True board gamers are pedantic people. Some might say fussy! But we know what we like and know what we don’t like. In true board game obsessive mode I have made sure I will receive certain board games from certain people this Christmas in order to avoid a repeat of when my mother-in-law went "rogue" in November, giving me 221B Baker Street for my birthday! Needless to say, it remained in the shrinkwrap and found a new home within a month!
Apart from new socks, all I want for Christmas is board games, and here is my wishlist:
1) Ex Libris
I had no interest in looking into what Ex Libris was all about until I saw it had a translucent green Gelatinous Cube meeple! (I know, sometimes it’s the little things…) I then discovered that this card drafting, hand management, set collection, worker placement game was fairly unique, with each player taking charge of a team of assistant librarian gnomes and a unique assistant, which are represented by charming individual meeples and include a snowman, witch, bookworm and trash golem(!) amongst others.
Essentially you play a number of rounds, placing your assistants on different locations in order to acquire books in various ways, and then you’ll attempt to shelve your books in alphabetical order while trying to maintain a desirable shelf structure. Once the end of the game is triggered the Mayor's Official Inspector comes to judge your library… Admittedly this all sounds bizarre, and even quite dry, but this game looks so much fun and I can’t wait to play it.
2) Viticulture: Essential Edition
I found it funny when I first heard of Viticulture – a worker placement game about building a vineyard empire in rustic, pre-modern Tuscany – I thought; “they really will make a game about anything these days!” Then I started to hear a lot of good things about it, and having bought another of Stonemaier Games’ hits, Scythe, I began to look at Viticulture a little closer.
In September I hired a campervan and drove my family around Europe – I spent a fair bit of time driving through the beautiful Tuscan hills and sampling the wine and grapes myself, even remarking to my wife that there was a board game about wine making – after hours at the wheel I decided that I should really check Viticulture out when I got home – I did, and it’s now on my Christmas list!
Lanterns has intrigued me since its release – similar to Ex Libris and Viticulture above I was intrigued by the theme of Lanterns – decorating a lake with colourful floating lanterns for an upcoming festival in what appears to be a historical Chinese setting. When you lay a tile all players (you and your opponents) receive a lantern card corresponding to the colour on the side of the tile facing them. You will aim to gain ‘honour’ by dedicating (handing-in) sets of lantern cards, but each time you do, the score for doing so next time will decrease.
I can almost guarantee that this game will play well at my games group and more crucially, with my family, as I think a nice, light tile-laying game would slot right into our collection and give a similar laid-back experience to Sagrada and Splendor.
4) Lanterns: The Emperor’s Gifts
What initially attracted me to add Lanterns: The Emperor's Gifts (an expansion for Lanterns) to my list were the colourful wooden pavilions – I think they really add some three dimensional form to what is a very two dimensional game of flat tiles. When you place a tile you can choose to add one of your pavilions from your small supply. When you make a colour match on a pavilion, the Emperor gives you a gift, which can be saved and used to activate special actions.
During set-up you will reveal two of the five Emperor cards and they will define how you can spend your Emperor’s gifts – I was very attracted to this rule of only using two of the five Emperor cards as this will increase the variability and tactics required each game, and this expansion really doesn’t cost too much, so I thought why not add it to the list alongside Lanterns.
5) Duelosaur Island
With a release date less than a week before Christmas, Duelosaur Island has made the final place on my list because I was attracted to the neon splendour of Dinosaur Island and its concept, but in practice I felt there was too much going on, too much to keep track of and a very long playtime. Duelosaur Island regrettably doesn’t include any of those cool pink dinosaur meeples but it appears to condense the Dinosaur Island experience into a shorter game of card drafting and engine building, while completely doing away with the worker placement mechanism.
Duelosaur Island can only play up to two players (hence the use of the word ‘duel’ in the game’s title) but I think this will find a nice niche in my collection and scratch that dinosaur-park-building itch – plus there is a solo mode, so if I can’t find anyone to play against me I’m sure I’d happily play against the game’s “Artificial Intelligence CEO”.
Whether giving or receiving, I hope you have a great Christmas period with plenty of great gaming experiences.