After yesterday’s look at this year’s Spiel des Jahres nominees, there is still the list of jury’s choice games to show around – games that are not in the race for the prestigious price, but the jury feels are worth trying out for everyone. This years recommendation have a good range of genres, prices and difficulties, so lets have a quick look.
To start with, a quick and easy game: on your turn, you will roll 4 dice and use them in groups of 1 to 4 to advance on the 6 tracks labelled 5 to 10. Once you reached the end of a track you will arrive at the ominously named X-Space. When you roll the number for that track again, you pick up one of the chips there which is worth as many points as the track label says. X-Space is a lot smaller than space, for example, so the next player to arrive there will kick you out and you have to restart on that track. Not a whole lot of decision making here, but for a real quick game with the kids it may have more to offer than, say, Yahtzee.
Another quick game, this one even travel sized: one player rolls the 4 symbol dice showing triangles, circles and crosses and arranges them in a shape he likes. Then every player enters those symbols, in exactly the arrangement given,on his cleanable 7×7 grid. In the end, points are scored for number and size of areas with the same symbol. A Caylus, it is not (it also plays a lot more quickly…), but it’s a nice distraction while waiting for the other group to finish playing.There’s no good reason not to carry it around just in case you get stuck in traffic or an office meeting for 20 minutes.
Carcassone meets Take it Easy!, only here all players place a different tile on the same square instead of the same tile on a different square. There is no player interaction happening, everyone plays on their own field. Maybe I’m missing something here, but I think I’ll stick with Carcassone, where I can sneakily invade enemy cities and steal their points.
Jäger und Sammler
By one of the most productive game authors in, well, most likely ever, Reiner Knizia. You control your own tribe of 4 stone age people that move around on a hexagon map collecting food, weapons and other goodies all summer long. You can not enter a field with nothing to collect on it, so sooner or all the poor stone age meeple will be isolated. When no one can move any more, summer is over. Winter repeats the process with new tiles, but you only get one meeple in every winter camp that you stocked up with supplies during the summer. When no one can move again, you score points for food collected, sets of artifacts assembled, mamooths hunted and supply crates left in the summer camps. The game is pretty much non-violent (except against the mamooths, but they are going to be extinct anyway), but with more than 2 players the board will likely be pretty small and your opponents will try and get you stranded early. This one is a recommendation I might follow.
Two merchants competing for the favor of the Maharaja. Players take turns trading with the shared marked, either picking up one goods card, trading up to 5 cards from their hands or stealing all the camels. Sets of cards are traded in for point chips, but each time one kind of card is traded for points, the goods on that card lose in value. On the other hand, the more cards you trade in at once, the higher each card scores. It’s a Can’t Stop duel with card collecting: either you chicken and trade for a few points, or you wait and hope your opponent doesn’t do just that and steals the higher scores. Pity it’s only a two player game, but still it sounds like fun.
Another two player game, but a good deal more complex in strategy. Both players start with 8 towers on their home line of a colorful 64 square grid. The goals is simple enough: get one tower to the enemy base line by moving it forward or diagonally forward as far as you want. Sounds easy, right? Not quite, because: instead of picking which tower to move, you have to move the one that has the same color as the square your opponent ended their move on. So in addition to positioning yourself for a strike deep into the enemy homeland, you want to end your move on the right square to force him to get out of your way. This is probably one of those games I will never win, but will still keep trying. On top of that, it’s quite an eye-catcher, too.
(Samarkand – Routes to Riches in English. There is an older game that is just Samarkand, and this is not it). To extend their influence on the profitable Silk Road trading route, players marry into merchant families and extend the caravan routes of those families across the orient. They gather points for collecting and trading goods and establishing trading connections with other families. These points tend to go to all the players that are related to the family that wins them, so make sure that you don’t give too many points to your opponents. The mechanics remind me of some railroad games, but are more simplified, so faster to play and family friendly. Looks like another good one.
Not quite a deduction game about tropical island treasure hunting, players play cards to place restrictions on the area where a treasure is hidden. Those cards will have information like “Not next to a lake” or “Within to fields of a statue”. When the location is pinpointed, you will also want to be close so you can pick up the treasure for the big points. I haven’t seen a game with this mechanic before, so I’m seriously tempted here …
Hansa Teutonica is one of the two more complex games on this years list. Players act as traders in the area of the German “Hanse”, trying to establish trading routes between cities. When a connection is established, they can build an office in one of the connected cities or chose to upgrade one of their privileges. Those include “more actions per turn”, “getting more merchant meeple” or some others. It’s not immediately obvious which route leads to success, especially since “standing in everyone’s way” is also a valid strategy.
Known as Endeavor to the English speaking crowd, this is the other complex game on the list. Staring in Europe, the goal is to gather victory points by discovering new lands, conquering them or just stealing their resources. To achieve that, players build up their home city back in Europe where new buildings increase their options of what to do on their turn. It’s a bit hard to sum up this game without having it hear to actually see how it works, so I hope you will excuse me for not going into specifics here.
The Jury’s Choice has a lot of interesting games, and the short summary here will hardly do any of the games justice. I hope to be able present reviews about a few of them soon and establish if I would recommend them or not. Keep in mind that I have played none of the games in question yet but just gather my information from online sources, so even the games I am less than enthusiastic about may well deserve their spot on this list. If you know any of the games, you are welcome to share your opinion on them. Let us know what you think of these games and which games you are missing. Also, feel free to comment on the Kid’s Games nominees and jury’s picks. For lack of kids to interview, we won’t be going into them here, but that’s what the forums are for, too.