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.
The old topic of “house rules” keeps cropping up. Some of us are purists and feel that you have to play games with the rules they came with, because otherwise you won’t get the experience that the designer intended. Others feel that tweaking a few rules here and there can make a game more fun for you and the people you play with and that designers want us to enjoy their games. In this article, I want to speak for the latter group and show that house rules aren’t a sacrilege.
I’ve recently got into heavier games, such as Brass: Birmingham with my games group, because they help me completely focus on a game, allowing my brain to fully put aside my day-to-day worries and thoughts. I’ve also started to enjoy games with more player interaction, which encourage everyone to stay focussed on what everyone around the table is doing, rather than just doing their own thing and not being part of the group. However, for me, the best type of player interaction is where you don’t just put one over on another person, but where everyone gets something out of it, and in this article, I want to look at those types and what it is I enjoy about them.
Looking back, building that last pottery had been foolhardy. Investing in the rail network would have been much more lucrative and sensible, but you had wanted to compete with your contemporaries. Maybe if you had been more careful and had planned further ahead when you first started out as an entrepreneur, things would have worked out differently. But then, nobody could have predicted the Industrial Revolution to be so transformative as it had been. Yet, overall you had done well and were certainly top Brass: Birmingham by Roxley Games.
Your 8-bit computer may seem to be collecting dust in your loft, but actually, there is still a lot of life in the old box yet. Two of the microprocessors, Mikro and Chip, are keeping themselves amused by playing little, fun games. After all, their buffers and memory stacks are still in working order. With a handful of assembly instructions, they keep each other entertained: push, pop, peek as well as some Mini Memory Mischief by Atikin Games.
The more we play games, the more we learn. We learn better strategies, new mechanisms, how to be a better loser, as well as a better winner, we learn that we don’t always have to have the latest games, or that we definitely do, and we learn a few other things besides. In this article, I want to focus on something else though. I want to look at what playing board games has taught me about myself, about the people around me, and how it has changed me over time, if at all.
It was the fifth factory you had visited today, as you were trying to find three turquoise ceramic tiles to complete your pattern in the King’s palace. You needed three – exactly – no more, no less. The first factory you had visited had no turquoise tiles, the second had four, the third had only one and the fourth had two. The factory you were in now, was the last one that made these tiles, and if it didn’t have the exact number of turquoise tiles you needed, you had to go back to the previous one and make do with two, which would put you behind schedule and make the King angry. Yet, you were in luck. The factory overseer told you that they had your tiles and exactly three of them. You were so pleased that you found three tiles that were all Azul by Next Move Games.
I slammed down Cowgirl and immediately opened the bidding with a “Klik”, which was countered with a “Thwak” and to which I responded with a “Splat”. A “Twang” played by the other side brought us level again, which meant I could still win this. After a moment’s hesitation, the other side played “And” and immediately put down Wheel-Demon, closely followed by “Zooom”, giving them the leading bid. However, their unexpected move actually gave me the advantage. I put down “Kerunch”, which they countered with “Eeeek!!”, which I trumped with “Crrash”, which they… no… they couldn’t keep up. The bids were level, which meant I was victorious and was inching closer to victory with another two Heroic Echoic by Happyclash Games.
With a loud “Bang!” the head flew off, followed by a “leg-splosion” that severed both legs, leaving only the body and the left arm. It wasn’t pretty. Yet, you knew you could turn it all around. There were still plenty of options. You just had to duck and dive and try and swap body parts with another robot to boost your own. You were sure that in the end you would be a Bots Up.
The irrigation system was ready, but there was still work to be done on the trellises. The windmill, cottage and tasting room were still just ruins and only the first third of the wine cellar was accessible. The crush pads were all clean and ready to receive the first harvest of grapes, yet the fields were still bare. Orders for some red and white wine had already come in and two types of grapes were ready to be planted. It was the beginning of a vineyard that was going to be splendid. Mama and Papa were looking forward to putting the work in and creating a heritage that would make the family name proud. At the same time, it was daunting, because they knew nothing about Viticulture by Stonemaier Games.