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New to me in 2020 - the top 10

Martin G
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Bristol
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1.  9   My City x43

I only got this in July and I've played it 43 times, so it's an easy pick. I've been doing two separate 2p campaigns, one with my wife which we just completed on New Years Eve and one with a gaming friend. They've both been hugely enjoyable.

I love the way Knizia gradually mutates and layers the scoring conditions so that by half-way through you realise you're barely playing the same game that you started out with.

2.  9   American Book Shop x16

Implementing and playing trick-takers and other card games on playingcards.io has been one of the bright spots of this bizarre year. Particularly notable amongst those have been the fascinating designs of Taiki Shinzawa. I enjoyed Segment Trix, Zimbabweee Trick, Ambiente Abissal, Dois and Time Palatrix but best of all was American Book Shop, a perfect entry-level trick-taker with a delightful dose of dickery.

3.  9   Letterpress x14

This is a slight cheat as I played the very similar Movable Type a few years ago. But I didn't give it much attention at the time and it's worth it! A simple letter-drafting spelling game with a great arc as you use the individual rounds to build up an impressive word for the final showdown.

4.  8   The Field of the Cloth of Gold x14

I'm not sure the setting really comes through for me but I greatly enjoy the constant agonising choices and trying to set them up for my opponent.

5.  8   Wavelength x13

Brilliant party game that encourages interesting conversations. We'd have played a lot more if not for... you know.

6.  8   Spies & Lies: A Stratego Story x5

Under-the-radar 2p bluffing and reading game from Don Eskridge of Resistance fame.

7.  8   Quirky Circuits x6

RoboRally meets The Mind in this co-operative programming game that comes with an impressive variety of courses and characters.

8.  7   Watergate x3

A really solid entry in the burgeoning quick 2p card-driven political/war game genre.

9.  7  Marrakech x5

Lots of simple fun, I don't know why it took me so long to play this!

10.  7   Chartae x5

Knizia again, showing what he can do with just 9 tiles.
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Sun Jan 3, 2021 10:38 pm
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New to me December 2020

Martin G
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Bristol
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Happy new year all!

Marrakech - 5 plays -  7 
First Published 2007
Board Game: Marrakech


Surprisingly I'd never played despite seeing it around a lot. What fun! Definitely a light one, especially with 4, but lots of opportunities to play the odds and be a dick. Playing on BGA prompted me to trade for a delightfully tactile physical copy too.

Caravan - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Caravan


I'd had my eye on this since it came out last year but it was a bit pricey so I was glad to see it added to BGA. A real throwback 'German style' game from Joe Huber that I like a lot. It's a pick-up-and-deliver with coloured cubes randomly popping up on the board to be delivered to their matching destinations. But you're restricted to only 5 camels for your 'network' so you have to keep shuttling cubes along the camel train and bringing the back camel to the front.

And to make things tougher, just as you have got a cube close to its destination, another camel can swoop in to steal it. There's a clever mitigation to the thievery though - you each start with only one 'thief marker', which you have to give up to your victim. Nice stuff!

Ambiente Abissal - 3 plays -  7 
First Published 2020
Board Game: Ambiente Abissal


Another by my designer of the year Taiki Shinzawa (新澤 大樹). This is a minimalist climbing game with 'combos' of only 1 or 2 cards. With 3p, the cards go 1-6 in 6 suits, which are ranked. A pair can be two of the same suit or two of the same number and has to be beaten by a higher pair of the same type. The weird thing is what happens with singles -- when you lead one you don't state whether you're playing it for its suit or its number. That will only be determined when subsequent players' cards have eliminated one of the possibilities. For example, I lead 2 of the lowest suit, next player plays 4 of a higher suit, third player could still play either *any* card of a still higher suit, or a 5 or 6 of any suit.

It's a light one but does have some of the nice feel of deciding how to play your hand in Tichu or Haggis and seems like it'd work well as a pub game.

