Food Chain Island review – eat your way to the top

Button Shy Games is releasing Food Chain Island on May 26 on Kickstarter, a 17-card solo puzzle game! In this Food Chain Island review, we’ll go through a brief summary of the game mechanics, components, and our separate points of view on the game.

Disclaimer: We offer Button Shy Games’ games for local purchase in our online shop. While we promise to be honest in our assessment of the games we review, do take this into consideration as you go through our review.

We own a couple of Button Shy Games ourselves. The games they’ve published have always been fun, relaxing puzzles in a fantastically small package. They called for Print & Play reviewers, and we answered as fast as we could!

In Food Chain Island, you control the local wildlife in a small island in an unnamed ocean. You tell the animals what to eat, with the goal of having only one animal left at the end of the game. (That’s proooobably not very good for the island environment, but it’s a very small island, see? Only one recliner and margarita available.)

Food Chain Island play through summary

There are 17 cards in total in this solo game. There are 15 land animals, ranging from a Plant that Eats Nothing, to a Polar Bear that Eats the Lion, the Gator, and the Tiger. There’s also a Shark and a Whale to help nudge the land animals’ eating habits along.

In the basic game, you set out the land animal cards on a 4×4 grid in random sequence, face up. The two water animals are set aside where you can see and reach them easily.

On each of your turns, you move one of the land animals to “eat” another land animal. You do this by placing their card over the eaten animal’s card (therefore forming a stack under the eating animal).

In most cases, animals can only move one space orthogonally, so they can only eat those next to them.

The bat goes in for the kill…

Each card is also numbered according to their level in the food chain. They can eat animals up to three below them in the food chain.

Who can eat who?

In the image above, you can have the Gator (13) eat either the Lynx (10) or the Tiger (12). They can’t eat the Lion (14) because it’s higher in the food chain; the Rat (6) is also too far below the food chain. It’s not going to be enough to feed this hungry Gator!

In addition, when you move an animal to eat another animal, you also activate their ability listed in the bottom of their card. These special effects start out quite helpful in the early game. You’re still generally working through the lower end of the food chain, after all. But as you go up the food chain, it gets progressively more difficult.

Once you can no longer eat another animal based on your current grid, the game ends. If you’re left with just one animal, you’ve won the game! In most cases, this would be the Polar Bear; but there are card abilities that allow you to remove any card from the play area, so YMMV.

What do I do now? :(

Food Chain Island components

As we tested a Print & Play version of the game that was sent to us, we can’t really comment on the final game quality once it’s released after the Kickstarter. But we do have personal history with Button Shy Games’ Wallet line; and we can see the art on the P&P files we were sent. Because of this, we do have some assumptions of how the game will turn out.

The card art is beautiful. It’s whimsical and colorful, but also relaxing and charming. Each card is numbered to help with the eating rules, which is also reiterated helpfully on each card. (Shown here is a screenshot from the P&P file; we only had ivory cardstock on hand when we made our P&P, so the color is slightly tinted!)

The Wallet line which this game will be part of contains similar card games; all of them are housed in a beautiful plastic “wallet” that allows you to bring them around everywhere you go. Each card is also linen finished, beautiful and durable. I’m showing the Tussie Mussie and Sprawlopolis games below–the Food Chain Island game should be packaged similarly!

Her POV

I quite enjoyed this engrossing puzzle game! It was easy to grasp, and I slid into the game pretty effortlessly. I hardly had to read the rules, and it was pretty easy to teach it to someone else as well.

I settled in for a straightforward, cutesy game…and I couldn’t have been more surprised. During my first game, I was pleasantly surprised at how long it took me to go through the game. Maybe it says more about how I get bogged down by analysis paralysis; but there was just so many possibilities about which way to go in a game. I did not expect it from such a simple package.

I did find myself wanting a version of this game with square cards, though. There are definitely no issues with the standard poker size cards, but since we’re talking about grids, y’know…

I can also see this as a game that can be easily shared with the younger members of anyone’s family. The kid-friendly art is sure to be interesting to children; and you can definitely turn it into a short nature lesson ;)

Still, this is definitely a solo game worth your time!

His POV

This seemed like a very simplistic game–considering the easy set-up, cutesy animals, and its super easy rules. After all you’re only required to be the last animal standing by making your way down the food chain.

But after playing the game several times, I can definitely say that there is an interesting complexity with the game when combining the abilities of the animals and the caveat that the animals only have a particular diet that they prefer (specifically only a number of those below them).

Additionally, the mechanics of the game works well with its intended theme–I definitely enjoyed being a lazy polar bear who needs to rest after every meal.

Noms!

All in all, the game is like a fun puzzle with enough complexity to it that it makes you want to keep replaying the game over and over until you are able to successfully complete it. I will definitely recommend these to people who enjoy playing puzzles.

Food Chain Island review verdict

Disclaimer: We offer Button Shy Games’ games for local purchase in our online shop. While we promise to be honest in our assessment of the games we review, do take this into consideration as you go through our review.

Food Chain Island is one surprising package. An outwardly simple, straightforward game, it packs a complexity punch that is perfect for solo puzzle lovers. This turned out to be a strategically crafty game; animal actions that scale as you go up the food chain and eating limitations definitely upped the ante.

The simple mechanics, coupled with its cute, friendly art style make this even accessible for children. Parents who would want to turn this game into a teaching moment, rejoice! For younger kids, possibly some minor gameplay changes might be in order.

The small game footprint is a lovely plus. It’s easy to bring everywhere and get folks and kids to puzzle through the grid with you!

Button Shy Games’ Food Chain Island wallet game is definitely a worthy addition to anyone’s wallet! They’re launching this game on Kickstarter on May 26, and we’ll update this post as soon as they do. :)

A year of meeplings

It’s been one year since we started selling our D&D 5e Character Folios and Tomes! Our very first sale was on May 11, 2019. Can you believe it? Time flies by so fast, we almost forgot about our own birthday!1

Last year, we went up to Baguio with the rest of the Greasy Snitches to run Snitchfest: Valleypoint. We had a couple of terrain coasters, folios, and tomes. (Fun fact: these character notebooks are differently-sized than our current A5 notebooks–they’re 8.5″ x 5.5″! Do you have one of our very first editions?)

