Here's what we've been playing this month. Some brilliant games have hit the table this month! I have been enjoying more campaigns from Jaws of the Lion and Undaunted: North Africa as well as new games to me in Harry Potter Strike Game and Legends of Andor which is phenomenal. The story in this is so good and engrossing. Every game is so tense!
It’s also been a month of expansions for me. I have really enjoyed Under the Moonlight for Photosynthesis and The Alchemists for Quacks of Quedlinburg. Both add a lot to the base game and will be always used for me when I play these games.
I have also found my new game that I will use to teach drafting in Mesozooic. A cute little family card game, based on the old sliding picture games of our youth. It has a brilliantly smooth drafting mechanic at the start, that teaches this mechanic so easily to any player of any age.
But my highlight has to be Red Rising. The new game from Stonemaier games. The team behind Scythe and Tapestry are back with a brilliant card game based on the books of the same name. The game is very similar to Fantasy Realms, the designer’s credit that as a major influence. It is the board game version of this card game if you will. It is incredibly fun to play and my new choice for a sub-hour game. A full review can be read here, but for now, just know this is a brilliant game worthy of your consideration.
If you enjoy building combinations in-game, then Red Rising could be for you. The joy from making four to eight cards score over 400 points is incredible! I can highly recommend this game for anyone looking for the classic, easy to learn, hard to master style game.
With a partial return to schools, our house has been much quieter, but my 12-year-old daughter is still home most days. With fewer people to interact with, taking breaks to destress and refresh is vital. Short and sweet games have become a welcome part of our routine.
To refresh tired minds I’m enjoying Age of War. Capturing Japanese castles with Yahtzee style dice play is simple and satisfying. At least when you can pull off that critical final roll. For something more active we turn to the zany Subuteo-like flicking action of IceCool. Sliding penguins around a frozen high school in search of fish is a welcome exercise after a few hours at a desk. And with IceCool2 we’re building even larger schools to pelt our peckish penguins around.
For shorter breaks, Love Letter and Infinity Gauntlet are perfect in their elegance. These games are brilliant with two, especially as there's no player elimination. With only one person to target (and blame!) the competitive element intensifies. In contrast, the two-player variant of Codenames Pictures provides a cooperative experience. Many plays hone a mutual interpretation of clues and bizarre illustrations.
The calming play of Ticket to Ride Europe and Carcassonne help keep minds ready to work when the break is over. With two players there's less overthinking and the simple turn actions keep a brisk pace.
With the improving weather, we even had some outdoor lunches. We Embraced the fleeting summer feel by visiting the Greek island of Santorini. A cheery, concise, chess-like game. Constructing beautiful domed towers appeals to kids and keeps adult minds working too!
But the standout game for me has been Quacks of Quedlinburg. The fantastically engrossing push-your-luck potion brewing is lively and swift. We learned and played our first game over lunch. We were so impressed we returned that evening for several more. (I encourage you to check out Zatu Blogger Thomas Gorner’s review for a more in-depth look.) This game is excellent fun. Sadly, it won’t be one of our future lunchtime games due to the disruptive effect on our work. It’s so good we just can't stop playing!
The aim of the game is to collect dinosaurs into your Dino-park by grouping them into sets: all the same, all different, matching pairs etc. Strategy comes from watching what your opponents are doing, and a roll of a die each round restricting where you can put your dinosaurs. Big fan of this game!
No thanks! is an excellent time filler. The premise is simple, have the lowest score at the end of the game. Players can say “No Thanks” to a numbered card (3-35) by placing a token on it. Alternatively, take the card and all the tokens placed on it. If you run out of tokens, then you have to take the card whether you want it or not. At the end of the game, you total up the numbers on your cards, counting only the lowest numbers if you have a run (e.g. score 22 if you 22, 23 and 24) then subtract the number of tokens you have. The lowest score wins. Easy!
Targi is one of the best two-player only games available. Players score victory points by building a tableau of Tribe cards, they buy tribe cards by collecting gold and resources. On their turn players place one of three workers along the outer edge of the board. Once they are all placed you activate the cards your workers are on. You also draw imaginary lines out from your workers, a bit like coordinates on a map. Where the lines from your workers intersect over a card, you also get to activate that card.
