sew each piece into precise shapes and designs. Your goal? Create a cozy refuge, an irresistible napping platform for every cat in the house.

Calico is a charming tile laying game filled with simple beauty and hidden depth. Your final quilt won’t be perfect. And that's ok. Calico is a game about creating something lovely with what you have on hand. Your decisions create the beauty in the game.

Read on to explore Calico and discover why we think it is worthy of both our awards!

Written review continues after the break.

Episode 360 - The Isle of Cats

Release Date: October 26, 2020

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:  104 min.

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You are on a rescue mission to the fabled Isle of Cats. But you must hurry! The dread pirate Vesh is coming to loot and pillage, destroying anything in his path. Explore the island, gather cats and ancient treasures, and find a way to fit them all on your boat before Vesh arrives.

The Isle of Cats is a wonderful mix of puzzle and strategy. Draft a hand of cards and use fish to pay for them. Cards help you lure cats, find loot, learn lessons from past visitors, or even discover mythical kitties. Now the real fun begins, each cat and treasure you acquire is a tetris-like tile you must fit onto your ship, covering as many rooms and rats as you can to score.

The Isle of Cats fuses these elements seamlessly and presents them as a portal to a rich story which is part of a larger world. Listen in to discover why we think the Isle of Cats is a puzzle with a purpose - combining gameplay with a story that moves us to be playful and stand up for what is right - risking all to save what can be saved.

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.