Punch Board Media: The Big List of Games
This week on the PunchBoard Media Big List of Games we take a look at some great games that use the most iconic of board game bits, dice.
Monopoly, published in 1933, designed by Elizabeth J. Magie
(Nominated by Ken Grazier)
Ken Grazier (Geek-Craft): Monopoly is a game you should play. I know you just rolled your eyes and scoffed, but I mean it. Not the way you played as a kid, but by the actual rules. Is it a great game? Probably not, but it's worth trying the right way, by the rules, to give it a fair shake. Will you love it? Maybe, but at the very least you'll try the actual rules and see what the game is really like.
Charles Hasegawa (Things of No Interest): There were a bunch of side discussions by folks on whether the “classic” board game stuff should be included on the Big List. It absolutely should! I don’t think that it means that Monopoly is anyone’s favorite, but a game that is this well known and has so many variants and has sold as many copies as it has should not be ignored. And while this is not the best game ever, it would not be as reviled if people actually played it the correct way! Yep, that means that is is not uncommon for players to go bankrupt. Yep, that means this is a roll-and-move-auction game.
Eric Yurko (What’s Eric Playing?): I’m only popping in on Monopoly because it was the first game I remember having extremely strong feelings about regarding what piece I was. If I couldn’t be the top hat, the game wasn’t worth playing.
In fairness, I still feel that way.
Links to Reviews for Monopoly
Sagrada, published in 2017, designed by Adrian Ademescu & Daryl Andrews
(Nominated by Eric Buscemi)
Eric Buscemi (The Cardboard Hoard): Sagrada was my 2017 game of the year, and also got the most plays of any game in my collection that year. Its combination of ease of set-up, fluidity of play, beautiful table presence, scaling well at all player counts, and playing quickly, always leaving the players wanting more, make it a perfect lighter, weeknight game that has enough meaningful decisions for more experienced gamers, especially those that like abstract puzzles and some (mitigatable) dice randomness.
Jake Bock (Draft Mechanic): With each passing year, I see more interesting production applied to abstract games that may not have had more than a player color in years past. Sagrada is bursting with color, lovingly crafted with high-quality components, luxurious translucent dice, and player boards that are best described as ‘extravagant.’ It’s all worth it, as well, when the gameplay backs it up. I won’t sit here and pretend you ‘feel like you’re building a cathedral!’, but what I do feel in this game is that by the end, against all odds, I’ve created something I can feel proud of. And I don’t think that I’d feel that way about twenty dice if Floodgate hadn’t invested into the exceptional production of the whole package.
Eric Yurko (What’s Eric Playing?): A lot of what I look for in games now is table presence or some sort of compelling aesthetic or theme. Will it look good on the table while it’s being played? Is it some theme I’ve never tried before? If either is a yes, I’ll likely pick it up, especially if the mechanics seem solid. I’m a sucker for a good Kickstarter, so I ended up with a copy of Sagrada and was delighted by it. Sure, it’s a bit thinky, but the dice drafting component is compelling, the gameplay is fun with a good amount of interaction, and the core conceit is wonderful -- you build stained glass windows with brightly-colored translucent dice. It’s a solid pick as a gateway and I love how much work was put into the production value of it.
Brandon Kempf (WDYPTW): A very simple game that combines dice drafting, with some restrictive placement rules, to build stain glass windows in the Sagrada Família. Sagrada is in line with the new modern tradition of having a theme over what is ultimately an abstract game at heart. I like Sagrada, it’s a good quality family weight title that offers some engaging gameplay and some very nice table appeal with those lovely, colorful translucent dice.
BJ Rozas (Board Game Gumbo): I heard so much buzz about Sagrada and Azul, and was pumped when both were available at my FLGS. Played both around the same time, so there is that inevitable comparison. My wife is a big fan of puzzle games, and I just knew that Sagrada would be a hit for her. It has been THE game of 2017-2018 for her so far. It is the one game recently that she actively seeks out games to play. Simple, elegant, tense, and oh-so-teachable...plus it looks amazing on the table and draws interest from on-lookers every time we play at a game night.
Sarah Mahood (Open Seat Gaming): Sagrada is an elegant, streamlined game with dazzling aesthetics. Puzzly and cerebral, yet quick playing. You are basically putting together a sudoku puzzle with the colors & numbers of your dice in a 5 x 4 grid. At the end, you feel a sense of accomplishment when you complete your stained glass window. No matter who we introduce Sagrada to, they thoroughly enjoy it. It appeals to gamers of all sorts, from casual to hardcore, and that's why I believe it is an essential for everyone's collection.
