What games do the International Ludigang members favour during the lockdown?
As our options to travel and go out to meet friends are constantly dwindling, we still need to wet our gaming appetite somehow, albeit in the comfort (and restraint) of our own homes. So let’s see what games our gang members prefer during the lockdown.
Click on the person of your choice to read what they have to say on the subject.
I find puzzly games to be a perfect fit when trying to pass time in an enjoyable way during lockdown. Instead of worrying about things beyond my control, such as the world outside of my apartment, these games allow me to focus while keeping my mind occupied with much more pleasant, palpable and, above all, solvable problems. One game in this genre that I really love and has been playing a lot during this lockdown is Codex Naturalis.
In a nutshell, Codex Naturalis is a spatially hinged tableau builder where you, each turn, add a card from your hand to your ever-growing tableau of cards in front of you. There are two types of cards, resource cards and prestige cards. The resource cards doesn´t cost anything and depict resources in some of their corners. The Prestige cards are worth points but need certain visible resources in order to be played. And every time you add a card to your tableau, you need to cover corners of already played cards which may change what visible resources you have to your disposal next turn. As soon as somebody has 20 points there is only one turn left of the game, and whoever has the highest score then is the winner.
This short description undeniably accentuates how easy and simple to teach this game really is. But don´t be fooled by its simplicity, because the game still offers enough tactical and strategic decisions to keep one’s interest and will certainly make you come back for more.
In closing, I just want to comment on one more aspect of Codex Naturalis which undoubtedly affect how much I adore the game and that is its visuals. I find Codex Naturalis to be absolutely super beautiful. The box cover is stunning and the individual cards, with their vivid colors, are quite exquisite, further enhanced by their lovely Ligne Claire art style. I recommend Codex Naturalis to anyone who wish to play a game with the ones you share quarters with during these troubled times, because its beauty and delightful mechanisms will make the troubles outside seem more distant, at least for a while.
I have a son named Leo, and he is nowadays my main gaming partner. But as he only is 8 years old, the games we play needs to be structurally simple. For example, we play a lot of Vikings, Splendor, Through the Desert, and Ticket to Ride, but stay clear of negotiation games and point salady games as it is hard for him to fully grasp conversion rates and competitively track fluid game states. So, no Sidereal Confluence and Trajan, not yet anyway. Lately, though, his favorite game has been Majesty: For the Realm. And even if my wife and I are starting to get tired of it, I think we need to just suck it up, because it will most definitely stay in rotation for the foreseeable future. And it really is a good game, don’t get me wrong. It is just difficult to muster enthusiasm when it is the umpteen time to play it, while there still are a few hundred other games in our game library that still await their first trial run.
There are three major aspects of Majesty that I want to highlight and that I really appreciate. Firstly, it has a set number of rounds. Majesty is a tableau builder but you will only add 12 cards to your tableau, no more, no less. And each turn you add one card. This give the game a strategic feel to it, even if the game is mainly tactical as you can’t be sure what cards will be available to you each turn. Secondly, the interaction level is quite high. You need to pay attention to what the other players are doing because it can directly affect you. In addition, there is an area majority aspect to the game as well that you can’t ignore. Thirdly, the production quality is top notch. The coins you collect has a great feel to them, and the card illustrations are pretty, and evocative enough to get the theme through. Writing this actually make me wanna play it again…. Just kidding!
Who would have thought that almost all of 2020 and probably most of the year 2021 would be spent in social isolation? At the start of the first lockdown in Belgium – at the end of March this year – my board game friends and I did not lose heart. We would regularly meet up online and play board games on digital platforms. However, it soon became clear to me that my heart lies with analog gaming. Though spending time with friends is for me the biggest boon of the board game hobby, I gradually phased out meeting up online
I consider myself lucky to share my life with a partner who shares my passion for board games. We ended up dusting of my copy of Edge of Darkness. This is a heavy caliber game, designed by John D. Clair and published by AEG. It’s a card crafting – shared(!) deck building – worker placement game. It supports up to 4 players. However, the possible action combos are so ingenious and versatile that it plays imo best with 2. With all other plans and obligations suspended, we could just leave the game out on the dining table and move from scenario to scenario. Suddenly it didn’t seem so completely ridiculous anymore that I had gotten the “Sands of Dunestar” expansion for it!
I highly recommend Edge of Darkness, in which players take on the role of powerful guilds in the city of Aegis. While vying for power to become the leader of Aegis, the city desperately struggles against great evil. Only by working together the city can be saved from harm. The coolest feature in the game is the threat tower. At the start of every player ‘s turn colored cubes will be tossed into this tower and this determines which monsters attacks and whom suffers damage – unless being able to put up a defense.
