Last week we looked at various mechanisms that board games utilize to create an engaging experience for those who sit down to play them. As previously discussed, a game’s mechanics provide the structure or backbone of the game, while the theme and art combine to create a cosmetic overlay. Hopefully we were able to provide a little more insight into how a few of these mechanics work and their impact on a players gaming experience.
Below are some games that I feel put these mechanisms to use in ways that are not only unique but also highly effective. If any of these mechanics resonated with you then I recommend you give some of these titles a more in depth look.
Nothing screams fun like a bunch of farming bunnies. Bunny kingdom in one of the few card drafting games I know of that features a central board all players are directly interacting with. The cards you draft are going to allow you to take control of squares on a massive grid. The goal of the game is to create contiguous fiefs of bunnies. The hangup is that you never know exactly what cards will be become available or when they might appear. This creates an inherent amount of tension as you decide if you want to try to take smaller immediate rewards or press your luck and go big over the course of the game.
While some may like the civ building theme of 7 Wonders, others might prefer a more family friendly theme. Enter Paper Tales. Paper Tales in similar to 7 Wonders in play time, player count, and mechanics. The biggest difference is the game is set in a fairy tale world where your units will age and eventually pass away. Timing and positioning take center stage as you try to create combos of cards that not only sustain an economy of money and resources, but also are strong enough to win the four conflicts you’ll have with the players to your left and right.
The neat thing about all these mechanisms is that they can be combined together to create and even more unique experience. Aeons End is not only a deck building game but also a cooperative game. Players represent breach mages tasked with protecting their home from an onslaught of evil nemesis and their hordes of minions. The game ramps up quickly, requiring players to keep decks balanced for not only combat but solid teamwork.
Who hasn’t wanted to be the leader of a super team tasked with the taking down Magneto or Loki. Marvel Legendary lets you recruit the heroes you want in an effort to out perform others around the table. The theme of this game is what truly makes it special though. Somehow each characters’ set of cards is true to the heroic nature of that character. Hulk’s cards seemingly get stronger while Daredevils cards allow for acts of blind faith.
Warsaw: City of Ruins
One of the most used themes for any tile placement game is city building. Warsaw: City of Ruins doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, it merely tries to make it spin a little more smoothly. The game incorporates card drafting as a means to quickly provide players with deep and meaning choices. As the rounds players will be required to build a 3×4 city grid, a simple task, but the concepts of “overbuilding” and tiles being destroyed due to “war” allow players opportunities to feel clever. The game plays quick and relaxed and will leave players feeling like they have created something special.
Heaven and Ale
Unlike Warsaw: City of Ruins, Heaven Ale is anything but relaxed. Players will always have more to do than they have time to do it. Each player will be playing laying ingredient tiles into their fields in order to harvest the ingredients needed for their monks to craft the perfect beer. The fact that there are multiple ingredients and values for 1-5 for each type will make it tricky because players want to have equal amounts of each ingredient. Let’s just say that I’ve never played a game that make such a simple task seem like the most impossible to accomplish.
Of all the games I’ve mentioned so far, this is probably the most recognizable. Scythe is an area control game that has more focus and resource management than any other I’ve played. Players aren’t just trying to control areas for points but to acquire the resources necessary to continue building up their forces. The hexes on the board are more a means to an end rather than the sole objective. Because of this it is possible to walk away the winner without any real amount of aggression, something I really appreciate. It also helps that the pieces and art really bring the world to life.
In case you haven’t noticed, I’m unintentionally picking games for each mechanic that are quite different from each other. Viral is all about the conflict. You control a host of viruses all attempting to infect and inflict as much damage as possible. Your target, some poor human body. The game is highly thematic. Players will travel only in one direction from organ to organ through veins and arteries. The game is driven though cards played each turn that have a cool-down period. I’m a sucker for any area control game that uses hand management as its driving force.
Raiders of the North Sea
If you want to immediately gain an audience in the board gaming world just slap a viking theme onto your game. What the game does differently though is its unique approach on worker placement. Rather than having a group of workers that you dispatch over the course or a round each player has a single worker that they will place on an empty space to resolve that action. After, the player gets to remove a worker from the board and resolve that action as well. While this may sound trivial at first, it really creates a unique and rewarding experience. But then again what more would you expect from a Kennerspiel de Jahres nominee.
A Feast for Odin
The game has nearly 60 different places to place our workers. Need I say more? Ok, I will though. Players are going to be placing anywhere from 1-4 workers on these locations to take various actions that allow them to collect and convert goods to place onto their player boards. What might be a lot to take in at first quickly opens up into a sandbox experience as players are free to specialize and experiment with whatever strategy they’d like. It has a hefty price tag, but be sure not to pass on any offers to join a game. You’ll be glad you didn’t.
The book series by Brandon Sanderson by the same name is one of my favorite of all time. The board game definitely does the books justice. You get to take the role of one of the main characters, each with a unique set of dice that reflect their strengths in the books. Then together players will have to take down a bunch of epics before they can face the real threat, Steelheart. Placers actions will be determined by what symbols they roll each round on their dice. Then all actions are resolved simultaneously, requiring a great amount of coordination and cooperation.
Last but not least is a game system rather than an actual game. The phrase “time stories” apparently means in board gaming terms “adventures in time”. Each scenario will see players traveling through time with a mission to accomplish. Each action a player takes will cost time. When time is up players are sent back to the present and then tasked with trying again. Only this time they have the knowledge from the last run to guide them even further towards their objective. The game will send to number of locations ranging from a fantasy village to ancient Egypt.