You know a game is good when you pack it away, and you are already looking forward to playing again! That game for me this month is Terraforming Mars. It’s a game my husband and I had looked at several times, but never purchased. Until a playthrough in our local board game cafe convinced us we needed to get it. Now we are a little bit obsessed. So much so we have purchased the Prelude expansion to add some more variability into the gameplay.
The game, as the name suggests, is based around terraforming the red planet. To do this, players play cards to either affect the planet or increase their resources. Some cards are only used once when you play them. Whilst others give you an effect that can be used many times throughout the game. Once players have enough of a resource they can create lakes, raise the temperature or increase the oxygen. Each time one of these actions happens the player who triggered it gains a point. But this also brings the game one step closer to ending.
I am a huge fan of asymmetric games. At the start of the game you pick a corporation card. This gives you a unique ability and helps to focus your strategy for the game. It is interesting to try out different corporations and different strategies.
I enjoy the feeling of building something together, as you see the tiles appear on the board. Don’t be fooled though, this is a competitive game. You will need help from your opponents to terraform Mars, but want to make sure you are gaining points. This is an unusual dynamic in a game but it works really well.
If you haven’t checked this out yet, and you enjoy games like Underwater Cities, I would recommend you give it a go!
I have had only 40 plays of 15 individual games this month, 11 of which were new to me, but there have been some absolute corkers. I have loved trying the new Deep Sea version of The Crew, the new party game from Big Potato, Snakesss is fantastic fun and a real family favourite, and What Next from the same publisher really captivated my family for many games.
However, the standout has to be The Adventures of Robin. From game one, right through the epic narrative arc told through the series of campaign games, this came completely absorbed me. This is a truly fantastic game.
The game works simply enough with limited options available on your turn, but the story, surprises hidden within the board, and choices that you have to make throughout make this game my August highlight. The game comes with a hardback book which will be your bible for everything within game. It will teach you how to play in one of the most efficient and simple to understand ways I have ever experienced and a lot all the secrets that will unravel across the game.
If you enjoy story driven games, I cannot recommend this game highly enough. If you are looking for a crunchy euro then this is not it. But the spectacle and sense of adventure hidden with this game is so deep. The board initially looks rather plain. Beautiful but void of much detail. But once you realise how much is there, lurking within the castle, woods and village, your desire to keep playing to find out what else is out there quickly becomes very all-encompassing.
The only question mark with this game is how much replayability it offers beyond the main story arc. But I am confident that like Legends of Andor, this game will have multiple expansion to continue the adventure for Robin and his friends for many years to come.
I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to buy a Roll & Write game. During lockdown, when I spent many months trying to convince my friends to play games with me online, I fell in love with (and subsequently bought) quite a few games. But I somehow neglected 3 of my absolute favourites - Welcome To…, Cartographers and, most importantly, Railroad Ink.
This month, I finally rectified that by purchasing Railroad Ink Challenge. In real life. From a real person. It was magical.
In case you’re not aware of the genre, a Roll & Write game usually starts with each player receiving an identical board. These could depict a subway map, a street, a roman encampment or literally just some circles that you put numbers in. Each turn, some dice are rolled (or some cards are flipped) and each player must add whatever is showing to their board.
In the case of Railroad Ink, you’re trying to connect as many exits as possible, using a combinations of roads and rails (get it?). 4 dice are rolled each turn and, initially, everything has to be connected to an exit. But as you spread out into the middle of the map, the possibilities open up until every dice is filled with potential.
That is until about 4 rounds in, when you’ve managed to back yourself into a very specific corner. Now it’s all about praying the piece of track you need gets rolled. And guess what? It probably won’t.
The genius of this system is that it allows for endless creativity and endless hubris. You feel like an absolute hero after the first few rounds and by the end you’re crying into the rulebook. But it’s so quick, you just play again. And again. And again.
Gosh, that’s a bit of a mouthful, isn’t it? Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig is a bit like a board game lovechild. It takes the best of two older titles, from two different designers. Two different publishers, in fact. This features the drafting system of Stonemaier Games’ Between Two Castles. Bolted onto that is the weird and wacky layout puzzle of Bezier Games’ Castles of Mad King Ludwig…
Between Two Castles (don’t make me write the whole thing out every time) also borrows a super-clever scoring system from a predecessor. One of the things I’ve loved exploring in B2C is the fact that this is semi-coop (well, sorta. Kinda. -ish.). Throughout the game, you’re sat between two castles. Across eight turns, you draft two tiles from a hand (before passing it on) per turn. One you’ll play into the castles sitting between you and the neighbour on your left. The other tile goes to the castle between you and the player on your right.
The square tiles represent differing room types. This is one big game of point salad set collection. Everything contributes to a set or another, but what scores your castle the most? You want to have rooms in the same row. Above and/or below one another. Rooms with the same wall hangings. Tall towers. Other rooms need to be completely surrounded (like monasteries in Carcassonne). The design can – and will – sprawl as you try to ‘meet the mad king’s demands!
The amazing thing is that you score both castles at the end of the game – but you only score your lowest-value castle. Meaning, you need to spread your love around and contribute to both of them! It’s fascinating when you and your neighbours all reveal your drafted tiles for the turn. Because part of the fun is the debating. Where you try to convince them to play tiles into the castle that benefits both you and them, and not them and their other neighbour…