When not playing our tabletop rpg campaigns (see also: most of the rest of this blog currently), we've enjoy busting out some board games. Every so often, we pick up a new one that we really like. Here's what we've got into over the last year or so:
My wife loves the Ticket To Ride games. A lot. We own most of the iterations and have played them more times over the years than I could possibly count. We've occasionally tried other train-themed games, but TTR had always remained king.
Then about a year ago, I got her Iron Dragon for Christmas. Since then I think we've played TTR maybe twice. I mean, I can remember playing it once for sure. There might have been another time. I dunno.
This is actually an old game from the 90s, but it was reprinted in late 2017. The game involves connecting cities like TTR, but you also have to deliver goods from city to city based on demands, and manage your cash to build new rails. It's everything we liked about TTR, and then some.
Iron Dragon is a train-based, empire-building game with a sort of fantasy-industrial flavor. Each city on the board produces one or two resources, and you have cards that indicate which cities want which goods. You build track to deliver the wanted item to the city, and you get paid - the harder it was to get the item there, the bigger the payout. Then you draw another demand card and expand your rail lines into new territory. You can hire different foremen to help you build in different regions, and upgrade your train to go faster and carry more.
If there's one negative to ID, it's that it's a long game. Playing with one other player when both of you know the rules well, a game takes about 2 hours. If you add more people or you're playing with new players, add an hour or two.
It turns out that the Decemberists got into playing board games. Back in 2016, they hired the designers at Twogether Studios to create rules for a game based on the arcane, antiquated aesthetics of a photo shoot they'd done some years earlier, and launched a Kickstarter to fund it. When one of my favorite bands wanted to do a project with one of my favorite hobbies, I was all in.
Since I got my copy back in late 2017, I've played it quite a bit, and it's one of the games I love introducing to people.
Illimat plays like a classic card game with some modern, mechanical twists. It has enough recognizeable elements to be extremely accessible, but enough novelty to make it interesting. The game is played in hands, where player attempt to "harvest" cards from different areas of the playing field. The changing "seasons" of each area affect which actions you can and cannot do, and the "luminary" cards add additional, transient rules.
My friend Rucht and I actually got to talk with designers of the game on our Table Dragon podcast a while back. We had some issues with the audio quality, but the conversation was a blast.
I do tend to get my wife a new game for Christmas each year. For two reasons, really. One, she likes board games, and two, she is really difficult to shop for.
We also have this tradition of playing boardgames around the Christmas tree during the holiday season. In fact, it's probably the season where we play the most games.
This year, I wanted to do something different. I'd heard about "legacy" board games, but had never played one - so I did a little googling for one that was well-reviewed and looked like the kind of thing my wife would be into. I settled on Charterstone.
Let me say that this game is awesome. It's a fairly standard (if complex) worker-placement game, but the legacy elements are amazing. The introduction of mechanics a little at a time is a great way to build a complex game, and the unfolding story is interesting and surprisingly....odd. We're six games in to the 12-game campaign, and it continues to surprise us with new aspects.
If you pick up this game - which I do recommend - make sure you only read what you're supposed to, and make sure you read that very, very carefully: if you don't do something just right, you can screw stuff up. Probably not irreparably, but enough that it will affect future games. Also, don't overthink it: just do what it tells you to do, make sure you've got it all, and then just play with what you know. The game will build itself from there. Really cool.
This was one of the many games introduced to me by one or more of my many gamer/board-gamer friends. This one I've only played once so far, but I've got to mention it, because it's so cool.
First, the premise of Stuffed Fables is awesome: all of the players are the stuffed animals belonging to a little girl. They protect her at night, of course.
Second, the game progression is interesting. It plays a little like a board game, a little like an rpg, and a little like a choose-your-own-adventure book. Basically, each page of the game book contains a bit of story and a game board with a given objective. The players move around the board and perform actions based on their character abilities and the objective on that "page" of the story. After completing the actions on that page/board, you flip to another one based on what happened.
The game has an interesting dice-drawing mechanic; most of the other mechanics of Stuffed Fables seem fairly standard, but well implemented. It's a cooperative game as well, which I always enjoy. Also, the miniatures look awesome, and I can't wait to paint them.
I heard cool things about this game online and encountered it in passing at our (mostly) yearly Trogland Meetup, but I didn't get to play it until more recently. It did not disappoint.
Vast is a pretty unique game in my experience. The premise is a group of conflicting parties all wanting something from a given situation - specifically, a situation involving a cave, a dragon, a knight, a theif, a tribe of goblins, and, of course, treasure.
Some of the goals are mutually exclusive, but others are not. I may not get the specifics quite right, but it's something like this: The Knight wants to kill the dragon. The Dragon wants to wake up and leave the cave (presumably to sow chaos elsewhere), the Theif wants to steal the treasure. The Goblins want to kill the Knight. The Cave wants to collapse on all of these noisy intruders so that it can rest.
Each player plays one of the above roles (including the Cave!), and has their own set of actions and abilities to perform on their turn. The first to accomplish their objective wins the game.
Now, when I say that each player has their own set of actions and abilities, I mean they each have their own unique set of mechanics. This makes the game very interesting, but also very difficult to learn. In most games, if you're new, after a brief overview you have someone else go first and you just kind of watch what they do to get the gist of how the thing works. That method is utterly useless with Vast, because what the other players do has literally nothing in common with what you'll be doing. And, unfortunately, the rulebook could be several orders of magnitude more clear on a lot of things. I recommend google and youtube if you don't have someone handy who knows how to run your particular entity to get you going.
It definitely has a learning curve, but it's definitely worth it.
There are several other games we've played a little and enjoyed as well. Boss Monster, Smash Up, Clank, Kodama, and Rise of Tribes come to mind. There are probably others. That last one I only got to play a partial game of, but it seemed really neat.
Our daughter has also started getting into games a bit. Her current favorites are Sleeping Queens, Set, and Decadolo. We got her Between Two Cities for Christmas, and I'm looking forward to trying that one - as soon as she cleans her room.
There are, of course, always a number of other games I've heard good things about that I'd love to pick up at some point. Right now that list contains KeyForge, Terrra Mystica, Gaia Project, Scythe, Swords and Strongholds, Also love to play Roll for the Galaxy again.
I'm sure there's something cool I've left out. I think in the future I'll try to post these one at a time as we pick them up.