Take a look at that early logo!

It was a whirlwind weekend–selling our merch during registration, and helping out with the event. (It was Angela’s first Snitchfest!) We had a lot of fun, and it was the start of more wonderful experiences with everyone at gaming events and online! <3

State of the meeple

We learned many things this year. Neither of us come from a business background, so it was almost a deep end of the ocean situation for us. There were many things that we wanted to do last year. However, we didn’t have the time, the resources, or the know-how to start or get going.

And then COVID-19 happened.

We’d been planning to push our online shop more due to the event cancellations that kept coming in. Angela worked on the Sari-sari TRPG Market patterned after a few online marketplaces that were popping up because of event cancellations across the globe.

And then the Enhanced Community Quarantine came into effect. We put Hey Meepling on a fulfillment hiatus to reduce unnecessary delivery and shipping efforts2. We knew we were doing the right thing, but it was also scary having zero income for our small business. Daniel had full-time work, but Angela needed Hey Meepling income3.

It’s been a challenging six weeks. We’re lucky and blessed that we haven’t been more impacted by the pandemic, and this time is all about small wins.

What’s next

Time will tell how we’ll all get through this challenging time in our lives. The important thing is to focus on moving forward as we all adjust to this new normal.

One thing we can say with certainty is that we’re going to lean further into expanding our reach. Right now, we’re focusing on returning delivery service coverage to the Philippines. Metro Manila is easy, but provincial deliveries are still a challenge4.

But that’s not all. We’re working on extending our reach beyond our country’s borders, too. Yes, we’ll be opening for international orders soon! We’re looking forward to opening an international shop, but we may have to do it in a more limited fashion. Everything depends on how the next few weeks and months pan out!

We’re also looking into a couple new projects this coming year. We can’t share too much right now but, we’re excited and we hope you like the things we’re working on. We might ask for some beta testers of a couple new things further down the line; if this is interesting to you, do sign up for our newsletter where we’ll do a call for testers!

For now, we’re focusing on the next steps, taking things one day (or week) at a time.

Come celebrate with us

Regardless of what we’re going through right now, we’ve very grateful you’ve helped us this far. We’ve got a couple of things here, so buckle up!

The shop is open!

We’ve heard you loud and clear–so we’re opening up shop again!

You can once again browse our online shop and check out if you are in Metro Manila! We’ve done a little bit of spring cleaning; check out all the good things you can use to pimp your tabletop adventures. ;) We’ll update as soon as we are able to do provincial addresses.

Of course, not everything can go back to the way it was, not yet. Our new normal is making sure that we minimize unnecessary contact–so we’re doing a once-weekly shipping run. We’ll ship all confirmed orders every Wednesday afternoon, and have Tuesday evenings as cutoff for that week’s shipping run.

We’ve got limited stocks and supplies are low, so we’re working with our suppliers to see what we can do. In-stock items won’t have any delays — but our processing time for custom or made-to-order Character Tomes are affected. Made-to-order tomes are currently taking up to 10-20 business days to craft from our previous 3-5 days. We can still take orders, but it will take a while to get them made for you.

A mug for all those crits

There is something new brewing (heh) in our drinkware line: D&D Combat Mugs! Keep track of your health and death saves while giving your DM (across from you) easy access to check your initiative, AC, and passive perception and insight stats!

You can write directly on the glossy ceramic mugs with a dry-erase marker and wipe it clean after the game. How’s that for some classy sips while you’re gaming without resorting to disposable cups?

We’re targeting fulfillment for these mugs in July, but we’re taking pre orders now to help us plan demand. Get 20% off these combat mugs when you pre order, too!

Spring cleaning, anyone?

We’ve put up a clearance sale for version one of both in-stock Folios and Tomes! Get up to 40% off for items on clearance — and once they’re gone, they’re gone!

You’ll see the sale price right on the product page–no surprises here! Grab one of the few remaining first-version folios at ₱120; the tomes go at ₱300 for the hardcovers and ₱400 for the faux leather ones. That’s a steal!

Hurry up for an extra freebie

If you’re quick, you might also score an extra freebie. Our A6 notebooks are also on clearance, but we’ve set aside some as gifts! Get a free A6-sized notebook if you’re one of the first five confirmed purchases. You’ll get the extra swag automatically if you purchase at least ₱250, so hurry!

Another gift from us to you

Last, but most definitely not the least–what’s a birthday when there’s no giveaway? Get a chance to win one of our new D&D 5e Character Tomes! This brave blue tome is ready to accompany you to adventures in Faerûn and beyond. No need to wait for processing times–it’s ready to go home to you!

Up your chances to win by liking/sharing/tweeting/commenting on our social media posts about our birthday below–more details on each post. (Yes, doing it on all three platforms get you three chances!)

Check our Facebook post, Twitter tweet, and Instagram post to check out the giveaway and participate!

Thanks again for all the love and friendship you’ve all extended to us in our first year. Here’s to many more!

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. The quarantine might have something to do about that, too!
2. we’re only small fry, but we knew every little bit counts at such a crucial time
3. she’s accepting writing gigs in the meantime! Check out her portfolio!
4. and we’re interested if you know of any solutions–hit us up!

A good background story

Before the lockdowns started, a friend of ours ran Berlin – The Wicked City from Chaosium. She had been bugging us to play for a while, but schedules have (as usual) been difficult to synch.

That afternoon almost didn’t push through, but we ended up playing all through the afternoon, into the night, into the wee hours of the morning. We finished the first scenario in one sitting.

(Ah, the long-gone times of real-life tabletop RPG games!)

Berlin – The Wicked City is a sourcebook for Call of Cthulhu, containing three scenarios in addition to being an overview of 1920s Berlin to help a Storyteller craft a CoC campaign filled with notable personalities, key locations, and rich culture.

