The writing team at Zatu play plenty of board games each month, but which one stands out to them the most? Let's find out the titles which were selected to be 'Games of the Month' by some members of our team in July 2018.
Matt - Tiny Epic Defenders
Kickstarter is becoming an ever more popular way of raising funds to publish board games. This month I received my first ever Kickstarter game (a bit late to Kickstarter party I know), Tiny Epic Defenders (TED) (2nd edition). TED is a 1-4 player co-operative game where players take on the role of a hero defending the realm of Aughmoore from evil. It is a re-release of the original TED from 2015 and contains revamped gameplay, new artwork, ITEMeeples and a deluxe version. The deluxe version contains 15 Hero cards, eight epic foes, eight dire enemies, nine regular enemy cards and 12 artefacts.
As with the other Tiny Epic Games there is a lot of content and gameplay packed in to a small box. The game plays really well solo, with the player controlling two characters that move around the regions and defend against the enemies trying to destroy six outer regions and the capital city. The game escalates when dire enemies are added in to the mix, which are harder to defend against and cause more damaging effects.
Players can collect artefacts from defending against the dire enemies which grant the player special abilities and bonuses. The artefacts are physically added to the players ITEMeeple and look the part. Eventually the epic foe joins the fight and then things get really tense. The epic foes can really bring the pain and cause massive damage to the regions and your heroes. To win the game the players must defeat the epic foe without the capital city becoming destroyed.
The gameplay is quick and simple but with tough choices to make. The components are of top quality and the replay-ability is high with the various combination of heroes, dire enemies, epic foes, double sided region cards and 12 different artefacts. The Dark War expansion adds further content to the base game, including a campaign mode, enemy generals, hero skills and advanced regions further increasing the longevity and replay-ability of the game. I feel that this game will be hitting the table for a long time to come and is my Game of the Month for July.
Ben G - Eastern Wonders
My game of the month for July is the new release from Emerson Matsuuchi and Plan B Games, Century: Eastern Wonders. It’s the second in the Century series and the follow-up to the hugely successful Century: Spice Road.
Eastern Wonders has some similarities with Spice Road, but it’s really a very different game. The objective is more or less the same: you’re trading spices to meet objectives that will get you points. After one player obtains a certain number of objectives, the game ends. So far the same, right? The rest is very different.
Century: Eastern Wonders takes place on a modular board made up of islands in a sea. Players each have a wooden boat which they can move around to the different islands. At each island, players can place a trading outpost which allows them to trade spices at the rates shown on that island. That’s essentially how you change up your cubes to meet objectives.
But there are some other cool aspects. Players move their trading posts out from their player boards, where they’re arranged in a grid. As trading posts are put out, they uncover slots in a grid that score points. Players uncover more points for uncovering rows and bonus abilities from uncovering columns. These abilities allow your other actions to get more powerful.
I love Century: Eastern Wonders. It’s much more tactile than Spice Road. While the previous game is simple and easy to teach, Eastern Wonders feels a little more like a game for gamers. Planning your routes around the islands to reach different trading posts is an intriguing aspect of the game that is completely different from Spice Road. There is a lot of strategy involved and players are rewarded for planning ahead. I should also say that the components are really great quality. The whole look is just as good as Spice Road’s.
And don’t forget, the two Century games combine to make another: From Sand to Sea. I haven’t played this yet, but have heard excellent things!
Simon Lavender - Ticket to Ride New York
My Game of the Month is Ticket to Ride: New York. I played it ahead of release (last week) and have played it 10 times since. I didn’t get into Ticket to Ride early on, Europe (most people’s favourite) is my least preferred game. I like this, the original and France (choose your own track to lay first).
New York has everything you want from Ticket to Ride, but is quicker. When you play this, you realise you don’t need to play another version. It plays 2-4 and the clever leaflet, which I thought was left by a gamer, was very clever. Plus, it’s not just the base game, you get coins if you complete a ticket and your routes goes via stops that have a coin.
