Each player takes on the role of an explorer and their team, mandated by a European nation to discover, colonize and profit from the archipelagos. These missions are supposed to happen diplomatically, by answering the needs of the local population as much as the regular demands from the continent.
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I recently bought Archipelago because it looked like something my group would enjoy, but I (and the group) seem to struggle to find the fun from the game. Maybe we're missing something, anyone else experienced this?
Three/four players is what most board game tend to be designed for, which in general works great: there is only so much down-time, it's usually possible to get 3 people together of an evening (when there isn't a pandemic) and most boards/tables are quadrilaterals so everyone can sit on one side. All nice and easy.
But what happens when that extra person turns up to games club, or that family member who never wants to play games decides to join in? Here is my list of games that play 5 or more people, while there are obviously a number of excellent party games that play way more than 5 I have tried to keep this list more focused on slightly more involved games.
5) #7 Wonders - Had to be on the list, right? While actually not one of my top games it allows up to 7 players to play in the same time it would take 3. All your actions are simultaneous and as all the player interaction is mechanical you don't have to worry about negotiating (part of the reason it isn't my favourite) but as a game to warm up with before splitting into smaller groups for heavier games it is pretty decent.
4) #Coup / #Cockroach Poker - both great little bluffing games, I have only played one game of cockroach poker so I am less certain of it but I have played a tonne of Coup and always loved it. It takes minutes to play and the moments where you have to look someone in the eye and claim to have a contessa so their assassin (which they might not even have) doesn't kill you when all you have is a lousy ambassador is excellent. It creates hilarity every time. Cockroach poker seems to have these same kind of moments but even more frequently and is just pure bluffing without any of the interconnected powers of coup: kind of a boiled down version (not in a bad way) while I'll need to play it more before I can decide which is better, both are great and play up to 6 with minimal downtime.
3) #Not Alone - One of my favourite light games. It is a one vs many, with the many being up to 6 astronauts stranded on an alien planet awaiting rescue and the one being the native creature who, depending on your take, is trying to track them down to either eat or befriend them (I like to imagine the alien just gives them hugs until they agree to stay on the planet). Either way, the astronauts simultaneously and secretly select one of 5 locations to visit, each with their own powers, at which point the alien choses one location to go hunting. The alien has a deck of powerful abilities to even the odds a bit. Over the game the humans can gain individual access to up to 5 new locations with more powerful abilities making it harder for the alien to know where to go to catch them. However, every time an astronaut plays a location that card stays played in front of them, narrowing their choices for the next turn (there are locations that allow them to pick cards back up) so the alien can narrow down their choices and pin on human in. The game is won if the humans willpower lasts long enough for rescue to arrive. Overall it is a bluffing and second-guessing kind of game, there is a satisfying level of progression for both sides and it is usually a very tight game, with some great moments of tension.
2) #Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game (Also, #Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game and #Shadows Over Camelot) All of these hidden traitor games are great fun and work best with 5 people. there are wonderful moments in each of trying to work out why someone is doing something you wouldn't expect but there are often good reasons and accusing someone falsely has serious consequences. I love the dynamics around the table that these games create, with suspicions mounting and things generally going wrong. Dead of winter is the one I own and have played the most, and I love the crossroads cards that add in fun moral dilemmas to the game, plus the fact that your characters can die and that you each have a secret objective makes people act selfishly even if they aren't the traitor. The mix of cooperation and uncertatinty of who to trust is great.
1) #Archipelago - Possibly my favourite game of all time, it is a semi-cooperative euro game with a possible hidden traitor and secret scoring objectives. It is so so good! It is a little rules heavy but if you can get 5 players into it, the negotiating and deal-making that can happen are sublime. This really is one of the best games to get people looking up away from the table and really interacting with the other players. You are trying to work out what their secret objective is as evryone can score off of everyone else objectives and as you have limited actions per round, successful trading (which is a free action) gives a real advantage. I could go on and on about this game but I will just say that you should absolutely check it out if you get the chance.
I've never actually created a Top 10 before, but I figured it was a good way to finish off this week's challenge. While this probably will change slightly each week these are mostly games I have played a bunch and consistently loved:
10) #The Defence of Procyon III - a game I have currently only played on TTS, however it is a gorgeous asymmetric skirmish game that feels so ambitious. I love it online and anticipate it leaping up the rankings once I get to try it in person.
