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!
Luke - Ex Libris
Building a library doesn't sound like the most fun theme ever, but if I told you it was fantastical, involved worker placement with special meeples and had more colour bursting out then a packet of Skittles, you might be a bit more interested? Well please be as Ex Libris turned out to be better than originally expected for me and you can check out my video review for more details.
Each player is building a library full of different books, all based on fantasy tropes and featuring a ton of in-jokes and word play. To acquire these cards they will send their workers out to various locations that chop and change every round. Some become permanent throughout the game, the others will get shuffled away and you'll have to utilise new ones adding to the variety of how a game plays. Every player also has one custom special meeple based on their chosen home board which has a special ability unique to that player and there's a LOT of them from a snowman to a wizard to a gelantanous cube!
At the end of the game players will be marked on a big dry-erase clipboard on aspects such as alphabetical order, stability, variety. Try to focus your library on your hidden choice of book category, but be sure to avoid the banned works.
What elevates Ex Libris above a lot of other titles this year is the theme is not only strong, but very fun. The in-jokes are great to read and it's a very light-hearted game allowing for roleplay and humour, yet requires a good amount of tactics and decision making to best use the locations available for your needs. It's a little multiplayer solitaire at times, but you have to still be aware of other players workers and what books they're gunning for. And if your friends are absent, there is a quick and challenging solo mode included.
Add to this an insert that allows for sleeved cards, some vibrant, colourful and gorgeous artwork and quality components and you've got one of the best games from Renegade Game Studios to date. I highly recommend it.
Ashley - Twilight Struggle
Now that the nights are drawing in and the days are becoming cold and damp, what better time to hunker down to this epic simulation of the Cold War. In Twilight Struggle, two players take on a game simulating the decades long dance of intrigue and hostilities between the USA and the Soviet Union. The entire globe is the arena for these two superpowers in their struggle to assert political and ideological dominance whilst avoiding the cataclysm that would be nuclear war.
At its heart this is a card driven, area control game as each power attempts to gain control of various regions of the world, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and so on. Victory points are gained for the level of dominance in each region and in some other ways, though generally the regions are the most important. Dominance comes through playing of the cards, nearly all of which can be used in different ways, perhaps as the card says, the Suez Crisis happens, or Castro takes charge in Cuba. Cards can also be used as a numeric value to place political control markers or to instigate a coup or realignment of a nation.
There is a whole load going on, keep an eye on Defcon, if you start a nuclear war you lose. Invest in the Space Race for some additional benefits, never underestimate the actions of China, and keep an beware those sudden death victory conditions.
Twilight Struggle is not for the faint-hearted, it’s complex, deep, challenging and is going to take two to three hours to play. This said, it is a game that has more than stood the test of time, and is fully deserving of the many accolades it has been given.
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 civ can be led by Sid Meier....
Nick - Ponzi Scheme
My game of the month is Ponzi Scheme. Based on the infamous schemes of Charles Ponzi, this is literally a game of robbing Peter to pay Paul. It’s an unusual theme for a game to be sure, and it’s fair to say that Ponzi Scheme is not much to look at. In fact, looking at the components makes it seem a bit dry and ‘mathy’. However, Ponzi Scheme is unlike any game I have ever played, this is achieved through a few mechanisms.
The first is the time wheel, when every you take an offer card it has a number that indicates where on the wheel you should place is. At the wheel moves round at least once every go, you want to place it as far away as possible - either at four or five. But offer cards stack, so when it comes time to pay interest you don’t want to be paying a lot of high interest payments on the same slot.
Offer cards tell you how much you get instantly, and how much you will have to repay each time your time wheel arrow moves around to that card or cards. There are a few nicer offer cards that give you say $10 and the interest is only $9! Most however offer interest that is far higher than the initial payment. Offer cards are sorted by value in to three rows of three. To pick from one of those rows you must first take a share. These shares are what score you points should you not be the first to bankrupt.
After everyone has an offer, players take turns making secret bids for other players shares. This is done by putting your chosen amount of money into a wallet and handing it to another player. They must either accept it or put the same amount of money in and return it, the player accepting the money handing over a share. Excellent and unique game!