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Game Of The Month January 2021

Root GOTM feature

Root - Hannah Blacknell

This month we have been playing the games we got for Christmas. I was lucky enough to get Root and the Clockwork Expansion for Root. We started the month with a lot of learning games playing as the Marquise de Cat and the Eyrie factions. My game of the month is Root. Root is a game of woodland warfare where you take on the role of some kind of woodland creature who is vying for control of the woods with their armies.

There are battles and secret alliances being formed, ambushes and thieving. It’s a wild ride that I love so much that I have had a few Root dreams this month. Root base game plays 2-4 players (1-4 with Clockwork expansion) in officially 60-90 minutes. However at 2 players, we found learning games took longer than 90 mins and then once we understood what we were doing, we played it in under 60 mins.

This asymmetric game comes with four different factions in the base game, but without more than two players, the game can feel a little unbalanced if you try to play as the Vagabond or Woodland Alliance with only one other person playing. Of course with the current situation in England, we are always playing at two, so we purchased the Clockwork Expansion. This introduces bots into the game, which can boost your player count from 1,2, or 3 up to 4.

Root is widely recognised to be best at 4, and worst at 2 without the bot additions. Once we felt familiar with the cats and the birds and how they played, we added in a bot at a time to increase player counts. This was an amazing expansion. We weren’t overly familiar with playing with bots, we hadn’t done it much apart from in Risk and The Crew. This though was seamless, we both helped to control the bot, and it felt a little more “co-op-y” as a game whilst we both tried to keep the Electric Eyrie in check.

If you haven’t got Root, and fancy a cute theme over a pretty crunchy game, then give Root a whirl. And if you have Root but owing to the current lockdown situation you just can’t get it to the table then I thoroughly recommend getting the Clockwork Expansion to help you boost player count until the world rights itself.

Dice Hospital Community Care Expansion - Tom Gorner

I don’t usually purchase expansions for games, however, I will make the odd exception for games that I feel have plenty of replay value, and make me smile each time I play. Dice Hospital is one of those games. Alley Cat Games recently fulfilled the brand new Community Care expansion, which adds in various modules to change up the gameplay and add a little of extra planning in which, when played well, can net the player a massive amount of points!

The expansion is split into three core elements; The City Expansion, The Maternity Expansion and The Investments Expansion. The City expansion sees the patient intake phase completely reimagined, with players using their ambulances and paramedics to collect patients from a city board. The Maternity expansion as you would have guessed gives you the facilities to accommodate expectant mothers and allow you to safely deliver incredibly cute baby dice! Finally, The Investments expansion gives even more customisation and upgrade options for your hospital.

Each element can be added in separately or all together. Each adds a unique gameplay variant that makes the game even better than the base game. The City expansion allows for a fairer intake turn. Giving players more flexibility around which patients to take in and treat while balancing the turn order. With the Maternity expansion, you have yet another patient type to contend with. Trying to balance both mother and baby to ensure they discharge together is quite a challenge.

I loved trying this out and continues to highlight the fantastic gameplay you can get from Dice Hospital. It has all been incredibly well thought out and each element works seamlessly with the base game. The gameplay value added is more than worth the price you pay for the expansion box so this is a must for any fan of the base game and it has cemented itself as my Game of the Month for January!

Sushi Roll - Tom Harrod

I have a true affinity for custom dice in board games. You can imagine my delight, then, when I saw the delectable dice in Sushi Roll! This is part of the ‘Sushi…’ family of games by Phil Walker-Harding. First came Sushi Go!, the gateway card-drafting game. Then came Sushi Go Party, which added more of the same – more cards, more combos, more strategy. Sushi Roll is also by Gamewright Games, but this time (you guessed it…) you’re not drafting cards. You’re drafting dice!

Sushi Roll comes with five, thick card stock ‘conveyor belts’. Everyone gets a set number of dice picked blind from a draw bag. There are five types of dice: nigiri, maki rolls, appetisers, green non-scoring dice (for better use of a term!) and puddings. On your turn, you draft one die and then pass your dice to the left. The scoring works similar to Sushi Go!. There are three rounds and you score your drafted dice at the end of each round (apart from puddings, also like in Sushi Go!). But not all die faces get created equal, in Sushi Roll! Some are rarer, or more common than others.

The cool thing about Sushi Roll is that all the dice sit as public knowledge. There’s no secret card information that requires memory skills, like in Sushi Go!. But every time you pass your dice to your neighbour and receive some in return, there’s a little twist. Everyone re-rolls their dice. So you know what type of dice you’re getting (and passing over)… But you don’t know which die faces you’ll get! Everyone has ‘Menu’ tokens they can spend to re-roll unappealing dice. And you can spend ‘Chopsticks’ to nab a die-off someone else’s conveyor belt, swapping it with one of your own. There’s a turn order to Sushi Roll (whoever has the red conveyor belt). This results in Chopsticks playing a far more prominent role (ha!) in Sushi Roll, compared to Sushi Go…

Want to learn how to play Sushi Go!? Click here to read my tutorial.

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Carlton House & Queen’s Park - Ben Herbert

I’m currently working my way through the stand-alone 2017 release of the Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective line of mystery games. As with all the games in this line, players are working cooperatively as members of the Baker Street Irregulars to solve a series of mysteries.

The box comes rammed with ten case files, a map of London, a directory used to find locations and people, and newspapers that you can scour for clues. Players are presented with initial information on the case, then follow leads as they travel across London, interviewing people and searching locations for clues. Once you have thought you have solved the case, head back to 221b Baker Street to see how you fared against the great Sherlock Holmes.

A unique aspect of this game that I’ve enjoyed so far is the Carlton House location. Rather than moving around London, you are instead searching a stately home. Using the blueprints of the house to understand the location of items and layout of the building is a feature I really enjoyed.

The Queens Park affair includes three case books set over a three day period and come with an accompanying ordinance survey map of the area. I’ve not played these yet but I notice that the park locations have a period of time associated with them. I’m excited to see what the times aspect brings to the game.

Viscounts of The West Kingdom - Jim Cohen

In a month when so many awesome new games came into my collection, picking just one as game of the month to feature proved to be very difficult. I very quickly narrowed it down to three choices. Three new games in my collection I first played in January that I have loved. Lost Ruins of Arnak, Aquatica and Viscounts of The West Kingdom.

Aquatica was the one I was most excited about, simply as I had been waiting to get this since Essen 2019. All sorts of issues slowed this one down but when it finally arrived, it probably suffered from the game being built up a little to much in my head. The game is solid, don’t get me wrong. It looks beautiful and plays very smoothly. But it didn’t really captivate me in the way I had hoped. It’s a very good game but it just doesn’t quite get to the top of this list.

Equally, Lost Ruins of Arnak has had a lot of hype. In seems mainly because of the box art! But the game is very good. It builds beautifully and the later turns are incredibly satisfying. But after a few games, I am left thinking how often I will play it. When I do play the game I really enjoy it, but I am left feeling a little empty. I’m not sure why. Again, don’t misunderstand mem I really like it, this is an excellent game. But it has just been pipped to the top spot for its replayability.

Viscounts of The West Kingdom is a stunning game. It brings new dimensions to the worker placement mechanic, as Shem Phillips games always seem to do! It feels so deep, rich and rewarding. I could play this game 100 times and have a different experience each time. There is so much variety with the people you can recruit, the actions you can take, and most importantly the strategy you employ. As such, there can be no more worthy a winner for me than Viscounts of The West Kingdom as my pick for game of the month. And with Lost Ruins of Arnak and  Aquatica just behind it, that is a very honourable position in this blogger's humble opinion.