Issue 9: A 2020 board game gift guide
Looking for games to pick up this holiday season? Here are seven great games from the last two years.
Hello, everyone! I hope you’re having a great week. It’s been a month or so since we last chatted, and while I’m still trying to find the right pace for these, I’m happy to be here chatting about games.
With it being November already (which, amazing,) I thought I’d put together a bit of a list of some of the games I’ve really been enjoying this year. They’re all on the lighter side (I played more heavy games at work game nights than I do at home, and with work-from-home, that’s been a bit of a deficit for me), but they all do something interesting with their mechanics.
We’ve got Fort, a deck-building game with the ability to pluck cards from your opponents that they’re not using;
One of my favorite games of 2020 has been Fort, a competitive deck building game that captured me the moment I opened the box. Rather than talk too much about it here, why not read what I wrote about it in Issue 8? It really is a lovely game.
One of the things I really enjoyed about Fort is its deckbuilding, which it takes in a slightly different direction than other games. The market is randomized somewhat, with three cards available at any given time — but interestingly, you also get to pick from unplayed cards from other players, too, forming a somewhat aggressive market.
It's a super very cool way to take a tried-and-true system, and it gives players a level of interaction they might not otherwise have.
I’m very into roll-and-writes (they play well solo and as a couple, which is how a lot of my gaming takes place these days), and Floor Plan was as good a roll-and-write as I’ve played. I wrote about it in Issue 6, so here’s an excerpt.
Floor Plan is a lovely true roll-and-write in which you draft out the plan to a house commissioned to you by several parties. It's engaging and a bit weird, and I quite enjoyed it.⠀
The best thing about Floor Plan, for me, is how it fools you into thinking that you can draft a great home that you'd like to live in. That will not be the case. See those cards up top? Those are the demands you have to meet, and they're how you get points. You'll do well to focus just on those.
So, yeah. Great game. Check it out.
Abandon All Artichokes
Emma Larkins is one of my favorite up-and-coming designers, and Abandon All Artichokes — a “deck-wrecker” — is a really fantastic lightweight card game. It’s very clever.
Abandon All Artichokes looks like a family game, and it certainly plays like a family game — and it is a family game, really, but it's also a very interesting spin on deck-building mechanics.⠀
Designed by @emmalarkins and published by @gamewright, Abandon All Artichokes pitches itself as a 'deck-wrecker,' Unlike other deck-builders, your stated goal (and not just a wise strategy) is to get rid of artichokes in your deck until you draw a hand with none of them. The cards on offer (also all fruit and vegetable themed, delightfully) will give you opportunities to "compost" your artichokes, swap cards with opponents, and more.⠀
It's such an interesting idea, and it plays exceptionally well. It does only play four players, which might be limiting in some large group settings, but there are few downsides aside from that. I'm looking forward to a few more two-player plays of this, and once we're spending time in groups again (whenever that may be), it'll be nice to pull it out for a four-player game.⠀
Oh, and it does come in a tin, but you know what? I don't mind. Sure, it would be nice to be able to stack it with other games more easily, but I'll get over that. Importantly, the lid does stay on, a fact I'm quite happy about.
The Fox in the Forest Duet
Cooperative trick-taking games are a rare breed (I can think of two, and this is one of them — the other is The Crew, which you can read about below), and if 2020 has proven anything, it’s that having good two-player games during a pandemic can be a really valuable thing. (Of course, I hope we don’t have too many pandemics in our lifetime — this is exhausting, and I have a pretty easy go of it compared to the struggles many people have!)
This is a nice little game, perfect for an interlude after dinner before settling down for a bigger game (or another episode of The X-Files, or the latest episode of The Great British Bake-Off, or whatever you’d like!)
Here’s what I wrote about The Crew right after it won the Kennerspiel des Jahres this year. It’s a lovely, smart game that is completely captivating.
The Crew, the 2020 Kennerspiel des Jahres winner, is such a cool trick-taking cooperative game. It's well worth checking out if you're looking for something to play at home during these crazy times (and if you're not able to stay home — it's a good game!), in part because it's played as a campaign in which complexity ramps up over time. There's something really graceful about the way it operates, and it's a well-deserved winner.⠀
Read more about The Crew in Issue 4: Tricks in space!
Gateway-weight games hold a very important place for me, because they’re usually fairly engaging but also easy to pick up.
Draftosaurus is a sharp, 15-minute drafting game all about building the best dinosaur park -- and the best part is that at the end, none of them escape and eat your guests.⠀
OK, so that's not actually the best part. It would even be kind of cool if they did, but it would also be a totally different game, so, uh. Yeah. Let's get on with the game.⠀
In Draftosaurus, which I am always certain I'm misspelling, players draft these lovely dinosaur meeples to place on their board in one of several different pens, which earn you points in different ways. (There's an alternate board side that features different scoring pens, too!)⠀
It's actually surprisingly nice, and it doesn't feel like it's just another spin on other drafting games (and not just because of the meeples, but also because of them, too). Selecting dinosaurs for different scoring sets presents a bit of challenge, and planning ahead is one, too -- especially at the beginning.⠀
In short, I'm super pleased with Draftosaurus at four players. I'm curious how it plays with two (probably a fair bit meaner in the hate-drafting camp) and five, but four is just such a good player count for his one.
Gods Love Dinosaurs
I don’t have a photo for this one yet. I’ll get one on Instagram before too long, but I know you can find photos online if you’d like. There are hexes and meeples. They’re good meeples, Brent.
I don’t know what I expected with Gods Love Dinosaurs, given the name, but what I got was a very nice puzzle of a game. The gist: On your turn, you’ll pick a tile from a column. If the column is emptied, everyone takes actions on their board. That might involve prey reproducing, or it might involve predators eating prey. Or, most importantly, it could involve a dinosaur roaming around, eating predators and prey alike.
It’s not a terrible complex game, and thematically it’s, well, light. But I don’t mind that one bit, because I really enjoyed planning my tiles, positioning my creatures to be eaten at just the right time, and hoping other players don’t get in the way of my plans.