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    Rediscovered Games Of October 2020

    Jaipur shot

    Jaipur - Nathan Coombs

    Jaipur is not a new game. However, for over 10 years it has remained popular and taken on an almost classic status as a two-player tussle. It is a tactical game of trading commodities in an Indian market with set collection and hand management mechanisms.

    Using just the cards in your hand you might choose to acquire more resources or increase your camel herd. The aim is to sell your goods and gain rewards. Some commodities such as gold or silver have an inherent and fixed high value. Others such as spice or leather have a variable ticket price. The first person to sell such goods could command a premium, but subsequent trades might become less profitable. The best deals are to be had when three, four or five goods (of the same type) are all traded. This gives a bonus in addition to the value of the goods sold.

    As you see your opponent collecting certain cards it becomes obvious that they are looking for a big pay-out. You might try to undermine their scheme by selling one or two of those items quickly. Although you might not be able to collect a large number of these goods, at least you could get a premium price for being the first to sell.

    Jaipur is all about understanding the right time to collect items or when to cash in for a quick rupee.

    But what about the camels? The camels also act as a currency. They too can be sold and exchanged for goods, which is good. But then that means there are more camels for your opponent to grab and use. Camels have value too.

    Once the market is almost depleted the round ends and the profits are counted. Jaipur normally plays as a “best of three rounds” over 30 minutes. It definitely engenders the “let’s have another quick game” sentiment once you have finished. For a classic two-player trading game head down to the Indian market that is Jaipur.

    Rummikub - Tora Leslie

    Like a favourite jumper, Rummikub sits on a shelf in my ever-expanding board game collection, reliable, familiar, and comfortable, As with many older titles, however, it is often overlooked – a victim of the cult of the new. And so, with anxiety levels high and an invitation to revisit a game in October which I know and love, I gratefully reached for the battered, square, blue box, and took it back to our table.

    So what is Rummikub? Well, if I told you it has been around for more than 90 years and won the lofty Spiel des Jahres Game of the Year award back in 1980, would you be surprised? Even as an established fan I was, particularly given the low profile this family friendly veteran receives amongst other set collection games.

    But, if it isn’t already on your radar and you have ever played Rummy then you already know the basic rules; your objective is to make runs/sets of at least three consecutive or identical numbers by laying new manipulating existing tile splays and the first player to empty their rack is the winner. Can’t go? Pick up. Got a joker tile? Lucky draw!

    Unlike the original card game which revels in secret set improvements until the winner shouts “Rummy” with as much flourish and fanfare as the occasion permits, however, here you start with 14 randomly selected tiles and you must lay unique sets/runs totalling at least 30 on your first go before wanting to compile and lay your sets and runs as they are completed on subsequent turns in order to rid yourselves of tiles when you can.

    Simple, right? Not so fast, Padawans. Whilst some rounds are a calm, calculated development of impressive melds, Rummikub can quickly turn into a tense, brain burning session, particularly when your opponents completely rearrange the tiles on the table, throwing your carefully planned moves into the air. Strategy ratchets up another gear when you withhold tiles in order to scupper your opponents’ progress or to achieve longer runs down the line. Beware, however, for incorrect placements are penalised in game and the total of the tiles you hold at the end will be negatively scored (30 for a wild joker!) and bump up the points for the winner.

    Undoubtedly, adding Rummikub into our October game night rotation was a joy because, whether I win or lose, I enjoy it all the same. Whilst my husband pursues victory, for me, the adaptive decision making process is where the magic lies. On that basis, no matter how elaborate my game collection or gaming tastes become, there will always be a place for Rummikub.

    Elder Sign - Gavin Hudson

    Maybe it was the Halloween season or maybe it was HBO’s excellent Lovecraft Country, but something this month got me craving for some Cthulhu Yahtzee. Elder Sign (and its many expansions) sleeps on my shelf like an Elder One waiting to be unleashed. Then, like The Black Goat of The Woods, it unleashes it’s brood on to my table multiple times a month. It was one of the first games I bought when growing my collection and has sunk its tentacles firmly in my Kallax.

