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Game Of The Month December 2022

game of the month - unfathomable

Welcome to 2023! Let's end the first week of 2023 with our bloggers picks for their Game of the Month from December.

Unfathomable - Luke Pickles

Just after Christmas, I had my D&D buddies round for a game day. It’s become a bit of a tradition and we often try to play something heavier or longer whilst we have the time and energy. Our choice this year was a game given to me for my birthday by one of the party, and it was a bit of a surprise. Surprise or not, it was the standout hit for me this month and it is Unfathomable how much fun we had.

The game, Unfathomable, is a hidden traitor game set in the Arkham Horror universe and based on magnificent boat from the early 20th century. In it, players are dealing with Mother Kraken, Father Dagon and their minions, the Deep Ones, all depicted by fantastic minis. Each turn, players will be taking actions to try and save the boat by attacking the Deep Ones, mending damaged rooms on the ship, fuelling the ship’s progress and completing rites in the chapel. At the end of each turn, some sort of crisis triggers from a Mythos card, creating a scenario for the players to solve by way of a skill check. These skill checks are driven by cards the players secretly add to a stack, each depicting a number and one of six symbols, indicating a strength to in a particular skill. It’s not that simple though, because each player generally will only receive 5 cards at the start of their turn and for a maximum of three skills. This means players have to manage their hands whilst ensuring they pass the skill checks but being careful of the hidden traitors

Like any good cooperative game, there are a number of ways to lose. Run out of any one of the four resources or take too much damage to the ship and it’s game over. There’s a huge amount of variability too, with ten different characters, a cultist role to add in and a big stack of Mythos cards. It made a huge impression, even with a long playtime, because the game flew by, and I’ll be trying to break it out again in the future.

Ready Set Bet - Tom Harrod

My Game of the Month came in the form of a fantastic moment on New Year’s Eve. Nine of us played Ready Set Bet, a horse racing game by Alderac Entertainment Group. It’s by designer John D Clair (Space Base, Mystic Vale, Cubitos, Dead Reckoning), it sits among great company!

Ready Set Bet is a betting game, which does a superb job of simulating a day at the races. You could put it into the same bracket of games as Camel Up, since you’re not taking part in the race, itself. You’re betting on the outcome. The difference here is that the race occurs in real-time, with one player acting as The House.

The House rolls 2d6 and adds the two faces together to determine which horse moves. (This also feels akin to push-your-luck dice game Can’t Stop.) There’s bonus movement up for grabs if a number gets rolled back-to-back times. The House rolls and rolls and rolls as quick as they can, moving the horses along a race track board. As they do this, they commentate on the race. Meanwhile, the rest of the players are rival punters, with betting chits. They all bet simultaneous, as early or late as they decide, on which horse(s) they think will win!

It’s fast, furious and frantic. You’d think that given the natural bell curve of two six-sided dice, the ‘seven’ horse would statistically win more times than not. But have any of you played Catan? Is the seven the number that rolls the most? Or is there an inexplicable quantity of tens and elevens that roll in a row?

That’s the beauty of Ready Set Bet, and what makes it such an exhilarating experience. You shouldn’t take this one too serious: it was the perfect game for my friends and I on New Year’s Eve. Simple rules, lots of laughs, and lots of high stakes!

Keep an eye out for my full in-depth review of Ready Set Bet on the Zatu blog, soon…

Fantastic Factories - Craig Smith

December was a great month for me. I managed to get a lot of solo playing done, as well as introducing one of my friends to a series of new games. Her favourite of the ones I introduced her to was Fantastic Factories.

In Fantastic Factories, you’re competing to build the most efficient and prestigious factory by placing dice that will either help you build, gain blueprints or produce goods. At the start of the round, each player either chooses a blueprint or a contractor. Blueprints are used for building parts of the factory, contractors give you an additional ability for that turn. The next part is done simultaneously, so there’s no waiting around for people to take their turns before doing yours!

This simultaneous action might not suit everyone as it can make the game feel a solitary experience, but it really helps move the game along at a good pace. When I taught the game to my friend, we did the first couple of rounds in turn order, just to make sure she understood the rules. After that, we got into playing the game as it was intended, and it was over in less than an hour.

