It’s the new year, bitches! New year, new tabletop games. (That’s how the saying goes, right?) Here are four games that I backed in 2018 that I can’t wait to get my mitts on this year.
Disclaimer: I wanted to embed the kickstarters I’m backing here but WordPress unfortunately is treating it as an upsell opportunity and only allows embedding on their premium plans, not my lowly personal plan. (I think that’s a lousy tactic.)
Additional disclaimer: Kickstarter also won’t let me take images from these project pages, so I’ve got no shiny things to show you. It’s text only, folks. Suck it up.
Conclusion of above disclaimers, disclaimer: If you’re interested in exploring these games, I’ve linked to the kickstarters below! Click them, some may still be active!
Call to Adventure
I’ve been looking for a role playing game that isn’t as extensive as something like D&D. Call to Adventure is made by Brotherwise Games—publishers of such games as Boss Monster and Unearth. I love Brotherwise Games as a publisher and I’ve been a backer of theirs since their first Boss Monster kickstarter many moons ago.
This game also features an expansion based on Patrick Rothfuss’s In the Name of the Wind book series. Full disclosure, I haven’t read the book and have no current plans to but from what I gather, you don’t need to have read the book to enjoy the game. I can’t wait to get my mitts on this one!
Don Quixote is a novel which represents how satire hasn’t changed in the past 400 years. Although I love the book, I’m not motivated to reread it any time soon—once is enough.
This game seems intriguing, it’s all about buying stock, constructing buildings, and sending your workers out to do your bidding. My kind of game. The artwork is not only phenomenal, it’s thematically on point.
This game intrigues me. It seems short, sweet, and it’s built for two players. I’m also a fan of Blade Runner, which is the [parody-esque] inspiration behind Inhuman Conditions.
When I play and review tabletop games, I try to figure out what type of alcoholic drink thematically pairs with them. When I think of a game like 7 Wonders—I think of an alternate history of the old world. At first, I was going to pair this game with a barley wine, but then I thought about what most people drank during the time of Ancient Greece and Rome: white wine.
Truth is, 7 Wonders blends many cultural landmarks, not just that of Ancient Greece and Rome, but also that of the Sumerians, Egyptians, and Phoenicians. These are all different peoples who lived along the Mediterranean Sea. The main reason that I chose white wine is because I’m not much of a wine drinker and I thought that I’d give it a shot. (It wasn’t bad!)
What’s so good about this game?
As a history major (and lover), a game like 7 Wonders intrigues me. As a tabletop gamer, the mechanics of 7 Wonders keep me engaged. As a wine-drinking amateur, I found the white wine we had, a Pinot Grigio called Chloe, to be semi-sweet and smooth.
7 Wonders Duel is a two-player only reimagining of the game 7 Wonders. The spirit of 7 Wonders is definitely there in Duel, but mechanics are streamlined and meant to only work for two players.
What are the differences between the original 7 Wonders game and Duel?
There are a lot of similarities between the two: you take a card and construct the building on it (granted you have the resources at hand or can trade for them), discard it for sweet coin, or use it to construct a Wonder.
Duel has a few different ways for you to win:
Military supremacy—move a military tracker all the way to your opponent’s space
Scientific supremacy—collect six out of seven scientific symbols
Civilian Victory—after three ages of card drawing have passed, whomever has the most victory points wins
There are other major differences between 7 Wonders and its two-player adaptation. For one, drawing mechanics are different—you arrange the cards in a special pattern for each age, with certain cards face-down or face-up. (You flip over face-down cards when they become uncovered.) You can only draw cards from the pattern which aren’t partially covered.
Secondly, the trading mechanic works a little differently in Duel. Players pay two coins plus the number of brown or grey cards that their opponent has in order to trade for a resource. There are yellow card buildings that players can employ which lock trading at one coin. (You can see two of them in the image above.)
Wonders also work differently: each player draws four Wonders at the beginning of the game and they can only construct seven Wonders between them—it’s a race for players to construct their anachronistic attractions!
What’s with those little tokens some of the cards?
That’s a part of the Pantheon expansion! In Age I you activate gods from the pantheons of five different ancient civilizations (the Phoenicians, Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Romans, and Grecians).
Age I—religious tokens trigger a god to placed in a slot on the pantheon
Ages II & III—players pay coins to activate a god’s single-use ability
So who won?
My opponent beat me with a rare military victory! When you construct military buildings, you move the military token (that bright red piece on that track of oval-shaped spaces in the image above) one space toward your opponent’s city. If you move it all the way to the end, you win.
Typically, players are able to last out all three ages and compare their victory points, but not this time. My opponent had just a few spaces left to a military victory and I thought that they wouldn’t be able to build any new military buildings, but I was wrong!