As the game progresses the cards change. It’s a puzzle of a game! Blocking your opponents is key to your strategy. At first, I found the game a little fiddly and open to overthinking moves, but after a while, the pace picks up. A solid two-player choice.
Some games get all the hype. Is it justified? Or are they driven into artificial snowballs by FOMO? I put this theory to the test last month by playing a title trending in the current ‘Hotness’: Lost Ruins of Arnak. This is a deck-builder and worker placement game, with an Indiana Jones/Uncharted vibe.
The way you want to stretch out your actions as far as they can go reminded me of Everdell. There’s a variety of things you can do in Arnak, and they all earn you points. Buy cards, climb the research track, go exploring, or take on fantastical guardians. Does it deserve the hype? I must admit: it does. In Arnak, Czech Games Edition has a true winner on its hands.
From one deck-builder to another, I’ve also played a lot of The Taverns of Tiefenthal. Six games of it, in fact! You’re running a medieval tavern and trying to serve beer to the locals. You draft and then place dice in your pub. Earn money and upgrade your tavern, improve its output, and attract nobles to the tables. The base game is fun as an entry-level activity, but Taverns comes with four other modules in the box. If you add these in one at a time, they increase the strategy and options even more. Entertainers; Bards and Reputation; asymmetrical starting decks; Guestbooks. Wolfgang Warsch and Schmidt Spiele: you’ve done it again.
This past month I’ve also played a lot of Lowlands. This is more ‘serious’ Euro, about Dutch farmers fighting against rising tides. You each have rival sheep farms, but if you don’t work together to build a dike, you all run the risk of getting flooded. It’s a fascinating semi co-op game where ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’. Looks like Uwe Rosenberg’s Agricola, but it plays rather different.
Click here to read my How To Play… guide for Lowlands.
My board game collection has grown a ridiculous amount over lockdown. I even had to buy a whole new storage unit because I had run out of space. The constant stream of new games meant that we always had something to keep us entertained, but also meant that there are some games sitting on the shelf that have only been played once. This month I have focused on playing those games. I am not allowed to buy any more games until everything has been played at least twice! Here's what we've been playing!
Azul was the first one that we grabbed to play again. You have to collect the coloured tiles to decorate a Portuguese Palace. Select the relevant colours to complete the rows on your board first. Like so many games, it is much more complicated than it seems at first glance. The pretty tiles distract you from the fact that you can select your tiles to scupper your opponent. Force them to pick up tiles they can’t place, so they smash and lose points.
Having played it again, I don’t know why The Captain is Dead isn’t in our regular rotation of games! A cooperative game set in the last ten minutes of a sci-fi TV programme: the captain is dead and it is your job to try and overcome all the problems that has caused. With every turn, something new goes wrong, all while you are trying to get the ship back online. It is a difficult game; we lose more than we win. But I like the challenge.
There are so many great games on my shelf that I need to give more time to. I should probably stop buying new games, but soon we are going to be able to have Games Nights again! I may have a shopping problem...
This month I’ve been condensing my board game collection. I’ve gotten to the point where board games are starting to take over my house so drastic measures needed to be taken. Luckily, I’ve just had to condense some expansions into base game boxes to free up some shelf space. One of the worst offenders was Eldritch Horror. I’ve been playing this since not long after it came out and I’ve picked up every expansion for it along the way.
While I had it all out on the table, I figured it’d be a shame not to give it a go. So, I did! I wasn’t mad enough to try and mix it all together, but I did mix in a few of the smaller expansions, always Strange Remnants, as these tend to be my favourites to play together. I had a blast trying to save the world from all kinds of weird slimy nonsense. Emphasis on trying because I think I only won once. It can be very hard.
The other game I’ve been playing is one that has only just come out and that is Maglev Metro. I’m quite fond of a pick-up and deliver game. This one ticks all the boxes for me. It looks great and its track building mechanisms have you looking for efficiency wherever you can find them.
Whenever you deliver passengers, you can use them to upgrade your abilities, but certain upgrades require certain types of passenger. So, do you prioritise the passengers you need for the upgrades you’re after, or do you just deliver what is easy to deliver? I’ve only just started with this game, but I’ve got that feeling where I am looking for any excuse to pull it off the shelf and play it again!