Northern Dice - Carcassonne
It's a weird time to be a gamer - more so than usual! We hope you're all well and looking after yourselves, and one another. Anyway. Game of the month! Our top choice this month is one of the oldest in our collection, and the perfect gateway game! Carcassonne. This is a game that's incredibly accessible due to its simple mechanics, but endlessly complex due to its vast and various expansions! For this feature, we're going to be talking Carcassonne at its best with minimal complexities. Carcassonne with the inns and cathedrals, traders and builders, and the princess and the dragon expansions. (Expansions 1, 2, and 3 respectively).
Carcassonne is a game where players take turns to lay tiles to create a map. In its vanilla form, it consists of castles, roads, farms, and cloisters. Adding the expansions in adds cathedrals to cities, inns to roads, a fairy, and a dragon to the map! It doesn't sound like a lot added, but it's the arsenal of followers that is altered mostly. Each player has followers they play to the map to claim things to score. The expansions increase the variety of these followers.
The builder allows you to take another tile if you add to whatever he's building, the pig increases farm values, and the big follower counts as two followers. And the big follower will come in incredibly handy when you start getting Carcassonne savvy. You'll be surprised by how quickly it becomes competitive, and sometimes forcing a player to share a city, or just stealing it, is the most fruitful tactic!
Carcassonne has been a group favourite for us for a long time. And it's not just down to the amount of time we've owned it. It ages well and always seems to be a relevant games choice at games night. It does tile laying and area control excellently without ever being overbearing. When coupled with its expansions, it offers those more versed in tactics something more to get their teeth into. More additions cause more holes to fall into, and the risk of more more loss... But with any area control game, it's always more about how far you're willing to go to win than about being reserved. We feel this is perfect for anyone, regardless to how experiences you are in tabletop antics!
Kirsty Markham - Yamatai
My game of the month is one which has been in our collection for a while, but which had been overlooked recently. However, happily, we have rediscovered it this month.
At the start of a turn the player will select a fleet tile from those turned face up. The fleet tile will tell the player where to place their meeple on the turn order track for the next turn and which goods boats you have available to place. Each boat is a different colour to represent the goods it carries.
When placing boats you can only place the first boat on your turn on one of the entry points or next to a boat of the same colour. Once the boats have been placed the player either removes culture tokens from islands adjacent to where boats have been placed that turn or, if the island is clear, building a structure. Structures each have requirements for the colour of boats around an island before they can be built there.
According to the structure tile you either place a building of your colour, or if you meet the requirements you can place a Tori or a Palace (which are worth more points). Building structures of your own colour in a group can give you more points, as can placing a structure next to a Tori or palace or on a mountain.
The culture tokens removed from the islands can be traded in to acquire specialists. These can give you special abilities during, or at the end of the game. Some specialists also give you victory points on top of their abilities.
I really enjoy the levels of complexity in this game. You really have to consider where to put your boats so you don't set up your opponent for a brilliant turn! I also like the different paths to victory - do you pursue a specialist heavy strategy or do you focus on chaining your structures together? Overall a great, slightly heavier weight option, but with all the production we know and love from Days of Wonder.
Nick T – Kingdomino
Kingdomino is my game of the month. I gifted to my mum on mothering Sunday. Of course due to self-isolation I couldn’t give her a big hug when delivering it like normal. It was accompanied by a small plant and a loo roll - frivolous I know!
My parents are not board gamers, mainly because my Mum is a filthy cheat. I chose Kingdomino for them as I think it is a great entry level game. It is easy to learn and there is enough strategy to keep the mind active while playing it. I also thought it would be hard for Mum to cheat at (she will find a way I’m sure).
Kingdomino is a game that scales really well between 2 and 4 players. So, once this is all over they will be able to play it with other members of the family including their grandchildren. That’s because the concept is fathomable by young players too. I would say you probably need to be six or over and to put this into perspective two days ago my nine year old son gave me, his mum and his older brother an absolute drubbing with a jaw-dropping score. It’s also a really quick game to play. I love it and really do struggle to find fault with it… I am still waiting to find out what the folks thought of it, as bizarrely they have been “too busy” to play it yet!
