Chris Wray: What I Enjoyed Playing in April 2019

This is the April entry for my series where I post five games I enjoyed playing in the past month that I didn’t have time to do full reviews of.  As always, I limit it to five titles, of which there’s a combination of old and new games. My apologies for being a few days later than normal with the entry.

By the numbers, April 2019 was the highest number of logged plays I’ve ever recorded in a month, with 165. I’m terrible about logging plays, especially at conventions, so the real total was likely a bit higher. My most played game was Ultimate Werewolf — a common theme when I’m at conventions — but the games below also had a decent number of plays each.

Diamant (4 Plays)

In Diamant, a classic by Alan R. Moon and Bruno Faidutti, players explore a cave in search of treasure.  The game is played over five rounds, and in each round, you have a simple choice: go deeper into the temple, hoping for more treasure, or retreat to the safety of the camp.  Going further is risky — spiders, snakes, and other treacheries loom ahead — but better treasure is alluring. The player with the most treasure at the end of the five rounds wins.

Incan Gold is a “press your luck” game, and the fun is in weighing your greed for treasure against the risk of danger.  The game feels like an adventure through a temple, is easy to teach, plays in twenty minutes, and accommodates a crowd up to eight people.  

I was inspired to (finally!) buy this by the seeing a copy of the beautiful Iello edition while I was in Canada.  Since then, my family has become fascinated, and we’ve been playing it quite a bit.

Dizzle (10 Plays)

Dizzle is a dice drafting roll and write.  Brandon did a review a few weeks ago, so I won’t go into detail here, but in short, you have a dice “map” and on your turn can draft a dice from the middle of the table.  The goal is to mark off parts of your map — you get points for rows, columns, collecting gems, completing sets of items, being first to a space, etc. — and the most points at the end of as et number of rounds wins.

Most roll ‘n writes aren’t marginally interactive, but Dizzle is a cut above the rest in terms of interactivity, in part because of the dice drafting, but also because of the race for certain spaces.

 But the best feature is that the game comes with four different “levels.”   The third level is certainly my favorite, though I have enjoyed all four. I could see this getting an SdJ nomination or recommendation.

Hanabi (6 Plays)

Hanabi is a cooperative game in which players try to create a fireworks display by placing cards on the table in the proper order.  For the uninitiated, I wrote a review as part of our SdJ re-reviews series, but in short, it is a tense deduction game, and players who enjoy it tend to become addicted to it.  It fixes the “alpha gamer” problem present in so many co-ops, and it forces you to see the game state from the perspective of other players.  Hanabi rewards repeated play with the same persons.

I fell in love with the game again this month after playing it with new people at the Gathering.  They don’t use pre-set conventions, like so many people who are good at Hanabi do, but rather watch how others play and attempt to learn and recognize conventions that emerge naturally.   In retrospect, it is an obvious way to play, but I’ve either played with new players or players that were set in their ways.

It is always fun to discovery a new approach to an old game, and for me, that was Hanabi this month.

Res Arcana (4 Plays)

Res Arcana is an engine building game from Tom Lehman and published by Sand Castle Game.  It has a fantasy theme, and players are collecting resources to build a tableau. Some cards give you income per turn, others give you victory points, and other still give you powers, such as the ability to attack or the ability to do resource exchanges.  Dale did a full review a few weeks ago.

There are variable setups, and each game has a completely different feel — and you’ll have a different strategy — based on what you have at your fingertips.  The gameplay is fast paced and intuitive. Though there’s a bit of a learning curve on the in-game symbols, there are helpful player aids, and once you understand the internal logic, this game flows nicely.  

I think this will be a big hit in the coming months.  Gamers always love engine building, and the theme and gameplay will make this enjoyable to a large swath of the gaming community.  

Silver & Gold (6 Plays)

Silver & Gold is a “Flip and Write” from Phil Walker-Harding and NSV.  The game is played over 4 rounds, with 7 cards featuring polyominoes being flipped over per round.  Players have cards in front of them, and they want to mark out all of the spaces, earning bonuses along the way for marking off palm trees, coins, and finishing other cards.

Like many games by Phil Walker-Harding, Silver & Gold is very pleasant to play.  It is easy-to-teach, fast paced, and engaging, and there’s a sense of satisfaction as you keep marking off cards.  I had a copy shipped in from Germany, and we’ve played it six times. It wouldn’t surprise me if this got some recognition from the SdJ jury.

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