January just finished, so let’s look at the new games we played. The theme of this month seemed to be “Board games that surprised us and video games that disappointed us.”
New board games, from best to worst:
- Dinosaur Island – I fully expected this to a be a mess, but instead the worker placement mini-games of theme park and dinosaur building combine to an enjoyably silly take on Jurassic Park. Some of the theming doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but who cares when you’re making pink dinosaurs and constructing dinosaur-pun rides?
- Gloomhaven – We finally tried out this game du jour, which felt like a combination of cooperative dungeon crawls and card game. Unfortunately, this felt less unique than expected based on other games that we have played, but I expect our rating to increase once we have played more than the first scenario.
- Legacy of Dragonholt – I enjoy narrative games and couch gaming, so this group choose-your-own-adventure game was right down my alley. The theme isn’t terribly exciting for me personally (I played Descent for 3 years and yet couldn’t remember that the name of the land), but group adventuring is fun all the same. I hope they come out with more compelling themed versions.
- Stone Age – Somehow, we had yet to play this decade-old worker placement classic of worker and resource management. After playing so many “worker placement, but combined with X” games, it was nice to go back to the elegance of a basic worker placement game at it’s finest.
- Freedom: the Underground Railroad – Similar to Pandemic with a few twists, this cooperative Underground Railroad themed game has the players balancing drumming up for emancipation and fundraising for their cause while helping slaves escape slave catchers on their journeys from Southern plantations to Canada. I really enjoyed how the cards provided a lot of historical details and flavor, and yet the game was still interesting.
- Merchant of Venus – I haven’t really enjoyed any previous pick-up-and-deliver games, so I didn’t expect much from this, and I was pleasantly surprised by how fun weighing all of the paths to victory was. We played the Standard version from the rerelease from Fantasy Flight, and now we’re looking forward to trying the Classic version.
- Quest for El Dorado – Another surprise for us was this simple deckbuilding race game. We only played one game, so I am not sure if the variable maps will provide enough replay value to overcome that stale market cards, but I enjoyed it’s simplicity, especially compared to the last deckbuilding race game I played (Clank! In! Space!).
- P.I. – We picked this up from Miniature Market’s clearance, and were surprised at how much we enjoyed this simple Los Angeles noire-themed deduction game. I’m looking forward to playing it again.
- Rolling America – We grabbed this short roll-and-write after playing Qwixx a ton last month. It was a nice break from Quixx but it felt more frustrating at times.
- Onitama – A short 2-player abstract similar to chess, we admired it’s simplicity and quickness, but it still isn’t a favorite genre for us. I’m not sure how often this will get played.
- Las Vegas – A gambling-themed press your luck dice game, this was a fine time filler but not much else.
- Pyramid Poker – We enjoyed building our “pyramid ” of poker cards, but it felt limited by only being a 2 player game.
New board game expansions:
- Arkham Horror LCG: The Path to Carcosa – Playing Sephina and Yorick on Standard difficulty, our investigators’ repeated failures led to so much frustration that we restarted with new decks. The theme is more appealing to us than the Dunwich Horror, but the jury is out on how we it will progress with the new mechanics.
Stephanie’s new video games, from best to worst:
- Shardlight – I thoroughly enjoyed this post-apocalyptic adventure game of a young female mechanic who must find the vaccine for her Green Lung, and uncovers a web of conspiracy and corruption along the way. There might not be anything revolutionary, and that’s fine when the story and puzzles are this entertaining.
- Kathy Rain – I loved the first 2/3 of this mystery adventure game of a college biker chick estranged from her family, who is determined to solve the mystery of what paralyzed her now-deceased grandfather. Unfortunately, it fell apart at its rushed ending and left me yearning for a Kathy Rain story as good as Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers.
- Primordia – Set in a world post-humans, this adventure game features Horatio Nullbuilt, a robot whose power core is stolen by another robot, and requires venturing to locations that he hates, for reasons he is unsure of. While unraveling the world’s history provided an interesting mystery, I found the theme difficult to connect with personally.
- Still Life – I really wanted to like this serial killer mystery game, but it fell flat for me. The game switches between two characters and timelines, FBI Agent Victoria McPherson in present-day Chicago and her grandfather in 1920’s Brussels, as they track their somehow related prostitute serial killers. This game somehow ends with the mystery serial killer getting away – and never revealed. Combined with the annoying main character, uninteresting puzzles, and unintuitive interface, I was left quite disappointed.
- Beneath a Steel Sky – I finally got around to playing this 1996 classic adventure game, and it is definitely showing it’s age. It dealt with the familiar theme of the dangers of AI in a futuristic society, but I thought Technobabylon improved upon it greatly.
Adam’s new video games:
- Destiny 2 – Shooters aren’t my forte, but this one has enough mechanics for people who can’t aim (this guy) and Diablo-like character upgrades that I’m having fun. The voice acting is fun as well. More updates forthcoming!