Patrick Brennan: Game Snapshots – 2021 (Part 8)
The games I’ve played the most times so far this year all happen to be on BoardGameArena and obviously fall to the lighter end. Here’s a quick grab if you’re looking for something decent in this space.
Die Crew: the implementation is outstanding.
Dragonheart: a late night 2 player closer that’s quick and holds up.
Tranquility: it’s not so tranquil playing with Jagged Rocks and 4 Sea Monsters, but still.
7 Wonders: A quick opener while we wait for others to come online.
Butterfly: A closer that turns out to be kingmakery with experienced players, but we accept it for the short neat gameplay it provides.
Martian Dice: Stupid dice rolling fun, but funny if everyone buys in to what it is.
Lucky Numbers: Pleasant easy-to-teach opener.
Draftosaurus: Another quickish opener but with a bit more watchy nous required.
Oh Hell: Late night cards to finish when there are 5 or more players.
New games to me recently (some on BGA, some not) include …
COLORPOP (2011): Rank 14834, Rating 5.6
The aim is to be the first to have nothing left on the board in your secret colour. Each turn, remove a grouping of same-coloured marbles and everything slides down Tetris style, and columns close up if a column is emptied forming new potential groupings. There’s lots of luck in the initial groupings, and in how much effort it takes to bring solo-coloured marbles together (so as to remove them), and this pretty much defines your game. While perusing the board for decent moves is ok, given these issues, there just doesn’t seem enough here for much replay.
CTRL (2020): Rank 9957, Rating 6.1
Only played with 4 players and, being multi-player abstract, it suffers from all the usual kingmaking who-do-I-pick on issues typical of the genre. It condenses the more interesting Pueblo into 20 minutes, placing lego-like pieces onto one of the 5 sides in the hope it won’t be covered up by other players. Each cube that’s visible at the end, looking at each side and on top, scores. But it’s too abstract and king-makery to be fun for me and there doesn’t seem to be much room for cleverness – just take turns adding pieces on in places that cover other people’s up and make it move-expensive to cover yours if you can. Dale reviewed it prior, maybe felt slightly better than a “4”
THE GAME: QUICK AND EASY (2020): Rank 4637, Rating 7.0
It may be an offshoot but this abridged version feels like an abridge too far. The handsize of 2 and having only 2 decks to play on means there’s nothing much clever to be done. The only trick is to communicate clearly on the colours you have in hand (as colour on colour allows one to re-set a deck) and where you want them played if you can (I’m not sure if that’s even legal, but if it isn’t, it makes it even more a crapshoot) and hope you get lucky enough to continually re-set the decks using colour. Or don’t get lucky and die.
INFINITY GAUNTLET: A LOVE LETTER GAME (2020): Rank 1778, Rating 7.2
A surprisingly decent re-mix of the Love Letter mechanic. Three players play from a common deck trying to smack the villain with enough hits to win. The villain is playing from their deck to either get enough hits on the other 3 or survive long enough to get 6 win cards out. The hits are usually a result of simultaneous revelation of non-played cards, much the same as the original Baron fights. It provides a nice team gangup social occasion. The team play isn’t much more than trying to tee someone else up who might have a better shot at getting a hit than you with some soup-up benefits, but that’s more than the original provides. It provides the same groan/cheer factor on losing/winning a hit, but with the side benefit of no one being eliminated from play for a while. I don’t need to seek it, but I welcomed the variety.
JEKYLL vs HYDE (2021): Rank 5107, Rating 7.0
It’s hard to do 2 player trick games well, but this takes a pretty good stab at it. In each of the three rounds, Hyde is playing to win either as many or as few of the 10 tricks as they can, and Jekyll is trying to manipulate the tricks towards an even 5/5 split. What makes the game interesting is the colour hierarchy (ie which suit trumps which) being set by the order in which colours are first led, which has huge consequences in the later tricks when players are being short suited, and the potion effects which allow card exchanges and tricks to be stolen, also with huge consequences. Anyway, if offers good things to think about and each role offers a different challenge. Dale and James Nathan liked it.
