PunchBoard Media: The Big List of Games (SdJ, KdJ Nominees)
The Punchboard Media Big List is an ongoing series highlighting some of the many board, card, and tabletop games that the contributors at Punchboard Media feel are important enough that everyone should experience playing, with some insights into each title from various contributors as to why they are notable.
This installment we are looking at the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres nominees that are readily available in the U.S.
Just One designed by Ludovic Roudy and Bruno Sautter
Nominated by What’s Eric Playing
Eric Yurko (What’s Eric Playing): I mean, it got nominated for the SdJ for a reason. Just One is, as someone who really doesn’t like party games, far and away my favorite party game. Here’s why. First, it’s cooperative, which makes for a great way to get everyone on the same page (especially if people don’t know each other). Second, it’s super simple: you need to guess one word or write one word. Third, it’s just … really fun, honestly. Players laugh, cajole each other for “stealing” their word, and generally commiserate about how tough of a game it is. It’s definitely not too difficult, though getting all 13 correct is usually a tall order for game groups. We loved it so much that we ended up playing a variant we call Just Two, which requires two copies of the game and escalates it from “amusing” to “a hot mess”, but only in the best ways. It’s a game I try to take everywhere I go that’ll have more than five people, and an indispensable part of my collection.
BJ Rozas (Board Game Gumbo): In a year noted for some great, and yes, divisive, party games, Just One stands out among (almost all of) the rest and is well deserved of its SdJ nom. It’s so simple and intuitive, hobby board gamers will dive into their phones while playing, searching BGG and their play tracker apps, convinced that they have played this game before. Just One falls into that wonderful category of “Games We All Should Have Designed Before But Didn’t”. Here’s a recipe for a great game night with your non-gaming friends: Two bags of ice, one pack of red solo cups, two liters of Cherry Coke Zero, one bottle of Old Charter, and your copy of Just One. Guaranteed best night ever.
Chris Marling (GoPlayListen): I had an excellent time playing this simple word game. We were seven people, some I knew and some I didn’t. The rules got out of the way in less than five minutes (it’s easier to just start playing) and everyone, regardless of gaming tastes, had fun with it. Making it fully co-op means it’s different enough from other games (Trapwords, Taboo etc), but bog standard art and components may work against it. Also, is it too soon after Codenames for another word game to take home the SdJ? Personally I hope not, as I think it would be a worthy winner.
Oscar Gonzalez (El Doc Logan): Great way to break the ice with newcomers, it is a great game with a fantastic approach and everyone ends up with a big smile and laughing. It is a fast game with little text that can be played even in a Mexican environment (English not very much required, at least not with cell phones around) and that fires up your creativity and diversity on the table.
Links to PBM Reviews of Just One:
Werewords designed by Ted Alspach
Nominated by Open Seat Gaming
Sarah Mahood-Wormuth (Open Seat Gaming): Werewords is easily our most played party game, in fact, since we started using the BG Stats App, it’s our most played game overall. Werewords takes twenty questions and mashes it together with the social deduction of Bezier’s Were[wolf] universe. Werewords is quick and simple to teach, and when we play it with new players, they want to play it again and again. The app that goes with Werewords is excellent and allows you to upload your own word lists to play with friends. This game is versatile and gives everyone a fun experience in around 5 minutes.
BJ Rozas (Board Game Gumbo): If Just One had not been released, Werewords — this beautiful game — would have been my pick for Party Game Of The Year. I have a love/hate relationship with the Were Family of games. Yes, Chris Wray and Carlos Roy have convinced me that there can be a lot of strategy, and I’ve seen that in person. But, there’s also the inevitable “finger pointing for no reason” strategy, which in a word, sucks. Werewords fixes that, and for that reason alone, is enough for me to enjoy the game. The fact that the questions and discussion can lead to or away from suspicion makes every game of Werewords enjoyable to me. Two hairy thumbs up for Werewords.
Donald Dennis (On Board Games): When I first saw Werewords I was convinced it was a poorly conceived cash-grab that nobody ever needed to play. I was wrong - it is an excellent combination of social deduction and 20-questions in a sleek werewolf themed package. At one time or another I’ve enjoyed most of the Were family of games, but eventually they start to feel same-y. Instead, Werewords is a social deduction game with a real cues, created unintentionally by player choices, that aid or hinder deduction. As a word game it is lot of fun, as a social deduction game the way the Seer and Werewolves interact with the Mayor keep things interesting. This is easily my favorite of the Werewolf themed secret traitor games; Green Light all the way.
Helena Tzioti (Helena Plays Games): I am generally not very into social deduction games, as I mostly do not perceive them as games. Rather gimmicks, I dare say. I was very happy that Werewords proved me wrong! Werewords takes the "increased strategy" bit that most social deduction games lack, removes the "pointing fingers" bit that I am not a particular fan of and mixes them with the very fun theme that the Werewolf universe has. So if someone asks me to play a social deduction game, this is one of my two choices. So a big thumbs up from a non-fan of the genre, for the smooth execution and interesting gameplay!
