Yesterday I talked about games that would work well for that just slightly too competitive person in your life. You still want to get them board games, but which ones, today I’m looking at smaller games. These are the games that are going to be …
Tag: The Lost Expedition
Normally I wait a little bit closer to the Holidays to create these lists. There is speculation, and I suspect some of it might come true, that because of Covid, shipping is going to be crazy, so it probably makes more sense to get your …
We’re getting down to it, getting close to the Top 10 games, only a few more of these lists. It’s been a blast as always putting these out and I’m glad that people are enjoying them. I’d be very curious to know what your top 10 are, and what you think my Top 10 might contain.
Plus a few notes on how I’ve put together the list:
- These are my favorite, you want what people consider best, see the Board Game Geek Top 100
- If a game you love isn’t on the list, it might be be coming, I might not have played it, and if I have, it’s 101
- If a game looks cool, I have links to buy it from CoolStuffInc or Amazon, or you can grab most at your FLGS
- There are a few games, Destiny 2 Player versus regular Destiny where if they are basically the same thing, I only do one of them
This is one that I think is going to climb higher and higher over time because of how simple but fun the game is. And I have to say, I really like the theme of brewing beer. This game is basically an engine builder where you are trying to be the best at brewing beer and to do that you need to brew, and hone your recipes so that you can place well at Summerfest and Oktoberfest. To do this you get cards that are ingredients which you can use for a one time affect, like if you need an influx of money, get one that gives you some money, or you can add the ingredients to a beer, so maybe every time I brew my porter now it has oyster in it which gives me $1 versus a one time cash thing of $5. You can create some fun and crazy combinations, and in all honesty, I’d probably try them. I also like that in this game each character as a special power, so you can decide how you want to play the game and can do something different than everyone else. This is a fast engine building game, and definitely one that can work as an introduction to engine building.
Last Year: 45
This is a game that I need to play more, but it is a big game, so it’s hard to get to the table all that often. In Zona, you are trying to get into the vault at the heart of Chernobyl, but to do that you need to brave the wasted lands surrounding it where few go and where mutated monsters roam. You can play this game solo, or you can play it competitively, which I think is really interesting. So you are exploring, finding what you need to get to get into lesser locations and then fight monsters, survive, and get into these locations, get out with some new very useful cards and get into the heart of Chernobyl before everything falls apart and the game wins. I find that interesting where the game has a timer where it can itself win, in a competitive game, so it is possible that all the players will lose.
Last Year: 34
28. Just One
Just One is the top party game on the list, and I think that it’ll hold that spot for a while. The game is just clever and enjoyable to play. In this game one person is “it” like in so many party games, and they, instead of trying to get people to guess a word are trying to guess a word. Everyone else is putting down clues for them, one word clues, hence Just One. And everyone needs to write down a unique clue. If people cross over with each other, those clues are cancelled out. Again, hence why this is called Just One. The game works really well and it is a lot of fun. I also like that like Cross Clues, Just One is a cooperative party game. Most party games are meant to be silly, but if you are out of the game part of the party game, it just becomes purely silly, and for a game night, I like party games that can keep people in the game itself, and Just One does a great job of that.
Last Year: 22
This game my record is probably 0-15, maybe 0-20 at this point, and it’s a cooperative game. This is not a game where you win 50% of time like a lot of cooperative games try to be, it is a game that is extremely hard to win, but clearly I still love it. In this game you are Samurai who are taking on villains. You are fighting honorably, so you know when the fight is going to happen, so you prepare. You do this by researching the villains, by increasing your stats and then eventually once you’ve used up all of your time, you select the villain who you are facing off against. The issue is that you need everyone to beat the villain they are facing off against, and you basically never have the time needed to completely research the villains or to get yourself completely prepared to fight. The concept just works really well for me, and the game play is very smooth. My only knock is that this game can play a lot of people, but it probably should max out at four or five, because otherwise it is a bit long.
Last Year: 43
I love this game as a different feeling card puzzle game. Like Parade, this game has been randomly given the theme of Alice in Wonderland. It could have been anything or nothing. In it you are trying to score the most points by having the best collection of hats. These hats have numbers, and you start out with a hand of them as well as some that are going to be determining what is scored on the table. The trick to this game, and I think what I like about it so much, is that you are trying to manipulate the table in such a way by playing down cards and then using the ones for scoring that you place in front of you, that when all is said and done the colors you have are scoring and they are scoring well and that whatever you opponent(s) were collecting doesn’t score well. It just feels like a twist as you have a set hand of cards and while you can change them up a little, it might not be enough to get it set-up as you want. This game plays fast and is a good thinky filler.
