“Is that Councilman Jones skulking over there?”
“Yes, I hear he has a large amount of support from the guilds…”
“Oh really? How much support?”
“Well, let’s just say he recently had his vault extended.”
“Goodness! That sounds painful…”
“I… No! Where he stores his money you great oaf! You do not belong in polite society…”
In the Council of Blackthorn, intrigue is afoot, and that foot will give you a thorough kicking if you’re not careful. Each of the realms most powerful factions have their doors open to the opportunities you bring, yet flaunt your intentions too openly and the suspicions of the King will focus on you… and it’s only a short trip to the chopping block at the end of the game.
Each round the power of the games’ factions will be determined by the roll of dice, the resulting value indicating how far you will be able to move up that faction’s track if you chose to play a card of the corresponding colour. You are therefore presented with four races to gain influence in each house, yet the cards you play have abilities that can only trigger if you have gained enough influence in one of the other houses. And this is a game of subtlety too, for if you advance too far in a turn, you will gain secret amounts of treason points. At the very end of the game, the player with the most treason will simply be beheaded, and lose the game!
I love this treason mechanism. It sounds just delightfully tense, adding an element of push your luck as well as having you watching your friends closely at all times. Just like in a real council of power hungry good-for-nothings!
Council is in session until February 29th.
Wearily the archer approached the village. It had been a long journey across Valeria and, to be quite frank, he was ready for a rest.
“Oh sir! Sir! Thank goodness I found you, you don’t want to go to that village no, the stench from the tanneries is appalling!” cried a short man scurrying up the road behind him. “You should come to our village, it is a short way further on, but we have a fabulous armoury that will renew those arrows of yours!”
The archer thought for a moment. Perhaps he should go with this man, his supply had dwindled considerably over recent adventures. Just as he was about to turn, out from the undergrowth leapt a second man, no less short nor furtive than the last. “But sir! Our village has a marvellous inn, the finest in the land!”
“Ha! The mead served there is just the effluent from your tannery! Now scram, I saw him first!”
“Lies! I was waiting here for him – “
“Like some common robber!”
“Who are you calling a robber!? You –“
“ – Rotten –“
“ – stinky – “
The archer put his head in his hands and sighed. Every damn trip to this country…
Villages of Valeria has you leading the construction of a fabulous tableau of beautiful cards: buildings and, if you can convince them first, adventurers, each adding bonuses to your overall strategy and victory points to your rating in Valeria’s annual village of the year awards. Of course, buildings don’t just build themselves and you’ll need to supply the resources from cards you don’t build, or by pilfering them from the other players. And by pilfering I mean paying for, like in 7 Wonders. Having the right building types will let you hire adventurers who are quite demanding of the places they call home. The turn sequence is also rather neat. A player chooses an action and each following player has the option to make use of a weakened form of that action. A lovely looking game (in more ways than one) that is definitely worth checking out.
The Villages of Valeria close their doors on March 1st.
Games requiring you to construct a deck, i.e. do homework before you get to the game, are not games that hold a huge appeal for me, simply because of the overhead involved and the fact that so much of the game is determined long before you sit down to actually play. So a game attempting to revolutionise such a common system is always interesting, and Codex has certainly managed to do that!
The game sees you start out with a deck of 10 cards (no this is not a micro game!) and a book of about 40 other cards (see). These cards represent the units you can summon and the spells you can cast, in much a similar way to Magic: The Gathering or similar games, albeit with some unique twists of its own. But the truly interesting mechanism is how, each turn, you may chose cards from your book (the Codex of the game’s title) and place them face down in your discard pile ready to be picked up. This allows you to tailor your deck as you play to the strategies you think your opponent will be using, focussing the gameplay on the tactical and strategic choices made in game, not days or weeks before, while also creating the tension that comes from not quite knowing what your opponent is adding to their deck. A very interesting system!
The Codex shuts on March 3rd.
Other Great Games
Shadow Agents – Another tight 2-player micro game from designer Christopher Ferguson (whose games have appeared in these articles on numerous occasions). One player controls an agent attempting to infiltrate the villain’s secret lair and destroy his doomsday device, the other controls the base’s security and attempts to capture him before he does so. Ends Mar 1st.
In the Name of Odin – A very nice peaceful Euro game about Vikings, well, peaceful so long as you don’t live in the villages they’ll be pillaging for victory points. This is all about maximising your use of available resources, to hire warriors and heroes, build up your village and fleet, and set sail to lay waste to the softer local peoples. Ends Mar 3rd.
Landed – Tile laying game in which you are attempting to terraform a new world according to the whims of Earth’s corporations, offering lucrative contracts for building regions of certain sizes, the bigger the better, but anyone can claim a region from under you if they have the right contract. How far do you push your plans? Ends Mar 3rd.
Battlestations – An ancient board game (from 2004) returns with a new edition! Fight ship scale space battles while managing the crew (and any invaders) on board the ship itself. Offers huge scope for campaign/RPG style play. Ends Mar 3rd.
Emotional IQ – An intriguing game that has you attempting to read sentences with a specific (randomly chosen) emotion… typically making for wildly incongruous combinations. The rest of your group must then decide what the emotion was, challenging you to how someone is speaking, rather than what they are saying, sometimes the more important thing to notice. Ends Mar 3rd.
Argo – Attempt to evacuate your team of astronauts from a soon to self-destruct spaceship teeming with hungry aliens before your opponents can launch all the escape pods. You can expect this one to see lots of screwing each other over, especially as the aliens are player controlled too! Ends Mar 3rd.
Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment – Escape rooms are all the rage nowadays but this box offers you the chance to run one from your own home for a much lower price than the professional ones! While this does mean you only get to play it once, that once will be one memorable experience! Just agree to split the cost between a few friends. Ends Mar 4th.
Heldentaufe – An adventure through two interconnected worlds. Explore the upper world and discover portals to the lower, full of monsters but more wonderful treasures. An uncomplicated game with absolutely gorgeous artwork. Ends Mar 5th.
Wok on Fire! – Get your aprons on and spatulas at the ready for a stir-fry themed dexterity and set collection game! With a big wok of face down cards, you’ll be flipping them over with your spatula, then choosing the ingredients you want to add to your dishes. Ends Mar 6th.
Image credit belongs to Board Game Geek users riffraff14, isaiasvallejo42, Sirlin, LK404, brpierro, W Eric Martin, StayAtHomeWerewolf, junkyard12, jguitarstring, and the relevant Kickstarter projects.