My game of the month I have only recently purchased. I have had my eye on it for a while. It is a game from 2016 for one to four players published by Indie Boards & Cards. It is the cooperative deck builder Aeon’s End.
You play as a breach mage prepping and casting spells to take down a big bad and their minions whilst keeping yourself and the city of Gravehold alive. Standard deck building mechanisms present such as a hand of five cards and using your starting deck to get bigger and better cards. However, there are few neat twists that makes this really stand out for me. First off, you never shuffle your deck. The order in which you discard cards is important and adds another layer in to the game.
It also removes the randomness of hitting them oh so satisfying card combinations a thing of the past. Players have a number of “breaches” that they can cast spells in to. But they only activate at the start of your turn. There is a randomised turn order deck which emulates the chaotic nature of battle. You can have some unlucky turns where the nemesis strikes twice in a row which adds to the fun and entertaining nature of the game. There is so much that I love about this game.
There is a bucket load of replay-ability straight out of the box with eight playable breach mages, four nemesis and a bunch of different gem, spell and relic cards. This gives the game different challenges and increases the replay-ability greatly. There are several small box expansions that adds more mages, nemesis cards and market cards.
The game has some interesting decision points in the game with which market cards to focus on, which breaches to open, attacking the minions vs. the nemesis. It also plays very well solo controlling two characters at a time as well as having rules for true solo play. I am so glad I did pick up a copy of the game and have been having a blast playing Aeon’s End.
Citadels is a game that really could do with more love. I don't see it around much but everyone I've played it with had enjoyed it. Citadels is a city building card game set in a medieval fantasy world. The game involves card drafting and set collection with a little deduction and a sprinkle of take that.
The aim of the game is to get the money to build a set of buildings in your city. Each building is worth points. There are bonus points for completing eight structures first and building sets. Some buildings even have special powers to help score you extra points.
Each round players secretly draft character cards, each with a special ability. Maybe you will pick the assassin who gets to force another character to miss their turn or the thief who steals all their money. The Architect who can draw and build more or the Warlord who gets extra coins for military buildings and can destroy other structure..
Once players have chosen a card they take turn in order of the number on their card. If a player has chosen a character that can cause problems for others, they will need to deduce which characters are in play, and even more usefully, who might have their target card.
With characters who can steal your money or even take your building cards out of your hand then a little push you luck also comes into play. Do you hold off for a big purchase of grab low scoring buildings while you can.
Citadels play form 2 to 8 people and it works well. At two or three players deduction is very important, at higher counts keeping a low profile and your opponents in check is key.
With Citadels, there's a lot of game in this small box. Being simple, fun and small I find it a perfect game for game nights in a pub or cafe.
There has been one particular stand out game for me, through February. Maracaibo has graced my table more times than probably any other game, in recent months, and it continues to be a rewarding play every time. That’s why it is my game of the month again.
Maracaibo is undoubtedly my favourite Pfister game. It combines a lot of familiar mechanisms from other games of his, but somehow they seem to fit together in a more interesting way in Maracaibo. Hand management, area control, multi-use cards, rondel movement/action selection have all appeared in other Pfister games, so it’s difficult to say why this particular combination is so strong.
With Maracaibo, Pfister is trying something new. The gaming market has been increasingly flooded with legacy or campaign style games, especially legacy versions of existing games, so it seems inevitable that we might see a campaign game from My Pfister. What we have in Maracaibo is a good game which is enhanced by a campaign mode - the “base” game is perfectly playable, and indeed there is very little difference between this and the campaign version of the game.
However, the Maracaibo campaign introduces a narrative, and with this come some temporary modifications to the board - some spaces become unusable some become enhanced. It isn’t as transformative as, say, Pandemic Legacy (which is without doubt the gold standard, given how much it improved the base game). However, the narrative and the adjustments to the board do make the game more engaging, which is why my gaming group keep coming back to the game.
We are roughly halfway through the campaign. And it is enough to keep our interest going. Long may it continue… or at least until the end of the campaign
This month has been miserable. Storms, misery and less gaming than intended. Luckily, a fast paced classic hit the table numerous times so we could argue and fall out over who really is a Duke. Our game of the month this month is Coup by Indie Boards & Cards. It's a hidden role, player elimination game for 2-6 players.
Coup's idea is simple, be the last standing. Every player has two "influence", represented by character cards. Lose your influence, lose the game. Each influence does something different and has a variable power, but the thing here though is you never reveal who you have. And at this point, yeah we'll admit, it sounds like a game of lying. Because it is. You need to be able to lie in order to manipulate play. But not to win necessarily! Should you believe someone is telling a big fat lie, you can call them out. Get it right, boom! They lose an influence. Get it wrong and you lose an influence.
This constant mistrust will leave everyone sat around questioning how the game will end. The answers the name of the game. Throughout the game you'll earn credits which can be spent to use influence abilities, or to perform a coup. A coup is an instant kill and immediately removes another player's influence. The game is never on the table longer than it's needed to be, but will be out again in no time!
Coup is a game where you'll always start as the Duke. Everyone will always start at the Duke. It's inevitable. In fact, if you're not the Duke you'll raise suspicion! There's a lot of tension in Coup and, because everyone's number of credits and influence is always on display, tensions run high quickly. You'll want to accuse, but you'll need to build evidence, and then you'll spend time lying yourself. It's incredibly nerve wracking, but so ridiculously fun! What's more is how quickly the game plays and how easy it is to access. We've used this in place of party games with larger groups and always end up playing four or more games!
