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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.