Monday, February 15, 2010

Bellamy Sports: Bellamy Bunny-Oon

If you thought the other Bellamy Sports were odd, then hold on to your hats folks - you ain't seen nothing yet!

What do you do when you're at someone's birthday party and you want to have a little fun? Easy. You play Bellamy Bunny-Oon.

Now what the *&^# is Bellamy Bunny-Oon you ask? You may come to regret asking that, but you're gonna have a lot of fun if you try it.

Bellamy Bunny-Oon came into existence in 2000 at Leah's birthday party. To celebrate ten years of Bunny-Oon, we played it again last Saturday at my birthday party.

For Bellamy Bunny-Oon, you need a few things: friends, seats/couches, and balloons. You can have a few drinks as well, but you'll want to keep them well clear of the play area.

This game is best played with plenty of balloons. About 50 balloons will do nicely, though most are for decoration (it is a party after all).

Players divide into two even teams. Three to five players per team is a good number, as long as you can accommodate that many people sitting side by side. If you have an uneven number of people who want to play, don't worry - as you'll see Bellamy Bunny-Oon caters for that eventuality too. In fact, this game is best if you do have an odd number of players.

The players sit in their two teams facing each other on couches, chairs or benches approximately 1½ metres apart. Each player holds a balloon in each hand. These are known as rabbits. Another balloon acts as the ball and is known as the oon. For best play, the oon should be a different colour to the rabbits. As you may now have gathered, the name Bunny-Oon is derived from these.

One other player (or two if you have an even number of participants) takes part. He or she is not a member of either team, but sits on the floor in between the two teams clutching a rabbit in each hand. This person is the Confusoid. The Confusoid is there to assist the oon to remain in play, and alternately hits the oon in one direction and then the other.

Play commences with an Oon-Up by the Confusoid. The Confusoid hits the oon into the air with one of his or her rabbits. While the Confusoid should not favour either team, it does not matter if the oon goes toward one particular team during the Oon-Up.

At the first Oon-Up, and any subsequent post-goal Oon-Ups, players must hold their rabbits to the top of their heads like big bunny ears until the Confusoid plays the oon. Players then try and whack the oon (this is known as doinking) as hard as they can with their rabbits in an attempt to get the oon to pass over the heads of their opponents and hit the floor or wall behind them, thus scoring a goal.

Players may not doink the oon twice in succession with the same rabbit (a double doink), though there is no limit to how long a player keeps possession by alternating rabbits.

Additionally, at no time may a player's buttocks leave their seat unless retrieving the oon from out of play.

There is no penalty if the oon comes to rest on the floor between the teams. This simply results in an Oon-Up (without the bunny-ears requirement). Should the oon land out of bounds (eg. on a side table) then the last team to touch the oon loses possession, but no penalty is incurred.

At certain times during the game, penalties will inevitably be incurred. If a penalty doink is awarded (read on for penalty doink situations), then the team who incurred the penalty must sit bunny-eared while the other team gets a free doink. The penalised team may not play the oon until it ceases its forward motion or comes into contact with any member of the penalised team or their rabbits (players may not move to make the oon hit them).

Should a team incur another penalty during a penalty doink, then the penalty doink is retaken for the opposing team by the Confusoid.

Should the oon burst (a burstation) then a replacement oon must be found and the last team to doink the oon concedes a penalty doink.

If a player's rabbit undergoes a burstation then not only do they concede a penalty doink, but they must continue playing with one rabbit until the next goal is scored. The rabbit may then be replaced. Should burstation occur to both rabbits before the next goal is scored, then that player must remain seated without taking any further part in the action.

The same rule applies to any player who is de-rabitted (ie. loses hold of one or both rabbits). That player may not recover his or her rabbit(s) until a goal is scored.

There is no penalty if the oon should come into contact with a rabbit-less player. However, should a player deliberately doink the oon with a hand that does not hold a rabbit, then that player not only concedes a penalty, but must also leave the play area until the next goal is scored.

Any deliberately induced burstations of either the oon or rabbits will also concede a penalty doink and result in the offending player's ejection from the play area until the next goal is scored. Any player who falls foul of a deliberate burstation by another player may immediately replace his or her rabbit.

If any penalty situation occurs due to the actions of the Confusoid, then, while no penalty is incurred, all players are free to leave their seats and doink the Confusoid soundly on the head with their rabbits.

A goal is scored when one team manages to doink the oon past their opponents, by hitting the floor or wall behind the opposing couch. It's best to have some space between the back of the couch or chairs and the wall to allow for swinging rabbits.

The first team to score five goals wins the round. The teams then switch positions and play again. The first team to win two rounds wins the game.

In summary, teams can incur a penalty doink if:

  • a player's buttocks leave their seat when doinking the oon; or
  • a player moves a rabbit out of the bunny-ear position before the Oon-Up; or
  • a player moves a rabbit out of the bunny-ear position while defending a penalty doink, and before the oon stops its forward movement; or
  • a player does a double doink; or
  • they were the last team to doink the oon before a burstation; or
  • a player's rabbit undergoes a burstation; or
  • a player doinks the oon with a rabbit-less hand; or
  • a player deliberately causes a burstation.