Once one player adds their tenth building or produces their twelfth good, the game has one more round to go. Scores are a combination of prestige and goods. I’ve never had a game of Fantastic Factories that wasn’t closely fought.

The solo variant of Fantastic Factories is amongst my favourites too. The mechanisms are no different for the player, and the explanations of the robot actions are short and easy to follow. It feels like the game was designed with a solo variant in mind, without detracting from the competitive game.

Splendor Duel - Rachel Page

For Christmas, I bought my friends and family so many carefully chosen games that I thought I would be writing about here. I tailored the games to where we would be opening them, so that each gift would be played immediately and enthusiastically by everyone present. Before we opened them, I had a vision in my head of what pictures I was going to take for this article. However, my brother grabbed a random two player game off the shelf as a gift for me and my husband and it has been a major hit.

Usually we like a game that takes a least 20 minutes to set up and 6 times that to play. But Splendor Duel just clicked for us. It is so quick to set up that more than once we have immediately played again after finishing a game. It is just a matter of laying out 3 rows of cards and a spiral of chips. The chips themselves have a very pleasing weight to them. I have been trying and failing to do the sort of tricks that dealers do in fancy casinos.

The gameplay is really simple too. You either take chips off the board, spend your chips to buy a card or take a gold and reserve a card. These cards can give you victory points, crowns or discounts for future purchases. Then it is the first person to 20 points or 10 crowns that wins. Simple.

I don’t really know what has been so enthralling about it! Everything about Splendor Duel is so simple. The components are reasonably plain, the gameplay is easy and the game are over reasonably quickly. It is probably because it is looks easy, but can get complex. The whole thing is very pleasing in its construction. Strong recommend!

Mists Over Carcassonne - Seb Hawden

For Christmas I bought my lovely other half Mists over Carcassonne. Carcassonne is her favourite game and she does love some friendly co-operative shenanigans. For anyone who does not know, Mists over Carcassonne is the first ever co-operative version of Carcassonne and has you fighting back hoards of ghosts like Peter Venkman and the like.

What's also fabulous about this box is that not only do you get a co-operative version of Carcassonne but you also get the additional added bonus of using this game as an expansion for the base game. It's a win-win for everyone involved. This expansion to the main game does not make it co-op but adds a few of the features from Mists over Carcassonne to ghoulishly spice it up.

So, Mists over Carcassonne then, it works just like normal Carcassonne, minus the farmers and has you juggling ghost vanquishing with building out a map of terrain tiles. Some of the tiles have ghosts on them, whenever you add one of those tiles, you must also add the ghosts. If you ever run out of ghosts or fail to hit the scoring goal for the level you are playing, bad luck, it's game over. What is great though is the few wrinkles in the system which add a few quirks to the whole thing.

If you ever enclose the misty, ghostly area then you get to clear all the ghosts off those tiles. If you score a feature, instead of taking points you can remove up to three ghosts from one tile, which works a treat when claiming small features and helps out if you are running low on ghosts. If you match the sides of misty areas you reduce the amount of ghosts you add by one. You never have to match the misty areas though, that will just make it impossible to remove them by completing the area. Which again makes trading your feature points for removing ghosts, at times, vital.

There are 6 levels to the game, each getting gradually more difficult and adding a few more systems to the game. The thing that really makes the game for me though is the co-operative nature that changes the way you think about where you place your tile. In base Carcassonne, where you can steal roads or cities off each other by building separately, then joining, Mists turns this on its head in a great way. It actually creates scoring multipliers depending on how many people are sharing features, making communicating and merging your cities or roads with each other almost vital to success. Taking about and building a city together elevates the Carcassonne to another level, in our humble opinion anyway.

Mists over Carcassonne is a great little box. It does enough with the Carcassonne rules to make the co-op seem worthwhile, has a few different features to try and even works as an add-on to the competitive base game. What more could you want? Right I'm off to bust some ghosts, who you gonna call?