July was another great month in my personal world of board gaming. I managed to get 38 games to the table, including 9 titles that I had never played before. Furthermore, I managed to play board games with 17 different people during the month of July — I love being able to share this hobby with many different people.
My most played game of the month was Tenzi from Carma Games. Each game is just a couple minutes, so getting 8 plays in during one setting was not too difficult.
Now, let’s turn our attention to the focus of this blog post — the July Top 10, where I will be looking at, not necessarily my favorite games I played in July, but my top 10 experiences with games during the month:
#10 – Carcassonne
This classic game is a joy to open up whenever I get the opportunity, but my July play was special because this was my first chance to play with the Under the Big Top expansion, which I really enjoyed. It is fun to try and stack the acrobats and the scoring of the Ringmaster and Circus Tent add some extra depth and strategy to an already great game.
#9 – Ganz schön clever
It is amazing how poor you can feel like you are doing halfway through a play of this game. In my single July play, though, it all started to come together at the end. I managed to complete the blue section of the sheet, unlocked three foxes, and did a great job of having point diversity to score my new personal best of 261!
#8 – Rise to Nobility
July 4th was my first time to get to play Rise to Nobility. I taught it to three family friends and we logged over 2 1/2 hours of gameplay to get through all 10 rounds of this dice placement game. By the end, there was a lot of “when will it be over” vibes. Personally, I ended the day feeling very unsure about the game. It was fairly fun, but there are better action selection / worker placement games that are less complicated / convoluted and take less time to play. The reason Rise makes it onto my top 10, though, is because of how much I like it as a solo experience. Mid-month, I got the game out again (and man, does it have an unfortunate amount of set-up) to try the solitaire experience.
The key to Rise to Nobility in solo mode is with the objective card you draw. This card gives you a focus of what you are trying to accomplish within 10 rounds to claim victory. The goal is not easy, but it’s achievable. In fact, with a couple rounds remaining, I thought I had a win in the bag — but that scum of an automa mode got in my way big-time! Setting up the automa is very easy each round (and while he’s a very “luck-driven” player based on dice rolls), he does a good job of being a potential roadblock in your plans. In my case, he was a mean “Take That” Turnip-Head!! I needed to accomplish a couple final tasks and he blocked them off consistently at the end of the game to keep me from victory.
While I don’t know if I would keep this game for its competitive gameplay, I plan on getting it out again in the future to try more solo objectives — as each one forces you to come up with a new strategy to deliver a path to victory in the time allotted.
#7 – One Night Ultimate Super Villains
In the right setting, I really enjoy One Night Ultimate Werewolf. In July, my son received the new Super Villains version for his birthday. It is just as enjoyable and I like the theme a little better in this iteration. Also, during our plays this month, my sister-in-law was a villain who attempted a wily, ‘outside-of-the-box’ scheme that backfired due to some very unfortunate luck. I love the unexpected moments that can come from these One Night Ultimate titles from Bezier.
#6 – Downforce
My family got in a couple plays of the Crosstown Speedway for Downforce in July. The loops in the first half of this course make for some fun and unexpected road block scenarios that highlight just how fun this game can be.
Furthermore, in the 2nd Crosstown Speedway game, I learned a very important lesson about purchasing cars at auction that match your hand. I “thought” I had done that, but late in the game managed to get into an awkward situation in which my car basically stalled out a few rectangles from the finish line because I was unable to play any cars to move it forward. Luckily, while my son was attempting to get his Fleet of vehicles to the finish, he played a card that helped tow me across the line.
#5 – Set a Watch
This Kickstarter title arrived just before Independence Day and I was able to get two plays in during July. The first game was a three-player co-op with my wife and oldest son. We played on easy mode and the three of us worked well together to get the job done and take down the horde of monsters.
My second play was a solo attempt. I tried a couple different class types (not all of them to my personal liking) and struggled each round to keep the monsters at bay. During the final stage, I thought I was going down, but managed to pull together a nice maneuver (one of those “lightbulb moments” that really makes you feel like a cool gamer) to get another easy mode victory.
Set a Watch is equally fun as a co-op or solo play. It is nice playing with others, though — it doesn’t slow things up much and it is beneficial to have more eyes and minds working the problem, compared to trying to manage four characters and their abilities by yourself.
#4 – The Pursuit of Happiness
The Pursuit of Happiness is definitely one of those games that I wish I got to the table more often. It is so much fun every time. My son pulled off a scenario where he got a high-level job in his 20’s and immediately retired. Meanwhile, I decided to go down the long-term job and family route and struggled to find enough time to accomplish much later in life (haha!! I love the tongue-in-cheek realistic humor of this game). The journey and story-telling in this game is outstanding — and my son was very pleased with his victory.
#3 – Seasons
At game night this month, I chose Seasons as the game I wanted to teach to the group. It was actually my first time to get the game to the table this year and so I’m glad I managed to get two plays/teaches in that evening. Everyone seemed to really enjoy Seasons, whether they performed well or not. In my two plays, I was impressed to see just how different two sessions could feel based on the cards that came out during the draft phase.
In the first game, none of the cards felt that great and so the tone of play felt very ‘normal.’ It wasn’t until the end that a couple of cool combos helped add some spice to the game. During the second sit-down, every card in the draft felt powerful. It was consistently sad to only be able to take one card and have to pass the rest to one of my rivals. In this game, I gathered some Mean “Take That” cards, which ended up keeping the scores much lower than usual. I put together some nice combos during the final turns and managed to grab a victory in game 2.
#2 – Great Western Trail
Great Western Trail was the other game I got to play during my game group’s monthly game night. I have heard a lot of hype about this Pfister title and after watching JonGetsGames’ playthrough, I was very excited to get some colorful cows up the trail!
With 3 players, we took almost three hours to complete the game, but it didn’t feel that long. I decided early on, I wanted to be aggressive with train movement and getting to stations. While not an easy path to take, it worked out pretty well for me. I also focused heavily on personal objective cards and trying to successfully complete as many of them as I could (I think I managed five). In the end, I pulled off a pretty nice victory — but more importantly, loved my time on the Trail! The mechanism of building out the trail with your own buildings — figuring out where to efficiently place them — and then having to strategize a smart path along the trail each time is such a joy. For me, that gameplay is a unique experience and one that I congratulate Alexander Pfister for creating in this fun and thematic board game.
#1 – Wingspan
After my first play of Wingspan in June, I liked this game but felt somewhat unimpressed — as if the hype had been built up a little too much. But maybe some of that was because I knew I didn’t play very well. I considered what happened, though, and learned some valuable lessons.
In July, I got a 2nd chance at Elizabeth Hargrave’s masterpiece. As I mentioned above with Seasons, I love when a game is designed so that each play can have its own ‘vibe’, it’s own feeling. My first game felt very tight — not enough resources, hard to get much done. In July’s playthrough, several “giving” birds made it to player boards — resources for everyone!! Along with that, I put together a really strong card draw engine. I didn’t think that would be a nice ability, but it was — constantly having lots of options on which birds I can place next is of greater value than one might expect. Because of my wealth of birds, I managed to pull off five….FIVE!!….placement combos, essentially getting five birds on my board without having to take extra actions. Because of that, I finished the game with a full 15-bird player board. If you’ve never pulled that off, let me tell you –> It feels GREAT!
With all of that going my way, I pulled off the win….and the IRE of my wife and sister-in-law. They are wanting to play again soon to try and take me down. And I say…..”Bring it!”
Whew!! What an awesome month of gaming — and we’re just a week into August, but I feel confident things will just get better!
What about you? What’s the best game you’ve played in the past month?
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