We were at Spiel in Essen last weekend, so progress on the app has been slow. Spiel is the world’s largest board game convention with 190 thousand visitors coming through the doors and we had an absolute blast.
I met loads of new people and BoardGameNetwork had a great response from board game fans.
I also got to play 20 new games over the four days, here are some of the highlights:
Ragusa was my find of the convention. Ragusa is a worker placement game from Fabio Lopiano (Calimala) which is coming to kickstarter next month. We were really lucky to get to play it, as Fabio only had one (very polished looking) copy of it that he was play testing.
The game’s mechanic involves placing only 8 workers (houses) over the course of the game, which really limits the options and makes every move feel like it matters. The strategy develops because players will get to re-take any action they previously took any time any player (including themselves) subsequently uses it.
The game was fast paced but felt very deep.
We’re taking a break from backing games on kickstarter at the moment, but we’ll be making a rare exception for Ragusa.
A game about growing vegeatables in Iceland by veteran worker placement designer Uwe Rosenberg; Reykholt was Spiel’s second most mispronounced game (try saying Teotihuacan 10 times fast).
Reykholt may well be Uwe Rosenerg’s masterpiece. The mechanics are familiar to anyone who has played any of Rosenberg’s previous worker placement farming simulators (Agricola, Caverna) but they’ve been pared back and tightened up. The game plays impressively quickly and didn’t need a lengthy rules explanation.
This game is so good I had to pick it up.
I never got the chance to play Keyflower, the well regarded tile placement game from Sebastian Bleasdale (Leminge, Black Fleet) and Richard Breese (Fowl Play, Reef Encounter), when it was released all the way back in 2012. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to play Keyflow while I was at Spiel this year and I’m glad I got to play it because this is a great game.
Keyflow uses some of the same mechanics as Keyflower but this time players are building their individual villages with cards they draft in a similar style to Sushi-Go or 7 Wonders. I’ve heard from players that have tried both that by simplifying the concepts in Keyflower, Keyflow has improved on the original.
While the rules were tricky to pick up on, once the game got under way I found Keyflow to be very intuitive and great fun.
Sold out at Spiel long before I sat down to play it, this one is going straight to the top of my wish list.
Carpe Diem from veteran designer Stephan Feld (Castles of Burgundy, Trajan) is a tile placement game for two to four players. The game play centers on a circle of 7 pools that players must move a piece between, selecting tiles from each pool they visit.
The mechanic works in a similar way to Trajan. Once a player chooses a tile they add it to their own tableau.
The real meat of the game are the randomly selected victory point condition cards which players must choose two of at the end of each round. If players can’t complete a condition they lose points, making the game a real battle to identify conditions other players aren’t going for and working out an optimum strategy for later in the game.
Far and away the most cut-throat game I played at Essen, The Estates is an auction game by Klaus Zoch. Best played with four or five people (and not worth attempting with two, regardless of what it says on the box) The Estates is very simple and very clever.
On their turn a player takes on the role of auctioneer, choosing a block, roof or building permit to put up for auction. All other players then get to make a single bid. The auctioneer chooses whether to take the highest bid from the player who made it in exchange for the component, or take the component and pay the highest bidder their bid.
Purchased components are added to one of 3 streets, with blocks placed highest to lowest. Buildings must be capped with a roof to be considered complete and the game ends when two streets are finished or no more streets can be completed due to lack of components.
Players don’t start the game with a player colour and instead the first player to build a block of a colour will score points for that colour.
At the end of the game a player scores points for each completed building they own the highest block in, but only if that building is on a completed street. In the same fashion players lose points for all their buildings on uncompleted streets.
As the combination of stealing buildings to gain points and forcing streets to be uncompletable are both essential parts of the game, there’s a definite cruel streak to The Estates. If you can handle that then there’s a rich meta-game in this one, and I highly recommend it.
While all the playable decks at Spiel were in German I was fortunate enough to be invited to the lobby of the Atlantic hotel to try an english review copy out.
Keyforge: Call of the Archons is a really interesting game. I found it quite long (we only got through 2 keys in an hour and a quarter) but the random decks make for some fascinating game play.
Keyforge, if you haven’t yet heard of it, is Fantasy Flights newest card game. Unusually there’s no collection aspect to it as each deck is unique and you can’t mix cards from different decks.
The game was designed by Richard Garfield (Magic: The Gathering, Netrunner) and I suspect this game is going to be huge. Rumour has it that each of the 36 card decks will be very reasonably priced encouraging random deck play like how sealed Magic is played.
I suspect I’ll pick up a deck when the game is released later this month and BoardGameNetwork can help find Keyforge players in Dublin.
Food Chain Magnate
This was my favourite game at Spiel this year and I was delighted to pick up a copy. Food Chain Magnate was released in 2015, but the game is as rare as a board-game fan who hasn’t played Ticket to Ride or Catan and copies are very hard to come by.
The game sees players running 50’s era fast-food outlets in a heavy strategy game of supply and demand economics. Players must create demand with marketing and build a corporate hierarchy of burger flippers and cart operators to supply a single town with an abundance of booze, burgers, pizza and lemonade.
I was delighted to play test the expansion Joris Wiersinga is working on, and if the coffee mechanic makes it into the game I think they’re on to another winner.
You can find players for all of these games and thousands more on BoardGameNetwork and as always we’re working to add more features so you can find players for your favourite games.