Welcome to Ruel’s Rundown, a bi-weekly series where I share my initial impressions and thoughts on three board games I’ve enjoyed recently. While many of us are getting our gaming via Tabletop Simulator, Tabletopia, Board Game Arena, and other sites these days, I’m focusing on gaming of the cardboard-only variety. And since game nights are much different now, I’m including at least one game with solo rules and one game that can be played over Zoom or Skype.
This re-themed and re-worked version of SPQF took the clever yet clunky original and transformed it into a streamlined and sublime deck-building experience. The theme is adorable: you and your opponents are kids building the best forts possible while collecting pizza and toys. All of the cards are friends who you’re trying to get to hang out with you. Fort flips the script on most deck builders: you draw five cards, but only get to play one of them and there’s no currency or combat values to calculate. If you have matching suits on your other cards, you may play those to boost your action, but your opponents may follow the suit, too. Any cards left unused in your hand don’t go into your discard pile, though; these go to your yard, where they can be taken by your opponents. It’s always an interesting choice you make each turn and as you improve your fort you’ll earn victory points. Making friends with the kids in the neighborhood was never this much fun.
There are plenty of fun gateway engine builder games, from Splendor to Gizmos, but my favorite is Fantastic Factories. You’re in a race to construct 10 buildings or produce 12 goods. Each turn is divided into two phases: market and work. During the market phase you’ll choose a blueprint or a contractor. Contractors can give you additional resources or dice during the work phase, which is when you’ll roll dice in an attempt to turn your blueprints into buildings. These buildings give you victory points and additional ongoing abilities. It’s a neatly designed engine builder with dice placement that never outstays its welcome and there are plenty of ways to synergize your buildings. In the included solo game you go up against an AI called The Machine. You’ll play normally while using dice to determine The Machine’s actions during both phases. It’ll collect cards and produce a good any time a die is equal to or lower than the corresponding cards in its compound, which means its engine will become more efficient as the game progresses. It’s a solid solo experience that can be scaled up or down in difficulty, which means I have a decent shot at a win any time it hits the table (hello, easy mode).
Thanks to Deep Water Games for the copy of Fantastic Factories. Order here: https://oxeyemedia.com/collections/new-games/products/fantastic-factories-1
Medium was an insta-hit with my family, thanks to its simple rules and engaging play. You’re all psychic mediums trying to read each others’ minds based on cards with a single word on them. Players have a set of cards and on their turn they’ll match up with one other player. First player plays a card, then their partner plays a card. They count to three and then simultaneously say the word that they believe ties the cards together. So, if I played “refrigerator,” then perhaps you would play “Antartica.” What is the connection between these words? We count to three and if we both say “ice” then we’re each awarded points. If we say two different words, then we’ll attempt again for fewer points, but this time using our guesses instead of the original words on the cards. Draw cards to refill your hand and play until three crystal ball cards are revealed. Reveal the point tokens you’ve accumulated and the most points wins. Medium is an outstanding party game that has plenty of magical mind-meld moments. Best of all, it’s easily adaptable to Zoom or Skype, with one player handling the cards and setting up each partnership with words.
Thanks to Greater Than Games for the copy of Medium. Order here: https://store.greaterthangames.com/medium.html