When I say this game is fast, we set-up/I explained, whilst others set-up/explained Honshu. We were packing away before they had started. I’ve played this in two minutes 32 seconds. Plenty of Ticket to ride strategy, in less time, less money and a smaller box, and they have Lavender (okay Purple) taxis.
The Game Shelf – Viticulture
Viticulture is an older game that we played for the first time at The Ludoquist board game café, a few months ago. As a result of a great first play, we traded for a second hand copy at the UK Games Expo and then, like many unfortunate games in our collection, Viticulture sat on our shelf, un-played.
We only played Viticulture once this month, and it wasn’t even our copy, but it was awesome to affirm the fact that we love this game. The wine-making theme works so well with the seasonal spots on the board for worker placement. I love making plans and finding synergies between the different wine orders that I draw, to try and get the most economy out of my resources whilst also taking the best advantage of winter and summer events.
I love the simplicity of Viticulture, but at the same time how focused you need to be towards the end of the game with planning turns effectively and fighting over the minimal worker placement spots. I can’t believe we waited so long to play such a classic game!
Rob W - Everdell
Do not be put off by the squirrels, the rabbits, the hedgehogs and the Floof. Do not be put off by the ruddy great cardboard tree at one end: Everdell is cute and tactile, but it's also a damn good game that deserves many plays. Place workers, draw cards and chain combos together while trying to deduce what your opponents are up to and act accordingly. There's a lot that changes each session, a simple core, and the constant temptation to give into your inner critter. Even the basic game feels deluxe!
Nick - Terraforming Mars
I like to think I’m on the pulse of hotness when it comes to board games, which is why my game of the month is vanilla Terraforming Mars. Not an upgrade or expansion in site. As with all great games, I wish I’d played it earlier and I look forward to my next play, which can’t come soon enough.
Terraforming Mars sees you managing resources in order to place cards into your tableau and build an awesome comboing engine. While you are doing this you will be making the planet more hospitable for human life, if not the other players.
The cards you get or draft (draft people, draft!) have to be paid for in various ways, which is where the flimsy player mat comes in - do not play this on a wobbly table or with Mr. Tickle and Mr. Bump. While there are some agonising choices, and therefore some analysis paralysis, the sheer joy of running your engines is truly palpable.
The game has an escalating pace as you are able to do much more the further in you are as your engine grows. While luck does play some part in what cards come out, there is a nice balance to the cards which leads to potential synergies. It also has a bit of an edge - you can mess up your opponents plays with clever building or just nuke them.
Okay, the components are lacking, especially given the price tag, but when we buy games we aren’t just buying card, paper and plastic, we are buying hours and hours of hard work and balancing that leads to our experiences playing games. On that level Terraforming Mars represents one of the best gaming deals I’ve experienced.
Thomas - The Quest for El Dorado
Having spent time in Germany this month, I managed to pick up a fair few games to take home and play. One of these was the Quest for El Dorado, created by Ravensburger. In this game you are one of four explorers who have to make their way through the jungle and desert to race to El Dorado and be the first to claim the treasure.
The deck builder mechanic sees players collecting and buying card to make their “expedition” stronger to try and ensure they reach El Dorado first. It was nominated for the coveted Spiel Des Jahres last year but was unfortunately pipped to the post by “Exit – The Game”.
This game is a fantastic little gem! The way in which you move and buy new cards is quite clever and also ensures the game stays competitive and stops a player streaking ahead. The premise is simple but it works so well. The mechanics aren’t anything new but paired with the theme and the way the game plays makes The Quest for El Dorado an excellent game.
Unfortunately, the game is only available in the UK via Amazon and is the German Edition of the game. This shouldn’t put you off though! There are English instructions available on the internet and there is very little text on the cards to translate so that shouldn’t be an issue at all! If you get a chance to pick this game up, do! You will not be disappointed!