FTW Staff Picks - Scythe February 14 2018
For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new.
Designer: Jamey Stegmaier
Player Size: 2 to 5 Players
Game Length: 100 minutes
For fans of: Kemet, Eclipse, Terra Mystica
Rewind to 2016 and you'll notice that Scythe made a large, favourable impression on most gamers even topping various lists from established websites. It took a while for us to get around to, but we've finally gotten a chance to experience it for ourselves. And let me tell you, it is quite the ride.
In Scythe, players play as competing civilizations based on an alternate-reality of 1920's Europe. The game contains four basic standard actions, each with an additional advanced action that can be performed alongside it. There are many ways to accumulate Coins which act as the victory points of the game. Players can build Mechs to increase their military power. They can upgrade their civilizations allowing them to be more efficient. They can choose to farm and build landmarks across Europe. There's a lot to consider and with a fluid game-end mechanic, you constantly have to be aware of the game coming to an abrupt close.
To begin the game, each player is assigned two boards at random which will give them unique abilities that will influence their decision-making throughout the game. Each combination of boards is unique allowing for diverse games. It can feel a little overwhelming at the start. But once you understand how to value certain things, the game can go by quickly. We were surprised with how simple each turn actually is. Because of this, the game manages to avoid most AP (analysis paralysis) problems.
There's a lot of things that Scythe does that feels inspired by many other successful Euro-style & civilization games. You can see where they drew from games like Terra Mystica, Eclipse & Kemet. The alternate reality they've created feels unique and oddly believable. We've only had a chance to play the base game, but the expansions which add support for up to 7 players and giant airships look really enticing. If you're looking for a heavier game which doesn't feel like a chore to play, take a look at Scythe.
Most Anticipated Games - February 2018 Edition February 02 2018
Each month at For The Win Board Game Cafe, we take a look at a few future releases that we're really excited about. From new games, to expansions, to Kickstarters we'll be covering it all monthly.
Clank! The Mummy's Curse
One of our favourite games of 2017, Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure, is getting yet another expansion. This time it's a map of an ancient Egyptian tomb, along with similarly themed cards. We weren't big fans of the Sunken Treasures expansion but we loved Space. Hopefully The Mummy's Curse brings some new interesting twists.
Clank! The Mummy's Curse is scheduled for release March 2018.
Imhotep: A New Dynasty
Sticking with the theme of expansions of our favourites and ancient Egypt, we've also got Imhotep: A New Dynasty. We're big fans of Imhotep, and its already got a lot of strong replay value but it never hurts to add more.
Imhotep: A New Dynasty is the first full-fledged expansion for the Phil Walker-Harding game. It adds 5 new places, 14 market cards, 7 god cards and 56 tiles. The god cards allow players to make predictions on how buildings will progress throughout the game, with rewards for being correct and punishments for anything otherwise.
Imhotep: A New Dynasty will be available in August 2018.
From the Island to the Desert and now to the Sky, Forbidden Sky is the third instalment to the Forbidden franchise. Matt Leacock's Forbidden series has been more of an anthology of unrelated games that share core similarities. And while no details have been announced for Forbidden Sky, it will surely follow its predecessors as a lightweight cooperative game.
Forbidden Sky will be available Summer 2018.
Fae is actually a rerelease of an older game previously called Clans. Clans was a prior Spiel des Jahres nominee in 2003, eventually losing out to Alhambra. It's an abstract-style deduction game. Often times when you think deduction these days you think of games like Coup or The Resistance, but Fae takes a more traditional approach. Given the new artstyle and title, it appears they may be taking a full re-theme approach. Hopefully it's enough to get old and new fans onboard.
Fae should be released sometime in Q2 2018.
Herbalism is one of four titles being released by Deep Water Games in conjunction with EmperorS4 Games, a Taiwanese game publisher. They've partnered up to localize four of their most popular titles. As we've seen with Oink Games in years past, there's a lot of interest in bringing over Asian titles to western audiences.
Herbalism has players vying to be the one to find the correct ingredients needed to find a cure to the epidemic. It's a card game where the actions that players take will allow them to exchange information in a Clue-like style.
Click here to visit the Kickstarter page. Black Hole Council ships to backers in March 2018.
Our Favourite Games of 2017 - The Ten December 15 2017
Let's be honest, 2016 was not a stellar year for tabletop games. There were a few standouts, but overall it felt like a down year for the hobby. I'm happy to say that 2017 has been a very exciting year for gamers. Each month was full of fun releases, and in most cases the hype was met by stellar games.
People like tend to discuss whether board games are just a fad, or if they're here to stay. I'm happy to say that as long as the industry's output resembles 2017 as a whole, the hobby is here to stay and continue to make waves. Not just for the casual or hardcore, but also everything in between. So without further ado - our 10 favourite games of 2017.
