Thursday, 27 July 2017

Carcassonne Expansion - Under the Big Top Review and Giveaway


Ever since we've played Carcassonne game, it became one of our favourite board game! Even Clay is getting the hang of it now and enjoyed the game right until the end. He has been asking if we can play it again, so we are bringing it with us on our holiday today!

The ever so lovely PR from Esdevium Games knew that we absolutely love the game, so have kindly sent us the latest Carcassonne Expansion Pack - Under the Big Top to play and review (and 1 to give away!). The new added elements has certainly changed the way we play, especially for the competitive ones!


Carcassonne Board Game, Carcassonne Expansion Under the Big Top, best board games

Carcassonne Board Game, Carcassonne Expansion Under the Big Top, best board games

Carcassonne Expansion - Under the Big Top (RRP £17.99, suitable for players age 7 and above) is the 10th expansion pack for Carcassonne created by Z-Man Games. It requires Carcassonne Base game to play. The expansion will add the following to the base game:

12 Circus Tiles
8 Acrobat Tiles
16 Animal Tokens
1 Big Top playing piece
6 Ringmasters playing pieces (including a pink one for those who already have the first Carcassonne Expansion pack - Inns & Cathedrals, which will allow for a 6th pink player)

The expansion pack also comes with instructions on how to play Carcassonne using the expansion pack.


Carcassonne Board Game, Carcassonne Expansion Under the Big Top, best board games

The quality of the tiles and playing pieces are as sturdy with a great finish and beautiful illustraion as the base game.

The instructions and rules took us a bit longer to understand that the ones for the Carcassonne base game, but we understood them as soon as we started playing with the circus and acrobat tiles.

Basically, 3 things are added to the expanded game:

Carcassonne Board Game, Carcassonne Expansion Under the Big Top, best board games

1. A travelling circus will arrive an area temporarily when a circus tile is placed. An unknown animal is performing (animal token placed upside down on the circus field) inside the tent (with the big top playing piece sitting on top of the animal token to indicate that it's currently running), and the circus will leave the area when a new circus tile is placed.

When the circus moves on, the animal token from the previous circus tile is revealed with a score. Any surrounding meeples (who have enjoyed the show within the area covered by the 9 tiles, including the circus tile itself) will be awarded the score. So if 1 player has 2 meeples nearby, the player will get double that score.


Our experience:
(Note in the picture that the blue player aka my husband was piling all his meeples around the circus and scored a whopping 25 points when it left.)

This has affected our strategy on where to place our tiles and meeples. We would try to lay our tiles as close to where the current circus with the Big Top is, hoping that we can still squeeze in a few more meeples before it moves on.

We also tried NOT to complete features around it, which will return the meeples back to us. So we ended up with quite a few unfinished features in an area where we no longer want to develop (the circus is somewhere else!), and had to decide whether we should start completing them or continue chasing the circus!


Carcassonne Board Game, Carcassonne Expansion Under the Big Top, best board games

2. While the circus is on tour, meeples caught the trend and instead of finding a job (monk, knight, highwayman and farmer), they tried to get themselves on the nearby acrobat tile to show off their own acrobatic skill (yes I sort of made the story up haha).

When a player places an acrobat tile, they can claim a road on the tile, or place their meeple on one of the 2 acrobat patch. Any players who places a tile around the acrobat tile (the 8 tiles around it) after can forfeit claiming features on the tile they have just placed and get on an empty acrobat patch too.

The acrobat tile holds 3 meeple though, because they have great acrobatic skills! The 3rd meeple can get on board by hopping onto the 2 meeple's shoulder (it might not stack very well on a shakey table so we just put ours behind the 2) to create a pyramid.

Unfortunately, since the acrobats wants to show off so much, players won't be able to claim points straight after the pyramid is completed. The points can only be scored when a player places another tile around the acrobat tile, or if forgotten (it happens!), the players the meeple belong to will still get the full score at the end of the game.


