Over on the Instagram tabletop community it’s come to that time once again when tabletop fans from around the world are posting their top nine games. Top nine all time favourites, current favourites or simply nine great games, it’s all good, as long as it fits in a 3×3 layout (the Insta layout of choice because…I don’t why). I love board game Instagram and I enjoy seeing these sorts of posts, especially how it gets people talking and sharing. Often I find myself seeing games I didn’t previously know much about, or perhaps a reminder of a game I saw once but didn’t investigate, thus peaking my interest once more. So this got me thinking about my own ‘top nine’ and how ludicrously hard I find it to categorize favourite games. I had a stab at writing about my top nine all time favourites on my blog Shiny Happy Meeples last summer, and even had a go at ‘Top nine of 2016’ at the end of last year, but found both times writing about this to be pretty agonizing. As a fairly ‘new’ modern board game enthusiast (of around 4 years) the collection I half own has only just in the hundreds, so it’s not as if I have so many games that I can’t possibly decide. It’s just that I can’t always pick favourites too easily. I can tell you which ones I enjoy, or those that I favour, but it depends. It can be recent purchases/my mood/outside factors in my life that effect what I feel like playing and what I’m enjoying during certain time periods. So this time around, and for my first DWP post, I have decided to give you a low down on my ‘nine games over nine months’. This doesn’t necessarily mean a game that was purchased and played each month, but games that I have played over the months and how my mood during that time affected my game choice. So, without further ado, let’s go explore some games that I played over the last nine months…
September 2016: Legendary: Big Trouble In Little China
I’m not a huge fan of September. Many people associate this with a ‘fresh start’. I associate it with going back to school after the summer holidays (which I always hated) and the rather grey patch of time before the seasonal fun of the last three months of the year. So I’ll always remember this month for playing Legendary: Big Trouble In Little China, which certainly brightened up my dull September weekends. If you’re familiar with the Legendary games then you’ll know it’s nothing too heavy-going or complex and Big Trouble is no exception. It’s a semi co-op deck builder where you’re spending cards to purchase superior cards, or using cards for combat; to fight the villains and eliminate the super baddie of the piece, where symbols on the cards attach to one another to increase powers or unlock advanced abilities. You are fighting a common enemy but in the case of BTILC it will be the person with most points (awarded for the value of each players dead enemies) that will win you the game, but you need to work together to stay alive and get to end scoring. Now, I am a huge fan of the movie and have been from a very young age. It’s quite a nostalgic childhood classic for me, and if it’s silly fun and mindless action you’re after then this is the perfect film to lose yourself in and the perfect game to correspond with it. But the good thing is that it’s not a mindless game; I like the Legendary game system, it works really well and is challenging enough without melting your brain. But anyway, what the hell, sometimes I need those games where I’m just buyin’ cards n fightin’ monsters, and having epic turns attaching card after card whilst subtly bossing around my opponent to assist me in killing Lo Pan (underworld spirit Emperor with a creepy AF penchant for women with green eyes) whilst making sure I get the best kills to win the game. That was a super fun September.
October 2016: Alchemists
October is where the good times begin for me. Summer is officially dead and gone, so bring on the tumbling leaves, hot drinks and nights drawing in. Around this time it seems apt to play a spooky game that is in keeping with Halloween. Despite my love for all things dark, creepy and weird it occurred to me that I don’t own many games of this nature. It was around this time I decided to take the plunge and get myself Alchemists. It’s not terribly spooky but it is themed around magic and concocting potions from ingredients (the cute mandrake root is my absolute favourite) in order to theorize what ingredients make what,and gain influence on the score track. This is a pretty huge game, although again not a particularly heavy one, it’s just chock full of stuff and only a few months later have I had that eureka ‘a-ha!’ moment. This is a big game to discuss in a list, but I did break this one down on episode 6 of The Five By podcast if you want to know more.
November 2016: Bruges
Getting into slightly personal territory now (but without the gritty detail)- I found November to be the hardest month of 2016. Around this time I had a medication change and I was really not very well, and this is one of those times when I needed a comfort game. Bruges represents that to me. It was an early purchase a few years ago, and has that lovely nostalgia of when I first started playing tabletop games in earnest. It’s a solid Eurogame, where you are rolling dice and taking actions based on those dice rolls, and selecting cards via an interesting kind of card drafting mechanic, where you are picking two facedown cards from two decks based on colours, without knowing anything about the contents of cards (such as character, abilities etc.) and then deciding how to use them: perhaps to build a house, or place a canal token, or to remove a pesky plague. Or maybe to utilise the character’s ability or to build up a repertoire of artisans, musicians or tradesmen (in order to accumulate all important end of game bonus points.) It has that fantastic Euro feel about it, and I find it to be a warm, friendly game…and that’s what I really needed back in November.
