For the Win Game Review

The Basics:

  • For players 5 and up (publisher suggests 8+)
  • For 2 players
  • Approximately 10 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Visuospatial Skills

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • An alien, ninja, pirate, monkey, and a zombie walk into a bar…


  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!


Challenge your longtime nemesis to a game of strategic tile placement utilizing the martial arts of the Ninja, the out-of-this-world technology of the Alien, the audacity of the Pirate, the tenacity of the Zombie, and the brutal strength of the Monkey. To win, simply connect one of each of the five characters orthogonally or diagonally. It’s not as simple as it seems! Each of the five characters have a special ability that can quickly turn the game in your opponent’s favor! But such power is not limitless and comes at a cost. In the end, the player with the best timing, strategy, and tactics will be victorious!

For the Win, by Tasty Minstrel Games, is comprised of 10 plastic black tiles, 10 plastic white tiles, 1 First Player marker, 2 Player Aid cards, and 2 Action counters (one per player). The tiles are made of thick plastic and very durable.  The images of each of the five characters are printed on both sides of the tiles (black and red on white tiles, white and red on black tiles).

Game Set Up

To set up the game, first separate the 20 tiles into two different groups of 10 (separated by color). One player will have 10 black tiles and the other player will have 10 white tiles. Hand each player a Players Aid card and an Action token. This token is placed on the “zero” position on the Players Aid card on the track that runs along the right-side of the card.

Second, each player should now organize their tiles so that all the images are facing up and are not colored red. The player’s should feel free to organize their tiles anyway they like, but should keep them away from the central playing area where the tiles will be placed during the game.

Third, each player should now find one of their Monkey tiles and place it in the center of the playing area orthogonally to each other. Diagonal placement is allowed, but both players must agree to this starting position.

Fourth, decide which player will be the first player and give that player the First Player marker.

You are now ready to play!

A Quick Introduction to What It’s All About

The five characters depicted on the tiles require a brief introduction. For those unfamiliar with the wide-wide-world of interweb memes (pronounces (‘me:m’), I am certain the collection of characters available seems completely random and arbitrary. To be truthful, they are very arbitrary, but hardly random.

It all began back in the day where one Geek made a bold statement that Pirates were the best thing around since the invention of toilet paper. Many Geeks agreed and there was much rejoicing, but there was a rather large group of Geeks who terribly disagreed and said that Ninjas were, in fact, the best thing going for the Human Race since the invention of the wheel. The lines were drawn and the great battle of Pirates versus Ninjas (PvN) began and continues to rage across the virtual battle grounds of forums world-wide to this very day.

As I said, pretty gosh darn arbitrary. There is no reasonable system of measurement to suggest that an outlaw smuggler and thief on the high seas prone to scurvy and tooth decay is any better than a sneaky mercenary originating in feudal Japan who specializes in dropping out of ceilings with smoke bombs. But try telling that to the many, many people who engage in this debate ad nauseam.

Of course, the feverish argument began to transcend its original two points of conflict to adopt an ever-growing collection of “favorites”. Zombies and aliens inevitably showed up to the party looking to usurp the two dominant participants in a hopes of being the new #1. And hey, let’s throw a monkey in because why the heck not. Just think how terribly useful this bit of knowledge is going to be at your next cocktail party!

And for the record, I am very pro-Ninja.

Tile Abilities

Each tile, represented by one of the five characters, offers the player a special ability they can use, but only if the tile itself is “active” (face-up). All tiles come into play in their active state and are available to use for their special ability as soon as they come into play at the cost of one action. Once the tile is activated, it is flipped over to its “inactive” side (face-down) which depicts the image of the character on the tile but with an “X”, signifying it has been used.

Inactive tiles can no longer provide their special ability and become more difficult to use in the game. Additionally, inactive tiles do not count as part of the player’s goal to connect five of their tiles together. As a result, the player must use the special abilities of the tiles intelligently or they run the risk of slowing themselves down, allowing their opponent to easily win the game. Luckily, a player can flip-over their tiles to make them active, but at the cost of an action.

