Each month, some of Zatu Games' epic writing team share the latest on the board games they've been playing this month. They don't hold back, there's positives and negatives to give you all the information you need before picking up your next game! Here's what we've been playing during the hot month of July.
Ben G - Dark Souls, Clank! & Grimm Forest
I didn’t get to play quite as many games as I sometimes do in July, but the ones that I did get to the table were consistently brilliant. They’re all very different games, so hopefully you’ll find something you like!
We’ll start with the biggest in every sense of the word, Dark Souls. The Board Game. This was inspired by the hit video game of the same name and was released this year off the back of a very successful Kickstarter. I’ve never played the video game and I didn’t back the Kickstarter, but a friend had no trouble convincing me to play this game once I saw the components.
The game is full of stunning miniatures and, thankfully, the gameplay is just as good. It’s a monster-fighting co-op game where players take on unique roles and journey through rooms full of various undead nasties, gaining more and more equipment as they build up to the boss fight. Like the video game, the game turns death into a mechanic. When you die, you lose very little. Instead, you have more information and more chance to progress. I would recommend this game to any fans of dungeon crawlers with engaging combat, even if you haven’t played the video game.
A dungeon crawler with a very different feel is Clank! - one of my favourite games. I played it several times in July along with the Mummy’s Curse Expansion. The expansion adds a wandering mummy, new boards and new, Egyptian themed cards. Fans of Clank! will undoubtedly love the expansion. It adds more of what made the base game excellent along with a really fun theme. If you own the game, this expansion is a no brainer.
The final game I want to mention is completely different to the other two. The Grimm Forest is another former Kickstarter that’s now available for general release. It’s a casual game with, again, great miniatures and fantastic art. In this fairy tale-themed game, each player is a niece or nephew of one of the three little pigs, aiming to build three houses out of straw, wood or brick. To do this, they need to travel to different locations to gather the resources left there. Players gather less if they’re at the same location as another, while you can also use Fable cards to disrupt your opponents and attract Friends who can give you special powers.
I love the mind games in this one. Trying to guess where your opponents are going and maximising your resources is a lot of fun, whilst playing the Fable cards well is an additional challenge. To cap it all, the game’s table presence is phenomenal. It’s one I would break out with almost anyone.
Matt - Kitchen Rush, 7 Wonders Duel & Tiny Epic Defenders
July has been a very eventful month for me which has resulted in a shift in the type of games and the frequency of games I’ve played. I am writing this with tired, red and blood shot eyes as at the beginning of July our second child was born - so sleep is a distant memory. It was also my birthday which resulted in a few additions to my game collection. Slightly lighter and quicker games have mainly been played this month but at least I still managed a few plays of something, for which I am very grateful.
Kitchen Rush is a real time co-operative game where players are running their own kitchen. They must collect orders, deliver ingredients, cook dishes and serve them within four rounds of four minutes each. The workers in the kitchen are represented by egg timers and can only be used once the time has run out. Money is gained for serving the correct dishes and if served early players receive a tip. Money can be used to upgrade the kitchen and purchase extra food and spices. It is a fun, fast paced co-operative game that we have enjoyed very much. Don’t forget the dirty dishes need cleaning though, no good kitchen runs out of clean dishes.
7 Wonders: Duel is a quick two-player game based on its bigger brother, 7 Wonders. It is fast, easy to play and is perfect for when we just want to play something a bit quicker and lighter. Players are building up their civilisation by selecting cards from a pyramid of face-up and face-down cards in attempt to build wonders and gain victory points. There are different strategies that can be employed to win the game and we have enjoyed this a lot.
I recently received Tiny Epic Defenders (Second Edition) from Kickstarter which is a 1-4 player co-operative game (My Game of the Month for July). I have only played this solo at the time of writing this, but I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Players take on the role of one of several heroes trying to defend the realm of Aughmoore from evil. There are regular enemies, dire enemies and an epic foe to defeat.
The gameplay is simple and easy to play but the decisions are tough. There is a lot of replay-ability in this game with the characters you can play, the dire enemies, the epic foes and the double-sided locations. Looking forward to playing this more and adding in the Dark War Expansion at some point which adds more game content and variety of gameplay modes.
