Another month of gaming has past us by, but what were the favourites in March? Check out our writer's Games of the Month and find out!
Matt T - Quacks of Quedlinburg
March has seen me play a host of "new to me" games. Including some of the new hotness. Wolfgang Warsch seems to be on a bit of a roll at the moment. Love it or hate it The Mind and Ganz Schon Clever have been massive hits. However, it’s his most recent game The Quacks of Quedlinburg that has earned the title of Game of the Month for me.
Players are charlatans or "Quack Doctors" brewing their secret potions by adding ingredients to a cauldron on at a time. They must be carefully thought as too many Cheery Bombs will cause their cauldron to explode.
Each player has a bag of ingredients (or chips), with more being purchased throughout the game. During each turn players will draw chips out of their bag and add them to their cauldron. The higher the value of the chip the further around their cauldron it is placed. Players will continue to push their luck drawing more chips. If a player has to many Cherry Bombs their cauldron will explode.
Depending on where the player finishes, victory points and money will be awarded. The money is used to add more ingredients to a player’s bag. Players will continue this way adding ingredients to their pot, buying new ingredients and scoring points until the end of the round. The player with the most victory points at the end of the game is the winner.
Quacks is a fairly light game, but the fun factor comes from the push your luck element during the draw. Players with a good memory can work out what they have in their bag and will know the odds of exploding. There is tension when you know decide to push your luck and go for one extra ingredient. But do you risk it to get the extra step or play it safe. This is where the fun choices come in to play.
Quacks is a great fun and fantastic looking bag building push your luck game. It has a good catch up mechanism with the rat's tails and a decent choice of ingredients to mix and match between games. All in a great fun game and one with checking out if this sounds interesting.
Ryan H - The Mind
A little late to join the party, I recently picked up one of the best sellers of 2018, The Mind. Despite its popularity, it has received some reviews that question whether this title is in fact a game at all. This did not deter me.
For the those unaware, The Mind contains a deck of cards numbered 1 to 100. With players dealt a hand of these cards, they must co-operatively place their cards face-up in the centre of the table in ascending order. The trick is that these players cannot communicate, nor show their cards. To achieve their goal, players must “become one”, as the box aptly puts it.
Admittedly, now that I write it down, I can understand how the aforementioned reviews may have some merit, but that does not lessen the tremendous fun that my friends and I have experienced with this small box game. The satisfaction of laying down 15 cards in ascending order in complete and utter silence is really quite something.
Mid-game, The Mind generates the tense atmosphere of a potent strategy game, but without the mildly hostile undertones of competitive play. After the final correct card is slapped down, the wave of both relief and pride I've seen is greater than the aftermath of even my most difficult co-operative games.
For that alone, I'd recommend The Mind, but the short play time, accessibility and low cost more than seal the deal.
Louis N - Quacks of Quedlinburg
March started out as a very busy gaming month, with the trip up from Bristol to Harrogate for what is one of the best UK gaming conventions, AireCon. Mark and the team did a fantastic job this year, as everyone who attended will attest. Bring on AireCon 6!!
I played a few games that were new to me in March: a prototype of On Mars, the forthcoming game from Vital Lacerda; Cerebria, a brain-burning team game from Richard Amann and Viktor Peter; and Ceylon. However, the game that saw the most plays, that seems to have been on everyone's table at some point (probably repeatedly) in the last month is Quacks of Quedlinburg.
Quacks is a push your luck bag builder. I have always enjoyed deck-builders and bag-builders. But I'm always a little sceptical about push your luck games. There are a few notable exceptions, but it's never a mechanic that I expect to enjoy. Quacks of Quedlinburg turned that on its head.
Quacks is about making potions. Played across nine rounds, players are competing to prepare the most impressive option they can, using the ingredients they have available. The ingredients are represented by tokens of different colours - each colour of token has a different effect.
Ingredient tokens are drawn from a bag, and added to the pot. As well as having a different colour, each token has a different “point” value, representing the quality or intensity of the token. Tokens are placed in the player's cauldron (on a progress track in the middle of the player board); higher value tokens are placed further along the track. Players continue to draw tokens from the bag, placing them consecutively along the cauldron track until they decide to “stick”. At this point, the total progress along the cauldron track will show how impressive the potion is, awarding players points, and buying power. This then enables players to purchase new ingredient tokens, allowing them to make more progress in future rounds.
There is, however, a catch (of course there's a catch - it's a push your luck game!). Players start with a number of “cherry bomb” tokens in their bags. If a player draws cherry bomb tokens with a total value which exceeds seven, their cauldron explodes. Exploding cauldrons are not good. If a cauldron explodes, the player may choose to be awarded with either points or buying power - but not both. Points contribute towards the win condition, but buying power means players can dilute the concentration of cherry bombs in their bags…. It's a tough decision. By the end of the game, the player who has earned the most points wins.
