It's July already? Time flies by when you have a game collection as large as our blogging team. But what stood out amongst the rest last month?
This month, we've been focusing mostly on duel based games. For obvious reasons. Two player has been our jam, but not games specifically for two! Our game of the month this month is Cover Your Kingdom by Grandpa Beck's Games. It's a set collection, hand management, take that game for 2-8 players. Your objective is to claim clans of creatures to gain magic (score points). You can claim clans by laying two identical cards, can use one from the discard with a matching one, or can steal an opposer's clan!
Cover Your Kingdom emphasises the need to play strategically and manage both your hand, and your sets. Players can only steal your top clans, so organisation is key! What's more is that, when stealing, you can defend by laying matching cards. If you've cashed in for points, you won't have any defences! The winner is decided when no more cards are left to play. This game has kept us sane whilst we've been unable to play pure take that games. At two player, it's just a duel usually. Tit for tat, even. But this gives the feel of more heavy handed tactics and bigger plays! The two player variant is adjusted to ensure play can't stagnate, and ensures the game is paced well. When we have managed to go for three or more, the calibre of play is excellent! Lots of fun and a great choice for new players, too!
Our favourite element of this game is the art and theme. Every card is unique and contains wonderfully terrible puns! These magical creatures aren't ones you'd expect to see in Lord of the Rings or the likes, but give the game an easy access feel. This whimsicality is mesmerising and gives it real presence when playing! No end of times did we draw a card and have a quick chuckle! Definitely a game we'd recommend for families and newer players, but still something we think hobbyists would enjoy!
My game of the month for June is The Castles of Burgundy, a long time personal favourite. Thanks to yucata.de, I've been able to get this to the virtual table whilst on video call with the family. If you're unable to play the game in person, the interface in yucata.de is great and easy to use. It's also free!
The Castles of Burgundy is a territory building game designed by Stefan Feld. Players each have a 'princedom', formed of 37 hexagons. Each hexagon will show a die face (1-6) and be one of six colours. Each colour is representative of a building type. Your aim is to fill up your princedom strategically, to maximise your points. Players score when completing a connected group of buildings. A bonus is also applied to the score, the value of which decreases each round. Players also score for completing all spaces of a specific building type.
At the start of a round, all players roll two dice. On a player’s turn they may 'spend' the dice to perform actions. Actions include drafting and placing building tiles. Tiles are drafted from a shared market, which is quickly depleted. The market has seven areas from which a player may draft a tile. A 'bonus' area and six areas corresponding to the six die faces.
Also, players can spend dice to perform other actions, like recruiting workers. Each worker tile can be discarded to add or remove a pip from a rolled die. There are other actions available for you to discover when you play!
I consider this game to be one of the best examples of a modern, abstract euro-strategy game. Every game is different and requires a slightly different approach. Gameplay is simple but it has a depth that keeps it interesting.
June 2020 was the month we could finally see people again in our own back garden. Albeit at a 2m safe social distance and with limited numbers, but this provided me with an opportunity to play games with ‘other’ people! Well, at least another couple. I established my garden table was over 6ft long and plugged in the patio heater for the chilly British Summer evening. I was ready. Well nearly.
The next challenge was to find a game that works at a social distance. Over lockdown I had played many games over Skype and Zoom. I hadn’t tired of the likes of Just One yet but wanted something with a bit more about it. It had to be a game that involves no passing of cards, dice or tokens. The game also couldn’t involve huddling around a single board - so that we could all stay safe. Although apparently staying alert is now more important, but I digress. So what did I choose I hear you ask?
Quacks of Quedlinburg was the game of choice. Each player has their own cauldron. I prepared a 50/50 split of tokens, bags and gems at either end of the table and we were away. We played and it was great fun. Potions exploded as we pushed our luck. Rat-tails and lucky dice rolls kept the game close until the final round. Everything flowed and it worked really well. So well in fact, we played it again the following weeks. Frankly, I think it will be my first choice ‘COVID secure’ game for the foreseeable future.
It is undoubtedly influenced by being able to actually play games again with friends, but playing Quacks of Quedlinburg was a really happy experience. Perhaps the gameplay is a little introverted but that’s what makes it work in this environment. It is calm and friendly enough that you can chat in between rounds too so you can be social and distanced! The push your luck element as you blindly draw ingredients from your bag is very satisfying and frustrating in equal measure and everyone loves a potion explosion. What’s more Father’s Day is in June and I got the Herb Witches expansion. I am really pleased to make Quacks of Quedlinburg my game of the month!
When I saw that Lookout Spiele had a new printing of Ora et Labora, I was quick to treat myself to a copy. I’m yet to play a multiplayer game of it (damn you, lockdown!), but I played it solo last month. My word. It’s a hum-dinger.
Ora et Labora is an economic goods conversion game, with elements of worker placement. Sounds like Le Havre, you might say? You’d be right. You can tell this is an Uwe Rosenberg game. Yes, there’s recognisable Klemens Franz artwork. But it’s the mechanisms at play that are what gives you the fuzzy Rosenberg feels. This borrows the ‘best of’ features from his other tried-and-tested games. There’s double-sided, upgradeable resource chits, plus buildings-galore (seen in Le Havre). You’ve got a landscape to cover up and fill in (Nusfjord, or Caverna). There’s a resource wheel, which is like a cousin to the one in Glass Road.
The resource wheel grabbed my attention. At the start of each turn, the wheel’s arm moves one notch. Base resources sit in numbered segments of the wheel, and when the arm moves, they all get that bit more copious. If you send your worker to certain locations in your heartland (or pay to use a neighbour’s heartland location), you pick up the resource from the wheel. You take the designated chits, then place the resource marker next to the arm, so its value goes back to zero. It’s like accumulation spots in Agricola.
As the game progresses, you’ll build ever-better buildings onto your heartland. Later on, these convert base commodities into better, valuable ones. As well as upgrading goods, you’re aiming to earn points for buildings adjacent to other buildings. There’s a lot going on in Ora et Labora – good news then, that there’s a ‘short’ variant! That version seems ideal for beginners learning the game.
In June I finally picked up a copy of Fae, which has been on my wish list for a long time. Fae is a beautiful game – just check out the board and druid figures! It plays 2 – 4 and has a play time of just 20 minutes, so it’s perfect for when you fancy a game but are tight on time. However, I wouldn’t call Fae a light, ‘filler’ game – it’s quite a brain burner (albeit a quick one).
At the start of the game, each player is dealt a secret spirit card whose colour will match one of the five druid and scoring marker colours on the board, and one druid is placed on each of the 60 spaces. Throughout the game, players move all of the druids from one space to an adjacent space containing at least one druid. If this causes any druids to be isolated (all of the adjacent spaces are empty), a ritual occurs. Druids score points according to how many are present and which terrain they are on, but they can also be removed from the board if disruption occurs.
All of this sounds incredibly simple, and rules-wise it certainly is. However, choosing which druids to move where, keeping your colour secret while guessing the colours of your opponents, being the one to cause the rituals for the points on the cards, and also making sure your colour druid scores the most points, gives you plenty to think about.
After our first game of Fae, my husband and I instantly wanted to play again. We played many times throughout June, and I’m looking forward to playing with more people when possible. Despite Fae being my Game of the Month, I have not yet been able to win a game, so this is my challenge for July!