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2020 EOY Favorites : Courtney

Every year we like to highlight our favorite games of the past year. Unlike a lot of year end lists though, we like to talk about not just new games, but games that are “new to me” for the year. So much of the board game hobby can focus on the “cult of new” that older games that are also fantastic and get overlooked after they’re new.

Godspeed

The Space Race was a lie. Well, a cover really. For an even bigger mission- colonization on an exoplanet. Problem is, you aren’t the only country there, and you’re all a long way from home.

Godspeed is a mid-weight worker placement game, where you play as one of five countries, competing to colonize this extrasolar planet. Points are earned by completing civilization milestones, earning prestige along different tracks, completing lunar season goals, building ancient xenorelics & special objective cards, and whoever acquires the most by the end of 10 rounds is the winner.

Each round consists of 4 phases; High Council Phase, Supply Depot Phase, Action Phase & Resolution Phase. It’s got some mild negotiation, auctioning, and my favorite, worker placement!

What I love about it is it’s creative use of workers. Each player has 5 workers, all with the same job titles, but different values for each job. So one player’s Engineer may be a 4, while someone else’s is 3. The High Council phase may require each player to contribute their engineer to complete the dilemma, and a player has to decide if it’s worth sacrificing their Engineer to that, or using it for it’s number (4 for example) for the Supply Depot auction, or if they need to take an action on the Engineer space. If you’re anything like me, at least twice in the game you’ll realize you used a worker that you meant to save for the Action phase and will grumble about it. That’s another thing I love about Godspeed, your actions feel like they have meaning almost immediately. There’s no real big build up to something, either positive or negative you feel the effects of your actions.

 

Ecos: First Continent

Ecos, a game of John D Clair, one of my favorite designers, is a game of building the world from scratch. On the surface it may not share much in common with some of his other well known games, Mystic Vale & Space Base, but deep down there’s definitely that “unique engine building” core that I love about those other two games here.

Honestly, Deirdre already wrote up a great overview of the game play, so I’m just going to link to that so as to not be too redundant.

So why did it make my list too? First of all, I love the theme, and how well it all ties into the game play. The core engine building mechanic to add new parts to your engine requires you to meet specific conditions not related to shuffling your deck or just buying new cards, which makes for interesting choices. The tile placing/board building aspect is really neat too, because a player can actually choose to not place too many tiles (or anything hypothetically) if they don’t want to, and can rely on other players to do that part while they work on adding trees, mountains, or animals to score them points that way. There’s a lot of different possibly strategies to play around with, which I love personally. I almost never win games, so having multiple strategies instead of a “perfect” strategy to follow is the best way to keep me interested and coming back since I can still have fun playing around with the different parts.

Another great bonus that maybe isn’t so useful right now because pandemic, but it’s a strategy game that plays up to 6, and because it has simultaneous play, it doesn’t generally go on or drag the way some games do as you increase player count. Especially as people become comfortable with quickly reading the icons and recognizing strategies. I’ve played it with a range of player counts, and found it to play just as well with 2 players as it does with more, which is huge in my book.

 

Sonora

Sonora is a beautiful game set in the Sonoran desert. Players take turns flicking their disks onto the board, hoping to aim well enough to land them into their desired areas of the board, each with it’s own scoring rules and strategies. It’s really like 4 games, put onto one board, which does make teaching it a little tricky, but once you get through the first round it’s smooth sailing.

The game takes place across a set number of rounds depending on the length of game you wish you play, each round consisting of two phases, flicking & writing. During the flick phase, starting with the first player, each person flicks two of their numbered disks, from their corner of the board, onto the different sections of the desert. There’s little pockets of other sections that players can aim for, and if someone knocks your disk, you’ll play it where it landed, which is sometimes helpful, and sometimes messes with your strategy.

Once all the flicking is done, each player fills out their player sheet (already a dry erase surface which I love!) according to how their disks landed. The Cliff Dweller section is the only one that everyone scores together. The total value of each players disks is totaled, and the player with the highest value gets to assign their disks first, potentially blocking other players from being the first to fill a section, thus receiving more points. The Canyon section has you filling a crossword style layout with Tetris pieces to enclose various cactus icons to score for points individually and as a set, depending on the individual value of each disk in that section. The Creek Bed has you following a branching pathway (much like a creek) to score points & other bonuses, based on the individual value of your disks. Mud Cracks also score based on total value of disks, and allow you to connect the dots to enclose various sections with different points & bonuses.

I love roll & writes, and every other subgenre of those games. I love that they’re usually a form of collective solitaire, since as I’ve stated previously, I’m really bad at games, and hate to be able to see how badly I’m losing. Sonora is such an interesting take with the flicking aspect as you can directly (or accidentally!) effect someone else’s strategy a little, but it usually won’t be a crushing blow to them. The four different scoring areas are neat too because they give you different pathways to explore, and while you’ll likely end up scoring something in each one, you can let your first round’s flicks decide which areas you want to be your focus if you’re indecisive.

 

On The Origin of Species

The goal is simple, research and discover new species following in Darwin’s path of the Beagle through the Galapagos. On your turn you do one or the other of those actions, and then play moves to the next player. Once the Beagle reaches the end of the tracker, the game is over and points are totaled.

To research, you just place two tokens onto two different tiles on the board, which gain you resources on the habitat type- wind, water or land. For a discover action, you take back those research cubes to spend the resources and gain a new species, the catch is the species discovered needs to be adjacent to all the cubes you’ve removed. Discovering new animals will grant you points, and characters and/or objective cards that can help you in future turns, or meet any of the randomized scoring objectives.

The way the board develops and how resources are tied to what species have been discovered and where they are is so cool. Again, the theme works really well with the mechanics of the game and how the whole thing works. It’s fairly easy to teach & learn, and while it doesn’t have a ton of depth, it’s still really fun, and a good light-mid weight game. When you want some strategizing, but are also somewhat braindead.

 

Mariposas

In Mariposas players take on the roll of monarch butterflies following their yearly migration north from Mexico in the spring, and back south in the Fall. No single butterfly makes the whole journey, so you’ll be breeding your butterflies along the way, hoping to have many 4th generation butterflies make it to Mexico.

The game takes place across 3 seasons, spring, summer & fall, and each season having more actions than the previous season. On your turn you play one of the two movement cards you have in hand, and gain flowers or abilities (like breeding) depending on where you land. Collecting flowers is the only way to pay for the breeding ability though. Each season has it’s own scoring at the end of it, and allows you to add one unhatched butterfly of the next generation if you have any available. You’re trying to spread your butterflies up and around the country, while upgrading each individual token, and then getting them back to Mexico for final scoring.

You may be sensing a theme here, but something I like about this is the limited player interaction. You may block the exact flower someone wanted, or one of the way stations which grants an additional set collection scoring for the end of the game, but it’s never really intentionally blocking someone. Another part I like, is it isn’t just about expanding your butterfly reach but getting them back to Mexico, which is a trickier to strategize than it first seems.

Most of these games can be purchased at the cafe or online for pickup. At Bonus Round, there’s a game for everyone, and we’ll help you find it!

 

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