Every month some members of our writing team come together to share their games of the month! Here are the titles that topped their own individual charts for the month of August!
Ben G - The Grimm Forest
For August’s game of the month, I want to shine the spotlight on a game that I’ve been playing a lot over the summer, but haven’t mentioned here yet: The Grimm Forest. Tim Eisner’s family-friendly fairy tale game might put some people off as looking childish, but the more I play it the more I fall in love with its elegant design.
The core gameplay is deceptively simple: each player secretly chooses which of three regions they want to go to in order to collect a resource. They then spend these resources (which are, appropriately, straw, wood and brick) to build houses, just like the legendary Three Little Pigs.
However, there’s a catch. If you go to the same place as another player, you have to share the spoils. That turns resource gathering into a battle of wits. How will you juggle getting the resources you need with getting as many as possible, and stop your opponent from getting what they want? You probably can’t do it all. This battle of hidden moves is endlessly fascinating to me, even if I do manage to make the wrong decision most of the time!
Fable and Friend cards add a little extra spice to the game. These represent characters and events from various fairy tales and can be picked up at different points. Friends tend to have ongoing effects whilst Fables allow players to disrupt one another or gain more bonuses for themselves. They add another layer of decision making, but enhance the core gameplay elements rather than detracting from them.
The presentation of the game is also excellent. The player boards are vibrant and colourful, the art on the cards is stunning and the game comes with a collection of fantastic miniatures to enhance the experience. Many of these components aren’t necessary for the gameplay itself, but they certainly make the game more tactile and give it a lot of visual appeal.
The Grimm Forest is a simple game that nonetheless gets players thinking and trying to outwit one another. The mechanics are elegant and clever, supported by a cute theme, witty flavour and stunning aesthetics. It’s one of the most enjoyable games in my collection and one that I am extremely glad to have stumbled upon.
Matt T - 7 Wonders Duel
I don't own many two-player only games, but one that I do own and recently acquired is 7 Wonders Duel. This has been out three years now, but I was slightly late to the party with this game. How I regret being slow on the uptake of this one. It's so good!
7 Wonders Duel takes many aspects of its bigger brother, 7 Wonders, and distils it down in to a quick playing game. It is played over three ages with players taking turns drafting cards in to their civilisation. The cards can provide resources, victory points, scientific development or military might. The cards available to draft are arranged in three different "pyramids" with a combination of face down and face up cards. Removing a card from the pyramid will reveal other cards that your opponent can acquire, so the timing of when cards are removed from the pyramid is critical.
Each player starts with four wonders each but only seven can be built though the course of the game. A certain number of resources are required to be able to build the Wonders and the Wonders themselves give unique bonuses, actions or resources.
There are three routes to victory in 7 Wonders Duel; military dominance, scientific development or straight up victory points at the end of the third age.
7 Wonders Duel is a quick playing two-player only game. The game packs a lot of strategic and tactical decisions in to a such a short time. Timing of when and which cards to take from the pyramid can really hamper or accelerate your opponents plans. The route to victory a player wants to take is also an important consideration as well. In addition, the order that the cards come out in the pyramid is random offering a certain amount of replay-ability. The Guild cards used in age three are another element to consider as these can really swing the game.
7 Wonders Duel is an ideal two-player game for me. The number of times this is hitting the table is ever increasing and I don't see it leaving my collection any time soon. Now to check out the expansion, 7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon to see what this has to offer.
The Game Shelf - Spy Club
We first came across Spy Club on Kickstarter last year, when it definitely caught our eye, but became a victim of our ‘one Kickstarter per month’ policy. What caught our eye about Spy Club was that it is a co-operative game and has some campaign or legacy aspects. We were initially a little worried about ‘who-dunnit’ style games, having had bad experiences with games like Sherlock Homes Consulting Detective, but Spy Club is fortunately not a narrative game, it’s a cool, evolving co-operative game that we’ve really been enjoying as we’ve begun the campaign.
Spy Club is a co-operative game for 1-4 players. In each game you are trying to identify five different aspects of the crime – a motive, a suspect, a location, a crime and an object. This is done by working through a deck of cards and trying to play five of a matching colour to the table at any time, against a number of different game timers. By co-operating to swap cards and manipulate the suspect who is running away, your goal is to solve all five aspects.
For us, Spy Club is a fantastic co-operative game with a brilliantly integrated campaign mode, full of branching paths and interesting possibilities that I'm itching to discover more of. The game’s complexity ramps up quite rapidly and the scenarios we have played have been challenging puzzles and have all come pretty close to the line with the different game timers. I'd strongly recommend the game to gamers or families as a next step into co-operative gaming. It's a game that will be seeing a lot more table time in our house.
Tom G - Love Letter
My game of the month this month has to be Love Letter. My partner and I haven’t been as committed to our usual game nights as usual because we have been moving house etc. and this has meant we have not had long enough to crack open a big game and dedicate an evening to it. That’s where Love Letter comes in. This lovely little card game, originally released by AEG and now owned by Z-Man Games, sees you, a potential suitor for the princess, trying to get your Love Letters to the princess herself to win her affection.
