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Game Of The Month May 2023

game of the month - flamecraft

Seb Hawden - Flamecraft

I have wanted Flamecraft for a very long time. It looked cute, sounded like a family-weight game I could play with the rest of my household, plus, who does not like dragons, especially when they are doing mundane tasks alongside us fellow humans. I eventually picked up a copy, second hand, with all the deluxe components (- the dragon miniatures) quite cheap. After I had played a few games my daughter was so besotted by it we went halves on the dragon miniatures and have not looked back since.

Flamecraft is a very light, recipe fulfillment, dragon placement game with one of the best presentations I have seen for a while. So whimsical and so cute, placing dragons, collecting resources and working standard shop-based jobs has never been so much fun. After setting up the lovely resources, coins and starter shops the turn structure and game flow is very simple. You either collect resources from the shop you placed your dragon in or fulfill a recipe with resources you already have. It's a tad more complex than that but not by much.

Each lovely drawn shop has a resource type attached to it and a starter dragon, over the course of the game you will add more dragons to each shop and make going there more profitable. Plus each dragon has a special ability and you may use them when you visit. These dragons are so lovely too, each one lovingly hand drawn with names that match their type. There’s a bread dragon called Pan and an iron dragon called Rusty, I love it!

We have played a lot of Flamecraft this month and while it's quite light, it's perfect for newcomers and kids but also, it has just enough grit, heavier gamers will also like to get involved. Add into this the beautiful components and presentation and you are on to a surefire, scaly, fire-breathing winner.

Sam Smith - The Number

Our pick for this game of the month is The Number from the mind of Hisashi Hiyashi (Trains, Samurai Gardener)

This is an elegant and engaging bluffing game for 3-5 players - and luckily for me no real mathematical ability is required 😀 I played with my 12 and 15 year old and both loved it - though we trounce the older spawn :sweat_smile:

Each turn (of 5), you all pick a 3 digit number between 000 and 999 - highest number wins, but only if there's none repeated below you. Only the first digit scores, so it becomes a fiendish guessing game - particularly as the turns progress, you can't reuse digits within a round. It's brilliantly simple, and utterly ruthless - total new family favourite!

Favouritefoe - Vaalbara

April went by in a blur. But we are no fools. One game hit our table over and over again because it’s so darn good! VAALBARA by Studio H Games and Hachette Board Games UK is a small box game that has hit our sweet spot. Fast playing, card drafting, simultaneous playing, minimal down timing, symmetrical/asymmetrical deck utilising, push-your-lucking, and beautifully illustrated!

The game is super simple to learn. If you have played Libertalia Winds of Galecrest, the hand management in this one is very much like the way the Crew works there. Played over 9 rounds, each player has an identical deck of 12 Tribal characters and randomly takes 5 into their hand. Each round, everyone picks a Character to play and simultaneously reveals them. The Characters have a number (Omen Value) and a special power. The lowest Omen Value goes first and gets to trigger their power and pick one territory card from the bottom row of the two rows on display. Then other players activate and select a card. Each territory card type scores differently, and there are bonuses at end game for collecting the entire range.

We love everything about this game. Deciding which character to play each turn feels super-fast synapse sizzling in the best possible way. And with many of the Character cards’ powers (as well as some of the territory cards’ scoring values) dependent on what other players put down, it’s got a healthy dose of take-that and push your luck which really works at all player counts.

I love it when we open a game with no real expectations and it turns out to be jam-packed with our very own flavour of awesome sauce. It reminds me just how magical our hobby can be!

Pete Bartlam - Terraforming Mars

Now I know I’m late to the party but then I’m an old man so I’m a little slow. I always though it would be good – I’m a sci-fi nut as well as a board game geek – but if I’m honest I was put off by the price tag (too much Yorkshire in my blood) so it was only this April, with birthday money and the odd voucher, I got around to it and gosh I’m glad I did. Let’s put it this way I’ve just spent this afternoon trawling through the reviews of all the add-ons and expansions to see what else to get!

But why? I hear you ask from the handful of gamers who haven’t played already. Well, firstly I’m a component junkie. All the pieces here are great, nicely printed thick card etc but the Gold, Silver and Bronze resource tokens are a delight! Probably my favourite bits of any game to date.

Secondly, the map. Before retirement I was a cartographer and I really appreciate the effort that has gone into the accuracy of the Martian landscape.

But this would mean nothing if it wasn’t for the wonderful variety in the gameplay: The project cards – hundreds of them!, the corporations for asymmetricity (is that a word?), the standard projects, the Milestones, the Awards, the Resources – all 6 of them – to gather and then there’s the actual Terraforming itself. Do you boost the factors straight away to increase your Terraforming Rating early and raise your revenue or do you hold back and let the engines you’ve built crank out more resources and source more cities. Forest, Ocean, City in what order do you build them? So many choices even an hour and a half seems so little time.

The Solo version is a great puzzle exercise and I can also recommend the computer version too.

Pete Earnshaw - Imperium: Classics

Let’s be honest, there are a lot of history games out there. Through countless tabletop and card games it’s possible to recreate the journeys that built some of history’s biggest empires without needing to own a single horse.

This month I’ve had a lot of fun with Imperium: Classics from Osprey Games - a civilisation deck building game where players choose one of the eight included nations and turn them from a fledgling band into a conquering empire. From the Vikings and the Greeks to the Macedonians and the Celts, there’s a great selection of empires to choose from and each one is totally different in terms of their goals, strategy and difficulty level. If you like your history then you will love the attention to detail as figures both famous and obscure get a look in. Another bonus is that this is a visually stunning game; fans of such Garphill Games as the West Kingdom trilogy will love the return of ‘The Mico’ and his astounding artwork.

Gameplay is all about building your empire quickly enough to be in with a chance to win but not so fast that unrest spreads discontent throughout your civilisation, robbing you of victory points.

Cards on the table here, the rule book is needlessly wordy! The rules themselves are relatively brief but it’s the appendix that will take up a lot of your time. However, once you become familiar with what’s going on (playing a tester game is a pretty good way to come to terms with the gameplay and familiarise yourself with the jargon), it’s actually quite straightforward. In fact the game is even accessible for those below its 14+ age recommendation; our 11 year old daughter can easily hold her own. Imperium supports 4 players but we have personally found that it works best as a two player.

With more games in the serious available including an upcoming release, ‘Classics’ is a great entry into the world of ‘Imperium’.

Kirsty Hewitt - Wingspan: Asia

Wingspan has been one of my favourite games for some time now. I love the theme and the efficiency puzzle of the gameplay is right up my street. It also helps that Wingspan plays up to five players, so I can play it with my family. But, with most of my gaming being done at two players, I was excited to hear about the duet mode in Wingspan Asia.

As with every Wingspan expansion the artwork is beautiful! I particularly enjoy the little facts about each bird on the bottom of the cards.

For those who often play with more than 2, Asia offers some great new birds and goal cards. Some birds have effects help simulate the effect of a game at a higher player count if playing at 2. Generally by way of giving you more things, which is ways good!

The main new feature in Asia is the duet board. This replaces the goal board from base Wingspan. Each time you place a bird, you place one of your tokens in a spot which corresponds to the habitat where you have played the bird. At the end of each round you get points from criteria based on tokens placed on the duet board. You also get points at the end of the game for having the biggest group of tokens.

As someone who loves Wingspan, Asia is great. Yes, you can add it in to the base cards. But Asia is also a great game in its own right. The duet board is fun. It is tight enough to feel a little challenging, but not overly punishing.

If you love Wingspan and play a lot at 2 players, you should check out Wingspan Asia!