Today’s theme is a bit unusual: I have tried to gather in one post all the games that I personally find the most boring and unappealing, either because of thematic reasons or because of the mechanics involved. Of course, I expect, and sincerely hope, that my opinion will be in the minority here, and that you will be more interested in these titles I picked up for you!
Re-embracing the old tradition to feature a cat game, here is Arabella. Actually, and despite what the cover is intent on making you believe, there is absolutely no kitten involved, since the game belongs to the 18xx series and focuses on Estonian trains. The game apparently uses roll-and-write mechanics.
Similarly trying to appeal to you with charming animals, Ark Nova, possibly the greatest success of 2021, starts going down the expansion path with Aquarius, a sign of a promising and bountiful future. As expected, the game will bring in a lot of aquatic species. A fourth university, new bonus tiles, final scoring cards, and an increased, diluted deck with a mechanic to regularly wash away the market to refresh the card offer, are among the novelties you may expect in this box.
Last in my little “Nature hook” trilogy, Queensland is all about dealing with a toad infestation that threatens your very survival, as these little blurbs of amphibious flesh are eating all of your wheat for the year. It’s time to fight back with merciless abstract tile-laying. No country for old frogs!
And now up to my second panel: eco-city management (as if city management wasn’t dull enough already). Starting of course with Daybreak, which can boast to be co-designed by Matt Leacock, whose renown in the solo community is more than established already. The game engages the players in a cooperative experience to “decarbonize the planet and create resilient societies”. So, when you start seeing the planet crumbling under the weight of our civilization, you can play a board game and pretend to deal with it in an effective way, bringing escapism to a whole new level. What gets me seriously worried is that the co-designer, Matteo Menapace, presents himself on his website as a “playful workshop facilitator”. So it’s this kind of guy who manages dumb courses for companies to pretend they care about their employees by having them engaged into mindless so-called roleplaying interactions to emerge as better teamworkers or whatever related crap. Anyway, I trust Matt Leacock to deliver something relevant to the board gaming community, and by the way, the game will be live on September 20 in Backerkit, for a change.
Point City is a spiritual successor of Point Salad, and focuses on engine-building this time, as you draft buildings to develop your own unique city over the course of the game. If finding the best way to rake in cascades of points through clever resource management is your thing, this will likely be a nice, light, and accessible title for you.
Finally, Planet Flipper brings these responsible urban management considerations to space, but instead of saving the planet or creating the perfect city, your goal is to make money by selling the planets! Enjoy capitalism at the cosmic level: acquire, invest, fructify, and fill the pockets of your astrosuit with as much cash as you can!
The next category hosts games that tried to stand apart with an original theme but failed. I’ll start with Dulce, another pretty euro game about making pastries. However, and here is the twist, just when you think it’s about cooking, you are thrown right into the agribusiness realities: this vanilla, this coffee, this chocolate, well, they don’t come out of nowhere, they need to be planted, catered for, cropped… and this is how you end up with a farming theme, powered by the cleverness of multi-used cards. At least I didn’t see this coming.
Far from the open fields bathed in the radiant sun puffing your coffee beans, LA-1 throws you into the tough and shadowy atmosphere of a noir detective story in a post-apocalyptic version of Los Angeles. You’ll need to use your investigation skills to solve crimes, but apart from that I really have no more info, so I’ll let you figure out the details.
And last, we have Clandestine, a game of interconnecting mancalas and rival secret societies, in which you try to establish your own clandestine organization as the most powerful and mystical one by uncovering ancient relics brimming with a mysterious and long-last power. I don’t know much more about this one, but secret societies tend to turn me off.
My penultimate category is all about games that didn’t really bother with a theme anyway because if you’ll end up with kitten trains or uncovering environmentally-friendly artifacts to produce unlimited wine in a futuristic version of the Middle Ages, it might be best to not even try in the first place. So we have Dice Cards, a game about scoring cards by rolling dice. Each card is its own mini-game with its own set of scoring conditions. Who knows, it might even be fun to play!
Peninsula is vaguely themed around the idea of drawing your own peninsula, a mere pretext for filling a fancy-shaped hexagonal grid with whatever symbols you rolled with the dice. Meet the most score conditions to please the Pensinsula’s Monarch (so what it is, Spain?), which apparently is your goal here; and what more fulfilling goal in life than satisfying your legitimate master?
Last in the series, Gardeners from designer Kasper Lappe (Magic Maze, Gods Love Dinosaurs) is about trying to fulfill the wishes of your own capricious king (yes, board game designers all have the same idea of how best to employ your efforts in this flimsy existence of yours) by devising the garden that meets his most cumbersome aesthetic conceptions. Judging by the game description, this one has some kind of a “game of Eleusis” feel (a game where the goal is to infer the rules), as other players must guess which principles underlie the patterns of the gardens. I’m not too sure about how it works mechanically (it also involves real-time), nor how solo can work in the midst of it, but at least I’m intrigued.
PnP to the Rescue
The last category is the usual PnP picks of the day. You may try to swallow a city whole in your own gargantuan goo-expanding belly in The Blob That Ate the City – OK this one has definitely a theme that gets me on board -, already available in the Files section of the BGG page; in Birdscaping from the prolific Joe Klipfel, you’ll be able to play your own micro-version of Wingspan using only 18 cards; finally, in A Miracle on Betelgeuse, whose files are available here, you’ll play as an Alien that tries to subdue the whole galaxy using Christmas as a weapon. Doesn’t that sound delightful?
All images are taken from the games' pages on BGG.