Issue 33: 🎃 Six great Halloween games, TEN first look 🎃
Six games to consider for this year's Halloween party, plus my first look at AEG's TEN
Hello there! I hope you’re having a grand October, and if you’re in the northern Hemisphere, I hope you’re enjoying the start of fall, wherever you may be.
We recently had our first snow of the season, forcing me to rescue my basil from freezing. I’m optimistic that it will make excellent pesto through the winter, but time will tell there. I also finished up my two batches of hot sauce from the garden, and I can happily report that they’re quite spicy, too.
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Pushing your luck: TEN
TEN is a push-your-luck, auction, run-building card game from Flat Out Games and AEG. In TEN, you’re trying to form runs of cards, earning one point per card in your longest run in each color. If you manage to make a run of 1 to 9, you’ll get an extra point.
Gaining cards is where the push-your-luck element comes in. You’ll draw one card at a time, placing them face up on the table. If the total summed value of the cards you’ve drawn exceeds ten, you bust, and you just get a little currency for your trouble.
The element making this not just a simple do-the-math game? Among the cards are ‘currency cards,’ which subtract from the summed value. And if the summed value of just the currency cards exceeds ten — you guessed it. Bust. You can either take the currency cards, gaining that much money to use in the auction phase or the buy phase (we’re getting there,) or you can take the numbered cards, letting you build your runs to score points at the end of the game. If you take the numbered cards, you get to buy one card from the cards not taken (either because a player busted while drawing cards, or because a player took currency.)
Finally, the auction phase — the piece taking this from a dead-simple game to something with a little bit more heft to it. As you draw cards, you might run across wild cards. Those are immediately put up for auction, interrupting your turn. They’re on the rare side, but they can absolutely change the dynamic of the game.
The art in TEN is lovely and bright, the concept is novel, and it left me wanting more. That’s good stuff from a game, right there.
Finally, Flat Out Games is rapidly becoming one of the most interesting groups in games right now. Cascadia, Calico, Dollars to Donuts, Point Salad — and there's even more. They're absolutely one to watch over the next few years.
TEN retails for $19.99 and is published by AEG. It was designed by Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin and Shawn Stankewich. [AEG Shop]
Five things in board games this week
I really like Dan’s review of Whirling Witchcraft. He’s a great reviewer, and he captured what I enjoyed about the game so well. It’s no coincidence that I’ve included links to his works multiple times. While you’re there, check out Dan’s review of Sheepy Time, a game with a very strange name. [Space-Biff!]
The latest issue of quarterly board games magazine Senet arrived in my mailbox this week, and it remains a highlight every time it arrives. From Matt Thrower’s piece on dexterity games, to Alexandra Sonechkina’s interview with Alan R. Moon, to the Shelf of Shame column (this time, featuring Rodney Smith of Watch it Played,) the issue is a delight. I especially appreciate the research and journalism that goes into making this magazine a bit different than so many others — this doesn’t feel like a collection of paid previews. It feels like — well — a premium magazine that I want to keep on my shelves. [Senet Magazine]
The crew over at Meeple Mountain (where I’ve occasionally contributed — and really should do more) has a great list of 29 of their most anticipated games of Essen Spiel 2021. There are plenty I didn’t know much about, and I’m particularly curious about Terra Futura, Squaring Circleville and Bequest. [“The Most 29 Anticipated Games of Essen Spiel 2021,” Meeple Mountain]
The latest edition of the No Pun Included podcast was a great listen, with Efka and Elaine consistently a great podcasting duo. They talk about Sheepy Time, Beast and The Great Wall in this one. Highly recommended! [Episode 27, No Pun Included]
I really appreciated this list over at BGG from Anthony Faber of Two Wood For a Wheat, and I think it’s worth doing something similar — games from last year that I just haven’t played yet, some of which I remain excited about giving a try. Especially as I start thinking about my end-of-year list, including making lists of games to play, it’s a great reminder that a year ending is not the end of games released that year. I suspect that’ll especially be the case in 2022, as ripples in the supply chain are felt even more strongly than they have been over the last two years. [“The best games of 2021 are the games of 2020 you haven't played yet,” The Secrets of Great Games at BoardGameGeek]
Spooky, Scary: Six games to play this Halloween
Broom Service fits the Halloween bill thematically, and it’s a really nice game to boot. There’s a bit of bluffing, a bit of pick up and deliver and a bit of resource management, all wrapped neatly together. I’m still not sure why everything works together as well as it does, but I’m here for it.