9) #Nemesis - I have only played this game about 3 times but have never had a bad time with it. It is thematic and tense, it is a game that creates narratives and memories. While too pricey for me to buy I will never say no to a game.
8) #Architects of the West Kingdom - my favourite worker placement game, the eco-system that is created, the multiple paths to victory, the engine building, the moral track opening and closing opportunities. There are so many great mechanics at play. It also has more player interaction than a lot of worker placement games while feeling less mean at the same time. Also the art design is great.
7) #Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game - this has ended up on a number of lists this week. I think it is a wonderful hidden traitor game, I like how much ownership you feel for 'your characters' so people will try hard to prevent them dying and as such harm the collective whole. That combined with everyone having a secret mission means there are plenty of moments when someone does something'suspicious'. It has great discussion as you plan as a team and also question people's actions. The crossroads cards are a lot of fun when they come up, we always play without reading out the mechanical consequences so the team are just making a decision based on the 'story'.
6) #13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis - By far the smallest game on this list, but packs so much into that space. The mechanics are really beautifully integrated, with each action usually having consequences (good or bad) further down the line. I love the bluffing, the fact that you have to balance where and how you put down influence with your 'Defcon' otherwise you start a nuclear war and lose the game which creates a real flow to the game. The cards are all actual events that happened during the war which is pretty cool. Cannot recommend this enough as a dedicated 2P game.
5) #Cry Havoc - Such a tense asymmetric area control game, you only get 15 actions the whole game (which can be as straight forward as drawing a new card or activating scoring for the round) so evrything you do is meaningful. The dynamic set up by the asymmetry of the factions is brilliant but also gives player plenty of room within it to make strategic and tacical decisions. It also has one of the best combat systems I have ever come across in a game: there is no luck involved just a lot of preparation and maneuvering. Plus the fact that there are different objectives in a battle means that both players can get what they want out of a battle (or neither). Just a wonderful game.
4) #Great Western Trail - This game is one of the best examples I have seen of a integration of theme and mechanics in a more Euro style game; all the actions feel pretty intuitive and are interesting. Dubbed 'the cow game' by my friends, it has so many routes to victory, a couple of nice points of player interaction and is just wonderfully evocative as you walk down this path with a handful of cows, building as you go. There is a great sense of progression as the board fills up and you each specialise in certain ways, each of which feels exponentially powerful. It is a tonne of fun.
3) #War of the Ring (Second Edition) - Such an epic game, the best 2P experience I have had with a board game. It captures the feeling of the books so well: this unstoppable wave of evil sweeping across the land with just little pockets of resistance, with all hopes on this fellowship as it trudges relentlessly across the land. Both sides feel like they are up against it from the start which is excellent. The only real downside is how long it takes to play so you can only crack it out every so often.
2) #Archipelago - I rave about this game constantly. It is in my opinion the best game (that I have played) to get players to cut deals and negotiate and by being a big open 3X (no combat) game gives huge scope for how those negoitations can proceed. We've had some fascinating dynamics appear in the game as people monoploise a certain resource or go around nabbing 'other peoples' (no one owns anything which is cool) hexes with some sneaky town building. The semi-coop aspect is very cool, as it forces compromise or you all lose. Also, the secret scoring objectives that you each have one of but that all the players score at the end means you are all watching each other carefully to try and work out what they are (and that knowledge can also be traded). It's just excellent.
1) #Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 - Such an epic experience to plays through with a group of friends. It takes an already solid game and game on game changes it up in significant but understandable ways. While the story presented by the game is fairly minimal that is actually genius as it gives space for you as a group to create that narrative through your actions. You imbue your characters with personality and grow very attached to them (I'll never forget Horatio Peck or Gabriel Hanes). I won't spoil any of them but the games keeps you massively engaged throughout with twists and changes to how you play. If you can get a couple of friends to commit to playing it, it is such a worthwhile experience.
What do you guys think? What are your favourites?
