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Lockdown Gaming – Broadening my Thematic Horizons

lockdown gaming feature (1)

2020 was an absolute car-crash, let’s be honest. I may as well have ripped up my 2020 calendar in about mid-March. Never before have I spent so much time in my house. In PC (pre-covid) times, I was out most evenings either working or playing netball. At the weekend, if I wasn’t away, I was in the house a bit, but not a lot. Although 2020 was utter garbage in so many ways, it was good for my gaming! I am fairly new to board games, you can read my journey here. I’m looking forward to building a game collection that will offer years of fun, post lockdown gaming.

The modern board game industry is so varied, so many different themes and mechanisms to explore. Although every game is different, there are a few different buckets of mechanisms that games can fit into. To expand my collection into as much of a well-rounded collection as possible, I wanted to choose new games that use different themes. There are a couple of themes that are quite heavily used in the industry, and I wanted to spread my wings a little. We already have a couple of space games (Ultra Tiny Epic Galaxies and Galaxy Trucker) and we have a generic fantasy world themed one too (Hero Realms). I was on the hunt for different themes.

Hubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble

Winter is coming, it’s starting to be cold in the home office through the day. So I have had to bring the soup maker out of hiding and get big batches of soup on the stove. Cooking in a big pan on a gas stove? Shoehorned in a segway there to my next game; Quacks of Quedlinburg where players boil up potions in a cauldron.

This brilliant game by the great Wolfgang Warsch has been nominated for a plethora of awards and won the Kennerspiel des Jahres award in 2018. Warsch has since brought us The Mind and Taverns of Tiefenthal and is well known for making a splash with his great, balanced games.

Now for many, Quacks is a light game, however, it is a bag builder which was something I’d never played before. That meant when I learnt to play, so many mechanisms were new, and so it did feel a bit meatier than many of the other games in my collection at the time.

Quacks is set in the middle ages although by the bright bouncing colours you wouldn’t know it. Visually it smacks more of Diwali than of a medieval apothecary where quack doctors make cure-all “medicines”. The colours are great. Each potion ingredient is represented by a different colour, but also a different icon for those colourblind among us.


Each player gets their own potion cauldron and the same starting chits in their bag. A bag builder is similar to a deck builder in that you are buying new more powerful chits to try to get a higher score and more bonuses in later rounds. Each colour token has a different power, some of them happen immediately and some happen at the end of the round. By the third or fourth round, everyone will have totally different tokens available in their bag.

The game consists of multiple rounds, during which you blindly take ingredients out of your bag and place them into your cauldron. The game has an element of push-your-luck as if you pull out too many white cherry blossom chits then your pot will explode. So you’ll want to stop before that happens. Once you have decided to stop or your pot has exploded, you get victory points and coins to spend buying better and more powerful tokens. The amount of points and coins depends on how full your pot was, inviting you to risk it all.

This game looks great and is great fun to play. Although it looks bright and family weight, it has a surprising amount of depth which we enjoyed no end. I especially liked the catch-up mechanism used to curtail runaway victories. This keeps scoring tight throughout.

I just got the Herb Witches expansion for my birthday recently, and it adds an extra level of difficulty and strategy which really shakes things up. Exactly what you want and need from an expansion. Would really recommend this one, although for starters the base game is more than enough.

Breeding Your Way to Victory

I grew up in rural farmer-land (technical term there) and all my friends were dairy farmers so I spent a lot of time “down on the farm”. Having said that, I had never played a farming game before. No idea how it passed me by really, as I love animals and the countryside.

Agricola was recommended to us by the other half of our gaming group. Original Agricola is one of the most popular farming and animal husbandry games. However, I was a little put off by the original as it is a bit longer and heavier than games we usually go for. There is a family-friendly (Agricola Family Edition) version that plays quicker and is simpler.

You Animal!

Agricola All Creatures Big and Small (ACBAS) is published by Lookout Games and is designed by the great Uwe Rosenburg. Agricola ACBAS is a worker placement game where you need to create a farm with pens to keep your animals safe and allow them to breed. Animals breed when you have two or more of them, but only if you have room to keep them. You can increase the animal capacity by adding buildings such as stables and by adding water troughs to space which double capacity.

Endgame scoring of the animals is different, as having 0-3 of any animal will result in negative 3 VP. Which we did not realise initially. And to get meaningful points you need to have A LOT of animals. Which I have not found easy. Managed to squeak over the 40 points mark, but this is definitely a game where both myself and my partner have a lot of room to grow and get better.

This game strikes that balance between having enough options to always have a choice of what to do next. But there not being enough turns to do everything you want to. After a game of Agricola ACBAS you are left wanting more. With a playtime of just 30 mins though, you can play games back to back.

Shelves and Shelves

My game shelves are really starting to fill up now, luckily we moved house recently and have devoted the box bedroom to shelves and games. So there is still lots of space for us to grow our “fun box” collection. Got my eye on a few big-box games next!