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What We’ve Been Playing – March 2019

What We've Been Playing - Raccoon Tycoon

Here's what we've been playing during the month of March, as the winter came to a close and the brighter skies of Spring arrived.

Tom H - A Tale of one Sheriff and their, ahem, six ‘loyal’ Deputies

I went skiing with some ‘non-gaming friends’ last month. Some après-ski activities were required and being the designated board game guy of the group, I packed some games in quiet optimism of getting some to the table. These games needed to be:

  • Quick to teach (I didn’t want the group to lose interest!)
  • Lightweight in complexity (alcohol consumption was likely to be involved), but high in interactivity.
  • Have at least a six-player count.
  • Small enough to fit into my hand luggage.

After some consideration, I managed to fit BANG! The Dice Game, Deep Sea Adventure, and Skull into one Tupperware box. To my delight, all three games went down really well with everyone; they requested repeat plays all week. BANG! might have been their favourite, with the factor of verbal alliances (and then inevitable backstabbing) alongside fortunate/unlucky dice rolls causing tears of laughter. A lot of bluffing (good and bad!) also occurred in Skull, and a lot of poor diver meeples ran out of oxygen in the high-risk stakes of Deep Sea Adventure.

A commonly asked question fired my direction was, “Where do you find out about all these great games?” as if I had discovered a miracle cure. Naturally, I directed them towards Zatu and It reminded me that a lot of people fear new things, board games included, especially if they have been brought up on a diet of Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit, alone. But it also gave me great faith that you can convert non-gamers’ attitudes by carefully picking the right gateway games for them. Before I packed the games, I rehearsed some last-minute prep, ensuring my scripted teach of said games was spot-on, direct, but light-hearted.

Happily – for both me, and them – we all had a fantastic time. (Oh, and the skiing wasn’t too bad, either…)

Joe R - Welcome To, Root and Quacks of Quedlinberg

March seemed to be the month where I finally got to play games that I’d heard a lot about. Playing games that have received a lot of positive attention is always tricky. Like finally seeing a film everyone’s raved to you about, it’s often hard to meet expectations.

Welcome To... A Roll and Write game where you attempt to build the perfect neighbourhood. There is something great about the permanency of committing your decision to paper. No matter how much you wish you’d added a pool to a Number 11. You’ve already put a fence between four and six. There are no take backs when you’re playing Welcome To…! I'm looking forward to playing again and it deserves all the plaudits with the value the game offers.

Root, the hot new game of last year. It's shocking that it’s taken me so long to try it. There is a lot to love about it. You don’t need me to tell you how great the different animal pieces took. It fits into a nice compact box and has a double-sided board. I was finishing another game at my FLGS when a group asked if I wanted to give Root a go. I played as the cats and found my turns a bit too simple, I was doing the same thing every turn. I found what the other players were up to impenetrable and confusing, not a good combination. I can see why people like it, but I don’t think I’ll be putting the effort in to learn all the factions.

Quacks of Quedlinberg - Wow, what an enjoyable experience. This game feels like the swings of luck should ruin it but it puts you in total control of your own decisions. So, you never blame the game when it goes wrong. My only gripe is that some of the ingredients were much better value than others. I’m going to buy this one when it’s back in stock and the expansion as well. If i was on the Game of the Month team, this would be my pick.

Dawid K - Terraforming Mars, Architects of the West Kingdom & Wildlands

It’s pretty embarrassing, but until last month I have never played Terraforming Mars (TM). I have been well aware of the game and the positive reviews around it, so when I spotted it on the shelf in my friend’s apartment I made it my objective to play it before I left. It turned out to be a blast, and a surprisingly accessible game. Players race to make Mars inhabitable on three separate tracks and use card drafting each round to determine their actions. This makes for a plethora of possibilities and a different game each time. Yes, I wish that TM would get inspired by Scythe when it comes to the player boards and the art, but the fact that these are not perfect and yet the game has such universal acclaim is a proof of its stellar gameplay.

My gaming group and I have also been catching up on the more recent titles. One of them was Architects of the West Kingdom. It has proven to be an exciting and mean worker placement game with a very clever virtue track, introducing a reward and punishment system for actions taken in the game. The placement of the workers, too, brings a twist in that the more workers in one place the better the outcome, but so is the chance that those workers will be targeted by other players and imprisoned. The result is an elegant game full of nail-biting moments.

We have also played Martin Wallace’s Wildlands. It’s a skirmish game with great art and minis, which is easy enough to explain in a few minutes, but can prove deceivingly difficult to master. It might not be the main event game, but is great for quick sessions, having the “let’s play another one” appeal, and a lot of expansions planned to keep things fresh.

