Brandon Kempf – Three Games of April

What a really weird month, right? April 2020 will be a month that we all will likely remember, or more likely try to forget. Since March 24th I have been in this house, with my two kids and my wife. My wife is considered an “essential” worker by the State of Missouri, so she was going to work this entire time. Meanwhile, I’ve been at home, working from home the best I could, which was ultimately fairly minimal up until a week or so ago when I actually was given remote access to everything I needed to work. Along with that I have been trying to keep two kids motivated enough to care about schoolwork that they’d keep working, with some success and some failure. I do not envy the teachers when these kids go back to school, eventually. It has been a month where we just kind of watched the world break down a bit around us as we hunkered in our home, learning to cook a bit better, learning to communicate a bit better, and playing some games along the way to break the monotony of the days, and nights. I have to report back to the office on Monday, luckily I looked at a calendar so I know what day it is now, that hasn’t always been the case. In the meantime, let’s take a brief look back at Three Games that made an impact on me in April.

Raiders of the North Sea

Not really sure how a title like this managed to skip past us for this long. This was one of my first isolation purchases after I didn’t get to play it at our game gathering that we had right before all the craziness went down. Ultimately, Raiders of the North Sea is a worker placement game, where you are competing Viking leaders trying to best earn the favor of the head Viking. You do this through various actions, but mostly through raiding and pillaging areas and using those resources that you pillage to bump up your status a bit more. The interesting twist to Raiders of the North Sea is that you are only ever going to have one Viking worker in hand. Each turn you will take an action using that Viking worker, and then after doing that, you will remove a Viking worker and gain the benefits from that as well. It’s an interesting idea that I first messed around with when I played The Gallerist. Now, Raiders of the North Sea is a lot less hefty than The Gallerist. The actions that you take are easy to understand, and your goals are simple as well. It does feature the need for some careful planning though as well. I had the pleasure of playing Raiders of the North Sea twice this past April, once on the absolutely beautiful and well designed app, and once on the table with my wife. Both games left me wanting more, and made me question anyone who claims that Lords of Waterdeep is the worker placement gateway of choice, Waterdeep is convoluted drivel in comparison. I also picked up Explorers of the North Sea as well, but we haven’t gotten that one to the table just yet. Soon though.

Chicken Ramen, or at least my attempt at it

Santa Monica

So, another therapy buy was for Santa Monica. A game I genuinely knew nothing about, but AEG sent out an email to their demo teams and offered it for sale a bit early and I jumped on the chance, and surprise, it’s pretty darn good. Santa Monica is a dead simply tableau building game, where you are competing to build the best version of Santa Monica that you can. Each turn you are going to be drafting a card, or sometimes two, into your tableau and possibly take some extra actions as directed by the cards. Your tableau is going to consist of a beach and a street, which each section doing different things. To score points, you are going to build cards next to each other that want to be next to each other, or not want to be next to each other. You have tourists and locals and VIPs that want to see the town and want to be in certain areas by the end of the game to score points. It’s wonderfully simple to learn and play, but there is a lot of cleverness going on in Santa Monica. I haven’t touched on everything, I think that Dale has a review for this one coming soon and I’ll try to offer more detailed thoughts on that, but just know that I think that Santa Monica was really damn good and quite the surprise.

I also tried my hand at some Chicken Parmesan. I could live on this.


An older title that has been in our collection for quite awhile, but it has quickly become one of my favorites to play online at because I’ll never find anyone around here who will want to play the Big Game with all the expansions, but online, I can definitely find folks. Cacao is a beautiful, dead simple tile laying game where everyone has a set of the same tiles to place on the board over the coarse of the game. These tiles contain your workers that you need to activate the tiles that are going to be built around them. Your tiles will have some distribution of workers, not always the same, sometimes a tile will have one worker on each edge, sometimes it’ll have four on one. Managing when to best use these worker tiles is the crux of the game. When you place a tile out from your hand, if you create a space to the left or right, or even sometimes both, that need to be filled by jungle tiles, you add those. Those jungle tiles will contain the actions that the workers can take. On a turn you can see the next two jungle tiles that will go onto the board and chose from them. Clever game play is seen throughout the game, but the ability to build on top of your previously played worker tiles is just a beautiful, clever touch. But you have to plan for that and have some of the sun dials available to do that. All three of my plays in April were online, and two of the three I got to introduce the game to new players and everyone has been a fan so far. As they should be. The Big Game can be a bit overwhelming, but you still only have your hand of tiles to play and build around, there are just a lot more options on how to score points.

My favorite dish of the month, I made some bolognese.I know you all wanted me to put some zucchini or some such shit in there, but nope, not gonna do it.

There ya go, Three Games in April 2020, the month of isolation, the month that was full of surprises, and not all of them bad. So here’s to May, and by the way, if you are in Missouri, beware, there is a new 16 year old on the loose.

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8 Responses to Brandon Kempf – Three Games of April

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  3. Florian says:

    Hm I am sorry but maybe a book on food photography would help… These don’t look delicious. More like

    • Brandon Kempf says:

      Yeah, I am neither a world class food photographer nor a world class chef, but luckily all the dishes tasted pretty good in spite of the poor photography skills.

      I’ll have to check out that blog for a bit more

  4. Jacob Lee says:

    Your food pics inspired me to learn a new recipe.

    • Brandon Kempf says:

      Trying new recipes and meals has been one thing that has kind of made this past 6 weeks or so a bit more bearable. Go for it! I hope your food photography is better than mine. ;)

      • Florian says:

        That’s a true benefit of the situation.
        An easy to follow way to make the pictures look more impressive: take a photo of the raw vegetables and spices etc. before you start. Uncooked they have more colours and luminance.

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