Monday, April 26, 2010

Board Game Review: Go Away Monster!

Originally posted on BoardGameGeek at:

Our biases first:
I am a big fan of theme in games and do not mind reaching through piles of chits if the theme and game play is good enough. While I do favor confrontation, chits, bits and polished pieces of AT games, there are still a large number of Euros that I'll build my farm on or attend auctions at and be quite content at the end of my experience. I also enjoy playing games with my daughter that are constructive and innovative and can be more interesting for me than Chutes and Ladders and Candyland.

Molly likes playing just about any game and is much more open to "house rule" games than her Daddy is. She also has never been afraid of monsters and instead has always had a particular fondness for them.

The Overview:

The box is small and contains a small window with a clear piece of plastic to act as the "window". Since this game is for younger kids, do not expect that plastic to remain intact very long. . Photo by EJKemp.

Pretty much everything that comes inside the box, minus a cloth bag to draw the pieces from. Photo by cbrua.

Go Away Monster is a children's game that can be used as an early means to teach turn taking behaviors and shape and size recognition. The game also promotes a sense of empowerment of children over monsters, though it is hard to gauge the game's success on this since my daughter prefers to draw the monsters.

The game is for 1-4 players and plays in 5-10 minutes. The game is recommended for ages 3 and up, but my daughter got it for her 2nd birthday and grasped it immediately. It is not a complex game and I think that most two year olds would have no problem with it.

Each player gets a board representing a bedroom with four items missing from it. These items are silhouetted to show where they go and are a bed, a lamp, a picture in an oval frame and a teddy bear. There are also a number of thick cardboard pieces that get placed in an opaque draw bag. There are 4 of each room piece (enough for each bedroom to get one of them) and 8 monster figures that are placed in the bag.

On a player's turn, they reach into the bag and draw out a piece. Each piece is shaped like the corresponding object, so you have tactile clues to what you are drawing blindly. However, some of the monsters are shaped similarly to the objects for the room, so you may end up pulling out the wrong piece (well, if you are three, you may).

If you drew a piece you need for your room, you place it on the correct spot on your board. If you drew a piece that you already have, you give it to another player who still needs that piece (to encourage cooperation). If it is a monster, you yell out "Go away, monster!" and you discard the monster in a common pit in the middle of the table. Your turn is then over and the next player draws from the bag.

The game is over when every item and every monster is drawn from the bag and placed either on the room board or in the monster pit.

Molly's House Rules:

The spirit of the game remains mostly intact, but there are a few changes that we play with. First of all, whenever someone draws a monster, the person who drew it has to roar menacingly and threaten the other players with it, who then have to scream in terror before yelling "Go away, monster!" However, if you happen to draw the blue furry monster, he's not bad and doesn't roar, but is instead one of the teddy bear's Mommy and gets placed appropriately on the board near the teddy bear.

Also, we have always played a more cutthroat version, in which you do not pass the room item to other players if you draw one you already have. It instead gets placed back into the bag and your turn is over. This ensured that Molly would draw items on her own when we first started playing (and that Mommy and Daddy could "incorrectly draw" items to make it more competitively for her. The first player to get all of their room items is the sole winner in this variant.

Finally, once the game is over, another game is played in which Daddy holds up the monster heads to peek in through the opened window on the box and Molly yells "Go away!", unless it is the blue furry monster, in which case, it is happily invited inside to join her.

Learning the Game:

The game is listed for ages 3 and up, but Molly received it for her second birthday and understood how to play after one game. Kids really shouldn't have a hard time learning the rules of the game, especially if you play the more cooperative version of the game.

The Components:

A completed room board with the four pieces on it. Photo by pigeoncamera.

The draw bag and different shaped components. Photo by TimothyP.

The eight monster pieces, including the "friendly" blue furred monster/teddy bear's mommy. Photo by TimothyP.

The components are very good and sturdy enough for a two-year old. A couple of our monsters have suffered a little wear over the last year and a half, but have held up really well. Uh, except for the caterpillar monster, but that's because my daughter chewed on it and ate half of it when she was younger. However, it does make it easier to feel that piece when drawing in the bag now.