10) Magic Maze
If you've ever played Escape!: The Curse of The Temple you know just how chaotic a real-time cooperative game can be. Now imagine playing Escape! without being able to verbally communicate - that's Magic Maze. It's got a bit of a Hanabi-vibe with how heavily you rely on the entire group thinking and moving as one mind. It can be very frustrating at times, but when you get into a groove everything feels right.
9) Dice Forge
If a game brings a sound mechanical engine with ambitious visual design, you can almost bet on it making our end-of-the-year list. Dice Forge is the result of an artist and designer having a specific vision combined with a publisher who trusts them. Together they've created the best overall package of the year. And while the game could use an injection of additional modules to add more variety, Dice Forge lays down a solid foundation.
This year saw several "escape room" type games hit the market. And considering how big and bloated the actual escape room market is (especially in Toronto), it should come as no surprise. When it comes to designing puzzles for an escape, there's a certain level of elegance that you need to approach it with. They can't be too hard, but they also need to feel rewarding. And while Unlock! isn't perfect in its solutions, it usually feels fair. And it does genuinely feel good when you reach the end, which all you can really ask for.
7) Star Wars: Destiny
Over the course of its first full year on shelves, Star Wars: Destiny has produced 4 sets of products alongside a ready-to-play, two-player box. With every collectible game, the goal is always longevity. Keep the players engaged and communities strong, so that they will always be looking forward for what's to come. And while still in its infancy, the signs point towards Star Wars: Destiny having a big impact on the hobby.
Perhaps the biggest factor to their success has been how easy it is to pickup and play. Without anything resembling a stack for resolving effects in Magic: the Gathering, the gameplay is streamlined to make everything easy to understand. With a low barrier to entry, they can capture the casual Star Wars fans and hopefully transform them into more competitive gamers.
6) Captain Sonar
Captain Sonar reminds me of the team-building exercises I would do as a freshman in high school and university. It requires a particular mindset going in and a very specific (and demanding) table setup. But when everything comes together, Captain Sonar quickly becomes one of the best table top experiences you can have.
The frenetic, real-time pace, combined with the focus on the task at hand produces both a difficult and hilarious challenge. The guys behind the popular Spaceteam phone app also tried their hand at a tabletop game, but make no mistake, Captain Sonar is the truest adaptation to that game.
5) Century: Spice Road
Announcing a table top trilogy before selling a single copy of a game that was already delayed numerous times and eventually re-structured, after getting dropped by the original publisher is perhaps one of the boldest moves a young designer could make. Combine that with the fact that Century: Spice Road was already being hailed by Tom Vasel (the largest online persona in the industry) as the Splendor-killer. The narrative was quickly setting up into what could have been the one of the biggest board game busts ever. But as soon as gamer's finally got their hands on Century: Spice Road all that tension dissipated.
It came very early in the year, so it's easy to forget but Braintopia quickly became of the most played games at For The Win Cafe. Ghost Blitz and Anomia have always been favourites here and Braintopia is the beautiful marriage of those two games. Games that test reaction speed are fun because they immediately pit players in tense situations without having to build up to it. Braintopia is now our favourite game to suggest as a warmup. It even makes for a great stocking stuffer, for anyone looking for last minute gifts!
If you told me a year ago that I'd be singing high praise for a new abstract game in 2017, I would have called you crazy. But Santorini has rightfully earned its place among the elite two-player games. And while you could argue its aesthetic is what even procured any interest to begin with, it was a very intelligent decision to get the game onto tables. The design is what caught my eye, but I stick around for the interesting depths of variety and strategies.
2) Clank! In! Space!
Clank! In! Space! is more than just a fresh coat of paint. As we played Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure, I couldn't help but feel it was an almost perfect game in terms of my personal preferences. With the minor changes introduced in Clank! In! Space! I feel like this is a game that could sustain my interest for a while.
The game is strong at making players feel in control, while still offering up enough twists that will keep you on your toes at all times. Plotting out a strategy in Clank! In! Space! is only worthwhile if you are willing to make audibles. And most impressively, the game manages greed better than any I've ever played.
1) Pandemic Legacy: Season 2
Two years ago, Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 was dubbed our #2 favourite game of 2015. Not to be denied again, Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 is firmly our #1 favourite game of 2017 and it was never even in question. As soon as we completed the game (in less than a week), I was ready to crown it the year's champion. It's not a slight to the other incredible games on this list, but more-so a testament to just how good Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 is.
Anytime you are building a sequel to anything with high acclaim and great fanfare, you put your reputation at risk. Think about all the great movies you love that had less than stellar followups (The Matrix, The Mask, Robocop). It may seem like a guaranteed cash-in, but it's never that easy. And following the mess that was Seafall, Rob Daviau had a lot to makeup for. And instead of taking the easy way out and making a game that begins as Pandemic and only slightly deviates from that formula, Season 2 takes risks from the very first game. And it continues to deliver more and more twists and turns that make the whole experience feel very rewarding.
There is no guarantee there will be a Season 3, but given how stellar the first two have been I would lean towards it being an almost sure-thing. We can't wait!