Our writers play a variety of board games each month, ranging from brand-new releases and Kickstarters, to older games that they haven't used in a while. Here's what we've been playing through the month of September!
The Game Shelf - New Games
After a significant shopping spree at the end of last month, we’ve been trying to find the time to play some of the new games we’ve recently added to our shelves. Between this, game plays that are working towards reviews, and judging a roll and write competition, it’s been a pretty busy month! Here’s some of the highlights from our shiny new additions to the collection.
- Ganz Schön Clever is a roll-and-write game that was nominated for the Kennerspiel game award this year. Many people have become addicted to the free online app, in the quest for a score over 300. I wouldn’t class myself as addicted, but the app has been an enjoyable distraction. I was really happy to see a real-life copy of the game at a friendly local game store and I’ve enjoyed introducing the game to Amy. Triggering combos is really what makes this game come alive and the real version and the app version are both great fun to play.
- Brass: Birmingham was a lovely recent Kickstarter delivery and I was really grateful to be taught it by someone familiar with the original game. I was really impressed with this game and was pleased to find that it wasn't too overwhelming. It was just a great economic game of route building and resource management that felt really tight and really streamlined. I'm looking forward to introducing it to Amy and hopefully it will become a staple mid-to-heavyweight game for our collection.
- Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game was a bit of a risky purchase for me since story-driven mysteries are not really our thing. Our first game of Detective didn’t exactly go perfectly after we didn’t trust our hunches enough, but we did really enjoy how the story unfolded and at times it felt like you were making real plot connections like a real detective. I’m looking forward to playing more and hopefully we can get a little better at the future scenarios in the box!
Tom G - Formula D, Zombicide and Tabletop Live
This month has been a stark contrast to last month! I have been getting games to the table almost everyday and I have loved every minute of it! Formula D and Zombicide: Green Horde have dominated the first half of the month, both providing my partner and I with many hours of quality play time! Needless to say, I quickly found I was by far the better Formula One driver! Zombicide is a personal highlight and is my Game of the Month - Read my review if you want to find out more.
For the latter half of the month, Tabletop Gaming Live (TGL) has provided me with even more games to add to my collection and get to the table. Escape the Dark Castle has been a fantastic addition to my collection! It’s simplicity shines through, with the game leaving it up to the players to present it how they want. The best way to play is to find the original soundtrack on Spotify and have that playing eerily in the background, creating a tense and mysterious atmosphere! The story will be different each time you play and with expansions set to be released later this year and in 2019, there will be a lot of new content to add!
Forbidden Sky is also a personal favourite, having been released at TGL. My first review for Zatu was Forbidden Desert, a fantastic co-op game, and this next instalment does not disappoint. There are some great new mechanics added to the game, such as lightning and the ever-changing wind, just to make your task that little bit harder. It's fair to say this will challenge you and your team and is the hardest of the three “Forbidden” games but if you’re up for the challenge, this is definitely one to pick up!
Nick W - Wildlands, Seal Team Flix and Street Masters
This month included the first ever Tabletop Gaming Live event where I got to play the new Martin Wallace game, Wildlands. I really like the immediate gameplay and interesting decisions, but the thing that stood out is the wild cards. These let you move any of your minis, count as a card for collection of point scoring gems or act as an interrupt. This tasting action let’s you wrest control of the game until you decide to stop or another player plays an interrupt. It’s a clever system that I can’t wait to experiment with more.
Seal Team Flix is a game that shouldn’t work. Tactical and strategic gameplay with dexterity? Say wut?!? The game works by taking both parts seriously and by clever use of a ‘noise’ system. In essence when ever you fire a weapon it makes noise, you can compensate for this to a degree, but noise is going to make the Tangos react differently. Patrols will be drawn to investigate, whereas Sentries will hunker down behind cover and wait for you. It’s a great system that works really well. Seal Team Flix is a beast to initially punch out, but well worth it!
