In years past, we have compiled some quick takes on SPIEL games. This year, we’ve asked our writers to give a very small summation of their thoughts after playing games. It takes awhile to write up reviews, and by making this list of quick takes, hopefully you can get a feel for what we’re thinking of the new games in a quicker time frame.
Reviews for almost all these games are coming soon, but for now, you can read these. They are in alphabetical order. Our first set of one-line reviews can be found here.
Akropolis – This year’s Cascadia. It’s easier to teach, but possibly more challenging to play well, It will definitely scratch the same itch.
All Roads – an interesting little tile game where you are making loops of roads, trying to score points. It is super quick with not many turns – have to make the most of each tile play
Astra: This is an odd game with a fantastic theme of discovery of constellations. The main mechanic requires a fantastic pull between how much to help the discovery process in a collective sense. One play was very intriguing and left us wanting more.
Astra – Cool implementation of shared incentives in a pen-and-paper + tableau building game. There’s a great feeling to crunching over the options, deciding where to either help yourself or entice others, then reach across the table to make your mark.
Autobahn – a route building, delivery networking game based on the German Autobahns. Just one play at 4p, we found the game intriguing and difficult to score. The rules were a little dense and needed much parsing but it played very competitively.Challengers! I’ll be the first to admit that reading the rulebook of Challengers! left me cold – on paper, it reads like “War!: The Deck-Building Game”. (Credits for that humorous title go to one of my fellow OG writers.) On the table, however, it was a lot of fun each time we played… and it’s been the game I’ve talked the most about to my two sons (both gamers). We were pleasantly surprised how well the bot deck worked (since we always played with an odd number of players) and all of us agreed this would be a great game to play with a large group (it will play up to 8 players).
Birdwatcher – a linear set collection game – it’s neat because not only do you have to collect sets, but it matters when you collect the cards as sets are only made by cards collected one right after the other.
Block and Key – this takes the visual/spatial puzzle of Pueblo and isolates it. No worries about board play or anything else – just place the blocks so that you can see the patterns on your cards. Score 8 cards and win.
Caldera Park – a tile laying game of placing animals in herds to score. The game has a new selection mechanism where you are restricted on what types of tiles you can play and where you can play them. It’s surprisingly cerebral. Would never play with an AP prone person.
Challengers – a dueling game, with some deckbuilding features – you add 1 to 2 cards per round to your deck, and can cull as many cards out as you want. Then you duel, which is 70% autopilot, but still enthralling to watch it play out. Then modify your deck again. Play 7 duels, figure out who the two top players are, and they have a final duel to determine the winner. Second most played game from SPIEL so far
Dinosaur Island: Rawr & Write – Felt like I was making a little dino park and had more “depth” than I expected. Short play time was important, even though it meant I ended with more that I still wanted to do. Solo play and multiplayer were different but both interesting.
Dragonquest – not sure what people see in this one. It’s a roll and write.
Eleven: Football Manager Board Game While there are still some rules questions to be resolved, the underlying game system works like a charm and is fun to play, especially if you are (like myself) a fan of Premier League soccer. Match play is important – but the game is much bigger than winning matches… it’s actually an economic/management game. After two 2-player games and a solo game this weekend, I’m waiting impatiently for my my blinged-out copy of Eleven to arrive by the end of 2022.
Expedition – a combo deck building/exploring card game from Korea. Some questions about how some of the cards worked slowed us down, but in the end, it was a decent game of finding stuff and digging up treasure
Flamecraft – a beautifully done game that works. Not in a good or bad way; it’s a euro recipe filling game that just works. Nothing new here at all, so don’t come looking for innovation. If you like beautiful dragon art, this is the game for you.
Fun Facts – agreed with the statement that this isn’t necessarily fun nor about facts. It did have some moments, and I think better curated question cards would help
Great Western Trail Argentina – Pretty much the same game with a few differences. I haven’t completely justified having both but I thinks I wants it. I like it.
