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Games of the Month – April

Games of the Month - April

Each month, our writers come together to share their games of the month. Each writer selects one game from the many that they have been playing, and shares a little bit of information about that game!

Let's find out which board games were awarded as their games of the month in April!

Nick - Roll Player

My game of the month feels like it should have been a harder choice than it is, as I played a lot of great games. But I played Roll Player the most, and I loved every minute of it! Roll Player often gets compared to Sagrada, for its dice drafting and placement, yet I find Roll Player much more compelling. It’s not just the character building theme, in fact I’ve never played DnD so that part is pretty much lost on me.

Although, in some ways, there is more to the placement of your dice than Sagrada, the way it is approached is much more simple. You fill up your attributes with three dice each trying to achieve a total across them, this might be an exact number, or a range, or at least a certain number. Your mitigation largely comes from placing dice as each attribute activates a special power when a dice is placed in it. From re-rolls to flipping dice to changing positions and so on.

Not only are you trying to attain your attribute goals, but also your backstory card which requires certain coloured dice in certain positions, and then your alignment card which is effected by skills and traits.

Each round you draft a dice, the higher the number on the dice (usually a good thing) the later you will get a chance to buy at the market. So your first choice is whether you want a higher number dice or first buy at the market. At the market you can buy armour sets for points, trait cards that generally give end game scoring, weapons and skills. Skills let you further break the rules of the game and are awesome. Roll Player is an easy teach, with great options and I’m totally pumped for the expansion!

Ben G - Century: Spice Road

For me, April’s game of the month is Century: Spice Road. By now, I think that nearly everyone in the board gaming world has heard of Emerson Maatshuchi’s spice-trading card game, and the hype has continued to build with the release of the beautiful Golem Edition and the imminent release of the series’ next installment: Eastern Wonders.

For those that still aren’t familiar with the game, or haven’t heard it described, the basic idea is to acquire and use action cards to trade four different kinds of spices, with the goal being to trade in combinations of spices shown on the available victory cards. Turns progress in a similar way to Ticket to Ride - you can only take one action each turn, so doing anything complex takes multiple turns and spreads out the decision making, keeping the game ticking along nicely. The game ends when a player has collected a certain number of victory cards, and the player with the most points wins.

While I’m not surprised that this is a good game, what has surprised me is how quickly my wife and I have grown to love it, and what a hit it’s proved with some non-gaming family members. My dad, who’s not really into hobby games at all but for some reason loves Star Realms, and my wife’s video gaming brother both really enjoyed Century: Spice Road and did very well on their first play-through.

I think that one of the things that makes this game such a hit is that it feels fairly fast-paced, even though you’re making some quite complex strategic decisions and you have the option to plan quite far in advance if you’re that way inclined. If players had more actions in a turn I could see the game slowing right down as those more prone to long decision times struggle to plan out their moves, but the action system prevents the delays from ever being too long.

On top of the great gameplay, it’s also a really nice looking game, with decent wooden spices, cool plastic bowls and gorgeous cards. Apparently the Golem Edition is even prettier, but I couldn’t quite justify owning both! In my opinion, this game is a shelf staple, and I’ve already pre-ordered Century: Eastern Wonder, which is being released at the end of June.

Rob W - Azul

Azul has rapidly become one of my favourite games. It’s visually interesting, although I prefer the style of Sagrada, but still very tactile (especially now we have a first player maker to match), and – of course – it's filled with fantastic gameplay. Take turns taking tiles from a variety of pools and try to fill your grid, a simple sounding exercise but with exactly, and I mean exactly, the right amount of complication to make a superb duel that’s half your own planning and half your opponent’s own. It’s a quiet game, it’s a quick game, it’s a superb game.

Matthew T - Grand Austria Hotel

April has been and gone and there has been a mixture of wind, rain and sun, but this has not stopped me and my wife enjoying running our little café in Austria. Well not actually, but one game that I have really enjoyed playing in April is Grand Austria Hotel. Grand Austria Hotel is a 2-4 player game designed by Virginio Gigli and Simone Luciani (Lorenzo il Magnifico) and was released in 2015. I picked up my copy in April and have been enjoying this game very much.

In Grand Austria Hotel you play as a café owner who is trying to turn your café in to the greatest hotel in all of Austria and gain the favour of the emperor.

Grand Austria Hotel is a dice rolling, hand management game where you serve a variety of customers with coffee, cake, wine and strudel whilst preparing their hotel room. Once their room is prepared your customers can move in and enjoy a stay in your hotel. Every time you satisfy the needs of a customer and move them in to a hotel room you gain a bonus reward. As your café grows in to a successful hotel you will need some help. These come in the form of staff members that you can hire. The staff members can offer one time benefits, every round benefits or bonus scoring opportunities.

