Chris Wray: What I Enjoyed Playing in July & August 2020

This is the July and August entry for my series where I post five games I enjoyed playing in the past month for which I didn’t have time to do full reviews.  As always, there’s a combination of old and new games.

My most played game is Istanbul: The Dice Game, which I had heard good things about when it was released, but which I personally never played. 

But overall, both months were down months in terms of game plays. Things did pick up at the end of July, as I started getting more and more new games in due to a break in the Kickstarter backlog!

As I mentioned above, I had heard great things about Istanbul: The Dice Game when it was released.  I added it to a larger game order, and when it arrived, it was an instant hit with my family and I.  There are familiar parts from Istanbul — you’re racing to get resources and lira to change in for rubies — but the dice mechanic is addicting.  The fun is in deciding whether to just race for rubies as efficiently as possible, or in trying to build an engine out of in-game powers that can be acquired.  We’ve played it ten times in the last two months!  It even inspired me to go buy the Istanbul Big Box.  

Iwari is a reimplementation of Michael Schacht’s Web of Power and China, both of which are personal favorites of mine.  This new edition by Thundergryph games is stunning, with detailed artwork and 3D components.  The classic gameplay I love is still there: fast-paced turns, with simple rules, and a cool scoring mechanic.  

I did note some minor production issues with this version — the box insert is poorly designed, the Rulebook has a couple of issues, and the yellow and orange totems are way too difficult to distinguish — but overall I’m glad I picked it up.

The deluxe edition comes with several maps, plus a variety of twists on gameplay.  

Loot of Lima was one of my most anticipated games of the year, and it did not disappoint.  It descends from Deduce or Die — which I’ve long considered one of the best and most challenging deduction games, and which made our list of 10 Great Deduction Games — and is designed by Opinionated Gamer Larry Levy.  

The production value on this is top notch, and the gameplay is fascinating.  This is one of those deduction games where asking the right question matters, and it is a perfect amount of brain burn-y.  I look forward to many additional plays of this in coming months.

There was a production issue with this release at low player counts, but I think I’d always play 3-5 players, so I shrugged that off.

It had been a couple of years since I pulled out Power Grid: The Card Game.  I personally love this twist on Power Grid, once exclaiming that I don’t miss the map.  But my group prefers the full game, so this doesn’t hit the table as often as it should.  

I wanted to teach a member of my game group Power Grid without going all the way to the full version.  He instantly fell in love and we ended up playing PG:TCG twice in a row, before then playing Power Grid.

I guess I’ve been in a mood for deduction games?  The Search for Planet X almost fell off my radar (pun intended), but then I saw on BGG that it was an app-driven deduction game.  I normally eschew the space theme, but I tried this out, and I was pleasantly surprised.  It has been a big hit with me and my group.  It plays quickly, is easy to learn, and is one of the better non-numeric deduction games out there.  There is a basic version and advanced version, and if you’re at all familiar with deduction games, I’d recommend jumping straight to advanced.  (I’m told the solo mode still isn’t finished, so if you’re buying for that, I must alert caution.)

I normally only do 5 title a month, but I added a bonus game to this entry! Shortly before the pandemic, I was playing a lot of Ultimate Werewolf Extreme on an early prototype. Gaming in large groups has obviously been out of the question since then, so I didn’t get to play more of this amazing Werewolf redo until Gen Con, where I got in quite a few games of it at night. And this week, I got to play two games (including with designer Ted Alspach and several other board game personalities!), which you can watch on Youtube!

The new edition has dozens of new roles, some stellar new artwork, and additional features on the cards to streamline gameplay and make for easier moderating. There will also be a new app that helps run the game. The Kickstarter going on right now has a bunch of extras too, everything from polarized sleeves (to prevent peeking) to slap bracelets to denote eliminated players.

This is simply the best edition of Ultimate Werewolf yet, and arguably the best social deduction game of all time.

A Zoom game of Ultimate Werewolf is about to get started! Felix of Werewolf ATL did an amazing job moderating, and several other content creators from around the board game world joined it!

THOUGHTS OF OTHER OPINIONATED GAMERS

Tery: I still prefer Istanbul the Dice Game over Istanbul. It keeps all the things I like about Istanbul but removes the setup time and the longer player turns. It has held up well, and plays very quickly, so it makes an excellent intro/end game for a game day or a quick game when you want something with a bit of strategy but don’t have a lot of time.

Fraser: I like Power Grid: The Card Game although I would prefer to play the full game in preference.  What I found interesting is that a few people that I played it with who do not identify as Power Grid fans like the card game quite a lot.

I have played The Search for Planet X once so far (for a certain Doctor’s research) but will definitely play it again (for fun, not research).  Speaking of which, on the next play I will pay more attention to research.

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