Playing the Game:

Game play is simple and intuitive. There is not much to stimulate an adult in playing with a child, but the games literally last 5-10 minutes, so that isn't a problem. In fact, the game length is perfect for kids. When Molly had a shorter attention span at two years old, she still was able to play the game all the way through.


The game plays from 1-4 players and there are no rule changes for differing number of players and it scales fine. We've only every played it with 4 players, however. Even when it was just Mommy, Daddy and Molly, our daughter would insist that we set up the fourth board and she would say that it was for either Jake or Elwood and she would draw the pieces and play their turn for them. Yes, at two years old, my daughter loved the movie "the Blues Brothers" and it was her favorite movie. She used to play with Jake and Elwood as imaginary friends. Your experiences may vary.

Does the Wife Little Girl Like It?:

The most important category, since this is a kid's game. She'll play anything, but it depends on her level of comprehension of the actual game on how closely we will play by the real rules instead of her taking the pawns or figures and making them have a tea party or something. That being said, this was the first game that Molly ever had. She's now four months away from turning 4, so I thought she has started to outgrow it and I suggested that we review Chicken Cha Cha Cha as our first game review together, since I thought that was now her favorite game. However, she told me that she wanted to review Go Away Monster! instead and that it was her favorite game. So, I suppose that answers that.

The Pros:

*An excellent first game that is not complex and easy for ages as low as two to grasp it.
*Monster themes really excite a lot of kids (especially young boys and odd girls like my daughter).
*Components are sturdy and well designed for its intended age group.
*Play time is quick, which is good to alleviate parental boredom and the attention span of a two-year old.

The Cons:

*Box isn't quite sturdy enough for a kid. The window plastic has come off and the cardboard near the handle has broken off on our set.

In Molly's Words:

Since Molly is too young to read, let alone type, the rest of the review will be written in question and answer form. Molly is next to my computer and I'll be transcribing what she says and will format and add it after.

Chuckie: You want to review Monster Go Away? I thought your favorite was the chicken game (Chicken Cha Cha Cha).
Molly: No. This one is my favorite, Daddy.

Chuckie: Okay, so what do you like about the game?
Molly: Um, I like the pieces.
Chuckie: What do you like about them?
Molly: I like to pretend that it's a scrubby washcloth. (sings "scrubby-dubby-dub" as she rubs a bed on her arm, pretending to take a bath)
Chuckie: Okay, Pixie, but what do you like about the pieces when playing the game?
Molly: Picking them.
Chuckie: Are the different shapes?
Molly: Yes.
Chuckie: Can you tell the shapes apart when you pick them out of the bag?
Molly: Um, sometimes. And sometimes... Guess what, Daddy?
Chuckie: What, Sweetie?
Molly: This is going to be really funny.
Chuckie: Okay, what is it?
Molly: Sometimes you pull out a MONSTER! (She laughs at this.)

Chuckie: Okay, Pixie. What do you do when you pull out a monster?
Molly: Um. (She pauses for a couple seconds, then screams.) Aaaaaahhh! Go away monster!

Chuckie: Is the game too hard?
Molly: Um, no. But the other one's hard. (She may be referring the Chicken Cha Cha Cha, but she plays that one fine.).

Chuckie: Is it too easy?
Molly: No. A little bit though. And, Daddy?
Chuckie: Yes?
Molly: Can I have some chapstick on?
Chuckie: When we're finished here, Pixie.
Molly: Okay.

Chuckie: So, who do you think would like this game?
Molly: Um, let me see. Um, Mommy and Daddy and Molly.
Chuckie: Do you think other kids would like to play this game?
Molly: Yeah. But not Ellen. She likes zombies, not monsters.

Chuckie: How old do you think you need to be to play this game?
Molly: Um, three. (She holds up three fingers)
Chuckie: Did you know that you started playing it when you were two?
Molly: Yeah.
Chuckie: Were you too young for the game then?
Molly: Um, no. Because I was going to be three next.