§egment Trix - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2020
Board Game: §egment Trix


...and this one is his latest. The twist here is that the numbers on the cards are represented digital-watch-style and you can alter the number when you play a card by adding extra stick segments to it (e.g. a 0 becomes an 8 by adding the cross piece in the middle). The aim is to win exactly as many tricks as you have sticks remaining in your supply at the end of the hand. Genius!

Vivaldi - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Vivaldi


This is a welcome updating of old Italian trick-taker Briscola Chiamata which I played once years ago. It's a 5p game in which each round is played as 2v3, but the teams are established by a bid and are initially secret (the 2 know they're on each other's team but the 3 only know one of the 2. The modernisation has streamlined the scoring nicely and also added a Sticheln-style pain suit.

Don Carlo - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2020
Board Game: Don Carlo


Noticed this in the A la Carte card games award nominations this year. It's got Kramer as a co-designer and sounded interesting from the rules. I bought a copy but also threw it up on pc.io. Quite interesting - each player has their own deck of cards with values from 0-6. Each turn you play up to 4 cards as a 'codename' for an agent, always in ascending order (e.g. 134, 005). The agent is played to the country matching the total of its digits, but it has to have a different codename from any agent already there. You get immediate points based on the total number of agents already in that country, small bonuses for runs and 3-of-a-kinds, and then end-game points based on area majority in each country. Slight concern that the scoring will always end up very tight but we liked it.

Butterfly - 3 plays -  6 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Butterfly


Acceptable set-collection game on BGA. Grid movement like Game of Thrones: Hand of the King, scoring like Ra. Better with fewer players.

Haiclue - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Haiclue


Moderately amusing Dixit-ish word game on BGA. Four words are displayed publicly in the middle. Each player is secretly assigned one of these as a target and then arranges 2 or more words from their hand into a phrase/small poem related to the target. Each reveals in turn, and the other players simultaneously guess the target. Both clue-giver and clue-guesser score a point for a correct guess. Stinker is a lot more hilarious though.

Carcassonne Junior - 1 play
First Published 2009
Board Game: Carcassonne Junior


Got this for my daughter for Xmas. It's neat! Somehow they put regular Carc meeples in the box instead of Kids ones and the colours aren't the same. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realise that my colour was never going to show up on the tiles...
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Sat Jan 2, 2021 5:00 pm
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New to me October 2020

Martin G
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Bristol
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Chartae - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Chartae


Knizia does it again! This is a really clever game made from just 9 tiles and two rules and over in five minutes. Players take turns to either place or rotate a map tile, one aiming to connect as big a landmass as possible, the other an ocean. Only being able to rotate clockwise and only having two successive turns of rotation allowed pushes the game forward to its conclusion rather than getting bogged down in attrition.

Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game


Felt like good timing for this to appear on BGA - I'd read something about it a while back and was interested to try. Neat little game! Kind of a reverse area majority where the control tokens are all placed already but then the players try to divide them up into areas in the most favourable way. Really does give the feel of gerrymandering ('packing' and 'cracking') with a tiny ruleset.

Merchants of Dunhuang - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2020
Board Game: Merchants of Dunhuang


Another neat one (dare I say Knizian?). The basic idea is set-collection from a triangular deck (1x1, 2x2, 3x3... 10x10) but with a clever double majority system. For each type of cards you have the majority in between all the players' hands you score one card of that type for its face value. But you also collect cards in front of you on the table and you are only eligible to score as many hand cards as you have majorities on the table. Ideally you'd have high-valued majorities in your hand and low-valued majorities on the table but it doesn't always work out that way.

The set-collection itself is driven by a rondel -- you move a (shared) pawn round to collect a card from a space and then also take the special action associated with that space. The further you want to travel round the rondel, the more it will cost, so there's a money management element too.

I'd assumed it was by a Korean designer (the publisher is Korean) but checking it out afterwards I discovered it was by the Italian Gabriele Bubola who also designed Hats, another game I noted as having Knizian touches. One to watch!

