Every month our writers share information about the board games they have been playing, sharing both positive and negative thoughts on those games. Here are the games that our team have been playing during the month of March.
The Game Shelf - So Many Games!!!
We religiously log our game plays on BoardGameGeek and during March we apparently logged the most gameplays we have ever logged in a month! Here’s how we did it!
- A trip to AireCon – a board game convention held in Harrogate. We spent two days at AireCon in Harrogate, playing some new games, including Majesty for the Realm and City of Kings, as well as some new prototypes. We also bought some new games (of course) and played some games from the board game library. The highlights were Big Book of Madness, which is a fantastic puzzly co-op game and Mombasa, which was a really overwhelming euro game, but one that we really wanted to try again after our first play.
- A day at the Ludoquist board game café in Croydon. We don’t meet up with our game group often, since it is more casual than regular meet-ups, but on Good Friday we played lots of games. I was really happy to teach Pulsar 2849 and to get the opportunity to play Roll Player and The Grimm Forest – both of which are now added to my wishlist. We also had a lot of fun with the children playing Hamsterrolle and Rory’s Story Cubes.
- A record number of reviews on our main blog and for Zatu Games. We’ve reviewed a lot of games this month including a lot of hot new games, such as Topiary, Noria and Paper Tales, some old classics, like Dominion and some games that are just launching on Kickstarter.
Chad - Attack on Titan and Dobble
I had my first play of Attack on Titan: The Last Stand this month. As a fan of the anime series I was eager to check out this one vs all, push-your-luck dice-rolling game. Upon opening the box I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the frightful cardboard titan. In fact he’s the main reason for the size of the box! Also included is a variety of dice, cards, tokens, standees and a 3D tower.
Most players will send their heroes soaring towards the opposing player’s titan of choice through the rolling of custom dice.
It’s a simple but satisfying back and forth between the players and captures the spirit of the show pretty well. The 3D elements of the game help push the chaotic theme as well, as your standees scale the imposing titan as it dispatches cannons and innocent civilians. Whether you’re a fan of the series or not, The Last Stand is a push-your-luck game worth checking out!
I’ve done a fair bit of travelling around this month and kept my trusty can of Dobble with me constantly. I only recently got hold of this ingenious little tin and wow have I been missing out! The premise is simple. Any two cards will always have two symbols that match. These colourful little illustrations of varying sizes range from clowns and apples to trees and the strange Dobble hand-man-thing mascot.
There’s a few ways to play, but we generally dealt each player one card and have everyone trying to match their own symbols to those on the top of the remaining pile. This is a hugely entertaining and frantic game, prone to inducing bouts of hilarity.
A word of advice though. If you find yourself playing this super portable game on some form of public transport, try to avoid shouting when you spot a matching pair of bomb symbols…
Simon - Splendor and Kingdomino
It’s been a month of quick, family friendly games for us this March…
It amazes me how this game has the ability to bring a table to complete silence, but it works every time for us! It’s not over complexity that causes this, in fact the main engine building mechanic is pretty simple. But this simplicity means it is easier to plan a few moves ahead, and unlike in many games, easier to make a good guess at what other players are up to.
So we spend most of our time between turns fiddling with the weighty poker chip gems, surreptitiously eyeing up other player’s cards and tokens, working out what cards they can afford on their next turn, and trying to beat them to it!
It’s very satisfying either buying that card and watching the panic on their face, or even better, ‘reserving’ it, taking it out of play and getting a ‘wild’ gold poker chip for doing so, even if you don't want the card! It’s the board game equivalent of licking someone else’s food!
I’ll give away my strategy tip; from the start, I always look straight to the Noble tiles, and work out the most common colour cards needed to attract them, and try to grab those cards first - just keep that between you and me!
We’ve not tried out the recent expansion Cities of Splendor yet, but we’re curious to give it a try.
Another game with a super simple mechanic that we've been playing a lot of recently is Kingdomino. It’s easy to fit in game after game of this, and like Splendor has its poker chips, Kingdomino has its glossy, over-thick tiles that are a joy to handle, and look great as your kingdom grows.
Unlike Splendor, we do find ourselves able to chat whilst playing, and we love discovering the little details on the tiles, like playing Where’s Wally - my personal favourites are the subtle dragon shadow over the suitably scared sheep, and Frodo vs. Shelob in the forest!
Great with three to four players, but with two players, you can build an even bigger kingdom (seven by seven squares, rather than five by five) - it might not seem much, but this extra space means much bigger scoring potential!
Like Splendor, we are yet to try Queendomino, last year’s standalone expansion, and looking forward to seeing what Kingdomino: Age of Giants brings, with its great looking tile dispenser tower, and giant meeples, out this year.
Rob W - Time Stories and Suburbia
Although our gaming group acquired the base Time Stories game in the middle of last year, it was only in March we sat down and learned how to play. The blend of mystery, deduction and involving gameplay had us hooked, and we ordered the second mission a few hours later and played it a few days later. This is a co-op where communication is key, and we’re really into the whole concept, the changing settings and the fact the game is basically designed for you to take several passes at the puzzle, which can be done across an afternoon. Is £18 a scenario worth it for four hours gaming? For this we think so!
On the one hand, we could describe Suburbia in terms of the buying tiles, laying tiles and carefully building up your hexagonal city as you go. But what struck me was the constant battle between your city growing and the way that constantly reduces your income, leaving you to keep having to expand to stand still, and expand even more to make gains. If that doesn’t sound appealing, it struck me as having a powerful logic when it comes to city management, and makes for a second challenge beyond the interplay with your friends.
