Table Talk(8/29/20)

I'm trialing a series that rounds up the board games Kat and I play each week. It won't always be weekly because sometimes we won't play anything worth mentioning or at all, but I'd expect a decent level of consistency in scheduling if not post length. I'll include a picture of each game, a link to its BGG profile (think IMDB for board games), a summary of what the game is, recommendations for who should play it, and finally some information about how you can get it and the time required to play. Come for fun pictures of games, maybe leave with a wishlist. We'll see how it goes.

This week really only covers Sunday because I had the idea Saturday night and didn't take pictures before that. Alas. We're playing more new games than normal right now in an effort to clear out our backlog and find older games we don't need anymore, though, so there's still a lot here.

Since I know that there's a wide variety of experience with tabletop gaming at VGF, I'm also going to include a quick glossary of relevant terms at the start of each post. If you bump into a bit of jargon that you're not familiar with, I'll hopefully have explained it up here:

Theme: What a game tells you you're doing. Chess has an extremely weak military theme, Battleship has a much stronger naval combat theme, and so on. Plenty of good games make no attempt at all to have theme, so it's not a required element, but many players prefer to have a strong theme so they feel connected to their in-game actions.

Abstract: A game that deliberately has very little theme. Think Chess or Go.

Filler: A short and (usually) simple game that you can play between or before bigger games. Lots of people use these to have something to do while waiting for others to show up at a game night, or for filling in time while waiting for a good delivery, etc. It sounds a little derogatory, but it isn't.

Civilization Builder: A game themed around the development of a civilization over time. These almost always involved expanding across a map, developing technologies, and accumulating resources for further development. Unsurprisingly, they're Civilization as a board game.

Engine Building: A game that lives and dies on how well you can create combos. These typically involve a ton of cards that each have a relatively weak ability, but that can be chained together to create repeatable combos that earn loads of points and resources.

Area Control: A game that tasks players with accumulating the most tokens in a part of the board. Plurality generally wins and earns some kind of bonus. These games are inherently confrontational.

Tableau Builder: A game about completing conditions on cards in order to place them in front of you for bonuses. You earn all or almost all of your points in these games from building cards.

Drafting: A mechanic that has players alternate taking cards from a pool or pass hands of cards around the table and take a card each time.

Roll-and-write: A game that uses dice to generate values that players have to write somewhere on their board. Yahtzee was the original roll-and-write, but there are legions of them now. These games are almost always quick and simple to learn.

Tapestry board game


We started off Sunday's games with Tapestry, a civilization builder that embodies the trope of games looking more complicated than they actually are. Despite all the pieces you can see in that picture, there are only ever two options in this game: advance on one of the civilization tracks by paying a few resources or end your current era and collect income.

Its depth comes from the fact that each of the 48 available civ track spaces has a unique benefit that can give you more resources, cards to play at the end of eras, buildings, and so on. Ideally you'll want to get some buildings out early, because placing them grants all sorts of income and scoring bonuses, but reaching a building space on any one track can be expensive, and you have to be careful about neglecting any of the tracks too much. If you give your opponent(s) free reign over a track, they'll get landmark buildings for reaching milestone technologies first. These buildings, which you can see a handful of in the bottom right, are far larger than standard structures and make it easy to earn completion rewards on your city board.

If that sounds like a lot to keep track of, it is! But since every turn ultimately boils down to those two actions and you'll always choose to advance on a track if you can afford it, it's ultimately just a game of spending resources efficiently.

You can probably tell that I greatly enjoyed it, but it's not flawless. The biggest issue I can see is that, because rewards combo together so powerfully, making mistakes that put you behind in the early game could easily lead to being absolutely massacred. That's typical for 4X games, but it feels more acute here because of how quickly you could fall into that trap with poor play in the first round. Second, even though placing buildings on a grid is a critical part of the game, the landmark buildings don't quite align with the squares. That's a slightly ridiculous oversight that is hard to believe made it to the final game.

All in all, Tapestry is a fantastic civilization game. If you're interested in 4X games, engine building, or even just historical themes, I'd give it a look. The price is definitely a sticking point, but you can grab it for less used or, like we did, through a trade.

Availability: Easy to find

MSRP: $90, used copies may be significantly less

Time to play: 60-90 minutes

Time to learn: 20 minutes

Millennium Blades (w/ Set Rotation expansion)

MB is a card game about playing a fictional trading card game (TCG), which makes it probably the most meta tabletop game there is. In the standard game, you alternate between timed deckbuilding phases and turn-based tournaments. When deckbuilding, you buy cards from the store in order to build up a collection that will both earn you points and form your tournament deck. When playing tournaments, you're engaging in a game that's all about careful placement of six cards from left to right in order to trigger combos that score the maximum number of points, or that interfere with opponents to ruin their plans. It's a great game, although it has an absolutely massive table footprint, involves shuffling something like 400 cards, and can easily take three hours to play the full game, so it's not one that can be played all that often.

We were playing with Set Rotation, though, which converts the MB experience to a co-op boss rush. Instead of fighting the other players, you're working with them to optimize your decks against bosses with some extremely broken cards that can only be defeated if you carefully consider what you're going up against. If your combined score is higher than the boss, you win and can fight another one if you want. If not, you lose. We lost because I was overly focused on the OHKO card that delivers 8,000 points (in a game where 300 is an amazing score) when a very specific condition is met and ignore two others that made it hard for us to score and gave the boss 56 points. Still, getting close at all was a lot better than the last time I tried this, and I think we have a good foundation to take him down next time.

Almost all my criticisms of MB come from how hard it is to set up. I wish there was a better way to shuffle the cards, but once you get past that, it's an addicting experience that plays like nothing else out there. Co-op is a great way to play with two, and I even realized I'