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Time to get some Mow Money!

Mow Money board game

Get your lawn mowing skills ready.

Kids don’t particularly enjoy mowing the lawn.

But one of the great benefits of having kids is adding “mow the lawn” to their chores list.

With 4 kids and a little bit of training, we’ve enjoyed many years of our kids mowing the lawn. And we have a number of years still to go before it’s all back on us.

Of course, there are also many enterprising kids that start up neighborhood lawn mowing businesses as summer jobs.

They start with just a lawnmower and the drive to earn some money. Then they’re off and rolling.

In Mow Money, a new family board game from Mayday Games, everyone in the family can try taking a fledgling landscaping business to greatness.

Have you got what it takes to take your neighborhood business to the top?

 

How to play Mow Money

Mow Money board game

Let’s get some lawns mowed!

In Mow Money, players are vying to become the best landscaping company in the city. The player who earns the best reputation will be awarded a lucrative contract by the mayor.

The game is played over a series of rounds wherein players bid on potential jobs in the neighborhoods around town. Successful bids are rewarded with a payout which players use to invest in better lawnmowers as well as better bidding cards. The player who manages their landscaping business the best will win the game.

Set Up

The first part of set up is getting the neighborhoods ready. Set out as many neighborhood cards as there are players in the game. (The neighborhoods are named to correspond to the player bid chips – A, B, C…)

Then each neighborhood gets a certain number of Contract cards depending on the number of players. The Contracts in each neighborhood will be what the players are bidding on each round.

The Bid cards are then separated and shuffled into Basic, Medium, Advanced decks.

Then each player is given three lawn mower cards of their color. The Basic lawnmower is placed face up in their player area and the Medium and Advanced lawnmowers are placed face down (the price tag side showing). Each player gets a set of bid tokens in their color that corresponds to the neighborhoods in play. And players also each get 5 Basic Bid cards and 3 Bluff cards for their starting hand.

Finally, players pick a first player and hand him or her the Starting Player marker to begin the game.

Mow Money board game

Let’s get this landscaping business started!

Player Turns

Each round of the game consists of 4 phases: Invest, Bid, Resolve, and Maintenance.

1. INVEST

Since players don’t start with any money (definitely a start-up business), the Invest phase is skipped during the first round. But normally what will happen during this round is that players (in turn order) will spend their money to buy either a lawnmower upgrade or more Bid cards.

To buy a lawnmower, a player pays the bank the amount shown on the lawnmower card they want to purchase. They then turn that lawnmower card face up and will be able to use it for the rest of the game.

Mow Money board game

It costs $6 to buy the Advanced lawnmower.

To buy Bid cards, a player must first own the level of lawnmower that corresponds to level of Bid cards they want to buy. At the beginning of the game, players can only buy Bid cards from the Basic deck.

The cost of Bid cards is indicated in the upper-left hand corner of the lawnmower card. For example, a Basic Bid card costs $1 and a Medium Bid card costs $3.

Mow Money board game

The Bid cards correspond to the types of lawnmowers.

Players can buy as many Bid cards as they’d like (and can pay for). However, at the end of their Invest phase they must discard down to their hand limit. The hand limit also depends on the level of the Bid cards and is indicated in the bottom-left hand corner of the lawnmower cards. Players can hold up to 7 Basic, 5 Medium, and 3 Advanced Bid cards.

2. BID

Bidding in Mow Money is quite unique. Instead of the Contract going to the highest bidder, the Contracts will be awarded to the lowest bidder in each neighborhood.

During this phase, players also go in turn order.

Players can place 2 bids during the Bid phase. They use their Bid tokens to either bid on Contract cards in the neighborhoods or to do Odd Jobs.

To bid on a Contract card, players choose Bid cards from their hand and place them under the Bid token for the neighborhood they want to bid on. For example, if a player wants to bid on the contract at Apple Hollow, they place bid cards under their “A” token. Both the Bid cards and the Bid token are placed face down so other players don’t know which neighborhood they’re bidding on. Then the next player places their 2 bids.

In the bottom-left corner of each Contract card are listed the number and type of Bid cards required for that particular job. For example, a Contract card showing a 4 next to a Basic lawnmower icon, a 3 next to a Medium lawnmower, and a 2 next to an Advanced lawnmower can be bid on using either of those options – 4 Basic, 3 Medium, or 2 Advance Bid cards. The value of the bid cards placed is up to the player, but the quantity of cards has to match the Contract card requirement. However, if there is a star icon in the requirement section, the bid cards used at that level must also have a star icon on them.