I’m a scaredy cat. I can’t watch horror shows1, I can’t read horror books2. Dan had played the introductory scenario of Masks of Nyarlathotep for me under the Pulp Cthulhu adaptation, but it was decidedly horror-lite.

I was stressed for a good amount of time during the game. There were more than a couple times that I was seriously considering excusing myself from the game because it giving me a serious case of the heebie-jeebies. The only reason I didn’t was the thought of walking the short block home–alone–in the middle of the night3.

The saving grace was the almost-cheesy, almost-melodramatic back story I selected that I used “just for fun”. We’re starting the next scenario soon (since the quarantine isn’t easing up), and while I’m dreading playing Call of Cthulhu in a small condominium unit in the dead of night, I’m actually looking forward to it. All because of my cheesy, melodramatic back story that amazingly enabled me to feel fully integrated into the story than I otherwise would have.

Our game

We played the first scenario, The Devil Eats Flies. I had no idea what it was about. We just sat down in my friend’s living room and she told us what sorts of people currently populated the city.

I lit on becoming a woman refugee taking on odd jobs to survive. She was hiding her true identity as a Russian monarchist who was a servant under one of the lesser noble families before everything went to chaos.

Dan urged me to go big or go home–be a servant of the Romanovs directly! Why not? Background flavour was background flavour. So, hell, why not? I became one of the handmaidens of the imperial family who stayed behind as they fled Alexander Palace.

I was trying to scrape enough together, but also day-dreaming of finding my lady, the Grand Duchess Anastasia, amid rumours that she had escaped. Not that I could find anything with my barely-living wage juggling three jobs as a secretary at the University, a waitress at a popular diner, and taking on odd tasks at the police station.

(Of course I’m not going to sell my body. I am a lady’s maid, my good sir! For shame!)

Little did I know. Check out what the scenario is about, from the publisher itself:

In The Devil Eats Flies Germany teeters on the brink of economic ruin and political chaos. The ghost of a madman stalks the city, turning its own citizenry against itself. To stop a demonic spirit and save a Russian princess in exile, the investigators must strike a bargain with other sinister forces and ask themselves: who else are we prepared to see die in order to save the city?

What are the chances? Our Storyteller never made a sound as I planned my poor little Russian immigrant’s sad background.

You know that game where you end up mimicking your character’s actions, kneeling down on the floor as you’re entreating someone to believe you?

Yeah, that finally happened to me after over a year of playing tabletop roleplaying games. I didn’t even realize it until after the game.

That probably says more about the types of games I usually play in, but I generally prefer games where there is minimal emotional bleed. It’s not that I don’t like being challenged emotionally–I’m a girl who cries readily at movies and books. But I’m also conflict-averse and more often than not, emotional conflict in games tend to be between players. I’m a PvE sort of person.

This Berlin game gave me my PvE conflict wishes, heightened by all the emotional connections the storyline had with me.

A super brief review

Sure, the highly charged and horror-peppered story probably added to how visceral the game felt for me, though it comes from a different quarter than what one might expect. If you’ve played this scenario, I’m not even squicked at the inherent level of gore in the story. It was everything else. The creepiness of the people. The paranoia, the confusion, not knowing what to do and not wanting my character to go back to her tiny apartment alone (there’s one thing we have in common!).

I’m not typically a puzzle-solver in the tabletop RPG games we play, and this is no exception. So I can’t speak about how ingenious the plot puzzle was, but it certainly felt really clever. We did not play pulp this time around, so we were rather squishy folk, but we survived. Not unscathed, but alive. Of a sort.

We’re playing again soon, and I’ve petitioned a daytime game when it gets to the squicky parts XD

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. though I’m cool with zombie media and general gore
2. but I love Stephen King’s Dark Tower saga–while never having read the rest of his books. Go figure
3. Dan probably wouldn’t let me do that alone, but neither did I want to be the wet blanket

Let your RPG characters live with this local artistic initiative [Feature]

Let your RPG characters live with this local artistic initiative

You know that TRPG character you created and play with every week, so much that you have this vision of what they look like? You’ve thought of exactly how they look, how they sound, how they behave. They have amazing backstories you’ve meticulously penned down (in one of our character folios, we hope — we’ve got something special for you if you do, later below in the article!).

Only your party members haven’t seen how amazing (or troubled!) your character is! If you’ve been thinking of finally getting some art done for them, there are tons of artists opening their commission slots nowadays.

The nifty thing is, you can get all that done, but also help people out during this pandemic by participating in Art for Frontliners!

We heard about Art for Frontliners a few weeks ago and was immediately struck with how clever and beautiful it was as an initiative. They are a group of artists who want to help our local frontliners and fellow Filipinos fight COVID-19 in their own little way.

From as low as ₱350, interested people can choose a particular artist from the Art for Frontliners artist pool to make an amazing piece of art just for them — but instead of paying the artist for the piece, buyers send their “payment” directly to a local cause that either helps our frontliners or countrymen in need. People get their art, and charities get their donations, and frontliners get some much-needed help in these trying times.

I felt like I wanted to participate, but my art is pretty much currently limited to simple shapes and doodles, so I have to leave the art-ing to professionals. But we wanted to do our bit to help spread the word around by sharing the initiative and talking about it here in Hey, Meepling.

(If you’re interested in joining their initiative as an artist, just message the page and get in touch with them! They’re super approachable and friendly.)

The initiative had its seeds in Twitter. The founders started seeing the #ArtForMedPH hashtag used on the social media platform, and with other like-minded artists, decided to boost the signal by creating a proper Facebook group and getting the word out! They raised over ₱10,000 in one day after their launch on April 3, and by April 17 they had raised ₱50,000 donations! How’s that for helping out?

(We also listed some other initiatives at last week’s blog post if you want to help out more during these challenging times! If you know of more–let us know and we’ll add to the list!)

Get your art and help others, too

Art for Frontliners have new artists coming on to pledge their time regularly, so while some artists’ commission slots might be full, there are definitely others whose art style one might be interested in. We’ll have a list of their current artists below so you can browse, but there are more coming in as the days go by, so feel free to check out their full roster!

There are three tiers for artwork available through the initiative: ₱350, ₱500, and ₱1,000 tier levels, and interested people can choose what kind of style and level they would like to receive and donate that amount to one of the charities at HelpFromHome.ph. Send the proof of payment, reference photos, and your artist of choice to them, and sit back and wait for your chosen artist to craft your dream artwork.

Contacting them via the Facebook page is super easy to do, or you can also email them at artforfrontlinersph@gmail.com if email’s more your thing.

We’ll list down their current artists below so you can do a quick glance and also stalk take a look at the rest of that artist’s work!

We’ve also noted if the artist specializes in concept/fantasy art, or does fan art/portraiture.

Go forth and donate! (And get great art!)

(If you’re curious about the Hey Meepling freebie – just keep going!)

The artists of Art for Frontliners

Hi I’m Julia! Some call me by my art name, Nami. I’m very much inspired by the art
style of Studio Ghibli. I mostly draw nature and dainty things. (Instagram, DeviantArt)
I love to explore and express myself in all forms of art but most especially through digital
painting✨ <3 (Instagram, Website)
Hello, I’m Cyd and I like to draw, eat, and nap. I am basically a cat. (Instagram)
Hi I go by the name haneul in art and I’m a concept artist ü (Website, DeviantArt)
I am Akimiel and sometimes I draw. (Facebook Page)
Hi I’m Cen, I like to draw the universe and fantasies inside my head. (Instagram)
Hi I’m Luce and I like to draw things I love hihi (Instagram)
I do mostly pet portraits and donate the proceeds to Animal Welfare Organizations of my choice. (Website)
I love to illustrate aesthetically pleasing concept art ❤️✨ (Instagram)
Self-taught | Illustrator | 07.13.1997 (Instagram)
I’m usually a laid back guy who often gets mistaken as lazy. I like to let my mind wander in a chill atmosphere, to be able to see the world in a different perspective. (Instagram)

And finally, for staying all throughout that…you get a cookie! Well, not exactly. But…

Here, get a character art sticker template

While we were talking about how cool getting art done for your characters, we realized that’s all well and good, but we don’t exactly have a way to put it onto our folios.

Well, until now!

We’re putting out a small digital freebie — a template where you can copy+paste your character’s art onto, print it out (on sticker paper, or regular paper and just have some glue ready), and paste it right onto your folio or tome! Instant character art perfect for your beautiful folio and tome!

FINALLY. That portrait portion of the character sheet has always been a little sad-looking :(

Chuck your email down below to get the zipped templates! They are in PSD format, but should work for any graphics program that can open PSDs. We’ve got templates for both the 2019 or 2020 version of our character notebooks!


And remember — stay safe, stay online, and support local. :)

Staying safe and supporting others

It’s been three weeks since Metro Manila has been put on lockdown, and Philippines is looking at quarantine extensions for everyone’s safety. Hey Meepling has been on hiatus since the start of the Enhanced Community Quarantine, but we hope that everyone is doing well so far.

We’ll share more about Hey Meepling moving forward in these trying times, and we’ll share our plans at a later date. For now, have you checked out the Sari-sari TRPG Market?

It’s a small initiative together with a couple local TRPG merchants and artists: we put up an “online tiangge” (market/bazaar) at the start of the quarantine, so everyone can easily browse through TRPG goodies as if you were at an event with their booths, without leaving the comfort and safety of your homes.

While some of the participating merchants have since decided to take on a shipping hiatus (including us!), many of the participating crafters, artists, and small business owners are continuing to ply their trades online. If you’ve been on the fence about getting that artwork for a beloved character done, polish up a game for publishing, or even just start to collaborate with someone on a beautiful custom item–now is a great time to while away your hours on this wonderful hobby of ours!

If you need more tips and ideas on how to fully indulge your D&D and TRPG fix, there are tons of resources online. From Wizards of The Coast giving away a ton of things for remote play, to folks banding together and helping people get set up playing Roll20–there is so much support and resources going around right now if you’re curious about tabletop roleplaying games and want to give it a shot.

If boardgames are more your style than tabletop RPGs, there are also a bunch of free Print n Play games available for you to try — whip out those crafting materials and get to work ;) And don’t forget you can try out Boardgame Arena and Tabletop Simulator — find some local folks to play with at Tabletop Simulator PH!

Save the healers

There are also a couple of online initiatives that are worth a look to help our frontliners continue to do the amazing, brave, and selfless work they do. Take a look at the following initiatives and satisfy both your own wants and our frontliners’ and neighbours’ needs.

#ArtForMedPH

The artists behind #ArtForMedPH are offering commissioned art in exchange for donations directly to local frontliners, through the causes highlighted at Help From Home, a local initiative that highlights the local causes that can use our help at this time of need. A range of prices and styles for commissioned art is available for all kinds of tastes.

Adventuring from Home bundle

Dungeon Masters Guild has released two timely bundles especially for this pandemic. Their Adventuring from Home bundle is priced at $20 and proceeds are donated to Doctors Without Borders. Choose one or the other, whether you’re homebrew all the way, or the adventuring life is more your style.

The homebrew bundle contains multiple exciting adventures (DDR, anyone?), tons of subclasses and options, as well as more monsters and NPCs and festivals to delight everyone.

The Adventurers League bundle, on the other hand, includes 18 amazing adventures (including two from our very own Paul Gabat and Mon Macutay), as well as the Tortle Package for all you tortle lovers out there.

Larong Atin games

Larong Atin showcases a wonderful collection of local tabletop games made by local game designers. With the help of Neutral Grounds, they are donating 40% of all proceeds to help fund the production of local COVID-19 testing kits!

Take a look at their amazing collection of games:

  • Quotes and Verses
  • Darna at ang Nawawalang Bato
  • Combatron the Card Game
  • Combatron the Card Game 2
  • Bagani the Card Game
  • Lastikman Tagu-Taguan
  • Pawikan Patrol
  • Folded Wishes
  • Dobble Philippine Edition

Check their Facebook post for more details!

