Easter is upon us and the Easter Bunny is one busy bee! Here at Zatu, we are pre-empting the sugar rush and thinking about games that will get you hopping about. So, don your fluffiest ears, settle on your sweetest of snacks, and let’s get bouncing into some brilliant board games!
I love chocolate, I love eggs. But do you know what I love more than both of those things combined? Wingspan eggies!! And, not that I need it, but Easter gives me the perfect excuse to play Wingspan from the moment the chicks chirp their morning song to the time the lambs are being tucked in for the night.
Wingspan from Stonemaier Games is a beautiful tableau creating, engine building, hand management game designed by Elizabeth Hargraves and illustrated by Beth Sobel, Anna Maria Martinez Jaramillo, Natalie Rojas and Greg May.
Your objective is to attract the most point-astically plumed birds to your nature reserve. You do this through a combination of gaining food, laying eggies, and adding yet more beautiful birds to your tableau from the 170+ on offer. It is a competition, but this game feels so chilled and relaxed that I never care if I win or lose. I just love the process of trying to build my birdie engine in order to see who I can get into my 3 habitat types over the fleeting rounds.
If you pick and place smart, the potential for combination actions that cascade along with each habitat and reward you in multiple ways (that can then be used for further advantages) are dazzlingly good. And, because there are different paths to victory, as well as luck of the draw when it comes to the birds on offer each turn, your strategy can and should be different every time.
This amps up the replayability and the feeling of feathery freshness in Wingspan to the max. It a game where it never feels like there is enough time to do everything that you want with the engine you are building. Which of course there isn’t. And that’s the beautifully crunchy strategic tension in this winged wonder that keeps me coming back for more. Oh, and when I say more, I really mean more. With two expansions already out (Oceania and European) offering added game play and lot’s more region specific species to the mix, I am well and truly bird brained, and I couldn’t be happier!
Though the Easter Frog has long been neglected in seasonal propaganda in favour of a fluffy eared brethren, its hops are still legitimate on the tabletop. Of all the amphibian based games Cosmic Frog is the one that gets me hopping the most, both in terms of excitement and that good kind of frustration.
It’s not a perfect spawn though, let’s get that out the way right up front. The rulebook is thorough and uses lashings of its own unique terminology like ‘oomph’ and ‘shard’. Its sessions tend to be on the long side, not due to any inherent complexity but rather due to the absolutely bonkers gameplay and randomness there within.
The setup for the game is completely sensible and standard. You play a two mile high cosmic frog, eating up terrain and puking them back up into your vault for scoring purposes. Of course, anything that is pushed out of your gullet the other way is discarded from the game. You can whip your tongue into another frog’s gullet and take terrain from there too, should you choose an aggressive path. Or simply knock them right into the outer dimensions leaving their normally safe vault ripe for the plundering.
Driving this madness forwards are special power cards. Each player will have at most one at a time. They can keep this hidden until the most advantageous time to reveal it. These not only give you a special ability but also determine the strength of dice you will roll for attacking other frogs and pilfering terrain.
If this sounds like chaos it is. If you don’t like randomness in your games, you won’t like Cosmic Frog. It’s very easy to gang up on players who get knocked into the outer dimensions. But it is also unique, fun and engrossing. I don’t have any other game quite like it, and if you want a bit of madness then you should definitely check it out!
A race around the farm eating carrots and lettuce to be first over the line without too many carrots left what could more evoke the spirit of Spring than that? In what could be sub-titled the survival of the fattest, Hare and Tortoise has great green credentials and the fact I’m still playing mine 40 years after I bought it is a good shout on the sustainability front too.
For a gateway game that can be played by 8 year olds it sneaks some pretty interesting maths under the radar. All in all, it is not surprising that this was the first ever winner of the Spiel des Jahres back in 1979 and is still selling today.
Each of the up to 4 players can be either hare-like or tortoise-like at any point. The core theme is that you get more rewards the further back you are. With no dice to move just decide how many spaces you want to go and pay in carrots. This increases exponentially: 1 carrot for 1 square, 3 carrots for 2 squares all the way up to 300 carrots for 24 squares for carrotty millionaires!
Alternatively moving backwards to a tortoise square gains you carrots. Three lettuces must be eaten along the way and you can’t cross the line with too many carrots left in your stash. Some spaces have numbers from 1 to 4 providing 10x that number of carrots but only if you are in that position after everyone else has had their turn.
There’s only 1 player per space so room for some nice blocking moves. It's easy to play yet there’s no perfect strategy as it all depends on how your opponents race – haring along or slow and steady to win the race!
That moment of stillness and concentration as you slowly place the last column on top of the tower. And then that moment of mad celebration, jumping around, as you realise the tower has stayed up! That is the feeling when you win Menara.
Menara is a co-operative dexterity game. During the game, you place coloured columns on marked spaces on the bases as you try to re-build an ancient temple. So far, so simple. But, Menara is a lot more cunning than that. For a start. the bases are funny shapes, no mere square for you. How about a moon, or hammer shape?!
Each turn players draw a planning card. You have to place your coloured columns on a base, but the card will tell you how many to place, and whether on the same or different bases. Plan cards can be easy, medium or hard. But you will have to use all types of plan cards during the game.
If you can't complete a planning card it gets added to the levels required to win. Once a base is completed, you have to draw and place a new base from the top of the pile. As such, you have to be strategic about when you fill a tile up.
You win if you are either (a) unable to fill your columns at the end of your turn, or (b) if you have used all bases and plan cards, and the temple is at least the minimum number of levels high. You lose if the temple, even one column, falls over at any point during play.
Menara is such a clever game. It has plenty of suspense and moments when you don't want to look! But the best feeling is when (on the rare occasion) you manage to complete the temple win! Then you jump up and down for joy, and probably in the process knock your hard work over anyway!
When I saw what this article would be about, I had to pause for a moment. I’m not really a seasonal person. I think I have just one seasonal game on my shelf, and it isn’t Just One, though that does come out seasonally for my family. Nor do I have any games involving rabbits which would have been good for Easter.
But what I did have was a game that gets me hopping about and very excited to play. PLUS, it has a mechanism where spreading like rabbits are beneficial to you… until it isn’t. I’m talking about Architects of the West Kingdom, a worker placement game where investing in your workers makes spots more powerful.
Continue to send a worker to the forest and they’ll chop down more wood together. Send them to the silversmith and they’ll badger the smithy for more money. But build up too strong a spot, and your opponents may head to the town hall and arrest your workers for being an unruly colony!
I love this game. It made a jump up to my favourite game this year. I love worker placement at the best of times. But when a game does something so different from the way Architects does, it really grabs my attention. Even better, it’s a game I’ve enjoyed with two, five and solo. With asymmetric powers and a ton of building and apprentice cards for you to draw, it gets me hopping with excitement every which way I play. Although I am not going to deny getting hopping mad when my workers are captured again… ah well. Guess I’ll hop over to the prison and have a chat with the warren… ahem, warden!