This week my mind was a little foggy and I didn’t feel up to playing anything big or heavy, so I have three smaller, but great games to talk about today.
This first is Fantasy Realms by Bruce Glassco and published by WizKids. Fantasy Realms is a drafting game in which you’re trying to amass the most points by making a combo in your hand. The game starts each player with 7 cards, and on your turn you have to pick up a card and you have to discard a card. All the discarded cards are face up on the table, and as soon as there are 10 discarded cards, the game ends. Every card in Fantasy Realms is unique, and generally plays off other cards in interesting ways. What makes this Fantasy Realms great is that every time you play you can chase a wildly different strategy, making it feel fresh each time. In this game, I had a leader who added the sum of all armies cards onto him, effectively making them count twice. The challenge then becomes ensuring none of the other cards in my hand would lower the value of those army cards, or worse, “blank” them, effectively turning them into Dead weight.
Scoring in Fantasy Realms is a bit of a bear, it takes longer to count up your score than it does to play the game. Luckily there’s an app to help with that. Fantasy Realms is fast and easy to play, but sometimes it can feel very luck dependent. With only 10 cards being drawn from the deck before the game ends, there isn’t a lot of time or capability to pivot your strategy. I did win this most recent game of Fantasy Realms, but it was only because I drew the exact card I needed (the Shield of Kent, which got a +40 point bonus if I also had the Sword of Kent, which I did. Not to mention the sword of Kent got a +40 point bonus of the shield of Kent was in my hand). My final score was 240, without the shield of Kent I would have ended with 180, which would have put me in second place.
The next game we played was Karuba, by Rutiger Dorn and published by Haba. In Karuba, you’re racing adventurers through the jungle, hoping to discover temples and recover gems laying haphazardly across the paths. Karuba is unique in that everyone is given the same starting positions, on your board the adventurers and the temples are placed on the same spots along the edge. One player draws a tile randomly, and then everyone else finds that exact same tile to play, meaning you could theoretically play the exact same game as your opponents. But what I find interesting about Karuba is when the paths diverge, when I choose to place a tile on a spot, it’s because it’s obviously the best spot for that tile, but seeing my opponents play that same tile to a different spot, I either wilt in my own insecurities or scoff at their buffoonery.
The last game we played was Skull by Herve Marly and published by Asmodee. Skull is a bluffing game played with coasters. Each player starts with four circular cards in their hand, 3 containing a flower and the last containing a skull. To start the round each player places one of their cards on the table, then the first player either places another card down, or makes a bid, claiming how many cards they can flip over without getting a skull. Should they make a bid, the next player in order can either raise the bid, or pass. One of the keys of the game is that the player who wins the bid must first flip over all their own cards first before flipping over their opponents cards. If the challenger succeeds and finds as many flowers as they claimed they could, they get a point. If they find a skull however, they lose one of their cards forever. The last player standing, or the first player to get to two points is the winner.
Skull is a pretty pure distillation of bluffing, choosing to place a skull on the top of your pile, then next round starting a bid is a pretty gutsy move. I adore the reveal in Skull, when someone bids they can flip over 5 cards when there’s only 6 cards on the table, the tension builds dramatically as each flower is flipped over until either they shout with elation, or are crushed by a hidden skull. I don’t like that players get eliminated from this game, and if you happen to lose your skull, then it feels like you’ve lost your teeth, but considering the short play time, Skull is a good game that hits my table from time to time.