悪魔でお仕事 (Idle Hands) - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2020
Board Game: Idle Hands


Yet another Japanese trick-taker-with-a-twist. This one's mostly about avoiding negative points, which I usually do better at than winning tricks thanks to being brought up on Hearts! The twist is that each player starts with three face-up cards in front of them as well as a hidden hand. When you lead, you choose one of your face-up cards to be the suit to follow, but that card isn't eligible to win the trick. Shenanigans ensue...
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Mon Nov 9, 2020 11:49 am
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New to me Sep 2020

Martin G
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Village Green - 10 plays -  7 
First Published 2020
Board Game: Village Green


I picked this up on a whim as it's by Peer Sylvester and very cheap. Solo it's a little reminiscent of Sprawlopolis in speed and objective - building a spatial tableau from a hand of cards to satisfy various scoring rules. The big differences are twofold: the restrictions on spatial placement are much more stringent which makes it quite brain-burny, and you can change your scoring goals on the fly rather than having them set at the beginning. It makes for a neat 10-minute puzzle with a gentle theme and pleasant artwork.

My wife saw me playing solo and said it looked pretty, then *asked* to play on two different nights. Unprecedented! As you might expect from the description above, it's not massively interactive as a multiplayer - just a bit of hate drafting if you can be bothered. That's perfect for Sarah though, she enjoys working her own puzzle (and I enjoy doing it alongside her!)

The Fox in the Forest Duet - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2020
Board Game: The Fox in the Forest Duet


This is nowhere near as interesting a co-op trick-taker as The Crew but it does a nice job of converting the feel of the original's special-powers into a co-op form. The basic idea is that a counter will move along a path towards the winner of each trick, with the number of spaces moved determined by the two cards played. You want to visit a number of specific locations while not venturing off the end of the track, so some co-ordination and judicious use of the powers is required.

Cathedral - 1 play -  6 
First Published 1978
Board Game: Cathedral


I'd never played this 70s abstract polyomino-game but it was quite pleasant, with some ideas seen earlier in Go and later in Blokus. The chunky wooden buildings are a big part of the charm though.

FlickFleet - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2018
Board Game: FlickFleet


A space battle dexterity game in which you flick plastic ships into position to fire missile dice at your opponent's fleet. Good fun and comes with a bunch of varied scenarios - clearly a labour of love.

RevoltaaA - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2015
Board Game: RevoltaaA


A Knizia card game I implemented on playingcards.io to give a try. The gameplay was as puzzling as the ducks v robots theme but I think there might be something there.

Upset Kakumei - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2020
Board Game: Upset Kakumei


535 - 2 plays -  6 
First Published 2020
Board Game: 535


A couple of recent Japanese climbing games Hanibal introduced me too on pc.io. 535 lets you add cards to other player's sets rummy-style as an alternative to beating them with a higher combo; while Upset Kakumei lets you reverse the direction so you can climb back down after climbing up. There are so many of these things now that I'm starting to get desensitised...

Kluster - 3 plays -  5 
First Published 2018
Board Game: Kluster


A bunch of strong magnets which you take turns to place inside a stringed-off area without attracting any others. Unfortunately you don't seem to be able to do anything cool with the magnetic properties; the only thing the magnetism does is make you lose.

Lucky Numbers - 2 plays -  5 
First Published 2012
Board Game: Lucky Numbers


An old Schacht game that's new to BoardGameArena. A bit Lost Cities-ish but not nearly as good.

----

I also played a couple of unpublished prototypes: Hanibal's nice climbing game mash-up; and the forthcoming trick-taker from the La Mame Games crew, of which more later!
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Thu Oct 1, 2020 1:59 pm
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New to me August 2020

Martin G
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Bristol
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An excellent month of new-to-me games!

