A Fool’s Errand, Nearing the End

I was doing quarterly reports for my Board Game Quest 2021, to put together all the games I’ve played and quick reactions to how I’ve found them. This time I’m splitting the last quarter into two, in order to make things a bit more palatable as I’ve got a lot of games to play and CabinCon to deal with. CabinCon’s a gathering of over twenty friends of mine from the internet as we play board games for several days in a fancy house in Derbyshire. That managed to get several games played, although as of writing, there’s still a lot to go.

October

No Thanks!

No Thanks falls in with Six Nimmt in being incredibly themeless but great fun anyway. Similar to Six Nimmt, you have numbered cards and you’re trying to collect as few as possible, including the ability to stack cards in sequences if you get them. If you don’t want a card, you pay a token and say, “No Thanks!” But if you have no tokens, you have to keep the card. It’s really simple and can become devastatingly cutthroat. Is it worth taking a card knowing that it’ll stop an opponent from merging two of their sets of numbers? Are you going to send a card you want around the table to harvest points as people reject it, then take it once they’ve spent their coins? Brutal.

Fantastic Storytelling

I’m a fan of Mike Jeavons, one of the survivors of That Guy With The Glasses who currently reviews items from weird infomercials and undergoes weeks on diets of varying levels of difficulty.

The start of a story I needed to make longer and weirder.

He created a ‘talking bullshit’ type game called Fantastic Storytelling. It has players draw a story card which gives them a structure, then you need to turn those cards into a working sentence using what’s in your hand. If you’re feeling daring, you can add more cards from decks of characters, locations and things in order to earn more points, but it can get really risky when you have very specific connector cards.

It’s too convoluted a teach to be a pub game, but it’s still entertaining.

Tang Garden

This was a Kickstarter I went heavy on, as I do love a tile-laying game and a pretty theme. Tang Garden’s a game where you’re all gardeners trying to placate specific people as you lay tiles down or decorate them with accessories. The tiles have rocks, water, trees or pathways on, and they need to connect to each other, then get sealed off to score points. Accessories include birds, fish, trees, bridges and gazebos which all score slightly differently. At some point, you will draw a new client and have the choice of keeping your current client who’ll have a special ability, or placing them on the garden to score points for what they’re looking at. It’s a short, beautiful game with several ways of doing well.

With a game this pretty, I’m shocked it’s not talked about more.

Sushi Go Party!

Sushi Go is a card-drafting game, meaning that you each have a hand of cards and on your turn you pick one to play, then pass the rest on. That’s it for the gameplay, but each card has different ways of scoring as the imaginary conveyor belt keeps moving the cards round. Dumplings get more valuable the more you have, tempura is worth points but only as a pair and so on. Sushi Go Party is a larger version of the basic game with a lot of options. I like the variety, although it does make it a little less portable.

Chrononauts & Early American Chrononauts

This was a bit of a cheat, but I don’t care. Chrononauts is a game where you’re a time traveller who’s trying to make history look like their timeline. This means changing key events in time and patching them with new ones, but you all come from different timelines and don’t know what each others’ goals are. You also have other ways of winning as it can be a bit of a mess just getting home. Players draw cards every time they patch the timeline and a hand of ten has you win the game, so bluffing and patching different places in history also might help you win, even if your opponent does their best to reset them to their original state.

This is time, before we messed with it.

Early American Chrononauts is a standalone expansion which can be played with the original, which is what we ended up doing here, making it two games in one! Woo, loopholes!

Boggle

This is my family’s copy of Boggle which is older than I am. It’s not something we played often, as Scrabble was normally preferred. My team at work played a virtual version a few times at the start of the first lockdown, which reminded me how much I enjoyed this game.

I got 15 in three minutes, you’re welcome to try your luck and see what you get.

Suburbia

This is Sim City, but as a board game. Everyone has a hexagonal space with a few city tiles, then tries to buy more and have them combo off each other to generate both people and income. The interesting snuggle is that the more people who are in your city, the more your extra income goes down as you’re having to invest in more infrastructure for them. Every few points, more people arrive and that income track bumps down again. It’s a fun little balancing act between a need for money and to make it good for people, certainly a lot less dry than I make it sound.

This game even looks dry, but I assure you, it’s good fun.

Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension

This is a neat game. You’re all ships trying to fly out of a black hole, drafting cards from stacks of two, where you only know what one of them is. You play the cards to boost away from or towards the nearest ship. There are some neutral ships in space to slingshot off, but each play you make might completely mess with the next person’s plans. It’s a nightmare in a really fun way as everyone bounces back and forth.

