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.
So, this is the one where I show a bit of my card game ridiculousness.
Years ago, I ran a podcast and one of the first guests on the podcast was Clay, from Capstone Games. At that time Capstone was strictly importing these heavy, intense games and bringing them to the North American market. Games that weren’t necessarily in my wheelhouse, but Clay and I thought that it may be fun to take a look at Arkwright from that viewpoint, with my wonderful wife. So Clay sent along one of his well used demo copies for us to try out and see if we could get it played and talk about it. Years later, we still haven’t even played Spinning Jenny, every time I have opened the box and started to set it up, we’ve mysteriously found something else that needs to be done. BUT….. it sticks around out of that guilt and a desire to actually tackle it and play it, at least once.
This one is a new addition to the collection. I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep it around, but I think that we enjoyed it enough to play it a few more times. Reviewed this one back in April after being pleasantly surprised. 4 plays since April 2020.
Two plays was enough for this wonderfully cutthroat game of bribery and backstabbing to land on our shelves to stick around for a long time. Who would have thought a game designed in 2003, that we didn’t play until 2019 would have had a chance. The premise is simple, an auction at the beginning of the round helps give plots of food to be planted to the farmers. With the lowest bidder being the person who is in control of where the water supply goes that round. Players plant their crops and place ownership tokens on them noting how bountiful they could be. Grouping like crops together increases their value. This is all for naught though if the water supply doesn’t reach the plants and they will die over time without water. So bribery and maybe some gentle blackmail is involved in hoping that the person running the water supply will place the water canal in a place that also benefits you. Brilliant design. 2 plays since 2019.
Best Treehouse Ever and Treehouse of Fun
One of the first games I ever got for review was Best Treehouse Ever from Greencouch Games and designer Scott Almes. Since then I have reviewed and enjoyed most of the small little card games that have come out of that Jason’s publishing house. Best Treehouse Ever is a simple drafting game where you are trying to build the best treehouse. You try to group like rooms together in your treehouse, all while balancing everything so it doesn’t just fall over. It’s a wonderful little card game, and the stand alone expansion, Treehouse of Fun just adds to that fun. The artwork on each of the room cards is adorable and filled with fun little touches that just make you want to keep examining them. Sadly, we don’t play this as often as we used to, but it is still a family favorite. 15 plays since 2015.
This one survived strictly based on my youngest daughter and her predilection for liking almost anything that involves dinosaurs. Jurassattack is a simple little dueling card game with a lot of rock, paper, scissors going on, but the dinosaurs all bring individual abilities to the table, so it’s not always as easy as I pick this, you pick that, you lose, there is some fun, very lightweight strategy involved here. Once again, this is another fun, lighter weight family card game from Green Couch Games, this time from designer Ryan Cowler. Ryan is both a video game nerd and a professional wrestler, and that kind of shows through in this wonderful little design that really struck a chord with our youngest daughter. 22 plays since 2015, but there has to be countless more plays on the demo deck between the kids when we first reviewed it.
The wooden box on that shelf is the “Collector’s Version” of Arboretum, a game that I absolutely adore, but a version that I absolutely loathe. For the good, see Surviving the Purge 2.
For the bad, let’s talk about how you want to, no, need to, be able to see and differentiate cards when looking at them, from any angle. Now, let’s talk about how with a Rainbow foil card, the light shining directly down from the ceiling, where most light in houses around game tables comes from, makes that nearly impossible and at times seems to burn a hole in your retina. 22 plays since 2015.
Who else but Chris would have our review on the OG for Werewords. If you notice, there aren’t a whole lot of deduction games on our shelves that survived the purge. In fact, even the One Night Ultimate games barely survived, but that’s only because my oldest daughter wanted them, so they aren’t even on the shelves, they are up in her room on her bookshelves to play whenever she wants to make the effort. I love them, but they rarely get played anymore outside of specific groupings. I am not a deduction game fan, never really have, but Werewords is nearly perfect for me, and the family, even the extended family who have enjoyed this one for play after play. 42 plays since 2017.
I can’t explain it, I don’t really know why this one survived over Mascarade, two games that I find have some good overlapping similarities, but ultimately it was Coup that lived on. Once again, not a fan of deduction games, and social ones are a lot more irritating to me than straight up deduction games, but yet, this shelf sees two of them survive. Coup is another that is simple in premise, but tricky to win. Your goal is simply to be the last person standing, either through eliminating folks via a “Bullshit” mechanism of calling them out for lying at the right time, or through straight up assasination. Like all of these games, the more players the better, which may also be part of why we don’t play them at home, three or four is not a great social deduction group. Coup kind of bucks that trend, playing pretty well from four to six, so it manages to see play when others would be simply passed over. Dale has the full review of Coup. 15 plays since 2014.