The Field of the Cloth of Gold - 13 plays -  8 
First Published 2020
Board Game: The Field of the Cloth of Gold


With this following Northern Pacific, Tom Russell must be acclaimed as the master of agonising binary choices. FotCoG is worker placement stripped down to an atomic level with just two workers each and 7 action spaces, most of them minor variations of 'reveal a colour of tiles, score that colour'. But whichever action you choose (and often you'd rather choose none - there's a space for that too!) you must also gift a tile to your opponent. It's almost always a question of finding the least bad move and trying to set up your adversary for a poisoned choice of their own. All over in 20 minutes of exquisite pain, and you just know you'll be asking for an immediate rematch.

My City - 8 plays -  8 
First Published 2020
Board Game: My City


I tempered my expectations of Knizia's 'legacy' game after reading W Eric Martin's lukewarm review, but I needn't have worried. It's definitely not a game filled with narrative, nor with interaction, but I'm really enjoying the gradually-evolving polyomino puzzle. Even only two envelopes (of eight) in the competing trade-offs are getting delightfully difficult.

Watergate - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Watergate


There have been a lot of these distilled 2p historical CDGs in recent years but Watergate may turn out to be one of the best of them. I've only played twice, both times as the press, but I'm eager for more. The ops/events multi-use cards are familiar but here they're driving a multi-dimensional tug-of-war alongside a spatial-connection game representing a web of informants and evidence.

ドキッと!アイス (Dokitto! Ice) - 2 plays -  6 
First Published 2020
Board Game: ドキッと!アイス (Dokitto! Ice)


There are so many trick-takers coming out of Japan right now! This is another solid one though maybe lacking the spark of innovative genius I've seen in Taiki Shinzawa's designs.

Glasgow - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2020
Board Game: Glasgow


Unusual to find a resource-conversion engine-builder that I don't hate, but this one has the desirable attributes of being quick (sub-half-hour) and more interactive than usual (the players lay tiles to build a shared city, not individual parallel fiefs). The care that was taken to represent a diverse cross-section of the subject city is appreciated too.
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Sat Sep 5, 2020 8:03 pm
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New to me June 2020

Martin G
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Bristol
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The playingcards.io site has given me a way to try out some of the Japanese trick-takers I've been reading about without massive shipping fees or having to physically proxy a copy. And I've taken full advantage with four different ones by Taiki Shinzawa (新澤 大樹), co-designer of the excellent Maskmen, all of them very interesting!

American Bookshop Card Game - 5 plays -  8 
First Published 2019
Board Game: American Book Shop


This one's the simplest and feels like it could be a Knizia. The crux is that tricks end early if the total value of cards reaches 15, with the player who breached that total taking the cards. If you stay below 15, it's high-card wins as normal. The dickishness comes in because you only score positive points for cards in suits you have the (sole) majority of, everything else is negative. Brilliant!

Time Palatrix - 3 plays -  7 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Time Palatrix


And this is the most brain-twisting! Tricks are played in batches of 3 at a time. While *playing* cards to tricks, you have to follow (if possible) the suit that was first played to that trick. But when *resolving* them after everyone has played three cards, that might not turn out to be the lead suit of the trick at all! e.g. three blues and an orange in a trick where blue was played first, but when resolving the player who put the orange down wins the trick before so they 'lead' the orange and the blues are all throw-aways.

Zimbabweee Trick - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Zimbabweee Trick


Dois - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2014
Board Game: Dois


These two are the most similar as they entangle each trick with previous ones, meaning you have to plan your run really carefully. In Dois the numbers and colours are on separate cards, of which you have one of each in front of you to show what you played to the trick. But you only get to play one card each trick, so you can only change either number or colour.

Zimbabweee doesn't have suits, just a Pairs deck (1x1, 2x2, 3x3... 10x10) and you have to follow number. But the tricks stack, so if you play 3 in the first and 7 in the second, that's 73. By the 12th trick you can hit the trillions! And the player who wins most tricks goes bust, High Society style.

