As lockdown restrictions begin to ease in the UK, some semblance of normality is being restored. So of course, one of the first things I needed back in my life was a complete board game weekend binge.
Cons are still a while off though. We’re hopeful of our winter event happening, and there’s still a chance Essen will happen in October. But they’re a way off at best. So what better substitute than a visit from LoBsterCon co-conspirator Alex for an organiser meeting/serious gaming session?
Of the 18 games, Alex brought/taught seven and the other 11 were off my shelves. And of those, Alex only knew one of them on arrival (Welcome To). So between us, that was 17 teaches in less than 36 hours of actual game time. And at the end of it all, neither of us had fallen asleep mid-teach (but it was close…), or threatened to kill each other/ourselves. From my side of the table, it went something like this.
(Links below go to detailed reviews of the games played elsewhere on this website. If any of these games interest you, I’d recommend you clicking through to Board Game Prices – comfortably the best European comparison site I’ve found for board games.)
Board game binge day 1: Saturday
- The Romans: There’s something slightly shonky about The Romans, but in a good way. There’s plenty of luck, but it tends to hit all players equally due to some clever mechanisms. Overall it is refreshingly original euro and beautifully integrates the theme. Great fun.
- Basari – The Card Game: Sarah popped over to say hi, so I took this rare three-player opportunity to dust down and teach Basari. Both of them loved it. It’s so simple, with lots of interaction via negotiations. It just ebbs and flows so well.
- Remember Our Trip: Sarah hung around for this too, the first time we’d played with three. And it was just as fun, with Alex also being a convert. Simple to teach and fast to play, but every decision feels as if it has meaning. What more do you want from a light-ish filler?
- Paris – The City of Lights: The first of Alex’s games was a smart little two-player gem. I’m pretty terrible at spatial puzzles and so it proved here. But it was fun enough that I want to play more and improve. And very interactive, with enough variety to keep things interesting.
- Gnomopolis: The first partial fail of the weekend. Alex didn’t engage at all and it fell a bit flat. But after 10+ plays for me, I still enjoy its ‘Race for the Galaxy-lite’ feel. And I’m hoping the upcoming expansion adds a little extra zing to the experience.
- Kompromat: I’m still waiting for my review copy of this, and am now officially looking forward to it. It’s basically a two-player version of Blackjack with bells on, where you bluff your way through several hands at once to collect points and special power cards.
- Adios Calavera: Another teach of this and another convert. Despite the fact the play ended in an unfortunate stalemate, which can happen on occasion. Still one of my favourite two-player abstracts, from the original mechanisms to the Day of the Dead artwork.
Day 2: Sunday
- Praga Caput Regni: I blow hot and cold on Suchy euros and this did a bit of both. It was the right length (unlike the tedious Underwater Cities) and the action selection mechanisms were great. But it really needs a two-player overhaul, as it was simply too solitaire.
- Bora Bora: Alex has become quite the Feld fan of late, so it was nice to introduce him to one you sadly can’t find online. Like all his best games, it has just the right amount of choice/paths to follow. Along with some clever mechanisms and agonising decisions.
- Era – Medieval Age: Wow. This game made me genuinely angry. A massive box of planet destroying plastic and for what? A half-arsed roll-and-write that ‘reworks’ a 10-year-old small box game that was better first time around? Utterly offensive drivel on every level. Basically landfill.
- Dizzle: Oh look, a proper roll-and-write. In a tiny box with just a few components. And, frankly, more fun. We only played level 1 but it was enough to get Alex ordering a copy. Sadly overlooked, probably due to the success of the ‘Clever’ series. Speaking of which…
- Clever Cubed: This third version of the award-winning series (That’s Pretty Clever etc) is basically more of the same. Roll dice, mark off boxes, trigger combos and bonuses. As good as the other two, but did we really need a third version of basically the same game?
- Tales of Glory: Another teach from me. I worried it may go down the same path as Gnomopolis, but Alex got into this one. It is better with more players, to up the competition for tiles. But it is always a fun little tile-laying puzzler with a charming look and feel.
- Bruxelles 1897: This proved to be an excellent distillation of euro Bruxelles 1893 into a card game. But as much as I enjoyed the play, it left me wanting to play the original. This nailed the interaction side. But I did miss the extra depth and subtlety of the board game.
- Kupferkessel Co: As Alex enjoys Maori, I introduced him to this lighter tile grid game, also from Günter Burkhardt. He was worried about the memory element – as was I first time (really not my thing). But it has just the right amount to still be fun for us old folk!
- Welcome To: The one game we both knew, although Alex had only played online thanks to COVID. I love how the card deck reduces the randomness compared to a roll-and write. And this has just the right amount of complexity to keep me coming back for more plays.
Board game binge day 3: Monday
- De Vulgari Eloquentia: I simply haven’t played this enough since picking it up a few years ago. And this was a great play. Like The Romans, it’s a euro game heavy on theme but with a few big luck elements. You can avoid them and play safe, but where’s the fun in that?
- Lowlands: This Rosenberg-ish euro had passed me by and it didn’t leave much of an impression. It’s OK, but a little one-dimensional. It has a nice element of co-operation, and played fast. But I’d rather play an actual Rosenberg game (such as Caverna) every time.
And with that, Alex was gone – and the board game binge was over. It was so nice to properly dedicate a few days to games for the first time in ages. And it was nicely competitive throughout, ending 9-8 on wins (plus the Adios Calavera draw). I enjoyed six of the seven games Alex taught and look forward to picking up at least two of them – and playing a couple of the others a bit more too. Now, can we have our board game conventions back please?