Our final piece of the Around the World feature. We are finishing off our interrailing trip today with the final five European games. Hitting Northern Europe with this batch of 5 games, here is the last hurrah in the Around the World series. If you have missed any of the previous instalments, then you can find them all here.
Germany - Taverns of Tiefenthal
By Rob Wright
Welcome to the deepest of valleys, hardy traveller. You look like you have seen things go from bad to wurst – get it? Never mind. Make yourself comfortable by the fire. I will send over a stein of our finest ale for your enjoyment… and a schnapps? Or two?
The first of our European games, Taverns of Tiefenthal, is not so much a follow up to Quacks as a continuation of a series (hopefully) of games set in medieval Germany. It has players vying against each other to build the most enticing tavern to bring in the most regulars and noblemen. This is achieved through a combination of deckbuilding, dice-drafting and jigsaw-building – now that’s a Kinder Egg of a game!
Gameplay takes place over eight nights and starts with each player dealing out cards from their deck to fill the tavern. These can be customers and nobles, who fill tables, staff, who provide beer, bonuses and abilities, or…tables. When the tables are filled, the player stops drawing. Once everyone has finished, players roll their dice and place them on customers or staff to bring in beer or money. You can only place one die at a time – you place and pass. Beer brings in more customers, money brings in more staff or pays for upgrades (which also bring in nobles and lets you do the jigsaw bit). Once the eight rounds are complete, whoever has the most points in their deck wins!
There’s a lot to this game, even more than I've described here, as it comes with a series of modules that can be introduced to add extra fun to the proceedings. There’s more interaction to this game than Quacks (hate-draft that dice!) and the look and design are just as charming. It’s also a lot more fun than actually running a pub at the moment – Prost!
Belgium - Bruxelles 1893
By Tom Harrod
Chocolate. Waffles. Chips. Beer. Kevin De Bruyne. There’s so much to love about Belgium! And as if that wasn’t enough, there are some amazing Belgium-based board games, too. Bruxelles 1893 is set in (erm, I’ll give you one guess…) the Belgian capital, in the late 19th century. The art nouveau movement is all the rage. And sure enough, you and your opponents are rival architects in Brussels.
Your aim is to construct a grand building with all the en-vogue bells and whistles. At the same time, you’re looking to buy works of art and display them in exhibits. The board has two halves: one is regular worker placement, but you have to pay your employees to visit there. You’ll need building materials, and a steady income to pay your workers’ wages.
The other half is the ‘dodgy’ side of Brussels. Envelopes passed under tables; wink-wink, nudge-nudge. It’s tempting to send your workers here because you do it off the books – it doesn’t cost you anything. But send too many, and some could get trapped in the courthouse!
The five ‘legal’ actions are: gain building resources, construct a building, gain art, display your art, or schmooze with luminaries. When you place an assistant to activate an action though, there’s more to it than a simple go-here-do-this. The amount you pay your assistant contributes towards a vertical auction come round-end. You’re also looking at area majority among the worker placement grid for more round-end points. There’s a lot going on!
There’s a cool, dynamic, ever-changing market value for works of art. The resource cost for construction can change, both in (or against) your benefit. The more luminaries you befriend, the more they can assist you each round. But make sure you can pay them off by the end of the game, or you’ll lose big points!
Norway - Nusfjord
By Joe Packham
Nusfjord, it’s not a place, it’s a way of life! Okay, it is a place, but that place has a way of life, and it revolves around plaice. Catching fish, eating fish, giving fish to your elders. This classic Uwe Rosenberg game will have you taking on the mantle of a grizzled Norwegian skipper. Starting with a humble catboat and a shack on the wooded shore, you’ll use worker placement to build the greatest fishing empire the North Sea ever saw!
