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Games We Rediscovered In July 2021

Rediscovered Games July Feature Image

Five TribesLuke Pickles

Sometimes I get a hankering to play a game I haven’t played in a while. I look at my collection and see something buried in the pile and think “yes, you’ll do today”. Sometimes, I’m not even in the same room when inspiration to play a game comes to mind. This month, the game I had an overwhelming urge to play was Five Tribes. Bruno Cathala’s twist on a worker placement game came out to play and boy, did I enjoy it! I had forgotten how much fun it is. The satisfaction of picking up your meeples in such a way that you maximise the randomness of the meeples coming out of the bag in set up.

The limitless variability within Five Tribes is always something that will bring me back to it. This benefits the creative strategy that comes with the variation of how the tiles are laid out, how the market sits, how the genies pop out of their lamps. You can spend your time happily using the builders to win only to have the merchant’s stealth in and take a sea of points right at the end. Only when you try that the next time, the market only throws out fakir’s (the replacement for slaves in older printings). I’m glad I rediscovered Five Tribes and I’m thinking about looking at the various expansions, helping the Artisans of Naqala, or submitting to the Whims of the Sultan.

This game is a wonderful addition to my collection and I love how innovative the worker placement mechanic is. I highly recommend it, and now I’m off to set up a new game to play. Genie, I wish…

OnitamaDan Hilton

When I was younger, my grandad introduced me to chess. He bought me a glass chess set that was probably only cheap, but it is my most cherished of all my games. It is the only game that I will never part with as it holds some special memories to me.

Memories of getting my ass absolutely handed to me that is! My grandad was a tough sod and never once went easy on me. He always told me if I wanted to beat him then I needed to learn to be better than him. He passed away before that time ever came. Always got the last laugh, selfish bugger!

I have been on somewhat of a strategic two-player game binge as of late that has brought these memories back to me. I have been playing chess, checkers, the Discworld board game THUD, and Onitama. Onitama is a fantastic strategy game made for 2 players. You can see how it has taken inspiration from the timeless game of chess and transformed it into something with a personality of its own. The theme of two fighting dojos actually fits the mechanics surprisingly well.

Every game of Onitama plays out differently, as you only play with 5 of the possible 16 moves. The moves also rotate between players, so thinking 3 or 4 steps ahead is what will guarantee you the victory. The problem is though, I have never won a game of Onitama, as I am incredibly poor at thinking too far ahead. My grandad would probably have really enjoyed this game as I would likely never beat him at this either. Always with the last laugh.

New York Zoo - John Hunt

We have had a great time getting Uwe Rosenberg’s beautiful New York Zoo back onto the table this month.

I am really impressed with everything about this game, and more so than when I first played it. Certainly, the design and production are hugely engaging. The individual animal meeples - Arctic Fox, kangaroo, flamingo, penguin and meerkat – are utterly charming. The central Zoo board with the giant elephant meeple, player board and enclosure/ attraction polyominos are all beautifully illustrated. So while this is in essence an abstract puzzler, the theme is suffused through every element.

I do like the simplicity of the victory conditions: first to complete their player board wins. Equally the simplicity of a turn: move the elephant 1-4 spaces and then, depending on where you land, take an enclosure or 1-2 animals and place them. But I also appreciate the strategic decisions that underpin the gameplay – and it is these I have really noticed since it came back onto the table.

There are decisions about balancing big enclosures, which cover more spaces, with small enclosures which are easier to fill with animals and get the reward of an attraction piece. Similarly, there are decisions about how much to care about the fit of polyominos in the early game: do you just go for big pieces to start with, or do you work to maintain a tidy board. There are decisions about how much to care about animal breeding: just enough to have a supply for populating enclosures or are you going to want/need a lot of attractions too. These are just three considerations, though there are certainly more.

So we have had a great time with a mixed audience, giving this 45 min – 1 hr thinky puzzler a good run out. I can really see it getting more regular playtime over the coming weeks and months. Turns out it’s the meerkat’s pyjamas!

Paladins Of The West Kingdom - Callum Price

School’s out and summer’s here! Feet up, shades on and a whole lot of nothing to do… Who am I kidding? Board games to play! And this month we’ve been having a good crack at a fair amount of stuff both old and new, but what’s hit the table and made an impression for us is an old favourite. It’s by no means old, but with the speed we acquire and play games, it’s most certainly been a rediscovery! Paladins of the West Kingdom by Garphill Games is a worker placement, resource management game that boasts meaty mechanics and superb engagement throughout.

The aim of the game is to have the most victory points after seven rounds. Players choose a paladin to lead the round, acquire workers from the local pub and then place them in various spots on their board. This may be gain resources, more workers or common folk to grant bonuses. Or, on the meatier and more managed side, they can use their influence in religion, combat or prestige to place components on a central board. There’s a lot of management, but it’s all down to one’s own stuff. You’ll never be dependent on what someone else can do, but do need to be aware of which central spaces have been nabbed as they all give bonuses too.

Why we love this game is simple: it’s engaging and works excellently from a mechanical point of view. There’s a lot of choice for players and it can appear overwhelming. It’s not. Whether you’re cashing in on an opportune action or specialising your whole play on gaining religious influence to use in converting heretical barbarians, everything moves you towards gaining victory points. How many you gain depends on how well you plan it! What’s more is that the game boasts the same Garphill artistic stylings as its predecessors and therefore looks stunning on the table, too! We love Paladins of The West Kingdom. It’s one that’s big enough for you to get your teeth into but so engaging that time will just fly!