Hello folks, we hope you’ve all enjoyed your day of scarfing poutine and guzzling maple syrup! We’ve recently expanded our stock, so let’s see if we can give each of these games a quick rundown without doing them too much of an injustice!
First, a word on restock:
The reprint of Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective is back in stock! This classic game of deduction and logic has you playing the role of Holmes’ informers, the Baker Street Irregulars, as you conduct interviews across London in order to solve each cleverly constructed case.
Race for the Galaxy is back as well, featuring role selection, expanding your galactic empire and crushing your opponents (under the sheer weight of your points).
Dixit base sets return with loads of cards (and expansions) to illustrate the stories you tell your friends. Match your card to the story convincingly, but don’t make it too obvious!
On to the new, let’s begin with some sci-fi:
First up, Dark Moon. Originally conceived as a quicker, slicker version of the Battlestar Galactica board game, this is a semi co-op game with an Alien aesthetic and a mysterious infection that causes players to turn on each other! Throughout the game you work together to keep your space base operational and react to crises, fielding missions and challenges like the amazing team you are. Teamwork! But then you remember, one of you is infected. More than one? Uh oh. Are you infected? Check your card again. No, you’re fine. Then who’s surreptitiously setting you up for dramatic systems failures and explosions? Then the infection progresses, and Joe starts murdering people. There’s your answer, I guess. I knew it was you, Joe.
Level 7 [Omega Protocol]: Have you ever played Descent: Journeys in the Dark or old-school Warhammer Quest (or older-school Hero Quest) and wished that there was a similar game, but deeper, with sweet sci-fi commandos instead of sword-toting heroes, and clone-monsters instead of generic fantasy beasts? Well, I gave it away with the header, but that game exists, and it’s called Level 7 [Omega Protocol].
This is a tactical combat dungeon crawl in a one-vs-many style with up to four players playing the commandos against the alien overseer. As the heroes, you’ll be confidently strolling through the mad scientist’s laboratory, chucking dice, covering your buddies’ backs and checking all your corners. Teamwork! As the overseer, you’ll be seeding the rooms with traps and surprises, controlling the monsters in combat, and generally crushing every last bit of your friends’ misplaced confidence. This game plays as a campaign, so if the commandos ever succeed (ha) they can carry kit upgrades and loot into the later missions.
Level 7 [Invasion] takes the imminent-alien-invasion story from [Omega Protocol] and expands it, putting you in control of the world’s continent-based coalitions (Australia’s already been overrun, sorry) as the aliens land, forcing you to manage your coalition’s technologies and military in a desperate attempt to save the world.
Playing very differently from its older brother [Omega Protocol], [Invasion] is a semi-cooperative game of resource management, trading, getting swarmed by hordes of aliens, and a dash of politics. Of course all of your coalitions are working together to repel the alien invaders, but as in all such cases, a victory for the humans is not a victory for all humans. Specifically the ones who lived in all of the continents you had to let burn. We in the business of anti-extraterrestrial earth preservation have a term for that, and that term is “acceptable losses”. We said we were sorry, Australia.
Among the Stars centers around drafting location cards to build up your personal alien space station, fitting them together in a grid and receiving excellent bonuses for placing them just right. No, don’t put the garden next to the power station, you’d miss out on those lovely bonus points! What if you socket it over… there! Next to the holographic display area! Good, now you’re getting bonuses for both of them. Strong work.
Android Mainframe is very much like that game we all played when we were supposed to be paying attention in class, where you and an equally attentive friend take turns drawing straight lines on a dot grid and trying to be the one to close off sections so you can put your initial in them and claim those tasty points. Except here, instead of drawing lines wherever you like, you select from a suite of “programs” that will define how you can place your attractive electric blue “partitions”. And instead of initials, you’re placing “access point tokens” with your character’s face on them that you then have to close off. Yes, you all have a character, and they have special ability cards! Because each of you is a hacker, hacking a mainframe, and you’re all good at different things. But really, despite being set in the rich Android universe, this game is very light on theme. That said, if you like games that involve geometry and spacial reasoning, this is a solid semi-abstract pick.
Alright, let’s move on to some economy-based games, starting with:
Dominion: Empires! 10 expansions? Dominion, you crazy. Empires is an excellent expansion to the base game, adding the new mechanics of debt and landmarks. With this set you’ll acquire new ways to earn points, some of which don’t clutter up your deck with victory point cards. This one will probably appeal most to experienced Dominion aficionados, who might appreciate its increased complexity and deeper decision-making.
Ever wanted a vineyard management simulator in board game form? You’re in luck, because Viticulture is here to fill that niche. This worker placement game will have you delegating your little wooden folks (who all have little sunhats, so clearly you love and take care of them) to all the tasks involved in making wine across the four seasons. The theme works and comes across well and although it’s not a perfectly no-luck eurogame, the luck aspects don’t spoil any games. Or grapes. Sour grapes? I tried.
Concordia is a personal favourite. Don’t be scared away by the astoundingly uninteresting box art, this game has one of the highest ratios of good-game-to-bad-box-art I’ve ever encountered.
The players are roman traders, spreading out from Italy (or into Italy, depending on the map you play), steadily expanding your trade empire, managing your storehouses, sestertii and trade goods in a refreshingly non-confrontational manner. In fact, although many of your actions affect other players, the ways in which they interact are sometimes helpful to your opponents. In a brilliant twist on the genre all of your possible actions are represented by a hard of cards, each allowing you to pursue a particular avenue. Play a card that causes Germania to produce goods, and everyone with trading houses in that territory produces goods. You get a little extra, but no one could begrudge you that when they’ve received resources as well, right? Your opponent may play that same card another way and scoop up all of the sestertii revealed by exploited resources, but at least all of those territories can produce goods again. So friendly!
Now, a divergence from those themes to explore a couple of fun ones:
First, a party game from Czech designer Vlaada Chvatil, Pictomania. Reminiscent of Pictionary, but with the frantic, hilarious twists of everyone drawing at once and everyone only being allowed to guess once, while being rewarded more the earlier you guess. Also, there are a bunch of cards on the table, each with a list of similar things (one reads frog, lizard, snail, while the next reads pawn, rook, bishop) and oh man you don’t know who’s drawing what, and you’re drawing your thing at the same time and it’d better be good (or at least recognizable) because you need people to get it right so you can get points! And is that a frog or a snail, draw better, dad! Wait, now it’s an owl. Oh no. And what’s more, those examples are from the easy cards! There are four levels of cards, and while the first level may contain a list of easily discernible animals, the fourth level will read more along the lines of “order, eternity, theory, chaos”. Best of luck drawing those.
Finally, Blood Rage. We all knew it was coming, and it’s here at last: Ragnarok. Take control of a clan of gorgeous Norse warrior miniatures to compete with your rivals for sovereignty and territorial control in the battle at the end of the world. In each of the three ages, you’ll first draft a hand of powerful cards, each representing the favour and boon of one of the gods. You’ll have to ensure that you’re cozying up to the right gods for your strategy, while also denying the other players cards that you’re certain they’d love to use against you. Next, buy a bunch of viking warriors by spending the primary resource, Rage. Finally, send your clan pillaging and looting across the land, brawling with your opponents to claim and deny territories. The more territories you win, the better your clan will become at hitting the other clans with their axes, fielding lots of viking warriors, and getting angry! Sort of sounds like an area-control eurogame, doesn’t it? Well, Blood Rage’s secret is that it almost, sort of, ever so slightly is a eurogame. It’s just that it’s so unconventionally buried under the phenomenal miniatures and lush production values and so much crazy angry clever slashy fun that it’s virtually unrecognizable.