I thought it might be fun to list some of the different games that we played this past year. The most played games are listed first. Sometimes what makes the play count of a game higher than for others has more to do with the fact that it’s a shorter playing time. This is certainly obvious for the first entry on the list.
Flash Point: Fire Rescue
This is a co-operative game for 1 to 6 players. We each play the part of a fire rescue team working to put out a house fire while simultaneously searching for people, and sometimes their pets, and getting them out of the burning building before it collapses. It’s a great theme and easy to play. The game does a pretty good job of helping the players feel as if they are under real pressure to rescue the trapped people and get that fire out.
Airlines Europe is designed by Alan R. Moon, the same guy that designed the amazing game Ticket To Ride. The game is for 2 to 5 players and is just a little more difficult to learn than “Ticket To Ride”. In this game the players compete by investing in different fictional airlines operating in Europe. The players do not actually “own” any single airline. Rather, each player purchases stock in the companies and attempts to make the ones they are invested in the most valuable by connecting valuable routes and cleverly timed investments. It’s an economic game that is a lot of fun and we got this one to the table a few times in 2013.
This remains a family favorite and is a frequent “filler” game we play either between more challenging games or just to start everyone off when we all sit down to play some games. I’ve written a review for it in the past so not a lot of additional description is needed.
Pandemic is another co-operative game that continues to be popular. I own the original edition, and last year Z-Man Games, the publisher, did a major update to the artwork, game board, and components for the game. This game has also received a review from me in the past. We actually like this game so much that Melissa and I recently purchased a copy as a gift for a friend.
Android: Netrunner is a 2-player only game that I really like. It was re-introduced and re-themed by Fantasy Flight Games. The original game design dates back to 1996 when it was just called “Netrunner”. “Android: Netrunner” is an asymmetrical card game. This is really neat, because that means the 2 players, which are most definitely playing directly against each other, each have a different role in the game with unique rules specific to only that role. This game is themed to take place in the future where a very dystopian world, a lot like from the film “Blade Runner”, is the context. One player takes on the role of a large powerful corporation and the other player takes on the role of a hacker trying to break into the servers of that corporation and steal key data assets. It plays pretty quick and is fun from either side of the table. The game is different from a Collectible Card Game (CCG) in that there are no unique cards that you can find in individual add-on “packs” of cards. Instead, Fantasy Flight Games has developed something they call a Living Card Game (LCG). In this case you can purchase inexpensive expansion packs of cards but they are well defined, known and specific. No surprises. Everyone that purchases an expansion pack gets the same new cards. I like this game enough that I’ve purchased the entire first generation of expansion packs which came out slowly over the course of the year 2012 – 2013. I’ve played it a few times with Melissa last year and she’s pretty good at it too.
I’ve also shown the box cover to the game “Dixit: Journey” which is essentially the original game re-released and sold in some of the larger department stores here in the United States. I’ve seen “Dixit: Journey” on the shelves at Target, for example. Okay, this is a really fun game that is easy to teach and play and works for 3 to 6 players. The game plays really well with 5 or 6 players. It is a card game that has amazing beautiful artwork – a unique drawing on each card. The cards are pretty large size but still easy to manage. “Dixit” is a creative card game where each card suggests multiple meanings to anyone that sees them. The easiest way to explain this is to show an example card:
So here is how the game works. Each player has a handful of 8 cards that none of the other players can see. Each card is equally as interesting and non-specific as the one shown. The game is played in rounds and one player takes the role of “Story Teller”. That person can say a phrase, or name a song, or they can make a gesture, or hum a part of a tune, almost anything that they think describes one selected card from their hand. They do this without showing anyone the card. For example with the card above, the story teller may say the phrase “safe passage”. That card is then placed face-down on the table. Each other player looks at the cards in their hands and selects one that they think may fool the other players into thinking their own card fits the description too. Then all the cards are placed face down and shuffled. The story teller then turns over each card one-by-one, usually repeating the phrase (in this case: “safe passage”). Perhaps another player put this card down for their own choice:
This card could be “safe passage” too. Each player other than the story tellers votes with a token for which card they think is the one belonging to the story teller. They know which one is their own card of course. The scoring then happens. The trick is that the story teller wants to provide a phrase or clue that is “close enough”. If no one gets it or if everyone guesses it, that’s not good for the story teller. And if someone votes for someone else’s card, they get a point for each person they fooled. After the round, everyone draws a replacement card and adds it to their hand and then the role of story teller rotates to the next player. Eventually someone wins when their score marker is the first to cross the finish line on a score track. I recommend this game highly if you want something lightweight and really creative fun. Our family loves this game so much we have purchased every expansion we could find to keep adding more interesting cards to the mix. I have recommended this game as a good “party game” too — a game to play with folks who don’t normally like to play board games.
Letters From Whitechapel
Letters From Whitechapel is a deduction board game for 2 to 6 players. It’s a “period” game that takes the players back to the time of “Jack The Ripper” in the Whitechapel district in London 1888. One player takes the role of “Jack” and secretly selects a hideout location on the game board (the board is quite attractive and a detailed map of Whitechapel) and the other players take the parts of the detectives working the streets. Then as the game progresses “Jack” murders a “wretched” — and the cops start their frantic search while Jack secretly dashes around Whitechapel and gets back to his hide out. This game is tense and requires good logic skills from all the players. The neatest part of the game is that Jack has to sit there at the table while listening to the detectives discuss their strategy and possible guesses where he might be on the board. In some cases Jack might be right next to a detective hoping the detective doesn’t move in his direction searching for a clue. This game is well designed and quite popular in our home.
Merchant of Venus (2nd Edition)
Merchant of Venus is a recently reprinted and updated design of what was once thought of as a “grail game” — it was hard to find and sought after and last published in 1988. It’s a space-themed game with discovery and pick-up-and-deliver as a primary game mechanism. The re-released version from Fantasy Flight Games is outstanding. It is beautiful and well produced and proves to be quite fun to play. It is for 1 to 4 players. Playing time is a bit long for this one; plan on the game taking 3 to 4 hours. But don’t let that distract you. If you want to try something a little heavier than many of the games listed above, this is a great choice.
There were quite a few other games played last year. Of course old “stand-bys” like “Ticket To Ride” and “Carcassonne” made it to our game table too. We even managed to get in a play of “Twilight Imperium III” – a deep and heavy space-themed game quite favored in our home. I’ve written reviews for each of these three here on this web site. Also, for the games mentioned above, each has a link to the full game web page at Board Game Geek. You can go there to read more about the mentioned games and also see a huge collection of pictures for each too.