I was also able to get hold of the Kickstarter version of Street Masters and boy am I glad I did. Street Masters is a love letter to Final Fight, Streets of Rage, Double Dragon and alike. The game is highly variable and quick to set up. You choose a board and it’s deck, a fighter and it’s deck and an enemy deck. These decks interact in a straight forward and engaging way, adding huge variety to the game. On top of this you can add in a story mode, with even more options. Despite this it is not complex and managing your fighters boils down to hand management. And not trying to slap the boss about right out of the gate… like I may have attempted.
Louise R - Dream Home and Viticulture
Well where did September go? It has flown by in a haze for me but I have tried to sneak in some games where I could. Two games that I have thoroughly enjoyed playing are Dream Home and Viticulture: Essential Edition.
I played Dream Home with my family and we really enjoyed it. It is a great game to play on those rainy days! It doesn't take a lot of setting up and is a relatively short game to play. The thing I like most about it, is that it is so enjoyable for us all to play as a family. You get to design your own dream home with the double garage and the neat tiled roof and of course, the games room!
Viticulture: Essential Edition was a game that was brand-new to my husband and I. The game involves you working through the seasons to produce wine. I love how pretty the game is and I really liked the components, they are very nicely produced. I am still learning the various complexities of the game but after our first play through of it I can tell it will be a firm favourite of our board game collection!
I can highly recommend Dream Home and Viticulture: Essential Edition. They are both lovely, well made games with great components and are definitely a great edition to any board game collection!
Ben G - Off the Rails, Zaul and Tabletop Gaming Live!
Before I start talking about big games from well-known publishers, I want to draw attention to an excellent game by British designer Andrew Platt. Off the Rails has been released after a successful Kickstarter and the game of goblins racing through their mines to collect jewels is really good.
Players lay track tiles for their mine carts to roll down, always careful to make sure they’re aiming for jewels while avoiding derailment. It’s a fast-paced, racing-type game with a fantastic twist at the end that sees the board begin to break apart, making players push their luck as they try to fish as much treasure out as possible before the mines become impassable. It’s well worth a look.
Another game I finally got to play in September will be familiar to many people. Azul won the German Spiel des Jahres earlier this year thanks to its clever, accessible game play. Michael Kiesling’s design sees players collecting patterned tiles from factories or from the ‘floor’ to help them decorate a patterned wall. The game’s setup leads to meaningful choices every turn, leading to a very satisfying points scoring phase.
Having taught the game a couple of times at Tabletop Gaming Live, I found the rules very simple to communicate. This is a truly accessible game that has a very wide appeal. In addition, the simplicity of the core rules means that it doesn’t take new players long to grasp past the basics and start thinking strategically.
Finally, I’ll touch on two upcoming releases that I got the chance to try out at Tabletop Gaming Live: Wildands from Martin Wallace and Osprey Games, and The River from Sébastien Pauchon, Ismaël Perrin and Days of Wonder. After a demo of each I’ve pre-ordered both of them, which gives you an idea of how much I enjoyed them!
Wildlands is a fast-paced combat game from the legendary designer of weightier games like Brass and a host of other acclaimed titles. It was easy to learn, but requires players to make tough decisions as they send their team of superbly sculpted miniature warriors in to do battle with opponents and claim crystals. Knocking out opponents gains you points, as does claiming crystals. Those two options give players a choice of strategy and mean that the game isn’t a simple punch up. I look forward to playing it more.
The River couldn’t be more different. It’s a medium-lightweight worker placement game from Days of Wonder that sees players sending out their workers to collect resources, improve their riverside settlements and build buildings. The gameplay is easy to pick up, with fast turns and good choices. It also looks stunning, with lovely art and satisfying wooden components (the turkey meeples steal the show). You get a lot of game for the price you pay and I think this title will sit comfortably alongside Days of Wonder’s other hits.
Matt T - A Feast of Games!
September has seen me play almost 30 games. A lot for me at the moment. Some of these have been quick filler games and some have been slightly longer. Nothing very heavy or long has hit the table this month. I am not going to mention all the games, only a select few that have stood out.
