“XCOM: The Board Game”
designed by Eric M. Lang, published by Fantasy Flight Games
Take command of the XCOM and defend the Earth from marauding aliens! Based on the video game of the same name, each player takes on a different role of the elite XCOM organization: from planning scientific research to deploying air defense fighters to ordering ground troops to making sure all this stuff comes under budget. All of this is done in a real-time decision making phase controlled by a free, downloadable app that is required to play the game. After this, nerve-jangling, tension-filled decision making phase, the game slows down into a resolution phase where you can watch all your smart, lightning-quick decisions be undone by crappy dice rolling.
A totally different experience from the video game, whose heart is basically a tactical turn-based shooter with a larger resource management overlay. This game definitely focuses more on the resource management and quick decision-making with the tactical fighting basically abstracted, but still a nerve-wracking blast overall.
One Line Verdict: Join this particular fight, unless you really hate randomness. In that case, watch the world be destroyed from a distance.
designed by Bruno Faidutti, published by Fantasy Flight Games
Build your destiny in this game of “medieval cities, nobles, and intrigues” (yup, from the box). Each round, players will draft a noble from the common pool and then pass the remaining nobles to the left. Each noble has a special power: for example, the assassin lets you “kill” another noble and take away their turn, while the king scores points depending on the buildings you have already built and lets you go first the next round. The thief lets you steal gold from another player while the warlord lets you destroy one of your opponent’s buildings. Players take turns also depending on the number of the noble: 1 goes first, 8 goes last. When your turn comes up, take 2 gold or draw a card, then build a card, and at some point, you can activate the special power of your noble. First player to built 8 buildings in their district ends the game, most points win!
Really, a social deduction game as you try to figure out who has what so you can either avoid getting your character’s throat slit or figuring out which character’s throat to slit. Even though it’s the older game, it feels very much like next-level “Love Letter” with the added dimension of building your district.
One Line Verdict: I would say a modern classic for good reason, but can be seriously mean. I mean SERIOUSLY.
“Mission Red Planet” (2nd Edition)
designed by Bruno Cathala & Bruno Faidutti, published by Fantasy Flight Games
Send your steampunk astronauts to Mars to control areas and collect valuable resources. Pack your astronauts into a ship, blast a ship off, land on some section of Mars, move some of your Martian men, or even sabotage spaceships journeying to Mars. Score points for area majorities on different sections of the red planet. Simultaneous card selection to perform these actions: do you pick a high number to go first, but get a weak action, or do you wait to perform a more powerful action? Or do you watch your opponent blow up your rocket with three of your astronauts in round 2 of the game and watch all hope of victory escape your grasp? I would say the last one. Definitely that one.
A good introduction to action selection and strategic play. Light enough to learn, with just enough strategy to make things interesting.
One Line Verdict: sign up for this particular mission to Mars.
“Game of Thrones: Westeros Intrigue”
designed by Reiner Knizia, published by Fantasy Flight Games
A quick filler featuring images from the Games of Thrones TV show. Be the first to get rid of all the cards in your hand by placing them in a pyramid shape: but be careful, cards on subsequent levels of the pyramid must match the color of one of the cards underneath. Bland with two, but with three, the action gets tight pretty quickly as your color options disappear. Last player out wins the round, and then the oddball scoring takes over: each card left in your hand is worth one point, low score wins.
Just enough thinking to make this game interesting, but loop the theme song from the show to make it more thematic.
“Fury of Dracula” (Third Edition)
Designed by Frank Brooks, Stephen Hand, and Kevin Wilson, published by Fantasy Flight Games
A hidden movement game where four vampire hunters pursue Dracula throughout Europe. The Dracula player plays location cards to indicate where he is going while the vampire hunters collect stuff and try to get on Dracula’s trail. Dracula also plays event cards to slow those guys down. Neat day/night mechanic as the time of day changes how things work, but still, can be frustrating for the vampire hunters. The only “fury” in this game was how upset everyone got.
The game is in closing the net around Dracula, and not really in the combat. So if you like deduction, then yah! If not, not so much.