Someone had hidden the Emperor's dogs. It was an outrage. The Emperor suspected their cabinet ministers who strenuously, but politely, denied the accusations and pointed their fingers at their counterparts. They eagerly offered to help the Emperor find their dogs, but they clearly had something to hide. When the Emperor was convinced that they could hear a dog behind one of the closed doors leading to one of the ministers' private chamber, that minister would quickly lead the Emperor away to another minister's door. The Emperor got dizzy, but eventually, one of the dogs was found in the room of minister Dokojong by Oink Games.
A murder had been committed and three suspects were found at the crime scene, but only one of them was the murderer. One of the detectives was already at the scene and had spoken to two of the suspects when you arrived. The detective told you who they thought was the killer, but you wanted to be sure. You pulled the other two suspects to one side and interviewed each of them in turn. You quickly knew who had committed the murder and logged down your suspicion. The only thing that wasn't clear, was why the crime scene was In a Grove by Oink Games.
As is customary at the end of a calendar year, it's time for my top 5 board games of this, rather odd, year and for me to announce the winner of the Top Table Award 2020. Let me say that this year, I happily allowed games into the top 5 list that were published before 2020, as long as these games were new to me this year. There is a clear winner for me, not just based on the number of plays, the amount of enjoyment the game brought and the nostalgia factor that the game has for me, but because this game took a well-established genre and took it to the next step, making it more accessible to a wider range of people. However, let me not spoil it for you, but start at number 5 and work my way to the top slot.
It was time to find the next victim. The beaches were full of swimmers, so it was going to be easy pickings. Yet, the sea around the island was patrolled by the Orca, a 42-foot former lobster boat, that was launching barrels into the sea to flush me out. A little speedboat was also making its rounds and using its fish finder to see if it could spot me. So far, I hadn't been found and already five people had lost their lives to my merciless attacks. I just needed four more victims to end up in my Jaws by Ravensburger.
Our heighliner was positioned safely in Arrakis' orbit. With a steady stream of Spice filling our coffers gradually, we had to be patient and observe from afar the goings-on down on the planet itself. It was clear that House Atreides was pivotal in the unfolding events and our scheme had to remain hidden until the right moment was reached. The cogs were set in motion and doubts had been planted in the Emperor's mind that would lead to their unavoidable conclusion. The Spice needs to flow on Dune by Gale Force Nine.
"...as more people are put into isolation in specifically built camps that are guarded by military personnel and run by medical experts and support staff brought in from around the country. The World Health Organization has so far identified five different viruses in this global epidemic. A number of scientific laboratories across the world are working around the clock in an attempt to discover a cure for them all, while teams on the ground travel to infection sites to gather samples and monitor outbreaks." You switch off the TV, because you have to return to your fieldwork and help your team find cures in Pandemic by Z-Man Games.
There is absolute silence and the flickering candles cast eerie shadows of the four people sitting around the table. Everyone has one hand on the table and moves their gaze from face to face, trying to lock onto the thoughts that waft through the other person's mind. The tension is palpable and the air is thick. There is a faint sound of ticking, as if from a grandfather clock, but it's not real. It's in everyone's head. Yet, it's not a single clock, but a jumbled rhythm as each player counts down at their own frequency. Then, slowly, everyone withdraws their hand and the game begins. It's time to get into synch as the game of The Mind Extreme by Nürnberger-Spielkarten-Verlag begins.
It's been a very long time since I have played one of the classic, German trick-taking games, like Skat or Doppelkopf. My family and I used to play Skat at home a lot when I was in my late teens, early twenties, and I used to play Doppelkopf pretty much every break with my friends in school when I was in my late teens, keeping the session going virtually all day, as one person would leave to get to their lesson and someone else would take their place. I had very much forgotten how much I loved these sort of games, especially the uncertainty in Doppelkopf where you don't know who your partner is until later in the game. However, when someone bought Vivaldi by XV Games at Spiel Essen this year and brought it to the Gaming Rules meet-up, we had so much fun and all my fond memories flooded back.
The sun is high in the sky, shining directly down onto Main Street in this ramshackle town of wooden buildings. The heat is almost unbearable, if it wasn't for a light breeze that is creating small swirls of sand and dust. You have to squint in the bright light, as you stand outside the saloon waiting for the clock to strike twelve. A speck of dust makes you blink, which doesn't bode well. You need to be able to see your opponent clearly, so this won't do. You step away from the saloon and try and position yourself in a more sheltered spot, where dust will be less of an issue and there is more shade, making it easier to see. Yet, this duel is different. You actually have to face off several people in this Six Gun Showdown, and you also have to play your cards right to make sure you come out victorious.
It is with a sense of deja vu that you desperately type into the console in front of you in a frantic attempt to contact your colleague who, like yourself, has locked themselves into one of the bays on this vast manmade construct. It feels like you have been in this situation before, where both of you were trying to escape alive, as the station's AI was watching your every move and interfering where it could. As if with the help from your previous self, you manage to switch some of the station's functions to manual mode, making everything ten times harder. Now, every command you issue will have to be confirmed by your colleague, and the AI will be able to listen in. You know you have only so many commands before the AI will lock you in permanently, sealing your fate forever. Even though the situation feels very familiar, there is something very different. You notice robots on the station, and there is an additional safety mechanism that forces you to lock all bays in clockwise order. You are back on the Assembly space station, like you were before, but this time the Re-Sequence & Override expansion doubles the difficulty.