Smash Up was released in 2012 and has coined the term “shufflebuilding”. The game comes with a selection of different factions, each player picks two factions and shuffles them together to create their own unique faction. Think Pirate Aliens, Dinosaur Zombies and Princes Vampires. Players then play an action and a minion in attempt to “Smash Up” a base/location. These bases have break points (effectively hit points) and when the break point is passed the players score Victory Points depending on the total power of the minions they have on the base. The first to 15 Victory Points wins.
There have been multiple expansions for Smash Up that add extra factions and more locations that add more replay-ability in to the game. It is fun game with a lot of player interaction. The combinations that players can create combining the two factions make for some interesting gameplay. It works well at all player counts (the best probably being with three, but two and four works equally well). I am really enjoying exploring Smash Up and play styles that the factions create. Great game, great fun and a bucket load of replay-ability.
Viticulture Essential Edition is a game that I have had my eye on for a while and although I only got it towards the end of the month, it has hit the table a fair number of times and for this reason deserves a mention. In Viticulture players take on the role of managing a vineyard in Tuscany. Each round is represented by a year with players taking actions depending on the season they are in. The interesting part is that players only have a limited number of workers that are only retrieved at the end of the year. Spend all your workers in Summer and you will have none left for the Winter actions.
Players will plant vines, build buildings, utilise visitors, harvest vines and bottle wine. Players must then fulfil orders to score Victory Points and earn money. The first to 20 Victory Points is the winner. The gameplay is silky smooth, everything flows nicely and feels very thematic. It feels like a calming game (if that makes sense) although the decisions can be tough. The rules and gameplay just feel very intuitive and I have very rarely gone back to the rule book for clarification.
Each game I have played has been very close with usually only three or four Victory Point difference and has come close to the wire. I love games that are this tight, where every placement and every action counts. I have only played Viticulture at a player count of two but I am confident that it scales well to all player counts. Looking forward to getting this to the table again soon. People have said the Tuscany Expansion makes it even better, but at the moment the base game is keeping me entertained enough that I am not considering buying Tuscany, yet.
Will M - European Adventure
September was a massive month for my family and me – we hired a camper van and undertook a 2,708-mile two-week trip around Europe, going through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. The trip included a ferry crossing, a giant fair, wonderful parks, city exploration, a perilous night time drive up the Alps, vast tunnels beneath mountains, cable cars, giant lakes, thermal springs and waterfalls, swimming in the Mediterranean, miles and miles of roads and of course some board gaming!
When we arrived in France we stayed a night in Le Portel before picking up the camper van, where we played a game of Ticket To Ride: New York. My eldest daughter won. Once we acquired the camper van we moved on to Belgium, where we again played Ticket To Ride: New York, although this game I will always refer to as “The Disaster at Redu”, because I forgot to connect to Lower East Side and it led to a negative influx and allowed my wife to win.
We moved on to Luxembourg where I edged to a narrow Sushi Go victory! We didn’t play any games in Germany but did see chocolate Catan in a sweet shop and during a visit to a board game café (Frei Spiel in Freiburg) I became convinced I could play the German version of Terraforming Mars based on the iconography before my one-year-old son decided he really needed a nap and we had to go.
Switzerland was a stressful experience as our Sat Nav took us over the top of the Alps at a dizzying height of almost 1.4 miles above sea level! I negotiated safe passage down the other side of the Alps into Italy and while my family visited a volcanic thermal river I enjoyed an alfresco game of Friday. I then beat my 10-year-old daughter 4-3 at Game of Thrones: Hand of the King.
On the long journey home we stopped off on the banks of lake Geneva in Switzerland where my wife made me a scrambled egg bap while I took on my daughters in a game of Kingdomino. My 10-year-old emerged victorious.
What a trip, with so many stories and a few games mixed-in! And at least I’m the Sushi Go champion of Luxembourg!!