Helping To Judge the Imagination Gaming Awards 2015

Chickyboom set up ready to play. Red and yellow wooden pieces are piled on a yellow plank with purple chickens sat on top

Jobby was very honoured when he was invited to help judge the Imagination Gaming Awards 2015. Here’s a report of his experiences…

Imagination Gaming Awards 2015

Imagination Gaming use board games in schools and event days to engage with children and encourage learning. Each year they award the best new games that aid children’s literacy, maths and learning whilst still remaining fun! This year is the third year of the awards and I was lucky enough to be asked to be part of the panel of judges. I’m going to be relaying my experiences of the day of judging in this blog, but you’ll probably also want to look at Imagination Gaming’s website to get a full feel of what they do. More details of the awards are on their page here.

So Many Games!

The judging was held at The IQ Games Centre in Huddersfield. Since this is about three hours drive from my home I went up the day before and spent the afternoon playing games with the Imagination Gaming guys. They were nice enough to let me crash but then they put me to good use the next morning helping get the upstairs of the games centre ready for the day of judging!

The judges were split into three groups and we each tackled the short list of one of the categories of awards. Then we all shared responsibility of judging the best family game (there were so many games!)

My group tackled the award for best Maths Game. For me, this was rather fortuitous as I rather like my numbers. 🙂 We play many games some great, some no so good. I’ll mention a couple below that left an impression with me.

Shephy

Lines of Shephy cards. Event cards along the bottom, sheep cards in the middle and a lonely sheep in the field at the top.
Play all the event cards in the deck to increase your flock to beat the target. Do those sheep have demon horns?!

I don’t know if it’s because I’m in solo play mode but I think Shephy was my favourite game of the weekend. This is a purely solo game where the player must increase the size of his flock to more than ten by playing every event card in the deck. Once the player has done that, the events are shuffled and then the player tries to increase his flock to 100 sheep! If the player can manage that then the player must try to reach 1000 sheep!

It’s a great little maths puzzler. Most of the cards make the player release sheep from their flock. It feels like only a few actually give the player sheep! The key is knowing when to let sheep go and when to hold onto them.

The art in this is incredibly beautiful. Simple little cartoons depict cute sheep and the nice bit is every card is different. All the single sheep cards have a different picture, so do all the 3’s and 10’s and 30’s etc. For some reason, though, the sheep seem to have crazy demon horns. This is a Japanese game so maybe sheep from Japan are different (and much more scary!).

Needless to say, when I find a copy of this I will be buying it!

Chickyboom

Chickyboom set up ready to play. Red and yellow wooden pieces are piled on a yellow plank with purple chickens sat on top
A game of Chickyboom about to start. This is a harder set up as the plank is so heavy on one side.

This game was a massive hit with the judges. As shown in the photo, a number of wooden tokens are piles on a plank with cute, purple chickens sat on top. The plank is balanced on top of a gently domed fulcrum. Players take it in turn to remove a piece without toppling the plank. Bigger pieces are worth more points but then you upset the balance more! Whoever tips the plank over loses 5 points.

That is it. That is the entire game and it’s brilliant! It only takes a minute to set up and five minutes to play. Set up can be different every time, though. In my photo we’d had a couple of ‘standard’ games with the weight distribution fairly even so we set it up like this completely lopsided. This made the game totally different to previous plays.

It’s just such a lovely game. It’s so bright and chunky! It properly had me trying to remember my physics lessons from school. Something about downward for being equal to weight multiplied by distance from the fulcrum. 😕 I can see this being a real hit with kids of all ages!

Aqua Brunch

Three cards showing a baby orca and two adult orcas. Other players have placed their score cards face down in front of them ready.
Teaming up the orcas for a winning hand in Aqua Brunch

This was a fun game I rather enjoyed. It revolves around a sort of inverse-draft mechanism. All players have three cards in their hand from which they all choose one to simultaneously pass to their left. They keep doing this until someone calls out “Brunch!” which is a code-word meaning “My hand is going to win!” If someone doesn’t like this they call out “Aqua!”, roughly translate as “My hand sucks!”, and they take a penalty card. Play then continues until someone calls “Brunch!” without being challenged or the penalty cards have run out so no-one can challenge.

Once a “Brunch!” has been successfully called then all players choose a score card from their deck and places it face down in front of them. All together they’re turned face up and the player with the highest value hand takes a score card of their choice. Then the next highest value player does this, then the next and so on.

I enjoy the two main elements to this. I like the passing of the card and trying to work out what your neighbour doesn’t want. Some cards match up better with certain cards whilst completely negating others. So while you’re passing a card that’s useless for you it might well be helping your neighbour.

The choosing of the score cards is interesting, too. Got a completely duff hand? Then put in a relatively high score card. Hopefully no-one has put in anything lower and at least you get some points.

Oh, and I forgot to mention how lovely the art on the cards is depicting lots of sea creatures. There’s some great details, like the shark having a little fishing hook through one fin. And the jellyfish has to be the meanest looking card I’ve seen in a game for a long while! Lol!

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