Our experience:
The rule for acrobats was a bit harder to understand until we walked through it completely. However, since whoever gets on the acrobat patch will get scored at the end of the game anyway, we didn't ponder for too long.

Giving up on claiming features that could potentially score us more points than being on the acrobat tile (if you only have 1 meeple on it, you will score 5 points, but you could easily score more than that with a completed city) was a hard decision to make, but this added feature has certainly make strategy plotting more interesting!


3. Ringmaster:
While the circus is touring, the ringmaster, for some reason, has been wandering around and have fun on his own!

A ringmaster can have other professions (knight, monk, highwayman, and in another mini expansion, farmers, etc), unfortunately he has 0 acrobatic skill! So he won't be able to help players claim a spot on the acrobat tile.

If he remains near a circus and/ or acrobat tile however (ie the circus and acrobat tile itself and the surrounding 8 tiles), whatever feature he is in that is completed, he can help score an extra 2 points!


Our experience:
We were so engrossed in our game that we didn't read the part where he had to remain around a circus or acrobat tile (which makes sense), so our ringmasters has been enjoying themselves exploring in lands far away, while stealing 2 points here and there where they shouldn't. Ehem.


And here are some pictures of our Carcassonne game, using the river expansion from the Carcassonne Base game and the Carcassonne 10th expansion pack - Under the Big Top:


Carcassonne Board Game, Carcassonne Expansion Under the Big Top, best board games

Carcassonne Board Game, Carcassonne Expansion Under the Big Top, best board games

Clay really had fun playing with us!

Carcassonne Board Game, Carcassonne Expansion Under the Big Top, best board games

This hole was hard to fill and I was giving up on it (I was yellow), but we did it! Hubby was reluctant to fill it though as that helped me get closer to him on the score board haha!

Carcassonne Board Game, Carcassonne Expansion Under the Big Top, best board games

The end of our game. We definitely need a bigger area to play with the expansion, but it was so satisfying! We went around the score board so many times that we had to find new ways to indicate which round we were in (standing up in the first 50, lying flat for the next, and standing on the side for the 3rd haha)!

We'll be getting the first Carcassonne Expansion Pack next because it comes with scoring tiles to help with this situation!


Overall:
When we put all the land tiles and the new circus and acrobat tiles together, we got really excited because there were so many of them! We do think that the land tiles in the base game isn't enough for a satisfying game for 4 people, so we would highly recommend getting at least 1 expansion pack with it for 4 players.

Abby wasn't having much luck with getting the good tiles from the pencil case (she kept getting road tiles!), and was a bit upset when everyone went pass her twice on the score board! I think if she has listened to our explanation on how to use the circus and acrobat tiles, she would score plenty. When we do a rematch I'll have to remind her that.

Clay on the other hand was having lots of fun expanding his one giant city (he on the other hand kept getting great tiles!), which scored him 36 points! I've also tried to guide him into building near circuses (I tried to guide Abby as well but her tile pulling luck was just not there!), so he had some bonus points without realising, but it had kept him happy and he never once moaned about the game being too long or not winning.

It was quite hilarious for me and hubby as we both tried to pile as many meeples as we can near an active circus! Later on he was so distracted by something else that I was quietly building around circuses on my own! He still won at the end though.

We love the on-the-go feature (where the circus keeps travelling around the board), and I'm really looking forward to playing it with our family when we meet up next. The adults like to sabotage each other or creating alliances, with the Big Top going around the board, it will be very interesting to see how this will change their strategy. I bet it'll be hilarious!



~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~

And here is your chance to win a copy of the Carcassonne's latest expansion pack - Under the Big Top! Please do note that you will require the original Carcassone starter game to play this.