Human interaction is what makes board games one of my favourite activites, having a group of people gathered around a table laughing and engaged with each other is just amazing. It's what sets board games apart from a lot of things for me. Here are my favourite games that get players to look up from the board and engage in interesting and memorable moments together:
5) #XCOM: The Board Game - One of my favourite co-op board games, the app integrates so well and prevents quarterbacking in a non-oppressive way. The fact that you each are in control of a substantially different element of the game means everyone feels important and useful. The interaction comes as you, against the clock, try to plan and respond to what the game throws at you. You each feel like you need the limited resources provided so are negotiating but also aware that your team mates are doing important work. In the second half of each round, where things are resolved, suddenly the time pressure is off but you are all very invested in each dice roll as they have impacts for all of you. The dice are mean in this game, so every victory gets a cheer and failures bring groans but aren't unexpected so it never feels like someone is letting the team down.
4) #Nemesis - I love the tension in this game, it's semi-cooperative (but mostly competitive) nature means you are invested in what other players are doing and will occaisionally assist each other in a series of alliances of convenience while secretly working towards your own goals. So you chat and plan while also being deeply suspicious of everyone else's motivations. As such, the chat around the table while this is being played is always great.
3) #Captain Sonar - This is a great game if you can get eight people together. Team based games are rare and Captain Sonar really knocks it out of the park. Similar to XCOM, you each have a very specific role but here they are all highly integrated meaning you have to be in constant communication with your team to succeed. Feeding information to each other but because you can take turns as quickly as you are able, there isn't time for you all to weigh up the best move. So you tell your teammates what you can, in the most subtle way you can as the enemy sub is listening in the whole time. There is a wonderful energy to this game I would highly recommend it. And after the game the discussion is brilliant as you all describe the mistakes you made.
2) #Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game (also true for #Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game or #Shadows Over Camelot) - All of these hidden traitor games are great. It is one of my favourite mechanics as any decision can spark suspicion and therefore an interesting conversation. You are for the most part working as a team, so planning and negotiating together but always holding back just a little as you eye everyone up. I like Dead of winter especially as everyone has secret personal objectives and naturally leans towards keeping their own characters alive which means everyone will end up doing things that seems suspicious. This also gives the traitor an excuse for doing unusual things. Similarly the crossroads cards are great for sparking a discussion, occasionally a moral one as you decide between your own sensibilities or what you think might be mechanically best.
1) #Archipelago - You've all heard me rave about this game before, it's, in my opinion, one of the best games to allow players to make interesting deals and negotiate to try and gain an advantage. The semi-cooperative nature ensures forces players to talk about how to handle that turns crisis. But it is also a game where you will lose if you try to go out alone. You have to trade and make deals to get access to certain resources. All the while though you are trying to figure out what your opponents scoring objective is (as everyone scores them) and even this information can bartered for. When I've gotten a committed group and around this game something pretty magical has happened each and every time.
What games do you find get players talking? Do you like that in a game?
I have rarely if ever maintained an official wishlist of games in my life, the world is awash with excellent, or at least excellent looking, games: so many of which I wouln't say no to owning if given the opportunity.
What I do often have is a single game that I very desperately want to own for one reason or another. There are 3 specific game that come to mind:
#Eldritch Horror - This was one of the first modern board games I owned. Up until that point my experience of games had been fairly limited, but I really liked #Pandemic and this seemed like the next level in terms of complexity and scope. I had wanted it for a long long time, but I was just a poor student at that point so couldn't be splashing out even for a game I really liked. I did get to play it once at a board game cafe at university and was convinced it was the game for me. However, my older brother was going to The UK Games Expo in Birmingham one summer so I tasked him with trying to find a copy on the second hand table. He had a strict limit of thirty pounds which was a good chunk of the money I owned in the world at that time. While I didn't hold out much hope upon his return he was bearing a big old box of cthulu goodness! I have had many great times with this game over the years, it is prbably one of my most played games.
#Archipelago - This was a game I never played before I bought it. I watched a review on SUSD and just immediately knew it was a game I would love and was pretty sure it would fit with my group of friends too. You've all heard me rave about this game before, but it was the focus on deal-making and semi-coop that sold me. However, when I first heard of it it was out of print and secon-hand copies were selling for extortionate amounts. So I waited, and waited, and waited: scanning eBay and second-hand sites for probably at least two years with no luck. However, eventually the was another print run and it became one of the very few games I have ever bought new and at full price. As you can imagine I did and have loved this game endlessly, it lived up to my hopes and clicked right away with my university friends and others who I ahve played this with.
#878: Vikings - Invasions of England - This had been the game I had been craving for probably 18 months by the time I managed to find a reasonably priced copy (it too is/was out of print) and while I have yet to have the chance to play it with four players (how I think it will play best) I have really enjoyed playing it two player with my partner.
