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Games of the Month – February 2019

Heaven and Ale - Games of the Month February 2019

February may be a shorter month but that doesn't mean that we slow down on the board game front. Here are our Games of the Month for February 2019!

Matt T - Dice Throne Season 2

My game of the month for February is a two to six player game that I have only just received but played a bunch. For me to play a game multiple times in a night or week it must be good. Dice Throne Season 2 (DTS2) is my pick and it is that good and then some.

DTS2 is a card and dice game that borrows the “roll three times” mechanism from Yahtzee. Where Yahtzee is a themeless roll and write game, Dice Throne is a tactical combat game with unique heroes, unique dice and a unique deck of cards. Players will pick one hero out of a possible eight and fight against each other. Players have a unique player board with thematic abilities and attacks.

These abilities can be upgraded from your hand of cards. There are instant card actions and cards that can change your dice and mess with your opponent’s dice. Each hero has certain status effect tokens that perform various actions and grant special abilities. Players will take turns playing cards, upgrading abilities and attacking (and defending) in an effort to reduce their opponents hit points to zero.

I have only played this as a two-player game but the back and forth nature is brilliant. It is heavily interactive, you will be affecting your opponent’s dice roll and trying to stop them hitting you at every opportunity - But they do the same to you and it is fun.

The play time is fairly quick so the high interaction and heavy take that does not bother me. So, what if your opponent stopped you from landing the killer blow and then killed you? Swap characters and extract your revenge.

The heroes all play very differently, with their own unique and thematic attacks and abilities. The Gunslinger has duel wielded pistols, the Samurai has a katan and the special ability of honour, the Vampire Lord can steal life points.

DTS2 is a great game, quick playing and easy to teach. I have played this with gamers and non-gamers and they have all wanted more. It is a game that I can see myself pulling out for a quick 30-45 minute two-player game when we just want to chuck some dice and have some fun. I have yet to try the all vs all or the team variants but looking forward to doing so. I'm super excited about Season 3,which is due to hit Kickstarter soon.

The Game Shelf - Aeon's End Legacy

Aeon's End Legacy is the game we played most in February and it’s the fastest we’ve ever played through a legacy game. We typically savour legacy experiences because they’re a one time thing, but Aeon's End Legacy was shared with us by a friend and so we’re playing at his pace. We've played six games over two sessions and so far we've not had to replay following a loss.

That's not to say that Aeon's End Legacy is an easy game, it's actually incredibly tense and every game is nail-biting. After not being particularly enthralled by the original game, we’re really excited by this legacy edition. In every game you encounter a different enemy and the way in which they attack with their minions is very different and unique. Not only this, but you're building up your characters to be very different throughout the game so that they become stronger and more specialised and I am very much enjoying my role as 'the tank'!

As a legacy deck-building game, I was surprised to find that you are not specialising a deck between games. The card pool changes every game and you choose as a group what cards are available. In addition you make a slight modification to your starting hand which feeds into your specialisation.

Throne of Games - Kitchen Rush

On the rare occasions we play computer games instead of board games, we love playing Overcooked 2 on the Xbox. It's a game where you work together against the clock to prepare, cook and serve meals to demanding diners. So, I was pretty excited when I heard there was a game called Kitchen Rush that takes the culinary chaos that is Overcooked and converts it into a board game.

Kitchen Rush, by designers Vangelis Bagiartakis and Dávid Turczi, is a real time, co-operative, worker placement game. In Kitchen Rush players race to cook as many meals at they can to generate money and prestige. Players control workers by moving them to the different locations around the kitchen. They can take orders, collect ingredients from the store, wash dishes, pick spices, cook food, or serve orders early for a bonus.

You must also restock your ingredient and spice supply, causing you to be constantly communicating with your team mates to keep an eye on stock levels. At the end of each round you must also pay your staff, so watching your cash is also necessary to make sure your workers don't walk out.