Heat: Pedal to the Metal – Heat is what happens when you partner the designers of Flamme Rouge with the production quality of Days of Wonder – an auto racing game that zips along and was very enjoyable to play. We only did one race with the base game rules, but there are advanced rules that add a number of elements including road & weather conditions, customizing your car, bots to race against, and linking multiple races together. The box includes 2 double-sided boards… so you start with four different raceways available to you.
Heat – the car racing version of Flamme Rouge. I prefer the bicycle theme better, but the actual game play here is more engaging; there is more finagling of the gear shifter as you wind your way around the different corners of the track. More planning and less deck luck than Flamme Rouge; but the flip of a card will still help determine your fate here.
Kuzooka – we played this with 5 players and it was a bust. Almost abandoned it. Not enough agency to make a meaningful decision at this count.
Marrakesh – the big game from Queen this year, done by Feld. It involves 9 to 10 mini-game-systems, but unlike Trajan, they are woven together in a way that makes sense. You don’t just play the minigames, you actually have to have a strategy of when and how to play them. Really looking forward to trying this again.
Marvel Dice Throne – I feel like I shouldn’t like this game, but my boys certainly do. I feel like the characters tend to do the same damage turn to turn, but it certainly feels like it is achieved in different ways. My favorite bit is perhaps the flavor of things. Thor’s Hammer certainly isn’t devastating when it does 1 point of damage, but recalling it and sending it out again certainly is fun. “Thunk!”
Pathogen – cute two player game where one person is a pathogen and the other plays as a doctor curing the plague. Essentially, try to connect one side of the board to the other with your pieces; an interesting dynamic as one of your two guys only goes on white spaces, the other guy goes on the black spaces.
Piazza Rabazza – a dex game with a shaking city that you have to deliver magnetic pizzas to hungry patrons. The pizzas sometimes didn’t jump off the pizza delivery tray, but it’s still a hoot to play
Planet B – a bit churny; buy cards and then power those cards for VPs. The election system is novel, and that part I really enjoyed. I hated the rules.
Powerline – a puzzle game where the placements are determined by the dice roll. Many people have not liked it, but I thought it was pleasing. Enough so, that I look forward to trying it again.
Precognition – a game that is built around an super interesting card passing system. In each round, you play 2 cards, one that you pick and one given to you from your RHO. In the current round, you also give 2 different cards to your RHO and you will get one of them back to play next turn (thus, the title of precognition). It only does one thing, but man, it’s an intriguing thing.
Ready, Set, Bet – I thought this would be great fun, but those (mostly non-gamers) I’ve shown it to are less impressed. They thought it was fun, but not the hit I was expecting. Hopefully it wasn’t just the race caller (me.)
Revive – a bit long for my tastes, but for those looking for an involved strategy game, this would be a great choice. The card play decisions were really neat (cards have two possible actions) and there was a lot to think about. Would definitely try it again
Rise – This is “Tracks: Game”. If you like combotastic play, this is for you. Essentially, pick cards that move you up on a track. This might trigger movement on another track or two, and each of those movements might do the same.
Sabika- 2 plays one with 2 players and one with 4. A big ol’ rondel game with lots of actions and not enough turns. There are many choices and while the theme may feel a bit thin, the way all the possible actions integrate is interesting. Tight game play makes this an I love it game.
The Great Split – The incentives for this I-split-you-choose game are wonderfully varied. The game is just long enough, too.
Tidal blades banner festival – is this a trick taking game? Not strictly; but lots of intriguing decisions. In each “trick”, you play a card, and different rewards are given to the highest card, the lowest card, and then to everyone else in the middle. Part of the game is area majority on the board – and part is a sort of race game. A good 30 minute game
World Splitters – an interesting idea of auctioning off spaces on the board in an area majority game. The tiebreaker system is possibly a game breaker; but in my one play so far, this was only theoretical. Will see what happens in the next game
We’ll be back in a few more weeks with one last set of one-liners. Hopefully by then, we’ll have gotten past the halfway mark of our SPIEL reviews too!