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What We’ve Been Playing – February

What We've Been Playing - Pie town

Every month our writers share information about the board games they have been playing, sharing both positive and negative thoughts on those games. Here are the games that our team have been playing during the short, snowy month of February.

Nick - 29 Unique Games!!

February has been another good month, with 29 unique games played, at least the ones I recorded! I managed to get a play of my long sought after Scoville and was slightly disappointed actually. There didn’t seem to be much to the game, at least not enough to warrant the analysis paralysis the harvest phase generated. Maybe it was the fact it was two-player, I don’t know. I’ll give it another shot with more players and report back.

I also managed to pick up a damaged copy of Photosynthesis on the cheap, and this game has been well received by all levels of gamer. It does induce some moments of thinking long and hard but your choices are quite immediate and pleasing! Those components too! It looks great on the table and is the most theme laden ‘abstract’ I’ve played for a while. I also managed to play Nusfjord both solo and with friends. I really like getting the Uwe Rosenburg feel in a relatively short time frame. I also don’t mind the way the way the end game scoring cards come out half way through the game, although it has bothered some!

Project Elite, a grail game of mine, made it’s way to the table and did not disappoint. It’s a real time co-op game with some of the worst minis I’ve ever seen, yet it is so much fun. Aliens spawn and move, you make your plans and then attempt to play them out through furious dice rolling. It is so much fun and satisfying too.

Pie Town is a light worker placement game with a touch of deduction that makes for an interesting game. I love the use of dice, not for rolling but for representing the level of your trainees. The level impacts how much each worker can be used on any spot. It’s a neat game well worth checking out!

Simon - Tiny Epic... Patchwork.... Ultimate Werewolf

Tiny Epic Defenders - I love this game solo, just enough going on to give you a challenge, without taking up acres of table space or hours of your time! Choose heroes and attempt to defend capital city (tower defense style) from the onslaught of hordes of nasties, slightly trickier dire enemies, and if you survive long enough, the epic foe. Turning over the epic foe is always exciting, with this chosen randomly and hidden away, biding its time until the end of the game.

There is a second edition due out after a successful Kickstarter, but personally I prefer the darker, grittier artwork on the first edition, even if the second does come with Itemeeples! This is my most played Tiny Epic game, until Tiny Epic Zombies arrives later in the year!

Patchwork - We love the relaxed feel of this game, slowly building up your Patchwork with odds and ends of fabric (tiles) carefully joined together in a Tetris fashion to leave as few gaps as possible, as gaps cost players points at the end of the round. The fabric tiles are bought with buttons, and some tiles have buttons already sewn on them, which in turn provide buttons to players at points during the game, to spend on more fabric.

There is no real player interaction to speak of, but that makes it easier to lose yourself in the pretty pattern emerging in front of you. It has a neat turn mechanism, where tiles bought cost time to sew in, allowing a player to take multiple turns until their marker advances past their opponent’s on the time track. A delightful little game.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf - We managed to get a few six-player games of One Night Ultimate Werewolf played this month, the most players we’ve ever managed, and half were new to the game. It’s great with a higher player count, so much easier to hide and listen to everyone talking themselves into a corner! We’ve given up trying to teach how to play the game, having found it’s easier for them to watch a game played or just jump right in.

Chad - The Thing, Arkham Noir & Blood Rage

There was an intense feeling of paranoia at my most recent games night. A friend brought over The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31, but could I really trust them? This claustrophobic hidden identity game takes the classic John Carpenter film and plonks it squirming and writhing on to your tabletop.

Games begin with at least one player being secretly determined as an imitation. Everyone chooses one of the many characters from the film and must work together to find items, battle The Thing, and eventually escape by helicopter. Along the way, others may become imitations, unbeknownst to everyone else, and attempt to foil the team’s plans whilst remaining undetected. If too many missions fail, or an imitation is foolishly welcomed on to the helicopter then the humans lose.

We had great fun with this. The film’s sense of paranoia translates well in the game, with suspicions constantly in flux. I became an imitation halfway through the game but was somehow suspected from the beginning! The simple flow of gameplay helps to keep the feelings of uncertainty at the forefront, but also adds enough features to avoid seeming like a pale imitation of The Resistance.

Seeking safety in solitude, I set-up new solo game Arkham Noir. My safety was short-lived. This solitaire game, inspired by the gritty noir tales of the 1940s and the various works of H.P. Lovecraft, packs an investigative story in to a tiny box. For such a small package the game offers a decent amount of replay-ability. The dark, evocative art is also exceptional.

