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Half term allowed me to hot-foot it over to my sister’s house and commandeer my two nieces for a day of playtesting. They are precisely my target audience and while they are very polite, they don’t hold back if they are bored or frustrated with a game, which is perfect. We managed to play three games over the day – Doughnut Dash (version 6), Flycatcher (version 5) and Throw Down Your Coats (version 5).

Version 6 of Doughnut Dash sees some significant changes. The most significant change is that this is no longer just a 2 player game. The board has been extended and can now be modified in set up to accommodate 2-4 players. Also, the police are now much more tactical. When you run into a policeman you can choose whether to BRIBE them with a doughnut, RUN away in the opposite direction or DIVERT them by telling them “he went that way” and pointing to a direction. Diverted policemen that don’t quickly find another doughnut thief become angry. Running into an angry policeman will send you directly to The Hole (doughnut thief prison), where your remaining time will count down on a dice each turn.  The girls liked the game. They thought it was fun and enjoyed stealing doughnuts – who wouldn’t? But the new choices around running into policemen caused quite a lot of rule confusion around different scenarios and what actions may supersede others. When running away from a policeman, for example, what happens when you run into another policeman? If a policeman ends up on your home square, when you come out of The Hole are you immediately caught again and fined a doughnut? Some things to clarify and smooth out.

Flycatcher was a frustrating nightmare. We managed to catch a lot more bugs on the web than we have done before, but the girls were frustrated that their web programmes could be so easily ruined by their opponents. The other big issue this game has is that placing out the bugs at the start of each round is time consuming and frankly, annoying. It’s time to either throw away the cobweb or have a total and drastic re-design. 

This was the first proper full play-through of Throw Down Your Coats version 5. I have previously played on my own as multiple people, but not with others. Its a much heavier, longer game than the others we played, but it worked really well. The playtime was about 105 minutes, which is probably a touch too long, but the girls were engaged throughout. In Throw Down Your Coats, players are noblemen building up their empire within the land. They have to attract followers, who throw down their coats to let the nobleman walk around the board. Crops can be planted, fields of cattle established, water pumps, police stations, drinking houses, factories and monuments constructed in a square next to where the nobleman is standing – providing the resources exist to enable the build. Different buildings provide varying amounts of income and surplus production increases influence, which in turn attracts new followers. It is one of The Dark Imp’s more complex games but my nieces got to grips with it quickly. The game was a success and the scores were very close. There is a real snowball moment in this game where influence increases rapidly turn by turn, so more and more followers are added affording each player many more choices. As more followers arrive, access is granted to the better cards, but you must be producing enough basic resources to feed your people. Very positive. Only a few tweaks needed.