Ben Garry - Century: Spice Road, Takenoko and Teaching some Classics!
The game I was most excited to play for the first time this month was Century: Spice Road. The cube-trading card game was a big hit last year, and I wanted to play it a few months ahead of the release of Eastern Wonders. I’ve mostly played it head to head, with the short turns making for fast gameplay. This makes it easier to string a strategy together than it would be at a higher player count, where you’ll have to wait longer between actions. I’ve really enjoyed my experiences so far, and will be looking forward to Emerson Maatsuchi’s next Century instalment, along with many others in the board gaming community
Although the game’s been out for a few years now, it was only last month that I finally got hold of Takenoko and its Chibis expansion. My wife loves pandas so the theme was an easy sell, and we’ve enjoyed it head to head and in groups with a few different friends who hadn’t played many games before.
Everyone I’ve played it with has loved the base game, and the Chibis expansion adds another layer of complexity to keep the game fresh for my wife and I after playing multiple games head to head. Overall, it’s a very light game, but it’s relaxing to play and great to teach to less experienced players.
Throughout the month, I actually had a lot of opportunities to teach a variety of games to different people, some more experienced gamers and some complete first-timers. Castles of Burgundy (which I’m also fairly new to) seemed like a daunting teach, but it went down very well with a board gaming friend of mine and was a great way to spend a couple of hours.
Games like the aforementioned Takenoko and gateway classics Catan and 7 Wonders also hit the table a lot with several different groups. My highlight, however, was teaching a couple of my beloved deck-building games, Ascension and Hero Realms, to my brother-in-law. He’s normally more of a video-gamer, but he picked both games up very fast...and, of course, destroyed me at them
Nick - Inis, Micro Brew and Spires
Of note this month was a play through of Kanban, the out of print car factory game from Vital Larcerda designer of Vinhos and Lisboa. It ran a bit long and the rule explanation was... extensive but what a fantastic game. The idea of being competing managers in a car factory, and using hour blocks as actions is great. It took me a fair while to grok the blocking and future planning but it is one I will definitely look to play again at the first opportunity.
Spires is a trick-taking bidding game from one of my favourite designers, T.C. Petty III. You are trying to collect sets of the same coloured spires to score points, but they can't be higher than the King's spires which means each colour can only have three cards or less if you want to score big. The clever thing is how you use a simple form (or more complex if you wish) of trick taking to win more cards for your spires. It's a great card game, that scales well.
One to look out for later in the year is Micro Brew, a two-player worker placement game from One Free Elephant. It is a game in a tin much like Mint Works and Mint Delivery, but it packs a heck of a lot of a game into that tin! I played a very early prototype but there is already some brilliant ideas going on in this small tin.
I was finally able to pick up and play Inis, and it didn't disappoint. Clever card drafting plus area control plus win conditions you can sneakily obtain (to some degree). I only got one play so far but it has stayed with me every since. I can't wait to try new tactics next time!
Luke - Empires of the Void, Keyflower and Kodama
The newest entry is the latest edition of Empires of the Void by Ryan Laukat - a 4X (maybe more 3X) space game now in its second edition version released recently. I loved the first one and even though it needed a print and play expansion to fully work properly, I still adored how it gave the option of invading or allying with alien races depending on your needs and preferences.
Here there are some differences but the feel remains the same. You move around the map either invading races for resources and control or allying with them to obtain their unique units to recruit for your cause. Both ways score points and are very balanced. In addition to this you can settle on uninhabited planets, build bases and improve your technologies all in classic space 4X fashion. It looks unbelievably gorgeous showcasing Ryan's impressive artwork and is a satisfying experience throughout. If you thought Twilight Imperium was too long and involved, check this one out.
The game Keyflower is actually one I enjoy, but this time we included the Merchants expansion. It's a simple addition that includes further upgrade tiles to double the points of your village tiles and contracts which can be discarded for a free resource/meeple or completed at the end of the game for points. It's simple enough and easy to teach, but I had a problem with the upgrade tiles.
Upgrading tiles in your village already gets you a fair amount of points for only so much effort, but these Merchant tiles just made their points ridiculous. You upgrade a tile that gives you 10 points, then can further upgrade it for as cheap as cost as say a spare meeple for another 10 points. In a game where most players will score between 50-80 points that's a substantial amount. I like the contracts as you have to make the effort to acquire what you need and certainly won't be able to spam them unless you've got a big resource engine going. These upgrade tiles just seemed to unbalance the game to the point where upgrading tiles is the way to go period. I think I'll be leaving these out in future.
Kodama: The Tree Spirits was a nice little filler game I got to learn at Stab-Con and it's definitely an odd one. You are spirits growing a giant tree with all sorts of features on it like caterpillars, mushrooms, flowers etc. You place cards on the tree in such a way that the tree branches out, but you can't touch more than one card at a time so space is limited. Points are scored for contiguous lines of tree features and you have some secret objectives that you can score at the end of each round.
It's a nice pleasant filler game that only takes about 10 minutes per player and looks very cute on the table, even if the art is like something out a weird, surreal video game - think along the lines of those old 80's/90's LucasArt point and click puzzle games. There's a luck of the draw factor to consider but for such a short game it really doesn't matter. If anything the biggest challenge is not jostling your tree so that the cards shift - stable playing surface indoors recommended.