I know. I know.
I missed posting a September board game review roundup.
That’s, in part, because I was writing about tabletop games for Indianapolis Monthly, where I filed my annual Best Games of Gen Con piece. You can find it here.
And contributing another movie tie-in board game piece for Midwest Film Journal. You can find that one here.
I also wrote a tabletop game piece for Northeast Ohio Parent magazine. You can’t find that one yet because it has yet to be posted.
But enough excuses. Let’s talk about games.
The two games from my Gen Con haul that have gotten the most play for me have been Floor Plan (Deep Water Games) and Flourish (Starling Games).
Floor Plan is a roll-and-write game where each player is given a graph-paper plot with the goal of building a house and grounds. The challenge is that, in each game, you have to meet the needs of a trio of clients with very specific demands. Building a practical house isn’t one of those demands so we added a fun, final step where each player has to talk through their design as if they needed to sell it. That always turns silly, since these houses inevitable have rooms without doors, absurdly large washrooms, bedrooms connected to kitchens, and other odd factors that would keep it off any self-respecting real estate TV show. Why the goofiness? Because your choices of what rooms or features to add are determined by the roll of two dice.
Flourish poses a bit more of a challenge for a gaming novice, but it’s one of those games where the mechanics if not the strategy are easy to grasp. On each turn, you play a card from your hand and pass one card to the player on your left and another to the player on your right. Each card has garden icons on it as well as scoring criteria per round and end game scoring. If the scoring option on top of the card is two points for every rose icon, then you may play toward that. But your neighbor may score with a card that offers points if she has more Ivy than her neighbors. So you are watching both what you are adding to your garden as well as what the neighbors are up to.
Among other games recently played:
Horrified: American Monsters (Ravensburger) is a follow up to the original Horrified, which highlighted the classic Universal Studios creatures. This time, the baddies are regional American mythic cryptids and it was nice to see my old neighbor, the Jersey Devil, alongside such beasts as Chupacabra, Mothman and, of course, Bigfoot. This one’s a co-op game in which you can set the level of difficulty by deciding which ones — and how many — you’ll go up against. Each has its own special rules for when it breaks into a frenzy as well as a unique way to defeat it. If you already have Horrified, you might be disappointed that this is essentially the same game. If you don’t, then your choice depends on which batch of monsters you prefer. Either way, it’s an easy to learn, fun to play battle with a solid system for escalating the tension. If you haven’t tried a co-op game, the Horrified games offer a terrific introduction.
Azul (Next Move Games/Plan B Games) has quickly risen to quasi-classic status since it was launched in 2017. But I was resistant to it. Why? Because my first encounter with the title was with its sequel, Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra. When I finally got around the playing the original, my first impression was that the scoring system was wonky and I just didn’t like it as much as its follow-up. So I stuck with what I knew. Recently, though, the original was brought to the table by a gaming friend and my initial reluctance turned into a very enjoying gaming experience. In short, I was wrong about the first version. Anyway, the game is a beautifully designed one in which tiles are randomly added to discs at the center of the table. On your turn, you can take all of the same tile type from one of the discs, putting the extras in the middle. The keepers get held in a patterned grid on your board and completed rows allow you to move one of the tiles to decorate a palace wall. Landing the specific tiles you need — and trying not to “break” tiles an lose points by acquiring too many of a type — is part of the challenge. The game has proven so popular that a third version is already out with a fourth one on the way. It’s hard to argue with creative success.
I’ve got more on my Shelf of Shame (games I haven’t yet brought to the table) and look forward to writing about those here, for Midwest Film Journal, and elsewhere.
In the meantime, when you have a chance, give a listen to my chat about games with Kathy O’Connell, the host of the best radio show for kids on the planet, Kids Corner. Because she’s had generations of listeners, she created a podcast for her older fans and invited me to chat about the hobby. You can find that here.