Over the next few months, instead of going with my Three Games articles, I am going to take a look at my collection and try to discuss why certain titles survived the great purge of 2019. During this process I may take a look at some games that didn’t survive, but only as a measuring stick for what did survive. Since I am silly, like a lot of gamers, I use Ikea Kallax shelves to display the games that we own. This makes it pretty easy to break things down cube by cube, so that’s what we’re going to do, twenty-four cubes, plus a top shelf for games that don’t fit in the cubes, over the course of a few months. I hope you enjoy!
The shelf of Next Move Games’ titles. This may be my favorite shelf over time, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Remember that draw and discard comment in the previous Surviving the Purge article? Well here we go again. Originally from Z-Man Games, Arboretum is a wonderful draw and discard game where you are planting trees to create your own arboretum. You score points by creating “pathways” of trees and those pathways have to continue in increasing values. There are eight types of trees in the deck and each type of tree has cards numbered from one to eight. There is a catch to all of this though. Everyone will always have seven cards in hand, on a turn you draw two, either from a face down draw pile, or from the discard piles – each player has a personal discard pile. At the end of the game, you gain the right to score a pathway if you have the highest value of that suit still in your hand. Each pathway will score one point per card in that path, one additional point for each card in the path if the path is at least four cards long and only contain the same species, plus a bonus point for starting a path with a one and two bonus points for ending a path with a two. Another twist to the scoring is that if competing for scoring of a suit, a player has the eight and another player has the one in hand, the eight becomes valueless. Arboretum does suffer a bit when you describe the scoring to new players, it really seems convoluted, and as such, that first play for most players is going to kind of be a throw away. Once you see it in action though, and fully understand what’s going on, this is a tense, easy to play, card game that has been in my Top 10 basically since I first played it. 21 plays since 2015.
Azul, Azul Stained Glass of Sintra & Azul Summer Pavilion
I know, I know, why on Earth would anyone think that they need all three of these games? Well, the simple truth is, I probably don’t, but the answer is, I want them and I find them uniquely different enough that I have specific times when I want to play one or the other. Azul is a classic, sure it was only released a couple years ago, but I don’t think there is any doubt that it will stand the test of time. Its ease of play, and wonderful interactivity with the drafting of the beautiful tiles have endeared it to gamers both old and new. Azul Stained Glass of Sintra is probably my least favorite of the trilogy, but it is still a fantastic looking game and has some gameplay mechanisms that will appeal more to the gamers who like to plan and have to work things out and have everything timed perfectly. Azul Summer Pavilion is arguably the best all-around game in the bunch, but it can be a bit much for new gamers. Summer Pavilion takes those timing mechanisms of Sintra and adds some combo fun to it, giving players who figure out the timing, a definite advantage. It may end up being my favorite version in the long run, but Summer Pavilion is still young, so time will tell. All of them have wonderful table presence that draws people to the games and makes them want to pick up the pieces and ask questions and honestly become interested. It’s really a wonderful line of games that will never leave the collection, even if I were to quit playing board games. Azul 43 plays since 2017, Azul Stained Glass of Sintra 6 plays since 2018 & Azul Summer Pavilion 5 plays since October 2019.
The newest game to the collection and remarkably quickly, the newest game to gain permanent residency. Die Crew is just an absolutely wonderful take on trick taking AND cooperative games. The premise is simple, each hand is a Mission that you and your crewmates have to complete in order to advance to the next Mission. Some are simple, one person has to take a trick with a specific card in it. Some Missions are more difficult, having to complete goals in specific order, and maybe even having to do one last, or even having even less communication allowed than normal. Communication is the twist here, because if you all could talk it out, of course the game is going to be a breeze, but no no no, that’s not the case here, you have very limited communication. Everyone has a token and once per Mission, each crew member may place a card face up in front of them, and use the token to note whether this card is the highest, lowest or only card in that suit that the crew member has. That’s it, that’s all that you can communicate. Great thing about it, if you fail, it’s just one hand, shuffle the cards back up and re-try. Supper quick, really tense at times and full of game play that helps the players feel both really stupid at times, but also really clever at others. This will be my introduction to people who want to learn what trick taking is. 20 plays since December 2019.
Quite honestly, Reef almost didn’t make it. My youngest daughter saved it from leaving the collection. Much like the Azul line of games, Reef has a wonderful table presence. One that prompts folks to stop what they are doing and see what’s going on. It’s a simple game where you are building reef patterns on a central board and trying to complete objective cards which will require various colors to be in certain positions and certain heights. Really simple play, and beautiful in play. It’s just that it can suffer from the Takenoko problem. There are times where you are going to draft cards that are easier to complete than other times, sometimes they may even already be complete. It’s not a game breaker, but it’s there, noticeable and can be annoying. We enjoy Reef though, enough that we kept the Next Move collection together. 4 plays since 2018.
I love spatial puzzle games, but I am absolutely rubbish at playing them. I fumble around, placing stuff here and there hoping that it’ll fit, by the time I get close to figuring something out, everyone else has long been done. Tuki kind of evens the playing field for me somehow, and I don’t quite know how it does it, or how I do it. Tuki is a wonderful puzzle of a game. Each round a card is drawn and the players race to match the photo on the card using their blocks. Before drawing a card though you roll a dice to pick both the orientation of the card and whether or not the Tuki that you are building can touch the table, or if you have to build the design on top of the neutral blocks that you have. The last player to finish, or not finish, gains the card and after a certain number of cards are gained, that player is eliminated. Last person standing, so to speak, is the winner. I have zero business enjoying Tuki nearly as much as I do, but it manages to take a spatial puzzle and limit it, there are some downright difficult patterns to finish, but everyone has issues with them and some of the easier ones have so many different ways to complete them that it’s always interesting to look around the table after you are done and see the different routes that each player took to get to the same conclusion. Wonderful game. 5 plays since June 2019.