Christmas in less than a week! As the year draws to a close, the one certainty will be a surge of gaming going all the into the new year.
Despite not doing the calculations to put a final number down, I’m certain enough to say that I’ve gotten a chance to play a lot of games this year. By my count, I’ve added over 20 games to my “played for the first time list”, which is leaps and bounds higher than what I did last year. Having a regular gaming group helps, especially one that revels in the act of discovery, allowing thrilling, relaxing, and even infuriating games to enter my radar. So with that, here’s my list of new-to-me games that struck me in November:
Deep Sea Adventure
There’s a group of YouTubers I watch who have called Deep Sea Adventure a drowning simulator. That characterization, while harsh, is apt. You are on board a submarine packed with piggish pinheads who’ve set their eyes on treasures that lie in the deep ocean. Driven by greed, you and your companions seek that treasure and, more likely than not, find yourselves imprisoned in Davy Jones locker.
The game is a press your luck experience. You roll some dice, decide whether to pick up treasure, and then decide whether you want to continue deeper into the depths. Picking up treasure can make you wealthier. That’s good! But the treasure weighs you down, causing you to consume that precious precious air supply on board the submarine. And that means you’re at risk of drowning. That’s bad! Even when you play as prudently as possible, you may still find yourself dragged into the depths an empty husk, undone by someone else’s greed.
In other words, it’s great for a laugh as the threat of drowning rears its head. Its short gameplay makes it a great selection as you wait for other people to show up to game night. Just don’t expect Deep Sea Adventure to be center stage for the remainder of the evening.
And speaking of Davy Jones Locker, how about a pirate game? Or what you think is a pirate game. Underneath Libertalia’s piratey veneer, you have a game that’s more role selection than looting or plundering coastal locales.
Each turn, you pick a role, place it on the board face down, and everyone follows suit. Then, you flip the roles over, and arrange the set of scurvy scalawags in order, executing whatever actions indicated. Some give you coins, others allow you to assassinate other characters, others give you dibs on loot tokens, and others still affect end-of-round scoring.
With all those options at your disposal, the game revolves around trying to figure out what role cards everyone else will play and respond with the one that you think will be most beneficial based on what everyone else plays so that you reap the highest rewards. Until the information becomes more complete, player decisions border on being random half of the time. The other half doesn’t require mind-blasting insights or careful considerations either. So while it is enjoyable, I don’t see it as something that whets my appetite, to where I want to play it over and over.
A Feast for Odin
Before I talk about A Feast for Odin, let’s get this out of the way: I love Agricola. I love the worker placement mechanic that advances your plans and denies others’ theirs, I love the stress of feeding your family that the game imposes upon you, and I love the exhilaration that comes at the end when you’ve built yourself a kickass farm despite everything the game does to you to prevent it. I also love Patchwork for its fun Tetris-y elements, as you try to fit it all into your patchwork grid.
A Feast For Odin is the love child of Agricola and Patchwork with some elements of Ora et Labora’s resource transformations thrown in for good measure. To the uninitiated, that means players will put dudes on the board to have them do things. The action spaces you can choose from give you resources that you can assemble, Tetris-style onto a grid, and you can turn the resources into better resources to help you fit it all together.
At first glance, one wonders if Uwe Rosenberg has you biting off far too much in game mechanisms. Without prior experience of his other games, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the weight of everything A Feast for Odin has you managing. And that’s on top of the sheer number of choices the game presents you with. It’s not a game I’d recommend to anyone who’s new to the hobby.
For me, the designs are intriguing, enthralling even. I find myself fascinated by what’s on offer here as I explore which path is the most strategically rewarding one. While Agricola will still be my mainstay, I’ll happily give in and play A Feast for Odin over and over again.
In Tiny Epic Quest, the character who represents you is a warrior who starts out with nothing. As the game progresses, you’ll earn items like swords, shields, wands, bows and arrows, and even bombs! You’re accompanied by a magical fairy that bears a suspicious resemblance to Navi and are charged with running into various dungeons like the Ice Temples, Water Temples or Fire Temples to retrieve artifacts, obtaining more magic, and fighting creatures like trolls as you quest.
The gameplay takes on a push your luck element as you do your best to manage your health and magic during the nightly encounters. But aside from that, the actions themselves are fairly obvious. You know that to maximize your score, you’ll need to do a little bit of everything. What actions to prioritize are left up to you, but unless you have loads of bad luck, the game itself, while amusing, isn’t overly challenging.
But then again, I’ve only played the introductory side of the board. The advanced side looks downright nasty!
When I saw someone pick up one of Dice Forge’s dice and swap out one of the faces, I was immediately captivated by the novel concept (yes, I know it’s not the first of its kind). The possibilities that then opened up! Do you put all your eggs in one die and have that be the power source to fuel your strategy? Do you split them up and aim for a more diverse setup knowing that there will be rounds when you’ll be super unlucky and get some crap rolls? The tradeoffs that it presents, combined with the flashy art design made this game an intriguing one.
With that said, I’m not sure how the gameplay holds up. Dice Forge gives you several strategies to pursue, but the game never had the sort of compelling gameplay or tension that made me think about it after the game had long ended. In fact, the game’s limited actions made you feel like you’d be unable to get an engine capable of kicking into high gear; there weren’t enough actions to go around.
The concept is neat and requires some reworking. Maybe in some fantasy adventure game more in the vein of D&D? I’d be pretty excited about that.
Definitely interested in hearing what games managed to make your list of new-to-you games this past month. Let me know in the comments! And if you want to follow along on my wacky board gaming adventures, I post quite regularly to Instagram.