Last Year: 26
25. Point Salad
Another filler on the list up quite high. This must have just gotten played after I made the list last year, but Point Salad has been a game that has consistently gotten to the table and even 4-5 times in the past week. In this game you are building up the best salad possible to score as many points as possible. And that’s the joke, in a point salad style game, everything you do is going to give you some points, so AEG created a game where you are building up salads and everything might give you points. What determines if something gives you points though is based off of the scoring cards you draft. So this is an extremely simple game, you either take vegetables for your salad or you take a scoring card. But you have to pay attention to what is scoring for you and how. Maybe you have a card that gives you 4 points per tomato, but it probably also gives you -2 points per onion and carrot, so you need to build your salad right so that you scoring as many points as possible. The game is so simple and turns are fast, and while there is less depth than Hats, this is still a great filler with a bit of depth.
Last Year: Not Ranked
I love deck building games, and Aeon’s End: War Eternal is a very good one, in my opinion. And I would hazard to say, had I played more of the Aeon’s End games, I’d say all are great deck building games. Now, there are a ton of deck building games, so what makes this stand out. I like that you are facing off against a big boss, which isn’t unique, but you can start to whittle them down right away if you want, which isn’t always the norm. I like the breach system for casting spells. You can open up more breaches for your character and cast more spells per turn when you do that. And what really makes this different is that you don’t shuffle your deck. This is the only deck building game that I know of that you don’t shuffle. What happens when you run out of cards, well, you just flip your discard pile and you have your deck again. This means, if you are counting cards, you can set-up turns for yourself. You might want a turn with no spells just because with a lot of purchase power you can buy a better spell, or maybe you want a good mix so that you never have a turn where nothing happens. What also is interesting is that turn order isn’t set. The nemesis, monster you’re fighting, will have 2 turns for every six player turns. But you have a turn order deck that is shuffled, and in a two player game where are two player one cards, two player two cards and two nemesis cards. So the nemesis could go twice in a row at the start, then four player turns, you just don’t know. It makes the puzzle feel harder that way, but also can set-up some moments of calm.
Last Year: 16
23. Criss Cross
One of my top roll and write games. Criss Cross is very simple but so much fun. In this game everyone is playing at once, trying to place symbols rolled on dice adjacent to each other in rows and columns on a 5 x 5 grid. That doesn’t sound too bad, but you need to treat the two dice rolled each round as a domino, basically. That means if the symbols rolled are a circle and a triangle you need to place the circle and the triangle adjacent to each other on the grid. You need to also make sure that you don’t leave yourself with a single spot separated from everything else because it means you won’t be able to fill that spot. The game is super fast and very fun. Scores can and will vary wildly based off of how things are rolled, but it is fun crossing your fingers hoping that the write combo is rolled. I like that you are scoring both the rows and columns too, and in the expert version the diagonal, so you can’t just focus on rows or columns and expect it to go extremely well.
Last Year: 23
This game, why isn’t this game out yet. It was so amazing playing at GenCon last year that it is on my list because I got the full game experience there. It should, fingers crossed be coming out yet this year, I have a preorder in for it, and it might, just might, be coming out this month, October, still. Which would be perfect because this is a horror adjacent game. In this game you are spending time and moving around trying to get rid of your curses and be the first player to get out of the town. The issue is the town is keeping you trapped in as long as you are cursed and there are monsters roaming around. Plus, the other players, they don’t mind if you get attacked so they might be encouraging that. And they might be deranged and attacking you themselves. This game has nice card play for determining what actions you are doing and how good they are. And then if you’re deranged, you flip the card upside down and use a similar but different set of actions. The game is just clever and while not short, turns play pretty fast. So much fun in this game and has a good theme that I like.
Last Year: 17
Some games have a fair amount of alpha gaming in them if they are a cooperative game. That is to say that one person tells everyone what to do on their turn. The Lost Expedition is a game that has, built into it’s mechanics, ways to prevent that from happening. Players, without communicating, place down cards for both a daytime and evening hike as they work their way toward the lost city of Z, so no one knows what the other people are going to play. In the day, the cards are then sorted into numerical order and you’ll have to navigate them, and even the evening, they are played in whatever order they come out. And most of these cards don’t do good things. So no one can tell other people what to play, then collectively as a group, you decide how to spend resources and what actions to take, of the optional actions on a card. Sometimes it’ll be good like giving you more food or bullets, but most of the time you are hurting yourself as spending resources from your guides, from your food supply, or bullets, and if you run out of life on your guides you lose the game. The game is very clever and plays very fast. There’s always discussion around the table as you try and map out the best route of using and gaining resources and advancing closer to the Lost City of Z.