What’s your verdict on 7 Wonders Duel?
I love this game. It captures the card generating mechanics and the ancient city development that you’d find in a game like Civilization, while keeping gameplay to a tight 45-60 minute. The Pantheon expansion adds more opportunities for you to change the balance of power in your favor.
I’ll definitely bring 7 Wonders Duel back to the table.
In Unearth, you represent a tribe of The Delvers, a once powerful people who have fallen in disarray. You compete with other tribes of Delvers to restore your ilk back to power by surveying different environments and unearthing (get it?) sturdy minerals and different technologies from ruins to build your civilization back up.
At its core, Unearth tests your luck in an interesting way with a dice-rolling mechanic. Each of your Delvers is represented by a different type of die (one d4, three d6s, and one d8). Select a die, and a landscape—which is represented by a tarot-sized card—then roll your die for that landscape. Each landscape has a number on it, once all dice rolled on that landscape meet or exceed that number, the player with the highest value on the die with the most sides wins that landscape card for end-game scoring.
For example: If there are two dice on a landscape that add up to 10 to meet the landscape card’s value, one player’s d6 who rolled a 5 and another player’s d8 who also rolled a 5, the player who rolled the d8 would win that landscape.
So it’s a dice battling game?
Sort of, but the theme and some of the counter-balancing mechanics make Unearth a little easier to lick your wounds from a loss. Another element (pun intended) to the game is the collection of minerals, represented as hexes with a cube design on them, which allow you to construct wonders. Wonders grant you special abilities and give you additional points at the end of the game. You can only collect minerals if you roll a 1, 2, or 3, so your turn isn’t completely wasted if you didn’t get a high value. Collecting minerals is also a great strategy if you find yourself unlucky at collecting landscape cards.
If you lose a landscape card to someone else, you also get Delver cards, which you can play to give you a slight advantage or put your opponents at a disadvantage before you roll your die.
For a game that is primarily based around luck, there are plenty of opportunities to try and score points with bad luck.
Doesn’t the artwork look a bit like…?
Yes. The artwork appears to be a rip-off of inspired by Monument Valley’s combination of vivid colors and minimalist “iconography” artwork that purposefully uses color and shape to depict the illusion of depth instead of shading techniques.
It’s a beautiful artistic approach and it’s good to see it embraced by a tabletop game.
We had two drinks, Woodinville neat and mixed with Rachel’s Ginger Beer (lemonade version). Bourbon and Rachel’s Ginger Beer go well together. Woodinville straight also has a great flavor with the punch of whisky and the sweet undertones of Bourbon. Everything from the color to the bottle screams one thing at me: prospecting.
Unearth doesn’t have a theme based on a real location, rather the theme is artfully ambiguous. When I think of this game, I think of gambling; I think of gold digging; I think of prospecting. And I think of whisky. Don’t you?
I thought that you didn’t like games that relied on chance as their main mechanic
I typically don’t but Unearth balances that chance with augment-your-luck opportunities (Delver cards) and benefits to getting low values (Mineral hexes). I’ll admin that while I do like the game and have replayed it a few times, when I look at my catalogue for something to play—it’s not my first pick.
Yes, sorry. At the time of writing this, I’m overly saturated with rich darkness, both in this thick-as-oil oatmeal stout and in the black-as-negative-space design of Illimat. I love both the beer and the game, but both are difficult to interpret. Let’s dive into why…
Throwing shade this early?
No! Well maybe a little. I’m bringing my honest impression to the table here. I love the beer and the game and will drink and play them again. Maybe not at the same time, but who knows!
Why did you pair these together?
Both the beer and the game embrace darkness in color. Both have far more to offer than just that darkness. In fact, I would say that the whimsical style of Illimat with its muted pinks, reds, and blues coupled with the luxurious sweet vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg notes of the Dark Star: Spice Wars edition provide a lighthearted, refreshing flavor to both your taste buds and your tabletop experience. The artwork of Illimat is reminiscent of the older 1800’s decks of cards.
Let’s start with the beer
Dark Star is a thick, rich oatmeal stout creation from Fremont Brewing, a fine establishment which is local to me in Seattle. This particular version of Dark Star is barrel-aged and spiced. (Oh yes, it’s spiced.) This beer is dense, heavy, and you might not believe me if I told you that it was carbonated. I will concede that it’s a difficult drink. It’s as if I had liquified a cake, frosting and fruit and decoration and all, and asked you to drink it. It reminds me of a classic german Black Forest cake (Schwarzwälderkirschtorte), minus the cherries. It’s a Schwarzwälderkirschtorte smoothie. That word alone is hard to swallow, let alone the physical substance.
