Another second Saturday of the month, which means an all-day game day at our friendly local game store, Sci-Fi City. Although I made it less than all day, since I ducked out early to catch a showing of Inherent Vice (which turned out to be a poor decision on my part). But while I was there, the rarest of rarities occurred: I won every single game. Which automatically makes each of these the greatest games ever.
Paperback — If you’re looking to buy this one, don’t go looking on Amazon; this was a Kickstarter game that doesn’t seem to have had a high production run, given that it’s going for $69. It’s a fun game, just not $69 worth of fun. It’s pretty much Scrabble as a deckbuilding game, where you use your cards to spell words and earn points to buy more cards so you can spell more words. Some cards also have special abilities, like adding more points for purchases, letting you draw more cards on your next turn, or messing with other players. Eventually you start using your points to buy fame cards, and having the most fame points is how you win the game. As with any deckbuilder, the key is knowing when to stop building your engine and start using it to buy your victory. Now, I’d be a poor English major if I didn’t do well in this one, but, like Scrabble, knowing a bunch of words doesn’t help if you don’t draw the letters to get them. Fortunately, I got enough letters at the right time to win this one.
Scoville — This game had two strikes against it when I first saw it. One, it’s very color-dependent, which is daunting for a color-blind guy like me, especially when the printed colors on the board and cards doesn’t necessarily match the color of the wooden pieces. And second, well, it’s a game about freakin’ chili peppers. How do you make a fun game out of that? Tasty Minstrel Games has figured that out, because I really enjoyed this. You take turns buying new peppers, planting them, harvesting them, and then using your peppers to either complete recipes or fulfill orders for special varieties of peppers, each of which earn you money and/or victory points. The harvesting is particularly neat; you move a farmer token between the peppers you previously planted, and depending on the color of pepper on either side of you, you get a new pepper. It represents breeding and cross-pollination, which doesn’t sound like the most exciting basis for a game, but since you can’t move over another player’s farmer, this part of the game actually gets pretty tense. There’s a lot more depth here than you’d expect from what looks like an ad for Chili’s. I went small-ball here, opting for lots of little points rather than fighting with the other players for some of the bigger rewards. And the color thing ended up not being too big a deal, especially since my fellow players were very patient and helpful in keeping me straight. Which they later regretted when I won this one too.
Seventh Hero — Since I needed to leave soon, we went with something quick and simple for my last game of the day. In this one, you’re assembling a party of heroes, each with a number from 1 to 7. Each card also has a special ability at the top and a quest at the bottom. You draw a card from the deck to start your quest, which entails passing a card face down from your hand that meets the requirements of the quest. It might an odd number, or a number from 3 to 5, or the number of players or higher, but you have to pass a valid card. Each player in turn has the option to recruit the card into their party. The catch is that they can’t see what it is, and may be recruiting a hero they already have. If that happens, they lose both copies. Since you’re trying to get six of the seven heroes in your party, that’s a bad thing. The heroes’ abilities do things like letting you peek at the card passed to you, stopping another player from recruiting a hero, and drawing more cards from the deck into your hand. It’s essentially a bluffing and planning game; did I pass you the card I need, in which case you want to take it, or did I expect you to do that and hand you something you already have? It can swing wildly back and forth, especially when you get four or five heroes and your safe options become limited. Nobody got to six heroes before the game ended, but two of us tied with five, and fortunately I won the tiebreaker by never having had to discard any of my heroes, and my hat trick was complete.
Which I should probably savor, because this probably means I’m due for an epic losing streak. Which will likely start in my X-Wing tournament tomorrow.