ORIFLAMME (2019): Rank 1630, Rating 7.2
Everyone has the same set of 10 characters, but only plays out 6 of a randomly chosen 7 of those, 1 each round. This gives it a slight Ohne Furcht Und Adel feel, of trying to work out what each player may have played and take advantage with your own placings, but there’s less info and therefore more guesswork involved. To balance that the game is much shorter. Each round the card you play may be revealed for its effect or kept hidden to accumulate VPs. I enjoyed the eventual revelations of each card, particularly those that had been hidden for a few rounds, and the resolution. It’s clunky physically, better online, but even that didn’t go down well enough with my gaming groups due to the luck overdose and some kingmakery aspects. On the bright side its shortish timeframe gives it scope to be fun rather than churlish with the right group. Dale felt it was pretty swingy too…
QUETZAL (2020): Rank 4747, Rating 6.8
Stock-standard Euro. It has a likeable twist in that you roll the meeples at the start of the phase and they can land on their black side, white side, or their side (allowing them to be black or white). It’s then worker placement, but some spots only take white sided meeples, others black-sided meeples, some are bidding spots where you can only be outbid by someone placing more meeples of the same colour and so on. Anyway, place workers to get sets of cards, place workers to turn them into VPs, place workers to get tiles that give one-off and ongoing benefits, play 5 rounds, re-set after each. The main strategy is to see what other people have rolled and plan to place meeples in bidding spots in the colour (black/white) you’re least likely to be outbid in … and then hope. All rather straight-forward, but ok. Reviewed by Dale in the past too…
SQUADRO (2018): Rank 7808, Rating 6.5
An abstract race game to get pieces from one side of the board to the other and back again, but being forced to start again if landed on by an opponent’s piece (who’s trying to do the same but at 90 degrees from you). It didn’t grab me as the turns seemed, if not straight-forward (depending on how much look-ahead you want to do) rather more predictable that you expect in an abstract – in that the risk/reward payoff of advancing a unit seems to be the primary driver of most moves. But the rules are easy and the quickish game-play was pleasant enough to more or less balance the sense of blandness it offered.
TEA TIME (2012): Rank 8042, Rating 5.9
I didn’t mind this little tile collecting game. The twist is that the tiles come out on either their +ve or -ve side, and in each tile type, you try to collect only one side (as taking one from the other side will kill a tile you’ve previously taken in that set). Turns are simply to take 1, 2 or 3 tiles in a row, continue until the smallish grid is empty, and then repeat for a few rounds. The second twist is in the scoring where if you don’t get to 3 of a set, it’s better to collect none, so toward the end you may actually want to make some kills on some of your tile sets. There’s not much more to it but I enjoyed it as a quick filler, trying to work out how many to take, what other players will take and so on. It’s probably better online where it’s quick.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE GAME (2015): Rank 1034, Rating 6.7
I’ve run this as a spotlight 3 years back, but playing the Quick and Easy version reminded me of how much I liked the original as a filler. Each turn there’s a nice decision to make, there’s groan factor, some hand management, and every card draw holds interest. The communication requirements are simple yet vital. You’re never completely sure how well you’re doing, which provides interest throughout. The replay proves surprisingly resilient given there’s no theme to bring it on home, explained in part by its perfect length, by avoidance of the alpha-director problem, and by the provision of variants (the doubler cards, play 3 a turn, play with reduced hand size, etc).
Thoughts of other Opinionated Gamers:
Matt C.: Infinity Gauntlet: Love Letter is a hit at our house. The simplicity of the rules of Love Letter goes over well with my wife so it has been getting quite a bit of play. Infinity Gauntlet adds in some interesting mechanics, I particularly like playing with teams so it is a welcome spring for me. We’ve mostly played the game 2p or 3p and have found it entertaining, although I feel it is a bit difficult for the heroes to win. That may change with more experience. If we’re doing numbers, I’d put it around a 7 but will bump it up to 7.5 since it goes over so well here.
Mark Jackson: Also a fan of Infinity Gauntlet… for similar reasons to Patrick & Matt.
I’d add Marrakech (played live) and Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends (played turn-based) to the BGA recommendations.