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I have quite the collection of board games at this point (and yet the one that ended being best value was Tsuro: a short up-to-8-player game turns out to be perfect for what we want, which is 'something we can play now that's zero commitment while we wait for others to arrive').


Codenames is, I think, a breakout hit. You could put that games on shelves next to Monopoly and people would have a fantastic time. I had my worst ever game of Codenames on New Year's Eve, playing with the new girlfriend of a friend of mine, who as it turns out really does not know him well and kept steering us onto the assassin. It was fantastic which is what's so good about Codenames (the fact I was a little drunk certainly didn't help either, but come on who decides to say that Godzilla is an alien, really)


I bought Gloomhaven as part of a Kickstarter and it came in a box that contains its own expansion. It's a dungeon-crawler with a surprisingly well-written campaign, but it's thought carefully about the moment-to-moment mechanics and has built a game that's fun to play on that level, and then added all this crazy campaign and legacy stuff on top. The basic interaction is that you have a hand of cards and you play two each round, and when it's your turn, you do the top of one card and the bottom of the other, but you don't exactly know what everyone else is doing until after you put your cards down. So there's an element of improvisation and some tough decisions: once you run out of cards you reshuffle then lose one for the rest of the game, so you start having to get real clever with the tools you still have. It's co-op to a point, which I love.

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On 1/6/2018 at 6:24 PM, Erkki said:

Haven’t posted in this thread for a while, but I have to say guys, I think Inis is a super awesome evolution of the Cyclades/Kemet kind of area control game. It has improved on the simplicity of the rules and dramatically shortened the game time compared to Cyclades. It can take you many games to realize how many differenent ways there are to victory, and then it can still surprise you. This last game I thought I had a chance to win on the first round, but instead lost on the second, this is how dramatically quick it can be, if players want to go really competitive.


It has card drafting instead of Cyclades’ auctions and it works really well without much downtime compared to possible analysis/paralysis of Cyclades. And the way all the possible actions come from cards (drafted and otherwise gained) is brilliant combined with the area control mechanics.


Inis is my favourite game of last year, and probably of the last several years. So good. And absolutely drop-dead gorgeous.

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Usually I roll my eyes when Shut Up & Sit Down gets all starry-eyed about some game that makes them laugh and laugh and laugh... but, actually, Fog of Love is really good. They talk about it in this video:

See what I mean about the laughing? So Fog of Love bills itself as "a romantic comedy as a board game" and that's... somewhat true. It's really more of a curated roleplaying experience? You generate characters based on randomly assigned traits, features, and an occupation. Interestingly, you choose the traits, which are secret goals for you to achieve, but your features, which determine your starting stats, are chosen by other player as the things that attracted their character to yours. That means that, often, you're playing a character who looks honest, fun-loving, and kind, but who is actually lazy, rude, and a pervert deep down. You then take turns playing sweet, serious, or dramatic "scenes" from your hands as you navigate one of four pre-made stories (with more, apparently, to come in expansions): one or both of you choose(s) a response to the scene, based on the composition of the scene itself, and your stats and satisfaction (your character's overall happiness in the relationship) change as a result. When you've gone through a certain number of scenes, divided into three or four acts, you have a finale where you present one of several destiny cards that have been drawn and discarded throughout the game, determining what your character wants in a relationship and, based on your stats and satisfaction, whether they get it.


It's a fairly simple game, but the way that the scenes, which often have blind choices to make, and both characters' traits interact makes for a fairly authentic recreation of the ebb and flow of a relationship. If you choose to focus on being happy in the relationship by trying to please your partner, to the exclusion of who you are inside, you might make the relationship work, but it's just as likely that you'll end up miserable because you haven't met any of your trait goals. Conversely, if you focus only on your trait goals, to the exclusion of what your partner seems to want, you may end up happy together anyway, if you're both the same person deep down, but you'll more likely end up broken up. It took me and my friend a long time, basically all four stories, to figure out the balance between those two approaches. Fog of Love is, ultimately, a semi-cooperative game with lots of hidden information where your goal is to be a self-actualized person who's not also a dingbat to the other party in the relationship (unless you've decided to break up... in which case, you pretend not to be a dingbat), and once you're fully aware of all that entails, it's pretty easy to build a cute, entertaining story out of the game, as opposed to a brutal relationship fight simulator.


For the record, in the five games we played (all four stories and then replaying the first again), we had a pretty broad spectrum of characters and outcomes:

  • Jean, a hardworking politician, and Danny, a scatterbrained actor, ended up in a slightly miserable relationship as equal partners.
  • Izzie, a wheelchair-bound musician, and Margaret, a closed-off cop, ended up in a very unhappy relationship with an uncertain future.
  • Ian, a playboy manager, and Cassie, a fun-loving flirt, ended up in a contented relationship of mutual support.
  • Colleen, a daydream-prone architect, and Jeremy, a hot mess of a banker, ended up with Colleen dumping Jeremy even though she was pregnant with his baby (Jeremy deserved it, he just could not get his life together).
  • Nat, a web celebrity, and Chet, a stoned-out dancer, ended up in incredible, unconditional love together.

You can see how we got better, kinda? Nat and Chet was the real success story, because Nat was a gentle, submissive worrywart and Chet was a jealous, insecure jerk, but they both managed to compromise sometimes (okay, Nat compromised a lot) and it worked out for them. It was cool. And even being in a relationship with Jeremy was funny and weird, just to watch the mechanics demand that he be the worst person possible in every situation.


So... yeah, Fog of Love is recommended, although I have two major issues with it. The first is that, for all its cleverness, the destiny endgame is extremely underbaked. Sure, it's neat on paper that you start out with all these different directions that a relationship can go and are gradually forced to discard down to just a couple, but it's way too easy to be left without any viable options and the game doesn't really explain what it means when one or both players fail to achieve a destiny, besides just "You lose"? I guess they're just in the relationship but... unhappy about it? This ambiguity is further complicated by the "break up" destiny, which negates all other destinies except the "I guess you're right, we should break up" destiny, meaning that "Oops, none of my destinies work" is likely to happen one way or another in almost every game you play. It seems like they were shooting for something like hidden roles in a social deduction game, but you're so often struggling just to make the relationship work at all that it feels ridiculous to spend the mental energy to figure out if the other player is going for Love Match or Dominant or Heartbreaker. I mean, if the lattermost happens, it happens, and I guess I just deal with the unthematic uncertainty of it?


The other issue is that, while the tokens are very nice, the cards and board are quite cheaply made. The board's only been opened twice and there's already color flaking off at the folds, and a half-dozen of the cards got stuck together and tore a bit coming apart. If you're someone who likes your games pristine, maybe wait until the second, non-Kickstartered print run.

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