Chuckie: The game has monsters in it. Is it too scary for little kids to play?
Molly: No. They aren't scary monsters. Unless they bite you.

Chuckie: So how would you rate this game?
Molly: Um, you mean stars? Uh, sixty ten stars.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Uh, one hundred sixty ten eleven! Daddy, can I give it moons now?

Chuckie: Sure. How many moons would you give it?
Molly: Three.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Three. And, Daddy. You almost forgot the suns!

Chuckie: Okay, how many suns would you give it?
Molly: Um, one.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: With my yellow crayon. I'll show you. Daddy, can I have some paper?


Go Away Monster! is an excellent first game for a child. The monster theme may frighten off some, but it is supposed to be empowering and showing that you have control over the monsters. For my daughter, aversion for monsters was never an issue though. The game has the perfect play time for the simple fare and it has entertained my daughter for a year and a half now and apparently still is among her favorites.


Sixty-ten stars out of one hundred sixty-ten-eleven stars.
Three out of three moons.
And one sun with a yellow crayon.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

How To Train Your Dragon

How to Train your Dragon

Me: Being a parent means that you often end up with your child wanting to watch really shit movies like The Tooth Fairy (for the record, that’s also what Grandparents are for). However, on occasion, you get a little lucky and end up with your child wanting to see something that isn’t too terrible, like Monsters vs. Aliens. But, if you are really lucky, your three-year old daughter ends up being a little geek and really likes the Lord of the Rings movies and wants to go and see movies about dragons in the theatre.

Anyhow, How to Train Your Dragon is an animated movie that is set in a Viking land where they are at constant war with dragons. The dragons raid the Viking lands and the Vikings try raiding the Dragon lands, but have never found their nest. This has gone on for 300 years. Since it is a kid’s movie, the standard formulaic plot happens with the obvious misfit kid.

Ultimately, you know the destination of the movie and there are really no surprise twists or turns in the pretty standard plot, but even though it is a straight, well-known path, the ride is a still an enjoyable one. For standard story plots of kid’s movies, at least this is a theme and setting that I can get into. It really appeals to the old school Dungeons and Dragons geek in me. And apparently we’ve been raising our daughter to follow in our geeky footsteps.

Anyhow, there is little to say about the predictable plot. But, there are a few other things to comment on. We caught the movie in IMAX 3-D. By IMAX, however, I don’t mean a huge arcing surrounding screen that is usually reserved for movies about climbing the Himalayas; I mean the kind of IMAX theatre that AMC pays a fee for in order to use the brand name and attach it to one of their existing main screens.

However, it was a large screen. Though it was the same size that it was before it became an “IMAX” screen. But we had good seats at a large screen and it really brought to my attention the level of texture mapping on modern digital animation. The skins and textures were gorgeous. There was a lot of fine detail on the texture skins, enough that they showed small scars, minor blemishes and even pores on the character model flesh. That was really interesting to watch.

This was also the first 3-D movie that I’ve seen that the 3-D effects actually worked for. See, the problem with wearing glasses is that in every 3-D movie I’ve seen prior to this the effects don’t work right. Putting the 3-D glasses on over top of my glasses positions them too far from my eyes and sets an extra lens between the 3-D glasses effect and my own eyes (from my regular glasses). The distance effect and the problem with the extra set of lens ends up parsing the 3-D incorrectly and I end up seeing double (or shadow reflections on the lens of my real glasses) or a hazy, broken effect. The other option that I would have is to take off my real glasses and just wear the 3-D glasses. However, the problem is that I cannot see. So I get blurry, fuzzy things sort of popping out of the screen at me. That kind of sucks as well. So I have usually not gone out of my way to see 3-D movies. The last 3-D movie I saw in a non-Disney World theatre was Coraline, where I had my standard problems with the 3-D effects.

However, the 3-D effects and glasses for this movie actually worked for me. There were a few instances of shadowing and double effects, but they were minimal. So, I can comment and actually say that the 3-D effect was pretty good. The problem with 3-D movies, however, is that they produce them with the realization that they will also be shown in a standard 2-D format, either on other screens or after the DVD release. What I noticed about this movie is that they did some depth of field effects where the foreground character would be out of focus as they focused on something in the background. That’s fine in most movies, but it doesn’t really transfer to 3-D.

