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10 Games To Play Right Now

games to play - architects of the west kingdom

When I offered to write this post, I considered what I would mean by a games to play right now. We all have those, of course, games we have played enough times to know it verbatim or ones we just love and are down to just go and play any time it comes up. What I decided on is games that I would pick up and be able to play right now.

Games I’m familiar enough with that I could pick up and play without having to re-read the rulebook, aside from maybe a couple of things to do with the set up. As it happens, each of these games are ones which fall into my top fifty games, and I absolutely love them. I guess that means they fall into both categories. These aren’t the hottest games – aside from anything else, I often find the Hotness list on BGG to be less interesting than what’s on my shelf - but these are games that have withstood the test of time.

Architects Of The West Kingdom

This list was set up alphabetically so it’s a happy coincidence that my personal number 1 game is kicking things off. Architects of the West Kingdom is the first of the West Kingdom trilogy by Garphill Games, and is set in the Carolingian Empire in the 9th century. In the game, players are going to be using workers to gather resources, employ townsfolk and build buildings including a cathedral which will impact the game length. Once the cathedral is finished, the game will come to an end.

However, this is a worker placement game with a twist. Virtually every space on the board can take more than one worker and grows gradually stronger the more of your workers you place there. So in turn one, you can get a single stone. The next time you place a worker there, you’ll gain two stone and so on, and because you have twenty workers to start, you can get some impressive combos. However, this can cause a problem for your opponents, so they may start to report your gatherings to the guards and imprison your workers, earning money for each one. And of course, not everything is above board, with taxes and a black market in play to make things a little more interesting.

It was love at first play for me when I played this game and it’s something I will always pick up and place on the table if asked. It scales incredibly well at all player counts and there’s a devious solo mode, which also can be added in for a two player game. A must have for me.

Carcassonne

This is my go-to for an introductory game, and is also one of those games to play that everyone knows of. Carcassonne is a classic tile placement game where players will start with a single tile and place out from there, connecting like with like to score on roads, city buildings, monasteries and fields. There’s a lot to potentially do but a limited supply of meeples and a handy dollop of luck to play with, so definitely a game to draw in someone who’s never played anything more than Monopoly or Scrabble. The rules are also easy enough to understand after about half a playthrough and are ones I can rattle off easily. If you want to spice things up, you can use one of the many expansions available, which add in all sorts of new tiles which you can shuffle in.

I’ve played this with family members to entice them to trying new games at Christmas but it’s a classic I love to come back to. I’ve been eyeing up some of those expansions for a while but even without them, Carcassonne will always return to my table.

Cartographers

Now it’s time for my most played game of 2021. Cartographers was a game which really took me by surprise with how much fun I had whilst playing it. In Cartographers (a flip and write game,) you are drawing maps for the queen as you discover new lands in the form of terrain cards. These cards reveal a polyomino shape or two with one or two terrain types for you to place down. Which one you should choose and where you should place is dependent on the scoring decrees from the queen, and these change each season. Each one will score twice at various points so you can plan your turns to maximise the benefits of those final scoring objectives.

Not all smooth sailing though, as not every card is kind to you. Sometimes you’ll draw a ruins card which will force you to draw the next shape on a ruin spot on the board, which can really affect your strategy. Dangerous monsters can also pop out, with a new one getting added in each round. These monsters will cost you points at the end of each round, depending on how many spaces around them are unoccupied. More problematic is that your opponents will draw them onto your map for you, causing yet more disruption to your plans. But unlike other games where you can get frustrated by such a negative impact, it’s very easy to play on and not feel the full pressure.

The theme is fresh, the gameplay is calming and there is a lot of variety available to you, what with new map packs coming out every so often and the sequel Cartographers Heroes adding new shapes, monsters and heroes to the game. I spent a lot of time playing this game last year, creating beautiful maps and working out the best configuration to score as many points as possible. What I also love is that this game is technically limitless as far as player count goes. As long as everyone can see the shape and has a map and a pencil, everyone can play.

Decorum

One of my hot new favourites now. Decorum is the passive aggressive game of cohabitation, where players are redesigning a house together. However, each player has their own specific objectives which seem like they clash in the moment but actually form a tricky puzzle. You’ll start with a house as per a starting card, and you’ll each take a turn either adding something, removing an object or swapping something out for the same thing in a different style. After they’ve done that, every other player says if they approve, disapprove or are neutral on the change. There are a bunch of set scenarios in the game, for both two players and three or four players.

I can easily explain this game to someone, but the puzzle is how to make everything fit. You can also ham up the game if you want to, really leaning into the roleplaying. “Oh I can’t believe you just did that!” or “Perfect! I could kiss you!” For me, this is the only way to play. I get so much more mileage out of the game by being a little bit silly with it. The scenarios are fun and I think are very replayable. I can’t imagine remembering what was included between sessions, but even so, there is an app coming which will randomise everything for you, giving you a ton of new content to play with. Ask me to paint your bedroom walls, I might be telling you a firm no. If you then said “in Decorum,” I’ll grab my paintbrush and overalls.

Dungeon Mayhem

From the silly roleplay to a silly game based in roleplaying. Dungeon Mayhem (and the two expansions, Monster Madness and Battle for Baldurs Gate) is a game where a player steps into the world of Dungeons & Dragons and takes on their choice of role from one of four classes (Original), two characters (Baldurs Gate) and six monsters (Monster Mayhem). In the card driven combat game, players will draw a card and then play a card. These cards may do things such as add more actions, let you draw more cards, heal yourself and attack your opponents.

