Tomorrow, Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary. Unlike our American neighbours, who fought so bravely for their freedom from the British in a bloody revolution, we waited a hundred years and asked politely if we could form our own government. The rest was history! In celebration of this milestone, I wanted to take a look at a few games from some of the best designers in Canada today. The board game scene in the country is thriving (possibly due to our long winters). The Game Artisans of Canada is a guild with members stretching from British Columbia to Prince Edward Island that offers support to its members. Game design nights are common in board game cafes and `There is a ton of talent within these borders, even if we have lost Eric M. Lang to Singapore (he still counts!). Here’s a look at six amazing titles created by Canadian designers.
Daryl Andrews has been a part of the Canadian and US design scene for years. He co-designed the brilliant brain-burner The Walled City with Stephen Sauer, Caffeine Rush, and Fantasy Fantasy Baseball. This year, he’s added a ton more with Jungle Joust and Roar(with Erica Hayes-Bouyoris) on the horizon. However, probably the biggest hit of his career so far came earlier this year. Sagrada is a beautiful, simple, dice drafting games where you’re creating your own stain glass windows. Players can pay to use special abilities as they work to complete public and secret goals. The rules are simple and fun, it plays really quickly, and completing your colourful window can fill you with a real sense of pride. It’ll be good to see how the rest of 2017 turns out for Andrews, but if the start of the year has been any indication, it’ll be one to remember.
Lanterns: The Harvest Festival
Lanterns: The Harvest Festival is a beautiful, simple hand management and tile-laying game. It was recently featured on Tapletop with Wil Weaton, one of the more flattering honours a designer can receive. In it, you play artisans preparing for the celebration of harvest festival. Players lay down tiles to fill the royal palace lake with lanterns and collect cards for their efforts. As the board comes together it makes a pretty pleasing site. Collecting card sets like three pairs or all seven colours will earn points worth honour at the end of the game. Chris Chung’s Lanterns was a runaway hit when it came out in 2015. Since then it’s led to an expansion and a pretty sweet app. Chung has a few different projects on the go and it will be exciting to see what he comes out with next.
Paul Tseng is an up and coming designer that has gone the self-publishing route with his own company Mailbox Games. His debut game Outer Earth has some pretty interesting mechanics, allowing players to bid for turn order in phase one, which goes one way during phase two, and then reverses during phase three. It has a set collection, tile-laying aspect where players are working to extend pathways on planets and then sell them to acquire Super Structures. The art in this game is phenomenal! The different Super Structures hint at sci-fi worlds just begging for stories to be written about them. Tseng and Outer Earth represent the independent Canadian design and development scene. There are a ton of designers from the Great White North working to bring their games to the table without the assistance of a major publishers.
Food Fighters is the first game by Kids Table BG. Husband and wife team Helaina and Josh Cappel worked together to come up with a game that would fit the company’s philosophy of designing games that would appeal as much to adults as they would to kids. Players take control of warring food factions and spend turns swapping their formations or attacking targets on the other side. They can earn Beans that will allow them to buy items from the kitchen like weaponized spoons or or cracker shields. They can also earn power cards that could turn the food war in their favour. Since the original meats vs. veggies they’ve added factions from some more of the major food groups and beyond, including teams of s’mores and breads. The game play is fun and engaging, but the super cute artwork by Josh seals the deal.
Junk Art is a dexterity game by the Bamboozle Brothers, Sen Foong-Lim and Jay Cormier. The idea is stacking mismatched pieces of junk to create a work of art, or, failing that, a mess of wooden pieces that aren’t currently falling over. The box contains 60 awesome pieces of ‘found art’ in four different colours. The beauty of Junk Art is that there are a lot of different ways to play. In one version, you present two cards to the player on your left (each depicting a specific piece). They choose one and leave the other for you to add to your growing masterpiece. You get points for touching the same shape or colour in your structure, but you’ll lose points for dropping pieces. You have to decide on what cards to offer up, that will result in you getting what you want, but without giving too much away to your opponent. Another version has everyone getting ten cards dealt to them and racing to get them all piled onto your base. The first one to complete it wins. This is a fun one for players of all ages and I definitely consider it a gamers’ dexterity game.
1812: The Invasion of Canada
1812: The Invasion of Canada is both a history book come to life and an excellent introduction to war games. Designed by Jeff Stahl and Beau Becket, players take control of one of the sides of the War of 1812. It scales excellently from two to five as both teams work to drive their forces into enemy territory and secure different command points. On the American side are the American Army and the American Militia. Fighting on the Canadian side are the British Regulars, Canadian Militia, and the Native Americans. It would still be 55 years before Canada gained full independence, but 1812 allows you to fight in the war that would unite the people as a nation against an invading force. As you’d expect from Academy Games, this title is incredibly accurate. The rulebook is filled with interesting historical facts about the time and the war itself.