In Canada, we mark the start or summer and the beginning of cottage season with May Two-Four weekend. It’s the first long weekend of the real warm weather, which usually lands on May 24th, and also so named cause you drink a Two-Four of beer over the course of the weekend. However the real name of the holiday is Victoria Day weekend. As a Commonwealth Nation, we still recognize the British crown, and this weekend was always a celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday. So, as we celebrate Victoria Day here in Canada, I figured it was appropriate to take a look at the Queen in our industry, Queen Games. Here are five titles from the award-winning publishers.
There was a lot of anticipation for Donald X. Vaccarino’s followup to his groundbreaking Dominion, and I have to admit, when I first played Kingdom Builder, I was a little underwhelmed. However this game grew on me, and I think it is worthy of the Spiel des Jahres that it eventually won. The rules of Kingdom Builder are very straight forward. The board is made up of four double-sided boards with a variety of terrains. Dotted across the landscape are Castles and Locations with tokens that provide special abilities if players are able to claim them. On a turn, players draw terrain cards which tell them where on he board they can build some of their homes, expanding their territory on the board. If possible, they have to build adjacent to some of their existing territories. Where Kingdom Builder gets interesting is with the different scoring cards. Each game, three cards are chosen to determine how players score points in the game. You may get points for having houses on the same row, or all together in a clump, or lining certain terrain types like mountains or lakes. Depending on the combination, you have to come up with the strategy that will earn you the most points. Kingdom Builder has grown on me over the years and I’m happy to play it whenever I get the chance.
This awesome game by Richard Garfield is criminally under appreciated. It is a drafting game played over three rounds. During each round, you’ll visit some frosty mountain tops, steamy jungles, and fiery lava caves, all in pursuit of valuable treasures. In each of the different regions, a treasure is up for grabs for the person who has the most cards of that type at the end of the round (i.e. Blue cards for the Frosty Mountains), or the least cards (while still having some). So at the end of the drafting if you have the most Blue cards, you’ll take the treasure for the high end. Now, it may be something good, but there are also cursed treasures (worth negative points) out there too. People might be desperately trying to get rid of their Blue cards to avoid the curse. Through the draft you can also get cards that will give you a special ability and Dogs that will help protect your loot from marauding trolls. Treasure Hunter plays fast and is just so much fun. Everyone I’ve ever taught it to has loved it. If you can track this one down, definitely give it a shot!
Here is another delightful surprise that came out of nowhere for me. I hadn’t really heard much about Luxor before actually getting a chance to play it, but really enjoyed it when I finally did. In Luxor, you are explorers who have discovered a new Egyptian temple full of incredible artifacts you can stea…I mean preserve in a museum. Your team of archeologists enter at different times and use movement cards to advance through the tight tunnels. There is a bit of a race to get to the centre of the temple, but you also want to time your movements to grab the best rewards along the way. You have to time your movements carefully and hopefully not leave anyone behind. This newer title by Rudiger Dorn is light, but a heck of a lot of fun. I definitely recommend entering this temple.
Escape: The Curse of the Temple
Now here is one temple you may think twice about getting into. In Escape: The Curse of the Temple, you work with the other explorers to enter a forbidden temple and collect as many treasures and keys as they can before time runs out and you’re trapped in there forever. Mechanically, you are all frantically rolling dice in real time trying to find the right symbols and get a little luck along the way. You might get your dice locked and have to have a teammate come and help you unlock them. The included app soundtrack adds some intensity to the proceedings and it intensifies as time starts to run out. Each round only lasts 10 minutes, but it can sometimes feel like a stressful lifetime. If you are looking for a different Escape experience, you can also try out Escape: Zombie City.
I love the theme of this game. There are a few titles out there that focus on painting, but Fresco is my favourite by far. The Bishop is coming to town, but the beautiful fresco on the ceiling of the chapel is in desperate need of restoring. You’ll plan out your day in advance and spend turns going to the market, hiring specialists, mixing paints and painting parts of the fresco itself. The game progresses and the fresco Strats to be revealed, you have to keep track of who has which paints in their supply to not get blocked. This is an old school Euro-style game and definitely worth a look.