Patrick Brennan: Game Snapshots – 2023 (Part 1)

Patrick Brennan: Game Snapshots – 2023 (Part 1)


Gaming ran second fiddle to election work for much of 2022 but for what it’s worth the year at least saw:

          75 new titles

          168 different titles

          458 games


Each of these are about half what I might get to in a more normal year I guess. The most played games were:


The Game (41) – it turns out this is actually decent as a 2 player as well

The Crew: Mission Deep Sea (26) – still the best

Barbu (17) – fun, light, quick standard card deck game

Pandemic: Rising Tide (15) – working our way up to and now (still) trying to win at Master level

Gloomhaven (15) – working thru Jaws Of The Lion

Living Forest (11) – taking the title of the most interesting new mid-weight Euro for the year

Tranquility (9) – now been supplanted by its sister game (per below)

Carnival Of Monsters (9)

New Frontiers (9)

Space Base (8)

Dune: Imperium (8) – most played heavy Euro for the year

Llama (7)

7 Wonders (7)

Oh Hell (7)

Tranquility: The Ascent (6)

Spirit Island (6) – picked up the expansions, working thru the new powers

Azul (6)

Ark Nova (6) – my favourite new BIG Euro

Everdell (5)

Narabi (5) – don’t bother, won’t play again

Tucano (5) – don’t bother, won’t play again

Underwater Cities (5)

Anno 1800 (5)


And back to our regular programming, here are some thoughts on new games I’ve played recently …


BIG 2 (n/a): Rank 5993, Rating 6.7

A climbing escalation game using a standard deck, the twist being that you can use any poker combination to get cards out. Using a flush for instance to get rid of what would otherwise be 5 singles provides lots of options … if only you can get the lead in the first place to get it out! There are options for good play therefore but, like all the games in this genre, it’s still pretty random.

Rating: 7

fairy trails

FAIRY TRAILS (2020) Rank 5802, Rating 6.2 – Rosenberg

Play a tile each turn (from your hand of 2) that adds house spots to one of your coloured trails and hopefully helps close it down, at which point score all your house spots on that closed trail. First to get out 19 houses wins. Each tile has trails in both colours in all sorts of turn / straight / dead-end configurations. The board quickly becomes a kaleidoscope of tile placement possibilities that becomes too much work to absorb and too much time to optimise each placement for what seems to be meant to be a light 2p romp so the rating dropped a bit each time the map grew.

Rating: 5


HEDGEHOG HOP (2019): Rank 15608, Rating 6.5

Place a tile against a matching tile to collect tiles for points. Shift tiles in the played row/column along and draw. When all cards are drawn and played, score end-game points equal to the largest contiguous tile group in each of the three elements listed on your last-kept tile. Which is an absolute lottery – the final plays shift things and completely mess up any groups you may have been working towards. It’s a random on random mess.

Rating: 3


MY CITY (2020): Rank 232, Rating 7.7 – Knizia

Turn a random card, everyone place the same polyomino piece on their personal board, building outwards. Aim to cover all spaces and keep same coloured pieces grouped together. You’re continually analyzing what pieces are left and keeping spaces open for them as much as possible. It’s fine for a play, but we’ve played this game in numerous incarnations before. Putting lipstick on it, tweaking board spaces, adding more and more scoring conditions doesn’t make the gameplay any different or any more interesting – it’s still the same piece vs space crunch and it ain’t the most interesting crunch out there.

Rating: 6


THE RED CATHEDRAL (2020): Rank 210, Rating 7.8

I like the resource gathering wheel. Move a die spaces equal to its pip value to get the resources of the space it lands on, then re-roll the die for future players. If the resource dice aren’t kind, I like how you can reserve a contract to get an ongoing bonus you can apply to a specific coloured die when gathering resources, or spend a turn fulfilling a contract using the gathered resources. I also liked the decision conflict it generates – you want to build big-point “attractions” early so as to max their prestige value, but you want to build them late to maximise end-game contract fulfilment bonuses. Not a fan of the area majority scoring aspect though which downs it a notch. I’ve only played it with the contractor’s expansion which adds another option – to get meeples out to earn one-use advantages and bonus points. I wasn’t sold so much on that, but I can see how it might be attractive to old-hands looking for new blood. I found it a neat 60 minute affair with appealing choices which played briskly.

Rating: 7


TILETUM (2022): Rank 1120, Rating 8.1 – Luciani / Tascini

The board style throws you back to Euro gaming circa 2002 but then the modern twists come. I love the action wheel idea – pull dice out of a bag, roll, allocate them to their designated action based on their pip value and then players have numerous options – take high resources (in the type you need) and low action points (in an action that’s hopefully also useful), or low resources but a high number of actions in the action you want, or middle of each. The resources are dictated by the die you take from that action slot. There’s so much to think about – scarcity in the resources you want, scarcity of future action points in the action you want, and each round the number of action points in your preferred action type will drop while others go high. There are lots of different approaches to scoring VPs and you’re presented with different means within each approach. The AP can get frighteningly high with this many options, especially if the die you wanted is taken just before your turn. The iconography overload will also make initial games longer and a 4p game can stretch well over the 2hr mark if you’re not mindful, and yes this is despite only getting 12 turns each – turns can be long! There’s enough variability in the setup (eg different round-by-round VPs objectives) to offer significant replay though and that’s the other attraction.