The game is very silly and has a lot of variability as you’ll want to play as every character given the chance before you decide on a favourite. It does have a downside of player elimination, which is a mechanism I loathe BUT Dungeon Mayhem is such a quick game, you’re never out for more than about 10 minutes. And if you are eliminated with someone else, you could always set up a game with them whilst you wait! I love this crazy, silly little game and it’s one that’s pretty perfect to fill some space between bigger games.

Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game

Love Letter is a nice game which kicked off the micro game world a while back. There are a few different versions floating about but my personal favourite is the Marvel version – Infinity Gauntlet. This is the game I take away to restaurants, on a plane, to the pub, wherever I might find myself with five minutes with someone and I want to kill some time. In Infinity Gauntlet, instead of everyone taking on the hidden roles in the original game, one player takes on the role of Thanos the Mad Titan and everyone else (up to five players) is the Avenger.

The goal for the Avengers is to defeat Thanos and reduce his hit points to zero. Thanos wants to either defeat the Avengers in the same way or to gather the Infinity Stones and snap his fingers. I’ve only ever really played it with two players, but it’s a fun challenge and looks like it’ll scale well with a different number of hit points for Thanos and him getting more cards in relation to the Avengers. Plus the little pouch holds everything you need and you can just keep it in a bag or a pocket with your keys.

Quacks Of Quedlinburg

This game was a surprising revelation for me. Quacks of Quedlinburg is a press-your-luck bag building game where you are creating potions and selling them on. Each of the ingredients you put in have different powers which will encourage you to add more to your potion, as well as the increasing money and victory points. Put in too many cherry bombs however, your potion explodes, and you gain either points or money to buy things but not both. I didn’t think I’d like this much because push-your-luck didn’t excite me much. Oh boy was I wrong! I tried it at my local game café and it blew my mind.

So much so that I eventually picked up the Mega Box (exclusive at Zatu) and that adds a lot of variety to the game, even more than in the base game. In the base game, each ingredient has four different powers which you can match up in any combination to give some weird and powerful combos. Throw in the expansions, you end up with six different powers, single use powers from the Herb Witches expansion and random bonuses from the Alchemist expansion based on the illness you’re treating. There’s a whole lot of tension in the game, but what I love is the catch-up mechanism of the rat tails, which basically means anyone not in first isn’t left too far behind and the penalty for going bust isn’t too mean. I love this game, to the extent that I got myself some upgraded bits to go in my mega box. I want this game to last!

Sagrada

Ah Sagrada. The dice drafting and placement game in this list of games to play, all about stained glass windows. Everyone is an artisan, building their own stain glass window for the Sagrada Familia. You each have a little window, of which some places have either a colour or a number filling that space. This gives a limitation on the die that can be placed there, matching the colour or number respectively. How do you get dice, you might be asking? Well, on each round, a player will take out a number of dice equal to the number of players plus one and rolls them out. Then they draft a die and add it to their window in a spot either at the edge of their window (if it’s the first turn) or in one of the surrounds spots around a currently placed die. Of course, you have to make sure you don’t have matching colours or numbers in the orthogonal spaces (but diagonal is fine.)

Then it goes clockwise round the table until you reach the last player, who then drafts a second die and back down the line it goes until everyone has either taken two dice or passed because they can’t play anything. There are public and private objectives in which you can score, as well as tools you can use to do usually illegal moves. There is such a table presence to this game too. The boards have their lovely windows for you to slide your card into, there’s such bright colours in the dice and the glass beads for the currency draw the eye. Again, this is such a simple game to teach but the decisions you have to make to ensure you can still place dice later are agonising when it doesn’t pay off. It’s so much fun to play, and it’s one I’ll be sneaking into my luggage to take on holiday later this year.

Tokaido

Tokaido has a lot to answer for. For a game that is all about having the nicest walk along a trail from Kyoto to Edo (and back again), it has awakened a dark power. The sin of desire. Yes. The humble Tokaido is THE game that got me into the hobby. And because of that, it has a lot of staying power in my collection and it is one I will play any time someone asks me. Maybe less enthusiastically if it’s two player but Tokaido Duo is coming soon so who knows.

In Tokaido, you are walking along the Tokaido trail, stopping at different spots along the way. The goal is to have the best experience, so you will be stopping to paint landscapes, buy souvenirs, visit the temples or hot springs, and at various inns to enjoy the local cuisine. However, we’re all unique individuals so we all like different things, right? So then does your unique player character who has their own power to help steer your plan. I love the variety in this game and the different strategies you can undertake with each play. The theme of Japan is also very personal to me, Japan being my paternal grandfather’s favourite country. But most of all, I love how calm the game is and how it opened my eyes to what board games can be.

Wingspan

Wingspan has come up a lot recently for me because it’s a game which was released on Board Game Arena and has allowed me to play half a dozen games of it in a week and I remembered how flipping good it is. For a game about birds, it does a lot of really clever things really well. Players are trying to fill their own personal aviary with birds from all over the world and prove they are the best ornithologist. They each get to choose from one of four actions: playing a bird; drawing bird cards; laying eggs and; gaining food, and these actions get stronger as more birds are played out.

Each bird has their own power which can augment an action or give you a bonus under certain circumstances. With public and private objectives available for scoring, as well as point for your birds, there’s a lot to consider. Factor in that you get fewer actions each round as the game progresses and you’ve got a game with two awesome expansions, with a third due later this year. There’s a lot to be said for a simple game with a lot of thinking elements and it’s one of those games I’ll always want to pick up and play. Therefore, it's up there with games to play and pick up right now.