Origin of Failing Water - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2005
Board Game: Origin of Failing Water


Another Japanese trick-taker, but not a Taiki. It's a bit like Palatrix in that you play the tricks backwards before resolving them forwards, but the lack of any follow rule in the playing meant less control and shenanigans.

Tea Time - 5 plays -  6 
First Published 2012
Board Game: Tea Time


This is about as complex a game as I can tolerate learning on BGA (i.e. not very complex at all!). It's not a bad little set-collection thing which amuses for the 10 minutes it takes.
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Wed Jul 1, 2020 10:24 am
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New to me Jan 2020

Martin G
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Bristol
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I'm trying to focus on new games a bit less this year. January was a decent start, with only three.

Wavelength is excellent and likely to be the favourite big-group closer with my group for a while. The premise sounds a bit odd: try to give a clue that indicates a specific point on a spectrum between two extremes - 'hot vs cold', 'overrated vs underrated' etc. What makes it brilliant is the debates that ensue and what you learn about your fellow players along the way.

Small Indigo Plant is a curious little 2p microgame that reminded me in part of Circle the Wagons and part of NMBR 9. Needs more play to see how clever it is.

TEAM3 PINK is a co-op/team party game where one blindfolded player tries to build a structure out of blocks that another non-speaking player can see a picture of. The third player interprets the sign language of the latter into instructions for the former. I could live without playing it again.
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Sun Feb 2, 2020 9:27 pm
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New to me November 19

Martin G
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Bristol
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What a great month!

The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine - 5 plays -  9 
First Published 2019
Board Game: The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine


This is probably going to be my game of 2019 and I wrote it up in full here: Join The Crew -- for trick-taking pros and newbies alike!

Babylonia - 3 plays -  8 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Babylonia


I really enjoyed my three plays of this new, fairly meaty Knizia. It seems to have some DNA from Samurai (hand-management of a personal deck of tiles, area majority around cities), Blue Lagoon (racing to make and cut off connections, multiple scoring categories) and even Taj Mahal (scoring networks and 'goods' repeatedly as they increase in size).

I suspect this will replace Blue Lagoon for me, as the scoring is more interdependent and the tempo more interesting, and I've already seen that a variety of different approaches to scoring can be successful.

Hurlyburly - 4 plays -  7 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Hurlyburly


I was asked if this is "just silliness or a genuine game?", to which my answer is that it is a very silly genuine game!

The idea here is that you're each building your own Rhino-Hero-style tower out of folded cards, but you also have the opportunity to catapult blocks at your opponents' towers and capture useful building material from the rubble. The 'catapults' are just cards stuck into a plastic stand and with another plastic clip to hold the block in place, but they work surprisingly well!

There are some 'genuine game' options in that each turn you have to choose between building your own tower higher, firing at others, improving your catapult (you can add extra thicknesses of card which make it stiffer and more accurate) or building defences in front of your tower.

We laughed a lot!

Guess Club - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Guess Club


A party game in which each round you have to think up six examples for a chosen category (we had 'characters from the bible', 'superheroes and villains' and 'games that can be played with 8 players' for example) and write them on your hand of cards. Your aim is to pick things that other players will also have picked, but not ones that are so obvious that everyone will have picked them.

Each turn, a player chooses one of their cards to reveal; anyone else who wrote the same thing discards it and the active player scoops the current pot of money. But if no one had a match, instead they pay into the pot.

If you're not feeling confident of a match, your other option is to place a bet on *how many* successful matches will be found before the round ends (which is when any player is out of cards).

This was a lot of fun and we played a second game as soon as we'd finished the first.

The Mind Extreme - 5 plays -  7 
First Published 2019
Board Game: The Mind Extreme


I think of this more as an expansion than a whole new game, and that's perfect for me as I've played the original game a bunch and find that we can regularly win it.

