Some great games to check out if you haven’t tried them.
Fabled Fruit: A real hit with our group! A kind of legacy set collection game, it has a unique mechanism of new cards appearing as cards in play score and leave the game. This makes this game seem fresh every time its played. Don’t like your choices on the board? Score the card pile and bring out something new. There’s strategy and player interaction, with some “take that,” but it’s not too aggressive so there won’t be hurt feelings. The theme, pace, and set collection/hand management aspects make this one a real winner for gamers and non-gamers alike. If you finish the set of cards (and that could take some time) you can play again, or just buy the expansion that’s coming out soon.
Downforce: a very clever and quite mean, in a fun way, race game. The bidding system to buy a race car, using cards in hand, can be a little clunky but once that was over, the racing kept my group entertained in just the right amount of time. Players can own cars and bet on their own or other people’s cars to win. Cars move on the track using random cards in hand, which calls for some strategic card play to get your car(s) over the finish line. The board is two sided, with the option of even more nasty blocking action on the other side. Win points through your own car winning and backing the winning cars, but don’t lose it all by paying too much for your race car at the auction! Fun stuff.
Tournament at Camelot: a trick taker with a terrible rulebook that got off to a slow start with the group (mostly due to the rulebook) that was even more nasty than Downforce. Take on other players in a combat tournament, and try not to die of your wounds. Most liked the art and the theme, even our medievalist professor, although at the end it was time for funny voices as we all bled to death on the tourney field. Trick takers can be a miss with some, and this one was odd since it was the lowest card that won the trick. For those who like trick taking games (or just beating up your opponents), this game has a lot to offer. Special player powers and cards that mitigate the card play make it interesting. Once we got the rules sorted out it was a pretty good time.
Sentient: A dry math puzzle with pretty colors and dreamy art, this one got mixed reviews from the group. Combining area control and set collection with dice manipulation, it had too much aggression for some, not enough theme for others, and was too dry for the rest. Some color mismatches in the design caused confusion. For those who like a math puzzle, it does deliver with clever gameplay. It had a couple of fans, but not enough to get it back to the table any time soon.
Sidereal Confluence: a sleeper hit! This sprawling, oddly named trading game is really good. Each player is an alien faction creating and controlling unique goods or services to trade, which makes for a pure negotiation game that caught all of our interests. There’s strategy, economic planning, and wheeling and dealing. It’s a semi-cooperative game (you need what other people are producing), but there are winners and losers at the end. Plan on playing for a few hours, it’s a long one. Best with lots of people. We want to play again.