Money! It’s a funny thing isn’t it? It can’t buy you happiness, so they say, but maybe it can buy you a better class of Board Game! Now I’ve got a lot of games – A LOT – but not many are over fifty quid which is a bit of a red line for me. But am I missing out?
Well recently I’ve been adventurous and taken the plunge. First Undaunted: Stalingrad then Terraforming Mars and recently Scythe. Each one absolutely blew me away and I was left wishing I’d gone down this route earlier. But was I just lucky?
Well it’s time to turn to the erudite band of ZATU bloggers to showcase their personal choices of Board Game Greats that are expensive but well worth the money.
Terraforming Mars: Wow just wow!
Now I know I’m late to the party but then I’m an old man so I’m a little slow. I always though it would be good – I’m a sci-fi nut as well as a board game geek – but if I’m honest I was put off by the price tag (too much Yorkshire in my blood) so it was only recently, with birthday money and the odd voucher, I got around to it and gosh I’m glad I did. Let’s put it this way I’ve just spent this afternoon trawling through the reviews of all the add-ons and expansions to see what else to get!
But why? I hear you ask from the handful of gamers who haven’t played already. Well, firstly I’m a component junkie. All the pieces here are great, nicely printed thick card etc but the Gold, Silver and Bronze resource tokens are a delight! Probably my favourite bits of any game to date.
Secondly, the map. Before retirement I was a cartographer and I really appreciate the effort that has gone into the accuracy of the Martian landscape.
But this would mean nothing if it wasn’t for the wonderful variety in the gameplay: The project cards – hundreds of them!, the corporations for asymmetricity (is that a word?), the standard projects, the Milestones, the Awards, the Resources – all 6 of them – to gather and then there’s the actual Terraforming itself. Do you boost the factors straight away to increase your Terraforming Rating early and raise your revenue or do you hold back and let the engines you’ve built crank out more resources and source more cities. Forest, Ocean, City in what order do you build them?
So many choices even an hour and a half seems so little time.
Zombicide is a game of survival against the relentless hordes. The zombies just keep coming and it is up to you and your team to work together, complete the mission and ultimately, get out alive!
A game for 1 to 6 people in its standalone box, we have a great cooperative game here. The scariest part of this game is not necessarily the zombies, but possibly the price tag, but it shouldn’t be! Even ZATU have it for a healthy chunk of cash but Zombicide is well worth your money as the replayability is enormous.
Assemble your team of 6 survivors, pick a mission and let the carnage commence. With 12 unique survivors to choose from that all have a unique set of skills and 25 missions to pick from in this game set alone, you have plenty of replayability from just these 2 elements. Then you have 3 different card decks of weapons and zombies that will change with every game providing a different experience within the mission. If the 25 missions are not enough, you can visit CMON’s website for dozens of additional missions they have created at no additional cost. In our home, we always enjoy a good festive mission at Christmas time.
I have been playing Zombicide for 10 years now (first edition included) and I am yet to meet a person who hasn’t enjoyed the game. I’m also still regularly playing the game as we had it out last weekend for another fight for survival. It’s intense and if the wheels start to come off it can get messy for the survivors quickly. However, when it clicks, there is something incredibly satisfying about working as a team, with your friends, carving up masses of Zombies.
When I first got into the hobby, I used to look at people spending lots and lots of money on games and swore to myself that wouldn’t be me.
Reader… it is me. I’m one of those people now.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a bargain as much as the next person, but sometimes a game with a heftier price tag draws you in. That game for me was Spirit Island.
Cooperative games are one of my favourite mechanisms, but my enjoyment can be stunted when I have someone telling me what to do on my turn. “Alpha” gaming is generally a problem in cooperative games, so when I read many comments saying that Spirit Island “stopped the alpha gamer” problem, it seemed like a no-brainer.
And what a game it is as well.
In Spirit Island, players take on the role of spirits who are trying to create enough fear to drive away explorers who are attempting to colonise the island. Working alongside the Dahan, the natives of the island, you might try and fight colonists and destroy their towns and cities. You might try and create fear, because doing so makes the winning condition easier. The problem is that whilst the winning conditions become easier, being able to meet them becomes harder.
The alpha-gaming problem is solved because each player has an asymmetric hand of cards, so having to synergise them with other players is key. Nobody can really take charge, and everyone must work together.
I’ll be honest, my win rate on Spirit Island is about 1 in 10, and that’s playing on the easiest level, so when I think about how much the game still has left to offer me, it feels like a worthwhile investment indeed!
When I first got into the board gaming hobby, I soon realised two things: games are expensive, and you won’t be able to fit them all in your house. For these two reasons I have to be selective with what I add to my shelves. After all, I don’t want to be out of pocket after buying a dud of a game.
