What We’ve Been Playing – June 2019

What We've Been Playing - Zombicide Invader

It's been a very hot month or so. It's best to stay inside during these muggy times and play some of the best games! Here's what we've been playing in June.

Tom H - A whistle-stop tour of Italy, Egypt and Romania

June was a scorcher of a month. Appropriate then, that I visited Italy, Egypt, and Romania! Well, when I say ‘visited’, I mean I played board games themed within those locations…

I’ve been fortunate enough to gawp at Michelangelo’s magnum opus, the real-life Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. Therefore, you can picture my delight at trying Fresco: Big Box by Queen Games for the first time. This is a game about competing to acquire paints, which you then contribute towards completing a Renaissance fresco ceiling. The base game is a pleasant Euro with programming and worker placement elements. It’s almost gateway in nature. However, the Big Box comes with 10 modules to further enhance gameplay, making it a much more majestic beast.

Phil Walker-Harding’s Imhotep is another wonderful gateway game. This is about constructing Egyptian monuments. (It’s also a recent purchase from Zatu’s new bricks ’n’ mortar store outside Norwich.) Imhotep’s family-friendly from a learning-of-the-rules POV, but a word of warning; it gets competitive, fast. Players place their cubes onto ships with the intention of sailing them to monuments to score varying points.

However, timing becomes vital. Your opponents will try to predict which monument you have your eye on! Before you can say Tutankhamen, they’ll have sailed the ship with your bricks on board to the ‘wrong’ harbour. All while wearing an innocent grin. Followed by an evil cackle…

And talking of evil… Romania? This is Fury of Dracula; I treated myself to WizKids’ 3rd/4th Edition of this hidden movement, one-vs-all game in May. A subtle Danse Macabre Spotify playlist elevated the ever-creeping sense of dread. The malevolent Count and his noxious traps always seemed one step ahead. Sigh… another victory for big, bad Drac. We’ll nail the sucker next time.

Northern Dice - Pandemic Legacy S2 & Bloodborne Card Game

This month has been crazy. And this year appears to be just flying by too, before long people will be uttering the "C" word - ugh. So, here are two games you might want to treat yourself to before Summers out: Pandemic Legacy Season 2 and Bloodborne: The Card Game.

We've been playing Pandemic Legacy Season 1 Blue by Z-Man Games, a game about saving the world. Just like regular Pandemic, you need to irradiate diseases and manage their spread, but as a Legacy game it evolves. Each game changes the board, state of play and advances the plot of the story. The game requires you to have a strong will in multiple ways. You need to hold your nerve against a clever and ever changing game, and you need to be able to destroy components!

I know it's not a natural thing to do, and I was sceptical about Legacy games too, but I guarantee it's worth it! The game is played over the course of a year - in game time - and each month adds new obstacles, developments and mysteries! If you love Pandemic and enjoy a game with depth, you'll thoroughly enjoy this!

Bloodborne: The Card Game, by CMON, is another game that's had our attention over game's nights. I'm a huge fan of the video game counterpart, so I'm automatically biased on this one... However, the people I play with are not video gamers and they love it! It is oriented around the hunting of beasts, nasties and other eldritch horrors over the course of rounds. You play cards to do damage, gain blood echoes and can purchase weapons to help you do nasty deeds.

The theme is dark and reflects the video game, but can be appreciated beyond that for its true gruesomeness. If you like a good semi-co-op, hand management game I'd highly recommend grabbing this one and The Old Hunters expansion!

Rob Wright - Shards of Infinity, Innovation & Epic Spell Wars

Considering how filthy the weather has been for most of June, there has been a lot of opportunity to stay indoors, so plenty of gaming has been had.

The most popular game on the home front, and a personal favourite since its release last year, is Stoneblade Entertainment’s Shards of Infinity. This is a deck builder of stellar proportions in a modest-sized box. Comparisons have been made to Star Realms, but it has a couple of differences going for it. Firstly, it’s up to four players. Also, there are some nice damage/progress tracker boards, you can ‘master up’ your character to unlock new card effects and eventually one shot all your opponents. UNLIMITED POWER!

