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Publisher of the Month
INDIE BOARDS & CARDS
WBG's Top Five Indie Boards and Cards Games:
The Kodama series has been incredibly successful and my favourite game about these beautiful little tree spirits, is Kodama Forest. I love cooperative family games. I love polyomino games. And I love clever scoring. Thie ticks a lot of boxes for me!
In Kodama Forest, you are playing with the person either side of you similar to Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig. I love this type of corporation where you are working with other players, but not ever with more than one person as a time, but still competitively against all other players overall. It's a clever dynamic that encourages you to work with other players but also keep that compeitive edge.
You are looking to work with your neighbours to fill your forests empty spaces by placing polyomino forest tiles onto your boards. Each turn, you start with three tiles in your hand and you can place one of them on the board on your right, one on the board on your left. If you complete a flower, bamboo or pond when placing a tile, you can then place the corresponding bonus tile filling up more space. You then draw tiles and go again. As you are working with another player in each board, two tiles are placed in each forest area each time, so you are looking to work in unison with what your neighbours are laying too. Perhaps they have a tile that is perfect for your board that they may want to place on their other board instead, there is some negotiation and encouragement too! It’s a beautiful balance or cooperation and competitive play.
Some spaces on your board are blank, some have Kodama spirits on that cannot be covered, but most have either a “5” or a “10” on them. This is what you need to try and cover. The game ends when one board has all the spaces with numbers on covered. All players then add up the uncovered numbered spaces on their two boards either side of them and the player with the lowest score wins.
If you like polyomino games, you may feel you have played them all with the recent influx of games that use this mechanic, but this feels quite different to others I have played and I would say is one of my favourites. It has the perfect balance of tetris style filling which brings a lot of satisfaction, with clever soring and intercation with other players to make it feel unique and a lot of fun to play.
2. Aeons End
By Guest reviwer Gaming with G&T
Aeon’s End can be tricky for new players to get in to, with so much content out for the game after the introduction of the fourth big box expansion Outcasts in autumn of 2020, where is the best place for a new player to start?
Aeon’s End and its expansions can be split into cycles, with each cycle having a big box and two or three small box expansions. Big boxes are standalone; they can be purchased in any order and played separately or mixed in with other big or small box expansions. Small boxes are supplemental expansions, you need a big box to be able to use them, but they are not necessarily tied to the big box of their cycle. Hopefully, this all becomes a little clearer below.
Aeon’s End -> The Depths -> The Nameless
Aeon’s End is one of my favourite games of all time, if you’re interested in seeing just how much I love this game, you can read my in-depth review here. You can also apply this review to the other big box expansions, although some new mechanics are added in each big box, the core mechanics do not change. Aeon’s End is a great place to start, with an average difficulty level and a good amount of variety.
War Eternal -> The Void -> The Outer Dark
War Eternal sees a nice facelift to the art style. It also adds a little extra variety to the mages, some added complexity to a few of the market cards and it is also more difficult than the original, although that wasn’t exactly easy in itself. I would start here for a better looking and more difficult game, although in reality for me, a coin flip could decide which one I prefer.
The New Age -> Into the Wild -> Shattered Dreams -> The Ancients
The New Age introduces Expedition mode, a campaign-style mechanic that links your battles against each Nemesis. This is expanded once completed to allow you to use all content from other Aeon’s End games. This might seem like an intuitive place to start, however, you are thrown in at the deep end of full-fat Aeon’s End with additional abilities coming as you progress. I have never used Expedition mode other than the premade one in the game. I would recommend starting here to anyone who does like their battles to be linked with ability progression and increasing difficulty.
Outcasts -> Return to Gravehold -> The Southern Village
Outcasts also includes Expedition mode and what I feel is a mixed bag in comparison to The New Age. With the Outcast mechanic and curse deck, the game is groaning under the weight of itself, ready to burst at the seams from bloat. That is not to say this is a bad addition to the series, I’ve had great fun playing Outcasts, but as an entry to the game I’m not sure I would recommend it over The New Age.
3. Magic Money
Magic Money feels like such a unique game to me. In employs some popular mechanics including open and closed bidding and set collection in a fantasy world, but the idea of adopting a menagerie of magical creatures in this way feels fresh to me. The theme really sets it apart and makes the game a lot of fun.
In Magic Money, you are trying to win auctions on different creatures to add into your care. Each animal will bring a different set of points powers to you. Some powers that you can immediately use and as well end game points and attributes that can work with other animals to bring you more points when the final tally is made. There is more to think about when deciding if you want to win each animal that first meats the eye!
But why not just try and win them all? Well, there is a clever mechanic whereby the greediest wizard that spends the most money over the course of the game is eliminated at final scoring! I am not a fan of player elimination but this happens right at the end so no one misses any part of the game, and it is a clever way to stop people from just bidding silly amounts. As, the other clever thing about this game is there are no money or coin tokens, therfore no limits! Players can use their magical abilities to conjure as much gold as they wish, so you are only limited by your desire to not be eliminated from the points tally at the very end. It can be very tempting to just go big!
