The aim of this series of articles is not to present a comprehensive review of specific baordgames, because there are already far better sites dedicated to this (a good starting point is – http://boardgamegeek.com/). Instead this will be record of games played combined with my impressions of those games.
My wife, Elaine, and I visited friends, Val and Chris. As always they had been spending since our last visit and new games were available to play. One of these games was “Escape: The Curse of the Temple”. This game is a co-operative themed around the Indiana Jones movies. Essentially the players are exploring the temple trying to find the exit. To win ALL the players have to successfully leave the temple. They do this by each player frantically rolling a set of 5 dice, attempting to get the correct combinations for what they wish to do (move into a room, find gems etc.). Each dice has a black icon which locks that dice (bad), but there is also a gold icon which can unlock 2 locked dice (good). Players can share their dice with others within the same room (the co-op element). The temple has a pile of gems and the players must find these (thereby depleting the gem pile) in order to leave the temple once the exit tile is revealed. The novel complicating factor is that the game is timed to last 10 minutes (via a sound track on an i-pad or similar device). Within the 10 minutes there are 2 warning alarms which force players to scamper back to the safe starting tile (or permanently lose a dice from their set, very bad). We played the basic game, but there are Curse and Treasure tiles which can be added to expand/complicate the game. We played the game twice; the first game was a disaster with no one escaping, but in the second game we all got out. The timed soundtrack works well and really added to the tension; you really felt the race against the clock! I have never before seen players manically rolling dice like this! You tend to be so focussed on the dice rolling that you fail to notice that your compatriots have moved on into a different room. Rational thought seems to vanish and everyone is in a heightened state of panic. There is literally no opportunity for ‘analysis paralysis’. The co-op element is also very strong; there are continual shouts to other players such as “Help! I’m blacked out”, “I’ve rolled a gold icon”, “What do you mean you’re not in the same room as me”, “We need keys to get the gems”, “Quick, all back to the start tile”. This not a game to play in quiet surroundings, it will disturb anyone in the same or adjacent rooms. It surprised me how often the black icons appear, and I even checked the dice between the games to assure myself that there was only one per die! Overall I think all the players really enjoyed the gaming experience. We only played 2 games because the game is a surprisingly tiring experience. After 2 games we all felt we needed a breather and I could not imagine playing this game repeatedly during a whole session. The components of the game are OK and the theme is strong. There is a fair bit of laughter and almost no post-game analysis, because no one can clearly remember specific actions or failures. I can see this as a game we will repeatedly play but in limited doses; a ‘filler’ game for the last half hour of a game session.
Next we moved on to playing ‘Dungeon Petz’. This is a game I introduced at the last session I hosted and it was so successful that Val and Chris went and bought a copy for themselves. The game revolves around a family of imps running a pet shop; keeping, maintaining, showing and selling different monsters. In essence this is a worker placement game and I find the key mechanic revolves around meeting the various needs of each of your monster pets. The components of the game are excellent and the theme is very strong (it is possibly the most thematic game I possess). The rules seem complicated at first with many diverse decisions and actions, but the game graphics guide you clearly and the internal logic of the theme makes the decision making a rational process. We played 2 games of ‘Dungeon Petz’ and each lasted just over an hour. The enjoyment and beauty of the game was as high as when we first played it, and I can see this game remaining as one of the most popular go-to games in our collections. I have toyed with the idea of buying the expansion ‘Dark Alleys’ but I am nervous that this may merely add complexity and take away from the clean flow of the existing game.We finished this boardgame session with a game of ‘King of Tokyo’. I find this to be an excellent wind-up game for any session. It is essentially a Yahtzee dice rolling game themed on Japanese Manga comic book superhero/villain characters trying to dominate Tokyo. The theme is so silly that the competitive instinct of all players is muted and everyone is just looking to have fun. The rules and mechanics seem simple and straightforward, but I am sure there are hidden depths. The best comment to make about this game is that it is so good that I am planning to purchase the newly released ‘Kings of New York’ version in the near future.