Here you have two colours of cards, each running 1-50. They're all mixed together, so you'll have a mixture of whites and reds in your hand. They need to be played on to two separate piles, the whites in ascending order and the reds in descending. Everything else is the same as the original, except that on some of the levels one or both piles have to be played face down!

It's a great extra challenge and we had a ton of fun, but I wouldn't recommend it as a first Mind experience.

Letter Jam - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Letter Jam


I thought this was a very clever idea that maybe wasn't quite as fun as I'd hoped. It seemed quite easy to give clues that let the other players figure out their letter in one attempt - there wasn't much deduction needed. I believe there are ways to increase the difficulty though, and I've got a copy coming so I will play more soon.

5211 - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2019
Board Game: 5211


I'd played this before as 5 COLORS and I'm not sure why it's a separate entry. The only difference I noticed was less functional graphic design (the yellow used is near invisible). Either way, it's a fun little simultaneous-play speculation thing.

Conspiracy - 1 play -  6 
First Published 1973
Board Game: Conspiracy


This has recently got the Restoration Games treatment (superfluous player powers ahoy!) but we played the original (1973) version. Eight 'agents' move around a network trying to pick up a briefcase and return it to the player's home city. But no player 'owns' an agent, you just each secretly invest in them behind a screen. So any move one player makes with an agent can be challenged by another, with an auction resulting. Would like to try it again now I've seen how it plays out.

Point Salad - 1 play -  5 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Point Salad


Extremely simple and rather bland drafting game. Each card is one of six types of salad ingredient on one side and one of 100 different scoring goals on the other. Each turn you draft either one scoring goal or two ingredients. The goals are nothing exciting - just variants of "5VP per pair of tomatoes", "10VP for most carrots" etc.

Nine Tiles Panic - 1 play -  5 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Nine Tiles Panic


Cute and quick but it's still just everyone working their own simultaneous puzzle, which isn't my favoured style.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale - 1 play -  4 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Cartographers


Speaking of which, this is a generic Tetris-filling 'flip and write' with the supposed novelty of introducing 'interaction' by having some of the shapes filled in by an opponent on your pad.
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Sun Dec 1, 2019 3:56 pm
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New to me October 19

Martin G
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Two elderly Knizias - how uncharacteristic of me

Clash of the Gladiators - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2002
Board Game: Clash of the Gladiators


Clash of the Gladiators has a sub-6 geek rating and is seen as an atypical 'Knizia does Ameritrash'. But actually its clever use of dice probabilities is very Knizian.

You each draft 4 teams of 4 gladiators form the different types available: swordsmen give you extra dice, spears let you roll first, prongs give you a re-roll, shieldbearers block hits and net throwers deactivate the other team's powers. Then you just go at it, taking turns to pick a target and chuck dice. There are also some wild animals in the arena to target and in a brilliant twist, if all your gladiators are eliminated you get to start controlling the animals! Great silly fun.

Euphrates & Tigris: Contest of Kings - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2005
Board Game: Euphrates & Tigris: Contest of Kings


I used the opportunity of my 40th birthday to finally convince a couple of friends to try 'T&E the card game', a long-time 'owned but unplayed'. And it's... fine. It hews so closely to the original that learning it is a breeze and I enjoyed the hand-management twist whereby you need to have matching cards to discard from hand each time you want to score a point. The odd thing is that the conversion from a 2-D grid to essentially a line loses a lot of the best bits of the original while not actually saving much table space.

Startups - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Startups


Another promising Oink game from the prolific Jun Sasaki. Startups is a majorities card game with the interesting scoring twist that the points you get for a majority in a suit are determined by the minority holdings. So if you have the most red but no one else has any, it's worthless; you need to entice people into the suits you're going to end up dominating. There's also a neat No-Thanks-like mechanism where undesirable cards accumulate chips on them until they're eventually worth taking.
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Sat Nov 2, 2019 1:51 pm
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New to me September 19

Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Don't fall in love with me yet, we've only recently met
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Hats - 5 plays -  8 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Hats


It's a distinctly Knizian set-collection/investment card game that reminds me most of Loco/Botswana/Wildlife Safari/Quandary/Flinke Pinke/Thor (!) but with more going on. Essentially it's just a deck of seven suits of 1-6 but with a rather lavish production, including a plastic 'cookie' that is just used to award five bonus points at the end of the game. The artwork and card quality are both excellent.