For every character, a special ability is available. They are as follows:

  • Pirate (Cannon): shoot an adjacent tile to any other legal unoccupied location
  • Ninja (Stealth): drop a smoke-bomb and move to any other legal unoccupied location
  • Alien (Tractor Beam): teleport any tile from any location to an unoccupied adjacent space next to the Alien tile
  • Monkey (Banana): drop a slippery peel and cause all adjacent tiles to flip-over (active becomes inactive, inactive becomes active)
  • Zombie (Infect): bites and turns an adjacent tile into a currently unplayed Zombie tile that belongs to either player – if all Zombie tiles have been played, the Zombie ability causes the targeted tile to become inactive (flipped face-down)

Tile Placement & Movement

The game is played on an imaginary grid. If you think it will help, get out your old checkerboard for the first couple of games to help you keep visual track of your playing space. Within this grid, the tiles will be placed and moved around. Individual tiles will be flipped over again and again during a single game. This can make the playing area a bit tricky at times as you will have to slightly shift tiles in order to grab and then flip them over. Do expect to tidy up your grid from time to time for no better reason other than to keep things in visual order.

Within the grid, the tiles must always be touching either orthogonally or diagonally when they come into play and for the remainder of the game. If an action does orphan a tile or a group of tiles, it is considered an illegal action and the player must rethink their move. The only exception of this rule is if the player separates the grid on their first action and then puts it back together on their second action.

Put another way, a player’s turn can never end with orphaned tiles on the grid.

Alien Monkey Pirate Zombie Ninja Fu!

The game will be played in rounds, with each player taking a total of 5 actions per round, but no more than 2 actions and no less than 1 action per turn. The actions available to the player for their tiles are as follows:

  • Add 1  tile not yet played to the grid – the added tile may not touch a tile of the player’s own color either orthogonally or diagonally
  • Move 1 active tile 1 space on the grid horizontally, vertically, or diagonally
  • Shove an active tile and all the tiles adjacent to it horizontally or vertically in the direction of the shove (this includes opponent’s tiles, too)
  • Activate an active (face-up) tile’s ability and then make the tile inactive (face-down)
  • Refresh a tile by flipping a tile from inactive (face-down) to active (face-up)

The Players Aid card contains an action counter on one side. Each time a player takes an action, they adjust their action counter accordingly. When both players have used their 5 actions, the First Player marker is given to the next player, the action counter is reset to “zero”, and the game continues.

Winning the Game

The game immediately ends when a player ends their turn (not the round) with at least 5 of their active (face-up) tiles touching either orthogonally or diagonally. The five tiles must represent each of the five different characters. Additional tiles can be part of the chain but at least one of each character tile must be present and active to meet the endgame condition for victory. If the player succeeds, they are the winner!


Note: The first time I played this game, my little geeks were 7-years-old and 4-years-old. They are now 8 and 5-years-old. The following prediction was taken when we first played the game.

My little geeks love zombies, pirates, ninjas, and aliens…not so much the monkeys. I don’t think they’ll have any difficulty associating each of the character’s abilities with the tile’s images, either. Keeping track of what tile is available to them is also very simple as all it takes is a quick scan of the grid to determine what tiles are active or not.

My little geeks are also no strangers to games that require the players to shift and move playing pieces in order to create a specific pattern. For example, Six and Meta-Forms both require the player to move and place the playing pieces in a special order to win the game. For the Win has also been compared to the game Hive, which I’ve never had the pleasure of playing but sounds very similar in playing style.

There is nothing about For the Win that I think will be terribly difficult for my 7-year-old, but I do believe my 4-year-old will have a hard time keeping track of all the different abilities. No more so than his older brother, mind you, but he is not yet a strong reader and will not be able to refer to his Players Aid card to help him recall what the abilities are. This might slow down his game play and reduce the level of fun he is having. Then again, he loves puzzles and tile placement games, so he might keep at it and do well.

I demoed the game in front of my two oldest little geeks, explaining the goal and how the game was played. They were both immediately excited when they learned they would be playing with zombies, aliens, ninjas, and pirates. They both looked at me with raised eyebrows and asked why there was a monkey there, too. I told them to think of the monkey as King Kong and they very quickly welcomed the primate into the mix.

I only needed to show a few example moves before my little geeks felt they understood the game well enough to play. My 4-year-old opted to play with me as a team (recognizing early on that he would have a difficult time remembering the abilities).

I began preparing the playing area for our first game. While I did so, I asked both my little geeks what they thought of the game so far.

“Zombies? Awesome! Ninjas? Awesome! Pirates? Awesome! Aliens? Awesome! Monkeys? We’ll see.” ~ Liam (age 7)

“Can the ninjas turn into zombie ninjas, Dad?” ~ Nyhus (age 4)

Excitement and genuine eagerness abounds! Let’s play a game or two and see if For the Win is an epic success or a catastrophic failure.

