Chris Wray: What I Enjoyed Playing in January 2021

This is the January 2021 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.

I hadn’t updated the series in a while because I’ve been on an extended break from writing about board games, but I suddenly find myself with a few games to review, so I’m returning. Hopefully I can get back to doing at least this monthly and the occasional review.

My most played game was Concordia, which I hadn’t played in years. I’ve kind of fallen in love with the game again — this pandemic has been good for getting me to re-explore old games — and have tried out a couple of new maps. In particular, I can recommend the Balearica and Cyprus map, which add mechanic (a fish-themed rondel) that mixes up the “Prefect” action from the base game.

As a mea culpa about my not playing Concordia for years, I had dismissed the game a few months after its release on the grounds that the player who buys the most cards pretty much always wins. I’ve since realized that that is part of the fun… it isn’t exactly easy to be the player buying the most cards!

Era: Medieval Age saw its first major expansion — called Rivers and Roads — released this past month. The base game inspires mixed feelings among those in my life: my parents love it, my sister and brother-in-law don’t, and my game group likes it. But I really enjoy the game, and I was eager to try out the expansion, which I (correctly) assumed would add new buildings plus rivers and roads. What I didn’t realize until I opened the box was that it also came with cool pre-planned scenarios, and I was delighted by just how much variation this adds.

We’ve been playing this a lot lately to figure out new strategies with all of the old buildings. I’m surprised this game hasn’t gotten more attention in the hobby than it has the past couple of years: I think this is a wonderful little engine builder.

Faiyum is a new deck building game from Friedemann Friese and 2F-Spiele. Set in Ancient Egypt, the game uses the card market from Power Grid (where you have a numbered deck and the lowest numbered four are available for purchase) with a dash of deck building and a tense game ending.

It is heavier than most of Friedemann’s games — and slightly more complicated because of the sheer number of different symbols on cards — but it a novel twist on deck-building. And given that the game is very much driven by the order in which cards come out, this will have a high degree of replayability.

I’ve played the game three times now, and I should have a full review out in the next few days. But for now, I’ll note that the game is excellent, and my group and I have really enjoyed playing it.

Rococo Deluxe Edition was one of my favorite games of 2020, and I’ve been eager to get it to the table over and over again. I hadn’t actually played Rococo before this came out, but now I see how it garnered its Kennerspiel des Jahres nomination a few years ago.

Rococo is a fun (and original) theme mixed with a pretty big mashup of several different Euro mechanics.

The EGG production value on the deluxe edition is simply stunning, adding to the experience.

Wingspan is a family favorite, to the point where I’ll gleefully buy whatever expansion comes out, then we spend time pouring over the new bird cards.

But the Oceania expansion really impressed me. Not only was it nice to see more birds, but I felt like this expansion added a bit more gameplay variation than the European one. There are new player boards, a new in-game resource (nectar, which also has point bonuses for who spends the most of it), new goals, etc. If you like Wingspan, I think this is the first expansion that you should consider adding to the base game.

And in case you’re curious, yes, I’ve managed to fit both expansions into the base game box!

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