Apart from the ongoing crusade of playing Space Base at every possible opportunity, I have mostly been revisiting old friends this month.
Firstly, one that isn’t so much of a revisit as a re-format: Ascension. I say re-format as I am usually found playing this on my phone in my down time, even more so since I have given up ESM (evil social media) for lent. This was probably my first foray into deck building and I am still very fond of it. The artwork may vary from wonky to ‘what-the-hey’, but the dual mechanic of pugilism and purchasing is still a lot of fun, especially with the satisfyingly substantial board and chunky honour crystals that also act as a time limit. It’s also managed to evolve smoothly over time (I have Storm of Souls) meaning that it’s not just the same old same old.
Next, a great little two player which nearly everyone would admit is one of the best two players out there, 7 Wonders Duel. The first player may have an unfair advantage, true, and can end up getting into an uncatchable position, but for ‘last chance to win’ moments offered by the military and scientific victory conditions, you can’t beat it. Unlike me. I get beaten all the time.
Finally, because even I get fed up with always losing (wah), there’s Mansions of Madness (second edition). Okay, chances are I’ll lose this too, but it’s co-operative so I’m not losing alone. Making a board game that needs an app could have been handled really badly, but having an electronic element really adds to both the playability and the atmosphere. Could I use the word ‘synergy’ – yeah, why not? It’s big and expensive, I know, but it’s an event game that is still fairly accessible and captures all the cosmic dread of Lovecraft while leaving out his appalling racism - and that’s a good thing.
Across much of the UK a series of storms and gales has wrought chaos in some areas and misery in others. However, when the weather is awful, that leases the opportunity (and excuse) to stay indoors, “batten down the hatches” and play some games. The extra games time this month has given me the chance to get better acquainted with some of the Christmas and Birthday games. In the style of Goldilocks and the Three Bears I’ve chosen to talk about just three games of this month’s selection; one large, one medium and one small. All are excellent; give plenty of food for thought and containing challenges aplenty.
Some games improve with time and replaying. Tzolk’in is one such game. Its rating on BGG and reputation meant that it was bound to join my game collection at some point. This is a “big daddy” of a game. It has a huge presence and I admit to feeling a little daunted the first time I started to play. The colourful board is dominated by five, large, inter-meshing cogs. The graphics and iconography are clear and colourful. This is a worker placement game of the grandest of scales that requires forward planning from the outset. With each turn the wheels of time turn and workers rotate to new positions. This allows other rewards or harvesting opportunities.
We stumbled across The Downfall of Pompeii a couple of weeks ago. What a gem! It caught my daughter’s eye in a board game café. Initially I was sceptical but if you get the chance to play this game, do not pass by the opportunity. For two to four players and taking about 45 minutes, this game is very easy to learn and play. The ultimate aim is to rescue as many of your people as possible. It is all about looking after number one here! The game consists of a medium sized board with a map of the buildings that are encompassed by the city wall of Pompeii. Brooding over this happy scene is model volcano, just waiting to cause damage.
Star Realms from White Wizard Games is as small as Tzolk’in is large. This is a two-player deckbuilding game set in a futuristic sci-fi world of space machines and spacecraft. The players battle it out, playing cards to inflict damage, purchasing new spaceships and trying to stay alive longer than the opponent.If you enjoy a two-player battle of wits and have never dipped your toe into the waters of deck building then Star Realms is a great place to start.
February saw Azul overtake Splendor as my most played game of all-time, with 64 plays to 63. Both of these games are awesome historically themed abstract games, with Azul utilising tile placement and drafting and Splendor being a card drafting tableau builder. Both games are utterly excellent in my opinion, and are highly rated in the community.
February also saw me getting my first taste of the Star Wars X-Wing miniatures game, after a lot of persuasion from my friends! And my goodness, what a truly fantastic and addictive game it is – I will soon be writing a trilogy of articles about my introduction to the “sport” of X-Wing and my experiences of it, so watch this space…
Other significant gaming news from me is I had my first ever experience of Quacks of Quedlinburg (with the Herb Witches expansion) and can say that the hype is definitely justified – it was fun and engaging from start to finish – especially as I ended up winning on a tie-breaker! I look forward to playing it again.
My middle child celebrated her birthday in February and her special “Daddy present” was Ghost Fightin' Treasure Hunters, which evokes the feeling of what I’d describe as “Pandemic Junior”, as it introduced her to the concept of working cooperatively in a team against escalating events.
A Kickstarter also arrived in February – Orchard is a nine card solitaire game where you’re laying down cards with combinations of fruit trees depicted on them, and when the cards overlap they will grow fruit on them to score you points – it’s effectively a 10 minute beat-your-previous-score game which fits nicely into a wallet-sized box that I can easily stash in my pocket so I can get a gaming fix wherever I may be!
So, with this being my first month writing for Zatu towers I’d love to come out of the blocks with smash hit after smash hit that I’ve been playing so I could try and impress all the readers for a big haul of internet points. But with one thing and another I’ve barely seen my regular gaming group this last month, so I have instead been playing with people who are a little newer to the hobby. Needless to say, Twilight Imperium stayed on the shelf this last month.
