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Games of the Month – October

Games of the Month - Hanamikoji

Each month, members of the talented Zatu blogging team come together to share their favourite game! Each writer selects one game from the many that they have been playing, and shares a little bit of information about that game!

Click on the links provided if you want to find out just how good each game is!

The Game Shelf - Pandemic Legacy Season 2

Pandemic Legacy Season 2 is probably our most hotly anticipated game ever! Season one was our best ever gaming experience and we’ve been speculating about the potential new mechanisms and ideas they could incorporate into Season 2 – having managed to remain completely spoiler free in the run-up to its release.

Because of our eagerness to play the game, we’ll be playing with just two players again – we found Season 1 to be a great co-operative experience for a gaming couple. So far we’ve played the prologue and January and we are really happy with the amount of story and game changing elements we’ve already encountered.

It’s taken us four games to get to this point, firstly because the base game is not regular Pandemic and it does seem slightly harder, so we lost our first prologue game. Secondly, we were so excited to explore in our first game in January, that we decided to forgo the win in order to get more done. So far Season 2 has not disappointed us and I can’t wait to find out what future months have in store!

Ashley - 7 Wonders Duel

I'm always on the lookout for good two player games, and this month I decided to learn and play 7 Wonders Duel. I was very pleasantly surprised. This is a cracking good game, a two player civilisation and engine builder which is surprisingly deep, has various routes to victory and plays in around 30 minutes, with solid and quality components.

The strategic decisions are evident right from the start with a draft to select wonders which may be build as the game progresses, expensive to build but with powerful effects. These may determine longer term strategy, or simply be an aid to strategy that develops over the three ages and various cards which can be obtained.

We have played a few times; testing out different strategies, playing for a military victory, denying the opponent access to basic resources, concentration on scientific developments, or simply grabbing all the civilian buildings. Some work better than others, or at least they seem to from first impressions, but as we played a bit more and refined strategies, it becomes clear that this is a finely crafted and well-balanced game where it is not enough just to have a plan, it's equally important to be aware of what your opponent is doing and counter.

Play is both fast and cutthroat, as players try to balance conflicting needs and opportunities which may unexpectedly be presented. It's remarkable that in 7 Wonders Duel the designers have managed to pack so much into a game that plays in 30 minutes. It's a full civilisation building game presenting players with a rich and challenging experience at every turn of play, with game mechanics that are both simple and evocative.

This game deserves to be in my collection, it is one I am going to play a lot. Highly recommended.

Paul - Robinson Crusoe

My game of the month is definitely Robinson Crusoe. It's a hugely thematic co-op game where you are stranded on a desert island needing to complete one of seven different objectives. What makes this game so tough is that you need to build shelter, find food and rest, as well as collecting wood to build a fire to alert the passing rescue ship (in scenario one).

These core requirements are all in addition to choosing whether to improve your shelter to protect from any storms, or build items to improve your chances of hunting, gathering food etc. There are a huge variety of cards that can come up meaning each adventure is completely different, even using the same scenario.

The only downside is it take a little while to get to grips with the rules and set-up. I think Ill be playing this one a lot.

Rob W - Through the Ages

Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization isn’t just a description of the theme: this is a medium length time commitment, and that’s just because long lengths mean all day! Start in the ancient world and grow your people into the world of the internet and fast food over several hours in a contest where culture and science are genuinely as important as armies.

It’s engaging and once you get over the hump of learning all the mechanisms such a perfect game. Oh and your civilization can be led by Sid Meier!

Ross C - Tournament at Camelot

I generally play games as much for the social aspect as I do for the competition. I can’t deny that I prefer games where skill usually results in victory but I’ve always had a soft spot for more random games when their unpredictability results in fun. I played Tournament at Camelot for the first time at the SHUX Convention and I was absolutely terrible at. This was partly because when I first play something new I like to try different tactics, see what works and in my case, what doesn’t,  just to get a general feel for the mechanics. It’s also because I had some spectacularly bad luck, which resulted in a lot of laughs from all involved, me included.

Tournament at Camelot is a trick-taking card game set in medieval times. It’s competitive so you’ll be going head to head with your opponents using swords, archery, deception, sorcery or alchemy to take them down. You all start with a hand of cards and rounds revolve around playing through these, trying to get rid of them whilst collecting as few of these back as possible. Generally speaking, playing the lowest card in the current suit on a turn means you’ve lost and by losing you’ll be collecting cards. In this game, at the end of a round when all cards are played, the ones you’ve collected will cause you damage. Luckily you’ve all got a massive stack of health to work through so there’s plenty of chance to come back from early defeats.

The game makes things more interesting by each player having their own character. These characters have their own special powers and this can greatly affect how the game is played. After each round, the player currently in last place will also gain a Godsend card. These cards grant special abilities that you’ll retain for that round. It might allow you to discard any sword damage you’ve taken on, flip the values of played cards meaning lower cards now win the hand or a variety of other changes. This will keep people changing tactics each round, plus it works as an excellent balancing mechanic for those trailing the pack.

As I mentioned in my SHUX write-up this wasn’t a game I’d heard of before playing but the combination of fantastic medieval artwork and fun fast gameplay meant that this is a game I will definitely be adding to my collection.

Luke - Hanamikoji

Every once in a while there will be a game that is praised from the mountain tops by a single individual that I view online. And I will listen to that praise for a good few months to a year before I eventually obtain that game, usually because it's waiting for a reprint. In this case, the individual was Sam Healey and the game was Hanamikoji, a game for only two players with a small deck of cards and some tokens - essentially a micro game. Really? This small box is worth all the attention?

Well they say the best things come in small packages and certainly on the dating scene, that's true. But it's so true here, in Hanamikoji as well (I'm going to keep saying it until you learn how to pronounce and spell it). I don't often get two player games to the table given that I live alone, but this is one that I've made special effort to bring to every game night and show off whenever I can. It truly is a fantastic game and one of my all time favourite two player games to date.

The premise is simple. You're gaining favours over seven Geisha's on the table by collecting their associated items (teapots, flutes, fans etc). Gain favour over four of them or enough Geisha's to accumulate 11 points (printed on the cards) and you win. But how you get there is where this shows off its genius design. Each player has four tokens representing four actions that you must take once each during a single round. But what order you do them in is up to you:

  1. Store a card away to score later.
  2. Scrap two cards out of the round.
  3. Place three cards down, your opponent chooses one to score, you score the others.
  4. Place two pairs of cards down, your opponent chooses one pair to score, you score the other.

Each of you will have a hand of cards and thus have some knowledge that the other player doesn't, but you're trying to gain the majority of item cards for each Geisha to win favour. And few games cause this much tension in your decisions with such a small footprint. Which actions do you do first? Which cards do I offer my opponent? Can I fool them into taking the wrong card?

It's never an easy choice and bare in mind, your opponent has to make the exact same decisions against you, so which cards will you pick when they hand you offers? Additionally the actions you perform last, you're going to have restricted choice of what cards to use, sometimes relying on a draw from the deck, whereas earlier actions are the opposite. And you can't ignore the opponent because knowing what actions they have left will influence you as well.

The "I pick, you choose" mechanic doesn't get used often but it works so well especially in Hanamikoji. It's relatively inexpensive and the artwork is beautiful throughout, really capturing that Japanese cultural feeling. There is nothing I can really fault about this game. It's 10-20 minutes of solid, tense fun in a little box and if this hasn't convinced you, go watch my review on YouTube as well. Hanamikoji is a game that deserves to be in the Two Player Hall of Fame.