Kevin B. Smith
July was an unusual month, because I was out of town most of the time, with few gaming opportunities. And when I did play games, I only had a very limited selection to choose from. However, when I got home, I went a bit nuts, resulting in a total of 25 plays, of 13 titles, of which 8 were new to me.
Within each category, the games are listed in order from favorite to least favorite. For more details about each game, look at the comments in my game collection. I also record mini session reports for most of my plays.
NEW TO ME:
Industria (2 solo learning games, and 2 real plays). Rating: 8
It's a simple formula: Buy tiles at auction, most of which are worth points, and some give you money. In a sense, it reminded me of Ra, but I like Industria a lot better. The theme doesn't really fit the mechanics, but I did get a bit of a sense of history, watching the technologies advance. So far, this is a solid 8 for me, but I'm afraid it may be hard to get to the table a lot, especially since it really only shines with 3 or 4, and can't be played with 5. I bought this in an auction for $5 plus $5 shipping, so it was definitely worth it.
Vegas Showdown (1 solo learning game, 1 real play). Rating: 8
Another game where you buy tiles at auctions, and lay them for points. The auction format is like Homesteaders (which I like), but instead of juggling resources, you have a delicious spatial puzzle in laying out your hotel/casino. This is another solid 8 for me so far, and I think I can get it to the table, especially with a strong 2p variant available on BGG. I took a chance getting this in a math trade, but it looks like a winner.
Tobago (1 play). Rating: 7
I have wanted to play this "reverse deduction" game for a while. I had been afraid that the treasure distribution wouldn't fairly reflect the effort each player put in, but that actually worked really well. It hits a nice point on the weight/complexity scale, and didn't overstay its welcome (it actually ended a bit suddenly). Rating is more likely to go up than down, but I'm not going to go out of my way to play it again.
Catan Card Game (1 solo "learning" game). Rating: 6
I had already played The Rivals for Catan once, so really just wanted to see how much had changed from CCG to Rivals. Not a lot. Either one is far better than Settlers, but neither is great. I prefer that Rivals has fewer "attack" cards in the core deck. Maybe this should be a 7, but I just can't get too excited about it. If it played 3-4 players (and in 60-75 minutes), it would probably be a 7 or maybe even an 8.
PitchCar, with a jump (2 plays). Rating: 6
Dexterity games are amusing, but to me they are party games, not strategy boardgames. Given the choice, I'll play a strategy game instead.
Town Center (1 solo game). Rating: 6
I threw together a playable copy using materials lying around the house, because I like games with simple rules, and I like city-building as a theme. Unfortunately, while the theme mostly works, the gameplay really feels like an abstract. The solo rules leave out cube drafting, which seems like one of the best mechanisms in the game, so I didn't really give it a fair trial. But I saw enough to know that even with more players, it wouldn't be my kind of game.
Tempus (1 play). Rating: 5
Don't let my low rating fool you. This is a GREAT game. I love the map, and the cards, and the technologies (which are far more realistic than most civ tech trees). The rules are pretty simple, the game plays fairly briskly, the level of randomness is appropriate, and the decisions are interesting. Unfortunately, the game is oriented around conflict, and I don't like games with this much conflict. If the game appeals to you, I strongly encourage you to try it. I think it's under-appreciated on BGG due to its history.
Dungeon Petz (half a play). Rating: 4
This looks like a light romp of a game, but has a lot of rules and requires deep thought and analysis, but then it throws in a ton of randomness. It requires you to commit to your actions without enough information to do so. I think if you played it in "lightning" mode, with 30 seconds to make your decisions, it might work as a quick chaotic game. As it is, we stopped our 3p game after 3.5 hours (including an hour of rules), and we were only 2/3 of the way through at that point. Rating is more likely to go down than up, unless a future play goes WAY faster.
NCIS: The Board Game (1 play this month; 9 total). Rating: 8
This is a seriously under-appreciated cooperative game. The cases have realistic clues, and you have to use real police work to solve the cases. You can't get all the clues, so you have to prioritize your investigation. The solutions rely on motive, means, and opportunity, and you often have to piece together the whole crime, just like they do on TV. This is a "must" for fans of the show, and is an excellent game for anyone who wants to solve mysteries. I wish there were more cases available.
Walnut Grove (2 plays this month; 18 total). Rating: 8
This game started with a 9 rating, but fell to an 8 after 15+ plays. However, after getting a good solo score with a "fenced areas" strategy, I'm thinking there may be more depth to the game than I had seen, so the rating might go back up. It's a bit difficult to teach, with a few too many rules. But I love the worker upkeep, and especially that you can win with 2 workers or with 5. Bonus points for playing well solo.
Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age (5 plays this month; 13 total). Rating: 8
This hits a sweet spot of being quick and easy to teach, but having some interesting decisions and good replayability. Multiple paths to victory. Strategic and tactical decisions.
Ra: The Dice Game (3 plays this month; 26 total). Rating: 8
Another light-but-interesting dice game. We got Ra Dice first, and I still enjoy it, but I might slightly prefer RTtA now. Ra Dice can drag a bit with 4 players, but might be easier to teach to non-gamers.
Lords of Waterdeep (1 play this month; 6 total). Rating: 7
A solid game, but I just can't love it. If you do love it, you absolutely have to buy some DnDeeples for it. I sold my copy because I knew everyone else would own it, so I would end up playing it tons anyway.