A 22-ounce bottle of this magical Dark Star costs $20 USD. The beer is more expensive than the current price-per-ounce of a barrel of crude oil. Please reach out to me and correct me if my math on this is shitty:
A barrel is about 5000 ounces.
As of 11/19/2018, crude oil is about $65 per barrel.
Oil is $0.013 per ounce. (Dividing 65/133.)
A bottle of Dark Star is 22 ounces. (I think.)
As of 11/19/2018, barrel-aged Dark Star is about $20 per bottle.
Dark Star is $1.1 per ounce. (Dividing 20/22.)
I believe that beer should be more expensive than oil, but that’s an aside from my main point: this beer has complex notes that are hidden under the heavy oatmeal stout tar pit texture. It has one of the heaviest mouth-feels of a beer that I’ve ever tasted. This beer doesn’t care about nor need carbonation. You don’t decide to drink this beer, this beer tells you that you’re drinking it. It commands you and traps you; when you try it, you’re stuck.
I hope the Illimat review doesn’t reek of hipster like your beer review
Your hope is futile. In fact, let me tell you a little more about the inception of this game. This game was sponsored or presented by the Decemberists. The theme of the game fits right into their semi-poppy folk rock world. It was more specifically designed with elements of their 2009 album The Hazards of Love in mind. With that being said, we definitely listened to The Hazards of Love, and The Crane Wife while playing Illimat and drinking our expensive, Pacific-Northwest-brewed oatmeal stout for the full on hipster experience.
Illimat takes the concept of a classic playing card game, brings it into the current tabletop gaming world, and wraps a farming theme around it. The game’s mechanics complement the theme well. In a round of Illimat, 2-4 players will take turns sowing, harvesting, or stockpiling cards for a chance to harvest the entire stockpile on a later turn. The suits of the cards—each suit containing a single “Fool” card representing both 1 and 14 much like an Ace in classic playing card games—follow the four seasons, as does the play area itself. When playing with 3 or 4 players, the deck is increased with a “star” suit of cards. There are also Luminary cards, which are revealed the first time that a field is cleared. These cards change the rules of the game. For example, The Forest Queen causes a particular field to remain Summer, locking the seasons until her field is cleared a second time.
One word comes to mind with the design of this game: magical. You don’t have a board, you play on a square piece of cloth that has four “fields” to take action in. The box that the game comes in also serves as a part of the game. You set it in the middle of the cloth to show which field is in which season. Playing a face card in a field switches that field to the season of the face card’s suit and you rotate the box accordingly. Each season has a special property as well which is neatly printed on the box:
In Winter, you can’t harvest cards
In Spring, you can’t stockpile cards
In Autumn, you can’t sow the field with a card
In Summer, you are free to take any action you like
The objective of the game seems simple enough: be the first player to get 17 points. The manner in which players gain or lose points is based around a few factors:
You gain points by harvesting the most cards
You gain points by having the most cards from the Summer suit
You gain points by collecting Fools (which are like the “Ace” card of Illimat)
You gain points by collecting Okus tokens or Luminary cards, which happens when you clear a field
You lose points by having the most cards from the Winter suit. Everything about this game seems well-thought
Except two things: some of the advanced mechanics, and the rulebook. The rulebook doesn’t cover a lot of situations that can occur during a game of Illimat. It also sometimes suffers from not formatting important information to stand out more. For example, we played the game thinking that each field had only three spots to sow cards—and that’s not the case. There were moments where we struggled to take an action or thought that we sometimes couldn’t take an action. Turns out, each field has no limit to the number of cards that can be sown. We had to dig through the rulebook and read a few sections over and over again to find that detail buried. NOTE: As described above, we played Illimat under the impression that you could sow only up to three cards in a field, which isn’t the case. This made each round of Illimat last a lot longer than it should have. The way that the stockpiling mechanic is described in the rulebook is also difficult to follow at first. Stockpiling is a more advanced mechanic where you can take a little risk to possibly reap a huge reward if you’re able to harvest that stockpile on your next turn. (You can only take one action on your turn, and you must have the right card to take that action.) For example, if you have a 5 in your hand, you can play it in a field which has a 2 and a 3, this then acts like a pair of 5s. A player can harvest this stockpile if they have a 5 in their hand, and the field isn’t in Winter. Seems simple, right? Well, you can also create a new value when you stockpile, which didn’t make sense to me. You also need to have another card in your hand which matches the total value of the stockpile you’re creating. So can I not make a stockpile of a 5, 3, and a 2? Apparently not unless I have a 10 in my hand. NOTE: When we played Illimat, we treated the stockpile mechanic as described above, where you combine cards on the field with one on your hand to create a “pair” of cards. (For example, playing a 5 on a field with a 2 and a 3 to create a “pair” of 5s.) This apparently was incorrect gameplay.None of these elements are described well in the rules. Illimat’s Stockpiling FAQ elaborates on the details of this complicated mechanic, but in my opinion it’s still an odd system in the first place. The FAQ talks about having an active card and a passive card, which was entirely omitted from the rulebook for some reason.