Fortunately, we have also had moments of relaxation in social distancing measures in the recent months. The Search for Planet X has proven to be an ideal game to play with friends while still being able to keep some social distancing in mind. It’s a deduction game designed by Matthew O’Malley and Ben Rosset and published by Foxtrot Games (KS) / Renegade Game Studios. In 2015, astronomers estimated a large distant planet could explain the unique orbits of dwarf planets and other objects in space. Since then, astronomers have been scanning the sky. Players become astronomers competing to be the first to locate this hypothetical Planet X.
It is remarkable how this game has a good amount of player interaction, while it has each player seated half hidden behind a player aid screen, taking secret notes on a private deduction sheet and gathering clues via an app on their personal smartphone. There’s no exchanging of card, as is the case in many (most?) deduction games (for example Awkward Guests – still collecting dust on my shelf of shame for this reason). Furthermore it’s refreshing that locating Planet X is not the win condition, it’s the end game trigger. The players with the most points at the end of the games wins, and those points are collected throughout the game via discovering the locations of all kinds of celestial objects. If you’re the first to publish a correct theory about an object’s location, it’ll give you higher points. But published theories become common knowledge and aid your opponents in pinpointing Planet X.
Player order is determined by a time track as in Uwe Rosenberg’s “Patchwork”. Every action a player takes has a cost expressed in time. Especially towards the end of the game it gets very important to well manage your advancement on this time track. This game would make a great Christmas gift for anyone that loves deduction board games. Sadly locating a copy at a FLGS is currently even harder than locating Planet X. Let’s hope the publishers will provide some more copies soon!
2020 is turning out to be an out-of-the-ordinary year. As I write this, Belgium has entered its second lockdown since March. Game clubs have been cancelled since March. There were brief periods of less stringent regulations during which we could meet up with a limited number of people, for instance to play boardgames, but those seem like a distant memory. So for now, my main gaming partner is my life partner. Feels like I’ve returned to the early days of my boardgaming life, when he was my main boardgaming partner as well. Over the years, I have collected quite a few games that are either exclusively for 2 players, or support more players but play very well at lower player counts.
Underwater Cities might be my favorite lockdown game, for several reasons. First, we both love it. Second, it is an immersive medium-heavy game that gets your brain cells working for the better part of 2 hours. Third, it has an expansion that lets you mix and match modules to add to the base game if you want to spice things up. The game is about building a network of cities underwater (d-uh, you probably guessed that by the title), and adding farms, laboratories and desalination plants to the cities in order to produce food, money and resources. The main board has worker placement spots, but there’s an interesting twist since you also need to play cards to perform an action on the central board. The cards give you access to additional actions, end game scoring, immediate bonuses or your engine of cards you will build over the course of the game.
Underwater Cities is a game we will enjoy for many more gaming sessions to come – even when this pandemic is over!
The best way to escape from a lockdown situation is to escape into another world, running away from this global situation so the search for the Holy Grail around the grim land of Avalon could be the perfect fit for you! But don’t worry too much if you aren’t into arthurian legends and myths, this game tells the story about an anti-heroes group that have the ungrateful task to save the endangered land while facing many different mysteries and tasks scattered in Avalon.
The most appealing element of Tainted Grail is its narrative part, of course. Every story in the game is tied with a whole book filled with a lot of chapters, paragraphs and storylines. Depending on the characters you choose at the beginning of your adventure you’ll have different peculiar abilities that help you to make important decisions, to choose which side you are on and many different paths to follow during all the fifteen long chapters. But be careful because you will also need a lot of bookkeeping during the campaign but it is necessary if you won’t lose any important clues in the middle of another task but thanks to all these crossroads, Tainted Grail offers some nice replayability that in an adventure game like this is not always an option.
Beyond the narrative aspect, there’s another crucial part of the game and that’s the deck building. Optimizing your encounter abilities decks (diplomatic and combat) it’s the only way to survive in this hostile vanishing land. Most of the encounters in Avalon will be very tricky, especially at the beginning of the campaign, but polishing the decks and improving it you can resolve most of these quite easily, even if you should not underestimate none of them. Building the perfect deck is very challenging, you’ve to spend some experience points in order to get three cards and to choose just one of them! It will take some sessions before fully understanding your decks and how cards link to each other!
In addition to this the setting of Tainted Grail is really impressive. A dark and grim world, decadent and vanishing, it is really fascinating even if you’re not a King Arthur connoisseur, because of course there are many references to the classic characters and locations you might have heard of but they’re not definitely relevant to appreciate this game at its best!
I never thought that my girlfriend would like this game that much, fortunately she surprised me one more time. She’s really enjoying it every moment wandering around Avalon so far, as much as I am, bringing this experience to the next level. I’m really having a lot of fun with Tainted Grail, of course, not only because it’s just an incredible adventure game but it can also lead your mind away for some hours from this situation we’re all experiencing and that’s a huge relief in such a time like this.