There are a few other neat little tricks which the game has to offer. But something else to consider is the expansion, The Herb Witches, which once you have played with, you will never want to play without. It doesn't add much complexity to the game at all… in fact it feels like it should have been included from the outset. If you haven't yet played Quacks of Quedlinburg, I can heartily recommend that you give it a go.
Will M - Terraforming Mars
With illness in the family in March, my gaming was vastly reduced from the norm – I even missed a Games Group session! I make no secret that Terraforming Mars is my very favourite game and I only managed a single solo play in March, but it stood out as the best game I played in the month.
I played as Inventrix corporation whose ability is to +/-2 on global parameters, making card play less restrictive. I played on the Elysium map from the Hellas & Elysium map expansion pack and tried to stay away from Elysium’s barren desert in the south as much as I could and focused on collecting the plant bonuses along the equator and cash bonuses for building near the oceans.
I played with Prelude cards from the Prelude expansion, and took a very different tact from usual and went for a space strategy, picking up Galilean Mining and Metal-Rich Asteroid that gave me a massive titanium kick-start. Before long I was asteroid mining, crashing an ice asteroid onto Mars and also the moon, Deimos. These gave me massive boosts and were heavily discounted by my titanium.
In the end I had comfortably terraformed Mars by the 11th generation, which gave me the final generation to plant lots of greenery to boost my score. My previous solo high score was 88, but on this occasion I blitzed it with 101, helped by my tardigrades and symbiotic fungus, which added a vital four points in helping me break the 100 mark.
Terraforming Mars is my favourite game to play solo, and the great thing is the game is enhanced even more when there are more players with the introduction of the milestones and awards.
The Game Shelf - Just One
Earlier this month we visited AireCon – our first board game convention of 2019. One of our favourite parts of board game conventions is the bring and buy, and this year we got some great finds, including Dixit Odyssey and the Tracey Island Expansion for Thunderbirds which are both great upgrades to our game collection. But, by far the most popular purchase so far was Just One – a co-operative party game that seems to have been slowly growing in popularity since its release in 2018.
In Just One, one player has to guess a word that everyone else knows. The rest of the players need to write down a one word clue to help that person guess the right answer. The twist is that all players write their clue in secret and then reveal them to each other, at which point and matching answers are eliminated. Writing a clue is all about not picking the obvious word, but not being so obscure that you don’t help the guesser. It’s one of those party games that you can’t believe nobody has thought of before. Scattergories is the closest comparison that I’ve been using to describe the game to others.
Just One has been our game of the month for March because of the audience we’ve managed to attract. We’ve played games with family and Fiona also took the game to a work board game night in the pub, where we played with the full seven players. The work group had so much fun, that we attracted the attention of the bar staff and at least two people went home to buy a copy! That’s definitely a mark of success for a great game!
Luke P - Elysium
My game of he month is an older title from Space Cowboys, Elysium. In Elysium you all play Demi-gods trying to have your tales told as part of legend and folklore. First of all you start the game by randomly choosing the decks of five of eight Greek Gods. Each deck is themed to the deity and will have different causes and effects.
Each player has four coloured pillars; red, green, yellow and blue. Once you have decided the first turn order players will take turns in collecting either a family card or a quest. Quests will determine what order you go in next round and also how many cards you can transfer and how many points you will receive.
Family cards are taken from the agora in the middle and will either perform something immediately or each time something specific happens or maybe some end game points.
Each time you take either a quest or a family card you’ll have to remove a pillar from your availability for your next choice. Cards and quests have a colour requirement of pillars available to you at the time of choosing them but you don’t have to discard a pillar you used in taking something that turn. This will slowly limit your choices and also show you what choices your opponents still have.
Each round you’ll only be able to take one quest and three cards. Once you have done all these you will then perform your quest which will allow you to transfer cards down to your Elysium. You’re looking to get sets of cards in different colours but all a value of 1/2/3 or get a set for a god in sequential 1/2/3. The player at the end that has gained the most points through a variety of different ways will win.
Building combinations and knowing when to move cards down to your Elysium is a fantastic puzzle. Once a card has been put into a set it will no longer be able to perform its abilities so you have to know when to give up on a card as you will only have so many chances to place it in a set and if it’s not in your Elysium it won’t score you any points but may help you gain points in other ways.
A beautiful game full of fantastic choices, thick with variety and stunning artwork. I think it’s a bit of an unsung hero