Every month our writers share information about the board games they have been playing, sharing both positive and negative thoughts on those games. Here's what some members of our writing team were playing during the festive month of December.
Rob W - Jamaica
Jamaica is a game about pirates, racing ships and accumulating treasure, but it's the fights which cause the most fun. Yes, you can carefully pick your way round the board, and yes there's a lot of luck involved, but ultimately there's nothing like catching your rival, besting them in ship based combat only to relieve them of a treasure card which has a curse on it rendering the whole thing laughably worse than staying still.
Jamaica is a gateway game, it's good in large numbers, but we've yet to try The Crew Expansion.
Nick - A Family Month
I slowed down in December, only playing 42 unique games. Due to the festive season a lot of these were games that were approachable to my simple minded family. Azul, Barenpark and NMBR 9 were all hits due to easy explanations, interesting components and quick play times. Unfortunately, due to some strange alignment of the planets, the simpletons also beat me at everything we played. My mum got so much of a kick out of scrabble alternative Letter Tycoon that I let her keep it. It was Christmas after all.
I also got to try a couple of excellent prototypes of Kickstarter games launching in January. The filler game Spirits of the Forest is a beautiful and deeper than you might think set collection game. And Warpgate is an awesome space game of shifting area control, space battles, and escalating actions. Check them both out!
I finally got to play Roll for the Galaxy and was impressed. I seem to have a secret love of engine building games and Roll ticks the boxes. The clever action selection system gives you choices and the opportunity to risk it for a biscuit. I like biscuits. In the engine building vein, London 2nd Edition is right up my street, even though I’m pretty terrible at it. Avoiding poverty in London is tough.
Yokohama lived up to my expectations, conjuring memories of Istanbul while being suitably different. It definitely needs another play, as the sheer wealth of options was almost overwhelming.
It wasn’t all good though. Can’t Stop Express was merely average, and not quite as playable as it’s big brother. Isaribi, a fishing game, was nice enough but it felt like I’d seen everything after two plays. Still I can’t really complain!
Ashley - Le Havre: The Inland Port
The Inland Port is a really neat, challenging and fast two player game based on and drawing some mechanics from its larger cousin Le Havre. Players take on the role of a harbour master and compete to become the richest through obtaining resources, fish, grain, wood and clay, and using these to purchase and operate buildings and ultimately to generate wealth.
Play occurs over a set number of rounds and in each round a set of new buildings become available, players can either purchase one of these new buildings or operate one that is already in play. It’s worth noting that players can, at a cost, operate buildings belonging to their opponent, and that this can actually be a very good strategy. In order to purchase a building the players need to play the cost in resources, wood, clay, grain or fish, or in coins. Many of these buildings allow for the generation of more resources, and the longer they are left unused the more resources they generate.
As resources are generated they are placed in a warehouse, of which each player has their own. The resources in a warehouse will go down as they are spent to purchase a building, and up as a building is operated. Wealth comes in two forms, franks which can be obtained through operating some buildings, and through the buildings themselves, each has a value in franks. Ultimately it is the generation of franks which is the objective because the winner is the player who is the richest at game end.
Le Havre: Inland Port is a fascinating game. It is one of those games with no luck factor, everything is visible and known. It is about maximising the generation of resources and wealth, and responding to what the opponent is doing or has available. There is a lot more to it that initially meets the eye.
The Game Shelf - New Essen Games
This month we’ve definitely been focused on playing and reviewing a lot of new games that were released at Essen, but are making their way into the UK board game market now. Towards Christmas we had a few opportunities to meet up with friends and try even more new games, as well as visiting Coffee and Dice in Bournemouth for a full afternoon of new games on Boxing Day.
We’ve not been focused on any one game, aside from our ongoing campaign of Pandemic Legacy, but of all of our plays, there’s a few games that I’m very excited to add to the collection and play a lot over the next few months.
Bunny Kingdom is a drafting and area control game with small bunny miniatures, who you are trying to add to a grid board in clusters to score points each round. The two-player drafting really gave us a great opportunity to compete over land and resources, without making it a mean game and I really enjoyed trying to out-think Amy, as well as building up a kingdom that looked really great on the board. We picked up Bunny Kingdom in the January sales and I’m looking forward to playing it more and at different player counts.
Fog of Love is a very unique two player game where you are role-playing a relationship. We’ve only played the intro scenario which was our first date, but quickly escalated into serious and dramatic life decisions. I am not a fan of typical pen and paper role-playing games, but Fog of Love has me intrigued and it was fun to invent personalities for our two characters, so I’m looking forward to exploring more of the scenarios in the box.
Luke Hector - Otys
I'm strapped for choice here if we're talking about expansions only, but less so for actual new games. Everyone raves about Azul currently so I'm going to leave that one out and focus instead on a decent Euro that I fear will get brushed aside in the long run, Otys.
Part of that reason is because even though the box cover emphasises an epic underwater exploration theme, it really isn't that at all. Otys is a mostly "multiplayer solitaire" puzzle where you have to exploit the abilities of eight unique divers to grab artifacts (. . . OK OK, cubes) and fulfill contracts for points. It's a very dry affair and plays more like a giant puzzle, but it's a fun puzzle.
As each diver gets used, they have to resurface unless you have the means to keep them below water. Also you can't just spam the same row constantly - you have to mix and match for a short period until your tokens refresh. So there's plenty to think about and you need to plan ahead while also taking advantage of any tactical opportunities with the bonus tiles that keep switching places.
Divers can be upgraded, as can your ability to shift divers and refresh your action tokens quicker and the whole package is well produced and dead simple to follow. I wouldn't call it gateway level as there's a lot to think about, but it's a good next step and I'm due to have a go at the recently released solo variant that might just kick Otys up a notch. After all if it's mainly multiplayer solitaire, why not play it solo? It's a genuinely solid game that's worth checking out.
The Bad - Fuji Flush
"There's no perfect information, no fun, no tension, nothing. You literally just play a card and hope no-one screws you over."
The disappointment - Charterstone
"It's not a bad game at all and may have been more exciting with multiplayer, but I just don't have the desire to return to it to carry on the game or recharge it and play through the legacy game again."