Last Year: 32
This is an odd section of the list because two of these games are still really high after mainly just playing them at GenCon last year. Deranged isn’t out yet in the US, I believe mainly because of Covid delays, but I had so much fun with it, I had to make the list when I have played it. I have it preordered, I’m just waiting for it to eventually come, I suspect that Deranged will end up moving higher the more I play it.
What is your favorite from this section of the list?
This is going to be another Top 10 list that hits on a bunch of games that I like a lot. There’s something about cooperative games that is quite nice, mainly being able to sit down and if someone at the table is lagging behind in knowledge of the game, they can be brought up into the game without needing to know every rule perfectly because we can all work together and learn as a group versus be stomped if you don’t fully get the strategy in a competitive game.
So what are my top 10 cooperative games?
10 – The Lost Expedition
Number ten on the list is the smallest game of the group but also one of the easier ones to teach and get to the table. In this, you are your fellow players are trying to lead your team of adventurers on hikes twice a day so that they can get to the Lost City of Z, but the jungles are dangerous, and you never know what might be coming up next. But that’s for you to decide as players, without discussing, you put down cards for a morning and evening hike that might get you more food or cause you to find bullets or maybe you get hook worms, and no one wants that, but there are difficult decisions to make on each card, and you can discuss that part. One of the games that really has something built into to stop alpha gamers from being able to run the game. It’s a lot of fun, and it plays fast as well, which some of the games further on the list won’t.
9 – Arkham Horror: The Card Game
The first, but not the last Lovecraft Mythos game on the list from Fantasy Flight, this one is the smaller or the two, though it packs a lot of punch. In this one, like all of Fantasy Flight’s Lovecraftian Games, you are an investigator working together with the other investigators trying to stop whatever horror is being called through by cultists. But in this you can be fighting, but much of it is investigating, and the game is just basically cards and a bunch of tokens. You don’t need a bit board to tell a big story or change up the game. The different things that the cards can do and how they can use them to create a town or house or other locations and it feels different is impressive. Now, with the base box, it’s only a 1-2 player game, but with another core box you can play up to 4, so if you have a larger group it’s something to consider. And Fantasy Flight does a great job of supporting this, as they do with all their living card games, so there is always more story coming out.
8 – Aeon’s End: War Eternal
When it comes to deckbuilding a lot of them do similar things, you add cards, you maybe buy more cards or attack, and then you draw a new hand until you can’t fill the hand and then you shuffle up your discard and repeat the process. Aeon’s End: War Eternal is unique because you never shuffle, when you discard cards, you choose the order they go so that you can create, if you’re good at card counting, a hand or combo that you want to get because it’s going to be strong. It’s a lot of fun to see how that piece of the puzzle fits together. Plus, you’re all trying to take down a nemesis who is bent on taking out the town of Gravehold. And each nemesis plays differently. I have really enjoyed both plays of this game, and it’s a good challenge, there are a lot of mages, who play differently, and there are expansions galore for the game with even more nemesis and breach mages to choose from.
7- T.I.M.E. Stories
One of the most unique games on the list, T.I.M.E. Stories has an element of an escape room game, it has some role playing aspects, and there’s a good amount of narrative to it. You are all part of a time agency who is trying to stop unwanted time incursions from happening and messing up the timeline. This means you might be going to the earth in the 90’s, or another dimension where there is magic and dragons. And it can change that wildly in each of the expansions and each time you play. Now, each scenario can only be played once, but to get through and beat the story it is at least a couple hours of excitement for 4 players, if not up to 3, and it’s cheaper than a movie at that point. Plus, the upside, and sometimes downside, is that because it’s such a sandbox, you can do anything in the games, and the creators have done a good job of doing that, creating interesting puzzles and mechanics to test out along the way.
