I’ve noticed something counter-intuitive. I looked at my logged plays on BGG in preparation for writing this and found out I’ve actually been playing more games during lockdown than before. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve been able to keep working full time during the pandemic, so it’s not more free time. It’s more of a shift in what I do in my leisure time from more passive hobbies like film and television to active things like games and writing.
Certainly a lot of these extra plays have been, by necessity, solo plays. In July, my top solo plays were Cthulhu: Death May Die (seasons 1 and 2) and the new Lord of The Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth expansion, Shadowed Paths. I’ve had the latter on pre-order since January so was excited when it arrived unannounced.
Shadowed Paths does everything a good expansion should do; new threats, new heroes (you can be Gandalf!) and a couple of new game mechanisms. Journeys in Middle Earth is a game that just goes up and up in my estimation and is strongly challenging Twilight Struggle’s long reign as my favourite game of all time.
Not everything has been solo, though. I’m currently ‘bubbled’ with my sister and the monthly family game night has been pushed to fortnightly. This month our go to game Blood Rage got a couple of outings along with a newly purchased Gods expansion. We have also loved the quick simplicity of Point Salad – ironically often played as a dessert after the main event.
There was also an inadvertent spooky mansion week where we, the adults, solved the ghostly murders in Mysterium, and my nephew, sister and I donned our ghost-busting backpacks for Ghost Fighting Treasure Hunters. A fear at the start of this pandemic was my games would sit around and gather dust, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Is it me, or is it hot? Not to sound stereotypically British, but comments about the weather come naturally, particularly when it's 17° or higher... That and moans and groans! So let's stick to the positives! Between baking in the sun, we've managed to play a fair few games this month! More impressively, new games! Our top picks this time though are Villagers and Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power. Hands down winners for us this month!
Villagers is a game that blew up in popularity last year, and dominated many of the conventions. Being the young fools we were back then, it went overlooked by us. But now we're older and possibly wiser, so we nabbed it as soon as we could! It's a set collection, hand management game with lashings of economics thrown in. Plus, the inclusion of extra cards when playing up to four ensure card types can't get stale or infrequent.
Had we known how good Villagers were this time last year, it would undeniably be our most played game to date. It's addictive and visually superb, boasting a low level of entry and a high level of mastery. Throw in the Kickstarter exclusive expansions and the coin chest (for aesthetics only) and you've got a medieval party! We'd highly recommend this one!
Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power is a game we've wanted since we heard it muttered at some point in the past. We love Villainous, and I'm a bit of a Disney fan myself... But our gaming group aren't much into princesses and heroes. Not sure why. Anyway, this takes the Disney Villainous system and re-implements its ideas to fit a shared universe theme. Disney characters exist separate to one another, so Hades will never go for a coffee with Aladdin. In Marvel however, the characters are constantly encroaching on one another's digs. Social distancing clearly isn't a thing for these heroes! But this means the Fate deck of the Villainous system can be shared... which is a superb idea executed wonderfully!
The character roster did raise some questions, as we couldn't imagine Task Master would be able to take on the mad titan, Thanos. But the thing to remember is that it isn't about fighting other villains, it's about completing your objectives first. Some of these are obvious from who you'll play as, others you'll need a bit of comic book hero knowledge to give context to. What adds more is that each deck has their own separate set of Fate cards which are added into the shared deck. These hold the villains' nemeses which often hinder them more than most. When pulling Fate, it's worth checking whose day they'll ruin the most! We thoroughly enjoyed Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power, and found it to be a superb variant of its predecessor. Highly recommended for any Villainous, or Marvel fans!
July has seen a good mix of gaming for me, some good solo gaming as well as gaming with my wife. So what stands out as my highlights for July
I recently received Tuscany Essential Edition for Viticulture and have been delving deep in to this expansion. Viticulture was always a favourite of mine and Tuscany adds so much to the game. There is a revised board & wake up chart, the influence map, structure cards and variable worker powers. The expansion is modular so you can use which ever parts of it you want. It add a bit more complexity over the core game but for anyone who has played Viticulture I recommend just throwing everything in and going for it. It is such a great expansion.
I have, of course, been playing a lot of Marvel Champions, with some of the older content as well as some of the more recent content (aka. Dr. Strange). I love this game. Win or lose I always have a good time with it. Mixing and matching the aspects and the Heroes and figuring out how best to play them always appeals. Each Hero feels thematically tied to their cinematic counterpart and FFG are keeping things fresh and entertaining with each new release. The Hulk Hero pack is on its way to me so watch out for next months feature to see if it makes the cut.
Other games that have been hitting my table Abyss with the Leviathan expansion, Rajas of the Ganges, Vindication, Scythe and Thunderstone Quest. When it has just been me then I have got a lot of plays of the DLC for Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth, Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North, The City of Kings and Aeon's End to the table. Overall, it has been a good month of gaming.
July tends to be a good time for gaming, for me, as my birthday falls part way through the month. That usually means new games, and people willing to play, if only to humour me! This year proved to be no exception, even though celebrations had to be toned down and socially distant. New additions to the collection this year include Stone Age and Coimbra, which have already seen play; as well as Nusfjord, Seikatsu, and Omens of the Deep.
Stone Age is a one of those games I enjoyed when first exploring the hobby - but never got round to picking up for myself. At one time it was a staple of my gaming group - but it fell into the shadow of newer games, and has been overlooked for some time. Getting it back to the table again was fun, I'd forgotten how much I enjoy it. I also won, which was nice. Coimbra had been another (albeit newer) game that I'd considered, but not picked up. I've been missing out, it's great! If you've yet to try it, I'd recommend checking it out. It's a really well designed game, with some interesting mechanics.
I've enjoyed getting Villagers, Flamme Rouge, and Concordia to the table recently, at either a two or three player count. We've had some really close, fun games, all three are becoming go-to staples for game night. I've also enjoyed getting some favourites like Bohnanza, Istanbul, Riverboat, and Power Grid back to the table. I even managed to sneak a few lesser played games to the table, Imhotep, King of New York and Yamatai have all had a play in July. My plan to get every game in my collection to the table this year is progressing well!
With a slew of new games hitting Kickstarter or coming straight to retail every year it’s easy to forget there’s plenty of older games waiting patiently to be discovered. I’m a fairly recent hobby gamer having only got seriously into board games in 2018. So this month I took great pleasure in 3 particular classics that were published before I could appreciate them.
Coimbra is a dice drafting game where the dice you draft have multiple effects on gameplay. It’s got a bit of engine building and a bit of track advancement, you even have Meeples making their way around a map of portugal collecting bonuses! I love the way the dice do multiple things, it makes those draft decisions so important and so crunchy. Plus those little castles the dice sit in?
Coimbra is an absolute pleasure to play.
Clans is an economic resource management game set in the bonny highlands. Each player takes control of a major clan and attempts to be the most successful import/export tycoon. You place out your pieces on the map which will produce a variety of goods. These goods can then be used to fulfil contracts or sold at the market where values are ever shifting as things are bought and sold. Clans is such a rich game with so many moving parts and variation between games.
What I love about this dice placement game is that it’s so easy to teach, literally 5 to 10 minutes. But the complexity is in the choices you make. With seriously powerful asymmetric player abilities and personal goals and contracts it’s down to each player to work out the best way to reach their own goals. You’ll have to be wily and plan well but it is so satisfying when your combo’s pay off!