Sometimes you don’t want a big game. You might be waiting for someone to get ready for dinner, or between courses, or sat on a date in a coffee shop. Microgames have had a surge in the 21st century, letting you take a gaming experience wherever you go, without having to lug about the big boxes you might be used to. Despite not having the long rulebooks, each of the wonderful microgames out there has a unique feel to them. They do not take long to learn or play, and you can play in a very small tablespace. So without further ado, let’s get small.
The story of Love Letter is very simple. You want to get your letter, proclaiming your love to the princess. But you have to do it without getting caught. A game of clever deception, luck and risk. Each player holds a card, and draws a new one on their turn, choosing which one to play. Each has their own ability and can attempt to eliminate other players. Choose wisely and attempt to bluff your way through. Become the last person standing to give the princess your letter. The design by Seiji Kanai is elegant and simple. New players can dive straight in with less than 10 minutes of explanation and set up. This game easily makes the top Microgames list.
The version I have has had an update to the artwork, which was a surprise when I opened it up. A pair of new characters were apparently introduced (the spy and the chancellor), and the cast is now mostly people of colour, which is great to see. And let’s be honest, wouldn’t you want to get a proclamation of love from that prince?
Check out the original Love Letter review!
This was the first microgame I played, and really started my love for Microgames. And frankly, Scott Almes has made intergalactic conquest tiny and epic. Supported by 12,458 Kickstarter backers, this small game takes the dice placement and elevates it into space. You roll your action dice into the conveniently provided dice tray (the lid of the box), choose which you want to use and in what order to take one of six actions. Move a ship, gain Culture or Energy, advance along a colonization track with Diplomacy or Economy, or use the power of a colony for a little boost. Get to 21 victory points and the end of the game is triggered. More on rules in the review here.
Also, don’t worry about having bad luck with your dice. Tiny Epic Galaxies has two ways to help you get what you need. A conversion machine, which lets you change two dice faces into the one you want. And the Follow mechanic. If you like someone else’s move, or didn’t get the dice yourself, you can just spend a culture to follow and do the same action they did. This means you have to be constantly watching out for what your fellow competitors are doing, so put your phone down, we’re playing a game here! (Unless you’re reading this on your phone, in which case, keep reading!) With a ton of replayability from the 40 Planets you can colonise, the 12 secret missions and the pure luck element of the dice, you’re ready to explore the galaxy that may be tiny, but it sure is epic.
If you fancy a Marvel twist to your microgames, look no further than Infinity Gauntlet. Produced by Z-Man games and designed by Seiji Kanai and Alexandar Ortloff, Infinity Gauntlet brings a comic book worthy twist to the original Love Letter. Instead of each player playing against one another, one player takes on the role of Thanos, gathering the six Infinity Stones, whilst the other player(s) team up as the Avengers. The cards have similar powers to the original Love Letter, and some level of deduction and luck is needed to make sure Thanos doesn’t gather the Infinity Stones.
The creative twist gives new life into a classic, even when playing as two players. The characters have hit points to try and defeat each other and there is a whole new tactical element to gain victory. The game is perfectly balanced between Thanos and the Avengers, meaning the gameplay is varied and everyone can play on either side. Avengers… Assemble before Thanos snaps!
Here’s the review!
Sometimes you just want a quicker round from the microgames selection. Nothing too difficult, you just need to find two pictures to match. Dobble meets this description to a T, and doesn’t need much introduction, but it does have a nice history lesson contained within the mint-tin sized box. Jacques Cottereau created a game based on a famous mathematical puzzle (that I’ve never heard of, but we’ll ignore that.) He designed two games, the second of which, Game of Insects, became the ancestor to Dobble back in 1976. Jump forward 32 years, and Denis Blanchot sought out Mr Cotterau. Together, they spent a year playtesting and refining, eventually creating the card game we know and love.
Dobble has 55 cards, with 8 out of 50 symbols printed on each card. Only one symbol will match between any pair of cards, so in the various play modes available, you must be the fastest to spot the matching symbol and shout it out loud. With the famous purple hand front and centre on the backs of the cards, this game is easily identifiable, and sparks delight in those who see it. In addition, there are approximately 20 different versions of Dobble to match the players! Marvel, Disney and Harry Potter are all represented, and this game is so simple, it can be played with your children. Spend five minutes teaching this game and you’ll be playing it for a long time thereafter.
As a bonus, see if you can find the one symbol that matches on all three cards. Tie breaker – which symbols match between each pair?
For the last of our Microgames, we dock in another one of Scott Almes’ creations. Harbour is a quirky little worker placement game for 1-4 players, who are competing to become the best harbourmaster. In order to do this, players move around the harbour, visiting the different buildings available to gather goods. Do you want some stone but have too many cows with you? Visit the golem crafters – they’ll take that meat off your hands and give you some precious stone. Too much wood? Head to the woodworker’s hut, she’ll give you a fish, livestock and stone. (Stop giggling back there). Aside from the fun characters and inexplicable abilities, the workers you have are some of the best meeples I’ve ever seen. Added to that the double-sided player boards and 36 buildings, this game has phenomenal replay value. There’s even a training dummy so that you can practise alone because you’re not going to lose to your little brother again, are you? Not this time…
Harbour also has a nice little promotional element to it – nestled into the box is the Harbour Master card, to be awarded to the winner. It invites you to tweet to Scott Almes and Tasty Minstrel and take a victory lap on the internet. You should feel good about yourself – you really know your way around a harbour.
In keeping with the theme, let’s keep this short (or small). Microgames are great! They’re set up to play over and over again with friends and family and are perfectly set up to carry about wherever you want to go. They might be small, but they’re well worth the investment.