Brass Brimingham went in and out of my basket multiple times! I thought, what if I don’t like the theme, what if no one plays it with me, what if the board is too big for my table and worst of all – what if it doesn't live up to the hype! With its high price tag, it was hard to dispel these worries and buy it. But there it was in all its glory at UKGE. I had already broken the bank and I was in Birmingham, so it seemed like the best time to take the plunge.
Well, let me tell you, it was worth every penny. This game is well made with quality pieces and the artwork is sublime. I especially love the wooden beer barrels. Players take on the role of entrepreneurs during the industrial revolution. They must build networks, mine resources and sell goods. Along the way you will add money to your opponent's stores whilst trying to ensure you get the most profit. It’s a delicate balance of risk and reward.
Brass, has a lot of replayability as you try new strategies each time. It’s canal and rail eras break up gameplay and add something fresh midway through. It also plays well at 2 and 4 players. If you want a game which will get you thinking and includes cutthroat gameplay, then you won’t regret splurging on Brass Birmingham.
Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization stands the test of time, it shines in the detail, the replayability and value for money.
You may have thought this looks too complicated, there is no map and it seems quite expensive. But if you like civ-based games, this is a must.
The actions you take will include the options to acquire new leaders, buildings, technology and military units, etc. The sheer variations in the types of buildings etc mean each game will be different. With other players going for those key cards like you, there is no guarantee of implementing any set strategy each game, meaning you have to be very flexible. I find this a great challenge. No two games will be quite the same and the detail and flavour you get from the cards feeds your imagination as you grow your civilization. There are many ways to acquire the culture points you need to win and I really like this, so that the strongest military isn’t always the civilization that wins.
If I buy a game for £50 plus, I really do expect the game to be re-playable, I expect it to have good gameplay, enjoyable and immersible theme, rather than a theme that’s loosely added to an abstract game. I want good components and with the highly recommended expansion you get a more variable and enjoyable play experience.
The game may seem quite complicated, quite the brain burner, but with a useful rulebook and practice, it becomes easier to play to the point there are only a few situations that might come up that require a bit of thought but not something that has detracted from enjoyment.
The real test for me is this is a game that routinely gets replayed despite the competition.
I’ll start by saying Ark Nova is probably my favourite board game, so know there’s a little bit of bias seeping in here. That said, I’m here to tell you I think this game is worth the money and then some.
While its RRP makes it well above, current deals have it below our threshold and you get a lot for your money in terms of ‘stuff’ in the box, table presence and overall gameplay.
This is what I’d call an ‘experience game’ – the centrepiece of a gaming day that I’ll set up knowing it’s going to take a good couple of hours to get through. If that’s one of the ways you like to play, with family or with a group, then Ark Nova has you covered. It’s a big thing too – it needs a lot of table space, but looks great for it.
There’s a lot of stuff here too. You get over 200 zoo cards with photographic artwork, illustrating animals, sponsors, research and more. There are over 100 enclosure tiles and over 100 tokens for money, bonuses and other abilities. And while some might argue a separate insert is a must, I think the included GameTrayz do a good job of organizing the whole thing for you.
Finally, the gameplay itself. The core is a simple action selection system – choose one of five actions and do it. But there’s so much more to it than that. Planning a few turns in advance is key, as is managing the combos you can build and deciding on upgrades (where you’ll always be slightly limited).
It’s not necessarily for the faint-hearted, but it’s a terrific game worthy of a few extra quid if you have it to spare.
Xia (variously pronounced “zee-uh”, “zai-uh” or “sha”) is a space sandbox. You’ll start with a basic ship, fit it out with engines, weapons and shields, and set off to make your fortune in the spacelanes, by exploration, trade, bounty hunting, piracy or a variety of other tasks, trying to hit the fame point goal before anyone else.
Xia is not a precise Eurogame: it’s unashamedly thematic, luck is a significant factor (every time you roll a 20, you gain a fame!), and there’s player versus player conflict. It’s a table hog, and it can take hours to play (though it doesn’t feel like it). And yet it generates stories in a way that less thematic games don’t: remember that time I tried to pirate the merchant and got nowhere, then you showed up and finished him off? And then the enforcer jumped out and blew you away, leaving me to scoop up the abandoned cargo?
You can be destroyed, but you don’t have to restart from scratch: you come back with the same ship and equipment, though not your cargo, and you lose any inconvenient bounties. Even if someone else is running away with the game, you can drag them down, or just have fun doing your own thing.
Firefly and Star Wars: Outer Rim are the space sandbox rivals: both are tied into their licenced settings and focus on your crew – and can end up feeling like separate races for the goal. This game doesn’t have an existing set of characters, so the game mechanics emphasise the ship and its upgrades, and the interaction between players.
