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.

Episode 359: Beasty Bar

Release Date: October 12, 2020

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:  28 min.

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There's a party at the club and all the animals from the neighborhood are clamoring to get in! Each turn, a new animal arrives in the line, jostling to get past the bouncer.

The tall Giraffe can step past shorter animals one at a time. The sneaky Weasel scootches past bigger animals. The speedy Cheetah replaces the slowest animal. The hungry Crocodile eats all animals lower on the food chain.

When the line is filled with five beasts, the club doors open and the first two animals in line are let into the bar. How many of your party animals can you get into the Beasty Bar before the night is over?

Beasty Bar is a family of whimsical card games with elements of trick-taking and hand management. Each game features the same core set of rules but adds a new set of animals and abilities to explore. You can play each game separately or combine cards across editions to create your own deck of twelve party animals.

Listen in to discover why we we aren't lion when we say Beasty Bar is a whale of a good time (and also Major Fun).

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Episode 358 - 1987 Channel Tunnel

Release Date: Sept. 28, 2020

Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Running Time:  150 min.

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Sometimes rivals, sometimes allies, Great Britain and France are connected across an ocean of history. Only the English channel has kept each nation at a distance… until now.

The year is 1987. You are in charge of one of the most massive engineering efforts in human history - the construction of the Channel Tunnel, affectionately known as the Chunnel.

English and French teams begin digging with the intent of meeting in the middle. Plan your course, rally investors, develop new technologies and drill! But beware, if you stray too far off course, the whole project could be scuttled.

1987 Channel Tunnel is a 2-player action selection game powered by clever auctions and multi-use cards. Listen in to explore the game and discover how it packs a whole word of strategy and history into its small box.

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.