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What We’ve Been Playing April 2021


Callum Price - Rekindling Some Old Flames...

What have we been playing this month? We’ve been hitting some of our favourites and trying to hit some classics. Some of our unloved games, those we know we love but haven’t given the care or attention to. Dare we say… games we’ve neglected. So we’ve revitalised our plays and hit things we know we’ll enjoy. And our top two choices for this? Quarriors, a dice battling bag builder, and Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig, a tile-laying set collection game.

Quarriors is a game that’s hard to explain as a concept. You build a bag of dice, which you can battle and gain points for. It coins everything with a qu start and has some real whacky, comedic charm to it. You roll a dice and have (generally) three faces you can get. Monsters, quiddity and effects. Monsters have level, attack and defence and can be summoned by spending quiddity equal to the level. They attack immediately and attack is compared to the defence of an opponent.

Should your attack exceed the defending monster’s defence, you destroy the monster and can use the remaining attack to carry on attacking. You score for monsters you still have remaining at the start of your next turn. Each monster or other dice card purchasable (for X quiddity) is added to your pool and can be beneficial for enhancing your ability to attack, buy and inevitably win. 

Why is Quarriors worthwhile as a game to come back to? For us, we’d forgotten how incredibly fun it was. It’s high-intensity aggression and competition. No holds barred, no scope for mercy. You summon a monster to simply dominate the competition, and do so or suffer a great loss! There’s lots of replayability to this game too, as each card for the associated dice has three variances. Some with more unique abilities, others with harder-hitting (and more expensive) monsters! We loved rolling dice and smashing our friends to dust. This will undoubtedly hit the table a bit more in the coming months!

Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig is a stark contrast to the previous game. This one's weird, as it takes some understanding… You build castles with your adjacent competitors but never own any castle. It’s tricky, as normally you own what you build in board games. In this, you’ve got to balance out what you build on either side, as you score for the lowest scoring castle. Build a majestic palace of majesty and wonder and a down beaten motel and you’ll score for the motel. There’s a variant for two players where you take turns to be Ludwig himself, but the game is designed to be a three to seven-player game. 

Why has this blessed our table after so long? It hits hard and is surprisingly fast-paced for a tile building game. You score based on individual tile types, combinations of tilesets and gain bonuses for three and five of a kind. What’s more, is how tactical you need to be to balance the castles. Again, you score based on the lowest scorer. It may mean you end the game on a tie, but the better you choose appropriate tiles for each castle, the higher your (lowest) score will be. Ludwig sure is eccentric with his tiles, and there’s a lovely aesthetic to the game. It has regality, theme and some callbacks to other Stonemaier games. Lovely games for a great month of gaming!

Tom Harrod – Lava, Sheep And Ships

I played a range of games last month, to my delight. I’ve been in a childcare bubble with my niece, and it was her 7th birthday mid-April. She’s reaching the age now where she’s enjoying a wider variety of games beyond simple roll-and-moves! I taught her how to play Battle Sheep, by Blue Orange Games. It’s quite an abstract strategy game of area control. By having a theme like cartoon sheep spreading out in a pasture, it’s far more appealing. The quality of the poker-like chips gives it a wonderful tactile feel, too.

I also bought her a game for her birthday: The Table is Lava. This is a card-throwing game where you try to knock standing meeples off of cards, while not knocking down your own. It requires a large table surface, so it’s more suitable for playing at home rather than on, say, a coffee shop table! My niece took great pride in picking it up with ease. It’s great fun for adults, too. Lots of cheering oooh's and ahhh's with every card thrown.

I also played some games with an ‘older’ audience, getting one of my all-time favourites to the table, too: Le Havre. Players are rival shipping magnates in the French port. You’re trying to build an empire of businesses, grab raw materials, upgrade them and ship them off for profit. This Uwe Rosenberg worker placement game has a ‘quick’ game mode to it alongside the full version. I felt was ideal for folks learning it for the first time. More of a head-start (you begin with more resources), fewer buildings, and fewer rounds. It was a huge success – we played it four times last month, including once with the ‘full’ version. I love Le Havre – for me, a three-player count is the sweet spot.

John Hunt - Post-Birthday Gaming

It’s been nice to get some new games (to me) to the table – benefits of a birthday and all. And they have been real crackers too. First, The King is Dead, which I have recently written a feature article about (posting shortly), as a Light Box, Heavy Thinking game. It’s a label that epitomises this fabulous hand management and area control game, where with eight cards over its eight turns you enjoy agonising over every decision. I finally got a copy of A War of Whispers after the best part of a two-year wait. Wow, it’s good! Love how briskly it plays and the overall tempo as you gradually add more agents to the board. Steering factions into triumph and defeat is super satisfying as is trying to work out what your opponents are trying to do and how far your goals intersect.

I have also enjoyed a number of games on Tabletopia this month, of which the highlight was Dark Domains. When I read the rulebook I was a bit underwhelmed, as I thought this looked like a fairly standard worker placement with an AI thrown in to mess with your plans. How wrong I was – it has a really original take on the genre and the theme genuinely added a lot to the game. Consequently, the Zoom table talk was full of thematic banter in a way I don’t ever remember having on a virtual game night.

Gugong was another first play online, though in many ways this was the opposite: high hopes but a bit less excited by the reality. The bribery mechanic was a fresh and very enjoyable addition to worker placement, but for me, the mini-games which comprise the experience left me feeling there were some missed opportunities. I must say though, I was in the minority – all the other players loved it – and I came last. So, I think it’s definitely worth trying out.. or perhaps Andreas Steading's even better Hansa Teutonica.

Carl Yaxley - Winter is Coming

Hello, game fans. April was a month for the long-game(s) in my house. With most social and entertainment alternatives still unavailable, I had a captive gaming audience. Something I fully exploited to get a few of the heavier games in my collection to the table. Endeavour Age of Sail, Power Grid, Terraforming Mars, Great Western Trail, Ships, and Puerto Rico all got at least one play. Usually, I have to negotiate with the group to get these behemoths out more than a handful of times a year. So I've been enjoying this spell of regular play!

I've also made an effort to bring out some of the older, or often overlooked titles from the collection out again. Citadels, Pirates Cove, Rattus and Arcana went down well, as did New World, a standalone Carcassonne game. My next mission is to generate some interest in my war games.

Gaming highlights in April include playing Troyes for the first (and second) time. It's only taken me ten years to get to it, and I feel like I've been missing out. It had been on (and off) my radar for some time. But until recently, had always been overlooked for something else. It's a great game that I'm eager to share with my wider gaming group once we can socialise indoors again. If you're a fan of the euro-style games, it's definitely one to try.

I also got Game of Thrones LCG back to the table, after a long, long absence. Alas, it might also be the last time for a while as my partner hates it. I often find people get put off by the amount of text on the cards, and perceive it to be really complex. Maybe I need a new strategy to sell it to them!