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 long month of January!
Simon Leggett - Jamaica & The Crew Exp
Getting this to the table is always a joy, nothing beats racing tiny pirate ships around an island! We got hold of The Crew, the first expansion to Jamaica and played a few games - there were mixed but mostly positive opinions on it. I think concerns were mainly from an ‘if it ain’t broke’ point of view, which is fair enough, the core game is amazing as it is. But it adds a new layer of replay and variation to turns which is a heap of fun; crew members can be picked up if you stop at a port, giving players special actions, and then they can be thrown overboard in later turns if you need hold space for goods!
- Unearth - What stands out most has to be the amazing artwork, (very) similar to the beautiful geometric art in mobile games such as Monument Valley.
- Majesty: For the Realm - We’ve so far played the ‘A’ side of the tableau, with the ‘B’ side offering a more challenging game, but the ‘A’ side seems more thematic to me.
Paul Davies - InBetween
This is a new game from the creators of Lords of Hellas, and will be strangely familiar to any fans of a recent sci-fi series where there are two versions of the world, ours and an upside-down realm. InBetween is a two-player game where one person plays the town, and their opponent plays the overmonster of the alternative realm. Between them are a ring of 10 townsfolk, who start the game neutral, but over the course of the game will be pushed and pulled back and forth between the two realms until one player has secured or devoured three townsfolk (There are in fact a couple of routes to victory, but I'll just mention the devouring for brevity).
The game is entirely card driven but features some very smart switchable power mechanics that I've not seen in a game before, that are contextual to which player has the most influence over the town inhabitant. I'll be writing a longer review, but I can't recommend this game enough and each game will likely be very different due to a good selection of action cards and townsfolk cards. The art is lovely and/or creepy, and the push and pull balance during the course of the game is remarkable. Just don't be fooled by the 20-40 mins on the box, it's much closer to an hour even accounting for learning the game.
- Crossing - A brilliant filler game for 3-6 evildoers and genuinely hilarious once things get dirty in round two.
- Terra Mystica - The components are solid and chunky, the art style basic but very clear and in all is a great gaming experience that I would recommend to any gamer to try at least once.
- Charterstone - Whatever you may think of the actual gameplay of Charterstone, you cannot fail to recognise what an amazing piece of design it really is. We just slumped back in our chairs after game one and went "Wow!"
The Game Shelf – Variety is the spice of life
This month has been all about playing a variety of games, a combination of playing lots of new games as well as feeling the need to give some table times to the games we called out as our favourite titles from 2017.
For new games, our focus has been on Pulsar 2849, Dice Throne and Papa Paolo. Pulsar 2849 was a surprise hit for us, combining a very impressive dice drafting system within a space exploration game that lets you choose your own path to victory, but really focuses your mind with its variable set-up. Dice Throne is another surprise – a dice rolling game we really enjoyed because there’s lots of opportunities to customize and mitigate your luck. Papa Paolo was the game we were most looking forward to because of its pick up and deliver mechanics and pizza delivery theme and it hasn’t disappointed, growing on us with each time we play.
Bringing out our 2017 favourites is always great too, after all they’re our favourites for a reason. I’m glad we’ve made some time for Kitchen Rush, Bunny Kingdom, Gloomhaven and Wasteland Express Delivery Service. I’m particularly happy to play more Kitchen Rush, where we’re definitely starting to improve and make some great meals in this challenging cooperative game.
Amy was really happy to play more Gloomhaven and see that I’m still enjoying this clever dungeon crawl system, which very recently became the number one rated game on Board Game Geek!
Ashley - Patchwork
I’m a fan of Uwe Rosenberg games and a fan of two player games so it should be no surprise that I like Patchwork. In Patchwork players compete to place oddly shaped patchwork pieces to form a growing quilt on a personal nine by nine quilt board. Each patchwork piece comes at a cost in buttons and in time, which the player must pay. As the game progresses with each play of a patchwork piece players may earn more buttons or small bonus single patchwork pieces. The game ends when the player tokens reach the end of the time track.
Patchwork is a little gem. There are three things happening; building a button economy, managing time and the consequences of time, and manipulating which patchwork pieces are available. There is also the little problem of how best to fit that desirable piece on the nine by nine quilt board and it is true to say that some of the most desirable in terms of buttons are the trickiest to play, giving the game a “Tetris feel.” This said, it is not all about the patchwork pieces or making a quilt, it is about managing an economy in the most time efficient manner and competing to do so against an opponent who will also be trying to manipulate game flow to gain advantage.
Patchwork is easy to learn, elegant, plays in around 30 minutes and although simple to play is surprisingly cutthroat as players manipulate time and play sequence to obtain that desirable piece, whether it be a perfectly fit on the quilt board or for the buttons.
And tomorrow I’m off to Spain for just over a week. There will be a good deal of hanging around at airports so Hive has been popped into the bag, it’s a near perfect travel companion.
Gareth - Escape from the Dark Castle
Back in the day, as a young whipper snapper, I used to read adventure books, books that took you into the world of fantasy, which offered you decisions to make and on that decision, take you to a page somewhere else within the book. Also I would watch the television show Knightmare, where young teams would venture into the fantasy world of the show making decisions that decided if they would carry on further into the quest or fail and end up leaving the show early..
Never did I ever think that a group of gamers would create a similar world using large cards and dice, and that is what they have done. You and your fellow gamers (up to four players at the moment) play a prisoner with unique attributes, trying to escape the Dark Castle, and your fate is determined by the turn of a card as you follow the adventure just like you would in the old adventure books or on Knightmare.
You come up with choices to make as you go, and even come up against ghastly characters of all shapes and sizes. All you need to do is keep an eye on your health, as you roll the various die to help determine any combat. We didn’t think this would create a sense of tension, but blimey, did it ever, in one game as we ventured through the 15 card set up and got close to the Big Boss card, we could see our health was starting to suffer, but somehow we managed to come up against the Big Boss and defeat him.
We cheered it was that tense… so we added the expansion pack and that added even more tension due to the new rules, and of course we didn’t make it all the way dying just a few cards away from taking on the Big Boss..
Nick - A busy month of Gaming
Highlights of the month of January for me included my first play of Riverboat. A clever game from the designer of Azul that led to an interest conversation about tie break mechanics and the justice off them. Despite this, I found Riverboat engaging and look forward to more plays.
Road Hog: Rule the Road surprised me. Not by its mechanics which were as simple and borderline roll and move, but by the fun and brutal game that followed. Not one for those concerned with winning but if you enjoy making your friends lives a misery then this is a lot of fun!
Majesty: For the Realm continues to win over both my friends and family and more hardened gamers, with its approachability and decision making options. I finally got to play the wonderful Abyss, which charmed with its art work and components. There is a compelling game underneath too, as you battle to influence the council and Lords of the sea, into forming the most effective scoring combination.
Chimera Station offers a different take on worker placement with your workers being upgradable through splicing. This is fantastically realised in little plastic figures that you can pop apart and add sections to. This isn’t the only thing that grows in the game as you expand the space station with more and more modules. In fact your last turns of the game are so much more involved than your first as you combo your way to as many points as possible.
The last game I want to mention is Battle for Rokugan, because it’s a game that should be getting much more love! This game is great value and it’s nice to see FFG pack a game full of cardboard, although some of the tokens are a little tiny! Players draw double-sided tokens from their supply and place them out on the map face down. Placement indicated what moves people might be making but everyone also has a bluff token which always returns to them. It’s a fantastic game of area control and highly recommended.