It was a scorching hot July, but now it's already August! Here is what our bloggers have been playing this July.
July was the month I finally cleared my backlog of games to play off my shelf of shame, then I got all excited and ordered loads more games which are now sitting on the same shelf. One day the shelf will be clear.
Libertalia Winds of Galecrest by Stonemaire Games has been played so many times this month and it is a blast. A really fun, quick, pirate game with direct competition and take that but in a hilarious way. The components and art style are brilliant and the rules are easy to understand. If you haven’t yet had a chance to play this game you need to now.
Distant Suns was a real surprise this month and I am so pleased I took the gamble to buy it without seeing any reviews (I normally have to read / watch lots of reviews before I buy any game). It is a ‘choose and write’ where you are discovering aliens, new worlds, and treasure and with so much variability every game will feel different. Please read my review to see why I think you should have this game in your collection.
Having a party or some friends or family over? Then you definitely need Sounds Fishy from Big Potato Games. This is one of the best party games I have played in years and you can see why in my review. Anyone can play this game and it has proved a big success with everyone I have taught it to.
The amazing two player game Jaipur, from Space Cowboys, has barely been off our table since we learned it this month. This is a brilliant trading game which combines push your luck and set collection in just 20 minutes.
In my many moons of gaming, rarely has a month held more delights. With the dust of the UK Games Expo settling, there’s been much to see as the clouds cleared. I find myself hastily swallowing back barely-digested morsels of gaming, lest I disgorge them all in some involuntary listicle, like stray landscapes from the gullet of a Cosmic Frog. An image and sentence which goes some way to capturing the chaos of that game, yet, somehow, still not far enough…
A friend’s expo purchases (and a mild murmur of buzz), allowed me to try Rustling Leaves, which was as quick to appeal as it was to play. Two games were enough to sell me on it and at a low price tag was too tempting to breeze past. Scenic, serene and simple. A game of (and for) all seasons.
Turning from one new leaf to another, So Clover captures much of what delighted me about Codenames: Duet in my earlier discovery phases of gaming but distils that same essence into a different brew. It’s a similar favour, but distinct enough that both could feature in the same collection, silencing my concerns.
I’ve saved the best (read ‘most popular’ – tested across several gaming groups) till last: a £4 battered-box expo purchase of Abalone – an abstract game I’ve been wanting to sample for some time. Two opponents compete to shunt their oppositions pieces, sumo-style, off the edge of the board. The winner is the first to nudge six into the gutter. It has that tantalisingly rare quality of being simple to set-up and play, whilst being deep enough you doubt you could ever master. It also boasts the most singularly satisfying turn you’ll ever take, every time. The motion of marbles over miniature mountains, more marvellous than it has any right to be.
A friend described it as ‘Marble Chess’ and boy do I wish I’d come up with that myself…
School holidays are upon us so what we have been playing is... a heck of a lot. With the kids, my younger ones are starting on Sleeping Queens and Dragonwood, a couple of Gamewright classics. Also Kingdomino, which is a blessing as we reach the first game that they can manage and we all actually enjoy. Next stop the Age of Giants expansion, and then Queendomino.
With my regular group the King is Dead and War of Whispers have both hit the table; I think they share some common DNA as it’s not just about area control with both of them but also personal dominance with the winning factions. They are also both excellent: crunchy decisions with lean and pacey gameplay.
Dreadful Circus has had a play with favourable results. It feels 2 parts Sheriff of Nottingham to one part Modern Art and I prefer it to the former but not the latter. Blind bidding, brinkmanship and bluff come together in a very enjoyable hour of auctioneering. And some classics too: Codenames and One Night have come back out for more, as well as a new firm favourite in our group, Oriflamme.
But my star among all of this is Wildlands – the much overlooked Martin Wallace skirmish game. I say to you Unmatched be damned. Unmatched may be vogue... and really good but IMHO Wildlands is even better. Plays well with all player counts (especially with the extra maps), and simple rules but loads of tactical head scratching. It has an action interrupt mechanic which along with its different take on managing asymmetry makes it the superior game for me. And I have gone all in with its content, so with the Ancients expansion I get team play and solo. Out of all of them this is one to give a look.
July has been a good old month for gaming here at Welford Towers. The quality has been very high and it’s hard to know what to select to talk about but there have been a few standouts. First is what is easily a top 5 game for me - Dead Reckoning. I had mistakenly assumed this was a zombie game and not researched it and then I played a copy and I had to have it. Hands down the best pirate game I’ve played. The deck building uses sleeves and clear upgrade cards so you always have the same 12 cards - they just get better and better. That’s just the tip of the ice berg - you will be pirating away in no time.
Another hit was Foundations of Rome. This is a stupendously produced game - some would say over produced. I’ll admit the game is simpler than it might look, but it is also delicious! The simple game play hides some good choices as you buy plots and try to build the best scoring Rome you can. Interaction is high and can be mean but it balances out as being mean to another player often costs you a better move.
Three Sisters and Vengeance Roll & Fight got plenty of table time thanks to great solo modes. These roll and rights have very different themes, one gardening and one John Wick but both scratch a different itch and will be staying in the collection!
Lastly Pagan: Fate of Roanoke is a fantastic take on a two player duelling style game. Players will be either the witch or the hunter and try to outsmart each other with bluffing, deduction and using each characters unique cards in the best way. You can even dive deep into the deck construction with expansions, but even the base game decks have plenty to get to grips with!
This month, I've been focused on completing plays for my 10x10 challenge! We managed to knock off another 10 plays for Love Letter, a classic card game that you can take anywhere but is incredibly fun to play.
Metro X was also another one. In this roll (flip) and write, you have to fill in a certain amount of stations on a train line, that amount dictated by the cards. It's one of those games that you can play time and time again and I am always analysing my previous game to see what difference it would have made if I'd decided to mark up different stations.
The other game that has been taking over our table this month is Our Father's Work. In this narrative-driven, app-supported game, you take on your father's estate and live through three generations of the family, attempting to complete your Father's previous work and projects. The app has only recently been released, meaning I've been anxiously waiting to give the game a first play. Needless to say, I have not been disappointed and the game is wonderfully themed, with a narrative that runs deep within the game and is influenced heavily by decisions taken throughout the scenarios.
Finally, with our holiday just around the corner, we've been back playing plenty of Lost Cities. We only discovered this two player game a few months ago but my goodness is it fun! It's incredibly simple to learn and play but games are almost always incredibly competitive and one single turn and change the whole game, especially if you hedged your bets on a certain colour and you don't have the cards to get over that magic 20 points! Next month, we'll be playing plenty of small box games while away on holiday so let the packing commence!