It’s the end of the year 2021 (or it was when I played these games, anyway).
Having been able to go to game days again since August 2021, it was nice to have a bunch of new to me games to play each month!
I know this blog has been much better for that.
Still, December was a bit of a slow month, mainly because we didn’t have December 26 (Boxing Day up here in the Great White North and nobody was coming to that one).
Still, three games is not bad!
And since one of the three games was from 2001, even the Cult of the New to Me can’t really complain.
Not that they didn’t try.
I’m pretty sure they were talking about my second in command, though.
At least that’s what I like to believe.
Anyway, I hope you had a great holiday and welcome to a brand new year of 2022!
May it be much better than last year.
So, without further ado (all of my ado was used in some scheme to get some random people into some random castle anyway), let’s begin!
(You can click on each picture to expand it to a bigger size)
Designers: Shem Phillips, S J MacDonald
Artist: Mihajlo Dimitrievski
I received my Kickstarter copy of Viscounts of the West Kingdom literally days before the COVID lockdowns hit in early 2020. Since I don’t play games on Tabletop Simulator, that meant that even though I had it, I wasn’t going to be playing this one for quite a while (it’s not something my wife would play).
So when we finally started going to game days again in August 2021, I knew I would be playing this before the end of the year.
And I’ve played it twice!
Once as a 3-player game and once as a 2-player game.
Both totally different but both totally fun. The 2-player game was had much higher scoring, though I’m not sure if that’s always the case.
Viscounts of the West Kingdom is the last in the “West Kingdom” trilogy of games, this time taking on some deckbuilder aspects (I love how each game in the trilogy addressed different gameplay mechanisms).
In this game, each player has a starting deck of Townsfolk cards along with a Hero that each person will draft (along with a starting card). This deck of 9 cards will be your starting deck. You will be recruiting Townsfolk cards to be in your deck as the game goes on.
The board is laid out so that there are 5 sections where your Viscount will be travelling around.
Each turn, you will play a card from your hand to your player board after first moving all of the cards on it to the right (if this causes a card to drop off, then you resolve any “drop-off” effects on that card, then it just goes to your discard pile).
You will then take one of four actions, depending on the position of your Viscount on the board.
If your Viscount ends up on one of the outer spaces, you can either do a Trade action (depending on the location, you can purchase certain goods or destroy some of your cards) or you can build one of your many buildings on a space. For each action, you have to have enough of the appropriate icon (moneybags for the Trade action or Hammers for the Build action) but you can always supplement those with money (Trade) or stone (Build) to make sure you have enough.
On one of the inner spaces, you can either transcribe a manuscript (holy cross icon) or place workers in the Castle (Fleur de Lis icons).
Once you’ve done an action, you can hire the townsfolk in the sector where your Viscount ended up if you wish.
Some actions or cards will give you virtue or corruption, and that is tracked on your player board with markers that will move toward the center of your board.
If they meet somewhere, then a collision happens and you resolve that. Other players will get Deed/Debts and Corruption/Virtue as indicated on the bottom while you will get what’s on the top.
The player then draws up to their hand size, shuffling their discard pile into their deck if they don’t have enough cards to draw (this can also trigger corruption/virtue).
During the game, depending on the actions you take, you will be earning Deeds or Debts from a finite pile.
Once one of the stacks is depleted (there are only so many based on player count), that triggers the end of the game.
Players finish the round and then take one more round to try and better their score.
That’s very much an over-simplification of how the game works (if I get to review it, I’ll go into a bit more detail), but I have to say that this game is definitely up there in my enjoyment of the West Kingdom games.
I’m not sure it reaches Architects of the West Kingdom level (you’ll just have to see when you read my Top 25 games of all time, 2022 edition, coming this month!), but it’s definitely up there.
I love the deckbuilding aspect of the game, but unlike some “deckbuilders with a board,” the deckbuilding isn’t as integral a part of the game. You still are doing the actions depending on where your Viscount ends up, so you have to try and make sure you are able to do the actions you want to do.