December 2016: Bring Your Own Book
December is the holiday season and I absolutely love it. Unfortunately last year my family and I decided to incubate some form of evil virus over the best days of the year. Amazing. However, after the event and before the New Year we were well again and I had the opportunity to play one of the games I received as a gift. BYOB is the second ‘party’ game I own and admittedly I’m not a fan of the genre. But this was an exception as I loved the concept. I am a an avid reader when time allows for it, and as fans of the traditional format we have many books to aid us in the game play. Participants each choose a book, take turns reading prompt cards, and find a passage in the book that relates to the prompt. The prompt reader for that turn picks the player with best passage (or few words) and that player scores the card. You then pass the books around and the first player to score a certain number of cards (depending on number of players) wins the game. The first book I chose to play with was The Exorcist, which I was rather pleased with until I realized that you are required to pass the books around each turn. I spent the best part of the game willing my elderly relatives to not spot the x-rated parts and cursing the person who chose Mary Berry’s cookery book. This is a super fun, smart and very reasonably priced game, and I’d absolutely recommend it.
January 2017: The Blood of an Englishman
Oh January. If there’s a month I dislike more that September, it’s January. It’s cold without being cosy, and is the time where I’ve usually taken stock and realized what an utter shambles my life is. This one was worse; after getting an unexpected notice to leave our home, many days (and weeks) were spent trudging around strange places trying to find a new house that would be a home. One such weekend the only thing that cheered my heart was receiving and playing this beauty. I made a video on BOAE for an episode of Instgamers Network where I give a brief rules overview. If you are looking for a beautifully smooth and clever design that leaves you reeling then this is it. It’s an asymmetric, highly competitive game where you play as Jack, or the Giant. Jack’s aim is to set collect beanstalk and treasure cards, whilst the giant aims to arrange the beanstalk cards into ‘fe, fi, fo, fum’ order across the stacks. I’m still getting my head around why this works as well as it does, but trust me, it does. It’s so simple, yet so terribly clever. This discovery honestly made January bearable.
Feburary 2017: Tyrants of The Underdark
By February a new home was located, and I tried to relax just a bit to enjoy my birthday. I was lucky enough to receive Tyrants as a present, and after many months of umming and ahhing I’m so glad I did. Another podcast piece can be found for anyone not quite convinced by this one. In a nutshell if you like weirdly fantastical creatures, if heavy conflict and area control do it for you and if you like deck building games then this is a perfect choice. I’ve had some awesome and epic games of Tyrants over the past few months and I wholeheartedly recommend it.
Ugh, March. This will forever be remembered as ‘moving month’, which was a gruelling, difficult mess and left me so emotionally drained that 8 weeks later I’ve only just started feeling remotely okay again. Mythotopia was a last minute, pre-move very inexpensive bargain purchase. I honestly hadn’t looked too much into A Few Acres of Snow or Mythotopia until A Handful of Stars was announced. Then my interest was peaked on this triology-but-not-quite-but it’s a triology collection of games. So we took a chance on Mythotopia, and it was the first game played in the new house. Maybe it was outside factors, maybe it was my emotional issues, but I didn’t feel it as much as I’d have liked. But it’s got something I can’t quite place… there’s something going on that I like enough to not dismiss it after a few games of being decidedly ungripped. I’m going to persist with it.
April 2017: Great Western Trail
I wrote a hefty post on GWT on Shiny Happy Meeples, and have sung its praises on Instagram. It’s the first game I’ve truly enjoyed right off the bat in 2017, where I can say ‘the hype is right’. This design is just fantastic. I won’t rehash my blog post but please do check it out if you’re on the fence. It’s made my year so far and I can’t see the appeal going anywhere any time soon. In my mind this is where the darker times have ended and the happier ones have began.
May 2017: Pret-a-Porter
This is a little bit cheaty. So it’s nine games, nine months and this is number nine, although technically at time of writing it’s the last day of April. I will justify this by telling you that as it’s May Bank Holiday weekend I’ve decided it’s May already, and yesterday was International Tabletop Day. I chose to play Pret-a-Porter. Maybe it was talking about another (possibly the only other) fashion themed game, Rokoko, in my last podcast, I just really fancied playing it. I know it’s annoying to talk about games that are out of print, and I usually count it amongst my board game blog cardinal sins. However, after posting a photo to Instagram and Twitter many people said they consider it a ‘grail game’ and it got me thinking. Once a game goes OOP and isn’t readily available without a ridiculous price tag, it does naturally get elevated to that status. So I wanted to give this one a mention as my ninth game to tell you what I think. Now, for me, it’s a firm ‘old school’ favourite. It was one of the first games I bought when exploring the tabletop hobby and admittedly I liked the theme first and foremost. It look a while to get the rules clear, a fair bit of head scratching, but once you get the basics down then you’re good to go. It’s a decent worker placement game where you take spaces and actions in order to choose designs (depicted on cards) buy material to make said designs, build up trend/quality/PR tokens and sell at the fashion show each quarter to get VPs and cash, based on how well you did in each city (e.g.- for the spring/summer show Rome wanted high quality, quantity of designs and trendy garments.) You can also hire employees, buildings and take contracts to assist you in your journey to the catwalk. It’s a tough balancing act of managing your money and using your actions wisely. When I look at the game now I am reminded of The Gallerist (which obviously came a few years later) in style and feel, and it’s a good, enjoyable game. I wouldn’t play all the time, but I think it’s very good when I do. Is it ground breaking? Not quite. Is it a fine design and fun to play? Yes. Is it a grail game? That’s not up to me to decide!
So that wraps up my nine games in nine months. I hope that this post got you thinking about checking out some of these titles, and also gave you a little insight into what I’m all about. Thanks for reading and until next time…