Throne of Games - Piepmatz, Eastern Wonders & Explorers of the North Sea

Piepmatz is a beautiful set collection and hand management strategy card game for 2-4 players. Play cards from your hand in order to collect birds and seeds at the feeder. Points are awarded for seeds, the majority of one bird species, and for breeding pairs. Avoid squirrels and crows that will eat into your victory points. I particularly enjoy the forward planning in this game. It’s not as simple as it first appears. To do well you will need to invest big scoring birds you don't want to risk losing. It’s a clever game of risk and reward that fits snugly in your pocket.

Century: Eastern Wonders is a pick-up and deliver, set collection game of sailing and trading spices for 2-4 players. Build outposts on islands to allow them to trigger actions and build efficient routes. Use the abilities on the different islands to complete sets of spices to trade for victory points.

If you have played Century: Spice Road you will quickly pick up the rules. My favourite aspect is how building outposts make the islands more expensive for your opponents. You are not just building engines from cards, your engine is instead a chain of islands you need to travel too. It makes completing the set all the more rewarding. Eastern Wonders can be combined with Spice Road to create a whole new game, “Sand to Sea”.

Explorers of the North Sea is a 2-4 player, tile placement, area control and, pick up and deliver game. You take on the role of Norse explorers discovering islands; pillaging villages; nicking sheep; leaving you mates behind because you boat is full of chickens; you know, Viking stuff! It is easy to learn and quick to play. The rules are simple but there is a decent amount of depth. Spread yourself too thinly and you can’t control islands, concentrate on only one area and you leave other point-scoring avenues open for your opponents. This is one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played so far this year.

Simon L - The Traveler, Racoon Tycoon & Red 7

In March I indulged in some classics for my birthday, including The Chameleon, a fun social deduction party game, Hey, That’s My Fish, a short abstract strategy game with area control, Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 (following on from Season 1, I believe to be a superior game in every way, the choices, the innovate, the legacy and the customisability), and Red 7 (first time trying this).

At last I had the chance to play Altiplano: The Traveler, the expansion to Altiplano which added new resources, new options and new incentives. The play duration stays the same and combined with the Sunny Days mini-expansion creates an enjoyable mid-weight game that compliments the original.

Fans of Sub Terra will like the competitive predecessor, The Cave, you venture down (scoring points for reaches deeper depths), laying rope, squeezing through cracks and managing your kit bag, as without food and energy drinks, you’ll be waiting your turn crawling back, wishing you didn’t take that rubber dingy and scuba tank after all.

Last, but not least; Raccoon Tycoon. A fun, auction bidding, engine building resource management game where you are looking to have the best tycoons at your place, couples with the best town and the best buildings. A fun medium weight game that works well at all player counts and is joy to have the Wild West era of the landed gentry clothing animals!

Craig P - That's Pretty Clever, Raccoon Tycoon & Herb Witches

It seems that my love affair with roll-and-writes isn't about to end any time soon. With the success had in indoctrinating my better-half with Welcome To in the past few months, I decided to try my luck with Ganz Schon Clever (aka. That's Pretty Clever). Despite some initial hesitation on her part, it soon became apparent that this was a hit. I feel that the admiration for this type of game stems from it's relative simplicity, ease of play, and accessibility. Of all the games I've played in March, this hit the table the most. My goal in the coming months is to finally crack 300 but given my ineptitude to roll high numbers when needed, that may take some doing!

Another new-to-me game this month saw me purchase the expansion for my copy of The Quacks of Quedlinburg. I do tend to lean towards many games that you would consider around the medium complexity level. After I finally came to sample this for what it is, a fun push-your-luck, bag builder, I added it to my collection and sought out the Witches Brew expansion.

This adds a few extra ingredients, tokens, and one-time game powers. Now, given my struggles to roll well in Ganz Schon Clever, you would be right in thinking my pot tends to 'explode' a fair deal in Quacks, but it doesn't negate the enjoyment had. There is enough depth here in the many ingredient book options that I can see this being played a lot in the coming months, and with the Witches Brew expansion also proving to be a hit at my table, I can only suggest you go out and try it for yourselves.

I should really see about expanding my views on games, and not initially dismiss certain titles due to their name/theme. One of the more enjoyable experiences this month saw me try my hand at Raccoon Tycoon. This flew way below my radar, and I hadn't given this a moment's thought. I am a fan of any game that sees market manipulation, Power Grid is a fine example of this, where it's imperative to study the swing in values of certain commodities to maximise your performance. Add to this, the artwork in this game (particularly the cards) is beautiful. Suffice to say, despite only playing this once so far, this fun economic/auction, set builder has jumped onto my wish list, and I will be making a point of adding this to my collection come UK Games Expo in May/June