Mow Money board game

Placing 2 bids. The other players don’t know which contracts I’m bidding on.

This is also where the Bluff cards come in handy.

In the above example, a player may want to bid using 2 Medium level cards. However, they may not want the other players to know that, so they may also add in a Bluff Bid card from their hand, thus putting 3 cards under their bid token. That way it will look like they’re bidding on a Contract card that requires 3 cards instead of what they’re really bidding on.

In addition, players can also add to their bid Contract cards previously gained. The number in the upper-right corner of a Contract card is the Reputation gained. Players can use those cards to “Stake Their Reputation” on a bid. Doing so reduces the total bid amount. So if a player puts a 3 Reputation card in with their bid, their bid amount will be 3 less than the value showing on their bid cards. Thus, they can undercut a competitor bidding on that same neighborhood.

Rather than bid on Contracts, a player may instead complete Odd Jobs to earn money.

Each Bid card has one or two Odd Job icons on the left side. Players need 3 cards with a matching icon to complete an Odd Job. They place these 3 cards under their Bid token with an “OJ” on it (again, all face down so other players don’t know what they’re bidding on).

Once all players have placed their bids, they move on to the Resolve phase.

3. RESOLVE

All players flip over their Bid tokens to reveal which neighborhood they’re bidding on or if they’re doing Odd Jobs. Players who selected Odd Jobs will resolve first.

Mow Money board game

All bid tokens are revealed.

Those who completed an Odd Job will discard their 3 bid cards used and will gain the corresponding amount listed on the Odd Jobs reference card. For example, if they turned in 3 cards showing Fences, they’ll receive $9. In addition, if they used their OJ bid token to do Odd Jobs, then they’ll receive an additional $3 from the bank as well.

Mow Money board game

Doing an Odd Job repairing fences for $9 + $3.

Then it’s on to resolving the Contract cards.

Staring with A (Apple Hollow), players determine who wins the Contract. If only 1 player bid on a neighborhood, the automatically get the Contract. If more than one player bid on a neighborhood, the player who bid the lowest gets the Contract.

If multiple players bid on a neighborhood and their bid amounts are the same, there are a series of check to break the tie.

First, the player who staked the most Reputation points gets it.

Second, the player with the Starting Player marker gets it.

If neither of those conditions occurs, the player sitting closest in clockwise order from the one with the Starting Player marker gets it.

Players who win a Contract then collect the amount of money from the bank equal to their bid. Players who staked their reputation on their bid and won the Contract will receive the amount equal to their unmodified bid. Then players add their won Contract cards to their hand.

The winning player discards the Bid cards used to win the bid.

Any player who bid on a Contract and didn’t win, returns their Bid cards to their hand. All Bluff cards used are returned to the player’s hand.

Once all Contracts have been awarded, a player who did not win any Contract cards or complete an Odd Job using their OJ token may then complete an Odd Job from the cards in their hand. If they complete an Odd Job this way, they don’t receive the $3 Odd Jobs bonus.

4. MAINTENANCE

During the Maintenance phase, players do a couple simple steps.

First, they check to see if any neighborhoods are out of Contract cards. If at least one neighborhood is out of contracts, the game ends.

Second, all Contract cards that didn’t receive any bids are placed face down at the bottom of their stack.

Third, the Starting Player marker is passed to the player to the left and another round begins.

Game End

The game ends when one of the neighborhoods runs out of Contract cards.

Players add up their Reputation points from Contract cards they’ve gained and the Medium and Advanced Lawnmowers they’ve purchased. In addition, every $3 is also worth 1 Reputation point.

The player with the highest Reputation wins the game!

 

Can the whole family enjoy Mow Money?

Mow Money is a game that most family members can enjoy playing. The recommended age is 10+ and we’d say it’s pretty accurate.

As you can tell from the How To Play section, running a landscaping business takes some work. Players must be able to manage their money, evaluate options, and bid wisely to do well.

We’ve found the most engaging part of Mow Money to be the bidding phase.

Mow Money board game

The variety of contract cards makes bidding a fun guessing game.

While it’s a blind bid – with players placing their bids face down – because bids are done in turn order, there’s a chance to guess which neighborhoods other players are bidding on and adjust accordingly. Of course, if you bid first, you won’t have that information to go off of. But since the Starting Player changes each round, you’ll get your opportunity later.

