Welcome to the 2018 Zatu Selections - our very own board game awards. Bargain of the Year 2018 looks at the games which provide a lot of gameplay for a low, low price. These are the titles which, after looking at the price, you wouldn't expect much from. However, they're actually fun, engaging, and bring hours of fun to the table.
As with all our Zatu Selections, the top five games included in this article were selected by members of our writing team.
Ben S - Decrypto
At less than £14, Decrypto is an absolute must for anybody who enjoys board games. Decrypto is a wonderful game which mixes ideas from other games like Codenames and Taboo to create a unique, engaging and fun experience. Your task, should you choose to accept it (and you absolutely will, time and time again) is to pass on a code to the rest of your team, simply by saying a word or phrase linked to the chosen words in front of you.
That by itself would make a great game but what makes it even better is that the opposing team are trying to intercept your code by using the clues you are giving. This means that the clues you give have to be good enough for your team to get it but not so good that your opponents do. This is a brilliant concept and it is executed to perfection.
For a game priced this cheaply often the components are not of the greatest quality, but this is not the case in Decrypto. The look of the components is exactly what drew me to the game. The secret codes really add to the theme and create a intelligent, beautiful looking game, that is full of fun for the whole family. It is without doubt the bargain of the year.
Ryan H - KeyForge
At the fraction of the cost of board game, a single KeyForge deck will entertain you for hours (if your friend also has one). Both widely anticipated and highly praised, 2018 brought us a unique card gaming experience by the creator of Magic: The Gathering.
Four elements make KeyForge particularly special:
1) KeyForge is sold by the deck and every deck is unique. Crafted using an algorithm far too complex for a mere board gaming blogger to understand, synergistic cards are grouped to make each deck satisfying to play. With a card pool of 370, your set is virtually guaranteed to be one of a kind.
2) Each set is emblazoned with an individualised card back, preventing decks from being mixed. Whatever you open is what you get; no booster packs, no trading and no pressure to follow the meta.
3) Each deck is comprised of three 'Houses' each, with differing play styles and artwork. At the beginning of a player's turn, one of these houses is selected and only cards from said house can be played with. This creates an interesting dilemma for players to decide how they'll tackle each turn.
4) Finally, the objective of the game. As opposed to the classic card gaming trope, where players slam into each other with an array of monsters until the other is dead, KeyForge has creatures harvesting Æmber to forge keys. This means fighting to deny opponents from 'reaping' Æmber needs to be finely balanced with scrambling to increase your own supply - a breath of fresh air!
There's so much to love about this new arrival and at the price of three coffees or an exorbitantly priced pint, KeyForge is not a game you should ignore. I'm sure that you'll love it.
Will M - Deulosaur Island
Dinosaur Island is a hugely popular worker placement game, which is effectively Jurassic Park: The Park Building board game in all but name (and licence). It is a lavish affair, with masses of player boards, beautifully colourful dice, park visitors (meeples), cards and hundred and thousands of pink dinosaurs!
My bargain of the year goes to Dinosaur Island’s smaller sibling, Duelosaur Island – Duelosaur is a game for a maximum of two-players and is more than just a stripped-down version of Dinosaur Island, although a lot has been stripped from the base game – gone are the pink dinosaurs, as are the visitor meeples, and with them goes the worker placement aspect of the game. Duelosaur Island condenses the Dinosaur Island experience into a more manageable shorter game of dice/card drafting and engine building, where things are more streamlined and easier to keep track of.
It scratches the dinosaur-park-building itch in less than half of the time of the original, and at less than half the price – hence why it’s my bargain of the year. I like the “I split you choose” aspect of the dice drafting as you pair the beautiful translucent amber with plot twist upgrades, but your opponent gets to draft first, so you might not want to pair everything you want together in case they decide to ruin your evening with a hate draft!
I also like the choice the cards give you – do you use DNA to build the dinosaur at the top of the card or spend your cash to make the attraction at the bottom of the card? If you can’t find anyone to play against you can happily take-on one of the game’s Artificial Intelligence CEOs in a solo battle for park supremacy. Their varying difficulty levels will keep you occupied for a while.
Ben G - Shards of Infinity
Card games are often a great way to experience a deep, meaty game without breaking the bank and Shards of Infinity is no exception. Designed by Ascension veterans Gary Arant and Justin Gary, Shards of Infinity is an exceptional deck-building combat game that you can pick up from Zatu for under £15.
That money buys you hours of gameplay for two to four players. As a pure deck-builder, Shards of Infinity is completely made up of cards. You’ll receive four basic decks and around 100 market cards that players will buy throughout the game. Fans of Dominion, Ascension and Star Realms will be familiar with the mechanics. Players work to improve their decks until one of them is able to knock the other’s life points down to zero.
Within that well-known system, Shards of Infinity excels. As far as gameplay goes, it is far superior to both Star Realms and Ascension. Mechanics that let you buy a card to use it immediately and that let you level up to unlock stronger abilities as the game progresses give Shards of Infinity a tight, clean feel. There are always good options available, even if you’re simply biding your time and building your power. Multiple viable strategies mean that no two games play the same, and player ingenuity is always rewarded when they can assemble different combos.
At just £15, Shards of Infinity is a steal for the amount of enjoyment you’ll get out of it.
Tom G - The Mind
This fiendishly difficult card game took the tabletop world by storm earlier this year, with many calling it a triumph with others being a little more sceptical about the game. The Mind is simple; each player is dealt a number of cards, dictated by the level they are on. These cards have a number on (1-100) and you simply have to play each card in ascending order. Fail, and you lose a life. Lose all your lives and its game over.
It all sounds simple enough but the key thing here is that no communication is allowed AT ALL! No talking, waving, mouthing, signalling, winking, NOTHING! You all have to tune in to each other’s MINDS and try and successfully get to the final level (Either eight, 10 or 12, depending on how many players). I am yet to beat this game and it always makes an appearance at our game nights, making it a clear winner for the Bargain of the Year!
For less than £10 you get a game that will not only keep you playing for many hours but will infuriate you so much you will just have to keep trying to beat it!