Have you ever eulogised about a game – a rather well-known game, at that – and the other person purses their lips? They look a little bashful. “Actually,” they admit, “I haven’t played that.” You feel your jaw drop. It’s easy to forget sometimes that not everyone has played the same games as you. This counts double for the staple titles that have shaped their part in modern gaming!
We grilled some of the Zatu bloggers: which popular game haven’t you played? They admitted to some real shockers! Lucky for them, the Zatu bloggers are a knowledgeable bunch. They love recommending games, so can they convince the heathens to right those wrongs?
Rob admits: I’ve never played Scythe!
Scythe has always intrigued me and terrified me in equal measures. When it came out, it scared me as much as Twilight Imperium (which is a lot!). Please help me overcome my fear of beautiful games with massive boxes: It’s holding me back in life…
Do you enjoy games with great artwork and immersive theme? Does the idea of a game set in an alternate history interest you? Do you like games which give you multiple paths to victory? If yes, you should definitely play Scythe!
Scythe is a game with a massive amount of hype around it, but it really does deliver. Set in an alternate 1920’s with huge mechs roaming the countryside, it seems at first as if Scythe focuses on combat. While combat is a part of the game, it’s only a small part of the game so don’t let that put you off. Scythe, at its heart, is about trying to optimise your moves. You need to make sure you have enough resources to produce buildings and carry out upgrades build mechs. All the while, you need to spread your units out over the board.
To me, Scythe is hard to define, but feels most like an engine-builder. You want to make sure your engine runs as efficiently as possible to complete the various tasks before your opponents. There are various categories that you can work towards. Will you build all four structures, fulfil objective cards, or gain 18 popularity? Each time you complete one of the categories you can place a star out. When one player places their sixth star the game is over. Players then add up their coins and get points for stars, hexes controlled and resources on the board. However, the amount of points players receive is dependent on their popularity; the more popular you are the more points you receive.
Each faction in Scythe also has their own powers which adds yet another dimension to the game. There are also interesting decisions to make as you can gain resources or other bonuses from having encounters, with the decisions you make potentially having long reaching consequences.
Scythe delivers on gameplay and it definitely delivers on artwork. It looks really beautiful on the table. I think you would really enjoy it, so go on, give it a go!
Kirsty admits: I’ve never played Everdell!
I have a confession to make… I’ve never played Everdell. I enjoy worker placement games, and I do have rather a soft spot for cute fluffy creatures! However, for some reason, Everdell has never made it beyond a “Ahh yes, I’ve heard of it,” game. So, am I missing out?
Tom Harrod responds:
Some games hide behind aesthetics. Sometimes, stunning artwork or gimmick components in board games is akin to a klaxon, for me. Are they trying to compensate for something? Not here. Not in Everdell. This is a game that plays as well as it looks – and given Andrew Bosley’s art, that’s a tough ratio to achieve. This is a rare beast, indeed.
Everdell is like Wind in the Willows or The Animals of Farthing Wood, personified in a board game format. There’s modular worker placement here, with the goal being to build a woodland town in tableau format. Your tableau has a card limit: 15 or less. The highest value tableau wins after four ‘seasons’. On your turn you take one action: place a worker, build a card, or pass and start the next season.
Cards either offer instant, one-time benefits, or passive, constant rewards. Some trigger at the end of each season, which is a wonderful, regular boost to your resources. Your tableau is also an engine. The challenge in Everdell is trying to squeeze every last drop of efficiency out of your minimal workforce. How far can you push your tableau to do the hard work for you?
Everdell's cards are delightful. There are constructions, and corresponding critters that live and work in these buildings. To add them to your tableau, cards cost varying resources (a familiar trait in Euro-style games). But if you build the construction first, you get to place the critter down without charge in a later turn. It’s like playing a free upgrade card in 7 Wonders. They’re so satisfying to build, because you didn’t have to leap through hoops to achieve it.
There’s a race element present. A first-come, first-served Meadow, a public flop of cards, are up for grabs. Combined with those in your hand, you have options, but so do your opponents! Everyone’s rushing to try and snaffle cards that trigger combos. Set collection’s present, with rewards for the first to build certain same-set cards.
So yes, Starling Games have produced a beautiful product. Yes, the components are a talking point. But there’s so much more to Everdell than being ‘just a pretty game’…
Joe admits: I’ve never played Ticket To Ride!
In my initiation into tabletop gaming, somehow I completely missed Ticket to Ride. With thousands of interestingly themed games released every year, why should I now try a 16 year old game about trains?