The idea is that each turn you put one of your hand cards into a central display with 6 slots, taking the card that you replaced into a personal collection that sits in front of you. By the end of the hand you'll have 8 cards in front of you, and they will each score according to which suits occupy the slots in the central board. e.g. if there's a red card in the 4-point slot then all collected red cards will be worth 4.

The crucial restriction is that you can only make a swap with a card of the same suit or a higher value. So once a 6 is on the central board, that suit can only be dislodged by being substituted by another card of the same suit and then outranked by another.

There are some additional wrinkles: you also keep one card in your hand, which signifies your 'favourite' colour. For that suit you score the face value of everything you collected minus the value of the card left in your hand. And the 'cookie' bonus is for having collected the most different suits.

Put it all together and there is a lot going on for a small card game, with each play having multiple possible ramifications. And because the collected cards go face-up, you can easily track what might still be out there too. I liked it a lot as a thinky 2p but also 3p introduces the possibility of fleeting alliances. And 4p sounds interestingly different too, as you play in partnerships and can exchange cards with your partner. Really impressed!

Dragon's Breath - 5 plays -  7 
First Published 2017
Board Game: Dragon's Breath


Visited a games shop with my 3-year-old daughter for the first time and picked out this HABA Kinderspiel winner. We both loved it! A bunch of multi-coloured gems are stacked up inside a tower made up of 8 or 9 rings. Each turn one player will remove the top ring but before that each player in turn gets to pick one of the five colours of gem. You then get to keep all the gems matching your colour that fall out of the tower when the ring is removed.

There's a little bit of skill to predicting what will fall and a little bit of dexterity in how you remove the ring. But most importantly Effie can have fun with it without doing any of that - she understands the rules (and explained them to my wife) and can take her turn perfectly. The physical design of the game is brilliant, making use of the box too, and the story is cute - the players are dragon babies trying to collect gems from an ice tower with the help of their fire-breathing dad.

Irish Gauge - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2014
Board Game: Irish Gauge


A 'cube rails' game originally published by Winsome but now prettified. It's designed by Tom Russell, who also did the brilliant Northern Pacific, but it's a lot more similar to Chicago Express. The main difference is the random element of drawing cubes from a bag to determine which lines pay dividends. For me, it had the same problems that led to me getting rid of Chicago Express despite admiring it. Opaque, needs repeat plays by the same group to shine, but is unlikely to get them.

Yōkai - 2 plays -  6 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Yōkai


A moderately interesting 'co-op that can't be played solo'. Cards in four colours are face down in a square grid and the objective is to get matching colours adjacent to each other in as few moves as possible. Each turn one player gets to look at the underside of two cards and then move a card. There are also hint cards which can be placed on top of cards (e.g. "this card is red or blue") but once a card has a hint on it no one can look at it any more. There are lots of options for modifying the difficulty level too.

Songbirds - 1 play -  5 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Songbirds


A colours and numbers thing where you play out hand cards to a communal grid, trying to make the suit of the one card you don't play be worth the most points. I suspect it's better with fewer players, but it paled in comparison to the somewhat-similar Hats.

passtally - 1 play -  5 
First Published 2018
Board Game: passtally


A rather brain-burny abstract with elements of Taluva and Tsuro - building routes across the board by laying and stacking tiles. You're also trying to disrupt your opponent's routes at the same time so there's a lot of back-and-forth creating and destroying roughly the same routes. I didn't love it.
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Tue Oct 1, 2019 11:51 am
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