10 – Sentient
Entering the top 10, we have: Sentient. In Sentient players roll a set of differently colored dice and then place those dice according to their color onto their player board. The core of the game play is in drafting cards to set between the dice in various positions on your board. The cards score points based on the values of the dice next to them, but cards will also alter the values of dice as they are placed, sometimes increasing a die, and sometimes decreasing a die’s value. You have to plan carefully to get the most benefit from each card as you place it, without harming the value of a card that you’ve already placed. Sentient is challenging, thinky fun!
9 – Archaeology the New Expedition
Archaeology is a simple set-collection card game. Gather cards into your hand looking for sets to score for points. The cards represent the different treasures that an archaeologist might uncover during a dig. Selling these treasures to a museum is thematically what you are doing when you “bank” a set for points. But, you won’t want to do that too quickly, because larger sets score higher than lower sets. There is however, a catch. Mixed into the draw pile of treasures are sandstorm cards. When a sandstorm card comes out, you lose a substantial portion of the cards in your hand. You don’t want that to happen. Cards lost in this way go to the center of the table. This is a market. Anyone can buy cards from the market by swapping cards from your hand for the one’s on the table that you want, and every card has a monetary value for this purpose. Set collection and press-your-luck are two of my favorite game mechanisms. Archaeology is one of
Julie's favorite themes. All in all this one real favorite.
8 – Century Spice Road
In Century Spice Road players collect cubes to buy cards to get more cubes. The clever stuff here is the way cards play off each other and how the card play works. Instead of a deck-builder, Century Spice Road is a “hand-builder.” Cards that you buy go directly into your hand. When you play a card it leaves your hand and it’s gone. You don’t get it back until you use one of your turns to “rest.” When you do this, all the cards that you have played and all the cards that you have purchased throughout play return to your hand. Now, you can perform any of these actions because all your cards are available to you all at once. Planning your hand so that you can play several turns in a row without having to rest is key to winning the game. It’s simple, but very engaging. Ultimately, you want your engine to produce enough resources to allow you to buy special cards worth points. Some of these cards have bonuses above them in the form of gold and silver coins. The coins are real metal and a favorite game component.
7 – The Quacks of Quedlinburg
In The Quacks of Quedlinburg, players brew and sell potions to make money to buy better ingredients to make and sell more potions, all for victory points. Potion brewing takes the form of pulling ingredients (tokens) from a bag and placing them on a track on your player board. The track is shaped like a bubbling swirl inside your player board which is shaped like a cauldron. One ingredient in your bag is a dangerous sort, and if you pull out too many of these your potion will explode. Having a potion explode will limit your options, but isn’t the end of the world. The game does a great job of balancing the risk and reward. All the different ingredients have special powers that will effect your progress through the game. Some will help you avoid explosions, some will grant you bonus victory points, many help to fill your cauldron even faster, because the more full you can make your cauldron without it blowing up, the more points you will get. Obtaining the right combination of ingredients for you bag is a big part of the strategy of the game. The Quacks of Quedlinburg is wacky push-your-luck fun.
6 – Chronicles of Frost
Chronicles of Frost is a deck-building adventure quest card game. Players play competitively to complete quests and score points to win the game. Each player has two quests to complete. These will require the player to go to specific places on the board (made up of cards) and spend specific resources (more cards.) As soon as one player has completed both of their quests, this triggers game end, and victory points are tallied. Players get victory points for completing quests, fighting monsters, and for the cards that they have added to their decks. Adventure Quest themed games are a particular favorite of mine and Chronicles of Frost is my favorite of these. I like how every player has their own unique goals and objectives as they adventure through the shared world. The board is built as you play, with new areas added to the game world a card at a time as the players discover them. The cards are interesting in that they all have a weaker and stronger option depending upon what skills your character has. Yes, you have characters, each with their own unique starting decks of cards and unique skills. These things come together smoothly. Chronicles of Frost provides a rich complex experience with simple mechanisms and game play. It’s excellent!