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First Impressions Gaming June 2021

Magic Maze

Magic Maze - Rachel Page

Board game cafes are open again! I have a sizeable collection of games at home, but there is something nice about being able to try lots of games in a short space of time while someone brings you food. The cafe also gives me a chance to try games I have never even heard of.

It was Bad Bones that one that grabbed my attention this time. At first, it was for no other reason than it was a simple looking box when all of the others on the shelf were very busy. But then I realised that Sit Down! were the designers and my interest was really piqued. Magic Maze has been my most successful recent purchase and I think Bad Bones is going to be my next one.

Sit Down! seem to specialise in games that are simple, but very very stressful. Magic Maze is about trying to complete tasks as a team while not speaking. Bad Bones is a whole different kind of stressful. In your player area, you have a grid that gets slowly filled by skeletons that you have to protect your citizens from. There are a few ways to stop them, but with each round the skeletons increase and there is only so much you can do.

Despite not having a time pressure, Bad Bones made me panic so much! There were a ridiculous number of things to keep track of and your fellow players are able to add more skeletons to your board. You play until someone has been consumed by skeletons and then the remaining players tot up their scores. It lends itself beautifully to be vindictive.

Once I am allowed to buy games again, Bad Bones is definitely going to be first on my list. It was a great impulse play.

Sprawlopolis - Thom Newton

As I’m in the middle of a big home improvement project at the moment, space is tight. Most of my games are living out of the way in the loft at the moment but I have kept a few smaller games close to hand to crack out when I get the chance. One of those games is Sprawlopolis.

This is a tiny 18 card microgame where players will be looking to build a little city to meet a set of goals. Although it plays up to 4, I’ve been playing it solo. Basically, you can lay out these cards to build up little networks of roads and buildings. You can lay things out next to each other or you can also overlap cards to cover up unwanted city districts. This seems to be key to high scoring! I would say winning, but I’ve not actually managed to beat the game yet so I wouldn’t know anything about that sort of thing.

It’s amazing how much variety there is in the game by just changing the scoring goals. Sometimes you’ll be wanting to build a huge, sprawling metropolis. Other times it is more important to make sure certain districts border each other as much as possible. There are a few mini-expansions too. These give you a few more cards to play with, as well as a few more goals. Being able to mix and match all of these in is pretty great.

As somebody who generally likes big, table filling epic games it has been nice to find something so engaging that can fit in your back pocket. This is the first button shy wallet game I have tried and it has definitely left me wanting to try a few more.

Cartographers - Northern Dice

June is the ultimate start of Summer, and we’ve been lucky enough to meet friends during these times too. Makes us optimistic for the future and excited for the future gaming we’re going to get involved in! But what did we get involved in during this month? Well, we got to have a go at Cartographers by Thunderworks Games. It’s a 1-100 player flip and write that knocked us down with its ease of access but wonderful gameplay!

The basis for Cartographers is simple: flip a card, choose and draw on the shape available to you to aim to meet a goal, score at the end of a round. By the end, you’ll have made a map of the kingdom! The game is played over four rounds, respective of seasons. Alongside this, you have four objectives chosen randomly and assigned to A – D. Each season scores two objectives, an example of Spring scoring for A and B, and Summer for B and C. This means players can choose to draw shapes linking to future goals when others may not be as suitable. Some goals require clusters of colours, some need links between map features, others score for not being adjacent. There’s a lot of diversity, and the order also changes priorities leading to lots of unique game focuses across plays.

We loved Cartographers and couldn’t believe we hadn’t tried it sooner! It hits hard and pleasantly, with the right amount of mindful colouring, tactical placement and just a smidgeon of take that. What’s more is that it can be played remotely to a point, meaning that it’s perfect for distanced gaming! And it’s lightweight, so there’s no excuse not to play. We’ve been pretty hooked on roll/flip and writes over the last few months. Circumstances aside, it’s been an addition and a pleasant one at that. But the crown jewel of that experience has to be Cartographers. A simply superb game!

Gizmos - Kirsty Hewitt

Engine building is one of my favourite mechanisms in a game.  That feeling of building up what you can do round after round is very satisfying.  Gizmos, therefore, promised to be right up my street.  It is a pure engine building game by Phil Walker-Harding.

The idea of the game is that you and your fellow players are entrants to the Great Science Fair.  You are competing to build the best machine.  To do so you have to build various smaller components to your machine.  Each takes energy to build.

One of the cool parts of Gizmos is, instead of using cards or cubes, you have coloured marbles representing the different types of energy.  They come in a clever dispenser which adds to the look of the game on the table.  It also helps with a lot of the upkeep as it randomises the energy available for you.

Gizmos in a pure engine-building game.  This can mean it is a little slow to start as you do one action.  However, as the game progresses and you get more machine parts out, you can suddenly do a lot more with your turn.  This is what I find so fascinating about engine building games.  I love trying to work out how to make a great combo and do as much as possible.  There is something fascinating about watching your number of actions grow.

Weight-wise Gizmos is on the light-medium end of gameplay.  It does have some things to think about but never too much.  It also plays quite quickly making it a good after-work candidate for me.  But what I particularly like is, unlike a lot of other games in my collection, it is a pure engine builder.  There are no additional bells or whistles from other mechanics but this is what makes the game shine.  All in all, I am very impressed by Gizmos!