You and other players take turns playing cards, all of which signify various members of the court who are tasked with trying to deliver your letter and stop the other letters from reaching the princess from the other potential suitors. Each successful round gives you a point and the first to a set number of points wins the princesses hand (and the game).
This was one of the first games I came across at the dawn of my board game obsession. A simple, easy to play game that has a massive replay value and artsy theme seemed perfect for something that can be played anywhere or could be used to fill time in between bigger games on a game night. This all leads to a fast paced, enjoyable card game and one that everyone will enjoy, no matter the occasion.
There are, of course, a fair few variations of this classic game. For Lovecraft fans out there, you can pick up Lovecraft Letter, a themed version of the game with some really nice artwork and a few extras over the original, or if you’re more into superheroes, there is even a Batman variant. No matter what style you choose to play, this little game is a sure fire winner and one that you really need to add to your collection, if it isn’t there already.
Dan C - Flash Point Fire Rescue
My game of the month is Flash Point: Fire Rescue, with the Explosive Objects and Hazmat POI Expansions that we played for the first time in Mid-August 2018. We only played Flash Point once this month, but it allowed us to a affirm the fact that we love the game and the theme, of saving your fellow man, women, child and pet from the ever-growing blaze and roar of the fire which is slowly destroying the house.
The game allows you to work as a team, making plans and finding synergies between the different hot spots, explosive material and the nearest potential causality. I played the game as several characters as throughout the game you have the ability to switch characters by recruiting to the fire truck which also allows you to figure the water cannon.
During the game I played as the Rescue specialist, the Fire Dog and the driver, all with there own unique abilities which are useful at different stages of the game, which allows you to create better strategic moves and planning to tackle the fire and rescue.
I thoroughly enjoyed the simple mechanics, strategy, challenge and player interaction/engagement which Flash Point: Fire Rescue brings, but at the same time how focused you need to be towards the end of the game with planning turns effectively and fighting fires to protect the building VS rescuing causalities which triggers the end game. The game came out in 2011 through Indie Boards & Cards and I can’t believe we waited so long to play such a classic game with such a great theme and interaction.
John A - First Martians
I had played First Martians with my group and I came away afterwards nonplussed. It was ponderous, complicated and my attention wandered. I have never played Robinson Crusoe, so I have no point of reference or understanding of the mechanics of it. For some reason, then, I found myself at the start of August, with some holiday in front of me, buying First Martians for the challenge. Shut Up and Sit Down’s review was negative and I had read a lot on line of how difficult it was to get your head round the rules, but I was enticed by the challenge.
When my copy arrived, I was impressed with the package - lots to punch, legacy style campaigns and individual missions. After a long set-up, the dashboard sat in front of me with lots of little cubes and cards and things to move and…. That’s where the issues started. The rule book was obtuse, to say the least and I found it hard to get started. After struggling, I felt like putting it back in the box and digging out something simpler. The Watch It Played video helped and I discovered the wealth of information that was on BoardGameGeek, including the fact that the designer, Ignacy Ttzewiczek, was very active in answering questions and new scenarios are being added regularly. Slowly, I started to get the hang of it, although my first turn took several hours of reading, watching and cross-referencing.
So, why is this my game of the month? I am glad that I persisted, because once you get the basics, it is not as hard as it first seems. Soon I was completely involved, making meaningful decisions dealing with the problems that the app (which is integral to the game) threw at me. All of the missions I played, offered something different and became immersive. I was rescuing probes and combining samples to create sustainable life. I was excited by playing it and it stayed out on the table for days. I haven’t even touched the campaigns yet, but I will.
To me, First Martians is much better as a solo experience - and it is an experience. It is an intricate puzzle and you have to give it deep thought. I am glad that I persisted with the rules and I have been rewarded with deep game that, while it may have its flaws, makes me excited to play.
Simon L - Noch Mal & Encore Zusatzblockset
Noch Mal! has been out a few years and is one I consider as an early Roll and Write.
I have grown to like Ganz Schon Clever since playing it at the UK Games Expo. However, it is a turn-based game. Noch mal! is simultaneous. One person rolls six dice, three white, three black (basically three numbers 1-5 and a question mark) and the other is five colours and black (like question mark, is a wild). After the first three people have rolled, the fourth turn, that player keeps two dice once rolled and the others can choose the remainder.
The writing is a 15 x 10 grid and have an equal number of colours. The first to complete two colours ends the game. Points are scored if you complete a column, a colour and if you have not used all your wilds. You look points if any of the squares with stars on them remain (thus you could get a negative score).
The solo variant is excellent. The different sheets are also interesting and appealing. The designer couple, Inka and Marcus Brand have done it again (having won Spiel des Jahres twice before).