Azul

The Details

Players: 2-4
Play Time: 30 minutes
Age Recommendation: 8+

Genre/Mechanics

Drafting
Abstract Strategy

Competitive

Complexity

Difficulty to Learn: 4/10
Mastery Curve: 6/10

Luck Variance: 4/10

Publisher: Next Move Games & Plan B Games

Price: $$

Awards & Honors:
Cardboard Republic Architect Laurels Winner (2017)
Golden Geek Best Family Game Winner (2017)
Meeple’s Choice Winner (2017)
Årets Spill Best Family Game Winner (2018)
As d’Or – Jeu de l’Année Winner (2018)
Boardgames Australia Awards Best International Game Winner (2018)
Deutscher Spielepreis Best Family/Adult Game Winner (2018)
Gouden Ludo Best Family Game Winner (2018)
Guldbrikken Best Adult Game Winner (2018)
Juego del Año Winner (2018)
JUGuinho Families Game of the Year Winner (2018)
Mensa Select Winner (2018)
Nederlandse Spellenprijs Best Family Game Winner (2018)
Origins Awards Best Family Game Winner (2018)
Spiel des Jahres Winner (2018)
Tric Trac d’Argent (2018)
Gra Roku Best Artwork Winner(2019)
MinD-Spielepreis Short Game Winner (2019)
UK Games Expo Best Abstract Game Judges Award Winner (2019)
UK Games Expo Best Abstract Game People’s Choice Winner (2019)


Theme and Overview

In Azul, players take turns to draft tiles from a central zone (known as the Factory Display) to be added to their game boards and eventually moved into the corresponding location on their wall pattern based on their color and design. Players compete to score the most points before the end of the game. This is triggered by one of the players completing one full row of tiling on their wall.

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Five Big Group Games for Under $20

It’s November and many of us are planning for what is likely to be one of the most unusual Thanksgiving celebrations yet. For those of us that are lucky enough to have a large “bubble crew” to spend time with, we’re likely looking for anything to do that doesn’t involve talking about politics or COVID-19. For those of us whose “bubble crew” is our spouse, kids, and cats who we’ve been spending some more time with than usual, we just might be looking for something new to do that doesn’t involve staring at screens. How about a game?

These five games are our picks for the best cheap pick ups (ranging from $10-$19.99) for a larger group (an average of five players). They represent a diversity of different styles of play, themes, and player involvement levels but all have been selected because they are easy to teach, quick to start, and fun as heck to play. If you ask me, those are all qualities of a game that will go over well with a mixed group of family that includes weekly D&D-enthused kids as well as parents who “used to play a lot of Monopoly”.

We typically focus on two-player game experiences, however, we do have a lot of party and group games in our collection. Some of these work with a two-player variant but most do not.

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Tsuro

The Details

Players: 2-8
Play Time: 15-20 minutes
Age Recommendation: 8+

Genre/Mechanics

Abstract Strategy
Tile Placement

Competitive

Complexity

Difficulty to Learn: 2/10
Mastery Curve: 2/10

Luck Variance: 6/10

Publisher: Calliope Games

Price: $

Awards & Honors:
2006 Golden Geek Best Light/ Party Game Nominee


Theme and Overview

In Tsuro, players take turns placing path tiles on the board and sliding their marker stones along the path they have created. A deceptively simple strategy game, each player must endeavor to play path tiles that keep their marker stones on the board while leading their opponent’s marker stones off the edge of the board. Victory is achieved when one player’s marker stone is the left on the board.

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Patchwork

*Americana Edition

The Details

Players: 2
Play Time: 30 minutes
Age Recommendation: 8+

Genre/Mechanics

Tile Placement
Puzzle

Competitive

Complexity

Difficulty to Learn: 2/10
Mastery Curve: 5/10

Luck Variance: 4/10

Publisher: Lookout Games

Price: $

Awards & Honors:
Golden Geek Best Abstract Board Game Winner (2014)
Spiel der Spiele Special Prize Winner (2015)
Spiel des Jahres Recommendation List (2015)
Årets Spel Best Family Game Winner (2017)


Theme and Overview

In Patchwork, players take turns assemble a quilt one piece at a time onto a 9X9 grid. Each piece is a uniquely shaped tile that comes in a variety of sizes. Once a piece is selected, it is added to an empty space on the grid. Hopefully, you can cover your entire grid with quilt tiles before the end of the game so that you don’t take a point penalty for an unfinished quilt.

