weekly roundup — January 22nd (game edition)

I did­n’t get much read­ing done this week, but I have plen­ty of games to talk about, so this is going to be all about games. If you were hop­ing for more read­ing sug­ges­tions, check in next week!

I spent last week­end at a game con­ven­tion at Bryce Canyon. It was great! We got there Fri­day evening and played games through Sun­day evening. On Mon­day, we went on a sleigh ride to the edge of the canyon, and then we spent a cou­ple hours explor­ing the nation­al park. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a nation­al park — some views were breath­tak­ing. We need to go back and do some hik­ing and camp­ing there (and at the oth­er, what, five? nation­al parks in Utah).

We played thir­teen games over the course of forty-eight hours (a slow­er pace than some oth­er cons, but more seri­ous games than oth­er cons too). Here they are in no par­tic­u­lar order:

  • Code­names: The “spy­mas­ter” on each team tries to give a one-word clue to get his or her team to find the right words. We played in a Code­names tour­na­ment with a team of 3. We came in sec­ond in the end. And that was because the first clue I gave in the final (“sports 6”) was actu­al­ly because I was mis­tak­en about what col­or I was. Yeah, it was ter­ri­ble. We still only lost by one spy though. It’s a fun game that involves cre­ativ­i­ty and clev­er­ness, and I real­ly enjoyed it.
  • Above and Below: This was a sur­pris­ing­ly good 4X game (see how much lever­age I’m get­ting out of that term?). This had a choose-your-own-adven­ture aspect (or an RPG aspect, if you’d rather). If you go explor­ing, you choose which out­come you want and roll dice to see if you do it. Then you build struc­tures and train peo­ple and har­vest resources. This game was well-bal­anced between luck and strat­e­gy, and it was fun com­pet­ing against oth­ers.
  • Renais­sance WarsThe “time” on the box is real­ly mis­lead­ing. It says it’s a 40–60 minute game, but I’d say that that’s true per era. We played 1/4 of the game, and it took us about an hour and a half to learn and play the first era. I hear that it gets faster, but we want­ed to play oth­er games, so we stopped. Real­ly good game though. We played with Luther (woohoo!) and some oth­er lumi­nar­ies (Shake­speare is in the game but did­n’t get drawn), and I CRUSHED Carl. It’s kind of like hearts with a lot of extra events and cards.
  • Trekking the Nation­al ParksThis is anoth­er one I played in May, and this time, I got to play it with the cre­ators! I did­n’t learn any­thing new, but we played with the Post­cards, which add anoth­er way to get points. It’s sim­i­lar to Tick­et to Ride, but it has claim­ing parks and get­ting stones as ways to get points. I came away from that game think­ing that it was real­ly fun, but that maybe it’s not dif­fer­ent enough from Tick­et to Ride to make it worth the cost. But it does have edu­ca­tion­al con­tent, and it is the US map (rather than the Europe map that we have for Tick­et to Ride), so it’s still on my list of games to get. And the cre­ators were real­ly nice.
  • Tiny Epic King­domsI had played this last May and real­ly enjoyed it then, but Carl had­n’t tried it. We played a 3‑player game. It’s a “4X” game (explore new worlds, expand civ­i­liza­tions, exploit resources, exter­mi­nate oth­ers), and it plays pret­ty quick­ly. Carl did­n’t real­ly get into it, but I enjoyed it again. I played a peace­ful race, which end­ed up mak­ing it a very peace­ful game. It was fun, but not awe­some. I think I enjoyed it more in con­text of the games last May (light, not com­plex games), where this one had a lit­tle more meat to it, but it’s still a light game.
  • Tiny Epic Galax­ies: I had been want­i­ng to play this game for months, and I final­ly got to! This was a GREAT game. We played it with 4 peo­ple, and one per­son did­n’t real­ly catch on, but I enjoyed this game immense­ly. It’s anoth­er 4X game, where you can spend one resource to fol­low anoth­er per­son­’s action. You can do actions of dif­fer­ent plan­ets or try to col­o­nize them. Enjoyed this most of the Tiny Epic games.
  • Tiny Epic Defend­ersWe made it a tril­o­gy of the Tiny Epic games. This is a coop­er­a­tive game where you’re try­ing to defend a realm against ene­mies, dire ene­mies, and an epic foe. We nev­er real­ly start­ed enjoy­ing the game. It was more of a race to keep things under con­trol. We won just in the brink of time. We would have lost on the next card. It was okay, and I guess the co-op aspect was good, but I just did­n’t enjoy it as much as the oth­er games.
  • NileThis is a fair­ly sim­ple game where play­ers try to plant crops and har­vest them at each flood. I enjoyed it quite a bit for a light game. It’s very com­pet­i­tive, because you can only plant crops if no one else has or if you have more than the oth­er per­son who has plant­ed them. I had real­ly good luck and won eas­i­ly, but that’s not the only rea­son I enjoyed it. 🙂
  • TsuroPlay­ers place tiles and move their mark­ers along the lines. If you go off the board or run into some­one, you’re out. It’s a very straight­for­ward game, and it’s quick, but it’s real­ly fun. Carl won both times. I went off the board both times and sent the oth­er play­er off once.
  • Drag­onwoodI’ve heard some­one call this very sim­i­lar to Gin, but it adds the ele­ment of rolling dice based on how many cards you lay down. It’s a fun game where you cap­ture crea­tures (includ­ing drag­ons!). I played this one in May as well. You get to strike, stomp, or scream at crea­tures to cap­ture them. Pret­ty fun.
  • Nefar­i­ousThis was a cute game where you are a mad sci­en­tist engag­ing in inven­tion and espi­onage. The espi­onage aspect almost felt like an after­thought, as a way to increase your cash flow, but I enjoyed the game all the same. It was pret­ty nerdy, and the names of the inven­tions were enter­tain­ing.
  • Nat­u­ral­ly Dis­as­trousWe play-test­ed this game that the cre­ator devel­oped in the last few months. It is a coop­er­a­tive game with nat­ur­al dis­as­ters, zom­bies, and some oth­er NPCs. Each play­er has a spe­cial pow­er, and you try to stay alive and take tokens to cer­tain places. It needs more work, but it has poten­tial. We played two games of it. The first was ter­ri­ble, and the sec­ond was slight­ly bet­ter, though not tons, after we altered some of the rules. I’m inter­est­ed in see­ing where it goes.
  • Acre-FootWe play-test­ed this game that’s been devel­oped over the last few years. The premise is that water is a lim­it­ed resource (an acre-foot is how much water it takes to cov­er an acre of land in a foot of water), and play­ers com­pete for water, drill wells, imple­ment con­ser­va­tion pro­grams, and build dams. It was a sur­pris­ing­ly good game, and more intense than I expect­ed it to be. Look for it soon. The cre­ator is hop­ing to get it pub­lished soon, and I think it could go places.

Do you want more descrip­tion of the games?