I always love when folks can make space look colourful.

Tiny Epic Mechs

I really like the Tiny Epic games, they tend to pack the punch of a much larger board game, and look adorable while doing it. This is an arena battle game where you have little plastic meeples who have slots both for guns and in this game, to clip mech armour round. It’s an arena combat game where you program the actions of your mech on cards, then watch the chaos commence when they all go off simultaneously.

It’s fine. The look of it is the main thing here, with the cute little weapons. I think it doesn’t beat Colt Express as far as these kinds of chaotic programming games, sadly.

Adorable meeples with their weapons ready for action.

Sentinels of the Multiverse

This took way too long to get to the table. Sentinels of the Multiverse is a cooperative superhero card game where every character, villain and environment is a deck. The system’s incredibly simple, but every deck manipulates that basic ruleset to make an incredibly thematic experience.

The super-speedster races through her deck and builds up several small hits into one massive one. Ra summons and uses a fiery staff, Captain Cosmic creates yellow constructs which he can attach to people to help them. It’s all very neat.

A deceptively simple-looking game, but a hell of a battle against a fallen angel.

The game is set in the universe of a comic line which has existed for decades, although even that is fictional. The creators even have a podcast going into the in-comic and out-of-comic history of them, both of which are actually fictional. It’s a level of depth and planning I really like, and the cast have grown on me over the years.

Millennium Blades

Speaking of meta ideas, here’s Millennium Blades.

I used to be heavily into Collectable Card Games like Magic and Pokemon. I still am to a limited level with Arkham Horror and Lord of the Rings, although they’re no longer in randomised packs.

Millennium Blades is a deck-building card game about the experience of collecting CCGs and playing in tournaments. It’s component-heavy, but really good fun. You alternate between turns of purchasing and fighting. The purchasing phase works against the clock and everyone simultaneously buys ‘packs’ (single cards where you don’t know what you’re getting), ‘singles’ (sold cards from other players which are pricy but you can see them) or trades with each other. You’re putting together a collection to sell, a deck for your tournament and accessories to take along there, too. The tournament round is a much simpler affair, where players go round a table playing a card from their hand, adding to their cards and points, but possibly also hindering each other. It’s a really fun experience, even though the set up and tear down are a bit convoluted.

A great game, even with all the excessive amounts of stuff involved.

Coup: Rebellion G54

I’ve covered Coup before. This version is basically like how I described Sushi Go Party. It’s a selection of alternate cards which can be mixed up to make different Coup experiences. I played it a bunch with some friends at work in the Before Times, so we got more used to the small differences in cards, but I’m still keeping my base set as it’s far more portable.

Reference cards for each of the modified roles. Hopefully I’ll play this more often to get a hang of them all.

A Game of Thrones: Hand of the King

A simple tile-sliding game where you move Varys around a set of cartoony tiles of Game of Thrones characters. You’re trying to collect sets of families and score points for a family if you have the most of them. Special cards reward taking the last of a family even if you’re not scoring them, adding a bit of sting to the play. It’s a nice filler.

Cute Thrones.

HMS Dolores

Another small game, this one’s about wreckers who’ve crashed a ship and are dividing out the remains. You use hand signals with the next player in turn order to ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ out who’s getting what. There’s a lot of backstabbing and confusion, which makes for some good fun.

Unfathomable

I love Battlestar Galactica, it’s one of my favourite board games, but it’s hard to recommend as it’s very out of print. I also love the Arkham Files games Fantasy Flight publish, so when I heard about a game which combined the two, I was very excited.

You play the crew of a cruise ship who have suffered some strange events. Fish people are attacking the boat and the person keeping them away has been murdered. Now the ship has to get back to land, unsure who on board is the murderous traitor.

We played a three player game and just from that experience, I think it might be better than BSG. It doesn’t have the expansions and it’s a shorter game, so BSG’s still good if you want an afternoon to mull over traitors and such. The system’s definitely been refined, cards are more flavourful and there are some new uses of the mechanics which really sing. I’ve played it twice now, and am looking forward to trying it again in the future.

A group of deep ones overrun the front of the ship.

Photosynthesis

A neat game about trees. You’re all different types of trees who are sending out seeds, absorbing sunlight and growing. The sun moves, so you can block each other or yourself with any of your trees as they grow. Over time, a tree will get big enough that you decide to have it die, harvest points and start growing another one up. It can get surprisingly competitive as people start blocking each other, trying to strangle out the sunlight points people need to grow their trees.