Once again, another game I came to way after everyone else, and as you can tell from Surviving the Purge 20 I enjoy Michael Schatt’s -etto games now. Coloretto is the version of that system that I can play with my parents, and surprisingly, I have played with my parents. I love the simplicity of drawing a card or taking a row and the decisions that you have to process while making that simple choice. Should I stay or should I go. Coloretto is a game that will always be in the collection, it plays wonderfully, plus it is such a small box of cards, how could you get rid of it? It’s the perfect game to carry in your Quiver. 10 plays since 2015.
With this group of writers here on the OG, I cannot believe that there is not a review of the wonderful Voodoo Prince. At least not that I could find. It did win the first Golden Trickster award. Voodoo Prince has stuck around in the collection because of the simple fact that I love the timing in the game. It’s a trick taking game with that twist that you can’t just take everything, you need to time how you take tricks and really be aware of what your opponents are playing so that you can sluff when you need to not take. The jist is, if you are the first person to take a set number of tricks you lose points, but the closer you get to being the person correct in order to take that magic number of tricks, you will gain the most points. It’s just a wonderful game that I wish I could play more often, but most of my group is not a huge fan of trick taking games, and if they do play it, they tend to just throw cards so I have to wait for the perfect time and group to get to play Voodoo Prince. 3 plays since 2018.
I apparently reviewed this one before I came over to the OG, and Dale had the honors for the review here on the OG. Everything that I wrote back then holds true today. Mesozooic is an absolutely charming game that has its roots in those missing piece puzzles you used to play as a kid, where you are sliding pieces around trying to get everything in its correct spot. In Mesozooic, you are creating a zoo with dinosaur exhibits, but don’t worry, no one is going to be eaten, this isn’t Jurassic World the card game, it’s too cute for that. Absolutely a keeper for us, and one of those games that you pick up on a whim and wonder why others didn’t see the fun and beauty in it. 7 plays since 2018.
At one time it was a goal of mine to have all of the Z-Man/Filosofia card games and I came close before the purge happened. Parade was probably as responsible for this obsession as much as Arboretum was. As I said at the start of all this, beautiful little card games are a weakness of mine, and Parade is definitely that, with the Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland theme. This is another card game where timing is everything. When playing a card to the parade, you may cause other cards to come to you, that’s bad as those are negative points. But! — always a twist, right — if you collect the most cards of a color, instead of the cards being negative points of the value of the cards, they are only one point negative, so at some point you will probably force yourself to take cards just to try to be the majority leader. Parade is a delight to play and a game with one of those endearing themes that seems to work across all groupings. 5 plays since January 2018.
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I completely agree with you on Santiago, Brandon. I tend to think of this as a badly underrated design, but I see it mentioned from time to time and given that it came out over 15 years ago, it does seem to be appreciated. Certainly it’s not for everyone, as there’s a lot of direct, negative interaction, but for those who don’t mind mixing it up, it’s great. It has a lot of fans in my group and it’s one of our favorite 5-player games.
I really should try Arkwright one of these days, as meaty economic games are usually in my wheelhouse. To be honest, the duration and complexity frightens me a bit. Sounds like a good Con game, assuming we ever go back to attending Cons.
I don’t see how you can compare Coup and Mascarade. While both allow you to pretend to have different abilities, Mascarade has a huge amount of chaos (hell, you don’t even know your OWN role much of the time!). Meanwhile, even though Coup (and Hoax, the closely related Eon game from the 80’s) feature a good deal of bluffing, there’s also quite a bit of skill and good judgement included. Coup and Hoax are games I’ll play, while I’ll aggressively avoid Mascarade.
Voodoo Prince is another game I need to try. There was a time when I would have been one of the early adapters of a game like this, but these days, it’s very hard for me to get a trick-taking game played. The twist seems clever and typically Knizia. Hopefully, the opportunity will arise.
Parade is another favorite of my group and it’s pulled out frequently when we’re waiting for players to arrive. I’m not really sure how much control it has, but there do seem to be players who have more success with it then others, so there must be some skill in it. Like you, I find the illustrations charming, even if there’s no real reason for the Alice in Wonderland theme. A nice little game that has proven to have staying power (it’s over a dozen years old!).
Hi Larry, what do you think of Coup vs Love Letter? Some people (mostly eurogamers) think Love Letter is a deeper game than Coup, I disagree but haven’t played either enough to really know.
Matt, to me, Love Letter is about as shallow as a pimple on an ant’s face, but you’re probably asking the wrong person. It seems completely random to me, but the game is so popular that I’m sure there’s more to it than I see. If you’re just asking my personal opinion, though, I think Coup is a million times deeper than Love Letter.
Thanks for the reply Larry! Yes, I really don’t see what people prefer in it. I think it’s popularity is just down to most eurogamers can’t deal with bluffing and the ‘meanness’ of Coup! And no bluffing makes for a rather humdrum deduction game…