I’m thankful that f2f games are opening up again here in Australia because I’m about done with the recent plethora of lesser games being added to BoardGameArena that I felt obliged to explore because they were new. I prefer to keep expanding my gaming horizons and you never know if the next one is going to be interesting. The miss to hit ratio is simply too high though recently, further evidenced by the games I’ve waxed non-lyrically on today.
The adding of quantity over quality is frankly driving me back to f2f games faster than ever in the drive to find new quality, despite the convenience of not having to commute for an online gaming session which is not to be understated. This is not at all to rail against the provision of, and my gratitude for, free-to-air games but by way of explaining where my gaming is going. I’m sure I’m not an isolated case. (Well, I was isolated but am coming out of 2 year isolation … see what I did there?)
Anyway, new games to me since last I wrote include …
EGOCENTRIC WORLD (2020): Rank 20919, Rating 4.4
Discard a card if you have a pair of them, or discard a card that matches the top card on the discard pile, otherwise draw and play/discard a card. If you think you have the lowest hand call a stop, everyone else gets one last turn, then reveal and score face value of your cards, lowest score wins. Nothing interesting to think about, no real decisions, rounds are ended quickly by anyone who draws a decent hand so there’s little opportunity to improve and it’s a lottery whether you’ll improve anyway. No need to play again – kind of a kid’s game trying to make it in an adult’s world.
THE ISLE OF CATS (2019): Rank 97, Rating 7.9
My one game was dogged by analysis paralysis which dragged down the rating for what is otherwise a decent blend of standard mechanics. Draft a hand of cards that either provide speed (for turn order, which is important) or for buying power (also important) or special cards (to get filler-in tiles that are also important. Then you basically take turns buying polyominoes to fill your tableau, person who best fills their tableau is the likely winner (though there are other ways to score by fulfilling score card patterns). The downside is watching players analysing which of the remaining tiles (because the one they’d planned for has been taken) is the best take given the holes they have, where to place it, in what orientation – because there’s LOTS of permutations and that was the part that sucked a major part of decency out of the game.
Rating: 6 (and I’m a bit astonished that this is a top 100 game, but there you go)
KABALEO (2011): Rank 21504, Rating 5.3
2p game of placing pieces of different colours on top of each other, whoever’s secret colour has the most pieces on top at the end wins. You just can’t do anything clever – whoever got luckier covering up slightly more of the other player’s colour earlier when it was random choice should win and, by the time it’s obvious, just keep covering them. Not interesting.
MOROCCO (2016): Rank 6788, Rating 6.5
Think of 25 little 2×2 grids on the board, each grid wanting to be filled by meeples, with points for placing the highest and next-highest value of meeples in each grid by the time it closes. To make it something more, have a phase where cubes are gathered and you can only play in a grid by spending the right combination of cubes. So, gather cubes to allow you to place in the grids you want to place in, see where others can place, and then race to fill the grids where the process is to continually locate areas where you can maximise points for minimum investment. Way too abstract for its length and the game-play quickly becomes repetitive and grinding – it’s a lot of grids to fill.
THE MOTHER ROAD: ROUTE 66 (2022): Rank 18940, Rating 5.3 (Sackson / Soued)
It’s a re-working of Can’t Stop, same dice-choosing mechanism, but the map now provides points to whoever completes a column and also to anyone in second (if they’re more than halfway up the column). The game ends when a set number of columns are filled, most points wins. It uses the leapfrog jump variant which accelerates the game nicely and provides takeover opportunities, but it lacks that all-or-nothing push tension that Can’t Stop provides when there’s no second place.
PYRGA (2014): Rank 14652, Rating 6.9
2p abstract, 4×4 grid, 3 different types of piece. The piece you play dictates where the next player can play (like Insert) – placing a square allows placement in an orthogonally adjacent space, a cylinder means the same space, triangle anywhere in the pointed direction. Each space can hold one of each piece and the objective is to be the first to control 3 spaces (ie have 2+ of the 3 pieces in a space). It makes for a neat puzzle, seeing how far you can look ahead to force the opponent into ceding you control of a space. The boardspace feels manageable without being overwhelming (like many abstracts can be). Not sure I need to play it more but I enjoyed it for the 10min easy-rules game that it is.
RAINBOW (2021): Rank 15605, Rating 6.0
2p memory game. The cards have different colours on each side and you only see the side you can see when it’s placed on the table; your opponent sees the other side. The aim is to play the 6th card to the table without a colour being repeated (and then you earn them, play multiple rounds). You can play extra cards on your turn but to do so you must flip a card. Your opponent earns the cards if you mis-remember or if you take a punt and a colour is repeated. It takes some serious concentration to play round after round, keeping the hidden colours straight in your head and not mixing them with previous rounds, and it ends up being more an exercise than a game.
TINY FARMS (2020): Rank 13599, Rating 6.1
It’s quite a clever roll-and-write, picking a remaining die from the pool and either moving the blue meeple around the wheel and writing the two animals showing in the landed-in sector into your blue farm, or similar for the red meeple in your red farm. You want to keep aggregating the same animal in the same colour farm, and you also want to balance the number of animals in each farm, but those pesky dice just don’t seem to want to always co-operate. I’d to rate higher, but we found your scoring seems too sensitive to the dice gods, leaving the game to whoever gets luckiest.
THRIVE (2019): Rank 6942, Rating 6.9
It’s a 2p abstract combat game to land on and capture the other player’s pieces. It harks back to the old Octi which was rather neat for its time – each piece here has a 5×5 grid of holes in it, and each turn you get to add two pegs to whichever pieces you want to enhance its move capability. Adding them to the top middle spaces of a piece say now allows that piece to either move 1 or 2 spaces forward. So it’s a game of planning and avoiding look-ahead traps, planning and creating multiple threats, trying to make sure if one of your pieces is captured, you’ll be capturing two pieces in return. Easier said than done given how easy it is to move a piece out of trouble with so many movement options available and ever-expanding, so much so that it eventually turned into look-ahead overload rather than enjoyment.
SPOTLIGHT ON: TALLY HO (2021): Rank 918, Rating 8.5
This is a game my non-gamer family members have requested repeatedly over the years, also proving attractive with the kids. Individual games may be a luck fest depending on how the tiles come out, which is part of its charm with non-gamers, but it usually offers opportunities to weigh up right vs wrong plays mid or late game, even if they aren’t always game determining. As the humans I think you want to be clearing the board asap to free your hunters up to track down bears and foxes, and the animal player wants to generally use their foxes to lock hunters down if possible so there are different strategies to try. I’ve kept track over the 20 or so years I’ve been playing and the human to animal winning ratio is surprisingly even. It’s a fun game that’s easy to teach and play.
Thoughts of other Opinionated Gamers: