May 23, 2012

Princess of the Midnight Ball and Lost Cities: Book and Boardgame Match-up

The Book (by Jessica Day George):
Princess Rose and her sisters Lily, Jonquil, Hyacinth, Violet, Daisy, Poppy, Iris, Lilac, Orchid, Pansy, and Petunia are trapped in a curse. Every third night, they have to dance at the Midnight Ball with the twelve sons of the King Under Stone, who lives in a realm below the earth. The curse prevents them from speaking of it, and every prince who attempts to learn their secret in hopes of marrying one of them and inheriting the crown ends up dead by the next full moon.

Galen Werner is a soldier who is returning from the Westfalin-Analousia war. On his way to the city of Bruch to live with his mother's sister Liesel Orm, Galen meets an old woman. After he shares his food with her, the woman gives him white and black yarn and an invisibility cloak, saying that he would have to use them when "He" tries to get to the surface.

When Galen meets Rose, she knows that he can try to break the curse, but will he succeed despite the complications they come across? --from

The Game (from Rio Grande): In Lost Cities, a card game from the Kosmos two-player series, the object is to mount profitable expeditions to one or more of the five different lost cities. Card play is straightforward, with a few agonizing moments sprinkled through what is mostly a fast-moving game. If you start a given expedition, you'd better make some progress in it, or it'll score you negative points. If you can make a lot of progress, you'll score quite well. After three rounds, the highest total score takes the day. --from

It's been a while since I did one of these posts!  The book is my favorite of Jessica Day George's.  I'm a sucker for retold fairy tales, but there's always the trick of making them seem fresh while drawing from well-known material.  One of the things I love about Princess of the Midnight Ball is that the setting isn't generic fantasy; yes, it's set in a fantasy nation, but it's one with a distinct German flare.  The hero, a returning soldier, also knits, which always made me smile.  I learned that historically, knitting was a male-only occupation.  It was common to send skeins of yarn to a war front instead of pre-made socks; then there was no need to fuss about what sizes to send.  Reading this book was simply delightful.

Lost Cities is a two-player card game that likewise takes the familiar and makes it exciting again.  The mechanics are simple -- you're trying to place numbers from low to high -- but there are a few interesting tweaks that keep it fresh.  There's the lovely artwork.  Five suits.  And a risky bidding option that keeps things interesting.  This is an easy one for non-gamers to pick up because the mechanics are simple, but it still holds enough challenging decisions to make it a quick, fast game for someone who's played a hundred card games.

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