When we saw Coraline in 3-D, Molly wore her 3-D glasses throughout the whole movie. In this one, however, she said that it was too scary in 3-D, so she went pretty much the entire movie with her glasses off and watched the movie with the screen being a little odd looking since she didn’t have glasses on. I would peek out from under my glasses to see how she was viewing it, and you get some doubling effects depending on where in the foreground an item is supposed to be, but it isn’t so bad that you cannot tell what was going on.

And it wasn’t the things popping out of the screen at her that made the movie scary, but rather, she thought that the Viking chieftain tended to yell more when she had her glasses on.

Molly: (Molly and I are at my parents’ house and everyone else is asleep, so I am transcribing this by hand on a notepad. Later, I’ll transfer it over to the computer.)

Chuckie: What did you think about the movie, “How to Train Your Dragon”?
Molly: I liked the black dragon and I cheered for him.
Chuckie: Yes, you were a very good cheerleader in the movie. You were chanting, “Go black one! Go black one! You can win it! You can beat the red one!” when he was fighting the other dragon.
Molly: Mm-hm.
Chuckie: I’m sure the people sitting around us were thrilled with your cheer-leading.
Molly: Yup.

Chuckie: So, did you like the movie?
Molly: Um, yeah. Getting more excited now. You had to wear special glasses and the dragons and the people jumped out of the screen and were all like “RAAR”!
Chuckie: Shh. People are still sleeping, Sweetie. Anyhow, um, you didn’t want to wear the glasses in the movie.
Molly: I have them on now, Daddy. She makes fake glasses with her thumb and forefingers in a circle and holds them over her eyes.
Chuckie: Okay. But you seemed really excited about the glasses. Why didn’t you want to wear them in the movie?
Molly: Because they made the movie scarier. And, Daddy?
Chuckie: Yes, Pixie?
Molly: This is a really good Devil Dog. She takes another bite of the Devil Dog she has been munching on.

Chuckie: So, what did you like about the movie?
Molly: It was – um, the girl.
Chuckie: Astrid?
Molly: Yeah, I liked the girl.
Chuckie: What did you like about her?
Molly: Daddy, your voice is getting a little quiet.
Chuckie: That’s because people are sleeping, Sweetie.

Chuckie: What else did you like about the movie?
Molly: I liked the boy.
Chuckie: Hiccup?
Molly: Uh-huh.
Chuckie: What did you like about him?
Molly: I just liked him.

Chuckie: What was your favorite part?
Molly: All of them are my favorite part.

Chuckie: So, what didn’t you like about the movie?
Molly: It was too scary.
Chuckie: What was too scary about it?
Molly: The guy screaming.
Chuckie: The Viking chieftain?
Molly: Mm-hm. He shouldn’t have yelled so loud. He should have known he was scaring me.

Chuckie: So, how would you rate the movie?
Molly: Scratching at a small scab under her nose. I can’t take this thing off because it’s a boo-boo, Daddy.

Chuckie: So, how many stars would you give the movie?
Molly: Um, a star egg.
Chuckie: Out of how many.
Molly: Just a star egg.

Chuckie: Do you think people would like this movie?
Molly: Mm-hm.

Chuckie: Who do you think would like the movie?
Molly: Um, dragons.

So, that’s our review. I thought that it was predictable and the plot is kid’s story fluff with nothing deep. However, it is a beautiful movie and the setting is one that I can really get into. So while the plot is a well-worn straight road through the country, it is enjoyable enough if you just sit back and peer out the window and watch the landscape. However, I will say that I did enjoy the fact that they did majorly scar and deform the major character by the ending. That was the closest to a twist that there was in the movie.

I give it three out of five stars with the warning that it is a straight-forward story.
Molly gives it a star egg and recommends this movie to dragons. Also, if it gets a little intense, apparently the Viking leader yells a bit less in two dimensions.