John - Parade
My big hit this month has been Parade by Z-Man Games. So much to love about this – first, the rules are astoundingly simple. Add a card to the Parade – an open, common array of face up cards – check for pick-up from the Parade, and draw a card from the deck. So, it’s all about hand management and agonising decisions - choosing the lesser of the many evils your hand and the Parade leave you with.
Picking up is always bad – fewest points at the end wins. But then after that it all becomes a bit more nuanced. If you end with a majority in a suit then you get to flip the cards and they count one point each. If you don’t have a majority then they score their face value - which is often horrific!
If you are lucky you will get turns where you have to pick up nothing, but more often than not you have frequent agonising decisions. Do I pick up a lone ‘5’ which I might have to keep at face value or do I pick up three cards with a total of 25 (if they stay face up) which look likely to leave me with a majority at the end, and thus only score 3.
And then there is the end game, which when triggered leaves all players with four cards – two to keep and two to discard. The choice is made secretly with a simultaneous reveal. Players are left working out whether to make their own position safe(r) or whether to try to stitch up their opponents, albeit with risk to themselves.
It’s devilish and satisfying. A good dose of luck but with a short play time I can live with that. I find it enjoyable with all player counts – even two, with their simple but effective rules tweak. Finally, the Alice in Wonderland design theme is gorgeous and sumptuous. Parade just keeps coming out again and again.
Nick T – The Quest For El Dorado
July was named after Julius Caesar, prior to this it was called Quintilis. With July’s links to ancient Rome you’d think my Game of the Month would be something based around the Roman Empire. But as all the months are based around the Julian calendar reform introduced in 1582 it would actually be a weak link. Instead I have chosen my actual Game of the Month, for no other reason than it being my game of the month - a much better motive I’m sure you’ll agree! Oh, and in case you’re wondering, this month it is The Quest for El Dorado.
Released in 2017, Reiner Knizia’s first take on the deck-building genre arrived around a decade after Dominion had laid the foundations. In The Quest for El Dorado, Knizia cleverly uses the deck building mechanic to move 2-4 players across the board in a race to find the mythical land of gold in South America. Along the way players will encounter jungles, expanses of water and sandy scrub. To cross these tiles, players need to hire and fire the right crew to move across the board efficiently and stay ahead of the competition.
The double-sided hexagonal boards and their variable set-up offer endless maps. Some are suggested in the instructions as are tips for generating your own. With each altered board comes a different challenge, creating oodles of replayability. Now I have heard some people whine about the smaller size cards, and I get that. But for me, the board is such a table hogger, that the space saved with the smaller cards is welcome and in my eyes forgiven. The cards work as both currency and movement and you will constantly be battling how to use each card to your advantage.
My wife and I are hooked on this game. I am pleased to say it works equally as well with two players as it does with four. It also bridges a lovely gap between being easy enough to grasp for new players, while offering lovely depth with maturity.
Louis - Marvel Legendary
This month’s GOTM comes with something of a confession. For a long time, deck builders were one of my favourite types of game. I was particularly fond of the way that Thunderstone Advance was structured, with multiple areas for taking your turn. I loved the random flux in the variations of Ascension. But I never got into Legendary. Until this month. I started playing Marvel Legendary, and I have been really enjoying it.
Despite the fact that I tend to enjoy games which rely on several game mechanisms playing into one another, there is a certain elegance to marvel Legendary which is very satisfying. It has a strong setting – and, for a card game, the theme seems to play into the game mechanisms fairly well, with the card abilities of heroes or villains tying their game affect in with the character’s traits.
Some cards give money, which can be used to hire new hero cards (which generally provide new abilities) Some cards, when played, give attack points, which can be used to defeat villains (or henchmen) in the city, thus earning victory points. Or if you have sufficient points, you can take on the arch-villain of the piece. Once they have been defeated, the game is over, and victory points are totted up.
There are other events and card types which appear or are triggered throughout the game – if you like the idea of a deck builder with a little more meat on its bones (but still playing exclusively as a deck builder) Legendary could be the game for you.
I have to admit, though, that I am somewhat daunted by the sheer number and variety of all of the expansions. Thankfully not all are readily available, so for now I will have to be satisfied with knowing that I can’t be a completionist all the time.
Kirsty -Paladins Of The West Kingdom
My game of the month (and strong contender for game of the year to date) is Paladins of the West Kingdom. I particularly enjoy worker placement and engine building games so it is no surprise that this one ticks all of my boxes. This is one of the heavier games in our collection, even so it has hit the table three times in July.
In Paladins, players are trying to build up and protect their city. The King has even sent some of his Paladins to help them with their quest. Each Paladin gives the players two workers (of varying colours) but also benefits on one or two out of the three attribute tracks.
Players don’t have their own supply of workers.. Instead they take their workers from a central supply depending on the Paladin and tavern card they have taken. The different colour of workers have different attributes. Only a certain colour of worker can go in some spaces. Other spaces can take workers of any colour.
As players place their workers to take actions, they will move up the attribute tracks. These award points at the end of the game. After carrying out some actions a certain number of times they will also award victory points. The game has a point salad feel as you can get points from so many different actions.
The meat of the game comes in chaining actions together so you can do as many things as possible with your pool of workers. Players need to keep an eye on the attributes track as well. Each action which increases an attribute but you can only do the action if you have enough points of another different attribute.
I really enjoy the depth this game offers. I particularly like the puzzle-like feel of the game as you try to work out how to build up your pool of workers over the turn to allow you to take even more actions.
Bod - Klask
For me, what makes tabletop gaming so addictive is how it elicits an emotional response in the player. Apparently nothing quite elicits an emotional response in me, more than smacking a little plastic ball across a plastic surface too hard so that it bounces back and goes into my own goal. Or concentrating so hard on avoiding little white magnets that I back my player piece into my own goal. I do make a lot of noise when playing Klask. Yelling, whooping, crying, cheering, insulting a non-existent referee. Maybe this is what is feels like to be a football fan. My golly I like this game.
Klask is a two player dexterity game. There is also a four player version if you're a masochist, or you have lots of kids to entertain. Klask, which some claim to be the Danish national sport, brings an air hockey style game to your coffee table. Players control magnetic steerers to knock a ball into their opponent's goal while avoiding the dangerous magnetic “biscuits” that litter the board and get stuck to your steerer giving points to your opponent.
This must be one of the ultimate “lock-down games”. Great for kids and adults; only needs two players and uses up pent up energy and frustration.
At its basic level Klask is just mindless ball flinging fun. But if you fancy upping you game, people play Klask competitively, so why not use lock-down to get some training in and enter the Klask world Championships in 2021?