Good luck! x


Prize: Carcassonne Expansion - Under the Big Top x 1

Giveaway ends: Sunday 13th August 2017 Midnight (where 00:01am is Monday)

Terms & Conditions:
  • The giveaway is open to the UK only
  • The prize cannot be exchanged and no cash alternative will be offered.
  • The prize is for the Carcassonne expansion pack - Under the Big Top ONLY. It requires Carcassonne starter pack to play that is NOT included in the prize
  • To leave a comment, simply do so by either leaving it in this post's comment section (Disqus) or on Facebook under the giveaway's post. For Disqus, please make sure that you are not leaving comment as Anonymous, as I will not be able to check whether you've left one. If you have to comment as Anonymous, or if your Disqus ID is different from your Rafflecopter entry name, please add a means of ID on your comment that I can use to link it to your Rafflecopter entry. Unfortunately if I can't, your entry won't be counted.
  • Please make sure that your email account used to enter the Rafflecopter is active, and you do check the spam folder in case the email I sent you ended up there
  • All entries will be checked.
  • Winner will be drawn by the Rafflecopter randomly
  • Winner will be announced by Wednesday 16th August 2017 on here, Twitter and Facebook.
  • Winner will have to respond to my email by Tuesday 22nd August 2017 noon. A new winner will be chosen after the deadline.
  • The prize will be posted by the PR. I cannot be held responsible for missing parcels, but if you have any enquiry do let me know and I'll try my best to help
  • You can visit Di Coke's Rafflecopter Guide for Rafflecopter instructions
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Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Nintendo 3DS Hey! Pikmin Full Review


While Pikmin 4 is under development, Nintendo has released a brilliant spin off from the Pikmin series - Hey! Pikmin for Nintendo 3DS, which will be out on Friday 28th July 2017 (just 2 more days!), and we are really excited to be given the opportunity to try it out before the launch.

As Pikmin newbies, we immediately fell in love with the super cute, friendly and helpful Pikmin (it's naughty of Captain Olimar to be using these friendly creatures the way he did though!). We really enjoyed the side-scrolling platform game that has some very unique game play features (unique to us anyway), especially 6 years old Clay. He is now at the end of Sector 8 (I think there are 9) already and we only had it for about 3 weeks (for someone this young and only allowed to play a couple of hours each day, that's pretty impressive)! This is because he loved it so much (he even defeated the boss that I was stuck on!)!

Hey! Pikmin isn't entirely the same as the original Pikmin series, with the most notable difference being that there is no time limit like in Pikmin to complete the game. It makes Hey! Pikmin a great starter game for Pikmin newbies like us.

Read on to find out more.


Basic information, Story and Game Play:

Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

Nintendo 3DS Hey! Pikmin (pegi 3, RRP £34.99, bundle and amiibos available) will be released on this Friday 28th July, 2017, and pre-orders are available now on Nintendo's web store and all other good game stores.


Hey! Pikmin is a single player game where players play as Captain Olimar who has crash landed on a planet where a race of cute creatures live. (According to the background story, Captain Olimar has been calling these same creatures he found in his home planet Pikmin, because they resemble his favourite pikpik carrots).

Unlike other side-scrolling platform games where the game ends when the player has cleared all the levels, the game only ends when Captain Olimar has collected enough Sparklium to fix his spaceship, with the help of the Pikmin.


Apart from using the basic Nintendo 3DS controls, players will find that they will be using the touch screen quite a lot, and sometimes the stylus pen will make it easier as well.

The platform covers both main and touch screen during play, which is great to feature the stunning graphics, although we do sometimes forget that only the bottom screen is interactive (attempting to tap on the main screen is still happening with this game..)!


Save/ Load Data:

Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

There are 3 files players can use to start their game. As far as we know, the game will save automatically, updating the file that you have chosen. Since you can replay each Area, we haven't found the need to use another slot to save the game, so we each created our own file, although we all ended up playing on Clay's (thanks to him, I could take all these pictures for this review)!


Captain Olimar and Pikmin:

Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

It appeared that Captain Olimar isn't very active (unlike Mario!), and he can only go left and right (he can't jump), climb up and down vines, use a whistle (to call for Pikmin to join his side) and throw things (or more specifically, the Pikmin). Basically, he's the brain.

