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Top ten new games we played over Summer!

Our run down of our top ten new games we’ve played over the summer

In between working on Lab Wars we ensured that we had time to do one of our favourite hobbies in the world: play board games! Here’s a run down of our top 10 new games we’ve played over the summer.

10. Carrotia

We found this game while we were taking a break from demoing Lab Wars at the UK Games Expo this year. It was being sold at the Mage Company stand and both of us love cute little animals being cat lovers ourselves. So when we saw this game at the £15 price tag we thought what’s not to lose! We read the blurb and said it was a tile laying game and it had a decent amount of components for the price we were really happy, plus throw in the fact that we could play with our niece, it was a no brainer.

How wrong could we be.

The game is aimed at families, I’ll give it that and we don’t have any children. However, there seemed to be a major disparity between the rules and the age range. For instance, the rules almost certainly required an adult to be present to explain the rules and judge the tile laying. I guess this is common in family games, sure. The game runs over 3 rounds of two phases. The first phase is timed using a sand timer requiring turn based cooperative tile laying ensuring that a route is set out so that your rabbit can grab carrots. The second phase requires dice rolling for the birds that are in the maze trying to help or hinder your task of moving the rabbit around. And that’s literally it. After having to download the rules from BGG (the publisher released the game on a quote: “Small print run to generate a buzz”) because the printed rules with the game were literally incomprehensible – the new version will have the new rules which are a lot better – and played the game, we both agreed that we would never play the game again. We don’t even think our niece would enjoy it, but maybe we should try that out too.

Overall, nice components and a cheap price but an absolute travesty of a game.

It's got 4 days left on kickstarter

9. Diamonsters

We bought diamonsters because a) it was designed and published by the same guys who made Machi Koro and b) I bought it second hand for real cheap.

The game play is really straight forward but surprisingly strategic. It involves a bluffing mechanic whereby players pick and choose characters in a blind reveal mechanism. The player with the “strongest” monster steals the available monster on the table and if you collect 3 matching monsters or monsters that gift you a total of 5 diamonds (one monster eats your diamonds!) you get a plastic diamond token which is really nice. The player with the most diamond tokens wins.

As a game it’s never going to be a brain burner but it’s a really nice quick filler to get warmed up for those strategic battles during your board game night. It’s also light enough for children to play and our niece loved it and the artwork.

It's currently £11 on amazon

8. 7 Wonders

I might get a bit of stick for putting it in at 8 from the medium-heavy weight gamers but I think it’s

because I only played it once and Kuly was not a huge fan. I personally thought this should be higher up at maybe 3/4. The game is set in ancient times as you go through the ages, and essentially you use a card drafting system to pick a card to put into your city. As the city builds up and a new “age” comes along your city becomes more valuable. The player with the highest value city wins.

I really need to play this again as we only played it because our co-designer and friend Andy taught us how to play (it’s been sat on our shelf waiting for someone to teach it to us haha) and we don’t often get to play with 3 or more players.

I’ll reserve further judgement until I play it again but I am very much looking forward to it as Lab Wars has similar mechanics and I love placing stuff down in front of me that gives me more stuff or points :D

It's currently £26 on amazon

7. Manhattan Project: Chain reaction

So technically this was my first ever Kickstarter that materialized! I opted for the deluxe version and was really pleased with the results. It came with a really nice box, well made cards and awesome radiation style wooden tokens. It was marked as a stand alone, stripped down version of its original bigger brother/sister: The Manhattan Project. It didn’t disappoint and did exactly what it said on the tin. Essentially you take turns to use your workers (by placing cards sideways), to work on cards to produce resources (placing cards underneath workers but upwards). I loved the fact that cards were multi-use and the artwork and graphics design to do this were really simple yet beautiful. I don’t know if other people had the same feeling about it but I felt that this was a really nice, quick, and “sciency” version of Dominion. While I feel it doesn’t have the strategic depth of Dominion or even Star Realms, two very popular deck-builders, you certainly get that same “buzz” of creating a “chain reaction” of killer card combos to build a bomb.

Overall a great game with awesome artwork and fantastic way to start off your gaming night.

Currently on sale at the Minion Games Website for $15

6. In a Bind

In a Bind is a really unique party game. Think Twister (OK don’t then) but more simple and hilarious. We picked up the game at the UK Games Expo and even gave it a go. You simply pick up a card and do what it says. Essentially you’ve got to place the cards you pick up on your body. That’s it. However, it gets hilarious because the more cards you pick up, the more contorted and strange your body positions become! Players are eliminated when they cannot pick up a card or the fail to continue what their picked up cards said. For me every time I go to a party where most of the people are not board gamers (or even if they are) I take this with me. It is a great way to break the ice and just get silly! I even took it to my uni buddy’s stag do and worked out great with an improvised drinking game variant.

It’s simplicity and hold in your hand weight means this little game packs a lot punch at parties!

5. Fungi

While trying to get our board game “fix” at our awesome and friendly local board gaming store in Stevenage, UK (Lost Ark Games) we came across this little beauty in their cheap games section. We were instantly drawn to the beautiful artwork, the small size of the box and its £10 price. Since we were looking for a lightweight game to go with our purchase of 7 Wonders this ticked all the boxes especially

considering we were designing a food based game at the time anyway.

