What We’ve Been Playing – September 2019

What We've Been Playing - September 2019

Board game conventions, gatherings and holidays, September was a busy month. Check out what we've been playing over the course of the month in this feature.

Nick T - X-Wing 2.0, Magic the Gathering & Treasure Island

I have embraced my inner geek this month and let it flourish like a dancer on Strictly. I achieved this by hunkering down to a few evenings of X-Wing 2.0. The bulk of my squadron comes from two Second Edition Core Sets, topped up with an additional X-Wing and a few Empire ships for my opponent. The result was a couple of epic three-hour battles and the consumption of far too many beers and snacks with a fairly even win/lose tally. I love Star Wars and this game has not disappointed yet. Except perhaps the official app is a little temperamental for squad building but there is LaunchBay for that exact reason.

Continuing with the geek, I have been playing quite a few two-player battles of Magic the Gathering (MTG). I thought I should brush up my summoning skills in preparation for the Throne of Eldraine sets being released in October. I am sticking with MTG for the moment, having made the decision to give KeyForge a swerve, possibly mistakenly by all accounts. We’ll see how long it is before I succumb.

Rounding off the month, my multiplayer game of choice has been a new acquisition. That is Treasure Island. This felt quite apt as September 19 was International Talk Like a Pirate Day. I'm already hooked on this game. I get to be a pirate!! I get to draw on the game board, which is a treasure map, and there is bluffing and double-crossing. What is not to like? The timed nature with the calendar feature is good too. Having been Long John Silver himself, I must confess this is the best role in the game, but probably the hardest to win with. I did really enjoy being a pirate too and this different viewpoint was interesting as the tactics are completely different. I think there will be plenty more Hornswoggle to come!

Rob W - Design Town, Tiny Towns & Ganz Schon Clever

Well, that was quick! This month has been a bit of a ‘blink and you miss it’ month. However, in between getting kids back to school and the toilet working again, I have managed to get a bit of gaming done.

First up is the chronically overlooked Design Town. Formally known as Flip City, it's an itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny-little-orange-box deck builder. What may start as a little warm-up number may escalate somewhat as this game has hidden depths and huge combo-ability without being too intricate or rule heavy. Part Dominion, part Machi Koro, all fun.

Tiny Towns also hit the table this month. This is the Sim City X Tetris build 'em up game from AEG. Players take it in turns to choose from five resources for everyone to place on their boards. Buildings have corresponding patterns of resources that allow you to build them. Players complete patterns, build buildings and gather points.

As well as the shared roster of buildings, players also have one monument to build that is unique to them, and will gain them either vital points or very useful abilities. Multiple options for building types, a wide array of monuments and two ways of playing the game make for lots of replay and you can potentially have as many people playing as you can get in one place at the same time (if you play the Town Hall option). It also has a cute theme, but I really did not notice that at all. It also has a solo mode.

This leads me to my final game. Ganz Schon Clever. My work-games buddy is currently indisposed with a little person (congratulations!) so I am on my lonesome at work. So, what better than sadness and a solo game of Ganz Schon at lunch time. Yahtzee Bingo with a bit of combo action? Perfect for distracting me from my almost exclusively noodle-based diet.

Tiny Towns Artwork (Credit: AEG)

Matt T - Pandemic & Istanbul Big Box

In the modern day board game hobby there are always new games to play. As a result, some older games are left languishing on our shelves. However, it is always comforting to go back to some of my older titles that might not have hit the table in a while. It is like putting on an old jumper. It's warm, comforting and familiar.

This month I broke out vanilla Pandemic. This has been around for over a decade and is likely considered as a classic. Pandemic is a two to four player co-operative game about stopping the spread of diseases across the globe. Pandemic was one of the first games that got me in to modern day board gaming and, although it hadn’t hit the table for a while, it still holds up and offers a fun and interesting game. I recently introduced this to some newer gamers who loved every minute of it and wanted to play again straight away.