My point with all this is that by having to wait to get these games, I appreciated them that much more when they finally did arrive. Especially for Eldritch Horror and 878 Vikings as I managed to get good deals on both which meant I felt extra pleased with myself. And of course in reality, not having these games sooner didn't stop me enjoying all the board games I already own or the hobby in general so did me no harm to wait.
What have been games that you haven't been able to aquire for years but were so worht it when you did?
Not sure if this will be of much interest to anyone else but thought it might be nice to share some of my favourite memories of playing games from the last few years:
5) The time I was betrayed in the most glorious fashion in #No Honor Among Thieves. So this game is all about betrayal: you each have a small gang of criminals that you aquire throughout the game but in order to have a good chance of pulling off a mission you have to partner up with one or more other players. You agree beforehand how you will split the treasure (which is binding). During the mission you can play cards to improve your chances and players not involved can play cards to hinder you (another reason not to go it alone). If you do succeed however, you get the chance to betray each other to steal a greater portion of the treasure. Now, some of the cards/gang members have special powers that only trigger once the first 'betrayal' has happened and the game becomes a lot more brutal from then on in. As such it is usually not until maybe a thrid or so way into the game that anyone betrays someone else. Now imagine this: after a couple of rounds of eveyone just recruiting/ going on easy missions on their own to gather a crew and drawing cards on my turn I go on the first 'proper mission' of the game, taking one other player along with me, agreeing a roughly 50/50 split. The other players hassle us but we play some cards and succeed the mission. At this point we both have to play a card (which could be nothing or could be a betrayal) face down and reveal them. I play a card that gives me a bit of extra cash (from the bank) for a betrayal-free heist, thinking it is a pretty safe bet, but this guy, this sneaky sneaky guy (who admittedly is the leader of a criminal enterprise) plays a 'Magnificent betrayal' which not only allows him to steal the entire haul out from under me but having broken the 'seal' on betrayals then proceeds to activate an ability which allows him to send my best gang member (who i obviously sent on the mission) to jail. So there I am, penniless, with my best guy locked up. Now comes the most hilarious part, it's his turn next and he goes on a jail-break mission, 'rescues' my old gang member from prison and as such adds him to his own gang and cause I had spent all my cards ensuring we completed the previous mission there was nothing I could do to stop him. The whole table, myself included, were in fits of laughter at the sheer audacity of the scheme and how flawlessly I had been played. Needless to say a lesson was learned that day.
4) The time I sailed away from an exploding ship in an escape pod in #Nemesis. I love nemesis, I think it is a glorious thematic mess of mechanics that just seem to work. In the game everyone has a a secret objective to fufill, mine was to kill Player 2. Now, in Nemesis you can't just walk up and shoot your crewmates so this is quite a tricky thing to achieve, but there are ways to get creative but we'll get to that. The game had not been going to well for us, the ship was on fire, crawling with aliens and we were all pretty beat up, as such I decided that the best thing to do was hop on an escape pod and hope that something killed Player 2 for me. Me and Player 3 (not my target) made it to one of the escape pod rooms, there was only one pod but it can hold up to two people, so no problem. However, I realised on my turn that I had enough cards to fix the pod I didn't have enough to also enter it and while I had no reason to want harm to befall my compatriot I had no clue what his objective was: he could well just jump in the pod and eject without waiting for me, even if I didn't fix it, he had enough cards to fix it an abandon me; a dilemma for sure. However, I was playing the 'captain' character which has a very convenient card that allows you to command another player to move to an adjacent room (usually used to help your team out), I played it thinking on his turn he could come back into the room, fix the pod and then I'd get in and wait for him (cause I'm good like that). Now, what I hadn't predicted was that when he moved into that room he rolled the one face of the dice that triggered an alien to spawn there, which was promptly joined by another alien during their movement phase. He didn't have the cards to safely flee so promptly spent the turn trying to kill these aliens, to partial success. Back to my turn, I fixed the pod and hopped inside. Now, I could have waited to see if he survived the attack, but if an alien had followed him into the escape pod room, I would have had to fight it before I could launch. Being the upstanding and loyal captain that I am I promptly launched the pod immediately and benefitted from the extra leg room. A turn or two later the whole ship exploded quite spectacularly, killing everyone onboard as I floated off into space imagining the medal they would pin on me for bravery.