This takes a few rounds for most players to figure out. I found when I played this with new players, in initial rounds players were bidding in the tens, middle rounds in the hundreds, and then in the later rounds sometimes in the trillions! This does not work! It essentially means the early rounds bids become irrelevant, dwarfed by the later round’s huge numbers! So, the game has another clever mechanic to try and rain this in by saying the opening bid must always be 10% of the previous rounds winning bid. Now of course, players can still bid silly numbers over this if they wish, but I found most people quickly realised this does not help them in the end and used the 10% as a benchmark. It becomes more about trying to win the big by as few gold as possible, rather than guaranteeing the win by just adding a load of zeros!
Magic Money will work with most family gaming groups. My daughter (five) absolutely loves this, and my nieces who I played with also really enjoyed the mechanics this introduced them to. Whereas for myself, I still enjoyed the dynamic this game created. Could this be the best new gateway auction and set collection game?
Crossed Words is a very clever word game that employs some familiar mechanics but in a fresh and exiting way that is bound to create a lot if laughter at your table!
The game is set up by placing a “Starts with” card in the top left space of a 3x3 tray insert. This will give you a letter and some colours, telling you what cards from which categories need to be placed in the other spaces on the top horizontal and left vertical. This will then leave you with a game board with a three-by-three grid and cards along the left and top side. Your job is to then find an answer that matches both the card on the horizontal and vertical for as many of the nine spaces as you can.
Each player has nine dry wipe tiles of their colour which they can write their answers on and place into the correct space. As soon as the first player has used all nine tiles, they count to five and then the round is over. One player will then read each answer out loud, remove any duplicates and answers the players don’t all agree is correct. The perspon with the most answers scores three points,the seocnd most two points and the third most gets one. First to seven points wins!
It can be very tricky to match some cards required answers, but the game has some very clever and lose rules that allow answers such as having the word you need including within the word you used. Such as the word “red” could be needed perhaps for a colour and used within the word “Fred” which is the answer for boys first names. You can also use a phrase where one word within the phrase answers one card and the other word in the phrase answers the other. "Billy Jean" as an answer for Articles of clothing as well as boys first name, for example. This rips the game wide open! It makes it easier to get answers to some of the more difficult combinations, sure! But also creates such a variety of possible answers that your mind may explode. And in a game where you are looking for unique answers; well, it can be a brain burner, but in such a fun way!
I can’t even begin to describe some of the crazy answers that came up as we played this! It was fun to play, but an absolute joy to read and discuss some of the nonsense/genius that people came up with!
5. Scape Goat
Scape Goat is fast playing game of deception and deduction with a clever twist. Each player is trying to pin the blame of a crime onto one other player. The twist being that this player has already been randomly selected to be the scape goat, but only some players will know who that is. However, every player thinks they know but only some actually know the correct answer. How does this work? Well through some very clever player boards.
Each player starts with a player mat with rows of player colours in a 12 by 10 grid. One player will roll the two-decoder dice giving a grid reference. Each player will then look at that part of their board which will show a player colour indicating who the Scape Goat for that round is. For two of three players in a three-player game, or for three of our four in a four player, and so on, this will be the same colour. But for one player, they will have another colour. They won’t know this and will think everyone else is seeing the same colour as them, but they are in fact, unbeknownst to them, the Scape Goat.
This player will need to quickly figure out they are actually the one everyone else is after and go to the cops to dob in the other players. If they do this, they win. If the other players attempt a frame on the Scape Goat before this and all agree on who they think this player is, they all win and the Scape Goat loses.
This sounds simple. If all but one player is seeing the same colour, surely you just initiate a vote for a frame, and then everyone bar the Scape Goat will pick the Scape Goat, and you will win. Well sure, but what if you are the Scape Goat yourself! You must be pretty sure of who you are before you start a frame attempt. This creates such doubt in each player’s mind as you play, which in turn, creates absolute hilarity!
To try and find out more information so you can be sure who you are, you can move to different locations to spy on other players cards, trade evidence cards or pick-up new evidence cards or preparation tokens. All this is needed not only for intelligence gathering, but also as you cannot just simply frame another player. You need to have the evidence card in the colour of the player you want to frame which you use to vote with, and a preparation token to initiate the frame. And of course, you need to know that each other player has the right colour card to vote with to.
Players can talk throughout, verbally and nonverbally exchanging information with other players all the time about what cards they have and what they think about the other players potential roll in the game. But of course, you can and often will, simply lie!
Scape Goat is a fresh new take on the popular hidden character party game and is one I think I will enjoy for many more years to come! It does not work with younger players due to the complexity of the lying required! But with the right group, this is utter gaming joy!