I also picked up Istanbul Big Box recently. Istanbul (the base game) was released in 2014 and is a two to four player pick up and deliver game around being a successful merchant in the busy streets of Istanbul. Players must drop off or pick up assistants to perform various actions in different locations. The game is all about efficiency and optimisation and is a brilliant game. Although not as old as Pandemic, this is still considered a “older” game in this day and age. Another great game that was not the new hotness but one that I enjoy very much and look forward to getting the expansions to the table that come in the Big Box edition.

Onitama (2014), Stone Age (2008) and Tsuro (2004) have also been hitting my table this month. There are some great older games out there just waiting to be discovered.

Neil B - Old Favourites & Good First Impressions

The thoroughly enjoyable airship-based, treasure hunting themed, Celestia, once again hit the table this month. Leaving the clouds to dive down into the ocean, Deep Sea Adventure, followed. A small short game of treasure hunting on the sea floor.

Celestia and Deep Sea Adventure require nerves of steel. Each turn, players press their luck to go just that bit farther in their search for treasure. Inevitably, often much to the amusement of everyone else, someone always goes that bit too far. The airship crashing or their air running out. Both games are short enough to see a second game in a single evening. Allowing players to even the score or, equally likely, watch the same person go just a bit too far all over again. The second time is just as funny as the first.

Two games that left a lasting first impression were the quirky Race to the North Pole and spatial puzzler, Planet. Race to the North Pole sees players manoeuvring their expedition team across arctic ice avoiding hazards, and each other, as they attempt to be first to the Pole.

A rotating board simulates the ever-changing climate of the far North. The result is as much a movement programming puzzle as it is a race. Just the right amount of ‘take that’ provides lighthearted competition perfect for a family game evening with older children.

Looking very much like a set of novelty Rubik Cubes, Planet is a game that holds surprising depth beneath its colourful exterior. The key to Planet is a set of magnetic tiles representing geographical regions - Desert, Ice, Sea, and so on. Over the course of the game these tiles are drafted and then placed by players on their own personal dodecahedral planet. Each round objective cards,  visible throughout the entire game, provide scoring opportunities. Overall volume of a terrain type contributes to end game bonuses. Turning the Planet over in your hand your thoughts soon turn to several rounds ahead and the balance between scoring now or later. Overall Planet is a nice, think-y filler game with great table presence and proof that appearances can be deceptive.

Deep Sea Adventure (Credit: Oink Games)

Dean M - Finnish Vacation

September was among the liveliest months of the year for me in terms of board games. I took a couple weeks of vacation to visit Finland, a country with a thriving tabletop community. The country’s leading game publisher, Lautapelit.fi, has produced some very noteworthy games over the last decade. Some of their most popular games include Eclipse, Honshu and Flamme Rouge. While I unfortunately didn’t play those particular games, I did haul over some games from my collection to play with friends while visiting.

One game I particularly enjoyed playing was Targi, a worker placement and set collection game for two players. Viticulture is one of my favourite board games of all time, and it’s nice to have another similar worker placement game in my collection. There is significant competition to reach your desired space and secure goods and tribe cards, but it’s never overly cutthroat. The game is also quite portable, which makes it great for travelling. I’m curious how it’ll compare to the more popular 7 Wonders: Duel after a couple more plays.

One of my most played-games during my visit was Doppelt So Clever, which I discussed in my review in July. It seems I’ve almost ‘outgrown’ Ganz Schon Clever at this point due to the added complexity of Doppelt. Solving how to use the grey dice efficiently adds a new layer to the game and creates a more engaging experience. I’ll still use Ganz Schon Clever to introduce players to Wolfgang Warsch’s dice games, but Doppelt is where it’s at for me.

Speaking of Wolfgang Warsch, The Quacks of Quedlinburg went down merrily with my Finnish friends. We managed to complete four games using each set during the course of my stay. I can’t decide if I prefer Set One or Set Three, but I suppose it’s time to obtain The Herb Witches Expansion