Secretly a viciously competitive game, despite how pretty it looks.

King of New York

This was a crime of opportunity. Emma and I played Loading Bar’s copy over lunch when we popped by there one weekend. I’ve talked about King of Tokyo before and this is similar, if a little better. New York’s divided into different boroughs for monsters to smash, along with Manhattan which acts as the main area they’re all trying to destroy for points. This time instead of some results on the dice just being points, you have ‘superstar’ points which might mean you’ve got more media attention on you, and buildings to destroy. They turn into army units who arrive to stop you, which can make for tricky conundrums. I was destroyed in this game with some incredibly bad luck and some annoyingly persistent humans.

A quite worn and occasionally water-stained or sticky copy of King of New York.

Scrabble

Like Boggle, this is an ancient family copy. It feels like the most vanilla opinion ever, but I really enjoy Scrabble, even if I have terrible luck with the letters I draw.

The ancient family copy of Scrabble.

Cthulhu 500

This was a surprise. It was one of the games in my ‘probably going to get rid of’ pile as it’s old and I’ve rarely played it. It turned out to be a really fun, brutal time. You have a racing order in the centre of the table and play cards to try and get up to the front. If you succeed at ‘passing’ the person at the back of the line then you go back there and accumulate a ‘lap’. The thing is, you might also have inter dimensional wheels, a zombie in the pit stop or giant tentacles smashing everything around you.

My weird truck.

Cosmic Encounter

This game is glorious chaos. You play a simple game of landing your ships on other people’s planets using a number game on cards to see which side wins, and alliances to allow a certain level of teamwork and/or kingmaking. The twist is that each player also has an alien race whose powers break the game in some way. If you lose a battle, you win. You can pre-emptively swap number cards. You can send your planets to attack. All kinds of fun things.

We played a short version which reminded us of the fun mechanics but was over way too quickly. I think I’ll stick to full games in the future.

My aliens, looking over the void

Meeple Circus

My coordination may be busted, but I still love games where you stack things. Meeple Circus’ theme is adorable as people create little performances using meeple acrobats, props and even animals. You have two rounds where you acquire more pieces, then a third where everyone watches you not only stack your performance but meet a specific challenge as you do so.

My acrobats in action.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Game

This is the board game which got me into the modern era of boardgames. One New Year’s Eve I played a ton of this, then even though I couldn’t find a copy for a year (the UK had its own terrible version), I bought Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne and other classics.

One player is one of the villains from seasons one to four along with their minions. The rest divide out Buffy, Oz, Willow and Xander who are good at fights, being a werewolf, magic and calling for help, respectively. There are some fun scenarios and even though it’s roll to move, it feels like a rare good licensed board game from an era where there weren’t many.

You can tell this is from a whole other era of board games.

Disney Villainous

This was another stupid decision of mine while I’m trying not to get all of my board games played. It was in a Cash Converters for £15 and I had to buy it. There’s a Marvel version of this game where you play villains all trying to beat each other to getting their scheme to go off. It kind of feels more fun doing it with classic Disney antagonists.

Emma played Malificent, Saffy was Ursula and I was Captain Hook. You place a really gorgeous playing piece on different action tiles and try to fulfil unique tasks. Emma had to curse each of her locations, Saffy had to kill Triton with his gear and I had to get Peter Pan into play, then fight him on my boat. Unfortunately I had some real problems getting that swine Pan to appear. He was at the bottom of my deck of enemies, so I had to fight a lot of children before I got to him, then it was too late. Blast that boy!

My odd pawn representing Hook, running up and down the board attacking children.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: A Board Game of English Magic

We saw a copy of this game in a shop in Edinburgh and Emma ordered a copy, then told me all about the book it came from. It sounds good, but I’ve yet to get round to reading it. This is a game about wandering around, socialising and showing off your magical skills, all while a fairy creature lurks in the background. We lost against the Man with the Thistledown Hair, but went to some very nice parties beforehand, so I think that makes us the real winners.

November

Here we have CabinCon month, so I’ll be cutting this one short. Depending on the scale of the future updates I might have CabinCon as its own entry or to kick off the final part.

Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game

It doesn’t get more Ameritrash than this. Incredibly overproduced yet feeling gloriously cheap at the same time, I kind of love this game. It’s a team-based zombie horror game with a ton of different scenarios. It’s rules-light but exceptions-heavy. The presence of the expansions makes scenarios about hunting for particular items a little trickier, and I’ve never seen a close win on either side.

