Recent Game Round-Up

10 Oct

Yep, it’s been 3 months since my last post. No grand reasons other than I haven’t been playing many older games, though I’ve certainly been buying them. That and, quite frankly, I just hadn’t been in the mood to write much. But I have a few days off, am kind of bored, and have the bug to write again…so I’m going to do a round-up of a few of the recent games I’ve been playing.

For the most part, my game time has been taken up by smaller games. Quick-playing, maybe a bit more “family” oriented than usual. These are in no particular order.

Five Tribes: The Djinns of Naqala by Days of Wonder

Shamelessly borrowed from the Days of Wonder site

This was one of the runaway successes from this past Gen Con. This is also the only “big” game I’ve played lately. I guess you’d call this a worker movement game? The main mechanic for moving pieces around the board is taken from the classic game Mancala. There are a lot of things going on in this game, but it never feels overwhelming. I’ve played this 3-4 times now, and every game has been close. Also, every game has been won by a player trying a different scoring strategy. I had been down on Days of Wonder for a long time, as I didn’t like their last 3 big games (Mystery Express, Cargo Noir, and Relic Runners) at all. Five Tribes feels like a great step back in the right direction.

20 Express by Blue Orange Games

IMG_005120 Express, and the next game on my list, actually take their main mechanic from bingo, of all things. In 20 Express, one player draws a tile, and then everybody has to place that number into their “train” on their scoresheet. The goal of the game is to get all the numbers onto the train in ascending order. However, that’s never as easy as you’d think. It’s a cute little 10 minute filler that can play as many people as you want. The box says from 1 to 100, but you can play it with thousands if you had enough scoresheets. The quality of the tiles is extremely nice for a game of this type. It’s nothing to write home about, but with the holidays coming up, it may work with weird Aunt Mabel.

Qwixx by Gamewright

IMG_0053Another very small, bingo inspired game, Qwixx was a 2013 Spiel des Jahres nominee. I’m not sure why it got THAT much love, but it is a game I do enjoy. The basics are that one player rolls 6 dice, 2 white and four of various colors. Each player at the table has access to the two white dice. They simply add them up, and if they want, they cross that number off one of the score tracks on their score sheet. The rolling player than may, in addition, choose one of the colored dice, and one white die, add them together and cross (potentially) a second number off their sheet. If they choose to do neither, they take a penalty. The game ends when either two rows have been locked out, or one player has taken 4 penalties. Again, this is a super quick 10-15 minute game. I feel like it has the ability to have more painful decisions than 20 Express, but by no means is it a brain-burning endeavor. I like it a lot.

Pyramix by Gamewright

IMG_0043Pyramix is a fun abstract game for 2-4 players. On a turn, you simply take a die out of the pyramid as long as you can see at least 2 faces of said die, and taking it would not reveal the base dice tray. If a die is next to a Cobra symbol, you can not take it. Taking a Cobra is almost a double penalty, as you get 0 points for cobras at the end of the game, and you open up plays for your opponents. Once there is just a single layer of dice in the tray, scoring happens… and while this game is not a Reiner Knizia game, the scoring feels much like it. There is a bit of set collection involved, as the player with the most Ankh symbols in each color at the end of the game will collect any and all dice left in the base of that color. This brings up an interesting choice in the game: the only way you get bonuses is by having the most ankhs, but by only collecting ankhs, you leave the more valuable storks and eye symbols for the other players.  Neat game, one that has been requested quite often as of late.

Valley of the Kings by AEG

IMG_0055Speaking of pyramids, Valley of the Kings is a deck building game with a strong Egyptian theme. There are several interesting aspects to this game. First of all, there are only 96 or so cards in the entire game, unlike the hundreds to choose from in something like Dominion. Next, it has almost a futures market style buying system like in Power Grid. The third thing is that while cards can be used as money, or as actions,which is typical, they only score you points when you entomb them…thereby removing them from the game. This aspect of the game is what truly separates it from the crowd. Properly culling your deck is more important than building it. You may be going around buying up all these cool cards, and doing all these great actions, but if at the end of the game those cards are still in your deck…they are 100% worthless. Also interesting is that the most useful cards are also the ones you most want to / need to entomb to really score well in this game. I keep worrying that the small deck size is going to eventually make this game go stale for me, but I’m 10 games in and it’s still an interesting experience. This game seems to have vanished from stores as of late, so I hope it gets a reprint so more can enjoy this unique take on deck building.

Diamonds from Stronghold Games

Finally for this round-up I want to take a quick look at Diamonds.

IMG_0047Diamonds is trick taking with a twist. The twist is that each suit has a different ability assigned to it. So if you win a trick with a certain suit, you get to take that action. Also, if you can’t follow the lead suit, you can play something off suit, and ALSO do that suit action. The actions involve taking diamond gems from the center pot, or hiding your gems in your vault, or even stealing gems from your opponent. The whole goal of the game is to collect diamond tokens, and put them in your vault. Diamonds in your vault are worth double those out in your showroom. The trick taking is as basic as it could possibly be, and that makes the game fall a bit flat for me. There are a lot of trick taking games out there that have novel twists on the genre, and I just don’t quite feel like the suit actions are quite enough of a twist for me here. Still, I think a lot of people will be fans of this game. I do feel like the MSRP for $25 is somewhat too high, but you do get a lot of shiny gems, and a nice looking deck of cards.

IMG_0049That’s it for now, I hope to get some older games to the table again soon, and I look forward to sharing them here.



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