6 – XenoShyft: Onslaught
You and your fellow crack team of marines, scientists, and medics have been tasked with protecting a mining facility from hordes and hordes of giant monstrous bugs. Why did they build a mining facility on this remote planet, money of course, but now you’re about to overrun with bugs, can you fend off the waves they’re throwing at you? This is a very tough game, even though it makes it’s deck building easier than a lot of others. You can help other people, you can give them troops or weapons that you’ve bought for your deck to help them shore up their defenses, they can give you stuff in return, or use stim packs and grenades to help you when it’s your turn to face a wave of monsters. This game is clever in what it does, and it creates a good amount of tension, plus I like that the game is basically all simultaneous so there isn’t downtime for anyone.
5 – Pandemic Legacy Season 1
Seems a bit on the nose to be playing right now (article written 4/13/2020 during Covid-19 Pandemic), but it is a really good cooperative game. I could have put down either season of Pandemic or base Pandemic on the list, and any are great options. Can you prevent the spread and find the cures to four diseases before they run across the world and destroy everything? This game is pretty simple compared to the other ones, but still offers a lot of good choices and you always feel like there are 1-2 more things that you need to do on your turn and you hope that you’ve picked the right things so that you don’t have an outbreak on your hands. Also, do you have a good combination of characters that are able to fight it off and can you use it to the best of your ability. A lot of questions, but it’s a good game, a simpler game, and one that you can play faster and with more people than some because it an easier game to pick up.
4 – Tainted Grail: Fall of Avalon
When Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table came to the lands of Avalon, they were wild and untamed and the Wyrdness and Foredwellers twisted the land, but they forced it to their will, creating Menhir, but now that was long ago, and the Menhir are starting to go out and the Wyrdness is coming back over the lands. You and your fellow adventurers are only going out because those who were supposed to have saved you and your village have gone out and not come back. Can you survive the twisted lands of Avalon? This game works really well as it’s a very tough game where survival is the goal but not a guarantee, and you spend so much time exploring and discovering new things about Avalon and you might not have wanted to know. Then you go from the exploration piece of the game and jump into combat which can be tough as monsters aren’t always meant to be beaten and diplomatic encounters can turn violent if you’re not careful. There are chunks of the game that are pretty well split up where you can do daily actions separately or explore while someone else fights, but this is a grand free flowing game that tells an interesting story.
3 – Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition
You, and your fellow paranormal investigators have been called to a mansion to explore some unnatural goings on. This might be a crazed cultist leading a band of cultists and trying to summon a deep old one. It could be you’ve made it to late and a town has been overrun with Deep Ones and you need to figure out how to escape. You and your fellow investigators could get split up in two different timelines and need to work together to solve the mystery and get the one who time traveled back. There are a lot of different scenarios, and an app that helps you keep track of everything. The game is set in the Lovecraft Mythos, but it has more of an investigative feel to it, than leaning into as much horror. If you want a game that is fairly big but doesn’t feel as daunting as some dungeon crawlers, Mansions of Madness is a good option.
2 – Marvel Champions: The Card Game
This game has made it on a lost of lists and it’s working it’s way up to being one of my favorite games of all time. The game just feels like you’re in a comic fighting a villain. And you get the full comic feeling as you can team up superheroes as well as flip back and forth between an alter-ego and superhero side in order to rest and recover if the villain knocks you around to me. The game does a lot of clever things, and you can create the team-ups that you always wanted, or at least some of them, eventually Fantasy Flight will come out with more heroes so you can create any team-up you want. And they’ve managed to make the villains feel different as well as the heroes, so you can get a lot of unique games.
1 – Gloomhaven
No surprise here, though there are some slight semi-cooperative elements of the game, mainly having specific goals that you need to do in a given scenario depending off of some card draw, but for the most part it’s working together, and those goals are just perks and don’t make or break the game if you don’t get them. Gloomhaven is an epic dungeon crawling and character leveling game where you and a group of fellow mercenary adventurers go through and try and figure out what strange things are happening in Gloomhaven and the surrounding areas. The story is fun but it really shines with a puzzly sort of card based combat that makes everything work together. And it feels like there’s always more to explore in the game.
I think that one thing I really like about cooperative games is that you get so many great shared stories out of them. Even the ones that aren’t just storytelling heavy can still have great moments in them as you roll the right number to get what you needed or draw the right card. It’s such a shared victory and moment that they often stick out to me. And I know that I have so many more cooperative games sitting on my shelf that I like and that are waiting to be played again or for the first time. What are some of your favorite cooperative games or cooperative gaming experiences?
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What, another TableTopTake in such rapid succession? How does that even happen? It happens when Kristen has people over to watch a miniseries, so I get together with some people have a board gaming day from 2:30 until 11. We got to get two new games to the table, Root and Cry Havoc as well as a couple of other games, The Lost Expedition and Sagrada. So we get to have two TableTopTake posts in back to back days!
