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Rediscovered Games Of September 2020

Dominion Cards

Every year hundreds of new games are released. Part of the fun of playing board games is trying out these games and expansions to see if they have a novel mechanic or twist on a theme. However, in the pursuit of the fresh and unusual, there is the danger that some of the excellent games that were released a number of years ago, might get overlooked. Like dusting the old piece of china on the mantelpiece or removing the sheets off a forgotten masterpiece in the attic of a stately home, sometimes it is good to take stock of what has gone before.

There have been some excellent games over the years. Five bloggers lift the lid on their collection to delve down to the bottom of the games box. Let us see what treasures might be lurking and which ones they bring out into the light.

Dominion - Kirsty Hewitt

I have acquired quite a few new games in my collection over lockdown.  This has meant that some of my older games have been a little overlooked for several months.  Dominion is one such game.  However, recently, I had a hankering to play something a bit different.  So, Dominion came off its shelf and made it onto the table.

There is something pleasing about the simplicity of the gameplay of Dominion.  It is a pure deck building game.  But what really makes it so good for me is the variety of different cards in the box which can combine into many sets.  Each set gives the game a different feel.

My favourite set using the base game of Dominion is called “size distortion”.  The main difference with this set is that as well as the usual victory point cards, you also get Gardens.  These give you a point for every ten cards in your deck at the end of the game.  Not only are you trying to buy up the victory point cards, you also want to make a big deck.  This set also has my favourite card in, the witch card.  The witch allows you to draw two more cards.  But, it also gives your opponent a curse card (worth minus one victory point). This is clever as, if you are not careful, you can actually end up helping your opponents by increasing their deck size with curse cards!

I am very pleased that Dominion has made it back to the table.  Ok, so it might not be as flashy or exciting as some more modern games.  But there is something satisfying about a game which focuses on one key mechanic and pulls it off so well.

Cosmic Encounter - Jim Cohen

Every time I play Cosmic Encounter I think to myself, why have I left it so long! It is just a brilliant game. Made in 1977, this game has been around longer that I have! But it certainly has aged better than me! My version is the 2008 re-release with new art. But the core game remains the same as from the original, and it is just so good!

Cosmic Encounter is the alpha of modern gaming in my opinion. Peter Olotka and team, made Cosmic Encounter and Dune. Two of the best games ever made for me. Both of which introduced, developed and perfected many techniques used in modern games still to this day.

Most notably with Cosmic Encounter, asymmetric player powers. Games like Root have made this mechanic increasingly popular again in recent years. But in Cosmic Encounter the asymmetry is off the walls! The base rules are very simple and a little dry in truth. But add the variable Alien powers in and, oh my! So much fun will be had! I love rule-breaking powers and with Cosmic Encounter you have some of the craziest law destroying abilities I have ever seen in table top gaming.

Just take the Masochists for example. These two headed loons have the ability to win the game the usual way, but also if they lose all their ships. Completely contrasting the normal rules and throwing up all sorts of crazy turns in the game where a player is sending ships into battle with all the care of an excitable dog on a hot day looking at a lake full of floating tennis balls with a sign saying no swimming. Especially if you chose to ally with them and they start playing bad cards on purpose and you have no idea why!

Cosmic Encounter has a brilliant blend of bluffing, co-operation, take-that and variable player powers to make it a top 10 game for me. I am so pleased I recently played this game again. I won’t leave it so long next time!

Escape from Colditz Castle - Nathan Coombs

Semi-cooperative, asymmetric, set collection and historical re-enactment – all of this in a game that is nearly 50 years old and still as good as the day it was made. Escape from Colditz Castle is a game before its time. It was released in 1973. This was during the time when Smash instant potato was being advertised (and eaten!), people wore flares and your father was driving the latest Morris Marina car.

