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What Board Game Collective

Publisher of the Month

BROTHERWISE GAMES

What Board Game will feature one distributer or publisher each month to take a look at some of their best games and discuss with the team what it's like to work in the wonderful world of board game distribution and publishing. 

Co-founded by Chris and Johnny O'Neal, Brotherwise Games is one of the most successful independent board game companies. With hundreds of thousands of games sold around the world, Brotherwise is a true indie success story.

Below, WBG reviews three of Brotherwise best games; but first, let's chat with CEO and founder Chris, who tells us how it all started, discusses their upcoming releases and plans for 2021. 


WBG's Top Three Brotherwise Games:

1. Unearth

Unearth is a brilliantly smooth game that scales brilliant in any player count from 2-4. Set up is simple, and teaching the game takes minutes. The game runs for 30 minutes and has a lovely flow.  

In Unearth, you take the roll of a tribe of Delvers looking to rebuild the great cities of old. This is done through a simple combination of set collection, dice throwing and tile placement. Turns are simple. Play a Delver card if you want. Then roll and place a dice. Simple. The Delver cards allow you to boost your dice rolls or activate other bonus actions. The dice rolls are done to try and claim a ruin.

Each ruin card will have a claim value. Typically, between 9-17. You have five dice that you can choose from. One D4, three D6 and a D8. You can roll one of these and place it onto the ruin card. When the ruin card has dice placed on it, that in addition to the other dice faces on that card, equal or better the claim value; then the card is taken by who ever has the highest rolled dice on this card. Any other dice from other players are returned along with a delver card for each dice used.Everyone wins. Just some win more!

When you roll the dice, any roll of 1-3 will also allow you take a stone from either the card, or the bag, if the card is depleted of stones. Both high and low rolls are useful. These stones are then used to create circles in which you can place wonder tokens for various score bonuses. And that’s the game. Sounds simple and it is. But the fun comes from the multiple scoring options.

At the end of the game, players will score points for sets of ruin cards in the same colour, from their wonders collected, any set of three wonders or any of 5 different coloured ruins. With the multitude of scoring possibilities and the mechanic that a lot of the opportunities to get points are hidden from other players during the game, this can lead to a vast range of scores, not known until the end of play. This creates a real sense of tension to each turn.  

The game flow, due to the simplicity of turns, plays incredibly clean and smooth. Turns fly by, it will be back to you before you know it. The choices are simple. Which dice do you roll and where should you place it? Perhaps a ruin with a claim value of 12 has a 4 and 5 on it. It only needs a 3 or higher to be claimed. But it is not in a colour you are collecting, and the 4 and 5 are from other players, so you would need to roll a 6 to be the one who takes the card. Perhaps there is also another card with only 4 to go before that can be claimed and you have a five on it already, but so does one of your opponents. For such a simple mechanic, the choices can be brilliantly agonising at times. This does not cause for slow play in any way, just very engaging gameplay and decisions that mean something. In such a short game, with only so many cards available, each turn counts.

For a relatively quick playing and simple game, this has some brilliant choices and strategy. This is a wonderful low to medium weight game I would recommend to anyone who is a fan of games like Century Spice Road, Splendor or 7 Wonders.

2. Call to Adventure

In Call to Adventure, you are immediately thrown into this deeply thematic and atmospheric narrative set collection game, where you will need to shape and guide your character towards their destiny. But before I get into the gameplay and my thoughts on this, I must first start with the art. The illustrations on the cards in Call to Adventure are some of the best I have seen in any game. They are absolutely stunning. And there are a lot of cards. All unique and beautifully painted. So, as you play this game, I would encourage you to pause and soak up the phenomenal work of Matt Paquette on each and every story card.

If this sounds appealing to you, this game is probably for you. If not, then perhaps the game will feel a little light. But for me, I found myself swept away in this adventure, fully engrossed in the mission to craft my hero and attain my goals. You need to throw yourself into this game somewhat. I don’t mean you need to dress up and speak in character, although that could be fun! No, but you do need to let yourself become a part of this world. At the end of the game, it is a fun idea to go through your cards and tell the story of your character. This is not needed in the game, but I mention as it’s a good yard-stick to determine if you think you will enjoy the experience of Call to Adventure.

