Category Archives: Unplugged play

Theseus (his mother, father, grandmother) and the minotaur

One of the games that has made several appearances at our table recently is Minotaurus –yet another entry in the LEGO line of board games.

The concept is fairly straightforward.  The game is played inside a maze.  Each player controls a team of heroes whose goal it is to reach the temple hidden in the center of the maze.  Sound simple enough?  Well, there just so happens to be a creature lurking within this maze who would like nothing better than to thwart your every move.  Enter the minotaur. 

The playing field…

On each player’s turn a very cool 6-sided LEGO die is rolled.  Side 1 and 2 of the die have been replaced with gray and black panels.  If a number is rolled, you move one of your heroes that many spaces.  If gray is rolled you are allowed to remove one of the gray sections of the maze and place it anywhere else in the maze you’d like.  Most likely players will place the gray section somewhere that will block another payer’s path to the temple.  If black is rolled, the player then controls the minotaur and is allowed to move the creature up to 8 spaces anywhere he or she likes.

My son has had a lot of fun messing with his mother and grandmother.  For some reason he likes to team up with me and take on the ladies in our family.  Seeing how the rules are fairly open-ended, this teamwork fits in perfectly.  We’ve ended up house ruling a few things, but in the end everyone has had a good time.

If I move here will I be able to mess with Grandma?

You can create your own mazes, and the rules even encourage this, but so far we’ve only explored the recommended setup.  And speaking of setup, the game comes with a cardboard template which makes reverting the maze to its original state a snap.

I’m already thinking of ways of incorporating our LEGO Heroica pieces into this game.  Maybe have some nifty treasure items stashed in the dungeon—err, I mean maze–that can be used to get a free turn, block the minotaur’s attack or something along those lines.

Age: 5+

Players: 2-4

Playtime: 20-30 min.

Overall impressions

Minotaurus is a fun–if somewhat simple–game that may take some player creativity (in the way of implementing house rules) to keep the game interesting and entertaining.  The base game is definitely fun for a few plays, but in order to hold your child’s interest, you may need to come up with additional rules to keep things fresh.  Sure, the LEGO factor doesn’t hurt this game, but at the end of the day if the game’s mechanics are not engaging enough, the game’s components will more than likely become fodder for other LEGO building projects.

Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin

What’s the worst that could happen? It’s just a box. Right?

Imagine sitting around a table with 3 of your friends.  Each has a hand of six cards.  These cards represent your adventuring party complete with heroes, villagers, weapons, spells, jewelry and other various dungeon delving supplies.  In the center of the table is a board with various stacks of cards arranged on it.  One section of the board comprises the village which is made of up of wares for purchase, helpful villagers, and heroes for hire, and in one shadowy, rather ominous section at the top of the board exists the dungeon.  Out of this dungeon spills a steady stream of monsters hell-bent on destroying you and the blasted village you happen to find yourself in.  Based on the cards in your hand, each turn you will decide whether to venture into the dungeon to try and slay a monster or play it safe by visiting the village to purchase an item, hire a hero, or perhaps even level up one of your battle worn veterans all with the hopes of increasing your odds of slaying monsters in the future.  This is Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin.

The seemingly never ending stream of monsters ready to spill forth into the village

Okay, getting friends to actually exist around your table is posing a bit of a problem?  I can certainly relate.  Lucky for us Thunderstone Advance also offers a rather interesting and challenging solo variant.  I’ve been playing this quite a bit lately.  As of this post  I’ve clocked in 5 plays  with a very respectable 0-5 record to go along with that.  Did I mention the game was challenging?  I’m beginning to discover some strategies now, and many of the monsters are meeting their death before leaving the dungeon.  Not enough to score a win apparently, but I’m getting there.

Game stats:

  • For 1-5 players
  • 1 hour to play (or less)
  • Ages 12+

Things I’ve particularly enjoyed about Thunderstone:

  • After slaying your first monster you gain a familiar that stays with you for the remainder of the game.  This familiar can assist you in various ways–offering attack power in the dungeon or purchasing power in the village.
  • Heroes can be leveled up with experience points you gain from slaying monsters.  Higher level heroes are considerably stronger and thus much more effective when going to the dungeon.
  • Bringing down that particularly tough monster with just the right combination of cards can be pretty satisfying.

Things I’m not particularly thrilled about the game:

  • Set up can be a bit tricky and a little time-consuming until you get the hang of things.
  • Because each game is randomized, there will be games where you’ll have a tough time killing many of the monsters in the dungeon hall.  This can make for a bit of a lackluster and confidence-crushing experience.