Unintentionally, both new games were asymmetrical games where the different factions/races/groups have different ways to score points. In Cry Havoc it’s a little bit different through as you’re fighting on a planet over crystals. We played at the full player count, so one person played the humans, one played the machines, I played the pilgrims, and one player native creatures, the Trogs. You are battling, producing crystals, building up technology, and recruiting troops.
Cry Havoc is part area control game, but it’s really more of a crystal control game. Depending on what races are played, you might not worry as much about controlling areas, but it is something that players have to be concerned about. It also has a bit of deck building aspect to the game as you add cards into your deck that allow you to do the actions of building, recruiting, and moving your figures around the board.
Besides the different races, which I’ll talk about some more soon, one of the interesting thing is combat in this game. In most games with area control you’re looking at a few different standard ways of doing combat. It could be rolling a bunch of dice based off of what troops you have, it could be rolling dice and playing some cards, it could be simple numbers and playing some cards. Cry Havoc does it a little bit differently. It splits up combat into three different parts.You have control of the territory, capturing of troops, and killing off of troops and you split up your combatants over all three areas. In the top part, controlling the territory, the person who has the most troops there wins control of the territory. Whomever has the most on the second part, capturing enemy troops, will capture a troop, this gives a point each turn. Finally, any troops who are put on the bottom section, killing off enemy troops, then kill off a troop. You go from top to bottom figuring out what happens, so even if in the third part someone kills off a person’s majority in troops, that person still maintains majority. However, each player gets a chance to play combat cards which may allow them to change troops, or might change the order that things are figured out in. It’s a very unique combat system and I enjoyed it, though, I was playing the Pilgrims and they aren’t a combat heavy race to play.
Let’s talk a little bit about the different races:
Humans are a fairly straight forward race to play. They are primarily about controlling as many territories as possible and they can take over territories without actually moving into them, as long as they are empty. They have, also, a number of buildings that can help them control an area of combat by adding the equivalent of extra troops to some area of combat.
The Machines are focused on killing things. Their buildings are known as Shred Drones and Orbital Strikes, the Shred Drone can take out a troop in a neighboring territory prior to combat, and the Orbital Strike can remove someone from anywhere on the board. They want to soften up spots for battle and then walk in and take over without much trouble. Then they can leave bunkers behind to help them defend areas after they’ve moved on to their next conquest.
The Pilgrims are not a combat focused race. These four armed aliens really just want the crystals. I could have won with them, but I forgot to use their special ability one round. But they want to find their own corner of the map, hunker down, produce crystals and score points often with a lot of crystals. They are the only ones who can store crystals instead of just scoring for where they are on the planet, and that’s what I forgot to do. But along with producing crystals, they really need to build a lot, because that’s how they produce the crystals both into their own pool and onto their locations.
Finally, the Trogs are only a playable race if you are playing four players, otherwise, while they are always on the board, they are the native inhabitants of the planet and there are a lot of them. However, they are always going to be spread out because there are Trog nests all over the planet that you have to deal with. The fact that they are native to the planet means that they can move around the planet easier, but it also means that they can get spread out on a lot of fronts if they aren’t careful.
I enjoyed this game a lot. It has a nice presence on the table, the game play is pretty straight forward, so once you are into the game, you can just move along quickly and each round is made up of three actions, but you go around taking those actions one at a time, so peoples turns don’t really bog down. However, the rule book, while pretty well written, does run into some issues. The game is made by Portal Games which is out of Poland, and their rule books are not known for being the best translations into English. Most of the stuff for this game makes sense and is laid out well, and they do have examples which is nice, but the explanation for the end of game isn’t great. If you’re looking to learn, I’d check out Rodney Smith from Watch it Played on Youtube and either watch him play the game with his son or watch his how to play video for it just for clarification before you play the game the first time.
Overall this is a good game. It’s pretty straight forward, and all the races seemed to play differently. The combat mechanisms aren’t going to be for everyone, but they are unique and I like them for that reason. This is a game that works well and felt very balanced in my opinion. I mean, for our game, we had the Trogs win, but they one by two points, and then two of us were tied for second, the Machines were lagging behind, but their minis looked the coolest on the board.
Overall Grade: A-
Gamer Grade: B+
Casual Grade: B
Have you played Cry Havoc before? What are your thoughts on it if you have?
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