Ignoring all the insanities occurring behind the curtains, and all the madness on the news, our November has been pretty easy going. We've adjusted to this new need to play head to head games more frequently, and it's not been unwelcomed! We've been introduced to a few new games, too, but my personal go-to at the moment is undeniably Sagrada by Flood Gate Games. If you're unfamiliar with this lovely little puzzler, I highly suggest you check out its review! It's a dice drafting and pattern placement game for 1-4 players.
The game is played over ten rounds and takes about 40 minutes to play. To kick-off, players get dealt a player board, two pattern cards and a private goal. The pattern cards are double-sided, so they effectively have four patterns to choose from. They vary in difficulty and have placement rules on them indicating which value or colour can be placed there. Finally, public goals and artisan cards are placed so everyone can see them.
The public goals are aims for all players to score, and the tools allow players to manipulate either how they draft dice or place them. Players then take turns to draft two die per round, with the turn order reversing after each player has drafted once. After 10 rounds, players will have had the potential to fill their board up fully. Once scoring is complete, whoever has the highest score is the winner.
Now the question you're probably asking is the same one I asked: I own Azul, why do I need Sagrada? Well, first of all, the aim of the hobby is to own all the games. Fact. And secondly, the games play very differently from a mechanical point of view. Drafting and placing are very ambiguous mechanics with much vagueness to them. What isn't always accounted for is how they're placed, and with what restrictions.
Sagrada for me takes the win for both its accessibility and its enjoyment level. You draft, place, see the scoring potentials and act accordingly. Should you need to adjust a die or two in order to score higher, there's a lot of scope for that also! And what’s more, is that it doesn't have the aggression other drafting games have. Hate drafting, or drafting to spite, isn't as possible as you aren't aware of others' private goals.
The whole game is presented in a lovingly wonderful aesthetic that's never overshadowed by tactical plays. You draft, manipulate, play. No bumpy moments of awkwardness between placement, no spite, all fun. Sagrada is tremendously enjoyable and is one of those games that we always end up playing on games night, even as just a warm-up game. It's pretty, accessible, and very relaxed.
My goodness; Architects of the West Kingdom is a fascinating game-and-a-half! The …North Sea trilogy was always going to be a tough act to follow, given its popularity. Given its instantaneous, recognisable (blue) art from The Mico. Given the names Shem Phillips and Garphill Games now comes with a certain level of expectancy. But with the …West Kingdom series, Shem’s done it. He’s joined the board game designer elite.
Architects of the West Kingdom is the first of Garphill Games’ second trilogy of games. Phillips stepped aside from Vikings, here. Instead, this ‘red’ series focuses on the 9th century Carolingian Empire (western Europe). You have twenty meeples, whom you can place one at a time in a worker placement fashion. Accumulate your workers in locations and they perform exaggerated versions of the action there.
You’re aiming to construct buildings for good ol’ fashioned VPs. To construct buildings, you need various types of assistants (who provide bonuses), and resources. Turns might feel micro (not Mico) to begin with, but the pace hurtles along. There’s an element of pushing your luck and timing, too. One option you can take is capturing your rivals’ workers at locations. You can hold these workers prisoner, or sell them to the gaol for cash! It’s a method that makes this worker placement a heck of a lot more dynamic and interactive. Busting your workers out of prison is how you get them back into your supply so sometimes, it’s not the worst thing. But if you have too many in gaol at certain trigger points, it’s going to bite you.
Architects plays solo, too. Much to my chagrin, I lost on a tie-break to Constantine, the ‘bot’ player and his automa deck! He ended higher on the Virtue Track than I did. Serves me right for partaking in too many corrupt, dodgy deals…
Lockdown life and a busy day job once again took its toll on the number of games I played this month. Fortunately, my wife and children were still willing to get some games to the table when I was available. As a result, family games and two player games were the go-to choices.
Despite not playing the usual vast array of games, there were a few contenders for this month’s accolade. Azul: Summer Pavilion, Little Town, Miyabi and Air, Land & Sea, could’ve easily been the pick of the month. However, my game of the month is… Lost Cities.
Over two decades old, but new to me, Lost Cities is a Reiner Knizia classic. A two player card game where you choose which regions are worth exploring. Starting an expedition costs 20 points so you need to pick and choose carefully based on the cards in your hand.
It is a joy to pick up and play. On your turn, you play a numbered card to a corresponding region in ascending order or discard a card from your hand. Handshake cards double your tally and can only be played at the start of your expedition. Be warned though, these can double a negative too! You then draw a card from the shared discard pile or blind from the draw pile. The simplicity of the gameplay is not reflected in the decision making process.
This simple to play gameplay is supplemented by beautiful artwork making the slightly dull end of game scoring more forgivable. If you are looking for a quick game with plenty of choices and a splattering of strategy, maybe investigate this older game ahead of something shiny and new!
Euphoria from Stonemaier games, is one of their least talked about games. It had been on the edge of my radar for a while, but a couple of months ago I decided to take the plunge and buy it. I am very pleased I did!
The game’s core mechanisms are worker placement and engine building. Euphoria is based on a dystopian future. There are four core groups of people in this dystopia - the Euphorians, the Subterrans, the Icarites and the Wastelanders. Each of these groups has access to certain types of resources. At the start of the game players pick two recruits (each recruit is a member of one faction) who will give them special abilities,
In Euphoria your workers are represented by six sided dice. The number of pips rolled on your dice determine the number of things. Firstly, how clever your workers are; you want to make sure they don’t become too clever otherwise they will realise they are in a dystopia and abandon you. They also determine what actions your workers can take in certain resource collection spaces. Throughout the game, players are collecting resources and carrying out actions to place stars on achievements.
The turns are really simple - place a worker or collect and reroll your workers. This gives the game a nice flow and turns are very quick.
What I particularly like, and is so different from many euro games, is the race element. There is no need to add up points at the end of the game. Whoever puts their ten stars out first wins, it’s as simple as that. This can lead to a very tense but enjoyable ending. Every game I have played has been very close.
Euphoria definitely needs some more love, it is a great game. So I am very pleased to choose it as my game of the month!
My game of the month for November is a killer! A 7 Wonders killer in fact. That’s right, It’s a Wonderful World has supplanted that classic for the light/mid-weight card drafting top spot! There are two main facets that catapulted IAWW up to these dizzying heights for me.
First is it’s versatility. It’s A Wonderful World supports 1-5 players ( 1-7 with the new expansion). Now there’s plenty of games with this player range. When drafting is a key mechanism though you tend to see a game struggle with less than 3. Often High maintenance, clunky 2 player variants are employed. Not only does IAWW run incredibly smoothly at 2, it also has a fantastic and highly addictive solo mode! Add to this the short playtime, standard, scenario or campaign based gameplay and quick synchronous construction phase and you have one of the most versatile games I’ve ever known!
The second distinguishing factor that makes Wonderful World so great is it’s incredibly satisfying production phase. The card drafting is solid and the engine building is excellent. It utilises dual-use cards which is a mechanic I absolutely adore. You either discard cards in your hand for an immediate benefit or you play them as projects to be completed later. Once you’ve decided what to do with each card from your hand the production phase begins.
Resources, there are 5, are produced in order, Grey, black, green, yellow, blue. When you produce a resource it goes toward building a card in your construction area. When all the resource spots on a card are filled it immediately gets added to your engine. If it produces a resource of a colour still to come in the production phase it will produce this same round. The result is an engine that continues to build even in the production phase and an immensely pleasing cascade of new cards producing new resources producing new cards etc. Forget game of the month, this may be my game of the year!