2014 board game wrap-up – games from 2014 & my wishlist.
Yeah, there’s been some radio silence here these last couple of months. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been gaming all that while. Here’s my thoughts on what I’ve played/want to play from the releases of 2014 as listed on Board Game Geek. Plus a little bit of honourable mentions, all of which were first-time plays even if not 2014 releases. If you count all that – including multiple plays of them – plus replays of stuff, boy I gamed a lot. A LOT. Also you’ll notice that I post a lot of pics on Instagram of what I’m playing, hence their inclusion here to break up the text a bit!
What I Played:
* Dead of Winter: There’s a heck of a lot of zombie games out there, and there’s few now that I will actually play because I’m burnt out on them. Dead of Winter is different though, it brings the stress and fighting and anxiousness of a zombiepocalypse situation – something akin to the tone of the Walking Dead comics, and brings it to this almost entirely coop game (there’s a traitor aspect). I legit had a stressful time playing this game, perhaps because of the mix of personalities and whatnot. I will have to try it again, as I think that can really colour my experience of a game – as I really think this is the best implementation of the theme out there that I’ve tried.
* Splendor: The theme in this game could really be anything (see?) – but it’s super easy to teach, pleasant to play and it’s something that’s not easy to just line up and win game after game – it just depends on turn order, how cards come out etc. I think this is a great gateway game, and I’ve taught it a few times to a range of people – and while some gamers more ‘into’ the hobby tend to avoid it, I don’t know anyone that actually HATES it. It’s just not for them.
* Five Tribes: Taking a euro with an Arabian theme and giving it a fresh twist, this game relies on displacing workers already on the board, rather than each player placing their own workers. The strategy of moving these workers allows you to perform certain tasks, and all of these work toward the generation of points. White meeples allow you to obtain Djinn which have special affects; green meeples allow you to buy from the market; blue meeples are architects that earn you money from surrounding buildings; red meeples are assassins that can be used to eliminate meeples on the board or in front of other players; yellow meeples are worth points at the end of the game (majority). With all of this and a bid for player order at the start of each round, there’s a wonderful balancing game to make the most of your moves. While it’s a tough one to teach & I feel the inclusion of the slave cards in the market is totally uneccesary, I still think this is in my top of 2014.
* Istanbul: This is a really solid game, with enough variation that replay is interesting (the board is made up of large cards, so can have a variable format). The idea is you take your ‘Merchant’ and stack of ‘apprentices’ and move either one or two spots and drop off an apprentice. You then perform the action/get the benefit from that location. It’s a delicate balance of getting around making sure you don’t abandon your apprentices and can’t pick them up, yet making sure you’re doing all of the things you need to do to get ahead in points. It’s a nice simple game that is enjoyable to play, as you move about amassing resources, cashing in for money and points.
* Imperial Settlers: I played about 2/3 of the way through this game, and missed a couple of pretty key things during the rules explanation (first time teach, loud environment) so I don’t know I can give a great review – but I enjoyed what I did understand and play through, so really want to get this to the table again early in the new year. Very cool little light strategy civ game.
* One Night Ultimate Werewolf (& Daybreak expansion) – this has become one of my favourite large group/party/social deduction games. Almost everyone I’ve introduced it to has loved it and I’ve played it for hours at a time with some groups! I tried the prototype of Daybreak in April at the Gathering of Friends, and I’m looking forward to picking up a copy in Feb when it goes to wide release (it was Kickstarted in September).
* Marvel Dice Masters: I have played this just once, and haven’t found anyone into it enough to play with me again 😦 I played through the intro scenario to get a feel for the game, and while it wasn’t particularly interesting it gave me an understanding of the game – and I dig the fun and simplicity of it. Now I really gotta play it again, it annoys me that it’s sitting there unplayed!
* Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Righto, I think it’s understating it to say I was impatient to get a copy of this after playing the prototype in April. This is a great game of tile laying to build up a castle full of rooms to meet the Mad King’s desires (AKA the overall goals for that game – drawn at random – and a number of personal goal cards in your hand). It’s similar to Suburbia in that way, but way more hilarious and ridiculous, and it adds some fun stuff with the start player (master builder) each turn arranging the rooms in the pricing order they wish, and having other players pay them. So much fun! One of my faves, and I default to it more than Suburbia now. Oops.
* King of New York: Yeah, this was ok! I enjoy King of Tokyo (I don’t own it, but I’m happy to play it when people suggest/bring it out!), and this is an interesting variation. I think I like KoT more because KoNY really makes there be more to do, and it takes less away from the feeling of monsters wrasslin’ and adds in all the extra stuff that, while thematically great, slows down the game and that is a bummer.
* Cash ‘n’ Guns 2nd ed: This new edition is great. There’s some new stuff going on which I think really refreshed the gameplay for me. Each player now gets dealt a random special power to use once per round, there’s also some new loot in addition to money (paintings, diamonds, and also med kits to heal up!). There’s also a ‘Boss’ role that can be claimed as part of the loot, and it lets you tell a player to re-aim during the shooting phase. I really had fun, and I like the new character art way better!
* Sheriff of Nottingham: Yaaaaaaaaas!! Earlier this year I played Hart an der Grenze, which is what SoN is based on. It was fun, but some of the theme was bordering on racial stereotyping, and there were a few things gameplay-wise that could’ve been improved upon. Basically, SoN has a theme that still works awesomely and doesn’t feel weird and too real, and improved stuff to make it a really great game. If you don’t like being sneaky and lying and trying to bribe people, this isn’t for you. Sometimes I really dislike negotiation games, but I think this is low level enough that it stays fun.
* Camel Up: Back after playing this in the wee hours at the Gathering of Friends, I wrote “A game of probabilities and guesstimating, with a super cute theme and a lot of fun.” No, Nicole. It’s cute and sort of fun until it devolves into a random luckfest. Frustrating 😐
* Alchemists: I still haven’t played the print version of this! While there was a LOT going on (worker placement plus deduction and a little resource management) I thought it was pretty neat, and I love the use of the app in-game, and that it gives you a fresh combination for deductions each game. I felt a bit overwhelmed by it all, but I think it’s a unique and fresh take for a game.
* Deus: I like games where cards have multiple uses! (Except Race for the Galaxy which makes me weep with frustration at its glyphics.) This is a little civ game using a shared map – cards are used to make offerings to gods (getting you ongoing benefits throughout the game) or to build on the board. It’s a good mix of stuff – it didn’t grab me so much I desperately want to try again, but I’d certainly be happy to sit down at the table for this one any time.
* Pandemic the Cure: Matt Leacock has done such a great job at transferring the theme and general gist of gameplay from Pandemic the board game over to a very light and reasonably quick dice game. I’d say I would almost default to this game rather than regular Pandemic because it’s done such a great job at porting everything over and making it less complicated to play. Each role is well thought out, dice sides are distributed well for players and viruses, the team work is still at the forefront, and it’s still brutally hard to stop the world from being enveloped in filthy sick germs. Whee!
* Abluxxen: Holy cow I’m BAD at this game. The idea is you’re playing sets of numbered cards down in front of you – but if people play a better version of that set, they take them, and you have to draw the same number of cards from the deck, likely filled with unusable rubbish, therefore ending the game with a bazillion cards in your damn hand, losing the game. I don’t know if luck was against me, or I wasn’t playing down good enough sets to protect from being nicked, but gosh I had a tough time of it. I’m not sure I’d want to try this again.
* Evolution: I like the idea of this game – forming a tableau of animals in a sort of ecosystem to see who comes out on top. I played a prototype of what’s probably close to the final version – it was a very light strategy game that had a few frustrating balance issues but was otherwise good! I’d try it again, but likely not own it.
* Valley of the Kings: Deckbuilding, with a neat element of the structure of cards you can buy from (a 6 card pyramid, only being able to buy from the lowest row) – as you build up your deck, the cards in your hand can be used for their effect, or their money – the idea is to build up sets of cards and ‘entomb’ them before the deck runs out, because if they’re still in your hand at the end of the game they don’t contribute to points. So neat! I really like this, but we don’t seem to get it to the table enough.
* Black Fleet: Playing movement cards, you maneuver your pirate/merchant ships around the board to collect goods, or bury them as treasure. You also get to move the navy ships to mess with the other players – but you must watch out for them doing the same to you! Beautiful art & pieces, very easy to learn, and fun to play. Enjoyed it, but not enough to own.
* Lost Legacy: the Starship: This is essentially Love Letter with an added phase at the end of a round. I think the game’s okay, but I feel like there’s more fun in Love Letter than in Lost Legacy for some reason. It’s just okay.
* Battle at Kemble’s Cascade: Space games are pretty cool, and this has a neat element of a scrolling space video game. Gimmicky but neat. Not gripping enough with the actual actions and gameplay for me to be interested in playing again though.
* Pagoda: This was such a pleasure to play! Building up pretty pagoda towers by strategically playing pieces of certain colours to claim for more points. That’s it! Very little strategy, but a nice 2 player game. Adam and I played this at the Board Room Cafe in Halifax.
* This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2 – 4 of us: Aw man, Sen and Jay bust out all sorts of great games, even great MICRO games! This was part of a Kickstarter pack of micro games which I missed, but there were some extra copies available in the BGG Store so I snapped one up! It’s a basic tile laying area control game, takes about 10-15 minutes and it’s excellent! This is gonna be one of my go-to filler games now for sure.
* Madame Ching: If you imagine something a little like Ticket to Ride on water, but change-able from round to round as far as where you’re at on the board, then you’re close to Madame Ching. The idea is to play down cards one at a time in ascending order of varying colours and values (some with bonus symbols to get cards that help towards game-end victory) to get your ship as far as you can across and down the board, which is an open expanse of water. I got stung by luck with cards the first time I played, but have enjoyed subsequent plays, and it’s a nice introductory level sort of game for folks who haven’t played much else before other than TTR or Settlers, perhaps. Art’s lovely, too!
* Subdivision: I enjoyed this when I tried it in April, but the more I think about it, the more I realize I’m never going to care about trying it ever again. It’s in the same game family as Suburbia, but it’s far more self contained and it’s more about dice rolling and drafting tiles to build where you can rather than an engine-building tile laying city builder like Suburbia. A miss for me.
* Roll for the Galaxy: Remember up there where I got weepy about Race for the Galaxy? Well, Roll for the Galaxy is a much easier dice game implementation for folks who can’t wrap their head around the multitude of symbols and stuff in the card game. Space themed exploration dice rolling whee! It’s just come out, and I’m tempted to pick it up, but maybe I should give it another whirl first. (After all, I played a prototype of this back in 2013 so my memories are fuzzy..)
* The Walled City: From local designers here in Southern Ontario! This is a beautiful city builder, where you’re trying to manage and build up/block off areas of the city with your workers inside for points, all the while managing your hand of cards with which you build all that stuff with. Really terrific stuff.
* Card Wars – Adventure Time has a game, and Card Wars is it. All the other stuff is Adventure-Time-themed, but this game was borne out of the show itself, a wonderful animated and interactive game that Jake and Finn play against each other. The cardboard version of this game isn’t bad – but I much prefer the app version of this because there’s less fiddly card setup, it’s fun to see the animations and you can bang out a game quickly against the AI.
* Arf!: When the designer of this game posted it was available for purchase, I jumped on board. A cute card game about getting puppies adopted? YES PLEASE. It could’ve just been that and I’d have been happy, but it’s actually a perfectly wonderful set collection game where you’re making offers of a variety of types of sets (lowest odd numbered card in a suit, best straight of a suit, etc) to puppies up for adoption to suit their particular mix of needs of love, food or housing – or a combination of both. At the end there’s points for the most of a certain numbered card, the most of a suit, and then for pairs or triples of puppies for whom you found homes. WONDERFUL. More please.
* But Wait, there’s More! Imagine a party game where you’re pitching a product like you’re selling it on late night TV. With a hand of features like “now 50% more absorbant!” or “voice activated”, everyone chooses a feature to start with and pitches for the same product – a toothbrush, a car, a lawn sprinkler etc. Now the fun part – about halfway through your pitch with the chosen feature you must proclaim “But wait, there’s more!” and pick a random feature card to then incorporate into your pitch. The results are magnificent and hilarious. It’s got a pretty good appeal for most people, and can play with any folks who are interested in having a fun, creative time (if you enjoy Snake Oil, Apples to Apples – this will be for you). One of my favourite party games – I’ll be glad to have a copy in print sometime soon!
* Munchkin Adventure Time: Aaahhhhh Munchkin. I really don’t enjoy it. But they did really put the fun of the theme into the game, at least. 1/2 a star.
* North Wind: Hey bad luck! There you are, hiding among the really super neat components of this game. There’s a number of layers of straight up luck going on here – multiple die rolls for encountering enemies, pulling tiles for movement – that you can really get the short end of the stick and can’t do anything about it. It’s a shame, because it seems like a fun game otherwise – sail about in your cool looking ship, gathering resources and pirate captain prisoners to trade in for money in ports. We got a comp copy of this, and I feel like we’re gonna have to house rule it a bit to stop some of the luck from ruining it for one or two players entirely.
* Carcassonne Gold Rush: Another Carcassonne variant! This is a good way to keep the game’s brand fresh without it just being constant expansion releases for the base game. This has some transport building (railways), sort of cities (rail terminiuses that must be completed for points), prairies (where you score for what’s in the fields, not what they surround), and also building up mountains to get gold nugget tokens. I did woefully because I didn’t finish up my mountains quickly enough to stop people poaching my gold tokens! But it was a cool game.
* Akrotiri: More excellent design from Canadian designers Jay and Sen. This has gorgeous art, and it’s a really lovely and simple two-player game. Slowly building up the map/board, picking up and delivering resources and trying to figure out where temples are according to the secret maps in your hand to gain points! So neat. We just got a comp copy of this so I can’t wait to get a full game of it in.
* Sushi Go: 7 Wonders Light! Draft your cards! build up your tableau with combinations for points! be amazed at how cute cartoon sushi is! YAY! (I know this was Kickstarted earlier than this year, but the full release was 2014!)
* Strike a Pose – Charades on freeze-frame. One person randomly deals each other player a number – the number corresponds to a list of things within a category. For instance “Terrible Jobs”, “Types of woodworking” etc. Each player looks at their number a “strikes a pose” to best represent it. The judge then takes a look at everyone’s poses to try and determine who corresponds to which item on the list. Very light & fun, I could see this being a fun filler/casual game to have on the shelf.
Out of all those, I’d say my favourite 5 were: Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Sushi Go, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Istanbul & Pandemic the Cure. It’s tough to pick, though.
What I wish I’d played: wishlist of what didn’t I get to play from 2014 releases that I really want to! There’s a bunch I still haven’t gotten around to, as you can see..
* Scoville – but I’ll be getting my Kickstarter version soon!
* Roll Through the Ages: Iron Age – I know it’s probably not that different to the previous one, but I am still curious.
* Coin Age
* Nations the Dice Game.. maybe I should also try Nations the regular game. Hehe.
* Panamax – the Twitters are alive with raving about this game.
* Diamonds – sounds like fun filler!
* Red7 – I just want to try this to know if the hype is real.
* VivaJava Dice – coffee and dice!!
Also as a total anomaly to all of this, Mysterium – release date of 2013, huge buzz for foreign language versions in 2014, English edition set to be released in 2015. I guess I’ll wishlist it 🙂
What are your fave releases/games you want to try from 2014? Up next time: what was new to me in 2014 that was from previous years, because it’s not all about freshly released stuff.