The Game Shelf – Enjoying the lighter side
We have a broad taste in games, loving to play heavier games, but often only having the time to play more family weight games or light-to-medium weight euro games. This month it seems we’ve been playing the lighter end of our collection, with the obvious exception of 7th Continent. We dedicated half a day to learning and having our first play of 7th Continent and got very lost and died horribly. It was a bit of a love hate experience for me, but in hindsight, I’m very excited to play again. From our lighter games, our highlights have been;
- SteamRollers is a roll and write game where the roll of the dice determines what train tracks you draw on your personal board. The train tracks are used to deliver goods for points based on the number of cities your train passes through on its journey. Roll and writes are definitely a popular genre right now and we are totally in that crowd. In addition the pick-up and deliver mechanics are one of my favourites, so this game is a definite hit.
- Dragon Castle is an abstract game with beautiful components that both looks like and in some ways plays like the computer implementation of Mah Jong. We’ve been really enjoying the variety in this tile placement game, as well as the interesting tactical decisions. I think it’s going to become one of our favourite abstract games and would be perfect for families.
- The Mind recently lost out on the Spiel des Jahres award, but it was a pretty surprising nomination to begin with! I would never call it a great game design, but we are having a whole lot of fun with it! There’s something weirdly fun about sitting around a table with your friends and staring at each other until someone finally caves and plays the next card in numerical order. Sometimes I could almost believe I can read minds!
Craig - Scrawl, Great Fire of London and Klask
July was a rather sporadic month on the gaming front, thanks mainly due to me being on holiday for two weeks (also my engagement to my girlfriend of three years....she would say it was about time!)
I did however manage to get some plays of a few games that I will be submitting reviews for in the next week or so, those being Scrawl from Big Potato and The Great Fire of London 1666 from Medusa Games. Somewhat different games in terms of overall theme, and the experiences had, but both very much enjoyable in their own right.
The one game that I managed to play a lot in July was Klask. Not your common board game, but a fantastic reactionary/dexterity game for two players, in the same vein as table-hockey. I highly recommend this to anybody that loves a fast, action packed game, that is playable in 5-10 minutes.
Simon Lavender - A Busy, Busy Month
July was the heaviest gaming month for me since I started logging plays in January, I have logged 137 games, 81 titles, 39 new (including one title yet to be released, another in prototype and a third just launched and expanding to distributors.
With the fantastic news that Azul won game of the year on July 23 (predicted the last five winners) we had a celebratory game in the garden. I was nervous, as since playing The Mind, it was a game that, depending on your network and who is playing what, means you need the same group to play a few times to have a chance of winning (making is a repeatable game, something the judges crave). Knowing the judges generally dislike abstract, I started a campaign to get its awareness and enjoyment up. I’ve varied techniques to my play and even speed played it in under 10 minutes.
I’ve played for the first time, a number of titles that have been Spiel des Jahres nominated for game of the year, including last year’s nomination The Quest for El Dorado (better than Clank!) and the children’s category from 2001, Klondike.
A number of hyped games I managed to play included 7th Continent (two player…it weights 4kg with three expansions!), Sentinels of the Multiverse with 14 expansions, Red Scare, Newspeak (promo), two of the latest Unlock!’s, Welcome to… and Santa Maria.
Thomas - A German Haul
This month has been filled with loads of different games, thanks in part to the haul I returned with from Germany.
The Mind is perhaps the most played this month. The simple premise and the constant replay-ability of the game makes it very attractive and just trying to get to complete it is a challenge in itself. My partner and I found it brilliant to play in the airport and on the plane and the family loved it too!
The Game was also another hit with myself. A similar concept, players have seven cards in hand and have four piles, two going from one to 100 and two going from 100 to one. With very general communication, players must get rid of all cards, while sticking to the ascending/descending order. This gets harder as the game progresses and saw us attempt it many a time! This is another fantastic card game to add to your collection. Look out for my review soon on this!
The Quest for El Dorado, my game of the month, has also seen some game time. The simple deck building mechanic and fast gameplay makes this game incredibly fun, and the different paths and maps you can create keep the gameplay varied. As mentioned in my Game of the Month, you can only get the German Edition of this game at the moment but that doesn’t affect the game at all and if you get the chance to buy this game, it will not disappoint.
Finally, Azul! I have hunted high and low for a copy of Azul for a few months now but to no avail. However, while browsing a small gift shop in Germany, I came across a copy! The game is brilliant and definitely lives up to my expectation. A deserving winner of the Spiel Des Jahres this year and a game I will be playing for a long time to come!