    Elder Sign is a good solo and two-player experience. Three is OK, but I find many more and it can get a little boring waiting for your next turn. It’s perfect for our socially restricted times and in Tier 3, it’s provided the right depth – complex enough to fill the evenings, but not so taxing as to add to the pressures of the current situation. It’s provided a nice piece of escapism.

    Of course, a game where you are rolling dice trying to match symbols with those on cards is going to bring a lot of luck, which won’t be for everyone. But I love throwing lots of dice into a tray at once and the rolls can be incredibly tense. I think my neighbours may have overheard my cheers and groans as I’ve battled my way through the Omens of the Pharaoh and Omens of the Deep expansions (the latter is my favourite).

    Even better, this month I beat the great winged and tentacled one himself on his own patch of R’lyeh for the first time; sealing him off before he even got to flap his wings in an epic two-hour game. The ineffable joy of rolling that skull symbol with your last throw of the dice (or alternatively the crushing defeat of failure) is why I keep coming back to this classic.

    Le Harve - Kirsty Hewitt

    For a while, Le Havre was one of the heaviest games I owned.  But then the start of lockdown heralded in some new heavies, from Maracaibo to Brass: Birmingham.  And so, Le Havre sat unplayed for some time.  Recently, though, I’ve started thinking about Le Havre again.  So, a few weeks ago I persuaded my husband to sit down for a game.

    The premise of Le Havre is simple.  Each turn you have two options, do you take all of the available resources of one type, or use one of the available buildings.  This very simple mechanic is somewhat complicated by the need to feed your people at the end of each round.  

    As the rounds go by you need to feed your people more food.  This isn’t Agricola though, and whilst you do need food there are also boats which can help.  At the end of each round, a boat card is revealed which can be built from the Wharf.  Each boat can provide you with a certain amount of food for your people, with the better boats being worth more food.

    The other aspect of Le Havre is gaining resources to build buildings.  Buildings are worth points at the end of the game.  The added bonus is that you do not have to pay to use your own buildings whilst other players do.  The buildings allow players to gain additional resources, or convert them into better resources.

    Le Havre has a great puzzle aspect as you try to balance collecting resources and building your town, with feeding your people.  There is lots of variability in the order the buildings can be played and in what special buildings are used in a game.  I’m looking forward to playing Le Havre again very soon!

    Sagrada - John Hunt

    We picked this up as a family and started playing it over Half Term, having played friends' copies in the past on a couple of occasions. I had forgotten how good it was!

    At its heart, it combines dice drafting with a positional puzzle skin to polyomino games. You are trying to complete a grid of dice representing a stained-glass window. All players are restricted in that dice cannot be placed orthogonally adjacent if they are the same colour or number. Additionally, your stained-glass window (a card you choose from a selection at the start which slots into your player board) also has requirements on some spaces, specifying numbers or colours that need to go there.

    As the game starts, choices from the draft are comparatively easy – plenty of options, but you are trying to predict where it's going to get hard and pick off these future pinch-points early. Then as the game progresses the field of options narrows and you get to enjoy the satisfying pain of reconciling what’s on offer in the draft with the remaining holes you need to fill. Equally, you get to regret earlier decisions that have no doubt fouled your ‘now’ and enjoy the howls of pain from other players as they do the same.

    There is a degree of mitigation from this pleasurable hell, through tool cards, which enable a limited amount of repositioning or other rule-breaking. End game scoring is based on 3 drawn public cards and 1 secret private card, all to do with patterns and or number/colour combinations.

    In a similar manner to Azul this can play as a crunchy solo puzzle experience for each player – and it’s very pleasurable as that. However, if you have an eye to what your opponents are aiming for, there is also the possibility of vicious hate drafting and general spitefulness, if that’s your bag. Either way, it’s a great game and one I am delighted to rediscover this month.

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