Thom N responds:
Wow, this is a biggie. Some might say Ticket to Ride is the defacto gateway game. There’s more to it than a great way to introduce non-gamers to the hobby, though. A surprising amount of depth is there, after you look a little deeper than the surface level. Points are the aim of the game and there are two ways to go about getting them. Claiming routes, by playing down cards whose colour matches that route. Or, by completing ticket cards by connecting the two cities named on the card.
It seems simple, but there is subtlety to both approaches. You can play out cards for smaller routes nice and early. Small routes are worth a lot less than the longer routes though. If your opponents hold off for a little bit for the longer routes you may find yourself pipped at the post. But, with a few exceptions, each route can only be claimed by one player. If you hold out for too long you may find all the routes into a city you needed already claimed and you may now have a ticket you can’t complete.
Speaking of tickets… Because they’re worth points, you should spend your turns getting as many of them as you can, right? Well, no. Incomplete tickets lose you points at the end of the game. You need to make sure that you have a decent chance of finishing any ticket you take. You ideally need enough tickets that you always have something to work towards. If you take too many tickets all of the negative points at the end of the game can undo all of your good work.
Ticket to Ride has a reputation for being a gateway game for non-gamers. The reason it works is because it has so much of the stuff that gamers love packed into an easy to learn, fun to play box. That means there is still plenty for a seasoned gamer to enjoy here.
Thom N admits: I’ve never played KeyForge
My first card-battling game was Magic the Gathering. After a few years I became jaded with some cards being better than others (and the chance of obtaining them being random). As a result, I missed out on the unique deck system in KeyForge…
Matt T responds:
You haven’t played KeyForge? I highly recommend that you give this a game a go at least once. It’s not for everyone admittedly, but it is a very interesting, fun and inexpensive game to pick up. In KeyForge every deck is unique; there’s no deck-building or booster packs to purchase. You can buy a deck and play straight away, with no modification of your deck. Some people might be turned off by that, but what you buy is what you get, which adds to the fun aspect of the game. Figuring out how to best utilise your deck is one of the big draws for me.
Each deck is made up of several cards from three different Houses, and contains a mix of creatures, technologies, artefacts and skills. The game is a back and forth card duelling game. On your turn you pick a House that you’d like to play. This allows you to lay cards and activate cards from that house for free. Abilities on cards will allow you to attack your opponents, steal Aember, or gain Aember. You can perform a host of other cool and interesting abilities and effects, too!
The aim of the game is gather enough Aember to forge a key. The first person to forge three keys is the winner. However, pushing ahead with just gathering Aember or just attacking your opponent will likely not win you the game. A careful balance between the two is crucial. Players will have to develop interesting combos and strategies based on their deck. As each deck is totally unique. Figuring out how best to run your deck is the interesting and fun part of the game to me.
Find a friend that has a spare couple of decks, or pick up one yourself. Do you have what it takes to forge three keys, open the vault to gain ultimate knowledge and power?
Matt T admits: I’ve never played Splendor!
So, believe it or not I am holding my hand up high and admitting that I have never played Splendor. I know, a shocker right? I have never been inclined to pick it up and never had the opportunity to play it. It’s highly regarded in the gaming circle, and I’d like to play it at some point.
Splendor was released in 2014 to widespread acclaim. It’s an abstract engine builder for 2-4 players that takes about 30 minutes per game. With an admittedly rather thin theme of making decadent pieces of jewellery for your noble patrons, Splendor nonetheless benefits from absolutely gorgeous renaissance themed artwork. This brings me to my first reason you should definitely try this game.
Aesthetically it’s pure joy. The cards are excellent quality and covered in classy artwork. The iconography is simple and clear at a glance, and the chips! The casino style pre-stickered gem chips are so tactile they could be sold separately as a stress aid!
Splendor teaches in about 5 minutes if that! It sets up in 2 or 3 minutes. That’s 8 minutes from cutting the shrink to playing a multi award winning board game! *drops the mic*
*picks the mic up again* Simple as it is with only 4 possible actions, Splendor still offers plenty of choices and strategies. With its tiered value system and constantly refreshing tableau the engine building follows a pleasing curve. From deeply chill at the beginning to a competitive crescendo at the end when the big point cards are fair game and the prestigious nobles are flying around like hot cakes! The set collection element too is fantastic. The ‘set’ of gems you collect depends on the card you want. With a shifting tableau of 12 that are always available to all players your plans must be fluid which keeps gameplay dynamic and interesting.
When the excellent Century: Spice Road came along, it was touted as the Splendor killer. Well, guess what? Splendor is alive and well! These two games scratch completely different itches for me. So if a beautiful and engaging engine builder with dynamic set collection sounds good to you this gem of a game could be another jewel in your crown!
That’s all for Part 1, folks. Join us for Part 2 where we discover even more confessions, and more responses by flabbergasted peers!