On the work front (I’ve been educating my colleagues in… education) has been Cryptozoic’s Epic Spell Wars of The Battle Wizards 2. This has vulgar and brutal card and dice based action where players build spells from source, quality and delivery cards (like playing consequences) to deliver crushing (and visually visceral) attacks to your opponents – match symbols to add more dice and more DAMAGE. Quick and dirty, just the thing to break friends and humiliate people over a lunchtime Pot Noodle.

When it comes to getting out and about, I’ve really been enjoying a rather overlooked classic, Asmadi’s Innovation. Talk about a lot of game in a little box! Overshadowed by 7 Wonders (also great), this Civilisation-style tableau and hand management game sees players rise over ten ages, from the Neolithic to the neo human ages, with new technologies unlocking new abilities based on icons that can be revealed by ‘splaying’ your cards – first to a set number of achievements wins, but fortunes can change in a turn… and there is always the potential for global thermonuclear war… but let’s not let that spoil the summer…

Nick W - Zombicide Invader, Tiny Epic Mechs & Outer Rim

June not only had UKGE, but also some great games launching. Blackout: Hong Kong is back with a better printing! You play residents in Hong Kong trying to restore order after a huge blackout. In typical Alexandar Pfisther fashion, there are many things to do and ways to earn points. The final round saw my scoring jump from second to last to first and I can’t wait to play again.

Zombicide: Invader is a streamlined game of defeating an encroaching alien horde. There won’t be a huge amount new for fans of the series, but the changes are welcome. Concentrated fire and outside areas head up the list and both need a change of approach. Those who missed out on the Kickstarter will be happy to find plenty of content in this retail edition.

Tiny Epic Mechs arrived and my son loves the components. While the IteMeeples are a little fiddly, the addition of mech suits is delightful. it's a light programming/area control game that is well designed and lets you achieve what you want to... most of the time. There are, of course, moments of absolute chaos. The person you thought would be there is actually behind you and about to bury their laser sword in you. This is part of the joy of programming games, and it is offset by those times your plan plays out exactly as you wanted!

Star Wars: Outer Rim let’s you explore the seedier side of the Star Wars Universe. You take the role of smugglers, rogues and bounty hunters to earn the most fame. While a little on the long side it’s is well worth it to explore some amazing what ifs? What if Chewie was on Boba Fett's crew and Han took a bounty for the lovable fur ball? If you love Star Wars you will definitely want to try this one!

Blackout: Hong Kong (Credit: Eggertspiele)

Dean M - Decrypto & Viticulture

June was a very exciting month thanks to the haul I acquired at UKGE. Two of the highlights include Walking in Burano, which I discuss in my review, and Decrypto, which has proven itself as a worthy competitor to Codenames.

The twist of having to give unique clues for only four words adds to the dramatic tension between your team. It’s also hilarious watching your opponents make stretches to try and connect your clues together. The game rewards clever wordplay, and I’ve had some satisfying moments throwing the other team off. One memorable moment was when our opponents had deduced that one of our words was ‘triangle’. I then gave ‘percussion’ as a clue, due to a triangle being a musical instrument, and it worked like a charm. My teammate made the connection, but our opponents were completely oblivious, and our code remained unbroken.

I also had the opportunity to play Viticulture with the Tuscany expansion. Vitculture-Tuscany is easily in my top three board games, and I take every chance I can get to play it. I opted for a tasting room strategy this time around, but it sadly wasn’t enough to secure the win. That being said, Viticulture is very much a game where the outcome isn’t as important as the journey of building your engine.

I’m curious how the game plays with the Visit from the Rhine Valley expansion. I’ve noticed that a lot of the visitor cards focus on raw victory points instead of improving your engine. I’ve heard that the expansion centers around the latter, so I might pick it up and see how it changes the game.

Throne of Games - Targi, Endeavor & Betrayal

I discovered Targi last month. This is a two-player only worker placement and set collection game. That's right, a two-player only worker placement. Players select actions on the outer edge of a grid of cards. Players access the cards at the centre of the grid by drawing imaginary lines from their workers and using the cards where the lines meet. Players build up resources and block their opponent as they collect sets of tribe cards and gain bonus powers along the way. A simple mechanism with room for strategic play. My new favourite two-player game.

