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Game Of The Month June 2022

Mille Fiori

Mille FioriTom Harrod

Mille Fiori is all about crafting glassware, originating from the Italian ‘mille’ (thousand) and ‘fiori’ (flowers). That explains the caption on the box: “In the glittering lagoon”. 2-4 players compete to become successful glass makers in this fabulous production.

The core premise of the game is card drafting. You take turns drafting a card from your hand – the deck comprises of five different actions. The action card you take signifies which action you’ll take this round. All actions involve you placing one of your (player-colour) ‘glass’ diamonds into the matching section. It’s a pick-and-pass system, like Sushi Go or 7 Wonders. The last card in a hand that nobody drafted joins a public display. Later, if you trigger a set collection goal, you can claim any public card to activate as a bonus.

Some of these locations have actions where you alone score points. (The Workshop rewards placement of contiguous diamonds. The Residences also rewards connected, uninterrupted spaces.) Other locations pay out passive rewards to other players too, which is the fascinating part. The Townspeople is like a pyramid, where every time an apex gets built, the diamonds beneath it pay out again. This could involve your own pieces, so often it’s worth gifting a few points out to the other players! There’s also rewards for completing a variety of facets within each location. (As well as those aforementioned set collection goals… Lots to think about!)

I sat convinced, playing this, that Mille Fiori could have been a contender for the Spiel des Jahres. It impressed me, and then some! It’s so simple to learn, and provides wonderful decisions. The board and transparent diamonds and boats are gorgeous. The nominees for the Spiel des Jahres have come and gone – and alas, Mille Fiori wasn’t among them. However, in my eyes, designer Reiner Knizia and Schmidt Spiele have a real winner on their hands, here.

Charterstone - Hannah Blacknell

For me this month has been a month of fits and starts in gaming, I have been mad busy with life and so I’ve had very little time available so there have been a lot of short and easy games getting played. However, for me my favourite gaming experience has been the three games of Charterstone from Stonemaier Games I have played with my neighbours. We normally would elect to play a legacy game just the two of us as it means we don’t need to worry about getting a group together. However, with Charterstone it did seem like this would be much more fun with more players.

We absolutely love playing games with our neighbours, we usually play as a seven with them and their 3 boys so generally we don’t play “adult” games but kid friendly things. We have played a LOT of Mysterium Park, and a few other games like Barenpark, Marvel Splendor, and King of Tokyo all of which have been big hits with adults and kids alike. So compared to this, Charterstone was a HUGE step up in difficulty. They had never played a worker placement game before (a fact I did not realise ahead of time) and also this was a legacy game so I simply didn’t know the answer to quite a few of their questions!

However with a gentle longer first learning game and then a bit more research on our part with watching more how to play videos and reading the ruleset again our second and third games were an absolute blast. They were into the game, and starting to enjoy the way it works a lot. I am excited to see how the game changes, and if I could secure a win, that would be lovely! I think I have come second every single game so far. Trouble is, the best loser still doesn’t get a winner’s trophy!

Noctiluca - Craig Smith

June was the month of UK Games Expo and playing all those newly bought games. Of the ones I bought, Noctiluca has probably spent more time on the table than any other.

Noctiluca is by Shem Phillips, and is such a departure from his more famous designs, such as the West Kingdom and North Sea trilogies. Each player takes it in turns to collect noctiluca (small sea creatures which are caught for their healing properties) and store them in jars. The noctiluca are represented by dice. In turn, each player places a pawn on a shore space, and takes dice of the same number from one of the two rows from that shore. You then add the dice to one of your two jars. If you fill a jar up, you discard the dice and gain a points token for that jar.

At the end of the game, you score points for the tokens you’ve collected. You may also get bonus points if you collected the most jars of a certain colour. Some jars also carry bonus points on them, generally if they’re harder to fill. Each player also has a secret objective. You can also gain points for collecting noctiluca of one colour, much like a game of Sagrada.

Noctiluca is fast becoming one of my favourite abstract strategy games. It’s a low complexity game but is packed with crunchy decisions. Sometimes picking a row of dice up means picking up excess dice that can’t be used, which are then passed onto your opponents. The game is also visually stunning. It also showcases the talent of Phillips. To create a good game takes some serious talent, but to create such different and equally appealing games is next level!

The Guild Of Merchant Explorers - Nick Welford

Despite the beige cover and the slightly excessive box size my game of the month is The Guild of Merchant Explorers. The Guild is an interesting game with a lot of nods to roll and write style games, or more accurately flip and write. But it combines this with a pleasingly physical way of recording your explorations with wood and cardboard rather than dry wipe pen.

Over the course of four eras you will explore one of four landscapes using cards and cubes. Each of the eras is made up of five cards with an extra card added each era. The 5 cards represent certainly placements you can make with your explorers. Depending on the card revealed you will place cubes onto your map to represent these explorers. You can only place them next to existing explorers, villages or the central city and the catch is that at the end of era all your explorer cubes are removed from the map.

This means that discovering villages is really important. To do this you need to completely cover a region with explorers. Each region is easily identified as it is simple a group of spaces made up of the same terrain. Once a region is covered you can replace an explorer with a permanent village which you can explore from in future eras. You can also link cities to create trade routes and discover towers for extra cash, and explore ruins for treasure.

Each era an era card is added to the 5 basic cards in the deck. When the era card is revealed everyone draws two investigate cards and chooses one to place to the relevant spot next to their map board. These cards give you unique ways of exploring the map. During the course of the game, you will gain three of these and activate them upon obtaining them and when the era card is drawn in the future. They give each player a building asymmetry and make the game hugely enjoyable. If you are looking for a brilliant game that feels a little different look no further.

Sniper Elite - John H

I thought had the one hidden movement game to rule them all when I bought Whitehall Mystery some years ago. Walking through UKGE my eye was drawn to the Sniper Elite stand, but given my scepticism for video game IP ports, I wasn’t planning on playing it. Until I bumped into someone I know who was demoing and he asked me if I wanted a go. It felt rude not to. And then three very pleasant Brummies also got co-opted into playing the Germans and I spent a highly enjoyable 45 minutes sneaking around and shooting them in the head!

And there was much to commend: I liked the map design and my dry wipe hidden board; I liked the push you luck bag draw to shoot at enemies, and I thought the abilities/equipment on both sides gave some welcome wrinkles.

So I bought a copy... and then listened to the SU&SD podcast and wondered if I had bought a turkey. One which was great for the sniper and a bit rubbish for the Germans.

Forward wind a couple of weeks and I had the chance to test that theory by playing the men in grey. What a relief – we had a great time, bagged the sniper after he blew up one of his two objectives and then enjoyed a good post-game natter about the highs and lows of the past 40 mins.

Yes there was wailing as our goons were capped by the pesky protagonist, but that triggered some intense debate about where he was shooting from. And the search abilities combined with the blocking effects of our troops finally paid dividends. And further enjoyable games gave followed.

Is it as good as Letters? No not quite. But it is quicker, spicier and I enjoy the variety it offers. I think it has sufficient merit and point of difference to keep in my collection and it will be coming out again next week.