Links to PBM Reviews of Werewords:
Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game designed by Przemysław Rymer, Ignacy Trzewiczek and Jakub Łapot
Nominated by Board Game Gumbo
BJ Rozas (Board Game Gumbo): I have been forced beyond all reasonable limits to watch thousands and thousands of hours of the various Were-Law & Order series shows. (Might as well throw another Werewolf brand in there, Ted). My dad, my mom, my wife, her family — they just love police procedurals. Hey, I like ‘em, too, but NOT 25 HOURS A DAY ON WE.TV! Turn off the ever-lovin’ television, people, buy a copy of Detective, and PLAY YOUR FAVORITE SHOW. Be Colombo, or Veronica Mars, or Dwayne Pride, Jessica Fletcher, or Barnaby Jones, or whoever… just please let me watch lacrosse on ESPN on Saturdays again! Oh, before I forget, Detective was easily one of the top three gaming experiences I had all year, and kudos to the Portal Games team for hitting a home run here.
Donald Dennis (On Board Games): Do you find those shows where detective puts pictures on the wall, writes notes by them, and connects all the bits with string fascinating? Is it an activity that you’d like to try? If so, Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game is perfect for you. Each session is an engrossing case with threads that lead from “episode one” to the “season finale.” Don’t forget you’ll want a computer for this, the introductory videos are important, but not as essential as the agency database you’ll use to search for old case files, DNA, or fingerprint matches, and it’s a campaign tracker as well. A Modern Crime Board Game is as close as you will come to recreating your favorite police procedural, and is a true Green Light experience. Just remember, no matter how good you are at taking notes, you will probably wish you were better at it at least once during this campaign.
Links to PBM Reviews of Detective:
On Board Games #323: Eye Candy (Detective discussion at 16 minutes)
Wingspan designed by Elizabeth Hargrave
Nominated by Open Seat Gaming
Scott Bowen (Open Seat Gaming): I try not to get hyped up for games unless it’s an expansion or new content for a game I really like (or a continuation of a game series I enjoy). There was a lot of that around Wingspan, and some of that is just normal over-hype, but when we got the game to the table it definitely proved worthy of at least some of the buzz. It’s a very solid game with beautiful presentation, gorgeous artwork, and mechanics that really click together well. While it may not be groundbreaking mechanics-wise, it’s a refreshingly different mix of engine-building pieces with a theme that may be more popular now with other recent games but isn’t overdone like a lot of other themes. This, to me, lends it well to various audiences, including those playing it as their gateway into the hobby.
Sarah Mahood-Wormuth (Open Seat Gaming): Wingspan is an engine building game where you are adding birds to your wildlife preserve. Your main actions throughout the game are: playing a bird, gain food, lay eggs, and draw cards. By taking these actions over the course of four rounds you will expand your aviary and gain victory points. The art is magnificent, particularly all the bird cards and the playmat. The production quality is top notch, the bird card tray, birdfeeder dice tower, and egg miniatures are very well done. The clever gameplay, amazing art, and enticing production come together to form a marvelous and polished board game well deserving of its KdJ nomination.
Isaac Shalev (Kind Fortress, On Board Games): Wingspan is the herald of a new style of gaming that challenges a central pillar of the pastime: that winning and losing are, by definition, very important to games. Wingspan challenges this idea by creating a thoroughly pleasant, thinky experience that is unmistakably a game. Yet, it’s a game with so little competition, interaction or friction with other players that winning and losing seem mostly beside the point. Wingspan reminds me of going to a baseball game. Most of what’s fun about it is the hot sun, the cold beer, and the pleasant conversation. The handful of moments where the game demands your attention are only the mustard on your hot dog. And like in baseball, there is no crying in Wingspan, because neither winning nor losing generate any emotional payoff. Wingspan offers a perfectly pleasant gaming experience, but one without the highs, lows, and decisive climax that games have traditionally sought to deliver.
Chris Marling (GoPlayListen): I expect I’ll be in the minority here, but I found this to be a pretty average euro game experience that I wouldn’t seek to play again. The components are lovely and the theme is less travelled than some (although recent titles Flock and Seikatsu spring to mind). Beyond that, it felt painfully unoriginal: a rearranging of standard concepts done better in superior games (Race for the Galaxy, Deus etc). Surely designers and publishers should be aspiring to more than that? Especially in a KdJ nominee. It feels like the product of an oversaturated market.
Brandon Kempf (WDYPTW): I am with both Chris and Isaac here, but there is one thing that Wingspan has done really well, and perhaps better than any other game in recent history. It is a game with some depth that is reaching the masses. Due to the pseudo-scientific presentation of the game a lot of folks who don’t play games, are reaching out to try this one. Which, if everyone is to believe, is the ultimate goal of any hobby, to reach out and indoctrinate others. Presentation wise, Stonemaier has knocked it out of the park, from the needless birdhouse dice tower, to the linen finish on the cards AND the rulebook and the Easter candy eggs. All in all, Wingspan is a stunning game to look at and in this day and age, where thousands of games are released into the wild, is all too important. The design is competent, not inspiring or exciting, but that seems to be good enough, especially considering the new gamers that Wingspan is attempting to bring into the hobby through the publicity from more mainstream news sources.
Links to PBM Reviews of Wingspan: