What is it? This is a small, adorable card drafting game played in three rounds, with the aim of collecting sets to gain more points than your opponents. It’s like 7 Wonders, lite! You must make some decisions based on your first hand and make some hopeful guesses based on what sets you think you can get away with succeeding at finishing – this can be tough because not only will all the cards show up in each round, but there’s a small amount of cards left that won’t show up in the game at all! I love the variability.
Why do I love it? I love this game so much, and try to get it to the table as filler between games, or as a nice fun way to end a game night. It’s simple, it’s fun to play, it’s super cute, you can have a different strategy each time, and have I mentioned super cute?
[Note: this game was released via Kickstarter in 2013, but the wide release Gamewright imprint came out this year]
Castles of Mad King Ludwig
What is it? This is a game of fine balancing of monetary resources to build a suitable castle layout that will gain you points, and hopefully let you reach the overall goals of the game for more points. Mm, points! It’s got some similarities to Suburbia, a city building game built on a similar sort of synergy building act.
From making sure your bowling alley and performance rooms aren’t next to where the fancy people snooze and relax, to secretly trying to reach your own goals as well as beat everyone else to main goals, and arranging the room tiles in such a way to really make your opponents pay if they want to get points, it’s got a little of everything.
Why do I love it? Because it takes a concept of a game I already loved hardcore, tinkered with it a little and make it so much better! I really feel like i’m building something up when I am figuring out where to put which particular rooms, and it’s satisfying to see the final layout at the end of the game and compare to other players’ castles to see how it all turned out! I really also enjoy that the start player can adjust the costs of each tile per round, to really make the experience a bit more interactive for everyone playing.
Plus, there’s nothing more hilarious than trying to figure out where’s best to fit the mold room and the bottomless pit in the basement of your castle!
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
What is it? A social deduction game of a variety of different hidden roles, trickery, and lots of shouty shouting. A condensed version of the classic game Werewolf (or Mafia), all sorts of villagers – plain or tricked up with roles like robber, seer, etc – try to work out who among them are werewolves after a fitful night of activity (ie. cards can be swapped around by a variety of the roles people enact). The group has a set number of time to logic out what might have happened in the night, to figure out if people are who they say they are, and make a decision to lynch who they think the werewolf/ves are.
Why do I love it? My big beef with regular Ultimate Werewolf is that it takes place over a number of ‘nights’ (rounds) which means there’s lots of player elimination which can get pretty boring if you’re out early. ONUW eliminates (ha!) that by having just the one night, and everyone ends one round with a combined decision. The quick passing of a round often means that people are enthusiastic enough to dive back in for another round.. and another – seriously, I’ve played this for hours on end before. After a round or two to get their heads around the roles and how things play out, even non-gamers will love the social deduction and sneakiness of this game!
What is it? 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.
Why do I love it? For one, the variability that the random setup of the board has means that you’ll never be able to just learn the steps and go through the motions to win. I think it’s great there’s a number of different strategies and paths to victory. I also love that while it leans toward a euro-style game, that it plays fairly quickly and enjoyably, rather than being mired down in calculating each move. Last of all, I enjoy the thematic way of moving around the board with your merchants and helpers – it ties into the game so nicely, and it’s a fun and unusual way to get around the board to take actions.
Pandemic the Cure
What is it? This is a dice game implementation of Pandemic, a cooperative board game played with actions and cards. 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. Viruses are represented as various colours/values of dice that are stationed at 1 of 6 areas of the world – if they become too many, there’ll be an outbreak, spilling the dice to the neighbouring area. Each player can be at risk of increasing the virus dice added each round too, by rolling ‘biohazard’ symbols on their own dice, upping the infection rates per round. To cure a virus, you must collect ‘samples’ and roll those dice to hit 13 or more and you’re golden! If you can do that for all the viruses before the outbreaks max out, even better!
Why do I love it? I’d say I would almost default to this game rather than regular Pandemic because Matt Leacock has done such a great job at porting everything over and making it less complicated to play while still being really in keeping with the theme.There’s still the struggles of keeping up with outbreaks, hoping the mix of roles in your team can work, etc. All the great meatiness of Pandemic in a easy little package, which is quite quick to teach and seems to have far less misunderstandings for new players than the board game (especially with how the cards work/are used in the board game, versus how the dice and outbreaks etc work in the dice game!). I have played this a half dozen times this year, and I think the last time I played the board game was well over 12 months ago, so I am really loving this.