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!
If you are a BoardGameGeek user, you can also follow along on the Geeklist I created.
I was going to do a full review of Junk Art, but Dale has this one covered pretty well. Plus, I have kind of ran out of time this week. We did recently play Junk Art though and had a wonderful time with it once again. The basic jist of Junk Art is that you are building art with things that you have laying around. Lots of little bits that need to be stacked without falling over. The fun in Junk Art is in the City Cards that change the goals and how you stack each round. Some are straight forward, build your art with the pieces you are dealt and try to not have things fall over. Others have little twists, like a draft where you have three cards and you choose one to keep for yourself to add to your art, and the others you pass to your neighbors for them to add to their art, or a city where everyone rotates around the table building on each of the pieces of art. Fun, interactive and well done. Just too bad I don’t have the oversized version to play, but at least we have the wooden version. 3 plays since 2019.
Waaaaaaay back in Surviving the Purge 1 I talked about Axio. Ingenious is where Axio started. Using the same scoring system, where you score points based on what shapes you placed and whether that shape is present adjacent to them, and the same end game scoring where your lowest color point total is your score, Ingenious really is quite ingenious. Differences here are that Ingenious uses double hexes, whereas Axio is played with domino style tiles. Also if you create a dead space in Ingenious, nothing happens, you’ve just created a dead space. In Axio Dr. Knizia made the dead space a scoring mechanism with the pyramids. I picked up an older used copy of Ingenious, so I have the nice plastic tiles instead of the cardboard that the newer ones are using. 9 plays since 2019.
Kingdomino (plus expansion and fun stuff)
Some games just kind of scream Spiel des Jahres when they release and Kingdomino is one of them. Chris has us covered here on the Opinionated Gamers, and I hit the expansion. When I think about how the Spiel des Jahres has changed over the last handful of years, getting lighter and lighter, but still managing to find games that pack more game play into fifteen to thirty minutes than most games that at least double that, I think of Kingdomino. It’s dead simple in premise, you are building your kingdom, within limited boundaries, and you are doing so in hopes of scoring more points than your fellow players. An ingenious tile purchasing system drives the elegant and simple game play. You can’t afford to always be picking last, those juicy tiles won’t be there for you to add to your kingdom. Scoring is simple, each land area scores based on how many squares it takes up and is multiplied by the number of crowns in that land area. The Giants add a bit of take that to the game where you can place the Giants on opponents kingdoms to degrade the value of their lands. But the new end game scoring tiles are the biggest reason to get the expansion. We’ve added some fun promo castles to our copy, along with two tower dispensers to hold the tiles during the game so you don’t see what is coming up. When I think of Bruno Cathala, Kingdomino, is always what I think of. 24 plays since 2017.
I’m sure there are games that have won the Spiel des Jahres, that folks feel didn’t deserve it more than the other nominated games, and modern award wise, I would wager a guess that Kingdom Builder is on top of their list. Nathan Beeler had the original review of Kingdom Builder here on the Opinionated Gamers and Chris Wray took a second look at it as part of the SdJ revisited series. Despite the lukewarm reception, it remains a family favorite. Part of the draw for me to Kingdom Builder is a lot like Vaccarino’s other title, Dominion. The endless variation and the fact that you’ll never play the same game twice. From having different board pieces, to having different Kingdom Builder Cards that incentivize you to do certain things, the game has endless combinations. Add on top of what is already in the base box and you have three big box expansions and numerous promos to add to the mix. That can be the biggest draw, and the biggest negative, it’s kind of difficult to get a game set up and ready to play with everything we have in the Big Box. I know that folks lament the draw and play nature of the game and consider it kind of a crapshoot whether you get what you want. I love the fact that you have to limit your options. You don’t want to build somewhere touching two or three different land masses, you want to be free to move around the board as much as you can possibly do. So while most games teach you to create more options, Kingdom Builder teaches you that more is not always better, unless we’re talking expansions. Absolutely deserving of the Spiel des Jahres, even over another family favorite, Las Vegas, which will appear later in this series. 26 plays since 2012.
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Kingdom Builder is my #2 game after Race, and it is BECAUSE I’m forced to take horrible, least worst, decisions that I love it (along with a pile of other reasons). Like all the very best games, it also doesn’t need a single expansion as the possibilities are endless out of the box. I’d happily play with fishermen, miners and explorers every single time. I dream about this minimalist design at least once a week and i’ll probably dream about it after playing today!