And bidding first isn’t completely hopeless. Bidding first gives you a chance to use your Bluff cards to trick the other players and keep them guessing on which neighborhoods you’re bidding on.

So if you’ve got family members who enjoy such planning and postulating, we think they’ll enjoy bidding in Mow Money as well.

The other elements of the game all support bidding on neighborhood contracts. Determining when to buy new lawnmowers and how much money spend on different bid cards all drive towards being able to place the most effective bids.

Players that can think through these various game elements will do well.

 

Balance of Strategy and Luck in Mow Money

Mow Money has a nice blend of strategy and luck.

As mentioned, players need to use strategic thinking to plan their bids wisely. Without planning ahead, players won’t do so well.

But at the same time, there’s a big element of luck in the game.

Which bid cards you draw will determine which contracts you’ll be able to bid on as well as which odd jobs you’ll be able to complete to earn money.

In addition, the blind bid process means that sometimes you’ll get lucky in being the only person bidding on a neighborhood. And sometimes you’ll be unlucky in bidding on the same neighborhood as others and losing out to their lower bids.

While some players may not enjoy that possibility, we’ve found that’s the very reason why we like it. The unknown bidding outcome makes the game interesting and worth playing. Without those elements of luck, the game would be pretty dull.

You want to earn as much money as you can, but you have to bid low to win contracts. That constant pull makes the game very fun.

Mow Money board game

Bluff cards also make the bidding game full of possibilities.

I still remember my first play of Mow Money at SaltCon 2016 with 6 players – including the designer Matt Saunders. And even though there were 6 contracts to bid on each round, I was shut out of winning contracts the first three rounds while another player was walking away winning contracts in neighborhoods where he was the only bidder.

Once I realized how to make money going for Odd Jobs, I finally started earning enough money to get back in the game. Even though luck didn’t seem to be in my favor, I was anxious to play the game again.

And now that I’ve had the chance to do so, I’ve found that I like the risk inherent in the bidding on jobs. It creates a sort of tension that I like in games — trying to guess what the other players will do and then moving ahead with a plan.

Fun stuff.

Mow Money board game

Playing Mow Money on astroturf is a great way to play!

 

How does Mow Money score on our “Let’s Play Again” game meter?

Mow Money board gameMow Money scores well on our “let’s play again” game meter because of the creative theme. We can build a landscaping business from scratch without all the heat and sweat.

We also like that there isn’t much downtime for players. Since the phases of the game are each played in turn order, the game flows nicely. So players do their small part during a phase (invest, bid) and it’s on to the next player. Then everyone cashes in on the bids and it’s on to the next round.

Since the amount of contract cards is dependent on the number of players, the game also scales nicely regardless of how many play.

All of those add up to a game that’s great for family play.

Thanks Mayday Games for another fun family game!




 
 
 

Board Game Cafés are sweet!

Snakes & Lattes board game café

The Snakes & Lattes board game café in Toronto.

When I travel for work, I love getting a feel of a city by walking all over. It a great way to take in the sights, sounds, and people while enjoying new surroundings.

Another thing I’ve loved to do recently is find board game stores to visit. Not only does it give me a fun place to visit, but it also gives me a destination for my walking.

This past week I was in Toronto, Ontario, Canada participating in the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. So I took advantage of the last evening in town to visit both locations of the board game café Snakes & Lattes.

And I was definitely pleased with what I saw!

I’ve heard about Snakes & Lattes for a number of years through board game podcasts as well as forums online. All say the same thing – it’s a fantastic place for food and games.

And now that I’ve been, I’m adding my endorsement as well.

Snakes & Lattes board game café

A welcome entrance to food and fun.

From the outside, it’s easy to tell that Snakes & Lattes is all about board games. Games fill the window displays and board game component icons are all over the awning.

Yet, it’s also very easy to see that food and drinks await patrons inside.

And once inside, it’s tough to determine whether it’s a board game store with food or a café with board games. But to tell you the truth, it doesn’t matter which came first.

The important point is that it’s a fantastic blend of both!

Snakes & Lattes board game café

Patrons having a great time.

In addition to the pleasant employees and loads of games, the entrance to each location has a “Please wait to be seated” sign. Patrons are then shown to a table that fits their group and they’re presented a menu. They’re also invited to grab any game from the huge game library at the back of the café.

Snakes & Lattes board game café

The Snakes & Lattes College location.