    The final two penalties also result in the player being kindly asked to remove himself or herself from the play area until the next goal is scored.

    Phew!! That's the general gist of Bellamy Bunny-Oon. As long as you remember your doinks, penalty doinks, oons, rabbits, burstations, bunny-ear positions, and Confusoid, you'll have a wow of a time. :-)
  • Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    Dice Town

    While I was pondering about posting a piece about Dice Town, the They Might Be Giants song Cowtown entered my head unbidden, and found itself morphed into a somewhat different version...

    I’m going down to Dice Town, the dice are friends to me
    Living in the Wild West, and that’s where I will be
    Beneath the skies, the skies, the big blue open skies
    I’m gonna see the town with all the dice

    It’s enough to make any TMBG lover cringe, but I just had to get it out of my head.

    Now that that’s done, let’s take a look at Dice Town.

    If it’s not clear by now, Dice Town is a dice game with a Wild West theme. Players roll poker dice in order to try and visit various locations in the town as determined by the faces on the dice.

    On the face of it, Dice Town appears to be a fairly light and not supremely strategic game. As it happens, that’s quite an accurate assessment. It’s not without strategy, of course, and therein lies the core fun of the game: attempting to outguess your opponents by either rolling what they are not, or trying to outroll them and get to visit a particular location instead of them.

    Before we look at how the dice mechanic works, let’s mosey on into town to take a closer look at the various locations on the board.

    Each location can only be visited by one player each round, so it’s important to choose wisely as sometimes there’s a battle to be the one who collects the good stuff.

    First up we have the gold mine. And wouldn’t you know it, there be gold nuggets in that there mine. Any nuggets you obtain from the mine (and manage to hold on to) will be worth 1 Victory Point (VP) at the end of the game.

    Next to the gold mine is the first of the town’s buildings: the Bank. All money deposited at the bank is available for withdrawal (at gunpoint naturally) by one enterprising player each round. In front of the bank you’ll find the Stagecoach. Any money spent by players during a round is placed on the Stagecoach ready for delivery to the bank at the start of the following round.

    The General Store is the next stop in town. Here there are various cards available for the taking. A visit to the store will get you a card which bestows a benefit upon your good self. Some cards are worth VPs at the end of the game, while others allow you to take extra actions during the game (like doubling your takings at the gold mine or allowing you to change a dice roll).

    The Saloon is where you get to have a drink of the local brew and win the favour of the Girls. Using their feminine wiles, the ladies will assist you in taking a card from another player.

    I’m not sure if the regular Sheriff patronises the drinking establishment, but he just so happens to handily have his own place right next door. In fact, it seems he must be holed up in a dark corner of the saloon, as he’s delegated his sheriffy duties to the players. The youngest player starts with the sheriff’s badge, but anyone else can take it for themselves with a visit to the jail. Being sheriff means you get to break ties during the game (bribes from the other players are actively encouraged), and if you are the sheriff at the end of the game, you get a bonus 5 VPs.

    The final stop in Dice Town is the Town Hall. This is where the town dishes out Property Claims, and with each claim valued at between 1 and 5 VPs, this is where the bulk of the scoring takes place.

    Now, if things don't go your way, it's not the end of the world. Just the end of town. For any player who didn't get to visit one of the six main locations, Doc Badluck is but an arrow's flight away just waiting for you to come blowing over like a tumbleweed.

    Doc Badluck is, as his name suggests, there to make you feel better about being shut out of town. His services include providing barbed wire for one of your properties so no one can steal it, letting you draw the top card from the General Store, making every other player give you $2, or making every other player give you a gold nugget. That's not too bad huh? In fact, those last two are very nice indeed, especially in a 5 player game (the game plays from 2-5 players), and it can sometimes be advantageous not to fight for a spot in town when you know the good Doctor is going to assist you in the acquisition of four gold nuggets.

    Alrighty, so you've had a look around and assessed the lay of the land, and you have an idea what you might like to go for. Alternatively (as happens a lot) you have no idea what you want to do and will just play it by (front) ear as the round progresses.

    Now we come to the meat in the proverbial sandwich, passes for grub in this neck of the desert: the dice.

    Everyone gets five, shiny poker dice and a cup to put them in. At the start of the round every one shakes their cup, then turns it face down on the table. Now it's time to see what you rolled. Everyone secretly lifts up their cup, keeping the dice hidden from the other players and peeks at their dice. Then comes the hard part: deciding what to keep.

    You get to keep one die for free. You choose which die you want to keep, then secretly remove the other dice. However, you can choose to keep more than one die if you want. Heck, you can choose to keep all five if you had a really good roll.

    The catch is that you have to pay $1 for every die in excess of one. So if you keep three dice, you have to pay $2. To keep all five dice,you'll have to fork out $4. Oh, and if you don't like the look of any of your dice, you can choose not to keep any of them. It'll cost you $1 to remove all the dice from under the cup.

    Once everyone has removed the dice they don't wish to keep, everyone lifts their cup and reveals what they kept. Everyone who paid to keep extra (or no) dice now places their money on the Stagecoach.