Rating: 8


TRANQUILITY: THE ASCENT (2021): Rank 12088, Rating 6.8

The mechanic may be the same as the original (pay tiles from your hand to place a tile on the board) but the strategy and the decisions on how best to play are quite different. You have more freedom on how to start the numbers in each row but with that comes great responsibility depending on what your colleagues may have in hand. You have to be much more careful to track what’s been played to ensure each row can be completed without extravagant cost. Each of the expansions add variety and interest in their own right, and combining them makes quite the challenge. While the original was lauded for its tranquility (once you’ve set a strategy, you lay back and play it out) I think the extra care needed with this one makes it superior to the original.

Rating: 8


TURING MACHINE (2013): Rank 1651, Rating 7.9

While not quite on the same scale as starting a land war in Asia, starting a game of Turing Machine late at night when tired certainly counts as a mistake. You have to deduce a scenario’s 3 digit code (5x5x5). Pick a random code that suits the scenario’s questions and range of answers, get the matching punch-cards for the picked code, line them up, and the one spot that has a hole punched thru all 3 cards reveals whether your code satisfies the question or not. So, we managed the introductory scenario just fine, interesting concept. Pulled a more advanced one out and, well, we’re not exactly low-end of our species but we’re sitting there trying to work out WTF the range of answers to a few of the questions even meant in relation to a code and ended up giving up. I put this in the “challenging as hell but fun it ain’t” category.

Rating: 5

wandelenen turme

DIE WANDELNDEN TURME (2022): Rank 5166, Rating 7.3 – Kiesling / Kramer

Move your meeples, or move towers containing yours (and other players’) meeples, around a circular board to get to the scoring spot. Or don’t move and wait until the scoring spot rotates past you (being the twist) and then jump in. But only move as the cards you draw allow you. Oh what fun when all your meeples are trapped under towers and you’re forced to spend actions moving towers off your pieces to allow them to move next time. Unless they’re trapped again in the meantime. And oh what more fun it is memorising where your trapped meeples are. I wasn’t altogether unhappy when drink was spilt over the game and we abandoned. Not my cup of turme.

Rating: 4


WOODCRAFT (2022): Rank 1420, Rating 7.9 – Arnold / Suchy

High complexity head-spinning Euro. The action selection mechanism allows you to take actions that others have taken recently but doing that drives the action wheel around and increases the rewards for taking actions that haven’t been taken in a while, making for hard decisions. Using different coloured dice for resource power means the actions are more convoluted than normal, requiring you to gather and manipulate them into the pips you need to satisfy the contracts you take, or to build improvements to your engine, or lots of other things that I didn’t explore because I didn’t have the head-space to focus on more than the things I was working on. Lots of little bonuses to work towards along the way as you flesh out your personal tableau, which gives some direction and also makes for some big turns when things start coming together. The replay is that you can’t build everything and it provides an opportunity to focus on a different approach next time.

Rating: 7

Thoughts of other Opinionated Gamers:

Doug G (Garrett’s Games podcast): Shelley and I rank Tiletum as one of our favorites of 2022 – and as we discuss on the podcast, it has one of the clearest rulesets for a meatier game. I wish all games did as good a job with their rules! The game itself uses dice in an inventive manner and breezes along. Though we also enjoyed Woodcraft, we found it more convoluted than we wanted. We’ve decided that given our love of new games, having to re-learn this game from scratch each time we would pull it off the shelf meant it fits the “enjoyed, but we can move on,” so it’s on the “find a new home” pile. Finally, Red Cathedral has been a fun one to come back to with the new expansion that was released recently. The guilds in the expansion add some nice new wrinkles to an interesting game of resource collection through dice movement around the rondel. 

Mark Jackson: While I agree with Patrick on “The Wandering [yawn] Towers”, I actually enjoyed My City a great deal more than he did. It’s not ground-breaking, but it’s very enjoyable played 2 player.

Ben Bruckart: Its hard not to rate Tiletum up near the very tippy top for me. It is an extremely tight and well crafted game with limited number of actions. Efficiency gains through comboing and well planned turns pay dividends. While it isn’t mentioned here, I also found Rise to be a tight and straight forward Euro that has less of a teach than Tiletum but feels just as crunchy. 

Larry:  I’m still in the process of exploring Tiletum, but all indications are it’s another great title from the peerless design team of Luciani and Tascini.  The dice mechanism gives you consistently tough choices and the large number of bonus tiles available allows you to cascade your actions to give you those oh-so-satisfying big turns.  Even though it’s a bit rules heavy, none of the actions are particularly complicated, so this is a little more accessible than the designers’ usual games, without sacrificing any depth.  The choice of dice colors, which can be hard to distinguish, is definitely annoying; you’d think a publisher called “Boards & Dice” would do a better job here.  But overall, this is looking to be one of my favorites from 2022 and could well wind up being my personal game of the year.

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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1 Response to Patrick Brennan: Game Snapshots – 2023 (Part 1)

  1. Martin G says:

    The Wandering Towers is great fun!

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