Action to Aid

Adventurers Anonymous Manila is holding an online event! From April 23 to 29, dungeon masters are opening up slots with the help of the local Roll20 community for a slew of online Dungeons & Dragons Adventurers’ League games! The earliest games start at 1pm.

Interested players can sign up for games for a fee of ₱150, which goes to purchasing protective equipment for our local frontliners!

Check out their Facebook post for more details!


Do you know of other fundraising activities and initiatives in our community? Share it in the comments below so we can all jump in and help out!

No matter how you choose to spend your hours during this community quarantine, we hope you are all doing well and keeping busy.

Stay safe, stay online, and support local.

Orchard review – a swift nine-card puzzle

Shortly after we wrote our review for Black Sonata, I found out about Side Room Games’ plan to open another Kickstarter, this time for BoardGameGeek favourite Orchard, a nine-card solitaire game with only cards, dice, and two cubes. Owing to how we feel about Black Sonata, we decided to check this Print & Play game out. In this Orchard review, we’ll go through the basic mechanics of the game, the PNP resources’ quality, and each of our POVs on how it plays.

Disclaimer: Hey, Meepling is currently offering Orchard for pre-order locally in the Philippines at the Kickstarter price while the Kickstarter is active. While we pride ourselves with making honest reviews regardless of affiliation, do keep this in mind while you read our thoughts on this game.

Orchard, by Mark Tuck, has a pretty solid history already, even though having only been released in 2018: it won multiple categories (including Best Overall Game) in the 2018 BoardGameGeek 9-Card Nanogame Print & Play Design Contest. It was also the BoardGameGeek Golden Geek Winner for Best Print & Play Game of 2018. I’d always enjoyed the experience of making and playing PNPs and this was pretty much enough endorsement for me to want to try it out.

This tile-laying game has the player grow and manage the titular Orchard, trying to maximize their harvest. A multiplayer option is also available, that requires another copy of the game.

Orchard play through summary

In the regular, solitaire game, the player shuffles their nine cards1 and picks the first card as their starting “orchard”, and two more to form their hand. A set of fifteen dice form a pool for their harvest of apples, plums, and pears (five of each fruit).

Players then choose a card from their hand to play on top of their current orchard. Playing a card requires that the new card overlap their current orchard either horizontally or vertically, with the underlying fruit matching the fruit placed on top of it. If the top fruit does not match the bottom fruit, a “rotten cube” may be placed, at a maximum of two times per game. Cards cannot be placed on top of rotten fruit.

If the player successfully places a fruit on top of a matching fruit, they are able to harvest from that plant. The first time they overlap, a die with the “1” side facing up is placed on the plant, signifying that they can harvest from that plant. The second time, the die is turned to the “3” side facing up, signifying an increased yield for that plant.

Orchard Print & Play quality

The PNP is pretty straightforward, and the assets are well-done. There is a single-page rules sheet and two pages that contain the 18 cards for the game, designed to be printed back-to-back (for a total of 9 cards and 18 card faces). An optional card back sheet is also provided in case you’d rather print the 18 cards as separate cards.

Printing is straightforward, and the backs and fronts matched up well, though due to the nature of how the cards are laid out, it was difficult to see the cutting lines once you’ve cut the cards in one direction. There are faint lines in the card art that should help, but it was difficult to find once the guiding line was gone. My cards therefore have slight differences in sizes, but these don’t affect gameplay as much since shuffling is only done once at game start (and there are only a few cards to shuffle, anyway).

Players should provide their own dice, of which one will need 15 six-sided dice: 5 apples, 5 plums, and 5 pears. Ideally you have differing colors for them for each, but I didn’t have with my own copy, and it wasn’t too difficult. Two markers are also needed for rotten fruits, but I used a peso coin when I played, haha. What rotten fruit??

Her POV

I’m really liking this game for what it is. It’s simple, it’s light, and it’s quick, but engrossing in just the right amount. It’s the type of game that, after one round, is super easy to go just one more. At first, I wondered if it was going to be too simplistic, but I think it has the right balance of simplicity and puzzle-y goodness. I also like the “mechanic” of upping the dice value–it feels pretty satisfying after scoring!

Owing to my d6s being in my TRPG “box”, I’ve ended up adding my PNP cards into the vault as well. You know, for those instances when people take so long to get the game started…;)

I can’t wait for this amazing little game to be professionally produced!

His POV

It has been a while since a game frustrated me the way that Orchard has, since this game required me to be efficient in the placement of my “trees” for maximum yield. The need to set my score higher than my last2 pushes me to keep playing, and since the game plays so quickly, I get to play at least five more games till my needs are partially satisfied.

So, yes, I really like this game, despite the leading intro. I can’t wait to play the fully produced game once it comes out!

Orchard review verdict

Disclaimer: Hey, Meepling is currently offering Orchard for pre-order locally in the Philippines at the Kickstarter price while the Kickstarter is active. While we pride ourselves with making honest reviews regardless of affiliation, do keep this in mind while you read our thoughts on this game.

Orchard has a lot going for it in the solitaire game category–a light footprint and quick play that’s satisfying and engrossing at the same time.

The PNP is well done and easy to set up, but the Kickstarter is proving to be super exciting, with unlocked custom rotten fruit tokens, engraved dice, and possibly plastic cards for that ultra durability bonus. Check out the Kickstarter, or if you’re in the Philippines, we’re offering local pre-orders too!

Check out these playthroughs and reviews too:

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. As it is possible to print the game as 18 cards instead of the nine back-to-back cards, players still play with nine cards, just setting the other nine aside for a second game. Which you will want to play. For sure.
2. and Angela’s

Board game etiquette – don’t be THAT guy

A year ago, I discovered the local board game scene. I met a couple of new friends and I was reinvigorated with this wonderful hobby of ours. I found out about all the local board game cafes and wanted to try them all.