My first stop was at the main location (Snakes & Lattes Annex) and the place was filled with people enjoying time with friends. I thought it was so cool to see a large variety of games being played throughout the café. Out of the ~20 occupied tables, I only noticed 1 game repeated (Catan). And everyone seemed to be having a great time.

I then made my way to the Snakes & Lattes College location – which had even more space!

I spent some time talking to the Snakes & Lattes Game Guru, Jeff, and he told me how that building space used to be a pool hall. When they closed up shop, Snakes & Lattes moved in.

Snakes & Lattes board game café

Tons of tables and plenty of games.

Jeff also filled me in on his roll as a Game Guru. Essentially, it’s his job to help patrons pick a game they’ll like. He’s also available to help with teaching games or explaining game rules. And it was easy to tell he loves his job.

He’s worked at Snakes & Lattes for more than 3 years and he says it’s been a great job while studying at the university.

Snakes & Lattes board game café

There was a Carcassonne tournament going on here.

After stopping by both locations, I really wished I could have had a co-worker come along with me. I would have loved pulling up a chair, grabbing some food, and playing a game. But it was pretty apparent that those who come to Snakes & Lattes do so with a group of friends. And such a setting isn’t well suited for a lone wolf looking to join in a game.

Even though I didn’t get in any game playing, I still enjoyed my short visits and chats at each Snakes & Lattes location.

If you live in Toronto (or just visiting) I’d highly recommend making your way to Snakes & Lattes for an evening of fun.

Any you may also take a closer look around your city — since we’re hearing about more board game cafés popping up around the world.




 
 
 

It’s fun to Bring Your Own Book

Bring Your Own Book family game

A family game that involves books – very cool.

We’ve always enjoyed reading books in our family.

As parents, we loved reading to our kids at bedtime (and they loved seeing how long they could keep us reading).

And as they’ve grown, they’ve continued to enjoy reading books.

Jaden and Caleb in particular absolutely devour books. I don’t know where they got their ability to speed-read, but they read circles around me.

So when we got a recently released game from Gamewright that involves books, we were anxious to play it.

And now that we’ve played it, we can confirm that Bring Your Own Book is a fantastic game for families.

Read more »

 
 
 

Best Games of 2015! – The Dice Tower Awards

The Dice Tower Awards 2015

The Best Games of 2015 were just announced!

The best board games, card games, dice games, family games, and party games of 2015 have now been awarded!

Just a couple days ago, on July 9, The Dice Tower announced the winners of the Dice Tower Awards — the annual crowing of the best board games published.

With thousands of new games published each year, there’s always so many great games to choose from.

This year close to 100 people in the board game industry participated in the nomination and voting process. The majority of those voting are top board game reviewers, podcasters, and contributors from around the world.

And we love being a part of the selection and judging. We were also able to play a bigger majority of the nominated games than we have in years past. So it’s especially rewarding to see the results this year.

Without further ado, here are The Dice Tower Award Winners for 2015:

 

Best Board Games of 2015

Pandemic Legacy board game

Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 wins as Best Board Game of the Year.

We’re not surprised at all that Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 won as Best Board Game of the Year. It’s been the talk of the industry for a very long time and has lived up to the hype.

7 Wonders Duel card game

7 Wonders: Duel is a great 2-player implementation of 7 Wonders.

Once again this year a game ended up winning in 3 categories — T.I.M.E. Stories. I wrote about my experience playing the first T.I.M.E. Stories game earlier this year at SaltCon. While I agree it’s definitely innovative, I’m glad it didn’t win for Game of the Year.

Since our family loves Ticket to Ride, we’re also happy to see that the UK & Pennsylvania map won for best expansion. We haven’t yet played it, but are itching to do so.

And we’re also big fans of Codenames and 7 Wonders Duel. But we also think you can’t go wrong with any of the games on the 2015 Nominees list either.

If you’re looking for great board games to play with your family and friends, this is a great list to go from. You can also check out The Dice Tower Award winners from years past:

2014 – Best Game of the Year Winner: Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
2013 – Best Game of the Year Winner: Caverna: The Cave Farmers
2012 – Best Game of the Year Winner: Star Wars: X-wing Miniatures Game
2011 – Best Game of the Year Winner: Eclipse
2010 – Best Game of the Year Winner: 7 Wonders
2009 – Best Game of the Year Winner: Smallworld
2008 – Best Game of the Year Winner: Dominion
2007 – Best Game of the Year Winner: Race for the Galaxy




 
 
 

Burgle Bros. is a great cooperative board game

Burgle Bros. board game

Burgle Bros. is a challenging cooperative board game that’s a lot of fun to play.

