Okay bloggers, ’fess up! In Part 1 we discovered that some of the Zatu bloggers had some secrets. They admitted to having missed out on playing certain successful, popular or highest regarded board games! Woah. You haven’t played Ticket To Ride? You’re yet to try Splendor? Other bloggers responded, replying, “I can’t believe you haven’t played that!”
In Part 2 there’s more confessions, and more encouragement from the other bloggers. Give a board game fan a pedestal, and they’ll climb it and sing a game’s praises! So, what to these Zatu bloggers admit to having never played?
Nick admits: I’ve never played Cosmic Encounter!
For me, the most shocking game I haven’t played is Cosmic Encounter. Mostly because I’m worried that it will require a bigger player count than my game nights usually deliver…
Northern Dice responds:
Cosmic Encounter is the ultimate asymmetrical, area control game with variable powers. It’s for 3-5 players and takes about an hour to play. You play as an alien race, competing for cosmic domination. The game runs in very clear phases within rounds, from Regroup to Resolution. Your objective, generally speaking, is to own five foreign colonies. That bags you the win! You do this by choosing a target planet, sending ships, asking for allies, and revealing attack cards. The defending player does the same. Whoever has the highest attack value, calculated by the total of the card and all ships on your side, wins the encounter and claims the planet.
However! There is so much more depth to it. The biggest selling point of Cosmic Encounter is the alien races themselves. Each is unique, illustrated beautifully, has bit of lore to them, and has a unique ability. Each ability allows a player to manipulate an element of the game, and gives them an edge or hinders the opposition.
In example, the mighty Macron’s ships all automatically hold a value of four, meaning four ships are really 16! The Loser however can choose to risk saying that whoever loses the encounter, wins! There's also a lot of uniqueness to the aliens themselves, because not all abilities are as black and white as a buff or a gambit. The Masochist wins when all their ships are in the warp, whereas Tick-Tock wins after they have had eight turns. Of course they can still win using the run of the mill method, too!
Cosmic Encounter’s diplomatic elements don’t dry out the game’s action. It enhances it further and pushes it towards a full-blown war game. In most games you can’t hold a grudge, but Cosmic Encounterr relishes it. Remembering the actions of your competitors will help, and wearing your scars proudly will set a tone, but it’s all in jest and you may end up needing them later on! We adore Cosmic Encounter and really recommend it to anyone needing either that asymmetrical fix, or a good hit of diplomacy and negotiations. No two games will ever be the same! I definitely recommend it, Nick!
Northern Dice admits: I’ve never played Century: Spice Road!
I’ve never played Century Spice Road. I’ve heard wonderful tales of it, seen it many times, added it to the basket more times than I can remember, but never took that extra step… What am I missing?
Carl Y responds:
So, you’ve never played Spice Road? I can appreciate why it may not be near the top of a ‘to-play’ list, or even on a list of a seasoned gamer. We hobbyists have been spoilt in recent years. It’s as if the gaming gods have upended a horn of plenty, and let flow a torrent of new games. Why spend time (and money) on a lightweight deck builder that has become an established member of camp ‘Gateway Game’? I’d say for that very reason – because it’s a really good example of a modern gateway game.
Visually, it’s great. The component quality is good (metal coins), and the artwork and packaging are really nice. In terms of gameplay, it’s simple, slick and satisfying. The game takes about five minutes to set up, and less time to teach. It will introduce people to mechanics like deck building, card drafting, action retrieval, and contracts in an intuitive way.
Thematically, players are merchants travelling the Silk Road, trading spices for points. There are four spices in the game; a player can hold up to ten at any one time. The game’s engine is the merchant cards. Each card, when played, allows the player to perform an action, such as picking up or trading spice. Players each begin with the same two merchant cards and gain more during the game.
On a turn the active player has one action: play a card, draft a card, claim a point card, or rest. When a card is played, it stays in front of the player until they rest, at which time they recover all played cards. The merchant cards are drawn randomly, so each game feels different. Working out the most efficient combination of cards to draft and play is really enjoyable. As someone who favours war games and Euro-style strategy, I didn’t expect much from Spice Road, but I rate it highly.
Carl Y admits: I’ve never played Viticulture!
The game I’ll admit to never having played is Viticulture. It has everything going for it: positive player feedback, an interesting theme, and gameplay mechanics I like. Why haven’t I played it? Opportunity, primarily. None of my friends own a copy, and I’ve not been convinced to take a punt and buy it!
Tom Harrod responds:
Viticulture: Essential Edition is a game with a broad target market. The elevator pitch shouldn’t intimidate newer gamers. It’s a worker placement game about running an Italian vineyard. Send your workers to locations on the board, and activate the action associated with that spot. Go here, do this. Limited spots per location. Visit a space first, and you’ll gain an extra bonus. Meanwhile, if you hold this flute up to the light, you’ll see full-bodied mechanisms within. Dual layers begin to emerge, which seasoned gamers will lap up.