A few months in, my friends and I heard about Ludo Boardgame Cafe in Makati closing 1. Puzzles followed after a fire sale. Moonleaf + Bunnies Cafe in Binondo and Laro Board Game Cafe in QC sold off their cafes. While their reasons for closing and selling may be unclear, these events happening in such close succession begs a thoughtful pause.

A month ago, the local tabletop RPG community (and by extension all board gamers as well), was rocked with the revelation that a local cafe put in place a policy where tabletop roleplaying games were not allowed in their branches anymore due to an incident that happened in another branch. There were no specifics, but in many other establishments across the metro, groups have been asked to leave.

The importance of open spaces

While many groups may not need these open spaces due to having their own private space, these are still important for our hobbies to thrive.

Having a neutral location to play games in are important, as not all groups would have access to a private space available to game in. Even if there was, a neutral location is also good for safety purposes: not all gamers would be comfortable inviting a stranger to play in their homes, nor would everyone be comfortable just showing up at a private residence to play with near strangers and acquaintances. If we wish to expand our community, public, neutral spaces are important.

Gaming in open spaces also serve to normalize boardgames and tabletop RPGs in our country, as these hobbies, while gaining traction, are still a niche activity and very often misunderstood in our society. How many times have you had to explain how X game is different from Monopoly, or have people tell you that you need to grow up and stop playing “make believe”? It may be slow going, but every once in a while, we hear stories about random strangers telling people they heard this group playing in a cafe and how imaginative and entertaining they are, or people approaching us due to their curiosity with a game we’re playing and developing a genuine interest and understanding with it.

Board game cafes, in particular, have a significant impact in normalizing our hobby, providing not just a venue for public games but also, generally, a variety of gateway games that are designed to bring people slowly into the hobby. I remember the first time stepping into a board game cafe in Singapore and being simply amazed at the vast array of games–so many games!–that I had not known was available. “So this is a thing, huh,” I thought, and realized how so many other people are in this “secret” hobby of mine.

Safeguarding our communities

Thankfully, it’s not difficult to be supportive gamers and take care of our community and open spaces. A lot of the things we can do aren’t very difficult, and help not just to keep these public spaces open and accepting to us gamers, but also our fellow players and the ones that will come after us.

We have three tips for being The Good Gamer:

1. Pick the right place and time.

This is especially important if you’re playing at a venue not catered specifically for tabletop games. That quiet cafe with the comfy chairs right next to your school may be perfect for your social deduction game, but how disruptive are you to other patrons who are trying to study for their exams tomorrow? Perhaps bring a quieter game where emotions aren’t going to run so high, and leave the hidden traitor games for later.

That fast-food place with the large tables for your sprawling euro is a fabulous find, but those people in the thick of dinner service, standing about looking for a seat to grab a much-needed bite, is bound to give your group the stink-eye. Perhaps use that 24-hour chain for a late-night gaming spree when there are empty tables galore, and let those establishment maximize their earnings during peak hours.

2. Support your gaming establishment.

Piggybacking on the above — be good customers and patrons wherever you are gaming. Especially in this financial climate, money is hard to come by, not just for you but for many businesses as well. Over the years, many board game cafes have closed their doors, either permanently or partially, leaving us with only good memories of our own discoveries of this hobby and the games we love to play. The inability to continue to operate seems a paltry return for the experiences we gained within their doors.

This isn’t just limited to board game cafes. Think about it, we spend hours within a cafe for a game or two, taking up space. The servers, the managers, they all need to meet a certain number to break even, to earn a profit. If they see your group taking up six chairs for six hours with one drink between all of you, they’re not going to be super excited to see you again next day.

So let’s help them out. Buy a meal, snack, a drink, for every couple of hours you spend enjoying the air-conditioning. For board game cafes, think about it as an investment: if they turn a profit, they have more capital to purchase more games which you can play, too.

3. Play fair both in-game and in real life

We all want to be invited back to our respective gaming groups. Losing our regular games is not an option. We want to have pride in our win. Playing fair in the game is important so we can say we beat everyone else fair and square. We play fair because it is the right thing to do.

That mentality needs to extend to real life, as well. If the establishment doesn’t allow outside food, don’t sneak in your baon and eat it on the sly. If they say they require a meal purchase to play games, don’t attempt to hide behind your group’s multiple orders when they come to collect the bill and say there’s an order missing for your group2. If your group has a birthday celebrant and you want to bring in a cake for them, ask nicely first–and if they say you can’t, don’t push it.

That goes even for when establishments ask you to leave while you’re playing a game. Try to find out the reason and try to explain if it’s a misconception on their part (i.e., if they think you are gambling when you’re just playing a board game3), but do it nicely. If they insist, don’t get belligerent; more often than not, they don’t have a choice in the matter and they’re just doing as best as they are able. Don’t make a scene and make things uncomfortable for the staff and other patrons; people are inclined to remember crazy scenes and they’ll always think gamers are a rude crowd. Let’s not destroy this hobby for ourselves and others!

This last tip might even be the only one you need to remember: play fair, be thoughtful, think of other people’s welfare.

Do you have any other board game etiquette tips to share on how to be a supportive gamer?

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. RIP – Dan
2. you even stand to get your group’s ire if they’re forced to pay for your food!
3. this has happened to us in several occasions – Dan

We Play Too Much – Part 3 (Games I Run)

The past few weeks has been quite crazy here at the Hey Meepling HQ, from attending great local conventions, trying out new games created by local designers 1, and setting up new products for our shop. But things have evened out a bit, and I finally have the time2 to finish this overdue finale to the We Play Too Much series, where we talked about the Games I Play and the Games We Play. So without much further ado, these are the Games I Run 3.

Manila By Night

System: Vampire the Masquerade, 20th Anniversary Edition

The Ruins
The Ruins

Ah, Vampire the Masquerade, the game that has successfully converted me 4 away from Dungeons and Dragons. I am a relatively new tabletop gamer, having been playing and running since 2016 only, and initially most of my gaming experience came from D&D. But on one fateful night, one of our friends introduced me to the World of Darkness. He also ran a short lived campaign, also set in the busy streets of Metro Manila. I was immediately hooked, and was turned into a huge fan of the Vampire the Masquerade series ever since then.

