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Chilled Games For A Scorching Summer

Sunset Feature

Last summer was a hot one, and it is set to be similar temperatures this year – well we can hope. In those sweltering days many of us had gravitated towards games which induce a more chilled out mindset and at least mentally counter the over-heating of the rising mercury. A summer game is exactly what we need.

Sunset Over Water - Favouritefoe

Hazy summer days, warm summer nights. When the temperature rises, I want something to cool me down. I want a long drink, a sea breeze, and a game (or ten!). And one title that hits the spot exactly is Sunset Over Water by Pencil First Games. Having brought us the tastily tranquil Herbaceous, the temperate team of designers have created a set collecting card game that I would honestly like to live inside.

Playing painters on journeys to create gorgeous artworks,  points are scored when the landscapes you paint (i.e. collect) match the commissions (i.e. specific symbols) being tendered each round.  Trekking around a 5 x 5 tableau of gorgeously illustrated cards, you must plan your moves through the wilderness.

Your actions, however, depend directly upon what time of day you rise in order to create your best pictures. What you can paint, and what direction you can trek in to find your ideal spot, therefore depends upon whether you’re an early bird, or a noon riser. Bonus points (known as “renown”) can also be claimed for any unsold works of art at game end.

And, whilst the multiplayer gameplay in Sunset Over Water  is enjoyable, for me, the solo variant is where it really shines. Using a specially designed solo card, as well as some ranger station cards that refill the central tableau when crossing over them, these 8 rounds are some of the most chilled experiences in my game collection.

There is no denying the luck element in this game. And for some, that randomness, together with the BYOS aspect of the solo play, can be incredibly frustrating rather than relaxing. But, for me, it forces my hand and mind into taking steps to mitigate the unpredictability.   Also, knowing that I get to meander around painting beautiful landscapes for 20 minutes, safe in the knowledge that I have the time to go again if the cards are against me, is the most calming thought of all.

Ganz Schon CleverRob Wright

If lockdown had taught me anything, it is to try and get on with myself better. One of the ways I found to do this was by playing solo games. The only problem is that a lot of solo game modes can be quite unforgiving. There is, however, one solo-able game that puts me into a synergistic trance: Ganz Schon Clever.  A perfect summer game!

I’ve loved all of Wolfgang Warsch’s games so far, but nothing beats Ganz Schon Clever for that feeling of mellow achievement when the dice fall just right. The idea of the game is to get a big score, and to do this you roll six different coloured dice and mark the result on your score sheet. Each dice scores in a different way, so this isn’t just a multi-coloured Yahtzee. For instance, the yellow dice scores by filling up rows and columns, the green dice has to be greater than the number written below its box, the orange dice just scores what it rolls and so on.

You only get to roll the dice three times and when you score a dice, all the dice below that score go to the silver platter for the other players – it’s not just a case of picking the highest scores here. After six rounds, whoever has the highest score wins.

What really makes this game fun and such a pleasant solo experience is the combos that are unlocked as you progress on each die’s score line. Going up to a certain level on green might give you a score, but it might also allow you to fill in a yellow box, which might let you fill in a purple box, which might finish a row in blue… ah, I love it when a plan comes together.

Ganz Schon Clever is a game with real flow, and when you get with the flow, your stresses just go. So just relax and get clever…

ConcordiaJohn H

There is something about Concordia which never fails to please. Doesn’t matter how well I do in the end – and I am pretty competitive to say the least- I always feel relaxed and satisfied at the end of a game.

And to be honest that would seem to be against the odds. The theme – trade in the Roman world – is pretty dull it might seem... and certainly doesn’t sound chilled. And this summer game is generally considered a Euro – so surely the opportunity for stressful overthinking and AP abounds as you potentially fixate on efficiency and how to wring the most out of  a single turn.

