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What We’ve Been Playing September 2023

What We've Been Playing - Barcelona

Welcome to What We've Been Playing, the monthly feature where we get to show off some of our best games that we played over the past month. By the way, we're already in October. Just saying.

Craig Smith

I’ve had a great September in terms of gaming, largely playing new-to-me games with the odd faithful in between.

At the start of the month I went to my monthly gaming group, and spent a significant chunk of the night playing Clank!: A Deckbuilding Adventure. I really enjoyed my first experience of the Clank world, even managing to secure a win! We rounded off the night with a couple of games of Phantom Ink, which is a great party game – sort of a cross between Codenames and Mysterium.

I also had a lovely weekend away with friends which allowed me to get some gaming done. As well as playing a one-shot Dungeons and Dragons campaign to learn the basics of the game, I also played Sheriff of Nottingham, Sagani, Downforce, Furnace, and Habitats. It really was a fun weekend, though being in a village hall in 30-degree heat is not recommended! Furnace was the real star of the weekend for me, as I’m not normally a fan of auctioning games, but this one was particularly great!

Finally, I’ve also had a couple of weekends with my partner where we’ve decided to do very little other than get some games to the table. We’ve managed to complete the Legacy of Yu campaign, as well as playing Barcelona, which may be a contender for my game of the year. We have also played Hallertau and Cascadia amongst others.

Finally, we’ve also agreed to each give a “second chance” to a game we weren’t keen on but know the other person loves. My partner really didn’t like Ginkgopolis the first time we played it, but I think I managed to win him over with the second play! It can stay safely with the others in the collection!

Jacob Dunkley

I really enjoy using the BG stats app as it allows me to see what we have and haven’t been playing from our collection. This month, my wife decided that after 18 months of refusing to consider it, she would be willing to play Azul: Summer Pavilion again. It wasn’t that she didn't like the game, it was just that she never won and therefore it had sat on the shelf gathering dust. I was surprised after dinner one evening that she suggested she wanted to give it another go and beat me by 5 points, so that was a good way to kick off the month and we both really enjoyed playing it.

Later the same week, while walking home from a dinner out, we found a local games night running in a little art space near our house so we popped in for a drink and to try out some games we hadn’t played before. First up was Sagrada which I can’t believe I hadn’t played before and was a beautiful little game where you are drafting dice to try and build a stained glass window, not a million miles away from Azul we had played a couple of nights previously. To follow up we played a trick-taking game with the owner of the art space called Red 7, another new game to us and we enjoyed the chaotic nature of the game where the rules for who wins the active trick are constantly shifting. The same weekend, we headed to my mum’s in Devon, armed with a bag of games, I introduced my mum and her husband to Flamme Rouge which was such a hit, it was the only thing we played all weekend racking up three races.

I tried a few other games I hadn’t played before this month, the highlight of which was two back-to-back games of the new hidden movement game Beast. The artwork and presentation of this game is excellent, and once we all worked out what we were trying to achieve, the game flowed really well and I can’t wait to try it again. We also just picked up the small box card game, Sea Salt and Paper, to our collection and have played it twice, it really struck us that the rules are simple to learn but it’s going to take a while to work out when is the best time to trigger the end of the round and push for maximum points. As a plus the art is beautiful in this game and I can’t wait to introduce it to more people.

I also finally started the King’s Dilemma with a group of friends this month, playing the first two games of the campaign. It’s gone down brilliantly with everyone so far, and I regret it being sat on my shelf for nearly a year before starting it. Negotiations have been tense, in game bribes have taken place, and the house I am representing are trying to be the worst sorts of people. It has been a fantastic start, with great writing and interesting decisions to be made and it is going to be fascinating to see how our decisions pan out going forward.

A friend popped up for a Marvel-themed games evening, and we played Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game and then we followed it up with Marvel Champions. Both games were a lot of fun as we battled our way through different villains to save the day. Marvel Champions is one of my most played games, and I always love to introduce new people to it!

Our Gloomhaven Jaws of the Lion group moved things along with two more scenarios completed meaning we only have a couple more to go. I’ve absolutely loved our evenings playing this which we started all the way back in January! It does make me realise I would never have the time to invest in a full Gloomhaven campaign, but Jaws of the Lion has been so much fun to work through.