And talking of seasons – what a smooth segue! – Viticulture features all four of them. This breaks rounds (‘years’) into four phases. In spring, players pick turn order. The later spot you pick, the more powerful freebies you receive. In autumn you gain a visitor card. The board’s split 50:50, with the left-hand side being actions you can visit in summer, winter on the right. Across the two, you’ll want to do a mixture of everything! You start with precious few workers, so don’t use them all up in summer or you’ll have nothing to do in winter…
There’s a variety of routes to victory. One way to score points is to complete wine orders. Plant vines in your fields, sell bottles, and everything in between. The visitor cards are an ace in the hole, a hand-management juggling act. Many tempt you to give things up to receive other items in return. Think the accumulation spots in Agricola or Le Havre. Sometimes they’re too alluring to dismiss, even if it derails your initial plans! Viticulture is all about racing to be the first to hit a points threshold, after all.
Stonemaier Games know how to do components. Viticulture’s player boards represent your own vineyard, and it drips with theme. When you construct buildings, you place charming wooden windmills and wine cellar silhouettes. When you harvest grapes, you place flat-bottom glass beads over values, magnifying the numbers. (As if you’d had a glass or four too many.) At the end of each year, you slide all these beads up one number. Why? Your grapes and wine ‘matures’ in value. But only if you have enough cellar space! You’ve got to admit, that’s a nifty theme-meets-mechanism combo.
Viticulture: Essential Edition is like that much-needed glass of wine that calls out to you after a stressful day. Play me, Carl; play me…
Tom Harrod admits: I’ve never played King of Tokyo!
I often get gaping expressions when I admit to people that I’ve never played King of Tokyo. I almost bought it as one of my first ‘gateway games’, back when I started exploring the world of tabletop gaming. Almost. Have I missed out on a rite of passage? What’s the spiel with King of Tokyo?
Will M responds:
Hey Tom, I hear you have never played King of Tokyo – allow me a moment to try to convince you to seek it out and give it a whirl!
Where some people put Catan, Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride on their gateway game pedestal, I think there is definitely room up there for King of Tokyo, too. When I first got back into board gaming in late 2015 I heard about this game. I’ll admit, I saw people playing it at my games group, but I avoided it. In my ignorance at the time I sneered at the idea of a game that used cardboard standees when ‘they should be using plastic figures’. I thought it looked like a child’s game due to the big chunky dice and cartoon monsters.
When my brother first set this game up in front of me at a family gathering, my preference was to to go on a walk with my wife! We agreed to a quick game before absconding. I was genuinely shocked that I fell in love with this game after only a couple turns! The reasons were many – the dice mitigation, the decisions on offer, the energy cubes and purchasable upgrades, the player boards with rotating wheels, the different paths to victory, the substantial chunky dice (that turned out to be a joy to roll), the effort that has gone into the artwork. Even the charming colourful and charismatic standees somehow fit the bill, in a way that plastic figures would not in this instance.
The game is genuinely a lot of fun and has a party feel to it – even when its not your turn you feel involved and invested. This is a top-5 game for me and I implore you to try to become the King… Of Tokyo!
Will M admits: I’ve never played Tiny Towns!
Tiny Towns seemed to get a lot of buzz when it came out but no one I know has the game and I haven’t looked too deeply into it… Am I missing out?
Rob Wright responds:
Really? Lucky you – because you get to play it for the first time! Tiny Towns takes elements of Quadropolis, Kingdomino and Tetris and throws in just a hint of Sylvanian Families… though that’s more to do with the theme than the gameplay, which is simple enough for a neophyte but strategic enough for a grand master.
It plays 1 to 6 out of the box - solo play is a big selling point at the mo, but I don’t see the desire to sit down and play a game on your own going away soon - but with a little bit of modification and imaginative use of components… the sky is the limit. You each have a 4 by 4 grid on which to build your tiny town – you do this by placing the correct resources in the correct patterns to build the correct buildings. Trouble is, you don’t always get to choose the resources – each player takes it in turns to choose from wood, brick, wheat, glass or stone (can I add a shout to Catan too? Sweet!) and every player must place that resource somewhere on their board – this is the Tetris bit, where you can end up getting a whole load of wheat scattered around the board whilst desperately needing a brick.
When you have the resources in place, you get to build a building, and each building can either activate other buildings to score, give you a chance to choose resources, but in the main, score you points at the end. You also get your own monument to build, which has SPECIAL ABILITIES! The game ends when no-one can put down resources (that final panicked drop in Tetris moment) and you cash up your points – the player with the most points wins!
It’s fun, it’s interactive (or not with solo), it’s quick, it’s easy to pick up, there are plenty of different categories of buildings and monuments for different kinds of play, it looks lovely and the buildings and resources are all made of wood so you get to feel wholesome too. A game with something for everyone and bunnies to boot.