    All kept dice are then put aside and the process then repeats for the remaining dice. Deciding what to keep on subsequent rolls now takes on a whole new dimension as not only do you have to keep in mind what you've already kept, but you also now get to see what everyone else has kept. Have you kept the same dice as someone else? If so, do you try and roll the same again, hoping that they won't, or do you try for something different?

    "But hang on just a second there mister," you say "How do I know what to keep if I don't know what the effect of the dice I roll will be?"

    Well, to answer that question, here's the rundown:

    The player with the most 9s goes to the Gold Mine and takes nuggets equal to the number of 9s he or she rolled.

    The player with the most 10s robs the bank and takes all the money currently in the bank.

    The player with the most Js takes cards from the top of the General Store deck equal to the number of Js he or she rolled. That player keeps one card, and discards the rest face down next to the board.

    The player who rolls the most Qs goes to the Saloon. He or she chooses one other player and takes cards (either General Store or Property Claims) from that player equal to the number of Qs he or she rolled. One card is kept, and the rest are given back.

    The player who rolled the most Ks becomes Sheriff and takes the Sheriff badge.

    The player who has the best poker hand goes to the Town Hall and takes the bottom-most face up Property Claim, plus an extra claim for each Ace in his or her hand (though you can never take any more than the three face up claims).

    Any player who hasn't got anything so far visits Doc Badluck and chooses one bonus. If you have at least one 9 or 10, you can choose to barbed wire a property by removing it from your hand and placing it face up on the table. If you have at least one J or Q you can take the top card from the General Store pile. If you have at least one King, you can force every other player to give you $2. Finally, if you have at least one Ace, you can hold everyone else at gunpoint and order them to give you a gold nugget.

    Now, where was I? Ah yes: choosing dice to keep. So as I said, you keep one die for free or pay to keep more or less. Kept dice are put aside, and the process is repeated until one or more players has kept and set aside all five of their dice.

    At that point, any player who has not yet kept all five dice gets one final roll. There are no more choices now; you just keep what you roll. The good news is that if you are rolling more than one die on this final roll, you don't have to pay anything. You just keep what you roll for free.

    And then you look around and either give a self satisfied "yippee!" or a disgruntled "you %^&(#;@ bastard!" when it becomes clear that another player has beaten you to the punch.

    Then everyone sees who has rolled the most 9s, 10s, Js, Qs and Ks, and each action is taken from left to right on the board. You'll find that ties are a common occurrence. Two or more people are often tied for the most Js or Qs or whatever it may be. That's where the Sheriff comes in as he or she gets to decide who takes the cake.

    Now let me make this abundantly clear. Being Sheriff can be a very good thing. You may think that rolling the most Ks just gives you a shiny badge but no actual nuggets or cards so what's the point. Bribery. That's the point. Any time players are tied, they can offer the Sheriff money, nuggets or cards in any combination. If you can start the tied players in a bidding war it can be very lucrative indeed. Plus the 5 VPs for being Sheriff at the end of the game ain't too bad, but this can also make the Sheriff's badge a popular target when everyone knows the game is about to end.

    That end comes when one of two criteria are met. The game will end when either there are no more nuggets in the Gold Mine (there are 30 to begin with) or when all 25 Property Claims have been taken.

    And then, wouldn't you know it, everyone adds up their points for nuggets (1 VP per nugget), dollar bills (1 VP for every $2), General Store equipment cards, Property Claims, and for being Sheriff (5 VPs). The highest scoring player wins. If there is a tie, the player with the most Property Claims wins. If there is still a tie, the Sheriff gets to decide who wins.

    Dice Town is, first and foremost, fun. You will laugh a lot, and quite possibly curse a lot as well. If you're like me, you may well curse at your own stupidity when you bribe the Sheriff $1 to visit the Saloon so that you can take one card from another player, and that card turns out to be useless as the game is about to end, and you then realise that had you not spent that $1, you could have gone to Doc Badluck and taken a Gold Nugget from everyone because you had an Ace. Sigh.

    I've played the game three times so far: one 2-player game, and two 5-player games. It was certainly a lot more fun with more players as you all vie for the various spots in town. Going to Doc Badluck is a viable strategy in the 5-player game. Just don't expect ever to do that if you only have two players.

    It's hard to know what is a good strategy in this game. There are many paths to victory as they say in the classics. One such path I found that worked for me with five players was what I cunningly call the "Saloon Strategy" in which I consistently kept Queens and took the Saloon action (stealing cards off other players) for the majority of the game. This proved to be a very successful strategy, and I amassed 42 points (second place was 34) which is a pretty impressive total if I do say so myself.

    I heartily recommend Dice Town as a good, fun, family-friendly game, as well as one you can pull out at games nights with more serious gamers to get those competitive juices flowing. The game box says games last 30-45 minutes, but you can easily double that time if you have anyone prone to analysis paralysis in your group. The good thing is it's not one of those games where you worry to much if you make the wrong choice.

    Not excuse me while I get back to my song.

    I’m going down to Dice Town, the dice are friends to me...