With the help of the very willing Pikmin however, he can reach places that he otherwise couldn't, perform certain strategy (like creating a bridge), collecting Sparklium that are out of his reach (see below), and defeat enemies who see Pikmin (and Captain Olimar) as food.

Pikmin normally hide in nests or rocks, etc. But when they hear Captain Olimar's whistle blowing, they will be more than happy to join his ranks and perform tasks.

There are 5 types of Pikmin in Hey! Pikmin, with each of them providing additional skill that Captain Olimar can exploit (haha I know, I'm not so keen in him! But I guess he's not really that bad):

Red Pikmin that are fire resistant
Blue Pikmin that are the only ones that can swim
Yellow Pikmin that are electricity resistant
Rock Pikmin that can break rocks
Winged Pikmin that can fly

While there are more than 1 type of Pikmin in the group, players will be able to choose which type of Pikmin Captain Olimar will throw next by clicking on their icon (located on the bottom left of the touch screen). This is important as I have been drowning Rock Pikmin by mistake a few times...

As explained on Nintendo Wii U Pikmin 3's site: Pikmin's strength are at the maximum when the plant on top of their head blooms. Although I'm not sure how they grow in Hey! Pikmin.


Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

At the end of each Area (the game is split into Sectors, then Areas), Pikmin will be collected and left at the Pikmin Park, which is like a sanctuary for the Pikmin, unreachable by creatures that eats them. So Captain Olimar do save them during his exploration in some way.


Collecting Sparklium:

Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

Captain Olimar aka players' aim is to collect enough Sparklium to make their spaceship work again. These can be done by collecting the shiny Sparklium Seeds (shaped like acorns), special items that provides a lot of Sparklium, and items that are hidden in the Pikmin Park that players can assign rescued Pikmin to find, while players explore other Areas.


Area Selection Screen
Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

When players found enough of the special items, some Area will unlock bonus Areas where players can gather bonus Sparklium or more Pikmin.


Adventure:

Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

To start his journey, Captain Olimar will be dropped off in Sectors of the planet, and clear each Area in the Sector one by one.

During his exploration in an Area, a map can be toggled on/ off. Interestingly, this appears at the top screen rather than the bottom, but it makes a lot of sense. We prefer to keep it off, although it does not hinder you playing the game.


Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

When Captain Olimar reaches the end of the Area, he and the Pikmin he found will be collected. The Pikmin will be dropped off at the Pikmin Park as well.


Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

Players don't need to complete the Area to leave it though. You can leave any time you want, which is handly especially when you are replaying the Area.


Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

Captain Olimar and the Pikmin, unfortunately, can die. Once Captain Olimar dies, players can choose to play the Area again from the start or return the the Area Selection screen.


Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

Captain Olimar will be facing a boss at the last Area in each Sector, and players will be using Pikmin's help to defeat these adorable bosses.


Level Up (sort of):


Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

I'm not quite sure how the levelling system works in Hey! Pikmin. I suspect that when you have collected a certain amount of Sparklium, Captain Olimar will kind of level up by having his Energy Gauge (oxygen tank?) upgraded. This is very useful as enemy creatures will survive longer later on in the game.

On a side note, Energy Gauge can be replenished when Captain Olimar eats a heart shape fruit found during his adventure.


Collection:

Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

All the Pikmin, creatures and treasures spotted and/ or collected during your journey will be logged, and you can check back and see if you've missed anything.


amiibo:

2 super cute amiibo figures will be released together with Hey! Pikmin - the Pikmin amiibo and Captain Olimar amiibo.

Both amiibos allow players to call for extra Pikmin to help during any Areas, and the Pikmin amiibo can be levelled up as well to increase the number of Pikmin players can call.

Other amiibo figures from the Super Mario Collection, Animal Crossing and Splatoon can be used as well to unlock secrets!


Others:

Nintendo 3DS, Hey! Pikmin, video games suitable for kids

As mentioned above, Hey! Pikmin's graphics isn't just cute but stunning as well. We absolutely love it that they feature the adventure on a full screen, using both the main and touch screen. The pictures I have taken doesn't do the graphics justice, especially when I had to edit them so that they show better on the post here.

