The Five for October (Brandon Kempf)
I’m a couple days late with this, but it’s time to take a look back and 5 games that stood out to me, for better or worse, in the month of October.
Cryptid - First game, we run out of components, from then on out the games were generally over in about a round or two. I had high hopes for this deduction game. Osprey has had a run of decent games lately and this looked from the outside like one that would be a step or two above what they had been doing, but it turns out to be a pretty fragile game. A game that can end rather abruptly. As a friend has said, this is Bayesian Statistics, the board game, so if one or two people at the table give too much information by placing their markers, well, it’s going to be over really quickly. I’m not even going to mention the fact that for all that beautiful artwork on the outside of the box, this game turns into an uglier version of Kingdom Builder once it’s all set up, but instead of neat little wooden buildings we have cubes and discs everywhere. It’s not an awful game, just not an exciting one and not nearly exciting as some have led you on to believe. And for the love of all that is holy, don’t use cheat sheets, just don’t.
Brikks - A Tetris styled roll and write immediately piqued my interest. Throw on top of that the fact that it was designed by Wolfgang Warsch and I’m fully in. Three plays later and I may be fully out. It’s an interesting premise, you roll two dice, one 4 sided die and one 6-sided die with 6 different colors on it. The color tells you the color of the block you are going to place and the number tells you which one according to the guide on the opposite side of your scoring sheet. There is a way to manipulate which block is dropped and it never really feels like you are completely under the control of the dice roll. You pretend you are dropping the piece in from the top and manipulate it into the space that you want it to fall. No rotating though, that’s what the dice manipulation is for. You score points based on your rows being finished, full rows getting 5 points for the first 5 rows and then everything doubles from there on up on the player sheet. You also score points based on how many x’s you get on a numbered row. You gain the x’s by completing multiple rows with one brick placement and also by advancing up the energy track, which you do by placing bricks on top of the circles on the player sheet that match that brick’s color. There is nothing wrong with the game that I can find, it works as intended and offers some choice, but it feels uninspired to me and maybe that’s because it plays a bit longer than other roll and writes and maybe even a bit too long. I’m not sure why I would reach for this over Ganz Schon Clever from the same designer, both are puzzles, Brikks is just more of a spatial puzzle than a numerical puzzle.
Carpe Diem - Yes, yes, yes, I know. I’m not the biggest Feld fan in the world. I dig Castles of Burgundy but anything else has been kind of a miss for me from him. So why did I take a chance and go with Carpe Diem? Well, after looking at the rules, this really felt like a Castles of Burgundy without dice and a couple different things going on and it did not disappoint. My biggest gripe with CoB has always been the dice, yes I know you can mitigate them, but they always conspire against me, doesn’t matter what I do. I like this 7 pointed star method, which yes I know he could have just made a circle but that’s boring, in which you choose your tiles. You move your worker from one point to one of two choices across from the worker. It works perfectly and those who say it’s obtuse and unnecessary are fun suckers. I do worry a bit that the Fountain cards can be extremely strong, but I think they are supposed to, and folks will need to be aware of that and not let someone horde a boatload of them. I like the scoring that takes place after each round where you have to choose a spot on the scoring grid and score based on the two cards that are on either side of where you choose and then you may never score that spot again. It’s unique and it feels difficult enough and variable enough with those cards that you should be able to keep coming back to this one over time. Plus it had the added benefit of urging me to get CoB out again and play it on the table. So kudos to Herr Feld, this one is a winner.
Gunkimono - So, this is definitely my favorite new to me game of the month and probably my favorite game of the month, even though an old friend made a re-appearance, you’ll see that next. Gunkimono is a remake of Jeffrey Allers game, Heartland. While Heartland was about Iowa farming, Gunkimono takes that track that so many other games do and finds an Eastern theme, those sure do appeal to folks, myself included, I’m not saying that they don’t. But I was definitely fine with farming as well. But don’t take my thematic quibbles as a reason to ignore this one, it’s a fantastic area control/tile placement game. I love that you can stack tiles on top of each other so you aren’t only limited to building out, but you can build up, and you should definitely build up. Also, don’t let folks get to comfortable with their Stronghold points, cut ‘em off quick, and let them be on the defensive.
Stockpile - An old favorite came out to play this month and I’m happy that it did as this ranks right up there with Acquire for me in that basic stock manipulation game genre, it’s a wonderful take on the stock market with some insider trading going on. It’s streamlined, it’s interactive and requires you to pay attention to what everyone else is doing if you want to be competitive. I absolutely love this one and should honestly play it far more often.
Alright, that’s it for October. As always, feel free to chime in in the comments with what you’ve been playing or if you just want to chat about any of the games that I’ve listed here.