Actions are carried out in the game by rolling dice. The start player rolls the dice and places them on the corresponding action space on the board. The number of each die rolled corresponds to the number of actions you can perform and offers a nice action selection mechanism.

For me Grand Austria Hotel is a great 2-4 player game. The box states 60-120 minutes gameplay and a two-player game typically lasts about 60 minutes. There is plenty going on in the game and some interesting decisions to be made. The rules are easy to teach and the gameplay flows very smoothly. There is enough variety in the customer cards and the staff members that I am still discovering new cards every time I play.

The Game Shelf - The Grimm Forest

As soon as Kickstarter backers started receiving their copies of The Grimm Forest, I felt non-backers remorse. The game has such visual appeal that it could pretty much overturn any lack of appeal that the fairytale theme and simple gameplay had for me when I saw it on Kickstarter. The miniatures are anything but miniature and have a clean but detailed look to them, the 3D houses of brick, straw and wood are all enchanting and even the game insert is a fantastic Game Trayz production in the shape of a house, with a roof segment, wall segment and base segment all cleverly designed.

I was taught Grimm Forest at a rare get-together with friends at our local board game café. We played with three players and I was pleasantly surprised by the interesting bluffing elements and take-that mechanisms that existed in the game. Unlike many games where you are fighting over different zones based on simultaneous selection of a location, I felt like I was in control in Grimm Forest. I decided that I had to buy a copy there and then and even if Amy and I didn’t enjoy the game in the long term, the purchase would be justified by the fact that it would make a fantastic painting project.

We played our copy with two players, and it was a little disappointing at this player count, so Amy was frustrated with my purchase. Fortunately we got the chance to introduce two friends into a four-player game that really worked well and I was forgiven! Amy now has commissions to paint three copies, including our own, and I can’t wait to see the finished product!


Ashley - Terraforming Mars

I cannot get enough of this game. I want more corporations, I want more projects, I want it to go on longer, actually I don’t want to stop playing. It is this good.

Don’t be put off by the somewhat 'meh' components, though the clear plastic player cubes are rather neat and the cards are perfectly good. Do buy just over 200 card sleeves, the cards are the heart of the game and will get a lot of use, and I’m considering having the player boards laminated. Simply put, I know this game is going to take a massive amount of wear and tear and I want it to last.

At heart Terraforming Mars is a game where each player manages a massive corporation working to terraform Mars. It’s a card driven economic engine game where the varied corporations need to obtain and manage resources and then use these resources to fund the terraforming projects.

At the start of play Mars is dead.  The surface is bitterly cold, arid and oxygen free. Slowly though, Mars will come to life, whether it's by slowly raising the surface temperature or developing plants capable for living in the harsh environment, or even crashing giant ice asteroids into the planet.  All of these actions come at a cost, sometimes massive cost, which is why the project can only be carried out my massive corporations, and even they need to invest hugely in developing the resources to slowly over generations (turns) bring Mars to life.

There is a reason for all the hype, why the initial print run sold out almost instantly, this game is incredible, is one of the best games I have ever played.  It is incredibly thematic, gameplay is simply amazing and to my mind is at the sweet spot of complexity and fun. Would I pay more for a deluxe version with fancy components, hell yes, instantly – it is this good.

If you want to know more do read the excellent review by J Cricks, or maybe my How to Play guide.

Luke - Abyss

If you've watched my videos you'll know I've banged on about this game a lot as being one of the criminally under-rated titles out there. And Well, I still stand by that. Abyss is one of those games that flew under the radar that BADLY needs a resurgence. Granted it didn't help itself by having a sales campaign where you had multiple box covers that didn't show the name of the game on the front, but that aside, the game itself is nothing short of spectacular.

In Abyss you are seeking to win over the influence of this unique underwater fantasy world by recruiting Lords to your cause all with different special abilities. To do this you will explore the depths and seek aid from the Council to find allies from the different factions, crabs, seahorses, jellyfish, basically different sea creatures. The whole setting is so unique from anything else, think a cross between the Senate and the Gungan kingdom from Star Wars Episode I. . . . but thankfully with less gungans.....and more water.

If you enjoy hand management, tableau building and special powers you're going to love Abyss. It's a fairly light to midweight game, but contains a lot of hidden depth (no pun intended). And if you don't like this artwork, you need your eyes tested because this is some of the most gorgeous artwork I've seen in a game. Clean, crisp and full of colour, the theme and setting are portrayed in photo-realistic splendor, so much so that I want a sequel game in this universe.

And if that wasn't enough, you've got two expansions, Kraken and the newly released Leviathan which I'm reviewing soon, which both make Abyss even better without adding too much complexity. A Top 25 game for me and has the potential to hit the Top 10, it just gets more enjoyable with each play. Dive down and play this game!