Launching Fireballs & Building Castles
A Quick Note:
For my first in a series of blog posts, I thought I'd start with the games that I've been playing the most this March. Every month (likely towards the end), I'll be writing a blog post on the top 5 board/card games that I've been playing and enjoying the most. I will also rank those 5 according to how much I've enjoyed playing them, with game number 1 being the game I've enjoyed playing the most. (Note: This doesn't mean I haven't enjoyed #5 - It's still my fifth most played game of the month, obviously I've enjoyed it!)
So, lets' get started with number 5!
5) Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar
Game Design: Restoration Games
Player Count: 2 - 4
Playing Time: ~ 45 minutes
Scour the mighty Fireball Island in search of treasures and snapshots, hide behind rotating tree roots and try to avoid both falling ember marbles and cataclysms that send up to 4 fireballs spewing out of the mouth of Vul-Kar. Starting out my list in the number 5 spot is Fireball Island, a game with an obviously impressive table presence. This 3D monstrosity is actually a remake designed by Restoration Games (home to legendary game designer, Rob Daviau) of an old game from the 1980's.
I'm not going to lie, this game only initially found its way into my collection because of its sheer size and awesomeness in table presence, despite its rather hefty price tag (to be fair, I got it on sale). But, having played it relatively regularly this month, I have found myself to quite enjoy the game itself. Fireball Island does a wonderful job at adding strategic decisions into an otherwise light party and dexterity game. Because of this, I've found that anyone from newbie to hobby board gamer can find something to enjoy in Fireball Island. Plus, who doesn't like dropping fireballs into Vul-Kar and watching fireballs and embers tumble across the board, knocking players over in their wake? It's an absolute delight!
4) Century: Spice Road
Game Design: Emerson Matsuuchi (Plan B Games)
Player Count: 2 - 5
Playing Time: 30 - 45 minutes
Century: Spice Road is often described (negatively) as "Splendor 2.0." But, I'm here to tell you that being Splendor 2.0 is not a bad thing. In a game of Century: Spice Road, you will be playing cards from your hand to produce and transform various spices in order to purchase merchant cards (points). After someone purchases their fifth card, the round is finished and whoever has the most points wins. In short, this game is a super simple engine-building game as throughout it you can purchase cards from a communal market that let you obtain and transform spices in various different ways to better suit your needs.
Now let's get back to the elephant in the room - Century: Spice road certainly has a Splendor feel to it. But this is actually a great thing. While it certainly feels a lot like Splendor (a simple engine building game), Century: Spice Road has a wonderful uniqueness to its simple mechanics that are actually incredibly different from Splendor. The spice trading/transforming mechanics are where this game shines, and because of this, engine building in Century: Spice Road is actually quite a bit more challenging than in Splendor, even though at first glance the game is just as simple.
The more I've played Century: Spice Road, the more I've come to appreciate how different it is from Splendor and how wonderfully designed it is. Add onto that that it is fun to play, has gorgeous components (you'll never want to stop playing with the cubes and bowls), and is incredibly easy to learn and it's no wonder that I can get this game to table just as easily as Splendor and that both beginner and advanced players enjoy playing.
[Bonus: Another unique aspect of Century: Spice Road is that is actually the first in a trilogy of "Century" games, with the second game that came out last year (Eastern Wonders) and third game coming out this year (A New World) all being completely stand-alone, totally different games that can somehow be mixed and played as even more unique games in any combination together. I have yet to play Eastern Wonders, the second game of the trilogy, but am excited at the prospect of unique games that can be mixed to form even more unique gameplay experiences.]
3) Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Player Count: 2 - 7
Playing Time: 45 - 60 minutes
If this game seems like it has a long title, that's because it is actually two game titles' Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig is a mashup of Between Two Cities (Stonemaeir Games) and Castles of Mad King Ludwig (Bezier Games). And the result is absolutely fantastic! The game is a tile-drafting game, in which you will be passing groups of room tiles in a circle, on each turn selecting two to keep to place in your castles. But here's where the trickiness comes in: You aren't building one castle, you are building two, one with the player on you right and one with the player on your left. At the end of two rounds of drafting, both castles are scored, and your final score is whichever castle scored lower.
