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What We’ve Been Playing May 2020 Part 1

wwbp may 2020

Another month of lockdown certainly hasn't stopped us from getting out game fix. Our blogging team have played so much this month we're doing this in two parts! Here's what we were playing in the month of may.

Sarah Carpenter

Another month in Lockdown, and we are all still trying to find a way to cope with this strange and unsettling situation. I am lucky enough to live with my main gaming partner, my husband, and we find that playing games in the evenings and at weekends helps us to relax. So, we managed to get a lot of games to the table in May.

My husband and I are big fans of Uwe Rosenberg, and that is certainly evident this month! Early in May we played the Puzzle Trilogy – Cottage Garden, Indian Summer and Spring Meadow – back-to-back. We really enjoy all three games and it was the perfect way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon. Throughout the month we also played Patchwork, At the Gates of Loyang, Nusfjord and our most recent purchase, Ora et Labora. The use of a rondel to keep track of the production in Ora et Labora is something we have never seen before and both really enjoyed.

After playing an early prototype of Chocolate Factory at the UK Games Expo two years ago, I was excited to get my copy this month. The sliding production line for the chocolate is a great mechanic and it makes the game a real brain burner!

Towards the end of the month we got in a play of one of my favourite games, Flamme Rouge, including both the Peloton and Meteo expansions. Despite one of my riders taking an early lead and being completely exhausted, as well as tackling a long stretch of uphill and a nasty head wind, he did manage to cross the finish line in first place!

We are very much missing our gaming friends, but we managed to play Quacks of Quedlinburg over Skype. With each player brewing their own potion, it’s a game that can work well in this situation. Although, roll on the days when we can all get together with our friends and family for games! Also, until we can get to the pub, we are playing a lot of The Taverns of Tiefenthal!

Carl Yaxley

My gaming, like that of many others, continues to have a decidedly solitary feel, as social mobility restrictions remain in place. Armed with nothing more than a pot of tea and a  packet of biscuits, I continue to seek elder signs. My adventures into the fictionalised world of the 1920's, in which Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos lingers, have had mixed success. I've beaten the Elder Signs Base game, and again with Unseen Forces content. I've also survived the Streets of Arkham, but so far the Omens of Ice and the Pharaoh have spelt disaster! All that remains is to be defeated by Omens of the Deep to complete my failure...

Star Wars Outer Rim and Tiny Epics Galaxies have provided solo gaming that hasn't ended in death or madness. Both are entertaining options, with great game play that remains enjoyable in solo mode. However, my gaming highlights of the month have been playing digital versions of well known titles.  A gaming session on Board Game Area with the Zatu team was good fun. We got Rallyman GT, Jaipur, and Kahuna 'to the table'. My partner and I have also been making use of Yucata, to bring the family in on games like Rattus. Both platforms are a great resource for gamers, and are mostly free, which is nice. When you have video and or audio available too, it almost feels like you're round a table playing normally. Almost!

Nathan Coombs

My daughter and I have been looking at games that are modular, using tiles to create a playing space - so we re-acquainted ourselves with Quadropolis. This is a two- to four-person, city-building puzzle from Days of Wonder. It usually takes about 45 to 60 minutes to play, depending on how much over-analysis gamers take in deciding their moves. In the basic set-up it will play out over four rounds.

As city mayor your job is to reconstruct a city and decide where various city blocks are placed. These include, among others, accommodation, parks, industry and shops etc. The availability of these tiles and their ultimate location in your city is determined by how they are taken from a shared player grid. At the start of each round the city block tiles are randomly placed. Your four architects may take one, but this will limit the other player’s choices. You may not take tiles from the same row or column as the previous player. Similarly, the tile you choose, and its final location in your city, is determined according to the architect you use for that block.

This is a neat puzzle and conundrum. Ultimately you want to score points by placing certain tiles in adjacency [for example parks next to residential]. But if a park is not available what do you do? Should you change tack and aim for victory points by building civic amenities? Do you grab a power station just to hinder your opponent? This teaches the importance of planning ahead and aiming for long-term strategies, yet being flexible to change. Due to the random layout of the tiles every game is different. The levels of complexity can be altered, for example by allowing skyscrapers or by increasing the grid size.

Quandropolis is a well-made quality game. It can be sufficiently simple for older children to enjoy, but has a deep puzzle element that would appeal to analytical minds. Having been retrieved from the topmost shelf of games I’m glad it will now see plenty more action in the weeks ahead.

Louis Noble

As we approach three full months of lockdown, I have found that my gaming activity has been modified considerably. A couple of games have stood out more than others; Azul: Summer Pavilion went down very well, and Vindication has been a surprise success.

Azul: Summer Pavilion is the third of the Azul games. It features the same core gameplay – taking all tiles of the same colour from one of a selection of “factories” in the centre of the table, to be placed on your personal board. Aside from the different arrangements of times, and therefore the difference in scoring, Summer Pavilion features one further difference, compared to the other two games. All tiles selected in the round are set aside, and are placed at the end of the round.

This gives the game a different feel. Where in the original Azul you could be really harmed by having lots of tiles of the same colour, this could potentially be beneficial in Summer Pavilion. This opens the game out a lot, and changes the risk from one of tightness (and the threat of being messed up by other players) to one of having too much opportunity, too many choices. The risk is spreading yourself too thin.

I was surprised by how well Vindication was received on our table. My partner, a self-described non-gamer, was initially hesitant – several different sets of cards could be quite intimidating (and why are they that shape?). Essentially Vindication is a tile-laying, engine-building, objective-driven, resource management game. Move around the board, collecting attribute points (effectively resources) which can be spent acquiring new cards. All cards in some way improve your engine. The length of the game is determined by randomly selected end game triggers. Depending on the number of players, these may come up all too quickly, so it pays to be ready to reject some. Vindication comes with loads of modular expansions straight out of the box – there is a lot of game there!