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Lockdown Gaming – Picking a Meatier Game

lockdown gaming feature

I feel like in terms of board gaming as a hobby, I have gone from zero to 100 miles an hour in a little over a year with lockdown. I have been sharing my journey over the last few months, you can find my previous articles in this series here.

My previous post detailed my original capsule collection. I picked three new value-for-money games to add variety to my small board game collection. And those games (Jaipur, 7 Wonders Duel and Santo Domingo) were really great. But as the weeks of lockdown dragged on, I felt the need for a few new “fun boxes”. I used that phrase in my last article, and I’ve been using it in real life ever since!

Now I wanted to move onto a heavier game. Weight is a descriptor that is used to describe how difficult and complicated a game is to grasp and to play. Most people on BGG describe weight as a number from 0-5 with 5 being the heaviest although I rarely see a game rated as above a 3.5. I have just gone for a comparative scale. I wanted something heavier than those in my current collection. So still light for many. But the requirement for having great artwork and high-quality components still stands.

As is my way, I did my long-winded research and came up with a couple of bigger box purchases to add to my collection. I say collection because I have the games on display and seeing them and collecting them makes me happy. But board games really are cooler than stamps or teapots.

Down Once More, Into The Abyss

Abyss has some of the best-looking artwork out there. The artwork drew me in, but the game made me stay. In Abyss you are trying to manage the politics of the underwater world. The components in this are great quality and the game looks ace on the table. It does need a lot of space though, that board is huge. The base game plays 2-4 in 45 minutes.

You get one action per turn. You can use this to recruit lords into your area, explore the deep or seek help from the council. The lords all have victory points associated with them. Most of them also have either an immediate or permanent recurring power. To recruit them you need to have enough allies in the right colours to trade-in. The other two actions help you gain allies.

During “explore the deep”, you turn over cards from the ally deck. These cards will be either a monster you can fight for rewards or one of the five coloured allies and will have a value from 1 to 5. You may keep turning over cards until you fill the explore track. Once you decide to take a card, your turn is over. Now what is interesting about the way this works is that you have to offer each card to your opponents first before you can take it. They may buy it off you for pearls. Which can be annoying if you draw a crab five that your opponent nabs in exchange for a measly pearl.

Any cards that were not claimed, but were revealed, are placed into the council face down according to their colours. Later in the game, taking a stack from the council will gain you a lot of cards quickly. But they may well all be low-value allies.

Fighting monsters and recruiting lords will gain your keys. These can be used to unlock locations that offer further points rewards. Although the timing is key here, because getting a location may deactivate some of your lord’s permanent power.

Abyss has enough cards that there is loads of replayability even with the base game which is a steal for under £30 at Zatu. Keeping up with the idea of getting the best value games for the best price. There are also two expansions that are available; Kraken and Leviathan that allow you to switch up gameplay and strategy a little more. And for those who love Abyss but want a smaller game footprint then enter Abyss Conspiracy. This gives you the same great artwork with a paired down version of gameplay in a travel-size tin.

Evergreen, Ever-great, Everdell

Carrying on the theme of beautiful artwork, the prettiest game I think there is Everdell. I wanted this from the first time I saw it. It has this 3D tree that goes in the middle of the table which commands your attention.

Everdell is a worker placement game where you place your little animeeples out in the forest to gain bonuses or resources. It is also an engine-builder. Resources can be exchanged for placing cards from the central meadow or from your hand into your 15 space tableau. These cards may grant immediate benefits, may allow you to play another card for free later, or alternatively grant you resources. Again you have three options for actions; place a worker, play a card or "prepare for season". This final option recalls your workers and gains you some bonuses according to the season. Everdell is played over 4 seasons from winter to autumn.

The components look great in the pictures; cute little berries, tiny little logs, translucent resin crystals and smooth pebbles. They look even better on my table. Each resource is tactile and different. For those among us who absentmindedly fiddle with our resources whilst waiting for our turn, then the experience with Everdell will not disappoint.

I only have the base game Everdell so far, but I have been eyeing up the expansions. Perhaps for the next time, I fancy something beautiful. Spirecrest seems to be the front runner for me, it adds another board, more cards and the problem of dealing with changing climate.

Looking to the Future

Armed with these beautiful new additions to my collection, I feel like I am starting to feel like a little bit more of a “gamer”. These games are not by industry standards “heavy”, but no need to run before I can walk! I’m looking forward to growing into these games, and perhaps even going heavier in the near future.