Reviewed by Catherine Joyce
I have always enjoyed playing board games and now my sons are older we try and keep Sunday evening free so we can all play a game together. Whilst we have a cupboard full of games we do tend to stick to a couple of favourites so I was really pleased when we were asked to review a selection of Esdevium games as it gave us the opportunity to try some new games adding a bit of variety to our games night. My sons are 11 and 15 and playing games together is a fun way to spend an evening and has the added bonus of keeping them away from computer games! One thing I especially like about the Esdevium games we received is they all come in small boxes which means they are great for taking on holiday.
The first game we played was a children’s card game called Cortex Challenge (RRP: £12.99). It is suitable for children aged 6+ and can be played by 2-6 players. The suggested time for a game is 15 minutes and once we got the hang of it our games generally lasted 15 to 20 minutes. There are 90 cards in the box, 74 are test cards, 6 are touch challenge cards and the remaining 10 are raised touch cards. There are also 24 “pieces of brain” and each player needs to collect 4 pieces to complete their brain jigsaw.
The game is simple to play, the 10 touch cards are placed on the table and the players can look and feel them for 30 seconds before they are set aside. The remaining cards are shuffled and put face down in the middle of the table. There are 8 different types of test; memory, maze, odd one out, co-ordination, duplicates, frequency, reasoning and touch challenge. The game starts with the youngest person turning over the top card and everyone looks at it to try and find the answer. Once they think they have the answer they put their hand over the card, give their answer and then check to see if it is right. A right answer means they win the card and a wrong answer means not only do they lose the card but they are excluded from the next round. Cards can then be swapped for pieces of brain with the winner being the first person to collect four pieces and complete their brain.
We really enjoyed playing this game, my sons are quite competitive, and once we got the hang of the game it moved very quickly, although for those with younger children it would be very easy to slow it down.
The next game we played was the British History Timeline (RRP: £13.99) and this was our favourite of the five games. So many games these days have complicated instructions, taking quite a few attempts before everyone understands how to play. This game was a refreshing change as it is so simple, we all got the hang of it after just the first round.
The game is suitable for children aged 8+ and can be played with between 2 and 8 players. It also works well as a team game, especially if you pair younger children up with adults. A game generally lasts around 15 minutes, although this does depend on how good you are at history!
The game includes 110 cards, each card with an illustration of a historical event and the name of the event, on the reverse is the year it occurred. The cards are shuffled and each player is dealt four with the date side face down. The remaining cards are left in the centre of the table and the top card is drawn, providing the starting date in the timeline. Players take turns to place the cards, in sequence with the timeline, in order to be the first player to have played all their cards. Once the card has been played, it is turned over and if it has been placed incorrectly it is discarded and another must be drawn from the pile. The historical events range from many thousands of years ago to the current day but what makes the game more challenging is that some of the historical events are often quite close together.
Not only is this game fun, it is educational too!
Spyfall (RRP: £22.99) is a strategy game where players quiz each other to identify the spy in their midst. In each round cards are drawn, one player is the spy and the other cards identify particular roles and the location of the round. The spy’s objective is to avoid exposure and discover the location, whereas the other players must discover the identity of the spy. We struggled with this game, finding it very difficult to word our questions without giving away crucial information. Also as the spy it is very difficult to remember the 30 locations as the only list of them is in the instruction book. The minute someone shows an interest in it, the other players quickly deduce that they are the spy. We felt it would have been more helpful to have a card for each player listing all the locations to avoid this happening. We played a few rounds of this game but with our inexperience of the locations the spy didn’t stand a chance and was discovered almost instantly.
The game is suitable for ages 13+ but I feel it is a game more suited to adults. We are not fans of verbal strategy games, which is probably why we struggled with it but I am sure that people who like this type of game will enjoy it. It is the type of game that would get better the more it is played, with the game content coming from the players rather than the game itself.
Codenames (RRP: £15.99) is a game for 2-8 players aged 14+ and is a spy themed word association game. Don’t be put off by the theme, the game is more about word associations than spies. The spymasters know the secret identities of 25 agents and their teammates know the agents only by their codenames. Spymasters take turns giving one word clues with the field operatives trying to guess which agents their spymaster is referring to. The fun is trying to link a couple of agents by just one word; the spymaster can give a number after the clue to indicate the number of agents he is referring to.
The game is really easy to play; players are split into two teams with each team selecting a player to be their spymaster. 25 word cards are drawn and placed in a 5 x 5 grid ready for the game to start. We have played this game with lots of different people over the last couple of weeks and everyone has really enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure how my 11 year old son would find it, being 3 years younger than the recommended age, but he quickly grasped it and came up with some great clues! The problem with some card based games is that you can soon get to know what is on the cards, this game is good because not only do you get different combinations of words, different people think in different ways so each game is always completely different.
Our final game was HMS Dolores (RRP: £13.99), a game for 2 to 4 players aged 14+. Dolores is a Spanish trading vessel that has been lured to her destruction by wreckers and the game is all about the wreckers sharing the loot before dawn! This is a fun game and the sharing of the booty is done by using a variation of the traditional scissors, paper, stone game. Depending on the outcome of each round, players either win or lose the loot, cards are played until the dawn card is drawn, at which point the loot is added up to reveal the winner.
This game lasts around 20 minutes and we enjoyed playing it, the instructions were easy to follow and the more we played the easier it was as we didn’t need to keep checking back to the rules to determine the outcome of the sharing contest.
If you are looking for a change from the traditional board games then these games are definitely worth a look. All five games are quick to get going with minimal set up and are small enough to fit in a bag when travelling. Esdevium have a great range of games, suitable for a range of different ages so there should be one to suit everyone. We will have many years of fun from these games and we will be looking out for other versions of the Timeline games as this was our favourite of the five.