Building Egypt One Block at a Time

Imhotep

“Imhotep”

designed by Phil Walker-Harding, published by Kosmos

Build the wonders of Ancient Egypt, from pyramids to obelisks to temples and burial chambers. Place blocks on boats, and once a boat is full enough, sail that boat to one location. Unload and score points or get market cards to help you in later turns!  Each location builds and scores differently: maybe you’ll stack blocks to form an obelisk, or put blocks pyramidally to build, well, a pyramid.  But watch out: opponents can end up choosing where you sail your boats and scuttle your plans.

A pretty light game, with clear choices, but an interesting spatial component as you try to figure out where your blocks will score, and then realize it doesn’t matter anyway ’cause your opponent will just sail you to the last place you want to go.  It’s almost press your luck: how long can I delay sailing to maximize my points?

 

Panda Death Garden

Takenoko

“Takenoko”

designed by Antoine Bauza, published by Asmodee

Such a cute game with a little cute panda munching bamboo as you lay bamboo hexes and send the gardener to grow different color bamboo. Each round begins with the roll of the event die: get more actions, or double up on action or get move the panda or gardener for free. Then choose two actions to perform during the round. Choose a new hex tile to add to the garden, or move the gardener to grow bamboo, or move the panda to eat (collect) a bamboo shoot. Race to complete your secret objectives: having combinations of bamboo eaten, or grown, or hexes in certain patterns. Win the favor of the emperor and the player with most points from objectives win!

So very cute, but it can be so brutal and cutthroat as you work at cross purposes against the other players. It almost drove my son to tears because you can totally mess someone up quite unintentionally.

All the Fun of “Magic the Gathering” Without Actually Having to Play It.

MillenniumBlades

“Millennium Blades”

designed by D. Brad Talton, Jr., published by Level 99 Games

A board game that simulates the buying, selling, trading, and playing of collectible card games. Using stacks of paper money (to make you feel rich), buy and sell fun cards with great parodies of popular franchises and try to build the best hand for use in the upcoming tournament. Buy from the main marketplace, or sell the card on the secondary market, or trade cards for more powerful bonus cards.  Collect cards for fighting, or even keep cards for your collection and earn bonus points.  All this takes place in a slightly frenzied 20 minute, real-time trading round.  Then pick some cards to fight in a tournament!  Do this for two more rounds, with ever more powerful cards appearing.  Trade, fight, rinse and repeat. Most points earned from collecting cards and placing in tournaments win! But mostly stare at the cards and try to build a good deck with combos that make sense and watch the whole thing get undone anyway by your opponents during the tournament.

So much variety in this game with all the different parodies of famous franchises.  So much symbology as  you try to put together a small tournament deck that actually makes sense in the limited time allotted.  It’s almost overwhelming, but you really get to live out your fantasy of buying and trading all those CCGs!  Oh, wait, not your fantasy?  Never mind.

Poker Made Even More Vile and Disgusting

CockroachPoker

“Cockroach Poker”

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.

Can You Escape…this Game?!

EscapeRoom

“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.

Always with the Steampunk…

Spyrium

“Spyrium”

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.

YACG (Yet Another Cthulhu Game)

MessCthulhu

“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?

The Most Euro-y Game of Them All?

Orleans

“Orleans”

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…

Heroic Deeds for the Young’uns

 

Kaskaria

“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.