It’s very easy to keep up with the hottest current and upcoming titles. Equally, it’s very easy for some games to go under the radar. As a group of bloggers, we wanted to identify games which may have slipped you by. At the time of writing, all these games were outside the BoardGameGeek Top 1,000. Some you may have heard of, and some you may not have… but we felt they were all worth a mention!
We’ve avoided including brand new games, especially if their ranking is currently trending upwards.
Cockroach Poker (1,021*) – by Nick Trkulja
Cockroach poker has a deck of sixty-four cards, depicting eight sets of eight “critters”. These are the sort of animals that repulse most people: spiders, rats, toads, bats etc. This is a simple bluffing game. If it’s your turn to play you choose one of your hand of cards and play it to an opponent declaring which critter is on the card. However, you can lie. Your opponent’s job is to decide if you are being honest or not. You can call your opponents out. You can pass the responsibility for a decision to another player. If you call out correctly your opponent gains the card. If you’re incorrect, the card is yours. First player to gain four cards of the same critter loses.
Can you read your friends’ lies? Can they read yours? If you are sitting with three scorpions in front of you, dare you declare that you are passing a scorpion to another player? Cockroach poker is a game that builds real tension. It causes you to stare deep into your friends’ faces. There will be cheering and whooping when a player’s bluffs are uncovered.
It is not necessary to have different pieces of art for each critter, but there are a total of sixty-four different pictures in the game. For a game that costs less than ten pounds, this is amazing value.
Takes 10-15 minutes to play. Makes an awesome filler game.
Great introduction to modern board games for friends who have only ever played old-school games.
Can be played in the pub/café. You only need the cards, but the box is only just a bit bigger than a standard card deck.
It can be played by 2-6 players (best with 3-6)
Noggin – (17,090*) by Sophie Jones
Noggin is a quick-thinking card game that can play 2-20 players. This party game has an easy rule set and transportable package which make it perfect for travelling and newcomers.
Gameplay is simple, players take it in turn to reveal and place letter cards on the table. Every now and then, a special card will be drawn and cover one of the letters. Using the remaining letters, players must shout out words which meet the conditions of the special card. For example, if the ‘neither letter’ card is drawn, players must say a word which does not include the 2 letters which are face up on the table. The fastest player to answer wins the card. At the end of the game, the player with the most cards win.
Once the basics have been mastered, rules such as no repeat answers or stealing can be added. The stealing mechanic is a great edition as it lets players pinch a card off another. This only happens if they are able to spell a 3-letter word from letters in the middle. To make things harder you can also penalise players for wrong answers. Anyone who makes a mistake has to give up a card and then it’s taken by the next winner.
Even though Noggin is simple it’s full of fun moments. The special cards create hilarious situations where players may be shouting out hairy oranges or javelin penguins. It’s silly, creative and thinky enough to keep you on your toes. The random draw of cards and extensive English vocabulary mean Noggin stays fresh even if you play back-to-back with the same group. It may be rank 17,931 but it’s a game that will stay in my collection as it’s always a party hit.
Kingmaker: The Royal Relaunch (6,779*) – Pete Bartlam
Kingmaker: the Royal Relaunch, or Kingmaker II, is the re-vamp of the 1974 classic. I played it then and thoroughly enjoyed it, though it took ages. The new version makes it quicker to finish with alternative routes to victory and also adds fully-featured Solo rules. Kingmaker was different to other games of its’ time in that it used area movement and there were no dice but combat was resolved by the draw of a card which might also reveal the grim news of the demise of one or more of your nobles.
Kingmaker recreates the turbulent period of British history known as the War of the Roses: the Red of Lancaster and the White rose of York, following the death of warrior King Henry V. You assemble a retinue of nobles with their associated titles, men at arms and castles and march around the kingdom to take control of one or more of the possible heirs to the throne and get them crowned whilst dispatching all others.
Rank has its’ privleges but also its’ obligations. One of the key tenets of the Kingmaker design is that your top nobles can, and will, get called to go off to distant parts of the realm to deal with various emergencies: Peasant Revolts, French Raids and the likes. So when you are awarding your top man the Office of Marshall of England along with his juicy contigent of 100 troops be aware he will get called away on duty no less than 10 times! This can rip a huge hole in your carefully assembled force and leave the remainder vulnerable to attack.
Kingmaker II speeds play by making the movement areas larger and by having more opportunities to call parliaments and to crown your royal protégé. You can also include fans’ variants that have been produced through the years. Failing all that you can still use the original board and rules.
Long Live the King!
Merchants Of The Dark Road (1,016*) – Victor Rios Faria
Get you wagon loaded and go through the dark alleys of the capital city with local heroes to gain prestige and coins. Merchants of the Dark Road is a game by Brian Suhre for 1 to 4 players where your objective is to negotiate goods and partner with heroes in the capital city and bring them to cities along the Dark Road to score points and get money.
The game first caught my attention while still on Kickstarter because of its beauty and theme. From the box, you can perceive the high quality of the production. Once you open it and its components hit the table, admiring them for a few minutes is worthwhile. The wagons, the art in the cards and the game board are each a piece of art. The set-up may look intimidating, and rules may sound confusing at first sight, but the gameplay is easy to follow and gets you involved very quickly.
Carefully planning and sequencing your actions around the Capital and the usage of your action dice, as well as managing the space in your wagon for both goods and heroes are crucial to succeed. But the very heart of the game lies into the Yurg’s Excursions, when you choose your path to deliver commissions in cities around the Dark Road and other players may join you for this adventure. Deciding whether to lead one of them for extra benefits or waiting to join someone else’s one to save an action is definitely a tough decision, and this following mechanic brings a positive player interaction to the game.
Amazing production, stunning art, smooth gameplay and lots of fun. Merchants of the Dark Road is definitely worth trying and I firmly believe it is just a question of time for it to break into BGG top 1,000.
Picture Perfect (2,021*) – by The Midland Meeple
I tend not to pay too much attention to the BGG rankings because I know they tend to be voted for by hobby gamers who tend to favour heavier games. This means so many great lighter games could be quite easily missed – an example of this being Picture Perfect.
The game is quite a solitary puzzle, where you’re trying to organise a group photo. There are several characters who want to be added to the photo, but each have three demands. These demands can range from wanting to be stood next to a particular person, wanting to be stood in a particular place, or ensuring that a certain person is obscured from view. Over the course of six rounds, you have to not only look at the demands of the characters you have in your hand, but also try and remember what you’ve already seen.
If you meet all three demands of somebody, then you earn six points, but if you don’t meet any of their demands, you lose points. This can lead to a tricky decision – do you leave people off, so you don’t lose points, or add them in the hope of at least meeting some of their criteria? Their presence might also impact your scoring on other people.
It’s a guaranteed laugh, especially in times where you have characters whose demands conflict with people you’ve already placed. The audible groans of people who have to move, re-move and then undo what they’ve done based on being handed one envelope. If you enjoy a good puzzle and a Downton Abbey theme, Picture Perfect is the game for you.