Now that we’ve had a few of weeks to look back on 2013, I thought I’d post my short list of board games released in the past year that I would feel good about recommending to most gamers. This isn’t a comprehensive list but among the games from 2013 that I’ve played, these games have the greatest potential for wide appeal. Keep in mind that I haven’t played every board game released in 2013 — one of the downsides to being a grown-up with a job — so let me know of any glaring omissions in the comments section.
In this much anticipated sequel to Uwe Rosenberg’s 2008 hit Agricola, players take control of a couple of dwarves living in a small mountain cave next to a forest. Using their dwarves to take actions, players clear-cut the forest to create farms and pastures for animals, or excavate deeper into the mountain to build more rooms and mine for ore and rubies. Players can also choose to forge weapons, allowing their dwarves to go on expeditions in search of even more resources. Like in Agricola, the player with the best developed farm and home will win the game.
Caverna’s core game mechanisms are virtually identical to Agricola’s, but if you’re worried about it feeling too similar to its predecessor, fear not. Because while they may seem minor, the changes implemented in Caverna — streamlined fence building, the addition of mining and expeditions — make for a very different game experience without making it overly complex or fiddly. Highly recommended to fans of worker placement games. Good luck trying to find a copy though, it’s already sold out of its first print run.
La Boca is a semi-cooperative 3D block building game. Players work in rotating teams of two to construct buildings made of colored blocks in order to match the image on a card drawn at the beginning of the round. The faster they can construct the building successfully, the more points they will score. The twist is that each card depicts the building from two different vantage points. For players to score a building, it must be built so that is satisfies both sides of the card.
La Boca gets high marks from me for a few reasons. It has great production value with high quality wood pieces and vibrant graphic design. The insert is brilliantly laid out so that the game can be played in the box. While not absolutely necessary, it’s a really nice touch. This game is going to attract people if you play it in public. Aesthetics aside, La Boca encourages and rewards clear and concise communication in a time crunch. And while this can be difficult for players with less honed spatial relation skills, the team nature of the game prevents those players from being singled out too much.
In Augustus, players attempt to outscore their opponents by completing objectives and collecting bonus points. On a turn a token is drawn from a bag and each player places one of their seven legionnaires on an objective with an icon matching the chosen token. When all of an objective’s icons have legionnaires on them, the objective is completed and scored. The game continues until one player has completed seven objectives. The player with the most points is the winner. That’s it. The game has been neatly summed up as Roman themed bingo.
Thankfully, it’s a little more than just Roman bingo. Some objectives are more difficult to complete than others but score more points, and players also need to pick objectives with bonuses in mind. Additionally, there is just enough interaction between the different objectives to make this a light strategy game that’s worth a seasoned board gamer’s time, while being accessible to new gamers.
Sushi Go! is a cute, quick, and very simple card drafting game where players score points by collecting various sets of sushi cards. Turns are played simultaneously as each player selects a card from their hand and passes their remaining cards to the next player. This process is repeated until there are no cards are left to pass. The round ends and players score their sets. The game is over after three rounds of drafting and scoring, and naturally the player with the most points will be the winner.
This game is simple. Seriously, you could teach your mom this game. And while that is true, it has a surprising amount of depth, especially considering how few components and rules it has. Much of the depth emerges when players become aware of what cards their opponents might want, and choose those cards instead of cards that are strictly better for themselves — the practice known as “hate drafting.” Due to that this game shines with repeated plays, especially with the same people. Considering it’s a 10-15 minute game, it shouldn’t be hard to get your buddies to play at least a few games with you. Extra kudos, because after mastering Sushi Go! civilians (i.e. muggles (i.e. non-gamers)) will be halfway to playing 7 Wonders.