I think that as much as I enjoy the theme, the schlock and the weird photo art that Flying Frog have in all their games, I’ll stick with A Touch of Evil, which is this but with Hammer/Universal horror and has a co-op mode.

This is an incredibly shiny board.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf

A miniature version of the classic Werewolf game, this takes maybe ten minutes. It’s been a while since I played it and was an easy one to get to the table. You have a ‘river’ of three roles and a role card each. In this game we spent a while deliberating over people’s answers about which cards their special roles had and wondered whether there were any wolves among us. It turned out there weren’t as they were both in the river, meaning a rare total victory for all players involved!

Doomtown Reloaded

God I love this game. It’s a new edition of the Doomtown Collectible Card Game which took over from Magic for me back in the day. You have a faction of lawmen, bandits, shamans, drunken kung-fu masters, capitalist mad scientists or weird circus folk and try to get them to rule Gamorra, California.

Movement’s kind of chess-like and while it’s tricky to teach, it makes for a much more thinky game at a higher level than the madness which goes on in the streets. Fights are handled with poker hands, modified by your shooters in each fight.

A hand in Doomtown.

I lost this game thanks to a fantastic gunfight where I’d reduced my opponent down to drawing a normal hand of five cards that they couldn’t modify. I had all my forces there and ready to lay waste, meaning I’d win at the end of the turn. He drew five of a kind straight from the deck, killing my worst murderers. It was wonderful, awful and I lost in a turn after a few attempts at putting contingency plans into place.

A Game of Thrones: The Card Game (Second Edition)

Another fun card game, although I’ve played far fewer games. I played House Tyrell who were using knights, lords, ladies and a love of gardening to take on the Night’s Watch, who were accruing tons of victory points while defending The Wall. Lee put up a great defence, but my armies of gardeners managed to outmanoeuvre his actual armies eventually. It’s far more brutal in two player mode, but it also becomes a much shorter experience which might help getting it to the table more often.

My brutal gardeners.

Tiny Epic Quest

I introduced this to my roleplaying group, The In-Fighters. For a tiny box, it contains so many things. Despite that, it’s a nice and simple dice-rolling game. You each have a couple of adventurers who you send out into the world, using a movement card which dictates how everyone’s travelling for the round. You put people into place in dungeons, fighting goblins or learning spells, then roll dice, trying to advance while also making the world more and more volatile. Do you keep going and hoping to get what you want, or do you rest up and stop suffering any damaging effects from all the magic?

It also has cute little items which you put in the ‘hands’ of your meeples, which are adorable and add to the Legend of Zelda aesthetic.

The lads, all tooled up with sword, shield, pan pipes and a fairy.

Gloom

A fun little competitive storytelling card game. This uses transparent cards for a family under your control, who you modify by placing new cards over them. You’re aiming to make them miserable, then murders them. The problem is, other players might give your characters a lottery win, a lovely date or just a nice breakfast. They might even bring your family members back from the dead.

Even our player who is a bit more shy with these games got into the spirit thanks to the prompts on the cards, leading to some great stories about gangsters baked into their own pies, a dog carrying out property scams and more.

Two of my family, who had a delightfully dreadful time.

Firefly: The Game

Joss Whedon’s become a problematic figure over the years and there are some glaring problems with Firefly like the Confederacy-coded Browncoats and the lack of Chinese people in a Chinese-themed culture. Still, I remember enjoying it when I saw it a decade or more ago. It was neat, although I’ve never been one of those people avidly after its renewal.

Firefly’s a fairly chilled game about people in space flying around and doing jobs of various levels of legality. It feels like a competitive equivalent of Eldritch Horror. It’s fairly Ameritrashy, but still a satisfying gameplay loop. When you’re flying you can ‘burn’ fuel, spending it and risking encounters to get where you want faster. We played the introductory scenario as it had been a while, and I came away thinking that I’d quite like to try it again with some of the other scenarios to see how they feel and to spend more time in the ’verse, building up a crew and doing jobs. This time, playing with only two people lasted about the same time as it took to set up the game given all the components involved.

Our ships, hiding from the law but worryingly close to the Reavers.

Time’s nearly out and things are looking precarious with playing each of the games. With CabinCon, NaNoWriMo and the run up to Christmas, things are going to get more tense. Next time, we’ll see how it ends.

As a bonus for making it all the way through this, a cat in a box.
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