To round things off, I’ve managed to get a few of my all time favourites to the table this month with games of Ark Nova, Spirit Island, Everdell, Lost Ruins of Arnak and Earth all seeing plays. Earth is fast becoming my favourite new game this year and if you haven’t had the chance to check it out yet, I definitely recommend it! Looking forward, I’m most excited about finishing our Gloomhaven Jaws of the Lion campaign as well as moving forward with the King’s Dilemma. My friends and I have also been discussing playing Eldritch Horror for the first time in a long time so hopefully we can manage to play that and stop the world ending before October.

Sophie Jones

With moving house, I didn’t think I would get much time for board gaming this month. But it appears not even a mountain of boxes, frantic cleaning and flat pack furniture can stop me getting a game to the table.

This month I kicked off with Everdell. Everdell is a relaxing game where you draft cards, place workers and build a tableau. Over 3 seasons you will scavenge the forest and try and build a forest empire which is better than your adversaries. To mix things up we added the Pearlbrook expansion which added more cards, monuments and a frog ambassador who can collect pearls. This expansion was quick to learn but added depth which was needed. I loved this extra challenge.

Next up, I picked up Sea Salt and Paper. Jealous of all those who grabbed a copy at UKGE, I was finally able to get my own and play it! This cute card game will have you winning tricks, set collecting and gambling your way to victory. The game is quick to play, easy to teach and has a lovely table presence. Sea Salt and Paper doesn’t introduce anything new, but its artwork provides an experience most other trick taking games can’t offer.

Men at Work is one of the few dexterity games I enjoy. In this, players will be placing girders and builders to create a chaotic building site. Over the course of the game, players will be rewarded for building higher which leads to a lot of accidents. Sadly, if you have too many accidents you are out of the game but if you succeed you can win. This level of push your luck gambling is what makes it so fun! Also, a deck of cards tells you what you need to place which keeps it fresh and entertaining.

This month was a great month for gaming. With Halloween on the horizon, there is no doubt that Arkham Horror will be gracing my table next.

Hannah Blacknell

This month for me has been a big one for fun games. We have played with family and with friends who aren't gamers a lot and so a lot of what we have played has been party-ish in nature. Things like Kluster, Rhino Hero, Similo, The Fuzzies and the like. All of them have been great fun and I am actually looking to add more of these to my shelves as I see in the future these hitting the table a lot.

There has however been one stand out game for us and that has been Hallertau. This is a big box game by Uwe Rosenberg and I was able to grab it at a great price recently on Zatu. It has your typical Rosenberg theming of farming but I think it does it in a different way to Agricola and Caverna. You have fields to manage and although you have workers you aren't feeding them but more using your resources to build and upgrade five buildings in your village. As you build these up you are able to shift your main cottage board forward this gaining more workers for the next round. It is a complex puzzle to get the best you can out of this game and I love it!

This game was an instant hit for me, I had been looking for it for a while so the hype was high but boy did it deliver. I will go as far as to say I think this has jumped into our top twenty in this household!


This month I got the chance to try out John D. Clair’s new meeple-tosser Rolling Heights – each turn you throw your meeples to see if they’re working normally, going twice as hard, or lazing about. Then you spend some of them on buying resources, spend some resources on completing tiles, and using other special powers. It’s clearly influenced by city-building games like Ted Alspach’s Suburbia, minus all that fussing about with “if I put this here, this other tile gets a +1 income”: bonuses only kick in at the instant you complete the tile.

However, it makes a similar error to Tory Niemann’s Alien Frontiers: until you roll the dice, you don’t know what you’re going to be able to do that turn, so you can’t plan ahead. There’s not a great deal of interaction, and even when there is, it won’t change your whole plan for a turn – so if I play again I’ll institute a house rule that you roll at the end of your turn while the next player’s taking theirs, and have the rest of the round to think about what you’re going to do.

Old favourite Realm of Sand (Ji Hua Wei) came back in our local game group; I’m always pleased to see this on the table. All right, some of the influence from Marc André’s Splendor is very obvious: but rather than assembling different resource colours to buy cards, you assemble tokens on your board to match the shapes on the cards you want to buy. Which in turn means you have to keep an eye on everyone else’s board, in order to work out which cards they’re building towards, and either get there first or go after something else. The second tier of cards gives you access to the rare resource colours you’ll need to buy third-tier cards, and all in all I find there’s just a little bit more puzzle to this game, now sadly very hard to find.