Over Gen Con 2009, we met some fantastically friendly people at HL Games. They were kind enough to offer us a demo copy of their game AmuseAmaze, a word racing game through a tangle of hedges. We were given a brief rundown on the rules at the con and I thought that the game sounded like a lot of fun. However, when we sat down to actually play it, what we found did not meet expectations.
The idea behind AmuseAmaze is to make little words that take you in the right direction along the board towards your goal. As you go you can place letter tiles to help you along. There are also available turn bonuses for creating longer words, or for using difficult letters. Furthermore, you have a nifty gardener that can help you out once per game by chopping you a path through an offending hedge. Sounds good, right?
What we ran into was monotony. The concepts were pretty sound, but the game had no pizazz. There was simply no excitement in the air. We played two different games, with different numbers of players, in hopes that it might be played best with a certain magic number, but no such luck. It was as if a group of adults were playing Candy Land or Parcheesi, it didn’t hold our interest.
After the game we began hypothesizing on how we could make this game more interesting. There were lots of suggestions made. Here are a few:
- Instead of taking turns, allow players to call out words that they see, moving their pawn in the right direction, and their opponents in the wrong direction.
- Allow for the boards to be swapped around based upon different conditions. For example: If you make an 8 letter word, switch two boards on the table around.
- Play on a much smaller board, thus causing players to be in each others way more.
- Disallow the duplicate use of words (Player A can’t use ‘Apple’ and then Player B follow right behind them by using the same ‘Apple’).
The other complaint we had was with the components themselves. I know… I know… I feel like I pick on peoples’ components a lot, but the boards that were used were warped in the box, so they wouldn’t lay very flat, and then they kept scooting around really really easily. It just became a pain in the neck. Maybe if the pieces had been flat it wouldn’t have been so bad, but the warped boards were a headache. I haven’t had too many problems with warped games in the past, so perhaps it was something unique to that kind of cardboard that caused them to be like that.
All and all, this was not a game appropriate for my gaming group. I could see this going over OK with little kids or significantly older adults (aka. something grandma could play with the young grand kids), but for a group of young adults, it really was less then stellar. Although if you do find yourself with a copy of this game and don’t love it, try spicing it up with one of our suggestions and see what that does for you.
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