Updated: May 25, 2021
For someone who always claims to suck at making top anythings it’s a bit weird to volunteer a top 3, but the thing is: I’d just gotten a new game in and it was so fantastic it had to be top 3 material. So that was one down, and since I didn’t want to get a top 3 full of the same (rather fantastic) mechanism, I started making a top 3 of my favourite mechanisms instead, because if I really only ever got to play my top 3, would I want them to all be the same mechanism? (Spoiler alert: they ended up sharing a mechanism.)
Number 3: flip and fill Hadrian’s Wall
The one mechanism that makes me buy a game without so much as a glance at its Boardgamegeek page is paper-and-pencil, comprising of all things roll and write and flip and fill. So when I found out that the latest Garphill game was going to be a flip and fill, I couldn’t resist. And when I saw designer Bobby Hill had looked at both Fleet the Dice Game (two sheets of roll and write awesomeness) and Imperial Settlers Roll & Write (which combines a roll and write with worker placement in again two sheets of fantastic choices), two absolute favourites of mine, I was sold.
And Hadrian’s Wall didn’t disappoint, because this is an amazing tableau builder (your possible choices will get better as the game progresses), a worker placement (you’ll need to use specific workers to get the actions you want) as well as a flip and fill, which is why I love it so much. You keep making these excellent chains, especially later in the game, when you're sending a civilian off to the gardens in exchange for some piety here, some trade goods there and what do you know, you end up with a much needed servant and a builder to boot! It's on the heavier side as far as flip and fills go, and I am loving every minute of it. A crunchy game that is super quick to set up.
Number 2: tableau builder It’s a Wonderful World
The next game however was no love at first sight. I had spotted this in my FLGS, looked at the components, watched reviews on YouTube and seen numerous accounts on Instagram loving this, but I was hesitant. I didn’t necessarily like the artwork, it seemed kind of aggressive, the dystopian theme wasn’t doing it for me and you never know when a zombie might pop up in a dystopian world. I really hate zombies.
After my FLGS-friends had ensured me the solo mode was supposed to be great, there were no zombies to be seen and it would play in around half an hour, I decided to try it. 36 plays later I’m still hooked. In It’s a Wonderful World you’ll get cards you can either recycle for one resource, or build with the resources you get from recycling and during the production phase. Once built, a card will get you more resources, end game bonuses, or both. And this means you’ll slowly build up your engine by claiming more and more resources during production to place those fantastic but hard to build cards, to get you even more resources so you can place your … You get where I’m going with this. The enormous deck of cards and the solo scenarios will make sure you’ll want to play this again and again.
Number 1: worker placement game Raiders of Scythia
No, this wasn’t love at first sight either. I have a digital adaptation of Scythia’s older brother, Raiders of the North Sea. Loved the artwork, loved the dual use cards (choose to: recruit and permanently gain a benefit or play and get a specific benefit or action once), loved the mechanism of putting a worker down to take an action, and then picking up another worker to also take that action. As I was playing Raiders of the North Sea, I started longing for a physical copy but I didn’t want to spend my money on the exact same game I was already playing, especially if that meant spending around 80 euro so be able to play Raiders of the North Sea solo. So I bought Raiders of Scythia, and I haven’t played RotNS since.
This game is done right on so many levels. Comparing it to RotNS makes clear that if you own the one, you don’t need the other, but it also makes clear that Raiders of Scythia is the more complete game and the more inclusive game. It doesn’t need any expansions; replay-ability is high thanks to asymmetric player powers, a thick crew deck, blind drafting during set-up and four levels of difficulty for solo play. And where in (the digital edition of) Raiders of the North Sea women were good for collecting extra provisions or maybe silver, they were hardly capable of forming a successful crew between them. In Raiders of Scythia, I can build up a crew consisting solely of women and beat the strongest solo opponent.
This, to me, is important, but for readers who don’t feel this is an added bonus, let me just say this: it is a worker placement game with different worker types that will have you on your toes the whole game. It is a tableau builder that lets you improve your crew with eagles and horses, gaining them extra abilities or permanent actions. It’s got you rolling beautiful dice when you raid. It is a game that will always have a place in my collection, and the first game I really want to upgrade. Not because it doesn’t look stunning already, but because this game is exactly why I fell in love with playing board games: it makes me think and calms me down at the same time. And it is the best feeling in the world.