And you have to make sure you have the cards on your tableau that let you do those actions more efficiently.
I’ve heard other say it’s their favourite West Kingdom game and I can’t really debate that, though I’m not sure I feel the same.
We’ll see after a few more plays.
In the meantime, I played this twice and I really feel the need to play it more often!
There will be two expansions hitting Kickstarter on January 11, so you should definitely check those out as well.
Another hit for Shem Phillips and SJ MacDonald, I really love this game.
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Artists: Max Prentis, Justine Nortjé
I really don’t like Roll & Writes that much, especially when you are drawing shapes and trying to figure out which shapes would be best to actually use on your turn.
Yet for some reason I actually came in second (and only by one square!) on my first play of Second Chance.
So it has that going for it!
Still, it’s not really my type of game.
Each player starts with a 9×9 grid. The center space is already claimed.
On each turn, two cards will be turned over and they will each have a shape on it. You have to draw one of those shapes on your board. They don’t have to be connected to other shapes (thank God) but you have to be able to fit them.
If for some reason you can’t fit either of them on your sheet, then you get a “second chance” and can turn over the top card of the deck.
If you can’t draw that one on your sheet, you’re out!
If you can, you’re still in.
There are some nice reference cards that show you the frequency of each shape, which will give you an idea of what’s left as the game goes on (assuming you’re remembering what has already been played).
Once each player is out (or once one player finishes their grid) the game ends and whoever has the fewest empty spaces is the winner!
For a Roll & Write, this isn’t a bad one, but it’s still not my favourite genre. I don’t really like trying to fit shapes. I’m terrible at that!
Somehow I still managed to do well, but it was a bit stressful.
This is another Stronghold Games game and I find it really interesting that the cover is very similar to the “Clever” series of Roll & Write (Second Chance is more of a “flip and write”) games.
Yeah, you tell them, Harvey.
(Seriously, he said his name was Harvey. I don’t know how he got in here)
Designer: Reiner Knizia
Artists: William O’Connor and Franz Vohwinkel
Wow, a 2001 game! The cultists can’t be upset with me after this one…
Winner’s Circle is a classic Knizia game where players are bidding on race horses and who will win.
However, the trick is that all of the bids are secret, and then during the race players will be rolling dice and moving horses to match the rolls.
How does that work?
Let me explain a bit.
The game consists of three races that will have seven horses in each of them.
Using the more advanced rules (which we did because the basic rules are pretty simple), each player does a secret bid on four horses. However, one of those bids is a “0” bid, which means it’s a bluff.
Then, when the race starts, each player in turn order rolls a die.
Each horse has a movement value based on what the die is, and each horse can only be moved once until all of the horses have been moved.
The die has 3 Horse icons, one Riding Helmet, one Horseshoe and one Carrot.
When you roll the die, you decide which horse moves based on that value.
Which horse you decide to move can give an indication of which horse you’ve bet the most on. If you consistently move a horse that you have bid on the minimum amount of spaces, then you’re indicating that your bet is the bluff bet.
After the race is over, the bets for the first three finishers are rewarded. If you bet on the last place one?
Well, you have to pay some money.
Sucks to be you.
There are three races and the bet values in the last race are doubled (kind of a catch-up mechanism).
Whoever has the most money at the end of the game is the winner!
I really enjoyed this game.
I’ve heard that Downforce has a similar mechanism where you are betting on cars rather than controlling specific ones, and that makes me want to play it more.
For a 2001 game, this was an amazing experience. There was a lot of laughter around the table as we rolled the die and tried to convince the other players to move the horse that we had bet on.
It was a lot of fun and I’d definitely love to play this one again.
Knizia knocks another one out of the park!
And my cult members are satisfied since this is a really old game. Hell, it can drink alcohol now!
So December was a small month, but that’s ok.
January promises to be a bit bigger.
What new to you games did you play to close out the year?
Let me know in the comments.