Theme Game Day #10 – The Unopened

28 Jan

Almost caught up to the present. A couple weeks back, after the craziness of the holiday season finally wound down, our group took stock of our collections and we realized that we still had a lot of games still in the shrink wrap. Not all of them from Christmas or Hanukkah, either. So we took this opportunity to play a few of those unopened games. The only ground rule was that the game still had to be sealed at that very moment. In the interest of time on game day, it was allowable to now open and punch the games out, and read the rules ahead of time.

Game #1 – Blood Rage

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A very popular game at the store this holiday season. Blood Rage is a re-working of an old Z-Man Games hidden gem called Midgard. Blood Rage has awesome minis (which my friend Matt had just begun painting), and surprisingly Euro-style game play. There’s lots of combat, and lots of death, but it’s not done in the visceral style of so many other games. There’s a lot of strategy, and timing plays an incredible role in doing well. Plus there are some absolutely stunning (and giant) miniatures.  In the end, Blood Rage is much more like an area control game than a loot and pillage Viking game. I adore this game, and look forward to seeing how the expansions enhance the game in the future.

Game #2 – Favor of the Pharaoh

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A few years back, a little game called To Court the King snuck its way onto store shelves. The game was kind of a hybrid engine-building game / Yahtzee variant. It was hamstrung a bit by a weird turn order rule, and a static set of cards which led to most games feeling the same after a while. Favor of the Pharaoh blows the lid off that game by adding scads of new cards, new dice, and ways to change how cards are collected. This game has exponentially more replay value. I also feel like the game flows much better, and might be a little bit quicker to play. The game still does suffer a bit from “Euroglyphics” – making the game language independent by using odd symbology. Thankfully, there is a terrific guide to all the cards in the rule book. I only wish they would have included 4-5 that could just be passed out as player aids. This game was a big hit, and one that will probably get a lot of play in the next year.

Game #3 – Lanterns

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Lanterns was one of my favorite games that I got to demo briefly at Origins 2015. Unfortunately, it took another 6 months before I was actually able to get a copy, and then get it to the table. In Lanterns, players play colored tiles to the table in order to gain different colored lantern cards. Players are trying to fill certain set cards to score points. This game is so much fun. It’s a light game, but it can get tense when it’s obvious that two players are going for the same score card. It looks great on the table, and is great for drawing attention to the table. There’s nothing about this game I don’t enjoy.

Game #4 – Darjeeling

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Darjeeling is a game that has flown far under the radar. Players are basically facilitating the tea trade. A “map” of sorts is set up (I believe the one in the picture is China). Players then use their farmer token to walk around the fields of China, collecting tiles which show parts of crates in several different colors. Once players have collected a set of crates, they get to ship the tea off, and begin scoring points. The more crates you send, the more cubes you get to put on your boat. Also, the more points you score. There is a tricky timing element to this game. You want to get your tea onto the boats, because that’s the only way you score points. However, if every player after you also sends tea that turn, your boat gets pushed aside, and you won’t get as many points. I like the timing element, although for one player in this game, it bit him severely – as he never once got to score full points for his shipments because another player also shipped the same turn. The score track is also borderline useless. The boat mechanic, and the demand mechanic are both still fresh today. I feel like this is a game people need to rediscover. The field mechanics feel similar to Scoville, but I prefer this game by quite a bit.

Game #5 – Milestones 

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Yes, we forgot to take a picture of the game in progress.

Do you remember the game of Boxes? Where you draw a million dots on a piece of paper, and then go back and forth connecting them? Milestones is kind of like that, only with an actual game connected. Players each have an action board in front of them that relates to all the different things they can do on a turn. At the top, they gather resources through using workers, on the bottom, they do various actions and build stuff (roads, markets, houses) on the map to score points. A really interesting thing in this game is The Castle space. You have to reduce your goods to 3, but you also have to basically fire a worker every turn. This will dramatically change what you are able to build and buy every couple of turns. I really enjoyed how the game kept you on your toes in that way. I was surprised at how much fun this game was. This is one of those games that seemed to be dismissed because it dropped in price quickly. Maybe the theme (which we’ve seen a billion times) turned people off, but the game play is top notch. Another great game that deserves another chance.

Game #6 – Codenames

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The party hit of 2015. Team Password, I mean Codenames, is a game where 25 cards are placed in a matrix between two teams. One person from each team sits opposite the rest of their team. Only this person knows which cards in the matrix score for their team. One card is the assassin. If anyone guesses that card, they instantly lose. Clues can only be one word, but the giver may also say a number – which is how many cards in the matrix they feel relate to the clue. I know my picture above is small, but for example if I said “Fishing – 2” I’m hoping my team would pick out “Cast” and “Fly” but they might say “Bear”. I then check and see if they accidentally just got an innocent bystander, or were just picked off by the assassin. Codenames is one of the very few party games I really enjoy playing. The more people on a team the better – because groupthink is a powerful, and dangerous thing. Great game at a great price…it was nearly impossible to find this one around Christmas.

I still had about half a dozen games that are in the shrink wrap, so we’ll be doing this one again soon (at least two of them have now turned 10 years old on my shelf, still in the shrink wrap). The next theme day post will get me all caught up just in time to take the concept to 11. In that next post we do my favorite thing, celebrate me! it was the Wednesday before my birthday, so I picked all the games. I dusted a bunch of fun stuff off the shelf that I don’t get to play as much as I’d like, and we ended the night with my favorite game ever.

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