So, I know Canada has a reputation for being a frigid, snow covered, barren wasteland, and where I grew up in Manitoba, it is! It’s the reason I moved to the West Coast and live in a section of the country that barely gets any snow (an average of 33 centimeters or 13 inches over the whole year). This week, we got over 40 centimeters in a single evening. So the city shut down, my wife and I shoveled for the first time in what feels like an age, and my weekly game group met online.

I’m not really a fan of digital gaming, I miss the comradery of being shoulder to shoulder with my friends and the tactile feel of the games. The plus side of going online is a whole different library of games becomes available to us, games we are interested in, but not enough to pull the trigger on acquiring a copy of our own.

Flamecraft

I didn’t back the Flamecraft Kickstarter campaign, but I was sorely tempted to do so. The regret hit hard when all those who did back the Kickstarter got their games delivered over the past few months and I kept seeing Flamecraft in all my social media feeds. If nothing else, Flamecraft looks fantastic. One of the first things that gets mentioned whenever Flamecraft is the topic is just how cute it is. The art by Sandara Tang is filled with cartoony charm. Easter eggs are tucked away in every nook and cranny, and the names for everything are thematic, charming, and punny.

So Flamecraft looks great, but how is the gameplay? Well, the game starts with a few shops around town, and 3 dragons in your hand. On your turn, you can either visit a shop to gather resources, or enchant the shop. If you choose to gather, you collect resources (one of every emblem symbol on that shop). You can then place a dragon from your hand onto one of the empty slots, activate a dragon that’s in the shop, and activate the shops’ ability. If you choose to enchant instead, you fulfill one of the enchantment recipe cards by turning in the amount or resources depicted on the card, and place it above the shop that you’re enchanting. This earns you victory points and makes the shop produce more resources on future gather actions. In addition, after you enchant a stall, you can activate every dragon currently in that shop.

Image credit: Anuttut Wanakasemsan @vtoystudio

And that’s pretty much it, you hop from shop to shop collecting resources, and trading those resources in to earn points. There’s not much more to it than that. As dragons get placed in shops and stalls get enchanted, players earn more resources with each gather action, giving the game a good feeling of momentum. In the first round, collecting 3 or 4 goods is a pretty good turn, but come the end of the game it’s not uncommon to collect 6 to 8 resources from a single gather action. Similarly, the points accumulation starts off fairly slow, but picks up rapidly around the end game.

Everything about Flamecraft screams family game. Its cuteness is alluring, and never underestimate a good-looking game’s ability to draw players to a table. Some of the individual turns can get pretty complex, as you need to manage several different dragon abilities, and it can cause some analysis paralysis as players try to figure out exactly how they want to use the dragon actions to give them the edge in the game. I’m kind of over straightforward resource collection and recipe fulfillment games. That said, Flamecraft is so good looking, I think it works perfectly as the kind of game that gets someone interested in the board game hobby

My City (Eternal Game)

My City by Renier Knizia is one of the few legacy games that my group and I actually finished. 24x 15-minute episodes broken into 8 chapters, it was easy to pull My City to cap off a game night. The tile placement was satisfying, and I don’t think any of us felt completely outmatched throughout the experience.

Today, we decided to return to My City and play the “Eternal Game”, which is the one-off, infinitely replayable version of the game. The gameplay is the same, a building is drawn from a deck of cards, and all players need to either place the building on their board, or, pass and if they want to stay in the game, lose one point. Play continues until either the deck is exhausted, or, all players have passed and bowed out of the rest of the game.

The Eternal game gives points for being the first to build on both gold veins, for every tree spared, for the number of buildings of the same colour touching each other, for putting 4 different buildings next to the well, and for having a building of each colour abutting the church. All fairly straightforward stuff, and likely conditions you’ve seen in your daily life.

My City continues to charm and be an easy and enjoyable, tile laying game. It’s so simple to follow along the flow of buildings, and the short term goals of “have a building of each colour touch each church” runs directly opposed to the “Have all the buildings of the same colour touching each other”. It can be a painful choice to give up a point to pass a really inconvenient tile, rather than smashing it into the corner, and then missing out on the piece that would have been perfect in that spot just a few turns later.

I really enjoy My City, and the Eternal Game is like visiting an old friend. It’s not doing anything new or exciting anymore, but it’s consistent and reliable. I’m really looking forward to both My City Roll and Write, and My Island, hopefully both will show up in 2023.

L.L.A.M.A

Another game by Renier Knizia, L.L.A.M.A, is naught but a simple card game. A deck of cards numbered 1 – 6, plus a set of llama cads, and a bunch of white and black chips. Each player is dealt 6 cards, and a single card is flipped over to form the discard pile. Players need to either play the same card that is on the discard pile, or one number higher (like putting a 3 card on a 2). If they can’t, or don’t want to play, they can either draw a card, or bow out of the round.

The round ends when all players have chosen to bow out of the round, or, when one player runs out of cards. Once the round ends, everyone with cards remaining in their hand takes points equal to each of the different card faces. One wrinkle is you only take points for each different value you have, so having four 5’s in your hand would only net you 5 points total, while having a 2, a 3, and a 4 left in your hand would get you 9 points. Players keep track of their points by taking white one point chips, or black ten point chips.

If someone ended the round by getting rid of all their points, they can return a point chip back to the supply. When someone accrues 40 or more points, the end of the game is triggered, and the player with the lowest score is the winner.

L.L.A.M.A is dead simple to teach and offers slightly stressful situations. Is it worth playing the 5 card from your hand if you have another 5 card, or should you play your solitary 6 and hope the deck comes back around to 5 again? The ebb and flow of taking and returning points can mean that someone who was in the lead for most of the game can fall from grace, and the player who lost the first two hands can return those points to the supply and still have a fighting chance. L.L.A.M.A is the kind of game that should live in your travel bag, as it’s best played with friends at the local pub.

The Weekly Report series serves as a script for my segment on Cardboard Conjecture’s Whatcha Been Playing Wednesday podcast. You can listen to it, and many other great contributors over on Podbean!