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Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu

The Details

Players: 2-4
Play Time: 40 minutes
Age Recommendation: 1
4+

Genre/Mechanics

Set Collection
Action Points

Cooperative

Complexity

Difficulty to Learn: 4/10
Learning Curve: 4/10

Luck Variance: 5/10

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Price: $$

Awards & Honors:
Golden Geek Best Cooperative Game Nominee (2016)


Theme and Overview

In Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu, players cooperate to seal a gate in each of four locations present on the game board (Arkham, Dunwich, Kingsport, and Innsmouth), each a memorable setting from the Lovecraft Cthulhu lore. To do so, players must collect a set of five matching Clue cards of that location’s color and spend an action to discard them at the space representing the gate on the board. To collect sets, players must communicate resources, coordinate trades, and hope to draw additional cards for the set at the conclusion of each turn all while fending off cultists and Shoggoths that threaten to overrun the earth.

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SPIEL.digital: Four of Our Favorites

Due to the pandemic, this year’s Essen Game Fair had been converted to a digital format (SPIEL.digital) in which the game previews were streamed online and digital simulations of upcoming releases where available through services like Tabletopia. Though the pandemic certainly put a damper on the in-person opportunities for the folks in Essen, the push for digital alternatives has certainly allowed for many of us who live far away to interact with the convention in ways that we wouldn’t normally be able to.

This weekend, Nikki and Corey spent some time playing through some of the board game previews from this year’s fair to see what some of these upcoming releases had to offer. We’re happy to report back on our findings on four of our favorites…

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The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine

The Details

Players: 2*-5
Play Time: 20 minutes
Age Recommendation: 10+

Genre/Mechanics

Trick Taking
Card Game

Cooperative

Complexity

Difficulty to Learn: 3/10
Mastery Curve: 5/10

Luck Variance: 4/10

*This game is 3-5 players but includes a 2-player variant in which one of the two players controls the hand of a dummy player

Publisher: Kosmos

Price: $

Awards & Honors:
Golden Geek Best Cooperative Game (2019)
Deutscher Spielepreis Best Family/Adult Game (2020)
Kennerspiel des Jahres (2020)


Theme and Overview

In The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine, players embark on a series of fifty cooperative missions detailed in a mission log book included in the back side of the rule book. Each mission involves a round of a trick-taking (a la Hearts) during which, each player has different tasks to complete. These tasks, assigned at the start of each round, include winning tricks that involve specific cards in them and sometimes doing so in a particular orders determined by numeric game pieces that are placed on the associated task cards as they are dealt. If the team is unable to do that at any point, the mission is lost.

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Splendor

The Details

Players: 2-4
Play Time: 30 minutes
Age Recommendation: 10+

Genre/Mechanics

Resource Development
Card Game

Competitive

Complexity

Difficulty to Learn: 3/10
Mastery Curve: 7/10

Luck Variance: 5/10

Publisher: Space Cowboys, Asmodee

Price: $$

Awards & Honors:
Board Game Quest Award Best Family Game (2014)
Golden Geek Best Family Board Game (2014)
Golden Geek Game of the Year (2014)
The Dice Tower Best Family Game (2014)
Spiel des Jahres Nominee (2014)
Tric Trac de Bronze (2014)
The Academy of Adventure Gaming & Arts Design: Origins Award for Best Card Game (2015)


Theme and Overview

In Splendor, players race to accumulate points by acquiring development cards available from a central marketplace and earning visits from nobles. When the 15 point threshold is reached, the round is finished so that all players have had the same number of turns and the player with the highest point total is the victor.

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Villainous

The Details

Players: 2-6
Play Time: 40 minutes+
Age Recommendation: 10+

Genre/Mechanics

Asymmetrical
Card Game

Competitive

Complexity

Difficulty to Learn: 3/10
Mastery Curve: 4/10

Luck Variance: 5/10

Publisher: Ravensburger

Price: $$

Awards & Honors:
The Toy Association Toy of the Year Awards- Game of the Year (2019)


Theme and Overview

In Villainous, players assume the role of one of six classic Disney Villains (Jafar from Aladdin, Ursula from The Little Mermaid, Captain Hook from Peter Pan, Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, Prince John from Robin Hood, and Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland included in the base game) and compete against one another in a race to fulfill a unique goal before any other player.

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Sagrada

The Details

Players: 1-4
Play Time: 30 minutes
Age Recommendation: 10+

Genre/Mechanics

Dice
Drafting

Competitive

Complexity

Difficulty to Learn: 3/10
Mastery Curve: 3/10

Luck Variance: 6/10

Publisher: Floodgate Games

Price: $$

Awards & Honors:
Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Nominee (2017)


Theme and Overview

In Sagrada, players take turns drafting dice to be placed in the frames of their window card with unique building stipulations. Placement of dice is restricted by the color and “shade” (number value on it’s face-up side) and no two dice with similar traits can be placed side-by-side without the help of some useful tools that are available to all players at the cost of gems that are dolled out at the start of each game.

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