Saddened by the immediate end of our campaign, I contented myself with just reading the various City By Night books and others that I could get by grubby hands on. But alas, the call of the blood was too strong to resist, and eventually I decided to run my very own Vampire the Masquerade campaign using the 20th Anniversary rules, and setting it in the city most familiar to us, Manila 5.

This is currently the longest campaign I am running as a Game Master, or more precisely, as a Storyteller. I have been running it once a month since January 2018, with a few breaks every so often. The entirety of 2018 is what I dub the “first season”, while we are now in our second and last season for this specific chronicle.

Over the months, we have gone through a number of players, originally starting with around 10, but now reduced to four consistent/core players. Namely, these are Veronica (Carlo), the Toreador socialite; Alessa (Che), the Nosferatu informant; Adrian (Nico), the Malkavian teacher; and Lexi (Chester), the Caitiff doctor. I even have a co-storyteller, Kyle, who works in the background helping me run the discord channel and creating plots and NPCs.

The campaign is set in 2014, Metro Manila. Originally, the first season is me trying to find out what works for me and the players, so I ran all sorts of plots: political, mystery, investigation, occult, and others. The players were trying to learn about the society their characters live in, how it is to be a Kindred, and the nightly routines of unlife. They had encountered a kid who was also a werewolf, prowling the walled city of Intramuros; they investigated the disappearance of a ghouls master; they played corporate espionage to uncover blackmail against the grandchilde of the Prince; they stopped the importation of blood-infused drugs; they investigated floating body parts in the Pasig River; and even seeing with their own eyes the horrors of the Battle of Manila as reenacted by spectres; and many more.

Eventually, the first season came to a fiery end, when the Sabbat made their final move, and struck swiftly and brutally, deep in the heart of Elysium during a gathering of important Kindred of the city. Right before their eyes, the coterie saw their world and their friends burn.

The second season deals with the fallout of this attack. Here, the Sabbat now control the city, and the Ivory Tower has crumbled, with most of its elders and leaders now dead. The players try to survive nightly, evading the Sabbat and its packs. They have even joined the Resistance group created by the few remaining elders and the former Sheriff to retake the city. Some of them have chosen to take a page out of the Sabbat playbook by infiltrating the Sword of Caine itself, and try to bring it from within; the others decided that convincing the Anarchs of Quezon City and Marikina to join the Camarilla cause is a more worthwhile endeavour. They even worked with the remaining Tremere to create magically encrypted social media accounts for safer communication.

I am very excited to see how this long running chronicle will end. Will the players retake the city for the Camarilla and be its new leaders? Will the infiltrators betray their allies and join with the Sabbat cause? Or will they meet Final Death for defying the unholy crusade? Whatever the outcome, I am proud to have run this campaign to my current and previous players. I hope they enjoy the ride till the end, I know I will.

The Darkening of Mirkwood

System: The One Ring 1st Edition

The One Ring Roleplaying Game, formerly known as The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild, is, in my opinion, the best tabletop RPG set in the fantastical world of J.R.R. Tolkien. It was designed by Francesco Nepitello and Marco Maggi, and was published by Cubicle 76.

Immediately, upon reading the TOR books, you will get the sense that the creators of this lovely game have a great passion and respect for the characters and the world that Tolkien made. And since both of us are huge fans of Lord of the Rings 7 and The Hobbit 8, it was an easy decision to start a campaign, set in Middle-Earth, using this system.

With this in mind, we decided to round up all of our TRPG friends who are also fans of the works of the Professor. So for the next few months 9, I will be running The Darkening of Mirkwood campaign book for The One Ring, while Angela will be chronicling the fellowship’s many adventures.

The Darkening of Mirkwood is a complete campaign, which spans three decades in-game, and is mostly set within and around the areas near the great forest of Mirkwood. I was told by more veteran players that the campaign seemed to be akin to The Great Pendragon Campaign10 by Chaosium.

The players hail from the free-folk of Middle-Earth, from Elves of Mirkwood, Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain and the Blue Mountain, even a Hobbit from the Shire, and much farther still, is a Rider of Rohan. The players will deal with the Shadow growing within the forest, and they will try their hardest to push back the darkness as it expands year by year. They do this for various personal reasons, perhaps to protect the people that they care about and their own personal holdings, or as a mission from their liege.

I am quite interested to see how the campaign will unfold, especially since this is the first campaign of its kind that I have run. Additionally, due to the news that the 2nd edition will be released soon, I might convert the current campaign to the newer edition, but we shall see. So stay tuned with us, as the fellowship’s adventures are immortalized here.

Masks of Nyarlathotep

System: Pulp Cthulhu

This is the newest campaign out of the three, and another first for me due to how the game is set-up. Normally, Call of Cthulhu games by Chaosium Inc., are run with a team of investigators, as they try to “stop” the end of the world. But this time I am trying out the Pulp Cthulhu rules for the 7th edition. Here we can have a game akin to Indiana Jones, The Mummy, and other Pulp-inspired media.

This is the perfect system to run, since I am running it as a one-on-one campaign with Angela. Just like the aforementioned pulp heroes, Angela is following tradition and going at it solo and maybe a sidekick or two 11. The reason for this is due to limited time, and a schedule becoming more congested than EDSA 12, so we decided, why not play a campaign with just the two of us. Additionally, Pulp Cthulhu is a great choice since I can keep it more on the side of Action-Adventure than Horror 13.

Perhaps you ask, why Masks of Nyarlathotep? First off, this campaign book is one of the most beloved campaigns for Call of Cthulhu, and having played it once 14, I wanted to try it out again and finish it. Secondly, I believe that the campaign is perfect for an action-adventure, since it involves globe-trotting, fighting an evil cult who is trying to bring the end of the world, and even going toe-to-toe with various eldritch horrors. Also, the 7th edition books are just so gorgeous and it is, in my opinion, one of the better laid-out campaign books in general.

