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Games of the Month – September 2018

Games of the Month - September 2018 - Time Arena

Every month some members of our writing team come together to share their games of the month! Here are the titles that topped their own individual charts for the month of September

The Game Shelf – Scythe: Rise of Fenris

Before the Rise of Fenris, we’d only played Scythe on three occasions. This wasn’t due to a lack of love for the original game – a pimped out Collector’s Edition sits on our shelves - but we were late adopters. We have loved Scythe with two players, but had mixed experiences with the higher player counts, since area control and player conflict are really not our thing. I was a little nervous of the Rise of Fenris Expansion, based on how it might play with two and how it might force me towards aspects of the game that I typically shy away from. I am also a very poor player at Scythe – I typically lose by a hefty margin and losing isn’t really my bag either!

During September we’ve played through the full eight-game campaign of Scythe: Rise of Fenris with two players. Picking variety in your strategies was generally encouraged by the campaign’s scoring mechanics and certain episodes had more or less bias towards combat strategies, or the opposite, more engine building strategies. There is no doubt I know Scythe a lot more deeply now, even though I’ve still only got two victories to my name (including the victory for the whole campaign!).

The campaign had high and lows for us with some scenarios being more enjoyable than others, but overall it was really addictive to play, with some of the excitement of a legacy game with new rules and opening packages. If you love Scythe then this expansion is an almost guaranteed hit. We’re looking forward to exploring the co-operative module, as well as adding a select few of the most enjoyable new modules into our future games of Scythe to add more variety to our games.

Ben G - Root

September’s game of the month is the title everyone’s talking about: Root. The asymmetrical game of woodland war from Cole Wehrle and Leder Games has rightly become the hottest game of 2018.

With almost total asymmetry, stunning artwork, perfect components and deep, strategic gameplay, Root has it all. Though I’ve still only played it a handful of times, I can see it becoming one of my all time favourites, sitting up there alongside Scythe with games that I adore and will always be happy to play.

The asymmetrical mechanics are fascinating. Four factions struggle to complete their own goals in the woodland: the Marquise de Cat wants to cement control and industrialise the forest; the Eyrie want to claim back their lost empire; the Woodland Alliance want to throw off the shackles of their oppressors; the lone Vagabond pursues personal fame through quests, alliances and a few well-placed crossbow bolts.

Every faction has unique ways to gain victory points and interact with the shared board and other players. They all have different starting positions, different turn structures and different sets of components. Yes, it’s a hard game to learn. Expect your first game to be a slog, especially if you’re the one teaching. But the game is surprisingly easy to get to grips with once you have a couple of plays under your belt.

Supporting the clever mechanics and tough strategy are some of the most sublime components you’ll ever see in a board game. I heard the coloured animal meeples described as ‘the platonic ideal of a game component,’ and they really are. They look phenomenal and are also nicely functional: they’re easy to move around and they make the board easy to read.

Finally, I have to mention Kyle Ferrin’s astonishing art. He brings the world of Root to life with adorable cartoon animals on the cards and a stunning woodland board. Yet beneath the cuteness, the visuals do a great job of conveying the woodland creatures’ struggle to survive if you look more carefully.

What a game. Leder Games just really needs to get that next print run out.

Matt T - Colt Express

Games that bring a group of people together to socialise and have a good time is always something that I look out for in a game. My Game of the Month is a game that does just that. Colt Express is a 2-6 player game, that plays in about 30-45 minutes, that creates some great laughs, fun gaming moments and has a 3D train!

Players take on the role of bandits that are attempting to rob a train, each with their own special power. Players have a hand of cards that they lay in a certain sequence forming a "story" deck but the actions are not executed at this point. Once all the cards have been laid in the round the "story" deck is flipped (so the first card played is now at the top of the deck) and the actions are played out. The actions cards that players have available;

  • Move to an adjacent carriage.
  • Run along the roof.
  • Move from the carriage to the top of the train.
  • Move from the top of the train to the carriage.
  • Pick up loot.
  • Shoot.
  • Punch.
  • Move the sheriff.

At the end of the round all cards are shuffled, a new hand drawn and a new round card displayed. Play continues this way until all rounds have been played and the player with the most loot is the winner.

Colt Express is a great game to play during a lunch break, for some light-hearted fun with friends or at a game night. The way the story plays out each round makes for some funny moments. You can only plan what you are going to do so far before your plans get thwarted by another bandit. You think you are going to punch someone and then steal their loot but then you get punched to the adjacent carriage, then you get shot and someone else steals the loot you had your eye on.

The rules are straightforward and easy to explain. The game has some great table presence with the 3-D train. It even comes with cardboard cacti and bushes, which serve no purpose other than to add to the table presence. It has been my go to game over the past month and therefore deserves to be my Game of the Month. I will say that this game plays better with more than two players. Although it states 2-6 on the box, it really shines at the higher player count.