A Throne Of Games - Queendomino
Queendomino takes the tile laying and suit matching simplicity of the smash hit Kingdomino and cranks things up just a little. I quite enjoy Kingdomino but it doesn't really keep my interest. It doesn't give my brain the gentle workout it needs in these lockdown times. Queendomino adds just enough strategy without going over the top with complexity.
If you don't know, Kingdomino is a tile drafting and laying game. Players take domino style tiles with different terrain types and crowns on them and create a 5 by 5 board. Points are scored by multiplying the number of squares of one type in a given region by the number of crowns in that region. So it benefits players with large areas of the same type with lots of crowns.
Queendomino adds a new terrain type, city spaces. City spaces can have buildings added to them from a market of drafted building tiles. Buildings can give point bonuses, special abilities such as points for multiple areas of the same terrain, or access to towers and guards. It also has a Dragon! Kingdomino does not have a dragon.
The player with the most towers gains the queen meeple, which acts as an extra crown during scoring and gives a discount on buildings.
Guards can be added to tiles to collect tax money which can be used to buy more buildings. The dragon can destroy building you do not want your opponents to claim.
These simple changes add just the right amount of thought and planning to the game to make me come back for more plays. It's not all about having the biggest areas with the most crowns. You can just as easily win by having lots of small areas, or lots of high value buildings. This gives more options on how to succeed. Even if one of your opponents keeps taking the tiles you want, you are still in with a chance of winning.
Will Moffat - Zombicide Black Plague
What a strange month March was! I won’t get into details because we all know what’s been happening, but it didn’t seem to effect my board game play count as I clocked-up 26 plays, which is about average for me.
Towards the end of the month, I thought Lucidity: Six Sided Nightmares was going to be my game of the month, as I had recently re-acquired it and played it three times solo. March also saw me play an old favourite, Splendor, three times. But my game of the month for March is Zombicide: Black Plague, which I played for the first and second times on the 27th and the 29th.
Zombicide: Black Plague is a miniatures-heavy game from CMON where players take the roles of medieval warriors in a city besieged by the undead. Players must work together to overcome the hordes of zombies and complete a series of progressively more treacherous quests.
For me, what really struck a chord with this game was despite all the equipment cards, dice rolling and fantastically detailed miniatures, at its heart it is an engaging puzzle. I lost my first game on the training mission (after making a number of rules mistakes) but a couple of days later I won the first official quest (playing solo) while laying waste to multiple walkers in a quest that culminated in my wizard setting fire to dragon bile to incinerate a giant Abomination who was hunting my crew!
Zombicide is a well-known popular franchise of games and my first experience of it was a good one. I’m glad I chose Black Plague.
Matt Thomasson - Charterstone
What strange times we are living in at the moment. Self-isolation, social distancing and restrictions on the number of toilet rolls you can buy. But you cant keep a gamer down right? I am in a lucky position that 90% of my gaming is done with my wife. So, despite the working from home and on site as an “essential worker” I have still managed to get a decent amount of gaming in.
What better time to start a legacy game? The village building, legacy game, from Stonemaier games, Charterstone. In Charterstone, players take on the role of a character managing their specific charter (or district) using worker placement to gather resources, construct buildings, complete objectives and score points. It is hard to talk about a legacy game in too much detail without revealing spoilers but this article will not reveal anything specific. Suffice to say we have been having fun with the game. It is our first exposure to a legacy game and it feels like Charterstone is a good introduction, almost a “My First Legacy Game”.
There is stickering & writing and altering of the game board as per the course with other legacy games (as far as I am aware). There are cool reveals and interesting new “things” added as you play throughout the 12 game campaign. There are some quirky and random things that happen. The campaign starts off fairly simple and adds new things into the game as it progresses. Even with all the new things add it is by no means a complicated game. It feels light & breezy with a small amount of narrative, although the story aspect is overly in depth or captivating.
There have been a few games that have fallen flat, but overall we have been enjoying the experience, the reveal and the new things that have been added in to the game. We are looking forward to the final few games and concluding our story. If you have not played a legacy game before then Charterstone could be a good place to start.
