Lockdown is difficult! Being stuck inside and not being able to socialise in person is pretty hard. Us board gamers are a versatile bunch though, and through online and solo play we have managed to game still. There are games that don't translate well to either solo or online play though. Games that need the spark of face to face interaction to take them to the next level. Here our bloggers tell you what games they will be playing first once they can!
Jim - You've Gone and Dune it Now
There are a lot of games I want to play with my friends when the laws change and I can safely play with a larger group again. Picking just one is really tough! There are some high number party games that I cannot wait to get to the table again. And some heavy games my family don’t enjoy as much that I am so pumped for trying with my gaming group again. But if there was one I had to pick as a stand out, it would be Dune. Not the new Dune Imperium, I don’t have that yet! But the remake of the classic game by the legendary team behind Cosmic Encounter that was re-skinned and re-released in 2019!
As such, I have only played this game a handful of times, but it sits safely within my top 10 games of all time, because it is just so good. Dune has just the right amount of meaty decisions that meaningfully impact your fate in the game. There are a lot of rules and stages in each turn in this game, but they all make sense. The game flows brilliantly and oozes Dune. If you are a fan of the books or films, you will be blown away by this. But even if you aren’t, and in truth, I am not, you could still love this game.
There are so many factors why, but let me just explain one. Variable player powers. Mind bending variable player powers! In Dune, you could play as a faction that has rule breaking movement power, collects all the money from other players, rather than it going to the “bank”. Or the faction that's power wins the game, simply by predicting who will win and in which round. They then spend the entire game trying to help make that happen, secretly aiding another player at the table to victory.
That other player could meet the victory condition of occupying at least three strongholds on the board, leap up to celebrate their hard-fought victory, and then another player reveals their prediction and rip the win away! So long as they are not in alliance with another player at the time, they win alone instead. It is a moment of genius I have not ever experienced in any other game.
Dune works ok in a two so I have had the odd game in lockdown, but it shines in a six. I cannot wait to get this to the table in full numbers in 2021 and start bribing and lying to my friends again!
Matt - It will be Arnak on the Night
I am in a fortunate position that a lot of my gaming is done with my long suffering wife. It is great to spend an evening sitting around the table and playing a game with her, but sometimes games just need to be played with more players. Often games feel different between two players and four players. Both equally good, they just give you a different gameplay experience and I am always wanting to see how the game changes with more players. One of these games is the Lost Ruins of Arnak. This is a one to four player game from Czech Games Edition.
I have played a number of games solo and at the two player count but I am very keen to try this at the full four players. Solo and two player games are really good fun. I love the deck building and worker placement mash up and games always feel tight and satisfying. One of the interesting mechanisms in the game is that you discover new dig sites, which are effectively new worker placement spots. I am really keen to see how the number of these new sites increase with more players. The initial base camp spaces are restricted in a two and three player game so from this point it does scale well. But seeing more dig sites coming out as the game progresses and the race for these spots would hopefully add a new dynamic to the game.
Also with more players there may be a greater turnover of equipment and artefact cards. This could add race element into the game as you may want to clamour for a particular card before someone else. One of the slight concerns I have is that downtime between players might become too much. This is only my initial thinking but I would be interested to see how this plays out with more players.
Lost Ruins of Arnak is a great game that I have been having an absolute blast with solo and at two players and I am very much looking forward to post lockdown when we can meet and enjoys games with our fellow board gaming buddies.
Thom - Don't Dwell on Lockdown
After nearly a year with some sort of lockdown or restrictions on who you can have around your gaming table, my pile of shame, (or pile of opportunity depending on how you look at it), has been growing at an alarming rate. I got heavy into Kickstarter and luckily some games that have been fulfilled in the last 12 months have solo modes. That meansI have been able to get a little taste of what the game can offer. One of those games is Dwellings of Eldervale and I want more!
This is a worker placement game set in a fantasy realm. You’ve got a modular board made up of a bunch of different coloured hexes. Each colour represents one of 8 different elements. You’ll be placing your workers out onto the board to go out and gather resources or trigger some action spots. These spots might allow you to recruit more workers, settle in a region, draw some new cards or even add areas to the map.
There is also something not seen very often in a worker placement games, combat. You can place your workers on the same space as other players pieces and then you’ll have a bit of a fight. There are also giant monsters roaming the board who can really mess you up if you are unprepared and get too close.
After you are done placing your workers, you can call them all back to your player area and use them to trigger abilities on the cards you have earned. These cards can be upgraded to make them more potent too.
There is so much variety in this game. You’ll only play with a fraction of the elements, depending on how many players are in the game. The more players, the more options, plus the map is bigger and there are more options for awesome combos. Playing solo gives you a small sample of what is possible in this game and I can’t wait until I can get a full table of gamers together to properly dive into everything Eldervale has to offer.
Tora - Catan't Beat It!
Our bubble has popped and we are mingling like freshers in a frat house! Ok, so that might not be happening for a while, but it is nice to dream!
