I apologize for last week’s absence. I was caught up in the middle of a move, and as you might guess, my wife preferred I unpack rather than write articles for my local game store. The move also means that we are no longer crashing at my parents house and now I can get back to creating video content. So keep an eye out for more Talking Board Game videos. I’m really looking forward to some normalcy in my life, because normalcy means more free time, which int turn means more games.
This week we are having a look at my number 6 and number 5 favorite mechanics and some of their associated games. Good news is we’re starting to get into the good stuff. Bad news, we’ve still got a few more weeks before number 1. Regardless though, the games I’ll highlight today are great games and I encourage you seek them out if these mechanisms sound like your cup of tea. It’s also important to note that if you do want to seek out any of these games and if they aren’t currently in stock at the store then you can ask a Game Grid employee to order in a copy and they’ll give you a 20% discount. That’s a pretty sweet deal if you ask me.
And now for the mechanics:
#6 Variable Player Powers
I don’t know why but there can be something said for being able to do something no one else can do. We all want to feel special and unique, right? Variable Player Powers do this. Typically at the beginning of a game you will receive a character that will reward you with some power ability that is unique to you, although sometimes these abilities may be acquired as the game progresses. The biggest concern that arises from incorporating variable player powers is balancing issues. That’s to say, whether or not all the abilities play fairly.
The Voyages of Marco Polo
No, this is not some variation on the classic pool game of hide and seek. You may be surprised to find out that Marco Polo was actually a famous explorer and trader in the middle east. In the game you get to take on the persona of either Marco Polo himself or one of the many other merchants in the area seeking to become the most influential. You will need to collect the necessary trade goods and fulfill your potentially lucrative contracts in order to be successful. Basically the same premise as the majority of all euro games on the market.
What makes this game truly special though is the special ability each player receives at the start of the game. The merchant you choose to play as will literally give you a ‘game breaking’ ability. One ability in the game just out right allows you to choose the value of your dice. Another gives you two player pieces, allowing you to spread your influence twice as quickly. While others give you extra resources just for the heck of it. When the game starts you will more than likely look at everyone around the table and say, “That ability is way too strong, there’s no way that’s fair.” And yet it is. And when the end of the game rolls around, you can better your last camel that you’ll be looking forward to the next game where you’ll get to try the character that the player to your left just finished playing with.
Many of us, if not all, are familiar with the the classic co-op game Pandemic. Each player in that game to some degree has a variable player power, though somewhat small and insignificant. Spirit Island is also a co-op game with the players working together, but instead of being an emergency response team, players are powerful spirits working together to fight off the settlers ravaging their island.
Each spirit in the game plays drastically different. One can really only affect the colonists through fear, helping to scare them away for good. Another, with limited reach, can only affect coastal zones, but can drown entire cities into the ocean when the timing is right. While yet another can’t really attack the villagers, but is great at fortifying regions to prevent blight and destruction. Each spirit is incredibly good at something, but also quite poor at something else. Players will need to utilize each others’ strengths and compensate for each others’ weaknesses if they want a chance to win. Not only do the characters play differently but they also upgrade in different ways and require different combinations of cards to trigger their special abilities.
#5 Set Collection
While Set Collection is a fairly simple mechanic, and found in quite a few games, it can really bring a lot to the table when highlighted properly. Typically these style of games see players with a list of “ingredients” that they need to collect to turn in for points or some other reward. What really makes set collection games shine is when there is a constant sense of urgency involved. Think Ticket To Ride. You are merely collecting sets of cards to turn in to claim a route, but the tension present as you try to do it before your opponent is what makes it fun.
Century: Golem Edition
In the game you are a gem merchant harvesting and trading gems to animate these huge golems. Why? I don’t know. How? Who cares. I know that Century: Spice Road is essentially the same game, but I like the art in this one better. The theme is pretty loose here if you can have the exact same game contain two completely different themes and both make sense. But it’s not the theme that makes the game great, it’s the set collection.
The game is so simple. You add cards to your and that you will then play to exchange some gems you currently have either for better gems, or more lesser gems. You then play more cards to turn those gems into something better. All this is in an effort to trade the right set of gems in to animate a golem and claim the depicted points. There is a good amount of tension as all players are trying to exchange their gems as quickly and efficiently as possible because their are only a few golems out at a time and it is quite easy to see which a player may be going for. And there is nothing worse than getting the right combo of gems and having another player claim the golem just before you do.
I know I’ve spoken of and highlighted this game in the past, but it is just that good. Players are architects tiling a palace and need the required colored tiles if they want to create the most stunning mosaic. There is also the Stained Glass of Sintra version that is equally enjoyable and I recommend both. Each has a lot of tension and require plays to both plan ahead and adapt as the game state changes.
The main mechanic in the game is drafting. What are players drafting? Sets of tiles, of course. Each player is required to take all of the tiles of their chosen color either from the factory or the middle of the play area. The rub is that you are required to place all these tiles into the same row, which has limited spots. Any extras will count as negative points against you. Take the color you want one at a time and you will be hard pressed to finish much of anything, but wait to long and you will surely miss out on what you needed or be forced to take more than required. Timing is everything.
I hope at least one of these games sounds interesting. And remember, if you wanna give one a try before buying it Game Grid has a great demo library with both options for in-store play and a great rental program if you’ rather take it home. Check back next week for numbers 3 and 4 and their respective games.