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Games of the Month – May

Games of the Month May - Shards of Infinity

Each month, our writers come together to share their games of the month. Each writer selects one game from the many that they have been playing, and shares a little bit of information about that game!

Let's find out which board games were awarded as their games of the month in May

Nick - Troyes

My game of the month is Troyes. I got this game a while ago when there was a level of buzz around it and played it a few times, but since then it sat on the shelf. I kept wanting to play it but the opportunity never prevented itself. Until recently! In Troyes you will place meeples into three different coloured buildings to gain dice, which you roll and place in your district of the city. Your meeples can be bumper from these buildings in various ways, so one of the ways of using dice is placing more meeples into these buildings.

You will also use dice to activate action cards, fight off negative events that effect all players, build the cathedral and more. One of the neat things with Troyes is that you are allowed to, and will need to, use other people’s dice - and they can’t refuse! Yes you have to pay but such trivial things shouldn’t be important when you can snatch your friend's only six. Each player also gets a character card which is essentially an end game scoring card. This is kept hidden from the rest of the players, but will be scored by everyone at the end so trying to work out which end game goals your opponents are going for is key.

Troyes is undoubtedly a mean game, the events are harsh and take resources away from everyone. Stealing dice is positively encouraged, and therefore new players may be a little lost at first. To combat this add in the purple dice from the Ladies of Troyes expansion and each player will get a wild die that cannot be used by anyone else. It also adds a lot more variety to an already varietous(?) game!

The Game Shelf – Villagers

We have been previewing more Kickstarter projects lately, and quite often that results in us being underwhelmed. There are a lot of games projects being launched and in our opinion only a small percentage that cut the mustard. This is why Villagers has been such a refreshing change. Sinister Fish are not a big publisher, with only Great Scott to their name. However, they’ve become a more well-known brand due their Gloomhaven removable sticker set.

Villagers combines drafting and engine building in a really simple and clean way, whilst still providing an interesting and challenging game. It's interesting to select new strategies, often decided by the starting draft or your starting hand, but you also need to make sure to take care of the basics, ensuring that you build up your food to allow you to draft more cards and have enough building symbols to make sure you can build lots of cards each turn. If you accidentally lose sight of this to focus on a unique strategy, then your opponents will get ahead simply by doing more every turn.

We’re really excited to play more of Villagers. Its charming artwork, combined with a simple, clean design that still gives you different possibilities and mental challenges is just really pleasing and it's definitely a project to check out on Kickstarter.

Ben G - Shards of Infinity

My game of the month for May is a new release from the team behind the Ascension deck-building games: Shards of Infinity. I heard about this brand new deck-builder a few months ago after it received a glowing review from The Dice Tower’s Tom Vasel, and knew I had to try it as soon as it became available in the UK.

We got it a little slower than the US, but it was worth the wait. Shards of Infinity is a low-cost, small box game made up of around 120 cards and four player boards. As in other pure deck-builders, players start with a basic deck and use those cards to buy better cards from the centre row. The aim is to reduce your opponent's life total to zero.

If this sounds similar to Star Realms/Hero Realms, that’s because it is. But don’t let that put you off. Shards of Infinity takes those familiar mechanics and refines them beautifully, creating an intriguing, finely balanced game that should appeal to a wide range of players, whether they’ve previously enjoyed deck-builders or not.

The addition of defence cards that you reveal from your hand, one-time-use Mercenaries and mastery levels that power up some of your cards as you go are all innovations that Shards of Infinity really shows off. It means that there are more strategic decisions available and good pay-off for various different tactics.

Excellent gameplay paired with great artwork make Shards of Infinity a contender for the best pure deck-builder out there. Tom Vasel said that it’s replaced Star Realms for him and I can completely see where he’s coming from. This is one well-designed game.

Matt - Pandemic

Old Games, New Gamers!

I love playing games and I am always trying to introduce games to new people at every opportunity. Whether I am at work, spending an evening with friends, family or my wife I try and sneak in a game of something. This could be a new game that I have recently purchased, an old classic, a quick filler game or a more med-heavy game, I try and have something in my collection for most situations and audiences.

Pandemic, released in 2008 and designed by Matt Leacock, is a 2-4 player co-operative game. Players take on the role of a disease fighting specialist who are working together to find a cure for four diseases that have spread throughout the world. Players must work together to prevent further outbreaks as well as performing research to find the cure for the four diseases.

The reasons I have picked this as my game of the month is not because it is the newest, hottest game that I have purchased, or an older game that I have recently discovered, or that the hype for Pandemic is spreading like an uncontrolled disease spreading across the globe. I had some friends round for a game night and decided to crack open Pandemic. With it being a co-operative game with relatively easy rules I thought it was perfect for the situation. The game was a massive hit. We had our first game and managed a victory. Everyone had a really good time and wanted to play again. So, we had a second game, increased the difficulty by adding a few more epidemic cards in to the deck and lost miserably. There were outbreaks left, right and centre, we couldn’t contain the spread of the diseases, didn’t have time to even think about trying to get a cure and before long we had so many outbreaks that the game was lost. It was chaos. I thought that would be the end of the game night and we would end on a defeat and a sour note. To my surprise I was asked “Where can we buy a copy of this?”

For me this is what board games are all about. Sometimes I wonder if my friends and family are just humouring me when I suggest a game. For someone to play a game and lose so badly and still want to purchase the game anyway is a real win in my books. I couldn’t help but smile when I was asked where the game could be purchased. Obviously, this is not my doing but the designers, who produced a quality game. I was simply the facilitator, the mediator, the provider of the game. It might be 10 years old but Pandemic is my Game of the Month for May.

Ashley - Terraforming Mars

This has come about due to getting my hands on Venus Next and Hellas and Elysium, the two currently available expansions. I'm not going to go into review mode, instead I am going to talk about how these expansions allow you to customise your game of Terraforming Mars and your experience of play.

This is fairly obvious with Venus Next because amongst other things it lists some optional rules that will alter the game one way or another. It is also an aspect of Hellas and Elysium, though on the face of it less obvious. So let me pull Terraforming Mars and all the specific expansions apart:

Game and Expansions

  • Corporate Era – A set of additional Event Cards now bundled with Terraforming Mars.
  • Venue Next – A full on expansion with 50 or so Event Cards, new Corporations and more, introducing the Solar Phase option.
  • Hellas and Elysium – Two new game boards. Hellas board includes significant amounts of Heat as an available Resource.

Optional Rules

  • Drafting – Players draft Event Card, it’s a simple rule, makes the game slightly longer, but adds a degree of player interaction.
  • Extended Game – Corporate Era.  Adds more cards to the deck, extends game time.
  • Solar Phase – World Government.  Each Turn the World Government takes one Terraforming action on Mars, raising one of the global parameters of Heat, Oxygen or Oceans.

Fitting it together

  • Shortest game – Remove Corporate Era cards from the base game.  Add Solar Phase.  Use Hellas board.
  • Longest game – Include Corporate Era and Venus Next cards.  Omit Solar Phase.  Add Drafting.
  • More interactive game – Include Drafting.
  • Complexity – Including Corporate Era and Venus Next Event Cards does add a little to complexity because there are more possible interactions between cards to consider.