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Game Of The Month February 2022

Llama Cover

L.L.A.M.A - Jim Cohen

What a start to the year we are having in the board game world. So many great new games coming out. But what to play first? My tactic is to try and play them all. I saw over 50 games played in total, seven games share the second most played spot, and thirteen games that I had not tried before hitting the table.

But which game has been my favourite? It has to be my most played game by far, L.L.A.M.A. A crazy fun card game by the Doc himself, Reiner Knizia. I brought a copy into work for my colleagues to try at lunch time, hoping for maybe one or two to try it once. Oh my! We all seem addicted to it! And what a joy it brings to all of us. We go back to our desks energised and full of laughter.

L.L.A.M.A is a very simple game. Each player starts with six cards numbered one to seven. The seven card is a Llama. One card will be turned face up and in turn, players can place one card down, either of equal value to the current face up card, or one higher. If you are ever in a situation where you cannot place a card you can either pick up another card, or go out for the round, scoring negative points for each unique card in your hand. Three sixes for example would only be six points.

If anyone is ever able to go out by placing their last card down, the round immediately ends and all players loose points to the value of all unique cards in their hands. The first to get to 30 or more negative points loses. There are negative tokens that represent one or ten points. If ever you get ten single negative you can swap these with a ten chip. Important, as if you go out in a round by placing your last card, you can discard one point chip. This can be a single point chip, or if you have it, a ten point chip.

This all courses so much tension, laughter, joy, and happiness and all with a simple deck of cards that anyone could pick and start playing with minutes. I could not recommend this game enough for anyone looking for a light, fun, fast card game suitable for all ages and abilities.

Llamaland - Hannah Blacknell

Who loves llamas? Who thinks that animeeples are just the best kind of component ever? I am a hard yes to both of these and so a game that the box describes as “llama-tastic” which comes with llama meeples is really on to a buy-me winner for me. In Llamaland, you are taking a tile on your turn to place into your farm, you place it orthogonally adjacent to your current estate along the table to increase your footprint or ideally start building upwards.

Similarly to Gingerbread House, the icons that you cover up are what you receive. These can be gaining new helpers from the village to give you permanent special abilities, resources, or simple cash money. If you are able to, you may then feed a llama by turning in the correct resources and activate any of your special abilities, and finally, you can choose to place one of your tokens onto an objective card. When you feed a llama, you must take one of those coveted wooden llama pieces and place it into your farm estate on a greenfield space. The challenge is that once this meeple is in place, it cannot be moved and is now in the way of you placing pieces into the estate.

Play continues like this until there is only one llama type (corn, potato of cacao) remaining. At that point you finish the round and tot up your points from objectives, leftover resources and llamas to determine the winner.

I got this game because of the little wooden llamas and I was expecting something similar to Barenpark in my enjoyment levels. This is another polyominal tile laying game from Phil Walker-Harding. I think he is a great designer and his games are all smooth and thoroughly enjoyable. Yet here I am saying that this one is loads better than everything before.

Meadow - Matt Thomasson

Where is the time going. March already, and time for my February Game of the Month. It has been a good start to the year gaming. I have acquired a few games and looking forward to some upcoming releases. 

But, lets focus on my Game of the Month and my pick, Meadow. Meadow is essentially a set collection game containing over 200 unique, beautifully illustrated, watercolour art of landscapes, animals and nature. You play the role of an explorer competing to be the most skilled nature observer by collecting cards with the most valuable species, landscapes and discoveries. 

There is a nice card selection mechanism akin to Quadropolies. The cards are in a grid and you play a numbered token to a column or row and this dictates which card you can select. Most cards will have a requirement which you must have in your tableau to be able to place. Berries may be needed for squirrels, for example. The squirrel may provide an icon for another animal and so on. Players will acquire these cards and build up their tableaus to gain points.

There is also the bonfire that players can place their action tokens on to gain special abilities and also claim objectives. 

The game is gorgeous to look at. The artwork is stunning. The gameplay is fantastic. Drafting the cards and trying to meet the requirements is a fun and engaging puzzle. There is a small race element to achieve the objectives and balancing out when to draft cards and when to go to the bonfire is interesting. Multiplayer or solo, the game plays quickly and I always feel satisfied at the end of the game when I gaze upon my wonderful looking collection of cards. I have been enjoying this game a great deal over the past few months and with the spring around the corner, it felt like the perfect opportunity to talk about my Game of the Month, Meadow. 

Sleeping Gods - Northern Dice

Game of the month? Easy choice. We treated ourselves to something big. Something mega. An epic saga of stupendous storytelling and astounding artwork. Our game of the month is none other than Sleeping Gods.

Sleeping Gods is a big game, no joke. It takes up a fair amount of table space and is definitley one you’ll have to leave set up for a day or two. Playtime ranges from an hour up to 20, and when you get into it you can absolutely see why! The game is set on an alien world of mystery and danger. You and your crew are teleported there and must find Totems to awaken ancient gods (the Sleeping Gods!) to get home. How does this cause such a game length? Well, the game runs a sequence of turns where players expend a deck of events – 18 to be exact. Once these are spent, an in game event occurs and, if you survive, a new 18 are drawn. Only if you fail this big event, if your ship sinks or if you expend the deck three times does the game end. It’s a commitment for sure, but the narrative it develops is astounding.

Sleeping Gods is reminiscent of a choose your own adventure game jacked up to 11. The world is varied and vibrant and builds a history for your crew as you play. You go to locations to find quests and objects, gain information and enemies, to explore and investigate! And each happening feeds into the next, enabling you to build a lineage of what your crew has done and emphasise that choices do matter. It’s such an engaging experience of excitement and peril that it’s one we get lost in and lose track of time within every time. If you’re looking for a game that’s more like a saga, more akin to a grand adventure than is literally different every time, Sleeping Gods may very well be for you.

Space Base - Ben Herbert

Space Base is a dice rolling, card drafting, engine building game of intergalactic space fleets. Touted as “Like Machi Koro, but in Space” I let Space Base float away from my wish list like space junk leaving the solar system. I already had Machi Koro, and I don’t like space themed games.

But finally I gave it a try and soon a physical copy was rocketing to me from the Zatu warehouse.

At its core, Space Base is a simple game perfect for new players. In front of you lie 12 sectors containing space craft. You roll a pair of dice and then activate one or two of your ships depending on the numbers you roll. Activating ships gives you money, income or victory points.

As the game goes on you will buy more powerful ships to add to your fleet. The ship ousted by your new purchase gets “deployed”. Now on your opponents turn you can look at the dice that have been rolled and see if the numbers or sum of the numbers on the dice match the sectors where you have deployed ships. If so, you will also benefit.

It’s not long until potentially every roll on every players turn benefits you. Now it’s a race to the finish line of 40 victory points. Will you deploy lots of ships in one or two sectors, or spread out to gain a little but often? Will you concentrate on maximising your credit income to buy high scoring “colony cards”?  Maybe you will use the special cards that allow you to take cards for free, move powerful cards to prime locations, or go all or nothing by investing in the card that allows you to immediately win!

Space base finds the sweet sport between the randomness of dice rolling and meaningful strategic choice. Now I have to go tell Macho Koro it’s been replaced!