Final Word

For the Win is total WIN! The game plays fast, is challenging, and has enough Geek cred to make even the most elitist of Gamers smile. My little geeks loved playing it and my 7-year-old requested we play again, game after game, well after my 4-year-old left the table to go play LEGOs. Such was his excitement and his enjoyment.

The game plays exceedingly fast but not so fast as to not allow the players to engage in some very thoughtful strategy and tactics. Every tile move counts and you quickly learn from your mistakes. This might also be another one of those unsung benefits of the game – it is short. You can try a great number of different tactics in several games that never feel bogged down or dragged out. Something doesn’t work, no worries. Simply wait another 5 minutes and play another game.

Of course, the speed of the game might also scare some folks away. There is nothing more stressful to some than a game playing experience that demands so much attention and focus. I would agree that For the Win would be a stressful game if it weren’t for the fact that it is being done so tongue-and-cheek. Game depth aside, we’re talking about pirates, zombies, ninjas, aliens, and monkeys here. Hard to take something like that too seriously.

My 7-year-old quickly became a master at the game, learning from every move and taking advantage of my mistakes when and where and saw them. In fact, I had mixed feelings of light intimidation and swelling pride throughout our games. He used the character abilities brilliantly and really made me think about my moves. As I am a strong supporter of NOT letting your kids win, it was a pleasure being challenged by my son and challenging him in return.

Note: At 4-years-old, my little geek had a hard time playing this game. However, at 5-years-old, he can play the game like a champ! Much like his older brother at age 7, he utilizes the abilities of the tiles to shift the game in his favor. He is still unable to read well enough to spot-check the Player’s Aid card for quick summaries and must ask for help, but this does not reduce his level of effectiveness, nor his ability to compete.

With little geeks, For the Win is a great time. With big geeks, the game is even more entertaining. You get two gamers on opposite sides of the table in this game and you should expect a quick and turbulent ride. While a game with my son is more about finesse, a game with adults is fairly cutthroat. “Fast and furious” is the playing style most often used and victory is never a sure thing. Several times, I was absolutely certain I was going to win only to have a stupid monkey stomp all my tiles to the inactive state, a pirate blow my tile to the other side of the grid, or an alien teleport a seemingly harmless tile into a position that made it a real danger.

Don’t even get me started on how badly ninjas and zombies messed me up…

What a difference a year makes – My 5-year-old can now truly play the game for the win!

Gamer Geeks, For the Win is a quick strategy game that is all about timing. Every move needs to have a purpose and every ability used for your benefit. Any slight deviation from this will give the game to your opponent, quickly. The game is intense while at the same time feeling very light. This makes the competitive nature of the game seem like a lighthearted affair and very pleasant. Expect a good deal of eye rolling, yells of victory, and groans of defeat. But most importantly, expect a good time.

Parent Geeks, For the Win is an excellent strategy game that will teach your little geeks all about strategy and tactics within a well-defined game that plays just long enough to be fun but not too long to be a chore. The character abilities are fun and every player’s move has a real outcome on the game. Game play is meaningful, in other words, and so will be your enjoyment. For your non-gamer friends, this will serve as an excellent introductory game into the more complex 2-player strategy games. While the game is abstract by its very nature, the characters on the tiles provide concrete meaning and purpose, making the game play easier to understand.

Child Geeks, if you have ever wanted to play a game where ninjas fight pirates, zombies attack aliens, and monkeys run around causing all kinds of mischief, this is the game for you. You’ll have a blast shooting your opponent’s tiles, causing their tiles to shift, and having the same done to you! You will be challenged, but never to a point where you’re going to feel the pressure. The game is meant to be played with a smile, which you will be doing a lot of when your friends and parents throw their hands up in disgust as you shoot their tile to an insignificant area of the grid. HA-HAAARRR!

For the Win really is a charming little strategy game. It has just the right mix of humor and game depth to make the game playing experience a very enjoyable one. It has all the “teeth” and “meat” the Gamer Geek will want, is accessible enough for Parent Geeks, and is light enough for the Child Geeks. It’s all things to all groups and a good time for all.

For the Win has my vote for WIN!, but not epically so. It’s a great little game with a tight design and well-thought-out game play. A real joy to play with my little geeks and big geeks alike. I have yet to have a single game play that wasn’t fun. Not many games can say that. Do look into playing this game  if you are interested in enjoying an experience that will challenge and entertain in equal measure and in abundance.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

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About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner. Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....

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