The innovative mechanism that makes this game work so well is that your workers come in the form of sand timers. This means that you can't just race your workers around the board. Once they are in a spot they must stay there until the sand runs down. They can't do anything else during that time and might even end up blocking other players. As a result, communication is again essential to be able to work together and succeed.

Kitchen Rush is brilliant fun and has been a hit amongst Zatu's writing team. Everyone who plays it seems to thoroughly enjoy it. Hardened gamers and non-gamers alike will love this frantic, noisy, engaging and entertaining game.

Will M - Wingspan

Almost half of the board games I played in February were new to me but the one that impressed me the most was Wingspan – I managed to play a pre-release copy of this at The City of Games in Bristol after I heard a friend call: “WILL! Want to play Wingspan?!” I hadn’t been too bothered about this game as I thought it may have been over-hyped, but the fact that my friend had asked (and I hadn’t seen him in months) I thought I’d give it a go.

As with so many games these days, when I expect little I get a lot, and Wingspan is no exception. Each turn in this set collection game you can play a bird card onto your habitat player board (by discarding the required food tokens), gain food from the birdfeeder (a charming dice tower), lay eggs on your birds or draw more bird cards to your supply. When you do these actions (apart from playing a bird card) you will then be able to use the abilities of your existing birds in the corresponding habitats – this is where the game really came alive for me, as my collection of birds really got the chance to flex their wings, so to speak.

The game’s production is outstanding, from the wooden dice, to the egg miniatures, to the bird tray card holder to the rulebook, which appears to have been printed on the finest linen! For me, dice towers are an unnecessary luxury but the bird feeder in this game feels essential somehow. But most importantly the gameplay is fun and engaging and I thought about this game long after it was over. I still think fond thoughts about my awesome Cooper’s Hawk and my hapless Eastern Screech Owl who took numerous attempts to catch a mouse.

Tom H - Heaven & Ale

The idea of running your own brewery in the countryside, to some, is quite a romantic pipe dream. So, when I heard about Heaven & Ale by designer Michael Kiesling, it leaped up my to-play list. Happily, expectations were not only met last month, but exceeded.

Heaven & Ale sees up to four players buying the five materials needed to produce delicious ale – hops, barley, water, yeast and wood – and then planting them in 30 hexagonal spaces available in their garden player board – half in the sun, half in the shade. You move around a main oval playing board, deciding what tiles you want to buy for varying costs, between one to five ducats each.

Planting items in the shaded half of your land costs face value. Planting in the sunny side, however, costs double. The payouts for each differ, though. When activated - via limited purple scoring markers (you can claim these instead of buying more ingredients), or by chaining a link of six hex tiles around ‘sheds’ on your board – resources planted on the shady side reward you with more precious ducats to spend. Those planted in the sunny half reward you by moving their corresponding ingredient markers forward on your score track. Deciding how to spend your hard-earned coins makes Heaven & Ale quite the economic brain-tickler.

The tasty thing about Heaven & Ale is that your score will be the ingredient marker that is last on your points track. All five of them start in staggered positions behind each other, meaning you’ve got five plates to spin. You’ve also got a brewmaster who sits at the very back of this queue that you need to move, and his final position on your scoring track is vital for end-game scoring multiplication purposes. It’s tense, and you’ll get that familiar happy-headache when playing it – that’s happily nothing like the kind you get from a hangover…

Ryan H - Decrypto

Enticed by our Zatu Selections Article, ‘Bargain of the Year’, this was a great opportunity to indulge my board gaming vice whilst on a budget. One game in particular caught my eye...

As the first word game in my arsenal, the newly purchased Decrypto is my game of the month. This team-based game tasks players with communicating a three digit code to their allies by using clues related to secret words in front of each team. Whilst players scramble to think of appropriate clues to tip-off the code to their friends, the other team is listening to the clues given in an attempt to intercept the number sequence. As the correct sequence is confirmed at the end of each round, the teams begin to slowly accumulate a list of clues associated with each number, and can then extrapolate that information to try to predict the opposing team’s code.