But not so. There is plenty to be chill about. The fact that you are acquiring action cards but unlike a ‘true’ deckbuilder, you hold them all help give you a plenitude of choices. Likewise the freedom to decide when to trigger the return of your discard pile is a tension reducing mechanism which encourages efficiency but does not revere it. The fact that when a player activates production in a province, everyone gets to produce there has a pleasantly collectivist vibe. And that when you choose to claim coins from the production array, all the regions already activated for production flip back to their production side makes it feel like everyone is benefiting from your hunt for cash.

Ultimately every turn gives you a range of pleasing decisions. Sure there can be some player blocking, but it’s rarely a deal breaker. And sure, there is interaction but it tends to feel pleasant rather than punitive. All of this with the joy of end game scoring – so it’s totally unclear how everyone is fairing – makes for a sufficiently thinky, but relaxing experience which means I am ready to come back to Concordia regardless of how well I have done, time after time.

TokaidoThom Newton

Sometimes you don’t want to master production chains across ancient Europe. Sometimes you want something a little less stressful, something zen that will give you a little challenge but mostly just let you relax. For me that summer game is Tokaido.

The aim of Tokiado is to travel across Japan having a great journey. As you travel, you’ll meet people, go shopping for souvenirs, paint the lovely vistas you pass or stop off and make offerings at the many temples along the way.

Absolutely everything you do along the way will earn you some points or money, making this a bit of a point salad game. The trick is, picking which places will maximise your points. Gameplay wise, the player who is furthest back is the one who gets to make the next move.

Each spot on the track can normally only hold one player, with a couple being able to hold two. This leads to that great decision of ‘Do I go to the spot I really want, but I may have to wait a while for my next turn and skip some stuff" or "Do I do a little move but more often and maybe not be able to get to the spot I want’. It’s a fantastic mechanism and one of my favourites.

What makes this relaxing is the general aesthetic of the game. The artwork is all lovely watercolours and, if you’ve got the version I have, there is a soundtrack cd that has the kind of music that you’d hear in a spa. What could make a summer game more summery?

I’ve saved the most relaxing part until last. One of the places you can stop on your journey is a natural spring for a bit of a bath. If you stop at the springs more than any other player, you can earn some bonus points. To me, any game that rewards you for taking a bath has to be relaxing by definition.

Azul Summer PavilionHannah Blacknell

What is more a summer game than a game with summer in the title? Azul Summer Pavilion is in my opinion the superior of the three Azul games, the drafting is smooth, and the diamond tiles are clacky components that feel great in hand.

The aim is to complete stars on your board and gain as many points as possible both through the game and in bonuses at the end. In all the games I have played, before the bonus scores are tallied at the end of the game, there has been very little difference between the player scores. It all comes down to how well you manage to score the bonuses.

I have had a lot of success with introducing this to friends and family, and so far have bought three copies as gifts, a number I am sure will climb. Learning the game is initially a bit tricky, but I have found that if you do the scoring and narrate as you move their pieces, then the process of the first game goes smoothly.

The drafting and placing is pretty easy to explain and in the first round or so you can explain their options to them each round. My mum loves this game, she asks to play it as often as possible. Maybe we will introduce her to the Glazed Pavilion Expansion which adds new boards that shake up strategies and some additional bonus scoring options too.

I dilly-dallied for this one between two games, Azul Summer Pavilion and Sagrada. Both are beautiful looking with chunky components and smooth thinky puzzles to enjoy during a game. In both you are drafting tiles/dice to place into your personal board. Although what you draft will affect the other players, I have yet to see much effective hate drafting. For me this is really the definition of chill. Sun is shining and so I never want to be upsetting anyone else’s jam. There will be a winner, but you are so into your own puzzle and enjoying the process that win or lose.

And there you have it! A super informative rundown of 5 summer games, to help you relax and breathe. We hope you took something from this list and give at least one of them a go for those days where it is simply too hot to do anything too strenuous! Check out Zatu Blogs to find other summer-related games!