Board Games

I mentioned yesterday that there were a couple of board games I wanted to talk about, so here we go.

The first is a relatively old game (by the standards of the recent flood of European style board games to the North American market), and it’s called Puerto Rico. If you’re heavily into board games, you’ve almost certainly heard this one mentioned before, and I feel a bit silly talking up a game that’s been a staple in the gaming community for so long. For whatever reason, it never made it into my circle of gaming friends. We often would pick up new games to try, but this one never got it’s chance until very recently. It’s too bad, because it’s a great game, based on resource-generation, trading, and building of assets. No luck, all strategy, and the game plays fairly differently each time because players will trigger different actions (out of a possible seven) for each player to take in turn. It’s a bit of a strange one because everyone gets more or less the same opportunity to do things, it’s the choices made individually that determine how well you succeed, and how well other people can lock you out of doing the actions which would benefit you most. I went into the second game using the same strategy I employed in the first game (which I won by complete beginner’s luck) and got destroyed because the strategy wasn’t working in this particular game, and all based on the actions the other players were taking. It’s tough to describe if you haven’t tried your own hand at it. Once you get the hang of the game, it gets easy to predict which action the other players will trigger and it makes it easier to plan your plays accordingly. This one’s been available long enough to merit a re-release in a tenth anniversary edition, and has always been a top seller at game stores. It really is a fun strategy game, it’s too bad we didn’t get around to it earlier but much as you’d like to, you can’t buy them all…

The other game we’ve recently discovered is called Locke & Key. It’s based on the popular comic book series with the same title, and has you facing a series of random challenges up until the game ends. Basically, each round a challenge is revealed, and each player plays a certain number of strength cards from their hand to overcome the challenge. Some of the cards grant special extra bonuses, and there are special “key” cards which can produce fairly powerful effects to surprise the other players. It’s a very interesting mix of cooperative and competitive, where every play made by each player works together to defeat the current challenge, but people are competing for the associated rewards. For a game which basically consists of three not-too-thick stacks of cards, it has an incredible amount of replay value, since sometimes you’re trying to win a challenge, sometimes you want the second place prize, and sometimes you’re going after something completely different. After the first game a couple of weeks ago, I was sure it would get boring fairly quickly but that wasn’t the case. It’s gotten more interesting, and it’s becoming a favourite among the gaming crowd I hang out with. My only complaint is that the challenge deck is a little thin (19 cards, with the game-ending card always shuffled into the bottom 7), and often the game feels like it ends abruptly. A few more cards to drag the game play out a little and this one would be pretty close to perfect. Most likely, it’s exactly the sort of game that would be well-suited to supporting expansion sets. I look forward to them.

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