What do you buy the gamer who has everything? Well, when I say “everything”, I mean A Lot Of Games Already. Euro-style board games are where my heart’s at, when push comes to shove. I love Stefan Feld. Alexander Pfister is my home-boy. Simone Luciani deserves a knighthood. That’s my jam, and I have no shame in admitting it.
These past twelve months, though, I’ve attempted to expand my collection with variety. I still buy Euros – I can’t help myself! However, I’ve made conscious efforts to sail out to waters unknown. I’ve fallen in love with Dungeons & Dragons this year. Fury of Dracula (3rd/4th Edition) – a one-vs-many, theme-driven masterpiece – now sits on my shelf.
For me, Christmas is about sharing quality moments with family and friends. I have no kids of my own, but I am fortunate to have a close bond with my young niece and nephew. Fingers crossed, they’re going to grow up to be board game geeks like their Uncle Tom!
My niece loves playing HABA games. The likes of Unicorn Glitterluck, Rhino Hero and Monza will get played in December. She’s growing up fast, though. It won’t be long before she starts hankering after ‘grown up’ games. She’s already played Forbidden Island (with help), and I reckon she’d master Carcassonne in no time at all.
Both her and my nephew have active imaginations. So the game on my Christmas Wish List this year is one with future investment in mind. It’s a game with Euro-style elements to it, but there’s story-telling at its core. The artwork is wonderful and evocative. The artist, in fact, is the designer, too. Have you guessed it, yet?
The designer (and artist) in question is Ryan Laukat. The game that’s on my radar is Above and Below, by Laukat’s publishing company, Red Raven Games. Above and Below offers worker placement, village-building and set collection. But those are not earth-shattering mechanisms. More appealing is the other half of the game – the quests.
In Above and Below, players can collect resources and construct buildings ‘above ground’. The thing that intrigues me is when you opt to send your workers ‘below ground’, into the caverns. Here, they’ll stumble into encounters. You draw a quest card and get a random scenario number. You then flick to that number in a book and someone else reads out the quest. You, the active player, then has a choice. Do you attempt to resolve the encounter following option A or B? Do you act with generosity, or malice?
Depending on the workers you sent on this adventure, you’ll then roll dice to try and triumph. Success brings you rewards, which aid you towards the resource-management side of things.
I’m excited about Above and Below, not only for the possibility of future plays with my niece and nephew in mind. This style of game could appeal to my ‘casual’ gamer friends. They’d get a real kick out of picking a certain path when faced with a quest scenario. And, fingers crossed, they’d enjoy the Euro-style half of it, too…