Active card—the card that you’re playing down on a field to create the stockpile. Passive card—the card in your hand (that you don’t play) which is equal to the total value of the stockpile. Why? This seems like a mechanic that needed a little more time in the oven. Furthermore, you don’t have to show anyone that you have the correct passive card unless they ask. The FAQ describes you as cheating if you don’t have the passive card. What? What is the point of designing a mechanic like that? It makes no sense and seems to be arbitrarily inhibiting players from using the mechanic.
So is Illimat a buy or not?
Despite the rulebook needing more time to bake and the issues with the stockpiling mechanic, I’m glad that I purchased Illimat and will likely buy the new Crane Wife expansion. Illimat combines the simple math and card collection goals found in classic card games like Hearts, Gin, or Bridge with the modern elements of tactics and strategy that you’d find in the current tabletop scene. The Dark Star oatmeal stout is also a strong buy from me, although I must try to limit myself so that I don’t go broke buying those $20 bombers every time I visit Fremont Brewing.
In my last pairing, I voiced disappointment with the form of cultural appropriation that happens in tabletop games with giving games that have a market, buying, or trading system a generic “middle eastern” or “Indian” theme. Century: Spice Road is one of many games which fall into that category, so I was pleased to see this game fitted with a new skin.
Really? Another scalding on cultural appropriation?
I love Century: Spice Road. It’s another European-style (lovingly referred to as a Eurotrash game) game which focuses on gameplay mechanics, balance, and having multiple strategies to gain the most victory points and win. The game focuses on collecting and upgrading different spices in your caravan that you’ll sell to merchants to gain victory points. At its core, Century: Spice Road is a resource management game. You must make decisions on whether to keep or upgrade resources to get that merchant card that you want. Merchant cards are your key path to victory in the game. Using your spices to buy 5 merchant cards ends the game, and the player with the most victory points wins.
Century: Golem Edition’s mechanics are no different from the original. The game is a “retheme,” meaning that the only difference between Spice Road and Golem Edition is the artwork and core story.
In Century: Golem Edition, you collect gems (equivalent to Spice Road’s various spices) which you can use to power golems (Spice Road’s merchant victory point cards). Here’s my recommendation if you’re wondering whether to buy this game or not:
If you already own Century: Spice Road, I’d recommend against purchasing Golem Edition unless you prefer different artwork.
Golem Edition is a great retheme. I didn’t own Century: Spice Road, although I have played it a few times, so I leapt at this game when I saw it at friendly local game store (FLGS). I think that the artwork on the cards (especially the golems) and replacement of spices (which were painted, wooden cubes) with gems (which are translucent hard plastic) is for the better. I’m glad to see this resource management and trading game take on a new life with these fantasy elements.
I played this game with one other person—this game works well with two players but can support up to six.
What is Field to Ferment and why did you pair it with Golem Edition?
Just as Century: Golem Edition is a retheme of a tabletop game, Field to Ferment is a retheme, of sorts, of a beer. It’s a beer with three different variations, which are each brewed the same way but with different types of hops added! We performed a tasting of all three variations.
Field to Ferment has three variants: one made with Centennial hops, another with Simcoe, and one with Citra hops. I love all three versions of this beer. Field to Ferment is a nice, well-rounded (but on the lighter side) ale with a great finish that reflects hops from the Pacific Northwest region. It’s brewed by Fremont Brewing, which I consider to be one of the best breweries in the PNW. This beer is interesting, because the only difference in flavor is the hop variation.
Each variation brings unique notes to the taste:
Centennial hops have a smooth, slightly herbal taste with a clean finish
Simcoe—my favorite of the three—has a strong pine flavor but also with a clean finish
Citra hops, to me, had a similar taste to the Centennial but with interesting citrus notes
Just as Century: Golem Edition is the same game with a new skin, Field to Ferment is the same beer with a different flavor.
I get it. But why care so much about these variations on the same thing?
You can gain a lot of insight by looking at the same thing with a different perspective. Making slight variations on the same thing, whether it’s making a small change to something that you’re creating or making a minor change to your daily routine for the better, you can stimulate yourself such that you think outside of the box. To me, this can turn a fun game with a common, Indian goods and spices trading theme into a fun, whimsical game about powering friendly golems with gems.
In the same vein, hop farmers who dared to innovate on selectively cultivating their hops have produced interesting flavors which create a trademark for a great beer three times over.