As your thriving piscine enterprise grows, your single vessel becomes a fleet. Your loggers clear the woods to make timber and room. Shiny new buildings appear to further power your meteoric rise to biggest fish in the pond. All the while, the weathered visages of Tom Jones and Paul Newman lookalikes stare out at you from the board. Don’t forget your elders and betters, their haggard expressions seem to say. So you don’t, you lather steaming piles of herring before the codgers and in return receive gold! Not to mention the wisdom of the old ways as you use their nifty powers to cut multiple corners. On and on you press relentlessly. You sell shares on the stock market - well, the fish market anyway! You buy shares in your competitors' businesses too until finally after 7 rounds the feeding frenzy ends as suddenly as it began!
All this in just 7 short rounds. With 3 workers per round that’s only 21 actions per player in total. This means that Nusfjord is incredibly tight and impressively short for a European game of this calibre. I mean it packs some seriously crunchy decisions into 20 minutes per player. Not to mention some lovely card combos and tons of replayability with 3 different building decks. So come on, while we’re touring Europe you’ve got to see the land of the midnight sun. Just maybe bring a sweater yeah?
Ireland - Inis
By John Hunt
Next in today's batch of European games, Inis offers us a trip to Celtic Ireland with a mythic twist. It sits alongside Kemet and Cyclades as one of Matagot’s trio of ‘bods on a map’ games, but to my mind, it’s a little different. Certainly, there is area control and some mini-on-mini fighting. However, this is much less of a wargame than either of its siblings; clever mechanics make conflict only part of the puzzle. Each turn, a card draft will determine your principal actions for the turn. These basic action cards come from a small pool, so you quickly learn what’s out there and that informs the decisions you make. However, one card is always put aside blind before the draft starts to keep you guessing.
There are three possible win conditions, and none are based on straight area majority. The most interesting is based on totalling the number of enemy pieces in territories where you do have the majority. This has a fascinating impact on conflict, as you might clash (fight) to gain control of a territory. But eliminating all opposing figures takes you further from victory. Clashes themselves are nuanced by the fact that they can finish at the end of any round of fighting if all agree. This often makes for tense and sometimes hilarious brokering. Regular actions cards will also gradually be supplemented by territory action cards and epic tale cards. These are truly epic in their effects, and add the right amount of variety and unpredictability. And there is also the possibility of earning deed tiles which make victory conditions easier to achieve.
Supporting these satisfyingly crunchy mechanics are great production values. The intricate tile tessellation and the gorgeous cards are particularly notable. The game plays in about an hour to an hour and a half. It’s better suited to regular gamers, though not super heavy. If you like area control but want to try something a bit different, Inis is a great pick.
Scotland - Glasgow
I tried to make the tour of Europe a bit more sensible, so it’s a big loop around finishing off close to home in the UK. I decided to showcase Glasgow as the final game. This is a two-player specific game designed by Mandela Farnandez-Grandon, set in industrial Glasgow. It has a Patchwork-style circular set-up of Architect and Contract tiles and uses a Tokaido-style movement where the person at the back goes next.
Glasgow is a resource-management game. You are collecting wooden stone, steel, gold and whisky (ooh, theme!) resources to buy buildings and gain points or extra bonuses during play. There are factories which offer bonuses whenever a building is placed in the same row or column. There are parks which gain you points based on how many you accrue. Tenement blocks are only worthwhile if you can get them surrounded by other blocks, and create a wee estate. Trouble is, your opponent is watching you like a hawk, and will probably place a stupid park on that prime piece of tower block real estate.
The aim of the game in Glasgow is to gain as many victory points as possible. The end of the game is triggered when the 20th building is placed into the tableau in the centre of the table. This central tableau is in my mind one of the best things about Glasgow. Your buildings can benefit you even by your opponent placing buildings. This does mean there is a hefty amount of player interaction, the scores are tight and it can all come down to that final building. Can you push your luck that little bit further and jump forward to gain the contract you really want? Or are you best biding your time and trying to limit your opponent's choices? Glasgow is quick, crunchy and it is competitive. I really like it. You likely will too.
That's the last of today's European games and there you have it: Around the World in (as promised) Less Than 80 games. 28 games actually. I’d like to thank my collaborators, who have managed to add a lot of new games to my wishlist during this series. We hope you have found a couple of new games through this series too. Let us know your favourites or any that you think we should have covered!
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