Essentially both players (it’s a 2 player game) forage in the forests for wild mushrooms and cook them to score points. The strategy comes in deciding which sets to collect (rarer mushrooms = more points) and watching your opponent’s card collecting too – and changing appropriately. There are also “sticks” in the game which allow you to collect mushrooms that are “further away” if you are unable to reach them.

We found this game a real delight with the only annoying thing being to always move up mushrooms towards the players’ feet card every single time a player had their turn. For the price of £10 we felt like it was really good value for money considering the repayability. Its also simple enough for children to play too. I would say that players who are card counters may find this game a bit too easy, but its still a great game!

It's currently on sale for only £9.40 from Amazon

4. Splendor

We’d known about this game for a while but never took the plunge. The opportunity arose to play it when I was helping a friend out with his pop-up board game café. A family decided to play and kindly invited me to play it.

The game is great from top to bottom. The £20 price tag was well worth it considering the components and quality. This is especially of the really thick gem tokens which are really weighty

and feel great to hold. The artwork is second to none. The gameplay itself is very solid and mechanistically great. It involves players taking resources, (or gems) which eventually allow you to buy cards. The cards themselves count as a constant resource of one type so as you buy up more cards you require less tokens. However, the cards that you need to win the game are expensive so there is a trade-off between gaining cards for more resources and picking up victory points. The trick is knowing which cards your opponents are going for and there in lies the beauty of the game. I’ve often found that being opportunistic rather than going for specific cards works out best.

This is a great little game that we frequently bring out to the gaming table and we definitely recommend it!

It's currently £22 on Amazon

3. Viticulture

Another one of our hauls from the UK Games Expo. From the king of Kickstarter campaigns Jamey Stegmaier, I bought this game on the recommendation from a friend. Boy it doesn’t disappoint! Under a worker placement mechanism players take turns to send their workers out onto their winery to grow, harvest and make wine. The beauty of the game is that unlike other worker placement games, thematically, you really get into the mindset of producing and selling wine. The rules were really quick and simple to pick up yet there is so much depth in the game. We really loved how virtually all our games would be neck and neck right up until the end – despite typically taking different strategies to get there. No one game is the same plus we liked the little random event cards that gave the game a bit of variety. Definitely one for people who are ready to take the next step up from playing Pandemic/Firepoint or other gateway games.

It's currently on sale from £42 subject to stock

2. Dead Men tell no tales

Kuly said to me a few weeks ago: I want to play a game that is cooperative, strategic, thematic, with greater depth than Pandemic and less random than Firepoint but mainly: FUN. So I was like…OK CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. So I turned to the awesome board game trading and chat UK page on facebook. I had some great recommendations but a few people pointed me to the game Dead Men Tell No Tales, which at that point I’d never heard of. Turns out its made by the same publisher as the one who made The Manhattan Project series I mentioned above: Minion Games. When I delved deeper having learned that you are a team of looting pirates trying to loot a burning/sinking/haunted ship I was like I WANT THAT GAME. Especially since we surprisingly don’t have a pirate themed game, but also because having looked at the mechanics it seemed really strategic, fun and challenging. Having looked around, found that the game in the UK was super expensive and/or out of print at time at normal board game shops online. Luckily I managed to win the only copy left on Ebay UK and was chuffed when it arrived. The artwork and quality and number of components were fantastic. We immediately got down to playing it that night.

The game uses similar mechanics to Pandemic and Firepoint but it still feels completely different. We loved the tile-laying mechanic meaning that every game was never the same and every step needed constant discussion making it feel more cooperative than pandemic (at least to us). We also enjoyed the special actions the characters were given. Most of all we really enjoyed the challenge of trying to make your way through the ship, trying to find treasure but also battling the hordes of skeletons and “deckhands”. Over the space of the first 3 days we had it, we lost 8 times and won 0 times haha. I’m pretty sure we’ve interpreted the rules correctly, maybe we’re just rubbish board game players!

Either way, despite losing several times it’s a truly addictive game. The best way to describe is: remember that feeling when you played your first gateway game and kept wanting to play it? Well, that feeling never awoke again, that was until we played this game! Two words: GET IT!

It's currently £42 on Amazon

1. Istanbul

I was given this game for my 30th, by my best buddy who I met while I was doing my PhD. He was amongst the first group of people to get us back into board gaming. Admittedly, it was on our shelf for a few months before we even attempted to open it. I wish I hadn’t left it that long now.

The game is beautifully crafted with high quality wooden components throughout and nice thick

tiles. The theme works really well with the gameplay as you are a merchant in an Istanbul bazaar (?) using assistants to do certain actions for you. While the theme and basic description might seem a bit “meh” don’t let that fool you.

Underneath the lovely theme, there is an in built engine to the game that is solid, intuitive, strategic with lots of depth but simple enough to make decisions quickly which don’t have massive implications on long term goals. The game forces you to think about your own plans, opponent’s plans, opponent’s starting and ending positions (including assistants that are “jailed”), short term goals and long term goals (apart from winning of course). The beauty about it is, regardless of whatever action you take you will always feel rewarded. The game also allows one to ramp up resource acquisition throughout the game but needing to offset that with trying to win the game too. We also love the replayability owing to its modular tile/board system. Once you’ve played your first game based on their tile starting positions, future games can modify tiles’ positions in the game. We just use a really handy Istanbul tile generator. Its this replayability that consistently brings the game back to the table and is just as fun to play with any of the number of players required. No wonder it won the Spiele award in 2014.

It's currently £31 on amazon UK

So what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with any of the points I’ve made? We’d love to hear it below!

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