Don’t you just love a good heist movie?

Sure, you’d never attempt something like that yourself. But it sure makes for fun entertainment as you watch with anticipation how the thieves will escape. Because you know if they’re the protagonists, then in the end they’ll accomplish their goal.

No one wants to see a heist movie where everyone gets busted. That ruins the fun.

Ocean’s Eleven and Sneakers are some of our favorite heist movies where we’re rooting for the thieves to get away with the loot.

We’ll if you’d like to dive into such a make-believe setting yourself, we’d highly recommend you check out the cooperative board game, Burgle Bros.

 
Read more »

 
 
 

One month countdown to Gen Con!

A month from now I’ll be experiencing my first trip to Gen Con and I’m super excited!

I’m counting down the days and can hardly wait. (August 4-7 in Indianapolis, IN)

For those that aren’t familiar with Gen Con, it’s the largest gaming convention in the United States. Or to quote from their website:

Gen Con is the original, longest-running, best-attended, gaming convention in the world! Featuring 500+ exhibiting companies from the game industry, award-winning authors and artists, costumed attendees, more than 14,000 events, a Family Fun Pavilion, and the debut of exciting new games, Gen Con truly is The Best Four Days in Gaming!

And the statistics back up the claim:

Last year, the attendance at Gen Con was 61,423!

And the turnstile attendance over the 4 days was 197,695!

GenCon Geek Dad

Looks like a few people are ready to enter Gen Con. Photo: GeekDad 2014

Being board game reviewers, we’ve been aware of Gen Con for many years. Which means I’ve also been interested in attending for many years.

And this is the year I’m finally going to go!

I’ve been close to going the last couple years, but inevitably something else comes up (family reunions, business trips, etc.). Well, this year I set my sights early, blocked it out on our family calendar, and started setting aside Gen Con trip funds (as well as vacation days from work).

A few months ago, I also applied for a press pass to the event and was lucky enough to get the nod. So I’ll be taking in as much as I can at the event as well as sharing it with you.

With over 500 companies exhibiting, there’ll be plenty to discover!

Gen Con

This year Gen Con is moving to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy.

Rather than an event where attendees spend most of the time playing games (like SaltCon), Gen Con is more about checking out the hot, new, and upcoming games.

Games such as SeaFall, Merchants & Mauraders: Broadsides, Covert, Kung Fu Panda the Board Game, Clank, Islebound, Mr. Jack (re-release), Codenames: Pictures, and Vikings on Board.

And as excited as I am to take in the wide range of games and game accessories at Gen Con, I’m even more excited to meet up with the wonderful people in the industry.

I’ve enjoyed working with many great folks over the years — game publishers, reviewers, podcasters, etc. — but most of them I’ve never met face-to-face. Interacting with folks across the globe through social media and email is fantastic. But meeting in person is the best!

And I’m really looking forward to finally meeting so many of these wonderful people in just a few weeks.

If you’re going to be at Gen Con, drop me a line — I’d love to meet you!




 
 
 

Light your Lanterns for family fun

Lanterns: The Harvest Festival board game

Have fun creating a colorful lantern festival with your family.

We’ve never participated in a Chinese Lantern Festival. But we can imagine how cool it would be to see.

After all, we’ve seen the hope lit lanterns can bring in Disney’s movie Tangled. And that led to “happily ever after”, right?

Of course, that was an animated movie and I don’t recall any of the Tangled characters being Chinese – so that must mean our total for Chinese Lantern Festivals is still zero.

But we’re trying!

Playing Lanterns: The Harvest Festival by Foxtrot Games and Renegade Game Studios is our next attempt at being close to the real thing.

And it’s quite an enjoyable experience!

Read more »

 
 
 

Six board game review

Six board game

Say hello to Six.

As much as we enjoy playing games all together as a family, we also really enjoy playing 2-player board games.

It’s fun to sit around the table with everyone for family together time. But it’s also fun to sit down one-on-one with a child and go head-to-head in a fun mental challenge.

And today we’re reviewing such a game by FoxMind: Six

Six is a short 2-player board game that’s simple and enjoyable to play again and again.

And Caleb gives it his highest rating!

Check out his short video review of Six to see how to play as well as why he likes it so much.

 

Can the whole family enjoy Six?

Read more »