3) The time stubborness ended a game of #Archipelago in two turns. Archipelago is one of my favourite games of all time because so much of it is driven and decided by human interaction. It is a semi-cooperative game where you play the bad guys colonising a series of Islands, be too awful though and the native population will rise up and murder you. Each round there will be a collective 'crisis' for a certain resource which you as a group of players have to provide or the unrest will rise proportionally. Now, I was playing a game with just me and my partner, there is no crisis on round 1 so at the start of round 2 the first crisis of the game happens: it's for fish. Neither of us has fish, but we both have 'exploration tokens' which can be used as a wild resource. Now, the level of the crisis is proportional to the number of workers (which rises throughout the game) so we only needed one fish to solve the crisis, the unrest had crept up a little (and again, the level of unrest needed to lose is proportional to the number of worker), so if we didn't solve it we would immediately lose. We both new this but neither was willing to disadvantage ourselves this early on and demanded that the other one stump up the token. You contribute in turn order, my partner went first, and I told her that if she didn't solve it I wouldn't. She called my bluff and passed, at which point my stubborness would not allow me to back down so I also passed and we both died at the hands of the natives (which let's be honest is the morally best ending for this game).
2) The time my friend won a game of #Catan with nothing but sheep. I spent many hours playing Catan at University (mostly cause we were poor and only had two board games and a pack of cards between us) but will always remember this game fondly. The board was set up randomly and all the sheep tiles ended up close together with not especially high numbers on them, my friend (let's call him A) ended up with that as his starting location. He got a fairly lucky start and quickly surrounded those tiles (mostly to try and get at the other resources adjacent) as well as a 3:1 port. Now something extraordinary happened, the numbers (which I think were like a 5, a 3 and an 10) just kept coming up, time and time again. It was astonishing, I had been thinking I was sitting pretty on my hay-6 and wood-8, but no, all that was coming up were mountains of sheep, I think at one point he had like 12 sheep in his hand! Anyway, he proceeded to build everything with sheep: roads lined with wool, settlements and cities constructed out of nothing but sheep stacked on top of other sheep, even whole armies equipped with nothing but wooly jumpers. It was hilarious to us all, as we willed the dice to come up with any other number to no effect. I exaggerate a little of course, but it was really quite remarkable. Anyway, he won quite handily and rules over his sheepy kingdom to this day.
1) That time I convinced everyone to gang up on my friend over something quite trivial to avoid suspscion and betray them all in #Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game. Now I have a friend (let's call her M) who loves to aquire things in games, given the opportunity even co-operative games she will happily go off hoarding items as opposed to contributing too much to the collective goal. This is a hilarious and well established trait which has led to us exasperatingly begging her to hand over an item or two to help her fellow players with varied success. Anyway, come to a game of Dead of Winter and I am the traitor, the game hasn't gone great with very minimal work needed on my part but we are coming up to the end and there is a chance they could still pull through. My biggest worry though is my personal objective is to have at least two more survivors on my team than any other player, I currently have that but M is thinking of getting another one. So I have to convince her not to while also not raising suspicion on my self as I need to not be banished in order to sabatage the final crisis to ensure there down fall. The team has a plan of how to successfully win which doesn't need any extra characters, so I start reminiscing on all the times M has hoarded things unecessarily and although there is no apparent downside to adding an extra character at this point there is also no advantage. I slowly turn the group against M, saying that we don't know what might happen, and why risk victory just to get an extra character. Everyone piles in and we manage to pressure M do not play the card. M however, was getting suspicious and tried to rasied these concerns, but by that point the mob wasn't listening and I was able to sabotage the mission and bring the whole thing crashing down on their heads, much to everyone's shock and amusement except M, who was absolutely fuming about all this and I'm not sure has ever truly forgiven me! (She has of course, as she is a great sport in games, but jokingly has not)
Anyway, hopefully they provided some entertainment and reminded you of some of your treasured gaming memories, I would love to hear them....
[Coup, Archipelago, 7 Wonders, Not Alone, Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game]
[Nemesis, Archipelago, Cry Havoc, War of the Ring (Second Edition), Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, Architects of the West Kingdom, 13 Days: The Cuban Missi...]
[Nemesis, Archipelago, XCOM: The Board Game, Captain Sonar, Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game]
[878: Vikings - Invasions of England, Archipelago, Eldritch Horror]