Joe Packham - Anachory
There was only one real contender for my Game of the Month for March. I received the new Anachrony Essential Edition as an early anniversary present. I also received the Classic Expansion Pack and the Exosuit Miniatures Set.
Altogether Anachrony is an attention grabbing game. With large player boards, a sizeable main board, big timeline tiles and 55mm miniatures its a real table hog in the best possible way. This game is definitely toward the heavier end of the complexity scale, I kept the rule book on hand for the first couple of games. Having said that once you get it the game does stick.
Anachrony marries worker placement and engine/tableau building which is a winning combo for me. There are 4 classes of worker with differing efficacy’s for different jobs. There’s also 2 tiers of placement spots. Player board spots can be used by a plain worker but main board spaces will require a powered exosuit. These exosuits need to be selected and powered at the beginning of the round requiring a decent amount of preplanning. Talking of preplanning, the backbone and genius of Anachrony is the time travelling element that weaves through the story AND mechanisms of the game.
Anachrony is set in a post apocalyptic world trying to recover from a global cataclysm. Turns out the original cataclysm was a echo of a meteor strike that is still to come. This meteoric cataclysm happens after the 4th era of the game and brings with it enough time rift creating nuetronium that not only does it feature in the games past but also each era as it happens. Mechanically this means at the beginning of each round you can choose to receive resources from the future immediately and completely free of charge!
But there’s a catch, if you don’t clear up the timeline by paying back those resources in the future all kinds of paradoxes and anomalies start turning up. Ooh it’s gloriously confusing and geeky and I can’t get enough of it. Thankfully with a whole box full of expansion modules to pick
John Hunt - Star Realms
How have I managed to miss Star Realms up until now? I guess I swore off collectables for a long while after an unfortunate Magic addiction in the 90s. Then after dallying with Netrunner and the Arkham LCG and, heretically, being uninspired by either, I remained uninterested.
What changed? I bought Res Arcana and loved it; it reminded me it's not deck building I have a problem with, but I prefer building the deck live in the game rather than crafting and tweaking between plays. I knew Star Realms was well regarded and was reminded in an article on games for 2+ during lock down; my 8 year old can manage Res so surely she could manage this... and so she can, and what fun we have had over the past few weeks.
For less than £15 you get a massive slab of 128 cards – well produced and illustrated. From that you both start with identical mini decks of 10 cards, and a common and replenishing array of 6 from which to buy better cards. Your goal is wearing down your opponent’s 50 authority (health). Cards depict space ships/bases, either neutral or in one of 4 factions.
Each card typically gives attack/heal/money in combinations. Some have special abilities, such as drawing more cards or stripping cards permanently from your deck. Faction ships often have a second power, accessed by playing 2 or more of the same faction from your hand in a turn. Many card also have an additional one-off power accessed by permanently discarding the card from your deck.
The game is pacey and is deck rather than hand management as you always play all of your 5 cards and then always draw back up to 5. Ships only last your turn and go to the discard, but bases hang around. The fun is shopping for ships and considering the combos you are building in your deck. The first 5 minutes is a bit slow and formulaic as you begin to augment your standard deck, but then momentum builds as you make the best of the ever changing array. Here are the fun decisions. How many and which factions are you going for? Are there any other abilities you are going to hoover up: extra draw? Permanent discard? Do you want lots of cheaper ships or a few big ones? Are you going to focus on quick damage or building healing and income for a longer playing strategy?
The whole thing plays to about 15 mins. There are three starter options to buy, all supposedly strong and c.£15. There are also a plentitude of expansions, à la LCG, with each containing set content. I have a couple on order at the moment and am very excited about added them to play.
All are sub £10 and some closer to £5 – exactly the sort of price point you might want for this sort of game. The ones I am starting with are just more ships and bases, but others include heroes and events which are supposed to change gameplay.
There are rules for up to four players, which I want to try, and I also look forward to getting this in front of my regular gaming group as a light filler when life starts to normalise – I think if you accept it for what it is, it has broad appeal and will come back to the table again and again.