Pictures are enhanced with a stronger contrast, but you can see from the above the difference. The left is more like what you'll see on a Nintendo 3DS handheld system (and all the handheld consoles in the family), where as the right one is digitally enhanced.

I really love the soft background graphics, and there is sunlight shimmering through too.


Also worth mentioning is the funny dialog (example: "the only part of the ship that works is the captain's seat") and smooth to read information in the game. I'm not sure if it's translated from Japanese, but if it is, they did a really good job at it.


Overall:

We absolutely adore Nintendo 3DS Hey! Pikmin. The first time the kids played the game, they went on for ages about how cute the Pikmin are, and how sorry they felt that they were being thrown around (with some eventually killed or eaten).

Even though the idea of throwing Pikmin around and watching them being eaten is slightly disturbing, there is a sense of serenity while playing the game. Even the soundtrack (mostly) makes you feel calm.

The game is pegi 3, but I think really young children will most likely need help defeating enemies especially bosses. Otherwise it's quite a cute game for little ones. Clay really adores it and always couldn't wait to play it again.

Overall we would absolutely recommend this game, especially it's releasing in time for the holidays. Fans of Pikmin will see some similarity of Pikmin 3 in Hey! Pikmin, but the game play I heard is different. Even so, I think it will still be a great game to quinch their thirst for Pikmin 4. For us, we will be eagerly waiting for Pikmin 4 to come out, while we try to complete Hey! Pikmin this holiday.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Three Cars that are Perfect for the Family


(This is a collaborated post)

Family life is never easy – one minute it's super stressful, the next it can seem like the easiest thing in the world. One thing that every family needs is a good car, but choosing can be so tricky.

Here are the three cars that are perfect for running the family around, whether it’s the school run in the morning, or a trip away.

Image from vauxhall.co.uk
Vauxhall Astra
Around since 2015, the Astra has been regarded as one of the best family hatchbacks around. Really well built, it will survive all the inevitable bumps and scrapes that running a family brings. The great thing is that the Astra is incredibly modern, while being a somewhat mid-range to budget vehicle.

One of the main benefits is how quiet and smooth it is. There’s nothing worse than waking the children up on the road at night because of a noisy engine or a bumpy ride. If you’re looking for a little extra speed, then we recommend you spend a little more and upgrade to the 1.6-liter exoFLEX which will also give you 85 miles to the gallon – perfect if you’re looking to save a littlemoney on fuel.


Image from toyota.com
Toyota Corolla
If you’re looking for a stylish alternative to a hatchback, but with enough room for the family, then why not take advantage of the ToyotaCorolla instead? With a sleek design and reliable track record, the Corolla is a great family car. With plenty of room in the back for children, and a much-improved smoother drive, this car is well worth considering for busy families; especially if you have to make the school run before work.

The Corolla brand has been around for fifty years, and so they’ve had a lot of time to perfect their car. With more than forty million of these on the road, that’s a sure sign of their safety and reliability. Included in the latest Corolla model is the active-safety technology. Packaged in are forward-collision warnings and automatic emergency braking, which are used to help prevent accidents before they happen. As a safety-minded parent, this is surely going to appeal. Overall, the Corolla is a well-priced and very safe family car.


Image from seat.co.uk
SEAT Leon
Owned and built by the much larger Volkswagen, the SEAT Leon is a much better alternative to the Golf or Audi A3 (both made by VW) due to its much lower costs. One of the sharpest and most responsive vehicles on our list, it allows parents complete control – perfect for ensuring the safety of loved ones.


If you’re looking for a little extra performance, the SEAT offers a version called the Leon Cupra, which could be called a ‘hot’ hatchback – ideal for getting the kids to school that little bit quicker in the morning. For those looking for something more stylish then we recommend taking a look at the LEON SC, or the Leon ST estate. If you’re a family that loves to experience the countryside, then why not opt for the Leon X-perience.