Links to Reviews for Sagrada
The Castles of Burgundy, published in 2011, designed by Stefan Feld
(Nominated by Ido Efrati)
Ido Efrati (The Review Board):
Castles of Burgundy is one of the first “heavier” games I added to my collection when I moved from gateway games to more strategic games. I got hooked on Castles of Burgundy because there were multiple ways to score points in the game, and as someone who tries to avoid games with direct conflict, I liked the fact that I could play competitively while still doing my own thing on my personal board with my personal strategy.
The five phases of the games limited the play time (which I appreciated) and the added randomization from the dice was fun to explore as I tried different strategies. In my opinion, it is a great game to introduce casual players to more advance games. It is hard enough that it will still challenge a mixed group of players (advance players and beginners), but it is not too intimidating.
Charles Hasegawa (Things of No Interest): Feld’s games are notoriously “Point Salad-y” - ie Feld offers players a large assortments of ways to score points and players mix and match in whatever way they want to win. CoB is not any different, but rather than the “salad bar” approach (to stay with that metaphor), CoB feels more like a selection of specialty salad choices. What I’m trying to say is that the point schemes feel more cohesive and less like, “let’s throw in two more ways to score points and call it done”. The dice mechanism isn’t simply a way to grab things that score you points - the dice dictate where you can place items on your board, which influences what you pick up and how you manipulate things. Then add in a high interaction layer, where players have to decide on the best route - do you get an item before someone else because it is valuable or do you grab something that finishes an area so you can score the bonus first, or do you take something you really don’t need because it lets you chain a bunch of actions so you can get the most bang for your actions? That is why CoB is better than all the other Feld point salad games - there are tons of interesting choices which aren’t all about taking 3 points here vs 3 points over there.
Brandon Kempf (WDYPTW): Truth, this is the only Feld game I actively search out and will play. Nothing else by him has made me feel the need for repeated plays. Point salad in the best way possible, there are just so many options and so many different ways to chain actions to work with what you have, even if it isn’t what you actually want. The dice feel a bit restrictive, but in a good way, you don’t want complete freedom to do whatever you would like to do. Bad thing is, I’ve played this about 95 times, and I would say that 90 of those have been online, this game is fiddly with a capital F and online versions make it far more manageable. It’s mostly the scoring and the further actions you can take when building certain buildings, but it requires everyone to be paying attention. So while I have a copy and will happily sit and play it with someone else, I’d never play it with 3-4 in person anymore, only online.
Links to Reviews for The Castles of Burgundy
Las Vegas, published in 2012, designed by Rudiger Dorn
(Nominated by Jake Bock)
Jake Bock (Draft Mechanic): Las Vegas is immediately enthralling: maybe it’s our fascination with casinos, or the thrill of rolling a giant fistful of dice, or the schadenfreude of seeing two other players tie up on that casino where you only invested one die. It’s both a casual, relaxed play and a nailbiter. It’s the game that fits perfectly in your game night as you’re waiting for people to show up, or when you have half an hour between big beefy eurogames and want to cleanse the palette. It’s a breeze to teach, and it never outstays its welcome. Las Vegas (or now, Vegas Dice Game at your local bullseye-branded big box) is your sneaky way in to getting your Yahtzee-purist in-laws to understanding that modern gaming is A Thing. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to see a hobby game go mainstream.
Charles Hasegawa (Things of No Interest): This game is easy to teach to non-gamers and good fun for gamers too - when you play with the neutral dice. Having that extra ability to block without using your dice increases the game quotient without taking away from that easy game feel.
Eric Yurko (What’s Eric Playing?): I was kind of astounded by this game when we played it, honestly. The rules were simple, the gameplay was straightforward, and my family loved it. I needed something to break out after Thanksgiving dinner because Kokoro confused everyone (whoops) and Las Vegas (or Vegas Dice Game, as Target now knows it) was a great pick. I just wish that the casinos in the Target version had names.
Brandon Kempf (WDYPTW): Las Vegas takes the Yahtzee dice rolling mechanism and makes it more game-y. Giving us some really simple and fun area majority fights. Bonus if you get the new version is that you can always Roll the Box!
BJ Rozas (Board Game Gumbo): Jake and Danielle taught this one to me at Dice Tower Con this past summer. I had honestly heard some bad things about it, so wasn’t expecting much (lackluster production, random dice chuck fest). Wow, was I pleasantly surprised! Sure, it is random, but it gives off the illusion that you are in control. I bought my two brothers the Target version for Christmas, and it ended up being the Game of Christmas Vacation.
Links to Reviews for Las Vegas