At the time of writing, I am currently sat on 69 plays for the month. But the most played game so far by far in January for me is Demeter. Demeter is flip and write game from Sorry we are French, that I am becoming a little obsessed by. I am actually playing it now as I write this!
I don’t go in for any of the 10x10 challenges. I like to play what I want to play, when I want to play it. But if I had, this would have been on the list for sure. Demeter just hits so many sweet spots! It’s a great quick game to play before dinner. It’s an ideal solo game to play when no one else is up for a game. It’s the perfect filler before, after, or in-between a more meatier game sandwich. Demeter can hit the table on so many occasions.
The game is just so satisfying to play as well. There are so many amazing combo turns that you can build up to in the middle and later stages of the game. Cascading from colouring one dinosaur, to making another scientist, to constructing a new building. One after the other. It feels so great to play!
If you are looking for a new blank and write game, I would heartily recommend this one. Demeter looks great, plays great, and is incredibly accessible. Like many other roll or flip and wite games, the theme is somewhat devoid. You may look at this box and think it will be dripping with dino’s in space theme. Sadly not. It’s there, but you won’t feel it as you play. But what you will feel is enjoyment. This game packs a lot of punch into a small box and will keep you coming back for more game after game.
Happy New Year and all that jazz, now let’s roll some dice! This month we’ve done well to start the year right by hitting a multitude of games. Big, small, brilliant and even a game about defending medieval China from Genghis Khan. But what’s stuck in my mind as the top tier game? Nemesis Lockdown. Despite not being our most played game, it hits all the right spots for me and shines like an absolute beauty on the table.
Like its predecessor, Nemesis Lockdown runs a narrative of monstrosities attacking your place of work and having you try to escape whilst completing a private objective. It can be played semi or fully cooperatively and requires players to work together to escape… but not necessarily survive! Playing semi-cooperatively may mean players have directly clashing objectives or even objectives that need a particular player to “not make it”… As much as the cooperative element drives a team survival feel and is great fun, the competitive takes player interaction and pumps it to 11. The deceptions, underhanded actions and outright evil undertakings make the semi-cooperative mode a delightfully malicious experience!
And if you though the players were a threat because of the old system, wait until you hear about the Nightstalkers! These are the new lads in town invading your base and oh man are they vicious. They have an identical hierarchy and development system to the Intruders from Nemesis (so yes – the are interchangeable between the games!) but these guys thrive on darkness and sneak attacks… But the true horror lies in darkness.
The new light and dark mechanic on the map amps up fear tenfold. Light is safe and makes for a relatively uneventful experience. However, as the game moves on the power of the base fails, plunging more areas into darkness. Darkness is the enemies home, their domain.. and you aren’t welcome there! Many events have jacked up effects that kick in for players in the dark which will add to that fear factor even more so than normal. It’s another layer of tension that amps the survival horror theme and can result in a feeling or true hopelessness. Making this game an absolute star for us!
Weirdly Bitoku might not end up being a ‘better’ game than some of the others I played this month, being as those included the mighty Lost Ruins of Arnak, Ultimate Railroads, and Great Western Trail 2nd Ed, but it was an incredible experience.
I was a little uncertain going into Bitoku as the board looks a little messy and overwhelming, yet somehow very pretty at the same time. My feelings were further compounded by the rulebook which, to my mind, had a very strange order. Having said that I was able to teach and play the game with minimal reference to the rules thanks to an excellent player aid and well thought out game flow. So much so that I now can’t see the rules as bad, just a strange order!
As well as my fears about the rules melting away, so did my concerns about the board and gameplay. Yes the board has a lot of things on it, but the way it has been divided up allows you to parse the information you need quickly and effectively. Yes the game could be accused of being a bunch of mechanisms thrown together, but they are mechanisms I love!
Dice placement, deck building, hand management, track climbing and uncovering bonuses on your player board all with stunning artwork. On your turn you will either play a card, place a dice or move a placed dice across the river. Cards are played to your player board and unlock the dice next to them, which can then be placed onto the board. This will be used to grab resources, move up tracks, gain crystals or buildings and so on.
Crossing the river allows you to beef up your deck giving you a whole lot more options. It’s fair to say I’m slightly taken with Bitoku, the components are splendid and varied, and all paths to points feel equally satisfying. I can’t wait to explore it more.
‘Wow, that really is a small box’. That was my first thought when I opened The Red Cathedral, even though practically every review I’ve seen has mentioned it.
The other thing they all say is that the box size is deceptive in terms of how crunchy this game is. Guess what? Right again.
The Red Cathedral is a lovely little Euro game from Devir (who are now firmly on my radar after having also played Bitoku this month), in which players take on the role of builders, tasked with constructing the titular ‘cathedral’ by Ivan The Terrible. Whoever builds their chosen 6 parts of the cathedral first will trigger the end of the game, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll win.
The first hint you get that this game is a little trickier than expected is that there are 2 point tracks. Recognition points are awarded often (and generously) but Prestige points are what you actually need to win, and they’re much trickier to obtain.
In terms of playing the game, it couldn’t be simpler -
There’s a resource-collection-dice-rondel mechanic (so many hyphens!) that means you can never reliably plan ahead.
A very limited resource-storing mechanic that forces you to think carefully about what you collect.
And an area-control building mechanic, where players reserve parts of the cathedral they want to build and gain bonuses for doing so. However, if someone completes a section above you first you lose points, so there’s plenty of room for hubris.
It’s a gorgeous production, it plays well at all player counts (including the solo-mode that I can’t seem to beat) and it fits in a box half the size of a lot of, quite frankly, worse games. What’s not to love?
The joy of hobby gaming is multi faceted. The initial wonder of discovering a world beyond monopoly and Cluedo is soon enriched by the satisfaction of introducing others to our new obsession. The pleasure of growing a collection Into the hundreds is electrified by the expectation of hyped new releases. But the pinnacle for me, the thing that really warms my heart, is discovering hidden gems. Games that aren’t very popular, you don’t hear about often. Games you don’t expect anything of, that then come right up and blow your socks off! That’s exactly what happened to me this month with Steampunk Rally from Roxley Games.
Steampunk Rally has a wacky races type theme that sees historical titans of industry and science go head to head in a bid to ride their eccentric contraption to victory. Tesla driving his eight legged steam copter over the alps whilst Marie Curie fires her Penny Farthings Ion thrusters. So far so bonkers right? But the twist is, the core mechanics are pure strategic euro staples. We have a card draft, where players use multi use cards to construct their unique inventions, collect dice to power it or cogs to mitigate rolls. A dice placement phase that offers fantastic combos and rewards efficient action selection. Also a vent phase to use those important cogs to clear action spaces of their old dice and free them up for use again.
These euro mechanics are all finely balanced and by some genius of design allow the game to genuinely feel like a race. A crazy, tactical, tense, close cut race. It takes real skill to get the edge on your opponents and they’re never far behind, keeping that delicious tension right into the last turn. Whether it’s 2 players or 8, Steampunk Rally consistently delivers an exhilarating race experience with minimal luck dependence, and right now it’s one of my absolute favourite games to play!