Recently, we have unearthed the journal of a certain Caridad Benitez, M.D., and in her diary, we saw the colorful life she lived back in the 1920s and her multiple brushes with the weird and horrific, as she and her friends try to stop the Black Pharaoh from ushering the end of the world.

This series of articles are finally done, but the gaming does not end. Even as I finish writing this, multiple ideas for a campaign are racing through my mind. There is also the need to try out all of the games that we bought from Session Zero, and eventually make a review of them as well. But with this, I hope you enjoyed reading about the games we play, and I ask you now, do we play too much??

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. stay tuned for the next RPG posts
2. just enough for me to write this article
3. and where Angela is also a player
4. thru dominate and blood bonds
5. more accurately, Metro Manila
6. the 2nd edition will soon be released!!!! GAAAAAH
7. both the books and the movies
8. the book and the 1978 film
9. years most probably
10. 80 year spanning campaign
11. which I play as well, as a quasi-NPC
12. joke’s on you, nothing can beat EDSA congestion
13. Angela is not a big fan of the horror genre in general
14. reaching up to end of London only

Sprawlopolis review – a tiny brain burner

Sprawlopolis was a chance find back when Button Shy Games ran their Kickstarter last year. I was on a Kickstarter boardgames spree, and it was affordable and looked interesting, so I took the chance and backed it. In this Sprawlopolis review, we’ll go through the basic mechanics of the game, components, and each of our POVs on how it plays.

In this brain-burning solitaire/cooperative game, 1-4 players are the city planners and builders intent on making the city of Sprawlopolis the best city possible. But each city is unique in its requirements, thanks to variable objectives that change each game.

Sprawlopolis play through summary

Before the start of the game, players choose three cards from the deck of 18 cards, and flip it over to reveal variable objectives, which have numerical values attached to them. The score the group needs to reach at the end of the game is the sum of the revealed objectives’ value.

A card is also chosen as the first “tile” in the game.

After that, each player is given a hand of three cards. The first player chooses a card from their hand and connects it to the city laid out in front of the group, in the same orientation as the starting tile.

Each city card has four blocks. When connecting a card to the city, one may place the card wholly adjacent to the card, half adjacent, or cover one or two blocks from the card (never underneath a card already placed, and never fully covering an existing card).

Base score: zero (sadly)

After choosing a card and playing it, players pass the remaining hand of two cards to the next player. They then draw a card to top up their hand to three, and choose a card to play from his hand.

Play continues until no cards are left, and scoring begins:

  • -1 point for each road (so connecting roads are best)
  • + number of blocks in the largest block of one type (so having blocks of the same type of building connected to each other is best)
  • + variable objectives’ score

If you meet or exceed the total of the variable objectives, you win the game!

Sprawlopolis components

Sprawlopolis comes with 18 linen-finish cards, and a nice plastic “wallet” to store all the cards in (and the in-game expansions cards too). The cards feel durable, which is good since the wallet won’t fit sleeved cards (I tried with premiums). Included is a tiny rules leaflet which fits inside the wallet as well.

The cards have clear art and design, with the blocks on one side and variable objectives on the other, for a total of 18 variable objectives for the entire game in varying combinations. It definitely helps maintain the game’s small footprint! I’ve brought this game along in my purse many times and it takes up so little space, it’s fantastic.

Her POV

This is a surprising brain burner! I’ve played this with casuals and hardcore gamers and the hardcore gamers themselves have commented on how challenging the game can be. We’ve had lucky games where the combination of the objectives synced well and we were able to meet or slightly exceed the target score, but get a challenging set and…well, we’ve had a few games where our final score was negative!

Initially I was thinking that this would be a good gateway game, especially since it’s so small and easy to whip out at a moment’s notice. But over time, I’ve realized it’s not as “gateway” as I assumed it was, due to the variable player objectives. Possibly doing fewer objectives, or hand-selecting the easier ones, would be key to making it easier to grasp for new players.

Lastly, this Sprawlopolis review isn’t complete without mentioning the fact that there are several built-in expansions that came with the game. The replayability of the base game is great as is, but if you want to spice things up, try playing with Wrecktar rampaging in the city, or starting with Points of Interest, or fix your city’s Construction Zones as they come up.

His POV

Who knew that a game that can basically fit in your wallet can have so much value? At first glance, one would expect that the game is designed for new or casual players, but don’t be fooled, dear reader. This game has given me and my friends many instances of “analysis paralysis” in trying to figure out the best possible placement of the cards to score the most points. Additionally, due to its relatively short play time, we would keep on playing again to beat our earlier scores (especially if it was negative).

Being a fan of city building games in its many forms, such as Sim City, Cities: Skylines, Prison Architect, Quadropolis, Suburbia, etc., it was easy for me to like this tiny but meaty game. Especially with its many optional scenarios, this game definitely gives the most bang for your buck.

Sprawlopolis verdict

Small footprint, super mobile, great replayability, and tons of fun–what’s not to like? It’s a fantastic wallet game and definitely one of the must-try games from Button Shy Games’ wallet games line.

Also check out

If you liked Sprawlopolis, also check out these following games:

September Hero Feature: Theo Amberlight

For September’s feature, we have Andrei’s Protector Aasimar, the war cleric Theovus “Theo” Amberlight!

Andrei shared this with us about Theo:

Growing up as a believer of Torm, Theo always assumed that it is better to ‘hit now, heal later’. He is the kind of guy that would always go for the enemies, so he can help the others later. Always willing to throw himself in the line of fire, he has faith that his bravery earns him Torm’s trust every time.

Want to get your character featured on Hey Meepling?

We’d love to see and feature your amazing characters immortalized on a Hey Meepling folio or tome! If your entry gets featured, you also get a 5% discount coupon for in-stock items in our online shop. For more information on how to join, check out the contest mechanics on our shop.

Looking forward to seeing your amazing heroes!