August Game Reviews

Been playing a lot more board games lately.   Check these out:

Top picks for August:
Archipelago is a clear winner for me among everything I’ve played this week. It’s a semi-cooperative game that’s like Settlers on crack.  “Semi-cooperative” means the game is definitely competitive because each player pursues a personal objective (win! in a certain way) that diverges from the other players’ objectives, but at the end of the game, each player scores points based on other players’ objectives.  Yeah< I realize that won’t make any sense until you’ve played it but seriously — if you’ve played the crap out of Settlers of Catan and are ready to try something new, especially if you’ve mastered SC: Cities & Knights, then Archipelago needs to be on your list.   It’s all cut-throat and awesome.

Compounded (Kickstarter, now available for purchase) – enjoy chemistry without having to do any actual chemistry. Not sure how educational this is, but it’s fun to play and a well-designed game (both in play mechanic & in printed materials/graphic design). You build compounds in the “lab” using foundational elements like carbon, hydrogen, sulfur.  The chemical formulas for the compounds ARE correct.  Very playable.

Star Realms is a deck-building game and really reminds me of the excellent PC game Homeworld by Sid Meier.  I’d never played deck-builders before, but they use a simple mechanic (collect better cards & trash cruddy ones to give yourself a juggernaut of awesome cards for each round of play).  Don’t let the simplicity fool you – the game demands strategy in addition to the luck of the draw.  This particular game is just gorgeous – the art style for the ships & space bases (your cards) made my jaw drop.  Hats off to the artists here.  We’ve played this both “every man for himself” and co-op, and I enjoyed both.

 

An example of the Star Realms art style (from Kickstarter)
An example of the Star Realms art style (from Kickstarter)

Arctic Scavengers is another deck building game. Technically the first one I’ve ever played so it took me a few rounds to catch on.  A good play.  You build up your deck to accomplish a variety of purposes, including fighting (which nets you better gear or more people) and digging for resources in a junk pile. Since the ultimate goal of the game is to have the most people in your tribe, I like that you have to balance acquiring tools with keeping people cards who might not otherwise seem “useful.”  Just like in real life – the tension that “people are more important than things.”

Also played:

See? Isn't this cool??
See? Isn’t this cool??

Mars Needs Mechanics – this game gets a +5 for incredible steampunk graphic design and a gorgeous overall aesthetic, but a -1 for having somewhat confusing directions, and another -1 for being built entirely on an economic game mechanic. You manipulate a market of commodities via “machines” and player action.  It’s set on Mars but the game does nothing to really expand on what could have been a really cool setting.   However, if you’re looking for a way to teach supply-demand dynamics in a game that’s not otherwise too complicated, this is a good choice.

Sushi Go! wins for being the cutest game EVER.

from http://www.savvyeat.com/sushi-go/
from http://www.savvyeat.com/sushi-go/

Would be a lot of fun for kids – teaches matching, some basic strategy, and appreciation of sushi. Hey, that’s worthwhile.  You collect various cards as you pass your hand around.  Easy.

 

I’m sure we’ll be playing the rest of Jesse’s 50 or 60 games, and adding more. There are also tabletop RPG’s worth mentioning, like the gorgeous Fragged Empire that I just backed on Kickstarter — because #Australia and because #futuristic #cyberpunk  … but that’ll have to wait for another day.    🙂

Time to play some Civ V ….

Oh, and did I mention we’ve got a couple friends developing their own game? Yeah! if you’re in the Upstate, keep an eye on your local board game or comic book store for a playtest of The Specialists. It’s a co-op heist game for up to 5 players, and the guys would love to know what you think!

 

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