February also saw my first play through of fan-favourite Blood Rage. How I missed this furious, card drafting, area control game when it was released I do not know! Tremendous fun.

Craig - A Fruitful Month

February was a rather fruitful month on the gaming front. I have had the chance to try out a few older titles that I had previously not had the opportunity (or in some cases inclination) to play, those games being Takenoko, Troyes and Settlers of Catan.  In all three cases, I was pleasantly surprised in how much I enjoyed them.

Takenoko is elegant, easy to learn, and fast paced; Troyes provided a welcome challenge, with interesting dice drafting mechanics, although the iconography proved a little troublesome at times; Settlers of Catan was good fun, despite showing signs of age when compared to others, but I could appreciate why it is seen as the grandfather of modern board games.

I’ve also managed to sit down to a few newer releases: Rajas of the Ganges (reviewed earlier this month), Raiders of the North Sea, Meeple Circus and Rising Sun. Each title different from the last, but all led to some great times being had, and unforgettable moments being shared – close finishes, adults acting like big kids, and some unforgivable backstabbery!

I have also set myself a number of gaming challenges for 2018, jumping on the ‘10x10 Challenge’ bandwagon, but with the slight twist in that I am aiming to finish 25x5 plays.  Since moving house last summer, my gaming time has dropped off, so I need to take advantage of every opportunity to meet up with friends & my local Board Games Club.  Fortunately for me, SorCon 2018 (aka Sorcon 11) was held in Basildon, Essex, over the weekend of 23-25th February.  This would be my first ever games convention, having missed out on attending the UK Games Expo for the past couple of years.  The weekend was great fun.  The event was held in a number of the conference rooms at the Holiday Inn, and the organisers had done a good job in providing ample table space.  The atmosphere was friendly, and jovial.  I will certainly look to attend next year.

Paul - Escape the Dark Castle / Ancient Terrible Things / Steam Park

Escape the Dark Castle - This brilliant little co-op adventure game is getting a lot of love at the moment. I bought it knowing nothing at all about it, but the box intrigued me and I'm a bit of a sucker for monochrme graphic design. I also like simple games in smaller boxes that deliver a surprising amount of gameplay, and Escape The Dark Castle delivers in grim dungeon after grim dungeon.

There is so much to like about this game. The story driven over-sized tarot cards are very pleasing, and the storytelling mechanics are very smooth. What sets this game aside is how simple but effective the dice based combat system is. Themeborne have brought something genuinely fresh to dice-based combat and the system is quick, well-balanced, uncomplicated and very effective.

The game is tricky but not impossible. We've won about 25% of the time which keeps you coming back for more. There are a handful of games in my collection that I immediately want to play the minute I've finished a game, and this one has gleefully joined its ranks.

Ancient Terrible Things - We're trying to make a point of cutting back on the cult of the new & shiny in our house just at the moment and play more of our favourite games. A few years ago, Pleasant Company Games Kickstarted a great little dice-chucker called Ancient Terrible Things which sees players taking on the roles of competing adventurers looking for treasure and defeating Lovecraftian inspired grebblies.

A simple Yahtzee style dice matching system is used to complete cards, which can be conditions such as runs of numbers or runs of a single number, or pairs/triples etc. Leftover dice may be traded for tokens or cash meaning that there are always choices from your dice pool. Ancient Terrible Things may be a simple dice hurling game but it all works well as a package. The artwork is lovely, the components are big and chunky and the gameplay is simple but really engaging.

Steam Park -  I'm a massive fan of games with 3D elements (it's a throwback to being brought up on the classic MB games of the 70's) so I love games like Colt Express and recent Kickstarters like Everdell and Escape Dulce Base. In Steam Park, players are the owners of fantastical theme parks seeking to (for reasons) attract very leaky robots to ride their attractions. I say leaky, because the trade off for attracting more robots is that they leak everywhere and generate dirt which much constantly be dealt with otherwise there will be big financial penalties in the end scoring.

Players build their theme parks on squared tiles in a similar way to games like Patchwork or Barenpark. Parks can be a mix of rides onto which Robot visitors can be placed, or stalls which act as action modifiers. Steam Park also has a fairly frantic dice chucking portion of the turn as well, and the faster you sort your dice will dictate player order for the rest of the turn. It's a clever trade-off between making careful plans, and getting a better order in the turn. Unless you're our friend Kat who seems to be a demon at both.

Steam Park has been out a few years but stands up as a nice family-friendly gently competitive strategy game. Looks very pretty too.