What I have been playing though is a lot of Quarriors. I wrote a review for the Qultimate Quedition, which is basically everything ever released for it on one dense box. In order to refresh my memory, I ended up playing that a whole bunch of times. I even managed to play a few games of basic quarriors with two people who are brand new to the hobby. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed it and how much variety there is in that box so I am going to try and keep playing it on the semi-regular.
Another game I have played a lot of is Welcome to… It is a light flip and write game where the players are designing 1950s neighbourhoods and trying to maximise the value of their town. Each turn the players must choose one combination of house number and action to fill up their town and modify how their town scores. It takes a breezy 20-30 min to play including the rules explanation and if you use the phone app it even takes care of the scoring for you.
The last game that has been hitting the table consistently for me is Blue Moon City. In the game players are competing guilds who are trying to rebuild the devastated titular Blue Moon City. Each player will be moving around the ruins trying to manage a hand of different coloured cards to try and have sets that can be discarded at each of the ruined building tiles. Once enough contributions have been made to a tile everybody who contributed gets a reward, with the person who gave the most getting a little extra.
The cards can also be discarded for effects that can allow you to transform the colour of other cards or move the mighty dragons around the city where they can hopefully observe your good deeds and reward you further. Your rewards can be cashed in at the middle of the board to make an offering to get you points to win the game. But each time you do this, you’re limiting the tokens you have in your hand to place out at constructions sites. Get points early and they are cheaper but you are narrowing your possibilities on the board or you can wait a bit and use your tokens to contribute at more building sites and hope that the price doesn’t go too high. It is a great game that I don’t see in too many people’s collections and I would say it is definitely worth a try.
February was a bit longer than normal, which gave me one extra day to play board games. This month I have been finishing work on time and it has been half-term too so I have played a few more games before the kids’ bedtime. Thus the games we have been playing are as light as a perfect Mary Berry Victoria sponge cake!
Amongst my most played games of February was King of Tokyo. The kids take great care and time in choosing their monsters, but as we are without the Power-Up Expansion, they have not realised that this is for decoration only! They are strangely apt at working out which of the cards they should choose to spend their energy tokens on. Now my youngest child hasn’t got a clue what’s going on but is more than happy rolling the oversized dice for his parents! Overall this is a great family game and you really do want to be King of Tokyo!
I recently reviewed Dino Dump so that has been getting to the table a lot. The kids really enjoy playing it. As I said in my review, there is a little bit of luck involved at the end and how the cards are drawn. There is however, enough decision-making in the gameplay to make it enjoyable for adults, who will remember it by its former incarnation as the less family friendly named Shithead.
Another card game that hit the table a fair bit was Pit. Granted we were playing the scaled down all-inclusive version of the rules, without the Bull and Bear cards and without the scoring element that comes from collecting higher value stocks. For those that aren’t familiar with this game, Pit recreates the hustle and bustle of a stock market. All 3-8 players are trading a number of cards to try and collect a set of 9 matching cards. The ‘all play at once’ gameplay creates a good chaotic frenzy and naturally hurries gameplay, barely giving you enough time to think about what you ‘should’ be doing. The kids have really enjoyed this melee of card swapping fun and you will too… unless it is very early on a Sunday morning and you have a hangover, in this instance, it is not recommended!
Roll on March… nothing says thanks for being a great mum better than brand new board games on Mothering Sunday right?
February was another good month for gaming! My partner and I went head to head numerous times. Our clash of wills took in Jaipur, Kahuna, Karuba and Century Eastern Wonders. I won some battles but alas, dear reader, I lost the war. My partner is a wily one and she takes no prisoners! Being ill part way through the month gained me no sympathy. The winning streaks I had been enjoying for Kahuna, Karuba, and Eastern Wonders are all now quashed!
I was pleased to get Orleans to the table in February. It's fast becoming a new favourite of mine. I'd be willing to bet it ends 2020 amongst my most played games. I'm partial to a game that works in deck or pool building. In Orleans, players will combine pool building with worker placement to drive gameplay. It's an interesting combination of mechanics. Orleans happens to have been the heaviest game I played in February - a month that also saw Ticket to Ride Europe and Tiny Epic Quest hit the table.
Formula D continues to see play, which is unsurprising as I'm running a mini league at my flgs. We completed rounds two and three, on Suzuka and Buddh circuits. I finished third in both races, leaving me third overall in the league. I'm really enjoying playing Formula D with full advanced rules (and some custom rules). It makes for some fun, strategic gaming. The group are really engaging with it, which is nice to see. I appreciate the appeal of racing themed games like Flamme Rouge and Downforce. However, for me, Formula D remains one of (if not, the) the best available.
The final game I'll mention is Theurgy, an upcoming area influence game. I had the opportunity to meet the designers and play the game ahead of their kickstart campaign. It's a really good game; you can read my preview on the Zatu blog. I fully intend on backing it and am looking forward to another play this month.