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What We’ve Been Playing May 2020 Part 2


Kirsty Hewitt

When lockdown started my husband and I decided to invest in a few heavier games as we have time to learn them at the weekend.  Brass: Birmingham and Maracaibo are great additions to our collection and have seen a couple of plays each this month.  Brass: Birmingham is an economic strategy game where you are trying to build up industries, connect them with a network and ultimately sell and use your goods to obtain points.  Maracaibo is also a strategy game involving travelling around the Caribbean trading goods, undertaking quests, fighting to gain influence with other nations and purchasing cards.  All of these give you points but trying to find the right balance of things to do can be tricky.

Both games have a bit of a learning curve so it has been good to play them several times in quick succession to help bed them in. I didn’t think I would enjoy Brass as much as Maracaibo due to the theme.  However, I have been pleasantly surprised and enjoyed both games a lot.

I have continued my exploration of solo gaming with Villagers and Wingspan hitting the table.  I definitely need to work on my solo strategy for Wingspan as, whilst it’s fairly even when playing against my husband, I have beaten the automa a grand total of once!  I still enjoy Wingspan a lot and will continue to play this both multiplayer and solo.

Finally, we played the city builder, Quadropolis, with my mum over video chat.  She has a copy of the game and we were able to build a tower of game boxes to rest the phone on so she could see the board.  Overall it worked rather well as she only needed to see the central board to select tiles and we could each have our own city boards off camera.  I believe a rematch is on the cards!

Rob Wright

Phew! What a scorcher! Fortunately, I have been stuck inside, keeping myself socially distant (no change there) and only popping outside for comestibles, exercise and to watch the ISS go over (go, human race when we work together!). So, games it is!

First on the agenda is the small but perfectly formed Ultra Tiny Epic Galaxies. I have a few games I can solo (Elder Sign, Underwater Cities, Alien Artefacts etc.) but they all take a bit of set up. UTEG sets up in a moment, plays quick and takes up little room. Perfect if you are wanting to hide yourself in a little corner and get away from it all, as it were.

Next, an oldie but a goody – Love Letter, with its curious collection of images that sort of look famous (Adam Driver as The Priest, Robert Redford as The Prince, Christopher Plummer as The Baron… just me?). It’s still a surprise at how a game with only 16 cards can be so strategic. Plays well with two, better with more and is perfect for prying the youngest away from Youtube… I mean, breaking up the home-schooling…

Finally, it has come as a surprise that the youngest has also gained a taste for running his own pub… don’t worry, it’s all legit, he just likes playing Taverns of Tiefenthal. The latest offering from Wolfgang Warsch is a combination of deck builder/dice drafter/builder placement that has a vanilla version for starters but also includes four modules that gradually add to the playing experience. It looks lovely, has plenty of replayability with the extra modules and is a reminder of the sweet, sweet pub life that I… clearly don’t miss at all. Excuse me while I leave my keyboard… I appear to have something in my eye…

Dawid Kaczorowski

The lockdown situation had one unexpected outcome – the kalax of shame has finally begun to shrink, albeit in a solo or two player variants.

And so, I have finally played Great Western Train, which I knew I will love, but somehow never had the courage to finally read the rulebook. It’s proven to be a hefty one, but the gameplay is quite fluid once you understand the iconography and the board is also designed well to guide the players through the phases and what needs to happen.

In it, we take roles of ranchers herding cattle and sending them off by train to other parts of America. It may not sound extremely enticing, but then again, neither is watching birds, wink wink Wingspan. All in all, it’s a great design by Alexander Pfister, but I wouldn’t recommend it as an introduction to board games.

Another game that finally landed on my table last month was Aeon’s End. A colourful, co-operative card game in which players fight as mages against an otherworldly monster and its minions. It’s fun, addictive, and very tough at times. Every monster, or Nemesis as it’s called in the game, has its own powers, keeping the game fresh and giving players a new puzzle to solve. Definitely worth checking out, and by now it has a lot of expansions and even a legacy version, if you can’t get enough of it.

The newest game in my collection that I have given a shot was Space Gate Odyssey. It’s a combination of mechanisms seen before elsewhere, with an unoriginal theme of space exploration. But the whole package works brilliantly and I was blown away by it. I dare say this is the most underrated game of 2019, so check it out!

Northern Dice

Playing games has kept us sane this month. During times like these, we truly appreciate how boardgames can take you out of the chaos and somewhere controlled and stable. It's wonderful! As for what we've been playing this month, well, its a truly mixed bag! However, the most prominent attendees in our play list have been Tiny Epic Tactics and Bärenpark. These are tremendously different in genre and styles, but hit the nail on the head with what we love from them. Area control battling, and pattern placing polyominoes.

Tiny Epic Tactics

Throwing us back to our nostalgia, this is a tactical area control game. You battle for control of areas or capture units through combat. There are five game modes to choose from, ranging from team combat to cooperative play to a free for all. It fits lots of preferences and is surprisingly light compared to other Tiny Epics. It's rule heavy, I'll give it that, but it's robust and thorough. You're never left questioning. As for the play, this is a game we've thoroughly enjoyed playing this month. We've played every flavour of it and it hit us hard with engagement!

The whole experience is delightful and is reminiscent of turn based strategy video games. My instant thought was Final Fantasy Tactics or Advanced Wars, but a more streamlined version, with more smoothed edges and a reduction in clunkiness. If you're a fan of area control, the standard competitive mode is right up your alley. Though that's not to play down any of the other modes. I'm not a solo gamer by nature, but thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of this on my own enough to play it a few times. Definitely one to pick up if you're a Tiny Epic Fan!


Bärenpark was my partners choice of game. It's friendly, inoffensive and delightful. But it somehow always results in a massacre of points, with her dominating and me trailing far behind! The game is centred around you building a wildlife park for bears. You spend turns placing habitats, enclosure or green areas, placing tiles over symbols to unlock more tiles. There's added challenge with rewards for perfectly filling a tile and focus on being the first for things. What's more is the addition of objectives for further points, and also challenge to the game.

This is my favourite polyomino tile laying game, trumping patchwork due to its ability to allow for four players. As I said, this game is incredibly accessible with delightful theme. It looks good, too! I say the scores were far apart, but I exaggerate; we're always within 10 of one another. I just always end up on the lower end of the scores! Despite this losing streak, I cannot dislike this game. It's wonderful and one I highly recommend for casual gamers, or board gaming families!