Here’s the games I’ve played this week! Two were new and two were games I’ve played before!
It’s been nearly impossible for me to avoid at least noticing Unsettled by Marc Neidlinger and Tom Mattson, published by Orange Nebula, as the media push behind this game seemed particularly adept at getting it’s box in front of my eyes during it’s (now finished) Kickstarter campaign. Bigfoot had backed Unsettled during their previous campaign and was quite eager to play this newly delivered game.
Unsettled is a space themed game with a somewhat unique setup. The core box contains the framework; all the components that will be common between all the planets. Each planet is contained within it’s own box and each planet is said to offer significantly different mechanics, themes, and experiences.
My initial impressions of Unsettled is that the production is really good, the writing is quite funny and charming, and this will not change your mind if you don’t like cooperative games. I’d like to return to Unsettled if only to see how different the planets can be. There is no hidden information, or anything to prevent other players from chiming in on each other turns, making this a truly cooperative experience (and/or making this a good candidate to play solo). If you struggle with a quarterback player, or if you don’t like others offering suggestions on what to do on your turn, Unsettled will not change your mind.
Over the weekend my wife and I went to the local board game café and played Tiny Towns by Peter McPherson. I had played it previously and told her just how much I had enjoyed it, so she was keen to see what all the hype was about.
In Tiny Towns players are building a town by drafting resources. Each turn the active player will declare a resource type. They and everyone else receive one cube of that resource. Everyone must place that cube on their own board and if they complete a building by matching the pattern on the cards in the centre of the table, they can remove the cubes and place one building token in one of the newly cleared spots.
What I like about Tiny Towns is the spacial relation aspect. Cubes need to be placed in a specific shape and pattern in order to build a building. I also enjoy that there aren’t large gaps of time Inbetween player turns. I enjoy games with simultaneous actions. I also enjoy how your player board can feel crowded in one moment, then with the perfect placement suddenly four cubes are removed and a tavern plops down, leaving your board clear and ready for the next construction project.
My wife on the other hand, did not have the best experience. She was not a fan of the direct interaction, how she was compelled to take the cubes I wanted, even if she didn’t want or couldn’t use them. My tavern heavy strategy ladend her land with excess clay and she was forced to pivot in a way that she didn’t find enjoyable.
Tiny Towns may not be for everyone and if my wife doesn’t enjoy it, I won’t be adding it to my collection, but I’ll gladly play it at any opportunity!
The second game my wife and I played at the board game cafe was Canvas. We knew very little going into this game other than it looked good on the shelf. Canvas features a deck of plastic transparent cards. The game play tasks players with collecting cards and combining 3 cards to create a painting with various tags along the bottom in hopes to receive the most awards and win the game.
Canvas was a fast game with a charming hook. Layering 3 cards and slipping them all into a sleeve to create a work of art felt unique and intresting. Something else to be aware of in Canvas is that the order of cards in the sleeve matters. Many cards will overlap their tags, only the icons on top will count, which gives players space to maneuver their way into and our of trouble. In our game one of the scoring goals was to have exactly 1 colour tag. I was able to layer my cards so only one colour tag was showing, but in doing so I also covered a bonus tag that would have netted me extra points for any texture tags on that painting.
My wife and I both enjoyed Canvas quite a bit. It looked like there were a good amount of variable scoring goals and cards. In one two player game we saw about 40% of the cards total. I didn’t feel like Canvas has the ability to master it’s mechanics. While pretty and unique, I don’t think there’s enough strategic depth for me to want to play it over and over again.
Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar
Speaking of strategic depth, Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar by Simone Luciani and Daniele Tascini is a game that absolutely has depth and the capacity for mastery. Tzolk’in‘s main hook is how it simulates the passage of time. In the centre of the board is a large gear, and connected to that gear are five other smaller gears with spaces to place workers. Every round the centre gear will turn one space, moving all the workers one spot up their tracks. On a players turn they can either play workers from their supply (costing corn if they play more than one) or take works off the gears and preforming the associated actions.
Tzolk’in absolutely rewards mastery and forward planning. It’s not enough to take Tzolk’in one turn at a time, you need to be making plans and moves several turns in advance. While it is satisfying when all your place can come together, I struggle with Tzolk’in in that I just cannot seem to balance long term strategies with short term goals. I can place a worker down knowing that I want to pull him off in four turns, but in just two turns I find myself up the creek with no corn and no workers and required to pull my workers off early only to have something to do!
Tzolk’in a neat game, and I appreciate that some will enjoy it’s strategic offerings more than I have. It’s fine, and I wouldn’t deny playing it again, but it’s not one that I’ll ever suggest to play.