This year at UKGE I got to teach people Endeavor: Age of Sail on the Grand Gamers Guild booth. It's an exploration and area control strategy game for 2-5 players. Rather than coming away sick of the game, I came away wanting to buy it. For all it's components, huge board, and moving pieces, what we have here is of a well designed, intuitive strategy game that you can play in about an hour. The set number or rounds and low down time means I struggle to think of a strategy game that plays as easily as this one. Struggling, like me, to get big box games to the table? Try this one.

What makes Betrayal at House on the Hill unique is that you start the game with no goal and no win conditions. This is an interactive tile laying, exploration and survival game. Players are exploring an old mansion and discovering its treasures and dark secrets along the way. Preparing for whatever may happen next. This game is reminiscent of Mansions of Madness but is lighter and player quicker.

As things begin to get more bizarre and frightening one character will become the betrayer. At this point the betrayer and the other players separately read a unique win condition they must complete to win the game. Then, it's a race to victory. The base game comes with loads of these scenarios inside so you wont run out of plays for a very long time.

Endeavor: Age of Sail (Credit: Burnt Island Games)

Sarah C - Nusfjord, Piepmatz & Scarabya

June was a great month for gaming, especially because it included the UK Games Expo (highlight of my year so far, as well as getting married, of course!). I was able to play many different games, both old and new, and there were too many great games to name them all! Here are a few of my main highlights:

My husband’s favourite games are Agricola and Le Havre, while I am more a fan of Patchwork and Cottage Garden. As a result, my biggest surprise of the month was how much I love Uwe Rosenberg’s Nusfjord! We played it twice in two days, and then introduced it to friends. Nusfjord uses the worker placement mechanism, but it also introduces shares, which is an exciting addition. Selling your shares is a quick way to make cash, but if another player buys your shares, you will be giving them your fish at the start of each round!

I seem to be hot on my birds at the moment, loving both Wingspan and Piepmatz! In Piepmatz, players play cards at the feeder to collect seeds and birds. At the end of the game, mated bird pairs and seeds score points, but you have to have the majority of one species to score single bird cards. This beautiful little game will be perfect for summer holidays and works well with just two players.

Scarabya is the perfect game for the beginning or end of the night. It is quick to set-up and explain, and only takes 10-15 minutes to play. A deck of cards features images of different-shaped tiles, and when cards are drawn, all players place the matching tile on their board. Players score points by enclosing scarab beetles in zones of one to four squares – each scarab is worth the number of squares in the zone. A fast, enjoyable, tile-laying puzzle!

Louis N - Welcome To & Tiny Towns

June was a very different month for me. There was a distinct lack of meaty Euros (boo!), but it was all sparked off - as it was for many of you - by UKGE. Here, I picked up the ever desirable, and increasingly favoured, Too Many Bones.

Working on the Zatu stand gave me a chance to meet lots of lovely people, and introduce several of you to a couple of games - including some I’ve been playing lots myself since. I’ve also enjoyed The Isle of Cats playtesting this month - one to watch out for, for sure.

Welcome to… is a great game, one of my favourite additions to the “... and write” collection (which is mostly dominated by roll and write games). The simple act of choosing a pair of cards to populate your town sounds like it should be simple.

How difficult can it be to choose, when you have only three things to choose from? In fact, the number of factors that come into play affecting that choice can result in some almighty indecisiveness. Players are presented with a choice of three pairs of cards each round - one card carries a door number, the other, a type of feature - gardens, swimming pool, fence etc. Door numbers must be written into the town in one of three streets, in ascending order, so choosing the right door to number can be a challenge… but choosing the right feature and placing it in the most advantageous place is the crux of this game. Remarkably simple, but surprisingly clever.

Tiny Towns was one of the biggest hits of UKGE, and with good reason. The gameplay is incredibly simple. Each player in turn selects a building material, and all players place that in their tiny town (a 4x4 grid). Once building materials reach the correct arrangement and combination, buildings can be built onto the grid, replacing the building materials. Each building type (from quite a selection) either influences the building of other buildings, or scores points.

Tiny Towns can be a very frustrating game, when other players select materials which don’t fit in your town at all. But it can be really rewarding when you pull something off… apparently. I’m hopeless at Tiny Towns… but I still enjoy it. That is a good measure of a game. And one I can heartily recommend.