With a bit of free time for the gaming table crews, I got to play a few new games.

Dino Race – Outrace the volcano and other dinosaur teams

Much like Odin’s Ravens, cards are played to advance the dinosaurs, plus a few special cards to interfere with other players by stealing cards or knocking the dinosaurs down.

It’s a simple concept and a good game for younger gamers. A big plus is the chunky dinosaur figurines – very adorable and able to take some physical handling. Currently doesn’t appear to still be in production but as an alternate consider Tortoise and Hare.

Root – Woodland factions follow personal goals for Victory

Root is one of the better known board games with asymmetrical victory conditions. Each faction has its own special way to gain victory points, some by production, others by spreading influence, or even just old fashioned battling. First to 30 victory points win.

I like that the factions have a quick summary on the back of each of their boards, describing factors like complexity and aggression and crafting, plus some quick suggestions on how best to play the faction. Gameplay certainly benefits from a few play throughs to get a feel for how a specific faction generates victory points (I played as the Marquise de Cat faction, one of the easier ones, scoring points on building and a final push of combating other factions to claim clearings to keep building). One of the common criticisms of Root is over the imbalance between factions, but little agreement on which faction is the most OP. There are some recommendations out there for which faction combos are the best for play, and considering how many expansion factions and hired pawns are available to add to the basic set, that’s a good thing.

Codenames: Marvel – How many tiles can your partner identify from a single clue?

Players take turns providing a single word clue to their partner in hopes of the partner identifying the correct tiles. For example, “Spider 3” is a clue that suggests that there are three spider related tiles. The catch – picking the wrong tiles ends your turn and either helps the other team or on some occasions gives you a loss.

Codenames is a pretty solid and simple game and works well as one of those gateway games that lead to playing something other than Monopoly without getting into the complexity of Axis & Allies or Gloomhaven. The core game has words on the tiles and other sets have had images from Disney, Harry Potter, Simpsons etc.(surprisingly, I haven’t tracked down a Star Wars one yet, but I’m sure it’s in the making). If there are three people, one person acts as clue giver to the other players and the role rotates around. If there are four people, it works really well. With 5+ players, there needs to be teams set up. For only two, there is a Codenames: Duets that has double sided cards indicating where the other person needs to identify.

The downside is that deeper knowledge of a subject can give a decided advantage to a team (e.g. I’m a Marvel comic fan from way back and my partner had a decent knowledge through the movies so we did pretty well).

A great strength of this game is the replayability as there are way more cards available to shuffle than the 25 for the round so its unlikely that you will ever have the same 25 on display or in the same arrangement. Even then, the ‘pattern’ of the cards belonging to one side changes with every game according to a card visible to the clue givers which can be rotated to provide a different pattern.

We also had a few other games this week so far – The Captain is Dead (and we won!), Betrayal at the House on the Hill, Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate, and Tiny Epic Defenders (talked about elsewhere).

Betrayal at the House on the Hill