Snakes & Blogs
2012-07 ‹ By Month
Earlier this month, Bang! was one of our Featured Games. It’s a game based on secret player identities and team-based objectives: the Sheriff and Deputy players want to defeat the Outlaws; the Outlaws want to defeat the Sheriff; the Renegade wants to help kill the Outlaws, then win a final shoot-out with the Sheriff. Everyone draws from a central deck, but the different roles provide different objectives and different gameplay. Unsurprisingly, with secrecy and antagonism as its major mechanics, Bang! is a game for jerks. This is not meant as criticism – almost all of my favourite games encourage borderline sociopathic behavior. I’m simply struck by the fact that many of our patrons, and the growing gaming community at large, crave this type of game: light on rules, heavy on social interaction and capable of being played with a large party. (Bang! accommodates upwards of seven desperados, eight with any of its popular expansions.)
Here’s the thing: not everyone digs the Western theme; and even for those that do, they won’t want to play the same title ad nauseum. The obvious question is raised: WHAT’S NEXT? Three titles spring to mind.
Shadow Hunters is the most like Bang!, in that it gives players secret identities and team-based objectives: Shadows want to kill Hunters; Hunters want to kill Shadows; Neutrals have varied victory conditions that keep both Shadows and Hunters on their toes. The game becomes a process of differentiating friend from foe and protecting the former while attacking the latter. The Asian horror theme is far removed from the Western frontier so the atmosphere is rather distinct. The game uses a board, but only to indicate the players’s respective health points and to hold the location cards that will be visited throughout the game. It is clerical, but its cosmetic flourish adds something to the atmosphere.
Lost Temple differs significantly from Bang! and Shadow Hunters. The game objective is the same for each player: get through the jungle and be the first to the temple at the end of the path. Decision-making in Lost Temple is dictated by the player’s board placement, and instead of having fixed characters, the players select a new role card each round in order to use its unique ability. The game plays eight people, so the fun is figuring out how to stay one step ahead of your opponents in this mad jungle dash. Lost Temple is structurally simple and straight-forward to teach, making it the most accessible of the games on this list. It’s a great introduction to role selection and ought to get a lot of play at the café (if I have anything to say about it).
Citadels is a modern classic, and is the spiritual predecessor to Lost Temple. The variable player powers are more aggressive and instead of a board, there is a central deck (like Bang!). The cards represent various districts with the objective being to build the best city. Play ends once a player has built their eighth district, and points are awarded for the cost and diversity of districts. Since the varying districts have a range of costs, decision-making in the game is based on gold: specifically its acquisition and the spending thereof. Citadels is a more antagonistic and more mature experience than Lost Temple; patrons who feel comfortable with a little more complexity ought to jump headfirst into the delightful ragefest it will provide.
So very often, seven is actually the unluckiest number for gamers – the breaking point for most games, where the host has to bring out a second title for play or risk pushing Bang! for the umpteenth time. No longer, my friends! Shadow Hunters, Lost Temple and Citadels all play seven people (up to eight, actually!) and provide the secrecy and antagonism so richly craved. They’re light on rules, heavy on social interaction and when your seventh joins the party, they’ll be exactly what you’re looking for.
The charms of Jacques Zeimet’s new memory game, Taiga, are readily apparent as soon as you open the box. The wee wooden tokens, the adorable animal art and the colourful circular tiles; the cute components are very disarming, suggestive of a simple exercise for children. In truth, Taiga provides players of all ages with a challenging game of image and recall.Ten double-sided circular tiles form the board and depicted across the twenty surfaces are four images each of five different woodland creatures. On their turn, a player must find the four images of a particular animal, determined by a drawing from a wonderfully illustrated stack of cards. Every correct flip is rewarded with a wooden token, the fourth and final rewarded with the card itself, worth two tokens. Flip falsely, and you lose a token. Victory goes to the player with the most tokens after the final card is captured - they can consider themselves the sharpest-eyed camper at the table!
While there is a limited amount of animals and tiles, finding the featured fauna is easier said than done. The tiles are constantly being flipped, one turn after another, creating the fanning effect of a round of Three-Card Monte. (“Find the red fox, find the red fox, everybody’s a winnah…”) However, keeping one’s eye on the prize also requires a little deductive logic: on the reverse of an animal’s set of tiles are pictures of the four remaining animals. Therefore, if a player finds a fox by flipping over an owl tile, any other owl tiles can be ruled out as having more foxes. This added mental exercise tempers the game’s rigorous memory-work and creates a better designed and more rewarding push-your-luck mechanic.
The charms of Taiga will undoubtedly bring children and adults alike to the table. It is, however, simple yet strong gameplay designed to test multiple mental faculties that will keep them coming back to this particular forest.