Our favourite play with Coup involves its expansion: Coup: Reformation. This introduces more treachery and replaces the Ambassador influence for the more powerful Inquisitor. This allows players to change an influence as well as look at another player's. It also includes factions for players to be part of. The game is still entirely a free for all, but it includes the ability to force people to change factions so you can target them or so they can't target you! It's the game that shows you who you can't trust and allows you to show off your deduction abilities.
No end of times have we been stunned at how effective our more blatantly quiet players have done. If you've ever got a larger group of people coming round who don't play games generally, play Coup. And get ready to argue, lie and coup your way to victory!
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! Rallyman GT is a 2020 release, but a reincarnation of its predecessor, Rallyman. Holy Grail Games have had this in the garage for a while, tweaking all manner of bits under the hood. It now has tracks you can build yourself, consisting of large, Takenoko-sized hexes. This offers brilliant modular gameplay. Every time you play, the track will be unique.
Rallyman GT is a race, with elements of push-your-luck and dice placement. It has a fascinating focus token mechanism. But I’m racing ahead – let me reverse and tell you about the rules…
Players control one car. There are varying lanes within the track. To move forward, a car has to either accelerate up one gear, or decelerate down one gear. It’s achieved by placing gear dice. Firstly, there are six – one for gears 1-6. There are also dice to ‘coast’ (remain in the game gear), granting players some flexibility. There are brake dice too, in case you need to slam your foot down and drop multiple gears. Like real life, you’ve got to slow down for those corners! Players begin by planning their turn, placing dice in the lanes they wish to advance.
The catch is, some of the faces on these dice show ‘hazards’. If players roll over a certain number of hazards across their dice, they’ll wipe out. So, they can roll dice one at a time, and decide when to stop, if those ! symbols start to accumulate. Or, they could risk it, drive ‘flat out’, and roll the dice all at once. The reward for the latter? Focus tokens. You can use these chits later to guarantee safe passage – as in, you can spend them later on to not roll dice. This offers a wonderful seesaw of pushing your luck now, to gain an awesome turn later. Fans of Formula D will love this!
Cataclysm: A Second World War places players at the head of conflicting ideologies during the early 1930’s and asks: “What would you do?”
At the beginning, the component nations of each ideology are asymmetric, politically and economically reflective of their relative historical position – the Democracies appeasing and colonial, Communism in turmoil, the Fascists expansionist.
The actions and events that follow allow players to lead their ideology in all kinds of tangential directions. Alliances form, governments collapse, diplomatic treaties are made and then broken in an arms race that leads to inevitable conflict. But it’s how Cataclysm takes you there via the innovative intermingling of mechanics that makes the game so enthralling.
It’s a vast game, genuinely day consuming in its full campaign, with a significantly steep learning curve. The sheer number of options and possibilities across the seven playable nation’s borders on overwhelming at first. However, Cataclysm has a wonderful arc that ensures dividends are paid for your investment and perseverance.
The full scope of the war is included: D-Day, the War in the Pacific, North Africa, Civil war in Spain. However, this is your version of the Second World War.
Will Poland remain unaffected as the German’s invade England? Will the Soviets invade Persia as Greece erupts into civil war? Will the US delay their involvement until Japan gains a foot hold on continental Australia?
Perhaps most importantly, how will it end?
Following on from last month, I am picking another Matagot ‘dudes on a map’ game as my Game of the Month – this time Kemet: a fantastic, punchy, pacey area control/medium war game by the makers of Cyclades and Inis.
Why do I love this game so much? Well the ancient Egyptian theme is lush, dark and evocative. I love the three ‘suits’ of (mostly) unique player power tiles – 16 to choose from in each of red (attack), blue (defence) and white (prayer/economic). Purchasing them gives you something special to affect the way you play and give you an edge over your opponents. The combo possibilities seem limitless, and while I try to play different strategies each game I always find it hard not to keep going for the giant scorpion. It gives me a smashingly vile mini that I can place with an army of my choice to increase the carnage it wages on the board - I mean who wouldn’t want a giant scorpion?
The rules themselves – scorpion or no scorpion – encourage, but don’t force, an aggressive, push your luck approach with troops teleporting across the board in bold moves to gain victory points by defeating enemies or holding the precious temple locations. Fighting battles involves choosing a combat card from six in your hand rather than rolling dice and increases the feeling of strategy over luck – especially as you pick one to play and one to discard. This leaves four for the next fight and two for the fight after that before they all come back to you – tough choices every time. And the after-battle resolution often leaves attacker and defender alike fathoming whether to try to hold on to a location with the troops they have remaining or choosing to sacrifice them rather than leaving an opponent potentially easy pickings.
Kemet, like its siblings, does have a bit of a reputation for bash the leader, but I can live with that. It simply means timing has to be part of your strategy. I find that typically the end game is very tight, with often three players in a full count of five vying to take the victory in the final turn.
It big, brash and bloody. It smacks of Ameri-Trash and yet I have had some real ‘dyed in the wool’ Euro players loving every minute of this absolute classic! Buy it, play it and have fun butchering your friends in the service of ancient gods.