The Weekly Report series serves as my script for a segment on the Cardboard Conjecture’s bi-weekly podcast, “Whatcha Been Playing Wednesdays” If you want to hear my voice read these words, listen to the episode by clicking here!

As much as I love my local board game café, I don’t end up going there very often. Between my own board game collection, and the collections of my friends, we’re never left wanting for games. Someone always has something they’re eager to get to the table, so spending the table fee at the local café just isn’t a high value for us very often.

What is a high value for me, is giving my wife and I someplace to be and to have fun that is not around our house. Where we don’t have to be looking at all the projects and house chores that we should be working on, and where we don’t have to be the parent to a toddler for a couple of hours. So in between the morning hike and the dinner reservation, we stopped by Interactivity and played a couple new to us games!


Kites by Kevin Hamano, with art by Beth Sobel, published by Floodgate games in 2022 is a cooperative real time game about keeping your kites in the sky. The two player game starts with each player getting 5 cards each, and the 6 coloured (white, red, orange, yellow, purple, and blue) sand timers laying down on their side. The white timer is flipped up and then players pick up their hands of cards.

Each card will have one or two colours in the corner, on your turn, you play a card, then flip the timers that correspond to the colours depicted on those cards, then draw a card from the deck. The white timer can be flipped if you play a card that only has a single colour on it, instead of flipping the colour that is depicted on the card. The players win if the deck is exhausted, and they manage to play all their cards, and they lose if any of the 6 sand timers run out.

And that’s it! Kites is fast and frenetic. Players are caught between looking at all the timers and assessing the cards in your hand, all while trying to communicate with your partner, turns out to be quite a fun challenge. The first game we played, we lost horribly, but it taught us what we should be looking at and how we should be communicating. The second game we managed a win, which felt great.

The challenge with real time games is that I can’t stop to take pictures

I’m actually reminded of another game, Magic Maze. It’s super fun when you first play it, especially if you crash fantastically. It’s even more exciting when you and your teammates manage to meld your minds together and solve the puzzle, but once you’ve figured the game out, it’s kind of done. After our second play of Kites, I asked my wife if she wanted to play again and was met with a shrug and a “no, not really. Let’s play something else!” It’s the kind of game that’s great to play as a warm-up, to get the blood pumping and the communication flowing, but not one that offers a great variety once you’ve figured out your strategy.

There are some challenge cards that you can add in to make the game harder if that’s something that you crave, but for me, while I won’t be buying my own copy, I’d happily play Kites if anyone were ever to request it.

And that’s the electric, kinetic, real-time Kites!


Mandala was designed by Trevor Benjamin and Brett J. Gilbert with art by Klemens Franz (Although I never would have guessed that Klemens Franz did the art without looking at the credits), and published by Lookout Games in 2019. Mandala is an area majority, set collection, and hand management game for 2 players. This one was a bit abstract to learn how to play, so bear with me.

Mandala features a large cloth map as the main area of play. There are two large circles with a line running through the centre of them. That line is called the mountain, and the half rest of the circle is called the field. Finally, each player has a row for cards right in front of them called ‘the river’, and a cup. Players take turns placing cards from their hand into either of the two mountains, or, either of the two fields on their side of the board. An important note is to highlight the ‘rule of colour’, which says that you cannot play a card to a mountain or field if that colour exists somewhere else in that circle. So if I had a green card in my river, you could not play any green cards to the mountain or your field. And if there were a red card in the mountain, you could continue to add red cards to the mountain, but neither of us can play red cards to our fields within that mandala.

Once all 6 colours are present in a single circle, the mandala is completed and must be destroyed. The player who has the most cards in their field gets to take all of one colour from the mandala, then the other player gets to take a colour. When you take cards from a completed mandala, you place one of the cards in your river if there aren’t any cards of that colour already present in your river, then all subsequent cards of that colour go into your cup. At the end of the game, you score points for all the cards in your cup. One wrinkle is that all the colours will be worth a different number of points depending on when you took that colour; the first colour you claim will be worth a single point per card, while the final colour is worth 6 points per card, but your opportunity to take cards of that colour will be greatly limited.

Mandala comes to an end when one player has managed to collect all 6 colours of cards, or, when the main deck runs out.

I love two player games, but a challenge when playing with my partner is that we just don’t like games with direct conflict. One might ask “Why in the world would you play an area majority game if you don’t like direct conflict” and the answer is “I DON’T KNOW! IT JUST HAPPENED, OKAY!?”

That aside, we actually enjoyed playing Mandala once we figured out what was going on (which was about halfway through the game). As is common with abstract games, learning how to play can be hard, as everything appears arbitrary. “Why are we playing cards to the centre?” and “How does the field control the mountain?” are some of the questions that came up, as there’s no theme to help guide new players into what they should be doing. But after the first mandala gets completed, everything kind of clicks. You start to figure out how you can play cards to manipulate the game state and try to sway the game in your favour.

Mandala can be a bit cutthroat. The cards in the mountain are the prizes, players are incentivized playing there as that’s the only way to get more cards into your hand. Playing too many cards to your field will drive your opponent away to the other circle, tying up your time and resources. There are interesting wrinkles, and I’d love to explore them, but with the right company. It’s too combative a game for my wife and I, neither of us like playing games where the goal is to deny the other person. You can call us soft if you want.

At only 20 minutes to play, I’d have no problem bringing Mandala out with my friends. Mechanically, it’s a great game, and that’s something we really enjoy. There’s no story to Mandala, this isn’t the kind of game where you’ll create a narrative in your head. Instead, you’ll just be counting colours in circles and wondering if your opponent has any greens in their hand or not.