In that case, whilst still sealed off from the world at large, I am going to sit back, close my eyes, and think about a game currently sitting on my shelf, sad and un-played. Why? Well, simply because, whilst some undeniably great things happen les deux (I’m talking games…what are YOU thinking? haha), this glorious gaming granddaddy needs at least three willing victims….ahem, I mean players!
Now, I know it is not steaming at the top of the hotness scale (or even slowly simmering like a lukewarm petrol station hot-dog) but, for me, the veteran that is Catan will be hitting my table first when we can once again have friends over to play.
Between numerous lockdowns, shutdowns, shielding, and the altogether befuddling social restrictions of 2020, there was a small window where my best friend could come over to our house. She was most definitely NOT a board gamer, wouldn’t even countenance such an activity when there were Instagram feeds to check and Tweets to post, not to mention the entire Netflix library to peruse.
But, having persuaded her to humour me (ok, straight up bribery), she sat at our table and indulged me and my husband in a game of Catan. And something electric happened; out went the sceptical (but beautiful!) face and in came the competitive streak! The tagline on the box may state “Trade Build Settle” but it seems to have forgotten part 2; “ Shout Block Gloat”! Our engines were revving and we spent an afternoon bandying sheep cards about and carving winding roads around each other whilst bartering resources like masters of the market-verse!
Now, I know there are other great ways to play Catan with smaller player counts (Rivals for Catan, Traders and Barbarians – which can be used in tandem with the base game to create a two player version, and Catan Dice Game). But, thinking about truly sociable experiences, the enjoyment we shared playing Klaus Teuber’s masterstroke of gaming glory together as a larger group, is something (together with our t-shirts!) that will stay with me forever. And for that very reason, Catan is going to be my post lockdown top pick!
Tom H - Essential Grape Squeezing
Back in October, a few days before the UK November lockdown, I taught Viticulture to my friend. He’s into his wine, so I was confident he’d find the theme fascinating. He enjoys worker placement as a mechanism too, so another tick, there. I also own Tuscany (an excellent expansion for Viticulture), but I didn’t want to chuck both at him at once. This was the base game, alone: Viticulture – Essential Edition.
At first, my friend felt a tad swamped by everything. He’s not as far down the board game rabbit hole as I am, to be fair! But after a few rounds (‘years’, in the game), you get to see plenty of examples of what the locations provide. You get to see the multitude of cards and their effects. You start to realise the ways to scoring points aren’t limited to completing wine orders.
After the game and chatted about it, strategy-wise. I got the impression my friend was keen to play it again. This is always a wonderful feeling to experience as the ‘board game friend’. I get an equal amount of satisfaction introducing games to my pals as I do playing them, myself. Off the back of this, I left feeling confident that next time we met I’d add the Tuscany expansion into the mixer.
Tuscany’s Wake-Up chart provides more goodies; it’s always fun to earn freebies! There’s four seasons instead of two. An area-control mini-game that provides yet more freebies. But what I want to play with are the Special Workers, which grant various extra powers when you place them. I’m also super-keen to play with the orange deck of Structures. I’d love to build my own asymmetrical vineyard! Let’s hope lockdown doesn’t go on for too much longer. Else, my friend might forget how base-Viti plays, and then I’ll have to re-teach it all over again…
Nick - Beyond Irony
A good few months ago some of the other bloggers mentioned Beyond the Sun. I hate to think of myself as a shallow man, but the clean graph like look of the game felt a bit lazy. Looking it to it more though, it seemed to scratch various of my itches, the ones the doctor hasn't prescribed a cream for anyway. Worker placement - scratch, tech tree with massive variety - scratch, engine building - scratch!
Beyond the Sun takes the idea of 'Tech trees' from video games and runs with it. There is a side board with some interplanetary travels and ways of scoring points but really that's assisting you in getting a great tech enhancing tree of epic proportions going. Each tech on the tree can be used by any player as long as they have researched it. This element is super exciting for me when added to the prospect of multiple players. I always fall into the trap of watching another player, thinking they are doing better than me and trying to copy them. Here though, players are free to carve their own path towards the hard to earn level 4 tech.
I'm still not overjoyed by the art but it is clean and the graphic design is clear. The player boards are dual layered which is good because you will be shifting the cubes (THEY ARE NOT DICE!) around and changing them from resources into population, and spaceships. I know that sounds weird but it works in practice! As you spend more of your resources you will unlock more tasty bonuses, which further drives your tech hunger!
2020 may have turned out to be made of lies and broken dreams but I got to play some brilliant games solo and online. Whistle Mountain, Praga Caput Regni and Eclipse all threatened to take this article but there was just something a bit unique and satisfying about Beyond the Sun that made it win out.
Over to you!
So there you have it! A veritable banquet of tabletop goodness just waiting to be enjoyed in good company. What game are you most looking forward to playing when you can? Let us know on our social media channels!