Cryptid is a great deduction game wherein players try to discover an animal that’s gone undetected for centuries, even if the board is mostly some nice colors and shapes. If players can obfuscate the clues they have in-hand, while simultaneously sniffing out what their opponents have, all by placing nice wooden tokens on the board, they’ll win. If they can’t obfuscate it — well, they just might end up handing their opponents victory. The deduction here is quite fun, I love the theme, and it creates some interesting cooperative moments despite being a competitive game.
Exit The Game
I’m a big fan of the Exit series, with their fun, thought-provoking, and sometimes very difficult puzzles. Why should you play one of these on Halloween? For me, it’s all about the feeling of mystery that unfolds in front of you. The best part? You can eat whatever snack you want, because you’re going to be discarding the game components after you play. (Please recycle them if you are able.)
I haven’t played a bad Exit game. Consider The Abandoned Cabin.
There’s nothing like a great party game for a party (except a game where you read a bunch; see below), and Monikers is probably the best Halloween party game that comes to mind. It’s basically the game Celebrity, in which you try to get your teammates to guess a card over three rounds. In the first round, you can say anything but the name on the card; in the second, you get just one word; in the third round, you get no words at all — it basically becomes charades. It’s a real delight.
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
All of the best parties involve reading, right? I think that’s something I’ve heard people say before, and I won’t argue. This is a game that’s all about reading. If you’ve got the right group for it, gathering for a Halloween party with dramatic readings about murder and whatnot — that’s just the makings for a good party. Put on some candles, dim the lights (while making sure everyone has enough room to read) and you’re in for a treat.
I wrote about Whirling Witchcraft in Issue 32, but in short, this is a neat little engine-building game in which you’re trying to overwhelm your opponent with what you produce. That slight twist on the engine-building conceit is an excellent transformation, and I really enjoy this one as a result.
Some other classics you’ll see on others’ lists that you should also consider
Betrayal at House on the Hill — One of the first games on many of these lists, Betrayal is a semi-cooperative game with a hidden traitor — but not even the trait knows who they are until late in the game. Or maybe there won’t be a traitor. Lots of variability in how this one plays out. Personally, I like the tile laying and exploring part the best.
Dead of Winter — Semi-cooperative play with a hidden traitor and hidden objectives — will players risk survival to go for a win? It’s a fun social puzzle rife with zombies and risk.
Fury of Dracula — A hidden movement game where one player is Dracula, and the other players are hunting the famous vampire.
Horrified — A cooperative game about fighting famous monsters. Still very much on my to-play list.
Letters from Whitechapel — Another hidden movement game, where one player is Jack the Ripper, and the other players are police detectives trying to catch Mr. The Ripper before he’s killed too much.
Mansions of Madness — Cooperative play (app-driven, if you’re playing the second edition) of adventure, exploration, and horror. Lots of miniatures, too.
Mysterium — Cooperative play in which one ghost communicates via a seance to help players solve a mystery, complete with dreamlike cards that are basically straight out of Dixit.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf — it’s Werewolf, but with basically no down time, a great companion app, and an incredible slew of expansions. If you’re looking for a social deduction game, this is a classic.
Thanks for reading Don't Eat the Meeples. You can find me on Instagram and on Twitter. I even started a podcast this year, Vintage Sci-Fi Shorts, in which I read old science fiction short stories from the pages of old pulp and digest magazines. If you like this newsletter, consider sharing it with a friend or an enemy.