designedly Jacques Zeimet, published by Competo/Marektoy
In this pure bluffing game, keep the vermin away from you by passing them off to other players. Pick a card from your hand, hand it to the next player and declare boldly what it is: truth optional. The next player can decide to pass: then he looks at it, passes it to the next player and he declares boldly what it is. Or, he calls the bluff: “that’s not a cockroach!” Guess right, and the original player gets the card in face up in front of them: or guess wrong, and you get the card. First to four of the same vermin in front of them loses.
Complete crap if you’re bad at bluffing or trying to read your opponent. So, good thing I won by not going out first. Otherwise, quick and light and a great filler.
“Escape Room: The Game”
designers unnamed, published by SpinMaster, Ltd.
Use your puzzle-solving skills to solve the puzzle and escape the room in one of four scenarios! An escape room in a box, the game comes with plastic keys and a neat timer/decoder that counts down from 60 minutes. Solve the puzzles to figure out which are the correct four keys to insert into the box and win the game! Each scenario has multiple stages, with each stage getting progressively more difficult. Look at maps, do logic puzzles, and yes, even word searches in your quest to escape! Or lose. You can do that to. The best way to do that is miss one vital, if fairly obvious clue in your haste to get things done.
It’s all in the title, and presents a fun experience in that vein. Getting the breakthrough: awesome, But, can also be terribly frustrating and at times and players will just sort of spin their wheels.
designed by William Attia, published by Ystari Games
Become a steampunk industrialist using the newly discovered element spyrium. Locations providing special powers and actions are placed in a grid on the table with space between them. Place workers between two different locations you need: build buildings, hire workers, patent techniques. The trick is, the more demand for that thing (that is, as more people place workers around a location), the price goes up. Build up your mines and factories to earn you spyrium and then transform that spyrium and workers into victory points.
Putting the workers between two locations really opens up the possibilities and makes it so that when someone takes an action you also want not so bad. Worker placement and engine building fun. As with other worker placement games, awards careful planning and long-range thinking.
“Don’t Mess with Cthulhu”
designed by Yusuke Sato, published by Indie Boards and Cards
Social deduction meets the Lovecraft mythos. A simple game where players are secretly either investigators or a sneaky cultist. Five cards are dealt to each player, take a look at them, and then place them randomly in front of yourself. Try to get players to open Elder Signs (if you are an investigator), or ill omens (if you are a cultist). First side to get all their necessary cards face up wins. So, basically, lie, bluff, cajole, and convince other players to do what you need.
Plays quickly and easily, and fun as well, if a little like other social deduction games. But, theme?
designed by Reiner Stockhausen, published by Tasty Minstrel Games
Raise your power and prestige in the Medieval French city of Orleans! In this “bag-building” game, randomly draw up to four different workers from your bag: knights, craftsmen, monks, farmers, and boatsmen. Assign them in groups of two or three to different actions on your player board. Advance on different progress tracks to collect resources or build buildings (which provide more spots to place workers), or to travel through France building trading houses and collecting resources. Collect citizens from the progress tracks to earn extra points. And then stare at the workers you drew and realize you are only one worker away from a MONSTER turn.
Easily the most Euro game you will every play: so many decisions with multiple paths to victory. The blind worker draw adds just right amount of randomness. But so many decisions…
“The Heroes of Kaskaria”
designed by Benjamin Schwer, published by HABA
The evil trolls have stolen the Golden Amulet of the Kingdom of Kaskaria! Race on your cliff jumper and scaled griffin to retrieve this valuable treasure! On their turn, players will either draw a card or play two or more cards of the same color to advance their pieces, collect gold, or to add cards to their hand. The first player to arrive at the nest and recover the amulet ends the game, but gold is earned for being furthest along either the cliff jumper track or the scaled griffin track. Whoever has the most gold from collecting it along the way or placing wins! Did I mention this was a HABA kid’s game? My six year-old won and she liked it!
Enough gameplay options to both challenge the kids AND keep the adults in the game without them having to hold back. But with so many colors, it’s sometimes hard to figure out which colors actually match.
Fragile flowers bloom
Guardians protect your place
Bloody turf war starts
“Welcome to the Dungeon”
designed by Masato Uessugi
Can you defeat all the monsters in the dungeon with the “help” of your opponents? Choose an adventurer with lots of special powers and then look at a monster card: decide if it goes in the dungeon or if it goes out. If it goes out, take away one of the adventurer’s special powers. The net result: the dungeon gets more dangerous as the adventurer gets weaker and weaker. The next player does the same: until everyone passes and only one player remains. That player takes the poor, under-equipped adventurer through the now enemy-packed dungeon and hopes for the best. It’s mostly about playing your opponents: what do you think they will do? Probably go in just when you want to and win the game.
It seems so easy with such easy choices, but don’t timing is an issue and it becomes critical when it’s just you and your opponent: you know you can make it, but you have to force her out somehow before you lose the one thing you need…
designed by Jordan Goddard & Mandy Goddard, published by Renegade Game Studios
Get your Zen on in this gorgeously illustrated card-game of flower building. Build flowers by playing cards in a clever circular pattern. Each round, place up to two petal cards to build up to five different kinds of flowers of five different sizes. Then claim those complete flowers as points. However, you can also “control” flowers through adorable little bug guardian tokens. Control lets you take a five-point token or to upgrade your abilities.
Don’t let the cover fool or zen aesthetic fool you: best comment about the game isn’t even mine, but from my son: “it’s a pretty game for what amounts to a brutal turf war.”
designed by Donald X. Vaccarino, published by Queen Games
Build your kingdom via strategic placement of your settlements! A game of very few choices: you get one card, you play it, and build three settlements on the terrain type (flower fields, deserts, forests, mountains) matching that card. Note the strict building rules: you must build next to an already existing settlement if you can. Build next to bonus tiles which usually give you the ability to build, another settlement! Try to score points at the end based on three randomly drawn goals that makes the strategy of every game different. Sometimes you need the largest settlement, or have the most separate settlements, or sometimes, score for both. The four modular boards provide some extra variety as well. But in the end, the whole affair feels a bit bland.
Not a whole lot of choices makes for a rather dry game at times.