The game starts with a simple board that you draft three cards too that will detail who you are and what your motivation is. You could be an Orphan who was driven to despair, or a pickpocket who became the sole survivor in a bloody battle. You will also have a final card, hidden from the other players that details your destiny. Maybe you become one with nature or even a wise master. This will explain your own personal scoring bonus. Each card will help you shape your hero, but also gives you certain powers, attributes and goals to try and achieve. Everything is dripping in your own personal narrative and the theme of this wonderful game.

The game play is relatively simple. You will play three chapters, each one linked to either your origin, motivation or destiny. In each chapter you can bring three more cards onto your board, and into your life story. Cards will either be a challenge to overcome or a trait to gain. Perhaps you will become blessed, or even win the favour of the Queen. You can also add advisories and Ally cards too. How this is done is quite unique. There are runes that you will cast. Essentially these act as two-sided dice, but thematically it feels so much more. Everyone starts with three basic runes, but as your story progresses and you acquire new skills, you can add multiple runes to your throws. As the challenges you attempt increase in difficulty exponentially, this will be critical in standing a chance of success. You will feel that you have become more powerful and able to face greater dangers.

Your path can be that of a hero or anti-hero. Both work equally for points purposes, it is more about the choices you make based on the character you want to build, and the path you find yourself on. Maybe the Orphan boy becomes tired of the bad blessing’s life has thrown at him and decides to succumb to dark magic and wreak vengeance on the Tyrant he blames for his ill-luck. Would be fair enough I suppose?

There is a brilliant solo mode in the box too that pits you against an advisory through your story, in a brilliantly created solitaire experience. This style can also work in a multi-player co-op mode which is very well structured too. I would highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys thematic games that rely on the player to bring some of this experience themselves. At its heart, this is a simple and well-structured set collection game, but lose yourself in the winding story and it can be so much more!

3. Night of the Ninja

The two main things to say about Night of the Ninja are this.  Is it not out yet. There have been some minor delays but Brotherwise hope to have it available on their store by March 2021. 

The other thing is Night of the Ninja is the best social deduction game I have ever played. Better than The Chameleon. Better than Coup. Maybe even Werewolf! I absolutely love it and here is why.

First, there is no need for a GM. All players are equally involved. There is no app needed. No falling asleep and learning your fates. Just smooth gameplay. This type of mechanic in other social deduction games is fine, but doesn’t quite work in all settings and can be a little laborious. And of course, one person sometimes has to miss out on the group fun.

Second, the speed of learning and game play is incredible. You will be up and running with a group of 4-11 within minutes. Here is how you play. Each person will be randomly assigned a card numbered one to five of one of two houses, Crane or Lotus. In a game with uneven players one person plays as the Ronin. You then draft cards. Each player is dealt three cards. You keep one and pass two to the left. Each player then chooses one more card and discards the last one leaving each Ninja with two cards. You then play your cards in the order they are called out on the handy player aids, starting with the spy, ending with the Shinobi. You are trying to keep the highest-ranking house from within your group alive. But of course you wont know who is on your side or not! But if you do, your team wins and gets to pick an honour token, the way to get points in this game. First to 10 wins. Simple. Even if after reading that you are not sure how to play, I promise you, it’s enough to start a game and after one round you will be fine. And each round only takes 5 minutes tops. 

 

Third, the fun you will have in this game is immense. There is a delicate balance in the power of each card. The later you have to play certain cards, the more powerful they are. So, drafting them may be tempting, but perhaps you won’t be alive by the time this part of the game comes around. There are brilliant reactive card powers too. One card allows you to counter strike an assignation attempt for example, much to the surprise of your would-be assailant.

And finally, the art. Each card has been beautifully crafted using a papercut style by first time board game artist Ben Charman. The layered effects adds depth and a unique blend of light and dark. They are works of art.

Oh, and did I say this works equally well in a two-player version too! Not many social deduction games can boast that. Players control three houses each and the battle works just as smoothly. I love it in a two. 

When this game comes out, I would encourage anyone who has enjoyed any game in this genre before to give this one a try. I think you will love it!

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