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Top 5 Summer Themed Games

Mariposas Feature Image

Summer is one of my favourite times of the year.  Longer days and warmer weather means more chances to get out and about.  But what about those typical “summer” days of endless rain.  Well then I turn to a summer themed games. 

What do you think of when I say summer? Bright colours, butterflies and tropical sunshine may be a few things which pop into your head.  I asked some of my fellow bloggers what games spoke of summer themes to them.  

Thankfully the games on this list are guaranteed to give you a hit of summer.  Well at least they more likely to than the great British weather!  So read on for those games to play, when you want some summer spirit added to your day.

Succulent - Nathan Coombs

The front cover of Succulent by Renegade Games Studios evokes feelings of summer for me. The riot of colourful flowers, offset by the hues of green scream of the herbaceous borders at National Trust properties.  The cover is reminiscent of bees buzzing to collect nectar and of lazy summer afternoons.

I’m a “fair-weather” gardener but last year’s lockdown bought me in contact with this quite cut-throat masterpiece. This game has tile laying, set collection, area control and hand management mechanics.  These all come under the guise of stocking your greenhouse with plants!

The theme might seem a little middle aged, but this game has some ruthless tactics at its heart. Up to four players are competing to cultivate areas of the garden. This will allow them to generate cuttings for their flowers and propagate new plants. By laying tiles of different shapes, you cover the ground in the flower beds. If you snag prime positions near the taps your plants grow better through water bonuses. If you fill your greenhouse with different plants and succulents, you can compete to claim points for different sets of flowers.

Bringing Succulent to the table reminds me of summer. There is colour and space. The components and player tokens are wonderfully crafted garden tools; a fork, trowel.  There is a timeless quality that has a green fingered theme.  But if played in other seasons will lift the spirits and evoke the feeling of summer even on rainy days.

Azul Summer Pavilion - Favourite Foe

Sunshine, sunglasses, suncream…Summer Pavilion!

The third instalment in the Azul series always makes me think of summer. The vibrant colours and Portuguese inspired tiles epitomise summer holidays. Walking into cool churches when the midday sun is sizzling. Sitting outside a café, watching people play under a shady Cypress tree.

Don’t be fooled, though; This is an abstract strategy game. Like the soaring temperatures, it can cause brain burn!

Your task is to create a beautiful composition to please King Manuel I . Using wonderfully chunky tiles chosen from central “factories”, the aim is to complete star shaped patterns.  However, you can’t only take the tiles you want. You have to decide which factory to select, and which colour tiles to pick. You then decide where to place them on your board. With each section having a minimum tile requirement, you need to focus on specific colours.

One colour tile is “wild” each round. Placement can trigger the release of bonus tiles. You can bank a few tiles for the next round. Whilst these are helpful, they alone won’t save you. You always need to have one eye on your opponents. Disrupting their tile hoarding could mess up their chances of success. Scoring can be sizzlingly severe. Big bonuses are available if you complete a star. Note that negative points are inflicted if you are left with tiles at the end of the game.

This is where Azul Summer Pavilion shines for me. Your brain will want to complete a star. However, this could mess up your chances of scoring across your board. Do you risk it, or spread your bets? Do you draft to further your own cause, or mess up your opponent’s starry aspirations? I love Azul Summer Pavilion and playing it always feels like summer to me.

Mariposas - Kirsty Hewitt

For me, a sign of summer is the arrival of butterflies.  I have always found butterflies fascinating.  There is something pleasing about watching them flit around my garden as I’m making a cup of tea.

So Mariposas is a game that makes me think of summer.  In the game, you are playing out the life cycle of a butterfly.  You start off with one level one butterfly in their overwinter home in Mexico. In Spring they head off towards North America to collect pollen from different plants and to breed.  Butterflies move by way of cards.  These show how many spaces butterflies can move and how many times they can stop to collect pollen.  You have to exchange pollen in to get new butterflies.  This is necessary because at the end of Spring and Summer your oldest butterflies die

Mariposas takes place over three seasons.  Each season has a goal card that awards points for certain objectives. These often award points based on where your butterflies are based geographically.  Each season the goals award points for being further away from Mexico. But, you also get points for getting butterflies home to Mexico at the end of Autumn (Fall).

The game has a great little push and pull.  Do you want to score as many points as possible but sacrifice getting your butterflies back?  Or do you focus on getting big points from your butterflies arriving home?  I have played both strategies on several occasions.  And I have won and lost with both strategies which show how well balanced this game is.  It is also a great board game representation of a butterfly life cycle.

So let’s check, does Mariposas meet the summer checklist? Bright colours?  Check.  Summer card? Check.  Butterflies? Definitely check!  All in all one of the great summer themed games.

Blue Lagoon - John Hunt

Blue Lagoon is a great game for summer! Thematically it smacks of sun-drenched islands and white sand beaches. Mechanically is simple to learn and hard to master.   A great holiday game with a low bar to access.  But, it also has plenty of crunchy decisions and a strong drive to play again to see if you can do better.

The activity of placing islanders or huts across the archipelago is in many ways a soothing one.  Sometimes you are scattering boats far and wide.  At other times focusing on building chains that criss-cross the islands. And yet beneath that simple satisfaction, there’s plenty to make your brain work.  Blue Lagoon is a real puzzle and a darn good one at that. It’s also very competitive. You will be blocking each other, denying each other spaces, and nabbing resources that others wanted.

Strategy and tactics are all informed by the scoring criteria.  These come in two broad categories: ‘area control’ and ‘collect the set’. You end up parsing the board state often to consider which will give you the best return. That is then modified by the tactical decision of what your opponent(s) is/are up to. Have they forced a rethink to your next move? Do they need blocking?

Blue Lagoon plays well with all player counts. With two players you will have more space. You have a greater choice of how confrontational to be, and a greater opportunity to focus on strategy rather than tactics. With four you are forced into a confrontation. While strategy remains important you have to be more flexible and agile with your tactics. It is suitable as a family game.  But, it can be enjoyed by more hard-core gamers as a bit of lighter (though still competitive) relief too. Great summer fun!

Villagers - Kyle Gormley

I can’t quite explain why Villagers makes me think of summer. There’s no mention of it in the game. The theme of building a village implies that a large amount of time has passed. Yet, every time I play it, I imagine the whole thing taking place in glorious sunshine, set against a backdrop of blue skies and green grass.

It could be the art, which is bright, poppy, and cheerful. It could be the villagers themselves - Miners, Coopers, Beekeepers, Thatchers.  Maybe it's the world your villagers build as the game goes on. Or, to be honest, it could be nothing more than that the box shows a nice, sunny day.

Each player starts the game with one card in play - your village ‘Founders’.  Over a variable number of rounds, you will draft and play cards.  In this way, you build up your own personal village in the process. Some villagers form a chain of professions - you can’t have a Jeweller without first hiring a Spelunker.  Others are specialised and help ‘unlock’ other cards.

The system is simple. You will create unique villages that tell funny and interesting stories each time you play. You might be desperate to recruit a Wine Trader, but it turns out your friend has hired the only Glass Blower in their town down the road. Do you pay for his services? Or discard the Wine Trader out of spite, leaving your poor Vintner to toil endlessly for no reason.

The fact that you never see all the cards in a single game means it’s always different.  You can’t rely on the same strategy whenever you play, which is wonderful for such a quick, family friendly game.

Overall, it’s a game of community, friendship, and being mad at someone for hiring a Blacksmith. What’s more summery than that?

Summer Games

There you have it! The top 5 summer themed games. Did we get them right? Let us know!