Everything about this game is absolutely wonderful and it was hard for me to not rank this game even higher because it has quickly become a favorite of mine. The artwork of the rooms is wonderful (and entertaining if you pay attention), the "lower castle scores" scoring mechanic from Between Two Cities is absolutely seamlessly combined with the tile placement mechanics from Castles of Mad King Ludwig, and don't even get me started on the custom insert in the game box!!! (This is now the standard for all games. Period. There is no better, more functional insert than this insert.) No matter who is playing. I never have any troubles with getting this game back to table, and I love it!
2) 7 Wonders Duel (+ Pantheon Expansion)
Game Design: Antoine Bauza & Bruno Cathala (Repos Production)
Player Count: 2
Playing Time: 30 - 45 minutes
In case it hasn't been mentioned before, I am engaged (July 27th! Woot Woot!) and as such my fiancé and I are constantly searching for games that play great with just two players. 7 Wonders Duel (with or without its expansion) is one of the best that we have found so far.
Specifically designed for two players (no more, no less), 7 Wonders Duel is an absolutely wonderful little card drafting game, with players selecting cards from an array of face-up and face-down cards to develop their own civilization. While I'm afraid to admit it to the world, I really did not enjoy the mechanics of the original game that 7 Wonders duel is based off of, 7 Wonders. However, 7 Wonders Duel completely destroyed my expectations for what 7 Wonders could become, adding and changing some totally unique and interesting mechanics while still maintaining the overall feel of civilization building that came in 7 Wonders.
One of my favorite mechanics in Duel is the addition of two instant victory conditions. Typically, you will play 3 rounds and the winner will be determined by whomever has the highest scoring civilization at the end of the game. However, if you are crafty enough, you can also instantly win and end the game through military supremacy or scientific supremacy. This is more difficult but certainly possibly if you play your luck right. Often times this forces you to make difficult choices: "Should I go for military victory and sacrifice points?"
You can tell that we are enjoying a game when, after only having the game for less than a month, we buy the expansion. That is how much we have enjoyed 7 Wonders Duel. I am also happy to report that the "Pantheon" expansion has definitely lived up to the original. This game has some really enjoyable deep strategy combined with light gameplay that finishes in, typically, 30 minutes or less making it very easy to get to table regularly. If you are looking for a good two-player game, look no further.
Game Design: Jamey Stegmaeir (Stonemaier Games)
Player Count: 1 - 5 (up to 7 with expansion)
Playing Time: 90 - 120 minutes
It's been described as the "game of the century" and that's for good reason. Scythe is one of the most incredibly well designed, beautiful and entrancing games that I have ever played. Set in an alternate history 1920s Europa (built into a whole world designed by artist Jakub Rózalski), Scythe puts players at the forefront of a faction with a focus on agriculture and the threat of war. Factions will compete to spread their control over Europa, farm for resources to construct buildings, increase their military might, complete secret objectives, and so much more.
If all that sounds like a lot, it's because it is. Scythe is a heavy engine building Euro game with games that can last up to 2 hours or beyond if you are playing with new players. But the investment is well worth the payoff. There are very few, if any, mechanics in Scythe that I don't enjoy immensely and every single game feels immensely satisfying. Regardless of if you win or lose you'll want to play again, to better build you engine or try a new strategy. To top it all off, Scythe is incredibly variable, with players taking on a random mix of a faction with its own unique faction abilities and action mat with its own unique mixing of the cost and rewards for different actions. And don't even get me started on Scythe's components... they are all top notch and stunningly beautiful.
Again, there's a reason that Scythe has been called the "game of the century" and there's a reason that I have it as my number one game this month and anticipate having it for several months to come (so long as I can get it to table). It is an absolutely fantastic game, in every sense of the word.
What are your Top 5 Games or what is your Number 1 Game that you've been playing this month?
Let me know in the comments below!