October is the spookiest month – a scientific fact and a law of nature. Made even more true by the games we choose and activities we partake in. And what are those for us? Board games of course. This month, we’ve been playing a decent amount of the spooky Bloodborne The Card Game and the not so spooky Streets!
First off, let's hit the scarier stuff: Bloodborne The Card Game. Now, this is a top tier favourite of mine that I never get to play enough! It’s themed off of Bloodborne, the video game, and runs within the same theme and universe… but separate from its story. The idea is that all the players are Hunters on any night of the Hunt, taking down beasts, infected and kin alike. It holds hand management as its core mechanic and centres on players playing cards to do damage, whilst mitigating potential retributions from enemies.
Players play cards in private and reveal them simultaneously. However, the game runs with a “work together” feel whilst also being competitive throughout. It has a little bit of backstabbery and a strong sense of sneakiness… tie that together with some gruesome artwork and an excellent level of interaction, and you’ve got a quality game!
Our other focus game for the month has been Streets… a game that’s not scary, but is an absolute banger! The game is the next in the series to the awesome Villagers, according to the designer, but holds no links beyond designer and art style. However, its calibre of quality is equally as impressive in all respects for us. The idea behind Streets is to build a set of streets (who’d have thunk it!?) for different folk to visit. The establishments placed will attract four distinct flavours of visitors: hipsters, parents, tourists, and shoppers. These people flock to new locations whenever placed and each location scores based on what else is on the street. You’re aiming to cash in on finished streets which score establishments you own, looking for synergised tiles that score highly off of one another.
The game holds tile placement high on its priorities for boasts, but it’s the literal placement of the tiles that matters. Because the folk of this fine town are fickle, they get FOMO the moment they can’t move to an appropriately matching location. It makes snapping up those meeples almost as important as the synergising tiles in some instances. The tactics available are excellent and make it incredibly rewarding to get a street that turns into stacks of points. It’s a real thinky, tactical game that looks great on the table as you literally build the Streets. A great month for games for us!
What have we been playing? The answer is plenty as it’s half term! With my gaming group, we have plenty of enjoyment out of the taught and rapid backstabbing of Oriflamme (full review here). It’s two parts Coup, one part Love Letter, and one part Game of Thrones. As a 20 minute filler full of fun, it seems to have a habit of hitting the table for three of four consecutive plays.
I had my first ever play of the auctioneering genius of Modern Art – confirming my veneration of Reiner Knizia. Simply genius. Considerations of which artwork to auction and when, the cumulative effects on the value of works, and the question of where the purchasing money is going to end up. Combine for simple rules and joyously tortuous gameplay. Port Royal has made for a smashing filler of piratical mini-engine and push your luck fun. It’s a lot of game in a very small box. While a warm-up or filler, it boxes above its weight.
A separate group of us have met for our second game of Oath – the ‘legacyish’ Wehrle masterpiece that is one part Root to two parts Pax Parmir (full review to follow). Early impressions are really positive – strong gameplay, exciting emergent narratives, and better legacy than many true legacy games.
And then, with the family, the gorgeous brain-burner Curious Cargo – beautiful, cute art with some real hard-core thinking underneath. Also, more Knizia greatness in Lost Cities, which is a new fave with my daughter as yet again he combines simple rules with depth of gameplay. Village Green had an outing for three of us and also as a solo. A pleasant puzzler, if a bit thin compared to Peer Sylvester’s The King is Dead; the latter is a must-have and will doubtless be hitting the table again soon.
I’ve had a fairly eclectic month as far as board gaming goes. A few highly anticipated Kickstarters turned up as well as re-visiting a few classics. First off, I’ve had Red Rising hit the table a few times this last month. I really enjoy the combo building as well as the multiple end game conditions. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that components are top-notch!
Next up, I have been giving Streets a whirl. This tile-based city builder has a lovely art style and some interesting decisions to be made. You’re trying to score as highly as possible with your buildings without giving too much away to your opponents. I’ve still not tried everything in the box yet, but I’ve been having a great time exploring it. Again, lovely components in this one too.
I had a little online meetup with a few of the other bloggers here at Zatu and we played a game of Lost Ruins of Arnak. Ever since our live playthrough of Dune: Imperium where I was left a little underwhelmed, I’ve been told repeatedly to give Lost Ruins of Arnak a try. And it did not disappoint in the slightest. It is a great mix of worker placement and deckbuilding that gives you loads of different ways to play. Really enjoyed my playthrough of that one!
The last game I want to highlight is The Initiative. I’ve been playing this steadily since the UK Games Expo earlier this year. It is a great little campaign puzzle game with an interesting story in an accompanying comic book. The game has you playing cards to move about different offices and look for clues to solve a riddle. As you get further into the campaign, you unlock more obstacles to your progress. This is probably my most played game of 2021 - it’s definitely top 5. It has really grabbed me. I don’t hear too many people talking about it, which is a bit of a shame.
October was a busy month of board gaming for me. My gaming group Eat, Crit, & Survive, took part in the Raise Your Game campaign for Dementia UK and ran several streams on Twitch where we played several board games remotely. We played Stone Age, Cards Against Humanity, Funemployed, Wingspan (the base game and the Oceania Expansion), Roll Player, an incredibly tight game of Viticulture, and my favourite game I don’t own (yet), Quacks of Quedlinburg.
In the physical medium, my copy of Cartographers Heroes arrived so my partner and I played a few games of that, utilising the gorgeous and challenging map packs of Affril and Nebblis. We also unwrapped one of my birthday presents, Galaxy Trucker, and gave that a play, before celebrating our anniversary at a local gaming café and playing Patchwork, Gods Love Dinosaurs and New York Zoo. Then, on Halloween weekend, we wrapped up the month with a pair of game nights. Tackling Just One, Project L, Mysterium, and Sherriff of Nottingham on Saturday, then Betrayal at the House on the Hill, Everdell, Cat Lady, and Islebound on Sunday.
What do these games have in common, you might ask? It’s certainly not me winning all of them, I lost more than I won. No, the linking factor is that regardless of the group I was playing with and whether we were in person or not, I had a great time playing these games. Variety is the spice of life and getting to play a whole bunch of games throughout the month was incredibly satisfying. So I guess my goal for November is pretty simple – I’ve gotta play more games! And I have plenty to choose from…
October brought us Halloween. And with that, a lot of board game options. Fortunately, October 31st fell on a Sunday this year. A whole day of spooky board games! We turned up the scary music and turned down the lights. Betrayal at House on the Hill was played first, followed by Mysterium. We then gave a new game a go: Horrified. Let me tell you, it may just be my favourite of the three.
Horrified has similar mechanics to Pandemic. Each player takes the role of a hero. Each hero has a special ability or power. Working together, you must stop the monsters from causing chaos. Each monster has its own puzzle to solve, so working together is key. You can also face them in any combination. Do you risk treading where the villains can find you? Do you play safe but risk running out of cards? It's a delightful cooperative game!
Of course, thirty of the days in October weren't Halloween, so we've been playing other games too. Another game that got time on the table was Architects of the West Kingdom. Not only is it one of the best routes into slightly more crunchy games, but it also has a wonderful solo mode. You can also use this mode as a third player if you want to add a bit of unpredictability to your two-player game.
Finally, if you like a good point salad, I strongly recommend Nidavellir. The aim of the game is to assemble the best army of dwarves. You do this by bidding for them in three taverns. Is it best to have a large amount of a certain type? Or is it best to have a wide range? It's often hard to work out who is winning, meaning the game reaches an exciting climax.