Lacking anything else similar in my collection, such as the very popular Codenames, this small box scratches an itch that none of my other games do. With its small size and accessible rules, I’ve found it to be ideal to take to small gatherings. Team games are also not as common as I’d like, and I’ve found that friends presented with an unfamiliar game are much more keen to take part if they aren’t being thrust into a free-for-all, in which they don’t know their bottom from their elbow. Subsequently, I’ve probably had half a dozen or so sessions in which Decrypto has made an appearance in the past month, and it has not let me down yet.

Tom G - Dice Hospital

Dice Hospital has been a game that I have held off from buying for a bit since its release. The reviews have been great, however I was reluctant to try it since I didn’t think I would enjoy the gameplay as much as I have done! I now wish I had bought it sooner!

In Dice Hospital, each player looks after a hospital with a ward (waiting room) and treatment rooms in which you place nurses who then administer the care. The patients are selected by the players from ambulances, with a range of illness levels in each ambulance. The patients, as you can tell by the name, are represented by dice, with a healthy patient being a “six” and a near-death patient being a “one.”

The aim is to treat these patients as quickly as possible, ensuring none drop below one, and discharging them once they hit seven or more. To treat them, you can use specialists and hospital upgrades to improve your hospital and the rooms allow you to treat the three different patients that arrive at your hospital. If you manage to discharge multiple patients in one round, you can look at getting even more points, especially if you combo your treatment and discharge multiple dice at a time!

This worker/dice placement, dice manipulation game is a roaring success! The game runs smoothly, with players carrying out actions all at once, meaning I didn’t have any stall time throughout my play throughs. The upgrade phase sees players having to really think about what will benefit them most as building loads of rooms won’t yield results if you don’t have “neeples” (nurse meeples) to activate the rooms with. It is a beautifully balanced game that plays nicely!

The Kickstarter deluxe add-ons that can be purchased separately add plastic ambulance miniatures, new rooms and specialists and a nice little dice tower, which unfortunately, is an absolute pain to put together! All in all, Dice Hospital has been a real stand out game for me and one that will be played a fair amount in the months to come!

Craig P - Fury of Dracula

A few months prior to UK Games Expo 2018, news broke that Wizkids had acquired the licence for Fury of Dracula. Gamers around the globe were excited at the prospect that the franchise had been given a new lease of life, meaning that they didn’t have to search high and low for overpriced copies.  Some trepidation was felt as Wizkids aren’t exactly renowned for their miniature quality.  I managed to acquire a copy upon it’s eventual release in early 2019, and as somebody who has always wished to play the game, I was delighted to know that the wait was worth it.

Not much seems to have changed in the move from the third to fourth Edition, the minis are designed differently, but I’m glad to say they are perfectly fine (one minor bug bare being the paint finish, but this isn’t a game breaker). Some rules clarifications and tweaks mean that even with four new players, we all managed to get our game played in little under three hours (including teaching). My one and only play has had a lasting impression on me, which is sign of a well designed game – but we already knew that from it’s previous iterations! Gameplay was a little slow at first, but once everybody was accustomed to the round structure and actions available, turns were flowing allowing nicely.

One aspect of the game that I really came to love is that the Vampire Hunter team cannot communicate their thoughts and strategies in secret, unless they share a city space. This meant they had to decide whether to forego the wide search for Dracula, in order to group together to pass on important information. Not unlike other hidden movement games (Letters from Whitechapel, Scotland Yard etc), should the ‘good guys’ work well together, and co-ordinate effectively, it can be extremely difficult for the Dracula player to make much in the way of progress.

We all came away having fully involved ourselves in the theme, goading each other along the way. Despite my poor showing, I intend on getting this to the table again sooner rather than later, both to learn from my mistakes, and try this from the perspective of the Vampire Hunters.