Nick W - Time Arena

I always ponder what makes a good game of the month. It’s not always the ‘best’ game I have played, but the game that has given me the richest experiences. This month that game is Time Arena. It might be a game that you haven’t heard of before - I certainly hadn’t!

Time Arena is a two-player real-time skirmish game. I can already feel some of your hackles rising, but bare with me - it’s not entirely how it sounds. Time Arena uses a free app which works a bit like a chess timer. Each player has five minutes to make all their moves, on their turn their timer is activated and starts counting down. You may spawn, move and attack with each one of you four fighters, provided they aren’t knocked out of course. The object is to destroy the opponents base or make them use up all their time. As soon as you are finished you tap your side of the app and your opponents time continues ticking down while yours takes a pause.

As well as this each player has four egg timers, colour coded to each of your standees. This relates to their re-spawn time after they are knocked out. The weaker characters are quicker to re-enter the fray, whereas your stronger characters will only have time to appear in battle a couple of times. This system really makes you consider your options, but consider them quickly. The standees themselves are great with information like movement displayed in cool ways. If that’s not enough for you there are advanced modes giving each standee powers and utilising the other side of the board. Really impressed with this one!

Tom G - Zombicide Green Horde

I have held off entering the world of Zombicide for a while now. While I have wanted to immerse myself in this fantastic series of games, I just haven’t got round to picking up a copy. This month however, that all changed as I dived into Zombicide: Green Horde!

Goodness me, am I glad I did!! This game is absolutely fantastic, especially for those of you who are fans of the brain-munching undead! With a few changes and additions to the mechanics and even the zombies themselves, this game is the first to lead on from its predecessor, Black Plague. Again, taking place during the middle-ages, your band of renegades are tasked with stopping the onslaught of undead Orcs while also attempting to complete objectives and collect items across different terrain and maps.

As many of you will know, Zombicide is renowned for being miniature-heavy and this latest addition to the series doesn’t change course! One of my favourite elements of Green Horde is the addition of a trebuchet to the game! If your tired of attacking the Orcs one by one, then simply get to the space with the trebuchet, and launch the trebuchet to obliterate the Orc scum! The game plays incredibly well and it has definitely been a great start for me into the world of Zombicide.

IF you are looking for a game to pick up in time for Halloween, then this is definitely a good shout! Also look out for my review that I did this month for more details on the game itself.

Will M - The Mind

The Mind was a game introduced to me on International TableTop Day 2018 by a member of my games group who had picked the German version up from Essen. I hadn’t heard of it before and when he got out 100 cards simply numbered from 1-100 and a few with drawings of levitating rabbits and ninja stars I thought “Oh dear, how good could this be?”

The answer is “very good and surprisingly thought provoking!” In this tense co-operative game that can also be described as a social and psychological experiment, you simply deal a number of cards to each player corresponding to the round number (one card each in round one, two in round two, etc.) and then stack the cards onto the table in numerical order… Without speaking!!

Not being able to talk is why this game hits the heights (indeed it was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres) – it’s almost like reverse poker where you want people to read your tells while you keep an eye on people’s body language to somehow judge if their next card is higher or lower than yours. For example, I got up from the table one time when my next card was the 100 to let people know I had no intention of playing my next card before them!

Oh, and the rabbits are in fact your team’s lives (make too many mistakes and you’ll lose) and the ninja stars can be used to let everyone discard their lowest numbered card (in cases where things become a little tricky).

While travelling through Europe I tried to buy this game in a board game café in Freiburg, Germany, but they were out of stock. I noticed the game had also sold out in the UK so I ordered myself the German version (it is pretty much language independent) and upon our return to the UK I taught it to my wife and 10-year-old daughter. We’ve played it plenty of times since – it plays in 10-15 minutes and I can see myself successfully introducing this simple yet mesmerising game to plenty of non-gamers.

Craig P - Scythe: Rise of Fenris

The idea of committing to a continual number of play-throughs across a number of months leaves me feeling a tad uneasy, given the vast array of new (and old) games in my collection. After all, you wouldn't want to eat the same meal over and over, would you? Would you?!

Scythe: Rise of Fenris is the first in the campaign, faux-legacy, genre that I have played. Scythe, as a base game, is firmly in my top 10 games of all time, so it was bound to start off on the right foot. I won't go into too much detail, and spoil the delights hidden within the many tuckboxes and punchboards, but I feel it's my duty to give a brief overview of how it's been progressing so far.

My group of six (including yours truly) have made it through five of the eight games to date. There have been plenty of laughs, and moments of high tension, along the way, which is a testament to a well designed game/campaign.  It could so easily have descended into chaos, with those involved losing interest after a few plays. No two games have been alike, with victories spread about.  What's more, the new additions found within are fully compatible as modules to the base game, so you can re-use the assets in future plays to change up the game, should you find it becoming a little stale.

We will be continuing the campaign this month, with our final three games planned before the end of October. I am hoping that I can reverse the tide of battle, and stand victorious once the dust settles. For those out there sitting on the fence, I'd highly recommend getting a spot in a campaign, should the offer arise.