It’s improved by the Embers of a Forgotten Star expansion, but the core game alone is a lush and generous production, with painted ships on flight stands, lovely metal coinage, and 21 sector tiles for building the universe.
So, you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, eh?!?!? Well, have I got a fantastic, and slightly expensive, game for you!
LotR Journeys in Middle-Earth is a brilliant app driven story game where you get to take on the role of any of your favourite characters from the books and go on your own adventures. The main box and each of the two large expansions comes with their own adventures integrated into the app excellently, plus a couple more that you can purchase separately.
At the start of the game you choose your party members, their class and their starting items. There are suggested set-ups for each class but you can ignore these if you wish to. Along the adventure you will use your characters strengths and weaknesses for the good of the group, sometimes you will have to use wit to solve a puzzle, or agility to scramble down a dark mountain passage or maybe strength to push over a giant statue. Whatever lies ahead must be overcome using the clever card play mechanic where your cards are multi-use. Cards have abilities that you can attach to your character and some of your cards have successes on them for your skill checks. Choosing how to manage your decks is integral on your journey towards Mount Doom. Most maps are adventures across map tiles, but sometimes you use smaller boards to solve puzzles in buildings which is a nice change of pace.
At the end of each stage you can camp and upgrade abilities or even change your class. This is handy if you have bought all the success cards from one class and want even more from another. The upgrade possibilities are almost endless.
I am a massive LotR fan and this game is so good I don’t feel I need any other Lord of the Rings games in my life (I mean I have some but, I don’t need them haha). If you can afford it, give this a go, it’s brilliant and one of the only app-based games I will play!
If you’re contemplating spending your hard-earned cash on a new game and considering that age old important question… is it worth it? Look no further than Wingspan, an engine-building competitive card game. You’ve probably heard the hype, maybe the haters too, but here’s my brief low down on why you should invest in this game.
Firstly, the artwork is simply amazing! Realistic with a beautifully hand sketched feel and educational too. Learning about the birds will only add to your gameplay. The components are fantastic, from the cards, eggs and tokens to the dice tower and the holders, you are paying for great quality.
Secondly the gameplay is super fun and can actually be reasonably simple to grasp, despite the game being described as medium-weight and the rulebook looking a little daunting. I recommend watching a how to play video if you don’t like reading lots of rules. The first part of this playthrough provides a really clear explanation: https://youtu.be/WzyuRWpAT9g Also Zatu’s How To Play: https://www.board-game.co.uk/how-to-play-wingspan/ is useful in quickly grasping those rules without feeling like you’re reading a novel. Once you’ve played once, maybe twice, the strategy really comes to life. There’s oodles of choices to be made that can make or break your game.
Of course when you invest in Wingspan you may also feel like adding an expansion. Wingspan has a mountain of expansions! The purpose of these expansions really isn’t because the base game is a bit rubbish without them, or because you’ll get bored of the game easily and will need an expansion to keep you interested. They truly are just further beautiful additions to the game with new birds and methods of play being brought to the table.
The best expansion of all has to be Oceania which not only allows you add new bird cards and rules to your game but also allows you change the player count! Really useful if you want a solo game, or like me, you play a lot with just one other person but also great for a gathering of friends where you may want a player count of 6 or 7.
Now, of course, you don’t have to buy and play with expansions but if you do, you’re going to experience new coloured eggs, bright new birds and further immerse yourself in the world of ornithology.
I cannot recommend this game highly enough, it’s fun for all ages, beautiful, a welcome addition to the avian boardgame landscape, and in my opinion really does live up to the hype!
As large box games go, I do think that Scythe is the biggest space-hogger on my shelves. It also might be the game that sat on the shelf of shame for the longest too. For me I was massively drawn in by the amazing artwork on the box. The game itself was a little bit scary to me though. It was such a huge box and a pretty high price tag too which meant I really wanted to think long and hard about it.
Scythe is at its heart a Euro game, where you are collecting resources and trying to fulfill objectives whilst also gaining traction and control across the map. However, it also has an element of battling, where the nasty part of your personality can dash the plans of your opponents without so much as a backward glance.
I am unbelievably glad that I took the plunge on this one. This one has no right being as beautiful as it is. The world created through the artwork is the best thing I have seen in a board game possibly ever. The alternative 1920s vision is such an immersive world and the game play is utterly brilliant. I love the push and pull of the race to complete objectives and gain stars but ensure that you do not finish the game too early as it could spell issues for your own scoring if your popularity bonus is not high enough.
I fully endorse Hannah’s words on Scythe as it was the game I got that made me think this feature was worth writing. I hope you’ve enjoyed our eclectic list of games that seemed too expensive but are well worth getting.
I personally have got a couple more items on my must have list and remember it’s not what it costs but what it’s worth that counts!