This game is a gripping now as it was then. It certainly gives all the newer games a run for their money. The fact that it was developed with guidance from Major Pat Reid, one of the few men who actually escaped, shows that this is no fantasy. I love games that have a theme and story to them. In playing Escape from Colditz you get into the mind-set of the prisoners of war. One player (unfortunately) takes the role of the German guards. Their pieces patrol and try to thwart the POW’s plans.

Up to five other players are captured prisoners, confined to the centre of the compound. With a hexagonal style grid players try to sneak to safe spots un-noticed. The aim is to put together a stash of escape equipment using a set collection mechanic. You will need rope for the walls, shovels for the tunnelling. Could you risk a break-out without those forged travel documents?

The semi-cooperative nature is also apparent in Colditz. You need your allies, but do you want to forfeit one of your POWs just to give another player a clear run to the fence with the wire cutters? The first person to get two men to safety wins.

Of course there is luck. There’s the roll of the dice and the draw of the equipment cards… but the tension is there. Who doesn’t love a frantic dash to the border in the stolen staff car?

Escape from Colditz is an oft over-looked game. In playing this classic I am reminded that these men were made of tough stuff. For them this was not a game. The 75th Anniversary Edition certainly does not trivialise their actions but allows us to respect them all the more

Through the Ages: A New Story of civilisation - Joe Packham

Okay this may be a bit of a stretch for “rediscovered” as I’d never actually played this game before this month. Hear me out though ok. My choice is 5 years old and the game it reimplements is even older! What’s more, I bought and unboxed the game ages ago. When I saw the 12 paged A4 code of laws (yes that’s actually what the rule book’s called) I faltered, then the 24 page handbook to guide you through your first game stopped me in my tracks. Yeah, I was intimidated, so back on the shelf it went, awaiting the full free day I would need to learn it.

Well that fateful day arrived my friends. I finally re-kind of-discovered Through the Ages: A New Story of civilisation! I am so glad that I persevered with the pretty arduous process of learning this civilisation game. With a complexity rating of 4.41 out of 5 on BGG Through the Ages is a heavy game. Tough to learn, challenging to teach, long to play but boy does it feel EPIC! It gives that serious Civ builder vibe using a pretty small set of components, the game is predominantly card based.

Those decks of cards span 4 eras and are divided into 2 types, military and civic. It amazes me the span of human history Vlada crammed into those few decks. Not to mention the strategy, tactics, options and interactions. For a history nut like me spending several hours in the cube pushing, card flinging world of TtA is time very well spent. I really hope it’s not too long before my next chance to play. I only wish the game came with a solo mode because it is such a time commitment for a gaming group.

Wacky Races - Will Moffat

In September I rediscovered a number of games – I played Love Letter and Kingdomino at a friend’s house and rediscovered just how much fun they are. But the most fun I had in September (apart from playing lots of X-Wing) was rediscovering two racing games, Wacky Races and Monza, with my three-year-old son.

Previously he would just play with spare pieces, tiles and figures while I would play games with other members of my family, but over the summer we taught him the Haba game, Dragon’s Breath, and since then he has also developed a liking for simple car racing games.

Monza is very simple – on your turn you roll six dice with colours on each face and can spend the dice to move forward on the coloured track according to matching colours. Haba seem to make games that really chime with little ones, and the Monza baton has been passed from my middle daughter to my son, who requested to play it a number of times over the month. You can read my review of Monza here.

Wacky Races is a cartoon I remember fondly from my childhood and my children are also fans thanks to the DVD collection. The board game itself is only a level or two above Monza in terms of complexity and results in a visually appealing, quick and simple race where the kids can pick their favourite racer (represented by amazingly detailed miniatures from CMON) and play cards from their hand to move their car along the randomly generated racetrack.

Special abilities give the characters their own identities reminiscent of their cartoon personalities – and then there’s Dick Dastardly and Muttley, who are cleverly controlled by the game itself and lay traps on the track to scupper the racers’ aspirations! You can read my review of Wacky Races here.

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