Picking your favourite anything like board games, movies or your children is normally not an easy task. There are of course lots of things to consider, things that might just give them the edge per another, like for example, a great gaming experience, if they’re made by you’re favourite director, or the fact that they let you eat you’re Jaffa cakes in peace without trying to steal them, the truly important factors.
Up until January of this year (2021) my list was pretty much set in stone. That is of course until I played my now number three game. At which point the number three slot became a hotly contested battle of Vikings and Space.
Honourable mention to Blood Rage which lost that battle but it was down to the narrowest of narrow margins.
Now onto my top three games......at the moment.
Way back in 1999 I, like many of you, was bemoaning the fact that space politics is boring and that no one cares about trade disputes and planetary blockades. Cut to all these years later and here I am banging on about a game that encapsulates all of that...but it’s a ton of fun!
TI4 is the big eight hour plus space opera in a board game that you may have heard of and whilst I understand a lot of people being put off for various reasons, please don’t be put off by the run time because you honestly won’t feel it. This isn’t your standard area control game where the biggest fleet wins, in fact trading and negotiation are often the best routes for a lasting and successful empire. This brings with it a cleverly baked in mechanic that keeps everyone around the table engaged and talking at all times, and keeps every moment of any down time interesting, whether your planning your next move, engaging in conversation about a planet you need or just watching an epic fight break out (in game that is, their can be some backstabbing but its never gone that far!) With TI4 you’ve got not only a great game but also a fun time with your friends with a surprising amount of laughs and a load of epic moments to talk about way into the next game.
For my number two game, ironically crushed between two space epics like the very grapes which are so important in the game is Viticulture. Viticulture is a worker placement game in which you will be going through the process of making wine and running a vineyard. It’s a game that absolutely oozes the theme like the innards of a crushed grape that would keep Stu Francis salivating ( you may have to google that one). I love how the game isn’t afraid to say “hey, this is how you make wine, and we’re not going to skip any steps”. Now while that means that making wine isn’t a quick process, it helps the game rather than hinder it. In fact it’s all the more satisfying when you do slide you first wine token into your cellar, doubly so when you make your first rose or your first champagne. What elevates it is that all of this ramps up and a slower start makes way for a race to the finish as the summer spaces get largely ignored as people clamber for points in winter.
From its stunning Beth Sobel art to its multiple avenues to victory it’s definitely one of the most chilled out worker placement games I’ve played. Whether I play it with just the base game or with the Tuscany expansion I always have a great time at any player count. If you want to relax whilst playing a competitive game whilst simultaneously upping your alcohol intake then viticulture is your game.
1. Star Wars Rebellion Now from crushing grapes to crushing Rebel scum (or the Empire, whatever takes your fancy) As Sheryl Crow once sang this is my favourite mistake. I got Rebellion as mistaken Christmas present one year and whilst I was pleased because it was a game I was wanting to try it wasn’t what I was expecting. It turns out what I actually got turned out so much better that what I originally wanted.
I could easily tell you that Rebellion is a cat and mouse hidden movement game where the Empire has to crush the rebellion and that it is absolutely Star Wars in a box. I could also tell you that this encapsulates the original trilogy with its tension and scale. Just seeing the empire dominate the board with all its units and the rebels barely holding a fleet together is brilliantly thematic. I could also wax lyrical about how strategic the game is. But rather than tell you all that, I want to tell you about what is really great about Star Wars Rebellion. That’s the stories you can tell with this game, that, by and large is not a story driven game.
Now I love TI4, but Rebellion will always win out because of the theme. It’s Star Wars! It’s an obvious thing to say but more often than not the person you’re playing with will have some knowledge of Star Wars now matter how big or small. Because of that and because it’s so ingrained in people’s minds you can’t help making up your own narrative and alternative versions of Star Wars and even maybe role playing a little bit, and that’s partially how you want to enjoy the game. Wether you’re threatening to blow up Endor and the silly teddy bears with a death star rather than Alderaan just because you could, or freezing Chewie in carbonite, you can just have a lot of fun with it. I’ve honestly had more great memorable moments in my half a dozen or so plays of this than I have with most of the games in my collection. Yes it’s big, yes it’s long, yes it’s only two player (ignore that 2-4 player nonsense on the box) but if you love Star Wars then you owe it to yourself to play a game if you can.